I remembered the first time I found Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem in my elementary school library when I was watching it’s performance, directed by the talented visionary Munya Guramatunhu. I often wondered where these books in the library came from and who really thought that these books were appropriate for children, but I dared not question for fear of losing access to a goldmine of forbidden fruit. I remember reading “a nite with beau willie brown”, told by the Lady in Red, the heat of a previous summer in Harlem creeping up and choking me.
Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff first opened my eyes to some of the cycles that women went through in the 70s; Black women facing the disasters of loving in this time, especially towards the climax of the piece, where we see the outcomes of “the last time” not really being the last time. Countless Black women found themselves in the middle of the first waves of the HIV/AIDS virus during a time of free love and unsanitary habits. Ladies in Red, Yellow, Purple, and Brown tell a haunting tale with “positive” and Lady in Red always pulls my breath from my toes all the way out at the height of the choreopoem, before they all join in a laying of handles to collectively heal. “Abortion cycles #1” is a vicious section that bears a title that makes me wonder if there’s a significance to a number on the cycle count, as this part definitely does not read to repeat. I dream of a soulful Mary J. Blige rendition of “somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff”.
Back from Barbados and barely adjusting to the cold, if it wasn’t for Shanice Nicole I would have missed a true mastering of this piece. I’m more than familiar with the choreopoem (with an apprehensive interest in the lives of Black women in America’s “Great” cities during the 70s due to the creeping darkness that still tries to bury) and have been fortunate to see the choreopoem more than once performed by a few top groups worldwide. As appreciative as I am and individually captivated by each performance, none of them have blown me away like McGill’s BSN (Black Students’ Network) co-presentation of not only McGill’s first all-Black and all-female production, but also of the first production of For Colored Girls ever done at McGill under the direction of Munyaradzi Guramatunhu.
From jump, the six women with natural hair of different textures and styles; long skirts with coloured panels with matching fabric chokers to identify them; and a mix of shapes and sizes, are completely captivating. From an intimate stage under a curious spotlight, they command attention with an intensity that reminds you what it feels like to be alive. Guramatunhu credits her gut feeling for choosing Keren Roberts (Lady in Blue), Nelly Zarfi (Lady in Brown), Inès Vieux Francœur (Lady in Green and Orange), Jamilah Joseph (Lady in Purple), Lorna Kidjo (Lady in Yellow), and Betina Bailey (Lady in Red) as her cast, and it is a decision the audience does not regret. Each of these women posses a mastered control of their bodies as vessels for a performance with an intensity you wouldn’t expect to still be burning so strongly in the second to last night of such a charged piece.
With but six black boxes, a sheet gripped between two poles, and a spotlight, Guramatunhu pulls us into her minimalistic vision of the choreopoem that places all of our attention on the talented Black women on stage. Breaking up the piece small playful segments of dance and hand games, and easing the tension through having the actress pace back and forth doing various breathing exercises on stage were interesting methods of pause for digestion. Placed perfectly within and following pieces, these little breaks allow the audience to catch their breath before getting back on the roller coaster.
Having the entire cast on stage for “graduation nite” and “latent rapists’” proved an interesting touch, as well the use of the group to tell different versions of the same experience through repetition during the first piece and shifting the voices to then form a collective call out of the same latent rapists spoken of in “graduation nite”. I’ve never seen a performance of “sechita” like Joseph’s, from behind a white sheet and a spotlight, dancing coyly with a veil of dignity under Guramatunhu’s creative direction. A freeing piece, Guramatunhu’s sheet gives a nod and respect to the Black women, specifically dancers, working not only under the white male gaze, but the scrutinizing gaze of Black men post-Civil War. Under Guramatunhu’s direction, this production of For Colored Girls is a true nod to the Black women before, beside, and after us; the cast’s ability to transform themselves, allowing the trials and triumphs of Black women through time to take them on as to deliver Shange’s choreopoem in this way is absolutely breathtaking.
