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Cuba~Maude Moves To Oakland

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Can ones travel persona survive or thrive in their everyday life?

I am a very different person when I travel. The shock of returning to my calm, cautious life in Oakland sent me on an internal journey, in exploration of what I want and I what my definition of living really is. The result of that exploration…I want Cuba~Maude to come live in Oakland.

Who is Cuba~Maude? I asked myself.

Cuba~Maude has stamina. She dances for 3 hours in the morning, goes home to shower and change. She takes afternoon walks around the neighborhood in search of something new and interesting. She speaks to strangers on the street, looks them in the eyes and smiles at them as she passes.  She joins her Cuba family for dinner, takes a nap, then gets dolled up and head out for a night of fun, flirting and laughter. And through the night, she sleeps deeply.

Cuba~Maude feels everything. She’s perceptive and intuitive. She notices the effects of colonialism on the interactions between black men and black women and the interactions of those same black men and white women. She experiences the pain of being dark-skin in a world that has an unspoken code that says dark-skin women are not worth as much as white women. She feels that pain and allows herself to cry –  the ugly cry. And then while crying, Cuba~Maude is still open and loving enough that she allows herself to be comforted by a new friend, who happens to be one of the women who reaps the benefit of that unspoken code. Although, I’m not sure “benefit” is the right word.

Cuba~Maude stays fly. She takes her time and coordinates her outfits in a brand-new combination each day. She paints her nails and prepares her hair at night. Cuba~Maude is free to be a sexual grown ass woman. She notices her beauty and nurtures it. She feels sexy. She’s playful with men and women. She flirts whenever the mood strikes. She knows she’s fine and that shows in the confident way she moves, the way she laughs, the way she dances in the street, the way she speaks a language that is not her native tongue. She’s open to love and friendship. For Cuba~Maude, being single is an advantage because there is nothing to apologize for later. She’s never lonely, because every moment presents another opportunity to meet a beautiful international lover who will bring a new culture, a new way of life into her world.

Cuba~Maude knows who she is, she is conscious of her skills and abilities and uses them to accomplish things. She uses her ability to draw people to her in order to find or create the opportunities she’s looking to experience. She uses her hood smarts to know when it’s time to tell an aggressive guy it’s time to part ways, in a way that he doesn’t even realize he’s being rejected in the moment. She uses her boss lady skills to negotiate in broken Spanish with club owners to get some of her new Cuban friends in the door at a discount. She uses her warrior woman posture to stop a drunk person from taking advantage of the group.

Cuba~Maude is committed and fearlessness in her desire to experience the local religions. She  states who she wants to meet and goes in search of them. She dives into the waters of Cuban Yoruba with her whole self and is bold enough to be led down tiny streets into unknown houses to meet a babalao for readings and Ebos. She doesn’t allow her fear of being “the other” stop her from joining a new friend at a Jewish Synagogue for a Friday Shabbat. She simply puts on her most modest attire and jumps into the experience, being open and available to experiencing God wherever it shows up.

Cuba~Maude lives out loud. She feels every emotion when it presents itself. She’s not controlled by her emotion, but she doesn’t camouflage her feelings. She laughs out loud, with her head thrown back and many times until her stomach and cheeks hurts. She wails when the pains of the world become too much to bare. She fights back when fighting is necessary. She prays through it all, thanking God for every moment ~ for the growth, the laughter, the new friends, the challenges and simply for having the opportunity to Be Here, Now.

I’ve realized since I’ve returned home to Oakland, California, that when I was in Cuba, I felt alive! It was not a perfectly packaged experienced, and there were many times when things didn’t feel OK. But whatever was going on, I felt Alive! I felt every emotion, in its right and perfect moment. And the adrenaline that came with that was potent. This experience has given me a glimpse into what I believe living really is. Living, for me now, is being personally open and free to experience all the ups and the downs of life in the moment they are happening. To allow myself to feel the pain of this fucked up world when it shows itself as fucked up, and then to allow myself to smile uncontrollably when I’m seated at a dinner table with the most beautifully fun group of people. And to recognize that those two things are true~ in this fucked up world there are beautiful people who give me life and remind me of what happiness is. Horror and beauty share this space called earth, simultaneously.

I want Cuba~Maude to live with me here in Oakland. I want to feel alive, while at home. I want to feel free to express that which I feel, when I feel it. I don’t want to sugar coat shit. I don’t want to second guess my feelings and rationalize why I should make myself small around this person or that person. I don’t want past sexual trauma to influence my current relationships. I want to be Free! I want to be Alive! I want to Wake Up!

But is Oakland~Maude ready to let Cuba~Maude sleep in her bed, run her business, and tend to her children? Personally, I think Oakland~Maude desperately needs Cuba~Maude to revive her spirit right about now.

Let’s see. Let me give Oakland~Maude a taste of Cuba~Maude….I’ll tell you how it all works out!


Thank You Cuba For The Love

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I’m going out on a limb and saying Cuba was my best travel experience yet!

OK, wait. Let me back up, “best travel experience yet” is a bit strong. Let me rephrase that and say Cuba was my most “Lived-In” travel experience to date. I don’t feel like I went on vacation. I feel like I lived in Cuba for a few weeks. I feel like I went there to meet some cousins I just found out I had. Of course I was a foreigner, so I was treated differently in many instances, but that’s to be expected. I felt held in a way that allowed me to throw my note cards in the air and just wing it. It felt like freedom to me.

