A kiss is dangerous. It can get you killed.
The ancients say the kiss is an expression of the soul through breath.
From peoples of the Ghana Empire, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe Empire, Kingdom of Aksum, Khushan Empire, the Pandyan Kingdom, Tamrapani Kingdom, the Gandhara, the Khmer empire, the Champa, Malay, Javanese
Our ancestral neighbors greeted each other with a kiss that sniffs the cheek.
The Greeks learned the kiss when Alexander the not so Great invaded the lands known now as Pakistan.
A kiss between mouths can be the mingling of the essence of lovers. It can also be thievery, eating of the soul, a cannibalism.
When the colonizers came, elders said to hide our souls so they wouldn’t be stolen.
This kiss is a sickness
But the disease was already amongst us. And with our mouths closed it only spread.
What do we need to breathe?
A kiss is dangerous. It can get you killed.
This poem was written May 18th 2019
10 years after the war’s end during Urban Bush Women’s Generative Dancer Workshop
There are imaginings, visions, dreams, wisdoms that come to me. That I quietly believe. I am now being called to share and record them. I understand that I am being asked to write stories that build bridges between ancestors and descendants.
They are mythologies designed differently from propaganda or doctrine. Their medicine is in possibilities, questions, magic, mystery and metaphor. Not a manual on how to think. Rather, memory- like imaginings that invite us to experiment in ideas and think beyond our current location and time period.
I refuse to allow humanity to continue on this poisonous painful way that we are in. To be on Earth and not work towards another way of being, to me– is allowing it. It’s heartbreaking and absurd that human economies, governance, shelters, food, travel systems– everything—is set up in such a way that suffering, destruction, misinformation, and violence is not only permitted, but it is cultivated and spread.
Earth is a beautiful incredible place. Nature offers us such powerful wisdoms, magnificence, nourishment, and medicine. This Earth offers such great potential for humans to live joyfully. So many places where humans could live well-fed and sheltered with ease and joy. Places that humans were designed to inhabit. With all the potential, humans have to create and utilize complex technologies, there is even greater potential to live with ease and joy.
There have been many communities throughout humanity throughout time that have lived harmoniously with each other and the Earth.
In this moment, in time, however, humanity is set up in a way where most people throughout the world experience or contribute to violence throughout their lives from early childhood to elderly years. For centuries, unprecedented new forms of mass systematic violence have continued to emerge– embedding and infecting generations. Ancestral neighbors, families and tribes have been ripped a part and placed structurally and culturally against each other. The wars are increasing. Corruption is brazen. Authoritarianism is strengthening. The greedy & exploitative have been gaining more power, influence, control, and resources. There is so much unnecessary pain, suffering, violence and injustice.
I must resist being subjugated by such horrific ways. I can not surrender to the logic that this is just how things are and other ways can’t happen. I feel too deeply to be on this beautiful Earth and not work towards a complete redesign of how human systems function.
I believe, like Aunty Norma Wong reminded me, that our futures have great potential to be more glorious than our most legendary pasts. Technology would serve to support happiness and care for all of us. The priority of governance would be to cultivate joy, creativity, nourishment and peace for as many people as possible. The energy, labor, time, effort, and resources once used to force people to comply with a violent, exploitative, bigoted system will be used towards technology races to provide humanity with the most creative, safe, and enjoyable housing and shelter. Children will play with each other through hologram adventure games defeating some of the worst aberrations in human history and dancing the best dances. We could harness healing and divine energies towards love and thriving throughout humanity.
You are right to think that achieving that is a daunting feat. The greedy and exploitative will not relinquish power easily.
Freedom won’t happen on its own.
It’s up to us to accelerate us towards glorious futures.
Andre’s passing brings me such deep sorrow. I feel very in touch with the pain of humanity and how disgustingly unjust things are. Human society causes so much unnecessary suffering.
Near 30 days of Andre’s passing, I went 3 days with only 3 hours sleep– which might have been a first for me. Part of being so physical and aging is that I like a lot of sleep. The sleeplessness sharpened my sensitivities and made most humans unbearable. By the end of the third day I was in such deep agony, it seemed my heart ached with each beat and no breath could fill my lungs. Only talking to the Spirits seemed to bring me comfort.
Andre’s passing thrust me back into comforting intimacy with Papa– my grandfather who became my guardian angel when I was 6 years old. Amma had told me that Papa taught her that praying was just talking to God. And that lesson poured into me as Papa transitioned from human to spirit form. As a child, I talked to him daily. I feel Papa has witnessed my life through my eyes, believes in me, and understands me in ways my family has been unable to.
