Today I am a hopeful yellow gold while still a bit sapphire blue.
I’ve got a spark of desert fire though I’m usually ocean cool. My consistency’s smooth like honey though life’s depths can make light hearts steel blue. I’ve got vision as fresh as powder blue skies at times.
At other times, my eyes seem to be plugged in butterscotch.
Sometimes I’m an unsure azure, and other times I’m a bold bumblebee.
All in all I strive to stay royal gold despite the royal blues that come and go. Life’s sundry blues build strength and its abundant golds gift wisdom.
Its been about a year since my dad passed away. He was a man whose life was a testimony to the fact that despite trials and tribulations, one can make a great impact on the world in which they live. His tribulations began from the time he entered the world and they toiled without ceasing until the day he left the world. However, he found an identity, a purpose, a family, love, and he found a home. Our home was like a palace among dungeons, a serene island in the midst of turbulent waters, a luminous lighthouse among overcast destinies. From the north to the south, my parents were royalty with class, self-respect, sophistication, dignity and an unconditional love for all. They were consistent contributors to society and firm believers in serving God and helping others. They instilled those values in their children and we were all proud residents of our palace among dungeons, our serene island in the midst of turbulent waters, and our luminous lighthouse among overcast destinies. From the time I was a young girl I realized that love is home, and that a home’s value has little to do with it’s price tag. A home’s value has much to do with the non-material treasures within. Love is home.
My dad was a man of many talents. He was gifted musically and gifted with the written word. Creatively, he had a good eye for art, style and design. He could inspire, teach, preach, coach and minister to others effectively. He had an analytical brain that allowed him to work for himself, train himself, and develop himself in his field despite having limited resources and support. He cultivated my love for words and supported my talents in visual art. Out of all the amazing things my dad did for his family and others on the earth, the thing that stood out the most to me was his ability to and love for inspiring people to be their best selves and to have hope. From the fancy clad people in churches to the downcast men in the prisons, to the impoverished people in the border towns of Mexico, to the homeless men and women under the bridges, dad loved to minister to people’s souls.
Sometimes I’d tag along on mission trips with him and my mom until I caught the bug to serve and began going on mission trips locally and away from home on my own. To this day, I love the ministry of spreading hope and God’s love. The gift that I’d always share when going on mission trips was the gift of storytelling. I’d read poetry or perform inspiring monologues for all who would listen. The love for inspiring others remains with me even to this day. When I returned to New York City as an adult I did so mainly to work for a major media outlet there. I did that for a time while taking on gigs as a writer for blogs and magazines, and a production assistant for fashion shows and charity events. I not only had fun but considered myself fortunate to have been able to go to New York City to expand my interests and hone my abilities as a creative and a writer. After some time, I began to get right back to that 180 degree point of simply wanting to inspire others with my writing.
One day, while living and taking college classes in the very diverse and creative borough of Brooklyn, I had an epiphany. Aside from spending my time solely in creative pursuits I would also volunteer for service days in the community with different organizations. Well, one day in a fit of bold ambition, I decided to do some outreach of my own in the community. I wrote a few inspirational skits and had the bright idea to perform them with a puppet. I did get help from real people now and then, but for the most part I would perform these inspirational skits with puppets. Then, I wrote to homeless shelters asking them if I could perform inspirational monologues for the people at the shelters. All the while, I would reminisce on being a little girl tagging along with my parents on missions trips, singing, reading poetry, feeding people, distributing clothes, and listening to dad and other ministers bring the word of God to those in need and pray for them. To my surprise, quite a few homeless shelters in the city agreed to have me come and speak to the people. My fit of bold ambition almost turned into fear, but I had a peace deep within that this was a part of my journey, and a major part of my purpose.
Before I knew it I was standing before a very large group of people, ministering in my very own way. Sometimes I had a puppet. The method to my creative madness with the puppet was that I was going to deliver heavy content in a lighthearted way. To my surprise grown people really, really enjoyed the puppets. Ha! On one occasion, I was preparing to deliver a message on a stage in a large auditorium. The minister had just prayed, and the people were there to hear me instead of the sermon for that day. Woah! Though a bit rattled in disbelief I took a deep breath and delivered my inspirational message. Looking back, I wish I was prepared to bring a sermon instead of a short monologue. I would have drawn from some of the many deep, life-changing messages I’d heard overtime and really delivered.
My message was well-received. Shortly after visiting the homeless shelters, after having won a writing contest, I was invited to speak at a community center in the Bronx. I hired a guy for $50 for the day who was surprisingly sane, well put together and talented for being a random New Yorker (who would work for $50). He operated my puppet who was playing the character of Ed, and we had the time of our lives performing and inspiring yet another large crowd of people. Shortly after that, I was invited to speak in Niagara Falls for a fashion and beauty show. I wrote a special skit for that show being that the audience was different, but it was still inspirational and very well-received.
My heart was simply to serve and follow in my parents’ footsteps, ministering to others while having fun doing so, and doors continued to open. The following is a part of a skit called Love is Home that I performed at a few of the homeless shelters I visited in New York City. Now is as much a time as ever to spread messages of hope and the love of God to the masses. To be able to do so creatively, with passion and purpose, is an honor. Here is an excerpt from Love is Home. ~
Ed is going through some valleys in life and is confiding in Di. Di is there to support him and lift him up from his valley to his mountaintop! Ed and Di share of themselves, and in the end both of them are relieved to truly understand how genuine love can conquer all.
ED: DI, YOU KNOW THEY SAY HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS. WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT MEANS?
