Family over everything
I’ve been contemplating another cross country move. This time, I’ll be back in Nova Scotia, the province that I grew up in. This will be mine and my babies’ fourth time moving between provinces in the last two years. One of which was while they were in utero. Although they were not earth side yet, I know they felt the stress of it all. The mere thought of putting them through that again is stressful within itself but I’m learning that they tend to follow my lead. The more patient I am, the better chance we have of getting through things. In addition to that, they have shown way more resilience than I thought they were capable of, even while I feel that they shouldn’t have had to show such resilience to begin with. Whatever my decision may be, I know that we will move as a family unit because that’s what we are─ small but mighty.
Do I stay or do I go?
In asking myself, “Do I stay or do I go?”, I’ve been riding a train of thought where I’m thinking about my connection to the land that I reside on, or the lack thereof. I go outside and what I see is constant and familiar. We’re stable. I see the same playground and the same housing complex. I get in my car and drive downtown to see the same mom and pop diners plus the one police station in this town and can’t help but notice that there are no nightclubs here, if I did want to go out *insert eye roll*. Although what I see is familiar, what I feel is distance and disconnection. I feel as though I don’t belong here. I rarely see anyone who looks like me and when I do, they are with someone who doesn’t look like me. It’s really isolating to only really see yourself when you look at your children, in a town with a population of a 40,000, give or take.
There is a reason we call Nova Scotia, “Down Home”. There is a reason why, within the last five years, it has been my escape. It’s always been the place that I would run home to when things were fucked up “at home”, in Toronto. Depression engulfed me like clock work each winter and when I got to my last straw, I would book a ticket back home. In those years, I think the idea of going home was more comforting than actually being there. Each visit, I would regret it. I would stay one day or week too long and when everyone’s hype about me being home was over, I would immediately feel lonely again. It was a source of comfort as well as a reminder of why I left. “I have no one”, I’d think. That thought alone would fuel me upon my return to Toronto. I was so sure that Down Home didn’t have what or who I needed, that there was this big life and an even bigger love waiting for me. I hated myself for believing that it was even possible but I knew I would hate myself more if I didn’t at least try. So, try, I did.
I gave Toronto everything I had and some of what I didn’t until I literally couldn’t stand it anymore. I was five months pregnant when the commute to my favorite job was too much on my body. I was so disappointed in myself for throwing in the towel. I was due to host my first creative writing workshop but I couldn’t take getting up every morning, sitting on that shaky ass bus that propelled my nausea into oblivion. I couldn’t stand that damn train, where nobody would give me a seat because I “didn’t look pregnant”. Everything hurt, from my head to my feet. I needed to lay down. I needed to rest. I needed to be taken care of and my partner at the time was on the other side of the country. I needed to get ready for my life to change, drastically. I needed to prepare to be a mom.
I hid in my sleep one day and the next day, sleep evaded me. During this time, my family kept asking me to come home and let them help me. I finally agreed. In all of my exhausted glory, I had no fight left in me but to believe them. That was my only option, if I wanted to give birth to my sweet twins in Halifax. And so, I packed up my small, bachelor apartment in North York and moved back home to my family. Being back on Halifax soil was relieving as it had been for so many years but it didn’t last very long, as was usually the case.
You and the 6 raised me right, that shit saved my life¹
All of this disconnect has led me to think about the lands in which I do feel connected. Up until this year, that place has been Toronto. All of my favorite places come to mind, like Scarborough Bluffs, Centre Island, and Bert Robinson Park to name a few. I have so many wild and ambitious memories in that city. From hikes and bonfires to playing naked volleyball at the nude beach, and writing my first book, “The Teen Sex Trade: My Story”. It was in Toronto that I started to learn to be myself; to face my demons and confront my fear of success and mediocrity. Once I moved back to Ontario, this time with my two children, I thought I would immediately run into Toronto’s arms as soon as I got a chance. I didn’t know my feelings had changed until they did. When the opportunity finally arose to move back to Toronto, I’d suddenly gotten cold feet. I rationalized by telling myself that the support wasn’t there, that it wasn’t the greatest place to raise two young children, particularly by myself, and especially my son. Those things may or not be the big deal that I’m making them out to be but they are at the forefront of my mind nonetheless. Without Toronto though, where do I go? Where is home? Which land do I belong to?
