Stepping Boldly with Nelson Mandela on the Long Walk to Freedom

The Legacy of Nelson Mandela

by Marva McClean, PhD

Mandela: Symbol of Justice; Archetype of Heroism

Mandela: Symbol of Justice; Archetype of Heroism

What a friend the world has in this symbol of possibilities!

I was born amid the winds of change in Jamaica, a country fueled by the yearning for freedom and self-determination, on the brink of self government. By the time Jamaica achieved independence from Britain in 1962 and my parents readied me for elementary school, I was well schooled in the ideology of emancipation and freedom of expression. At school I learned about our country’s national heroes and at age seven played the lead narrator in a pageant celebrating the work of Paul Bogle in the Morant Bay Rebellion. Today, I have committed my life to the work of social justice and equity, determined to make a meaningful contribution in the struggle for equal educational opportunities and outcome for children who have been traditionally marginalized in the United States and societies around the world.

When I think of the work I would like to accomplish, I peer out into the world for inspiration, for examples of others who have left a well traveled trail to guide us.  Like the national heroes of Jamaica, Paul Bogle, Nanny of the Maroons, and Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela stands tall as an icon of strength, a figure recognized for his stand against injustice and his unwavering commitment to dismantle the hegemonic construct of Apartheid. President Mandela went to prison for twenty  seven years, yet emerged a victor as president of the Republic of South Africa. While in confinement he wrote his autobiography, mentored fellow prisoners, earned a second degree, and co-directed a massive grassroots movement that led to his release from prison.  What a friend the world has in this symbol of possibilities!

My friend, what step will you take to continue Mandela's journey in the long walk to freedom?

Dr. Marva McClean

For the past week I have been working with youth, reading and analyzing the biography of Nelson Mandela, writing essays about his character traits and those qualities that shaped his pathway to heroism. With my adult friends, I seek to inquire into how they will honor Mandela’s legacy; what they will do to mark the fact of his influence on their lives. As for me, I will hold onto Nelson Mandela’s legacy as a gift from a friend, a source of inspiration to remain steadfast on the path; to work with children, youth and young adults in ways to use reading, writing, and speaking as tools of social justice and empowerment. I am so grateful to have Nelson Mandela, his work and his legacy, as an archetype of heroism. I know that we, my students, my friends, family and I are in good company the world over as we continue this journey on the long walk to freedom.

Posted in African Diaspora, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Anti-Racist Ideology, cultural diversity, Disrupting/Dismantling Hegemony, Grassroots Leadership, Nelson Mandela | 5 Comments

What Empowers You?

What Empowers You?

Marvamargaret 079

               Paseros: Marva & Margaret

Celebrations! I am committed to celebrating the bonds of friendship. I see this as my estate of great wealth. In particular, I believe that my circle of friends is that fertile womb of creativity and inspiration that has that capacity to propel me to realize my greatest dreams for they are caretakers along the march, allies and paseros who guide my steps as I search for healing and inspiration.  The words of R. Hall sum it up very effectively for me: A friend should be one in whose understanding and virtue we can equally confide, and in whose opinion we can value at once for its justness and sincerity.  Over the years I have discovered that the true value of friendship lies in the fact that a friend is both a supporter and a critic, one whose honest praise uplifts you and thoughtful criticism guides you to empowered action.

I was reminded of this today as I began pulling Christmas decorations from storage and came across a collection of cards yellowed by age. I rifled through the box with the intent of tossing those that were old and musty. For Sister and her Family. The bright red letters on soft yellow paper framed in green holly and red berries caught my eye.  I flipped the card open to see the flowery signature of my friend, Margaret with whom I have shared a life time of friendship since we were both ten years old. These simple words, to my sister and family summed up for me the essence of our friendship; the deep value of a relationship that expands into the realm of familial cords. As I rifled through the collection other cards beckoned to me. One hailed me as Soul Sister #1: a trusted accomplice…connoisseur of juicy tidbits; financial commiserator; supreme fashion visionary; Friend! Healer! Ally! I smiled, acknowledging the value of these simple words from treasured friends who have been and continue to be witnesses to my journey and I know that when our group, Circle of Friends International gathers together in celebration this December, I will be reminded of these simple words by Yeats:

Think where [wo]man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was that I had such friends.

Circle 2004 001

Pasero-Jamaican vernacular for friend.