DI: WELL, I SUPPOSE IT MEANS THAT WHEREVER THERE’S LOVE, THERE’S HOME!
ED: BUT WHAT IF MY HEART ISN’T AT HOME? WHAT IF I’M THE TYPE OF GUY THAT LIKES TO ROAM?
DI: ED, A LIFE WITHOUT THE WARMTH OF LOVE GUARANTEES THE ICIEST SHIVER. TO SHIELD OUR HEARTS FROM GETTING TOO COLD, WE MUST COVER OURSELVES IN LOVE.
ED: DOES LOVE EVER RUN LOW OR RUN OUT? IS THERE A VIAGRA FOR IT? IT NEEDS TO BE REVIVED IN MY LIFE! I’VE HAD SO MANY DISAPPOINTMENTS AND PAINS DI. I JUST DON’T THINK I CAN LOVE AGAIN.
DI: PAIN IS A PART OF THE GAME OF LIFE IN WHICH WE ALL PARTICIPATE. IT’S BETTER TO LIVE WITH AN OPEN HEART WITHOUT FEAR THAN TO FEAR PAIN. PAIN WILL COME BUT WE OVERCOME.
ED: DI, I CAN ACE LIFE WITHOUT ALL THE LIFE LESSONS. SPARE ME! WITH ALL I BEEN THROUGH, IT’S A WONDER I’M EVEN HERE RIGHT NOW. YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT I BEEN THROUGH, DON’T YOU?
DI: ED, SURE I DO! OUR LIVE’S VALLEYS EXPOSE WHO WE TRULY ARE. IF WE ARE SURVIVORS, WE CONTINUE TO GET UP WITH OUR SIGHTS SET ON THE MOUNTAINTOP.
ED: SO TO ACE LIFE WE HAVE TO KEEP GETTING UP UNTIL WE GET TO OUR MOUNTAINTOP? ALRIGHT. I CAN DIG IT. BUT LET ME TELL YOU MORE ABOUT WHAT I BEEN THROUGH, DI.
DI: PLEASE SHARE, ED.
ED: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I’VE BEEN STRIPPED OF MY LIVELIHOOD! YOU MAY AS WELL PRONOUNCE ME DEAD.
DI: COMPLETELY STRIPPED? NAKED AND LIFELESS, HUH?
ED: I MIGHT AS WELL BE! I LOST MY ZEST FOR GETTING UP EACH DAY THE DAY MY JOB I LOOOOVE WAS TAKEN FROM ME!
DI: TAKEN FROM YOU, OR YOU LOST IT? TELL THE TRUTH…
ED: NO, YOU HEARD RIGHT, TAKEN FROM ME. I WAS AT WORK ONE BRIGHT AND SUNNY DAY, ON TIME, BLACK COFFEE IN HAND, ABOUT TO GET TO WORKING FOR THE MAN. THEN HERE COMES THE TAP….
DI: LIKE A KNOCK KNOCK JOKE?
ED: YES, I MEAN NO, IT WASN’T NO JOKE! THE BOSS MAN SAYS, “ED, CAN I SEE YOU IN MY OFFICE?”
DI: OH OH. WE KNOW WHERE THAT IS GOING.
ED: EXACTLY. I WENT INTO THE BOSS MAN’S OFFICE BARELY HANGING ON, YOU KNOW PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK. NEXT THING I KNOW, I CAME OUT OF HIS OFFICE LAID ALL THE WAY OFF!
DI: YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING! THAT’S TERRIBLE ED! AND YOU’VE BEEN JUST BARELY HANGING ON STILL FOR A WHILE NOW YOU SAID? OH NO FRIEND, WE’VE GOT TO GET YOU STANDING STRAIGHT UP AGAIN.
ED: DI, THIS WHOLE WHILE I’VE BEEN BARELY HANGING, ITS A WONDER I HAVEN’T GIVEN UP, COMPLETELY FALLEN OFF. NOTHING BUT GOD’S MERCY HAS ME STANDING HERE TODAY. I BEEN SO TIRED, I’M RETIRED TIRED. WITHOUT THE CHECK OF COURSE.
DI: OF COURSE.
ED: ANYWAY, AFTER A WHILE I JUST FELT LIKE I GAVE ALL OF ME OUT. IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET THAT JOB I LOVED. I DON’T LOVE VERY OFTEN. SO I HAD TO FILL UP THAT EMPTY SPACE. I STARTED TO FILL MYSELF UP WITH FEEL-GOODS. I FILLED MYSELF RIGHT UP TO THE BRIM WITH FEEL-GOODS JUST TO FEEL ALIVE AGAIN. I SPENT EVERY LAST COIN THAT I DIDN’T HAVE ON FEEL GOODS.
DI: OH, ED. MOST FEEL GOODS ARE VERY, VERY BAD.
ED: YOU THINK? IT WAS BAD. I EVENTUALLY LET THEM GO, BUT IT WAS HARD. I LOOKED TO MY CREATOR GOD WHO KNOWS EVERY SINGLE WEAKNESS OF MINE. I PRAYED UNTIL MY OLD KNOCKED KNEES WERE SORE. I STARTED FINDING PLACES TO BE THAT BROUGHT ME PEACE. I PICKED UP READING, WRITING, WALKING, YOGA, QUILTING AND EVEN RIVER DANCE.
