Last Wednesday, Minal turned twelve. I surprised her at her all-girls after-school choir practice with a chocolate cake and candles. Her choir group sang happy birthday, and her teacher allowed me to light candles so Minal could make a wish.
Even though twelve years have passed since Minal’s arrival, her early birth feels as if it happened recently. I spent a week in the hospital waiting for her, and thanks to my friend Michael Woodson, who showed up with a recorder the day before she was born, we can still listen to her heartbeat as it was transmitted from my stomach to speakers.
Minal’s birth and the recording of her heartbeat served as inspiration for new art that I created. In Fall 2008, when Minal was just four, Eric Hester who’s always up for adventure, found a way to help me obtain underwater footage. Using zip-lock bags and sand to protect the camcorder, he captured images of Minal and a friend’s daughter swimming. Using the underwater footage and Minal’s heartbeat as backgrounds, I created a short video collage, Seeking Solidarity interspersed with a conversation about race between Robert Pruitt, Ivette Roman and myself.
Also in 2008, my essay, “Heartbeat” was published in Calalloo, in which I wrote about the only time I was ever escorted to a police car. In the essay, I reflect on Minal’s future in a divided world.
Unintentionally, both my essay and video are about race and belonging. And today, twelve years since her birth, borders, race and ethnicity remain intertwined with varying scales of repression and violence; in Kashmir, the death toll rises, while Palestine remains isolated and in struggle, even as the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement escalates.
Sadly, these are just some struggles of our times. What will the list look like by the time Minal circles around another dozen years?
28 Sep 2016 12:23:47 PM