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Monday, October 19, 2015

Caribbean Poetry: A Rain - Season Morning in Georgetown (a Tritina)

Want cuddle you up this puddled up morn
as raindrops TINK-ing 'pon zinc roof top sound
like dreams DINK-ing in empty Milo tins.

Cozy; senses tingle from steel-pan* sounds
strummin' like fingers, breaths stickle** on pins
drops titillate we up this Georgetown morn.

I stir; your moans drown, rain-coins TINK in tins
Thru sprawled windows breeze caresses our morn-
whispery touches pimple skin to sound.

You never cuddled to the sound of rainfall on a zinc-tin
roof one rain-season morning?

*steel pan (aka steel drum) - a West Indian percussion instrument made from oil drums
** balance

©2015 K. Omodele

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Caribbean Short Story: Mother To Son (Comrades and Thieves II- Mass Games)

In the third row behind his school banner, the Son marched wearing crisp, clean school khakis his mother had ironed the previous night, with her own bare-ring-fingered hand; right before she had hauled back that said hand and slapped all the thiefingness out of him. The mother had scolded her son:
"If you too 'fraid to do something in front somebody face, then yuh coward if you hide and do it behind they back."
In truth, he rathered licks from her hands, any day; licks, after all, would burn and cool. But them words out her mouth always lingered, haunting him like jumbie.*
By this time, the Third-World sun had climbed nearly midday high and was pelting rays upon rays down on wave after wave of marching, perspiring school pickney.** From all over this Cooperative Republic, children like plenty-thousand ants, but in line-tight rows.
Left, Right. Left, Right. So they marched in synch, second nature after months of training drills.
'Just don't miss a beat,' the Son told himself.

Earlier that morning, these primary and secondary school students' numbers swelled under Cuffy's shadow*** as they gathered in Revolution Square. With a late start they flowed like a river up Vlissingen Road, swirled left by Camp Ayangana, then surged down towards the National Park. Marching soaking wet - but with frozen faces straight in-front; left feet forward, right arms up; right foot forward, left arm up - in perfect timing.
In the section ahead, the older National Service teens marched in military gear, lean and green like bamboo shoots in spit-shine boots.
The whole time, the Son thinking, 'Try, don't bother stand out.' The entire school seemed like government supporters- from the Head Mistress straight down to the Prefects. So each morning he just went through the motions with the rest of his classmates, pledging allegiance while a photo of Comrade Prime Minister sat high up on the classroom wall, staring down on them like a god. The son kept his family's Alliance business to himself. Like his mother said, you never know who is who.

The marching river veered right and streamed through the National Park gate. Splashes of applause from the not-far-distance dribbled through to the Son as schools, sections ahead of them, flowed and disappeared into a bowl-like canyon of stands.
Left, Right...Left...
He wondered how his cousins and them were making out marching with their own schools.
His mother's tinny voice pinged in his head. "Must remember in all the Mass Games marchin' and all yuh salutin' that is them same ones lockin' up your uncles and yuh aunties them lef' an' right."
She ain't have to keep telling him; he'd been there playing chinkie with his cousins the day when the Land Rovers rolled up. Brandishing weapons of destruction and wrong-and-strong mentalities, the babylon**** rushed in his Uncle's yard.
"Where the printin' press deh?"
"Yuh slandering' Comrade Leader with your subversive paper, eh? He should hang the whole set of all you for treason." They rounded up every adult present and carried them straight to Eve Leary.*****

Left, Right. Left, Right...Under the flogging sun the youths marched in a steady, mind-bleached rhythm. His school curved 'round a slight bend and finally entered the already crowded canyon of stands. People everywhere; the all-'bout energy slammed him like the Atlantic crashing against the sea wall.
Ahead, the rows of National Service teens rolled by the Grand Stand. As the bamboo-green uniforms passed the Prime Minister's box, they stiffened their backs all together, turned their heads right to face him, and saluted while in midstride. They held the salute 'til  they cleared the Grand Stand, then faced front with perfect tempo, marching on. Left, Right...

The Son's school now approached the Grand Stand. Just a few more yards to go.
"The government boots is not your own, y'hear me Boy?" He could hear his mother say.
At the Prime Ministers' box, one of the banner-bearers commanded:
As one, they all stiffened their backs, turned their heads right and, with a snap of their right hands over their right brows, saluted in stride.
The Prime Minister and his henchmen saluted back, sharply.
As he marched by, the Son squinted into Comrade Leader's box. There, one of the bodyguards, the one with a head bigger than a lorry and a snout like a bush cow; it was Mr. Hang-All-Yuh-For-Treason, himself.
The command was shouted from up front. "FAAAACE FRONT!"
Smirking, the Son swung his head to front a full second before the rest. Chest swelled and he could hear his mother say, "Ow, de boy,"****** with she rebel self.

* jumbie- ghost, spirit
** pickney -child or children
*** referring to the monument of the Revolution of 1763 - a statue of slave revolt leader Cuffy (Kofi,Cuffie, Cuffe)
**** oppressors; an oppressive, corrupt system; or, as in this case, police forces of a corrupt system
***** Eve Leary was the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Georgetown
****** atta boy; like a pat on the back; subtle praise or congratulations

Mother to Son I
©2015 K. Omodele

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Perceptions In The African Diaspora- Latinos of African Descent (Part II)

copyright 2014 K. Omodele the U.S. and the U.K., people in Latin American countries immigrated from all over the world...And yes, some of these Latin Americans are of African Descent.