DI: RIVER DANCE? YOU MUST SHOW ME A STEP OR TWO SOMEDAY. WELL I’M PROUD OF YOU ED. YOU FOUND A WAY TO GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY AND CONTINUE CLIMBING TO THE MOUNTAINTOP. THAT MAKES YOU A SURVIVOR, AND SURVIVORS ARE WINNERS.
DI GIVES ED A HUG.
ED: DI, DON’T GET ME ALL TEARY EYED NOW. TALKING TO YOU MAKES ME WANT TO GO HELP OTHERS GET THROUGH THEIR VALLEYS AND TO THEIR MOUNTAINTOPS. I’M GOING TO DO JUST THAT. I AM GOING TO TRY THIS LOVING OTHERS THING OUT MORE. AS LONG AS I HAVE LOVE IN MY HEART, YOU HAVE LOVE IN YOUR HEART, WE SHARE THAT WITH OTHER HEARTS, WE WILL HAVE FOUND OUR PLACE IN THIS WORLD.
DI: YES, ED. LOVE IS HOME. LOVE ISN’T A JOB, OR A ZIP CODE, OR A PROMOTION, OR A TITLE OR EVEN SUPERFICIAL FLATTERY. BUT I THINK YOU’RE STARTING TO GET MORE FAMILIAR WITH LOVE, RIGHT?
ED: CORRECT! LOVE AIN’T ANY BIT OF THAT! LOVE IS TO BE SHARED. WHETHER I LIVE IN A HIGH RISE OR A LOW LOW. WHETHER I SLEEP ON SILK SHEETS OR A SHAKY COT, LOVE COMES FROM THE HEART AND ITS TO BE SHARED WITH OTHERS. AS LONG AS I HAVE LOVE, I HAVE A PURPOSE. I HAVE A PLACE IN THIS WORLD.
DI: THAT’S RIGHT ED. FATHER GOD LET LOVE LIVE FREELY IN US, SO THAT WE CAN GIVE IT FREELY TO OTHERS, FOLLOWING YOUR EXAMPLE, AS YOU CONTINUE TO LOVE US.
AnotherNote From the Author
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from my skit Love is Home. It was truly a joy performing this inspirational, comedic skit for many audiences. I believe many that heard it could identify with the message of loss while still holding onto hope. I believe it touched and changed lives for the better. This message is relevant even today. I look forward to continuing in my passion and my purpose. ~
The beauty pageant is in a few months. There were rumors that the pageant would be cancelled due to the sudden insidious virus taking lives all over the world. Still, hopeful pageant queens have been preparing nonetheless in hopes that we can show the world, especially in menacing times, that women can be as beautiful as they can be triumphant. This community pageant will highlight the accomplishments of all who bring beauty to their environments. There will be a talent portion of the Miss Clear Skies pageant, where I hope to reveal another dimension of myself. I hope to have a performance that is both memorable and meaningful. I am an unrevealed superhero, performing only as Amani, simply revealing the glorious melanin The Creator gifted me with, for now. The talent I plan to reveal for the pageant is my ability to bring beauty to my environment instantaneously.
The oddest thing happened to me the other morning in my design studio. I was painting an image of Eve in the Garden of Eden on a Saturday morning while sipping my breakfast tea. Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds started the soundtrack to my day. The window was open slightly to usher in the breeze of that bright spring morning. I was no more than a few brush strokes into the Tree of Life, when I paused for a moment to envision how harmonious it must have been in Eden before The Fall. The pause became a deep daydream. I was wide awake but so deep into the daydream, that I could see the clear blue skies above me, smell the cleanest air that ever was, and feel the soft, supple soil of a virgin earth beneath my feet. This vision seemed to be as real as the canvas before me. I didn’t want to be free of this glorious vision, but I did want to get back to enjoying my Saturday morning. I truly believe that in that moment, I was able to bring the beauty of the Garden of Eden right into my studio.
So, for the Miss Clear Skies Pageant, I have decided to bring beauty to my environment. I plan to paint a picturesque garden again, this time with the Black Venus in the midst. I saw a sculpture of the Hottentot Venus at a museum last week and it was the first time that I’d heard her story. I thought, ‘How is it that man could objectify a woman’s body created just as beautiful in God’s image as any other, simply because it is different?’ I wondered how the first woman looked. Was Eve’s body voluptuous and strong, able to bear the burden of original sin as well as bear children? How do we know that Eve did not resemble the Black Venus? Who are we to judge one another’s likeness if we are all in the likeness of our Creator God?
I also identified with the Black Venus’s pain of knowing she was different, but not having proper guidance as to what to do with her unique gift. I wondered what thoughts, opinions and talents she had that were never discovered, because the fascination with her physical appearance clouded people’s perception of her. The Black Venus seemed to live in a black cloud, or even possibly be a black cloud. Instead of pouring out showers that resuscitated and revived, she must have held all of those showers in until she eventually drowned, black and expired. I wondered if she knew that she could have overcome to create her own dreams, without succumbing to another’s dream of who she should become. I wondered if she knew that a poor, black woman with a physical anomaly was still worthy of a good life.
The Hottentot Venus, or Black Venus, was a woman of an unremarkable background, in unfortunate circumstances, in a confining atmosphere leadened a dismal gray. Her fate fell into the wrong hands, and before she knew it, she was bare and on exhibit in London, Paris, and eventually the entire world. This was in a time when the slave trade was abolished by the British Empire but slavery endured in various, more subtle forms. Her large, protruding buttocks made the South African woman a main attraction at freak shows in Europe. She was a woman deceived, raped, abused, objectified, experimented on, pimped, and grotesquely exhibited, never having the chance to realize her true purpose. She was like a well-formed cloud, ample, full-figured and filled with the potential to shower her gifts upon the world. But, her image was clouded until she disappeared into the leadened weight of her world.