Roberts’ ability to bring us right to the dingy abortion table, conveying pain I am not strong enough to bear. She gives us an unmatchable performance intensified by moans and groans, climaxing into a sobbing fetal position of “abortion cycle #1” that is absolutely incomparable. Zafari’s ability to take on the role of a bright and feisty young girl is almost too perfect, and her ability to transform into a booming voice gives a stark contrast in “positive” just as convincingly only magnifies her talent. Vieux Francœur claims this as her “first foray into theatre”, but her performance on stage leaves me questioning this. As she holds onto “somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff” with a slick sarcasm and a range of sass from head to toe that doesn’t miss a beat; the piece is alive when she is performing and you have no choice but to bear witness and cheer along. When Kidjo performs “positive”, you feel it. You feel the anger. You feel the sting of betrayal before the fist finally connects. In what should be a love rekindled, Kidjo does not hold back the crushing weight of the HIV/AIDS wave on the lives of unsuspecting Black women and you can see that generational pain pouring off of her during her performance.
Finally, before the much needed “layin on of hands”, Bailey takes the stage to perform my favourite piece, “a nite with beau willie brown”. As it is my favourite, I’m usually quite picky about its performance; I fell asleep during one New York production. It is absolutely impossible to fall asleep during Bailey’s performance as Lady in Red in “a nite with beau willie brown”. From beginning to end, Bailey had me trapped alongside Crystal in the nightmare of her relationship. Holding onto the edge of my seat, unblinking with my stomach in my throat until the end, when her final cries made it feel like I was being launched out the window alongside Naomi and Kwame, I’ve never been blessed with such a performance. Words do not measure up to accurately convey how powerful of a performance Bailey delivers; I was told her prior performances were even more riveting, a sign of strength I cannot fathom and can only respect in complete awe.
In a year where women are standing up, Guramatunhu’s direction and chosen cast pay homage to Ntozake Shange and her ability to turn pain into art beautifully. I cannot thank them enough.
I, like everyone else, was dealt a real blow when SZA dropped Ctrl, and broke my little heart. I played the album so many times that by the time her concert tickets went on sale I'd already decided to not go and entertain my demons in public. I do it, but I'm not a fan of feeling (read: crying) in public to be honest.
SZA's final assault 20 Something, has been playing over and over in my mind, possibly dragging me into another slump simultaneously.
I really thought that i would have everything together by now. i didn’t think i’d only now be making my first real attempt at being on my own. i appreciate that i made mistakes that my parents were behind me on, even when i was 100% right. money’s looking right. Circle is up-lifting. volunteering my time and energy to a space and community that helps keep my mental and physical health in check. I’m just on auto-pilot. I think the lack of stimulation’s been fucking with me.
There is a snaking pain that holds it’s heavy head in the left curve of my neck, coils his way tightly down the entire column, only to then become dead weight and irritating compression. Pain meds oddly enough do, but massages (with tiger balm and THC oil, amazing) helps. Yoga helps, walking helps. putting a new firm slated board under your mattress helps.
Originally, the idea was to go into autopilot. I had a strict budget that I checked religiously along with my stocks and bonds.The debt...it fuelled me. It got me going into the morning, I wanted to be able to say I was 24 with my shit together. You plan, the universe laughs. To be honest, with the help of MINT in getting all my revenue/investments in order, and that progress bar on my debts. It felt nice to get my October report with some smiley face, noting that I'm even ahead of my goal. I definitely plan to balance that out when Rih drops her next Fenty Beauty like. I'm not really into the pallets (except to watch others apply them), but I hear something about liquid lipstick and eyeliner. I've accepted my future inability to save money. My bank book is already shaking its head at October 13th.
One of the advantages of being short, includes seeing people at a distance, usually way before they spot me. Unfortunately, when it comes to people, hindsight is 20/20. One of the last few things my grandmother (God keep her) told me before she passed on was to listen when my stomach is talking to me. So far, where 2017 could have thrown me into a tailspin, I've been able to avoid major problems by going with my gut; I wish I made more decisions like that in 2016, and stuck with them.
