I attended an evening gathering of artists in Old San Juan at The Poet’s Passage on Calle de la Cruz. A beautiful woman named Sabrina was the Master of Ceremonies, a title embraced with joy. They made sure to connect with everyone in attendance, inviting us all to sign the guest book and make a geometric shape next to our name if we wanted to share poetry, song, or a surprise. I indicated I wanted to share poetry.
What I really wanted to do was connect with the women and men who would gravitate to this space—a space so intentionally and artfully containing possibilities for expression, co-creation, transformation. What I really wanted to do was to feel solidarity with those who are most apt to be and see and resonate with a fellow traveler. This destination I reached but for the grace of co-traveling visionaries.
The tapestries were thick and layered in color—black, red, white. On stage were gorgeous mosaic lanterns, infused artifacts, and two wooden hands crafted as chairs for holding the emergent potential for asses. The hand painted image and text tiles for sale in the adjacent store were imbued with divinity—to my heart their words were a direct portal to truth embodied. And this Tuesday night was an exceptional average evening among the living.
After what I would call a hefty dose of gritty “real” talent—seemingly effortlessly performed spoken word that enlivens the soul, improv music with a singer-songwriter cajoled into a co-created experience with a legendary harmonica player who’d just breezed in, a young woman launching as #IAmMatildaLynch, and a prayer for a regular poet who couldn’t make it that evening—I stood. I wish I could say that I sustained my breathing practice of acknowledging and connecting with spirit flowing in each present moment; I didn’t. But I stood and I spoke.
It’s a funny thing to speak in front of strangers. Strangers who arrive at a common destination can have more potential for intimacy, resonance, and shared perspective than blood relatives. Speaking in care-full and curated spaces can also uplift and spotlight our emotional edges in a very real way. This is why we stand up … rinse and repeat.
I had intended to give context for the offering I was making. I had written these words the week prior and knew they were important for me to speak—despite feeling I wasn’t the best person to bring this message forth but at least I was willing; at the very least, I was able. Everyone confirmed that they knew what a Karen was and, again, I did not speak the full title of my self-published book, Beyond Karen: emerging from the depths of an epic epithet, but I did note that it’s creation began the day after George Floyd was murdered. Not being opportunistic as a white woman saddled with a deplorable demographic legacy is the slippery slope I am attempting to navigate moment by emotionally charged moment. I had also, despite my firm intention to not do so, managed to self-deprecate my poetry as unpublished, “obviously” self published…
I read Apology to Black and Brown Women.
Without lifting my head from the screen of my cellphone I felt the woman on the couch in front of me feel my intense words addressing so many facets of inequity, oppression, exploitation, centuries of racism. Perhaps this perception stunted my ability to be with my words as fully as it is possible to be when alone. But they mattered—even if only to receive feedback of “apology not accepted.” It is something when there is a whole lotta nothing; and it was important.
One white woman ironically came to talk with me some moments after I’d been given a bottle of water by Lady Lee and had meekly received words of my bravery from two women and sincerely expressed gratitude from a man in the audience. She blurted a question to inquire if I knew about a particular organization addressing racial justice. I acknowledged that yes I did and that I was a long time activist, clarifying for her that much of the Apology was hypothetical. I told her and one other woman that I would drop dead before voting for Trump.
I will work on my presentation skills. There is nothing more important than to heal the rift between women who remain systemically isolated from each other, who need kinship with each other, and who could be the force necessary to bridge the divide humanity has with divinity.