Friday, November 25, 2011
A friend had asked me the same question last night, told him I didn't see the point in having to exert myself for survival here when I could live comfortably with house and land on a quiet-enough island where the ocean doesn't freeze over in the loaf-end months. I can see the enticement of the opportunity here, but if you step back far enough, it's always a carrot-bait type of situation, and I'm just not that kind of horse. I understand it though. I understand the West Indian obsession with Brooklyn, we always move, waves at a time.
Two of my sisters (God bless the hearts of these women) tonight asked where I wanted to live eventually, and whether I would stay in New York. At this point I feel like the universe is asking me to shape a clearer definition of myself and prodding me in the direction of a work I started this week. In creating a performance for a class project, I am beginning to form my first one-woman show, on the questions of destiny and identity and trusting dreams.
More doors have been opening than I had keys to. God has been remarkably gracious to me in the last few months, and this year has been one of so much growth for me as a person. I am trying to expand beyond the US as of next year, I need to get hold of some scholarships and grants, but these things have already been surfacing. I have some key people at this point in my life that I am drawing experience from, and this is definitely a time of growth for me. I have been more grateful for life in this last week than I have ever been in my life.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
I'm transitioning to a Master's program hopefully next year around this time I will be in Grad School getting my hands dirty with actual community theatre as opposed to the broadway factory. Speaking of which, we have another great community of students that we're building with this year in the College Now class. You can see some of our work at: www.bcintrototheater.wordpress.com . It's always super exciting for me because American youth have such a non-shy willingness to engage in the classroom, and have a confident, fearless way about voicing issues affecting them, something I'm not sure I and my friends were doing when I was their age. It's refreshing, all the time.
I feel like I've also been transitioning into the world of bilingualism. Or at least, some version of Spanglish. I'm not sure where it came from, I blame my latino class two semesters ago, I blame California and la casa de Erika Cespedes in Oakland, I blame the burritos. I blame my heightened awareness of Hispanic culture in my neighborhood. Yarminiah and the stories of her family in Miami, the misa in Spanish after ours on Sundays at church, the conversations over my head in packed trains, I blame buena vista social club and how they all seem so perfectly grandfatherly. I blame Cuba and how it appears to me everywhere in my consciousness. I do not know where it came from. But I know that God had me do it for seven years and promised that I would have use for it in the future. Maybe part of the plan is that the language is revived in me somehow. It's weird though. One morning I wake up and I start thinking in Spanish.
With all of the #occupy events taking place throughout New York, the arrests, marches all over the world, the curfew back home being extended, troy davis, tuition hikes, poverty spreading, war, I sense like the whole world is breathing heavily in some kind of syncopated sighing. It is heavy, it is heated, it is heaving. I see and hear it with my young people. The world is frustrated. It isn't even deniable anymore. Everybody is fed up of the way things are. There is some kind of uneasiness happening in the air, and that is public knowledge. Everybody seems to be at their ends. These are tense times.
Finally, I'm about to get around to doing what I really came to New York to do, i.e. building my career as a writer and performance artist. I'm about to slam in this upcoming week, so I've just been trying to prepare myself for it, and trusting that the dry spell of the last year performing-wise had a purpose to it in terms of my growth creatively.I feel like the time has gotten here, and I'm about to put my best foot forward into this. I feel like I've been given enough space in my schedule this semester for concentrated writing and crafting my work, and I am all about making it happen. Ready. Tell the tide time to turn.
"I keep silent, till he would order me to speak, and lift the spell over the world so I could wake dem from dey sleep"
Saturday, September 10, 2011
It's clearly been a while since I've written here, I told a friend this week that I would, and I strive to keep things I give, like promises and such. In that way it becomes half theirs, half mine.
Last weekend was the Labour (yes, that's a 'u' in there, get an English dictionary) Day weekend, and as is customary out here in New York, they had a number of festivities and events all culminating in the street parade on the Monday's holiday. I had missed it all last year, so that this year I sought to do all things West Indian.
