July 7, 2011
I was asked to be part of an artistic performance for Refugee & Immigrant Woman for Change (RIWC) – International Women’s Day at St. Catherine University. The performance was speaking to gender equity. I was the narrator, reading statements from various family and community members in a refugee woman’s life. The performance was an adaptation by Kao Kalia Yang to highlight to highlight findings from the RIWC focus groups conducted late last year.
I was Kartee, the narrator, the only one speaking through the performance as different family and community members, dancers, wrapped a scarf around the women in the middle who were named Riwa. Kartee summoned these members to join Riwa on stage.
Here is my take on the performance and how it touched me. These are thoughts written the day of the performance, March 8, 2011.
Strong women are global
Kartee is Riwa. She lives inside Riwa’s body. She is part of Riwa’s community. She is part of her culture. Kartee has been feared in times past and present. But she is still with us. Riwa need not worry. Kartee is there. She just needs Riwa to light the spark…
As women we forget that being a leader is not a bad thing. Wishing, wanting, needing more is not a bad thing. Kartee is a spirit we must exercise. When Kartee is silent, sometimes it doesn’t do us any good.
Kartee is the symbol of strength in the performance that was done by Ananya Dance Theater at the International Women’s Day Conference at St. Cate’s on March 8, 2011. Kartee is strength and Riwa has to do what she can to get through the days and doesn’t know what standing up for herself will bring her. But Riwa knows lying down is not the answer.
Kartee grows in Riwa. Riwa , her family, and her community learn to accept and appreciate Kartee. And Kartee finds her space and place in Riwa’s life.
As a woman of color living in the Midwest I have had to re-learn the importance of being true to myself. I knew how to be true to my family and my community, but not to myself. Somewhere along the way I learned through example, media, and social cues not to take care of myself first. That was selfish. But tapping into Kartee women regain themselves again and that makes their communities that much stronger.
Kartee lives within me and joins me, now on my journey – our journey.
I ask Kartee to take up space in our lives.