Sunday, February 15, 2009

Flight of the Hummingbird 1/6/09

Be careful ... the earth is dying. The sea has mourning sickness. Loved ones are leaving. Trees heave truth at those (lie)ing in paynes destroyed during the storm. Unhealthy tradition says economic crisis has been a part of the artist's life. At this point shock should be minimal. Disappointment does more damage. Improvisation is mandatory. It doesn't have to be a downward spiral because I'm a black girl that dances. There is a hummingbird in my chest and at the same time ... the most beautiful things are happening.

I should've known it was Oya's year when the first dance was for her. I saw her on the platform in the Powell street BART Station. She said, "You know this means the ancestors are walking with you." She winked and smiled as I walked away. R.I.P. Oscar Grant.

PhotobucketThe corn at the Amoo's house when I left.
(Accra, Ghana 12/29/2008)

I'm balancing on the border between broken and fixed again. Whole ideas delivered in fragments. Soaked, stained, and stretched canvas painted blue and purple. I've done this before. Falling apart takes too much time that I'm not down to waste or spend complaining. So down to memorize and move. No more drowning in the sea of confusion. Concentration is the keystone. There are more than 700 Palestinian ancestors now. Oceans and land masses away my love is with their families. No one is holding back about anything. Productive and destructive are making love and war on the kitchen table. The house is in shambles. Palo was the second dance, but I had to sit out on that one. It made the hummingbird fly into my throat.

Somebody put hate in the pot. It won't stick, just heat up and evaporate. Aftershocks whistle work songs into empty relief silos that once held provisions. Cinnamon sticks can still snap flavor and fragrance into food with broken fingers, just not as loud. There are too many ancestors working to help all of this become anything but a "Love Supreme". For now most of us are sitting in the waiting room anticipating the news of who became one and who didn't.

I've started having migraines again. (I think I might need glasses). The hummingbird likes to fly back and forth between my eyes when I'm listening. It makes me dizzy so I have to wait until it settles down to chase it back into my chest or out of my throat.

Today I thought about the first time I saw my mother cry. I was 9 years old. It was at my grandfather's funeral. He was a preacher. I called him "Pop Pop".

The time is calling for silence in days, minutes in prayer, and marriage to the most precious and power filled things you believe in. Read a lot. Everyone's holy books hold all the information you need to write your own. Cry into songs that sing away sorrow. Take flight in others. Anticipate the movement so you don't get hit. Go home. Buy seeds. (Make sure they're the kind that can grow more seeds). Abandon institutions that manipulate your muse. Harrness the ability to aim, shoot, and fire those that aren't down for the cause and effect of what you have to offer. Demand and attract greatness. Surround and submerge yourself in spiritual ecstasy that will lift you to the clearest part of empirical reality. Make it plain. There you will find your center. Then you can really begin to move.

I took my grandfather's handkerchief to Alicia's services. It belonged to my mother's father. He was a brick mason. I called him "Grampa Willie". Lots of boy children are being born. Passive aggression has become direct. Most of the time I feel like popcorn is popping between my ears. And the hummingbird is still in my chest.

Medasi (Thank You) 1/4/09

The flight home was 11 hours and 25 minutes. I slept most of the time. My exit from Ghana was swift. No tears fell from my eyes. As the plane approached JFK airport, we hovered like the dragonflies over the well at the Amoo house. There was too much traffic in the air. I wasn't mad. New York never looked so beautiful to me. On the ground, huge snakes of light slithering thru a cold and dark canyon of noise. I couldn't wait to hear it. Soon I'd be standing on the subway platform watching dirty rivers, rats, and smaller snakes of light burning into the metal rails. Ogun gleaming and barreling towards me. NYPD standing in front of the doors as they open. All I could do was smile. From the land of boys called "Bright" and girls called "Gift", White Jesus, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, and brown British folks ... I had made it home.

There is so much to do. Two queens left and two little ones came while I was away. Miriam Makeba, Eartha Kitt. I'm sure there are more. Akwaaba Ajani and Madison. I'm sure there are more. Rest well Reina and Alicia. Your loved ones will need your strength to help them thru this New Year. Sanai, Majesty, Saida, Asher, Nnamdi and Djali "Hey my boos!". ASE yall know it's on. This morning the twins slept girl, girl, boy, boy next to Akushia and her sisters. My parents, my man, my teachers, the Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, the Future Aesthetics Artist Re-Grant, my communities in the Bay Area and Brooklyn made this happen. Kelly Tsai, Zakiya Harris, and Jennifer Archibald thanks for the love. To everyone I extend my sincerest gratitude for supporting this trip to Ghana. I will go back in the future. There is way too much to learn. It was the beginning of serious rites of passage in my life. I will work my hardest to do you proud.

