bengali harlem

migration, assimilation, race, class, culture.. fascinating stuff

https://www.citylab.com/life/2017/08/bengali-harlem-book-history/535716/

<I think that in some ways South Asian men or Bengali Muslim men who “disappeared” into Harlem of the Lower East Side were taking advantage of the ignorance of white New Yorkers and the authorities in terms of those authorities’ ability or willingness to distinguish between different communities of color. Blending in or integrating into these communities was a necessity of survival for these men as undocumented immigrants. People in the African American community passed as South Asian in order to navigate Jim Crow, and there are records that suggest South Asian men were purchasing documents to take on Puerto Rican identities and names.>

https://www.citylab.com/life/2017/08/bengali-harlem-book-history/535716/

must read audre lorde every day

“How much of this truth can I bear to see and still live
unblinded?
How much of this pain can I use?”

“And I find I must remember that the pain is not its own reason for being. It is a part of living. And the only kind of pain that is intolerable is pain that is wasteful, pain from which we do not learn. And I think that we must learn to distinguish between the two.”

“One of the hardest things to accept is learning to live within uncertainty and neither deny it nor hide behind it. Most of all, to listen to the messages of uncertainty without allowing them to immobilize me, nor keep me from the certainties of those truths in which I believe. I turn away from any need to justify the future- to live in what has not yet been. Believing, working for what has not yet been while living fully in the present now.”

“I have found that battling despair does not mean closing my eyes to the enormity of the tasks of effecting change, nor ignoring the strength and the barbarity of the forces aligned against us. It means teaching, surviving and fighting with the most important resource I have, myself, and taking joy in that battle. It means, for me, recognizing the enemy outside, and the enemy within, and knowing that my work is part of a continuum of women’s work, of reclaiming this earth and our power, and knowing that this work did not begin with my birth nor will it end with my death. And it means knowing that within this continuum, my life and my love and my work has particular power and meaning relative to others.”

Groundings Continues- 2yr anniversary

It’s been two years since we started going out on the streets of GT and grounding with our fellow Guyanese. The last year of the PPP administration and the first year of the Coalition govt. Two years during which the PPP-led government initiated a Commission of Inquiry into the events of June 13th 1980, the WPA joined with the PNC to oust the PPP from political office, and the Coalition gov’t dilly dallied in releasing the COI report. Two years and most of our Guyanese sistren and brethren we’re interacting with on the streets of Georgetown still don’t know who Walter Rodney was, other than somebody famous, or “the man who got blown up”.. I’m glad we’re still going out on the streets of GT and Grounding with our fellow Guyanese. Sometimes that two hour gyaff is the best, most inspiring part of the whole week, or month. It’s not enough though. Two years later, that’s even clearer.

WAR memorial2

My first interaction of the day was with a mosquito net vendor man. He wanted my falling apart copy of The History of the Guyanese Working People but when I said how I was sorry but I couldn’t give him, he was content to stand and skim through it. If someone sends me another copy, I promise to find him and give it to him. Several other vendors from around the area came by, happy to collect a free book for themselves or their children. Vending is a hardscrabble life; it’s not every day you get a sale, or enough to cover the cost of transp, or what you have to pay the City Council, so books- especially fiction, and especially when you’re fighting for your survival daily- often get deemed ‘extras’ which cannot be afforded. I’m glad we have books to give away for free, that loved ones from overseas can send us barrels and that we have surplus of our own to share. I feel a way though, about some of the American-themed stories like Clifford’s first Thanksgiving, and Clifford’s 4th of July. We are already inundated with so much foreign crap.. So much more to do..

mosquito net vendor reading rodney

vendor and little girl

I wish we had more regionally specific texts, more stories with black and brown people, more educational and skill building books instead of insipid romance and CIA-spy/thriller junk. But I try to make the best of what we have. More people reading more, I tell myself, is overall a great thing and how lovely that we can give them books for free. That’s one of my favorite things about doing the Groundings- the freeness and the feeling that on this day, for these two hours, we are sticking it to capitalism. One day, it must break, will break- this I know. This is what I live for.

