Scripting courage

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Take a walk in my shoes.

They are small and black.

They make invisble prints on the concrete floors.

Walking through paths I never would have chosen for myself. Wild places full of untamed things that claw and bite. Wet places full of moisture and tears. Read More

Post India – seeking light

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

We went to see a musical, my best friend and I.

It was a musical about seeking light. Sitting in the dark next to her, this girl whose heart beats as full as mine, images of India came flooding back.

I had left Delhi two days earlier. Boarding that plane that would take me far, far away from India was the easiest thing I had ever done.

See, India broke my heart.

She knocked the wind right out of me. She took my beating heart in her hands and squeezed. It hurt. A pain I will never find full forming words for.

From the start, my intention was pure and my mission clear:

I was going to India to observe, to listen and to learn. I was going to India to experience her. An old land of history and culture. What I ended up experiencing was myself. In all my folds and crinkles. With all the light gone out of me.

I had the audacity to go with my candle. The moment I landed at the airport and stood at the immigration counter, my light was forcefully snuffed out.

“Where are you from” they demanded to know. That was the question that started it all and the question that I have tucked underneath every corner and every furrow of my body.

They wanted to send me back. They did. On account of my passport. My Zambian passport. I had become a spectacle even before I had opened my mouth. And it went downhill from there.

When we took to the streets, in the nooks and crannies of new and old Delhi, I was a walking, breathing anomaly. With my dark flesh and brown eyes. The stares I received were dehumanising. Constant accusations of why I wrought myself in this body. It was suffocating. It was overwhelming.

I found myself walking around with my head bowed as if in mourning. I was unsure of how to hold my body upright. Every ounce of confidence in me had been sucked dry.

But sitting in the dark of a theatre in Singapore, next to my best friend who holds my heart in her own breast, India close yet so far, I watched as the characters on stage danced the story of seeking light. They sough it from themselves and from each other.

It suddenly dawned on me that I had allowed the world to crowd in, to become so intimate with me. I had allowed myself to accept the ugliness it works so hard to reflect onto me: tales of dark flesh that was wrought in dark coalmines. Deep underground. Where light does not reach. Years and years of hearing this had stencilled it onto every fibre of my being. It had made me walk like a slave, my knees buckling the deeper I went into the core of the world. I had folds on my skin to prove it. Scars on my heart. Bundles of hurt hooked to my shoulders.

The world. The way it is structured. The way it moves. The way people view people who look like me. The perceptions. The stereotypes. They have tried hard to convince me and everyone else that I am part of the darkness.

But the truth is even more frightening for some, uncomfortable for others:

I am part of the light. I am part of the rainbow that forms because of the light.  I am created to belong in the spectrum. It is not your choice or mine whether I stay or go. I was created.

I have work to do in this rainbow. My job is to be here. To exist. To disrupt your fantasises. To make you think. To make you uncomfortable.

My job is to be light.

Light.

It is the most silent yet most powerful thing in the world. When it arrives, there is no noise, no drum rolls, no fuss. But it holds the whole floor by its presence.

It penetrates the murk.

It chases away the darkness.

It forms molecules of beauty that match every part of its essence.

Light is life giving. It is nourishing.

And this is part of what I have been called to be. I knew this, yes, but I did not understand it. Understanding means I lift my chin off the ground and I let this light unfold all the folded parts of me. It means I tell you when we are not being properly human.

It means I say NO to the darkness the world wants to shove into sacred spaces of human beings.

To be part of the light, I must seek it. This I know for sure.

Here, at this wall

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“There will be more watershed moments,” my counsellor said to me. Her firmness delicately draped in gentleness never ceases to amaze me.

I let the sigh that was trapped in my body escape, finally. My eyes were sore from weeping & my heart bruised. It felt heavy, too heavy for my chest. And yet deliciously warm too.

I smiled, my lips trembling, surprised they still knew just where to curve, that familiar feel of my smile,

 “Yes…but this feels big…this feels like it” I said.

She smiled back with that hint of wisdom shining in her eyes, “I know…this is important too.”

I could feel the ground beneath my feet, strong, stable, there. always there. Contrary to the rush of fear that invades our being when we hit a wall – the ground does not fall to pieces. It supports us. The foundation, if built correctly will stay in place. So we can shed as many tears as we need, we can throw off our clothes & lie naked on the ground, we can roll in the dirt like there is no tomorrow. And once we are finished with all the crazy things we do to sorrow, we can get off the floor, vertebrae by vertebrae & the ground will still be there, holding us, supporting us.

I met some people.

These people reminded me that I am black. That this skin that covers my body makes some of the world uneasy; that etched into it is a secret code unknown to me that validates their conviction that somehow my brain & heart are hardwired to this skin of mine. That blackness lives not only in my body but in my soul.

It made me laugh & cry all at the same.

So I was sitting in my counsellor’s office because I had hit a wall. It looked too big to scale. too impossible. too incomprehensible.

