hey there, reader,
i hope that U have been taking care, and that the arrival of a new year has treated U with grace and ease! i was lucky enough to enjoy the splendor of a tequila sunrise and a tight hug from my best friend Charlie at the stroke of midnight since they blessedly came into town to visit me. after they left, i started my first-ever consulting gig where i'm creating a curriculum on abolitionist & Black feminist interpretations/implementations of the liberation health model. i'm in disbelief that the month is almost over, but i'm getting settled into my routine at my own pace and feeling more capable of approaching other interests of mine. several of my intentions for 2022 relate to writing, so i spent some time digging through my personal archives for inspiration this month, and i found this serendipitous New Year's gem from fourth grade:
image description: a picture of a handwritten essay. in the top left hand corner is "P.S. 279, 4-305." in the right hand corner is my name without the accent (Dkeama) and the date (1/3/05).
the essay reads: "New Year's Eve is the last day of the calendar year, December 31 in the Gregorian calendar. Since most of the world uses this calendar, New Year's Eve is celebrated around the world. Celebrations on this night include going to parties or gathering in public places. One pf the most famous gatherings occur at Times Square in New York City, at 112:59 pm, a six foot ball (actually an apple) is lowered 70 feet in sixty seconds. When the ball reaches its destination at midnight, bells ring, confetti is tossed, and everyone shouts "Happy New Year!"
Traditional New Year foods are thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck because it symbolizes "coming full circle" completing a years cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune. Other traditions of the holiday include making New Year's resolutions. Popular resolutions include the promise to lose weight or stop smoking. My resolution is to stop being so nosy because when i was on the Internet, i was looking at spam."
(the last sentence cracks me up because it immediately raises the titillating question "what kind of spam?," but i digress!) three months after i submitted this essay, my parents and i moved to Georgia to start life anew. now that i've been living in Georgia again as an adult for nearly three months, i am feeling embraced by the auspices of coming full circle. the rest of 2022 stretches ahead of me and i am certain that i will be unfurling into my creative talents, but feelings of hesitation still find me. as a child, an empty page only presented a canvas of infinite possibility, but as an adult, a seed of self-doubt can instantaneously germinate into a plant whose roots immobilize me from putting any words down. that's why i dug through my personal archives to set the tone for my year. it always helps me to remember what it was like to create without shame.
my dear friend Ingrid also helped me get my mind right for the year by sending me a post from @womanofrivers on Instagram, wherein she discusses the tarot-based numerology for 2022. calculated by adding up all the digits of the year, 2022 is a 6 year, which is associated with The Lovers card. for Lauren, this card is less about romantic unions and more about "self love, self acceptance, wholeness, [and] integration as a foundation for how we show up and say yes to giving and receiving love in our communities."
she ends her reading with a card from Grandma Baby Apothecary's Black Gold Lenormand deck that features Psalm 77:6: "I call to remembrance my song in the night; i commune with mine own heart and my spirit makes diligent search." it was precisely the prompt i needed to find the delight and music in my uncertain moments; should i need guidance, my heart will lead me.
i started this year telling myself that i wanted to be a more disciplined writer, but i much prefer the word "diligent." after looking into both their etymologies, "discipline" is nothing without punishment or self-flagellation, whereas "diligence" comes from a space of love and care. feelings of inferiority or the pressures to create in accordance with the urgent speed of capitalism are meant to prevent me from facing my work, so in this new year, i promise to approach my writing practice with more kindness, patience, and attentive dedication.
image description: the etymology trees for "discipline" and "diligent." the etymology tree for discipline starts with the Latin disciplus, which then turned into the Lain disciplina, meaning "instruction, knowledge." through Old French and English, it became the word disciple, which then turned into discipline, meaning "mortification by scourging oneself." the etymology tree for "diligent" starts with the Latin diligere, meaning "love, take delight in." this turned into the Latin words diligens/diligent-, meaning "assiduous." through Old French, this turned into "diligent."
images from Google
as a writer, i enjoy exploring the history and context for words, and as a spiritual person, i believe that words are spells. over time, it's become increasingly apparent to me how much white European influence finds its way into our language for the cosmos. for example, the Romans named the visible planets after their gods and we still use those same names today, but have U ever wondered what Indigenous people across the globe with their own religions and spiritual systems might have called the planets at that time?