On the holiday, two friends crashed at my apartment for our quiet version of Dimanche Gras, and we left home around 5:50am to look for the bands. When we found them, we pretty much just stood along the sides, watching the parade, when one of my friends fell under a strain of culture shock. Her argument was that "this is why feminism is pointless" RE: the behavior of some of the women in the street and their widespread demoralization that seemed to be spilling every which way on the street. I'm thinking that this was why I had distanced myself from Carnival in the first place back at home. It was just the sense of defeat that came from seeing women act a particular way in response to men, not just in dancing, mere behavior, even as an isolated factor, and thinking to myself...so...these are the sisters I'm fighting for...right?
but so goes the story of liberal feminism. here is where the ideology and I meet in the middle of the highway and I refuse to stop and let her in my car. matter of fact, I start speeding. This is my own conviction, and I'm allowed to have one of those. That said,
I really wished I had a camera though (Thank God I didn't), there were so many moments that could have been captured, the sunrise, the masqueraders, the music in the bodies of people, it was beautiful. One thing I am most appreciative over is the traditional music they use for J'ourvet. There are no speaker boxes on music trucks. There are riddim sections, pan-sides, iron-men/women and drums. It was the most organic expression of J'ourvet I've ever been part of.
In the afternoon we spontaneously decided to go to the Parkway for the 'last lappe' which closes off at 6pm, and jumped on a train around 4:40ish to get to President street at around 5pm. We walked out to the corner of Nostrand and Eastern Parkway, after crawling through the most tense, congested crowd I think I've ever been in. 'Tense' because there was some heaviness beyond the humid, beyond the bodies, something was just off. We get to the barricade at the end of the street, and 3 seconds after a woman behind pushes against me and when I turn around, there is a tide of scampering people running towards us and then a shot, sounding like hot ice exploding in a plastic bottle. No echo. Contained. Like a body had absorbed the shock of it.
About 3mins later we were on the train platform, waiting to jump on to the next thing that would take us away from there. My hands were shaking, I could barely text my other friend to tell him to turn his car around and head back home. I got back to my neighbood with an off-beat breathing and a quiet panic in my step. First time for everything, maybe.
After having a week to reflect, I started to think of the 24shootings in 24hrs phenomenon that happened throughout NY state on the Labor Day weekend. Why is it specifically this weekend, when everything is dedicated to "West India" that all these acts of violence happen and at such a rate? I started to question whether it was an issue of us having imported so much of our culture to New York and whether it reflects the increasing violence in our own island home societies. I'm not sure how much of the integrative process of young Caribbean men coming into the New York setting involves some kind of introduction or even re-introduction to criminal activity or behavior, but I'm at a loss for words over the hint of the idea that there may be some cultural connection to the violence. I hope not, but I don't want to dismiss it entirely just yet.
All in all, the day had been mostly enjoyable one for me, but punctuated by few mins that could have cost me my life. I think there can be some more substantial evaluation to take place here.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
find me and follow me: http://anayajahzara.tumblr.com/ get to it.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I wonder how difficult it is to embrace the work of the independence movement for the average young person living in a neo-colony like Martinique or another Département D'outre-Mer when that life is all you have known since you have known yourself. What do the names of Cesaire and Fannon register as in the minds of the population within my age group? France and the other respective metropoles (inclusive of the United States) are still the idealist societies and cultures, sought to be replicated in a context of life that continues to not need or benefit from it.
I remember my aunt saying last week of her mother that she reminisces of the days of the British Empire and that if Trinidad was still a colony then we would not have had the crime problem that we do now. I didn't think there were elders who still thought like that. Regardless of how emotional I may feel over a sentiment like that, what I should come to acknowledge is that not everyone is/was in favor of Independence, which actually gives enough evidence of itself in the very word 'dependence'. It is as simple as that.
My friend in Martinique has always wanted to be a model. I recently saw a studio shot of her in a social network update and clearly she is on her way to establishing herself in that career. What struck me however, was how the lighting was arranged and how much more lighter skinned she had been made to look. A stark contrast from her normal, everyday moment, smiling with family and friends photos. It made me consider what is it that we are willing to sacrifice to come by the 'ideal' image or the 'ideal' set of circumstances. What are the type of compromises we are willing to make to get from point A to point B?
