The Secret

This photo was taken at the March Against Religious Intolerance in Salvador de Bahia in 2014. I titled it, “The Secret” because at first glance it looks like a celebration of Christ. Hence the bold red letters over the church, “Jesus Cristo E O Senhor”. But if you really know what’s up, this photo is a misnomer. The people in white are practitioners of African Spiritual practices or supporters of peoples rights to practice whatever religion they’d like. Candomble and Umbanda are the more dominant Traditional African Spiritual Practices in Brazil, but this walk was about religious tolerance for all peoples.

Far too often its’ people of color, specifically black people who are persecuted for practicing the religion of their ancestors. Especially in the Diaspora, Traditional African Religion and it’s offspring ( Vodun, Candomble, Lucumi, and Yoruba) are seen as “evil” “dark” and “black”. Ain’t it funny how these same words are used to physically describe black folks? And yet, so much of what these religions stand for and teach us are then white washed and commodified by the descendants of those who persecuted Africans for practicing in the first place.

My hot take is that, this spiritual shit really works. That’s why it’s kept hidden. That’s why we’ve been made to fear our own power, because it’s potent. Just research the Haitian revolution. I’ve been attracted to Traditional African Religions since I could remember. Being raised in the black arts community meant interacting with people who practiced all types of religions. As I got older I realized how natural and practical Traditional African Religions really are. From ancestral worship to respect for the physical earth, to even using the spoken word as manifestation I feel that this path is something I’ve been practicing for a while without knowing it. Although my family is deeply Christian and I was raised in the Methodist church I still research Traditional African Religion and try and incorporate what I can in my life as I wait patiently for a teachers to appear.

What has happened in my life as I wait and research on my own feels like a strong foundation. Ever since I was young and my mom encouraged me to write, not to published or for other people, but to release and remember, I’ve been manifesting the life I’m living and the life I want to life. From my initial move to Brazil to the new apartment I just moved into, to the timing of artistic opportunities, sitting with my desires, writing them down and then presenting them to my ancestors for approval has served in my best interest.  The secret is, this spiritual shit really works.

A few weeks ago I went to an Anti Blackness in the American Metropolis Seminar . 

It was as insightful as you’d think it would be. Organizers, scholars and journalists convened for two days in Baltimore and confirmed what I knew to be true growing up in an urban city. America is built on the backs on black lives and continues to profit from us. Urban poverty is/was a tool to “fuel and grow” the economy and it is literally more expensive to live in a majority black city. There was so much to ingest but what has been sticking to my ribs more than anything was something Dr. Ashante M. Reese said about self sufficiency as collective empowerment. As I heard it, she seemed to be saying that when a black person practices self sufficiency; ,meaning not waiting for the city to do it’s job; starting a community garden; picking up the trash and disposing of it properly; they are practicing self sufficiency. Which quickly turns into a collective experience. And this is something that improves the qualify of life for everyone around them.

Contrary to the way self sufficiency and self determination was theorized as individualism during the enlightenment period and then practiced by white men (to the detriment of the literal world) when practiced by black folks it becomes a means to collective empowerment. (I see you Kujichagulia.) Anyway, I’ve taken that to heart and been sitting with the vulnerability that comes with envisioning collective empowerment. Because what if I take that scary step of becoming self sufficient and determined and fail? It is then I remember the legacy of Zumbi dos Palmares who fought tirelessly to free himself and subsequently others and won.  He – they- did the work and won.  I’m keeping that same energy as my pitches to large news desks get rejected and remembering I built my own platform for a reason. Ya’ll goin get this work no matter the medium or website.

This post is a rededication to myself as I am building my own and continuing to sustain my own as a means of collective empowerment in the legacy of Zumbi dos Palmares.

In the words of Octavia Butler, so be it, see to it.