ad fontes (Latin for "back to the sources") was the Renaissance-era motto that described the return to classical Greco-Roman mythologies to underpin the spiritual, artistic, philosophical, political, and scientific production of the time. the Renaissance ushered in the invention of the Gregorian calendar, which grew to become the world's foremost temporality because of colonial exploration during the "Age of Discovery." the Gregorian calendar starts with January, named for the two-faced Roman god Janus who presides over passages, doorways, and gates. he is typically depicted with two faces because he could peer into both past and future; his worshippers also believed he ruled the transitional space between opposite states: beginnings and endings, war and peace, barbarism and civilization.
image description: the two-faced Roman god Janus sits on a pedestal. he wears a fabric over his lower half which is partially draped over his arm. he holds a long scepter in one hand and a key in the other. the image caption reads: "FIG 42 -- Janus."
image from Google Images
in the text "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom," Sylvia Wynter casts the gatekeeping deity as the dichotomous emblem of Mignolo's theory of "'colonial difference,' on which the world of modernity was to institute itself," highlighting how Renaissance-era re-articulations of humanity were cemented through "African enslavement, Latin American conquest, and Asian subjugation." i chose ad fontes as the title for this newsletter issue to highlight and critique the imposition of Greco-Roman ethnoastronomical logic upon Black and Indigenous embodied realities and ways of knowing. each time we ring in a new (Gregorian) year, we unintentionally name how linear constructions of time are predicated upon relegating the most oppressed to a discrete, irretrievable past so that the powerful can dictate the terms of the future.
i'm thinking about this especially in the context of pandemics. the devastation wrought from the bubonic plague ("Black Death") centuries ago was a large factor in shifting social conditions to make the Renaissance possible, but not without instituting chattel slavery and Indigenous genocide to stabilize white society. similarly, the Roaring Twenties emerged as the transitional period between the 1918 Flu and the Great Depression. this liminal ground gave us cinema, jazz, and the Harlem Renaissance, all alongside mounting anti-Black violence (especially through the prominence of the KKK) and global capitalist production during the 1920s. now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Western hegemonic powers hurtle towards an age of hypermodernity through the ever-enmeshing industries of technology and war. meanwhile Black and Indigenous people continue to die first, fastest, and with the least dignity because of medical apartheid, displacement, climate disasters, and manufactured crises. i worry about the years to come because the road to "modernity" is typically paved with the corpses of the colonized.
with my new year, i will continue interrogating the ways anti-Black and anti-Indigenous standards impede my ability to live out my revolutionary purpose, especially when it comes to writing. i've written before about feeling unsure of how i might "take the time to fashion revolutionary selves, revolutionary lives, [and] revolutionary relationships," but i'm certain now that my pen will be my entry point. i don't want to "simply [create] art for arts sake, or [write] for the sake of writing," but i want to "uphold the notion that culture indeed can be a powerful weapon, as Amilcar Cabral and Nikki Giovanni and Robin D.G. Kelley and Amiri Baraka and Audre Lorde and many revolutionaries before us have said." (Devyn Springer, "Cultural Worker, Not a 'Creative.'")
the name for my overall newsletter is inspired by Cabral's collection of speeches Return to the Source. as i drafted this month's issue, i spent some time with the New Year's Message he delivered weeks before his assassination on January 20th, 1973. in this statement, Cabral "analyses what progress has been made and the nature of the struggle yet to come," orienting his vision on both past and future like January's namesake, but in a fashion that threatens (and doesn't stabilize) the global imperial order:
"Our attention and the best of our energy and effort must be devoted to the armed struggle, to war, to concrete action by both our local and our national armed forces. We must also, in 1973, set in motion all our human and material capability and ability in order to inject even greater intensity into the struggle on all fronts and extract the greatest profit from men, arms and the experience we have, thereby to inflict even greater blows on the colonialist enemy by destroying an even larger number of their living forces."
this type of energy is what i hope all Black people throughout the diaspora can infuse in our crafts in the upcoming years as the State rushes to rebirth itself on the graves of our fallen. don't get me wrong, i'm in no shape to take up armed struggle anytime soon, but Cabral's speech is a powerful reminder that only we can lay waste to the gatekeepers blocking us from the liveable futures we deserve. our Sources flow from the spirit of revolt, so may we continually "make diligent search" of our revolutionary purpose until the current carries us home.
until next time,