Ever since I gave birth to my twins, I’ve been trying to find myself again. I felt like I’d lost everything I worked so hard to become since those wild and ambitious days in Toronto and my short year in Calgary. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was a mom, girlfriend, friend, and author, but I couldn’t tell you who I was without those titles. To top it off, I’m now a single mother. Everything was a jumbled mess inside my head and so I started to connect to professional resources to help me get back on track. This was one thing my friends couldn’t fix and I didn’t have the capacity to fix on my own. I needed space. I needed to regain my footing. I needed time to myself, for myself. That’s how I found myself on this land where resources are readily accessible but nobody looks like me.
Each week that I sit in group therapy, it’s the small, subtle nuances that remind me that I am the outsider, the other. I felt that way years ago when living with extended family. I felt that way within my immediate family, and now here I am feeling it again. Even though I am learning a lot about myself, there is still an undeniable gap between myself and the other women. I still look outside and even though what I see is familiar, what I feel is distance and disconnection. “I don’t belong here”, is becoming my mantra. So, where do I belong?
Home is Where The Heart Is²
Nova Scotia is calling me home. “Why?”, I ask myself, “What’s there for you?”. I don’t have a definitive answer but I feel it. There is a beautiful, revolutionary energy brewing in my hometown. I have never seen so many young creatives come together. Maybe it has always been there or maybe it has come and gone in cycles but something is different. When I analyze that, I realize that it’s me who is different. I’ve never felt at home while living in Nova Scotia. The closest feeling I got to being home was with my ex who spoke with the same accent that comes spilling out of me whenever I’m with family or friends, and sometimes when I’m drunk. At that time, my home was a person. Now, I understand that if I am to ever find such grounding in a person, it must be within myself because people change. What doesn’t change, at its core, is the land. It may change physically but you cannot rewrite history or rather, her story.
As Nova Scotia calls out to me and I call out to her, I find myself in conversation about what stories Nova Scotian soil holds. I recently reconnected with this real down to Mars man and the depths our conversation reached served as a graceful reminder that universal alignment is real. We spoke about North Preston, the land in which my maternal lineage is from, and its early history. As we talked about how our ancestors were literally left on that land to die under harsh weather conditions, this real down to Mars man casually mentioned how although many families survived, some of them didn’t. I have no idea how this thought had not occurred to me sooner but I looked at him with a new sense of reverence. He had named something I had never considered, bringing forth a new light in my consciousness.
Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage³
Every time I think or speak about my people’s historical connection to the land of North Preston, it is in regards to their resiliency and survival skills. It hadn’t occurred to me that amongst all of my ancestors who had survived and went on to build a thriving community with babies, home cooked food, traditions, and even animals, some of my ancestors never lived to tell the story. Whether it was by choice, force or circumstance, there are those whose life was cut short. I wonder who they were and who they may have been. Like, what did they look like? What did the women think of the times? What were their relationship dynamics? Who did they pray to? Were there natural healers? Were there really witches? How did they handle the grief of losing a loved one? Where are they buried? How many dreams went unrealized? How many experiences went undocumented, were lost or destroyed? I have so many questions that will go unanswered as I try to navigate the here and now, disconnected from my maternal lineage and divine feminine, trying to reconnect to my ancestral land.
I come as one and stand as 10,000⁴
What I do know for sure is that as disconnected as I feel right now, I still come from a long, glorious line of rhinocerous women. Many, many women who transitioned before I was conceived, manifested me. They didn’t have to know my name, who I would be or what I would look like to include me in their prayers. They prayed for my salvation. They knew that one day someone would come to continue their legacy with intention and pride, and here I am. It’s heartbreaking but empowering at the same time. There is a sense of guilt that I feel sometimes for getting down on myself. As a spiritual being having a human experience, I am not exempt from shame, stress, or grief. In allowing myself to experience these very human (e)motions with the understanding that all of it is just energy in motion, I know that all emotions (both good and bad) will pass. The nerve of me to get caught up on who doesn’t support me when I have so many supporting me in this life and beyond; it’s absurd. I have to stay grounded in the fact that I’m here for a reason. I’m having visions of womens’ last moments and how much sacrifice was made just for me to be here. I stand in the knowing that I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams. I am here today because someone, somewhere refused to give up and I’m grateful for every one of them.
