Archive for the ‘Universe’ Category

4th Phenomenal Caribbean Women Symposium, January 26th, 2013, Cabrits National Park, Dominica

February 10, 2013
Telling My Story at the Fourth Phenomenal Caribbean Women Symposium, January 26, 2013, Dominica

Telling My Story at the Fourth Phenomenal Caribbean Women Symposium, January 26, 2013, Dominica

Recently I traveled to Dominica, West Indies to speak at VF Inc’s Fourth Phenomenal Caribbean Women Symposium, held Saturday, January 26th, 2013, at Cabrits National Park, Portsmouth, Dominica.

Organized by Dr. Valda Henry, CEO of V F Inc, the 4th Phenomenal Caribbean Women Symposium, in collaboration with the Bureau of Gender Affairs, and sponsored by the Ministry of Social Services, Community Development (among others,) attracted 150 women of all ages and walks of life from Dominica and neighbouring Caribbean islands.

My participation was fully sponsored by the Dominican Bureau of Gender Affairs, which is headed by Ms. Rosie Browne, Director.

With my presentation entitled, “Heeding the call of the Ancestor Spirits to unravel the secrets and shames and heal the wounds of our immigrant mothers, to liberate my inner Maroon Warrioress,” I shared my story of how I, “traveling the wrong way,” came home to my roots – my self – in Jamaica. It was a dynamic, interactive storytelling, in words, music and song, of my spiritual and physical journey and how, with art, creativity and lots of laughter, I overcame life’s obstacles and liberated my inner “Maroon Warrioress,” along the way.

Welcoming remarks were given by Dr. Valda Henry, Rosie Browne, and Vanya David, President of the Dominica National Council of Women, and the Keynote Address was presented by Minister of Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs, the Honourable Gloria Shillingford.

Including myself, there were four Phenomenal Caribbean Women Speakers at the Symposium representing three countries. I represented Jamaica,  Karen Hinds, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mrs. Annette St. Hilarie and Gloria Walsh both represented Dominica. This year’s theme was, “What You Conceive You Can Achieve Because God Has the Power to Deliver What He Promises.” The conference’s main objectives were to:

  • Celebrate the successes of our Caribbean women.
  • Hear Caribbean women tell their stories of success, triumph over adversity, challenges, pain, joy and blessings.
  • Inspire women, especially young women to determine and achieve their life purpose.
  • Show that achieving one’s “Life Purpose” is possible.
  • Prepare a Personal Action Plan towards achieving one’s life purpose.

We Caribbean women speakers recounted different stories, our own stories, in our own words, and yet it was wholly evident that we were telling women’s stories.

I do believe that we all have a story to tell. The ancients, our ancestors, knew this. They were well aware that the need to be heard (to be truly listened to,) is inherent in all humans. To be heard is to belong. To belong is to be loved. I was honoured and delighted to have a rapt audience of so many Phenomenal Caribbean Women listen to my story and I was humbled to hear that my tale and songs – my truth – had touched them deeply and provided them inspiration.

I, and my inner “Maroon Warrioress,” were liberated, and loved, in Dominica.

Here is an excerpt of my talk:

“In truth, only I hear what I hear. Only I know what I know. But do I dare?

They are talking to me, willing me, whispering to me. It is my story they – the ancestors – want me to tell. It is my story they wish me to write, to live. For it is my story that will set them free, set me free; set my mother free (she who left Jamaica for a better life, to become a better person, whitewashed – a proper English lady,) set we phenomenal Caribbean women free. But do I dare? Do I have the courage to walk alone, all one?

I did dare. I did find the courage. And it hurt. And it was lonely. And lonely and hurt entwined and became a physical being, a rough, jagged stone that lodged in my heart, suffocating me, that no matter how hard I tried I could not expel. But as I learned to listen, really listen, and know and trust my truth. As I met each challenge that confronted me, threatened to derail me from my path, but didn’t, that rock became smooth, weathered, beautiful, black, radiant – me.

You must mine your own heart, meet your own self – the good, the bad and the ugly – accept that it is true and love you, all of you. Inside all of the muck is your gift, your purpose, your reason for being here on this earth, at this time. Only you can unearth it, only you can set it free, though the spirits, the ancestors, they are guiding you, cheering you on, encouraging you, supporting you. They live in your imagination, in your creativity, your craft, your art, your voice, your laughter. They live in your loneliness. Embrace them to set you free.”

