Archive for the ‘Spirit’ Category

Why Not Leave?

April 29, 2011

Often when “the dirty little secret” of domestic abuse finally escapes its carefully constructed prison of shame, fear, guilt, and self-blame, especially when its thick seemingly impenetrable walls are felled by murder, out tromps the Greek Chorus to query incredulously,  “Why didn’t she just leave his sorry ass?”

This, strange as it may seem, is easier said than done.

First, domestic abuse is frequently invisible to everyone but the victim(s) especially when it is verbal and emotional. There are no bruises or broken bones to display in exchange for compassion, empathy, or simple sympathy.

The victim becomes mute, surrendering voice to survive, suffocating in mind-jabbering silence, shame, self-recrimination and blame. “If I hadn’t made him mad…” “If we speak it will make her mad and she will beat us.” “If I speak then I expose to the world my ineptitude at being wife/woman/mother/man/husband/father/partner – human.” “If I speak I will shame my family, my church, my community, my workplace.” “If I speak I will lose access to my house, food, clothing, my children, money, my job, societal status, etc. etc. etc.”

Justification saunters uninvited into your taciturnity and proceeds to dance a maniacal two-step on your brain with denial and blame. You question your sanity, your desires, your needs, wants; your basic human rights. Unfailingly, your answers support your position that you are not entitled to any of those. “You are bad.” “You are black.” “You are poor.” “Remember where you came from….” “It’s all in your imagination.” “He took you and your children in.” “It’s not so bad.” “This is what you deserve.” “You are ugly.” “Toughen up, get over it, your mother had it much worse.”

Negative messages bombard you becoming crippling mantras with every laboured breath you take. Peppering your pummeled mind, adding confusion upon confusion. You find yourself questioning whether your left hand is indeed your left hand. “… Maybe it’s the right?” You no longer know anything.

You subsist on a diet of subterfuge, tension, and soul crushing anxiety. You swallow without chewing your festering rage. Tiptoeing around on eggshells you mercifully attend to the children, the family, the house, the garden, the church, the social groups, school, anything to avoid having to face the dire truth of your situation. One foot in front of the other, numb, impervious to feeling or sensation you maintain a state of frantic busyness, so as to not succumb – “to keep your head above water,” as the saying goes. Even though, if allowed one wish, it would be to buckle your knees and fall, surrendering wholly, finally, to Death’s seduction, the incessant whispers lasciviously caressing your every cell, enticing you with promises of sweet release – peace.

But, you do not succumb, you keep going; for the children; for the family; the community; the church; anyone but you. You see, on this long, ever-growing list of obligations and obligees, your name does not appear, for your life has become self-sacrifice, a lingering suicide, your self-esteem so fragmented you no longer exist. So how can it possibly occur to you that you can, (and must,) do for you? You cannot hear “GET UP! YOU ARE ENTITLED TO BETTER! RUN! SAVE YOURSELF! LIVE!” No. No. They cannot be talking to me?

And still, there is within, something, (spirit, an indomitable force, the call of the ancestors perhaps,) buried deep amongst the muck, mayhem, disappointment and duty that hardens your heart; “bellows softly blowing” doggedly pumping to keep the embers of your life-light from extinguishing completely, until such time when you can rise again from the ashes.

Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the hardest things to do. In fact, leaving any relationship is hard, even when uninspiring, the love long departed. It is because it is familiar; it is what you know. We are all too familiar with the adage, ‘Tis better the devil you know! On average it takes a victim of abuse seven tries before being able to permanently leave an abuser. (The most dangerous point in an abusive relationship is the time during and immediately following leaving). However, the task can be easier with planning and preparation:

Contact, or at least know, the contact information of the domestic violence/sexual assault programs in your area.

Build a strong support system if you can. Or at least try to become involved in outside activities so you are not completely isolated.

Make an escape plan which may include:

A place to hide the car keys and other important items.

A hidden emergency fund. Begin stashing away a little cash from any allowances
and/or grocery money. If your finances are entwined consider secretly opening a separate bank account in your name only, preferably with a different financial institution.

A packed suitcase with a couple changes of clothes for yourself and your family. Leave this with a trusted friend or somewhere your partner will not find it. Include copies of birth certificates, passports, evidence documenting the abuse, and any other pertinent personal documents such as financial records.

A safe, secure place, preferably unknown to the abuser, where you can go, Have a plan to get there undetected.

Develop a plan for calling the police in an emergency, or having someone call on your behalf.

