Month: April 2016

In The Lap of My Mother

I rarely have anything serious to complain about in my life, but today was a rough day.  The hearing for my cousin’s murderer was today.  Long story short, he’ll essentially walk.  To add insult to injury, I’m sick with some sort of crud I likely picked up at work, so I’m off for a couple days (thankfully I have a massive amount of sick leave accrued).  On top of it all, my bank is late depositing my check in my account.  It’s one of ‘those’ days.  Times like this it’s easy to sit around and stew in impotent rage, mope, or feel sorry for yourself.  I think I transited all those phases today.  Then I turn on the news or look online, and it’s a long slew of political posts and bathroom bill rants and generally humans being awful to each other.  It’s hard to feel positive or upbeat.  I question my faith, and feel like the whole world has gone mad around me.  So I need to fix this somehow.  I’ve decided to tell a story.  It’s a true story, and I hope in the telling it may bring someone else who’s having a bad day a smile, or some sort of kernel of hope.  I summon up this memory when I’m feeling down, and it never ceases to bring me a smile.

First, a bit of background: I live on the east coast, just a little bit inland from the Chesapeake Bay.  The bay is like a second home to me.  I’ve been speaking to the bay since I was a small child, playing in her waters, eating her bounty.  I called her Mother, and thinking back on it, after initiating into Palo, how ironic that would all come be.  My family had a wooden boat, an Owens Cabin Cruiser, and I’d spend many weekends at the marina with my father working long hours on the boat, playing along the docks, or cruising the bay.  I’d sit at the bow of the boat with my feet dangling in the porthole, because there it felt like I was a shorebird, skimming the water.  I was both flying, and at the same time one with Her. 

One day while we were out cruising the bay, we encountered an enormous ship cruising into port.  It was a merchant freighter, one of the largest of its kind.  A floating city; each one of its propellers the size of our house (a 2-story).  To this day it was the largest machine I’d ever seen up close.  I was awestruck.  My father gradually guided our craft closer, but it was a dangerous gamble, as our little toy boat could get dragged by the wake of this great leviathan.  We drew up to the port side of the ship, and looking straight up, the hull looked like an enormous wall shooting straight up into the sky.  But at the very top of this wall I could perceive dark faces and people moving about.  This ship had come from the African continent, and who knows how long it had been since the crew had seen other human faces other than their own, after being out in the open sea for so long.  For my young self, it was like seeing people from another world.  But see….that was the magic of the Chesapeake.  That was our Mother.  She was a liminal space where people from all over the world could meet.  I remember standing up on the bow of the boat and waving and waving.  To my surprise and delight, the crew looking over the side broke into smiles and waved back. 

I wonder how I must have looked to them, perhaps like some tiny monkey clinging to the front of a little toy boat.  But I wanted more.  I thrust my tiny hand in the air, making a fist at them, then pulled it down, gesturing someone pulling on a lever.  I wanted them to blow their ship’s horn.  For awhile I gestured, until one by one they left the port side of the ship, disappearing into it’s fast depths, presumably to return to their duties.  Several minutes passed.  Alright, I recall my father saying.  Show’s over.  For a ship of that size, blowing the horn on a whim was something that wasn’t done.  My heart sank, but I understood.  My dad started the engine, and made to angle the boat back out and away from the ship.

Then it happened.

The sound slammed down on us like a hammer, vibrating throughout the bay and bellowing through the air, drowning out the sound of other boat engines, the calling of the birds, our own voices.  It made a long blast and several shorter ones.  What I recall is a feeling that I can only express as utter joy and ecstasy.  I was laughing and crying at the same time, I threw my arms wide, looking like the character Jack from that “I’m king of the world!” scene from the Titanic.  And then there they were–smiling faces, laughing, dancing and jumping up and down and waving.  I waved back.  I bounced, I cried, I shouted.  And it was there, that singular moment, where people from across the world connected.  For them to break protocol in order to bring joy to a strange kid on a boat whom they’d never met and would never see again, it was at once paradoxically such a small and yet such an immense gesture. 

To this day I’ve not forgotten their kindness or their smiling faces.  But now that I’m much older I think about this and compare it to a darker time hundreds of years ago, when Africans sailed into the Chesapeake Bay not as merchants, but as chattel.  I compare that time to what happened when I was a child, and what a strange dichotomy it is.  But it’s one that gives me hope.  I think about the magic that is the Chesapeake, and I think about how strangers from another part of the world performed an act of kindness for a kid they would only ever see in passing.  I think about it over twenty years later, and I still smile.  It’s a precious memory, one of many such gems I keep tucked away in my heart.  But it’s also a learning experience.  When I find myself becoming too bitter, I summon up that memory, and I smile.

In the lap of the great Mother Chesapeake, in that moment, we traded not in goods or human bodies but in joy and smiles.  And also, maybe perhaps, hope as well.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/24nHX72

It’s Spirit, Not Meatpuppet Politics

I’m fortunate to know quite a few folk out there who have radio shows and so on.  Usually, due to my crazy work schedule and other rhythms of the day, I tend to miss these shows live.  I’m usually playing catch-up in the 1-2 hour daily commutes to and from work, in which I’m spending long periods of time behind the wheel.  One of the shows I frequently listen to is Candelo’s Corner.  Candelo has no problem bringing up controversial topics and cultivating much-needed discussion.  In his latest show, he invited the folks from Crescent City Conjure over to discuss a variety of important and interesting topics related to conjure and Palo.  One of these was homosexuality and the role of women in Palo.  This is a topic that’s been brought up more than once both on this blog as well as on Candelo’s show.  It’s an important topic.  Deeply important.  It needs to be talked about more.  It needs to be written about more.

As a transgender man I’ve faced the slings and barbs of both misogyny,
homophobia and transphobia.  As the rights of same-sex couples come more into the spotlight, us transgender folk still have a long haul when it comes to acceptance in various places, as the latest ‘bathroom bills’ in various states have come to show.  Some people out there may denounce me, may
call me invalid, or imply (or outwardly state) that I’m not a ‘real’ man and that nowhere else would I be taken seriously.  Their words mean nothing to me, and they won’t change who I am or how I view myself. I am strong in my
ancestors, many of which were men and women who went to battle together
for a common cause.  The true measure of a warrior is not what sits on
their chest or between their legs, or who they love, but in the strength they possess and
the skill with which they wield their weapon.  Ultimately, the ones that have the problem are the ones who point their fingers.  They have no effect on me, and it would be a waste of my time to address them.  I have places to go, and Work to do.

The endpoint, what it all boils down to, is Spirit.  As the speakers on the show pointed out–and something that my godmother and I have said time and again–is that while humans have their own agendas, Spirit speaks raw truth and comes out clear.  If Spirit calls you to a certain role or path, then that is that.  Gender politics have no place within the dictates of Spirit.  If Spirit says you are not destined for a particular path or role, then there has to be a reason behind it. As I’ve said before, biology is not destiny.  You are not defined by your genitalia or the structure of your body, but you are defined by Spirit by what’s inside, by who you are and what you’re capable of.  I often ponder about how much talent had been strangled, how many candles snuffed, all in the name of machismo and festering ego.  Look beyond the Meatpuppet Politics.  There you’ll find Spirit speaking, and there you will find the truth.  To do otherwise is to live in a darkness of one’s own making, and to impose that darkness on others is to feed the infection of ignorance and egotistical bullshit.  It stifles the flame, twists the soul, and any spiritual group with that degree of rot is bound to fail, one way or another.  Spirit alone is the final judge and arbiter.  When the Bakulu speak, it is our obligation and our duty to listen, especially if we dare call ourselves priests, teachers, workers.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1T42uYW

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