Rosie Browne, Karen Hinds, Dr. Valda Henry, Gloria Walsh, Sharon Martini, Mrs. Annette St. Hilaire

Sharon Martini proud as punch with Phenomenal Caribbean Woman Plaque

Sharon Martini proud as punch with Phenomenal Caribbean Woman Plaque

Mrs. Esther Thomas, Chief Technical Officer, Ministry of Tourism, Dominica, presents me with a basket of "Made In Dominica" goodies.

Mrs. Esther Thomas, Chief Technical Officer, Ministry of Tourism, Dominica, presents me with a basket of “Made In Dominica” goodies.

The view from Cabrits National Park, Portsmouth, Dominica

The view from Cabrits National Park, Portsmouth, Dominica

OpheliaMarie

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Color Conscious…

November 7, 2011

“Brownings, Please” So exclaimed the headline of the Jamaica Gleaner, one Sunday, September last. Even before reading the article, and fully aware that I am still learning to fully comprehend variegate Jamaican vernacular, I felt quite secure in my determination that this was not about cooking. I was reminded of a TV programme I watched last year while flying back to Portland, Oregon from Montego Bay.

That show was CNN’s “Kids On Race: The Doll Study Revisited.” In a recreation of a 1947 experiment, a group of children were asked to choose the good, bad, ugly, pretty or “one that looks like me” doll from drawings ranging in hue from pale pink to dark chocolate, or, white to black. Almost across the board when asked to select the “doll” with positive traits the children chose the “white” one. When picking the negatives, yep you guessed it, they picked the darkest dolly, the “black” one.

Though not my first time observing this type of experiment and sadly, not surprised, my heart still ached as I questioned, again, how it was that, Anno Domini 2011, sixty plus years on, with the leader of the “free” world a milk-coffee-colored cousin, that the “barely out of diapers” future leaders of our world (and as current headlines imply, suit clad corporate leaders) continue to learn, and believe to the detriment of hue-manity, these putrid but persistent lessons? What are we adults teaching our children? And why are we adults perpetuating the madness? Obviously something is a miss. (Incredulous, I ask myself, and anyone who can hear, “Why are we still having this conversation?”) Something is not working, or then again, maybe that was the plan all along. But I digress.

It has shocked and saddened me during my journeys to the land of my parents, my ancestors; the home of my own vagabond, or wandering, soul, that the same self-hatred and disdain for one’s darkness, blackness, abundance of melanin, visibly evident African heritage, that reigns and rages, in the United States of America (and beyond) permeates this – rich, bounteous of spirit, heart and life – little island of Jamaica.

My mother had told stories of when as a child, being darker of hue and shackled with the twin shame of poverty, her “place” was in the back of the classroom at the “good” school she attended, and even that only because her mother washed its floors. Still, I say to myself that was then…

Will we, and I mean all of hue—manity, learn the truth of whom we truly are and what skin shade simply is at its core? Can we purge ourselves of the poisons we have been fed, disguised as lessons and learning; the blatantly illogical yet pernicious lies that corrupt us, our colors, our consciences, our compassion? Can we reclaim our power, take back our hearts, reaquaint with ourselves? Can we become the conquistadores of our own personal Freedom?

What if one knew that melanin is what colors us, what paints us uniquely in shades from milk to midnight; that technically, it is due either to abundance or deficiency, that we humans become black or white.

What if it was common knowledge that melanin is what darkens our skin, our hair, our eyes? Melanin helps us hear, colors our hearts, our blood, liver, the marrow in our bones, and gave “birth” to the stars.

What if you knew that melanin is protector, reflector, diviner, deflector, healer, highway-to-the-Divine; the almighty alchemist; the chemical of life? One-drop being sanctifier not stain – the key to life’s door?

What if you knew that billions of dollars of global government monies have been spent, and are continuing to be spent, studying melanin…and its magic?

Melanin is the most absorbent material known to man. It is melanin in a synthetic form that provided the insulation protecting the electrical wires of the now retired NASA Space Shuttle.

What if these truths were known to all human kind?
Imagine with me for a moment…

A rending of the cloak of inferiority, victim-hood, self-hatred, worn by the melanin-infused among us; this cloak woven and gifted “in the name of love, and God.”

The silencing, once and for all, of the perpetually repeated lies of white supremacy. The diminishing of the potency and power of color prejudice, and its big daddy racism.

We all, each one of us of every hue, have (are) melanin. What if we all knew and understood this?

