Tuesday, April 8, 2014


When we recognize the root,

Oh how light the soul feels.

All parts of self, receive an equal dose of recognition.

Your footsteps become lighter,

Your dance moves instantly to the beat of the drum.

Your heart knows unconditional love.

Your skin shines from within,

You see yourself in those that stand before you, moving beyond location and class.

You feel when they appear,

The cloud opens up,

Love is unconditional,

Clarity of your journey showers you,

All this when we recognize the root,

Giving thanks to the shoulders we stand on,

Oh how light the Soul feels

(Inspired by the young men of the HIS Project and the young women of the HER Project and our recent guests, Bill, Ayari, Anne and Domenic.)

The silence in my blogs is not from lack of writing but so much writing and so many stories to tell that it has been difficult to pick one. This short poem has been the Encuentro Diaspora Afro song for the past few months.

At our Black History Month event, we learned that our community needs ongoing spaces to address the internal conflict that they face every day around their identities. We have been fed a heavy dose of misinformation that gets in the way of us seeing our natural beauty or our true self in the mirror.

During our fishbowl dialogue and Q&A period, we heard the pain from the conflict of not accepting our Africanness. Many have been told that by doing so, you are going to be on the receiving end of everything bad and difficult. It is no secret in our spaces that this is deeply rooted in our psyche and will take time.

Many are forced to address their identity based on color of skin or by being parents to children who will have different experiences. What we know for sure is that we continue to be faced with the reality that saying I am black, I am an Afrodescendent, is a process. It is time to remove all the "different kind of black" that pull us apart.

The messages at home and from society have created a block to see race and ethnicity as two separate entities that can come together and uplift the soul. We need to get to a place that says, you do not need to deny any part of yourself. We need to understand that light skin, trigueƱo, and all the many terms we can reach for before Black, does not mean you are not an Afrodescendent.

The young men and the young women of the HIS and HER project are taking us on a journey that has our minds going a mile a minute and keeps us expanding and reaching for more.

We are faced with the reality that there is Pain in the exchange and we cannot lift it all. It is important to be patient of their process. There is joy when they arrive and see the light on their own. When the light shows up or as some say that aha moment showers them, what a beautiful sight it is.

During our Tree activity two of our girls learned that they might be related. Another one of our girls found out she has Chinese heritage. At the end of our Tree dialogues we invited community leaders to come in and share their family story. To see the excitement in the youths faces when they made the connection to a presenter was priceless.

They struggled with the visual of Ayari, a Puerto Rican, Mexican activist, being 'light skinned' and saying I am an Afrodescendent. One of the girls asked her directly, ' How do you know?' 'How did you get there?' When Ayari passed a drum around to speak about Bomba y Plena from Puerto Rico one of the girls went into one of the deepest explanations of Palo that I have witnessed. When she finished we all looked at her with a, 'tu eres Afrodescendiente', look. I kept saying to myself, the drums don't lie.

Anne and her Afro Dominican pride put the exclamation point at the end of this dialogue. The fact that she came to the US at the age of some of the girls, did not speak much English, and went through the Boston Public School system and went to Simmons College on a full scholarship was an extra, Aha moment for a few of the girls.

Bill Willis, Executive Producer, Writer of the film, 'The Last Shot' brought to light the importance of loyalty to our young men when he spoke of the reality of the streets of Boston and how our young men can move beyond the negativity.

Bringing current issues into the space is always interesting. We did just that when we shared Lupita Nyon'go's Essence Black Women in Hollywood and Oscar speeches. We had the girls read her words out loud and also watch the video. This landed profoundly on some of the girls who struggle with being "dark skinned." The fact that this woman who won an Academy Award spoke so openly about brought a light of acceptance to these girls.

We tried something new by engaging the young men in a dialogue on Beauty. They were so excited to share their thoughts. We took this opportunity to go deeper into what is done behind the scenes to make women look a certain way and the dangers of holding the women around them, their classmates, to those standards.

Allowing new light to come into the lives of these young people and our community has revealed the need to create more spaces and to try new things that make it feel safe to speak from the heart, and builds unity.

As you know, I always have a question for us to sit with, in the hope that we as a community can reach for the answer together. How do we continue to unmask the impact of colonialism? How do we dismantle the long term impact of the 'Willie Lynch Letter.'

Staying on this road is no easy task, but we believe we are where they want us to be and we believe in those who guide us. That light that we reach for allows us to see a truth and an unconditional love that is my greatest hope for Our People.

I hope you know my pen is always to the paper and I will be back soon to share more of this journey with you.

In peace, love and light,

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