When I asked you for life advice, you said: No. Our lives have been too different.
But I’d like to know what you felt. Your fears. Your dreams. About your experience during the occupation. Finding love. Raising a family. How you felt about the price of gas, when you first became a citizen of the states, so you could get your license and drive around Mama and your five kids. I’d like to know what you imagined would become of us.
“No. Our lives have been too different.” — to hear this was jarring, but I knew it was the truth.
To learn you were enslaved, and escaped death during the japanese occupation was not something I expected to hear. But, I was more shocked that nobody else seemed to know this story — including your children.
At the same time, I get that trauma like that is not light conversation. Especially in this current paradigm where we’re taught to be strong, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, forget the past. That was the past, and the past was hard. Forget that. I think it’s important to remember. It's hard to talk about but I know it's important to remember. I know it would’ve been hard to talk about, but I wish we did.
There’s lot of things I’ll probably never be able to know, so the pieces of memories I do have will have to do. I remember is you picking me up from school. And going to the playground. And jumping off you and mama’s couch when we were kids, flapping our lil bamboo fans hoping if we just waved fast enough, we’d catch air and fly. I remember you pulling out your favorite snack to share with us, on days you felt fancy: canned fried dace with salted black beans. All I or watching the Warriors, silently. That your style of hugging is a quick sideways hug and arm pat. That one time you called for me to translate your Chinglish to my older cousin, because she couldn’t understand, was one of my proudest moments. Along with feeling pressure to assimilate and the feeling that I was foreign *everywhere*— us not speaking the same language made the idea of knowing you seem close to impossible. I felt like we were detached. And when you passed, I was sad that I didn’t make a bigger effort to get to know you when I was younger.
Over the years of growing, traveling, meeting new people, experiencing, I imagine your base feelings must not have been much different than mine. When I started seeing Mama as a person outside of being my grandmother, I began to see how much we have in common. We’re both cheap as hell. All right, frugal. Our sarcasm can seem like salt, but we’re just speaking the truth, and we’re not malicious about it. We’ll both spend it on someone, if we really care. We hate throwing out something useful (plastic produce bags, rubber bands, napkins, magnets, pieces of cloth… though she’s a much better seamstress than I, and I’m sure she does much more useful things with her cloth bits than I do.) We can eat. Shoot, I know you could eat. We don’t need words for that, haha. The thing I’ve learned is: we’re all different, and all the same. We all just want to know the best way to survive, and find joy while we do it.
This has also taught me that some things don’t need to be learned. We come into this lifetime knowing, and spend most of it re-membering. Lineage is more than a title, it’s knowledge passed down in blood. When I was putting together your altar, I remembered you used to drink Remy Martin. I couldn’t find a bottle of Remy for the life of me, so I got you some E&J. When I told my dad this, he laughed and told me you used to fill your Remy bottles with E&J. I know now that this was no mistake, lol.
Recently, I’ve started practicing qigong, and some of the movements feel familiar - I remember seeing Mama do some of it when I was small(er). When I visit my friend’s Traditional Chinese Medicine school out here, there’s an alter with hella large statues with the 8 immortals— all those guys we had on top of mantles and in the curio cabinets in all our homes. It’s cool to see them in a space I’ve just met... to see my culture, recognize it, and feel a sort of comfort in it that I never felt before. Guess distance really does make the heart grow fonder. It’s like a newfound respect. A re-cognition. With TCM and qigong, I’m finally getting to peek into the science of my own heritage. As if my path took a detour from the ancient teachings I was hoping you’d pass on to me, but I found my way back to em anyways. With some things, it feels like I knew all along - I’ve seen it, but never knew or asked what it was. Much like my relationship with you… timing is funny like that.
Like you, I had to travel thousands of miles across the sea to start my ‘adult life’ in an enclave called Chinatown… familiar in its foreign-ness, more menacing than motherly. Diaspora is funny like that. We’re constantly reminded of our heritage, but left to our own vices as to what any of it means, what to do with it, and nothing is ever really explained. But like you, I’ve made a home. Grown new roots. Learned a new yet familiar way of life.
