Two Weeks in an Indian Village

When I first arrived in Jagiri, I didn’t expect much. I knew I wouldn’t have any cell phone service or WiFi for two weeks. I knew there were no local shops I could walk to when bored. 99% of the people there don’t speak English. My hosts would only be around for a short while on the weekends. I was essentially on my own, save for one or two people around me who could communicate with me in my language, English. May I just add here that a strong linguistic barrier is the experience for the majority of new immigrants in the U.S.? This was going to be one of the few times I would ever experience this. The old Gabby would’ve been excited by this new challenge! She would’ve delved into studying Dangi and Hindi to be able to communicate with the locals and show that she cared about them and their culture.

 

That was what Gabby in 2015 would’ve done. That’s what I did in Kolkata, with joy! But, I was a different person then. I was more open, less cynical, more trusting of God and of life. 2018 Gabby is much more careful. I’m wary of everyone and every situation, always deciding what my plan is in case something bad happens. Always formulating an escape plan in my head. Constantly aware of what could go wrong. That’s me. So when the truck first arrived in Jagiri, I was already tired of the heat (Gujarat gets HOT HOT HOT) and I was annoyed with the prospect of two weeks with no WiFi. I felt that I would get cabin fever in this village and hate every moment of it. A part of me wanted to hate it, for some reason. I didn’t want to connect. It’s easier that way.

 

As I climbed out of the truck, I just wanted a cold drink, an air-conditioned room, and time alone to stew and complain about my lack of comfort in my circumstances. Instead I was greeted with an orange and yellow flower garland around my neck, tons of small children throwing orange flowers at me (blessing me and welcoming me), and older boys playing Indian drums. I walked between two rows of little Indian children and Indian teenagers. At this point, my heart was still hard toward this place, for reasons unknown to my spirit (which later turned out to be a Satanic attack), so I couldn’t fully embrace the moment. But I felt my heart softening a little bit and I began to feel guilty for feeling a dislike for a place I hadn’t even seen yet. After that, an older woman sat me down and washed my feet. If she and I were alone, I would’ve burst into tears. As she washed my dirty, worn out, scarred, bug-bitten feet, I felt my eyes fill with tears. I felt loved but also immensely guilty at the same time. “Who am I?” I thought. “I don’t deserve this treatment. I’m nobody. They all work so much harder than me. I’m just a complainer. I don’t deserve this. They do.”

 

I walked up the hill to my room, led by the hand by my hosts’ adorable five-year old son and began to feel more connected to this place I had only first seen ten minutes prior. I unpacked my things to a certain extent and came out to the dining room to my first Indian meal in India this year. I was in Goa for a week before this but I couldn’t find any Indian food there. I appreciated this meal. But, my lunch companions enjoyed conversations only in Hindi, stopping once every ten minutes to give me a hint of what they were saying. I felt left out. I didn’t expect everyone to speak English all the time, but my mother taught me that if you’re with someone who doesn’t speak a certain language, you don’t speak it in front of them because it’s rude. My mother always scolded me about speaking Spanish with her in front of my white American friends who didn’t speak the language. I never understood why until I sat at that table, only hearing Hindi around me, distinguishing a few words here and there, but being thoroughly excluded.

 

The next night, they had a graduation ceremony for the 8th graders, the kids I would be giving extra English classes to. They had me on stage, handing out certificates to a few of the kids and I again felt that this was so undeserved. I didn’t do anything to contribute to these kids’ success. I just got there the day before! It was so hard for me to receive any of this honor or hospitality. I felt it was so unwarranted. Before this, I sat with the little girls and watched as all of the schoolchildren performed various tribal dances and sang songs in a few languages. It was all so beautiful. The purity of the culture being celebrated by these children was just too powerful for me to explain. It was something you had to see and feel if you wanted to truly experience it.