Notify few people of your plans. Friends or family can, in an attempt to help, jeopardize your safety by exposing your plans to your abuser.

Be kind to yourself. Take time for yourself. Find ways to affirm your goodness and your worth.

Keep a journal and write out your feelings. Keep your journal in a safe place.

Continuing in my efforts to educate on abuse, I am again organizing, producing and performing in The Vagina Monologues in Jamaica. This time in Treasure Beach, ST. Elizabeth. The Ladies Who Dare! presents a benefit production of “The Vagina Monologues” as part of the V-Day Global campaign to end violence against women and girls.
Highway To Being! copyright Sharon Martini

7 pm, Saturday, April 30, 2011 at Frenchman’s Reef Restaurant and Bar
Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

In addition to “Ladies Who Dare!” from the greater Treasure Beach Community and beyond, the cast includes Dr. Glenda Simms, former Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Marie Sparkes, founder of Pure Potential (a privately-operated Jamaican Therapy company whose objectives are to give victims a wider range of strategies, skills and knowlege to manage the issues of sexual abuse and exploitation) and five young ladies who dare from Treasure Beach’s A Ganar Youth Leadership Program.

This event is a fundraiser for abused and exploited women in St. Elizabeth. Funds raised will be used to create a Healing Advocacy Fund for “Suzie” of Treasure Beach. Requested donation Ja$500.

To buy tickets online or to make a donation.

For tickets and information call: 876-574-3556
Email: thevaginamonologues@sharonmartini.com

Visit the official V-Day website at: www.vday.org

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For Haiti

January 27, 2011

The Crossing Over.

One year ago watching the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I wondered what I could do, besides send money, to help. One day it hit me to conduit a healing journey for the country. “La Traversée” (The Crossing Over) is that healing.

Dreams are personal messages to help guide us

June 30, 2010

To dream is to invent, aspire to, conceive of or imagine; to daydream. A dream is a series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations occurring during sleep. It is funny (or is it fundamental?) the dreams one remembers, and when one remembers them.

I must have been about four years old. I had been fast asleep in bed when something roused me from my slumber. Suddenly, peering under my bed, I was face to face with a large foreign feline. This was no ordinary, domestic, English kitty.  No, this was a ginormous female black jaguar. Her shiny black fur glistened in the dark, and the huge golden yellow orbs that were her eyes flickered and sparkled as she observed me. This leopard had business with me, not my brother, or sister, nor the baby in his crib blissfully sleeping nearby. Her gaze coolly conveyed this as she lay there speaking loudly in palpable, powerful, persuasive, panther silence to little me.

“MUMMY!” fear finally kicking in, I ran screaming to my parents’ room. I breathlessly told them what I had seen. My mother brought me back to my bedroom, all the while insisting it was nothing, only a dream, she said. But then, upon entering my room my mother, her back pressed against the wall, stood terrified, as if she had seen a ghost, or maybe a giant black jaguar, with luminescent sun saucers for eyes, lounging obsequiously under the bed, waiting patiently for what was rightfully hers, namely me. Then, visibly traumatized but having finally reclaimed her gross motor skills, mummy commanded me to get back in bed and promptly departed. We never did discuss that dream.

As an adult, at a time in my life where I am actively seeking my purpose, traveling solo, single-mindedly to spiritual awakening, I find I can dream on demand. I can meditate and conduct spiritual journeying. Whenever I employ one of these practices I always find myself surrounded by, and protected by, black jaguars. Often, I am the black jaguar.

The jaguar is a mystical magical beast, the queen of he jungle; a lady of the night (lunar not lascivious.) She is the dark mother, aligned with femininity, earth, death, darkness, rebirth, harmony, balance, and acclimatizing. She is solitary, strong and sonorous. On reflection, I recognize that in many ways she “looks like” me. I am a dark mother. I am solitary (even as I attempt to not be so much so.) I am strong, and if I do say so myself, I have a unique, rich voice.

I have come to believe that my dreams are personal messages, nocturnal missives for me from Goddess/God/Universe/Spirit, to help guide and teach me. To help me find, meet and claim myself. Many indigenous and ancient cultures believe we have spirit guides, animal alter egos whose qualities and characteristics represent our strengths, weaknesses and the pieces of ourselves needing the most personal attention. They believe for healing – spiritual, physical and emotional, wholeness – one must communicate freely and often with these animal angels and creature gods.