The first two people who led me to start understanding/practicing my heritage (in the form of qigong) were black. Not Chinese. One of them became my sifu. We both grew up in The Bay. For a long time, this was the only culture that brought me warmth. As a kid growing up, I became more familiar with words like yee, bammer, stewy, scraper, fade, bop, mop, hunned, citas, yadada, yadada, yadada—mean? …Meanwhile, while I do know how to say “thank you” in Cantonese, I’m uncomfortable saying it to anyone in Chinatown for fear they’d say anything besides the 5 words I actually know, then I’d have to embarrassingly admit: that’s all I got. M’goi. To be afraid to say “thank you” in the tongue of your ancestors, to those who’ve worn it longer — for fear they’ll look at you the way everyone else does: as foreign, unfamiliar — feels like your culture has been sucked from your blood. It feels like the strings pulling at your gut to unearth, remember, reclaim where you’ve come from. What brought you here. What was before.
I’m finding peace in the okay-ness of not-knowing. That it’s in my blood. I keep running into downloads assuring me of this… that knowledge/memory/understanding/wisdom/CULTURE does not die… It lives within us. We are connected.
A sibling (who I happened upon, consequently, at an ancestor party) told me to remember: “Culture lies dormant in your blood. Cultures like hoodoo have survived because it is resilient. You got the magic & you can resonate with the practices however it vibes with you… as long as you do it with respect.”
At the party, we learned the way to make an altar, which aligned with a concept I had already known; not because anybody formally taught me, I just knew. I think education is that way - we’re learning at all times; and sometimes we already know, we just need it affirmed.
The sibling said, “The most simple form of prayer is “thank you.”
So, thank you. Thank you for all you’ve done in your lifetime. For learning lessons so that i may have that knowledge accessible to me, and so that i may add my lessons learned to the knowledge of our people, my people, our lineage.
Thank you for standing resilient despite all odds. For raising 5 kids in a new land where nobody speaks your language & working 6 days a week to provide, for teaching your seeds what you could, for having the resilience to adapt enough to survive and still hold on to who you were. For raising a family knowing damn well their survival came with accepting that generations to come might neither understand you nor talk to you or even know your story, who you are as a human, a cook, a mechanic, a businessman, a survivor, a father, a grandfather. To to hold that inside and to still enjoy the small joys in a can of dried fish in fermented black beans.
I love you.
I stand for you.
I remember you.
Asiatic Queer Funkateer aka Colloqious Monk
Dear Mama Kukwu,
To My mother’s mom aka my grandma aka Mama Kukwu aka Veronica Nwanyiocha Ndubuisi: I wish we had more time together so I could ask the billions of questions I have had for you...I fail at trying to hold pretend conversations with you in my head because I have no idea what your responses would be. Especially to simple things like what was your childhood like? Better yet, have you ever smoked weed? Did you design the tattoos you received before your wedding? What do you think of mine and me having tattoos? Was Nigeria the only country you wanted to live in? Was Christianity your first religion or were you converted? If so, did you feel as if you were abandoning your native culture to some degree by converting? What was the life you imagined for your grandchildren? What was the biggest regret you ever made? What is your fondest accomplishment? Do you have any advice for myself and my generation of Nigerian-Americans?
I know I only saw you 3 times and neither of us could speak the other’s language, but thank you. Thank you for persevering through unimaginable adversities such as a civil war and famine. You are the embodiment of resilience. I find you inspiring as you not only survived the unthinkable but also raised a family on your own, and did it well. Although language restricted our conversations, I vividly remember and treasure the amount of affection you had for us, for me. The last time we saw each other you broke down into tears and told me how much you loved me. I didn’t need a translation because I felt that emotion through your tears and embrace. I hope that you feel the emotion, the energy, and the love that, not only I, but all of your children and their children devote to you.
Rest in Power,
Daniel Nkemakolam Chinemerem Ikejimba Jr.
Pupil of cognitive health & functioning, and human behavior
This letter goes out to my grandparents' grandparents.
The last ones from Mexico before our family tree grew into the US. The ones who had rich histories I've never learned. The ones whose language I can understand but not speak. The ones with names that are hard to pronounce, scribbled on the backs of faded pictures in old shoeboxes.
I often talk with my grandma about what it was like growing up in the states in the 1940s. It was through her that I learned of the sound a yardstick makes snapping across the knuckles on those who let their mother tongue slip out in class. It was her voice that carried the pain of walking past business with signs saying "no dogs, no Mexicans". It was her calloused hands that showed me what years of picking cotton and vegetables in a field will do to your body.
