1. The Great Escape
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
8th June 2020
Travelling full speed down the highway, which was only about 65 mph in my van Melody: a Dodge Ram 2500 home-on-wheels, I ran my fingers through my hair and, feeling the warm, thick wind whipping through my freshly cut curls, I understood myself to be cutting off and getting rid of all the dead ends within my current life.
Appreciatively, I felt the warm sun taking rest upon the brown of my skin and allowed for the weight of my leather boot to fall further down upon the accelerator. A great storm was passing across various parts of America, in more ways than you can even begin to imagine and, after driving off into the sunset three days prior with barely a goodbye upon my pursed lips, I had left central Florida behind me, heading north and riding straight towards the eye of the storm.
Resting my hand upon the make-shift center seat, I felt Foxy’s silken silver hair move beneath me and, as he stretched his one year old kitty paws out towards my hands, flickering his vivid green eyes open but momentarily, I allowed for a wave of love to wash over me.
“The youngest ever Silver Fox.” I quietly whispered.
People often remark on how lucky I am to have a leash trained cat who, in the same way that a dog does, enjoys travelling in the van. However, as we bumbled along the highway and I watched Foxy fall easily back into the ever present nest of feline dreams, I knew that, more so than luck, it had everything to do with spending the first three months of his kitten life embarking upon a fourteen thousand mile musical tour across the United States, where in which four scruffy musicians and two loyal dogs had truly taught Foxy the ways of the road.
Looking further to my right, I smiled even wider at the sight of my bass player, Twiggman, as he sat there in his usual casual yet certain manner; his long fingers wrapped around the map in his phone, a determined jaw, and a twitching leg that convulsed involuntarily whilst he sat there mapping out the final leg of our journey. Knowing that Twiggman too also held a firmly secured position next to me in the seat of friendship, I reverted my eyes back to the rain peppered windshield and, heading further north, I watched with great satisfaction as the first sight of the afternoon sun emerged from a three day storm, reaching its thin, shy hands out across the skyline like a cat just waking from a dream, and I allowed for yet another wave of love to wash over my bruised little heart.
For with every mile that I put between central Florida (home of the newlyweds & the nearly dead’s), and myself, the more I felt a sense of normalcy return to me. With every southern county that we passed through, I was enlivened once more with that unique sense of mystery and wonder that is particular to travelling. My eyes widened in that familiar knowledge of something new in which to feast upon whilst my imagination began to soar upon the wings of infinite possibility once again. And what a glorious feeling it was that had begun to inhabit my body, for my eyes, of late, had certainly been dulled with a mundane kind of hunger.
It had been seven months since last I hit the road; embarking then upon The Great American Tour. However, the true greatness of such a tour is open to speculation. Then, travelling and performing with a folk punk bank, I had often found myself at far too many an empty or dingy dive bar. For folk/punk, such a scene certainly fit the bill and, although I always endeavored to step up to each stage and give it my all, whether to a crowd of two or to a crowd of twenty two, my own act of Story & Song, (where in which I deliver spoken word poetry over music whilst diving in and out of soulful song), often felt ill fitted.
After tour had come to a close and after not being able to see eye to eye with each other a little too often, the band and I had simply went our separate and respective ways. However, before The Great Separation of 2019, (caused by events that had transpired in The Great American Tour of 2019), I took with me one member of the band: the bassist, Twiggman. Twiggman; with his croaky Brooklyn accent that spits out spiritual observations through a cage of fractured teeth. Twiggman; with his frizzy long hair (apparently, his one shining feature). Twiggman with his ever-present philosophies upon tongue and an eternal cigarette cradled in the accent of his long fingers. Twiggman, who has read every single page of my published works (final as well as first draft), who has listened to every single strange song that I have ever created, to every audio book file that spanned out over 23 hours. Twiggman, who completely supports my work and see’s, not only my artistic contribution to this life, but also more importantly, my spiritual one. Without a doubt, the bassist had become a necessary support system in my Floridian life. And no matter what, Twiggman was comin’’ with me.
As the clouds heaved and swirled above us, taking on the form of celestial creatures before returning once more to the simple grey smudge of all that they were before, I thought over this word ‘support’ and felt my foot unconsciously press down upon the gas pedal even harder, accelerating further and further away from a town that, due to its inadvertent lack of such a support system, had me hightailing it out of there.
