Del En­fado al Amor

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Kath­leen Charles The Mcgill Daily

Iex­pe­ri­ence my hu­man­ity through the lens of la colom­biana What it means to be a Colom­bian woman Is a truth that holds so much joy yet so much pain, Is a truth that I feel wo­ven in be­tween the let­ters of my name with great care By those who came be­fore me. They wanted my name to stretch through time Long name like long path­ways and se­cret pas­sages to find my way home Long names like there’s no way you could miss my great­ness when I walk into a room Tengo el corazón de la colom­biana I have the heart of la colom­biana Lis­ten as I dance cir­cles around you with the beauty of this lan­guage that is mine Rapid tones ris­ing, fall­ing, flow­ing, fir­ing, siz­zling, drip­ping from my lips Like the hot sum­mer gath­er­ings from the land I now miss The laugh­ter of my cousins and the warmth of our fam­ily The warmth of shared food Food that greeted your every taste bud with vi­cious kisses and gra­cious hugs So you know that you are loved You... be­long some­where... Here. Al­ways. Las noches de Navi­dad, those Colom­bian Christ­mas nights The feel of my grand­mother’s palm on my cheek In­fus­ing her mem­o­ries into me Into my skin She planted A re­silient Latin spirit that never dies Not a Latin spirit of ta­cos, na­chos with a side of chilli cheese fries No, that’s what we sold to you so that’s all you know. My Latin spirit is in the fiery rock of vol­ca­noes and in the stone of tem­ples the world is still try­ing to un­der­stand My Latin spirit is cryptic rhythms hyp­no­tiz­ing the world My Latin spirit is my grand­mother’s bo­som and the sweet words of com­fort rolling, drip­ping from her lips like rain drip­ping from la flor de mayo This cul­ture I carry in my skin, on my tongue, and in my heart has kept me sane Dur­ing times when mi­croag­gres­sions pushed me to the brink of in­san­ity In­san­ity first threat­ened the day my par­ents de­cided They wanted a bet­ter life. Funny how when sun-kissed brown bod­ies seek brighter, bet­ter lives, they move fur­ther from them­selves to be closer to colder, whiter lands. I came here and sud­denly be­came so aware of my brown skin This skin was robbed of its in­no­cence and painted over... the colour: im­mi­grant. They coloured us im­mi­grant « Ar­rête donc ton es­pag­nol! On parle français icitte On parle ben mieux icitte. T’es une im­mi­grante icitte On est meilleur que toi icitte. On veut pas de toi icitte. Mais on a be­soin de toi icitte. S’il vous plait reste icitte mais... prend pas trop de place icitte » Be­fore univer­sity I had a kind of tran­quil­ity A kind of seren­ity I had a kind of bliss­ful placid­ity within the di­ver­sity that coloured my ado­les­cence I was blessed enough to know peo­ple with per­spec­tives from all over the pop­u­lace I had a kind of priv­i­lege of my own. The priv­i­lege of in­no­cence; of know­ing but not re­ally feel­ing your oth­er­ness, your so­cial dis­ad­van­tage be­cause you’re so cod­dled by con­vivial com­mu­nity. My high school hall­ways were dec­o­rated with se­cu­rity guards be­cause poverty is the best fer­til­izer for vi­o­lence. So, my first les­son in high school was that I couldn’t be trusted. Peo­ple like me didn’t get into univer­sity, we got into fights... but we were fam­ily. Most of my fam­ily couldn’t make it here with me so every day I know I have to seize this knowl­edge that is power, so I can give it back to them You know what they say. Give the gift of knowl­edge to a coloured kid and they be­come a threat to a cow­ardly na­tion; a threat to the sta­tus quo. You’ll have opened the Pan­dora’s box that is con­scious­ness and they won’t stop un­til they see jus­tice.

I came here think­ing jus­tice was a given if some­one like me were able to get in But I was im­me­di­ately dis­ap­pointed when I re­al­ized how lit­tle of me there was here How lit­tle of me I could be here How lit­tle I felt here Un­pro­fes­sional, un­re­fined, un­e­d­u­cated. The to­tal op­po­site of the old-white- men por­traits whose eyes haunt the cor­ri­dors of my de­part­ment Re­mind­ing me that they never meant for me to be here. At first, I hid be­hind phony smiles and masks of nor­malcy I wanted to show them that I could be bougie too But deep down the era­sure made me an­gry I never liked bougie peo­ple, be­cause they re­minded me that not ev­ery­one knew what it felt like to open and close your fridge a mil­lion times in one day hop­ing that at some point some un­known black magic would fill it up for you... tak­ing the hunger away. Not ev­ery­one knows the heat from the tears of joy that fill your eyes when your best friend takes you gro­cery shop­ping for Christ­mas... be­cause ain’t that what priv­i­lege is? I never liked bougie peo­ple, but I find my­self se­cretly want­ing to be so free that I don’t even know what free­dom is be­cause I have no cap­tiv­ity in my blood­line, no chains wrapped around my veins, no epi­ge­netic trans­gen­er­a­tional trauma pinned to my name. Every time my feet hit the gravel on these un­ceded lands I’m re­minded of how my body beat every statis­tic that told me that I could never be­long here, Every time a pro­fes­sor dared dis­honor the ex­is­tence of mi­nori­ties to my face in my own learn­ing space, I be­came more con­vinced that I did not be­long here, I be­came so an­gry... I found my­self trem­bling at times. I wanted to tear this cam­pus to the ground. I want to rel­ish in the sound of its de­struc­tion and sweet repa­ra­tion. But sud­denly... some­one came and gave me an even sweeter con­so­la­tion: They told me that anger was sim­ply the lack of love. And their love poured over me, ooz­ing from their be­ing, like the per­sis­tent lava of Colom­bian vol­ca­noes To be seen, un­con­di­tion­ally ac­cepted, and val­i­dated even in our dark­est mo­ments of pain… That’s what love is. Love up­roots you from anger no mat­ter how deep Love makes re­venge seem dis­taste­ful no mat­ter how sweet It may seem in the be­gin­ning, be­cause in the end My im­mi­gra­tion turned ac­tivism was a jour­ney from loss, to love, to anger and back to love again Del en­fado al amor Do things still seem un­fair? Hell yes! Am I go­ing to stop fight­ing for what I be­lieve is right and call­ing peo­ple out on their bull­shit? Hell to the moth­a­fuckin nah! But my fight is now rooted in peace­ful as­sur­ance; a pas­sion plight I will not fight in a way that calls out my op­pres­sor yet de­stroys my well-be­ing in the process.

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