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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oneness in Spirit...

We are one...

No matter what the facial features, the texture of hair, the skeletal frame, the proclivity for a particular undertaking. Maya Angelou said it best, artistically, when she poetically expressed that we are more alike than we are different. Across the globe, we believe in a Higher Power, we want the best for ourselves and our families, we want to love and be loved, we thirst for work about which we are passionate, and we want to leave the world a far better place than we found it---or, at least, many of us do!

And in so saying, I recount the experience of the Oneness of Spirit, again, on the Sunday evening of November 9th, when my knee-baby sister is celebrating her 46th birthday, an occasion for which we dance our first Pow wow! Yes, Miss Know-It-All and I add flavor and spice to those Pow wow prancers! The recapping looks something like this...

The Indian village, replete with tepees and simulated cooking fires, is located on Stone Mountain, on the spacious lawn of the plantation house. Excitedly taking in every detail of the Wild West, I wonder if authentic Indians manned the tepees, or if non-Natives only simulate Native Americans and leave the Real Deal in photographs on the pages of history books. Since I rarely encounter our Natives brothers and sisters in my everyday existence, I long to see them, the full-blooded sort, and especially so after meeting a wonderful Wampanoag family on Martha's Vineyard back in September. (Now that's a coming blog I can hardly wait to write, as they were delightful!)

My crew and I excuse our way to the front of a chattering crowd waiting to see the final Pow wow dance. Behind us is our entourage---Colette, my new friend; Shirley Rebecca, my beloved college classmate; and Shanice, my new daughter. The festival's 30 minutes from ending, but we can't tell it from the still talking drums and the chanted hum-hum-hums!

I laugh inside. We're about to experience one of those moments, when saying yes usurps fear and leads to adventure and joy. We wait, excitement lodged in our throats, like the rest of the audience, I suspect.

Then Glenda and I gaze at one another, eyes saucers and mouths open. Amazing! I could write for the remainder of the year about the glittering, fancy, studded, fringed, multicolored garments. The masterful headdresses. The blacks and whites and Mexicans proudly proclaiming their Native blood ties. And Lil Sis's (my baby sister, Athera Everlener Pascascio) words would later ring in my recollection: "Tootsie, Grandma Moss said Granddaddy's mama was full Blackfoot Indian." And even later, Daddy's comment: "Her name was Claudy. We carry her name." My father is Claude, Sr. My twin is Claude, Jr. And I am Claudia, my father deciding to dress my name up a bit by giving Claudy the classic touch to get Claudia.

Thankfully, I am deep in the mix! Admiring my blond suede pants with swaying, swishing fringes shimmying along my sides, my African-American hips gyrating on their own recognizance, I am ready for anybody's Pow wow. And so is Glenda, whose inquisitive brows furrow then straighten.

Meanwhile, I look from Glenda to the short blonde standing beside us, intercepting our expressions, and then leaning over, gently suggesting we join the revolving dancers. Now my arched brows probe Glenda, "She didn't say that, did she?"

"You mean we can get in the line-up?" Glenda clarifies. "Go out on the field?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Our brows steeple, and we require nothing more as we leap the lower-than-knee-high cord separating the audience from the dancers, and the rest is history. Colette joins us, but Shirley and Shanice bow out gracefully.

Miss Know-It-All and I wiggle, hip shaking and hopping, stepping and snaking, skipping and shimmying, until an older Indian in full regalia pulls up beside me and parks when the Pow wow singers take a quick hiatus.

"This is how the step goes," he offers, his rainwater-colored eyes kind and teasing. He hops on one worn moccasin, then the other, and putting the rhythmic hopping together, choreographs the dance for us.

I practice until the music and singing restart, after which I copy his fancy footwork and make my way up the field to Miss Glenda, who is on about her business, down at leaping to the African-American conductor in her head.

We dance like that, laughter wreathing our heads, and circle the field so many times, I stop counting. With each revolution, the sun slides lower and lower down the horizon.

