Manbo Maude for your support. Kwa Simbo! Ayibobo! Bilolo! Awoshe Nago!
#Vodou #BlackLivesMatter #Ayiti
Haitian people called upon the Lwa - hot, fiery, and powerful spirits to assist in the victory of their independence. Currently, I'm in Haiti, the FIRST FREE BLACK Republic, feeling heavy, heated and angry. I'm here to work and serve my community though my artistic vehicle - DANCE. In order to continue my job, I needed to get centered. Yesterday, I went to my spiritual home, Sosyete Nago, a Vodou temple in Jacmel. I needed to be inside a safe, sacred space to pour libations and call upon AFRICAN spirits. To call upon my Ancestors for my protection, and protection for my people, to call out Alton Sterling's name, to call out Philando Castile's name AND to wish him a Happy Birthday. To ask for strength, courage and direction. Candles were lit, libations were poured. Energy was released. Mesi anpil,
Manbo Maude for your support. Kwa Simbo! Ayibobo! Bilolo! Awoshe Nago!
#Vodou #BlackLivesMatter #Ayiti
One year and five months later...Reflections: AYITI CHERIE: A Black Woman's Journey (2003-2015) is now published on RTL's website!
Reflections is a project that I decided to take on to document my travels to Haiti. It is a deep, personal journey in sacrifice, commitment and self discovery. This project has forced me to sit still on occasion and reflect on my humble beginning as a 5 year old ballerina to the 40+ dancer I am today.
I'm a private person. Many of you do not know me outside of the dance studio. At this point in my life, I don't have anything to loose. I'm learning that it's okay to be open and vulnerable. I'm sharing my journey with the world, and as scary as that may be, I feel good about it! My hope is that it will inspire young dancers who are thirsty and hungry about this dance life, to be fearless, and GO and get fed. My hope is that folks will SEE Haiti. In all of her glory and continue to salute the first free Black Republic in the world.
Please feel free to share the work. I would love to hear feedback, thoughts, suggestions and even critiques.
Use it as a resource, a source of inspiration to create the life you want. I am blessed to live a life that I have created. On my own terms. My journey is far from over. I'm excited and ready for the next chapter. AYIBOBO!
#reflections #ayiticherie #dancejourney #selfreflection #growth #spiritualjourney #dedication #ABlackWomensJourney #wideopen #NoTurningBack
Remember I mentioned I'm chronicling my travels to Haiti, 2003-2015? Well, I'm ALMOST done! A year and five months later... Whew! I won't front. It's been a tedious process. Scanning old photos and revisiting journal entries, has kept me an emotional wreck, there aren't enough hours in the day, my computer has a mind of its own, and I've waited until the very end to transfer video footage from those mini DV tapes, onto a hard drive, with a rented camera, cause the camera that was used to record the footage is busted, and on its last leg. I knew it wouldn't be easy.
Aside from the woes, looking at these old videotapes, along with the most recent clips, has put the project into perspective. I get it. This footage wasn't meant to just stay in a box. I came across some material from my first visit to Lakou Souvenance in 2007. Hadn't seen this footage in YEARS. This was a time before the Cultural Exchange Trips were a thought. A time where I was hungry (still) for the knowledge and excited about what Haiti would teach me on that particular trip. I'm happy to share it with you, and with my folks from the Bay who've experienced the beauty and magic of Lakou Souvenance.
This video highlights several days at Lakou Souvenance with Societe La Belle Etoile. Souvenance is one of three Lakou's, (Badjo, Soukri) located in Gonaives, Haiti. This particular Lakou pays homage to the Spirits of Dahomey.
Video Credit: Daniel Brav Brevil | April 2007
This video is part of an upcoming project: Reflections: AYITI CHERIE - A Black Women's Journey (2003-2015)
It's no secret that I have hang-ups when it comes to public speaking. I know where it stems from, so at least I can continue to work on my insecurities and improve.
I was approached by @beenishfahmed, a journalist who was reporting on the social, political, and personal life of Vodou in Haiti. She was curious about my experiences at Lakou Souvenance, and wanted me to speak on the fact that my people from the Bay - my friends, students and RTL sisters were there to experience the ultimate ceremony where devotees revere ancient, ancestral spirits, that link us to our native homeland. Of course, I had reservations, but you know what? I did it. I just spoke from the heart. It's a process...still learning and growing.
Follow @beenishfahmed on IG. She took some amazing shots during her stay in Haiti. Will keep you all posted when her work is published.