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | 4 Comments

Send My Roots Rain

Marva Waterside

Send my Roots Rain

The  morning after the accident on Florida’s I -95, I found myself browsing my book shelf for my volume of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry. Something deep within spoke to me and sent me searching for this particular nature and religious poet whom I had studied so many years ago at the University of the West Indies. I took the book with me to the doctor that morning and in the many weeks that followed with doctors’ visits, physical therapy sessions; facing down acute pain, physical and psychological, I found solace in the words. The rhyme and meter of his verse spoke to me as much as the words did.  In waiting rooms and during quiet moments of reflection, it seemed that my heart beat in sync with the heavy, deliberate sometimes truncated rhythm of Hopkins’ poetry. His interrogative stance, his survey of the world and its unpredictability, all spoke to me in a spiritual and transcendental manner that connected with my soul’s yearning. I read his words throughout the weeks, and one late evening, just as the sun was setting in the sky I came across the words it seemed I had been searching for, “ Send my roots rain.”

 Gerard Manley Hopkins  Poems and Prose Selected and edited by W.H. Gardner

Gerard Manley Hopkins
Poems and Prose Selected and edited by W.H. Gardner

Throughout my life, books have been constant and faithful companions, bringing words of comfort, sometimes jolting me out of complacency, often stirring up fires inside and prodding me to take action. I am so deeply grateful for authors who devote themselves to the art and lay themselves bare to connect with the rest of the world in this deep and meaningful way.  Books have helped me to look deeply into my heart of darkness and get to know myself better as I reflect on the nature of my own experiences.

The tragic aspects of human life balanced with the magnificent splendors of nature and the indefatigable will of the human spirit are all conveyed in the books I adore and those I know waiting for me to read. For I truly believe as author Ernest Hemingway has stated, “There is no loyal friend as a good book.”

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity, Honoring Life's Cycle, Poetry of Redemption, The Miracle of Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

And I Shall Find Peace There [Yeats]

The Circle of Life: Searching for Peace on the Continuum

Cali

The third week in September, I joined with friends from my childhood to celebrate the 50th birthday anniversary of a dear friend. We kicked up our heels, danced the night away and reminisced about a past forty years in the making. One week later, I attended the memorial service for an in-law, who died after a long illness at age 64. This weekend, I will be attending the memorial service of her niece, who died tragically at the tender age of 22.  At times like these, one is compelled to contemplate the circle of life and one’s place in it. The hub, the wheel, the character Angus Tuck calls it in the book Tuck Everlasting. In his case, he bemoans his condition of immortality after drinking from a spring that bequeathed him and his family with a legacy he would rather let go, yearning for a normal life; yearning to be part of the circle, to live and to die when the time comes. If dying as Angus Tuck puts it, is as important as living, how then does one reconcile the pain, the feelings of dislocation, of having one’s world turned topsy- turvy with the passing of a loved one? How does one measure one’s life and give meaning to one’s days?

One way, I believe is to explore your potential to create, produce and give meaningfully of your talent to those in your circle and to the world around you. I believe that we can strive to be magnificent in all that we do, wherever we are located. In accepting that we are part of the hub of life, we have to respond to the challenge to be creative and explore the abundance of the universe in ways that honor our talents and creativity; those unique gifts bestowed on us. I believe we can reach out beyond ourselves to touch, support and lift up those around us and offer strength in times when there may seem to be little relief from the depths of despair.  We can connect to others in our tribe and share the hopeful message that even within the midst of pain there is beauty in life. As for me, I realize that even in the throes of relentless pain,  I need to summon the strength and the courage to move on to the next step in the journey; listening carefully, intuitively; living my truth; taking each step boldly. For, it is at this  place of awareness and acceptance I shall find peace.  

 

 

Posted in Bereavement, Circle of Life, feminine leadership, creativity, Honoring Life's Cycle, Loss & Acceptance, Tuck Everlasting | Tagged | 2 Comments

Friendship..Mutuality & Social Justice: What Are You Doing For Others?

Dr. Marva McClean What does it take to be a true dear friend?

Dr. Marva McClean
What does it take to be a true dear friend?

We may have all come in different ships but we are in the same boat now. MLK

“We may have all come in different ships but we are in the same boat now,” Martin Luther King declared decades ago. This quotation speaks so eloquently to me about the significance of friendship, mutuality and compassion.  And it makes me wonder, what does it take to be a true dear friend? What prevents us from fully showing up for others and in such a manner that they know without question that we are there; ready to be the wind beneath their wings to buoy them up? King’s quotation is particularly important to me not only because I place such a high value on friendship but also because it speaks so poignantly to the issue of race and ethnicity and the complex issue of relationships between people of color; people with a heritage rooted in the African diaspora.

