“HERE” by Tiffany Lenoi Jones
I am here.
I am their teacher tiff, t-dollas, booboolanda, ti-ti, ey yo tiff, tiffany, and Ma!
I am their mother, auntie, big sister
I am their co-conspirator
I am their reflection
I am their teacher
I am their student
I close my eyes
Think of their being
Hope my pencil will reveal their healing
Curve my sharp lines so my dose of love can go down smooth and easy
Add colors of the earth so they recognize its power
Mix the past, present and future within each stroke
Leave pieces of my essence within the cracks
Stand back from my blessed creation.
Pray they will accept it, understand it and learn from it
This my offering of gratitude
They lifted my veil so I can SEE
And demanded me to reach only for greatness
I respond with honesty, patience and dedication
I am here.
I am a woman of color born, raised and living in the United States
My genealogy is representative of this lands bloody, painful and complex history
The relentless pursuit and triumph for one’s peace in this world is rooted in my family tree
I am the daughter of enslaved African women, who were brought to a new land as dehumanize labor and wombs served as factories for the early American economy
I am the offspring of European colonial enslavers, who lust procreated profitable mulattos for the slave auction blocks
I am the granddaughter of the people who lived here before the land was arrogant referred to as the “New World”
I am the direct descendent of American history
I am here.
I am a queer fat femme womyn of color
I am here.
My existence is an act of resistance
Visually,emotionally and intelligently
undoing your schooling on who I and people who look like can be & have been
I am here.
Bearing the weight of the bridge built my back and carrying it back to its proper owners,
I am ancestry exhausted
Tired from the pressing; oppression, repression, suppression, depression
This our middle passage
They lived for us
We are here.
I am here.
I teach for us
For the magical urban faerie who gave all she had in bundles of coffee stained fabric adorned with bells and clay beads in the image of her purple rain dreams. Who replenishes her well? She worked too long on empty.
I teach for adrienne McDonald, ashe.
For my sister who on Saturday hugged me, heard me, saved me and on Sunday committed suicide because for colored gurls sometimes rainbow just aint enough.
I teach for Tauret Davis, ashe.
For classroom chairs reserved for brown indigo children, who are smarter than the bored of education intends and promotes them to be.
For third chances unconditional love finding family in this village we call school.
For earring surprises “tiffany do you like then I got them for you.”
For you never allowing us leave each other’s sight without saying:
“I love you come back to me in one piece.”
For fatal sidewalk beefs on genefirted streets.
For your empty chair left behind
For all the empty chairs left behind
I teach for Raphael Sandonte Ward, ashe.
I teach for them
I teach for you
I teach for me
I teach for we
YOU ARE HERE.
WE ARE HERE.
“Healing the Past & Present for the Future: A TLCbyTLJ & Black Lives Matter Collaboration” by Tiffany Lenoi Jones
Our bodies hold a story of trauma and triumph. My story is an inherited narrative. My ancestors live in my body.Their aches and pains radiate in my body, in our bodies.
“Epigenetic inheritance” is the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren. Imagine how the impact of your ancestors repeatedly being abused, refused and neglected have impacted their descendants? Imagine the impact of inherited and experienced trauma onto a body?
Over time my community has learned how to cope, sometimes ignore, the impacts of trauma on our health. As a result we are plagued with stress disorders, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Not mention that our trauma is exploited. But that is for a post on another day chile!
I am one of the amazing artists commissioned by Black Lives Matter to create an image for 20169 Black Futures Month. I was given in the theme healing justice. Healing Justice is the awareness and healing of the inherited & experienced trauma on de-humanized bodies. To read more about Healing Justice click here READ NOW!
My artwork tells the story my Family Tree.
The top of my tree stand my Paternal Great Great Great Grandparents, who survived the brutality of slavery and managed to raise a family. My Great Great Great GrandMother holds her heart chakra as she stands next to her husband my Great Great Great Grandfather Burl. I can’t imagine the harm they experienced. The power of their will to live and love lives within me. Surrounding them a glowing beam of yellow honoring their divinity as guides in my life and their descendants . They survived for US. Ashe!
Beside them stands my maternal Grandma, Virginia Elizabeth Lewis, who managed to love even with a broken heart.I call her Mama. My Mama was an artist, a dancer, an amazing cook and free spirit. She worked her mojo through her love, her food, her designs and her smile. My Mama was a victim of domestic violence, my grandmother was a victim of western patriarchy and white supremacy. My Mama internalized her pain. Surrounding her is glowing beam and gold halo honoring her as my angel. Her heart radiates. We hold our hurt in our hearts. Our heartache is heart disease. My Mama survived for US. Ashe!
Beneath the ancestors stands my given and chosen family: My father, mother, sister and myself. My father, a Vietnam Vet, who working towards his healing both in mind and body. My mother who holds a candle burning at both ends, she like many black women do much but fail to care for self. My sister, Erin, and I stand blowing out the candle, symbolizing us caring for our mother by giving her permission to heal. My sister and I individually work towards bringing healing justice to our family tree. My sister a healer through fashion & self image and I a healer through art & education. We are hugged by a rose and sage, both plants have been meaningful in my healing journey. We are clearing the harm of the past in order to move forward with love and wealth in health. We will no longer burn the candle at both ends. We de-invest into the stigma of being a strong black woman. We push back on messages from a capitalist, heteronormative, white, patriarchal, body policing society that finds its strength in our presumed weakness and inferiority. We find strength in being vulnerable. They survived for us, we heal for them.
I have found my chosen family in my school community, City-As School. City-As is an alternative transfer high school in NYC that serves the city’s most unwanted but most needed young minds, these young people WILL change the world. The power within them is resilient. It is the power that liberate us all. Their power is rooted within. It is important.
In my village, called school, I am a mother, teacher and healer. Teaching is my healing justice.
In my artwork I highlight two powerful black educators and healers in my community. Ummi, an educator, mother, writer and healer stands proud as she signs the word “Heal”. She is my healer. She reminds me to care for self and stand in my power. She loves me to where I need to be. Andre, an artist, yogi and educator stands in a yoga pose. He welcomes me every morning with reminders to relax and breathe. He conducts daily medications and yoga offerings for students and staff. He is magic.
Ummi and Andre stand behind Alexis, a recent alum of City-As. Alexis entered my life as student and remains in my life as family. Alexis mother to Riley. Alexis is an inspiration of radical womanhood and motherhood. She makes me better. In her life I see the importance and influence of healing justice as it directly impacts our future, Riley.
Alexis holds a supercharged Amethyst, in her hand. Amethyst is a clearing ,healing and protective crystal. Alexis stand behind Riley, who has already proven that my healing is her healing. She is magic, pure black girl magic.
Riley, the only full color person in the tree, stands in awe of the butterfly in hands. The butterfly representing hope and transformation.
Riley is our future.
We heal for her.
We stand behind her because her black life matters.
Our black life matters.
(Credits: Artwork designed and provided by author/writer.
“Healing the Past & Present for the Future: A TLCbyTLJ & Black Lives Matter Collaboration” was originally published on the author/writers’s website: https://tlcbytlj.com/2016/02/08/healing-the-past-present-for-the-future-a-tlcbytlj-black-lives-matter-collaboration)