Our timing is perfect. Had we arrived sooner, we'd have paid full entry fee for 45 minutes. Walked around, comparing prices and dancing and people watching and asking this one and that one about their Native blood and where they were from and complimenting their dress. As it was...stray streaks of sunlight illuminated the evening's clock face. The crowds thinned, creating more shoulder room. Pow wow dancers lulled into a more sedate, dry-the-sweat-on-your-brow kind of dancing. The Welcome Dance. Which only a few condescend to dance.

At the end of our dancing, I walk off the field with Colette, clocking the reaction of the crowd watching us, when I catch a glimpse of Miss Know-It-All. She's in the new line-up, a semi-circle of 8 dancers. This time they dance tin-soldier stiff to the left, then pause and bob in place to wait for a dribble of Pow wow-goers to come up and shake their hand.

Uh huh. I can do that. So I sashay over, post up beside a sepia-toned Cherokee elder with one waist-length braid, a broad nose, beautiful outfit, and a pretty smile and I get to stepping and shaking hands along with the others.

When I do so, a tiny hand latches onto my right forefinger. Bending low, I shake politely, thinking him one of the number to be welcomed. But the miniature grasp does not disengage. I look down disbelievingly. A teeny tiny warrior dressed in sky-blue garb and rhinestone moccasins stares up at me. I smile. He smiles. I shuffle to the left. He does likewise, forcing me to shake with my left hand, as my wee warrior tightens his grip on my right. We dance this way for a while, content in our Oneness.

Then my daughter jumps up and down on the sidelines as if the ground is suddenly electric. "Mom! Let's go and check out the vendors before the sun disappears!"

"Okay!" I return, then smile down at my new extension. And Wee Warrior understands, his fingers slipping away from my hand. I watch as he scurries off across the field towards a squaw with pencil-thin, silky braids.

For the rest of what's left of the evening, Birthday Girl, my crew and I finger exotic wares in the falling darkness. Our purses fill with leather hair ties, business cards, marriage proposals, warm blankets, a sexy white blouse, and serpentine and turquoise jewelry.

The evening is a sensational success!

It ends with dinner at Two Urban Licks, a restaurant Birthday Girl tells Shirley, Colette, Shanice and I she'd rather not visit again. "When you invite a sister out again, make sure it's to One---the sistah restaurant to this warehouse, as Tootsie says---being their ambiance is prettier, classier, even the bathroom, and, most importantly, the food is better!" She grins, does a little dance, a leftover Pow wow move, and grins, "But I appreciate everyone for coming together to make my special day memorable in so many ways!"

Our bevy of cars pulls out of Two's parking lot and onto Ralph McGill Boulevard. On the early November breeze, I inhale the fresh blessings of Spirit. It is in the memory of Pow wow dancing and flashes of my beloved knee-baby sister dancing and relating merrily with all who came into her space. Of friends enjoying a wonderful experience together, one I intend to see segue into a visit to the Cherokee Nations of North Carolina. Of food and family and friends.
Of sisterly love.

Of the Oneness in Spirit, as the Asians say, in the world of the 10,000 things....

The Golden Goddess
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"I, Too" am finally represented in The White House

The historic moment has arrived!

Barack Obama is the first Black president---the 44th---of the United States of America!

Gunfire pierces the quiet of the night outside my third-floor office windows here in Clarkston, and for once, I am not calling DeKalb's finest. Tex messages flash across the screen of my cell phone. My friend Rika's Florida friend is screaming and shouting her glee and jubilation at the top of her lungs. Shanice is downstairs following Election '08 on the television, announcing the stupendous news, although I already know. And my soul is ebullient with joy.

I am in awe of the Power---to bring a white American woman and an African man together, as my sister Glenda just eloquently narrated in our celly celebration as I relax, reclined across my bed, feeling the bliss of the moment.

