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Thursday

Venezuela: Potentially Part 1

WARNING: Sometimes I gotta apologize to y'all. I'm verbose by nature. & I know I have a tendency to just go on wit' mine. But I have had A LOT of people asking about my trip to Venezuela. If you could give less than a dayumb about my trip, now's the time for you to cut & run. No hard feelings. If you're 1 of those people that's been pressin' me, here it is.

Today marks an exact month since my return from Venezuela. Since my return I’ve struggled to pull my words together to relay my experience. There was no need to give a day-by-day blow-by-blow kind of story. I’ve been trying to figure out which picture I was going to paint & on what canvas. I saw so much, though probably very little in the grand scheme of things. I needed time to process what I saw, what I heard & smelled. I needed time to savor some of what I tasted & rebuke other things. & I needed time to ensure that however I put these words together didn’t paint the wrong picture. It’s MY experience, not necessarily that of the other 5 women with me & I’m not all the way clear on MY experience.

No matter where I am in the world—as though I’ve traveled it extensively—I look at things from a Brown Girl perspective. This doesn’t mean that I make the assumption that we all live the same Life but that I approach the world as a black woman & what that means to Me. Having said that, it was nice to go somewhere else & discover that there are familiar faces everywhere. The children look like children, not that you know, but that could be found on your block or blocks you’ve walked. No prostitute.



I don’t really know where this is going to go, because structuring it up to this point has not worked. Forgive me now if it seems tangential (loogidup), though you may feel like I frequently am anyway.

When we 1st arrived in Caracas, in walking distance from our hotel was the hotel hosting the Conference on African Descendants. Day 2, we were present for some of the symposiums, including the lunch break. As a group of 6 we took up most of a table & had room to spare for a few people who knew my girl, who was our guide, from her previous stint in Venezuela. I honestly don’t remember where our conversation began but a woman sitting next to me said, “the face of poverty in the WORLD is a black woman with children.” DAYUMB!! Sit with that a moment. Say it & let spread across your tongue & see if it’s as thick for you to swallow as it was for me. Turn it over in your mind. Does it cause you pain?

The statement felt…true. & the truth of it sucka punched me in my gut as I ate a fairly well-prepared catered lunch. 1 thing that stood WAY OUT to me from the moment we came out of the airport was the poverty. Looking at the hills across from the airport was a community straight out of the City of God. It was beautiful in all its colorful Lego®-like stacked cube-isms. It was Tetris® played with houses. I was struck most immediately how beautiful it was from a far, literally & figuratively. The hills were not directly across the street, clearly requiring travel to get to, & it’s thankfully not my reality. But who lives there? People who look just like me. Women who like me. With children who--you guessed it--look like me. I thought back to home & considered what poverty looks like. Ride through any project & you’ll see 3 things the most: the elderly (mostly women), young black males, & black women. The young black males are often the children of the black women & the women tend to be the children of the elderly. Those elderly women have been in that same project, or transplanted from some other, raising the other 2 generations previously mentioned. & notice the adult black male wasn’t mentioned.

A little over 24 hours in this Latin American country & I was being challenged to consider “my” place in the WORLD. Based on who I am, that makes sense. I accepted it. So, like I said, I approach the world from a Brownin perspective. I was already told what that means globally but I felt my eye become more & more keen, paying attention to the Brownins native to those parts. Still at the table over this same meal, somehow the images we were seeing became a part of the conversation. We’d all kinda taken notice of the “look” of the women in Caracas. Most of the women were curvy, if not overweight. Spandex must be the national fabric & leggings or rompers the female uniform. The women with lighter complexions all seemed drawn to blond dye jobs & some straightening technique. Women who would be classified as brown were mostly sporting the wet look. I could very well have just been on the outside of a standard of beauty chosen & agreed upon by the people. At the table, with the woman who made the aforementioned comment, her perspective was that these women made their style choices from a place of poor self-image.

This is not an assumption I wish to take on tour. I challenged myself over the course of the next 7 days to look through a different lens. After all, there was a conference happening as a result of a push for those who are descendants of Africans to proudly & rightfully claim such heritage. We’re all well aware that it ain’t popular too many places in the world to be black, so… Leaving Caracas did a great deal to help ease my dis-ease with the idea that we just don’t feel ALLAWAY good about ourselves anywhere. Maybe that’s not it. Perhaps it’s that others don’t feel ALLAWAY good about us anywhere. Or it could be none of that. In the small towns of La Sabana, Curiepe, & Rio Chico, we stayed with & around people who were more accepting of saying the words, claiming their heritage. However, they still wore the uniform the women in Caracas wore, & going out of their way to prove their hair was wavy or could achieve that quality.

We keep trying to convince ourselves that hair doesn’t say anything about us, but EVERYTHING does. Me being scalped says something about how I feel about Me, how comfortable I am in my own skin, how much I LOVE ME. When I put on something skin tight, for me, it means that I’m feeling my SELF. I’ve actually gone out of my way to make sure I don’t do tight in situations where I’m expecting a heavy male presence, lest they think it was done to attract their attention. But that’s unique. Most women on a Friday night callin up lyrics to “Tight Up Skirt” have spent time & effort coming up with that look solely for attention. When I put on sweats it says I’m about comfort or taking care of business, or that I don’t care. How we present DOES send a message. The message you thought you were sending vs the 1 received are often not the same, but many times they are unless you make VERY CONSCIOUS decisions about everything. Unfortunately, many of us either don’t make conscious decisions or the consciousness we work from is…not conducive to ensuring that the message transmitted is positive or that you can handle the misconceptions that'll surely be coming your way.

