My Interview on Kreyolicious and why authentic representation of Haitian Americans matters. Our accents are not monolithic!
Diary of An Invisible Black woman Wood Ave: A Birthday Atonement
Essay by Sacha Elie
As I make my way down the grand staircase, the smooth whiskey warms my chest in the cold chill of the Mark Taper Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. I quickly maneuver around the usual crowd of the white retired theater patrons. I bum rush towards the lady’s room making it my sole mission to avoid the long line that always inevitably ends up circling the entire restroom.
I am what seems to be 30th in a line of women. But wait - multi-colored women. I’m taken back by the unusual amount of black and brown elegantly dressed women. Only Oscar winner Tarell McCraney and Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad can be responsible for drawing in Zamunda’s best on a Sunday afternoon. It's September 24th and-
I'm whisked away, and I’m taken back to Edie Murphy’s classic rom-com hit ‘Coming to America.’ The scene in which Zamunda’s finest appear in their most extravagant traditional garbs, as they sip champagne to toast the arranged engagement of Prince Akeem, played by Eddie Murphy, to the very beautiful Imani Izzi, played by actress Vanessa Bell.
For those of you that don’t understand the euphoria of this moment, it’s because as a woman of color, or as a person of color, in general, you always notice if you're the “Only person of color in the room.” When entering any new environment, A mental note is always taken. This is anywhere and everywhere, schools, classrooms, gas stations, work environments, social events, libraries, bars, restaurants, movies, get my drift? Call it instinctual, comforting or simply taking a mental note, just in case shit goes down! As a person of color, its second nature, you automatically ALWAYS are aware of your surroundings.
Once the realization sets in that you're not ALONE, a very subtle exchange happens between us people of color. Let's speak specifically between African American men and women. Since I can mostly make references to my own experiences. Perhaps you’ve seen it? But never fully registered it or understood the true meaning behind it. It’s a very subtle exchange that happens next. Most likely a nod between black men, and/or a smile between black women.
It’s a sort of recompense in a way. It’s a silent exchange of communication that proclaims; I See You! Which as a minority, to be truly seen is a rarity in this country? When we silently acknowledge one another, it's as if for a split moment, you belong to a secret society where you feel safe and protected. We are communicating telepathically “I got your back!”
I haven't been surrounded by this amount of beautiful and regal African American women since my visit to the Essence Festival the summer before. To have it happen by happenstance, well it felt beautifully overwhelming as I exchanged, countless after countless smiles with each passing woman.
My eye catches a graceful and extremely stylish older African American woman as she applies the finishing touches of her mauve lipstick.
“Great Color!” I timidly say.
“Thank You,” She says confidently. She smiles and finesses the final touches of her hair.
I awkwardly smile back and respond.
“You remind me of my mother. It was her signature color in the 80s.”
Abort! Abort! Am I calling her old? Out of touch?
“Today’s my birthday!” I blurt out.
Every year around my birthday, I rummage through old photos of my mother in her prime. Her hair ponytailed to the side, sporting her favorite mauve lip ware. Each photo stamped with her signature smile. Welcoming and warm.
“Happy Birthday! “The woman smiles warmly. “Enjoy the rest of the show!”
“Miss? The stall ahead is free. “A voice mentions. I feel a sudden lump in my throat as I enter the empty stall ahead.
The cool water runs through my fingers as it awakens me from my mildly tipsy slumber. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I think of the beautiful woman with the mauve lips.
Memories of my deceased mother flash through my mind. I smile. I catch a reflection of a woman long gone. Only to reveal seconds later, my own image staring back at me.
I’m 36 today. This birthday marks a milestone. It’s been eighteen years since she died. The last day I spent alone with my mother she was frail. Cancer ravaged her insides leaving her to nothing but skin and bones. Her cheekbones perturbed outward, her eyes shut frozen, a result of the pain medication.
I walked into the dark hospital room where she laid. I gravitated to her bedside and held her hand. I whispered softly into her ear, hoping to ease some of the pain. She was irresponsive. It was only a matter of time the doctors said. She most likely wouldn't make it through the night. A woman once filled with so much life, and fight, now was unable to breathe and move on her own. She was unable to be the mother I so desperately needed her to be in that moment. But, unlike the doctors, I knew my mother. We were thick as thieves.
My mother gave birth to four children, we all knew she had a favorite. The youngest, but I never felt it, and most importantly I never cared. Because she was my favorite. She was both my mother and my best friend. We spoke about everything and shared everything. We shared clothes, talked about the lack of boys in my life, unwarranted sex talks. We spoke endlessly about our deepest hopes, dreams, and desires.
So, I knew my mother, and with her, where there was a will, there was always a way. On our last day together, we found solace in our wounded hearts. I held her hands, and like that silent exchange shared between African American men and women, she squeezed her hand into mine and mine into hers. We held each other tightly throughout the night exchanging telepathically: “I got you your back!”.