What if commonsense/the universe/Sophia/wisdom/Goddess/God, whispered and we listened, really listened to her, “If you need a touch of melanin just to function, might that suggest the more you have, the greater thou can be?

Could humankind walk hand in hand, freed, no longer needing to run, hinder, hide, detach, crush, control, squelch, the “other;” able finally, to let go, relax and open to the unique foibles and fortes of each individual, no matter their skin tone?

Imagine knowing, deep in your heart, in the marrow of your bones, in your soul, in your melanin, that, like chlorophyll to plants, melanin to man, is the alpha and the omega?

No person, rule, wrong, “Doll Study” or “Brownings, Please” could ever take that away.

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.

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

Mirror, Mirror … There I Am!

May 5, 2010

This is the piece McKenzie River Gathering Foundation commissioned me to create and unveiled at “Justice Within Reach” April 10, 2010. Below is my Artist Statement and the story behind this piece my sons think is “awesome.”

Mirror, Mirror ... There I Am! by Sharon Martini

My mission with my art is to unite all people in joy.

With my exuberantly colorful, intuitive artworks, starring brown characters, I bring to the forefront, with candor and humor, the truth that we all, no matter our color or culture, are the same – inherently human – entitled to, love, peace, equal treatment and joy.

I aim to give voice, visibility and a leading role in the pictures, and on the stage of “the theatre of humanity and life,” to the dark-skinned among us, whom are so often omitted from any positive, joyful, energetic and life-giving “productions.”

In this piece, “Mirror, Mirror … There I Am!” created for MRG, these ideas are central. Social Justice, I believe begins, and ends, with being able to see oneself everywhere, in the sun, the moon, the birds, the bees, the sea, the trees, and especially in all humans of every hue, but especially the dark, melanistic peoples.

Social justice, to me, begins with the ability to be comfortable and confident in who I am, to understand and know, we all are one, with each other and every living thing. The mirrors in “Mirror, Mirror … There I Am!” with each glimpse, “reflect the I in me, so I may see, the me in you, and every living being” of each and every person who peeks at the piece.

Creating art in a variety of media – fabric collage, paint, words, nature, metals and music, I aim to unite all people in joy, to touch you with truth and make you smile.

We often forget, in these our modern, increasingly stratified, multicultural times, the healing power of a simple smile. When we smile we are so much more open to everything!

Communal storytelling fosters a sense of human connection

April 16, 2010

Reminiscing one day with my sister, she reminded me of how I used to keep her awake — snotty with laughter, at bedtime — regaling her with stories about naughty Nabeel, a little boy who had a penchant for riding “bare-back” upon the cat’s ear. She had me chortling, and snorting, as I remembered those times, now well over three decades ago. I was instantly transported to a time in my life of belonging, when I truly felt loved.

Humans since the beginning of time have beguiled each other with stories, personal and communal, fables and sagas. Some of these tales have been, in our sophisticated civilization, pooh-poohed as mere myths, fabrications of the mind and imagination. Yet these stories, like the figments of my own fantasticality, have a tendency to stay with us — to root us, and remind us, of where and what we have come from. And that is the beauty of a story, no matter how odd, fanciful, incredulous it may be, it is still a story, someone’s or, many people’s story. It still has power and meaning and place. Even history, that amalgam of facts and many a fanciful folk tale, at its core, is simply collections of “his” “story” and, of course, “her” “story,” “our story.”

It has been said that what once was old becomes new again, and again. Will Fuller, Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc, Schools Committee Chair has dreamed up a way to bring back the way of our ancestors, for one night, (to start), to the Multnomah Arts Center. On Friday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m., “Sharing Our Family Stories,” sponsored by The Office of Neighborhood Involvement and Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc., Small Grant Program, will debut.

“Sharing Our Family Stories” is an evening of personal history and storytelling to celebrate the varied lives and experiences of all people in Southwest Portland. Inspired by Robert Gray Middle School’s Project R.E.A.C.H. and Jackson Middle School’s “Peopling The Nation” Family History Project, where eighth-grade students conduct in-depth research into the background (ethnicity, religion, immigration routes and life highlights) of one family relative, or ancestor, and relate their individual stories, orally and visually, to members of their school community. The original intention of these family history projects was, in my opinion, to afford the children opportunities to learn about and from each other, to dispel or at least begin to diminish the power of the myths and stereotypes of “the other.” A way, I like to think, to help them “know,” particularly in this era of multiculturalism, that we are all, no matter color or culture, inherently human, with rich, different, yet equally important stories.

