are these big patches of _________. [literal or not]. they are those open spaces waiting to be filled while you develop a consciousness about some thing.
so these past few days, i have been re-reading their eyes were watching god and wide sargasso sea concurrently [which have nothing to do with school but anyhoo…] both bring me to a kind of consciouness, where there was a void, in different ways and for seemingly different things but i am starting to see threads, barely connecting the two in some places. there’s janie: self identifying black no-longer-tragic-mulatto-my-ass protagonist and there’s antoinette, a white creole west indian.
i am often struck at the ways in which the voice of the “white creole” in “wide sargasso sea” brings me to a kind of “seeing” each time that i read it. i cannot escape that voice, that distinctly white west-indian voice even as i submerge myself in the text as a black west-indian. it’s personal too. in a weird way. perhaps this is all a result of what kamau brathwaite, [in relation to a reading of this very text] describes as a realization that in engaging the text, “one’s sympathies became engaged, one’s cultural orientations were involved.” which ultimately affects one’s reading of it.
this post is a kind of rambling, i know. it’s what i do. [some days in a more structurally fashioned way than others.]
so basically, if there has been a reckoning between me and the notion of white creole identity, in any way—it happens inside this text each time that i delve into it. significant because there are so few times for me that i locate white trinis/other west indians inside our cultural landscape in a tangible way. sure, they are there. i know that. i can look at some of my friends and see that but inside this book—-i feel and see their cultural narrative in a way that i don’t see it [or hear it] often anywhere else.
in my first caribbean literature class in my undergrad, i remember my professor having us read kamau brathwaite’s often quoted passage, “white creoles in the english and french west indies have separated themselves by too wide a gulf and have contributed too little culturally, as a group, to give credence to the notion that they can, given the present structure, meaningfully identify, or be identified, with the spiritual world on this side of the sargasso sea.” [from contradictory omens]. so then, in regards to this whole notion of identity, nationhood, race and class and culture; to quote an equally apt michele cliff, “it is a complicated business.” [my emphasis not hers.]
still i feel a reckoning in me. anyhoo,
so, the other day, i was on a friend’s fb page and there was a link to alicia milne’s art.blog page and i peeped it randomly and immediately thought it wasn’t a coincidence that i did so and this happened this way. while i’m reading sargasso sea and coming to these open places where i am left considering, why is there nothing there? why now to ponder these things? recently, i have come across several blogs/online postings about black feminist thought, activism, community and inclusivity. i’ve been pondering what inclusivity means for the way in which i [a black west indian female] imagines a community of west indian writers and by extension: west indian culture and west indian-ness through literature, poetry and other kinds of art. who is included? who do i usually, tend to omit? and why?
alicia’s art and musings, located within a white trini identity, while trying to define and decipher what that means, claim it, engage in it, make art about it—really made an impression on me. her narrative “de whitie talks” asks and notes, “The story of my nation does not include me. Where do I fit in, I often wonder? Are my narratives unpopular or inconvenient? I think so. How then do I make my narrative part of the national narrative?” and i wondered about it myself. how do we make spaces—the rest of us, for her and others like her, to become engaged. in a post-colonial black majority place, the dynamics of that are fascinating to contemplate. might mean some serious permutations for some of us. even me.
furthermore, her realization that “I feel that many, myself included, have a deep sense of non-belonging, an unwelcome-ness emanating from this space”–there a literal trinidad, reminded me of my own spaces that i actively wanted to engage and fill. not to mention, my own discomfort elsewhere. HERspace was MYspace—but in different trajectories. why white west indian creole indentity? because of the ways in which it is interwined with black west indian identity, historically and otherwise. and it makes me uncomfortable in a lot of ways. i have this article from a class, that i cannot find to cite. it’s about feminist standpoint, community and discomfort and how sometimes discomfort is sometimes a necessary point for self-transformation and/or actualization.
so what does that mean for my concept of west indian community? and what the heck does that even mean? at first, when i think about it, community—i know, that they are not there. but they are. i cannot be concerned with inclusivity and claim to be a product and beneficiary of feminist thought and not at least think about this.
i think i will.
quietly and with words.
i think i will continue to try and build connections and fill empty spaces with new considerations, new imaginations and expand the limitation of how i choose to define my people, my identity, our art and our culture. inclusively. with or without anyone’s permission. go into those places that make me uncomfortable: like when i want to steups to myself and think, why i fighting to include anybody? but there was once a time—somewhere else perhaps [and even there], when people looking like me, were not included. collective memories about exclusion should remind people that to be inclusive with true understanding, compassion and love is never really a bad thing to aim for.
plus i think i might have found a potential thesis project! or at least the beginnings of an option. since it has to do with the genre of poetry, maybe something converging the white creole west indian voice in poetry, my self, my reading of that voice, as well as my culture—or something along those lines. we’ll see.
related references: kamau brathwaite, contradictory omens: cultural diversity and integration in the caribbean.
michelle cliff, essay, “a journey into speech” from the land of look behind.
alicia milne, “de whitie talks.”
alicia milne, her art and blog, http://intriguingthings.blogspot.com/
learn more about alicia’s art, vision and more, in this interview on sexypink here http://sexypink.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/i-n-t-e-r-v-i-e-w-alicia-milne/
[on a clarifying side-note: not implying that brathwaite is advocating anti-inclusivity (which is not his agenda, nor his concern i think, in the least) but rather i am saying that people can and do read their own prejudices into anything. i know because i have and do.]