John Sanford, in his book, ““Dreams, God’s Forgotten Language” confirms my belief with his argument that God converses with us in our dreams, but we have forgotten how to hear. Far-fetched? Fantastical? I do not think so. Fundamental, I say.

I believe, a dream, a vision, a nightmare, a hallucination even, or imagination, is God/Goddess/Universe/Spirit, talking, attempting to guide, calling us to conversation. A dream is the primordial open invitation to dialogue with deity.

Still, don’t take my word for it. Close your eyes and dream. The gods and goddesses are whispering your wisdom and waiting patiently to dialogue with you.

A version of this column appeared in the June, 2010 edition of The Southwest Community Connection newspaper.

The Shadow

June 11, 2010

Me, My Shadow - I!

It is within me
All about me
It is me

My mirror
My muse
My reflection
My ruse
It is me

It is my left leg
Or maybe right
My daytime
Or my night
It is me

It is my sunshine
It is my pain
It is my thunder
It is my rain
It is me

It is my trail
It is my wail
It is my own personal Holy Grail
It is my magic
It is my menace
My terrific
Or my tragic
It is me

It is my womb
It is my wonder
It is me

It is dispassionately awaiting
My evasion
Or my embrace
It is my path to peace, purgatory,
Or wherever
However, I get to choose

It is my lifelong partner
Beckoning me to dance
If I dare
And with whom I will die
With, or without, care

The Vagina Monologues, 2009, Mandeville

May 12, 2010

On Saturday, April 18, 2009, I organized, directed and performed in (alongside twelve other “Vagina Warriors”) Eve Ensler’s award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues.” The show, a “The Ladies Who Dare!” production took place at Bloomfield Great House, Restaurant and Bar. A benefit production for the V-Day movement and the Montego Bay Home For Girls (Melody House,) it was the first-ever performance in Mandeville.

The Vagina Monologues, 2009, Mandeville, Cast

Vagina Warriors Are We!

Vagina Warrior, Dr. Glenda Simms

Doing The Vagina Monologues in Jamaica was for me a personal quest. They say life is a journey and I concur. As I travel this life journey, raising my two sons in a country that is their country but not my country, and liberating myself from an oppressive marriage, I am surprised to find myself discovering my Jamaican roots. Crazy as it may sound, I am being directed, by my ancestors, to my spiritual home. The grandmothers are attempting to remind me as I trundle along in this my turbulent life, of the often forgotten yet most crucial, rest stop on the road to wholeness and home.

My parents are Jamaican. They immigrated to England before Jamaica’s independence, to partake of their “piece of the pie,” and help themselves to some of those golden ingots that paved the streets of London. Leaving behind their secrets, shames, and unresolved grief, to create a new life in a better place and then, as quick as one can say “Abracadabra,” become better people.

Unfortunately, shames, secrets and unresolved grief, all wrapped up as they are, with your spirit and soul, cannot help but follow you wherever you go, wherever you are and if left unattended to, wreak havoc on your life.

Prior to The Vagina Monologues in Mandeville, I had been lucky enough to visit Jamaica a few times over the eighteen or so months prior to the production, however, there were certain things “culturally” that bothered me. I experienced many a moment that had me wondering, both cerebrally and increasingly vociferously, how I could get The Vagina Monologues to Jamaica; how I felt Jamaica needed “The Vagina Monologues.”

More often than not, people would giggle and then rapidly recoil from me. I swear I could hear ladies’ brains questioning “… but, she seemed like such a nice girl?” followed fretfully by, “Where the hell is my husband?” He of “the little brush” on the other hand, had a tendency, once he recovered from the shock of such a word tumbling so nonchalantly from the lips of one who had one (a vagina that is,) would move in closer, pressing, ever-emboldened now, on my personal boundary barrier.

Nevertheless, at times shaken, but ultimately, undeterred, I kept coming back to Jamaica, and, because that is who I am, I continued voicing my opinions with regard to The Vagina Monologues. (What I now realize is that along the way, I was finally fully discovering, exposing and embracing, “the Lady Who Dares” in me, myself and I.)

Abuse, in its myriad forms, has been an uninvited guest on this life journey. My father beat my mother. My mother beat her children. My oldest brother beat me up because, being first-born, con willy, he had license you see, obtained free and clear from mummy dearest, who relegated to third power-position behind my dad and her eldest son, considered me someone who needed to be brought down a peg or two. Then chiseled and chipped a little, and still believing in fairytales, I met and married my very own white knight in shining armor – sparkling, solid, stainless steel, commanding and wholly impervious to emotion it was.  (In truth, I think there was a mix up at the bookstore and I somehow ended up with a white, bearded smiting dude.)