Sometimes when you meet people your spirit doesn't take them on. Sometimes we take this absence as "oh I should try harder" instead of listening to our stomachs and bowing out. There's no shame in bowing out. There's no shame in bowing out. The stars don't align forever and somethings fizzle out before they even start. One thing I've learned is that actions speak louder than words and the absence of both is even more resounding.
last Sunday i snapped. similar situations as last year: new job at the bank, stolen moments in new york city during the magical celebration of Caribbean culture, a longing to finally have things on track for once; but i really believe that stress brought this on.i work for a pretty big company and some time changes have to happen in shorter-periods of time or that we were learning on the go. Initially I was even excited for this (it quickly wore off), I was up for the new challenge.
I really thought I was handling it well, and the low and behold I was bottom out Sunday morning, a blubbering mess. I’m listening to my body, and it’s telling me the stress i feel compressing my spine and the compaction in my lower back is because thing are too much. On Sunday, I was really just thinking get through today, then Monday you can just go radio silent until your last day of the week on Tuesday. I just wanted to not come undone before Tuesday. You make plan, God laughs.
Being off has done me a lot of good. I’ve had the time to slow down, sleep, really rest with DND on, The yoga studio I work at has amazing restorative and yin classes in the early afternoon. I’ve been spending my morning with tea and medical in the backyard, giving my good mornings to the sun and poking around my mother’s tomatoes in the garden —she even has one with a husk like this one! Thank God for insurance, seriously, because I still feel like i’m two intense massages before my back and shoulders feel like normal. To be honest I just want someone with strong hands tenderize my back and shoulders with Tiger Balm. As the days pass buy I feel like myself more and more. The house is finally clean, I can see my bedroom floor, the laundry isn’t piling up (or overflowing).It sounds really silly, but as a person who was struggling to get out of bed every morning for weeks, I’m super proud of myself. It’s a real privilege that I 10000% acknowledge to be in two spaces that are concerned with and value my mental health. both at work and at home (and obviously with friends and family) those who got me are sensitive to bad days and sour periods; i can't thank my parents, friends, and managers enough for their patience with me.
Last year this wouldn’t have been possible. I would have jumped at Namur or hopped with barrier on the overpass. Trying to get a grip on my mental health, especially when there’s always a piece of lucidity trying to rise for the ashes no matter what medication i’m on, has been an uphill battle. Last year I definitely could not have taken a peaceful time to rest and get my mind right. I wouldn’t received angry voice mails all questioning my worth and value, as if those questions were already swirling around in my head. No doubt if I was in the same position last year I would have stepped in front of that train. I wouldn’t of had this time off. I wouldn’t have insurance to get a massage and get my meds, nor the money to buy them. Despite moving full-steam ahead with my financial goal, there’s still so much work to be done on my heart and within my mind. I recognized the mindbodysoul connection, I hope I stabilize my frequency soon.
labour day weekend was a blur, but also a much needed switch up of the pace. a sincere celebration of life and liveliness that i’m so glad i didn’t miss, and ever grateful that my auntie carol welcomed me in (you’re the best). the more time i spend around my family the more i realize where bits and pieces of myself come from, and i savour these moments greedily.
if i think about where i am right now in my life in comparison to last year, i literally shudder. i think about how i felt in my body, always tight and cramped with stress and on the go, and how many advancements i’ve made financially, mentally, and health-wise, and i couldn’t be anymore thankful. this job...yo this job...i've never done anything corporate like this, so it's an interesting experience. i'm friendly, everyone else is friendly; i don't care if it's fake or not. i'm happy and surprised by the amount of support they've given me from the day i got the call i got the job. a repetitive early morning 40hrs a week is definitely a shift of gears, but it's cool with me to run on auto-pilot for a bit and stack up.