Women are like clouds in the sky. Some women weigh a bit more than others and we come in different shapes and sizes. Some of our curves are accentuated on different parts of our forms. Some women are light and fluffy and some are mysteriously dark. Some women welcome the sun to shine through them and some lurk in pale corners of the sky, an undetectable figment of space. Still, though we’re all unique, we each carry our fair share of weight. If any one of us falls below, the impact would be disastrous! And if several of us fell below, our cloudburst would be apocalyptic! I can envision the pageant stage on the day of the show. Some contestants will be bold and dynamic, and may be more celebrated than others. Some contestants will be silent warriors, strategic and set on being victorious. As women, its very necessary to uphold one another, not allowing the gravity of jealousy to destroy our worlds.
The pageant will be held at the Celestial Grounds, a spacious community recreational center in East New York. The neighborhood around the rec center isn’t an enviable zip code. The coordinators hope that the pageant will bring a glimmer of hope, purpose and beauty to an otherwise glum area. Aside from wanting to win the title of Miss Clear Skies, I’m very concerned with the impact that the beautiful and talented contestants will have on the community. The last time I was caught up in a vision while painting, I was suddenly surrounded with beauty. I’m now envisioning the community recreational center being transformed into a vibrant cornucopia that overflows with both purpose and beauty, even into the neighborhood without.
As for winning the title, well, I hope for an enriching experience for all. Hoping for another woman’s loss to amplify your win will only result in your loss in the end. For the day your crown falls, that woman may have been the one to remind you that you’re still a queen, and help you get your crown erected again. What were to happen if even one of the ample clouds fell from the sky? The impact would be disastrous! What were to happen if all of the uniquely shaped clouds fell from the sky? The world as we know it would be flooded with beauty gone awry. There is so much more substance to a beautiful, shapely cloud than meets the eye.
Amani, also known as Super Sista, decides to go on vacation to Barbados with her best friend Itunu. They had been wanting to go on a scuba diving adventure for some time. Being that their 21st birthdays were approaching just days apart, they decided that now would be an ideal time to go. While Super Sista is admiring the beauty of the Barbadian waters below the surface, she is stopped in her tracks by the most beautiful creature she’s ever seen. She sees a handsome bronze merman who appears in the distance and beckons for her to follow him. She decides to inch just a bit further as to not lose Itunu. As she inches closer to the bronze merman, the scope of her view is widened and she sees a beautiful bronze mermaid just beyond him, her tail like illuminated pearls against the deep blue water. In a daze, Super Sista inches forward even more and before she realizes it, she has lost Itunu. She is led to a bright place called Ina, where the merman Nuru and the mermaid Mwanga introduce her to ancient yet living sculptures who would soon enlighten her more than she’d ever imagine. The sculptures would share their unique stories as to their journeys to that place, giving her more insight into her story. In hearing their stories, Super Sista would gain a better understanding of her story. To her surprise, she also encounters a direct link to her ancestry. The sculptures Chamba, Wolof, Abron, Fulani, Fon, Mandinka, Bakongo, Igbo, Yoruba and Mbundu (the African tribes hit hardest by the Atlantic slave trade), guide Super Sista through a vivid account of their lives before the chains, before the horrifying dungeons, whips and ships, to the hellish quarters on the ships, and finally to their final resting places far below where any evil could reach them again. They’d found a haven of light among the darkness. After Super Sista is caught up on knowledge, and her soul is satisfied, she rejoins Itunu excited to let her in on her enlightening adventure. Super Sista has discovered yet another facet of being super, and that is, satisfying her soul.
Itunu= comfort in Yoruba
Ina= light in Yoruba
Nuru and Mwanga= light in Swahili
~ Ina ~
Amani (Super Sista) and her best friend Itunu arrive at Underwater Heaven, a beautiful diving location off the Caribbean island of Barbados. They are eager to explore the clear tropical waters as they embark on their first diving adventure. Itunu hopes to see cute sea turtles and a few wrecked ships below, while Super Sista hopes to meet a few mermaids. There is nothing impossible in her opinion. She, if anyone, is aware of that.
You know Itunu I think I am going to become a biologist. Nature and science are so fascinating.
Amani, last week you wanted to be a meteorologist. Let’s both make it through college and then we’ll see what you decide to be on graduation day.
Ha! Funny. I can’t help that I am multi-dimensional Itunu. Do you know what that means?
Yeah. It means that next week you’ll want to be an astronaut!
The ladies laugh as they walk toward the pier. They’d heard about the underwater caves of Barbados and the hidden places below. Their laughter tapers off as they get closer to their destination. They begin to think about all the things they would possibly encounter in the water world that awaits them.
Well this is it Itunu. We wanted to do something daring for our 21st birthdays. I think this is pretty daring. Here’s to the big 2-1!
Look at us, big city girls exploring the Atlantic. No fear, right? Adventure awaits us.
The ladies shake each other’s pinky fingers in agreement and then descend into the waters of the Atlantic. As they descend, they feel a variety of emotions. First, they’re shaken up a bit by the barracudas swimming around and in awe of the many colorful reefs. Then, as they swim further away from the pier, Itunu is elated to be surrounded by so many cute sea turtles, stingrays and other colorfully unique fish. A unicorn fish greets an enormous sea sponge briefly before swimming away. A seahorse and an octopus are hanging out near another pretty reef a short distance away. As they explore even further, the ladies are stopped in their tracks by a very captivating entrance to a cave. A glistening turquoise pool coming from the cave’s entrance lures Itunu toward it.