 

As the next few days passed, I started teaching English to these 8th graders. In my limited understanding, I assumed I’d be teaching 14- and 15-year olds. Nope. Here in the village, you start school when you start school. One of my students was 24, my exact age. Many of them were 14 or 15, but I had a few in their early 20s. It felt odd to be teaching to girls and guys around my age. We should’ve been peers, but because of my privileged education, I was their teacher. One of my students, we’ll call her J., is a 20-year old woman in 8th grade. She’s wicked smart. She speaks Dangi, Hindi, and Gujarati. She’s currently learning English. She makes the best chai. She has an adorable laugh. She has baby feet compared to my monstrous American feet. Yes, we actually compared our feet because the size difference was so astonishing! But, in the shower one day, I thought about her as I washed my hair and reflected on my time in Jagiri at that point. She is 20 years old and in the 8th grade. When I was 20, I was preparing to finish my junior year of college. I was well on my way to finishing my Cum Laude Bachelor’s degree from a prestigious New York university. Because of where I was born, I was able to achieve this with absolutely no one stopping me and nothing limiting me. It was easy and natural for me to go to college and finish in 4 years. Because of where J. was born, she could not so easily receive an education. I began to feel pity for her, but then God reminded me, “She’s getting an education now. It’s never too late to get an education. Be happy for her.” I am. I’m so happy for J. I hope she goes far in life. What I want for her, for all of my girls, and for my boys, is simply the chance to choose what they want for their respective lives.

 

I was told by a man in Jagiri that it’s common in the village for kids to get married around 15 or 16 years old. This man and I lamented together about how marriage derails their lives, is unnatural for their maturity level, and is harmful to their bodies. Young girls should not be giving birth. I immediately thought of Kajol and I told him about her, tearing up a little. I’m happy that my students aren’t married yet. There’s nothing wrong with them choosing to get married at some point, even if it’s at a young age like 18 or 19, but I want them to be able to choose. I don’t want marriage to be their only option. I want my students to one day tell me, “Ma’am, I got accepted to college!” or “Ma’am, I was offered an incredible job opportuntiy!” I yearn to hear those words and see the joy on their faces.

 

Throughout my two weeks here, I’ve had a few good conversations with these kids. I’ve prayed for some, listened to their stories about their Hindu families pressuring them to become Hindu again, hearing the passion and urgency they have in sharing the Gospel, and seeing how deeply grateful they are to God for revealing Himself to them. I’ve gotten the shyest girls in my class to speak up, even if that’s just whispering the answer to me. But, I definitely shout out that answer and let everyone know who said it! I’ve had fun acting out prepositions with my students (there’s really no other way to do it), creating murder mystery games, reading their stories, watching Tarzan with them, playing Badminton with them, painting their nails, drinking chai with them, and just being with them.

 

The night of the graduation ceremony, I tried to sleep but felt that God wasn’t letting me. He had things He wanted to address with me! As I prayed, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to pray for something I didn’t want to pray for. I asked God to help me, “If not love this place, then at least appreciate Jagiri for what it is. Help me learn something here. It’s going to be hard, but I want to at least learn one thing. Clearly You don’t want me in India. So just let me learn something here before I leave.” Well, God answered that prayer. In my ignorance and arrogance, I thought that because I wasn’t “feeling it”, then God must not want me in India. My attitude completely shifted the next day. I went from hating this place to absolutely loving it and not wanting to leave. I’ve come to a place where I want my life to be woven into the lives of my students. I want to follow their success and root for them from the sidelines, inserting myself into their personal narratives whenever they need a shoulder to cry on, a person to vent to, or an advocate to fight for them.