I’m grateful for my grandmothers and their mothers who have transitioned to their final resting place. I know now that all I need to do is tap into their energy. Even if I didn’t know their name, it is every bit possible to call upon them. I’m grateful for my elders who are still with me, like my godmother. Tapping into that ancestral wisdom helps me to be more confident in my ability to live this life in a way that creates healthy pathways for my children, their children, and so on and so forth. Not only my children but other children and adults who may come across my message. In turn, the teachings I share and leave them with become my legacy. While living and after death, my people will call upon my name as a peer, an elder and an ancestor to guide them in their experiences. I have to be mindful to give this life everything I have, to absorb and practice that ancestral wisdom, so that when they call upon me I am ready to listen and offer support.
If you cut your chains, you free yourself. If you cut your roots, you die⁵
Thinking back on the women and mothers that I am a descendant of, I am called to reconsider my connection to the land in which I come from. Despite my knowledge of its Mi’kmaq roots, I viewed Nova Scotia as a place that holds so many painful memories. I witnessed, perpetrated and was victim to abuse on that land. For so long, it has served as a reminder of who I used to be not who I am or who I want to be. There is an African proverb that says, “If you cut your chains, you free yourself. If you cut your roots, you die”. Toronto showed me who I was and what I was capable of, for better or for worse. In a sense, it did free me… from the chains of self doubt. It took moving outside of my comfort zone to see who I was without the influence of others and trying to live up to their expectations of who I should be. I had to be alone before I could realize how the majority of the shit I thought I needed, I really didn’t. The people I thought I could never live without.. Well, I’m still here, aint I? Nova Scotia, at its core, is my home land. Historically, I could say I’m “really from” Amerikkka, Jamaica or North/West Africa, but in this lifetime, I am proud to say I am indigenous to Nova Scotia. I’m proud to walk on the land that my ancestors built. I can view Nova Scotia now, not as a painful memory but, as a phoenix of a province.
…On that day you will either slit your soul or gather your spirit, leaving any man who has never called you holy⁶
In the world, there are ancient ruins that are deemed as holy grounds but why are our ancestral grounds not deemed as sacred? Grounds in which my ancestors sacrificed and died on, only to be met with threats of being stripped of their land for not owning a legal title to it─ despite their family living on that land for seven plus generations. Those outside of Nova Scotia often have a misguided assumption that because of where we live, we “grew up on the ocean” with sand and scenic drives. Some people may have but to this day, Nova Scotia is disturbingly lacking the humanity to treat the black collective in its province as equals. The youth there are quickly shooting past the survival mode that their ancestors had to be in, and taking it straight to challenging the status quo. They are creating the realities they wish to see, they are demanding to be seen. It is a beautiful and gracious thing.
All we wanna do is take the chains off. All we wanna do is be free⁷
This is why I need to go home, not as my former self but as I am, as a mother, connecting to the land. The cycle that I was wrapped up in where I had to do this because of what this person might think is broken. I don’t have the energy to focus on the people that aren’t ready to get right with their spirit and take control of their life. I do have energy to build and that’s what I want to do─ to be on land that feels like home, surrounded by people who share in my growth and I in theirs. I want to connect to the beauty and grace that young people, like me, are exuding. I want to love people who are naming their truths, taking back their power. I want people to love me for who I am, right now, in this moment. I want a tribe that’s down to come along for the ride in figuring out what it means to be free and how to get there. Ase!
1. Song lyric, You & the 6, Drake¹
2. Blog title, same name, myself²
3. Quote, Killmonger, Black Panther³
4. Quote, Maya Angelou⁴
5. African Proverb⁵
6. Excerpt from poem, Phoenix, Ijeoma Umebinyuo⁶
7. Song lyric, Be Free, J.Cole⁷