You see, the plain and simple truth of it all is that, three years prior, I had poured my entire heart and soul into the creation of my memoir, A Version of You. I not only wrote the entire 550 page manuscript independently but also edited, formatted and designed the book with only the help of two very loyal and talented friends, Rosana Rosli & D Ladio (much respect to those ladies for all of eternity). I spent an incredible amount of energy in the production of my memoir and that work, well... it damn near killed me. And just when I thought I had nothing else left to give, I also went on to write another book as well as record and narrate the entire body of work independently, turning it into an audio book. As well as composing and/or producing several music albums.
As a self-published artist, in a world that has become completely over saturated with meaningless bullshit as well as incredible oddities, I continue to market my work independently through my spoken word performances. Many of the stories in my work offer lessons and spiritual teaching and are but examples of the ways in which to simplify our lives, turning the devices off and just dropping into a space of sacred storytelling. Which makes marketing, for me, a hilarious endeavor.
It is safe to say that A Version of You, in each of its different forms, has been my life’s greatest work. However, no matter how much it means to me, not enough people really seem to hear it in the way that I dream for it to be heard. And, those that do really resonate with my work, although an incredible and appreciated part of my journey, are also quite few and far between. These days, you can find me pulling my hair and and screaming out to the skies, "Who the hell still reads?"
I know, as always, that I can do better. But without being full of ego and screaming at the top of my lungs of my worth, I didn’t quite know how to make people see that my work has value and is important in this world. No matter the angle that I come from, no matter the healing I feel that readers may receive from the unification of our stories, no matter the deep current of philosophy that courses through its pages, and no matter the beauty that I sometimes painstakingly draw from the world like blood from a stone in order to press upon paper, A Version of You often feels like one of the best kept secrets that I have ever been privy to.
Truth is, three years after its publication, only one single member of my family are yet read
my memoir through to completion; my dear heart-so-big-it-barely-fits-in-her-chest Aunty Gail: ever supportive in her nature. That in itself was enough to make me question my own purpose and, becoming more and more disheartened, my entire commitment to the journey. I do, however, get it; a 550 page book takes time to touch. I know that and have also been guilty myself of allowing books to sit on my shelves for many years, growing in interest and ripening like a fruit from the tree of knowledge itself, silently waiting until the perfect moment for plucking is upon its pages, without venom. However, after three years of patiently waiting for a version of me to be plucked from that family tree, I slowly began to fill with sadness. And that sadness, of late hat turned to venom. I began to believe that my work would never be good enough. It was, in retrospect, a god damned shame.
It can certainly be difficult to see things when they are right there in front of you. That's a simple truth that, as a traveler, I have come to know. On tour eight months prior, whilst
sitting in the camper and trying to kill some time before our gig, even my band mate had remarked, “Man, I wish I had a good book to read.”
I just sat there dumbfounded, surrounded by not only an ample collection of my memoirs, but also a plethora of recently released books of poetry, Wild Flower. And I couldn’t quite believe my ears.
I understand, however, that the world doesn't revolve around me, that everyone has their own particular tastes and that I certainly offer a very specific literary taste that does not suite the masses... but as I continued to sit in the shadows, unnoticed by those that were closest to me, the balance certainly felt off. In comparison, I knew every single one of the bands songs; mouth singing them as I recorded their performances, sold their merchandise and supported their craft. But there I was, travelling and performing with artists that, besides the same three (bad ass though I might add) Story & Songs that we recycled over and over again during those two months, really had very little clue about my craft. Our collective sound was on point, however, my feeling of being overlooked simply deepened.
After the band, for their own reasons, denied the opportunity for us to collectively perform Story & Song in California with the likes of Emmy Lou Harris, I made up my mind to go my own way, simplifying my act back to its roots: simple musical accompaniment peppered with poetry, of which I have full control over. When we parted musical pathways, each with chips on our shoulders the size of the Grand Canyon, I was also told that, “Well, ya know… the road just isn’t for everyone,” which, after spending the last decade of my life globe-trotting in a way that most would find impossible and after travelling alone through places whose names most can’t even pronounce and who’s safety was constantly questionable, it is safe to say that, at the end of it all, I was plain and simple jaded. Some things simply stay stuck to you, insulting your spirit and, eventually, inspiring great change.
And I remark upon these things, however, not with intentions to complain or insult anyone for their actions or lack thereof, but instead, I share this personal truth with you so that you, the reader, may understand a little more of the weight that I continued to unnecessarily carry around with me at my exit from Florida. The fuel to the fire of departure if you will. A chasm for the great artistic change.
