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)