Wednesday, June 14, 2017

An African in Panama

An African in Panama

My African state of soul has been fully present not only in my work but in the way I wake up and the way I close out my day. I am fully aware and clear of what it means to be an African in the Americas and to move with the soul of an African. What has been interesting is the response of the state of soul from other Africans from the Americas.

I live in a constant state of explaining my visual presentation, the tone of skin (yes, my color gets a breakdown) and the language I am speaking in the moment. A few recent events, the founding of ARAAC EEUU, an identity training for young women of color and a performance at the MFA in Boston placed in spaces where I rose up unapologetically African. 

Then Abokosem Sun Sum happened. Attending Mama Marimba's Abokosem SunSum allowed me to bask in my African light without explanation. My deep love of this state overflowed. Sharing space with her and the righteous Africano that walks with me and those in my light circle, I was given this gift of transformation. It is not an easy thing to do, that is, to be African and feel free to be. I continue to see and feel this truth. 

Currently most of the spaces I enter are in conflict with my state of soul. I recently attended an African Diaspora Roundtable meeting at Harvard University. I identified myself as an African Panamanian and that we needed to begin seeing each other, seeing the continuum and connection of a common history in our journey for African liberation. After all the exchanges that led to feeling heard and included, I had two brothers come up to me and say, 'how do you do it? You look so African but you said you are from Panama. I did the 'really?' Look and said, 'this comes natural.'

This is natural in heart and mind. In the way I love and in my loyalty to those whose shoulders I stand on and those I love and care for. Natural, in my intellectual awareness as an African in the Americas, and as an African Panamanian.

Then I arrive home, to Panama, the place that brings forth my full state of being. I was then faced with the same looks and questions.

I found on this trip while joining Toshi and ‘la Reina Diasporica’, Sheila on a few film showings of 'Cimarronaje en Panama.' A discomfort from those who say, I am Black and Proud, I am Afro Panamanian, Orgullosamente Afrodescendiente wanting me to dilute my African state of soul.

The film moved many to a place of celebration, discomfort and self reflection. I truly believe it opens up the deep and necessary dialogue at home of what does it mean to be Black/African in Panama and how do we demand our position in this country we have shaped.  I found myself saying, a lot, Pregunta para mi gente, que pasa despues de Mayo 31? Question for my people, what happens after May 31st? 

Are we truly embracing the depth of that identity? What I saw this time home during the film presentation and just walking as an African in Panama, the answer was, No. 

What I saw was, I will only go so far and those that go beyond or what I say connect at the soul, get excluded because they are a reminder of an internal and external struggle.

In this light, my African Panamanian community brings forth the daily challenges that in Boston. 
As we get older and hopefully wiser, we are in a constant state of reflection that leads us down a path of internal and external check in. My father has placed me in this deeper place as he keeps rising up.
 
The state of blackness/Africanness in the Americas needs to include a self reflection and critical analysis of the place I call home, Panama. I saw and felt a level of racism and internal denial of Blackness/Africanness from my people like never before. Yes, age and awareness make it easier to see and oh, let me tell you, it was strikingly visible.

My cornrows/trenzas, which I grew up doing, was scorned on. My visual was seen as not being Panamanian. The film has given me factual information to respond to this challenge. All this to say, being an African in Panama, was not easy on the heart and soul. I felt a level of push back and exclusion energy from the 'so called' leaders in the black community, without even saying a word.

I have been sitting in meditation on this because it was so visible in words and acts. I am choosing to define myself as an African Panamanian. We have gien many others too much power to defina us. This is not easy for me, to call out my own people in such a way that may exclude me even more. Baba always reminds me, 'conflict is the order of the day.' I am choosing to move through this conflict in a direct way with the hope that my people will be there, standing next to me, when we land on the positive side. 

But not all was a struggle. Being in Colon, Portobelo, with my family, with Toshi, Sandra, Soledad, Gustavo, Tatu, c
onversations with Mr. Richards and all those who stepped in closely, my African state of soul was free to be. The showing in Portobelo was heart and soul overflowing followed by a sweet dose of creative vibe of music and poetry hugged by the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, how sweet it is! This is to be African in Panama, to feel complete and nurtured. 

As I do in Boston, all over the US and everywhere I travel moving with my African centered spirit, I will also do it at home. 

In Panama, I will show up screaming, I am unapologetically African! Soy Africana 
PanameƱa, pa que tu lo sepas! Uhuru!














Giving thanks, in light and love,

Yvette 

Thursday, June 8, 2017


He is Colon! Rest in Light and Peace, Querido Hermano Mauro Esteban Martinez

We connected from a place of Love for our hometown of Colon, Panama. My dear hermano ‘en la lucha’ Mauro Esteban Martinez transitioned yesterday. May he rest in peace and light.

After Juan Williams insulted our dear community, we came together to respond to his claims. From that moment on, we joined forces to bring attention to the disparities, the exclusion and the racism in our country.

https://egbertowillies.com/2012/07/20/i-am-colon-a-response-to-the-negative-and-unjust-representation-of-colon-by-juan-and-raphael-williams/

Our connection was deeply rooted in highlighting the resiliency, the daily struggle of our beloved Colon.
Mauro was an example of C3 resiliency, fearlessness and righteous dedication to Truth. He became an extension of my voice as he kept our Proyecto Yo Soy Colon alive on the ground. Co-Founding the project with him has been a highlight on this journey.

Hermano, thank you for walking with me. Thank you for being a warrior voice for those who are silenced. Thank you for sharing your unconditional love and commitment for the people of Colon. We will continue Rising and Fisting up in your name.