#lakousouvenance #vodou #haitianvodou #deka #culturalexchange #thebaytohaiti2016 #haiti #gonaives #growth #publicspeakingwoes #documentation #raratoulimen
Photo Credit: Jarrel Phillips - participant "The Bay to Haiti" Cultural Exchange Trip 2016
"Portsha, so how was the mission trip? I would love to possibly go to Haiti and help "in that way." THIS. Not sure why I've been getting bombarded with this particular question, but maybe if I put it out there, that energy will cease.
I am NOT a missionary. I do NOT partake in mission trips. I am a Community Servant
who stands in solidarity with the people, their rituals, beliefs and customs. I'm not there to convert. Who has the audacity to force their beliefs on someone else's culture and tell them what they should and shouldn't believe, because their religion is supposedly supreme? It's disgusting and egocentric.
My Personal Mission? Here ya go: Vodou. VODOU. AND MORE VODOU! My machete is always raised. Imma keep elevating my Ancestors, pouring those libations, lighting that fire and serving Lwa. Through artistic expression, I will continue to help nurture and grow Haitian dance and musical traditions in the Bay Area, while staying committed and true to showcasing the best of folkloric dance and music, which carries in it the stories, struggles, and SPIRIT of the first free Black Republic in the world. Ayibobo.
#NotAMissionary #CommunityServant #Humanitarian #Vodouizan
Being from the South, I'm very skeptical of barbecue joints, especially if their slogan reads "Real New York Barbecue." I know good barbecue. Never knew it existed in NY. First plus, we were seated in a matter of minutes. Second surprise, once the order was placed, the food arrived 10 minutes later. I love supporting my people, but ya'll know: This does NOT happen in a black-owned establishment!
My plate looked divine. It tasted like heaven. Once I took that first bite of the chopped barbecue chicken dipped in goldsmoke, it was ON! The slow cooked meatless collard greens were seasoned, juicy and tender, the four cheese baked mac and cheese had that special crunch on top, with a creamy middle, that cornbread tho?! A damn block of buttery goodness that melted in your mouth. My drink of choice? Of course that fresh squeezed lemon and lime concoction that made you smack your lips. My taste buds were lit! I'm impressed. I will be returning to The Smoke Joint. Oh! As much as I wanted to, I didn't eat it all. Just had leftovers for breakfast!
#thesmokejoint #brooklyn #NewYork #fortgreene #blackowned #blackownedbusiness #foodie #thankgodidance
Got some music for your listening pleasure. Roots of Haiti, Volumes 1-4 is now on Spotify! I was searching for tracks in the World Music category, and Roots of Haiti popped up! Hmmmmm. Wasn't looking for Vodou music, but... I remember a time when you could NOT find Haitian (Vodou) music on line! My first introduction to Vodou music (outside of dance class and ceremony) was way back in 1994, with Roots of Haiti on a CASSETTE TAPE! LOL! I studied those tapes everyday, for years, until they could no longer play.
Roots of Haiti, Volumes 1-4 was recorded and released in 1978.
Classic, timeless, and authentic singing and drumming.
I'm happy its readily available to the masses!
Enjoy and happy listening!
My dance journey began at the tender age of five. My mother enrolled me into The Marsha Woody Dance Academy, in Beaumont, Texas. For seven years, I trained in Ballet, Tap, and Jazz. Although I liked to dance at home, I didn't love the rigid structure of the studio, or the grueling hours required to become a dancer. I was a chunky, thick, brown girl, who would much rather play sports with the boys on the playground. My mother insisted I continue dancing. She said I needed a "foundation." She also said, "You'll thank me later." Reluctantly, I continued, and eventually grew into my body, gained confidence and developed a photographic memory, thanks to the massive amount of choreography I was required to remember.
Interesting, that currently there is an article floating around on Facebook entitled "Ballet is [not] the foundation of dance." I agree. Ballet is not the most important style to train in, BUT what ballet gave me was confidence, in addition to great extensions and flexibility, which I am thankful for today. As a young dancer, I took weekly ballet classes, with girls who did not look like me, speak like me, whose hair type and body structure certainly wasn't a reflection of mine. Despite the challenges, I hung in there with the best of them and excelled! I KNEW I was just as talented as the next ballerina on the barre.