Still, such is life, you live and learn, as the saying goes. And I choose to seek and accept, my lessons, and laugh, and dance, and sing, and love (beginning with myself – warts and all,) and heal.

Abuse, particularly against women and girls, is subtly sanctioned by the mores of society, innocuously mixed in with the adhesive that adheres the, acceptable labels (and accompanying characteristics and expectations) assigned to she; woman, mother, daughter, sister, wife, girlfriend, grandmother and friend.

I am attempting to end the cycle that inflicts my family (me, myself and I, and my two sons.) I am calling it what it is. I am exposing it, and I shall not be claiming it as my shame, something to be hidden, covered up and endured in silence.

Contrary to popular belief, mandates, dogma and doctrine, abuse is not woman’s burden to carry. It is not my burden to carry and pass down to my children packaged in with the bone china and family heirlooms. As I continue to learn about my Jamaican heritage and history, I am beginning to understand more and more the cycle of abuse as it relates to me.

As I commit to the struggle of becoming aware and wholly conscious, of me, who I am, naked of all labels, and step away from those same civilized mores, discarding the “shoulds” and “supposed tos” of life and, as I like to say, “reclaim my vagina,” what I have discovered is that the universe gifts us with opportunities to aid in our quest for enlightenment; for our own truth. The Vagina Monologues was, for me, one of those gifts.

I have performed in The Vagina Monologues in the US several times. In fact my first ever rehearsal was on my 40th birthday. (Dr. Glenda Simms said that women don’t begin to come into their own until their forties… I will admit that I am a late bloomer, although in many respects I was born old.) The effect it has had on my life has been profound, or destructive, dependent upon your perspective. It has empowered me. It clarified abuse in my own personal world and the world at large, and its disguises, as it tore me open, and shamelessly exposed how entwined, how encumbered humanity is in its madness. Especially women.

It showed me how it is all the same thing, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, societal; whether we wear bruises the world can see, or we carry the pain, internally and constipated, its aim is to diminish us, to negate us, to crush our inherent, life-giving, life-bringing, life-bearing, omnipotent power and have us fighting and fearing ourselves and each other.

Quite simply the aim of abuse against women and girls is, at its core, an effort to contain and control our life force, our creativity – our sexuality. It shouted out to me that abuse of any kind, whether directed toward woman, man, flora or beast, is never about love. It is always about control, and the two sides of the same anger coin, insecurity and fear.

It touched me so deeply; it changed my life – opened the door on a little chaos some might say – yet here was a medium for healing, empowerment, enlightenment, education, entertainment, lots of laughter, lots of tears, and liberation. My being a part of it accelerated me into awakening and pushed me gently back to breathing on my own. I was a genie in a bottle (a blue one) I rubbed, I am out and I am never going back. Performing in the Vagina Monologues helped me find my stroke.

I believe that every human – man and woman – needs to see it; needs to be touched by the power of it, so they too can know where and how abuse touches them, where and how they abuse, and begin to work to stop it. “To help us all remember the inherent, life-bearing, omnipotent power of woman; that without She, there cannot be, You, He, She, nor We.” I too believe that every woman, (every Jamaican woman,) needs to be afforded the opportunity to perform in The Vagina Monologues, however small a part, for the participating is, in itself, empowering, imbuing a sense of pride and accomplishment, unlocking the long-buried memory of her inherent, awesome, inner strength.

To see it, or to be in it, can and will assist in opening up much needed dialogue, for oneself and for others, about abuse and its suffocating side-kicks, pain, shame, secrets, rage and fear. I absolutely believe that dialogue, daring to say, to tell, to speak out loud, is the first step toward healing. Putting it out there allows other women to know they are not the only one.

By organizing, directing and performing in The Vagina Monologues on the island of Jamaica, and, serendipitously, in the parish of my parents and my ancestors, as I continue on my personal journey of healing and liberation, I find that I need to be the universe’s messenger and share this power-filled gift with the Jamaican woman.

I am grateful to have been able to meet ladies brave enough to dare to make it happen with me, to share themselves and their voices in order to give voice to the unseen and unheard among us (and those of us who truly don’t know it is abuse, for it is our norm, it is all we know,) whom though invisible and silent are out there, all over our world, ever increasing in numbers, being swept up in the hurricane of abuse against women and girls, then discarded on the outside, disheveled, disorientated feeling powerless and in pain, struggling just to survive and, inevitably in their shame-filled silence, becoming the fuel that keeps the cycle flowing and repeating itself.

