Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The woman

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Once upon a time there was a beautiful Guyanese woman; she was golden in color and slight in built and of christian mind; inside her bubbled the african and amerindian spirits.  This beautiful woman met a handsome man; he was smooth chocolate in color and muslim in mind with senses harking back to India.  In the midst of this mixture of love and lust were the gods of racism, slavery and indentured labor, at war with each other as they conducted their historical colonial orchestra.  These gods banned the legal union of muslim and christian and manipulated these people - one beautiful woman and one handsome man - to participate in multiple forms of abuse.  The relationship of the gods eventually produced an offspring, gender suspicion and this godchild grew into sexism.  The love hated itself and the hate fed on the love.  He did not marry her and she allowed him.

Over time this woman gave birth to twelve children six of whom died - one of them in a tragic death of red hot flames.  The man, throughout these births and deaths, stayed steadfast to the gods and their godchild.  And, he collected their weapons for use.  The years made him expert with words as weapons; he used silence with the skill of isolation; his understanding of gender gave birth to demands beyond equality.  Eventually, shaped by the forming of child selves, the deaths of six, the burning of one all mixed with the expertise of the progenitors her mind caved in.  She went crazy.

There was this large house somewhere in the country made for those who went crazy.  He had money; he sent her there to her own cottage.  For twelve years he kept her there; on a train from town to town he sent her favorite fare; he made special arrangements for her culinary pleasure.  The twisted gods of love continued to work their magic.  Eventually, he brought her home to manage another generation of offspring.

Into this holy mess a tall, beautiful and handsome he child was born.  He held all the traits of both his father and his mother and he was baptized in the springs of the muslim and christian baths; he became a child of the Caribbean.  He tried to satisfy all of these gods of mother and father.  He met and fell in love with another beautiful woman of golden color and christian mind and married her.  Over time they gave birth to seven brown girl children of the Caribbean.  But, throughout it all he was strapped onto this wrack of torture; his life was woven into the world of the colonizer.  They turned the wheels slowly and over time he broke and followed the path of his mother.

You wonder why I tell you this story of colonial order and you ask how in heavens name it could be of import to my selves as an educator and intellectual conductor.  And, I tell you it is ... just listen and it will cross those borders and they will meet at the intersections.

The beautiful golden woman he met was also a child of the Caribbean.  Her mother was of Portuguese descent sprinkled with some african spice and she was a country girl in an urban city.  Poverty was her bedding and blanket.  Love and lust were her transgressors.  They led her down the aisle and she believed their lies.  They put a ring on her finger and she followed them to bed.  Instead of ring she bore a child on those bed of lies and became a woman scorned and a woman despised - a single mother.  The child of this unblessed union was the beautiful golden she child with dreams of her own.

When they met he was shy and she was bright.  He stopped his bike and followed her.  She noticed and from then on they shared moments in time.  They learned to love and trust.  They married and then came those seven girls.  The wrack on the wheel stole into their lives and wrecked that time.  He lost faith and they lost the connection of friendship.  They both felt betrayed; he by what had entered his head and she by the broken promise of dreams.  Time collided and folded into itself and sooner than they could comprehend in their senses lives were shattered.  Mental illness reached into the folds of flesh and imploded.  Society's condemnation of such illnesses stained their everyday lives and sentenced them all to years of silent torment.  This social condemnation along with gender discrimination exposed all of these women to other human vultures.

The smell of blood drew them like jackals.

And, the tall beautiful golden woman was sentenced to a life of a struggle to save her girls.  She was left to do this alone.  Shaped by the gods of christianity and the colonizer's social rules she held her tongue when the vultures walked in and fed on the lives of her young.  She watched as they took vows of subservience and she watched and listened as they laid down on beds of nails and gave up blood to the vultures.  At these crossroads stood irony.  The vultures fed on her young in the same way that the handsome grandfather fed on the blood of the beautiful grandmother.  They drew blood with words and smashed lives with fear of exposure.  "You will go just like your father."

This is the history into which I was born.  These experiences shaped me and these experiences are with me at the crossroads.  In the book Black Feminist Thought Patricia Hill Collins centers the importance of working from the intersections of our lives.  In this way, all "truth" is recognized and analyzed. These are the experiences that tilt my world; they populate my "crooked room.

In Melissa Harris Perry's book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, she describes the  experiences of black women in the United States.   Her explanations, definitions, and examinations gave meaning to my perpetual frustrationsPerry's use of the metaphor "crooked room" to describe a black woman's journey through life in a racist and sexist environment gave sanity to what would otherwise be insane as women try to exist with a lack of logic in their day to day lives.

"When they confront race and gender stereotypes, black women are standing in a crooked room, and they have to figure out which way is up.  Bombarded with warped images of their humanity, some black women tilt and bend themselves to fit the distortion.  ......... To understand why black women's public actions and political strategies sometimes seem tilted in ways that accommodate the degrading stereotypes about them, it is important to appreciate the structural constraints that influence their behavior.  It can be hard to stand up straight in a crooked room."

       Milissa V. Harris Perry in Sister citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America 

It took my many years to recognize and accept that I was the child of trauma.  And, it took me many more years to accept that trauma affected different personalities in different ways.  I was a child of emotions that ran as deep as wells.  For me then, the trauma was a black and blue cloud filled with such pain that to inhale would mean the bursting of my heart.

Looking back I realized that I had been stunned by my first collisions at the intersections of life.

It was the 1960's and we lived in a Caribbean forged by British power.  And that power devoured my father.  For, he too, was a man of emotions that ran as deep as wells.

My father, who I loved dearly, was caught in the steel jaws of colonial power and I did not know.  What I did know was that suddenly at the fragile age of seven I watched my father descend into a hell designed by terrorists who masterminded the collisions at his intersections and it was there he lost his mind.

I held his hand through this time and saw his face and spirit crumble.

Catholic religion

Mental illness

Death of parent and others

Impact of racism

Effects of sexism

Education, travel/culture

Poetry by Yaari - Ramblings by Yaari

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