Courage to Go Into the Unknown

Courage to go into the unknown, with five children and one bag

Growing up, I knew that my story was different.

I knew that I had a complex reality compared to my blond-haired, blue-eyed classmates. I knew that my family had fled our home country in pursuit of a brighter, safer future. I knew that sacrifices were made beyond the depths of my understanding; it took the unfolding of several years to grasp the intricacies of the nuances I experienced as an immigrant. I am still learning about my family’s’ immigration experience and putting all the pieces together which leads me to this rare documentation of my family’s story that I recently uncovered.

“She arrived at the Port Authority in New York, took a bus to Buffalo. With her five children under the age of eight and one suitcase, she walked across the Peace Bridge and asked to be a refugee. She came with such courage, walked across a bridge to the unknown, to a country she had never seen. She knew nobody here and she walked across a bridge and she stands, for me, forever as an example of the courage to go into the unknown – with five children and one bag.”

My mother has never told us this story. Aware of our extensive journey, details were always omitted – likely in an attempt to protect us from trauma. Culturally-speaking, downplaying experiences as a coping mechanism is common; partly in an attempt to not have to re-live those horrifying experiences. However, there is incredible power in this story for me. There is incredible power in our stories and they need to be told.

Fleeing violence, torture, poverty, war, and discrimination through treacherous journeys is common in an immigrant’s’ experience. Our stories are nothing short of fascinating and can have a profound impact as our lived experiences make for powerful forms of communication.

It is important for us to share these stories.

Why? Because our stories matter. They matter because they showcase the injustices we’ve faced and continue to face. They matter because they create moments of connection with others. They matter because they give validation and acknowledgment of our experiences. They matter because they are therapeutic and unleash suppressed or otherwise deemed nonexistent emotions. They matter because stories have the ability to move people and expand their understanding. They matter to you. They matter to our community. They matter to us.

Channeling our experiences as immigrants through multiple art forms gives us the appreciation of our stories through open interpretation. The ability of paintings, poetry, theatre, music, actions and dance to captivate audiences through storytelling ceases to amaze me. Using art as a vehicle to create political action has encouraged young people in particular to be actively engaged in social justice issues they feel passionate towards.

VFTDAt Black Alliance (coupons), we are pleased to support the storytelling of Black immigrants in our community. Join us this Saturday, November 15, 2014, as Anthony “Tony” Polanco launches his first publication, Verses from the Diaspora at our office in Brooklyn, 660 Nostrand Ave.

Verses from the Diaspora is not one person’s story but a collection inspired by the many voices of the African diaspora in the Americas and throughout the world. It reveals the reality of African descendants from the favelas of Brazil to the streets of South Central Los Angeles with brutal honesty. The roots of the book’s origin traces back to the author’s time in Valladolid, Spain in 2008 in which Polanco noticed the discrimination of Africans, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Brazilians and even Afro-Indians.

Literary inspiration includes the works of Nicolás Guillén, Blas R. Jiménez, Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, Federico García Lorca, John Keats, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Richard Wright, Carlos Guillermo, Julio de Burgos and Carlos Guillermo Wilson among others. Verses from the Diaspora embodies the various languages, cultures and backgrounds while exploring the similar struggles of the displaced children of Africa. The collection of original poetry pieces is expressed in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Enjoy a night of multilingual poetry performances and a discourse about the African Diaspora and the work done by The Black Alliance.