Two weeks ago I took a trip. After months of not travelling at all, almost a year of not travelling for pleasure – all because of the COVID-19 pandemic I said fuck it and booked an Airbnb ( I know, I know but capitalism so please don’t judge too harshly). I picked a place by the ocean for my teenage daughter and I to experience a change of place, a change of pace. We both desperately needed it and I think today, well over the last week really me esta callendo el 20, that is, it’s finally hitting me the changes that this sort of break is calling me to work through.
This feels like an end of year post but maybe it’s just an end of a period post. These 12 months in my own life have been such a period of loss and really it’s been a period of loss for so many of us universally. Grief is universal regardless of the dates on a calendar but (and maybe some numerologists, santeros, etc can unwrap that deeper) 2020 has taken so much.
It lifted the thin veneer of lies, abuse and self-imposed silence and complicity I lived in within the romantic relationship that brought me and my daughters to Los Angeles. Oh but that movement – both slow and fast at the same time, like ripping a band aid off the skin, really fucking hurt and really had me wondering how could someone I trusted so deeply betray me so deeply. How could the trauma be so embedded that no amount of love and self sacrificing care heal?
And beyond the hurt there was (and still is to some extent) a deep fear that I will never be loved again, a deep fear of housing and financial insecurity.
But there are no coincidences and the universe cycles around us individually and collectively to remind us. So it is no coincidence that this personal mourning of the self I thought I was and should be collided with a global political and public health crisis. The (
now hopefully) closing of 45’s United State presidency, the pandemic. I and so many others lost so much more than relationships, we lost lives. There were two funerals of family members (QEPD Tio Tony and Ruben) I couldn’t attend. One was in Puerto Rico, where I was supposed to be part of an encuento de bomba with a crew of amazing diasporaRicans. There were lives lost to Coronavirus, directly and indirectly within the day laborer and household worker community within which I have made my my living but more importantly have made my life. There was the loss of jobs, the loss of housing, of food. There was the loss of more Black blood.
But in all loss there is also real opportunity. It’s so hard to hold onto hope in the face of bloody, murderous white supremacist reality. It’s so hard to hold onto what history taught our ancestors and it’s so hard to hear those lessons among our cries of mourning.
Going back 10-12 years ago I was in a similar place personally and we all were in a similar place historically and politically. 10 years before that I was in a similar place personally and we were in a similar place politically. This is the part where I have to admit and should actually take some pride in the fact that I have lived long enough to experience amazing and troubling things and have enough years to be able to recognize these patterns, individual and collective. There is a gift in that and there is a responsibility in that.
21 years ago in New York City Amadou Diallo was murdered by the New York City Police Department. 41 bullets into an immigrant from Guinea in the vestibule of his own home on the Bronx and the streets erupted. Existing coalitions of Black and Brown and Queer organizations and organizers became more deeply solidified and we didn’t ask for permits when the inevitable happened, when the criminal legal system let the white cops off the hook and there was the kettling of protestors and mass arrests and I was there. I say this not to give myself props for being an organizer of some of those rallies and part of a movement upon which the current movement against continues to be built on. But rather I share this because I witnessed and I am witnessing how some organizers and “activists” from that moment have been elevated into national “leadership” and political punditry and I haven’t forgotten. I won’t let them or others forget. Just like I won’t forget how many of us warned the city and really the rest of the world how evil then Mayor Giuliani was and is and how we were called dramatic, exaggerated as Black and Brown mothers went into the streets day after day, night after night publicly mourning Amadou, Anthony, Anibal, Manny, Anibal, Frankie, Yong Xin, and Nicolas Jr.
21 years ago I was struggling as a young single mother activist. Struggling to pay bills, struggling with balancing mamihood and my sexuality and struggling in ways I have only begun to forgive myself for not understanding, struggling with my mental health. I came out of it by turning to the page, turning to the still developing internet screen, the word, my voice and experimenting with new mediums to express it and in doing so found new communities, new friendships, new power.
12 years ago in a bar or restaurant ( I can’t remember and I don’t feel like looking in my hand written journals), I sat shamelessly (sinverguenza que era-maybe still am – time will tell) rested my head on a new lover and watched, I think with tears in my eyes, a democrat officially accept the nomination for presidency. Deep down I knew, we knew, the messages of hope were thin veils covering up the realities that were, of war, of deportations of death that had passed in the years before and that we would publicly bear witness to and dissect. We knew there would be more wars, more deportations, more death but we both needed hope and I felt lucky to have it in that moment of new desire, new ways to sustain myself and new ways to express myself.
12 years ago I was a single mother again. I was struggling again with bills. I was struggling with the end of an abusive relationship and I came out of it by turning to the page, turning to the still developing internet screen, the word, my voice, poetry, spoken word and experimenting with new mediums to express it and in doing so found new communities, new friendships, new loves, and new power.
Two weeks ago I took a trip. Every morning I made it a habit to drink my coffee with the rising sun over Pacific ocean waves and watch the dark waves turn blue under the light. My teenage daughter and I kayaked with sea lions swimming around us. We made a game of counting the flags and signs supporting 45 (we were deep in Orange County yo). And there is a metaphor there, if it’s not obvious. I was supposed to completely unplug but there were grants to write and zoom calls with 70 or so household workers so that we could together decipher the elections. In the middle of that zoom call the sun was setting and I was by the ocean with darkness falling over me, there was a split second of fear. Here I was speaking Spanish in a very red county with my brown daughter. And this week and into this weekend there were moments of feeling like I couldn’t rest, feelings of sadness and regret. There is no illusion of what this moment means for me, for us. The past is right there not so far behind us. Hell the cycle is repeating right in front of us, right now. But I know we, I know I will come out of this. We will and are turning to the page, the internet screen, our voices, our words and we will use these mediums to find each other – in community, in friendships, in love and desire and in power.
I am bearing witness. Let’s do it together.