I visited Mexico for the first time this year, thinking I would find some missing link that would give me the roadmap for finding my connection to my grandparents's grandparents. It wasn't until I set foot in their home country that I realized, I was connected all along. I felt it in the kindness of strangers that reminded me of my Grandma Carmen.I smelled it in the markets, the same scent that took me back to picking up carne asada at the butcher with my Grandpa Jesse on the weekend.I heard it in the hearty laughter on the the street corners that sounded just like my Grandpa Arturo when he'd have his brothers over. I saw it in the old women playing with babies on their front porches, just as my Grandma Petra did with us.
This letter goes out to my grandparents' grandparents. The ones I felt disconnected from, as if silly things like distance and time can separate me from this thread of beauty that runs through my people.
I identify as Mexican-American & Chicano, been around the world but I’m California’s own.
When I’m asked where I come from
The answer I give is love
And when asked who I want to be
my answer is “Like my tutu Lovee.”
You are known and remembered for how you love. Your love is so full and without judgment. You made it a point to love on everyone you came in contact with. You would never remember or call anyone by their name, you just called them “Love.”
One of the best and last pieces of advice you gave me was “If you not havin hard time and going through change ALL DA TIME, you not doing it right. You doing something wrong.” And even though I’d rather have you here and be in your embrace, these words help keep me grounded now.
My beautiful Hawaiian queen. Whenever I’m going through it, all I want to do is call you up and hear you tell me “You’ll be just wonderful, my baby.” You knew what to say to make me feel better and at the same time shake my ass up. I miss your loud laugh, your hugs, the way you always smelt like Chanel No. 5 or Gardenias but most of all I miss your spirit. Just having you around made me feel like everything IS going to be ok. There’s a million things I could say and a million things I could write that still wouldn’t sum up the great woman, mother, Tūtū, warrior and best friend you are to me. If I could only be half the woman you are a hell of a woman I would be.
<3Your sugar plum,
Self introduction: I am: Love. Imperfect. Kanaka Maoli.
I thank you for your gift of art to the world, your indomitable feisty spirit and being so
true to yourself. You led by example, showing us the way to be present with our truth,
finding your roots through community building, sharing your wisdom and giving light to
the world. You energized us with your uncompromising vision and departed too soon.
But you left us a road map, broad calligraphic strokes that shout out who you were, a
Artist and cultural activist
When I think about the fact that you’ve been gone from this earth for over two years, I feel this gaping hole inside of me. A hole bore from the loss of your hand steadily on mine…from all the questions I long to ask you…from everything I wished I had the courage to tell you. I still feel the guilt dripping from my chest. You tried to hold on for me but I was too late.
You have always been like a second mother to me and the source of strength through some of the hardest times in my life. I remember after dad died, when mom couldn’t leave the house or return to the place we once called home, you did what you always have done. You picked up all the strings of our unravelling world and you held them. Tended to them. Until they were ready to mend and begin again.
I have this image of you in my mind but I find that with time it’s becoming blurry and worn. There is so much of you that I want to remember. So much of you that I want to pass on. You were:
A fearless woman.
A woman who walked miles and miles to deliver secret letters to soldiers during the war, woven into baskets and dressed as an old maid.
A woman who managed to get her degree and raise six children on her own while her husband was deployed.
A woman who survived breast cancer at the age of 83.
A woman who exhuded warmth and never let anyone leave her house without a full stomach.
What was it like for you to leave the Philippines, the only home you had ever known? How did people treat you when you arrived in America? Growing up, it felt so important that we assimilated. Part of me wonders whether the pressure to conform was self-inflicted or one thrust upon you. We learned all the different ways to blend in yet we were never taught our mother tongue. The language of my people is so foreign that the names of my provinces, the lands of my ancestors, feel alien in my mouth.
Ilocos Norte. Aklan. Bicol. Iloilo.
I find myself desparately grasping at these pieces of myself, longing to hold them. Infuse them into my skin. Make them feel like a part of me. It’s odd- having the very make up of your blood feel so far removed from your Self. I wonder if you’ve ever felt like the person you were back home, that you knew yourself to be, slowly dissolved into the construct of the American Dream.
