Switcha and Shadows: Part 1

a status update i made on my facebook page reads as follows:

here in the Bahamas we don’t make Lemonade, we make Switcha.

the difference between limes and lemons is minute enough that you could dismiss it as a matter of semantics- but it is there.

and yet the drinks are still so similar in theory and execution- and pretending otherwise does everyone a disservice.

so yes, if you haven’t guessed, this is Part 1 of a #LEMONADE think-piece.  it’s not going to be the most articulate or thought-provoking, as there are far more gifted writers who have already dissected Beyoncé’s newest offering to the media in the form of another surprise-album, with an hour-long narrative visual premiered on HBO.

but i did eagerly watch this newest offering because i liked what i was seeing in Beyoncé’s evolution as an artist and person as of late, and visual storytelling is my shit.  and i will be thinking about this video for a long time to come, so i wanted to write my thoughts down as i’m able to process them.

so first, a disclaimer: i am no member of the BeyHive, and while i quite enjoy a few Beyoncé songs on their own [and make no bones about enjoying Destiny’s Child], as an artist, i never really connected with her to the same extent i did with others.  [i was a rebel child, i didn’t like popular artists, sue me :P].  what i respected about Beyoncé tactic-wise, though, was her command of her own hustle and revealing information about herself through her art, when she deemed appropriate [the wedding ring ‘flash’ in her Single Ladies video remains one of my favorite ‘gotcha!’ moments in recent music video history].

bottom line, she was undeniably talented and media-savvy.  she just wasn’t my cup of tea.

now as a showgirl, and someone who’s had the benefit of age and maturity, i can better appreciate Beyoncé’s need for artifice- the carefully constructed and polished persona of the undisputed Queen Bey.  but if there is an similarity between someone like Beyoncé and someone like myself- is that eventually, artifice gets old, really damn quick.

it’s tiring to live up consistently to the labels society expects of you, without any recourse to actually express yourself honestly, without fear of backlash, ridicule- or worse, a lack of sympathy- for any ‘negative’ emotion.

[this is something i’m retraining my brain on, to remember that celebrities are still people and are allowed to have the veneer crack].

and even someone like Beyoncé is not untouchable.  she’s not leading a perfect life despite her celebrity status, and she didn’t come from a truly idyllic home.  and she is still- despite people suddenly being surprised by this fact- a Black Woman in America.

it basically means that the pedestal she’s been placed upon [and one can argue whether it was her own doing or not] is dangerously high.  and to me, Beyoncé has been leading up to her leap from that peak for a damn long time.  her self-titled album was your first *obvious* clue, but i would like to argue that it’s been happening from her time in Destiny’s Child back in ’99.

which brings me to seeing LEMONADE as a wake-up to herself, to her fans, to Black women all over- that the era of the Black Artifice is done with.

we’ve seen this cultural awakening for a while now.  the Glo-Up.  Black Girl Magic.  whatever way you want to dress it up.  where we as Black Women [no matter or origin, creed or circumstances] are now embracing ourselves and connecting with our Sisters.  but sometimes i feel like the movement is still sanitized and too pretty [it’s easier to consume in the media, for sure].  we are never allowed to be shown as capable of feeling rage, vengefulness, spite, cockiness, etc. for fear of falling into the Angry Black Woman trope.  and we know for a fact that this is rarely a side of Beyoncé we see in her music [she’s been rage-filled before, but it’s often again under that too-perfect veneer of the triumphant victor, not the in-the-moment searing hot fury], which is why i guess the film still remains divisive- or at most, as hot-button gossip tabloid fodder.

but regardless of how you choose to view the narrative of LEMONADE- as a chronicle of overcoming infidelity, a generational commentary of the state of Black Lives, or anything else, let me assure you of one thing: if you think you found the *definitive* synopsis, you’ve only found *one* interpretation.

but regardless, Beyoncé had some shit to work out [the artist is always present in the art].  i can only imagine how cathartic this process must have been for her.