attracted to the books

In the meantime though, I hold on tightly to my copies of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Groundings With My Brothers, and The History of the Guyanese Working People. I didn’t get to go to Red Thread to borrow Kofi Badu out of Africa, or Lakshmi out of India; next time hopefully. Deji comes with the other bag of books and is ecstatic to see How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; it’s almost like he’s meeting a good, old friend. He tells me (and anyone who will stop and listen 😉 ) about seeing that book in his father’s bookshelf back in Nigeria but not really understanding what it meant, until he came to Guyana and realized he was in the birthplace of the famous author. He gets more and more fired up as he speaks; I’m loving watching and listening to him. I’m sad though, to realize that most Guyanese- Rodney’s kinspeople- don’t share this same passion and pride.. We have so much more to do.

deji deep in conversation

Amaraydha comes and starts organizing the books lol. Vidya comes with the banner. There’s no place to tie it; I see him later just walking about with it, holding it spread out, kinda like a mad man. But he’s my mad man friend and I’m happy to see both he and Raydha smiling and gyaffing animatedly with people. Mel comes, with Maiya and more books. I am happy to see them. I wish we had more time to gyaff. I will have to make the time. I’m wishing it was less hectic, that I was able to have more quality gyaffing time with people. An African-Guyanese nurse and her son stop the same time as an Indian-Guyanese girl. I ask them what they think the biggest problem facing Guyana is currently and they both say race relations. So how can we change that, I follow up with. The girl talked about praying and having conversations with people, while nursey talked about the need to educate the children. So what do you tell your son, I ask her? Oh, he’s too small yet, she says. Neither she nor the girl look at each other while they are speaking, although they are standing right next to each other. I’m not really satisfied with the interaction, but they both need to go they say.. We have so much more to do. We need to move beyond superficalities and really spend time doing the hard but necessary work. We need more than to simply pay lip service to ideas..

IMG_2074

nursey and clifford

Elton shows up, surprising me and making me happy. A couple people who say they knew Rodney show up but I don’t get to really gyaff with them; somehow I am pulled in other directions. Deji gyaffs with one man and Amaraydha with the other (y’all share the stories, please!). I gyaff with a teacher who’s upset with the state of education in Guyana, but hopeful, she says at the end, that positive change is soon coming. Another mother with a small daughter is also hopeful about the change in government. She’s an especial fan of Dr. Roopnaraine, she says. I’m glad to see and hear from Indo-Guyanese especially, who are happy and hopeful about a non-PPP led government, but there are too many reminders of business as usual for me.. One of my longest and most spirited exchanges is with an Afro-Guyanese sister who’s passionate about Government doing for the people, but totally lacking confidence in individual people’s ability to make change. She’s from Berbice, the Corentyne, so most of her friends are Indo-Guyanese. But she never talks about race with them.. She’s afraid if she does, their relationships would crumble. So she’s willing to just ignore the elephant in the room. Even as it moves around, mashing arms and legs.. Oh Guyana.. Later on, I reflect on her lack of faith in individual people, and mine.

passionate deji n old rodneyite

amaraydha n good gyaff man

elton and erudite but hopeless woman

At one point, a big bellied man in an unbuttoned shirt and pants with unzipped fly stops by. The girl he pulls up next to gives him the side-eye. He picks up a children’s book and stands back a little, flipping through it. She holds her space. I don’t get to talk with either of them, but I am pleased nonetheless. This is another thing I enjoy about Groundings- that it brings together- even if just for a few moments- really disparate people. It’s quintessential Guyana; this place is full of contradictions. Like a schoolyard bully, some of them sometimes seem to threaten the very fabric of our nationhood. But sometimes, when one overcomes fear and revulsion and is able to stand up close with them, one realized they aren’t so disruptive after all, that there are shared similarities. I want the engagement to be less fleeting, but it’s at least a starting point, something to build on.

groundings scene- open shirt man

My last interaction of the day was with a young African-Guyanese girl with a beautiful Afro. She had no idea who Rodney was. She listened politely to Vidya who gave bits of his biography then asked if she could take a picture of us. I wanted her to leave with more than that tho, so I tried to tell her about Rodney’s role in the black power movement, something about black consciousness, people knowing their history. But I felt foolish, a gray haired, straight haired, looking at this young Afro’d woman with the blank eyes and camera phone and soon stopped. At least she got her picture..

