An Offering

An Offering

I don’t want to talk about me.

I want to talk about her.

She is mother’s mother

Matriarch and Patriarch

She is ancestor.

She is mortar and pestle on the kitchen counter.

Mayi moulen simmering on the stove

Floral and paisley painted on her skirts

Chanel lingering on her skin

Morning stretches in a pink mumu

Gazing at the miracle of Mother Mary on the wall, clutching her rosary.

She is a survivor who crossed oceans so the world could see

Her.

Throwing her head back while laughter and music floated from her throat

Joy unearthly

And we are tiny hands massaging her feet during Dallas and Falcon Crest on Friday nights

And sitting between her legs as she greased, parted and braided many a crown.

She is slicing with deft hands, avocado as an offering to us. 

the shape of her mouth as she said Ah-vo-ca-do

Haiti never left her.

Her presence made brothers and sisters out of cousins.

Her essence made brothers and sisters out of cousins.

She rests.

And I offer

These words to her.

Liberation

Liberation

I want to be paid the highest compliment.

She. Is. Free.

I would be, too.

Free to take all my clothes off

On my balcony

In the dark

Brown full flesh kissing night air

Free to fall in

And out of love

As many times as

My big juicy heart pleases

Free to swallow kiwis and mangoes

And cherries

Whole

Remnants dripping

Down my chin

Pulp lingering on lips

Free to

Laugh with eyes closed

And mouth wide open

Free

To get it wrong

And let it go

Someone said

Black women don’t fall down

Someone said

We’ve got to make the time then.

To fall down

Grow silent

Scream until

Throats ache

Cry without hiding tears

That splash and slide onto the chest

Messy with no smooth edges

Nothing gets laid down.

I say

Only then

Would that freedom

Be

True.

Only then

Would that freedom

Be real.

Only then

Would that freedom

Be me.

 

 

 

Representation

Representation

When I was growing up, I could see myself on a handful of TV shows. Some people thought I looked like Rudy on The Cosby Show (I didn’t). A boy in my homeroom in 9th grade thought I looked like Tia or Tamera from Sister, Sister (Again, not at all).¬† Our images were so few and far between people had to think of the one or two characters they knew and attach you to it. It also felt like there were a group of shows that no one outside of the Black people I knew watched and if they did, they NEVER talked about it.

I remember excitedly anticipating the premiere of Moesha. A show that centered on a Black teenage girl (played by “I Wanna Be Down” Brandy!) I. Was. Sold.

I taped it on our family VCR. That’s right. I said it. An old rickety VCR. She was smart! I was smart! She liked boys and writes in a diary?! Me too! As I got older, I watched shows with my sister (mostly) and friends that we could relate to, saw parts of ourselves in and who we wanted to be.

Then the UPN and the WB eventually became the CW before they took all of them off the air to gear their programming to an unmistakably whiter and younger audience.

Where was my Girlfriends? I loved seeing 4 Black women with distinctly different backgrounds. I missed the freewheeling artistic vegan Lynn, the smart and sassy Maya, the neurotic but loyal Joan and the sexy and ambitious Toni. Where was I ever going to see shows like Half and Half (Mona’s hair and those boots!), One on One or The Game again?

I know now I can watch Black-ish, Insecure, Queen Sugar or grittier shows like Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” for creative and quality representation but there was something special about the mid-90’s-2000’s. Even if every episode of all the shows weren’t classic, we all knew what we were talking about when we referenced “The Professor”, yelled “Go home, Roger!” and sang “Mo to the. E to the…”

There aren’t shows (that I know of) that Black teens are growing up with that reflect their experiences in a comedic way on a major network. I feel bad that my niece or nephew doesn’t have shows like this so they may rely more on YouTube. Network television has failed in representing them in this way.

So why am I writing about this now?! The news broke today that 6 of these shows will be coming to Netflix over the next couple months!! As much as I am celebrating, I know people have been campaigning for years to make this happen.

We have been waiting for years for our shows to be valued.

For our creativity and laughter and silliness and talent and the audience who enthusiastically appreciated it from Day 1 to matter.

I know there will be many people like me who will be joyfully singing theme songs, lamenting about 90’s to mid 2000’s fashion and falling in love with these characters all over again.

And for those who really know:

Through this journey of discovery (x2)
In finding you, and finding me (x2)
Now that I have someone special
That brings out the joy (x2)
Inside of me (x2)
We can become whatever we want
All we need is loving you
That’s the way our feelings should be
You and Me…

 

 

 

Almost

Almost

I almost didn’t write this week but then I thought of Toni Morrison, scribbling away on her yellow legal paper all those early mornings.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I thought about how the sun burned my right breast through my T-shirt while I sunbathed on the balcony reading “Assata” on her birthday.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I saw a towering tree in the distance that persistently leans left, bucking tradition of all the others that surround it.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I saw my sister swing her twists while she gracefully spun and inverted on her pole, beckoning and inviting others to love themselves and her art.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I thought of my husband’s black and silver curls falling to the floor after holding it between my fingers, cutting new growth away.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I remembered how I sobbed in the shower when I heard a stranger talk about her miscarriages and her infertility.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I remembered how I deeply miss the hugs, kisses, the eye contact of people I love.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I opened a lipstick that made me smile wide when I painted my full lips the color of deep red wine.