How much of ourselves are we willing to lose, to gain some type of perfection by someone else's standards.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
the sun will not move to midday position at moontime.
breakfast would not find your stomach through osmosis.
weeds grow where they want, stifle the legit ones,
labor is pain only when you're on your back.
or a maternity ward.
labor is the world moving itself quarter seconds at a time
how force gets applied to the moving of things.
how the moving of things comes by effort
how everything comes by effort,
how loving you the right way is only by measure of effort.
and Baba said all work is prayer.
I am praying with all the effort in me.
Monday, July 25, 2011
So the outta dis realm week has more or less closed, the memory is being stored for safe-keeping and BNV tabanca is in full swing. Today was the first day of rest since I came out to California, and every ache and stiff muscle is worth it.
It was none less than beautiful to be surrounded by that energy again and to marvel at the sight of God in other people. The offering of stories, the commitments to change, the urgency for being light. I am eternally grateful for my Future Corps team. Such an amazing collection of minds and momentum. So many people to thank for changing my life this week.
Possibility. the beginning of all things great.
an extreme sadness and/or a depression following one's breakup or seperation from one's significant other.
"a gual you ain't hear 'bout Marsha? she home wit some serious tabanca, cuz she and she man done. it was de funniest ting i hear all day."
Sunday, July 10, 2011
I've heard Wole Soyinka (world renowned West African writer) talk about the difficulty in having to work with Americans, that is, African Americans having to perform his plays under his direction in the United States. That is, that he has numerous challenges with dance and choreography. I've heard a British educator on TED talks lament how cerebral Europeans are, and what it does to alienate the rest of the body from itself.
I found the colonization at a hip hop concert tonight in Brooklyn. I mean it's Brooklyn though. One of the most culturally black spots on the continent, and it occurred to me to pay attention to my body movements, granted my feet were tired, but it had all been the bobbing of the head, the occasional shift of the torso, with feet planted, not moving. I remember dancing to reggae back home, it was a full involvement of myself, maybe it's because hip hop has so many isolations to it. I found that my dancing has no fluency to it anymore, it's just rigid and definite.
I feel like I need to reclaim that part of myself. The Afro-Caribbean me. There is a core of yourself that becomes ignored in the West. Everything happens above the stomach. I'm also supposed to start taking dance lessons in African cultural dance in the fall. we're also hoping to stage a play, us black women next semester. What is black theater without choreography? Where did this disembodiment of mine come from?
I like what he says in the video below:
On Childhood Education - "As children start to grow up, we educate them from the waist up, and then we focus on their heads,... and slightly to one side."
On Academia- "If you want real evidence of out of body experiences by the way, get yourself a long to a residential conference of senior academics and pop into the discotheque on the final night.And there you will see it, grown men and women riving uncontrollably...off the beat."
I haven't been keeping up with my blog lately not because I don't have the time, because surely, it's something you need to make time for. I just don't know how to make sense of my last month. That is, my return home as relates to my parents, friends, who embraced me, who pushed me away, things I wish I could've made better, decisions we've had to come by, I just don't feel settled about things yet. Maybe vacation has an interruptive way of making days, and I will be more definitive when I get back to a routine.
I'm waiting on a response from CUNY to see if they accept my proposal for my own study path of Applied Theater. It's the same anxiety of having applied for your first choice college. I pray they accept it though. Also, BNV in San Fransisco is coming up in less than a week, which means i have poems to finish and to learn and to work out performances for. I'm both really hyped and anxious over it all.
I thank God for the men in my life tonight, for those who've encouraged and supported me in these last few weeks, days, hours. For my lover, my father, my brothers back at home like Gamma, Chike, Jabari, even uncle Mark for tonight. They are crucial to my survival out here more than I may like to admit sometimes, and have been here. always. I miss my real friends.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
My mother asked me before I came home, what would I be doing with my hair. I'm somewhat accustomed to hearing this question from her. It hardly bothers me anymore. She's adjusted to the idea that I can wear it as I like in New York, and a full-scale afro does nothing to irk the public. In the conservatives of my nativity space however, it's a similar sentiment Sa'nia expressed last week when talking about her journey as Rastafarian and the worry of parents that society will push us out, because we look a certain way, or celebrate life differently from the norm.