So, empty, broken and pretty worn out, I had returned from tour in my usual burned out fashion and slumped back into the hardships of hospitality without skipping a beat: two jobs, six days a week, whilst sleeping on my sister’s sofa for a spell and returning to the regular consummation of Ramen Noodles. There, with an emergency hard hat in my backpack, I began building myself back up from ground zero.
There is, I understand, a certain truth in the concept that ‘the road isn’t for everyone,’ and although I am well acquainted with the hardships of the road, I have also come to, in a sense, enjoy the process of giving it my absolute all, whatever my dream entails at the time, and resurfacing from that dream world with the emptiness of a reborn soul all about me: A fresh slate. It’s not at all uncommon to see me; after six months slummin’ it up in Brazil, three months backpacking through Asia with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket and a dreamy look within my eyes, or even after spending four years on the other side of the god damned world with all the freedom in the world to reinvent myself...by actually returning to my true self, come back to wherever I consider home at the time, broken and pretty empty, (save for the dark bags beneath my eyes and a body that’s been war torn from the perils of cheap travel.)
Returning from the Not So Great American tour, I had $14 to my name and a van whose engine had violently exploded back in Pensacola, before even making it out of Florida, and needed some serious work done to it. I barely made it back. I was homeless. I was hungry and returning to my life back in Sebring, Florida, felt complicated but not terrible. So, I did what I do and I dug myself out. I worked hard, every shift that I could at the Bistro. Faded Bistro to be more specific, but a place also known to me as the Garden of Eden (well, one of them.)
Imagine, if you will, at the end of your physical life, effortlessly passing through the plains of this current life and on you way into the next one, stopping over in heaven-of which looks remarkably similar to the tales you have read regarding the Garden of Eden. So, you’re in heaven, this luscious garden pulsing with fragrant flowers and curious butterflies... where ‘they’ serve you cheese and grapes, fine wines, uniquely brewed beers and an assortment of tasty tender treats all beneath a beautiful Floridian sky. It’s all very enchanting indeed. Now, imagine if you will who the ‘they’ (of-‘they serve you grapes & wine’) actually are. ‘They’ are the workers and, alongside of some other very incredible human beings that bear a striking resemblance to that of Disney characters, Twiggman and I were very much a part of the workers. Because yes, even heaven has got its servants.
And so for the past few years, on and off, when the temperatures have plummeted throughout the rest of the country and when people find themselves driving down in flocks to the warm spoils of Florida, I have worked the ‘winter’ season in The Garden of Eden; taking orders, cleaning tables, creating cocktails, forming friends, exhausting my body, cleaning, connecting with customers, taking shit from shit heads, taking extra shifts and, somewhere in between pouring pints and developing an eye twitch, I would also sell a few books here and there. It was a balancing act that I was happy to juggle. For, alongside of swallowing my pride and sloggin’ my guts out, I also swallowed down some undeniably delicious food, forgot about the majesty of performance for a spell and transformed myself once more into the faceless seasonal waitress.
Alongside of The Garden of Eden, one of the owners of Faded, my close friend Tiffany, decided to also open up a circus themed French wine bar. It was a big dream for a little town such as ours, but then again, so was the opening of an open air restaurant such as Faded. And that place is very much favoured. I happened upon Tiffany one day, sitting alone in an empty garage-come-office- building, cross legged on the grey cement floor, staring about her with wild dreams populating her soft, brown eyes. After joining Tiffany on that cement floor of daydreams, as often we do, the two of us drank champagne and casually recounted of our time together in Paris the previous year. Before long, we were brimming with ideas for the circus as well as bubbles and, along with the creative oracle (also known as mummy), we poured all of our collective creative juices into the establishment and built what is now affectionately known as Mon Cirque wine bar.
In our simple and quiet central Floridian town, Mon Cirque (my circus), with its bulky bohemian furniture, with its stripped and aged walls that transport you back in time, with its sassy house of burlesque, with its sultry, soft Boudoir and its wonderful wall of golden mirrors that are set to reflect back the true weird within you, was like nothing that anyone around there had ever before seen. And right they were to be shocked and delighted by its extravagant circus decor, for in its creation, the ladies and I saw no boundaries. In fact, the weirder, the better… as long as it had a certain essence of class. about it And, as we each plucked out classy influences from the universal soup of life, each estranged person that would come to patron the place, finally found a weird and wonderful home in which to rest their weary head.