The aim of “Sharing Our Family Stories” is to foster human connection, healing and community in Southwest Portland. Robert Gray and Jackson Middle School eighth-grade students will facilitate the cross-cultural, cross-generational roundtable dialogues with community members. The students will first recount their personal chronicles. All who listen will be invited to share their own tales.

“Sharing Our Family Stories” is an invitation to all to break bread together (light snacks will be provided), to meet, human to human, heart to heart, at the table of unity and take turns at being storyteller. So each person may, like the ancient storytellers, griots, and fabulists of lore — whose role it was to educate, nurture, entertain, and ultimately unite their people in love, play their small but mighty part in uniting, in humanity and love — our neighborhoods, our community. The ancients knew that the need to be heard is inherent in all humans. To be heard is to belong. To belong is to be loved.

Everyone has a story to tell. What is your story? Your epos or memoir might star, instead of a mischievous munchkin wildly riding the cat’s ear, an unctuous uncle who sailed in on the big ship Newgate; a chief whose ancestors came with the territory, or a mother Goddess who flew Boeing over the sea. It is your story to tell. Please do.

For additional information and to reserve your place at the community story table e-mail schools@swni.org, or telephone 503-764-5501.

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 April 2010 Edition of The Southwest Community Connection Newspaper.

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

Love sometimes means letting go

September 11, 2009

I love to watch my sons play soccer. It’s exhilarating observing their finesse on the field as they charge around like wild mustang in focused abandon. Their skillful control of their feet and the ball conjures images of graceful gazelles darting through the African savannah.

On a recent Saturday morning, I was watching my son Moses’ Westside Metro team, called “Revolution,” play. It was a sensational game of fast, intelligent soccer, the boys passing and juggling the ball, dancing, almost, in harmony. Then, Moses went down, hard, and so did my heart – dropped right out of me, taking my breath with it.

I stood frozen in fear as Moses lay writhing on the turf in obvious pain.

The black panther, or mother lion, in me bared teeth and prepared to pounce, wanting desperately to retrieve him, carry him off to the safety of shelter and lick his wounds all better. But, the all-too-human Sharon in me, sensitive to the feelings of a 13-year-old classic soccer-playing youth, squelched the big cat’s roar and stayed put.

I willed steel pins through the soles of my feet pinioning me. I didn’t trust myself to not shape shift and spring free without them. And then I silently begged for divine intervention.

I implored God, Goddess, Universe, any deity who would listen: “Let him be OK. Let him not be badly injured. Please. Please. PLEASE?” I pleaded, chanting in mantra. No response. Moses remained wincing and squirming on the ground.

Fighting desperately to stay put on the sidelines, I dug my conjured steel pins deeper into Mother Earth. Eventually, surrendering, I resigned myself to making bargains with the almighty white, bearded, smiting dude, when Moses rose unsteadily to his feet. My breath returned exultant. But Moses could barely walk. Each belabored step he took trod footprints into my heart.

A soccer field is large but, as I watched Moses limping across the land, a tiny, solitary urchin, it appeared the size of North America. It became increasingly excruciating to watch him shuffle lamely by, pulsing with pride, pain and disappointment. His ambulatory impediment goaded me, daring me to intervene.

Delirious with anxiety, I witnessed a chasm open between my injured offspring and his fellow teammates, and before my eyes, he metamorphosized. It was no longer Moses out there alone in the center of a continent-sized soccer field, it was me. Me, solitary, rejected, ostracized, betrayed, abandoned, an outsider, exposed and vulnerable, all alone in the U. S. of A.

Visually schizophrenic now – one minute it was Moses on the soccer field, the next it was me in America – I couldn’t take it anymore. I was going in to save him. Sod his teenage pride, he’d get over it. He needed me.

Suddenly, an “angel” in chartreuse-colored cleats swooped in, putting his arm around Moses’ shoulder, lifting him off his injured leg, supporting him in his walk off the field. My breath took its leave again. As I struggled to keep my composure, another “angel” swept in supporting Moses from the other side. My heart swelled to bursting. A liberating howl of joy, gratitude, and relief, percolated and boiled over in torrents of tears within me. I exhaled: “Hallelujah!”

Moses’ world was not my world. Moses was part of the team. His teammates cared for him. He was accepted.