For eighteen years I was lucky enough to have my mother. And for eighteen years I’ve also had the unfortunate luck to know what life is like without her.
“You have an active imagination!” My mother would say.
The drive home is unbearable. The lump in my throat continues to grow. I feel an overwhelming emptiness rise as a flood of tears begin to roll uncontrollably down my eyes. And then, suddenly I remember!
My mother's voice echoes in the distance, as she joyously sings along with my father in their thick Haitian accents; “Doin' the Butt”;“Yeah-ee yeah. Yeah-ee, Yeah-ee, yeah-ee-yeah.”
The seven-year-old version of myself cringes both with embarrassment and excitement as I watch my parents ruin the lyrics to E.U.’s, classic 1988 hit “Da Butt.”They screech out loud with laughter, holding their stomachs in from the pain.
They relish in the deliciousness of watching their oldest prepubescent son, rap, while their two youngest children, my then four-year-old younger brother and I joyously dance around our kitchen with our pillow stuffed derrières to “Da Butt.”They were young. They were happy.
They immigrated to the United States in 1972. Modern explores of a new frontier. They arrived in a new land where they didn't speak the language. Born into an all-black nation. They interacted with a handful of “moun blans” white people. In search of the American Dream, my parents left Tiburon, Haiti, and landed in Boston, Massachusetts.
Ten years later my parents became the first black Haitian settlers to buy a home on Wood Ave. The house where I was born. Back then Wood Ave was a quiet working-class neighborhood. The type of neighborhood where the families living there were all working towards the American Dream. Nice houses with white picket fences, or as much as they could attain too, living in the urban suburb of Hyde Park, MA.
Each year on my birthday I find myself wondering about the teenage boy, that lived across the street. A young boy, now a man, I never meet. I often wonder if the name of the street is as embedded into his core memory as it is in mine. As far as I am told, times were different back then. Wood Ave. was a neighborhood where people took care of each other. A place where kids, white kids, were safe.
I frequently wonder if that teenage boy still remembers my mother? If she or I ever cross his mind.
My parents had family over in what was their traditional weekly Sunday dinner. Sundays were set aside for our families to commune in food, drink, play, and laughter. It was a time to be merry before the harsh realities of the week began.
My two older siblings, my then five-year-old sister, and nine-year-old brother were playing outside with cousins when chaos erupted. The neighborhood men, grandfathers, and sons alike barged onto our front lawn, whipped with arsenals ready for war. They were armed with baseball bats, weapons, clubs, knives, and fists.
“Take the children Inside!” my father and uncles shouted at the women.
My aunts scattered, some in tears fearfully screaming for their children to find shelter. My mother, being the fearless woman, she was, turned her fist into a weapon and begin to hit vigorously the man that had been hitting her husband, my father, repeatedly with a baseball bat.
I’m told that the teenage boy pushed my mother onto the ground. And with his fist punched her repeatedly in the stomach before discovering a baseball bat. He continued to beat her in the stomach over and over and over again. She was 8 months pregnant with twins.
I do not know the remaining events of that day. I can only imagine they were too painful to revisit. On September 24th, 1981, my mother was forced into an emergency C-section, losing one child and delivering another.
Years later, I heard that the mother of that teenage boy pleaded with my mother to drop the charges. My mother consented. If the tables were turned. I don't think I would be so forgiving. She deserved better. My parents deserved better. This was not the American Dream my parents boldly set off to create.
My parents rarely spoke about the events that lead to my birth. In fact, I would have never known if it wasn’t for my active imagination. I always felt like there was something missing as a child. I would make up for it by playing with an imaginary friend, a sister.
I was eleven when my mother sat me down to explain the horrid events that led to my birth. I’ve blocked out most of it. It’s a story too painful to think about let alone express. The loss. The anger. The rejection. The loneliness. My parents barely spoke of her, I never knew there were two of us until that day.
The 2016 presidential election marked the rise of unspeakable hate and bigotry in the U.S. It never disappeared or laid dormant. There are countless similar stories left untold that continue to happen each day. But I can’t help but wonder if that teenage boy along with the rest of the mob that flooded onto my front lawn that day, have ever attempted to live across the street from families like mine ever again. To make amends for a life never lived, for a mother’s forgiveness, and for a young child's atonement.
Or I can’t help but wonder if you and the rest of your group blame families like mine as the catalyst for a series of events that unfolded into the disintegration of your neighborhood? Leaving you all to reminisce about “The good old days on Wood Ave.” A time when America was simple, a time when it was great.”
When you want to smile, and all that you can do is reconcile, your heart may flip with moments of betrail, but in the end, you'll see my friend, that all in all, it never made sense, and it was left to be made worthwhile.
When you feel like giving up....