One thing I’ve always admired about you was your unwaivering faith. How you were so stable…constant in your belief. As if you had a knowing in what everyone was searching for. I’ve often wished that I had the same courage.
The courage to come out to you while you were alive.
The courage to hold the love in my life
without the fear of losing it.
The courage to let my authentic self flow
freely without the fear of rejection.
The courage to say #metoo and name my assaults for what they were.
The courage to touch every scar on my body with kindness and tenderness, to thank my body for everything it’s weathered.
I feel a rebirth, a revolution… quelling inside of me, boiling beneath my skin. A reclamation of every part of me that’s ever been taken. Through years of colonization. Through the force of men. I remind myself in all my rage, that you survived these very same things, and from that I draw energy. The energy of all those that came before me who endured. You are anchors. You are my sails.
Queer pinay on a mission to destroy the patriarchy
2AM is an Afro futurist artist that connects ancestral practice to creative expressionism.
She, her, they
New Jersey by way of Honduras, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.
My self worth is a gift to Earth. I'm a singer, writer, feeler, mover and a shaker. Survivor of sexual violence on a quest to normalize healing!
It has been over 3 years since we’ve last seen each other. Growing up, I used to see you twice a year, during the summer and winter season in Miami. My favorite time was the winter because you hosted Noche Buena and opened your doors for the family to come together. You served as my connection to my roots; reminding me about the importance of family and culture. You demonstrated how to be proud of being Cuban and Latinx in a society that often devalues and ridicules our customs and people.
As I grew older and began to learn your story, all you have experienced and endured, I realized how much I have to be thankful for due to your sacrifices. From you I learned about our history before Cuba. Our family has a long history of farming; living the island life. We left La Palma due to economic hardship brought on by the Spanish government and built a better life in Cuba. You grew up on a farm in Camagüey, Cuba, somehow managed to convince your father to support your dream of becoming a doctor at a time where women did not go to medical school. You were the first of your family to leave Cuba and arrive in the United States in pursuit of your dreams.
You landed in New York City and naively walked into the university with limited English and asked to enroll in medical school. They laughed you out of the room, but you persisted. You accomplished your dream, returned to Cuba and created a family. Consistently providing for my Dad, Tia and Tio. Later you had to escape a violent and unforgiving communist regime, worked to regain your medical license in an unfamiliar environment that you would permanently call home.
Your work never stopped. You selflessly used your income, helping to bring over family members that did not have access to leave. You provided people with food, shelter, and security; true to your Catholic upbringing. The concept of machismo, unfortunately, seemed to put toxic men in your path. From “The Lord’s Prayer”, “...and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
For all that you have endured, I want to tell you that feeling angry or depressed is normal. Allowing yourself to feel is important; I believe it is the key to healing and forgiveness. You deserve love, reciprocity, healing, and peace. I wanted to let you know as a Cuban-American male, I recognize your intelligence, strength, and beauty, just as your children and your parents were always able to see. Thank you.
Te extraño y tqm,
NC raised me, Miami & Oʻahu shaped me
I used to pretend you were someone else, so I could be someone else. Someone skinnier, lighter, less troubled, more white. Just the "right" kind of "exotic" – enough to be lovable.
We forgot your names, so it made it easier to reinvent our ugly history. We were even happy for the erasure. For the running away. And when we weren't, we made the suffering look effortless, swallowed the violence so the cracks in our voice went unnoticed. Fell and rose and fell, so we could rise again. We had to prove we deserved it. Even if we didn't believe it.
But I remember you too. Even the ones we forgot we didn't remember. You found me when you heard your language and your gods on your great grandbaby's lips. When you felt the earth quake and crack open in your great grandbaby's womb.
I need you, to move through and open our heart. To root it down. To bring me where I belong safely to myself in a way our bodies and our lands haven't known for so impossibly long. How can we believe in hating our bodies and the waters that made them, the thousands of years of births, deaths, and rebirths from the mississippi river delta, the appalachian mountains, the derryveagh mountains, the apennine mountains, donegal bay, the nedre norrland, the atlantic, the sahara and the sahel, the mesas, the plains, the ko'olau and wai'anae mounatin ranges, mauna a wākea, the pacific ocean?