This time has also brought me spiritually closer to my grandmothers– Grandmummy and Ammama. As well as, so many of my ancestors. Grief, I’ve been reminded of, is ancient. This time has opened me to what my bones have carried from thousands of years before this time. I feel my ancestors praising André for bringing me into deeper connection with the Ancestral Realm.
After 72 hours with only 3 hours sleep, the pain was so overwhelming, I began to ask the ancestors why I am still here? Why be here on earth amongst the humans in this wretched way of being? I know after-life to be bliss. I can feel Andre is free, no longer suffering. I can feel his magnificent love, care, and peace. Why should I remain on earth to endure pain, when I know what is beyond is freedom?– I’m too sensitive for the violence of humanity. Too empathetic. Too connected. “Why must I stay here?” I asked. I could feel my grandmothers talk to me. The message I received was that: I have writing that must be done and that I need to return to Ilankai to teach our peoples what I’ve learned. I was shocked by the clarity of inter-generational purpose. I understood that it took time and work for me to come to these lands. To learn all that I have. And that I must return with the stories and knowledge that I’ve gained. My ancestors have me here on a mission. Once I’ve completed my charge, I can be free to leave.
The healer/fighter in me envisions this quest as one that carries me into elderly years, overcoming the many challenges this life brings, and permitting me to witness the children in my life care for children of their own. The wounded weary cynical part of myself is gearing myself up to finish my mission and let the ancestors take me. Interestingly, both parts are deeply aligned. Both parts of me, understand writing as essential. The healer knows that writing is what I need to heal. The wounded recognizes my mortality and the need to leave a path for our descendants to our ancestors and vice versa.
So with this understanding, I begin this stage of writing. I do hope you will witness me emerge from this grief into a joyful healing magic that carries me through other inevitable loss and obstacle into peaceful elder years. That is my goal. And what Andre has also taught me is that just because one fights with all they can for life does not mean they are granted a long one. So I must stay focused on my missions. Love, love, love to all of y’all who read this. I am so thankful for you.
When I was young we had no choice but to gather quickly & often after a loved one passed. There was no social media or cell phones or google sheets or cash apps or texting. Our peoples would gather immediately to assess the situation. Make sure that those mourning were not falling ill. That grief did not pull anyone else across to the Spirit realm. Make sure that the weight didn’t break a family, especially if life had already been squeezing them.
Our elders would gather resources and divide responsibilities.
When we were children, we were all stuffed into one room, unsupervised with no bedtime. A big slumber party with all our cousins, blood & chosen. As young teens the “girls” and “boys” were divided. The daughters were deployed serving coffee & tea, short eats and meals, gently tending to those too sad to eat “at least try a mutton roll?” We learned our rank in the kitchen. Assessed: who would make the better wives.
I’m not sure what the sons did…. Were they being recruited into swallowing sorrow? Learning to loosen the muscles gripping the ache with sips of arrack? Were you blessed with a man who taught you that grief includes unpredictable tears and laughter? Forgiveness and fissures? Shameless song and dance? Irreverence and scolding? Were you shown how to move through the pain with care, tenderness, connection, and love. Or were you shown how to numb and ignore it, welling up the weighted layers, floating silence?
It was a mix for us deemed to the feminine sphere. Swallowing, welling, silencing, weighing our own feelings, maneuvering in order to float others. And there were also those who showed us how to wail, cry, scream, sing sorrow at the top of their lungs. There were people of both ways that healed and people of both ways that harmed. Both capable of shattering tight orders into starry spaces and simultaneously magnetizing worlds, solar systems away.
In my later teens I loosened loins gripped by patriarchy through clandestine frequency at the dance clubs. Here was a place for my body & spirit to be free. Allow myself to ease into my intergalactic ways– unbound by the gender and cultural norms of humanity at this point in history. It is where I learned Gay, Queer, & Trans culture. Back then we had to gather in person. I didn’t have an email address, yet. There was no craigslist or grindr or tinder. There were personals in print newspapers. The club was a quicker way to meet people. Even if you weren’t into dancing, folks went to the club, because that’s where you’d go to be yourself, be free. And that vibration attracted other free-thinkers & freedom-seekers. We were a mix of cultures, experiences, ages, genders, orientations all dancing, mixing, fighting, loving, and exchanging with each other.
Our club elders in the their 40’s experienced the free love of the 70’s and survived the worst of the AIDS crisis. They had learned how to grieve together. Like my Tamil elders in the diaspora mourning loved ones at home, ravaged by escalating war, our peoples knew the roles– what needed to be done. Phone tree the news, taking note of how it hit. Make sure that all loved ones were notified. Liason between blood and chosen, if such an opening was possible. Coordination of tasks. Those responsible ensuring remains and belongings are attended respectfully. Those in charge of ceremony and ritual. Those who ensured those in deep grief were okay. It was a given that if you were in the life, that your blood families would not know how to honor you when you transitioned. Even straight people got that. Chosen family would make sure that our Souls were given the proper support and respect.
Sometimes early at the club was the best place and time to meet and figure things out. Who has our beloved’s keys and can get the sex toys out before Grammy comes to help attend to belongings? Folks hailing from all over merged the best of their ancestral ways of grieving, breathing life into collective wisdoms and ceremonies. There would be rituals, potlucks, stories, poetry, home visits, and dance parties lifting up our new ancestors and caring for the ones they left behind. Us young ones, we learned their names. We offered our dollars and fives to the collection. Witnessed our elders mourn, remember, celebrate, and honor.
In addition to mourning my beloved Andre. I’m also mourning the erosion of a simple ancient practice of gathering in the midst of loss. I’m mourning a New York gripped by capitalism. Once upon a time in New York City, ancient peoples from all over the world came together, reuniting with their separated tribes to counsel, tell story, make magic, and live freedom—especially in the face of the violent & subjugating….
I finally got to speak to someone who knew Andre & I’s relationship when we were young. She said that she imagined me so devastated that I couldn’t get out of bed. That it must have been one giant slumber party of crying, cuddling, and comfort. On the contrary, the week after Andre passed not one person in New York even offered to come over and give me a hug. I wavered through the world, unable to collapse. Much needed to be done. The roles once divided by many were suddenly all mine. Wailer, care-giver, coordinator, liason, gatherer. A friend recovering from a traumatic brain injury, living over five hours away, left her partner alone with their toddler to come see me 6 days after I received the news. She was the first to come visit my home.
New York— BROOKLYN, I almost broke up with y’all over that. I thought there must be some place in the world where I would be better attended to during my time of need. I thought to myself, New York, I don’t really need to tell Y’ALL that Andre is my brother, do I? That I am mourning the loss of a family member? After-all, y’all witnessed us for 18 out of 20 year relationship. Now, don’t let those words hit you like poison. We’re all hurting enuf. I get it. I love you. And even tho culturally I experienced that first week as neglect, I know that y’all love me, too. Let my truth be an invitation. For us to resist these corrupt forces not only by fighting, by not only preserving what so quickly eroded— but also deepening & evolving what it means to be community.
What an intense and devastating time to be losing & regaining-across-realms such powerful souls. I lift up the Phenomenal Unparalleled Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Aunty, Elder, Conjurer, Poet, Playwright, Novelist, Collaborator, Catalyst, and Humanity Shifter Ntozake Shange!!! Sending deep deep love to her magical brilliant daughter Savannah, her daughter’s partner Kenshatta, her granddaughter Harriet, and all those in close circle who supported, journeyed, collaborated with and loved Queen Ntozake. I recognize that y’all are on a very different timeline & process of grief, pain, intentions, and transformation. May you be cocooned by conduits of wisdom, comfort, nourishment, healing, understanding, empathy, protection, and magic. Thank y’all for sharing Queen Ntozake with all of us. I am mindful of how intense this time must be. Ntozake Shange changed the game for EVERY writer and thus the world. By exploding open the hostile bigoted doors of the theater— by rooting specifically in the life-saving complex truths of Black Women and Black Communities, Ntozake Shange served as a vibrational catalyst that is still shifting the essence of humanity. The space that she created for Black Artists to channel truths opened space & challenged ALL Artists to be more honest. I have deeply benefited from Queen Ntozake’s work & legacy directly from her words, performance & theater, but also from the incredible communities of Black Feminist Truth Tellers & Spiritual Creatives she affirmed. I literally owe my life to these communities. Thank y’all for giving me reasons to remain on this earth within a humanity ruled by such horrific greed, exploitation, bigotry, and violence. As we painfully gain Ntozake Shange as ancestor/spirit form/angel, all the parts of humanity she shaped is pulled upon to evolve & shift. It is most excruciating for her most intimate loved ones and collaborators. At the same time Blessed Ntozake Shange is still healing, collaborating, conjuring, and channeling even more powerfully from the other realm. This is our time to lift her up in story, poetry, performance, song, ritual, prayer, love and light. Praises to The Royal Ntozake Shange!!!! #FlyInFreedom #RestInPower
My dearest friends, family and community, it is with deep loving sorrow I share that our beloved Andre Alexander Lancaster, our Andre, our Dre, our brother, prince, revolutionary, saint has passed onto the other realm. His soul is free.
I recognize that the pain of this profound loss is incredibly deep for many of us. He shaped the core of so many. As he transitions, all the parts of us he touched will reverberate, and we ourselves will also transform. Our sorrow honors Andre and reis a testament of how important he was and is to us. So feel the pain. We must grieve lovingly, however, and not let this pain become a poison that is harmful to ourselves or others. Be present with whatever pain emerges, let the tears flow, and interrupt toxic thoughts. Try to turn regret into wish, desire, and invitation. These moments are openings for us to transform, become wiser, and renew. Putting ourselves down gets in the way of that. Recognize the regret, allow yourself to transform and release it. Anger is a natural part of grief—an expression of pain. Allow this force to help clarify your truth. Find the desire beneath the anger. The mystery of grief is a fertile, murky, magical place to manifest from. Center your LOVE and let the energies of accountability, fairness, and justice flow from there.
I believe that this time over the next 30-40 days is a very important time for our beloved Andre’s soul. That to gather, share story, lift up his love, genius, visions, and contributions supports his transition. I highly encourage those who knew Andre to meet with others to honor his presence and legacy– even if there is only one other person in your town who knows him. For those of y’all isolated, call or video chat with folks. Or as Andre taught us heal through creativity—write, sing, dance, draw or read. Andre was reading James Baldwin and Hanya Yanagihara before he passed. He was also an avid Octavia Butler fan. As we comfort and support ourselves and each other, we also support Andre.
We will definitely have a celebration of Andre’s life in NYC. Please be patient as we figure out details.
I also want to recognize that while I was one of Andre’s primary supports over the last few years that there are other folks in his support network I don’t know. If you have been supporting Andre especially over these last 2 months, please please direct message, email, or call me.
Thank you to Andre Alexander Lancaster’s beloved mother Josie Coleman for birthing this precious soul into this world and along with his father Clyde Lancaster, brother Jerome Lancaster, sister Malika Lancaster, and all his Aunties and Uncles for raising this incredibly good hearted, brilliant force and gifting him to us and the world. I’m sending you so much love for this excruciating time. Thank you to Chrystal and Jamie for caring for our beloved Andre in your homes and loving him up so good. Thank you to Andre’s and my teachers Sharon Bridgforth and Amparo Garcia Crow for guiding and affirming me in such a way that I am able to offer these insights to y’all. And most of All, Thank you Andre for being my best friend, brother, collaborator, and inspiration for these past 20 years. I really thought we’d have at least 40 more. And I know that you are still with us lovingly caring for us and blessing us with such powerful gifts. You are sewn into my being. And your impact on this world is eternal. I love you so much.
(I’d love if y’all could write in the comments below how you knew him and a memory you have of him)
I went to see the preview of MIA’s documentary Matangi/MIA/Maya Thursday & I do want many of the people in my life to see it. And I also want y’all to watch No More Tears Sister–a documentary featuring the feminist Rajasingam & Thiranangama Sisters that have mentored & supported me. I also want you to watch Dheepan–which won the Palms d’Or at Cannes and stars brilliant actor and writer Antonythasan Jesuthasan– also know as Shoba Sakthi. No More Tears Sister has been uploaded onto youtube below.
I believe deeply in more stories, perspectives, and discourse within the Tamil Diaspora and our Fam about what a deeper vision of Tamil Liberation looks like. What would it take for all Tamils– regardless of gender, religion, class, or caste– in the North & East as well as throughout the Island –to live with dignity? Realistically, if we are to address the economic as well as ethnic exploitation and subjugation of Tamils on the Island, what skills, solidarity, strategy, vision, and alliances are needed? Can we have true Tamil liberation without decolonization, gender equity, and the eradication of caste? What is needed to cleanse ourselves of the anti-Blackness, casteist, & colonial mentalities pervasive throughout our communities? Can Tamils model the pluralism we wish for the Island as a whole? What does true Diaspora solidarity with Tamils and other persecuted communities in Ilankai look like? How does our solidarity with caste privileged patriarchs fail our Tamil Fam fighting against the forces of castism, gender violence, economic exploitation, and ethnic bigotry?
While it wasn’t as clear in the film or what we see of her in the media, during the talk back, I saw MIA opening to questions around new visions of liberation and the economic challenges of China. And that small opening gives me hope that we in the diaspora can allow ourselves to have higher standards of liberation than what was dictated to us. For our Tamil community who are deeply in touch with the limits of Tamil Nationalism– to those who lost loved ones to or were exploited & targeted not only by the Sri Lankan Army and Government but by the Tigers, paramilitary, and or gangs– MIA’s blindspots can feel frustrating to say the least.
At the same time, as a Tamil Creative who has Aunties who raised their children on their own and refugee family I adore who grew up in council estates, there was something really sweet and soul touching about watching a Tamil refugee girl from Jaffna & London raised mostly by her single mum rise to pop stardom. May our stories cease to be ammunition silencing other stories and placing us in opposition to each other. May our stories weave us a path to dignity and liberation for all.
No More Tears Sister: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C803NOvmTqk