day 7

this skin

this Black skin

a constant reminder of centuries of genocides in a world that kept/keeps silent every time it happens

this Black skin

a symbol of glory and triumph, symbolizing that despite all we conquered!

a skin whose essence is made of honey and gold but who’s story has been summed up to that of slavery and oppression

even though the sea holds more history of us than white minds ever will and even though the genocide continues till today. We have rised, we are rising.

because we are not defined by your crooked ignorance of who we are nor by the white supremacist version your history textbooks teach you

my melanin has and never will demand acceptance from you. i am centuries old in this small body, because my ancestors have lived the lesser life so i could have a fuller one

i have lived all these memories a century ago and so my wisdom and light is a reflection of that

i am Black and i carry the burden of the universe on my shoulders because the world’s agenda seems to want to destroy the very being of where they came from

i am Black, and there was way God could have blessed me more, no way he could’ve made me more beautiful

my skin is the color of the earth and my hair defies gravity… i am magical, i am Black!

‘This Black skin — a poem on Blackness’

Elizabeth Queta

(see/hear her read this at an open mic night)

I cannot go any further into this pilgrimage towards Joy by exploring colour, without stating I am profoundly troubled by the historical connections between colour and class, and between colour and race.  In this year where the world’s response to the killing of George Floyd was a wake-up call to many, and such injustice became the rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, I cannot avoid confronting my own casual assumptions.  It is no longer enough to say ‘we are all people of colour’ when part of the social construction of my understanding of colour is made up of passages such as this, from Goethe’s Theory of Colours (1810):

… it is also worthy of remark, that savage nations, uneducated people, and children have a great predilection for vivid colours: that animals are excited to rage by certain colours; that people of refinement avoid vivid colours in their dress and the objects that are about them, and seem inclined to banish them altogether from their presence.

I do not know what to say to my ‘black’ friends other than asking for their forgiveness for my part in perpetuating, however unwittingly, such assumptions.  Even the following fascinating account of the symbiotic nature of light and darkness, cannot help drawing on an inherited metaphor of cultural imperialism:

Movies are made out of darkness as well as light; it is the surprisingly brief intervals of darkness between each luminous still image that make it possible to assemble the many images into one moving picture.  Without that darkness, there would only be a blur.  Which is to say that a full-length movie consists of half an hour of pure darkness that goes unseen.  If you could add up all the darkness, you would find the audience in the theater gazing together at a deep imaginative night.  It is the terra incognita of film, the dark continent on every map.

from Rebecca Solnit A Field Guide to Getting Lost (175)

My grief and silence makes language itself seem a ‘terra incognita’, an unknown land where my vocabulary deserts me when I think of the pain my fellow human beings impose on one another through apartheid, racism and segregation.  Somewhere in this too I have to choose joy, but just at this precise moment, that feels deeply difficult.  I am ‘in the dark’, sitting alongside so many others, holding each other in solidarity as we cry to God and to one another, for justice, for mercy, for freedom.

You have looked at so many doors with longing, wondering if your life lay on the other side.

For today, choose the door that opens to the inside.

Travel the most ancient way of all: the path that leads you to the center of your life.

No map but the one you make yourself.

No provision but what you already carry and the grace that comes to those who walk the pilgrim’s way.

Speak this blessing as you set out and watch how your rhythm slows, the cadence of the road drawing you into the pace that is your own.

Eat when hungry. Rest when tired. Listen to your dreaming. Welcome detours as doors deeper in.

Pray for protection. Ask for the guidance you need. Offer gladness for the gifts that come and then let them go.

Do not expect to return by the same road.

Home is always by another way and you will know it not by the light that waits for you but by the star that blazes inside you telling you where you are is holy

and you are welcome here.

‘The Map You Make Yourself’

Jan L Richardson

terra incognita.  original artwork by Kate Kennington Steer (mixed media)

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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