YOU are the foundation of dance. Your SPIRIT is your base. YOU are the technique. Cross train and learn other genres of dance. It's amazing how they will all "fit" into your body and shine when necessary
I swear, Spirit don't play with messages. My sis @asatahj had a vision and sent me a text this morning, asking if I ever thought about doing a piece to honor Cecile Fatiman, the Manbo who was instrumental in prayer, ritual and the sacrifice of the Black pig at Seremoni Bwa Kayiman. I choreographed a piece in honor of the ceremony in 2011. I wanted to re-enact this very scene, but was hesitant and scared to do so. I already had dancers in shackles, Vodou prayers and rituals, dancers with sticks and machete's swinging, whips cracking + an unedited version of Boukman's famous speech urging all to throw away the image of the white man's God.
I decided to play it safe without the sacrifice, but have The Manbo (@sunebear) dance with force and conviction, while ritually spraying the dancers with rum, to put them in a trance to call upon the Spirits. It was hot, and worked well, but I have always thought that something was "missing" when depicting her.
When I checked FB this evening, this photo was the FIRST image that appeared in my news feed. It spoke to me. The dancer who is portraying the Manbo is sacrificing a black pig. On stage. I am not a slave to my art, and will choreograph what I want, but truthfully, I was worried about making folks uncomfortable and left out a crucial piece of history. This image reminds me that it's okay to feel uncomfortable.That's what Art is about. Pushing the envelope, overstepping boundaries, revealing TRUTHS. This truth actually happened. Guess this means that when you see RTL's Freedom Rising choreography, the piece will be "new" and improved! BILOLO!
I choreographed 'Freedom Rising" in 2011, as a tribute to Bwa Kayiman. The beauty of choreographing pieces, is that they grow and evolve along with choreographer. For Dancing Spirits, I decided to add the sacrifice of the pig with Manbo Cecile Fatiman. 5 years later. Manbo Cecile's energy was still with me. RTL traveled to Montreal, Canada, August 2016 to perform Freedom Rising as part of TWA, a dance collaboration with Mapou Ginen and Sole Tradionelle Modern.
TWA's Mission: to commemorate Bwa Kayiman, but to also explore, through our creative process, the contribution of women to the Haitian Revolution. Specifically, the contributions of Cécile Fatiman.
1. What would it take for an ordinary woman to rise above her current circumstance and be a fundamental actor in a major turning point in Haitian history?
2. What would her personal and spiritual process look like?
3. What are the different ways the spirits that walk with her would accompany her, helping to fulfill her mission?
Her name is Cécile Fatima, and she played a major role in uniting the many different African nations together during the period before the final fight for their liberation in the old French colony. She is known for her participation in the Vodou gathering at Bwa Kay Iman, which is considered to be one of the starting points of the Revolution. Before the revolution had created the nation, on the night of August 14, 1791, the Africans started to gathered in many secret places to create plans to end their enslavement. One of the leaders who started that movement was Cécile Fatima. She was a mambo that had seen enough of her people suffering. Along with Dutty Boukman, they organized, what you would call, the first battle against the French authorities in Saint-Domingue and placed each generals and commanders who would fought in the revolution from that time till the end of the revolution into their positions.
Say her name:
"IMAMOU" - Through hard work, determination, faith, patience, blood, sweat and tears, RTL crossed the waters a year ago today, (August 20, 2014) from Oakland to Haiti to fulfill a DREAM. A MISSION. We strengthened and fortified historical legacies and established community ties that will bind us for life. The journey was real - 19 family members, 19 personalities! Not one, but two weeks. In Haiti. Life lessons were learned, personal strength and faith in relationships were tested. There were tears, frustration, anxiety, extreme fatigue, sickness, and a few REALLY?, WTF? moments, balanced with love, compassion, togetherness, sisterhood, brotherhood, communication, laughter, hugs, joy, excitement, ancestral visits, prayer, ceremony, ritual, and most importantly, personal truths and revelations. LIFE.
As I sit and reflect on the journey, I'm still in awe of the fact that WE actually did it! I am forever grateful to the members of RTL for always going above and beyond the call of duty and for taking on the responsibility of becoming an artistic vessel, medium, and educator of Haitian folkloric dance and musical traditions, to produce meaningful, spirited and thought provoking work. My love runs deep for each of you.
A sincere THANK YOU to our families, our wonderful Oakland/SF dance community and our supporters across the globe who believed in us. Lastly, I give thanks to God, my Ancestors, who continue to walk with me and keep me firmly planted. Ayibobo to the Lwa for your constant lessons, guidance and protection. Thank you for the dreams, messages and whispers in my ear. When in doubt, I felt the push and for sure, heard the call. Thank you for choosing me to do this important work.
"DREAM It, CREATE It. LIVE It... and WE DID THAT!"