Soulful Love- State of the Black World Conference
Is it real or does it only exists in that space? That is the question my sister friend Chioma posed when I shared that I wanted to do one of our TAK radio shows about Soulful Love/ Unity.
Soulful Love is that kind of love that your spirit recognizes when you are greeted with Hello my Queen or when words and opinions are embraced by those who inspire you and have mentored you. That Soulful Love energy is fed when you enter a space that has seen you grow, held your hands and wiped away your tears.
You are probably saying, where is Yvette going with this? This blog is coming from a place of me wondering and asking, if we as Black people can truly create such an ongoing space where we care for each other and See each other. I am talking about seeing beyond class, gender, location where we dropped off, language, education and truly meeting at the Root. The question comes from a soulful experience that filled my cup and left me with more questions.
I was invited to participate and present at the State of the Black World conference in DC. I participated four years ago and it was just as powerful and long lasting then as it was this time around.
When I checked into the hotel I was handed my shuttle service schedule. I was assigned to the Marcus Garvey Group. Ase o, I said to myself, that is a sign that this is going to be good. His words were a strong part of the presentation I prepared.
What did you do this week to free Black People! That was one of the statements made by one of the scholars in the Research Consortium- Special Affinity Session. It carried the energy of an Africana Studies- Black Power class. It was clear that all in the room wanted to address what we are seeing and feeling in our community and our need to heal. The comments were strong and thought provoking. I share some that stood out for me.
Dr. Joyce King spoke of us, “reweaving that tapestry so that we can understand what is happening to us.”
Another scholar went on to say, “The time has come for us to have a better analysis of our history. We are facing a psychological and spiritual demise of our people.”
At this point I agreed soulfully with what one of the Queens in the space shared, “Different parts of my brain are excited.”
I was sitting next to Dr. James Turner who was very graceful and thoughtful in his greeting. When he began to speak, I found myself holding onto his every word. He shared, “What keeps us in the mix? What is the demographic nature of the Black community? Liberation for all of us has not come.”
Dr. Howard Dobson shared the journey of the IBW and the next steps of the Consortium. Can I say it out loud, that man is brilliant! He makes me want to go back and read more books.
I spent the rest of the day walking around with the question, really reflecting on the spaces I am in and how this Soulful Love gets manifested. I decided to share this experience in the moment with the Encuentro Diaspora Afro family on facebook. I wanted to extend this energy to all.
The shackles are off but the question still stands, How free are we? We walk with such anger that at times is justified but we don’t know to let the love shine through when we stand before each other in good moments.
One thing the conference space did was remind me of two things, we were stripped of everything, Lets we not forget. In understanding that, then as I shared on the radio show, the words of Mr. Richards come to mind, “We don’t know who is standing before us because we were stripped from our families, our communities.”
My people, if we truly understand that, then we need to lean more on this reminder and allow the love for each other to come out.
My next stop was the Pan African Policy Forum dedicated to Ambassador Dudley Thompson and Congressman Donald Payne. The forum was facilitated by my mentor who is instrumental in my participation at the conference, Dr. Jemadari Kamara.
This one was so good I ran out of paper. Here are some of the words that stood out for me.
Ambassador Amina Ali shared, “we want a greater Africa.” She said it with such conviction that you wanted to jump up and say, Amen!
Mel Foote shared, “we need to learn more about each other. We need to prepare ourselves for the long term with short term tactics.”
James Early has been a strong voice of support for the Afro Latino movement. You felt his words from a deep sense of unity. He shared, “we need to learn to struggle for one another before we struggle against each other.” He then posed the question to all, “Where are we on the road to Freedom?” The day ended on a reflective high note.
On the day of my presentation, I was a bit nervous. I traveled to the conference that morning with Dr. Kamara and his students from UMASS Boston. The trip was filled with lots of laughter which made for a light morning.
The panel I participated in was, “Mobilizing the Diaspora to Impact U.S. Policy toward Africa and the Caribbean.” I share part of it, the parts that stood out for others and look to you reading the entire piece with other conference documents.
I opened with words from Marcus Garvey and his definition of what it is to be a Global African. One of the ideas in the definition was to, “encourage African people around the world to be proud of their race and to see beauty in their own kind.”
I went in knowing that some of the points I would raise would be controversial but if I could not speak on it in this space, then where. I went onto to share, “The conversation cannot always be centered in the US and can carry weight coming from someone in the Caribbean or Latin America. The question is are WE, those here in the US willing to truly open it up. Currently the largest black populations are Nigeria, Brazil, US, Colombia and Ecuador. Most of the international offices for the UN are currently in Panama yet we skip over Central America.”
