Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trail of DREAMs X - The Skin Gets Darker

Turning Brown January 27, 2010
Jan 26 Ocala, FL-

I dedicate today’s walk to an incredible young man named Alejo, for his courage and determination to fulfill his dreams despite all obstacles! I have never quite understood what it means to be a Brazilian man who bears the traces of a very diverse culture in the USA until now. I have always been confused for something I am not. I’ve been called white, Cuban, and Colombian -to name simply a few of the many labels that have been ascribed to me. Friends and acquaintances could not understand why I had an accent to my Spanish and also managed to have a subtle foreign accent that
nobody could quite distinguish its origin. I never really paid much attention to
what that meant to me until I was engaged in the immigrant rights movement. I
have felt that people who don’t speak Spanish as their first language many times
are either misrepresented or pushed to the sidelines. Although we have to go
through the same problems as everyone else, our voice is not regarded as
relevant in the mist of the debate.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the
richness of my first language- Portuguese. Its rhythm, tone, and the history it
bears has intrigued me beyond my wildest expectations. I keep thinking of the
slaves that were forcibly brought to the newly colonized land in South America
around the 1600’s who, despite their chains, managed to shape the language and
culture of a nation. I keep in mind the millions of Indigenous people killed and
displaced of their lands that still found the ways to keep all of the names they
had given to places across all of Brazil, despite the conscious attempt to erase
their culture and the history of their struggle. I cannot deny that I even think
back to the immigrants that came in the 1900’s seeking paradise, only to find
poverty and struggle in their new home.

Their stories and DNA are part
of me and run through every vein in my body. I am Indigenous, Black, Portuguese
and German. I remember my late grandmother treating people of illnesses with
herbs from the land. She understood that Earth had the answers and trusted it
enough to always evade any doctors. Furthermore, I continue to be lured by the
impact of beats and music in my culture, dating back to African drums and
Indigenous practices. When I hear the beat of drums, my whole body instantly
moves and my heart aligns itself to its rhythm.

However, this also means
that I have more melanin in my skin than the majority of people that I have
encountered in this walk. Today, when we were walking in Marion County, one of
the many places in Florida that has a 287 (g) agreement with Immigration Customs
Enforcement (ICE) -agreements that deputize local police to function as ICE
agents- I realized that I am quickly becoming darker due to the constant
exposure I have to the sun –more so than most of my friends. Needless to say,
the relationship between local police and ICE is very problematic especially
because its enforcement has resulted in continuous cases of racial profiling.
One of the people in the local area told me to be very careful because I look
“immigrant”. I didn’t feel threatened, but was simply reminded, yet again, of
what it means to be a brown person in the USA. I can finally comprehend the
culture of fear that we have been subjugated to and how much I want to break
free from it.

What does this fear mean to a young immigrant? The first
thing that comes to mind is shame. I’ve dared myself to diverge from such
thinking and thus become proud of my roots and the color of my skin. I tell
myself that I am brown like delicious café con leche -a drink native to the
South American Andes mountains, that I have been obsessed with since I was a
small child. I am brown as the sweet dulce the leche that goes so well with
different pastries. I am also brown like autumn and its ability to find
resilience to maintain life beyond the harshest winters.

I am the proud
son of a poor, single mother that barely had enough to provide for her children
even tough she spent practically her whole life working three jobs as a maid. I
know how it feels to not have material possessions and must say that poverty
isn’t half as bad to children when they have love lavished upon them to fill
their hearts. However, the bitter taste of injustice stays longer and it is the
only thing that I am determined to eradicate from my life and the life of those
I have come to love all around me and across this continent. The first step to
change is becoming aware of our surrounding, then to create opportunities to
change it forever. I dare everyone who reads this blog to be proud of their
beginnings no matter how simple they were and to express their utmost pride for
it, rather than continue to be melted into a pot that keeps telling us we must
give up our identity and heritage to be more like everyone else.

-Felipe M

link to

No comments: