A Caribbean Inspired Rant

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As my heart alternately breaks and inflames with rage, I find myself anxiously begging our representatives to hurry to rescue the US citizens of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. To do what all we can for the VICTIMS of ravaging storms, in and around the Caribbean. This is what my heart is screaming.

But then my knowledge of history and the current political climate and economic priorities kicks in and I know that the point is not to “save” Puerto Rico, it’s to let as many die or give up as possible. The point is for the capitalist vultures to finish what they’ve been doing: wresting complete control over the land and all resources, including the remaining workforce. The point is to let 45’s friends and their ilk denigrate the people for being poor after taking away their ability to thrive at home. For a man who declared bankruptcy multiple times to dare to disparage victims of colonialism and hurricanes while allowing, no, encouraging his disaster capitalist buddies to steal all they can.
The pattern can also be seen in the current attempts to disenfranchise the stricken people of Barbuda by the government of Antigua, whose members have vested interests in development that will do little to profit the people of Barbuda, but will certainly take away their inherited rights to the land they hold in trust.
If these uber/hyper capitalists have their way, you won’t be able to subsist on your own land, grow your own food, use solar, fish, or pluck an avocado from a tree. Remember the 2020 Plan to eliminate agriculture in Puerto Rico? Then also remember that, as a Barbudan elder often said to me, “A people who cannot feed themselves are bound to become slaves.”
Look around the US as unions are decimated, water is polluted and your rights to it are handed over to those who pollute and sell it back to you. Look at the outlawing of your right to collect rainwater or go off grid in states like Florida. Look at the destruction of a once internationally envied, free education system. Look at the ways in which you’re stimulated to buy what you don’t need but are dissuaded from being active participants in your own governance. Look at the millions who are a paycheck away from devastating medical debt, the millions of Americans imprisoned, often because they can’t afford bail or good representation.
Look around and know that you are all being colonized and enslaved. You are Puerto Rico on a three second delay. Wake Up and ACT.

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Barbuda 2010. “The Light.”

This is a photo I took in Barbuda in 2010. I was trying to capture “The Light” that many believe to be the spirit of the island. It is my most heartfelt and sincere hope that The Light will restore the Caribbean and return the land to the true people.

The ‘ville

The reason I had no words for what happened in Charlottesville is because this is completely tragic, but not at all surprising. If you remember from lit, the flaw/seeds are always inherent in the character leading to the ultimate manifestation of the tragedy. People thought a host of folks I knew were “just being negative” or “too angry” when they spoke out against racism in Charlottesville. Some people actually said to me that they didn’t understand my rage, that I should be “used to it” and “ignore it” thus showing me that they only wished to diminish my humanity, to try to make me carry the burden of other people’s evil. Uh uh: my father might have called me “pixilated” but my mother never raised a complete fool! I know when I’m being discriminated against, singlely or intersectionally. So:
People who act shocked and wonder why we don’t share our personal reality when you make it abundantly clear after centuries of the same old same that you are not listening? People who blast and blacklist a guy for respectfully refusing to honor the symbols and songs of national racism? People who blame victims of police brutality for their own deaths? People who label children of colour as “thugs” but bestow innocence on shady, corrupt middle aged white men and refer to them as “kids/children”? Who damned thousands of black/Latino/Native folk to incarceration but now pity and protect white addicts? Who disrespect our bodies, psyches, traditions & histories every single day? I have no patience with you or with those who normalize you.

Whiteness is a political choice, not merely a decrease in melanin. Choosing not to see or change injustices, choosing destructive forms of tribalism/jingoism/ to ignore or negate the realities imposed upon people outside of your group, etc. are choices. Someone is now thinking/saying/writing: “but Black/Native/Latino people do some of those things!” And indeed, some do. But here’s the difference and here’s why we say that racism is a white problem: WE do not have power over your lives. I can’t keep you out of my neighborhood or from voting. I don’t determine your value or standing in society. This country and its multinational corporations are run by white people. Our Constitution, systems- including Race-were constructed by and for white people, most particularly land owning white males. So while not every white person is in that club, aspires to, or can join, whiteness still gives you a leg up over others. In constructing disadvantage for PoC, our racial hierarchy creates advantages for others. Not rocket science, yet millions of advantaged, “I’m not racist/I’m not rich/I never owned slaves” white people  adamantly refuse to connect the dots. Or they do so from their own fear-based frames of reference and assume that we want to destroy them in revenge, so they spout or buy into Nazi, KKK, alt-right beliefs, rhetoric, and actions. Like yesterday in a town where I spent 16 years, with people I still love.