PhotobucketMe and my teacher Robert Fugah.
(Accra, Ghana 2008)

Special Thanks to; Jill Crosby, Mr. Carlyle Leach, Harold Okyerema Akyampon, Robert (Kofi) Fugah, Portia Nana Amankwaah, Mr. Baba CK Ledzekpo, Kokou Katamani Soglo, Phil Atlakson, Dr. Willie Roscoe and Rene Whitaker, Barbara Whitaker, Lark Thomas, Linda Rapp, Jane Schisgal, Leon Pera, Sekou Alaje, Donna Lee McEwen, Devin Dougherty, Benjamin Rojas, Ana Bravo, Geraldine Chisolm (Ms. Gerry), Jamal Lucas, Woza Vega, Amara Tabor Smith, Michelle Sylvain, Askia Whitaker, Lealon Martin, Nicole Inabinet, Donna Rodgers (Aunt Dru), Amena Doss, Kevin Douglas, Bernard Remaud, Lonnie Harrington, Cecily Shores, Osei Wlliams, Nana Kodia Williams, Nana Hansa, Dr. Halifu Osumare, Dr. Anne Adams, Dr. Albirda Rose, Alicia Pierce, Brian Polite, Micah Lee, Mr. David Amoo, Obroni Amoo, Jacob Amoo, Godson Atsu Sokpor, Richard Ashiaku Amoo, Edmund Otu Amoo, Erinn Ransom, Asia Leeds, Goussy Celestin, Jovan Clay, Melana Lloyd, Sheila Akushia Amoo, Aisling Livsey, Joy Bell, JoiLynn, Kyle "Sanaqi" Smith, Guy and Petrina DeChalus, Courtney Killingsworth, Maria. E. Rivera, Kelly Seph White, Milton Jemmott, Amatus-sami Karim, Kevin Powell, Tajeme Sylvester, Olivia Malabuyo, Valerie Winborne, Sarah Baltazar, Sabia Pinheiro, Katherine Moore, and Mamie Scott.

And How Shall I Return ... (A response to B-Polite's "And How shall I Send Thee...") 1/2/09

PhotobucketDoor of No Return. Elmina Dungeon.
(Ghana, 2008)

And how shall I return to thee from the soul mines and ironic gates.

Thin and sharp. A butterfly knife blade ascending behind brass knuckle wings. Tongue cut and laden with shattered glass from the light bulb shoved in my mouth and broken. Poison melting into my flesh. Dying to re-emerge as the next. Descended from the first blood (die)monds to leave Africa, I have come to bring back the drums that were taken away.

The gift of freedom IS the sacrifice of slaves. I will return to thee awake and full. Our mother is sick. She slapped me in the face when I caressed her cheek. She doesn't recognize herself in me anymore. She can only see the white man that raped her. Wonder and chaos are no match for disgust. They can't find a cure. Doctors say she's been ill for too long. It's only a matter of time.

Butterflies and black bees carry gossip and greed. They boast in floats and stings. The skinned knees of stones skipped across the Atlantic bleed gold. Knee grows rock memories of lynchings around their necks and the children of the Africans that sold us will NEVER run out of money. They are "Well to do." But what do I do now that I know her body is gone? Where will I go to pay my respect?

Like Ibos flying over oceans landing home after generations of exile, I will smile for the ones who carry dreams of the Diaspora on their backs like snails over land. The Africa that was my mother died a long time ago. Everyone thinks I should've known, but I'm just now getting the news. I will go to the women and men that taught me who she was and pay respect to her memory there. She lives in my dreams, in my blood, in my body, in my work. I am the grave site. Flowers should be left at my feet. Homage and respect is paid here first. I am the response.

My mother need not be mistaken for that bitch who slapped me in the face. Everyone else knew it was a prank call except me. Family still, my aunt and cousins are complex. Strong and beautiful, but wounded in ways I was not ready to understand. The venomous snake bite against our mother's greatness. Blood is blood.

And how shall I return to thee? ... with many happy sojourns and rope burns from where thou hast sent me. Bow and arrow shooting lightning rods from the throat of the sun. I will SHOUT the seasons into change, burst, and glow. Never forgetting that I am branded by loved ones lifting me towards destiny, ancestors unsettling the dust in me, and children that will come.

Inside the Rhythm 12/28/08

Music go ... Breathe. Close eyes. Open eyes ... Dramatic pause ... Clear throat.

From a garden of extremes grows the most beautiful and wild flowers. Dragons snapping at Venus while she places gardenias in her hair. Everything smells buttery and sweet. Honeybees fly thru soft fire heating porridge. I run thru the garden everyday. Today I will walk slowly, take my time, and notice everything. I have two days left in Ghana.