You found an opening for rest, and breath. To be seen in your bloom. Our generations can pierce through my gaze, to find their reflection and see your love in this face. Your lovability, your power, your rise. Your names.
I love that we are still here.
I see fewer difference
my descendants . and
Is my prayer .
she/theyShe is a Hawaiian national of African-Native American descent living in Waiʻanae, Oʻahu, Kō Hawaiʻi Pae ʻAina. They are currently studying at the University of Saskatchewan toward an M.Ed in Land-Based Indigenous Education. In her spare time, they like to plot revolution.
Letter to the Universe:
A Home on Earth
My mind doesn’t quite process how my feet are walking on burial grounds.
Does the sky feel nostalgia when we welcome the spirits back home?
How do I honor this land when our footsteps keep getting in the way?
How can they feel like they don’t ‘owe’ anyone anything
“because they are not their ancestors” yet
they continuously want to be ours?
How do we find the narratives not lost in translation
by our own tongues?
How did we end up blaming ourselves for the trauma we never lived to see?
I’m afraid that no matter how many times I move, I’ll always feel like the barrier
much heavier than language.
How far can I sink until I reach solid ground?
Intergenerational trauma has been passed down way before
our beings even step foot on this Earth
That’s why beings above the surface exist much smaller
and the land learns to survive without water.
Every seed has felt the life of another’s outgrown
and I question how much I can eat
until I actually feel full of something.
How many questions can I ask until I get vague enough answers
that won’t tell me why our displacement
feels a lot more like a chalk-washed movie than an Earthquake?
How many houses will I live in until I can accept that a feeling of Home
is out of my price range?
If I shall get buried,
which land will you take me to?
I don’t know that I watered any of them enough
to belong in between the hyphens.
The closest I will get to feeling Home
is when I’m floating between Earth and Space
wrapped around the only stories rooted deep enough
that our bloodstained hands can’t reach.
With light & blessings,
J-Monk aka Jace
Jace is a queer, gender non-conforming, multiethnic East and Southeast Asian American conflicted with the idea that they are more than their identity politics and systematic accomplishments, but recognizes that there are are factors in this waking life that will shape our human experience and growth without a choice. Their time is often spent lost somewhere the human body cannot physically reach, but can feel. Their work is a reflection of each individual interpreter, but holds their personal truths. They can be found wherever you're willing to find them and whenever the Universe decides.
At birth I wasn’t given your name, I thank you for giving me your heart.
As I stumble to walk, I find myself with an abundance of joy; re-playing certain foundational thought.
For the ten millions times we were instructed to walk around the hill.
Reminding myself to never let the world become shackles to my feet. I walk still.
Through shared bones, you taught me in the midst of my desire to run.
I thank you for telling me to pause and simply cherish the sun.
Never hesitating to clarify that above all, Love is true.
Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do.
As I walk, I walk in LOVE. The unconditional kind.
I love you.
Happy Valentines day.
Nyoathia Shamekia Pruitt
I am 26 y.o. female. Born and raised in the bay area CA,. As life’s adventures have taken me on such a journey this past 2017, I am in pure bliss, gratitude and appreciation of my ancestors. I had very strong relationships with my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather. As their spirits have left their bodies; and I journey through life. I would like to thank them for creating a foundation for what unconditional love looks, feels and walks like.
Your face is my own
lost for a decade
bush, fire and sky.
Crossed two oceans
over one again
Dec 7th, 2017
Ciara Swan aka dvntphnk
pronouns: all of ‘em
A phonkian theorist synthesizing sleepness and wokeness
Señoras que fallecieron,
I can only start with giving all of my gratitude. Thank you for guiding me all of my life. Your playful energy has kept my spirit child like. Your lack of fear and potent intuition has helped offer me a powerful feminine divine. Because of you my feminine divine has the same strength the roots of the trees have. She never lets up like the waves from the ocean. Forever pulsing and expanding. My feminine divine is the most treasured thing i am made of, aside from you.
Specifically, this year i have been on a journey to figure out who you are. During my trip, the closer i get to you, the closer i get to myself. Better understanding that you, are me. I, am you. Learning that who you are isn’t just who you have been on Earth. My clairvoyance is a gift from you. My heart is woven pieces of all of you. This heart, that is able to fill up and pour out love. So many types of love, that sometimes i don’t understand how i could attain it all in my body.
