Ngala-Najla

I Celebrate Myself…


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Setting Boundaries

It’s been a hectic few weeks to say the least and with that comes a lot of chatter in my head, a constant changing “to-do” list. Along with trying to manage my team and juggling meetings, I also started teaching my yoga classes at my house on weekends to finally get my yoga certificate.

There are also additional demands from friends and family and so I am learning the art of saying… “no.”A big part of this art is realizing that I cannot do it all and that it’s ok to just leave some things for the other day or even another week… or just simply leave it.

With trying to juggle it all (did I also say that I am taking Spanish classes and doing Brenè Brown’s online we course?!), I have been receiving clear signals to simplify: from the weight gain, to learning during my last physical that my blood pressure is a little high and if it’s not fixed soon, I may need to take medication. No to that one as well.

This moment of reflection also provided me with the reality that there was something I was filling by needing to do everything and listen to everyone and being the connector. It was to fill the void that was created by this internal believe that being this involved meant that I mattered but slowly and surely, I am realizing that I matter because for other reason than just being here, in this space and time.

R.

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Between Race, Privilege and a Hard Place (Part I)

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This past Saturday, I stood in front of my friend Megan, in Prospect Park, with tears streaming down my face, feeling open and raw as I shared with her the pain and hurt that I have been feeling around my experiences with discrimination and racism. I am Jamaican, black and living in America. Although I have lived in this country more years than I have lived in Jamaica, I had the privilege to experience what it meant to be a majority in terms of race there.  I wasn’t judged or treated unfairly due to my skin color. People weren’t afraid of me before they got to know me. That was a privilege I took for granted.

I arrived in this country, to live here permanently, in my teens and was pretty sheltered all the way through college, I would say. With each possible experience with racism and discrimination in my twenties, I was a bit shaken but I think I bounced back quickly from all (but one of those experiences) because part of me believed that if I did the “right thing”, I would be spared the brunt of what happened to others who look like me (mainly my African-American brothers and sisters) have to go through. Somewhere, somehow, I was fed this lie that being a Caribbean black and educated would give me a pass. It was a subliminal belief. I have now come to realize that it was belief planted by people from my community, by the media and enforced by others who when they heard that I was Jamaican then placed me in the “model minority” category, reacting to me differently. “Oh, you’re from Jamaica, that’s why you have such a good command of the English language.” Yup, someone said that to me once.

So, what was the perceived  “right thing”? Well, it is being formally educated — attending college, it’s speaking “properly”, it’s being eclectic in musical and reading tastes and mostly importantly, it is playing small. And in the space that I am to play big, it is only to create laughter and joy…not bring the heavy stuff.

These “right ways” of being have not, however, stopped me from being followed in stores, being assumed to be the maid in my neighborhood, have a potential roommate turn away from me once she saw me or not be able to get cabs, etc. This is compounded by how other people of color (some who share my skin tone or who are darker) treat me with disrespect and make assumptions about me because of I’m black. It doesn’t matter that I have a Masters, or that I served as an Americorps member. The constant tale of what it means to be black in this country prevails me. The fact that I am now informed of the injustices that occur (like this one and this one, and this one and this one) is often not helpful but darkens, a little more, the side of me that is becoming jaded. And yes, there are blacks who are racists, xenophobic, homophobic but the truth is I am not. The experiences that happened, happened to me. I have been treated unfairly for no other reason but the color of my skin…and although I may share, more than likely, the same education and income level of my white neighbors and yes, some of my Asian neighbors (who yes, face racism too but that model minority category lends a hand), it doesn’t matter. That was a hard reality for me to face.

After my conversation with Megan, I asked myself, what changed? I mean I have experienced racism before, why is it affecting me so much? And my answer, I have removed rose-colored glasses from my eyes.

 


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To Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

“Be calm. God awaits you at the door.” 
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

“Love in the time of Cholera” was a book that was written so vividly that it made me feel as if I was living with the characters. I litterally saw each scene in my mind.  That’s one of the indicators that you’re experiencing a good book, you’ve been transported to another time and another place.

For the past three weeks I found myself searching for Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”, aiming to find it in a bookstore and not just order it online. I wanted to experience the old feeling of searching high and low for a book in multiple bookstores, perusing shelves, eventually finding and then holding it my hands… that’s the book I chose for the adventure.

When the alert of Marquez’s death came across my iphone today and after the quiet shock subsided (I know he was 87 but for some reason I was still surprised) I thought how fitting that I chose that book, with that name, with that author who wrote of the illusion of time so eloquently. And just like Chinua Achebe‘s death, it felt like a distant uncle died…feeling strangely connected to him because of his work.

Thank you for your work Sir. Like so many around the word, who may not share the same language but were connected due to your amazing work, I honor your life.

 

 

 


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Winter In April

It’s cold in New York City. It’s also April. Two days ago it was 68 degrees. Currently it’s 32 degrees. This reality is happening all along the East Coast. On Facebook, I saw friends from Albany, DC and other cities posting their complaints about the sudden decline in temperature. I, however, was in denial. I did not believe it would happen in Brooklyn. Even as some people in Manhattan and Queens posted complaints about the snow (yes, snow!) I still held on to the hope that Brooklyn would be spared. Alas, no. I went outside my house to find ice on the steps, on the evergreen (that isn’t looking too green these days) on cars and most of all it was cold– bitter cold.

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Red Jasmine

It’s 4:30 in the morning, and the rain is falling outside. I hear the rain and also the sound of the fan that’s on to offset the humidity.

It’s humid and it smells humid.

There is (or was) a lunar eclipse but due to all the clouds — the heavy rain ladened clouds, I can’t see the “blood moon” as they call it. I can feel it though. I think my jasmine plant that sits on my beside table can feel it too; its only flower bud actually opened today. The smell of the flower is strong, sweet and alluring.

Jasmine, blood moon and humidity. Very different realities to experience but at the same time, the combo just works for me, especially while accompanied by the rain.

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The Jasmine flower next to my bed.


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No Mas

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I’ve made a pact with myself. The pact is around the purchasing (or not purchasing actually) books until I read 30 (okay 31!) books from my personal library.

As someone who is trying to save, I find that I am spending too much on books, especially when I have a lot at home that I have to finish reading or even start.

I think I have book ADHD.

Today, I went to BookCourt, my new favorite bookstore in NYC (sorry Strand)  bought a book and then went to the Barnes & Noble store in Park Slope and bought two additional books. A total of three books may not be a cause for concern, however, I can sense the slippery slope. In the picture above are the books that I will complete before I buy another book.

Here’s to self control.


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With Gratitude

I woke up this morning listening to the beautiful voice of Snatum Kuar Khalsa, singing about grace and divine connection. Feeling completely in tuned, I ushered up prayers of thanksgiving and requests for guidance as I begin the day. There is so much that is uncertain. What is only certain is each specific moment. Truly being in the moment can seem, at times, to be an elusive experience but when it happens it is pure bliss.

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What I wrote in my gratitude journal this morning