one of the things that i have been studying as my magical journey progresses, is the concept of Shadow Work, or Shadow Integration.  the accepting of our shadows- the primal, dark, ‘not fit for society’ parts of ourselves, and wholly working it into the core of our being… instead of hiding it in a box and denying its existence and its effect in our lives.

essentially, in order to step into the light, you have to confront the darkness.

the pain, the rage, the lust, the pride, the despair.  all of it.

and then most importantly- you have to work through it and use the lessons acquired to grow and heal.  you take those experiences and you let them ride its course, sure- but you don’t allow them to imprison you any longer in fear.  instead, you choose to walk forward and live and love more fully in the live you have made for yourself.

you are, essentially, taking lemons and making them into lemonade.

so make no mistake- LEMONADE is about a lot of things, sure, but it’s absolutely imperative that you do not allow your own opinions about Beyoncé’s *worthiness* as a feminist icon or role model for your daughters stop you from actually sitting with yourself and hearing/seeing everything- i mean EVERYTHING- that the visual album presents to you.  this is not a project to listen to piecemeal and expect that to give you the answers you are seeking- the songs at the beginning are rough, angry, visceral but are NOT the summation of the project [and in fact, neither are the gentler, unifying songs at the end either].  but they are still important pieces of the equation.

you don’t get lemonade without the lemons or the sugar or the water.

you don’t foster acceptance of the self without embracing what makes you human as well as otherworldly.

LEMONADE is Shadow Integration in a deliciously raw yet engrossing visual display that i didn’t think i needed to see- but my thirsty soul is glad for it.

but i’m not done with this topic- part 2 is incoming 🙂

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Two Months, A Fool

a lot can happen in two months, huh?

  1. i got a job!  it took a while of feeling some internal despair, but i finally  am back in the bahamian workforce.  i’m working as a walking tour guide for a company here in town, helping our visitors obtain a different viewpoint of the Bahamas instead of just pretty beaches [although let’s be real, that’s a big and valid draw].  the added touch to this tour is that i get to tell visitors amazing stories about our culture and history, while they get to enjoy some local cuisine and BOOZE [because they are advertised as beer and rum tours!].  the job is very taxing, in the sense that i do put out a lot of energy throughout each tour, and feel quite drained afterwards.  but it’s the good kind of draining, in the sense that storytelling is something that i do enjoy doing, and it comes naturally to me, so i don’t mind ending my day and feeling like i got hit by a truck, haha.
  2. i turned 27! it was probably the most ‘normal’ birthday i’ve ever celebrated, as the 22nd of February was when i started my job.  but it was still a good day.  i received a lot of love from people i haven’t seen in years, and from my beloved second family in Vancouver, as well.  it was a humbling experience to be away from social media for the day [because work] and then coming home to hundreds of messages.  at that point mentally i had more or less come to terms with the very-possible permanence of my situation here in Nassau, so to see the manifestation of those 6 years of bond-forming in another land result in such an outpouring of support was really, really special.
  3. i booked my first gig! or more accurately, i created my first gig!  while watching the local news with my parents i noticed a story featuring a local talent show, and its founder was talking about its plans for a second iteration.  i managed to locate him on FB and inquire about having a showgirl in the mix, which he readily accepted- in fact, he went as far as to propose an entirely new show concept as more of an ‘after party’ for adult audiences- but it would feature ME as the headliner~ i’ve even done the graphic design work for the poster/tickets, because well why wouldn’t i *wink*

    AF_AndrosiaPromo

    not bad, right?

  4. i have made friends! i have reconnected with old!  i have made the resolution to not give a fuck anymore about what people think of me, and i’m -slowly- being more honest with people about the magical side of me, the witch i have cultivated in silence and secrecy.  i’m not quite yet in a position where i can blare that truth from the rooftops- i do still reside with my Christian parents, and i remain respectful of their beliefs by not taking a hammer to the facade and shattering it completely.  but i continue my studies and have even made friends with people here in town that believe like i do in the esoteric.  a welcome surprise to be sure!
  5. i have renewed hope- and that is where The Fool comes in.  i’m still keeping up with my daily tarot draws courtesy of the Galaxy Tarot app on my phone, and today’s card is The Fool.  it’s the beginning of a journey, an experience, or an opportunity- and more importantly, it’s the knowledge that anything and everything is possible, so long as you have the courage to take that first step.

