Karen Marie Mason came into my life because of what she recognized in others that was actually a part of her own self. I came into her life because of what I recognized in others that was actually apart of myself. We did not know this then, but this is how spirit works, always showing up in ways that remind us that everything we need is in our community. Even when we do not know what we really need and who we really are; Spirit knows. So that as long as we are asking ‘why’ along the way….it will guide us to our truth.
Her tenacity, her wit, her beauty and courage has been passed down through her ancestors. This book is the public declaration of this fact and this book bears witness to the power of truth. There is a theologian named Crossan who once wrote that disease is an imbalance, a dis-order that occurs in one’s body. If we accept this definition, then we can understand how returning to a balance state eliminates the disease/dis-order. So, we are taught by wholistic health practitioners on how to return our bodies to a balanced state. I believe in this because I believe in a power in the universe that created us with the ability to bring balance back to our organs. This same writer goes on to share that illness is a communal thing. Illness is the result of the community’s response to that disease, that imbalance, that dis-order. In essence, this theologian posits that the silencing, isolation, stigma and disdain that a community shows towards the “dis-ease” interrupts the body’s ability to return to a state of balance. Not a state of more or a state of less; not a state of lack or absence but a state of sufficiency and a state of presence-this is balance, this is order. The community’s response can make us ill. You know how that goes, you have headache or a cough and everyone begins to treat you differently and from a distance. Now, you are ill. And, when oppressive materialistic social systems feed on your illness and validates a community’s response of isolation by creating policies and institutions that further ostracize and, in some instances, condemn those with the dis-ease…we have sickness. Some of us then live in our sickness because there is no community response of faith in our getting well.
Without studying theology…Karen knew this. She knew that the community’s response to whatever form of imbalance Black people possessed was an important factor to us getting well, being whole again. So, she took to the most powerful venue at her disposal to give us an alternative response to our “dis-ease”. She used her gifting with the media and made it her life’s work. Her radio shows, raising her daughter, her work with other artists, and the community events she organized continue to give us a different way to respond to the dis-ease of internalized self-hate, the lack of opportunity and voice, and our mis-trust of one another. She created ways to shift our collective response to the dis-ease we experienced as people of African descent. She told us that we had indeed some severe dis-orders. Yes, her commentaries still check us, her life experiences required her to check us! Yet, she also understands that there are systemic forces designed to reinforce our notion of being a “sick” people. She brings people, music and the arts into our lives to shift our community response to the dis-order. Her plentiful wells of love and strength give us the will to resist being sick, to resist being labelled as ill. When we think about those who shoulders we stand upon and believe in; isn’t this exactly what they did? Jesus told the women with the issue, “by your faith you are healed’, Garvey to us “up you mighty race”; Baba Asa told us “to be Afrikan and live” and Sobonfu told us “not to hide ourselves from one another”.
So, in my heart and in my mind, this book is her authentic story of living through stages for us to bear witness to and glean from one person’s journey and more. It is for me the journey, the authentic story of benefit to an entire people—my people. Karen and I have been truly blessed to know one another on this journey. My spiritual daughter is one of those spoken about in Armah’s book “The Healers”. This gift of healing we are reading about now in her book has always been hers. It was her decision to use it to inspire rather than to manipulate, and for this decision her ancestors and our ancestors who have journeyed with her, are pleased and I, I am in awe of who she is becoming!
Mama & Dr. Itihari Toure
telling the truth you could not face
struck instead of tended.
— put the fire out (unburn) Nayyirah Waheed
I went bra-less today. I never go bra-less. Maybe not never but damn close to never.. It’s new to me. It’s not something I am accustomed to. You talking to a girl who wouldn’t wear sleeveless anything no matter the temperature. So letting it all hang out was major. But I liked it. At least I like it so far. I feel a sense of freedom…coming ‘cause I am not all that free with it yet. It’s coming. It’s new. I also feel a little awkward. You know that trying something new for the first time kinda awkward. You know like you sure but you not 100. But there I was outside of my house. Hanging. Out and about with my boobs treating them like a new relationship that you testing out. .I may have gotten some stares. I’m not sure. I didn’t look to see. Too busy being fascinated, concerned and observant of my new behavior. You see, I’m not that confident yet. But soon. It’s part of my healing. Through The Stages. Chapter .1
Up until recently I would rarely go without the support that I felt my breasts required to hold me up. I know now that it was really not about the support at all. I lived and slept with a bra on as a way to create distance and further separation from myself. I never had much of a relationship with them to begin with. Before I was old enough to understand their nurturing purpose and power (and according to Dr. Jewel Pookrum 5 major energy points terminate in the breast) they had already become accustomed to grown men’s lips whose sensations I grew to like. In my pre adolescent mind that must be what they are for. No one told me differently.
They had already begun sagging before I began breastfeeding my daughter. Years before. They often felt heavy to me. Weighty. Gravity was pulling them down. I often slept in my bra. I wanted them firm and pointy like I assumed my friends and the folks on TV had. So I didn’t touch them much. Outside of washing them they got very attention except from men. I actually preferred it to intercourse. I now know that my whole body warrants special attention. But back then when I was growing up I didn’t like them. I didn’t like me. I didn’t like my feet either. Both areas of my body (breast and feet) would be the source of great pain and dis-ease in my later years. Like right now.
But today, Karen Marie Mason left her house, got in her car and went to the Asian market and to Aldi without a bra. Today was the first day. I have never been bra-less outside of my house. Ever. The right tit firm as a (literal) rock and the left one is on a race to see how soon it can reach my navel. So many physical and mental conflicts going on in my life. My breast are just one of them. I had a cute dress on tho. And so I went.