After she leaves and all the books are gone- with the exception of two in Spanish and one in French- we pack up and hug up each other. Vidya reads one of Patrick George’s poems out loud to Natalie and me, and does a little dance on the street to the calypso that the nearby music cart is playing. But then it changes to Kick in She Back Door and we start cussing and walking away. Much more to do indeed. Groundings Continues.

natalie watching vidya w poems

little boy w books

vidya w indigenous couple

uncle elton

teaching love

Hanan Al Hroub’s ‘Global Teacher award’ is a victory for all Palestinian educators over Israeli occupation and PA corruption

first in class

mbeki

she came first in her class this term with 89%

mbeki in yellow

sometimes she goes to school without lunch because there is not enough money. and that’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this girl child has survived..

yellow flowers

we picked these flowers up from the ground. aren’t they beautiful?

 

love in the time of wood ants

The destroyers snuck in when I wasn’t paying attention, when I was distracted, diverted by other matters. I’d lapsed, hadn’t been paying enough attention to the things I loved. Even though they were an important part of my life and meant a great deal to me and, and although I knew danger lurked nearby, I still didn’t pay them enough attention. It’s easy to slip up; there are many distractions in life. So when the agents of destruction snuck in, I missed them. They were able to set up shop and do their dirty work right under my nose without me being any the wiser. When I finally cottoned onto their presence, it was too late. Much damage was already done. The trail of destruction, tho now dry, had gutted several of my loved and treasured companions. The destruction was painful. It was ugly and made my skin crawl. I was loath to touch the things I had once caressed, inhaled, devoured greedily; they had been defiled, ruined. I wept. I got angry. I looked for someone to blame. I ranted and raged. But none of that could undo the damage that had been done. So, finally, I picked up the brush and started to clear away the dirt. It was the only and so the best thing to do. But it was not easy. It took a long time. I mourned all the while. But I also breathed. It could have been worse. The trail could have been hot/live and more damage could have been done. I salvaged what I could. I tried to see the lesson. They will always survive. Ok, so will I. One day/breath at a time. We will have to co-exist. But I must be more vigilant, must not lapse again. Patch up what can be patched up, replace what can be replaced, and move on. Tally the losses and realize they are fewer than feared and that even though there has been damage, most are still whole, albeit marked/smudged. Love them still, despite the imperfection, maybe even more. Forgive. It’s not like they willfully set out to hurt me after all. Soon enough all this organic matter will be consumed anyway. Until then- breathe, live, learn, love. And read.

holes

che

parable of the talents

pearl buck- total devastation

end of universe

steppenwolf2

uhuru empty

1984the ruined

buxton spice
with just a dusting of wood ants residue, my autographed hardcover buxton spice is a survivor!
frida
frida is also a survivor! she’s not fazed by a little ugliness
malcolm
malcolm just got a little browner..
farenheit 451- untouched
the untouched one there is.. drumroll please.. farenheit 451! incredible, no?

machiavelli

zenzele

ursula- eagle2

3 singles to adventure

3 singles- uncles name page

today we read poetry. next week, revolution

listening to the land

“I’m a slow learner. My school days were tough. My mother had 8 children. She tried her best but times were hard. If my family had money, things would have been better. I dropped out in the 4th form. My mother said just don’t make any children and try to do better for yourself.” She’s 26 now. She still doesn’t have any children. She sells sweeties, hair ribbons, and other little things on the pave in Georgetown. At night, she assembles and folds a newspaper she can barely read. She wants to do better though, to write CXCs next year, and get her driver’s license. Today, we read poetry. Next week, revolution.

flying fish