Tangential yet? It all relates, I promise, but I may not be able to make it a snake biting its tail. #circles

The spandex everything & the Wet n Wild look of all the women made me wonder what collective consciousness they work from. It made me wonder if they were even aware of it as old women in thongs & leggings sat next to their daughters in thongs & leggings, concentrated arse EVERYWHERE. With my girl we tossed around whether this #fuggit sense of style was a testament to an elevated sense of self & them having no qualms about their bodies. Could be. I also wondered what happened to standards & can we get those back? WHY do I have to see your underwear? Why do I have to see your every roll & dimple through thinly spread lycra spandex pants? I wondered which 1 of us is more slave, me or them? Or all of us just out here doing the best we can & this country’s best is the romper made of various fabrics?

This is long. & I don’t think I’ve successfully shared Venezuela. As I stated earlier, I don’t really know that I can. The experience may just rest near to my heart & any phlegm left in my lungs from the upper respiratory infection I got on the trip. The trip did leave me feeling even more that Beyonce is dangerous. The image she sells, IMO, further perpetuates this desire to be something other than we are. It says that it’s not OK to live as yourself. Many don’t understand why I feel this way, & I’ve addressed it repeatedly, not trying to convince anyone to agree. I’on’tknow. I may be too sensitive, too deeply indoctrinated in Nationalist & Pan-Africanist fundamentals (see me winkin at you B.B.?) but I AM CONCERNED about who Brownins are in our own hearts & in the hearts of those who look at us. It might be an improvement. If the woman at lunch was right, as it stands now, we are looked down on. & that hurts me.

Watch me move.

2 comments:

  1. Aweez,

    I'm torn about this, you know six on one side half a dozen on the other. I didn't have the pleasure of seeing this for myself so I'm living it through your words and comparing it to my Brazilian experience. In my mind Black women are viewed two ways and they're always the extremes hyper sexualized quasi faux european and bottom of the shoe broke. There is no in between for the Browns. If we aren't one we're the other but in reality those extremes are not the truth. Normally we're neither except when we are one...see the problem.

    To some degree we've all been sold some brand of Black and to some degree we've bought it. Kind of just depends on your vantage point. The Buppies in their quest to fit in Beyonce'd themselves and further perpetuate that to succeed this way is the key. They're two steps from the bottom of the shoe and the bottom of the shoe folks know that but they also see "success" comes to those who conform to the utmost extreme. With their meager resources they attempt that same "style" if you will. And thus the cycle remains and we've brought into outsiders brand of Black.

    On the other hand I say when are we, Black folk, going to take responsibility for our own actions and the part we play in the hootenanny and shenanigans. At some point are we not to blame for failing to instill in our children a sense of pride for who they are regardless of fitting into the brand of Black being sold. Beyonce didn't teach me to love Faith, my momma did. Before any other man told me I was beautiful my daddy did, despite his major short comings.

    Maybe that is the hammer hitting the nail on the head tho, outsiders had a vested interest in dismantling the Black family. Recognizing that we should work doubly hard to repair and regain what we lost. Are their roadblocks in our way, hell yeah and each one of them probably ends with an "ism" but walls can be knocked down (as I type that I had an imagine of the Women of Brewster Place).

    I want everyone to think of Browns with a smile the way I think of us. Brown women (I'm including all chicks of color in this sphere here) are some of the most creative, beautiful, loving, dynamic, resourceful, smart etc etc etc people I know and that's what I want folk to think about when they see us....we have a long road ...I've rambled. Probably well off the topic but that's how I felt after reading...I'm still torn.

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  2. I completely understand ALL of what you said. I think the piece about black women with children being the face of poverty is that many of us ARE impoverished with children, but more than that is the PERCEPTION OF US is that we are the face of poverty. We are fortunate in our own dealings, the cities we live in, the parts of those cities & who we come in contact with on a regular basis paints a far more romantic picture of what the country looks like. Poverty is major in the COUNTRY. In the U.S., we get to be the face of poverty because white people are quick to disown their cast aways. Those backwoods, inbreeding, barefoot & beagle owning cousins in the leanto out in West Va--ain't nobody claimin' them. They may as well not exist.

    We collectively have A LOT of work to do to come out from under the affects of PTSD (post traumatic slave disorder). People act like it's some nonsense but brainwashing at this point is damn near DNA deep. Generations have come up under some real stinkin' thinkin' & perpetuate it in their families without question. The Bible & various forms of self-hatred are damn near staples in the "average" black family. If I had to count the # of my Brownins who've heard what your parents & mine have told us to boost us...the #'s would be low. I can tell how they behave & how their parents behave when I meet them.

    It's real in the field, Honey. & while this is not the only vantage point to see Venezuela or anyplace else from, it's what I saw & what I now have to process in order to figure out how I join in or speak louder than I do to help combat this.

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