31 December 2009

Sister Poems

our labor has become more important than our silence
-Audre Lorde

cutting and clearing, cooking and cleaning,
serving and selling our souls away
in dis Bahamaland we nameless and stateless,
in dis country who want we labour, but not we children

dey call us "my Haitian," as if we property
dey say we blood make us violent, as if Bahamian blood different
forgetting and burying, bodies and hands
uprooted like the forests around Port-au-Prince

dey say we takin' over
as if we run tings here
dey say we makin one next Haiti
as if we ain't runnin from her now.

back in Haiti, land of empty mountains,
never catchin a break, no matter we blood
covering the streets, trapped under mudslides
hiding we struggle, to live beyond

a Revolution that never was, sent tremors across ocean currents
creating revelations and rebellions, a Revolution that was, never complete
punished for doing the unthinkable, waging battles, demanding equality,
declaring Independence from French bondage, the first Black Republic

destroyed through pillage of gold, land and people
invaded, occupied, held hostage, denied status
migrations and movements, hiding and blending
name changes and marriages, children and saviors.

some of us come by boat, but we are not boat people
we seek refuge politically, we want peace spiritually
from civil wars, coups, unrest, no-rest, disease, poverty's ruthless clutch,
and so called peace-keeping troops and life-sucking foreign aid.

some of us born here, being both Haitian and Bahamian
feeling both love and shame about who we be,
and still we hear "go home"
as if we ain't built home right here wit' you.

Sip an' Talk
it is better to speak, remembering we were never meant to survive
-Audre Lorde

so many silences about the ocean
connecting Haitians and Bahamians

so many silences to the cutting of life water
who gets to stay and who gets t'row away

so many silences rising upon salty weathered bodies
we want your labor, but yunna chirrin' no

so many silences to teeth-sucking moans
“da Bahamas too small, cyan help erryone”

but we is dem, dem is us
t'rough blood, ancestors, many stories

so many silences to sip sip and talk
sinking Haitian sloops, shark infested seas, missing bodies

so many silences about all dese tings, holes in we history,  
the middle passage, 60 million or more, nefarious thoughts,
oceans mixed in spirit and sweat, the weight of resistance

so easily forgotten under colonial eyes and books
dis-remembering roots, language and culture,
long time, water crossings in love and faith

so we must fill the silences with real talk, honest and dirty,
uncovering secrets, from Inagua to Grand Bahama
"all a we is one family, all a we is one"

so we must fill the silences with songs, stitching holes,
filling gaps, replacing fractures, no more blows
"you muh brother, you muh sister, all a we is one"

between us and them
between you and me
"all a we is one"

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day - 10th Dec 2009

I had a beautiful plan to write a post on this day responding to this article, but alas I didn't have the time - or I didn't make the time.  But I'm playing catch up on this new year's eve - posting all of my december musings at one time - on this last day of 2009.  I had a fantastic poetry reading on Dec 10th at the Tongues Afire Reading Series in Brooklyn at the Audre Lorde Project.  I shared a number of poems that I worked on and improved through the Tongues Afire Workshop in Fall 08 - so it was such a rewarding and rich experience to share my work a year later.  And I shared the "stage" with other Tongues Afire writers and with the amazing & brilliant Cheryl Clark who was our featured poet!  She made my entire year by telling me she thought my work and performance was powerful :-)   I shared a few poems in honor of human rights day - one titled "all i want is my body" which I shared here on conscious vibration a while back, but I've changed it since...  and also two sister poems about migration and Haitians/Haitian Bahamians.  I will share them here as well in the next post - part three of my three postings catch up on new year's eve.

Meanwhile, here is the link I wanted to share:

Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Human Rights Day, 10 Dec 2009

World AIDS Day, Re/Memory, & Activism

Thoughts & Reflections from 1st December 2009

On World AIDS Day - I sit remembering those who have passed (my mother especially) and those who survive. My red ribbon is always on my bag because everyday - I remember.  There's so much silence in our communities about HIV/AIDS - it baffles me how little we talk about it. I wish I talked about it more, but it is so difficult. It's been 13 years since my mother passed away from complications due to HIV/AIDS. And its only been in the past three years that I've really talked about it in any kind of public setting.  A few years ago I was asked to discuss HIV/AIDS and the stigma in the Caribbean at a Caribbean Students Association at UF - where I was a grad student at the time. So I decided to break my own silence and talk to fellow students about my story and my mother's story. At first it was really hard, but then other students opened up too. I had for many years done lots of research/reading on HIV/AIDS, and I also did a number of community service activities in college,  But talking about my personal connection to the disease was something I did not do very often. Grad school became a space for me to continue this work and also connect to the personal more. So I've been way more active in HIV/AIDS work since I finished grad school, and I've used my community work as a space to discuss larger issues of gender and sexuality in Black communities as well. I think we also have to expand the discourse - not just fight the stigma of the disease, but also fight the stigmas we have about our sexuality and sexualities.

We also have to be break the silences, push through our fears, and embrace our loved ones who are living with HIV/AIDS. We must do this. And we must fight for equal and fair access to treatment and medicine. Not just on World AIDS Day or National Black HIV/AIDS Day - but everyday. This makes me think about how we do activism - how do we live our politics? how do we stay in the struggle? how do we remember our histories?  

During the thanks-taking week, Democracy Now aired this beautiful show about the Native American singer/songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie - someone I had heard of only through her music. I didn't realize how much of an activist she was till I watched the show. I meant to share this clip in November, but time escaped me and so I'm finally doing it now. And so in honor of both World AIDS Day and what should be considered a National Day of Mourning in North America - remembering Amer-Indians and Indigenous' Peoples whose lands were stolen, whose histories have yet to be acknowledged by the dominant culture - I wanted to share this piece on Democracy Now.  Buffy Sainte Marie reminds us all that no matter our cause, we can use our minds, hearts, voices, spirits to fight in the struggle... and that we must continue to be present and move forward while remembering the past. I think of this work as - Re/memory - it is the embrace and acceptance of what has happened - the stories that have not been told - and it is the re-collection of those stories and bringing them to consciousness. 

Democracy Now! Special: An Hour of Music and Conversation with Legendary Native American Singer-Songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie