2014. Morningside Heights, Harlem:
Family gathered in a cozy railroad style apartment filled with love and nurture. Pictures of baby cousins and family trees and sepia colored memories carefully decorated along the borders of the space with purpose and connection. I invited my new buddy, Charles, to our annual family thanksgiving dinner because he was new to NYC and needed a place to share the holiday. He brought some vegan red velvet cupcakes that were to die for! I made melt-in-your-mouth sweet potato casserole with gooey vegan marshmallows on top. This was, and still is, my specialty. It was a beautiful gathering of delicious food, classic card games, and nostalgic photo albums. I knew that this would be a thanksgiving to remember.
Hours later, I got to my studio a bit more tired than usual. I tend to overeat on thanksgiving because it’s tradition. Who doesn’t, right? I’m not thinking of the true meaning of it. But, just what exactly I was going to put on my plate when that day came. I usually have thirds. Sometimes even fourths. My mouth began to feel salty and watery. My stomach bubbling with acids and juices from the smorgasboard of food at my cousin’s place. What came next was a complete disaster! Every single piece of food violently spewed out of my body. I clutched my belly and hovered over the toilet angry with my body and with myself. After teaching my 5th grade students the real meaning of thanksgiving the year prior, I couldn’t believe I allowed myself to do this–to get to this point. And make no mistake, I’d been sick before on thanksgiving. But, 2014 was the last straw.
People will give me advice and say, “Don’t overeat” and that’s a good piece of advice. They are absolutely correct. But, then as I begin to think what this holiday actually meant in America, I decided I needed to break tradition.
My father, grandmother (his mother) and grandfather (my mom’s father) all passed away within a year and a half of each other. My grandmother, Christmas of 2009. My father, February of 2010. My grandfather, February 2011. The holidays after 2011, changed for me. Most of the people in my family were physically gone. And before 2011, I visited Kentucky or shared my voice and poetry with ones who couldn’t be with their families at recovery clinics in Brooklyn. I didn’t get sick then. I focused my spirit on positive things and helping people. Eating was the last thing on my mind. Plus, preparing a meal is hard work because I make everything from scratch.
I’m just tired of tradition. It doesn’t feel same for me anymore and with what’s happening in the world right now, I just don’t deem it a dire need to eat collard greens and sweet potato pie on the fourth Thursday of November. Some do and that’s their choice. But, I want to help people and travel the world and gain perspective. I want more people to understand the types of food they are putting in their bodies. I want to always seek truth and understanding and be in balance with myself at all times. I want to be compassionate with my fellow indigenous brothers and sisters and consider how this holiday is offensive to them and their loved ones. I definitely want to give thanks for my life, breath, and health. I’m recovering from my eating ways and getting to the point where my body isn’t the focal point when I look in the mirror. So, today I’m spending time with my mother and her friends while focusing on being better.
As you spend time with your loved ones, be sure keep yourself informed with what’s happening in the world. I’ve attached some links to help you maintain your focus this year.
I want to wish you and your families a beautiful and restful time and I hope this perspective reaches and teaches you in the same way that has for me.