Lemonade: Pinay Reflections on Community Creation for Healing and Empowerment for Ourselves, Our Ancestors and Future Generations

There are many reflections that have been floating through media and conversations on the ground after we as a society fixated on media were drawn in to the global release of Lemonade, Beyoncé’s newest communal creation. My first feelings around the piece is this admonition, it is so powerful because it is a reflection of what it means to have a village raise up a child- that child being a one hour cinematic album that has converted many who were not Beyoncé fans to the #BeyHive. As I took in the words of Warsan Shire, the masterful imagery from a team of film makers, listened to the strongly produced music, vibed to the vivacious choreo, took every artistic choice from location to wardrobe and make-up, and bore witness to the countless divine Black Wom*n that filled the screen, I was in awe.

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I am neither a Beyoncé fan nor am I a Beyoncé hater. I appreciate her way of creating art with so many surrounding her and lifting her vision and I appreciate her confidence and way of standing as a strong wom*n who has created herself in the eye of the public as an icon and admired artist figure. Lemonade reflected all the things that make me appreciate Beyoncé and then some, because this piece in particular showed how well she knows her community, how well connected she is, how she can use those relationships built and her stance as a iconic figure to create with a team around her own visions (Meet The All-Star Team Behind Beyonce’s Lemonade). And in this instance I am most moved by how much she allowed for a space where in particular other Black Wom*n and girls could be lifted as she rose up to her power in the center light of what I am recognizing is emerging so visibly- the elevation of Black Wom*n rooted in their path toward liberation after years of being oppressed in this country and globally. Lemonade is a call to Black Wom*n everywhere to rise up in the power that is inherently within them. In this moment in time Beyoncé took her role as the most visible Black Wom*n in media to make that call to her sistren around the world, and in particular here in the United States, where oppression of Black Wom*n has waged for centuries.

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I sat there taking in the breathtaking imagery, filled with ancient symbolism and calling for healing and reconciliation, where Black Wom*n Magic was bursting through the screen. And in this admiration I found myself recognizing that although as a Pilipina, Brown Wom*n, a Wom*n of color I could find some connection to what this creation stood for I understood that this work was meant specifically of my Black Sisters.

After I watched the full hour, I sat with my realization of what Lemonade represented for me as a non-Black Wom*n of color and when my partner asked me how I felt about the piece, I could not help, but respond that I felt saddened. I celebrated the Black Wom*n rising as I have seen this truth of current happenings everywhere, this reclamation of power, not only in the media, but on the ground especially because the weekend after the release I joined the sacred sisters of Harriet’s Apothecary for their 19th Healing Village in Brooklyn, NY, where Black Sisterhood and Spirit was so alive and vibrant.

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And I see it in the way so many neighborhoods in NY are filled with cultural, political, social and spiritual events that raise up Black Wom*n, and I know it’s because they have and continue to fight to be create and maintain and grow those spaces collectively. They re-member and re-envision themselves in a world that has told them they are the other and has created trauma to their spirits. Beyoncé in her visibility and placement as a iconic figure has stood up in leadership of that, whether folks always agree with how she does it, she has progressively stepped up to her role in being the most globally recognized Black Wom*n icon in today’s media.(Being visible does not inherently mean you are a leader, nor does it mean that others will lead you, but it means that you can lead). She is not the only one rising. I see it in other artists that I love and respect and I think on how it is not just today, but in the past we have seen those that have paved for Beyoncé to walk on. Then and even more in the present moment we live in, we can see that Black sisters have answered the call from their Ansisters to rise.
I admitted to myself how much more I longed for my ancestry to show up powerfully in this way particularly here in the United States, where we have and continue to experience the traumas of being a colonized peoples. In all this reflection, I fell deeper into what Lemonade represented for me- it was a call to action from her lineage in connection to my own.

I thought of all the Pinay who have influenced me, particularly in artistry and in leadership organizing our community and I envisioned a moment to be surrounded by all of them- powerful Pinay who were awaken to not just our oppressions here in the US, and as a colonized people, but that were also actively working to heal from it and create something greater more visibly, to touch our younger generations-together. I know that there are many groups and individuals who are doing this work, I look to the Center for Babaylan Studies who I have been called to create with on a daily basis and I am thankful for spaces like this that are working to connect to and remember our cultural, ancestral and indigenous stories, traditions, rituals and practices, but I wish it was not something that we had to dig for, because it took digging for me to create the path I am now walking on back to my ancestors and to my motherland. I wish we had more support uplifting our community to heal and to remember, I wish our community would find greater urgency to support our selves being uplifted in this same way we see so tremendously done by the our Black brothers and sisters in today’s society through a piece like Lemonade or a movement like Black Lives Matter. I have such a great respect for the Black community as I have seen how they have risen in all spheres of being in the past couple of years- the oppression still exists, but the community continues to let the world know that they will rise up stronger every time. Beyoncé has been criticized time and again, but she continues to create, she continues to show up and this time she called so clearly for Black brilliance to show up beside her. I long for this to happen for Pilipinos in the US in reflection of our own deep history here. All people of color carry a burden our past with this country, and we need to heal that.