    today is also the day that my husband submitted his permanent residency application, after receiving the CIC nomination nearly two months ago.

    obviously i’m sweating bullets over here.  the last two months have been spent with the two of us making a mad dash on opposite sides of the continent, trying to secure all the documentation and funds that we needed within the time limit.  there were a lot of hiccups and frustration, and a lot of logistical planning.  but amazingly- amazingly- things fell into place.  our parents stepped up to help wherever they could, and friends and family-friends offered assistance in remarkable ways.  angels have swooped down in our last, dark hours and literally pulled our asses out of the fire.  today, we have been able to submit everything with precious few days to spare, and in the best circumstances possible- with both of us holding a job so that we can start to build the foundation to a future where either he returns to me or i return to him- either way, what bliss ❤

What Does It Mean?

… to be a Bahamian? to be a woman from this land?

when i take in the sights and sounds and smells that i feel that i have only imagined instead, i find myself asking a lot of questions.  maybe it’s just the saltwater in head.

but hear me out.

what does it mean when i walk these steps upon this land, reunited with my home but still a foreigner, blindly searching for the footsteps of those who were here before? my mind drifts.  those lone-gone Lucayan women, barebacked and cherished, comfortable in their world and in the power they may have wielded?  who were their witches, their sacred women?  who kept their world’s mysteries so securely that it is now all but lost?

conversely what does it mean to be a woman in her own power in this era, feeling this power within her bones grow stronger with each passing day?  what does it mean to harness the strange and feral and familiar electricity that flows like water and burns like fire?  i have learned to embrace my femininity, but i have weaponized it in turn.  i can enchant, i can charm, i can curse in equal measure.  what will it take to leave myself truly vulnerable to my femininity, instead?  to feel so deeply it reduces me to ashes and allows me to rise, to become something else.  is it worth it here?  in a place that doesn’t understand or appreciate our own history, let alone the actions one must take to seek what i feel burning a hole into my heart with each breath?

how can i take those two sides and unite them?  how can i remember what was so forcibly removed, and reconcile it with my world in a way that is innocent and explorative, but not patronizing or condescending?

the lost Lucayan, the returning Bahamian.

island witchery and obeah, womanhood worship, that forbidden exploration into the lost annals of our country’s history, and perhaps the meeting of ideologies that fly in the face of established doctrine.

burlesque, and its showmanship, its place in the feminist revolution, giving strength and voice and nuance where the world has been conditioned to see something else- just sexiness without purpose.

dancing without abandon.  returning to and reuniting with the arts long lost in a way that stirs deep with the soul, both transformative and harrowing.

i don’t know what it means, but i think i’m onto something.

The Hopeful Star

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The Star from the Shadowscapes Tarot deck, painted by Stephanie Pui-Min Law.  i could wax poetic about this deck for millenia…

my first inclination towards the magical life was my fascination with tarot cards and their usage in divination.  it started off as wanting to learn how they worked [as i still harbour plans to create my own working deck, and simply drawing pretty pictures without understanding is not particularly interesting to me], but very quickly became an awakened fondness for these pack of cards and what answers one can glean from their dazzling pictures.  it does so happen that i own two physical decks and i do greatly enjoy learning their individual intricacies.

 

but a quick fix, i turn to the Galaxy Tarot app on my phone.  there’s certainly no reason why a digital app shouldn’t be any more powerful or potent than one i can hold in my hands, and so I use the app to give me a Card of the Day, which i then jot down in my daily planner before i go about my daily business [even if that business is snoozing in my living room while my birds chirp to themselves!].  while i continue to get my bearings in my home, it’s a small act that i do for myself, to stay connected to the side of myself that is wilder and more in tune with life’s larger magic than what i can freely express while i’m here.  i’m still learning that side of myself!

it’s today’s card that prompts this entry.  The Star.

