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Growing in Superstition, Myth and Faith, to drown in the desert

I once read, write what you know. So I did. This world came from my many ancestors: African, Asian, Amerindian, and European, I pay homage to them and transfer them my merits. Wherever they are, may they be free from greed, free from anger and be free from delusion. May they be peaceful, be happy, and be liberated.

When I sat down at my keyboard, out spilled a fantasy that is a crazy mix of my roots; Black, White, Red and Yellow. Christian, Buddhist, Obeah and Orisha. Sometimes it seems fractured and inconsistent with African, Asian, Amerindian, and European themes juxtaposed side by side. The african inspired parts are themselves a mix from different west african groups. But what else is the Caribbean than a melting pot of influences all mash’ up?  Nothing is stale and "pure" it is alive, vibrant, colored and textured with the wonderful varieties of humanity. What better way to represent a mixed-race child who comes from many different cultures, but belongs to, and – outside of the west indies - is accepted by none of them? I can claim all of them, but am claimed by none of them.

At night I am terrorized by jumbies, douen, and shadows that move and shuffle in the deepest corners. A darkness against the darkness that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and paralyzes you with cold icy dread. A few years ago, I came across an article about something called ‘sleep paralysis,’ that almost made me doubt - but I know that spirits exist; the good and the bad. Ancestors, the dead, demons and those some call Orishas or Lwa, I have seen them, run from them, fought with them. “The Sight” that runs in my family is both a gift and a curse.

As a child I prayed for guardian angels to keep attacks by evil spirits at bay. A cross hung in the hallway and, occasionally, I still invoke the name of the Lord to rebuke them. When I look for inner peace, I meditate on Amitabha Buddha’s name and light incense offerings to my ancestors who fought against tyrannical regimes. On Sundays, I sit uncomfortably with the Christians, but I know deep down that I shall never really be one of them. Perhaps it is the curse of a mixed-race child from a culture so diverse. You are always on the outside looking in. You don't belong anywhere, or to any one people.

I long for my aunties, tantie, uncles, cousins, Ye-ye, Ma-ma and the bacchanal of a good family gathering - as only West Indians can do. I miss the world of superstition and magic I grew up in. There was darkness but also light, love and the fullness of life. I close my eyes and can hear soca-calypso music play to the sound of laughter and singing. In the distance, the faint sound of waves lapping at the beach; the smell of salt water carried on the breeze. The sound of my father and uncles bickering is music. If I close my eyes, I can still laugh at Paul Keen's Tantie Merle stories I hear coming from my father's cassette player.

When I moved out of my father’s house and went to university, I left that world behind for an American lifestyle that has always seemed two dimensional by comparison. American ways are still foreign to me. It is as if I have been looking through a black and white filter my whole adult life, and when I dream, I dream of the rich colors that come only from mashing up the Black, White, Red and Yellow.

- Omowale

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