I’m back! I don’t even know where to start to tell you about the summer I’ve had. I’ve been stressed but I’ve been blessed because God has put so many wonderful people in my life. This summer I’ve been on the go – I said goodbye to some of you at my last Capoeira class with Kilombo Novo on Wednesday, June 4th and had a really cool impromptu late night dinner with Michael, Ade, and Zayan.
A few hours later I was packing my bags for Chicago where I went for a weekend conference and met other law students with whom I went out for a night on the town. We gazed at Lake Michigan and the city lights from the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower; we went to the biggest club I have ever been to called Excalibur that looks like a castle and plays any kind of music you want to hear in its maze of different rooms; and afterwards we ate at the fanciest McDonald’s I have ever been to in my life: I’m telling you this McDonald’s had escalators (a fact that I still can’t get over), and on the second floor they played jazz music, there were sofa lounge chairs, there was a café, they sold Italian gelato, and they had art exhibits on display. (Supposedly this is the first McDonald’s ever founded in America). Let me tell you if someone in Chicago had asked me out on a date to McDonald’s I would not have been upset, that’s how amazed I was. I was also taken on a trip down memory lane because I met up with a high school friend who’s getting married and I finally got to meet her fiancé (and we hung out at McDonald’s J)
A few hours after that, I headed to the airport with all my luggage and got to DC the night before I started working at my internship on June 9th. As I told you before, I absolutely loved (and still love) my job and the work we do on human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. I have friends now from all over Latin America who are waiting for me to come visit, and you bet I’m going to Brazil the next time I am blessed with the time and financial means to travel – actually, I want all of us from Kilombo Novo to go! At my job it was cool to meet people who were so successful and so friendly. Every weekend I was bringing someone new from my job who wanted to find out about Capoeira, and you will not believe that my supervisor is now a die-hard Capoeira Angola fan. I took her to one class and after that she signed up for a FICA membership and started going to class more often than I did. At work we would talk about Capoeira and on my last day she was pushing me to stop working so we could make it to Capoeira class! I’m telling you the people who surrounded me this summer were so cool that I’m hoping I can bring back their energy to share with you.
My favorite memories are the moments I shared with the people who I only get to see about once a year. I’ve stayed up until 5 and 6 in the morning catching up with old friends in DC and laughing until I had to go to the bathroom over the adventures we had (especially one night this past June when I was driving my friend’s car and got lost every which way because she could not give me directions to get back to her house). I broke bread with my friends from FICA at a potluck dinner we had two Saturdays ago, and after eating everyone’s homemade dish (I helped out a little!), a few of us went out to eat some more at this shishy lounge called Oya, and ended the night at another spot (Capitol City Brewery) to keep toasting to good times.
I never had to worry about a thing when I was with my FICA people. They treated me to dinner, gave me a place to stay when it was too late for me to troop it back home to the suburbs, and drove me to wherever I needed to go. We talked about Capoeira at dinner, went to an African/Caribbean club, and then went to my friend John’s house where we stayed up until 5 in the morning still talking about Capoeira, life, education, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I was fascinated by my friend John’s dedication to gardening (I think this is rare for a man in his 20s J) and to growing his own fruit, including a cabaça for his berimbau! This summer solidified that Capoeira people are my favorite people to be around. You all have in common the fact that you are open, giving, cultural, conscious, spiritual, and have a relationship with the earth more intimate than other people I know.
I have to tell you that there is a wall in the classroom at FICA that is absolutely bad-ass (excuse my language). A Capoerista painted the wall into a mural that depicts a scene in Brazil – there are women playing berimbau, people going to and from the market, tourists taking pictures, orixas personified into people, and faces filled with laughter and living life in true Afro-Brazilian fashion. It’s so colorful and the music and voices from the people are so loud that it had me mesmerized. It felt like I was there in Brazil and I hope you all get to see this wall one day if you go to DC for a FICA conference.
