Digging Together: Synkroniciti’s Building Bridges

Synkroniciti’s latest Open Mic was a wonderful, intimate conversation about building and being bridges in our communities, families and world.

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On Saturday, February 20th, eight souls (seven human, one cat) took on the vulnerability of sharing things that separate and connect us. We were diverse in terms of race, culture and circumstances, and we truly enjoyed coming together to speak to and learn from each other. We enjoyed it so much that the night didn’t wrap up until after 9:30, five hours after the posted start time. That was a new record for synkroniciti!

Most of this time was spent in open and unscripted conversation, as we shared ourselves and our backgrounds. Our tiny group was no stranger to prejudice and challenge, be it racial tensions within family and community, making a home in a new country, clearing socio-economic hurdles, or dealing with physical and mental issues that mark us as different. Digging down deep, we found some rough edges and we didn’t shy away from them. It doesn’t seem right to throw these things up in great detail here; they were bonding experiences that are meant for the safe place we have built at synkroniciti. There are, however, a few things I will narrate for you briefly.

As a warm-up, we had a great time creating an oral story that passed from person to person around the room. We told of twin sisters who, in celebration of their sixteenth birthday, fearfully crossed a magic fairy bridge only to find their deceased grandparents ready to tell them a profound truth about life over a delicious breakfast. Grandpa exhorted them to find and follow their passion in life and grandma ended by saying, “That’s nice dear, I just wanted to remind them to always eat a good breakfast.” None of us had any control over where the story went or what genre it strayed into. We had to release our personal expectations to allow it to be breathed into life.

Saba read “The Other Immigrants”, inspired by a trip to Grand Central Station in New York City. In this lovely, spare poem, Saba thinks of the countless people who have travelled through Grand Central Terminal to make a new life in the United States and remembers growing up in Lahore, Pakistan. As human beings we move from one reality to another, crossing so many bridges that we become bridges ourselves: between countries, between cultures, between periods of time, between our own memories. This beautiful poem appeared in Natural Bridge Journal and you can read it here.

I presented “To a Dancer”, which you can read here. It deals with a cultural divide– a young woman watching a dance desires to join in, but is held back by prejudice because the dancer is not of her race. The physical truth of the dancer’s body, the movements and the reactions inspired by those movements wordlessly reach across the gap between cultures, beckoning to her. It is a wonderful and terrifying thing to be a bridge.

“Reverse Psychology” was inspired by an interaction Michelle had with a friend who, in a moment of zeal and religious dogma, attempted to tell her how she should believe and live. These moments never yield positive results, only frustration and division. They destroy and block bridges, which can only be built by two sides listening and reaching out to one another. We have to be careful that our bridge building doesn’t turn into a siege.

Neil, Buki and I want to thank Ariel, Kelly, Louis, Michelle and Saba for wonderful evening and for being open to sharing so much of themselves.

The next Open Mic will happen on Saturday, April 9 at 4:30pm and will be titled “In the Garden”. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tragedy of Roots: To a Dancer by Katherine McDaniel

Dance can circumvent words and create bonds across cultures. Could we allow the empathy it creates guide our daily lives?

Sattriya Dancer, India © Subhrajit with CCLicense

Sattriya Dancer, India
© Subhrajit with CCLicense

To a Dancer is a poem I wrote for a variety show that took place last weekend here in Houston, Mosaic Hub‘s Chocolate Soiree. It was lovely to be able to read my work for a paying audience and wonderful to be followed by a pair of wonderful dancers, Helena Tokarew and Chris Simon. Their smoldering performance gave this piece an added dimension.

In To A Dancer, a girl is mesmerized by the dance of a community alien to her own. She recognizes the energy, kindness and love embodied by a particular dancer, as well as the sense of belonging and place conferred on him by the dance. She would love to join in, but fears that her participation would be misinterpreted, both by members of her community and his.

There are so many motivations swirling under the surface of this girl. She is below the dancer’s notice, foreign to his circle, a child just beginning to feel the first surges of feminine emotion and hormones. This saves her, for now, from the embarrassment of being discovered. She is intrigued by his otherness, by the close nature of his community during the dance and by the beauty of his body. There is a sense of incipient sexuality, something which she hasn’t yet understood. If she allows herself to dream and, miraculously, her feelings are later returned, this could be the beginning of a cross culture romance.

For today she is merely a girl who would love to belong and to be able to trust. Will that trust betray her tomorrow, or will it lead her to a world in which cultures may coexist and share with one another?