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SO MUCH LIKE HERE

"A-Y-I-T-I," Ayiti, that's the name meaning "Sacred Highlands" the Taino/Arawak Amerindians gave to the island where i’m from. i first went back there, a few years ago, to this place of spirits and gods i’d left, decades before, as a young child.

Red, Black & Moonlight is their gift to me. "Ibo granmoun-o, o granmoun-o. Ibo granmoun-o, lakay Ibo, Ibo granmoun-o, Ibo granmoun-o."

What am i thinking right now? Ecclesiastics makes sense today. Later it’s gibberish. Our glint of understanding gone. This dance is called Yanvalou. It begins each of the Haitian Vodun ceremonies.... Yanvalou.

i've been having a conversation with the ancestors. Grann fèk ap di m, i’m her fragile soul. She's always on the periphery. Sending me information. This Yanvalou movement brings Danbala Wèdo. My spine undulates slowly, rising like out of some cosmic sea, arching towards Dessaline's sunlight...

When the European got to West Africa and saw our 15th century West African ancestors worshiping what they thought was a snake, they actually thought we were worshiping that. What our 15th century African ancestor was really talking about, because Haitians think in parables, is the breath. The Yanvalou movement, it exemplifies the undulations of the Great Serpent. The Great Serpent, it's your breath. What gives life.

You see, all the undulations starting from the base of the spine moving up - it's like the Hindu Kundalini. The Great Danbala serpent is our lifeforce, a metaphor of our source of movement, energy and life. It's not a Victorian body-fearing or nature-fearing metaphor and it's not even a sexist metaphor. Danbala, He's always entwined with Ayida Wèdo, his female aspect. Male/female together always. There's no dichotomist dualism in the serpentine path.


i’m here today because, when i was linear like that European who laughed my Grangrann's spirituality out of the history books... when i was penetrated a lifetime ago by the phalanxes of Euro-American sanity, their law and order veneer, abstract economies and context-free justice... when i lived in the guts of their dead abstracts hemorrhaging, going around in circles... i wasn't dancing the Yanvalou.

His "Cold War" got my parents here to the U.S. and then his abstract democracy returned me to Haiti. It's hilarious really. i couldn't get anything done. That's why i had to have this conversation with the ancestors. Luckily for me they answered with SO MUCH LIKE HERE.

*****

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Jan 1, 2007 performance in New York
Ezili Dantò performing So Much like Here
(Listen)

SO MUCH LIKE HERE


How many of you have heard of John Coltrane? Miles Davis? Jazz greats, right? Ibo Lele, the chatterer? No?

But the Ibo came first; was plastered in us before Wyclef started strumming Roberta Flack's pain with his words. Before the amalgamated tribes flipped thundering dissonance into Vodun's redemption songs, Bob Marley's poems, Black America's rhythm and blues, Haiti's dancing roots - from funk, konpa, to Beethova Oba.

You're a wisp of the Ibo people. Ibo Lele, the chatterer. You're all that jazz, adrift. You and i, we know each other. We're cut from the same cloth - Ayiti's sounds are drawn in us.


"Simbi Dlo ya-ye. Danbala Wèdo ya-ye. Simbi Dlo ya-ye. Danbala Wèdo ya-ye. Si nou paka konnen mwen, Si nou paka konnen mwen la. Simbi Dlo ya ye-oo..."

*


A-yi-ti, i feel its sounds, in my very pores.
Adrift, like the pain and pathos of Johnny Coltrane and Miles Davis's jazz horns.

These limbs and veins are megaphones. Tissued out sax-horns, trumpets and conches - open tubes - amputated from their master's lips.

Untethered, i spill out into throbbing masses of loss stretching to explore an ache...with no arms.

A vein without skin. A nerve exposed. A Black woman's breath de-Africanized. Unshelled from the Lwa yo that's Ayiti-in-blood...

Yes, sometimes i act like i’m facing the Atlantic (Wave) with no ancestors. No natural elements forming me. Requiring my blood to survive.

Sometimes, i’m a memory that won't remember. A Haitian who has to copyright her story 'cause her second-self wasn't taught Black was there before....the "Light?" That's me here on the merry-go-round and in Haiti today: whiplashed, erratic and frightened of the Light's shadows.

Chasing my tail, searching for what i already am. It's like i’m trying to move the hurricane out of the rain.

****


A-yi-ti, it's Coltrane and Davis.
Part and whole, Overbrook.
It's unity and order, chaos and disorder, jamming together.
It's fragmentations and manufactured conflicts concealing unity. Whole notes and half-notes, the canvas forgotten.
It's Africa where life originated.
It's running water, still brooks and crumbling hills.
It's the greatest water fall. It trashes and thrusts.
It's rage denied.
It's sweltering-sweating-glistening-wet and Black, as primordial space.

It's Africans in the countryside, feeding on natural resources. Africans in the cities, selling bodies to eat. Domestics smiling, smiling, smiling; submerged.
Market-women, overloaded.
It's dry bushes, overgrown weeds, sloshing mangroves floating to nowhere.
It's shantytowns, ajoupas, and million dollar houses cocooned behind lead gates, rifle heats and tropical flowers.
It's toxic plants and long hours and working people without unions.
It's restaveks - hungry children unattended, abused and exploited: forced in an alpha state of mind early on to survive.
It's reactive: So much like here.

Ayiti, it's roads, where eternity has not been seen for the longest time.
it's life clad forever in the flesh and bones of chaos.

Chaos that's the fabric of eternity, the womb of creation?
it's madness bordered by bliss.
People walking up, down, up and down.
Crossing divides.
Like me.
Seas.
Borders.
Like you.

*******************************

There's no traffic light to keep rhythm.
No pavement for keeping the dirt of violence off your face.
Only ten million feet, or, is it the entire African Diaspora, beating at the earth's drum, eroding womb's wall in a desperate toss at rebirth.

Looking, looking, looking to find a new earth and a new heaven, the first having disappeared.

The drum beats, over ten million resonate in the heat.
That's Haiti. It returns as it goes forward.
It takes everything.
Coalescing all Africans, all lives rinsed in endless aching pain.


It's collective memory.
The frustration of generations of minds, generations of Africa's souls piling up, swirling in the vortex, crying tears, tears, tearing the ozone, tears urging recall.

Of things.
Crossroads.
Of the forgotten spaces making possible the symphony.
Of the messengers - those torn pieces of the mountains' debris - come to tell of the way, not of the impossible dream.


Apogee's song is the echo* you hear in the Haitian valleys.
Here. There. Between our thighs.
Destined to rise.

******

 

(c) 1997 Ezili Dantò. Excerpt from The Red, Black & Moonlight monologue series, based on Kenbe La! Crossings of a Vodun-Roots Woman by Ezili Dantò

*the echo, echo, echo you hear (lan mitan tout divizyon an), it's the echo you hear in the Haitian valleys...

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Jazzoetry Audio clip of So Much Like HereCarnegie Hall Video Clip
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