Monday, October 31, 2005

Day of the Dead

I love Halloween and Day of the Dead. It wasn't a holiday I recall celebrating when I was growing up, although I've heard that a lot of Filipinos do celebrate it--probably by calling it 'All Souls Day' more likely than not. But I'm glad that--mostly through my friendships with Latinos and other conscious people of color--I've begun to incorporate the celebration of this holiday into my life. Among those I want to remember and honor this day...

My Mama Hely--if she had been born a man and white, the woman would've been a gourmet, 5-star restaurant chef, hands-down. The best flan-maker in the universe. A couple years after her death in 2000, I attended a Filipino party where they served a flan that brought tears to my eyes; it was the first I had tasted since Mama passed away that was even close to being as good as hers. She was my spiritual mother in many ways who raised me as her own from the time I was 2 months old when my Mom was off at work, workin' hard as so many single moms must do. I still miss you, Mama. Every day.

Khalil Abdus-Samad--funny, warm, generous, righteous. Khalil was an organizer with POWER in San Francisco, a radical organization of low-wage workers. My most vivid memory of Khalil was on a CFJ retreat, which he attended as a rep from POWER. We got to chop it up a bit, just hang out, which activists don't get to do enough because we're often too damned busy. I remember telling him that his walking stick--a yellow-beige bamboo pole--was nice, which prompted him to look at it thoughtfully, and then hand it to me. "Take it, it's yours," he said.

Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement icon who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I've helped tell the 'real' story of Rosa Parks countless times in organizing trainings, reminding people that Ms. Parks was not a random, lone protester that was just too tired to get up after a long day of work, but that she was involved in her local NAACP and acted as part of a larger organized effort to desegregate the Montgomery bus system. Rest in Power, Rosa.

Yesterday, H. and I went to the Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos festival, saw the beautiful and varied altars there, including one from Grupo Maya, a Guatemalan solidarity group, and another that showed off on a circular, tiered concrete display, dozens of painted skulls that represented famous ancestors, such as Che Guevara and others. Daniel Sanchez and his Nopal Apparel T-shirts were there, representin' with beautiful new designs on posters and T-shirts of classic Sade and Marvin Gaye images. I'm glad I ran into D. and Nopal at the festival because now I know where I can stock up on Christmas/Winter Solstice gifts!

This is one of my favorite poems in honor of the dead. Thanks to Luisa Teish for the inspiration and connection:

Those who are dead are never gone;
they are there in the thickening shadow.
The dead are not under the earth:
they are in the tree that rustles,
they are in the wood that groans,
they are in the water that sleeps,
they are in the hut, they are in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.

Those who are dead are never gone,
they are in the breast of the woman,
they are in the child who is wailing
and in the firebrand that flames.
The dead are not under the earth:
they are in the fire that is dying,
they are in the grasses that weep,
they are in the whimpering rocks,
they are int he forest, they are in the house,
the dead are not dead.

--Birago Diop

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