I posed this question, “What is the nature of our collective articulated understanding of who is the Diaspora”. The name of the organization in Boston is Encuentro Diaspora Afro. We not only get asked, “What is the Diaspora?” By non Afro descendent but also by Afro descendent’s who do not acknowledge the Middle Passage and its effect on the Americas.”
I then spoke of specific areas that require immediate attention.
-“What is our relationship?” how do we enter into a deeper conversation that will address the following;
-How do we base the legitimacy and credibility of the effort beginning with the intra collective interest and the totality and complexity that needs to be reflected in the 6th Region
-Critical dialogue of the Immigration issue and a healing exchange with African Americans
-Create a space that our Afro descendents youth exchange in history and cultural dialogues that would better prepare them to see each other as brothers and sisters. That they themselves do not fall for the negative stigmas placed on each community.
-Address the Census and begin preparing our community for a deeper understanding of who they are and the role they have played and continue to play in the development of the countries.
-A dialogue that speaks to the difference in adapting the terms Hispanic and Latino
The root of my presentation and it speaks to the root of Encuentro’s work is IDENTITY.
I closed with these words, “I look to the day when I can say, hello my sister and she says, where are you from and I say I am African Panamanian and the response would be hello my sister, not oh, you are one of those, one of who, those Spanish speaking people. Can we arrive at a place where we truly understand that we were dropped off everywhere and I mean everywhere even in Bolivia and once we have the depth of that understanding, then we can mobilize, truly mobilize as a people.”
During the questions and comments, my words where validated by one of the scholars in the space, Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika. “This is about identity politics, identity transformation.”
After all of this intense exchange, I was exhausted. I felt the weight on my shoulders and needed to leave the space. I did that and came back to support and participate in the other two panels and begin pulling together all the recommendations.
It was time to relax and we did just that. We attended the Reception Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Independence of Republic of Trinidad/Tobago and Jamaica. Light and Fun those are the two words that stand out. Anything with steel drums will do that to you.
We were then escorted to the larger space for the Legacy Awards Celebration and Cultural Extravaganza.
Nana Malaya opened with a wonderful dance that had everyone tapping their feet. The room was filled with joy and admiration, as we celebrated those who have paved the way for so many. It was lovely to see the faces of those who received an award, they were genuinely moved. Soulful Love was in full effect. All of this was summarized and sent into full Soul by Queen Sonia Sanchez with a poem she wrote just for the award recipients. All you heard was, hmmm, say it, that’s right. I love those moments.
I want to share one of my favorite moments of the evening and the conference. When I say, the Panamanian connection is everywhere, believe me. Dr. Conrad Worill had shared that his wife was from Panama. While at the celebration he came to me to say that his wife knew my family. I then spoke to his wife and found out that she was also from Colon, Gatun and Rainbow City. She said that one of my uncles was one of her brother’s godfather. I then called my father and he said, yes, they are family from the Gatun days. My Uncle Theodore who is also my godfather was her brother’s godfather. I am telling you, we are everywhereJ
We then finished with everyone standing and saying together, ARAMBE! The vibration, the unity, the love, filled up the space.
It is always hard to leave these spaces because you know that these moments do not come often and all we can do is share it with our community as I am doing now and hold onto it for as long as we can.
The next morning, the closing started light with Nana Malaya leading us through a black soul aerobic routine singing, Alaafia, Ase, Ase, giving thanks to the sky, the earth and those on the left and right of you. I was sitting next to the couple I call, Panamanian King and Queen, Dr. Waldaba Stewart and Esmeralda Brown. It was wonderful to share the conference space with them.
It then got heavy. A young group of actors did a short piece on how we were gathered, packed on the ship, stripped of our clothes, the long hours of labor and the moment of freedom. The room was filled with heavy hearts and tears but we all knew the reminder would fuel our exit from the space and the energy to keep moving forward.
Dr. Ron Daniels summed up our feelings and thoughts as we got ready to leave. He said, “We are trying to connect the dry bones so we can live and be vital. We came with a sense of spirit and we got back love.”
That Soulful Love is still with me and I have done my best to share it in each and every space I am in and in my words to you.
As you sit with all the questions I have shared, I leave you with the words from the poem I wrote called Soulful Love.
Webster dictionary states;
Soul is a person’s emotional nature, spirit.
Love is deep affection
When synchronized to the beat of our ancestors, touching the depth of hope of our people, it is defined as Soulful Black Love.
Let us all reach for it, fight for it and love it.