I wish i could hear stories of your lives. Sometimes so much that i want to cry. But i have to understand that earth is not the only realm you have lived in. Therefore, i can hear you through other realms. But i am a human, and i wish i could enjoy human things with you sometimes. Mi abuela said her mama came from Guadalajara. I know my light skin comes from the Spaniards and Europeans coming into indigenous land, where Guadalajara is today. I wish i could touch the dirt of the land you walked. Land that was untouched, indigenous soil. I wish i could i hear your stories in the night, whispers of your day. Watch you dance in proud textiles. Hold your hand while we walk through farms. I want to lay my head on your brown skin while you stroke my hair. I know you don’t want me to be sad, but these are my day dreams. To be with all my mujeres in this physical realm. How did you like to decorate your brown skin? What was your name? Were you medicine women? Tribe leaders? Shaman healers? I know you all had magic because you have given it to me. I feel generations of magic and power in my everyday life.
I hope somehow I’ve protected you, the way you have protected me. You have given me an assertive voice and a spirit that stands up for anything with love. I live my life in honor of you. The love you have for me is continuously mirrored. I mirror it to those close around me, then back to you.
Te amo y gracias por todo,
I am a Native American/Mexican queer woman. Born and raised in the Bay Area, CA.
i never knew your hawaiian name until you passed, never even knew you had one. it’s in the middle, like many of ours - perfectly placed so it doesn’t stand out too much.
i’ve thought a lot about everything i don’t know about you, especially since you’ve moved on. what happened to make you hold so much back, to be so closed off? i used to think you were the key to resolving our pain, but in reality i don’t think you would have connected those dots for me...maybe because no one connected them for you.
did i remind you of my dad? how much you loved him, or maybe how much you missed him? because i looked at you that way. like, somewhere deep down, you had a piece of him that he chose to leave in this world.
x x x
pops, i think you’d like to know that i’ve been going by your name these days. i figure you made it part of my middle name for a reason, so why not? i bet your kickin it with grandma now and i hope that you’re finding peace in that - a peace i know you never found in this life.
sometimes i wonder if you would make the same decisions again if you could do things over. would you stay in this world with us or leave again?
would you at least stay to teach me the languages and instruments and history you knew? to tell me what was it like for you growing up in this world as a young kanaka? did you feel so lost like i do sometimes?
i still can’t play piano, but one day i will - and then i’ll play your songs.
but until then, i’ll continue to look for you in the small things.
32 w/a baby face
modern kanaka learning how to navigate
Love Letter to my Ancestor
Dearest Great Great Grandfather,
This is a love letter or maybe this is a letter to help me find myself.
I never knew you and I’m just now learning myself.
My mother was very verbally abusive and that’s OK because I understood. With her sense of self-loathing and me the spitting image of her how could she not to berate me with all the horrible things she told herself. Except with me it was far more personal and purposely hurtful. You see grandpa I have a physical disability and at the time I was overweight. She teased me about everything. Yes, I am proud of who I am, but only after years and years of cultivating self-love for how could she my mother teach me how to love myself when she felt rejected from her roots. She felt rejected after being given away at birth by your granddaughter. Actually, I was the first one to speak directly to my birth grandmother. I was surprised at how much we didn’t look like seeing as how I grew up as a near copy of my mother. My birth grandmother is an interesting woman strong, independent, and travels the world. In fact, she still travels to this day. She told me she went back for mom a week later after putting her up for adoption wondering what she had done and why she’s giving up her firstborn. But they closed the record and wouldn’t allow her any information on the topic of her then lost in the system first born. This caused years of suffering in our family, but they say everything happens for a reason. Maybe it’s because I was supposed to have this adventure to find you, to find my roots.