Tiffany and I, accentuated by our cheeky past endeavors, also began putting together a weekly event that we affectionately named Boudoir Soiree. Each Wednesday night, Tiffany
and I would dress up, or rather down, in our shared silken unmentionables and host an evening of which Tiffany, the lady of the house, would share her extensive knowledge of wine and I, the in-house artist, would, alongside of bar-tending, sporadically break into Story & Song performances. Sometimes there were tarot readings. Other times, face painting. Twiggman showed up to each event without fail and, alongside of the bluesy out pour belonging to the Poor Boys of Paris, we had ourselves a totally bespoke kind of variety show all within the circus. And although we constantly encouraged others to dress up alongside of ourselves and join in on the fun, only a select few ever ventured out to enjoy the Soiree’s… but those that made the choice to step out of their comfort level for a spell, enjoyed some truly bespoke evenings.
So for six days a week, I served tables, poured pints, sold books, took orders, sang songs,
read poetry, clocked in, clocked out and tried my upmost every single day to remain firm on my artistic path. However, with only one day a week available for practice, and my audio book sessions at the circus barely drawing in more than three people, the path was that of a wayward one, riddled with self-doubt. Still, I clocked in and out, worked hard, saved my pennies, and practiced each Monday that I could, eventually creating a bespoke set list that I was happy with. Gradually, Twiggman and I started planning and booking events for the future. We were accepted to perform at the Zen Awakening Festival. Art Institutes began booking us. Things were looking up. I moved off of my sister’s sofa and moved in with Tiffany and her husband Bob, residing in their beautifully serene jungle house (the second Garden of Eden). And I performed this winter ritual, all with the month of April, the end of season, as a light at the end of the tunnel.
But as things so often do, by the time that March finally rolled around, bringing forth with it mine and Twiggmans first scheduled festival performance of the summer season; as my bones utterly ached from sixteen hour shifts, as my right eye perpetually began to twitch and then twitch some more when the reality of a real life eye twitch became apparent, things didn’t quite go according to plan.
The United States: March 2020. Covid 19 reared its nasty little infectious head.
And the entire world came to a standstill.
Corona Virus, also known as Covid 19, is an airborne infection of the respiratory system, not unlike the common flue. Yet, unlike the common flue, it knocked the entire world on its ass. Apparently originating in China as far back as November 2019, the undetected virus began to spread, jumping on planes, clinging to our cells and crossing boarders in the same way that we each travel in this modern day world, except that the virus travelled for free. Pretty soon, the whole world was infected; with hundreds of thousands of apparently fatal cases springing up each day. America, including itself in the madness, has also been combatting the virus for the past four months. And what a strange four months it has been. The entire world as we know it went into official lockdown in order to keep people separated and unable to contract the virus. International planes stopped flying. Face masks were implemented into society and, lord knows it wasn’t long before we began to market these masks with trendy little designs, slogans and other colourful adornments to accessorize with our end of the world outfits, of which, largely consisted of pyjamas. Bars, restaurants, hotels, and pretty much every single place of business that wasn’t considered 'essential' in the functioning of the financial world, was forced to turn off their lights and close their doors to the public. Many of these business, unable to deal with such an unexpected financial blow, would never open their doors again.
So the world, Faded & Mon Cirque included, was officially fired from its day job, paused from its regular programming and was left at a complete standstill. Social distancing was implemented, curfews affected. In some places, people were encouraged to simply stay at home, in others, it was enforced. In the beginning, most of us just stayed in with our TVs, gulping up the fear like a goose destined to become Foie Gras, whilst the news of hundreds of thousands dying all around us, fattened our collective fear.
The media, as it so often does, became a source of fear mongering, offering a heavy dose of distortion towards the facts. It is a fact that people all over the world have died due to this virus and, don’t get me wrong, I do believe the virus to be fatal for the young, the old and those with a compromised auto immune system. However, we officially closed the entire world down due to a virus no worse than the common cold, for a small percentage of people that could have been individually encouraged to stay at home. Something felt off.
In other countries everything was closed, even the shops. Hospitals were inundated, people were plagued with hunger and had no financial support. In America, when the money stopped coming in, life, just like everywhere else, became like a million car pileup; one thing crashing into the next. Businesses went under, stock markets crashed (but not before dirty politicians relocated their stocks), people no longer had money to pay their bills. Some went hungry. Some feared for their property. Others, for their safety. A feeling of unrest, something verging on the makings of anarchy, began to settle beneath the collective skin of the hive.
