Friday, December 14, 2018

Farewell Gramps (nnanne)

Grandpa's Tribute: 

Also found here

When I found out my grandpa had passed away, I was in San Diego with my comrades fighting against anti-immigration policies, specifically mass deportations. This is when the court rounds up tens of people and orders them to pay an insurmountable bail amount and potential deportation. I had just come out of a meeting and had my phone turned off, cuz security. I had so many missed calls from my sister, parents, best friend, and partner and I was anxious. I get anxious and feel a lot of guilt. Am I putting this movement shit before my family? Did I miss something important? Did something happen and I wasn’t there? Am I not supporting my family in the ways I should? Am I creating harmful boundaries or not having enough boundaries? I am always reacting. I am always on call. Before, I made any calls back, I listened to a voicemail my mom left me crying hysterically telling me to call her back. Finally, I called back and found out the news.

It is because slavery, colonization, imperialism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant policies that my family is scattered across the globe. For the most part, they are all surviving, struggling, surviving, struggling, surviving, some of us here thriving with the illusion of security. There is a lot of survivors’ guilt that I see in my parents. A guilt fueled by white supremacy making you feel like you are not doing enough even when you are barely hanging on. These perceived class differences drive deep wedges in one’s family dynamic. It fuels insecurity and jealousy. It creates an environment where you are constantly giving while pretending you are good or secure when Lord knows you are constantly trying to hustle. It makes you feel vulnerable to someone else’s misdirected rage. I know my parents have sacrificed a lot. I don’t know how two people have consistently provided for countless people and villages while navigating the economic constraints in this fucked up country. My parents have been in this country for over 40 years, most of their lives.

Luckily, I have had the opportunity to meet both my maternal grandparents (both my paternal died before I was born). I would say my grandfather and I were as close as we could be, given the distance, frequency, and language barriers. He was far from perfect which makes me feel guilty for mourning his lost. Much of who he was and what he represents is staunchly against what I believe in while much of him has shaped who I am and what I represent. That is the reality of family, we live in our contradictions. It is when we sit in our contradictions and discomfort that we are able to liberate ourselves. We have to confront what we often go outside to place blame on or confront. But these very systems live inside of us, they live inside of our homes, they live inside of our families and our communities. He was a chauvinist. He was a patriarch. He was polygamous. I never got to witness his rage and his abuse but I know it was there. I’ve heard the stories and I have seen the impact. And everything he did in some shape or form has shaped my own trauma. My own trauma around family, love, culture.

I am also feeling a sense of guilt for not having talked to him enough, asked him enough questions, spent enough time with him. I feel guilty for not confronting him about a lot of the issues I organize around and the values that uphold. Though I know I have made a tremendous impact on his life and his outlook on his life. I remember telling him that I wanted to have multiple partners of different genders and he said that is fine as long as I am happy. I could have candid, open conversations with him and take him on a debate. He is stubborn. He is a debater. He used to try cases. This is me to the t.

Most of what I know about my culture and history comes from my many interviews and random calls to him. Almost 6 months later, I am still sorting through my feelings and emotions. Every time I see his picture or listen to his old voice mails, I just burst out in tears. I have not felt this type of lost before. Part of it is a complete disruption to my connection to my lineage, history, and culture that he provided a blanket for. Last year, my whole family went home to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday not knowing this would be the last time I saw him.

One of the most politicizing moments in my life was when I learned about the Aba Women’s Uprising of 1929, where Igbo women from all over Southeastern Nigerian staged numerous protests and disruptions, dancing, singing, burning colonial buildings, sitting on patriarchal and oppressive men, demanding freedom from violence and oppression. Due to my indoctrination, I could not at the time conceptionalize a well organized resistance (the biggest) against British colonial rule by Igbo women. But this history is complicated, because my great-grandfather was a warrant-chief (a title/position/institution these women were fighting against). I have no intention of rewriting or shying away from history because I have the agency and determination to fight against oppressive systems and institutions today. I also know this is one part of my history, from the stories I have learned about my great grandmothers to my time with my maternal grandmother, I know resistance is a large part of that/my struggle.

Today, my grandfather was laid to rest in Umuawa Alaocha, Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. I did not attend because money, work, life, and quite frankly I just am not in a space to face that reality.

On June 30, 2018 when I found out my grandpa had died, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. That day I had disrupted a court hearing and was dragged out, shut down the entrance to immigration courts, and was in the midst of a beautiful for liberation. In those moments, I was transformed and whole. In the struggle fighting so families don’t have to save up thousands of dollars to see each other, so families do have to go through a million holes trying to get papers for everyone, so that families aren’t in-fighting because of lack of resources, so families aren’t experiencing generational trauma, so that gender-based violence can come to a halt, so that there will no longer be borders, so that women don’t become entrapped in violent situations both outside and outside their home. One of our fights for justice is about one’s ability to define family and have the resources and tools to raise families in safe communities, the ability for human beings to connect in ways that are not limited to pre-determined biological binaries and assessments by white scientists.

We all deserve freedom and I appreciate my grandpa for providing the vision, rigor, and analytical tools to connect my stories and experiences beyond what I can physically touch and what seems tangible and real. I am limitless. I represent the limitless of this world.

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