The madness of abuse emotionally and physically cripples, not only women and girls, but men and boys too, and humanity is dying spiritually because of it.

I am deeply honored, and humbled, to have played a small part in helping to shine a light to expose this truth, so we can all work individually, yet collectively, to end the madness and begin the process of healing.

See photos from “The Vagina Monologues, Mandeville, 2009” here:
http://gallery.me.com/sharonmartini#100009
http://gallery.me.com/sharonmartini#100038
http://gallery.me.com/sharonmartini#100024

Oreos?

May 10, 2010

Aren’t they a type of cookie comprised of chocolate-colored cookies on either side of a sweet, cream, white-colored filling? Flour, high fructose corn syrup and food coloring in pretty packaging. There is no nutritional value in this item that I can ascertain. Yet, academics have been known to pontificate profusely about this “cookie.” People of color spit this “food” at each other, intending to wound, belittle, and ostracize.

Living here in this land of the free and home of the brave, I learned that being deemed an Oreo implies that a person of color, specifically of African descent, who attempts to ascend the ladder of “success” by becoming “educated,” speaking “proper” English, enjoying Classical music, or anything outside of Hip Hop, is “trying to be white.” Apparently, said traits are synonymous with whiteness.

Now, I will concede I am a foreigner, an alien, according to the US government, albeit a legal one, but from where I sit, and I confess, sipping tea, it makes no sense to me. I have to ask, “Who animated this biscuit and allowed it to escape the cookie jar?” Does anyone realize this pseudo-confection has neither legs, nor power, unless one believes in the lie of white supremacy?

When did we (I include myself here, for I am black, although in reality I am, like you, ultimately iridescently human, inside and out,) as a people so thoroughly lose our way? Yes, one could argue that slavery misdirected us all.  But if we dare to dig we will discover that our ancestors, yes the illiterate slave ones, did not sell their souls for a cookie, or even a whole jar. How is it we have allowed ourselves to be indoctrinated so?

The Latin root of the word “educate” is “educare” which means to draw forth from within. What is within us is an indomitable, inviolate, inner strength, our spirit. We, blinded by learning, manmade material lack, and ingested inferiority, have allowed this spirit to be educated out of us.

What if we could remember ourselves, rediscover our spirit and the strength of our ancestors and reacquaint ourselves with our truth?

What if you believed that the roots of humanity live in you, in your black African indigenous roots? That Africans, blacks, have been in the Americas, since long before Columbus and that there are ancient monuments 20,000 years old, and older, proving this?

What if we discerned that throughout modern history, obstacles camouflaged as Laws, Parliamentary Acts, mandated multiculturalism and prejudices, have been constructed to hinder the prosperity and progress of the dark ones among us and keep the truth far, far, away from our consciousness?

What if you knew that many Africans who were brought here were Queens, Kings, Princesses and Priests, nobles, regal, revered and innately powerful people?

What if we understood that the ability to communicate fluently in Standard English is a tool for all humans of all hues, nothing more nothing less?

What if you knew that in United States Army Intelligence tests during World War I, blacks led the whites in several states, north and south?

Prior to desegregation, black people enjoyed academic competence, even with substandard resources. When they dared to demand better buildings, books, etc, desegregation was enacted. While children were bussed to more resource-rich schools, self-esteem, or spirit, was intentionally shuttled elsewhere. The Institution of Education pulled off one of the greatest bait and switches in history.

What if we knew that the first slaves brought to the Americas, were not black but white, mostly British Europeans. Transportation of convicts was a regular pursuit through the 17th and 18th centuries. Between 1737 and 1767 approximately 20,000 of these felons were deposited in Maryland alone. America was considered the “graveyard of the white race.” These “carcasses” are the forefathers, and mothers, of today’s dominant culture.

What if you knew that far from being the inept, inherently naughty, criminal cretins depicted in the media, Africans, nubians, blacks, melanistic peoples, provided western civilization with the fundamentals of music, mathematics, medicine, spirituality and yoga? There were no jails, locks, or bolts in the villages from whence the African’s came. Such controls were not needed.

The “Father of medicine” was not Hippocrates, a Greek, but Imhotep a Nubian, a black African. What if we were cognizant of this?