Our president Trump, whose name bears the same meaning as that of a British fart, began fretting and handing out money to the American people, though it certainly did not make him a hero. Its a sad truth of a shit show to know that America is currently ruled by a complete clown and it's no surprise that we all find ourselves sitting at the circus with dunce hats on our heads right along with him. On top of minimum wage unemployment, Americans received a stimulus checks of $1200 plus a $600 check from the government each week. Some people, those that made minimum wage, didn’t have children to feed or many bills to tend to, fared a little better in this financial circumstance. Some didn’t need the money, yet still qualified and took it anyway. Many checks were made out to the deceased. Some are still waiting for financial relief. But most, however, simply struggled quietly amongst the turmoil of their new lives and the feeling of unrest, anger and fear deepened.
It wasn’t only the regular people who were eligible for government funding either, but also establishments such as the hospitals and, with each Corona Virus case that they documented, they were also subject to financial assistance. And in the same way that the modern day man can so easily try to pull a fast one over anybody when it comes to money, the hospitals were also not above this behaviour. All over the world, hospitals began to falsify their death certificates. Each heart attack, each car accident and each cancer patient that had been pressed with the cool hands of death upon them, were falsely documented as a ‘Death through Covid 19.’
The residual effect of this gross exaggeration in deaths, in turn, created incredibly high death statistics that were then documented, stamped as true truth and fed into the televisions of the masses who panicked. Then, eventually, began to divide themselves in the believers and non-believers. Fear certainly makes a mockery of us all. However, loss, as often is so, will always have the last laugh. It was difficult to know which team to side with, especially when it felt as though we were tossing a double-headed coin.
I, for the record, am a non-believer. And without going too deep down the rabbit hole of particulars, will only say that I have long witnessed the play of power that is so deeply engraved into our societies. The lies and the deceit. The foundations of control through any means necessary. Authority vs The People. And I do not condone it nor do I believe in it. The Corona Pandemic, to me, was yet another example of powerful and mysterious things at play, of which, we know very little. However, despite my disbelief, the world didn’t feel a very welcoming a place to go out in… so I sat my ass still, in the Garden of Eden, and welcomed the refuge of social distancing.
I found myself writing again, for no one else but myself. And that was a big deal. After burning out three years prior, right after the completion of my memoir, I embraced the lyrical transition warmly. I scribbled, exercising the sting of a broken romance out of me that had, due to Covid, ended as unexpectedly and abruptly as it had begun. ‘He loves me… He loves me not.’ I wrote, enjoying the inspiration to marry pen to paper, yet still trying to twist the kinks out of my abandoned heart. Because for the record, although our time was short, leaving a distressed maiden/jungle queen alone during a global pandemic meant only one simple truth: of course he didn’t love you… fool.
I found myself reading three books at one time. One in particular, The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy, had my thumb twitching towards the stars, ready to leave this planet far behind. And after spending some quality time with Tiffany & Bob before they left for their nest in North Carolina, I felt connected and contented. We did yoga, worked on house projects and day drank…a lot, sometimes doing each activity at the same time. We paddle boarded, watched the news, didn't watch the news and, guided by the caring culinary skills of Tiffany,
we sat at the dinner tables (dining room table, patio table, poolside table, yoga studio table and the carefully constructed camper table at my van) having heated discussions about the state of the world whilst trying to eat the remaining food from the restaurant. It was a unique time to be together and we were each lucky to have one another.
When the Bob & Tiffany eventually left for the refuge of their cabin, I happily spent the last two months at the house in solitude: My own social isolation, where in which I enjoyed my own company, got over my lost romance, got lost in presence and creation and even tried my hand at producing an album. It was a necessary time for me.
Entitled ‘Steeped in Story & Song,’ the album that I created and the production of it was
a big deal for someone like me: someone that can barely work a TV remote control. And I felt incredibly proud. I swam naked in the pool and sunbathed without the blemish of bikini lines. I mediated. I rode my blue vintage bicycle around the lake each day and played with Foxy in the deep of the jungle by night.
However, after three months of allowing my flesh to soften, for the twitch in my eye to finally come to a gradual rest and for a whole lot of glorious naps to sweep me into their casual net of dreams, I began to experience that nagging feeling return to me.