So stop saying “This isn’t America.” Please! This IS the US, always has been, and your selfish adherence to a mythical origin and denial of the genocide, exploitation, and oppression of millions for your own comfort upholds these injustices and perpetuates oppression. It’s the blue pill of a very dangerous, self negating illusion. Unless and until white people -every single one of you- demand that it be otherwise and take hold of their rabid relatives, it will continue, under the radar or in attention getting flames. If people really want 45 out, they wouldn’t be wringing their hands and waiting for 2020. There are legal, Constitutional means for ousting him and his cohort. The electoral college can be dismantled or amended. It doesn’t change because that IS the will of the spineless, willfully ignorant, greedy, stupid, superficial people who support this regime, actively or passively. IMHO if you are not antiracist, antifascist, anti-misogynist, anti-discrimination against LGBT+ yes, you are complicit. It’s not enough just to be a “nice” person. And while I’m at it, let me just say that to my knowledge, Black Lives Matter has never dragged anybody behind a car or otherwise killed or maimed anyone. They haven’t burned down houses, shot at people, or terrorized them in any other way. There are no reports of burning Black Power fists on anyone’s lawns, so stop comparing them to the KKK/Alt Right/Nazis or other actually violent terrorist groups. If you have the ability to think you might ask   yourself why you see people demanding justice in the face of violence against their people to be a threat to you. Why do you fear ordinary, unarmed PoC who simply aren’t servile? What are you projecting and how might you get help for this problem?What I’m talking about are Systems of injustice, and unless and until they are dismantled, they will continue to oppress people you say you care about: relatives, neighbors, friends, innocent strangers that your moral codes & ethics tell you to protect and support. Unless you work against injustice and oppression, yes, you are guilty of complicity. Charlottesville is your call to humanity: choose.

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A Secret Garden

I actually attended a garden tea party yesterday. Devised by my gardening neighbor pal and her daughter in law who lives across the street, their original idea was to entice a new neighbor who’d expressed an interest in the possibility of creating a small garden. This is a shy and possibly introverted woman (I’ve yet to see her) and my neighbor thought it would be nice for her to meet a few gardeners in the neighborhood and tour each other’s yards. As a confirmed introvert, I knew that this was probably not a great idea and sure enough, the new neighbor demurred and sent her apologies two days before the event. I was now stuck, but at least managed to have legit reasons to come late.

By way of explanation: not only am I an introvert, I have some curmudgeonly ways. I’m friendly, but small talk doesn’t come easily nor is it a pastime in which I care to engage. I’m also not your typical suburban housewife and am pretty adverse to a large number of things that the supposedly “typical American” wants or likes. We’ve also been in a heat & humidity wave that’s left everybody miserable and angry and drenched in sweat before you can towel off after your multiple daily showers. Topping it all off, I’m also a melanin rich woman of colour with a Latino last name. Eleven years on Long Island have exposed me to some of the worst racism and class biases I’ve experienced in my six decades on the planet, including 16 years in the South, so excursions into new areas or among people I don’t know here are entered into with caution. I knew that everyone else invited would be white and that our hostess would not have considered the possibility that they might be less welcoming than she. I always consider such things, but having agreed that they could tour my new, very incomplete garden and meet my new chickens (the most exciting event on the block this week) I forced myself to show up. And yes, it was awkward. What saved it was the attendance of one of the happiest, friendliest, and decidedly cutest little two year olds I’ve met. We bonded and her escapades provided a mutual focus, distraction and source of amusement.

After the ladies and little “Rose” enjoyed tea, lemonaid, and a fluffy lemon cake, we toured each others’ gardens. We started with the hosts, who have created lovely spaces, one with a long double lot that allows for a woodsy feel, then mine, the youngest & least complete. We ended with this 30+ year old beauty, a cottage gardener’s dream. It has “secret” paths, lovely enclaves to sit, fountains, mini waterfalls, and a hidden space where one can sit behind a tall, graceful wall of bushes without being seen. 

 The English born owner- a sweetly ancient, retired teacher who drives like a bat out of hell- leaves the gate unlocked so that neighbors can enjoy its peace and beauty when she’s not at home. It was a special and inspiring surprise I view as a kind of karmic reward for being sociable. It was worth the trip.   💚

Earworms and the Search for Meaning

Ok, everyday of my life, I wake up with a song/music playing in my head. It can be anything, but whatever it is, it tends to stick until I sing it, or play it, or override it with another tune. They sometimes keep coming back into my thoughts, persisting until I stop and listen or drive my husband crazy, as he’s forced to listen to my speculations over the possible meaning or (maybe worse for him) my singing the same tune multiple times. 
Sometimes it’s about the lyrics, and sometimes the tune is appropriate to my dreams or agenda, or related to whatever we watched on tv that night.  They’re often silly: occasionally jingles from childhood tv ads or tv theme songs. More often than not I’m amused by these mental musings. I don’t know if this is an experience common to many, but it’s the way of my little world.

The songs from my teens bring back the dances of that time and more than once I’ve had to stop what I was doing for a minute and take those rhythmic steps back in time, bringing laughter to my family and reclaiming a tiny bit of a girl that once was.