Keep your eye on the prize.
When you know what is true, turn your mind to the sea and see the vision you've envisioned inside your dream.
For your mind is the key that will unfold the treasures and the gold that pirates search to unfold.
When you look to the sea, remember to always see what you will be, for that is the gold the truth will unfold, use your mind to unlock the treasures beyond time.
-By Sacha Elie
My Self Worth:
Take the Self Worth Challenge and write what your own self worth means to you, leave it in the comment or message me!
I am the daughter of Haitian Immigrants the descendants of Haitian Slaves that fought in a revelation for freedom. In my blood runs the descendant of a Great Haitian General that fought, directed and help lead his brothers and sisters towards their self worth, of Freedom.
In my veins runs the blood of women that bore 13 and 12 brave souls that journeyed into the Americas to provide me with this opportunity to live, breath, speak and follow my dreams.
I am the future mother of unborn souls who by example I must walk a path of bravery to live, truly live a life yet explored, for my daughters.
I am a human being who's failures nearly took me down, stopping the willingness to breath and dream.
I am a human being that will not be defined nor stopped dead by my miseries, failures and mistakes but instead I will learn day by day the value in the courage to walk in them, to walk threw them, past them and beyond them.
Despite what the current state of the world may have me hypnotized to believe my worth is based beyond by my credit score, the car I drive , the number of likes on my post or pages, or YouTube Views, or Instagram followers, or if you choose to like me, hate me, support me, or even by the career I have or don't have.
I am worth much more then these things, THESE. THINGS. THEY. ARE. JUST. THINGS. If I fail then....
I will use my failures as a walking stick to aid and assist me to carry me if I stumble in the wake of the night.
I am my mothers daughter, who taught me to fight for my rights, to stand proud against injustice, who looked me in the eye everyday and told me that I was a strong and beautiful, Black, Haitian, powerful, but will always be Powerful young woman. No matter the challenge, to never forget my light.
I am my mothers daughter that gave me the Gift of Sight to see the envy in men and the deep secrets of my enemies.
I am my grandmothers daughter who also gave me the sight of spirit in Nature and All things know and unknown to men.
Where others see impossibilities or madness, my ancestors implored in me the wisdom and the destiny Of Turning Thought into Magic, for its not Voodoo that runs in my veins but the magic of free will, the endless pursuit of determination to turn the impossibility to possibility, therefore everything I am. Thought. Created. And Ever Imagined, can be nothing but Possible.
- A Poem By Sacha Elie
Take the challenge and write what your own self worth means to you, leave it in the comment or message me!
(c) August 14, 2017
Exciting News Ladies and Gents!
So much has happened in the past few months that I don't even know where to start, this year just keeps on piling with blessings that makes this ordinary life seem a bit less ordinary and dream like.
I haven't written in a while because, well producing, a solo show has been quite demanding but utterly rewarding and worth it.
Tickets are Avail on United Solo Website :-) Click on the link for tickets!
Dreams do Come True, The Flyer is here and it makes it feel, Oh! So real!! :-)
"Who You Calling a Bitch" ?!? Is going to Hollywood... Hollywood Fringe that is!!
Official Recipient of 2017 Hollywood Fringe Scholarship...Thank you to all the folks at Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Who You Calling A Bitch?!? (My second produced play)
☆☆☆☆ - Brilliant, I love that play of yours! Hilarious -Steven Rodgers, Infinity stage
Allow Passion to Become Your Purpose and It Will Become Your Profession...
The shores of Haiti, of Tiburon were transforming. Slavery changes not only the spirit of man, but strips the soul of the Island. The days of synchronicity with nature were vastly disappearing, in the age of Columbus. Something had shifted in the island and it began seeking vengeance.
“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
― Click on 'PLASTIC' to watch.
"You see what a prayer really is, is of the heart."
"To me that is the hardest thing on this here earth".
About three weeks ago I embarked on a Comfort Zone Challenge that was created by a semi awkward (a title of which I proudly self-proclaim myself) seemingly both approachable and friendly, coach, speaker entrepreneur and TEDx speaker Till Grossman.
He is the founder of the Comfort Zone Crusher. Till Grossman has created a following all over the world of people who dare to reach beyond the limits they have created for themselves. The challenges ask you to question everything you know about yourself and the world around you.
I unknowingly fell upon this challenge during a polite conversation. Through a chance encounter I meet a drifting European on vacation in Los Angeles, who as the forces would have it, was here for one day only. Somehow we feel into a conversation about battling our biggest fears, mine is to sit alone in a restaurant on a Friday or Saturday evening in a very populated restaurant filled with couples (just in case you were wondering). He mentioned this challenge and how exciting it was for him to participate in it. His eyes lit when he spoke of the different challenges he did with this curious group, that I had never heard of. Just seeing how alive he felt when describing The Comfort Zone Challenges I decided to say, "What the heck", I have nothing to loose.
