A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Friday, March 20, 2015

Welcoming Spring with a blank wall

Something about yesterday and today feels special. Maybe it's just the coming of Spring. But I felt compelled to put away some drawings that I had created as therapy from my wall, in order to leave the wall blank and make space for new ones.

 I actually completely changed everything in my tiny room. I got rid of two full bags of clothes, changed the direction of the bed, threw out old things that I no longer use. And I let myself take a good amount of time to do these things. You see, cleaning is also a form of self-care. It's like getting rid of all the clutter in your life. And within that clutter I hope to get rid of destructive thoughts and practices, painful memories, and things that I no longer wish to identify with.

We must never forget where we came from, but we must also not let our past pain define us.

Last month I went to Trinidad and Tobago for carnival, and it was amazing. There were people there of all shades and shapes wearing beautiful costumes, dancing to lively Soca music and marching down the street with ownership over this particular experience. We were Gods and Goddesses for a day. And yet what stayed with me wasn't the carnival experience in itself, but rather the feeling of being in a black country that actually identifies as black. From the moment I boarded the plane with Caribbean Airlines I noticed that everyone was black or brown: the cabin crew, airport workers, cab drivers, restaurant workers, customer service folks; this highlighted the ways in which African Americans are oppressed in the United States as a result of co-living with white Americans. It is undeniable that there are colorism issues in Trinidad, and that white and lighter skinned people tend to be the wealthier ones with privilege as well as the ones who run government. And yet it is also undeniable that black people in the United States have been excluded from the experience of autonomy and self-determination that I saw manifested in many ways in Trinidad. I wondered if this is what Malcolm X envisioned when he advocated for black nationalism. The pride that I saw in Trinidad as well as the confidence was palpable, and these are denied to black America because of the U.S' racial history and the stereotypes that are perpetuated by the media and culture about African Americans (ranging from lack of education to lack of ethics). So, what happens when you are surrounded by black peers and very few white privileged folks to be compared to?
Women from Trinidad Carnival 2015

Women from Trinidad Carnival 2015
Looking back- Trinidad Carnival 2015

Again, I reiterate that racial tensions exist in Trinidad, and that I was actually only there for a week, but being there did made me want to fight more for the need for self-determination and autonomy within our communities.

Physically, I come from parents who are from the Dominican Republic. I come from years of indoctrinated anti-blackness, slavery and it's repercussions, imperialism, and more wounds that are embodied not in my beautiful brown skin, but in the perception and stigma of that brown skin.

Emotionally, I am emerging from a place of self-injury in more than one way.

And throughout this time of healing, I have been trying to justify my recent wins, including the opportunity to go to Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago. Somehow it feels as if I don't deserve it. It feels selfish to enjoy these gifts in my personal life when not everyone around me is receiving their own gifts. And then, in a beautiful moment of clarity and healing, I noticed that precisely because of my questioning of those gifts is that I needed to empty that wall in my bedroom. Those questions came from a place where I saw myself as defined by my pain, sorrows and misfortunes. This is what happens to communities of color in this country: we are unable to celebrate our gifts because we live in a battlefield where the priority is to survive. We must survive the consequences of gentrification, we must survive police brutality, we must survive living within these systems of oppression perpetuated by capitalism and it's close friend: white supremacy. Communities of color can barely make room to acknowledge our existence as beautiful people because we are trying to prove our worth to others and to ourselves. But we are so worthy of our joys, and more.

So this Spring I encourage us all to start off with a blank wall to fill with self-determination, light, power, and steps moving forward. What are some aspects from #BlackLivesMatter that we want to bring with us and reignite this season? What are some of the moments that we won't allow our movements to be defined by?

I acknowledge that I have been hurt but not broken. I acknowledge that some of my wounds have stopped bleeding, and that all that's left of them are scars. I define myself by my spirit of resistance and not by my oppression. I am a powerful and uncontainable soul.

Channeling my inner Goddess


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