this weekend i was apart of a skincare panel within an open discussion held by ubuntu talks in conjunction with BEING. we had a really amazing turnout, over fifteen of us having an amazing conversation about skin, natural remedies, proper cautionings about certain remedies and medications, and an important piece on confidence in the skin you’re in despite the condition. unfortunately i didn’t remember to record the conversation we had, but i’m searching to see if someone’s got a recording of it somewhere. i've already got a few recipes scribbled out between post-its and receipts in my journal, so i'm really hoping that i can eventually sit down and find the patience to type those out. maybe when i go home.
when i got on the greyhound i was lit because the nice black pleather seats were freshly lysol'd and plump, so i figured i wasn't going to have any back pain while waiting for the q but NnnNNNnnNnoOooOooOoOoooo. i don't know if it's that i'm getting too old to be doing the overnight bus to new york or this is proof that i need to get back to a deeper yoga practice and loosen up but good grief. i don't know what's more aggravating, that pain in my neck and lower back, or the fact that i lost this bomb metro.
carlos pulled up and it was amazing as usual; there is no such thing as a bad time with him no matter what the season. since afropunk with him last year, i've completely been down for this friendship. i'm ever grateful for his support, taking me to interesting spots, and roast sessions.
shoutouts to twon for jumping the fence with me at the parade. we were there from 13h00-19h00. jumping in bands on behalf of our friends, family, and those who can't be with us. it's nice to be on the parkway with someone who's hype for it. discussing politics over jerk chicken and henny coconut water (delicious, but when the water is done and you pour henny in the jelly you will be sauced quickly, you've been warned), taking up space with flag in hand representing, and joining in with friends and family (esp. by surprise)...nothing beats that.
WALKING PAST E18TH
the lock on the door is getting old. i wonder why no one remembers me anymore on this block; do i really look that much different? i'm shades of brown currently, but i've got dashes of unidentifiable colour where the blue tones once were. it's a language of synesthesia i can only understand with experience, i'm eager to learn as usual.
music has been drawing something out of me like i'm really shedding a layer. 2016 hardened men but 2017, 2017 is showing me something completely new, and the music has been rocking me through it. sza's album threw me like someone dropped me in that heart attack of a roundabout in warrens (they're all heart attacks in my opinion) at top speed, but i think i'm echoing a common feeling. it was interesting to reflect on the little bits and pieces that stuck with me, it's good to finally feel like i really am moving forward.
i see them on the beat in front of the building, i wonder if they know what goldmine they're in front of. it's interesting to walk past the life you thought you would of had, holding hands with the complete opposite of who you once were, as a whole different person. i think i like this better. as much as i'd rather a slap and paranoia over losing his scent as he walks away in the blur of port authority, this is so much better. i spent a lot of my time with a person i loved who did not love me back, and now that love flows evenly across the board it's through distance and time.
crumpled paper. fronto. homegrown from back home. frankincense. myrrh. ginger tea. *buzz*
i could have taken that 10$ and put it towards lunch. i could have gotten proper groceries with that.
i don’t know where i am with writing. i’ve fallen into the cycle that many refuse to admit (oh baby what is you doing?) we’ve both gone through: lying about writing. am i really doing research? when exactly does « research » become « i’m avoiding getting to work » ? maybe that’s the next thing for me to research. i downloaded this app called me.time which is an interesting little prompt generator that lets you respond anonymously, but i’ve been using it sparingly during my commute. i’ve been catching a few extra moments of sleep or trying to commit my grocery list to memory instead of writing or reading, i worry that i won’t get anymore projects out before the end of the year. i’m nervous about my credibility in claiming that i’m a writer; do you still live up to your title in this day and age? do i lose myself in my lack of production (by definition)? i’ve been questioning if i pass the test in all aspects of my life so the nagging feeling that clinks and clanks as it drags behind my ankles comes as no surprise here/anymore. have i gotten so comfortable that it’s haunted my writing? has my sporadically busy life halted my creative process? i wonder how much of my work has been about trying to understand, trying to capture emotions and situations or making sense of trauma. i wonder if i’ve stopped writing because committing things to paper makes them real.
