Posts Tagged ‘Home’

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

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Wake up! There are three snakes in your bed

June 11, 2010

Imagine yourself awaking, stretching as you leisurely unfurl yourself, eyes closed, into a regal recline. You are the mother of two rambunctious, loveable rascals whom have not as yet arisen.

You are luxuriating in the resonance of an audible inner exhale that thrills your every cell as it breathes from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, when, surrendering to the “Ahh,” your Zen is shattered by a helium-high pitched “One. Two. Three.” In stereo!

Welcome to one morning in my world. The boys were up. I opened my eyes to witness them cocksuredly laying out on the other pillow in my bed, their catch of the day, three lithe, not so little, garden snakes. Do you have any idea what freshly captured garden snakes smell like?

There they stood, Moses and Malik, wide-eyed, breathless, proud as peacocks, grinning Cheshire cats; the cats that got the cream. I could conjure another cliché, but you get the picture I am sure.

My gut reaction, the girly-girl in me. Yes, I know this is non politically correct language, but this is the truest way I can describe that particular bit of the many bits that make up the whole of me. Do you want to know what the woman/hag/crone/angel/witch/goddess/mother in me, wanted to do to my darlings?

Anyway, as I was saying, the girly-girl in me wanted to wretch, scream, hurl – all over Moses and Malik, not the serpents – but then I remembered Gwendoline. Gwendoline, heroine, star, of my little picture book, “Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! I Love Bugs!”

Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what Gwendoline is made of, but, Gwendoline loves all things squiggly, wiggly, creepy and crawly. Yes! Gwendoline loves bugs! Forgive me but, cheek-to-cheek, in full pillow-patter pose with three ticked off ophidians, there is no distinction between a worm and a snake.

As I thought of Gwendoline, my stomach settled and I found my breath. Did you know you can breathe through your skin? I sat reclining, admittedly at this point more rigid than regal, smiling wanly, somewhat stupefied, and questioned how my life had come to this. No prince charming on my pillow. No knight in shining armor, only three Thamnophis Sirtalis serpents on my bolster, and Moses and Malik, fruit of my womb, standing to attention, positively glowing in exaltation. Had my offspring presented me at that time, with the Hope diamond, or a hundred-million-dollar winning lottery ticket, they could not have been more certain of their worth and entitlement to my deepest gratitude and undying love. I marveled at how I had never, in my wildest dreams (and I am she of the wild reverie,) imagined that this would be my life.

Do you know what? Looking back I am so glad I had never imagined so many of things that have been my life, for had I, I would have run hard and fast the other way (whichever direction that might have been.) Boy would I have missed out on so many weird and wonderful experiences.

I mean, one has not lived unless one can truthfully say, “I have reclined in bed with three snakes simultaneously – the reptile kind!”

This column originally appeared in the May, 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

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.

Home is…

July 5, 2009

A raccoon once moved herself and her three cubs into my house. She marched right in the backdoor and straight upstairs to my sons’ bedroom.

Thankfully, mama raccoon – spooked by a surprised, but euphoric, Moses and Malik, who hadn’t yet cultivated their poker faces and were salivating audibly in bug-eyed glee – apparently forgot she had scythes for fingernails and fled, dragging her dazed babies behind her.

Creatures of all kinds feel at home in my house. Some of them, arriving uninvited, stay just a while. Some are pets/family members. Others, contraband, smuggled in by my nature-loving boys, pop up in unexpected places having absconded their cages – “unbeknownst” to my little darlings, of course – to live large in quiet, warm crevices in my humble abode, sometimes for 10 free-wheeling days! Snakes in the master bathroom, anyone?

I, however, for many reasons, have never quite felt at home here, in that settled, rooted, connected-to-the-soil way. There’s a general disquiet that has haunted me intermittently. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house and I’ve spent a lot of creative currency making it into a home for my family – there is definitely no denying “Sharon Martini Lives Here!”

Returning recently to Portland from a triumphant trip abroad, my restlessness returned, magnified. I felt like an out-of-place boulder, a recalcitrant beaver, no longer building dams, becoming the dam, blocking a rushing river, being battered by its current that simply needed to flow, wanting to move into the stream but unable to.

Then, I had an epiphany. “Dance!” Not social dancing but, specifically, take a dance class. This revelation astonished me. I consider myself a freestyle dancer – a “play the music and let me groove my way” type of dancer.

Whenever I perform in musicals, it’s the dancing piece that perturbs me, for I feel bound and restricted by the confines of the choreography, even though as a child I danced ballet and tap for almost 10 years.

Still, something within me “knew” I needed the structure of instruction, predetermined steps, a path, a yellow brick road to follow. Somehow I “knew” African dance was the class. I have never taken African dance; it hasn’t interested me before, yet here I was, 19 years into an admittedly unsettled life in Southwest Portland, with my soul now crying out for African dance. What to do?

I searched the Internet. Not only did I find an African dance class, it was happening that evening at Multnomah Arts Center. The Multnomah Arts Center – where over the years I have taken my sons to architecture, messy art, jewelry-making, tap, piano, guitar and clay classes – which, in my “mummy” world has been a place for my children or, my children and me, not me alone.

Before the class I began to panic, feeling silly and self-conscious, doubting that I “knew” what I knew. African dance class, what was I thinking? I wondered who would be in the class, would I be able to follow the steps, would I be expected to be able to follow the steps, would I embarrass myself (I could always would hide at the back), who would the teacher be? Ignoring this mind chatter, I went to the class, albeit tentatively.

Quieting some of my apprehension, this African Dance class, replete with live drumming, was being taught by an African man from Ghana – Nii Ardey. It was a small class, so there was no hiding in the back. But it didn’t matter because once the drums began to beat I was stomping, stepping, swooping and twirling. I was air. I was energy. I was love. I was gratitude. I was home, moving in rhythm and at one with, what I believe is, the primordial heartbeat of the universe.

When the drumming ceased, I stood still, grounded, sweat flowing from my pores, proof to me that the dam I had been had broken, and I re-remembered that “home” doesn’t require a plane ticket, nor bricks and mortar. Home isn’t place or position, country or creed. Home is peace, music, movement; it’s connection, delight, detachment. Home is freedom, letting go. Home is art.

Like Dorothy clicking her heels in The Wizard of Oz, I can go home whenever I want, for home lives in me and I live in she, but, if I ever need help finding my way, I shall hotfoot it down to Multnomah Arts Center for an African Dance class, or whatever art form I need at that time to transport me.

“Home” is where the art is. Dance, beading, painting, weaving, drama, piano, it’s all there at Multnomah Arts Center. There’s “transportation” with your name on it there, I’m sure.

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 July 2009 edition of The Southwest Community Connection Newspaper.

Where is “home” for you?