Amikaeyla Gaston

Dear Mamas,

WE ARE IN AN EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT

Yemaya Asesu, Asesu Yemaya … Yemaya Olodo, Olodo Yemaya …

Mama Yemaya — with all of your fierceness as the goddess of the ocean, we ask you to be gentle in this moment, for the women and children here at your shore praying for safety, for your protection, and for your love and guidance … because

WE ARE IN AN EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT

This is a time when we not only can make a difference but must make a difference — and we must continue to dare to hope, to be dauntless, fierce, fearless, brave, courageous, and bold, even when we are weary, lost, and alone. And although I am not that old, nor that young, I must admit that a part of me is tired. I have a weariness in my core, and I think that on some level the truth is that at our communal core, no matter our race or gender, socioeconomic status, or level of privilege, WE ARE ALL TIRED OF IT THAT OUR BASIC RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONE ANOTHER AND TO CARE FOR OUR PLANET IS STILL UP FOR SALE, UP FOR DEBATE, UP FOR A VOTE.

We are tired of women and girls from all over the world being treated as ancillary beings who can be used, abused, mistreated, and murdered.

AND WE ARE ALL TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED.

But lucky for us,

WE ARE IN AN EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT

Years ago, I was murdered by a hate crime in Hart, Michigan. Five white guys in a big white truck went on a killing spree, running over black women. They had hit two women the weekend before at a reggae sun splash, and then they found me. I was in a field of flowers waiting to get into the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival when they swerved off the road, sped up, hit me, and dragged me 86 feet on a gravel road. They crushed my ribs, punctured my lungs, damaged all of my organs, and smashed my legs and my collarbones. As I rolled under the truck, I became lodged between the wheel and the exhaust, and my flesh began to cook. The driver was the mayor’s son, and when he told the cop what he and his friends were doing, the cop told him, “Don’t worry son — one less nigger dyke in the world is fine with me.”

I know this because I heard him as my blood oozed out, my flesh cooked, and my body began to die. My spirit left my flesh, and I would have completed my journey had it not been for the community of heroes around me. The women who lifted the van off of me — the women who ran to call the ambulance when the cop didn't — the women who kept shouting for me to say my name and remember that I was there and still alive. They were my heroes that day, and I am eternally grateful for them.

After years of rehabilitation in hospitals and being told that I wouldn't survive, that my legs would have to be amputated, that I would be crippled for life … after years of being told that I COULDN'T OR I WOULDN'T, I vowed I WOULD — and I DID. What saved my life besides those women that day, was my vow to use whatever I had left to go out into the world and spread love, peace, and forgiveness so that something as senseless as a joyride would never again turn into a hate-filled killing spree.

I now serve as a cultural ambassador working overseas with refugee populations in war-ravaged and impoverished areas. Yet where there is so much anger, exhaustion, and despair, still a young boy or girl can come to believe that there is more power in learning to drum than in learning to bomb.

I’ve dedicated my life to leading people out of the slavery of a captured voice and spirit and into the freedom of their own power by helping them learn to strengthen their voices and shine their light on the world no matter where they are from, how much money they have, the color of their skin, or their status in their home, village, or society.

And in all the places I have traveled to, I have come to know fierce collaborators of every hue and class and have found kindred spirits from every religion, race, and creed by connecting with people from that inner, authentic place. I have seen the most beautiful places and met the most beautiful people — beautiful because of their resilience and the transformative power of spirit in the face of tragedy. When you bear witness to a young girl realizing that she has a right to her voice and embracing her fabulous, brilliant self with strength, renewed will, and determination — it stops you cold and renews your belief in a higher calling and mission and renews your own commitment to being a part of that change.

It is time to be seen, be heard, and make a difference.

I recently went home to Washington, DC, a masala of north and south, homegrown and transient, powerful and impoverished, descendants of the indigenous and the slave. I went to commemorate the opening of the beautiful National Museum of African American History and Culture, to be a part of the festivities with family and friends who had come from near and far, and to remember …

(By and by when the morning comes …)

Remember not only my ancestors, and what they went through when they were brought, chained in boats, across the Atlantic and bought and sold as chattel by others who viewed them as animals, as product, as disposable …

(My sweet mama will carry me home …)

But remember, too, how our country came to be and what this society is founded on and rooted in: thievery, larceny, murder, rape, and misogyny …

(She will tell me the story of how we overcome …)

And remember also how we survived and thrived and continue to live and give and share and care and be daughters, mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers of the earth, salt, soil, sand, sea, dusk, and dawn …

(And we'll understand it better by and by …)

And as I stood in front of Harriet Tubman’s shawl and hymnal and wept, I remembered these things: her words of courage, her intrepid spirit, the fact that she ran by moonlight through the trees, felt the moss and lichen to determine the right direction, ate plants from the earth to keep her strength, drank from the streams, and swam across rivers to make it to freedom. She was brilliant and bold, dynamic and dauntless …

(And we'll understand it better by and by … )

I wept because I remembered that I am her and she is me. She is all of us. She is our herstory and our now.

And as I watched the debates a few days later, and then the election, I remembered that your political bent doesn't matter because sexism is alive and well and the oldest -ism we know. We women face it every day, and despite how it wears us out, this struggle for equality, I remember that my grandmothers and great-grandmothers had to face sexism and racism while standing strong and powerful and yet they carried on — and I am their legacy. You are the legacy of your ancestors — their hard work, their knowledge, their survival spirit. So you owe it not only to yourself to live a long and powerful life, you owe it also to them.

WE ARE IN AN EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT

This is a time when we need to muster all our strength, gather our community, and call on all our ancestors. We are in a time that demands we ask the medicine from the plant spirits, animal spirits, and all elemental nature spirits, orishas, devas, or whatever name you wish to call the celestial beings that surround us. We all must come forth and stand in witness and in action to our powerful present — our NOW — and empower one another.

For this is the time to be seen, be heard, and make a difference.

Love,

Amikaeyla