My summer adventures also included going to Long Island for a Saturday to spend time with my girl from college and her daughter Amerie who turned one year old. My friend’s mom took great care of me. She kept feeding me, and on the morning I had to leave, she gave me breakfast and made me stop by her sister’s house so I could eat some more before taking the train and bus back to DC. While everyone on the bus was eating snacks and sandwiches, I was chowing down on some good ol’ Dominican rice and beans and birthday cake, like a true Caribbean! lol (yes, I love to eat, as some of you know) I also connected with another friend from college, Valerie - who is the reason why I found out about Kilombo Novo - and got to meet her two year-old son and tried teaching him Creole because he’s Puerto Rican and Haitian. My girl Carmen came down to DC and we got to reminisce about the times we spent in Paris and the DR, and we promised to support each other throughout life’s challenges despite that we are so busy and only get to see each other about once a year.
My weekdays were draining, which is why I couldn’t go to Capoeira class as often as I would have liked. I spent a lot of time commuting to and from the suburbs, and at work I was working on cases dealing with torture in Haiti and the death penalty in Trinidad. Sometimes I stayed at the office until 11pm, and throughout all this time I had to study for a law exam which I took on August 8th. Two days after that, I learned that my grandfather Mono was missing and went through a series of emotions in as short a time period as I can remember. When he was found at 1:00 Monday morning, it felt as if God had taken my life away and had given it back to me, as if to say: Make sure you do things better this time.
I learned again this summer that God works in miraculous ways. I met up with a friend who was going back to Ghana (who I had met in Ghana last summer and haven’t seen since then) and she carried the gifts I have been wanting to send to my friends there for the past year. While she was back in Ghana she texted me to tell me how happy my friends were when they got their presents, and the feeling I have now of knowing that something left my hands and is now being enjoyed by someone across the ocean in Ghana is irreplaceable.
My last 48 hours in DC before getting here on Sunday were jam-packed with appointments to see people and the creation of more memories. On Friday I said goodbye to my friend Anne-Sophie as I was finishing up my last report at work; I made it to Capoeira class with my supervisor where we played lots of berimbau and finally got to play each other in a game. Then I left class to meet my friend Kojo so I could finally show him my pictures from Ghana that I took last year. We met at Sankofa, which is a bookstore/café/community space right across from Howard University that sells all kinds of things by and about people of African descent. He was hosting and performing in an open mic poetry night and the experience was really beautiful. As I was walking down the street towards Sankofa I heard this melodic, powerful, soulful voice singing tunes to a guitar à la India Arie. When I got there I saw all types of brown faces and beautiful women with natural hair sitting and standing outside on the terrace, amid trees and coffee tables and mellow yellow lights shining on the performer, Free, a Jamaican woman who could belt out tunes that made me want to sway to and fro, relax, enjoy life, and the multi-faceted talents of black people. The scene looked like a Black Paris, and I wish we could have similar summer nights like that here in Boston.
Later that night Kojo dropped me off at this Ethiopian restaurant where I met up with other Capoeristas, who were of course, eating (I didn’t eat this time!) and that’s the night we went out to the African/Caribbean club and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking about Capoeira. Saturday morning I had brunch with Mark Bolden (who I hope you remember was with Kilombo Novo while he was doing his PhD in Boston) and we caught up and talked about education, the plight of black men in America, and our hopes and dreams. I went back to work (yes, on Saturday) to clean out my belongings and to say goodbye to the place that for me opened up the world of people fighting the good fight from their respective corners of the globe. After that I went to dinner at an Indian restaurant with my supervisor, who is now my friend, and I said goodbye to DC by singing and teaching her the lyrics to Dona Maria Como Vai Voce while sitting in a park in DuPont circle. Then I got up at 5 on Sunday morning so I could pack my bags and take the bus back to Boston.
I am here now and am resting from what has been a really intense, but really great summer. Unfortunately, I will be leaving again. On September 10th (or maybe the 12th, depending on when I get my ticket) I will be going to the Netherlands to spend my fall semester abroad. I’m already getting nostalgic because I know I will miss you, but I hope to use this time to see as many of you as possible (read: Magalie, there better be no excuse for us not to see each other in what will be going on 2 years!). I hope to train a lot of Capoeira, and I hope to keep building on memories that I hope will last forever.
Até mais, and see you soon!