Saturday, September 26, 2020

To Be a Black Woman in Babylon

To be a Black Woman in Babylon 

Bless Up!

Part of not blogging as much as I did in the past is because there is so much going on. Everyday there is a new fight to face. The issue is not new, the response is not new, yet facing it today in these times, pushes you to figure out a new way to keep rising when your skin and your humanity is under attack.

Breonna Taylor landed heavy because we know when we step outside we have to be vigilant because nothing feels safe right now. To be in your home, inside you sanctuary, safe space and be killed tells us, we are not safe anywhere. Just like Treyvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Gardner and Jacob Blake to name a few, we find something derogatory about the victim and we re-victimize them to justify our inability to name the depth of the racism and anti-blackness before us.    

However you want to justify your inability to see us in our human light, we know Babylon has never made amends with the damage done to those who look like me.

To be a Black Woman in Babylon has meant to be overly sexualized and stigmatized in such negative ways that makes your heart hurt. Knowing this truth prepares you, sadly, to not be surprised at the outcome of Breonna’s case. Knowing that truth tells me, that my life’s mission and purpose is to prove you wrong.

As much as that truth hurts, we are still rising believing in our strength and resiliency. We are still pushing back on all the negative stigmas that you dump on us. We are still smiling and dancing with joy because that is within itself, a form a resistance.

Yes, dancing, singing and creating is my way to tell you, I will not take living for granted and I will not give you the power to stop me from living a joyous and fulfilling life.   

Blackness Rising is not just a hashtag. It is my daily reminder to love up on my people because I am not waiting for you to do it.

As I dance and write through the pain of the injustice in the decision of Breonna’s case, I will keep saying her name and repeating over and over again, Black Lives Matter. Doing that is not a lack of recognition of other lives. Doing that is putting out into the universe and the world that you have not made amends, you have not repaired the damage done to those who rise up in Blackness. Until then, Black Lives Matter. Las Vidas Negras Importan. 

Rest in peace Queen. I will keep Saying your name, Breonna Taylor.

In light and peace,
Empress Modest-I 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

My Unforgettable Moments on the Tennis Court

Grand rising! Giving thanks to Saturday mornings on the tennis court in Rainbow City. #thebegining

It’s US Open time so I am leaning into my tennis light as I share this reflection. I was 8 years old running around the neighborhood that rooted me in my Black and Proud identity, Colon, Rainbow City. I learned to play tennis  from one of the best tennis players in Panama, Mr. Loney.

Mr. Loney was this bright, dark skin, Jamaican descendant man. He loved the game. We loved the game because we were on the receiving end of that love. Saturday’s at the Rainbow City’s tennis court was the best. So many of us in that uplifting neighborhood learned from Mr. Loney. This was a family affair. My father, sister and brother also played tennis.

I went on to play in high school. I made the Jr. Sr. High School team my freshman year.  I was coached by one of the women who taught me that sports teaches you life’s lessons, Coach Rankin. I then had Mrs. Shank. (In the picture) I was part of a team with some of the best female athletes at CHS. Vannia Evans and Traci Kramer, may she Rest In Peace, are two women who pushed me to be a better all around athlete.

Tennis then turned into something different when I came to the US. When I made the tennis team in college, the racism I faced messed with my game. I was not prepared to defend myself as a tennis player and a racially profiled black woman on the court.

After my freshman year, I went home that summer to clear my mind and reconnect with my style. The style that made me fall in love with the game. Mr. Loney was still around. That summer, before I went back to school I spent hours on the court, playing with folks I grew up with in Rainbow City. It was hard work, fun and love all wrapped up on this tennis court full of beautiful black faces.

I went back sophomore year and had my best season for many reasons. One reason, Mr. Loney’s trust in me and my game. He knew I would find my way back. Second, I now knew  that being a black immigrant woman in this country will be a daily struggle and it shows its ugly head on the tennis court.

On the tennis court you are there on your own pushing through every shot. So yes, these are some crazy times and yes, I will keep pushing through, leaning into Mr. Loney’s light reminding me, you got this.

And yes, every black woman on a tennis court faces that duality every time she steps on that court. The expectations to be a good tennis player and all the negative stereotypes placed on the black woman that show up. This is why the incident where Serena fought hard when the umpire called her a liar, I completely understood her anger. This is why Naomi wearing her mask with Breonna Taylor’s name makes absolutely sense. #SayHerName And let’s not forget the policing of our bodies. The fight to be who you want to be, to be seen in your human light, extends onto the tennis court.

So today, Hats off to all, from Althea Gibson, to Vannia Evans, to Serena, to Naomi who show up, Black and Proud. Way to go Queens! #TennisPlayerForLife #ColonGirl #C3 #Love #light #UnapologeticallyBlack

in light and peace,
Yvette Lepolata 

In the struggle for justice is the hope,
Loretta J. Williams

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

August 2019 Born Day Celebration

Born day month. It is all about celebrating another run around the sun. I do this in one of my favorite places, the Inkwell, Martha’s Vineyard. For the past five years, I retreat in the space surrounded by water and be. I love it!

June and July 2019 Celebrating Afro Latinas


June and July
I was still on my Nubian Butterfly high in June. It was a regrouping time yet holding on to that light that showers me when I am home.
July 25th is the anniversary of my mother´s transition. It is also the Afro Latin American Diaspora Women’s Day. A day to celebrate women of African descent that came about in 1992 at the first gathering of the Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocaribe├▒as y de la Diaspora of which I am the Diaspora Coordinator.
The day is always with emotion. I feel my mothers presence in the most loving way on this day. It’s like she intentionally shows up for us to celebrate her with funny stories and wonderful memories. It’s funny that my sister, brother I rarely share the same story.
Celebrating women of African descent feels right on this day because I start with the one that birthed me.
For the 4th time in Boston we celebrated the day with a Boston City Council resolution. It is a day of acknowledgement, truth and love. The first one was done by Chuck. The second one was led by then City Councilor Tito Jackson with full Council support. The third was led by Councilor Janey and this year was Council President Andrea Campbell. Every year keeps getting better and better. Wilnelia Rivera was our keynote this year. Hermana nailed it!
The day started in Boston years back when no one knew the term or what it meant. I was showing up everywhere speaking on it. I was ignored, dismissed, isolated on many ways for speaking this truth then and still to some extent today.
This year one of our speakers was now elected City Councilor at Large Julia Mejia who is the first Latina, Afro Latina on the council. How far we have come! Now the term is known, feared and less and seen more. It has become fashionable to many and those of us who don’t have the option to come in and out, it is our daily affirmation.
It is deeply appropriate that my Loc anniversary lands on this same day.
Check out my reflection, My Antenna: Loc journey. It has been a journey of grounding self, spirit, thought and movement. It speaks to me, guides and me and even disrupts my own missteps.