 

Today was our second to last class and we sat in a circle sharing our hearts. I encouraged them to ask me any questions about myself or life. I received a few good questions about my educational background and life in New York, but what I wanted more was to answer their questions about life. I wanted to advise them. Before sending them off for lunch, I told them that if anyone wanted to talk with me privately, I’d stay after class and they could talk to me. Three students stayed back, two girls and a boy. The first girl asked me what to do regarding her problems with a friend who was lying to her. I felt honored to give her advice about her situation. She chose me! She trusted me enough to come to me. But, the second girl brought me to tears and left an indelible mark on my heart. She, close to tears herself, said this, “I feel very alone in my house, so can you stay? Can you stay for a few more days?” As she asked this, she looked down at her notebook where she had written my name “Gabi ma’am” and she began tracing it over and over again with her pen. When she first asked me that, I hardly knew what to say. I wanted to hold her, cry with her, and promise her that I’d stay. But, I didn’t know then that my hosts would allow me to stay here and teach. So I asked a few questions, got a bit more information from her about her home life, and gave her advice. I cried with her, telling her that I grew up in a difficult home as well and that I understand one-hundred percent what she is feeling and suffering. Then we prayed together and I held her hand. I told her that I wished I could have my own house and she could live with me, in freedom. I encouraged her to keep studying so she can break free from her oppressive home and live however she wishes! Education is the best way for her to break free. When she asked me to stay and began crying, I knew for certain that God wants me here. I have no doubt that the vacant teacher position is for me. Those teenagers are God’s and He wants me to steward their little hormonal hearts and guide them throughout the next few years. I’m praying and asking God to let me stay in Jagiri and keep working with these teenagers. I know that God has called me to work with teenagers regarding education, child marriage, and depression/anxiety/and suicide. I know that He will use me in all of these ways here in Jagiri. I pray that He lets me stay.

 

God used this time not only to allow me to love on my students, but to receive love and revelation from them and from Himself. The other day, I sat on a couch in my hosts’ home during a particularly hot afternoon and began writing in my journal. Throughout these two weeks, I read three books on marriage, sexuality, and Jesus. After all of this knowledge intake, I felt the words pour out of me onto my paper. I’ll write separately about this in more detail, but God revealed to me that He doesn’t want me to live a vagabond life, especially not out of fear. He wants me to be open to the idea of a husband, of a home, of a family. He showed me that not all men are abusive. Not all homes are stifling and trampling. Many homes and families are encouraging. They are places of peace. What I want is not a sense of false freedom by roaming about here and there under the guise of “Biblical mission work”, but I want a peaceful home where I can become part of whatever community I settle in. I want “Un hogar de paz”, a peaceful home. I praise God for revealing this to me and ask Him to provide me with this blessing.

 

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

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Why I Reject Santeria as an Afro-Latina

As more Latinos claim their African ancestry as a point of pride and call themselves “Afro-Latinos”, I have begun to see a resurfacing of acceptance of Santeria and other types of Brujeria (witchcraft). This spirituality is typically practiced amongst women who call themselves “Santeras”, although men, “Santeros”, practice it as well. In their opinion, they are bringing healing and prosperity to themselves and others, by tapping into the strength of their ancestors and the gods of their people. For many Afro-Latinos, to claim Afrolatinidad means to embrace the religious and spiritual practices of our African ancestors. I am here to boldly claim that I do not accept any part of Santeria or any other religious/spiritual practice other than the way of Jesus Christ. I am not less Afro-Latina because I reject Santeria. Santeria is a dangerous practice that injures its followers’ minds, bodies, and most importantly, their souls.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Santeria, I’ll briefly explain what it is and what it means to its followers. You may use the beautiful resource that is Google to learn more if you’d like. Santeria, per Wikipedia, “is an Afro-American religion of Caribbean origin that developed in the Spanish Empire among West African descendants. Santería is a Spanish word that means the “worship of saints”. Santería is influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its sacred language, a variety of Yoruba, is the Lucumí language”. 

Essentially, when Africans were brought to the Caribbean islands as slaves, they were forced to become Roman Catholics, as the Spaniards were Catholic. These Africans absolutely did not want to give up their religious practices, as religion is a massively important part of any culture. Therefore, they worshipped their African gods in secret, masquerading them as Roman Catholic saints. As the Catholics prayed to the saints, and still do, the Africans managed to maintain their religious practices while pretending to be Catholic.