I saw my Mom last week at my nephews graduation from Colgate. It was one of the first times in YEARS that me, my brother, mother, and his children were together. The isolation i put on myself was real. But I also felt I had good reason to be isolated. At least that was the story that I told. Myself.
After we all reached our respective homes she called to tell me “what happens in the house stays in the house. I don’t understand you children always talking your business”. She was referring to my brother and her belief that he shared certain family information with his wife. In defense of my brother but at the same time riding on that middle fence with my 85 year old mother I told her that he can tell his wife whatever he wants.
But in the back of my head I was thinking about this book, the photo I revealed of my breast (which thank GOD she has not seen) and the story I was about to tell. I don’t want to embarrass my family. I now believe in honoring thy mother and father. As a child not so much. If I were younger she would whip me from one corner of her bedroom to the other if she found out we were discussing anything that happens in the house with anyone outside of the house. That information stays in the house. Plus if f I told someone, anyone then there would be another beating.
It was my brother’s belts that were used. He was the only man in the house. I always wondered why when my mother said “Clarke bring me that belt” that he showed up in record timing like he was Usain or something. What the hell was the hurry. Conversely, If Mommy asked me to get the belt for him which was rare cause he didnt’ get beatings like me, I would take my sweet time and mumble something about “I’m trying to find it Mommy.” I was the reluctant belt getter.
So we learned very young to keep our pain to ourselves. I learned to keep my pain to myself. Even if it might one day kill me. Our house was filled with pride and pain. The kind of pride that would have you lying about all kinds of stuff but mostly the kind of pride that would have you lying to yourself.
So I left my house bra-less. One breast defying gravity in one direction and the other moving rapidly downwards. And me in between the two learning, re-discovering and working on not giving a —–. This is probably not a big deal for most but for someone who has been hiding behind every kind of mask that she could find for most of her life THIS was a big deal. I made life so heavy for myself.
And now that I have decided that I will finally unburden myself I am immediately concerned and have created a bit of anxiety about what my mother will think if she knew I was writing these things. My truth goes against everything that she stands for. My mother’s generation (first generation immigrants to America from Jamaica) have lived and many of them died (literally taking untold stories and illnesses to the grave with them) never revealing any information that may help us understand who we are and why we are the way that we are.
I get it. Well actually no I don’t get it. But my desire to understand and work through this no matter how uncomfortable it is for me and for others is driving this desire to know. Because simply knowing is a game changer that will help me to be whole, to be honest and to find the me in me.
I know my Mama loves me. I know she does. Every parent loves their child right? I mean even if they show it in a funny kind of way. I know it’s there. It’s got to be there. I mean no woman grows up hating that part of him or her that was made from him or her right? So this is the case with Mama and me. I know she loves me. Mamas love their children. All of them. I don’t know if they love all of them the same. Mostly cause I only have one. So I have nothing to compare it to.
For the longest time I thought my Mommy didn’t love me. The story I created was that I reminded her of my father in look, mannerisms and attitude and this reminder made her not want to love me. So I got the beatings, I got the punishments, I was deprived of the love of my mother.
The stories we create as children become real. At least mine did. Over the years my life started to unravel and an auto-immune disease and cancer became part of my daily vocabulary and life.
What I didn’t account for was the truth. Much of it was kept from me. Parents will do that to protect themselves and their children and themselves. I get it better now than I did as a rebellious teen, an ambitious young adult, wanting to be the perfect mother and even now as someone living with cancer.
But I need to get it all the way. Epigenetics is a real thing and I don’t want to pass on any trauma, any unresolved issues to my daughter. This needs to stop here.
I’ve been hard on myself, hard on my daughter and extremely hard on my mother. She may not have always known this. But I was hard in silence. I was distant and absent. I internalized everything to keep the mask in place and made myself sick. Nearly died.
My Mom was single, worked everyday and was climbing the corporate ladder to provide for her children. I don’t know of the daily troubles and drama she faced. She never talked about it. I still don’t know. I don’t know how race and #metoo played a part in her day to day. I know now that they existed. She sought the help of Uncle Cleve and Andy (not sure why he never got the label Uncle) to help us and to help herself. On the surface they were nice men. One a teacher and the other I am not so sure what he did but I use to love when he would take my brother and I fishing. And most importantly they were a tremendous help to my mother. One would fix things around the house and help with household errands. She needed the help. She had 2 children, worked full-time was terrified of what she heard about social services in America and them taking children away. So I get it. She needed help. And our Daddy wasn’t around. I actually thought he was dead. So they provided the necessary strength that she needed and a little a loving too.
But they also preyed on me. For years.
Just last month Mama and I talked about it for the first time. She asked me what happened. I gave her specific and graphic details. She fell silent and then said “ I don’t how or why they would have done that to you knowing that they could be put in jail…it just doesn’t seem….” I interpreted this as denial. She still didn’t believe me.
And even though I am decades removed from the physical molestation her response still hurt. Today. And yet I have learned to give her the space to feel just how she feels. And love her still.
But I also give space to all the little girls who were touched by hardened hands; caressed before they knew what it was suppose to feel like, sucked on like the lollipops he would give them; entered by those who were not invited. May your healing be complete.
I can still smell the odd sent of broken skin. This is not how I imagined that this would happen. I didn’t even imagine. At least not about that. I was 12 . Or 11. I don’t really know. I have selective memory.
….soon come. June-ish.