My mother is closer to the oriental end in my family tree, her hair doesn't twist like mine, less spiral more slick. My father is African and at any opportunity would acknowledge the end of 'Spanish Blood' showing itself in his hair texture. These are the genes that groomed my hair to itself. Since my mother took her 'big chop' years long ago before I was even born, she's consistently had (along with my other aunt) the same hairdresser/s.
I grew up waiting for my mother at hair salons, getting her monthly haircut to sangeet radio and airwave bajhans. I embraced it. More than ten years later, I found myself at the salon of the same hairdresser, friend of my mother. I could understand the buzz behind the blinds, how they calculated how they were going to deal with my hair, what would be the best way to approach the goliath, how to develop a plan d'action to combat the mass. I showed up, right? She couldn't possibly tell me I was in the wrong place.
In the space of four hours, all of staff, all of clients, all of everyone there were East Indian, looking at me with a curious I forgot about until then. They were uneasy throughout the process, one kept asking whether she was pulling too hard (when she was hardly), one gave up when the comb wasn't going through and called for back up. One even had the groin to ask whether I was going to flat iron when I was finished, as though it was the only acceptable thing to do, to complete the look, I can't possibly be having my hair out the way I had it before. I remembered how I should not let all this bother me, because of who I am, because of whose child I am. But remembering doesn't soothe things over enough sometimes.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I was disturbed when I was researching online a few years ago, and Eve Ensler called for short skirts by women all over the world in the commemoration of V-day that year. I understood how third wave feminism called for women's 'rights over their own bodies' etc. but I thought that the idea of short skirts everywhere challenged a personal moral code in the universe somewhere. That it was directly linked to the over-sexualization of women and I couldn't understand why an act that seemed in sync with how women are objectified everyday was being taken as revolutionary action. It just didn't sit comfortably with me.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Despite how many people question my convictions, my reasonings and my way of worshiping the God I serve, there is no possible way for me to ignore the magnitude of blessings he has given to me and my family. The last week has been one of faith testing and spiritual endurance, and joy came in the morning. All that I needed to learn to do was to surrender. That the battle is not mine, and it never has been. Give thanks.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
there is a way of speaking to God
bowed over a brown prayer rug
in the first light of the morning.
there is a way of waking the life in seeds
small enough to sprout faith,
in flood-rain and drought-days,
a way of growing past trouble
to blossom better in times to come
there is a way of time coming
only because it needs to
plants life into your chest
comes back and says that it needs you
to walk back with him
there is a way of walking backwards
into life again
back to the brown prayer rug of the soil
back to the first light of heaven
back to being the blossom of the seed you were buried to be
back to care of the sun and caress of the rain
back to the elements of the earth minus the pain
there is a way
of speaking to God
that it would be the conversation of a lifetime.
Copyright © 2011 Arielle John
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
So that essay I had been frantically seeking out in the last few days had been sitting in my reading packet all this time. Might want to delve into that magic before I go sleep.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Tonight makes me feel lazy, not too sure why either. I've been looking for Wole Soyinka's essay on 'The New African after the Cultural Encounter', as a matter of fact I'm not even sure of where to look. Looks like a heck of an interesting read as he addresses the process and bipolarity faced when the traditionalist moves into a fully western location and what that divide creates in one's mind. Essentially what all our Cambridge and Oxford-educated leaders of the post-independence era and present study abroad students like myself had/have to deal with. It would be wonderful to see how he makes sense of that schizophrenia.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us."