Amani, check this out. Look at that beautiful stream of water right inside the cave! Let’s go see what’s in there. The water is so beautiful.
As Super Sista and Itunu swim towards the cave’s entrance, Super Sista is distracted by another unexpected sight. She notices a glistening beam of light coming from a crevice adjacent to the cave. Itunu doesn’t seem to notice as she hypnotically swims closer and closer to the cave’s entrance. Super Sista stalls a bit then follows the beam of light with her eyes in hopes to find its origin. The beam extends far back into the crevice, with no ending in sight. As Super Sista peers at the beam in amazement, she sees something even more amazing emerging from the beam of light.
She sees a handsome bronze merman who appears in the distance and beckons for her to follow him. She decides to inch just a bit further as to not lose Itunu. As she inches closer to the bronze merman, the scope of her view is widened and she sees a beautiful bronze mermaid just beyond him. The mermaid’s tail was like illuminated pearls against the deep blue water. In a daze, Super Sista inches forward even more and before she realizes it, she has lost Itunu. Thinking it would be easy to catch up to her later, Super Sista swims with more enthusiasm toward the beautiful sea creatures. She follows them into their glorious habitat. The first creature, a merman, introduces himself as Nuru. He welcomes her to their home.
Welcome, this is Ina. Ina is a bright and comforting treasure, but she is very humble. We will love to show you around our home and introduce you to some of our very special family. Amani, right? We’ve been waiting on you to arrive. This is my wife, Mwanga.
Amani. Welcome my sister. One of your great ancestors knew you were coming for a visit and asked us to come find you. She is here. She can’t wait to greet you.
Super Sista feels at peace despite her mysterious surroundings. Not only is she greeted by name right away, but they seem to not be afraid of her. She wonders who this great ancestor is and if she’ll recognize her right away. She then remembers that freedom begins where fear ends. She decides to embrace the rare opportunity.
Thank you for having me over to explore Ina. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.
Super Sista follows Nuru and Mwanga further into Ina. Their home is very well lit. Every rock and sculpture appears to glow. Super Sista can’t help but notice a multitude of treasure chests lining the ocean floor. Beautiful gems and jewels spill out of the chests and some jewels are even floating among some of the sculptures. As they go further into Ina, Nuru begins to explain who their very special family is.
Amani, we are all family, even if generations apart. See, when Mwanga and I discovered this place Ina, family was already here. We made a home with them. For a very select few they come alive and tell their stories. We are a storytelling people.
I am more interested in your stories. I am sure that you have so much to share with me. I am sure that your stories are more interesting.
And your story is interesting too. You will soon see. Look, Nuru, our guests seem to be coming to life. They’ve been asleep for just a bit. The last hurricane took a lot out of us.
The deep-water sculptures, chiseled by the hands of the Atlantic over time, began to shake from their inanimate states. Some of them stand taller, some move forward and others backward, but only one turns to face Amani. Still, she waits to be introduced.
Amani, these are our family. They are so honored to meet you. Here we have Chamba, Wolof, Abron, Fulani, Fon, Mandinka, Bakongo, Igbo, Yoruba and Mbundu, all survivors in many ways of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Family, meet Amani. Amani, I hope you enjoy our fellowship and our stories.
It’s so nice to meet all of you. I like the idea of having so much family. I come with an open mind and heart.
I guess you are wondering who we all are and why we are here. Well my daughter, we found light deep below the surface and united with each other. God is everywhere, even all the way down here off the coast of Barbados. We are only a few of the many who found solace below the surface as opposed to on the slave ships. We were chained together for thousands of miles, traveling what they called the Middle Passage. We could no longer dance and sing, be the professionals we once were, love the people we once loved, nor live the lives we once lived. So, many of us freed our souls here while abandoning our bound bodies. As for me, I was a teacher. I had just had my son before I was captured. My small son was left behind as if his life didn’t matter. My daughter, we didn’t plan on being tossed like useless cargo. We didn’t plan on willfully tossing our beautiful bodies to the cold, tumultuous waters. But we also refused to simply exist while feeling nonexistent. We were more welcomed below the surface than in those floating dungeons. And that is truly the heart of most of our stories.
Chamba told you right. Like Chamba, I came from a family of brilliant people. In my kingdom there were many highly intelligent architects, businessmen, crafty women, doctors and skilled people. We had heard the stories on the West African winds. We’d heard about families ripped apart, identities shattered, and friends scattered. We’d heard about how the ships left the West African coast with so many bodies, yet arrived at the American shores with much fewer. What are you to do when they want to trade strong men for tools, women for guns, and children for iron and European goods? What are you to do when a raiding party takes you and your family as a prisoner of war? I kept a song in my heart as long as I could; songs my mom would sing to me as a little boy that would lull me to sleep. No number of lullabies could lull me to sleep. My eyes never closed. Soon, my spirit had long gone. There was no more song left in me, and nothing else for me to share of myself.
So much of us was severed. Our pride was dismantled. Every piece of the little peace we had left was tossed this way and that way. My brother Cinque was one of many who rebelled. We are not a people to go down without a fight. Despite the blood and wastes we faced, despite our disease-ridden bodies, we held on to the fight. We warriors did not go down without a fight! Cinque, myself, and many of our brothers fought without even the slightest fear of losing our lives. What is life without freedom? I fought with all my might! As I was falling overboard in victory never defeat, the darkness became light. My brother Cinque and the others went on to continue the fight. They avenged us in the highest courts. Many of my brothers returned home to Africa. A warrior’s heart never dies.