When I heard the first broom today, I smiled and opened my eyes. Five more would follow. A face for each one. At this house, the women wake the dawn. Lights go. The carpenter plays the first break to call in the rhythm. The choir congregates on the bench under my window. Two sets of twins were already there. Girl, boy, boy girl. Little black stars twinkling and trickling in. One set is 8 years old. They're little brother and sister are 6. Same mother. They rub the top of my hand to say "Hi".

PhotobucketTwins. (Accra, Ghana 2008)

The sun has not made it all the way up yet. Stools rumble. The cheifs begin to move in whispers. A squeaking door, a nail clinks a pipe, then scratches. A plastic bucket bangs against the side of the well. Vocals go. "Kwe!" The bells have entered. They usually come first, but today the second drum called his third daughter first. She was then given permission to knock and enter. She plays the most high pitched bell. When the sun is all the way up her father will be the loudest. Percussion cue. Sound of a war drum.

A clap. A spanking switch playing tradition on the bench. The oldest girl twin scolds her brother. She's the boss. I bet he was born first. If the bell gets off then the entire rhythm falls apart. There are two. The niece/third daughter and the nephew. The fourth and fifth daughter join the choir. They lead the vocal warm-up because they're older than all the sets of twins. A sneeze ... Another dramatic pause, then ... slow motion, two Sirens giggle in. The third will come later. She's the Beyonce. A soloist struggling to play herself down for the sake of the ensemble.

Crossfade ... amber wash downstage right. The sun has risen higher. The carpenter begins to play louder. He and his brother (the second drum) build the conversation in their banter. Flip flops drag the rattles closer. A train is passing far away. She sounds her horn. I know she is well. Better than she was when she lived here. They stand back and watch her blaze past. They hope she'll look back over her shoulder and give them a nod just one last time. She doesn't. Their hearts are broken. All that's left is a trail of smoke. No one got hurt. They wait for the next one. (R.I.P. Alicia).

Tin plates clatter. The fossit is on. The mother calls in the third Siren. (Call) "Kwe Aranya!" (Response) "Yes Ma!" begins the song. The first two Sirens salute. A first born son struts into the yard. The choir begins to sing. They have trouble finding the harmonies, but end up making it work.

PhotobucketSirens. (Accra, Ghana 2008)

(Call) "Akushia!", (Response) "A 'pa!". The carpenter is conducting. Both brothers rock fisherman hats. The second drum is growing louder. A door slams ... something about Circle in the phone call. The first visitor arrives. The rhythm gets caught in a plate. Hand signals say more than I understand. I will go and come because I have learned plenty about increasing the volume small.

I like! I like! I like YOU! Ampey is in the street. Decrescendo. Spotlight. (Larium, liquor, and too much direct sunlight to the dome have made me a poet on myspace. lol).

(Greeting) "Obibini!" (Call) "Can I buy a big, Voltic water?" (Response) "80 paysways." The third drum comes in. He has seniority. Ampey is in the house. Running Flick. Laughter Flick. A plastic toy gun with a golden barrel is the prize. Possession is the most blinging bullet. (Call) Bang!

(Response) Kwe! The spirit enters the third Siren. She begins to weep in a hum. The niece/third daughter and nephew come forward with the bells. The third Siren disappears. It's time to dress her. The choir picks up notepads to improvise a sound scape. The drummers fall back and wait. Smack! The second spirit enters the second Siren. The first Siren calls the third. Boom. Knock out at Green Hand Junction! The spirit of an angry slave to the British enters the youngest boy twin. The third Siren returns dressed in blue and white cloth. She begins her solo. The garden bubbles and bursts. A perfectly organized orchestra pit in the middle of the most proper moments of hood behavior. Both house and field pulsate as the stick hits the drumskin. Every beat is precise. Fa Diggie Doo Doo! Wop! Wop! It's almost tomorrow and the day has just begun.

There is a Ghost Riding the Whip 12/27/08

Dear Ms. Primus,

PhotobucketArriving at the Cape Coast. (Ghana 2008)

I went to Africa. I tried to leave my burdens on the shores of the Atlantic, but there is a ghost riding the whip that beats me into my blessings. A junkyard is at the entrance to the graveyard. An old woman with a gentle face is sitting on the ground. She extends her hand to ask for money. The chief lives behind razor wire and painted walls. Protection. His son drives a benz over the back of my ancestors. Wow ... coconut colored skin can come with chocolate freckles, bright orange hair and eyelashes. Just like when the terracotta clay roads glow at dusk. She could be Ewe, Fonti, or Ashanti. My frame looks like sugarcane more than ever. I finally saw the bats sleeping in the day at 37. They look like dead flowers on trees. It was actually pretty cool. I'm not scared anymore. Now I laugh at the lizard with the black body, red face, and tail. Me and the not so small spider dance around each other. Both trying not to interrupt.

I ate snails because I need to be more like one. That's why I got sick. I was moving too fast.