Santeria has deep roots in my Puerto Rican family. My mother told me this summer that her mother used to force her to pray to little statues and photos of gods and to give them sacrifices and offerings, like food, money, and perfume. Also, because my grandmother often saw my mother as “bad”, which meant precocious and opinionated, my mother experienced a cleansing of sorts. An ancient ritual, intending to rid her of evil spirits, was performed on her in the bathtub and it disturbed her. As a child, my mother questioned these practices and saw them as fruitless. To her, these statues and photos were just pictures of dead or fictional people who held no power over her life. This tradition of Santeria was passed down to my mother much like the Spanish language or the practice of eating rice and beans. It was and is simply in our culture to worship the gods.

Thankfully the Lord has had His hand intensely upon my mother throughout her entire life and as a young girl, she developed a deep faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Through her knowledge of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s power, my mother became instrumental in leading her own mother to faith in Jesus Christ. My grandmother renounced all ties to Santeria. Since then, no one on my mother’s side has been connected to Santeria, to the best of my knowledge.

There is another person in my family who has practiced Santeria and has confessed to me that she saw spirits sometimes and that her daughter reported seeing spirits as well.  These spirits included an old woman and a young girl, who apparently pressed her face immediately against my family member’s when she appeared. Whenever she discussed these apparitions, she claimed that seeing spirits was “a gift.” I learned these things through her stories.

These are all personal anecdotes of how Santeria has harmed my family. You may be thinking, “Well, they just didn’t practice Santeria correctly. This doesn’t mean you have to reject it. Others can freely practice it without experiences like these.” You’re absolutely right. Every human being has a choice in what they believe and practice. God will not force Himself upon any individual; He is a gentleman. But, I hold the Bible to be the only true religious text and therefore must completely reject Santeria as a viable spiritual practice for myself and for anyone who is seeking to know the One True God.

Let’s take a look at the person of Jesus Christ. Historians agree that such a man named Jesus certainly existed. Whether or not He is the Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God is the question. Many religious texts and practices agree that Jesus was a good teacher and some even go so far as to claim that He was a great prophet, but nothing more. What’s perplexing and should bring pause is that these religions feel they need to answer the Jesus question. Jesus is so singular that they cannot ignore His existence and ministry on Earth. His teachings are radical and confusing. Readers, you can reject Jesus as God, you can believe in Him as just a prophet, you can merely enjoy His teachings about helping the poor, but there is one thing you cannot do. You cannot ignore Jesus Christ as a person. If major world religions, such as Islam, have an answer for Jesus while still denying His deity, you must form an opinion about Him. Many people have said that Jesus is either Lord or an absolute nut/fraud.

Jesus Christ made some authoritative claims about Himself that have never been made by another person in history. Here’s one of them: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'” – John 14:6

Wait, what? Jesus claimed to be the only way to know God, and also was God Himself. Who else has made such an outrageous claim? Mohammed claimed to be a prophet but certainly did not claim to be the Messiah or God Himself. All religions claim to point to the way, such as through a specific diet or abstaining from things like music and sex, but no one else has claimed to be God. This is a claim that we must investigate and take seriously because if He is correct, then all human life hinges upon this claim.

So let’s say that Jesus is just crazy and/or a fraud. What do we do with His other teachings and behavior? Jesus was a 1st century Jewish Rabbi. In His culture, associating with women was forbidden and a Gentile woman was like a dog. Jesus made it a part of His ministry to specifically reach out to women, even Gentile women. Two examples of Jesus showing love to Gentile women are found in John 4 and Matthew 15. To Jewish women, Jesus saved one of them from being stoned in John 8 and allowed a sinful woman to anoint Him in Luke 7, much to the shock of all of the religious leaders around Him at the time. As far as His teachings about the poor go, one simply has to read Matthew 5 in its entirety to see a man committed to societal equity and loving those who are vulnerable.