Super Sista is overwhelmed with gratitude for the knowledge and the stories shared with her thus far. She feels as if she is amidst a goldmine, her identity edified and her sense of purpose solidified. She can only stand with a sense of indebtedness among so many treasures. She looks over to Nuru and Mwanga who smile at her and nod, proud to share such wealth with her.
The scents! You couldn’t believe the scents! Amani, I was a woman of beauty. I took pride in my appearance and my cleanliness. I loved oils and perfumes. I loved adorning my thick, long locks with colorful, shiny beads. In my kingdom, I was known as a woman of beauty. A man I was secretly seeing from an opposing kingdom, had gotten caught up in the greed he was surrounded by. That night as I bathed and prepared for bed, I heard a noise outside. I thought that maybe it was a small spat soon to subside. Just then I was caught and roped like an animal, my locks pulled, and my clothes torn. I was tied to others in the village. My nostrils flared as they led us into the castles. What castles! Aren’t castles for royals? We were thrown about like the wastes we were made to sit in. Some of us passed out from the heat and smells of those hellish dungeons in these so-called castles. Fulani, the beauty no more. We were made to board a ship called Peter. It’s funny how the devil loves to mock God, naming vessels of terror after Mary, Martha, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John! The tragedy took all of me, even every bit of beauty from my soul.
Fulani looks no older than she and Itunu. She imagines herself in Fulani’s place, then. Super Sista’s tears don’t cease to fall.
Amani., to whom much is given much is required. They want to give the gift of self-awareness to you. So many have swum past this place. Still, so many swim around us today. Only the chosen can truly see. You see the light below now so that you can carry the touch above.
I do understand. I’m just overwhelmed. There’s so much that I was never told. There’s so much more I hope to learn.
Some say I embody the quintessential black man. I have the build and the manhood that all desire. Because my build is big, tall and broad, I was often a target to be brought down. When whips alone couldn’t strip me of all my vigor, my mind was the next target for takeover. Shame and humiliation dishonors great men, cutting them down to the opponent’s desired size. Great men are crippled and corrupted, abased and castrated when at a loss for their minds. The wealth of the Caribbean was amassed by black hands and the Americas was built on the backs of bound bronze men and women. Having refused to be yet another mule for the slaughter, I decided one day to go in for an attack. I was tossed below, soon after my life was taken aboard. But, I wasn’t lost at sea. My body was bound for an oceanic glory. As I sunk info the Atlantic’s depths, my soul victoriously cried, “I know that my Redeemer lives! And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!”
My brother Mandinko is a man of tremendous heart. My gorgeous sister Fulani has told you about the scents pungent enough to strangle a soul into the next world. Now, let me tell you more about the sights and sounds. Close your eyes Amani. There are screams everywhere. Your family and friends are dying all around you or are already dead. They might even be lost; they could be anywhere. You will never see them again, but their screams haunt your every waking hour. The screams fill your dreams at night, too. Even the passing of time could never drown out these horrific screams. Oh, the sights! People are losing their minds. The sound of metal chains are clanking. Yesterday I was running free, fishing and feeding my family. The next day I was bound hands and feet. All I could see is waste: wasted hopes, wasted dreams, wasted labor, wasted lives. The branding iron had not fully cooled, the ship had not fully arrived at sea, before there was no more to me. I was no longer my own, I became one with the sea.
I truly never wanted to die. I wanted to see for myself if I could save my brothers and sisters once I reached shore. Maybe we were indeed going to be eaten by cannibals. That’s what many of us thought. The pale people liked dark meat and maybe they were hungry? Me and my brother Mbundu had come from rich kingdoms. We had even dabbled in a few raids ourselves. One night, like a venomous serpent in a beautiful garden, Karma struck our homes and poisoned everything. We were just young boys, we did what we were told to do! But we were young boys who never got another chance. The day I sank below was the last day I was a victim of cruelty and misused power.
I was bound for Brazil. So many of my brothers and sisters were taken and dispersed all over the Caribbean and the Americas. The Yoruba people may have had the most blood fill the Atlantic, and the most bodies fertilize the lands we fell upon. Though I was thrown overboard after becoming very ill, many of my brothers and sisters would go on to influence the music, festivities, religious practices and cuisine all over the Caribbean and the Americas for generations to come. They would be oiled, plumped and primed for the highest bidder to make slave owners wealthy from the sugar, rum, crops, tobacco and cotton that the slaves would labor to keep plentiful. New money became old money, on the backs of my people. Even after the nightmare was supposed to end, we’d be smuggled to other parts of the Caribbean and South America for many years after we should have been freed. We were in high demand, yet greatly stripped of our names and original identities. From our way of life to our speech, they’d hope we would lose ourselves indefinitely. However, we never lost our soul. That resilient blood, skin and soul, we own even today. Even now, I jump for joy whenever a Yoruba reunites with their truth.
I had to go along with my sister as guns were held to our heads and we were helpless. My sister had begun to get ill from the grotesque conditions on the ship, and was thrown overboard. She’d become too ill to be worth the wait or weight. One day she was deemed to be useless and shortly after doomed for the depths of the ocean. I had lost my other half, and so they had to lose me. Depression would come upon many of us swiftly. It’s amazing how one’s environment can grab a strong hold of the mind. I’d overheard the ship mates talking about the ill plans they had for my beautiful sister when she was well. Maybe her ailment was a blessing in disguise. My ailment of heart was also a blessing for I was not damned, I was redeemed.