Emotionally recalibrated, sensitive again to teenage emotion, I bit down hard on my lower lip. This to prevent creating a noisy, runny-nosed scene that most definitely would have resulted in my being carted off in a straightjacket, thereby terminally embarrassing my son – a crime for which I would never be pardoned. I didn’t try to hide, however, the healing salty tears that trickled from my eyes as I sheepishly confessed to another soccer-mom how the players’ show of unaffected, spontaneous, active love had deeply touched me.

Call me naïve, call me gullible, call me cliché, but I am telling you, standing on the sidelines of a soccer field at the aptly named Powerlines Park, I saw love incarnate.

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

This article originally appeared in the September 2009, edition of The Southwest Community Connection Newspaper.

It’s scary, but true! I think that growth, maturity and liberty is achieved when we can recognize when it is time to, and then, let go.

Storytime, Krakow Koffeehouse & Cafe, Portland, Oregon, January 30, 2009, Part I

February 19, 2009

I realize this post is very long and I know how intimidating streams of words can be, so I have broken this posting down into five parts for ease of perusal, if you are so inclined.

Sincerely,

Sharon
__________ 

Friday, January 30, 2009 I set out to conduct a children’s story time at Krakow Koffeehouse & Café, in north Portland. I had been invited to do this by Krakow Koffeehouse & Café owner, Mark Kirchmeier. I was planning to read my children’s picture books Max and Me, Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! I Love Bugs! And Uh! Oh! Where Did Baby Go? This story telling was to be my first of 2009, and more significantly, my first reading during the brand new “historic” Presidency of Barack Obama, a president of color, whose message of hope and change knits nicely with the message of my mission – that we are all, no matter our color, culture, or nationality, inherently the same – we are all human beings in this world together entitled to respect, dignity, hope, truth and love.

A no-school-Friday, I brought my sons along with me to the Krakow Koffeehouse & Café story telling. Story time was 10:00 AM and we arrived energized and excited to entertain the little ones. I had planned not only stories, but songs – I was going to sing my original composition, “What Color Are You? You’re The Color Of Love.” – and art activities.

We entered Krakow Koffeehouse & Café, one son carrying a display stand, another carrying my guitar and me with my book bag. I approached the counter. There was a tall, bespectacled, white, male, behind the counter on one side serving a customer, across the other side a woman with long light brown hair wearing a white sweatshirt, appeared to cleaning. Neither employee acknowledged my presence, but giving the benefit of doubt, I waited a moment for the man to finish with the customer. Time ticked on. When there was still no acknowledgement of my presence, I politely interrupted the tall, bespectacled, white, male, “Excuse me, is Mark here?”  I enquired (Mark being, Mark Kirchemeier, the owner of Krakow Koffeehouse & Café, by whom I had been invited me to do story time.)

The tall, bespectacled, white, male, responded curtly, “Mark is not here, but we’re ready for you.” Taken aback that although I had not been acknowledged upon entering Krakow Koffeehouse & Cafe, this employee was well aware of who I was, and why I was there. This realization unnerved me somewhat, but I shook it off and proceeded to enquire as to where to set up for story time, turning my body to point to the area in question behind me.

When I turned back toward the counter the male employee was saying “Outstanding.” I detected a sneer and condescension in his tone but then, as the sweatshirt clad, white, female, employee was now standing beside him, I questioned whether or not he was indeed speaking to me. To clarify things for myself, I asked him if he had been speaking to me. He responded loudly, “I was speaking to her.” pointing to the female employee in the white sweatshirt. At this I said, “I was talking to you. I asked you where I should set up.” He then said, “When someone turns their back on you, it means they are finished with you.”

Thinking that he thought I had turned by back on him and attempting to clear up the confusion, I began to explain that I had not turned my back on him, but had merely turned to indicate to him where I might set up. He then shouted, “When someone turns their back on you, it means they are finished with you. I turned my back on you. I was done with you.” Still, not wanting to fully comprehend what was going on, I continued to argue my innocence. Suddenly, a white, woman with multiple piercings on her visage, charged over and began screaming at me that she had heard what I said, she was a customer and they, all the other customers, heard what I said. At this point the tall, bespectacled, white, male, fully unleashed his hostility and screamed “See, everyone in here heard what you said.” With a sweeping gesture, encompassing everyone on the premises, he then proclaimed that “See we all know what you say more than you people.”

With his “you people” comment, there was no longer any dodging comprehension for me. From the time I entered the premises of Krakow Koffeehouse & Café and was rendered invisible, my intuition had been willing me to see the truth, but I had bestowed the benefit of the doubt upon my fellow human beings inhabiting the premises at that time.