“Cuba~Maude”  lived in the moment and felt the myriad of emotions that come with life and living. I smiled and laughed until my jaws hurt for the blessing and the fun of meeting interesting, memorable, free-spirited people who I can now call friends. I cried for how race is always a factor all around the world and for how the effects of colonialism show up in my mind and in some male/female engagements I had. I was conscious of behavior, my own as well as those around me. And through it all I talked my thoughts and feelings out in real time over food and drink with uniquely beautiful women traveling with the group.

The 4am loud serenades from bar-hopping passersbys on my block in Havana was real life, yo. As was the sweet family street festivals in Santiago. I zoned out in dance class, allowing the warrior courage of Ogun and the feminine strength of Osun to uplift my spirit, straighten my spine and raise my confidence level. I battled, unsuccessfully, with my “American Strong Black Woman” ideology, trying my best to relax my body enough to be led by my Salsa partners (turns out that kind of internal release is going to take longer than a few weeks!). We drank Havana Club rum or Cristal cervezas (and sometimes both!) and we ate arroz y frijoles, plátanos fritas, papaya and yucca J. And I got my first glimpse into the world of Cuban Yoruba practices and rituals. I came home feeling full to overflowing.

To Ramon, thank you for being the big homie, making sure we were safe and felt welcomed. To my travel beauties – Carle, Nicky, Julianna, Amiyo and Caitlin – the journey can only be as great as its participants! Thanks for being loving and fun participants. Agua! To the amazing team who guided us around the cities safely, with patience and beauty – Chino, Susana, Tymeek, Máte, Tanya, Ledsley, Edny, Menor, Evelyn, Yilman, Yanko – thank you for simply being beautiful people. Life is so much better with you in it. And to all the people I have no names for, you freaking ROCK!

Thank you Cuba. You lit up my life! I shall return ~ Pronto!

Finding My Way

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Mis-Categorizing Personal Evolution as Struggle

Everything I said yesterday is false! Lol. I’m not all over the place and I’m not struggling. I’m simply finding my way through. I’m walking the path into unknown territory. Yesterday, I realized how I often talk about my path as confusing or a struggle. But the reality is that everyday is a step on into unknown territory. I have mis-categorized personal evolution and internal growth or stretching, as struggle.

This is a period of great internal growth and stretching for me. Becoming Queen Mother (my word for the process of becoming a grandmother) has been filled with many demands to stretch. Demands to show up in my daughter’s life in a new way. In a way where I am present and available for love and guidance, while staying out of her business and allowing her to stretch and grow into womanhood and motherhood.

One powerful reminder that has supported me in stepping into this new role, is recognizing and acknowledging that me and my village have raised a powerful, strong, independent young woman who has the same intuition that I have relied on to guide me through my own life. She is learning to trust her intuition and is making grown woman decisions for herself and her child. That is no longer my responsibility. Wow! That’s no longer my responsibility. That is an amazing thought and that truth has been both sad and liberating for me.

Becoming Queen Mother is not only calling me to show up in a new way in the life of my family, but also in my own personal life. It has both freed up my time and demanded more from me. With Brittany focused on Gio, I have more hours to be alone, to contemplate life, to do me. This free time gives me space to remember my dreams, to ask myself “what do I REALLY want?” “ What REALLY makes me happy?” And now I have some time to explore those questions. To get down and dirty into the discovery of my inner desires. I have new-found excited anticipation about  uncovering the answers. I can feel that there are infinite possibilities available to and for me.

Becoming Queen Mother has also opened a door to my ancestors. A spiritual portal has been opened inside of me. I am being called to pick up the spiritual training of my ancestors and to take it forward in a way that only I can. Specifically, I hear/feel my great grandmother Anita Harris calling me forward. She was a voodoo priestess, who healed people through root work and was a real true feminist before that was even a thing.

I can remember many times asking my mom what she knew about voodoo and about Mama Anita. I would be enthralled in the stories of how Mama Anita worked the spirits. Those questions have been in me for as long as I can remember. But I’ve never received the answers I was looking for. My mom said that certain things couldn’t be discussed because voodoo was too powerful to play with. She cautioned me to stop seeking after it. She shut me down each time. But now, Mama Anita has got a hold of me. She is drawing me in, she’s guiding me to the teachings, to the books, to the teachers, and deeper into myself and what I know intuitively.

When the calls began to get louder in my heart and mind, I was afraid. I thought about all the New Orleans voodoo ghost stories I heard growing up. I was scared at night, thinking about which spirits would appear and whether they would try to harm me or scare the shit out of me. I was afraid to speak about Mama Anita, to think about her. Fearing that she might destroy me. But she has guided me to teachings that promise me that she is not against me, but for me. Through me, she can live on. Through me, her lineage can continue, so it makes no sense for her to want to destroy me.

She is my great grandmother. I am Gio’s grandmother. There is nothing that could ever cause me to want to destroy him. He came from me. He carries me in his blood. No matter how angry or disappointed I could ever be with him, destroying him would never be my response or desire. Loving him, lifting him out of whatever hell he found himself in, would be my only desire. And so it is with Mama Anita. Her desire is to lift me up, to take me to new heights, to teach me what she knew, to guide me deeper into my own power. To support me in transforming/evolving her teachings into something that can support her children today.

And so I step out and at the same time, deeper into myself, deeper into my intuition. Deeper into the priestess within.

And the journey promises to be well worth it.

Ashé, Amen, And So it is!