All the ancient treasures had shared their stories but one. Fon, the only one who had turned to face Super Sista from the start, beckons for her to come closer. Super Sista swims toward her in obedience and stops at a comfortable distance. As Super Sista approaches Fon, both smiles grow wider. Super Sista feels at ease and Fon is also at ease, as she will finally greet a great descendant.
Imani, Super Sista, you are a warrior. I’ve been waiting to greet you and tell you who you are and from whom you come. You know you come from a line of educators, designers and craftsmen but do you know who you truly are? I boarded a ship with my mother and sister, resilient women from what is known today as The Republic of Benin. The colonizers liked to think of our women as Amazons. We were warriors of our kingdom and the bodyguards of kings. We were trained to be fast, strong and resilient. We were a powerful people during the slave trade, still many of us were captured. My sister, a warrior woman as well, went on to Trinidad and carried the warrior blood with her. I nor my mom made it to Trinidad. They did not profit from us as they’d hoped. I was strong, so I had survived the dungeons of the slave castle, I had avoided disease, I even survived the heartbreak of my surroundings, and it was all because of the fighter in me. Illness took mom’s life. What eventually took my life was the tormenting thoughts about toiling in the fields as a workhorse, not a warrior. My Lord took me before I ever reached the auction block. One day I was on the ship the next I was not. Sometimes God works in mysterious ways. Now, I am one of the greatest warriors of the waterways. Super Sista, may you go and grow in strength, knowledge and peace. May you realize your purpose and fight for what you believe.
This experience is unbelievable, Fon. Who would have thought I was a descendant of West African warriors? Nuru and Mwanga, I am grateful for the knowledge, history and stronger sense of self I’ve received. These gifts are priceless and I am beyond grateful. I can’t thank my new family enough. I love and will forever treasure all of you. I am now 21 years old, but I’ve only flown once. Now, even more than before, the skies are limitless.
Super Sista embraces Fon and waves goodbye to her newly found family. She then embraces Nuru and Mwanga one last time. She takes a final look around the glowing aquatic kingdom called Ina. Finally, she swims back toward the cave to reunite with Itunu. That night Super Sista returns to her apartment in Brooklyn. A hurricane is set to hit the city and reporters are cautioning residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan especially, to prepare for ferocious Hurricane Fon. Super Sista watches the news about the hurricane while recounting her experience in the depths of the Atlantic earlier that day. She smiles as she hears winds picking up outside of her window. She remembers Fon and her newfound family. She’s now more aware than ever that Fon can’t help but to not give up the fight. Fearless and at peace, Super Sista sleeps very well that night.
Super Sista decides to write a letter to a few members of her community in an attempt to organize an event wherein people will collaborate, share ideas and knowledge, and uplift and inspire one another. She’d been meaning to design another cape for herself, so why not have all of the people help her design her cape? Game plan underway, she writes with hope; humbly and honestly:
My Dearest Community,
Sometimes that which is unmerited is also greatly unexpected. Lately, I’ve been full of visions of hope and promise despite the current state of our land. The land has been drowning under dark stratus clouds of uncertainty. It has been almost fully drained of the best in humanity. The kindness and generosity that was once as abundant as its clear skies and green terrain is now unrecognizable. Its few inhabitants of faith wait day after day to see if the light of change would come. Day after day we wait and day after day someone gives up hope, as another casualty of a fallen land. I wonder if I alone partake of these visions of hope and promise. Not only am I full of them, but I allow them to fully digest.
When you’re full of life and your surroundings appear lifeless, you have to make a choice. You can keep the fullness of yourself to yourself, or you can share that fullness with each and every vessel you encounter. I choose the latter. The way the inhabitants of our land feel inside is beginning to translate into how we present ourselves to the world. The women of our land are known to be beautiful inside and out, presenting their beauty in colorful ways. The men similarly wear the finest of fabrics as they don auras fit for royalty. Our very special land is known to inhabit a proud people who are proud but giving, regal but humble.
But, my dearest community, lately everyday seems to be overcast. I long for the days of elevated cirrus clouds, their feathers sprinkled with gold from the shining sun. In the midst of these stormy days I find light and strength in giving of my fullness. I told God that as long as He continues to fill me with the substance of things hoped for, I will make that fullness evident by visibly refilling every vessel not too shallow to accept a top-off. See, if I don’t give of myself, I just might implode! So, today I’ve decided to shift the air for the best. I am inviting all who need a top-off to help me create a glorious cape! This cape will be a symbol of the saving grace of God we sometimes forget we possess. It will also symbolize a unified expression of love. Come one, come all and let the glory of the Lord be shown in the colors of this magnificent cape!
The letter was received graciously by the community. Now, Super Sista joins several members of the community as they gather, each person with a colorful patch of fabric. Some came with beautiful gemstones, and others with feathers, lace, fur and other accessories. They begin to put the cape together as they talk and laugh, reminiscing on brighter days. As the cape is being created the joyous hum of the members of the community cannot be denied. This brings an immense joy to Super Sista’s heart. Super Sista smiles as the cape’s last colorful patch is sewn on. A final chuckle is released into the air as a young member of the community adds the last finishing touch to the cape. The young leader adds a heart made of silk, bedazzled with rhinestones. As the finished cape is lifted to the sky, sighs of admiration can be heard. One of the oldest community members, dignified and respected as a wise man, steps out from the crowd.