Today’s song is unrelated to anything current in my personal life, a blast from a favorite 1974 BBC miniseries. Now it may be stuck in your heads, too (sharing is caring)

American African Spirituality in 2017

Mixed feelings after reading the  announcement of a panel for the upcoming Afro-Latino Fest (http://remezcla.com/music/afro-latino-festival-symposium-preview/)

This is just one in a series of recent panels and articles about Diasporic African religions that have been highlighted since media and a more general public have “discovered” symbolic meanings in Beyoncé’s iconic Lemonade video.

I’m glad to see more pan-Africans being educated about the religions, but I’m also seeing very Westernized, capitalist versions being codified in various ways, including the aesthetic representations. It reminds me of what has happened to Native American spiritual traditions entering the mainstream and being co-opted to varying extents.

We survived the horrors and upheavals of the Diaspora and all that it wrought through a painful, necessary secretiveness, and by the creative genius that allowed our Ancestors to preserve and adapt. Yet I can’t help but wonder if the ostensible “freedom” we’re witnessing and experiencing  will destroy essential ways of knowing and being in the world. In a society where the Federal Court recently legalized discrimination against hiring folks with locs (https://www.google.com/amp/www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/amp/u-s-court-rules-dreadlock-ban-during-hiring-process-legal-n652211) and where black folks are incarcerated and killed with impunity by authorities, and where every creative work is colonized and exploited for the benefit of the dominant culture, I find myself questioning the type and quality of Africanisms and resistance that is tolerated or “allowed” to flourish. In my experience, our cultures are tolerated just long enough to turn them to profit in some way, or to be used as evidence against us.

Make no mistake: I don’t question the aims of the sisters and brothers seeking solidarity, community, and a spirituality rooted in our ancestral cultures and it makes my heart sing to hear the names of the Orishas spoken without the long needed camouflage of Christian saints. And yet I’m wary…Our long history here leaves me feeling that our beautiful, brave, and uncloaked young ones are standing in the crosshairs of racist capitalism in a new, albeit familiar way. Are they, in a manner of speaking, the new Ghost Shirt dancers, empowered and empowering, just moments before their deaths? My pessimism has nought to do with those true souls and everything to do with too many decades/centuries of observing The Others (#ThoseWhoDoNotLoveUs) And no, my pessimism doesn’t cool my fervent belief in Resistance. It does, at its best, make me want to entreat us to carefully consider what we’re creating for the generations and take particular care in weighing what we choose to ignore or leave behind.

But I guess my less agnostic beloveds would  hush their Aunty and say  that as always, this is the crossroads where Olofi, Elegua,  and the Potencias will manifest their will…

Re: New York Free Tuition

To the ignorant folks who think that you can feed and educate a family on 125 K in NYC/LI: please, go back to your imaginary Kansas. A single person here needs about 50 K just to have a totally no-frills life here where the average house costs $400,000 (in the burbs) and 1 bedrm apartments start at 1,200 per month, mostly in places you don’t wish to be. (like Staten Island, bwahaha) It’s not a snob thing and we wish it wasn’t true, but really, this “free” tuition plan will help working people to get their kids through school, and that’s as it should be. And before you say it, think about what it would take to move: you don’t just pick up and go. Every single thing costs more here, from the barrettes in your daughter’s hair to the plumbing, transportation, and toothpaste. 

Furthermore, the jobs aren’t often in your low rent areas, they’re in expensive cities, so hush!

We desperately NEED an educated public: democracy is rooted in the concept, as is our ability to stay competitive in the world. This new plan doesn’t cover dorms and the multiple expenses that come with education in this century. It’s not a cure for the problems in our education system or access to it, but it may save our students from a lifetime of crippling debt. So please just shut up and enjoy what you may have without begrudging others the ability to improve their lives and the prosperity of the nation.

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http://www.moneycrashers.com/income-afford-rent-1-bedroom-apartment-new-york-city/

From February 2, 2013: More now than ever

I just want to say that although I know we are in a world of hurt and that it may even be too late for some of the solutions that we see being put forth now, I think that the real humans- conscious, compassionate, ruthlessly honest and willing to act on their insights and adapt- will survive and perhaps even “win.”
So I will fight on behalf of the earth and all sentient beings, and I will have times of doubt/fear/exhaustion and days when I can’t see or imagine how we could possibly survive the growing horror. But if you really believe that it’s only going to end horribly, keep that shite to yourself, I don’t want it in my life. Life is a precarious thing and for many, each day brings dilemmas, moral and material. We don’t always know what to do or how to be, but we put our practices in front of us and follow the good red road/saddhana/good reality/whatever you want to call it, for one day more, and we learn to let that be enough.

You do the right thing not because you always believe that it will “save” us, but because there is no other way to live.