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I don’t think we need a Beyoncé to do that persay, but what I know is that there are many Pinay leaders who are doing the work to uplift and empower us from the ground, but I wonder what it would be like to have someone, in this world influenced by media, to look to with the resources like Beyoncé had for Lemonade who could gather so many masters of artistry in music, visuals, craftsmanship, movement, organizing, and community cultivation around one project, relevant to the present day and that utilized all the advancements of artistry and organizing that could make the world feel the rising of other communities.

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I question what has stopped us from having that in my own community, when I am consistently surrounded by brilliant, prolific and masterful Pinay artists who are doing such beautiful work. Do we need a Beyoncé to make this happen? I don’t think anyone in this current day of celebrity and media could have pulled off the production of this communal masterpiece, but her. I know there is much critique around her artistry in relation to this piece, but also I know that she did it- all those people surrounded her vision and helped to bring it to fruition, to empower Black Wom*n everywhere. So I guess this is a call to all of us to begin seeing the truth of Beyoncé’s Lemonade that it is a communal created, supported and executed piece and it is our diverse communities that upholds it, praises it, brings it to our dinner table conversations. So, when will we all begin seeing the power of creating in this way for our own communities, to heal from our oppressions, to uplift and create for our future generations? No Beyoncé needed, just community gathering in their mastery to create with purpose- together.

Creating a Life Filled with Ritual- Intention Physicalized and Embodied in Committed Practice

I have encountered exchanges, as of late, that have inquired guidance in ritual practice and how I have come to learn and create my own for healing, centering and elevation of spirit.

 

My understanding of spiritual ritual is the physicalization and embodiment of a committed practice that holds a deep intention to manifest action and creation from self and other, to call forth clarity, upliftment, understanding of life’s wonders and to connect to greater divine beings of creation, ancestry and spirit.  The practice of ritual helps me to place all of these grand ideas, desires and beliefs in a small act that I can feel committed to. All of these can feel so overwhelming, impossible to tackle and sometimes even comprehend because they feel so much larger than ourselves, but if we can commit to even the small action of lighting a candle, connecting this repeated motion/action/practice to words of affirmation and intention, we can begin building toward larger creations and connections in our lives. If you cannot light a candle with grounded commitment every day, then how can you take on the larger intentions behind it.

 

The next level to this is to open your senses to experience the ritual in a way that stimulates multiple senses and activates and awakens whole being.  Like, when I light sage, I do not just do it keeping in mind the native practice that I have learned is connected to the practice of burning this sacred herb, but also in simple awareness. I connect with wonderment to the recognition of the shape and color and line of each leaf and stem, I see the smoke rise up in shape and movement, I smell the burning fragrance, I hear the light crackling of the fire creating ash and I feel the warmth of the smoke dance around me. Seeing these things does not have to connect with religious belief, it is powerful alone to just observe the miracle of the physicalized action of burning this herb. Then, when you allow yourself to truly open your senses to this power and dually connect your intention to clear away bad energy or to ward away what does not serve your being, it makes the physicalized action, the ritual that much more powerful.

I have exchanged many rituals with my sisters in “The Journey of a Brown Girl” ones that I practice in my own life as daily practice. Our core ritual takes place at the beginning of every gathering, we engage in physical motions of energy shifting in connection to the intentions of letting go what will not serve us in our space of creation and exchange and to offer to the group something that will serve us as a collective. We have also physicalized this through the burning of candles (black-for release, white- for manifestation). We have also written larger intentions and burned what we are releasing and placed on sacred altar what we are wish to bring forth for ourselves to see. Other rituals have been ones to connect us to one another, often linked to offerings that I have given them. I gifted each sister a bell, purchased from a dear friend who told me each bell is forged separately in a way where they all have a distinct sound that resonates through it. Sound can be so healing (as all things can heal if we learn to use them for this purpose), the ritual in this was that in moments of need and struggle when we are apart, to ring the bell as a reminder to self of connection and means of support.