With the winter work season officially over and my creative time-to-shine right upon the horizon, I realised on a deeper level, that even if I wanted to, there was nowhere to actually perform. I was officially fired from, not only being a waitress, but from also being an artist. Bars weren’t taking bookings and festivals postponed their magic until next year. All venues closed their doors. And what an unusual experience it was, as an artist, not to be consumed by the work that you don’t particularly want to do, finally having the time to work on the art that you live your life for, with all the time in the world to play and perform in which, after six months of stepping upon stage but once, to not be able to do so because of lockdown, well... that is where the state of the world hit me the hardest: Right in the very guts that I had just worked right out of me. Alone in the house, I thought of my present company: Foxy and myself, whilst also reflecting upon my other Floridian connections. I thought of my friends. I thought of my family. And I thought of my artistic struggle there in Sebring. When I meditated upon the matter further, I realised it to be the same struggle that I have always had since moving to that town back in the nineties; being a twelve years brown British girl often left me with an ever present feeling of being different and out of place, no matter where I was. But I suppose some feelings are simply subject to haunt you.
But more so, I pondered over the recent gig that Twiggman and I had put on. The first one in half a year. The one that I promoted to no end and the one that not a single family
member had come to or even called about regarding their presence. Alongside of the casual strangers, just a handful of my friends had showed their sweet faces. And while I appreciated their efforts immensely, it was also pretty disappointing. Tenderly, I recalled being out in Australia, swimming about and waxing lyrical deep within Melbourne’s Spoken Word scene; offering my poetry to a crowd so quiet, you could literally hear a pin drop, an audience so fixated on ones words that their fingers often became possessed with the urge to snap at the sound of a good old pairing. In comparison, I often had to yell for people, who were so enamoured by the sound of their own voice, to quieten down. I thought of the creative quarrels I had engaged in and of every single occasion that I have felt overlooked as an artist, underappreciated as a writer and not seen for the spiritual warrior that I am… and there were many.
I felt as though I were sitting on the side-lines to a very stale artistic community, desperately waiting to be tapped in, feeling as though I had so much to give. But, no matter the value I placed upon my artistic contribution to the towns development, it wasn’t about to happen. I began questioning if that’s what I even wanted. So, in order to combat such a feeling of uncertainly and instead, pay witness to the flourishing world of spoken word, I began to combatively explore the poetic community via the World Wide Web. And with each video that I gazed upon, with each artist that stood on the stage with a raw authenticity in their presence and a dragon in their voice, with each audience member that swallowed their performance up gratefully, I began to realise that there was always one constant throughout: And that was... audience culture.
More often than not, I began to hear, “Mmmhmmm child,” “Yes Baybee, tell it how it is.”
And, “Das right…. Amen girl.”
And within those audience outbursts, I had myself a little revelation.
“Twiggman…” I spluttered into the phone one morning during one of our daily check-ins.
“I think I need,” I continued, “I think I need to be around more of my own kind of people. I think it’s important for me to surround myself with people that understand my art a little better, people with more spirit, ya know? I need to be around people with some more Soul up inside of them. Basically, I just need to be around more black people.”
Twiggman, who had been reared and raised right in the dirty belly of the Brooklyn hood, simply replied, “That’s music to my ears, girl.”
Although I have casually spent much of my life dipping in and out of diverse ethnic groups like a cultural chameleon, (a white Celtic childhood, the African American introduction to my adolescent life, the cultural mixing pot that Florida so often lends, my travels throughout Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand, my immersion in south America, my dreamtime with the Aboriginal people of Australia, and my blessings from the Maori culture of New Zealand), I realised that my friend circle back in Florida somehow really only consisted predominantly of Caucasians. Something was missing and there was, without a doubt, a deep and sleeping part of myself that began to crave connection with my African American culture, like never before.
I was craving spirit. My heart was crying out for gospel. My dreams were calling me back towards The Indigenous beause I was in need of some deep soul connections that surpass any genetic sense and above all, I was craving community. I also needed that down and dirty trampish part of myself that hadn’t been tended to in far too long, to come out and play.
A week after my own simple soul revelation, an eight minute video went viral. The video showed a white police officer pressing his knee deeply into a black man’s neck for eight long minutes and then, ignoring the man’s desperate pleas for breath, for justice or even for his own mother, right there on the Minnesota streets, a white cop killed a black man in broad daylight.
It wasn’t long before the riots ensued.