We cannot believe that Jesus is crazy while also accepting His teachings and praising His kind and forgiving behavior. The two are absolutely mutually exclusive. So if Jesus is not crazy, then who is He? He must be Lord, because He claimed no other title.

I could write for hours about why I believe the Bible to be true and why Jesus is God, but that would turn into a book. Note to self: write a book before you die.

Jesus claimed to be the only way to God and I accept that claim as the truth. If I accept Jesus, then I also accept the Hebrew Scriptures He preached from and referenced. The Bible is full of warnings against witchcraft or spiritual practices that don’t center around Christ. God warns us that we are not safe with mediums (psychics) or witches. He tells us this quite forcefully in Leviticus: “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:31) and “I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people” (Lev. 20:6). Scripture clearly states that if a person is to know the One True God, the God of the Bible, they cannot have anything to do with witchcraft. It results in loss of relationship with God, which is what He wants with us. We cannot serve two masters. How can we claim to worship Jesus, who professed to be the only way to God, while also worshipping African deities? We must choose. I am not saying this. Jesus says this.

What will your choice be today? If you’ve been living life as a Santera or Santero and you want to talk more about Jesus or if you want to leave that life, please reach out to me! I’d love to talk about this more in depth and pray for you.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Self-Sabotage and the Single Girl

Readers,

I have a confession to make. I self-sabotage all the time. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, I’ll find a way to make it harder for myself. Jobs, boyfriends, friends, it doesn’t matter! I self-sabotage.

This realization has come upon me recently and for a few weeks I wondered why I did this so constantly. It’s become almost second nature for me. Well, I think I have an idea why.

I grew up in an abusive home. My parents had a marriage void of love, respect, or shared purpose. My dad was not the best example of a father OR a husband. As a result, I’ve noticed ways I react to conflict or difficult situations that must have been learned in childhood. When there’s a conflict, I fight viciously for myself and cut ties. When it appears that someone is taking advantage of me, I remove all emotion from my words and treat that person in a professional way. When a job seems like it might be too hard for me, I quit the job or find reasons not to take it.

This was taught to me in my childhood. When my parents had a fight, divorce was threatened each time. My father would leave for the night, slamming the door and abandoning us. My mother would then go to the bank, taking out cash and teaching me how to “get what I need for myself.”

So much happened in my childhood that I’m slowly seeing how even my relationships with simple things like money or food have been distorted because I’ve never seen a healthy example of one.

What’s the point of all of this? I’m a runner. In difficult situations, I neither flee nor fight. I freeze.

But when people hurt me or appear to manipulate me, I fight with all I’ve got. It’s a positive thing that I’m a fighter. However I have to let my shield down a bit and put my sword back in its place.

Because sometimes, a person will show you that they would never treat you like how your dad used to. They aren’t that person from your past. And if they’re worth anything, they’ll stick around while you painfully and awkwardly discover that.

 

Be patient. Work out the lies you’ve believed and harmful habits from your childhood.

 

Let God heal them. Let God show you that there are people out there who will love you.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Why I Almost Left Christianity

Wow. That title probably shocked all of my friends and relations. Catch your breath. You good? Ok. Leggo.

I’ve been a Christian since I was 8 years old. I began to actually know God personally when I was 15 and suffering from terrible depression and anxiety, much of it because of my father’s abuse and my subsequent feelings of inferiority. Through that desert, I clung to the promises of God revealed to us in Scripture. I prayed constantly and always filled my ears with worship music. I enveloped myself in all things God.

Since then, I’ve been on a roller coaster ride with God, in a completely positive way. We’ve experienced depression and anxiety, friendships lost, hearts broken, mission trips to India, and life as a young Christian in NYC. He’s walked with me every step of the way.

But, since our last presidential election, something inside me changed. No longer did I have sympathy for people like Donald Trump (racist, sexist, bigot, lost sinner), nor did I have any compassion for his supporters. To me, they were all trash. I hated them. In my mind, the least threatening were racists and the worst of them were Nazis. I began berating white people every chance I got. I thoroughly enjoyed this pasttime.