PhotobucketAdia and Asia at "Bless the Mic" on Christmas Night.
(Accra, Ghana 2008)

Bricks and stones may break my throne, but all that heals me, heals eternity. Yes ... because if you heal a woman you heal a nation ... when the queen is sick the village is sick ... so I'm going to stop it, screw my lid on as tight as I can without getting cut and do everything I can to get well! Most things are easier said than done. Respect is recognizing greatness, practicing honor, and demanding truth. Everything is earned.

Brotha Shabazz says that crabs don't let go of whatever is in the first claw until they have latched on tight and are sure about whatever the next thing is in the second claw. Even then we might not let go easily.

Dear Ms. Primus ... help me to let go.

Ripping Rainbows and Shoving Sky 12/26/08

Dear Ms. Dunham,

I will have been in Ghana for 53 days when I return to New York on Monday, December 29, 2008. 50 days today.

Africa took my breath away and gave it back to me in 10 million pieces. One for each African at the bottom of the sea and 5 more for every time crabs pull each other down in the barrel. It IS hard to yell when the barrel is in your mouth. I'm not sure when I'll catch it again, my breath. It's running so fast these days. Nature slows it down. But I feel like that's moving faster too.

Ms. Dunham ... I've seen it from the other side ... from pretty words that fly like birds to lessons learned that hurt me. The brown dog was guarding the gate last night. He let me into the yard, but when I tried to return to the house from the toilet/bath house he didn't recognize me. At 3:00 a.m. in Ghana, his job is to guard the house. I went to bathroom at 2:58. Every time I tried to return to my room, he would bark and prepare for attack. Kelly saved me from him in a dream once. I sat on the lid of the toilet for two hours until he fell asleep. The rooster yelled twelve times. The Muslims called me to prayer. It was a serious meditation. To my credit, I tested the waters several times before I submitted to the process. I just hella loc'd up like "What Fool! Frisco!". He chased me right back up in the toilet. Lol, I crushed the cardboard in the toilet paper roll, thru it out the door to see if he would fall back. Nope. At about 5:00 a.m. he just chilled out. It was comedy for like 20 minutes ... then yeah ... I made a cup of water to throw just in case he woke up. Slithered back up into the room. Osun won the war with song and dance. Not in front of the dog or the gate tho'. I had to bend and squeeze myself around the the house to get back in ... to return.

PhotobucketOn the shores of the Cape Coast. (Ghana, 2008)

This has been the tale of my Sankofa. The story of understanding patience before the pass. Dr. Halifu says, " A tiger doesn't have to tell you it has stripes." Alicia taught me not to throw my pearls to swine and that everywhere the African steps he/she sees God." Wisdom washed and passed down in the lineage of your legacy. You have done amazing work. I wish we could've hung out. My birthday is on the 22nd too. A month after yours. Asia, one of the sistas that came with me to Cape Coast was born on the same day as you. And I was born in Chicago, Illinois. I know you did a lot of work there. (in Illinois).

Dear Ms. Dunham ... I went to Africa. I ripped rainbows and shoved sky.

Near misses. White dust on the faces of children playing in baby powder. The ancestors speak in everything. And everything is so close. The flash of my spirit is a lighthouse learning to live inside the Veve. Sequins hold the magic of mirrors and I am repelling warfare by speaking to the wind ... and waiting, and weighting, and waiting. Sometimes I wonder if this makes sense to anyone else but me. One of the uncles said the dog didn't recognize me because I was carrying a bad spirit. That's what he was barking at. When it left he let me pass. Nothing happens before it's supposed to. I don't know why that's so hard for me to remember.

Christmas Mourning 12/24/08

Look slow ... Move fast ... The ground is on fire ... but I don't even worry myself with that anymore. If I was at home I would ask if the fumes were toxic. Now, toxic is relative. It's Christmas in Ghana and Jesus Christ is nowhere to be found ... except on the back of tro tros stuck in traffic. Today there are none. ...

Alicia Pierce became an ancestor yesterday. ASE. She was one of my Mamas. A silent cyclone shredding thru dawn. The most refined cloth. Gold buttons down the front of a freshly ironed linen dress. A purple and black second line umbrella with silver trim. Like low country swamp water swimming thru the dirt on a crocodile's back. Eyes like honey. Hips like mountains, rivers, and streams. A solemn and humble prayer to Osun. A beautiful, respected elder that laced me on hella game ... like a ridiculous amount of profound knowledge, love, and support. She taught me how to unlock my back bone like a gangsta and drop it like it's Africa!

Respect to you Queen. From the inside out 'til the wheels fall off. I am so grateful for your life and legacy. My teacher ... May your transition be smooth, safe, and filled with light. I will miss you so much.

PhotobucketCape Coast Dungeon. (Ghana, 2008)