31 October 2013

Epic Journeys, Part Two

Epic Journeys, Part Two - reflections

So I promised to share more about my epic summer journeys... and now I'm deep into fall journeys... Its been a hectic past few months and so I haven't had a chance to get back to the blog and share. Swamped with deadlines, teaching, writing, finishing projects, and working on new ones, I'm feeling incredibly blessed as I reflect on all that I've been up to these past months. And most importantly, finished my scholarly book last month and sent it off to the editor for what I hope and trust will be the final review process. 

Finally coming up for air... and ready to share a bit more about my travels -- a recap through photos and brief descriptions... and just playin catch up on the blog. Still processing my powerful and inspiring time in Ghana for the Yari Yari Ntoaso 3rd International Conference on Literature by Women of African Ancestry. So grateful for all the new connections and intense exchange. And grateful for all those who made this gathering happen (Rosamond King and Jaira Placide especially). I'm still thinking about all brilliance we shared and the beautiful fellowship among so many warrior sistren writers and artists. 

Yari Yari Ntoaso 2013

Highlights for me: spending time and being nourished in light of Angela Davis and Ama Ata Aidoo; connecting with and exchanging books with these fabulous writers - Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Olumide Popoola, Dorothea Smartt, Zetta Elliot, Gabrielle Civil, and Latasha N. Nevada Diggs; honoring Jayne Cortez who started Yari Yari and OWWA - celebrating her light, knowing she was with us throughout the conference; presenting my community/activist work (focusing on Ayiti Resurrect) on the Authors and Action panel with fierce women (including one of my sheros Eintou Pearl Springer); reading from my book Saltwater Healing as a featured writer at PAWA House; and participating in "Writing through the Body: Performance Art" - piece #1 Led by Wura-Natasha Ogunji - "Mo gbo, mo branch" (that focuses on women, migration, and movement in public spaces). She invited six of us to join her to create this piece in which we each carried vessels of dirt, then spread the dirt onto the ground, making different imprints with our bodies, erasing the imprint and starting again. We did this four times, and then scooped up all the dirt and put it all back into our vessels and walked off in a line carrying the vessels on our heads. For me, the performance spoke of the often invisible and hard labor of women and how women's bodies are seen and move around the world. It also made me think about migration and what we leave when we spend time, live or move to a particular place and what it means to create homespace, leave, and return or not. I was really honored to participate and perform - it was incredibly powerful and spiritual.

Mo gbo, mo branch
Writing the Body - Performance Art, Yari Yari 2013

After the conference, we had an intense day trip to Cape Coast and the Elmina Slave Castle - overwhelming and necessary... poems emerging from these experiences... soon come. Also I got to spend some time in the Du Bois Center and the George Padmore Library. And finally, we took a two day trip to Kumasi and got to see the countryside of Ghana during the drive - and while in Kumasi we visited the markets and the cultural center - getting just a taste of the beautiful city. Spending quality time with friends and sharing in the post conference inspirations. During our drive back to Accra, the supermoon was rising above the mountains, and I spent the night chasing the moon, feeling her power/magic. That moon, the beach in Accra, sharing space with friends, feeling the ancestors, walking with spirit... I treasure those moments and hold them very close... Feeling affirmed and rooted in the work I am here to do because of journeys like these... (Here are my photos of the conference and travels around Ghana: Facebook Album Yari Yari.) 

This summer was all about return for me... I travelled back to places I have been before, and so each place felt comfortable yet new at the same time -- seeing it again with older eyes. Ghana still felt like home, like it did the first time I visited over 10 years ago (for a study abroad). And this time I got to see new places and being there for Yari Yari and sharing the journey with sistren writers and artists made it an incredibly unique experience. Just a week after epic journey to Ghana, I was back in the air traveling to Grenada for the Caribbean Studies Association conference in June. Presented my scholarly work on two panels -- one was a unique double panel in honor of Audre Lorde (led by Lyndon Gill and Alison Donnell) - we built an altar, and I had the great privilege to read Jacqui Alexander's fierce opening remarks! (pure fyah) and then I closed our honoring with my poem Libation, and we had the most beautiful dancers and drummers. It was truly a powerful afternoon and a welcome/needed intervention into the academic space of the conference. It was in many ways an anti-panel. I also did several other things at the conference - discussed the Theorizing Homophobias in the Caribbean collection on a journals roundtable, and I facilitated the sexualities working group meeting. And finally, I read my poetry at the Literary Salon, sharing the stage with the amazing Merle Collins (an incredible honor). I also had the most amazing time at the ARC 7 launch - a really fierce collaboration with Groundation Grenada that featured a reading with Oonya Kempadoo and film screenings. Overall, I had the most productive time in Grenada. Her land/seascape was just what I needed... reminding me how much I miss my Caribbean homespace... And how important Grenada is for all of us... 

The summer continued with a much needed writing retreat with my SPACE collective (what happens at SPACE stays at SPACE). Then I went to Trinidad for the month of July to teach and facilitate the Caribbean IRN's short course on "Critical Sexuality Studies" with my co-chair Rosamond King - in collaboration with the Institute for Gender and Development at UWI and CAISO. I have been to Trinidad before (in 2007 for a conference), and so another return for me... to a place of some of my ancestors and a place that truly feels like home. And so there is so much to share about this... and so that will unfold in future writings... But for now a recap of what I did while there - the work - the teaching, the public events, and more.... See my article on ARC Magazine's blog: "Advancing Perspectives on Caribbean Sexualities."  I am so proud of this work and what we were able to do in such a short amount of time. We brought together different kinds of people to grapple with and engage in discourse about sexuality and sexualities. We did something that I think is vital for radical progressive work - holding and creating spaces that trouble/vex the boundaries and bridge/connect higher education, knowledge production sites, community activism, politics, and art making.

Wall Mural - Bohemia, Port of Spain, Trinidad

More photos of the course and related events are on Facebook. And there are videos of the public events on the IGDS youtube channel. I close with a link of me reading poetry at one of the public events organized with IGDS, CAISO, and Alison Donnell called Sexualities in the Tent. I was honored to share my poetry and talk about sexuality and desire in such an open and loving way.

epic journeys 2013!!! so nourished and so blessed!!! on this all hallow's eve, samhain, dia de los muertos... time of honoring our ancestors and remembering & celebrating those who have passed... I do all that I do because of those who came before... guided by my ancestors...

and the work continues, in the struggle... loving and living...

with conscious wibes dem...
more fyah soon,

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