Famous missionary, Dr. Livingstone, stated, “Syphilis dies out in the African interior. It seems incapable of permanence of any form in persons of pure African blood.” What if you knew that the Africans brought to the “New World” had neither, tuberculosis, syphilis, nor any other venereal disease? Makes one wonder, why then the Tuskegee Airmen syphilis experiments that continued for 28 years (yes 28,) after World War II ended.

What if you knew that the Greek historian, Herodotus who visited Egypt around 450 BC, described the Kamitian people (ancient Egyptians) as having black skin and woolly hair? Somewhat different from the tan, eurocentric depictions in our textbooks. The original name of ancient Egypt, “Khemet” means black and is the root of “chemistry?”

What if you knew that both Beethoven, the world’s greatest musician (“short, stocky, broad shoulders, short neck, round nose, blackish-brown complexion”) and Joseph Haydn, were black?

Could chewing on, the foregoing, instead of a sugary snack, allow you to see yourself, and your black brethren as equally, yet individually, uniquely, capable? Might it liberate us, like wildflower seeds scattered upon fertile soil, to blossom and bloom however we may, with no need to feign, claim, or foist whiteness or anything else, and own our right to all possibility in human form?

I do not know, nor do I purport to know your truth. However, I do know that I am committed to neither ingesting nor lobbing Oreos. There are only home-baked, home-styled biscuits in my biscuit tin.

What is in your cookie jar?

A version of this article appeared in the January/February/March, 2010, Edition of The Beloved Community Journal

It’s time to repay our debt to Haiti

February 11, 2010

There was an earthquake in Haiti and I took it personally.

I took it personally because while I know that earthquakes are naturally occurring events – Mother Nature stretching, tumbling and turning, aren’t they? – I knew that her mischief would provide the world yet more reasons and information to pity the Island of Mountains’ much-maligned inhabitants.

I did not have long to wait for proof of my “prophecy,” and that is not counting that famous/infamous “man of the cloth’s” proclamation of how this disaster was merely punishment from God for the Haitian people’s “pact with the devil” in exchange for their freedom.

My parents are from Jamaica, Haiti’s island neighbor directly west. Watching the aftermath of the quake news with my sons, I saw myself in the faces of the Haitian people. I saw my mother, my father, my sisters and brothers, my family. I saw my humanity and I felt exposed, helpless, defensive and increasingly angry as I recognized that many others of us would not, could not, see what I saw.

How many of us know anything about Haiti other than that it once was a colony of France and is now the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere?

Did you know that Haiti was the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere, and the second republic, after the United States?

How many of us know the rich, troubled but true, history of Haiti? How many of us understand the role of America, Britain, Spain and France in the rise, fall and suppression of Haiti and its populace?

The African ancestors of today’s Haitians rebelled against slavery, fighting a 12-year war from 1791 to 1803, (aided by both Britain and Spain), against the French colonists and Napoleon’s army. Gen. Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared their independence on Jan. 1, 1804.

How many know that in 1801 Pres. Thomas Jefferson reversed U.S. policy toward Haiti, secretly giving France permission to reconquer the island? France failed.

How many of us can imagine securing one’s freedom only to be re-enslaved, but this time your master is not man, but money? Imagine having to pay your former master for the loss of his property, namely yourself.

France did not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1825 and only then in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 million francs. Haiti was considered “persona non grata” by other slaveholding nations for fear its success would incite and inspire their slaves to resist. It did.

Britain abolished legalized slavery in 1807 followed by a succession of other European nations. America denounced it finally in 1865.

Did you know the Haitian resistance was the catalyst for France selling the United States its claim to Louisiana – the Louisiana Purchase – in 1803?

Haiti was forced over the years (and continues to be, sometimes it appears, by Mother Nature) to take out loans of 70 million francs to repay this indemnity and gain international recognition. As recently as 2003, Haiti disseminated repayments on international debt totaling approximately $1 million dollars per week.

I do not claim to know what is in your mind, nor your heart. I do know, however, that information, or lack thereof, can taint our benevolence, our love, which is our energy. That universal energy that we all are made of; that we all are exchanging whether we know it or not; that energy that is our currency, our most valuable resource. I know that this energy can be toxin or tonic; it can hinder or heal.

I believe truth can transmute toxin to tonic. My hope is that the foregoing truth can help you, too, see your humanity in the faces of the Haitian people (ultimately all people) so we may all bestow upon them, not pity for the benighted, but compassion for our kin.