Dr. King spoke often and deeply about relationships and friendship in particular, consistently examining the theme of brotherhood and the notion of our responsibility to pursue social justice and equity beyond the narrow boundaries of our personal life. I share below, some of my favorite quotations on friendship from the writings of Dr. King in the hope that they will stir you up into thoughtful reflection and perhaps action to unravel the social injustice so deeply rooted in our social landscape. We should begin at home with ourselves.

Dr. King

Wise Words From Dr. King!

  • Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
  • All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.
  • Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.
  • There can be no deep disappointment when there is no deep love.
  • In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Posted in African Diaspora, Caribbean Diasopora, Dr. Martin Luther King, Education, Enlightenment, relationships, Social Justice and Equity | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dancing With My Daughter by Marva McClean

Marvalous Blogger!The mother –daughter relationship is known to be one of the most complex and often explosive of relationships. It can also be empowering and life affirming; a bond that can build bridges and lay the foundation for generations to come. How does a mother navigate the turbulent waters to arrive at a  point of smooth sailing with her daughter? Does something magical have to happen for this to take place or does it occur in due course of the relationship?

As daughters ourselves, when do we learn to appreciate our own mothers? At what stage do we become friends? Are we able to use this experience to foster a loving, nurturing relationship with our daughters? It seems at times when we reach out in what we may perceive as a caring manner our daughters may perceive it to be invasive and critical. As I recall from my childhood, daughters can be critical and unmoving in their perspective. I remember an encounter with my mother when I wouldn’t budge on an issue. In exasperation she simply stated, “One day you will have a daughter just like you and then you will understand.” I certainly hope today that these are words with which she blessed my future.

Dancing With My Daughter  Dance image

What wondrous miracle is this,

the birth of a child,

a daughter in image of myself, a pure reflection of me?

You absorb me, enfold me; swim in the sea of my emotions.

Center of my being, you are my world and I am yours.

We dance together in joyful celebration of life.

You heed my words:

Dance my daughter, dance!

Twist and turn and take wondrous leaps.

But hush, the rhythm slows.

Your pace softens and you twirl away from me.

With scornful anger you confront me.

What mocking icicles coat your words!

We swirl and twirl in contorting rhythms;

Emotions forged in the darkness of our hearts.

Your dance becomes the dream that haunts me.

Your footsteps echo in the hollow ground as you glide away.

Cautiously I trace your footsteps, try to match the pace of your rhythm.

You pick up speed again in search of wings to soar away.

I tread softly now, sashaying between the seams of our complex relationship.

You pause and flex, with slow deliberate steps you return.

With graceful strides we tiptoe around each other;

Twists and turns that take us full circle into the womb of our wondrous beginning.

This then is our dance; a continuum with no beginning; no end.

..from Bridges to Memory 2007

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Look for me in the Whirlwind or the Storm

Subversive Words & Militant Actions by Marva McClean 

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Look for me in the whirlwind and the storm! These words spoken by Jamaican national hero Marcus Garvey, remind us of our accountability to take action to address the ills in our society. They are strong powerful words, evoking the graphic imagery of natural subversion even as they symbolically convey the writer’s sense of urgency and commitment to fight forcefully for change. The truth is, Marcus Garvey, 1887-1940, was widely known for his subversive words and militant actions. An activist who fought for the rights of Black people through agentive action and publications like The Negro World, his memory and influence remain strong today among those involved in the continuing struggle for social justice and equity in our society. This was the consensus reached by the  group of literary friends gathered this past Saturday at the Broward County South Regional Library, Florida to celebrate the word and their heritage in a literary expo hosted by cultural activist Vonnie McGowan. Interestingly, the event fell on Garvey’s birthday and  it was fitting then, that Garvey scholar and chair of the committee to exonerate Garvey, Geoffrey Philp shared thoughts on Garvey’s work as a Pan Africanist  as well as excerpts from Geoff’s book Marcus and the Amazon, a satire on colonialism and an assertion of the struggle of people of color for empowerment.

