For the past seven days, Luma and I have been soul-deep in the landscapes, characters, and conundrums of Amazônia. The first thing we saw from the rooftop of the boat after disembarking, was a large ferry with <LOG-IN> written on the side of it in big letters. And…log-in, we did! As I work to process all of what’s been downloaded this past week, allow me to share the main take-aways.
TL;DR: Mobility has been structured to only benefit the settler. What of the natives, the refugees, and the formerly enslaved?
Colonialism was accomplished via expeditions, in which explorers set out to map and conquer foreign lands. As such, reindigenization—the two fold process of abandoning the structures of capitalism and returning to social architectures of mutual aid—must too, be accomplished through voyages. To reconnect those who have been strategically segregated on a global scale. The wealthy, and those who have otherwise benefitted from global segregation—must allocate their funds reparatively to facilitate this reconnection.
Adventure as praxis. You decolonize, and then what are you left with? Part of colonization's tactics is to make you forget who you are beyond the theft you have been victim to. To leave you feeling discombobulated from both yourself, and others, by cutting the cords of culture which form the foundation through which Spirit expresses itself. So we must be dreaming and doing. Re-membering. Reflecting. Revolutionizing.
I know now, that around 12 pm on each day except Sunday, there is a boat full of 500 people departing from Sanarém en route up the Amazon River—tranquil in their hammocks. I know now that the word for ‘hammock' is the same as the word for ‘internet’, in Portuguese (‘rede’). I know that there's cell service on the river. These small knowings form an ever-expanding fabric of understanding—the quotidian details of how life flows elsewhere. And these same small knowings, are strategically blocked from so many people. But it does not have to be this way!
- In one another,
- In the necessity of the moment,
- In your own heart.
- An understanding that the script, and its timing, are a divine one.
- What you pay attention to, grows.
- Speed is nothing without direction.
- A tip for travelers: Befriend the teenagers! They are always tuned into what is going on—living, and observing, and not taking themselves too seriously (or second-guessing their opinions) yet.
Luma and I were two of the very few Black travelers on the boat, two of the few in the jungle, two of the few in Manaus. It blew my mind, sharing that experience + talking with her about how effective Brazil’s colonial project of “branqueamento” has been. There are very, very few visible dark-skinned people, despite this being a majority Black country. So many essays (that require a lot more reading on my part) to be written there. What that meant for us, though, is that we attracted a lot of attention, everywhere we went. The glares were curious and inquisitive—rarely ever antagonistic (at least not from other Indigenous people)—and almost always were followed up with a “where are you from". (Many people asked us whether we were from Haiti. Turns out there is a huge influx of migrants from Haiti who come in via the river port town in Belem, and sail inland via the Amazon.)
One old man in particular stood out. He approached me and asked if I was African - when I said yes, he asked which country, and what language we spoke there. So I told him Kenya, and Swahili. Then he gave me a pen and asked me to translate four words from Swahili into Portuguese for him: sun, moon, stars and rainbow - "para contemplar". (I was ashamed to not know the translations for the last two, but that's another story). Anyway, later that afternoon he came back to Luma and I and said he had a message he wanted us to record and share with our friends on the internet. We went to the roof, and there he sang a song for the Sun in his own language. And followed it up with a message about how the era of suffering has ended—and it is time for us to walk in the path of Light. (The second slide in this post is a clip of that video.)
He invited us to visit his home once we made it to Manaus. And on Saturday, we did. It will take me years to be able to fully communicate all of what the time we spent with him brought forth, but I am certain that meeting him was the reason she and I embarked on this (11 day!) journey to Amazônas. We had no goal in mind when we set off, aside from understanding first-hand what the situation in this region is, and how/where Black and Indigenous people in this country are making sense of it. After all those days, over 4000 kilometers of travel by road and boat, it was this old man and his wife who opened our hearts to the understanding we sought out in pursuit of. And even still, that opening only left us with more questions…
(To be continued!)
Luma flew back to São Paulo today. I was initially going to join her and then head back to New York, but there is something about the energy here that is keeping me put. I feel saturated with observation, and humbled by each day that calls forth discernment. Tomorrow, I head off by road up North to a town that borders Venezuela and Guyana. I am a bit burnt out from these past weeks of traveling, but I am moving forward with Faith! And open to all that there is to be learned. Fingers crossed I will have a bit of time on the bus to write :)
Always Yours In Radical Love,