The Haitian people, a mighty, resourceful, fiercely independent but long-oppressed people need our energy. Send money if you can. Remember though, there is healing currency aplenty inside each one of us. I believe a little truth in information can set it free.

Sharon Martini is an English “mummy.” She lives in the Bridlemile neighborhood with her two sons, several pets. A local singer and actress, she also writes and illustrates little picture books.

This article originally appeared in the February, 2010, edition of The Southwest Community Connection Newspaper

Request for an omission shows the need for inclusion

February 11, 2010

I am an angel.

I am dark.

Dark as mother earth.

I am an angel.

I am a black angel.

Feel my spark.

I performed my original song, “Black Angel,” at Colored Pencils Art and Culture, One-Year Anniversary Celebration at City Hall this past month.

Colored Pencils is, in the words of founder and Portland artist Nim Xuto, “…a group of newcomers, poets, artists and like-minded people of all colors who gather together once a month to sing, read poetry, and perform in our native languages.”

I am golden.

I am goddess.

I am dark.

I am divine.

Singing my own words, my own truth, for an audience is an exhilarating, humbling and nerve-wracking experience. My dormant familiar inner dialogue never fails to resuscitate immediately before I begin: “Did you practice enough? No. Relax, it’s the words, Sharon.” Nevertheless, gladly taking the stage I smile, inhale, invoking supporting spirits. Strumming and singing my heart, the universe cradles me, the audience smiles back at me. They are listening to my words.

I am regal.

I am rebel.

I am dark.

I am divine.

A man approached me afterward. Shaking my hand, he tells me how much he enjoyed my song. He remains standing before me. I feel my being expand in the warmth of his admiration and I remember the little girl in Jamaica shyly confessing that my song made her cry happy tears. Present again, I await this man’s continued, sure to be complimentary, commentary.

“… But you need to take out the ‘black.’”

Eloquence, articulacy and pride escape me, rapidly deflating me. Discombobulated, a tad perturbed, I am ready to jettison my halo, pluck my wings and climb into conveniently materialized cloven hooves. Miraculously, recovering vocabulary and sense, I am able to exclaim: “I am black.” Momentarily relieved as I glimpse my white angel friend (a.k.a. potential ally) in my, thankfully, re-expanding scope of view, I am quickly forced to refocus while contemplating whether angels can, indeed, fly backward.

Nobody ever talks about angels like me.

I can move mountains.

I have birthed seas.

Transmigrated, I right my halo and fluff my wings.

“You need to take out the ‘black,’” the man repeats in a soft, but menacing tone, akin to that of a concerned but seething parent.

Reconnected, mercifully, with my inner seraph, I patiently explain that I sing of black angels to counter the accepted norm, or mythology, that angels are only white. I shared my belief that we humans are angels, too, and we appear in every color. Sadly, I did not assuage his fears. He stomped off repeating his warning that I needed to take the “black” out.

Where angels are concerned, black angels are not often considered, nor depicted. If they are, they are dismissed as white angels gone astray; the fallen, the naughty anomaly, or quite simply a sullied one covered in soot.

In this life I know there is a lesson in every surprise, every disappointment – every happening. I am grateful for this truth, even as I ponder the pedagogy. The “art of gratitude,” unlike “the art of the guitar,” which I have a tendency to wing, I do practice, regularly. So, thank you white angel in men’s clothing, for liking my song and requesting that I eradicate the “black.”

In these our multicultural times we humans/angels habitually find ourselves mired in the black and white divide of good versus evil. I sing “Black Angel” as antidote to the poison of that gap, or as a tool to use, if one wishes, to assist in navigating your own way out of the quagmire.

Thank you also for teaching me that I need to dare to keep singing “Black Angel.” Try to remember, you, too, are an angel. You, too, are divine, and, as you did concede, angels do come in all colors. You are free to choose your own hue, however I reiterate:

I am golden.

I am goodness.

I am dark.

I am a black angel.

I am.

I am.

I am divine.

