As my ballet teacher said to me while I cry-danced through my adage in 2009, “You are exactly where you need to be.” But what a long, roundabout journey to get there. I should sign up for miles because I set out on that trip every couple weeks.
Last time you and I talked, the first three-week lockdown was bearing down. Being in Brussels was hare-brained, yet here I was. Two years later when the sun came out and I still didn’t have my papers, I had no idea what I was doing here but I knew there was nowhere else I’d rather be. I bided my time by talking to dogs and birds, and learning things Belgium needs more of, like Nederlands, figurative watercolors and lacemaking.
I made something else everyone needs more of: wonderful, precious friends. Another year later, and with a full head of steam from the long fallow periods, everything clicks into place in a mushy whole that grows and breathes, pulling more arts practices and fascinating people into its comfortable depth.
I took the C-ship to launch into cultural startupdom, accompanied by a prodigious mentor. We asked, “yes, but what is this really about?” We dug ever deeper and pulled up a writhing, dirt-covered grub that’s growing fast into a beetle. Its blue green body reflects the possibilities of arts to inspire people. It pushes forward because it’s the only way forward. Its carapace has grown so thick it can’t hear refusal. Because “non peut-etre” is a polite Brussels expression.
With a candid smile and a foot jammed against the closing door, I’m getting good at catching it mid-slam. Gatekeepers tersely apologize and reopen the door just enough to hear me out. But it’s my laughter that I send through the crack, not my awkward apologetic explanation. It catches the attention of someone in there who’s procrastinating on something else, who gets saddled with me for the next half-hour. That’s all the time I need.
Are they or are they not vested in welcoming more voices of the Arab and African diasporas in the arts? If it’s a yes, then show me your rolodex. What we’re building here is a lace basket to hold the amorphous modge that is the cultural industry. Each one brings one.
Leave a Reply.