There is a young Haitian girl in the pew kneeling next to me, belting the Pange Lingua between her Kreyol pronouncements. Because of the three language groups that find themselves in this Flatbush community, I notice how the Latin songs and chants are sometimes used as a unifying element. The one thing everybody (over 30) recognizes and can celebrate as 'original' Catholic heritage. It upsets me though. I cannot engage in something that I cannot begin to understand.
Because of the English version we keep in Trinidad, I know what the words mean. I know the solemness that it invokes, the centered focus of the adoration, the way it could call your pores to their feet. I felt so disconnected in mass tonight. I missed home soooooo much. I don't understand for the life of me how a heavily West-Indian group of black people could sedate music and rhythm so much. The English choir here amazes me into disbelief every time.
I went with my colleague to help facilitate a workshop today in Brooklyn that was eventually cancelled, but in preparing we'd spent some time looking more closely at Haiti and stigma and I think even in my own personal self, how my all-embracing perception when I just came here was somewhat altered by the attitudes of some of the women around me. From "them old niggers" at the laundromat to "them Haitian people" next door, and for absolutely no reason I unconsciously began to distance myself. Today I recognized what a terrible mistake I was making and re-grounded myself in the idea that more Haitian blood floods me than I know, and much more than we as a people care to think.
In my own tongue, Kelby stopped me mid-conversation a few weeks ago to ask me what happened and why do I have a tinge of an accent grabbing at my sentences. I barely even noticed how it's been creeping. It's the wanting to be understood at the first go. The nuisance of repeating myself five times over. I feel like every time I talk to a west-indian now, I've begun to overcompensate for the creole I lose to conversations I keep with Americans. Uncool.
I need to learn Shona though. I want to go to Zim next year.