my home & native land?

i think my biggest conundrum at carifesta xiii was standing amongst a contingent of artists waving a canadian flag during the closing ceremony in kensington oval: barbados’ revered cricket pitch and stadium. the question which i couldn’t shake, one which unrelentingly kept surfacing in my heart and mind, and indeed in front of my eyes as i purveyed the crowd of artists of all ages rocking to the live and recorded music pumping from onstage: what does representing canada amidst a gathering of artists from caribbean/ caricom states mean?and as i ruminate on my state of mind throughout the entire 10 days of the festival; reminding myself of my insistence and the overarching reason which catapulted me here by hook or by crook, with official funding or not, solo or amongst a group of my peers; i realize why i didn’t attend carifesta xiii opening ceremony… i was too busy struggling with the dictate of wearing a canadian logo printed on my tshirt-ed chest, accessorized by waving a mini maple leap sandwiched in red; plus walking the distance of the parade route on a blisteringly hot sunday afternoon, were all too much for me to sort and propel me into the spirit of celebration. these seemingly small but salient issues conspired to keep me pacing the floor (or verandah) of my tiny hotel suite in between watching world news on aljazeera!

yes canada may be home now, but the why and wherefore of me attending and participating in carifesta 2017 embody my lingering consideration and claiming of jamaican soil as not only my birth place but my home (still)… even when i thought accepting canada as new home never meant forfeiture. and not since 34 years ago, returning from (close to) two years of living and working in jamaica have i been this questioning of home!?!  this ongoing internal controversy is what has me still ambivalent about any self-labeling vis-a-vis heritage and national identity: am i caribbean-canadian, jamaican-canadian, africanadian, black canadian, or just jamaican living in canada?

free/wheeling

on where and when i re-enter: barbados…

so in front of this coalescing community (new to both them and to me) as they coming into their own/experimenting and growing with their bajan selves, hankering to know themselves (to show themselves)…

while i done know who i think to be, know where i been: in that longtime ark of written and spoken and performing poetry in a theatre world of dub, seen… i come trying to fly up the wall so i cd see and hear and feel and be from that vantage of “they don’t know me and maybe they won’t/can’t see me if i freely paste my 13 to 33 to now looking at retiree-self up/on a wall”.  if i freely standing there/kinda tall and in/visible like, maybe i cd spark and invoke some free-form spilling of guttural effusions of memories and pent up anxieties bout moving forward/ever/back/ward, dare i say (never)

i try flying up the wall and miss the first step yet i ain’t take that on, just wheel an come again since i be yaahdie from way before when.  i be me wanting to site up the truth of who these artists be, not from the i perspective, but from that site-specific gap where barbados meet caribbean sea and we,

little barbados dashed against the atlantic crashing of ancestral wails combing an endless horizon for the coast of we lost africa. having fired the union jack wuk, in a bid for freedom. forty seven years done pass since they hired the first badjohn/boss and prime ministers and cricket masters, red rums and sandy pastures lasting into now, longside the strident colours of sky and sea and sun. and even though foreign respite from colder climes be master of how the country makes money that may yet change, as the spending internally/now under more lock & key, with no more free classes and no more masses in the middle living in above houses or below.

yeah though sand and sea still free, some big time bartering seeking to cordon off the people’s reach of beaches nobody owns; while the immortal money lenders from over & away hatching plans to buy up the whole place. yes, more over and away exchanges aspiring to high kingdom/come carrying no reparations, bringing no amends to this island’s ‘nation’ on trial for exposing the curious and the children/posing sensual/at random; and women, still choking on violence spawned from ways of masculinity that can’t shake/free from the will to dominate.

little, burhbaydus, thy will be done. and bless and usher in new constructs and reconfigurations of good times and hard.  yes now, as your hand is backed against a wall of that familiar sea, braving the hard/ships of a peering world gaping and berating and waiting to see “what you gonna do next”… bountiful barbados, 47 and free/feeling still, like a new country.  but maybe it’s just me…

legacy on my mind

how does a small and vibrant neighbourhood hold its place in the history of a city like toronto? this may sound like the start of a formal discourse but it’s just me thinking about growing up in toronto and leaving… oakwood village

west of the city’s buzzing midtown and just north of st clair avenue west’s/rasta pasta streets (a maybe/not so fond moniker fashioned from the the better part of accepted streams of caribbean/mainly jamaican immigrants butting up against the already settled italians in the early 70’s) is a neighbourhood that has been housing and growing an ever changing demographic of black folks from africa, the caribbean, and nova scotia since the 1960’s.  this being over a century after ‘toronto the good’ was founded and carved out from its prime lake ontario enclave by settlers of different shades and creeds, nationalities, variable and steadfast religious affiliations, and common dreams; including the likes of entrepreneurial black folks who plied the trading of household ice chiseled from the physical slabs of cold which they encountered in the winters of this newly adopted northern clime.  between then and the mid 1900’s streets and businesses, politics and households, pride and prejudices determined what the different city neighbourhoods would look and feel like; where sidewalks and trees would proliferate, how fences and gardens would reflect where “we from”, which banks would set up shop, how many hair salons/barber shops or spas would dot the main streets, and whether the eateries would include seats for dining or just counters for take out & delivery.

as the rasta pasta streets between forest hill to the east and corso italia to the west spread north along vaughan road and oakwood avenue, clinching eglinton as the main marketplace (from marlee westward), oakwood village bubbled with aspirations of annexing a burgeoning mississauga valley sprinting toward cityhood, the brampton plains which seemed to have no map, the vastness of scarborough’s savannah, and all which lay east of there.  since the 80’s into now much has affected identities within the oakwood village nabe, not the least of which is ongoing ‘regen’ (read re-gentrification) which both feeds and plagues much of the city, the steadily escalating cost of real estate in the surrounding regions of cedarvale, humewood, wychwood, etc., serious and petty street crimes and misdemeanours, younger generations moving out and not looking ‘back’, businesses (especially food shops) relocating to greener pastures in the suburbs, and a mostly blue collared settler class of new comers and long timers still struggling to gain a larger share of our social tax $$$ for more community and green spaces and turf that will attract the artists and entrepreneurs which invariably enliven and revitalize neighbourhoods like these.

but please don’t misconstrue, given that the rasta pasta days of oakwood village are not bygone/yet.  now heavily speckled with the tagalog of families from the phillipines, brought over first through the ‘we need new nannies’ movement – given that the former proliferation of caribbean women doing care-taking work in the mansions of forest hill had been moving on to other more reliable and better paying work in the city’s other (often) service industries; and sandwiched between the heavily latin vibes of the st clair west corridor to the south and the north side of eglinton west, between an ever dwindling italian groove and a forest hill buttressed by zooming condo lines (west and east respectively); there are fewer and fewer houses and apartments boasting people with the hues of african heritage.

but i’m just musing out loud… wondering if my old ‘hood is ‘progressing’ like that strip of bathurst street which no longer coddles and barely welcomes transit patrons at bloor; instead waves bye bye to much of our undocumented stories?

to tweet or not

figured better just open the account and start texting to the tune of one hundred and forty…. yes, i have a twitter account and intend to use it… sometime. soon. sometime