Just when you thought it was over…

Since moving back home to Baltimore, life has been a whirl wind. The same whirlwind that I thought I’d escape by leaving Salvador and returning home in the first place. Turns out my mother is right. “Where ever you go, there you are”. I’ve worked four different gigs on top of a steady flow of writing freelance. I’ve gotten to catch up with friends and spend time with my grandmother. I’ve watched my sister move out and other family members grow wings. Baltimore City has become a bit of a popping place, and it’s amazing to see. I’m producing a documentary about the Uprisings and working on my own project about the rise of the black business woman in Brazil. I also went through a major break up. Needless to say, this blog has been hard to maintain and I’ve considered letting it go.
But, a few weeks ago I was on my site, looking at referral links. And I noticed that most of my referrals came from the same site, blogueirasnegras.org. And I looked at the link. They listed the 25 most influential black women on the web in 2015. Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 12.04.46 PM

I read the entire list and was impressed as I had the chance to meet some of the women listed when I was in Brazil. I also jotted down names as these were women I wanted to feature in my next project. Toward the end of the list, they began listing foreigners they love, the list starts with none one other than Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 12.05.28 PM

I keep scrolling and see…Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 12.05.44 PM

I got teary eyed. I was really shocked that my lil ole blog that I could barely keep up was considered influential. Especially to Brazilian women, whose perseverance is literally the subject of my documentary that I’m fighting to make. (more on that later) Anyway, seeing this listing, inspired me to continue. Reminded me that someone is watching, reading and thinking about this blog and this work. And encouraged me to not only continue, but give my blog a real chance. So I’m revamping the site, (as soon as my funds get it together) and we now have a twitter , and instagram account. Be on the lookout for more content, a series and contributing bloggers. And always remember…

keep going.
even when you don’t see an end
even when you don’t feel like it
it’s coming.
whatever it is.

Cicatrizes

  
Cicatrizes is a mixed media ebook written by me and designed by Maya Rodriguez. Featuring short stories, poetry, prayers, a recipe and a spell, this is a more personal look into my time in Brazil. Available for pre-order here.

The first time I died.

And everyone I had ever knew

Or had ever had knew me died as well.

Shooting into the black hole of the universe

The ego dries away like rain on the concrete

The light of the smallness of your existence is the sun

And at first it’s horrifying

But that’s just your ego crying at its loss of self.

Once you die, the fun begins.

The second time I had gone through a lot of internal monologues

“Am I doing drugs?”

Yes. Well. Kinda.

“That’s what people who do drugs say”

But it’s helping me, it’s medicine.

“Is it?”

I think so.

Well, let’s see what happens this time.

The third time the ancestors told me to take my black ass home.

I danced around the bonfire and felt the party that is my melanin

But as the song changed I got tired.

Like really tired.

And I just wanted to hold my grandma’s hands.

Or put my nose in my mother’s hair.

So my ancestors said, take ya ass home now girl.

“Okay.” I said.

And finally bought a return ticket.

The fourth time I came all over myself.

Masturbated in front of shrines in an impeccably clean bathroom.

And when someone walked in on me

-perhaps she was coming to do the same thing

We giggled like toddlers discovering their genitalia for the first time.

The second time I saw my future kids

I saw a curly haired boy peak out to me

His eyelashes beating down like wings

“Mommy, when we come down can we-“

“Shut up” I cried.

“But Ma-“

Why do you want to come here now?

Why not come as a dinosaur or come down 1000 years from now

When we’re all in space and 4 dimensional.

He said, “What’s 4 dimensional mean mommy?”

I still don’t know son.

This last time I almost never came back.

My ego must have gotten tired of me working her out so she ran away

She was chilling in the black hole,

Now that she likes the way it feels she think she can just up and leave when she wants.

But I’ll show her.

She don’t run this show no more.

I do.

And when people ask what I was doing in Brazil

On those beaches and in those woods

Chanting with those hippies, dancing in front those flames

Drinking the tea.

Doing drugs, as some would call it.

Joining a cult as one friend thought it.

I’ll just smile and tell them to read my book

There is no shame in this particular secret.

Anymore.