I decided to employ poetic license and caption photos of some of the authors who presented at the expo with excerpts of resonant words from the archives of Garvey’s esteemed  writings. These are words I believe, that we need to hold close as we continue this journey, this ongoing struggle for social justice and equity in our society, accepting that there is power in the pen, in the word, as it is a potent force in the struggle for human rights and justice and that we must hold ourselves as accountable members of this conversation. For we know at times like these how important it is to step out of the solitary confines of the writing life, connect with others and assert writing as the often complex and highly social act that it is. 

Miss Ivy, Author, Lignum Vitae and Leather & Native Dawta

IVI

Up,  up you mighty race, accomplish what you will.

Dobby Dobson, Malachai Smith & Geoffrey Philp

Dobby, Malachai & Geoffrey

Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of

suffering people.

Nina Hart, Author, Test Your Jamaica IQ

Nina Hart

With confidence, you have won before you started.

David Muir & Son, Author, Pieces of Jamaica

David Muir

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin,

and culture is like a tree without roots. 

Much thanks to Marcia Ward & Vonnie McGowan, friends,  who organized the Expo.

Marcia & Vonnie

Posted in critical conversations, Education, Enlightenment | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Are You My Friend?

Exploring the Mystical Power of Friendship

Childhood House Oracabessa2

Is it Serendipity? Fate? Or the inevitable colliding of time? What creates that mystical essence of kinship between folk who though meeting for the first time, experience a sense of familiarity, of connection that can only be engendered through the passage of time?  This poem, Visiting the Village is a reminiscence of the profound ties established between friends who though meeting for the first time, experience a bond that suggests genealogical connections way beyond the coming together in that moment in linear time.

Visiting the Village

Maakye, bon jour, hola, how de do?

Many accents, many voices,

Our native tongues intermingled

Into the voice of the familiar

And we felt no need for a translator,

Bonded by the commonality

Of our experiences,

Our lineage forged in the bloodstream

Of our collective memory.

Race, history, gender and family merged

Into this village;

A tribe of native voices,

On this far corner of the Earth:

Ghana, Libya, Grenada, Trinidad, St. Lucia and Jamaica.

Our ancestral memories defined us,

Shaped us and called us to this place;

A gathering of sisters, paseros,

A neighborhood of friends;

Village folk dropping by for an afternoon visit.

We took it upon ourselves to dream,

To claim a place in the universe;

The far corners of the Earth.

We traced the footsteps of the past

And peered the clouds of the future, and

We agreed that the best is yet to come.

Retreat Anglican Church2

..from Bridges to Memory: Poems by Marva McClean 2007 

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | Tagged | 2 Comments

Teach Me How to Whisper…

Marva McClean Celebrates the Ordinary Rituals of Life!

Marva McClean is thankful for friendship that helps to illuminate the path….

Continue reading

Posted in Circle of Life, cultural diversity, feminine leadership, creativity, Heritage | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Search for Meaning from Life’s Chaos..A Young Friend shares a powerful message

This I Believe

Saria4

You have to live with what is handed to you.

by Sarai Age 14

The most important thing to know about the world is that it is not fair. As life goes on, it does not keep you in mind as it does what it does. It doesn’t  work to be in anyone’s favor. It doesn’t try to be fair to anyone, ever. Things happen, and they keep on happening, all the time. No matter what.

People will tell you this as life goes on. Probably adults, who have already been through it, when there is no explanation for what has happened. I was told this too, but I didn’t really understand until it happened; my it. The it I am talking about happened in the summer of ’09. July 3, to be specific. My family lost an important member; my aunt. She left behind two children.

Now at this time there was no answer to explain the reason for what happened.  Because there is no reason. This is when adults will start to tell you, what I am telling you now. It’s just one of those things about life that you have to understand, without really being able to grasp it.

You have to learn to live with what is handed to you. The only thing you can do is make the best out of the messes life throws at you, and learn to clean them up as they come. I realized this all, when I figured out that we could all still be happy even after our loss. See, what happened wasn’t good; it was the worst, actually. But still, good things can come from anywhere, and anything. You just have to find them. Search for those things, because they are always there.

Sarai5

I tell you this now, but you still may not understand it. Or maybe you do understand, but to comprehend how cruel the world actually is, may be difficult. It also may be challenging to constantly keep in mind, that the world does not have you in mind. You are minute in the grand scheme of things, so why should it? Until something you can call it happens to you, you probably won’t understand completely. As we live through our experiences  life will put you down. Just remember; fall down 7 times, get up 8. This I believe.

Posted in Circle of Life, Enlightenment, Family Life, relationships | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments