Death and Dance

Death: A demanding dance partner, easy to ferocious jealousy and vengefulness when ignored. Death deserves the honor and reverence of its central place in the life cycle of the living.  Cultures around the world have historically understood that studied attention to death is essential for the forging of communities in which members can productively negotiate livable lives and well-being.  Ceremonies around death require that song, dance, laughter, drink,  and verbal roasting of the life that has transitioned to that ultimate Other, death.  With death a family, a community,  enters into a full-bodied dance of paradoxical reality and imaginings of the dead’s past, present, and future relationship with, to and in the community.   In between the one-two rock, the moans that sings and screams, whimpers, the wailings and chest beating, hand wringing and twisting,   the dialogue between the death and life is marked by bodies, on bodies, between, in-between and beyond bodies in full embodiment.  Death will dance time and again with the living, and the living will, however reluctantly, dance.

The two writers, Toni Morrison and Paule Marshall, served as beacons in my life. They helped me understand that there was language, and that language can be molded and manipulated, to articulate my experience as an African Diaspora girl/woman moving through multiple spaces of un-belonging. And, my two aunts, separated by a decade in age, kept me in deep belonging, never allowing me to mis-remember family history and my place in it. As this summer 2019 comes to a close, I dance in recognition and honor of the lives of these four amazing women.

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