Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Back from Ghana -- Obama on Tap

I have just returned from a week in Ghana, West Africa, where the warmth and humidity cleared up my eczema and provided me with much to reflect upon. Upcoming blogs will speak to this more. Everywhere I went, Ghanaians let me know how excited they are about Obama. They still have billboards up welcoming him for his visit months ago. But now, I am back in the cold and quite sad about the man, President Obama, who is scheduled to give his State of the Union address this evening. Like many, I was stunned at the outcome of the Massachusetts election (the British version of CNN delivered the info to us in Ghana), and am sure Edward Kennedy has been fitful in his grave ever since. The sadness I feel, hearing about Obama's pivot to curtail spending, is essentially that he seems to go with the wind, or to use an analogy from my field of therapy, he goes around trying to put out little fires everywhere, but doesn't stake himself with a fundamental position that underlies the ignitions. As Bob Herbert speaks to his op ed column,, it's hard to know who Obama is when he turns this way and that. I remember that Max Robinson, a former nightly news reporter for ABC many years ago, and the brother of Randall Robinson, once said as his health was waning, and I'm paraphrasing here, that at the end of the day, he would have his integrity.

I believe that Barack Obama is an extraordinary man. And yet, more and more, he looks like the same old political panderer, though clearly an intellectually well endowed one. During his campaign when I had not an inch of thought that he could win, my daughter kept bringing on her faith that he could. My mother kept saying, "they're going to get (kill) him," and my son has all along offered skepticism, saying that Obama is in bed with the same old corporations and financial folks as his predecessors. If Obama means what he said in his interview with Diane Sawyer, about not being focused on re-election but on being a good one-term President, then I say to him stake a position, stay with it, elaborate it, fight for it -- go down with it, if need be. At least then, I and perhaps others will feel that you truly stand for something, that you are authentically trying to take us somewhere new, that you care enough to commit. No matter what happens, if Obama can do this, then I will feel lifted by his integrity and courage. I do not walk in his moccasins and so I can't know what it's like, but I want my voice to be one of encouragement and inspiration. Admittedly, there is some judgment too, though I have no right to it. I'm with Max Robinson, integrity is peace of mind and nothing is more valuable than that. Come on Obama, take it to the hoop!

Picture courtesy of fan-pop

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti on my Mind and Heart

As the world turns its eyes and humanity to the devastation in Haiti, I pray that out of this exacerbation of the suffering that country has endured, something spectacular and unimaginable will eventually manifest -- on the scale of their birth as an independent nation. Haiti is the only Caribbean country to obtain their independence through militarily defeat of their colonizers, the French, in this case. Touissant L'Ouverture led their victory. My uncle and cousin are named after him. And what a tremendous price Haiti has paid! It is no coincidence that they are the poorest country in that part of the world. They have been made to pay.

The average person in the developing world is immensely ignorant of the history and traditional religion of Haiti. I'm reminded of what pianist Eubie Blake said once about the fact that we don't know anything about Paul Revere's horse, only about Paul Revere, because he, not the horse, told the story. In his book, Quitting America,Randall Robinson, former head of TransAfrica, an organization that spear-headed the divestiture movement against S. Africa, gives an informed, little known history of Haiti and the role of the U.S. and Europe in its destabilization and poverty. I learned a great deal from him.

Vodou, a religion observed by significant numbers of Haitians, has been demonized by the Pat Robertsons of the world, and ridiculed by many of the intelligent folks of the world. I present as evidence the term 'vodoo economics' used by highly educated folks who get op-ed space in the New York Times. I try to imagine the term 'christian economics' with the same meaning ascribed to 'vodoo economics' and I can not get a shred of visual traction.

As many of us send money through various organizations to assist in the recovery, let's also pray that water, at the very least, arrives within hours. Two days in the Caribbean heat without water...I can't even imagine one dry day. Clean water for the Haitians, and miracles by the moment, I ask.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Zumba Class -- Dance and the Legacy of the Enslaved

Abstaining from work this past weekend, I took myself to a Zumba class. I'd only been to a couple of these classes, but was pleased to see a different teacher. Pat, a mature, well toned woman with bleached blonde hair and a somewhat gritty style worked better for me than the ingenue who seemed on the silly side. Plus, this teacher gave us some info on the dances, which shifted when the music did.

Dancing to salsa music is relatively new to me. My dance history is tied up with live African drumming and styles from African, to Afican-Brazilian, and African-Caribbean. But salsa music brings the same invocation to move in joy, to be in and alongside the rhythm, to let hips roll free, everything in communion with the beat. Dancing makes me smile, and when I can go fully into the movement, claim it, I am in endorphin city. When the cha cha music came on, Push Push (I've got to get it), I got head on in it, switching back and forth between the cha cha beat and the half steps I learned to throw in there, doubling the steps. "I was killing it," I later told my girlfriend, still riding the high from the class.

Dancing is therapeutic, and yet the therapy field offers little recognition of this.

Pat, who shared that she is half Latino, with a Puerto Rican father, taught a dance I'd never heard of -- Cumbia -- from Columbia. She related that it is believed to have come from those enslaved (a term that avoids the objectification of slaves). You generally move only one leg, the one that is not shackled, or so the story goes, and the arm movement is one of cutting chaff in the fields. Imagine. I had to touch the floor with both hands, when the dance ended, as I do before the drummers at other classes, signifying my gratitude and reverence for their contribution.

What a legacy my enslaved ancestors have bestowed. Dance dance dance -- however, whenever you can!

Photo by thandiwe