I haven’t kept up with reviewing my fellow Black Bloggers, which I had hoped to do at least once a week. I hereby make a resolution to do so from now on. It’s only fitting that I should start with the blog of someone I actually know.
Author: Sarah Musa
Constant State of Reflection is the blog of Somali Canadian Ottawa Spoken Word Artist, Carleton University Human Rights Program Student, and my neighbour.
I had watched Sarah growing up in my ‘hood for years. But I only got to know her when she began attending the Speaking for Ourselves Project for high school students from immigrant and visible minority communities who were aspiring poets. I created the Project based on the work of projects like Youth Speaks. Sarah was already active in her high school and writing poetry but I think the project helped her take herself seriously as a poet and helped her develop closer connections with key local poets like Hodan Ibrahim. Sarah has gone on to become a leader of the Spoken Word Scene locally, in particular by helping to sustain the Urban Legends Series at Carleton University.
Sarah describes herself as an old soul in a young body.
Sarah Musa shares much of her poetry on her blog. Her poems vary from the personal to those focused on social justice in relation to local and global struggles. Her poem Sand Dunes and Land Mines is a reflection on the deterioration of a childhood friendship whereas Vital Signs is a narrative highlighting issues of poverty in Ottawa.
Sarah likes to share quotations by poets and philosophers that have inspired her to reflect. In the post Importance of Truth, she shares quotes from such diverse thinkers as Kahlil Gibran, Oscar Wilde, and Ghandi.
The blog also includes brief reflections by Sarah on lectures or events she’s attended or books she has read, such as her reflection on a presentation by Romeo Dallaire about the difference between tolerance and mutual respect.
Sarah also posts videos and pics that she feels will inspire others to reflection.
Sarah, who is Muslim, often opens her posts with bismillah, this is the shortened version of a phrase meaning “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious” used by many Muslims before they begin a speech or piece of writing, in the hope that nothing they say will be offensive to God but will instead be spiritually uplifting for the listeners or readers. Bismillah‘s most famous use in Western Popular Culture is in the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Zanzibari-born British Indian Parsi Rock Star Freddie Mercury (born Farrukh Bulsara).
If you feeling apathetic and need a dose of youthful idealism, check out Constant State of Reflection.
To learn more about Ottawa’s Spoken Word Scene visit the site raiseit.ca
This week, I am reviewing the blog The Missing Piece…thoughts of a black adoptee
The author of the blog describes herself as:
black woman, adopted into a white family as an infant; mother of 2 girls; part-time insomniac; ex-lawyer; interests include: family stories, culture, race, books, writing, art, parenting, other adoptees, gardening…
In the post “who am I?”, the author gives more details about her home life.
The author of The Missing Piece was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and adopted into a White family. She does not know her biological parents, but she does know that her mother is White and her father is Black.
In the post, Rejection: adoptee woes in a nutshell, she writes about her struggle to contact her biological mother and get the name of her biological father. The post is a fascinating tour through Nova Scotian Adoption Legislation, for example, because her biological father never acknowledged paternity he is not legally her Birth Father.
In the post Missing Pieces, she explains her choice of blog name:
I don’t mean to characterize adoptees or transracial adoptees as ‘missing pieces’ or incomplete human beings, so just hear me out. An old, true friend introduced me to The Missing Piece, by Shel Silverstein many years ago. It succinctly and beautifully sums up the road many of us take to find ourselves, but especially adoptees who might feel at different times in their lives that they are missing some crucial part of themselves – knowledge of self, knowledge of family, medical or cultural history.
I really enjoy The Missing Piece blog because although I was not adopted, having a deported Black father who I had no hope of finding, and growing up in my mother’s totally dysfunctional White family, often made me feel like I was an orphan.
I can particularly relate to her struggles with Black Identity. In her post Back to Africa, she writes:
As a black girl growing up in a white family I was often on the outside of black culture and community. That is, until I entered junior high and made black friends, listened to black music, read black history and literature and deliberately absorbed black culture. Embracing black culture gave me some self-confidence and generally helped in the quest to know myself, but a kind of doubtful self-consciousness about my cultural identity remains. I am easily shaken if someone (black or white) insinuates I am not black enough, because I am too fair-skinned, or because I like to read, or because my family is white, or for some other ridiculous reason. What do you care what other people think, my friends and family ask. Intellectually I know I should not care, but the emotional need to belong or fit within family and community is strong.
I too grew up isolated from Black communities. In someways, the author is lucky to have grown up in Nova Scotia, which has a large and deep-rooted Black community. Growing up in Ottawa, in the 80s and 90s meant that I didn’t have much opportunity to interact with Black people, until the wave of Somali immigration in the mid-nineties. I can’t say I have ever really “embraced” Black culture because I don’t think there is such a thing. I am grateful for finally learning how to manage my hair (which shows no signs of being mixed as it is quite short and course), something I only accomplished in my early twenties with the help of a friend of Afro-Trinidadian descent. Here in Ottawa, there are now large communities of Sub-Saharan African descent but they are divided by ethnicity, culture, religion, and language (Ottawa is a bilingual city) so you can hardly say there is a Black Culture here. But I do interact a lot with these communities, some more than others (for obvious reasons I am closer to Muslim communities, but I find that I get on well with both Muslims and Christians from the Horn of Africa, and with Muslim and Christian francophones. Ironically, I seem to get on the least with Nigerians of any ethnicity, despite the fact that I am ethnically half-Nigerian. I guess a sense of belonging has very little to do with bloodlines).
I think many of the author’s issues with Black Identity are the same for all of us who are mixed race but didn’t grow up with our Black parents.
They are many Black adoptees out there. The Missing Piece’s blog roll contains links to other websites and blogs by transracial adoptees, as well as a link to the Black Adoptees Group on Facebook.
I learned from the Missing Piece blog that Darry McDaniels, the DMC from Run DMC, is a Black Adoptee, as well as musician Michael Franti. I am also grateful to the author for highlighting the work of Jackie Kay, a Black Scottish writer who was adopted into a White family. Kay’s father, like mine, is a Nigerian. She had the opportunity to meet him but it did not turn out as hoped, because he was hell bent on trying to save her soul by converting her to his rabid form of Christianity. This was actually my big fear when I found my father. As so many Nigerians I had met seemed to detest my conversion to Islam, I was worried my father might reject me because I was a Muslim or make our relationship contingent upon me becoming a Christian. I am grateful that this was not the case.
I hope the author of The Missing Piece continues to write about her own struggle, as well as the struggle of others to piece together the puzzle of mixed race and transracial identities.