 

I have recently connected to ritual with water. I have always had a fear of the ocean- of its power, of its mystery, of its magic. But this year I am making a strong intention to connect to all of this as a part of my deepened connection to the world around me. The healing power in the act of washing and recognition of how sacred it is to know water is all around and within us- earth’s bodies of water and our own bodies made primarily of water. These rituals help you feel rooted, help you feel oneness with all things, and humble you to your being only one fragment of a much larger creation.

 

Another ritual in every space we inhabit is to create an altar, which I learned to create from the community of the Center for Babaylan Studies. On each altar is representation of the 4 elements (water, air, fire, and earth) and a center container (bowl, gourds, box, etc.) that represents what is being filled with spirit, intention, prayer and light. The performance itself is centered around this large altar that we place items representing ourselves as Pinay, as women, as human beings- and that also call forth others we love in our lives to be held.
We create another altar with intention to hold the sacred energy of the stories being told and ask audience members to place a stone with a symbol representing their being on it so that by they’ve of our time together they can retrieve the stone which will now hold the energy cultivated in our experience together. The creation of a physical altar built in connection and reflection of my altar within.

I even see the way I dress and what I wear as the adornment as ritual in the building of my physical vessel as an altar;  #soulsurfaced. I often wear jewelry and clothing that has been crafted by artists, or by my self. I was drawn to each item because it spoke to my soul, in this photograph below I adorned myself with light in many forms, connected to my animal spirit the rooster- around my neck is the symbol of the morning sun created by Ray Haguisan of Malaya Designs (http://malayadesigns.bigcartel.com/), he explained to me when I met him in California that this was a guide to our ancestors, when placed with another to create a pattern becomes the “minamata” design- eye of the ancestors, and wen more are placed it becomes the “chain of ancestors” that honors those past and present and also representative of the python scales for protection/ When more are placed they become a weaving pattern of a basket or cloth that represents our community, our lineage of ancestry that holds us. The larger amulet is from my sister May designer and owner of NativeSol and one of the most lifted creators I know (https://www.etsy.com/shop/nativesol) when we first met I saw this large pendant and was drawn to it because of its sun shape, and as held it in my hand she told me, there is a design on the other side, I flipped it over and there was a marking of my spirit animal- the rooster calling to my heart. On my ears are a Rooster Feather earring designed by my hands and spirit connected to the energies of Gabriela Silang ( I create all my feathered earrings in inspiration of a wom*n leader, goddess or feminine power- no website, just requests when asked). And I paired it with a the face of Mother Sun I encountered on a walk in the city one day from a kind wom*n selling trinkets on the street. I combine these articles to help lift my spirit, with the intention of radiating light and warmth to others.

Ritual also becomes a means of centering amidst the craziness of the world around us is so important. Many constructs of this living bring ailments if we do not have ways to reflect, deconstruct and renew ourselves in these moments of heightened energetic experience. My train commute used to be excruciating for me, with so many bodies carrying the weight of the daily grind and grime of the city. Engagements in energy exchange often are intense, and ritual has become so important for me to protect and direct my energy in positivity and creation.  I fill my daily journey with ritual of drawing, writing and spiritual reading meditations that feed my being.  This blog entry itself was my meditation on this morning’s commute.

I am currently in the process of learning more rooted practice from my own cultural background, in particular looking to delve into my lineage as a Filipina born from parents of the Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur regions. This has become something significant for my growing in understanding myself deeper. I am beginning with learning more of the language and the history from my own parents- this itself has become ritual, phone conversations with my father retraining my tongue to speak in ilocano, it has been such a challenge, but extremely liberating- the release of words that have lived in my mouth and my vocal tract, but have not been released.  I hope this will help me in my explorations of our native and indigenous practices I am working to uncover for myself. My father has also in the midst of this learning, been sharing stories of his recollections growing up on the land, tilling it and laboring as a youth. This has been an added blessing gifted to me alongside my intentions to learn tradition of spirit from my ancestry.

I feel that is one of the most important things about ritual, that it is a means of commitment. Whether it be small momentary daily actions or larger collective communal energetic exchanges, if they are rooted in deep intention and you make the recognition of the power in committing to it- ritual will nourish, protect, activate and uplift your spirit and help you walk with more courage and centeredness in this living. In a way if we see all the ways we live as ritual, we begin to walk more wholly, body, mind and spirit- action, intention and connection for oneness with all of creation. Now, how will you live out ritual in your life? What will your commitment to spirit in action look like? Commit to lighting your candle, writing your passage- wash, burn, bury, plant, stretch, dance, sing your intentions, affirmations and connections out and create ritual in your life.