"No matter where you come from/ as long as you're a Black man, you are an African."~ Peter Tosh

People of Latin America
Beginning in the late 15th and early 16th centuries (1400s and 1500s), Spaniards and Portuguese sailed to what we now know as the Americas. They promptly conquered the native people (Amerindians such as the Taino Arawaks, Caribs Incas, etc.), decimating whole populations of these people through warfare and disease. These Europeans first set up shop mining gold, forced Amerindians into slavery. After the Amerindian population was close to depletion, Europeans imported Africans to work the fields- mostly sugar cane and tobacco plantations in Brazil, Columbia, Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Cuba,et al. By the 19th Century, in Latin America there were three different races/ancestries (Amerindians; Blacks/Africans; Whites/Europeans) and people of mixed race/ancestry (such as Mestizos and mulattos).

Over time, more people immigrated to Latin America- Asians Chinese and East Indians), other Europeans (Italians, Germans after WWII), and Middle Easterners (Lebanese and Syrians). But regardless of the diverse ancestry, the common thread that now weaves through Latin culture is language (Spanish and Portuguese).

African (Black) Culture in Latin America

Latinos/Hispanics don't share an exact, uniformed culture because dialects, music and dance, and other customs vary from one region to the next. For instance, some Latin American countries have large populations of Blacks (descendants of Africans) who have heavily influenced culture. Notice how Latin countries in and around the Caribbean , along with Brazil, possess customs steeped in African traditions. African styles permeate music and dance in samba, rhumba, merengue and just check out the strong rhythm of congas in salsa. Notice the spirituality of Yoruba deities and Orishas found in Santeria.

During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, more Africans were imported into Brazil than any other country. If we include light and brown-skinned people of African descent (the so-called "mixed" or Mulatto), then Brazil's Black population is roughly forty-five percent of its total population of 190 million*, which means that Brazil has the largest population of black people in any country other than Nigeria.
Presently, people of African descent make up around 12 percent of South America's population.(McLeish 1997) Counting these descendants in the whole of Latin America (from A-Z, Argentina to Venezuela), more Blacks speak Spanish/Portuguese than English across the Americas, period. And these Africans have made undeniable and significant contributions to the collective Hispanic heritage.

In sum, it's full time we realize that people only "look Hispanic" (or look Puerto Rican, Cuban, Columbian, Dominican) if we misunderstand the meaning of these terms. Knowing that during slavery Africans were widely scattered throughout the Caribbean; Central, South and North America is crucial in understanding the nuances of ethnicity, nationality and race.

*The World Almanac 2012 (states that Brazil's population is comprised of 6% Black and 29% Mulatto)
**McLeish, Ewan. South America. Continents. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, 1997

Thursday, October 1, 2015

PERCEPTIONS IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA 101: Latinos of African Descent Part I

copyright 2014 K. Omodele

"From lack of knowledge my people shall perish."  ~His Imperial Majesty Haile Seassie I

A youth cornered me the other day, talking about his girl.
"She's Puerto Rican and Black", he said, skinning his teeth with pride.  "Model chick -exotic." (His words, not mine)
I saw us 'bout to crash, so I grabbed the wheel, tried steering us toward some semblance or understanding.
"She's a Black Latina?"  My tone urged us to consider his statement more closely. "Like, Latina Negra?"
But his brows narrowed and he mashed the gas - BLAM - head first, straight into a wall of "schupidness."  (As old time people
used to say)
"Nah. Her mama Black and her daddy Puerto Rican."

"In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty"~Bob Marley
Jah knows in this day and age of information, this kind of miseducation is a mosquito NNNINGing in my ears.  Even the
media is at times remiss concerning the differences between nationality and race.  Latin American*  countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Columbia and Brazil are populated by people of various races and even mixed races.  Hispanic (or Latino) is an ethnicity not a race.

Saying someone is Hispanic** or Latino*** indicates that he or she is from a country that was once colonized by Spain or Portugal and that they speak Spanish or Portuguese.  How can a person look Hispanic or Latino when these terms don't specify ancestry - whether Amerindian****; African, European; or even mixed ancestry like Mestizo (European and Amerindian) or mulatto (African and European)?
Take  Shakira and Celia Cruz (R.I.P) for instance. Both are Latinas, but because of their different ancestries, they don't share a similar "Hispanic/Latina look."  Just like in the U.S. or U.K., the people of Latin American countries immigrated from all over the world, for various reasons in different seasons.  And yes, some of these Latin Americans are of African descent.

Sources - Webster's Third New International Dictionary
* Latin American - those parts of the Americas colonized by the Spanish or Portuguese:  of relating to countries of North, Central and South America whose chief languages are Romance Languages (excluding French)
**Hispanic (Latin Hispanicus. from Hispania- Spain Iberian Peninsula + Latin .cus =ic)- Relating to or derived from the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain or Portugal:  often Latin American
***Latino- Latin American
****Amerindian- American Indian (Writer's note: Indian of the Americas; not restricted to U.S. Native Americans)

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