A lot of my childhood memories are hazy, and most of them were borne and tendered to by older family members, and the occasional spilling of secrets and gossip chains. From these bits and pieces it is hard to know where I begin. Sometimes it feels as though my history, my understanding of self, is a luxury that I am not afforded. Without this history, I always felt there was a risk that I could never escape the world of unconsciousness and that my consequence would be damned.
“If you asked your mothers’ questions about your origins, they responded with irritability. Actually, you knew better than to ask. One thing about being a Black girl is, by the time you come around, and your body awakens to feeling historically out of sorts, the matriarchs have been worn out. Their patience to “do language” has dried up. You have been born late to the mystery. Catch up, but how?”Doreen St. Félix from “Toni Morrison and What Our Mothers Couldn’t Say”
– The New Yorker
I was 7 years old when my *gogo (grandmother/ guardian) passed away. It’s the only day that I remember somewhat clearly. I cried in the bathtub, got dressed, and went to the funeral. I stood on the sidelines and watched as the aunties gathered around large pots of *sadza, and greens in the middle of a yard that I had spent the last 7 years running, building, and playing. The men and women all sat and wailed together, sometimes exploding into song. My mom was coming back that day— coming back from America, and as the car pulled into the driveway an aunt called me over to her. “You gotta be strong”, she said. “When your mom comes out of the car you have to give her a big smile so that she’s not so sad.” I was the first in line as she climbed out of the car. I had a huge smile on my face–teeth and all. I remember her looking at me for a brief moment, before family members rushed to her side. If I was to write a lie, I would say her look filled me with comfort and ease, but I don’t want to write lies. That look felt like pity mixed with contempt.
I smiled all day.
We were excellent at hiding and misdirecting, swearing up and down we were naked when we were fully clothed. Once punctured, though, we waltzed those hearts into war without a plan of escape. No matter how terrified or hurt we were, we didn’t dare ask anybody for help. We stewed. We remembered. We strapped ourselves in for the next disaster, knowing– though we had no proof — we would always recover.”Kiese Laymon from Heavy
I’ve been struggling to write a blog post this month due to its’ bewildering nature. I’ve been struggling to show up in ways that are big, bold, and brave. My body holds the murder of Breonna Taylor, and the ways inwhich Black women are direspected through all aspects of life and living. My body holds the tensions that exist between my Black and Jewish communities. I am wrestling with what it means to be a Black academic– knowing that academia is inherently colonial and still administers itself in that way. I am wrestling with the ways in which Black and Brown bodies are being pawned and gaslit for the mere survival of electoral politics. I am wrestling with the ways in which both candidates and parties have failed to address the horrendous history of the United States and its impacts that are strong and present to this day all across the globe. I am wrestling with the ways in which no one seems to see the need of addressing and centering the colonial situation.
Challenging the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of viewpoints. It is not discourse on the universal, but the impassioned claim by the colonized that their world is fundamentally different.”Frant Fanon from Wretched of The Earth
I was born between worlds, and at times it feels like my body has lived a million different lives. It has been the small Zimbabwean girl– joyous and abandoned. It has been the Jewish woman, yearning for Jewish acceptance while entrenched in colonial nation states of both familial and political realities. It has been the conformist, reformist liberal– holding internal resistances, yet trying to make peace. It *is* the identity scholar, blog writing comrade rooted in transformative values whilst surviving and looking for joy. It has always manufactured itself around nervous conditions. It has pushed and pulled to remain sturdy and persistent, falling into the trap of capitalism, fearing failure, and not willing to recognize its underlying characteristics of depression and anxiety.
The funny thing about grief is that it’s forever. I am no grief counselor, but I am a grief expert. I am a buoyant child of loss, and I learned from an early age of grief’s pervasive nature. My body still holds the death of my grandmother—my gogo. It still holds the look of my mother. It still fears its lack of historical knowledge, it’s hazy memory, and all of the contradictions. And, still, It understands that the world in which it was born is also a nervous one. A world filled with inaccuracies, streams of secrets, and cultures of silence. My body mirrors the external. The external mirrors the internal. If everything is connected, then everything is vulnerable.
*gogo = “grandmother” in Shona, a language spoken in Zimbabwe
*sadza = cooked maize meal that is a staple in Zimbabwe