"That was truly an unlikely coupling," I agreed, reflecting on another unlikely situation, Barack's statement about his unlikely start at the beginning of the Presidential Race. But "unlikely" coupled with faith is an unstoppable, untoppable, and undroppable force. Our hero, the son of a melting pot of a union, is an iconic, a Citizen of the World, a true Renaissance Man, with ties to Africa and roots in Indonesia and Hawaii, a global force, who set a goal and walked towards it with a people at his back, to become the first Black president of a country whose presidents have traditionally been white and male. Unlikely, for sure! Here is a man, who is a harbinger of change. Here is a man, who did not accept excuses for why he couldn't be our nation's 44th president, a man who captured 95% of the African-American vote, 66% of the youths, 67% of the Hispanics, and 55% of women voters. Here stands a man with healing on his tongue and hope in his philosophy.

Here is Michelle's man, our man, the BEST man qualified to stand at the helm of this country's stern.

"Yes, we can!" Eloquent, poised, hopeful, inclusive, fearless---Obama spoke these words in his first speech as our leader. As I sat on my red sofa, eyes and ears glued to the television, I was so incredibly proud, again, of the President Elect's oratorical genius. Truly, he empowered all Americans, saying we are more than a collection of people. We are the United States of America. I admired his "Yes, we can!" spirit in praising and pledging to work with Senator John McCain and Governor Palin for the good of the nation. I loved his admission that he was willing to listen to those whose vote he didn't receive. "I will listen to you, especially when we disagree," he promised. The hope of a better day, he is. A defining moment he will bring and has already brought.

His victory is the victory of America, of a government for the people, by the people. His journey, our journey, is one of possibility from the Slave Quarters to the White House. It ushers in a New Era. This being the case, I will no longer give air time to mine or other folks' threadbare excuses of how this one keeps us down and that one barricades our entry.

Barack Obama is a testament to my belief that no one determines how high I fly except me. His victory reminds me that the Invisible is more powerful than the Visible, for the belief that he could be the President of the United States began in the vast reaches of his heartland and in the hearts of others. When thousands couldn't see such a phenomenon, said this country wasn't ready for a change that drastic, and guffawed at the notion that a Black family would ever take up residency in a White House, the Invisible said wait and see, have faith, speak faith, play fair, and keep moving forward with an unshakable resolve in "the endeavoring power of our ideas and democracy...and unyielding hope."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream was realized in a significant way yesterday, as it is now 3:30 a.m. on the Wednesday after Election Tuesday. The sons of slaves and slaveholders were represented in the audience in Grant Park, in Chicago, Illinois, gathered in unfathomable numbers, standing side by side, Oprah leaning on the shoulders of a white brother throughout Obama's entire speech, her face a tapestry of ecstasy. Barack Obama and Joe Biden's walk around the Grant Park stage, hugging and waving, greeting their supporters, was also a manifestation of King's dream. When our new leaders kissed their beautiful wife and embraced their families and campaign rocks, black and white together, an image, for me, created a healing presence, a presage, in my soul.

"Tonight reminds me of a Langston Hughes poem," I said to Rika.

She didn't seem to hear. Didn't know if I was screaming or her friend. Not to mention an upset stomach marshaled a bit of her joy.

"Wait a minute." I knelt on the carpet, in front of my leaning bookcase, and began pulling literature books from my beloved tenure as a DeKalb County English teacher from the bottom shelf. I thumbed the large, glossy pages, until I found the page I sought. Since I didn't get the opportunity to recite it for Rika, who disconnected in need of slumber, I share it with you this morning.

I, Too
By Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll sit at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed---
I, too, am America.
Out of the adversity of our past, out of our historical highs and lows, together we will experience a restoration of prosperity in the change that we were blessed to see yesterday. Barack is right! America can change. Yes, we can. We have proven it before; we prove it now. "Out of many," he said, "we are one." Our Oneness, he promised, would prevail in the long, steep journey ahead.

I am proud to be an American, and as my knee-baby sis added, "I am never more proud to be a Black American as I am now!"

God bless America and every nation across this globe; we are ONE in love, which is all there is!

An aside...and may God bless every moose and reindeer in Alaska this morning.

The Golden Goddess