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Autumnal Equinox

FLASHBACK TO AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

Haitian spiritual song: Ayida Wedo se bon, se bon. Danbala Wedo, se bon, se bon. Le ma monte chwal mwen gen moun ka kriye...

*
Woman becomes breezy, bouncy, carefree child. Child enters picture postcard - palm trees, beach, tropical island setting. Talks to the audience.

As CHILD

A mermaid had a dream. She was my mama. She was unmarried and working as a housekeeper for this Middle Eastern "Arab" family in Haiti when one night she's dreaming. She hears a thunderous sound. Goes outside. A large airplane is flying low. The plane has a balcony and a beautiful mullatress with long dark hair standing there leans over and throws out a key. With her wide hoop earring swinging, mama runs forward, opens up her bright yellow skirt, catches the key.

When she woke up, mama knew, right then and there, that an airplane flight was going to change her life. But first, she had to catch her key.

Not long after the dream, he came a-courting. She caught her key. His name was Klebert, my father.

Tropical backdrop turns to an American urban setting with tenement building, brownstones... Adolescent is losing buoyancy.


Papa came first to the U.S. He took our family's first airplane ride - pye kout pran devan – short legs better hurry ahead first.

A year later, he brought us over - mama and all six of us children. When we got here, to this Northeastern shore-line town, Summer Street was still a two-way street. There was no traffic congestion. No corporate headquarters of anybody here other than Pitney Bowes and some remnants of the old Yale Lock and Key company.
Tenement buildings lined the streets where the Marriot, GTE, Champion and the Mall now sit. Blacks lived there, at those sites, before urban renewal i guess. it was the early 1970s. Mama, papa and the six of us used to live on the Black, West side of town. Then when we got our two-family house, we moved to the East side of town into a mixed neighborhood of working class Blacks, Italians, Irish, Polish and Colombians. i went to Roger Elementary School. Then Burdick Middle School. And then on to Stamford High. it was before “white flight.”

Today Stamford High is eighty percent Black and nonwhite. But when i went there, there were just a few of us Blacks. We were perhaps 8...12% of the population. At Stamford High, i ran track; i was very active. i was in the AP classes - these Advance Placement classes. i was Captain of the cheerleading team, the track team and danced in the musical plays. Oh, i knew about systemic racism. You know, biological fatalism. But it didn't click that it was so widespread, that they were talking about me, too. i wasn't stressed about it. i didn't know that once i grew up, had my own opinions, got my own mind and stopped always smiling, that my sheer presence would strum a vicious legacy of systemic white supremacy to rear-up its head.

Nope. i thought that was a thing of the past; that Martin and Malcom's fires had overcome, reached Zion. i mean, not that i was taken by the TV's distant blaring, every January, of the Dr. King speeches 'bout "i've been to the mountaintop...." Haitians live on the mountain. We were the first to go up to the mountain, and 200 years later, as a people, we still know no promise land in this realm; know only that behind mountains there are more mountains.

Woman puts on an old Black Jacobin military jacket, a Revolutionary hat with feather plum. Churning winds. She dances, moves in troubled agitation.


Back as CHILD

(Calms herself)

Anyway, i went to High School right up the hill. When i was going there i thought i knew what was going on around me. i didn't give the race relation thing much thought, really. Too busy.

Besides, no stranger's words could sting more than my papa's leather belt and ugly words could. No way.

So, imagine my surprise, in my senior class, when i realized there was this thing going on, about my skin color, that i knew absolutely nothing about. Now obviously, out of most Blacks, i was lucky. Maybe it was because i was from Haiti and papa wanted us to study hard to get a good job; so i was a little bit, uhmm... living in books; maybe i didn't realize the social-cultural thing that was happening around me.

But this red hit me for the very first time that senior year in high school. This red, my folks had been trying to smother since Columbus found Hispaniola, dropped me to my knees.

i didn't want to know about it; it wasn't the Petwo red roaring through my veins. it was a red that had burnt the Civil Rights workers who had worked, to make sure, that with an education and a job, i'd grow from their charred remains, be spared their struggles.

But, no. it zeroed in on me on an autumn fall like a waterfall. it was when i was green as grass; foolish but not yet disappointed about life. i had these deep dimples that used to flash out so often back then, Mr. Mongovirne, our track coach, nicknamed me "Smiley." This was before i had ever met any Mzz Career-White-Chicks. Then, i only knew about blond, sporty and pretty, Miss Fair, my Freshman-Year-In-High-School track coach, who drove her bright yellow Corvette with such admirable zest, and who was so fond of me, she nicknamed me "peanuts" and gave me the Coaches Award at the end of the track season.

i didn't know any Mr. Western Cultures, who were all into white supremacy and biological fatalism. Nor, had i yet gotten myself tangled in the after shocks of Reaganomics, deregulation, and the conservative wave of Republican judges and legislators who would shut out the courts, nay, the entire judicial branch, as a venue for redressing injustice.

i only knew Peet, the Greek grocer and his wife, Joan. They hired me - even though i was under age - as a cashier for their grocery store, the Farer's Market, which sat where the Block Buster Video store is today.

Mr. Mongovirne, he used to drag us long legged Black track girls to the corporations, looking for sponsorship dollars. in the summers, we would travel to track meets all over New England in his van.

He's speeding down the Merritt Parkway. We've just come from a track meet in Bangor Maine. i did the mile walk for the first time ever and actually won it! The white girls in the van are mooning the motorists along the Merritt Parkway...yuck. Big whiiiite butts pressed to the van’s back window. Too embarrassing. i shake my head. Smile, laugh at the banality of their actions. They did corny and stuuuupid stuff like that. But, we were teenagers together. We had fun.

Selected drumming music herald transition. CHILD becomes WOMAN again.

WOMAN

They was no Silence then. i wasn’t infringing on any one's comfort zone then, making them feel ill-at ease, addressing oppression, insisting they get rid of white privilege they want to keep and still pretend we’re no different. i didn’t see them as a source of imposition then. Those were the halcyon days before i faced...my Autumnal Equinox.

Since that day, i've come to know this red well.

(WOMAN is inside a lighted square. With each blink the box gets smaller, squeezing her tighter, until she disappears. WOMAN reappears jeweled and dressed up, hurries to “Speaking Engagement” area on stage, papers in hand. The phrase, "Autumnal Equinox," echoes in voiceover coming from all stage directions. WOMAN stands at Speaking Engagement, in front of podium, eventually moving into the autumn foliage scenery.)

it was before i came into my own. Before i had some experience in challenging authority and the status quo. Before i first glimpsed how my immunable characteristics where perceived and fell off my axis....

(Go to - Autumnal Equinox)


***


Autumnal Equinox and Flashback For Autumnal Equinox monologues are excerpted from The Red, Black & Moonlight monologue series, based on Kenbe La! Crossings of a Vodun-Roots Woman © 1998 by Ezili Dantò. All rights reserved.


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