Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflection- The Light Within

It is with love in our hearts that we wish you all a Happy New Year.

As we move into 2011, it is important to look at the lessons learned in 2010. Gather those moments when the light, those whispers spoke to us with love and commitment.

This journey may not make sense to most but when I close my eyes and sit in silence, there is no stronger validation.

How do we share that light that builds a unified community?

Our willingness to search for truth, move without fear and create balance in our lives, our community, will be our leading song.

I wrote this week on the fifth day of Kwanzaa which is Nia-Purpose, “Standing on these rocks and speaking of the struggle, strength and love of the Cimarrones/Freed Slaves, brought an overwhelming peace and clarity in PURPOSE. Nia-Purpose, principle is to build and develop our community so that we can restore our greatness. We are great for what we have faced and survived.” Ase

This is the picture I share with you. That moment transformed me. It is with that feeling that I look back at the Reflections of 2010.

These are some of the points that stood out for many.

Humanity-Words we should Stand by-Honoring Ann Marie Coriolan

I share this with you to highlight the common theme of love for humanity. Why do I think this is so important at this time? Like MLK, once our eyes are open to the suffering of the world, you could not but feel the pain of the people of Katrina, Colombia and Haiti, to name a few.

Through my awareness, I have always felt this strong connection to the people of Haiti because if we know history, then we know that what they did has impacted all people of African descent. We should always salute them for fighting, FOR US!! The people of Haiti have been recovering from many disasters over the years. If you have spent any time there, then you know that this devastation will require years of recovery.

Beyond our connection to the country is the connection to the human beings we see on the news and in the papers and the family members of friends we hear about.

So as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., let us pause and send out a message of love to the people of Haiti. Let us use our collective energy and send these words out into the universe, hope, peace, love, community, prosperity. Let love and humanity be your guide. Let these words be the words we stand by.

Now is the Time, Ahora!!

One of the things highlighted in the dialogue was that our experience, the Afro-Latino experience in this country, is an African American experience. It is not until I open my mouth and they hear an accent, I learned that I am seen as a different kind of Black. It is at this moment that I step up to say,” Speaking bad about those Black people, ”African Americans” is speaking bad about me.”

We all agree that they are different cultural experiences in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo and the U.S. but the Black experience, lack of inclusion, inequality, access, exist everywhere.

Why all of this? Torii Hunter’s comments places us in a position once again to talk, really talk to each other.

The use of the word “impostor” is strong yet, he hits a note. The note, that African American and Afro-Latino players do not truly see themselves as brothers. His words highlight that both sides need to learn more about each other, moving pass language.

Now is the time, Ahora!! Let us not get stuck on the word and take, grab, this opportunity to talk. Let us, people of African descent, transcend the stigma, perceptions that have plagued us.

Baseball is not just a game. During the time of Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, it was the platform for visible change, a platform to challenge the status quo and now it can be the platform to confront a divide that exist between us, BLACK people.

We Believe!! Introducing the Young Women of TomorrowI

Sheneka”... When I think about my name and what it means, the following characteristics come to mine; strong, intelligent, independent, hardworking, determined, and successful person. These qualities will guarantee my success. Outside factors like not having much of a family and other things I’ve been through in my childhood are what make me who I am. My mother is a strong person and that part I got from her. She had a rough childhood and she has taught me to be tough and strong because she got through life doing that and it has worked out in her favor. I see myself graduating, giving birth to a healthy child, and then attending college.

The things I value are my unborn daughter, life, and helping people that are in need. I value my daughter because she will be a big part of my life and she’ll be my motivation. I value my life because there aren’t many people who have an opportunity to be in my shoes or even have the chance to go to college. My child will depend on my guidance. I value giving others help because this quality will be beneficial for my social work career.

Myshelle-We have learned to open up and share with each other which I really do not do. I also made some good friends. These girls were there for me on days when I was down and didn’t really know it. Just being able to have someone listen to me and everything I had to say made a big difference.
I just want to say thanks to the girls, Ms. Grace and Ms. Yvette for being there.

Pride- Black History Month in Panama

My work has given me the opportunity to see my father on another level. Painful stories of the impact of segregation on our family keep pouring out. Joyous stories of his childhood in Gatun speak to why when they get together, there is nothing but love in their faces. The pride in our family history allows him to take me on a ride to see the location of the Port in Calle 5 where my grandfather and many other Caribbean workers arrived to Panama.

Moments with my father are a realization that this is bigger than me, bigger than us. We are telling a story of a people that had no voice.

Proud to be from Colon- On the official day of Etnia Negra en Panama May 30th, Colon shines. As I shared before I left, it is a day that we stand taller on the shoulders of our ancestors and for that one day, all the bad that is said about Colon gets put aside for us to celebrate our blackness.

Grounded in Blackness

I ask again, what does it means to be grounded in Blackness or Pro Black? Why did I see the connection?

First, Being Pro Black means loving self and loving my Black brother and sister unconditionally.

Pausing for a moment, I know that putting this out is thought provoking and may mean some isolation but there is a sense of freedom that hugs you when you are speaking truth to your own reality. This is not the time for easy conversations if we really want to transform our world.

I made a list of a few things that answer the question for me at this moment in my life;

-Knowing that those who walk close to me and have had a lasting impact on me who are not Black find our similarities, our humanness, but in opening my eyes to the reality of my childhood and my experiences as an adult, that our roads take different destinations when my Blackness come into play.

-Not loosing focus to the discomfort of others who refuse to hear our reality.

-Believing in my power to change and give to my community.

I give thanks to my mother for leaving a legacy of being proud and not allowing anyone to shake that, for showing me the connection between every Black Panamanian, leading me on a deeper search of that unity. Thanks, for the gift of seeing myself in Nicaragua, Belize, Ecuador and the women of Nigeria.