Then, as Donald Trump’s “presidency” progressed, and more and more acts of violence were enacted upon PoCs and LGBTQ people, I saw the church was silent. Actually, let me correct myself. The white evangelical church was silent. When Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were murdered by police officers last summer, the church was silent. Sure, a few people wrote a couple of articles online about police brutality and racism, but the church as a whole remained silent.

The real moment came for me when I saw how white Evangelicals were so quick to defend Donald Trump (not a Christian, by the way) for any little thing he did, whether that was bragging about grabbing a woman’s pussy (his word, not mine), or tweeting idiotic falsehoods. To many white Evangelicals, to be Christian means to be Republican. That’s laughable. I have a hunch that Jesus would side more with a Socialist movement than He would with a Republican one. That’s the Jesus I see in Scripture.

Now, the two main issues that white Evangelicals have made idols of are abortion and homosexuality. They’re so up in arms about abortion but lower their eyes when young black men and women are murdered on the street. They say nothing when Latinos are arrested like criminals and detained in carajo concentration camps! When Muslim women get their hijabs ripped off, they keep silent. Abortion and gay marriage. Abortion and gay marriage. Where did the church get the idea that THIS is what Christianity is about?

Christianity is the fact that Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to earth in the form of a human baby. He grew into a strong young man who never sinned and always loved. He showed us how to love. He taught us how to live. He demonstrated reconciliation and forgiveness. He took our sins upon Himself and died a criminal’s death on that tree, suffering humiliation and indescribable pain. He defeated both sin and death. Now we can stand righteous before God all because of Jesus’ sacrifice. It has NOTHING to do with us! It was all Jesus. It will always be Jesus.

Seeing my white Evangelical brothers and sisters defend a man like Donald Trump stirred up deep feelings of betrayal inside of me. I stopped going to church. I put away my Bible. I listened to whatever music I wanted.

 

Then God stepped in and brought me back. That’s a whole other story.

 

The point is, I have to agree with Gandhi when he said that he liked our Christ, but not our Christians. I don’t like many Christians in this hemisphere. But, I have to remind myself of a few things.

  1. We’re all human and therefore all sinners.
  2. Sanctification is a process.
  3. I follow Christ, not Christians.

 

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Using Freedom as License to Sin

Hey dear readers,

Lord, so many things have happened lately around the world. My heart mourns for those in South Asia and Texas who are suffering the ramifications of devastating flooding.

 

This morning’s post is going to be about something entirely different. It’s more personal, more painful. You all know I’m a Christian and I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Brother, and Heavenly Husband. I love Him so much and I want to do the right thing, but here’s something I’ve learned about myself recently.

 

I struggle with legalism. Yes, I know we all tend to be a bit legalistic, but my legalism was pretty bad.

 

From ages 15-23, I operated under a legal system in relation to God. I would force myself to do “good things” because I wanted to be good. I wanted Abba to love me more. I wanted to be a perfect Christian. As a result of this thinking, I would come into the presence of God without any sense of freedom and hardly from the posture of a loved child. It was always fear. I always felt like I was coming up short.

 

Lately, God has completely broken that. It honestly feels as if I’m getting to know God for the first time! I love it and am so grateful that He broke my legalism down. I remember the night He did this. It was two Sundays ago and I read Romans chapter 4 before bedtime. I can only explain what happened next as the Holy Spirit overcoming me, but all of a sudden I began weeping, sobbing, crying, llorando like never before. Suddenly I realized how much God loves me. Me! How He gave Christ for us and it is through faith alone in CHRIST’S work on the cross that we have forgiveness of sins and freedom. Now we can call Him, Abba Father!

