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,


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