DANCE WITHOUT SURRENDER
Black History and Me
I started posting at the beginning of U.S. Black History with an aim to, through an experimental journey in the dance studio with a copy M. L. King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, link my experiences of U.K. Black History Month celebration with that of U.S. Black History Month celebrations. Times and circumstances altered the course to the postings.
As an heir of dreamers, a carrier of legacies of dreaming technology within my body, I am aware of the important commitment necessary to not lose sight of one’s dreams. Dreams are a technology for individual and community survival, well-being and growth, stored within the cracks, crevices and nuances of the body and bodily experiences can potentially provide access to ancestral dreams that are foundational to being present and whole in the world. With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge that although our dreams may not have borders, the context within which we live, the culturally textured ways in which we are initiated, are, at times also, packed with bodily and dream limitation. Even the spoken and written language we use to communicate our dreams to ourselves and others, influence the articulation of our dreams, and can call (even demands) sophisticated levels of self-monitoring and self-censoring of dreams, and of our ability to dream. Dreams may not have borders, but the varying levels of race, class, caste and gender oppression woven into the structures of most, if not all, contemporary societies ritually work to limit the dreams of all within its folds, some more so than others. In the mid-to-late decades of the twentieth century, for my parents’, like many Caribbean immigrants, the dream of a better future meant uprooting one’s life from a familiar colonial space (‘home’) to insert one’s self into another colonial space (the adopted homeland). In that time of pre-internet, little of the day-to-day practicalities were known of the adopted homeland beyond the selectively cultivated migration myths and imaginings that float in the air of Caribbean island life. My family immigrated to the United States when I was a young girl. My mother left home first, she was the family pioneer who laid the foundation for our immediate and then extended family members to try at their dreams for a different and better future. Eighteen months after my mother’s arrival to U.S. shores, we, the children (my sister, brother and I), joined her, bordering the plane as unaccompanied minors at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica and disembarking at John F. Kennedy International airport in New York City. We left the home we had always known, and where we knew ourselves as ourselves and others knew and spoke of us in ways that affirmed our knowings, to become strangers in a land eager to purge itself of our unfamiliar dark bodied presence. My father joined us two years later.
The better life my parents sought was defined as a place/space in which they could actively pursue their present dreams and maybe even dust off some dreams that had gathered cobwebs. Importantly, as they would tell and show us, my parents imagined that life in our adopted home would reveal opportunities for their children to dream and pursue dreams that were hitherto unimaginable. They imagined that their children would have the opportunities and freedom to dream without borders, or at the very least, to dream without the borders that they themselves had experienced in our Caribbean home. And so, my parents set dreams as epistemological, pedagogical, and spiritual grounding on and through which they and their children could learn, grow and thrive, most visually expressed in the three images that guarded over our apartment-home in our adopted homeland, a portraits of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X, and a rendition of Jesus the Christ. These images were for us constant visual reminders that dreaming without borders means dreaming beyond the limitations of one’s initiated or adopted/located society, that dreaming demands courage, tenacity, and the wiliness to be transformed into our better selves, and that the societies in which we dream may be just as dogged about instituting limitations on our dreams as we are determined to dream beyond borders. And to the latter point I take this moment to prayerfully dream for the 223/234/276* schoolgirls were kidnapped from a state school in the town of Chibok, Nigeria. On the night of April 14, 2014, the girls were abducted, a part of a deliberate plight to ignite terror in the heart, mind, and bodies of those who dear to dream. Lethargy and quiet apathy appears to be the concerted response of those in power and it has now been 18 full days and nights since the young schoolgirls’ and their dreams, as well as those of their families, and their communities, were kidnapped.