It’s hard to believe that here in Hawaii the island of Oahu that I found my cousin. We met in the most boring genetics class I’ve ever taken in my life. Bioinformatics is for the birds, but family is for me. It was interesting because I knew her before she spoke that smile she wore was something so familiar. My grandmother told me that I had an aunt here, seeing as how I met her just before I moved out to the island. She also informed me that she didn’t speak to them because well no need I guess. I guess they saved the drama for my Grandmama. As I learn about family dynamics, I came to find that they, like all families were littered with politics. The gist of the non-communication was that she wanted information and auntie didn’t give it to her in the time she desired so she pretty much cut that communication off, but she did give me a name. “Nola.” Nola, your daughter. One day, two years after I graduated three months after my divorce I was crying myself to sleep at night and I received a Facebook message saying “Hey I think we might be related…” So that smile was something. I even remember stating, “there is really familiar about you and I bet we’re cousins” under my breath of course because when you say things like that sometimes is just a dream. To have cousins that look like you share the same blood, I hadn’t had that experience, but I was more than willing.
My adoptive grandmother who raised me taught me to pray and because of my connection to Spirit. I always inherently felt cared for. I knew the world was there for me. However, the under pinnings of also being my mother’s daughter, I didn’t think that blood familial love existed because of the way that she showed me how to systematically tear myself down. I began to cultivate the relationship with my new cousin and was able to meet our oldest living aunt, Thelma. You married her sister, an Okinawan woman, back post the World War II era after you were sent here as draftsman for the Navy. When I went to her house she introduced me to the musubi and began to tell me a story about how you and my great great step grandmother met. I didn’t learn much about my blood great great grandmother, but that she passed in the great flu epidemic of 1918. She regaled me with tales of how kind you were. She talked to me about my dreams and aspirations. She told me about the farm in the way the back of the valley they were raised used to be and how my Okinawan great great Grandmother used to make her version of southern food for you and your friends that would visit from the States. All that aside she told me after getting to know me a little bit that you would be proud to know me too. To imagine a man that lent me his blood would be happy let alone honored to know me connected me to a love for myself that I’d never felt before. She even said that my kindness and gentleness reminded her of you. Thank you great great grandfather for giving me the disposition to love and be a kind person to this earth deep down from a place that where I didn’t even know existed. It is nice to know that love is a part of me and that I would make you proud. Thank you for loving me beyond the veil; sprinkling the crumbs that led me here to discover you, our family, and the legacy of what it means to be your granddaughter. It’s nice to know I’m on the right path and you gave me the tools from the moment of my birth to be the best most loving person I know. Thank you for the self-love. Thank you for the permission to know that I come from a line of strong, kind, beautiful people. Forever your great great granddaughter.
Lots of love,
P.S. I’m just happy that I can communicate with you on this land and know that I belong here too. Just is the few drops of blood I often wonder what my places in the universe. Perhaps humanity and I are one in the same. Perhaps your gift to me is to help this planet remember how to love itself? To aid it remembering how to care for itself? Am I loving enough? Do I provide the space for people feel that they can except love and abundance of this planet? And my true to my highest self? Am I really what my ancestors desire for this earth? Am I really the answer to your and all my other ancestor’s prayers? I would be my honor to find out. I guess I’ll find out someday when we met.
My dear Grandmothers,
I carry your names into the present each time someone calls me
Your names would only answer when spoken to in Spanish
Your names that prayed over clasped hands to the Virgen de Guadalupe
We carry her name
We carry almonds from the writhing trees that stretch across the California central valley and touch each corner of the sky- the cloak of our mother- coated in stars, cradle of the moon, as our feet walk upon fertile soil, rich off of floodwaters and the sweat of our hands. Brown hands of our sisters, brothers, kin across the continent.
Our skin across this continent
We sweep floors and pick peaches and can fruit and tan hides
I chew sap and catch butterflies and bait hooks and whistle into wind and pet tree branches
We burn wood to boil water
We pray to your name. Framed in your golden Mandorla, the womb, your feet walk upon the heads of snakes that hiss blood, spitting enough to bathe the world in venom. Smother them in your stars. Snare them within your wild briar, full of blackberries.
Slope-backed wild horses still run free in the canyons under your dominion. Full bellied, rebellious monsters.
Tierra y libertad
The world speaks your names when they call me
This love goes out to the lineage I never got a chance to know;
parents, grandparents and beyond. I am the descendent of the colonized and the colonizer. I was marked for assimilation and slavery, never meant to make anything of myself beyond fuel for the capitalist system. But by the grace of my ancestors I was given the freedom to explore and ability to build a new reality. A foundation for healing that could mend generational trauma and give hope to the generations of the future.
