The Revival

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When my grandmother passed away several years ago, I salvaged a few dusters from her boxes of belongings. Dusters are basically Filipino “house dresses” or in American terms, muumuus. I wanted to repurpose them, use the beautiful fabrics that use to adorn her silhouette and bring new life to my space. As I was leaving, my uncle says to me with one eyebrow raised, “What are you going to do with them?”
He was the guardian of all things she and my grandfather left behind. The eldest living son of 9 boys, his face softened, “Take care of them.” I was cradling the stack in my arm, the way I would books when I was about to check out at the library and said, “I will.”
I’ve held onto them cautiously, with the intent of being mindful of how altering their original form may diminish their value, somehow strip away her memory. What I realized today is that not doing anything with them at all has hindered me from accomplishing the very thing I set out to do.
To repurpose is to “adapt for use in a different purpose” and when I looked it at that way, it felt wrong, not meaningful enough. My intention all along wasn’t actually to repurpose, but to revive the pieces, to “restore to life or consciousness.” In doing so, I imagine her spirit transcending the limits of my memory, her strength and power continuing to inspire. And that brings me joy. That makes me feel whole.

Still I Rise

The first book I ever purchased was “Poems” by Maya Angelou. I brought $10 to school that day because I had been looking forward to the book fair for weeks–I must have been in 5th grade. I circled the aisles and something drew me to this book with the teal cover and photo of a woman of color that resembled my grandmother. She looked sassy with her short volumized hair and red lipstick, gold jewelry. Her smile was gentle, but fierce.

I picked it up and flipped through the pages, reading a couple of the poems–I was captivated. I wanted to be as strong as she was; I wanted to grow up to be phenomenal and always rise. This poem reminds me that, even at a young age, we can trust what our bodies are telling us and connect what’s in our heart to our mind. That despite the distractions and darkness that blur our focus, we are always capable of rising. Again and again.

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou1928 – 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.