— St. Thérèse de Lisieux
Monday, March 14, 2011
They have a real, live organ in the Church here. The organ player gets paid for playing in the mass. Essentially, he gets paid for going to church. There is a single rasta drummer who sits beside him, the only thing to keep tempo for us, and prays with his hands clasped near his belly-button, diamond shaped, with aligned thumbs and index fingers. He reads the scriptures from his iphone and speaks and drums to himself before and after church.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
It's an near-spring night and I wonder if the sky outside is as clear as it had been on my late walk home yesterday. It was beautiful. I felt my heart say something like "thank you brooklyn". It finally wasn't too cold to look upwards, bare-necked and hatless. The world is beginning to look familiar again.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
To: waking up, nose before eyes on mornings
To: the brew of Hong Wing coffee and mini bakes called 'breggedaire'
To: the wooden rocking chair shifting back and forth in the living room
To: wanting to watch meh cartoons during 700 Club, and never being able to bargain with you.
To: the miracle of cherry juice from the backyard to the blender
To: your fingers, not being able to comb meh hair from arthritis
To: having to write this and not being able to be there
To: the length of your doll-curled hair
To: the legacy of Bigen hair-dye in our family
To: the doilies, from your crochet
To: how much age can slow you down
To: the caraille in your plate
To: the way life could taste bitter sometimes
To: the creases on either side of your eyes
To: watching your tablets increase,
To: "My darling you are growing older"
To: the belly-deep laughter in your smiles
To: the sight, of you in the gallery every afternoon
To: watching your transition from walk to wheels to wings
To: the way you sing "Mother's Eyes"
To: The way your eyes look like my mother's
To: going for pension after midday mass on Wednesdays
To: the lesson on vex money
To: making me think I could make pastelle successfully
To: the last time you hugged me from your bed
To: the annoying tangle of mosquito nets
To: the end, of an era in you.
To: wanting that you rest now,
To: wanting to thank you
and To: falling asleep only to rise on that Morning.
To: the grandmother we had in you.
-Arielle M John
Copyright © 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I've been lacking the vitality of days to write here. Beyond school and work and life's mischief, I've not been making the time to write. Academia does that too. Workshops are closed until spring, so that there's no real push behind me to get creative, especially in my day's end weary.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
1) Try not to be born on an island. Snow flakes are less welcoming than the sea surf they float like, and will read the riot act to your toes and not caress your now perfect-oval bootprints.
2) You will thank God for the three 60% cotton blouses in your cupboard with sleeves going past your shoulder caps.
3) Google 'bubble jacket'.
4)You will reserve the expression "white as snow" for areas outside of Brooklyn and Mary's lamb on a good day. Think of applying primer to wet black paint.
5) You will empathize with the Jamaican bobsled team in 'Cool Runnings'.
6) Blast music in your headphones so that your joints have a good reason to be shaking like this.
7) Forget about taking that hair-cut you were contemplating a month ago.
8) Do not complain about bad heating in your apartment if you can't afford a 20% rent increase.
9) You will write a letter to your local bank/sponsor/parents explaining that you didn't account for winter clothes in your estimated school expenses.
10) You will change your mind about this letter while you are writing the last sentence.
11) You should remember that the cold has a reason, and so do you.
12) ...but one should not expect the wind to be reasonable.
13) Think of the last time you cracked the ice-tray and a block of ice (or two) slid across the kitchen floor to the other side of the room. Now, think of yourself as an upside down piece of kitchen floor, on the bed of a huge ice-block. See how boots and streets interact.
14) The dry blood in your nostrils every morning is actually a good sign. Thank God your nights are warm.
15) Studies have proven that couples break up most in the fourth season. It helps to have the other half of your couple in a second season state of mind so that your heart is kept warm.
....to be continued.
Copyright © 2011 Arielle John
Saturday, January 15, 2011
because of you.
seam-ripper of a chest,
too much bosom and blossom,
too much woman in girlhood years,
that they would break your hour-glass
and tell you how time
doh come back. like that
Maracas sand stabbing the heels
in your school sneakers
next morning in assembly.
watched you lose your stripes
to a green band maxi
I know the way how City Gate
makes you think there's only one way
to get to where you want to go.
the way you shovelled through
gravel in your eyes
to wake yourself from
backseats in PNM rallies
how you could trap these
secrets in the fullness of your hips
to pull yourself up
like the 3 inches of your skirt hem
the way you released them
to cover the bruises on your thighs
true that they always had eyes for you.
