Happy Anna Julia Cooper Day everyone!! This past Sunday, not so far from Anna Julia Cooper’s birthplace we gathered for a Sunday dinner celebration of intergenerational wisdom. Of the blues, and growth and overcoming. We ate ancestrally-sourced, and newly invented recipes with local and far-flung ingredients. Special shout out to Mariel Eaves for a delicious vegan mango cake!!!! We blessed the food with an original blessing song by Sangodare/ Julia Roxanne Wallace.
The theme text for our gathering was my poem “Xiuhatl or Becoming Turquoise” recently published in the anthology Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzalduan Borderlands.
Turquoise is created over centuries of interaction with groundwater, copper, iron and calcites and is sacred to many groups of people. In Navajo tradition it is about communication with the rain maker (a key connection in the desert). When my grandmother passed away, I was given her turquoise necklace, she was not Navajo (her indigenous ancestry is Algonquin, Shinnecock specifically) but was she was believed to be able to cause rain on the (at the time) drought beset island of Anguilla where she and my grandfather participated in the 1967 revolution. (My grandmother designed the revolutionary Anguillian flag.
When my grandmother passed away I began to wear her jewelry as a way of keeping her close to me and in order to continue our conversation. Her guidance is an important part of my daily life. I especially wear the turquoise necklace an as any one who knows me has seen, it has had a decisive impact on my wardrobe. I wear the color turquoise almost every day and my grandmother continues to have a healing impact on my life, supporting my commitment to use my voice as a portal for generations of love and to support other people in trusting their inner voices.
On Sunday our conversation led us to think about how rain transforms us, and how the blues in our lives are related to our growth. My grandmother, permanently impacted by her mother and sister’s struggles with mental health and their institutionalization in asylums, was committed to raising her voice and breaking the silence about mental health in West Indian communities. She was a founder of the Caribbean Mental Health Association. And at the same time that she worked to expose the underside of cultural silences and the locking away of women in order to keep up appearances, she also took a stand for beauty. She founded the Anguilla Beautification Club, an organization devoted to growing beautiful flowers all over an island with hardly any rain.
On Sunday we talked about the connection between our blues, our loss and longing and the possibility of growth, even when it seems unlikely. We talked about our grief. Those people who we are missing, those experiences from the past that we long for, those necessary spaces and resources that are missing from our lives and the lives of those we love. We sat with our loss and the ways that it opens us.
What are your blues right now? What have you lost?
We also talked about what we are growing our healing, our homes, our truth and our poems, our abundance and independence and peace. We noticed that the longing, loss and lessons we experience also offer us clarity and urgency when it comes to our creative dreams. We shared how the suffering of our ancestors inspires us to reclaim our pleasure.
What are you longing for? What are you growing? What are you reclaiming?
We blessed a special carnelian stone for Eden who is on her way this coming week to her new educational journey at NC Science and Math. We offered congratulations and comfort for her proud mama Michelle Lanier who held her in her body and in her home and is now supporting her to move out into the larger world. At the prompting of our youngest participant Ananda who sang “Hiyayaya” as her mama Courtney Woods rocked her to sleep, we listened to the Clark Sisters song in honor of the wisdom of the church mothers. We sang along and recognized this sound as an intergenerational sound of overcoming and elevating. And Sangodare/Julia recruited us to create an ecumenical Clark Sisters Cover Band beyond religion.
Feel free to respond with what you are blue for, what you are growing, what you are singing, what instrument you want to play in the band and more.
P.S. Do you need space like this in your life? Next week is the last Brilliance Remastered Q&A. Sign up here if you want to participate. And sign up closes a week from tomorrow for the last online intensive of the summer: When Wind and Water Got You: Place, Purpose, Past and Presence sign up or find out more here.