Slapped to reality I remembered that my sons were with me, watching this all and I worried for them. I tried to locate them, but my senses assaulted, I was rendered temporarily blind and I couldn’t see them. It was as if I were in the center of concentric circles – or a Roman amphitheatre, panicking, with lions slowly, arrogantly, circling – rapidly spinning, out of control, the outside circle rotating, morbidly slowly, in the opposite direction, everything warping in and out of focus; the only thing clear, sharp, and in focus, were the words and the hatred propelling them, which pierced my very being.

As I looked around Krakow Koffeehouse & Café, I caught the eyes of each of the four or five patrons (all of whom were white) who were inside in addition to the male and female employee, and the irate multi-pierced white, female, customer. I looked at every one of them beeseechingly, yet no one stood up nor spoke up. They burrowed their buttocks deeper into their seats; buried their faces in their coffee, cell phone and newspaper. One man looked at me with that “Can you believe this?” look then returned to his phone call. Another smiled sweetly at me on his way out the door. 

When finally I regained my equilibrium and located my sons, I knew I could not read my books in that environment. (My stories are full of truth, laced with whimsy and joy; they’re about equality, love and humanity.) I asked the boys to put my things back in the car, telling them “I cannot conduct a story telling here.”

The tall, bespectacled, white, male employee and the multi-pierced woman, both fired “Good. Get out we don’t want you here.” The woman then ripped a flyer with my photograph on it promoting the event, from a sandwich board, crumpling it in her hands saying, “I’ve seen your picture and you’re not very good.” I shook my head, wondering what my photograph could possibly say about my story telling abilities and began to follow my sons out the door. The tall, bespectacled, white, male, bellowed after us. “Thank God.” (My youngest son clued me in later that what the multi-pierced angry, white, female had meant was that she didn’t think my pictures were very good.)

We returned the guitar and other items to my car. I was about to leave when I decided that I needed to at least let Mark Kirchmeier, the owner, know why I would not be fulfilling my obligation and doing story time. I returned to the store to request a phone number at which I could contact him directly. I was told by the tall, bespectacled, white, male employee to get out. I tried explaining that, as a professional, I needed to let Mark know why I was leaving. The male employee continued to tell me to get out, eventually shrieking, “You need to show me respect.” (In my world respect is earned and you certainly don’t earn mine by ill-treating me.) Then, determined, it would seem, to obliterate any remnants of doubt in my mind as to whom, and what exactly, I was dealing with, the tall, bespectacled, white, male, employee vociferated “I don’t know where you’re from, but you’re in my country now.”

Evidently emboldened, the multi-pierced, white, female customer lunged at me, arms flailing, shouting in my face that every one of the customers (waving her arms for emphasis, including them in her sweep) felt threatened by me and that she was calling the police. 

I will confess, that at this time, like a bull at a red flag, all I could see was her silver nose ring, taunting me, tempting me, daring me… It took all my will to not shove my little finger between it and her snout, and pull, really, really, hard. You will be happy to know I did restrain myself. For this I thank my angels, my intuition, or maybe it was the “friendly” immigration officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, this past July, who after informing my two sons that they had more rights than I did; that they could vote (my sons were, at that time, 12 and 10 years old,) proceeded to tell me that should I “so much as hit someone, I would be sent back home (to England.)” (Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem returning to my birthplace, I would however, prefer to do it under my own volition.)

At the time, I remember wondering, fretting actually, as to why such a “genial” welcome back to the Country for sweet little me. Friday, January 30, 2009, at approximately 9:50 AM, standing face to nose-ring attached to an out of control, bigoted, white, female, in Krakow Koffeehouse and café, my pinky twitching, it became awesomely, audibly, clear – complete with southern drawl. But that’s another story for a later blog.

The irate multi-pierced, white, female, customer picked up the phone, waved it at me and threatened, “I’m calling the police.” When that, to her surprise, didn’t scare me, she challenged, “I’m dialing the number…” I told her to go ahead. I am not afraid of the police. (I must say I did get the distinct impression that I was supposed to be afraid.) I had done nothing wrong, unless you count attempting to fulfill the obligations of a story telling invitation, entering the premises, head held high while abundantly melanistic, and expecting to be treated, like anyone else, as a human being – with respect and dignity. 

 Continued/Storytime, Krakow Koffeehouse & Cafe, Portland, Oregon, January 30, 2009, Part II