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  • Writer's pictureKirstie Bender Segarra

Finding the North Star--The Freedom Star

September 20, 2023


I often walk to the Rio Pueblo River from my casita here in Taos, New Mexico. Yesterday, I found myself exploring allowing my arms to float up on the warm current of air, called thermals, in preparation for flight. Many large birds such as eagles use the thermals to fly and one can spot an eagle flying through the canon from time to time. One has a sense one can fly off from the edge of the cliff of the canyon as one sees the Rio Pueblo snaking through the Shangri La valley with long grasses and the young cotton wood trees lining the river’s edge as the rock faced cliffs jut upwards with many hues emanating shapes that transform. A chipmunk was busily scurrying around gathering and preparing for the change of seasons.




During the night sky before, I stood looking up at the stars wondering about the North Star also called Polaris. It is on the tip of Ursa Minor. If you locate the big dipper and draw a line from the upper outer edge of the cup to Ursa Minor, you can find the North Star. I find myself wondering about the North Star more frequently these days as I was reminded by Tricia Hersey author of Rest is Resistance and creator of the Nap Ministry how Harriet Tubman referenced the North Star on the freedom trail. I have a curiosity of exploring the felt sense of being in the experience of running during the night for freedom from enslavement. The North Star is a freedom star. Taking a pause with the North Star is a pause to acknowledge my own ancestors who were enslaved in Virginia and North Carolina.


I recently experienced a few white bodied friends questioning my inclusion of my enslaved ancestry in my experience. I want to take a moment to address this. A quarter of my ancestry is afro-indigenous from my paternal side of the family. This heritage was suppressed through white passing during the Jim Crow era of the 1900’s. What wasn’t suppressed was a love of music through jazz and fried okra. My paternal grandmother loved to sing jazz songs with wild abandonment. My earliest memories of her are the morning cup of coffee with a cigarette. The internalize racism was also thick in our family line as a result of hiding our true heritage. There is meanness I experienced as a female bodied person that only a woman of enslave ancestry can truly understand. Yes, the other parts of my lineage are white bodied and privileged as such. Yes, I am white passing and was brought up as a white person who was constantly trying to fit in the glass slipper that really didn’t fit. I instinctively knew something was right as I played KFOX on the radio listening to soul music dancing around my bedroom as if I was on Soul Train then heading to play basketball at our local community center.


I was reminiscing how my first item I cooked to get my cooking badge in Girl Scouts was fried chicken that my dad taught me how to make. By the way, we both make killer biscuits. In a sense you can’t take out the black culture that was passed on through my family line even if it was hidden.


Lenny Foster, well know black photographer and artist who lived in Taos for many years now in Florida, sent me the following poem by Langston Hughes, who has always been my favorite poet:


A House in Taos by Langston Hughes


Rain


Thunder of the Rain God:

And we three

Smitten by beauty.


Thunder of the Rain God:

And we three

Weary, weary.


Thunder of the Rain God:

And you, she, and I

Waiting for nothingness.


Do you understand the stillness

Of this house

In Taos

Under the thunder of the Rain God?


Sun


That there should be a barren garden

About this house in Taos

Is not so strange,

But that there should be three barren hearts

In this one house in Taos —

Who carries ugly things to show the sun?


Moon


Did you ask for the beaten brass of the moon?

We can buy lovely things with money,

You, she, and I,

Yet you seek,

As though you could keep,

This unbought loveliness of moon.


Wind


Touch our bodies, wind.

Our bodies are separate, individual things.

Touch our bodies, wind,

But blow quickly

Through the red, white, yellow skins

Of our bodies

To the terrible snarl,

Not mine,

Not yours,

Not hers,

But all one snarl of souls.

Blow quickly, wind,

Before we run back

Into the windlessness —

With our bodies —

Into the windlessness

Of our house in Taos.


We have had wild rains, thunder that beats the earth like a drum of late. You can feel the rhythm beating your feet like a heart drum vibrating from the deep Kivas of the earth down here. Living in New Mexico has taught me to not assume North is up but rather down. An indigenous perspective of orientation to place. Down here we live in the heart and enchantment of living.


A month ago, after teaching all day, I took a walk to the river’s edge, I was pontificating over a distressing situation with a colleague who grew up as a black woman and was responding from a trauma response. I could see the trauma pattern clearly because I know it so well in my own system and skin. As I often do, I prayed at the river’s edge for an answer or some kind of wisdom and for support. The river valley responded with energetic vibrations flowing through the air--assuring me that all would be well. What I have learned over the years is trauma responses can get in the way of hearing how those in your field of relations are supporting. To be anti-racist is to find a way to mend, offer reparations and heal. This is hard work and worth it. These types of “battles” happen every day and I found myself embracing Tricia Hersey’s work with the Rest is Resistance. I can consciously lay down in Corpse Pose and let these trauma patterns be recognized, embraced and released to find a path to follow the freedom star.

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