 

Before this revelation, I went a bit wild for a few weeks. I’m not ashamed to admit it, because it was necessary for God to show me how a wild lifestyle was not the answer. I drank too much, watched inappropriate things on my computer, and considered having sex with an almost 40-year old man who certainly doesn’t love God. I literally considered it. It wasn’t just a passing thought. I was mere steps away from planning a tryst with this man.

I did this all in the name of freedom. Oh, since Christ loves us and saves us, we can have fun now, right? It doesn’t matter what we do because it’s all about Christ. Right?

 

Nope.

 

I got so low because of my behavior that Christ ushered in that Sunday night, loved me with his presence, and brought me to my knees before Him. Day by day, He is teaching me what it looks like to have a love relationship with Him, not a relationship built on fear.

 

Readers, our freedom isn’t license to sin. But, sometimes, we get so off track that God Himself has to snatch us up from ourselves and teach us what true freedom looks like. I don’t have the answer for that, but I’m excited to learn more about my Abba. My loving, patient, forgiving Abba. ❤

I Am Biracial (¡Guau! ¡No Me Digas!)

I am biracial.
Two races.
Two groups of people claim me as their own, or maybe they actually reject me.
I try to squeeze into the boxes you’ve placed in front of me, but somehow I can’t fit in.

Maybe it’s my hair that coils and springs freely.
My hair that moves wildly like an ocean wave crashing upon a Puerto Rican beach.
“Oh, girl you’re such a fiery Latina!”

Or perhaps it’s my skin color,
That mezcla of brown, yellow, and white.
“Your skin is so light, if you straighten your hair, you could pass.”
For white.
So you’re a Nazi.

I’m sorry, but I didn’t know this was a test. And what’s a passing score? White?

If so, I guess I’ve failed, because I got 50%.

And if this is a test, I was doomed to fail from the start.

Starting to think about my ethnicity the more you play games with it.

“What are you?”

What am I? A beloved daughter of the King.

You toy with my identity like we’re on the playground but half of me is on the wall waiting to be picked.

Which half? Depends on who YOU are.

People of color love to reaffirm my Puerto Rican “sassy” flavor.

And Caucasians are thrilled when they hear me speak. You see, I’ve been told I “speak well.” Speak well for what?

What do you think this is? Is my identity something malleable that you can stretch and stretch to fit your preconceived notions of what you think I should be?

Because I want to know when my ethnic identity became in any way related to our dependent upon you.

You need to know that I decide how I express my cultures. I choose which to identify with.

But you know, maybe I identify with both! That’s something we both know is unsettling to the idea of me in your head.

But, thankfully, even if I claim both cultures equally, shocking I know, you can still choose how you see me.

Because I am biracial.
Two races.
Two groups of people claim me as their own, or maybe they actually reject me.
I try to squeeze into the boxes you’ve placed in front of me
But somehow I can’t fit in.

And I don’t want to anymore.

Who Is Kajol?

She was smokey; that’s how she felt to me. A young teen she was, but she reflected something mysterious and unspoken when we met. A nose ring glittered against her cinnamon skin, which contrasted beautifully against her yellow salwar kameez. In the children’s park, she led me by the hand to her favorite spots: the statue of the elephant, the bushes of white flowers, and the clusters of dandelions. An hour passed like mere moments as we made wishes, watching the fluffy white stuff fly freely off the dandelion stems. Like children we swung from the swings, daring each other to go higher and higher. Fuchka was our afternoon snack and we laughed while popping those puris in our mouths.

While walking her back to her home in a local slum, still holding my hand, she suddenly looked up into my eyes and declared, “My name is Kajol.”

Knowing that her mother tongue was Hindi, I responded with, “Tera naam Kajol hai?”

She smiled and nodded.

I continued, “Oh! Well, mera naam Gabby hai!”

She laughed and introduced me to Barsha, the four-year old princess who claimed ownership of my other hand. Barsha had that adorable and common young Indian girl look: short, mushroom-like hair and a beautiful little dress. When I dropped these two princesses at home, knowing that the peaceful time we had just spent was rare for them, I left knowing that my life had just become altered in a way I never could have foreseen.