Thanks Mama for supporting my need to break down the barriers that I saw as a child, for reminding me to take my shoes off to be one with my teammates on the track team and for sitting us down as a family to watch Sounder.

Guerrera Spirit

That Guerrera spirit lives deep in the women who fight for the visibility, recognition and empowerment of the Afro Central American community. You hear it in their voices, see it as they stand and speak their truth, when they walk with pride and hold you with love. I commend one of our guererras, Mirtha Colon, who leads the women’s division of ONECA/CABO for moving with that energy.

We, women of African descent, move to the beat of our ancestral drum. It does not matter how tired we are at these conferences, we always leave celebrating and dancing. When we dance you see grace, joy and an ability to get down low like no bodies business.

Guerrera Spirit moves with those women who fight hard, love hard and see the light that leads to justice for our communities.

Footsteps to Unity

We spend a lot of time wanting others to see us, to understand our complexities as people of African descent. Today our focus needs to be how we see each other and accept each other while building towards a better understanding of the complexities of our individual regions.

Looking deeper into understanding that what is happening in Haiti has an impact on Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo has an impact on Puerto Rico. Nicaragua impacts Costa Rica. Colombia impacts Panama. Venezuela impacts Ecuador. Adding to this understanding, our experience in this country and our relationship with Africa Americans, we should see the advantage to building a unified message.

In preparing my opening for the dialogue, I kept saying, Afro descendents of Latin America and the Caribbean need to rename and reclaim history that would speak to our truth.

A Beaming Light- Celebrating Coach Henry Jones

As we get older, we gain the ability to reflect on our childhood and those aha moments that shaped us and the people that have had a lasting impact on us.

I recently wrote in my journal, “This journey has made me see Panama in a different light, love everything about being from Colon, celebrate being a product of Rainbow City, know with purpose that my Black is Beautiful and has deepened my Love for those I call Friends.”

It has also deepened my love for those I call mentors and teachers.

Many say, once an athlete always an athlete. The discipline, teamwork, focus that you develop will carry you through life. What I learned from Coach Jones has stayed with me off the track.

With my young women, I always highlight the talent I see in them and hope that they hold it close through good and bad times.

Coach saw me run at the age of 10 and saw something I did not know I had. He worked hard with so many of us. My parents trusted him and allowed me to gain more than good track skills from this amazing man.Coach was an Olympian, teacher, mentor father and confidant to many.

Report Back- US Launching of the African Women Decade

This is our journey of discovery it is our time to heal all that has made us say” You are a different kind of black.” Today we ask all of you present to stand with us, join us as we move towards a better future of a stronger unified black community.

My international work with the Red de Mujeres Afro has showed me that success in Senegal is success in Ecuador, success in Haiti, success in New Orleans

They are other moments in 2010 that although I did not write about them in my Reflections, I carry them close in my heart.

Here are a few;

-The passing of my dear friend Veena’s mother, Mrs. Mayani. Mrs. Mayani always welcomed me with a smile. I was not able to be there with Veena, Usha and the rest of the family. I called my father to share the news and he said, I will be there for you. I learned that our friendship is also, our family’s friendship.

-Spending time talking and eating with City Councilor Chuck Turner. Chuck opened his doors to me in my early years in Boston and allowed me to learn the true meaning of listening to community. I have learned many other things from Chuck but seeing him face this major challenge in his life, I learned the true meaning of loyalty. There is nothing anyone can say that will change the fact that this man has sacrificed for community and most off all, has loved us, our community unconditionally. It is with that light that I will continue to stand with him.

-Being at the wedding of a dear friend as she married her Soul mate while her father’s spirit hugged her with an abundance of love. My friendship with Sarah has taught me that you can move to the beat of your own drum and those that move with you will gather joy along the way.

-Filming the documentary in Panama with Toshi Sakai and having my lines read to me by Sheila Walker was exactly what the ancestors ordered. This project which Toshi gathers with love will truly be amazing because the experience has been transforming for all those involved.

-Getting a package with the book, The Afro Latin@ Reader- History and Culture in the US. What a moment!! To open the book and look at page 417 and see the dedication to my father was priceless.

To then have the first book signing event in Boston was a validation that this is our story to tell.

-Going to Houston, Texas for a When and Where I Enter Inc., Afro-Latina brunch with Sonia Pierre as the keynote. This was the first time Sonia and I had seen each other since the earthquake and since the passing of our dear friend Ann Marie. I was her translator and while doing it, I felt a level of pain, fear, yet conviction to keep doing what we are doing.

This was balanced with my time with Mr. and Mrs. Layne who knew me as a child in Rainbow City. My cup runeth over as they spoke of my family and of my mother. I was overcome with tears when Mrs. Marva looked at me and said that if you knew my mother and especially my grandmother, then it was no surprise to have me standing there with them.

-Oh Rainbow City, what can I say other than LOVE. I just love everything about it, the people, my friends, who through that common history we can go 20+ years without seeing each other and once we pick up that phone and say, “It’s me” or when we see each other, you are received with a level of love that defies description.

There is one moment that spoke directly to the questions I continue to walk with, that speak to the development of my voice. Reading what I wrote with a dear classmate in high school was an, aha moment of, Yes, I was on this path way before I named it. I wrote, “Both blacks and whites are still aware of the separation even if there are not stated arguments or resentments. The question still stands, will it change.”

So today, as you say to others Happy New Year, reach for that Light Within that moves you towards building our community. Continue your search for truth, holding those who are dear to you close and believing we will be victorious in 2011.

Family, I ask that we move with the love that will transform you and our community, that love that moves beyond the month we are given and the year we are celebrated. Reach for that love, that light, which will make every day, your day.


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