Every living relative has fallen away, leaving me with a deep void where all the lessons, stories and history should have been. I never wanted to do this on my own. Yet anytime I find myself mourning all that has been lost over the years there is a whisper reminding me that they never left. They have always had my back, pointed me in the right direction, reminded me that healing myself holds the keys to healing the world. Though they may not be here physically, they constantly remind me that the tangible is only one small piece of reality and as long as I keep moving forward I will never be alone.
Infinite love and gratitude to those that paved the way for me to be here now. I will live my best life in your honor.
Raised in Compton/Long Beach, formative years in the Bay
And here you are
Just dancing like a cropfire
Well intentions rebirthed into a shadow
You a flame
Look at you free in any form
On beat without one, keepin on
From underneath the blessed waiver
I feel you
Subtle as a spirit does
Taking any moment you will
It's on me to catch it
And this time,
Slick as intuition is
Creeping over your nose like bathwater
So slick you still cigarette coveted skylight
Still shadow dancing in spilled windowsill moonlight
And still don't answer when I call.
It’s been too long without you.
I got your voicemails Been trying to talk to you I called you back Hello? I’m sure you’re busy been swimmin in star water, gelatinous and cool bet you been two steppin on the big dipper Complainin about your dogs barkin at dusk. Bet you caught the bus all the way from Leo to cancer today just to check out the deals they got at that new shop. Whose rubbin your feet now? Probably got Mars Maroon painted on your toes Forgotten lashes turned the stars I see fall out the sky in the dead of night. HEY did you get my text? My message? Have you tried your operator? All these poems aint goin through, yall should talk about that. Have you tried your operator lately? You must be in a dead zone, let me go outside. Hello? Did you see what I did? How far I’ve come? All the things I’ve done? All these lessons learned too lukewarm without ur coy I told you so. Did you get my message? My prayer? HEY Did you find your charger? Remember your password? Fix the TV? Find your show? Fix your laptop? Find your glasses? Do you still need my help? I know I was too scared once, but I can stop by now if you want. Just need your new address and a ship to fly by in. DO you miss me still? Saw you in my dreams those nights More than a glinting ghost I saw you full body frame before a bedpan I saw you head wrapped smiling eyed perfection. For a while your things sat in the attic like a dropped call, Buzzing busy signal on the other side, I saw you in my dreams waltzing through like a punchline. Hover like a half note. I got your voicemail. How you still laugh the same? How you still honey throat? Chuckle crystals like stardust and ivory teeth. How you still a beast? How I hear your roar when the sky dims? Hear a shaded lid through a dead end Hello?
I miss you. I’m gonna fail writing this without crying by the way haha. Nana, thank you for being so patient with me. Thank you for raising me. Thank you for forcing me to learn Ilokano because you couldn’t speak a lick of English. I’m happy to report that I can put sentences together but it’s still hard for me to just speak fluently. I still understand fluently though and that’s because of you. I wish I got to know more about your past and how you came to Hawaii. All that mom told me was that you owned a tobacco farm in Ilocos and that you and Tata were well off. I wish I knew why you moved to Hawaii. I wish I knew what you did before mom had kids. I felt like I didn’t properly mourn you and I was afraid to go into your room for years after you passed. I’m sorry I was afraid. I’m so blessed to receive your unconditional love and I hope you are proud of who I have become. I hope you’ve reunited with Stanley and Tata and you guys are happy and at peace wherever you are.
my heart still hurts. I constantly have to change my thoughts to distract myself from crying every time I think about you. You were my father...you loved me you disciplined me, you taught me how to be funny, you taught me to listen to good music. No one should ever lose their brother. I saw you as invincible, you were strong. And when you were physically weak you always had the strength to crack a joke. I miss you so much. I wish I spent more time with you and when I found out you went to the hospital I told God or whoever was listening that if you were to live I’d spend more time with you. You were so patient, so understanding, so sweet. I love you. I wish I told you that more. I will say that since you’ve gone the family has become closer, I”ve become closer with Jason. You would’ve loved Carrera. We like to think that you play with her from time to time. So you already know her. She’s so funny like you. Please continue to visit us, guide us, I miss you so much.
lover and fighter