IV. Praying

  Untitled , pen and collage on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

Untitled, pen and collage on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

“… I make the distinction between prayer versus praying… Praying is not about supplication and begging for. Praying is communicating… so that you have more information, so that you can go about your business.” -Reggie Wilson in Conversation with Thomas F. Defrantz in Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, And Downtown Dance

 

“Hey, you know, everybody’s talkin’ about the good old days, right

Everybody, the good old days, the good old days

Try to remember, and if you remember then follow

Oh, why does it seem the past is always better . . .” [1]

 

 

[1] “The Way We Were/Try to Remember” adapted and written by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones and sang by Gladys Knight & The Pips in their cover for I Feel a Song (1974)

– Words and lyrics remembered from the performance of Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group’s … they stood shaking while others began to shout, March 22 – 24, 2018

 

 

  Untitled , pen and collage on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

Untitled, pen and collage on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

I remember waking up in the middle of night with my grandmother praying –

Praying for each grandchild of hers, letting her god know that she would like for each one to be well.

 

“ I pray for Min,

I pray for Joo,

I pray for Hong,

I pray for Jieun,

I pray for Jae-hyuk,

I pray for Kyoung,

I pray for Rin,

I pray for Gyun,

I pray for Hwal,  …”

 

Holding a silk embroidered blanket over my face, I breathed in and out of my tears and terror, waiting patiently for my name to be called and be blessed.

Only if she knew, only if I knew what were to come, that all of those names would be no longer traceable, she could have prayed for that, too.

Prayer betrays, yet I am realizing praying lets you move on.

Perhaps that’s what she was doing.

Praying,

So she can go about her business.

 

  Untitled , pen and collage on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)      

Untitled, pen and collage on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

 

 

III. Hymn

1.

...

I am so sad, my daughter –my father still does not understand my gender–

I have not reconciled learning,

I have not reconciled family,

I have not chosen –

I did not know the language

But I know of the gods, feeling of the faith –

Body, feeling of the faith…

I still push my memories back –

But you choose not to —

So let the words of our mouth

And the meditation of our heart

Be acceptable in Thy sight, oh Far I

So let the words of our mouth

And the meditation of our heart

Be acceptable in Thy sight, oh

Be acceptable in Thy sight, oh Far I [1]

...

"

 

[1] Rivers of Babylon, a Rastafarian song written and recorded by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of The Melodians in 1970. The lyrics are adapted from the texts of psalm 137 and psalm 19 in the Bible. In the Rastafarian faith, the term “Babylon” is used for any governmental system which is either oppressive or unjust. Brent Dowe, the lead singer of the Melodians, told Kenneth Bilby that he had adapted Psalm 137 to the new reggae style because he wanted to increase the public’s consciousness of the growing Rastafarian movement and its calls for black liberation and social justice in Jamaica.

- Words and lyrics remembered from the performance of Ni’Ja Whitson’s Oba Qween King Baba — Excerpt One, March 15th, 2018

 

 

 

2.

|

|

The ghosts and spirits –

How and why –

Is it that I feel undeniably drawn to this praying ground?

I am familiar with this feeling –

A feeling of faith that I can know with my body and breath and memories –

  My father and his father and his grandfather, they must have known

    My mother and her mother and her grandmother, they must have felt

      Of these ghosts and spirits

It is that same feeling of fables that I clinged when I lost my land –

It is that same feeling of faith that I found when I found new land –

내 입술의 말과 나의 마음에 묵상이

주께 열납되길 원하네

내 입술의 말과 나의 마음에 묵상이

주께 열납되길 원하네 [2]

 

[2]Psalm 19 by Terry Butler, adapted by Ong-gi-jang-ee, Korean Christian band

|

|

- In response to Ni’Ja Whitson’s performance Oba Qween King Baba — Excerpt One

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.35.15 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.36.19 PM.png

II. Call to ____

  Untitled  (drawing from the performance of Ni’Ja Whitson’s Oba Qween King Baba -- Excerpt One), pen on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)   

Untitled (drawing from the performance of Ni’Ja Whitson’s Oba Qween King Baba -- Excerpt One), pen on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

 

  Untitled , collage on paper (collage from a copy of painting Laundry by Kim-Hong Do, 18th century), 8.5” x 12” (2018)

Untitled, collage on paper (collage from a copy of painting Laundry by Kim-Hong Do, 18th century), 8.5” x 12” (2018)

 

Call: (Tap tap tap)  (blessed)  be –

Response:  (together) (Dah dah dah dih dah)  (blessed)  be forever and ever 

Call: (Tap tap tap)  (blessed)  be –

Response:  (together) (Dah dah dah dih dah)  (blessed)  be forever and ever

 

 

I. Invocation

  Untitled , pen on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)   

Untitled, pen on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

 

“ tap tap tap
dah dah dah dih dah
tap tap tap
dah dah dah dih dah…”

“ 탭 탭 탭
다 다 다 디 다
탭 탭 탭
다 다 다 디 다 …”

un-earthing —

Without actually hearing the sound audibly, I kept hearing this tenacious and rhythmic vibration in the space of St. Mark’s Church every time I went. Throughout the performances, discussions, rituals, and small physical contacts of hugs and holding hands at times, I just kept hearing –

“ tap tap tap
dah dah dah dih dah
tap tap tap
dah dah dah dih dah…”

“ 탭 탭 탭
다 다 다 디 다
탭 탭 탭
다 다 다 디 다 …”

un-earthing —

As I am writing tonight, I am listening back to the sound recording of the Performance Offering by Emily Johnson, a descendant of the Yup’ik and a choreographer, as she performs at the Bell & Water symposium on March 10th. Barely able to grasp the words, I am hearing and remembering something like this –

“…

(dancing)

You all know this story –
You all know this story –
That rape –
That war –

(dancing)

Stitching back the fragmented, disfigured, and bruised places of my body and
generations before me in this particular ground –

(dancing)

My Auntie called me the other day –
‘Emily, What do think about Sovereignty?’
‘Auntie, Sovereignty is a choice.’

… ”

Her body made contact with the ground of the church at various degrees of intensity, disjointed and fragmented body parts of her choreography were tapping the layers of land and history far underneath the hardwood floor. Along with a drum beat reverberating the space, she invited us to come together drawing circles around the dirt that she laid on top of a site of untold history. We were circling the site for good fifteen minutes or so in silence. We then introduced ourselves and where our people are from. I said rather nervously, “My people are from Korea, and my immediate family is rooted in the South.”

In the middle of it all as I am hearing, “My people are from… Nigeria, West Africa, South Africa, China, Trinidad, England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Mexico, South Carolina, California, West Virginia, Indonesia, Sweden, ways of the South, unknown, Jewish diaspora, African diaspora….”

I realized I have been holding hands of two women, a black woman on my left and a white woman on my right, for a quite a long time, at a degree of bodily intimacy and duration that I have never experienced with anyone outside of my own yellow skin color. Just like my mother embraced me when my heart was broken, these two women felt like my aunt and my sister for that moment.

 

  Untitled , pen on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)   

Untitled, pen on paper, 8.5” x 12” (2018)

 

I did not know that such intimate solidarity with people of so many different origins was possible.

For that long –

The entire performance ended in a conclusive acknowledgement of the site and time we shared with a resounding church bell right at four o’clock.

“ tap tap tap
dah dah dah dih dah
tap tap tap
dah dah dah dih dah…”

“ 탭 탭 탭
다 다 다 디 다
탭 탭 탭
다 다 다 디 다 …”

un-earthing —

together —

 

Originally commissioned for Danspace Project's Journal (danspaceproject.org/journal), as part of Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance(Platform 2018)