My perfectionism had come to collect.

I really thought I could tuck & pin the world into a perfect fold. With flimsy lace all around its edges. & sealed with a kiss. A kiss from my own full lips, from my heart—luxury at its best. I thought I could imprint myself on its curves without any question or doubt of my place in it.

I thought my love for humanity was perfect & could be returned to me when needed, in equal measure. I thought loving others was the only thing to do in this life.

But the truth is life falls apart when it is out of balance. As much as I love human beings & with the same gusto & sacredness, I should love myself. The voice that I use to defend the defenceless & pray for the broken-hearted is the same voice I should hold strongly for myself.

I knew this truth in the knowing of it but I denied its power in the living of it. I doubted & I doubted & I doubted.

And so here, at this wall, I’m laying down my doubt, I’m laying down my grasping & my perfectionism. You will not find it. Not here. Not in my body. Not in my house.

I will offer no more apologies for my existence in the world. I will grow into my skin, crawling deep inside until I occupy every delectable curve of it.

I will still love with passion & abandon but this time I will also build a sanctuary to myself.

I will still honour all human beings because my Papa taught me so & it is still a beautiful way to be in the world but this time I will also honour myself.

I will be raw. I will be shameless. I will be graceful. I will be strong. I will be perfect. I will be imperfect.

I will speak in voice, in syllables, ampersands & full stops.

Here, at this wall, I will be fully human. I declare myself so.

Race & Fear

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She just walked up to me & talked to me.

A Caribbean girl, beautiful & awkward in her stride, in her manner.  As though the world was not quite a steady place. I could sense her soul, open & exposed to the elements. She needed no words for me to know she was craving. needing. love. connection. human interest.

She told me how lonely it was being a black Caribbean woman in Australia. My heart clasped & enfolded itself around hers. I understood every unspoken word she said, every bated breath that escaped from her body.

I had vowed to myself to never speak of race or culture on this blog. Even though these are the things I’m knee deep & thickly steeped into. for my doctorate & for my own every day. They interest me in a deep, under the skin kind of way.

The thing is, I have been afraid. Sucker punched in the gut kind of afraid. of offending. of being judged. of being thought of as overly sensitive.

Talking about race rarely goes well in our world. Other people are sensitive too. Emotions come spilling out. Hurtful words gush out of our mouths. Wrong perceptions are formed & dig their fangs into our conscious like leeches.

I’ve had people question my racial experiences or make excuses on other people’s behalf. I’ve had people tell me my experiences are not unique, that everybody has something that gets drawn out of them & for me it just happens to be the chocolate brown colour of my skin. & so I shouldn’t be asking for more. After all, the world carries on as it always has.

I have been shaken to the marrow every time I’ve born witness to this kind of thinking & talking. Did I say so? No. My heart, my beautiful heart trembled in its fear. Fear of confrontation & having that conversation that cuts deep.

Maybe every tactic in the world has been tried & tested. We can’t change the world anyway & so we go along with whatever is championed as the norm; as the superior culture. & the norm is definitely not the face or body you see when you look at me. Or so I’m told.

I find it funny how we all act as though we stood in a queue before we were born and God said,

“Alas! What shall I make you go as?”

“Well, now. I’ll take the blue eyes, blond hair & porcelain skin, thank you very much!”

No, people, it didn’t go down like that. God didn’t give me the choice to be born black or white. & so I find it deeply disturbing when people act as though they had something to do with evading the black skin; as though everybody else who is covered in skin that is not pure & white made a poor choice.

A lot of us wash our hands off race. with soap & all. Because let’s face it, it’s just too hard. too messy. & maybe we feel it has nothing to do with us.

I’ll break it down for you; EVERYONE. Every single, breathing, walking person is affected by race. For some it is positive & affirming. For others it is painful & frustrating. I know both as some of you might.

There is something really terrifying about living in a world where some people are rendered sub-human. The thought process behind that craziness makes me shudder.

I’ve had to come face to face with my fears. I sat down woman to woman with my own inferiority complex. the one that was stamped on me by virtue of being born, black, African & a woman. & the one the world tries to shove down my throat every single day.  I’ve had to deal with my own prejudices & perceptions about myself, about black people, white people, asian people, island people, nationalities & everyone in between. & because I can personally do these things, I can ask others to do the same thing. I never talk about things I’m not willing to do myself. That is akin to hypocrisy & in my life there is no room for that.

The fear that has held me prisoner in the past is fading & I have a mission to make life better for at least ONE person in the world.  Someone has to benefit from my existence.  I have a mission to talk about race in a way that connects people to themselves & to others.

Because when we take away the fear, race remains in its beauty. The way God intended. right. good. & perfect.

I hope I can grow the courage to lay this beauty over girls who walk up to me & speak to me of fear, loneliness & craving. Thickly wrap them up in the truth of race. & love.