 

 

 

This is a snippet of this young lady who has taught me more about joy and resilience than anyone else I’ve known.

 

Gabrielle G.

Let Freedom Ring?

This is my first “Independence Day” in the US in about two years. In 2015 and 2016, I was blissfully traveling in India, where the 4th of July was just another day to everyone around me. I wasn’t asked about it and I liked it that way.

I suppose that it’s important to mention that lately I’ve found my patriotism to be difficult to maintain considering how our country is rapidly burning. Well, it was always on fire but most of us weren’t aware just how hot the fire could be until the 2016 election showed us the hateful face of America.

America has given me incredible privileges. The fact that I’m free to start a blog, that I am literate, and that I even have the free time to engage in this form of expression is a privilege. I’m aware that my Cum Laude BA, my middle class parents, mid-tone skin color, and citizenship are massive privileges.

But, my anger with this country is not because I lack comforts or rights in any way. It’s not about me; it’s about my brother and sister. It’s difficult for me to trust the police when I see my black brothers and sisters shot like animals on the street. It’s difficult for me to embrace my Caucasian brother- or sister-in-Christ when I see many professing Christians ripping off women’s hijabs or chanting “Build the wall!”

It’s easy for me to look at the state of the American Church now and shake my head, beat my chest, and tear my clothes in distress. However, what I’m coming to realize and understand is that our church history was always this way. We Christians have owned slaves and justified it; it’s being justified in churches today as well. We have decided that women should have no voice in the church and it’s still difficult for women to stand behind a pulpit and speak about what God has done in them and through them. We have told people that their language is not fit for church, their dancing is too charismatic, and their Bible must be the KJV. We’ve made idols of abortion and homosexuality, forgetting that if we’re pro-life, we’re pro-every life, not just unborn. And when homosexuality is mentioned in the New Testament, it’s typically in a group of other sins, which tells us that neither Jesus nor Paul overly emphasized homosexuality (in fact, Jesus never mentioned it).

How do we not see that these racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic traditions permeate our church buildings and manifest in the hatred we read about in the news?

Today in my Georgian church (state, not country), the theme for the service was “God Bless America.” “Oh boy. Here we go”, I thought, as I walked past hundreds of people donning American flag-themed clothing and hats. Huge American flags decorated every part of the sanctuary. “Oh no.” I sat through most of the strong patriotic expressions with mild discomfort, but when it came time to worship The Lord, I found the music choices a little pale.

The worship minister quoted several “founding fathers” of our faith (in the US, at least), and brushed aside those aforementioned fathers’ affinity for slavery and misogyny. The hymns chosen were beautiful and they deeply touched my heart, but after the service I was left with uncomfortable feelings. Why was only white Christianity celebrated and revered? Were not the African slaves actually masters of painful, glorious, heart-wrenching spirituals that praised the Everlasting God? Where were those in the service? Was their Christianity inferior? Or maybe no one wanted to talk about that part of the Church’s past.

The pastor spoke of returning to the way things were in the Church, but I don’t want to do that! Jesus doesn’t want us to, either, if I may be so bold. We have our “founding fathers” before us as examples of men who pursued God, but let color, gender, culture and economics/politics keep them from truly living out the Gospel. Thanks, guys. But, now, we know better. Well, we’re supposed to know better. We must desire to do a better job of representing Christ and His Church (Us) on this earth.

As Christians, we must:

  1. Make God our ultimate authority
  2. Rely on Scripture and NOT Church tradition (traditions are fine, but not when they hinder growth or reconciliation)
  3. Pursue racial, linguistic, cultural, etc. reconciliation with all people
  4. Include others in our worship services.

Remember, the Church began in the Middle East, not the USA.

 

Here’s a great video where Michelle Higgins, a Christian social justice activist, explores this topic in depth:

 

Happy Independence Day.

 

 

Gabrielle G.