i’ve done a commissioned illustration for a client before with this card. so it’s one i know the meaning of very well.  it’s one of the nicest cards in a traditional Tarot deck, as its keyword is Hope, or Encouragement.  i also like it because of the card it follows [as the Major Arcana illustrate a Journey, when taken in sequence].  it follows the chaos and turmoil of the Tower before it,  and therefore signals that the Querent is open to a gentle and transformative healing process of the spirit.  this card helps to facilitate a step forward into the light, with the trust in a higher power that all will indeed be well.

in reverse, the card may mean that you are still stuck in the Tower’s shadow, and are waiting for a sign to proceed to higher ground, [or to the Messiah you seek, as the Wise Men looked for- for my more Biblically-minded readers *smile*].  or depending on the deck’s interpretation- perhaps you are taking the wrong path to your intended destination, and this card acts as the gentle voice saying ‘hey! wrong way!’.  or gentler, still,  ‘this is just a setback, i promise you’.

it’s easy to extrapolate your own associations with a Tarot reading, especially with only one card presented to you [the more cards introduced, the more nuanced a reading you can obtain- or perhaps it’ll just muddy the waters further!].  i think that is why Tarot is so universally powerful- something will connect with you!   so i can’t really say that i don’t see this card, the Star, mirrored in my life right now.  it’s very apt, and encouraging.  and scary.

why scary?  because things do look very dim right now.  the Star is not the Moon [which gives out a lot more light and is closer, yet secretive in nature], nor is it the Sun [which is MUCH stronger and brighter, but with its own dangers of being over-powering].  maybe this is just the signal of the setback we had come to expect.   i do not feel as Hopeful today, but this is only one day, and there are always more days ahead.  the minute we give in to that despair and lose that sense of Hope- then what do i have but a stumble through the dark?

huh.  writing that out helped out more than i thought it would 🙂

Living in Paradise [Island]

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the view from one of New Providence’s connecting bridges- AKA my daily commute home.

well… i’m here.  a frantic weekend of goodbyes, packing and serious tears shed [loneliness, remembrance, mourning], two early-morning flights and some serious lack of sleep, i’ve returned to the country of my birth, the Bahamas.  my parents were overjoyed at my return, of course, and i was also glad to be able to see them, as it has been a while since i last saw them [SKype convos don’t really count, after all].

there is a lot that has changed in Nassau.  the national airport looks beautiful and far more professional than the extremely dated version i have in my memories [trust me folks, it was bad!].  there are new roads, and new pockets of construction all over.  familiar restaurants that i just assumed would be around forever- suddenly are not there anymore.  a few have been replaced, but many just sit empty, derelict.  a faded memory of what was once there.

there is a lot that is familiar too, even if the coats of paint suggest otherwise.  political pundits still thrive on the radio airwaves [and more importantly, people still use the radio here!]. for every familiar sight now long gone, there are many that still remain standing, unchanging.  and my childhood home is still cozy and familiar- even with the obvious lifestyle changes my parents have made now that their kids are grown.  my darling lovebirds are still darling.  the area is still quiet and peaceful- until someone gets overzealous on the long strip of road and decides it’s prime time to test out their bitchin’ new engine, of course.  the food and drink is still delicious.  and my parents are still the funny, caring and awesome people that i’ve always known.  falling back into a steady, joking rapport with them is painless, and though i still am testing the waters about how i can talk around them [after all, i am married now], nothing feels forced or out of place.

it is truly a surreal experience, being home, and i am grateful that my family has not paraded me around town so that i have to play catch-up with a whole bunch of people- i stayed indoors for a lot of the day and basically worked at my own pace.  but in the moments like now that i am alone, my parents now slumbering and i have the house to myself, i still close my eyes and feel the hole in my heart that persists the longer that i am absent from my  husband, and the family of friends that i have made.  i got to hear his voice again, but it’s not the same as being able to wrap my arms around him and watch as he works, or having him join me in bed with a story from reddit to make me laugh before we settle in to sleep.

this is something i never want to get used to- his absence.  it’s only made the resolve to get back to him all the stronger.