my birthday was saturday. i had lot of fun. i appreciate everyone who took the time to call, text, email, whatsapp, tweet, hug, squeal, and send me love. i started drinking at 08h00 and kept drinking until the following morning (i had a double rum for breakfast), the plantain and green banana were not enough to line my stomach for a day of drinking. if there’s one thing i miss about being home is the food. you’ve never tasted avocados so delicious until you go back home. i don’t know if it’s primarily the air or just the difference of limited familiarity, but everything just tastes better back home. the first week back i spend my time trying to recreate perfection with imperfect food, and it’s truly depressing. i haven’t bothered trying to recreate chefette chicken roti, i wouldn’t survive the heartbreak. i cooked for my birthday; i’ve been cooking since last monday and it just hasn’t stopped. time in the kitchen has been relaxing, even while stressful; i really do enjoy feeding people. macaroni pie, coconut rice, baked chicken, plantain, green banana, kale chips, butternut squash and sweet potato purée soup, mango coconut sorbet, etc. i just want everyone to give my my mother’s tupperware containers; one day i found her in the kitchen counting them.
i’ve been thinking a lot about love and relationships while staring into pots waiting for ground provisions to boil up. i’m almost done reading communion by bell hooks, and YO. talk about a book coming to you and the right time and giving you life while saving your mind. i was shamed once by someone in my own age group for wanting love and for trying to find it. i was berated for searching and for being honest wants; i've never felt so ashamed to want to love and be loved. now i'm looking for it in even worse places, and the hunger for it is real. recently i've been thinking about i really want, things are really going well for me right now and i don't want anything in my way. i'm blocking numbers and cutting ties, and it feels liberating. that, however doesn't take away from the fact that i still want to share all (okay, not all but you know what I mean) of these new things with one specific person here in the flesh with me. i've been thinking about the way i love, what i expect in love, and setting standards for platonic and amorous relationships. it definitely hasn't been easy, but stumbling upon this book has seriously been just the right thing at the right time. reading hooks' thoughts on the female search for love and the yearning that is suffered in silence by those with and without partners has confirmed to me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me; it's nice to see someone else agrees with you on published paper. my copy had only spent two weeks in my bag and already the cover took a proper beating. love, besides of self, won't complete me. it took a very long time to learn this, but luckily for me i did/am doing the work of realizing my own completeness as a person, as difficult as this was. to be honest, it's a daily thing, a real constant practice. it's a daily chipping away at the idea that you're only worth something with someone (and this gets more dangerous if you replace this with "anyone") beside you, or that you are incomplete without love. It's taken a lot to transform my thoughts from « i'm incomplete without this in my life » to « my life and i are complete, but this is an extra i'd be interested in »; i can't even put a finger on exactly what i did to get to this point, but the journey isn't linear. i thank every example, positive and negative, every person that sat down and talked some real sense into me (esp. rianna, amel, and shanice, unlimited blessings to you), and finally this book which i wish i found a long time ago. there goes black women (and black women friendships) saving the day again. i really am blessed.
i wonder about black men dating black women in this city. i wonder about black men and commitment, and why commitment doesn't seem to hold the possibility of having short-term contracts. thank god for yearly trips to new york, jolting reminders that yes you are attractive to men who's colour matches yours as soon as you reach port authority. i try not to think about what it dos to you when you grow up in a city where the men you put first and find almost exclusively attractive put you at the bottom of the list; the wave of migration in the 1990s by west indians from montreal to toronto has done a number on me that i don't know if i want to talk about. let me stop, lemme keep quiet.
leslie nikole’s i’ve been hiding underwater for seven years has finally reached the surface.
following a nervous breakdown, leslie nikole picked up the pieces of the last seven years of clinically diagnosed depression and arranged them in a twenty-eight page zine. compiled of poetry, photography, and prose, leslie nikole digs through her depths and explores love, intimacy, heartbreak, and depression; even when it stings like saltwater in a wound that hasn’t toughened up yet.