I had mistaken your decay for some kinda purfume,
and never understood why you sectioned your hair
to cover the deep in your eyes like that.
Copyright © 2011 Arielle John
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
For all the clarity that it's worth, I now understand why I have not created any performance poetry since I've left my real house. I was talking to this Ghanaian guy i met last week and he's like, "what you mean NY gave you a block, there is sooo much stuff out here...what is it....an overload?"
and well...the African made me think a lil. After all my thinking I've observed that it's not because I'm dialect/accent-shy or super reserved in a non-conservative society, it's the fact that my mission all these years has been to effectively reverse the effect of Americanization in my country and what it has done/is doing to our young people.
As I explained a few blog entries ago, it was the fact that I exerted so much effort into creating work that was uniquely local, in order to locate that uniqueness that is in fact Trinbagonian, when confronted with an american audience, I am at a loss. It's how I cringe at hearing the Caribbean girls in the church choir trying to sing and ad lib like Beyonce or how I reflex-frown at the West Indian utterance of the word 'Summer'....DESPITE the fact that all these things are now legit, because Caribbean girls who grow up in America WILL sing and speak like Americans, and Summer IS an actual season here.
I have trained myself for more than five years to reject everything American because of how it was invading my piece of earth. Now I'm on their own turf and my body hasn't surrendered to this context of living. It is in my nature to not assimilate into this place....and that has it's benefits and burdens. On the upside...I maintain my full identity, straight back to Taino and Kalinago days. On the flip-side, I don't remember how to confront audiences anymore. American audiences anyway.
Who put the death in dilemma?
Saturday, January 8, 2011
we come back to this
like a watering hole
oasis of sandy miracles
how I manage the whole weary of me
to hold nothing but heavy breath.
can't carry more than i can carry.
the way your sunsets
burn deserts to the ground
the mornings you don't find
in the cold of when i need you
most,in the quiet of
angry storms of dust
raging my wilderness.
we would still
come back to this.
Copyright © 2011 Arielle John
Thursday, January 6, 2011
I am thankful that I have for the most part kept quiet and to myself, it comes in handy these days. That works well off-stage.
I have found myself in such a strange place when coming to performance poetry. I have written no new performance pieces since I came here, most likely because of my resisting the notion of having to re-construct how I create work or broaden my motives when it comes to my writing. I have spent so much time and energy creating culture-specific work back at home, that when coming to here, it's like I hardly even know where to start.
I have an enormous sense of my schooling here being a temporary process and something that will pass before I know it. It's like I want no connection with the place, and everything is transitory. My anti-assimilationist attitude is the very thing creating writing problems for me. If what I believe in is about communicating a message, then communication is paramount to that goal, and communication can get culture-specific at best.
It goes beyond the issue of dialect and accent and references, because those obstacles should only propel me. It's the idea of not being clear about what it is I want to accomplish here. Over the last 5 years it was the restoration of a culture, working towards a sort of 'healing' from where we were at that point as a country (Trinidad). That goal becomes somewhat irrelevant here. Inapplicable.
One might argue that there are things that stretch over from place to place...God, gender, pan-africanism, anti-capitalism, environmentalism....but all these ideas work within a context and a way of reaching people. It's hard to end up doing something you love in a place you've always hated.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
the busy of eager heart
drowning red ochre
in the guided weight
of your devotion,
turning your back
to a prayer rug,
she warns to never face skyward
when you are dreaming
in the dark like this.
shifting body canvas
knit on the lap
and her girl-children,
nights at a time
on quiet moons.
The way morning
could shape you,
do war with your shaddows
and first light dawning
from the ending eclipse in your eyes.
spilling smiles onto
a glimpse of miracles
in your breathing
there is a tone-deaf way of seeing
you this beautiful
quiet in my nativity.
Copyright © 2011 Arielle John