This column originally appeared in the January 2010, edition of The Southwest Community Connection newspaper

Where I am from

January 22, 2010

I am from singing and dancing and sunshine and healing

I am from sorrow and sadness and survival and shame
I am from whippings and welts and wounds and weeping
I am from broken promises and pride and palpable pain
I am from struggle and survival and assimilation and success
I am from singing and dancing and sunshine and healing

I am from unresolved grief and joy and untruths and blind rage
I am from maligned myths and mutilated memories and hunger and hurt
I am from detachment and deception and disappointment and dreams
I am from learned malaproprism and miseducation and petrified hearts
I am from singing and dancing and sunshine and healing

I am from imposed schizophrenia and divinity denied
I am from beatings and bashings and banishment and betrayal
I am from coughed up colonialism and regurgitated rhetoric
I am from misappropriated majesty and ingested iniquity
I am from singing and dancing and sunshine and healing

I am from laughter and distrust and religious oppression
I am from the fable of good versus evil and heaven and hell
I am from serpents and mermaids and magic and melanin
I am from stolen stories and language and lineage and lore
I am from singing and dancing and sunshine and healing

I am from fear and forgotten and humanity hindered
I am from rehabilitated human relics reassembled all wrong
I am from beauty and darkness and inviolate inner strength
I am from currency corruption and conquest and con
I am from singing and dancing and sunshine and healing

I am from ancestors restless and whispering wisdom
I am from ancestors uprising and possessing and guiding
I am from singing and dancing and sunshine and healing
I am from love

Nightmarish encounter leads to friendship, faith

January 22, 2010

I would rather be caught running down the street naked between spa appointments!

This was the predominant thought in my mind the morning after a dead (yes, dead as in deceased) neighbor, had “popped over” uninvited, bearing messages he wished me to deliver to his, very much alive, wife.

He believed that I could calmly knock on her door, a woman with whom I had exchanged passing hellos, but was not a familiar, and boldly state: “Hello. How are you? Oh, by the way, Bob* says to tell you he’s fine.”

This catholic lady would surely run me off her front porch brandishing, if I were lucky, a broom, shrieking: “Witch! Devil’s disciple! Somebody stone her!” Or else, she would fall down in a dead faint. Dead being the operative word and I would be found guilty of murder in the first degree due to my meddling on the “other side.” Nope, I was not going there. Somebody help me with my zipper, please?

I will not go into great detail here, but suffice it to say, during Bob’s spectral social call, I alternated between cackling at his jokes and recoiling in panic, belligerently demanding to know what the bloody hell he wanted and why me. And I wondered, had I crossed over to the other side, or simply snoozed my way into insanity? Dreamless sleep eventually redirected me from the nightmare.

Waking the next morning, something told me that the night’s phantasm had not been merely a dream, and that I did, indeed, have a delivery to make. Which is how I came to be contemplating a naked dash through the west hills. I excavated “to-do” lists from clear back in the Neolithic age that day – anything to prevent me from complying.

My ego sang me a cacophonous canon, foretelling my fate should I dare to play spiritual carrier pigeon.

“You’ll be known as the town witch. A black witch!” it keened. “People will laugh at you. Think of your children. You’ll end up the anti-social, angry hag kids torment, a crumpled old lady who hungers for human contact, but lives instead with 37 feral cats and grows out her chin hair.”

In tandem with this raucous rhetoric, I heard an incessant but kindly whisper: “You’ll not sleep until you tell.” If I had not crossed over into crazy the night before, I was spiraling rather rapidly into its abyss now. When suddenly, tranquilized, I surrendered. I made the conscious decision to do as I was told, and accept whatever consequences. In that moment I was alchemist. I met magic. With a flick of my free will my physical boundaries vanished and I became one with the air, a mass of effervescence somersaulting this way and that, in dark, inky ether.

Magic propelled me to my neighbor’s house. It maneuvered my feet up the driveway. It encouraged me as I rang the doorbell and stood for eternity in the silent darkness until, gratefully, determining no one was home, I turned to leave. A light came on. Magic ditched me (or so I believed).

Dale* stood in the doorway eyeing me expectantly. In one explosive exhale, I blurted: “You might think I’m crazy after I have said this I’ll understand if you do but I have to do this I have a message from Bob.”

I steeled myself for the blow. To my surprise, Dale gently took my hands: “Come inside,” she invited. Stupefied, I followed. She led me to a familiar room, (I had never before been inside her home), sat me down.

“Tell me what happened?” she enquired.

I visited with Dale for some time. She shared photos and stories of her life with Bob. I was humbled both by what I had been privy to and her trust in me. Leaving I confessed my terror-fueled reluctance and thanked her profusely for receiving me so graciously. She thanked me for my courage and, my faith.

I delivered a message to my neighbor and I discovered faith.

I discovered that faith is knowing in your heart, the right thing to do, acknowledging and accepting the risk of ridicule, and exposing yourself anyway – fully clothed.

*Names have been changed.

This article originally appeared in December, 2009 edition of The Southwest Community Connection newspaper