.....With out giving too much information.....The basic structure of the comfort zone challenge is that you are sent a specific amount of challenges via e-mail in which you have 48 hours to complete.
One thing that my life experience has taught me is to always assume that when entering a new adventure you never quit get what you expected. Often the rewards are even greater then what you planned on experiencing.
I will note, that when I made the decision to jump out of my own skin, I expected to approach each challenge kicking and screaming, tossing and turning the night before, at the anticipation of the next challenge.
*Disclaimer this is how I used too normally approach new things, like first day of school, a new job, auditions, my body and mind usually dives right in kicking and screaming, and in knots of anticipation of the NEW*
But I digress- Where was I? Yes--- The Challenges!!!!!
As I was saying, I thought I was going be stretched in a way that was so uncomfortable that I would want to vomit every second of each challenge.
Again- without giving too much information away, the first challenge by far was the scariest challenge. The, "Lie Down Challenge", Mr. Till Gross has you dive right in with the big dogs. Upon accepting the challenge you have 48 hours to lie down for 30 seconds in a public space, preferably crowded, IE grocery stores, shopping malls, Times Square, you get the point! The key thing here is that it must be a PUBLIC place.
[The picture of my feet above...Yup! That's me in Target]
This by far was the scariest thing I think I've done in relation to the, Comfort Zone Crusher challenges. It took me 3 days not 48 hours to build up the courage.
So I was ecstatic to partake in the rest, because that filling of accomplishing something that originally terrified me was exhilarating, I felt as alive as the mystery man that introduced me to the Comfort Zone Crusher challenges. I was walking with an extra pep in my step and it felt like a drug, I wanted more.
The second Challenge which I also posted a video blog about on my Author page on Facebook, which you can also find a link to my page here: SachaElieBooks;
was not as exhilarating and neither was the third challenge, but they were extremely valuable lessons I learned about myself and the world that I've created for myself.
The third day of challenge we were asked to smile to 5 people, perfect strangers of course. This challenge took me almost a week to achieve because I kept on starting from scratch. It took me a week to realize that this is something I do on a consistent basis. I kept on methodically picking out strangers to smile too and then I would loose track because I naturally smiled and went well past 5 individuals. And then one morning, determined to finish the challenge, it hit me like a ton of bricks, THIS IS WHO I AM...
THIS IS WHO I AM.
The 5th day of the challenge I have to admit, life happened and I had to take some time before I began again.
The next challenge, The Compliment Challenge, we were asked to compliment 5 strangers, on anything, IE hair, clothes, smile etc.
I dived right right in, I dived right in & experienced the same road block that I experienced in the previous challenge. It took me almost another week, to realize that this is what I do naturally. THIS IS WHO I AM.
I don't want to give away much of Mr. Gross's challenges, I would like to leave you with some element of surprise if you decide to try it out for yourself...
But what I will say with the last challenge is that it brought about the same thrill and for me was just as scary as the first challenge and I felt just as accomplished and proud of myself after completing it.
While some challenges were easier then others to perform, what I got out of the experience was not just self discovery but also amazing insight about MY LIFE & WHO I AM.
WHAT I AM....
I'm naturally a comfort zone crusher. I spend my daily life crushing the zones of what is considered to be normality. Maybe its because I'm an actor and I spent more then half of my life auditioning, in classes, rolling around on floors, wrapping my body around people I barely knew, jumping up and down while making animal sounds as a student and as a teacher in front of 20 to 200 people at a time.
I'm an artists, and once you choose to create you are constantly setting up new comfort zones for yourself and then crushing them to see what's next. That is the life of an artists. This is my life.I currently live and breath it. I'm already a risk taker by the nature of who I've chosen to be and by the career and life path I've chosen to live.
The comfort zone challenge for me is about re-collaborating your life, pushing you forward to a new direction. Life is meant to be lived and I've learned that I already LIVE life everyday. So in a nutshell, I didn't kick and scream on a daily basis, but I did get a good reminder about the comfort crusher that already lives inside of me.
If you are interested in taking the challenge below, check out Till Gross website, by clicking here!
If you like the article and or found it useful, feel free to Re-post, Like, and Follow.
What's your comfort zone, step out of your norm and discover who you are truly meant to be!
-There's nothing to loose only great gains await.
DON'T TOUCH MY HAIR - SOLANGE KNOWLES
-Reasons why YOU MAY NEVER ask me about my HAIR again!
-I've had people both just run their hands through my hair and even ask me if was OK to do so when they had the urge. Some of my girlfriends don't mind people asking or touching, but I have to say even when someone ask me the dreaded question, I scream on the inside and have visions of shouting out, 'No you may not touch my hair!'; 'What are you crazy'? 'I'm not a museum piece. I'm a human being, you fool!'