I will miss you! My deepest condolences to your family and friends. To your daughter Ruth, he loved you to the moon and back.

Gracias Mauro por tu dedicacion a nuestra gente!

Much love and admiration

Yve (as he called me)

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Daily Dose of Black Love & Black Resiliency






A Daily Dose of Black Love & Black Resiliency 

On Wednesday, one of my father’s dearest friends, a man I have known my entire life, made his transition and became an ancestor. I have been reflecting on what 'Mr. Papsy' as we all called him meant to me, my family and my community. He was a part of every special childhood moment. He was one of our family Sunday stops.


Daddy and Mr. Papsy were members of the Banda de Bomberos de Colon. This space was not only a space of pride for my father and Mr. Papsy but also for my entire family. When they marched through the streets of Colon, they were a visual of grace and pride for the entire city. We stood with pride, our hearts full while we marched along to that special drum beat. You heard that beat and you dropped everything you were doing to take this moment in. Oh, how I miss those days. 

Mr. Papsy's transition also took me down another reflective path of the good that came from growing up in a segregated Black community, Rainbow City and a majority Black community, the Province of Colon. I saw a daily dose of men and women like Mr. Papsy.  It started with my immediate family. Every time I walked out of my home, I saw an extension of that love, that resiliency and that pride. We did not feel we were missing anything and we moved in that way. With all that was coming at us, we thought and moved like we were the Sh…..:)

Recently when I was home I sat with Mr. Reece, another man I have known my entire life. He is also a visual of strength and pride. He is a retired Fire Fighter. When Mr. Reece and the Fire Department came to do Sparky presentations at school, you could not tell me anything. I knew all these men personally either through my parents or my friends. Sitting with Mr. Reece, hearing his stories about segregation, about the things these elders went through and the things that I will continue shedding light on, was a reminder of the depth of that daily dose of Black Love and Black Resiliency.

When elders in my community, who have been friends of my family, and pillars in our community pass away, it affects all of us. This is not extended family as I have had to explain in the US. This is family. Mr. Patsy is familia. 

Visuals of my father's face when he sees folks from his segregated community of Gatun are present today. Visuals of seeing elders who I have known my entire life like Mrs. Yearwood are present today. How that visual makes you heart full is what I am sitting with as I share this reflection. Visuals of my people in Colon, walking in the streets with pep in their step after years of being knocked down yet they keep getting up, fills me with joy.

I have always said that I knew I could be anything, do anything I set my mind to because I saw it done by these men and women who I now have come to learn went through way more than I thought. It is for that reason that I have begun building a Reparations case on behalf of this very community.

Segregation in Panama prepared me to rise up Black and proud every day. I give thanks to Mr. Papsy for being there for me, for my family and for my community. May the ancestors receive him with an extra special drum beat.  I give thanks to all who were a part of that daily dose of Black Love and Black Resiliency. I sit writing with a smile honoring the many visuals, sounds and feelings that come to mind. I hope you can see and feel some of it through my words. If you do, you will know why I will forever call this place Home. Home is where the heart is and today it is in the nurturing waters, the joyous sounds, the vibrant colors, the delicious smells and the beautiful faces of Colon. 

May Mr. Papsy rest in light and peace. I send an extra tight hug to Daddy for I know this one will land hard on him. That was his buddy, his Hermano. I send a tight hug to his family and to all the Bomberos de Colon. 

May we continue rising on the side of that daily dose of Black Love and Black Resiliency. May we never forget it.  May we lean on it every day as a reminder that, Si se Puede/Yes We Can. 
I rise up today thankful for that daily dose of black love and black resiliency. Feeling blessed that I sat before these elders, I move with this unconditional love that I was born into.  I rise up today wanting to hug those who are on the receiving end of this unbreakable love that hugs me. This love is the definition of, I got your back. This is how we roll, this is how I roll.

Ready for another day, I rise up as a proud Rainbow City girl, a Colonense full of Love. Forever C3!


In love and light,
Yvette 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

More Sweetness In Life




More Sweetness In Life

I closed out 2016 doing things I love, sharing space with people I love. I fell asleep on the New Year smiling at this unplanned joy that showed up bright and full of, I am ready, let's do this. 

New Year means a new you but I arrived at a few places in 2016 that allowed the full me to show up and I am taking that person with me into 2017. That person is unapologetically African, Black, Pan African and in love with that light.

That clarity will show up in the continued work of Encuentro Diaspora Afro. We will keep doing it our way which is, embracing our Africanness. That clarity will allow us to keep finding new ways to share that love with our community.  We will share this sweetness in life in more intentional ways with the hope of bringing those along who still ask the question, Am I Black? Am I an Afro descendant?

The clarity I stand with today in the knowing my strengths and my weaknesses grounds me in the light of keep growing, keep learning  and keep loving with the intention of bringing more sweetness in life. 

This is not absent of struggle. It is in the absolute knowing that struggle will be present yet placing the intention of an outcome that allows us, me, to keep moving forward.

This also takes courage. Courage to say, I know it’s coming but I will find a way out or through. This will translate for Encuentro Diaspora Afro as we will keep rising by any means necessary. For me, I refuse to feel defeated. 

The work we do, I do, and the work I have dedicated my life to do is built on love. I don't want to ever forget that. I look to this New Year to show it, speak it, write it, dance it, cry with it, feel with it and share it with you in an unapologetic way. This is who we are! This is who I am and in the righteous light I stand with today and this is who you will see in 2017. So Happy New Year familia! Let the sweetness begin! 


Here is the song we are singing as we welcome more sweetness in 2017


Peace, Love and Light,

Yvette