Highly delicate subject as far as I´m concerned: racism. It haunts me: the fact that in the year 2014 there are still human beings who carry a brain (until proven otherwise) while advocating racism: shocking: astonishing.
I remember – oh, I do! I have elephant´s memory when it comes to events that truly matter – the fights I had with an uncle at family gatherings: he would tease me by mentioning how “Joana loves those criminal niggers so much…”; we would, invariably, end with a big, loud fight: me (a teenager with too much life in her heart), calling him an ignorant racist and him, offending the same people who could not defend themselves. I heard the same kind of comments in relation to my several friendships with gipsies. My reaction was always the same: outrage, sadness, incomprehension, an old wound being messed with.
As I grew up in “socially challenged” neighborhoods (Africans from portuguese ex-colonies on one side and gipsy camps on the other: thanks, life!), it was only natural that my childhood and teenage friendships were built with people from these communities. What I´ve learnt from both are Life lessons and values so precious that no fall, prejudice or punch in the stomach can destroy.
Africans and Gipsies have taught me the meaning of FRIENDSHIP, LOYALTY, SENSE OF HUMOR, COURAGE, STAMINA, PASSION, WORD OF HONOUR, GENEROSITY, MUSIC AND DANCE (guess from whom did I get my “mojo“?). I studied Classical Ballet on the “white part of town” and went to “kizomba” parties on the “ethnic part of town”; I ate “moamba” and “catchupa” on the “ethnic part of town” and “cozido à portuguesa” on the “white part of town” – I absolutely loved both and couldn´t see how one was superior to the other.
The concept of SISTERHOOD & BROTHERHOOD came exactly from these early relationships with africans and gipsies and the depth of those friendships could never be achieved again after I left the problematic neighbourhood and started to dream about this big world of ours. Never. I´ve had friends ever since but not this kind of friends – the kind who would give their life for you –literally. This past – and the past before that – made me wonder, again and again, how so many people carried hatred against africans (or any other race). It burns my skin, until today, when I hear, read or see anything remotely racist and my heart sings every time I reconnect with those communities that have taught and given me so much. My first USA TOUR was a great chance to do so:
– Hey, sista…how ya´doing? – A Jamaican-American (am I applying the right designation?) asked me at the gym in Brooklyn, holding my hand, looking deep into my eyes.
-I´m fine, and you?
-Great. Would you like to join us for spinning class?
The rest is History. In one single day, the whole african-american-jamaican (wow!) community knew who I was and was ready to welcome me into their world.
I´ve missed it* so much. It*. For whomever knows what I´m speaking about, I nod and smile. For the ones who never had the privilege to know exactly what I mean: there´s still hope: drop prejudices: acknowledge and respect EVERY human being you cross paths with – you´ll find out the meaning of IT* (sista´s word).
For further delight (and light) check two of my favourite books “The Help” (Kathryn Stockett) and “The Secret Life of Bees” (Sue Monk Kidd) and a special clip from one of my favourite movies (“The Color Purple”): Miss Celie´s Blues.