(I do not own rights to this image)
It’s safe to say that racial inequality, in all of its toxic sludge and filth, has poisoned our world for thousands of years, drowning many a worthy soul in its thick waters, based purely upon the colouration of their skin. Slavery, injustice, rape, oppression and genocide are all characteristics where in which far too many countries, America being a prime culprit, have been founded upon. And despite our collective technological advances as well as our spiritual transcendence's, all this time later, in our modern day world, after sending man to the moon and back, after pioneering the uncharted seas, after inventing artificial intelligence as well as exploring the unknown depths of space, we are still yet to explore the true depths of our own human hearts; for those archaic foundations still continue to effect indigenous cultures everywhere.
Born of mixed ethnicity to a white British mother and an African American father, I have certainly endured my own terrors with racism throughout my life; from being one of the only coloured children in a British community that felt empowered by calling kids, little harmless children, Niggers. That same community to this very day still practices a holiday known as Darkie Day, where in which the locals, all white, paint their faces black, sit at the pub drinking and they pretend that they aren’t being racist.
I have been spat on, pushed in the dirt, banished from playing with the other children, kicked, belittled and bullied for the larger part of my childhood. I was even almost expelled from a white school for wearing beads in my hair. Luckily back then, my dad simply grabbed the headmaster up by the scruff off his neck and informed him that beads were a part of our culture. In moments like that, my dad was, without a doubt, my greatest hero. Times have certainly changed since then and things are better, but even a few years ago, at the breakdown of a three year relationship, my lover, full of broken things, took to calling me ‘A fucking nigger.’ Some cuts are too deep to ever heal.
I know what it is like to be made to feel worthless and small for no particular reason other
than the difference in one’s pigmentation. Black people, in particular, are still very much regarded as primitive, worthless and on a lower caste system than our creamy counterparts and, although slavery is no longer legally practiced, the bones of segregation are often settled so deeply within our culture that, just like the oblivious Cornish people of my own country who happily celebrate Darkie Day each year, half the time people don’t even realise that they are being racist.
On May 26th 2020, after over two months of lockdown due to a contagious airborne virus that contaminated the world, The People, sitting in their houses, caged up like comfortable pets, straw fed lies, fear and propaganda on the hour-every hour, watched yet another black man senselessly loose his life at the hands of yet another overzealous and power driven cop.
Some positions of authority simply can’t afford to contain any ‘bad apples.’
The victim’s name was George Floyd and not only did The People honour his name in remembrance, empowering the “Black Lives Matter” movement, but The People also decided that enough was enough. From pandemic to racial protesting; the domino effect was in full force. The demonstrations began in Minnesota, before spreading out across the entire nation. The words, “I can’t breathe” became a slogan that signified our collectively coloured plea to stop injustice, our plea to be heard against the suffocating screams of the self-righteousness and our collective plea to finally be recognised as a human fucking beings… worthy of every single breath in our bodies.
We even adorned our Corona Virus masks with such slogans… but this time it wasn’t a trendy display of self, The People were sick to death of being quietened and had a message to share with the world. It wasn’t long before the protests began happening all over America until, very much like the corona virus, it began to spread all across the world.
Racism is undoubtedly a universal problem. In France, for example, they also mourned a man who had met a similar fate as George Floyd many years prior, but the injustice was swept under the rug of ‘reality.’ Over two hundred cities and states began protesting and it wasn’t long before the protests began to turn violent. Voices were hoarse from the same war cries of equality that have been screamed out for hundreds of years. Souls became exhausted with injustice. Police only furthered the brutality, waging war upon peaceful protesters. And soon, violence broke out everywhere. Hundreds of cities implemented strict curfews. Fires began to rage, in the same way that many hearts did, through the cities. Buildings, including police stations, governmental buildings and monuments have all been burned down to the ground. Even buildings belonging to people of colour were not spared.
With eleven thousand arrested and $4million dollars damage thus far, it all feels a far cry from slowing down anytime soon. In some places the National Guard was even deployed; a national guard who shot freely upon its own American citizens that were simply stood watching the madness from the ‘safety’ of their front doors.
An assortment of different people have been observed participating in the riots, all with very
different agendas. It’s not only black people that are rioting; white people, yellow, and brown have all come together to show their displeasure. And rather than a race war, it has become more of a war against power and authority over anything. Various different extremist groups such as Antifa, are also using the cover of the protests to exploit the situation in order to peruse their own agendas, often involving white supremacy, and are fuelling the sense of general unrest, chaos and anarchy. Trump wants to name Antifa a terrorist organization however, the KKK aren’t even considered terrorists. Another example of low-key racism.
It is certainly a scary time to be alive… but also an incredible one.
