Friday, January 6, 2012

Moving from Our Center, Our Rock: Hope in My "Peoples"

Since I began writing these Reflections I use the first one of the year to share a message from members of our family or I take the time and look back on what I wrote and pull areas that were highlighted by others.

This year I will move with voices that moved me to tears and filled my heart with love and hope.

I will begin by sharing why I chose this title and why I ask that this be our mantra for 2012, Hope in my Peoples.

I use the word my “Peoples” because it makes me think, Love. One of my friends always says, Is that your peoples? I love the sound of that! It makes me feel like we are all connected. So that is my new favorite word for the new year, my “People’s “. You are my “Peoples” wherever you are standing. It makes me feel grounded and tribal every time I say.

2011 was The Year of People of African descent. It was a year to celebrate, gain clarity, see movement and build unity. I saw this a few times but I cannot help but say, not enough. I feel we are closer but still not unified. We are still not “seeing” each other.

Many are rejected for speaking truth. Our community, our organizations, our “peoples” are still struggling to stay afloat. This economy has had a direct impact on all of our spaces.

As one of my mentors said, It is time for a “shift” What kind of shift” That is the question I move with into this New Year.

My “peoples”, how do we really take care of ourselves and our community during these challenging times? How do we honor all that we come from without fear?

I feel we can answer these questions together. I met so many wonderful people in 2011.They are the kind of “peoples” that I will stand close to and cherish for a long time.

I also enter 2012 feeling closer to those that are in my life and I will continue to honor the care and wisdom they share with me. Death, pain and struggle does that, it really lets you know who is there.

What have we learned this year or what do we know for sure? I learned that racism still exists. I saw more moments of racism, felt confusion amongst us and a lack of understanding that was painful to watch.

I found myself in many exchanges with friends who thought the visual representation of my Africanness was too much and it was, at times to them, a rejection of me being Panamanian.

If there is one thing I am entering this New Year knowing for sure is “Africa is in Panama.”! It’s in the history, the structure, the water, and the people.

Familia, every year is the year of People of African descent. We do not need to wait for the United Nations or the OAS to tell us. How do we move forward when every day we are reminded that being Black is a struggle.

One my answers came in a message from General Ishola Williams from NIgeria. After the sudden death of my hermana Sonia Pierre, I became concerned about the future of Women of African descent and our overall health and well being. I wrote a Reflection about Sonia as I felt it was important that those who knew her, share her.
The General, as I like to call him, sent me the most touching message that I then went on to read at the gathering celebrating her life.

He wrote, “The African Gods take back those who have completed their task assigned to them in this world so that those who know and worked with them continue where they left off. It is appropriate that those she left behind continue. However, how do these tragic events energize us or do they weaken us? Do they strengthen our solidarity and spirit? If they do then they did not die in vain like Marcus Garvey etc. Therefore, your blog has put forward more challenges. But where do we start? We can start from a group of Descendants who are proud to be known as “non-resident Africans” in our color, dress and hairstyle etc. Have respect for African religions; build a philosophical and pragmatic framework for solidarity amongst resident and non-resident Africans. To be energized for greater action is to honor Sonia. She has done much within her short life to be an ancestor.”

This message gives me hope and I hope that it does the same for you as you read it. I believe in our “peoples” if it comes with the depth and gentleness, of a voice like the General.

My other moving moment that I want to share with you in this New Year, is the words of a woman who in her presence, is a visual representation of why I love Black women. Ms. Phyllis, as I like to call her, is from Belize. We met through our work with the Red de Mujeres Afro. I have been blessed to spend quality time with her, visit her home and gain a friendship that will stand for a long time.

I saw Belize through her eyes, so I could only love Belize because of my friendship, my love and admiration for Ms. Phyllis. Whenever she writes me, I cry and reflect on her words for days. I am moved that she knows me so well and that she speaks directly to my heart.

After writing my reflection, An African Glow, she wrote me this message. “I am honored that you mentioned my name and comment in the article. Though I know many “Afro descendents” in Central America and South America, none of them really seem to embrace their “African Roots” as much as you do. You have been on a quest to learn, absorb all that you can about our people who brought so much on this journey and who are fighting not to lose those things. By doing so, and sharing with me, we have both grown. Thanks for allowing me to walk on this journey with you and I hope that we will reach our destination together.”

Those words can fill your heart with all the love and energy it needs to keep moving forward. I will carry them close as I move through 2012.

I would also like to leave you with a visual for the New Year. As a Community Services Trauma Responder we used the visual of dropping a rock in a puddle of water and the amount of circles it would form. That is how we explained the impact of any trauma on a family and a community. No matter how close you are to the rock, you can be impacted in some form.

For 2012, I would like to use that same visual. The rock will represent, love, respect, spirituality, truth and humility. As I drop this rock, I would like the meaning of this rock to reach you in Roxbury, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Panama, DC, and Nicaragua, Nigeria and Martinique. I would like it to land on all my “PEOPLES”.

If we can move with the understanding that the impact is felt everywhere, then we can move from the same center. This center, this rock, builds on the best that we have, it gathers light from the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors and celebrates us as a unified community.

In moving from our center, we will build stronger relationships with each other, we will cherish each other and highlight the gifts we bring. Since I took a step on this road, every person I have met has taught me something.

I will close with the words from a New Year’s message sent to me by the General, “Remember that the beginning of tomorrow is today.”

I am a seeker full of hope. Today, I move from our Center, our Rock, with the faith and hope in my “PEOPLES”.

May you be well, May you be loved, May you be lifted in this New Year.

Happy New Year familia!!

Peace and blessings,

This picture was taken at home in Panama during the filming of the documentary. I felt safe and protected in this beautiful landscape that is why I say with great certainty, Africa is in Panama.

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