The older gentleman observes:
“I am proud to have our very own Amani be the proud owner of this first collaborative effort of love. This cape represents what we were and have the potential to become again! She had a vision and, somehow despite the monotonous melancholy of our depressed state, we were able to reminisce, reconnect and rebuild. How wonderful! Amani, we know that you will wear this cape with the purpose of perpetually saving the day. May you continue to dream good dreams for your community and for yourself. We will do our parts to keep the love, peace and hope alive as well. We will get back to being the creative, caring and collaborative people we’ve always been.” Soon after, the sun emerged from the clouds and the crowd looked to the sky to acknowledge the new light.
Feeling ever so inspired Amani declares:
“My brothers and sisters, you’ve inspired me to fulfill yet another dream. It has always been my dream to inspire the children, our future, to be the very best they can be. I learned long ago that competition between men and women is trivial. What is of most importance is to make sure we prepare to be a better version of ourselves tomorrow than we are today. I am committed to planting seeds of Godly love, hope, peace and prosperity for generations to come. Each color, each piece of fabric, and each gemstone on this cape, will go with me wherever I go. So will the memories of sharing, caring and laughter with each of you. May this cape serve as wings of metamorphosis. May our vessels forever be full of life.”
With that, Super Sista walks toward the cape and begins to lift it to finally wrap herself in the completed masterpiece. Before she can fully get it around her shoulders, a few people help her to position it, making sure the cape fits to perfection. Finally, with a final applause of approval from the crowd, she walks out toward her destiny. With the cape on she has the power of many united hands to make a difference in the world. Super Sista is ready to be a vessel for her Creator in the world.
I like riding the subway at times. When I first moved to New York City, sometimes I’d take the long way and ride the trains simply to learn their routes. There’s a freedom in traveling aimlessly with nothing but time to spare. One of my favorite subway routes was taking the subway from Brooklyn to Harlem. On the L train alone I’d encounter many characters. Each character personified a unique tale. Sometimes I’d think about how awe-inspiring it was that though so many characters were on the same train at the same time, we were all traveling on different journeys, ultimately arriving at different destinations.
From the L train I’d transfer at 14th Street and 8th Ave to an uptown-bound train on the Blue Line to get to Harlem. Each train on the line was like it’s own playhouse. Each car of that playhouse was it’s own stage, and each stage of that car belonged to very talented characters all about to burst with stories to be told. Some of the most interesting New Yorkers frequented 14th Street, between Union Square and 8th Ave. There were so many performers in full costume, ready, willing and able to put on one-of-a-kind shows. Most characters performed for survival and few if any performed for entertainment purposes alone. You’d think some could eat ambition as much as they were relentless in their pursuits for happiness. Day after day, night after night, they’d attempt any attention-grabbing strategy to temporarily satisfy a hunger that would last even after eating food.
When I’d ride the Blue Line from Brooklyn to Harlem, my choice of which vessel I’d board would determine who and what I might encounter during my course. If I chose to ride the A train I’d see the all-too-familiar face of the man who sold both bootleg DVD’s and spiked punch from his backpack. I may also hear a few threats and outbursts, or see someone get into a brawl, which was the norm. If I chose to ride the E train I’d see a little of every kind of character, bound for the Upper West Side or Queens, of every color and ethnic origin. If I chose to ride the C train I’d see some of what I may see on the A, but the C train tends to have a mind of its own so I’d probably seldom see the C anyway.
Those train routes would eventually come to an end, then regroup and reroute going the opposite way. Subway routes appear to be straightforward, and even when they curve its to a safe degree. One moment I was riding the train from Brooklyn to Harlem and the next moment I was going 75 miles an hour on a South Texas highway, with an ice-cold sweet-tea in one hand and a loaded taco in my lap. I was on my way to rescue a Queen who needed a boost of confidence along her route Underground. I was whizzing by on the highway in the bright sun on my way to see the Queen, Underground, who is learning how to assertively wear her crown. For so long her King has led the way, but her King’s ability to keep his kingdom thriving is dwindling.
The Queen struggles with this eventual transfer of power. The King’s zest for life is diminishing and she fears losing her kingdom. I watch her each day as she wrestles with the idea of having to dominantly rule Underground. Her crown falls with her heart when the King is in pain, and slants with her frown when the King is suffering. What hurts her even more is her only masculine seed has no concern for preparing to be a King. The unworldly jester has yet to even find his crown, let alone begin to know how to rule Underground.
I watch her daily like I did the many characters on the trains, trying to move between closed doors at times, in hopes to make a way. She hopes to transcend this place and be rerouted to a higher realm. She’s limited Underground, struggling to maneuver through the maze of a mixed-up kingdom. All vessels have gone haywire, and she doesn’t have the heart to suddenly reroute her path. Ideally, any dead-end journeys would come to an end, regroup, then reroute going the opposite way. But here and now, its not that way. I watch as she anxiously adjusts and readjusts her crown. Nerves all over, overwhelm her.
If only she can be rerouted as easily as the trains. Then she could transfer from one vessel to another, more certain. I watch as she salvages every bit of light she can find, Underground. I help her as much as I could in finding her freedom-bound railroad. In the words of August Wilson, ‘One can never transcend themselves’. So I’m hoping that she’ll soon find the royal strength in herself. There’s a freedom in traveling aimless with nothing but time to spare. The Queen and I, though in the same place at the same time, are sharing a journey now, but are ultimately arriving at different destinations. I wait to board the next train from Underground.