One of the most unique aspects regarding our modern day troubles is the ability for any single person to use social media as a platform from which to share ones perspective and/or voice. Facebook live videos have been an incredible insight into what is what is truly happening out there on the streets, undistorted by the mainstream media: who, for the record, are not above the injustice of the police. Hundreds of reporters and news presenters, even after identifying themselves as such, have been arrested, detained and even shot at on a regular basis.
Three weeks into the riots, after going through the motions of my own bruised heart and trying to do what I could through the art of sharing powerful words as well as supporting our local peaceful protests, I had a full breakdown at the terrible state of the world and balled my fucking eyes out, crying as if I had just lost my grandmother all over again.
The rioting, the death, the destruction, the lockdown, the uncertainty, the curfews, the fear, the unemployment, the death tolls, the destruction of lives and property as well as the further segregation in community over who was ‘right’ and who was ‘wrong’ cut me so deeply that I lost my composure.
Eventually, the pool turned green. The house felt too tidy and unlived in. I could no longer stand to write about love, or my lack thereof. I disconnected, didn’t feed myself properly and couldn’t concentrate on the fictitious worlds that were portrayed within the beige of the page. I found that I also began to completely detest the album that I had previously, so very proudly, created and to surmise, I simply felt a general sense of complete worthlessness as my only company with which to keep: A feeling, I am certain, that most everyone privately tackled within.
So, I simply grabbed my bassist Twiggman, threw my cat, Foxy, over my shoulders, loaded up my sweet ass van Melody, (who is always prepared for anything,) and, with a heart so heavy and saturated that I needed a life raft just to make it out of there. And with a spirit so broken that small birds mistook it for nesting material, we rode off into the sunset together in search for a better life.
Because if I’m going to die, and I have certainly questioned my own mortality a lot of late, then there’s no doubt in my mind that I want to die doing what it is that I love; my art, my craft, my story and my song.
And if there is even the slightest chance that I can effect a state of love, peace and tranquility through my art, in a world that has absolutely gone mad, then that is what the hell I am going to do with my life.
So, with absolute certainty, I dedicated myself entirely to the journey, staring directly into the firesome eyes of complete chaos and I began to move forward without fear. Because nothing was realer to me than that small and simple truth. And as my heart thudded out of my chest with the beats of uncertainty about it and as the silver of the road laid out before me, sparkling with the same silver lining that dreams are made up of, I tried to still my heart and, in turn, remembered the card reading that Twiggman and I had done the previous night whilst camped out in the forests somewhere in Tallahassee.
Within the deep of the forest, amongst the cleansing aroma of burning sage and the sound of wild animals prowling in the night, Twiggman and I brought our conversations of the watering holes we had just visited to a close and performed a ceremony of tarot. And in that card reading, I heard my personal message from the guiding spirits loud and clear.
As we had literally rode the storm up north, I pulled the card of Storm Wisdom. Symbolizing a dramatic change for the good. The sage filled my lungs as I breathed out incantations of trust and release. As I left my small and often culturally challenged town behind, I drew the card of Support; reaffirming that the energies of the universe have got my back and support me and my journey in all platforms. This message was particularly important to me as I realise my artistic support system to be in some serious need of reinforcement. Twiggman, with a one card pull, pulled the Divine Rebel; another example of worldly support. And finally, I pulled the card of Rare Success; signifying that I am bringing something utterly unique, special and precious to this world.
The thunderous feeling in my heart finally softened down into a quiet murmur of trust
and, as I accelerated further into the journey, I looked at the splendour all around me. Melody was crawling across a long bridge that served as the backbone to our final destination. The sun was softly setting to my right, Foxy was sleeping in the foot well, Twiggman, looking directly ahead as the horizon eventually began to solidify from a body of water that stretched out as far as the eye could see. As I followed Twiggman’s gaze, there, directly ahead, I began to see tall buildings materialize upon the horizon like a cloudy veil of uncertainty that had finally been lifted.
“There she is.” Twiggman rasped; his large brown eyes enlarged with adventure and
perhaps even memories,
Knowing that we were about to enter a city that is completely saturated in culture, seriously steeped in stories, a city that wails out to the sweet symphonies of jazz and soul as well as a place that was generally bursting with creation, a smile wrapped itself around my face like a feather wrapping itself across an angelic shoulder blade.
“New Orleans.” I sighed dreamily.
With the guidance of spirit, I moved forward in love.
And with the guidance of love, we moved forward in spirit.
April Lee Fields
April Lee Fields