I need to capture it because one day, hopefully many many years from now, I won’t be here to “almost” at all.

A Party

A Party

I dreamt of

Toiling and frolicking in the sun

Together

I dreamt of us

Around the table

Eating the fruits of our labor

Leafy greens massaged with marinade

Inviting mangoes sliced

And plantains sweet

To the party.

I dreamt of

Brown faces.

Smiling with mouths open

I couldn’t hear the words.

I didn’t need to

Because

I dreamt

Of our future.

Diving

Diving

“We never forgot about you.”

“We came looking for you.”

“And we found you.”

I heard those words in a video around 1:30am. I had one blank page left in a brown leather bound journal on my side table. I wrote those words down because I never want to forget them.

They had meaning. It was life-giving.

It was spoken by a diver. She is a member of a group: Diving with a Purpose. Their mission is to deep dive into oceans on the hunt for shipwrecked vessels that once held captive Africans. They teach people how to measure the ship, collect vital information and preserve history. These men and women, many of whom are Black, feel compelled to learn to dive, become guardians of history to find us.

Those who never made it.

Those who chose the sea.

I wept a little as I watched. Their resolve was clear. Their bravery and curiosity stoked flames in me.

What will I deep dive for?

What will I fight to preserve?

What will I not let slide anymore, desperate to believe he or she or they “didn’t really mean it?”

What is my battle cry?

What will I live for?

What am I willing to die for?

I may never bear children.

But that does not mean I will not have legacy.

It does not mean

I will never give birth

These words

I believe in their power.

And they come from

Me.

 

 

 

We do this.

We do this.

One time

We made love

To classical music

And we laughed

After we caught

Our breath

We asked

Who does this?

We do.

We do this.

We found a scene

From a movie

I was the coy but sexy temptress waiting at the bar.

He was a local boy looking for local trouble.

And we clumsily became actors.

We laughed.

Who does this?

We do.

We do this.

When my skin fell apart and I often left traces¬† of my pretty brown on the bathroom floor, in the sheets and on the furniture, he undressed me, applied salve all over my body–back, arms, neck, breasts, legs, ears and told me he wished he could take it all away from me.

And I asked

Who does this?

He does.

He does this.

He does Love.

 

It’s Called Anger

It’s Called Anger

When I punch the air

Why doesn’t it land?

I need something to connect

With my fist

Maybe it would ease the burn

In my chest

Cool it down

That’s too much, Kristina.

Why are you like this?

I am like this because I am sure I swallowed the white supremacy that I was force fed.

I cannot even face all of the slop that I have had to regurgitate.

Instead of the Black excellence

I’ve identified as Christian

And today I heard one refer to their privilege

As “White Blessings”

I hope you choke on it and it goes down like serrated knives

I am like this because my niece is scared for my life.

My life.

I want to tell her it’s not true. Her fear is completely irrational.

But I promised to be a truth teller.

I hate watching children protest

Not because of their awareness.

But because they are supposed to revel in their innocence.

It was NEVER supposed to be their turn to march about strange fruit.

I hate that I know there are other Black people whose ancestors were not born in Amerikkka and don’t recognize their Blackness.

You are BLACK.

You are BLACK.

You are Blackity BLACK BLACK.

Your first language, your gorgeous accent, your work ethic and your degrees WILL NOT SAVE YOU.

It is not a shield.

Wake up from your slumber

Your BLACKNESS burns

So damned bright.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t believe what they told you.

AND I SHOUT THIS

As a Haitian-American woman.

You can own your BLACKNESS and your culture. They can live in the same place.

They have to.

We were enslaved and colonized

A world apart.

Don’t forget it.

We are cousins.

And I hate that I know there are those whose ancestors were enslaved in Amerikkka but are terrified of change and don’t want to rock the boat

And because of your fear, you spout tired and false claims about Black on Black crime and won’t look your Brothers and Sisters in the eye.

The flames in my chest that roar

The melancholy that invades

Because all who are lost will not be found.

 

 

 

 

 

Whole Black Self

My Black self is a whole human being

Who wants to celebrate other Black people

Who wants to binge on Black everything

I crave Black expression.

Who wants to sit on my damn couch eating banana bread

My Whole Black husband baked.

My Black self

Took a walk this morning

Made sure I stared right into the eyes of two Black men walking in our neighborhood and shouted a robust

“Good morning!”

And what I hoped I said was “I see you!”

My Black self cried and checked on friends.

I ignored the deafening silence today from people who should have been screaming all along.

And those who proclaimed “This is how you protest.”

My Whole Black spirit wrestles with defeat when I think of Black businesses who may never open again and Black people

Who will never breathe again.

My Whole Black self will pray, make love to my Whole Black husband and fall asleep

Wake up

In a rage

And do it all over again.