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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Before we begin tonight's program...

Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group
in Wilson's ...they stood shaking while others began to shout
Danspace Project in St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery
(photo: Ian Douglas)

Before we begin tonight’s program...

by Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Hello. My name is Eva Yaa Asantewaa (she/her/hers), and I am a non-disabled, medium-dark-skinned Black cis queer woman writer and editor and curator and counselor and mentor and atheist spiritualist mage of African-Caribbean immigrant heritage and of a certain age. I am certain that age, at this time of reckoning, is nearly 68--now just over fifteen days away. I have almost no hair, having clipped it off, nearly to the scalp, several times during this barber-less pandemic shelter-in-place, and I’m wearing a light layer of drugstore lotion and matte black eyeliner and mascara and a little bit of eyebrow pencil in a dark, greyish brown. I miss wearing dangly earrings and glossy red-brown lipstick; neither pair well with surgical masks. I am coming to you, remotely, from the light clutter of my snug and cave-like home office and also wearing an olive-green t-shirt with an image of Snoopy from Peanuts on it. The shirt is really old, a hand-me-down—maybe I should say “hand-me-over”—from my wife who had cut off the sleeves and neckband and overlapped and sewn the shoulders to make the armholes more fitted and the shirt a bit smaller across the chest, and her stitches are tiny and even. Hello. My name. Snoopy is seated in front of a bulky old computer monitor and surrounded by bits of text from the early days of the Internet (like "alt.schulz" and "FTP sites"), and the two of us--Snoopy and I--are greeting you from unceded and, in fact, stolen Lenni Lenape land just a stone’s throw away from St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery which, like a lot of things on stolen indigenous land, was built and maintained by the labor of African ancestors and where, during services held by the biblical god’s own goodly Christians, these ancestors were relegated to the balcony. I’ve sat up there. In the balcony. No, not back in the day. Though, maybe yes, if you believe in reincarnation. Which I actually think I don’t. But, no. More recently. I’ve watched Ni’Ja Whitson and their dancers from up there, through the posts of the balcony’s railing, as they performed Oba Qween Baba King Baba below for a preview audience of LGBTQIA+ folx like me. I looked down, watching a universe erupt across the warmth of a broad wooden floor. I’ve sat below and looked up, past the railing to watch Reggie Wilson’s troupe dance a passage of ...they stood shaking while others began to shout near stained-glass windows. Woman of African-Caribbean immigrant heritage. Hello. St. Mark’s Church. Among other things. Is a danspace. A constellation of spaces for the arts flickers around here in lower Mannahatta island, with star-spaces in any direction you look--walkable, if you are walking, flyable if you are a crow or a jay, though pigeons and mourning doves seem to rule the territory now. I miss the crows. I miss the jeering jays. I no longer see them or hear their corvid harshness near the trees of St. Mark’s. I am certain of my age and that, someday, I will miss the pigeons and the mourning doves, too. I am certain. This local, time-limited self I have been given pleases me. Like Audre Lorde, I treasure each identity even as I know I am a vast, capacious, timeless spiritual being having a human experience. The specificity of that human experience is the craft. That specificity is the key for the lock. The unique key for any lock, so many locks. What then, hello, if we all think of our bodies as conjurations of the Mighty Dead? So different, then...Hello. My name is...from that idea of reincarnation. Hello...I, in this time, a unique key, turning in so many locks in this time of locks. Before we begin tonight’s program, I want to give an acknowledgement, acknowledging the jays I used to hear and their parental vigilance, and the red-tailed hawks who now hunt Tompkins Square Park and their august strength. I want to acknowledge the grief we humans cause and the grief we carry. I want to acknowledge that pain lives quietly, or not so quietly, inside nearly everything we make and do and, for some of us, it is the lightning bolt and jolt and juice carrying us through to the end of days. I want to acknowledge that breath is work. Hard and worthy work. At this time of reckoning.

(c)2020, Eva Yaa Asantewaa


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve, at Gibney, as Senior Director of Artist Development and Curation and Editorial Director. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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Melinda Goodman said...

Thank you for your beautiful descriptions.

kin ink said...

Yes. Yes. I felt company in reading this. Nodding yes in my heart. Thank you for the keys and locks, the intimate vision of time, of birds and people dancing, the dangling earrings unworn For months. .

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