Tonight I will be dancing in a shudder of the Veil at this peformance happening just three days after the passing of Dabney Finch and my beloved mentor Ntozake Shange within hours of each other. I am positive Zaki will be there in spirit along with my mother and sister, because the last words she and I said to each other less than a week ago, during our warm reunion after 33 years, were, “See you Monday night!” I was so honored by the thought of Zaki’s attendance at my event that I wanted her to share a poem, but her manager opposed the idea, and she, generous graceful and proud teacher still, said, “I’ll be very happy to be in the audience, Annie.” What a humbling and beautiful moment that was for me.
Four days later, she passed on. Tonight will she still be there? How could she not be, shaman as she was, goddess as she was, dancer between worlds as she was? And how can I possibly respond to such a moment, tonight?
I just learned from Kim de Beaumont that the early Christians used to pray to the recently deceased as saints. I will be praying tonight to Saint Dabney of Power and Laughter, she who makes electric lights go out, and Saint Zaki of Fiercely Loving, the one who said “I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely”–Zaki, Mother of the Choreopoem, Patron Saint of Poetic Ritual Theater.
All my life, as a little sister to the forceful Dabney and two more, I have tended to hold back and watch others–my shyness warring with my love of performing. Now I sense fierce Dabney and fierce Zaki, both of whom knew and fiercely supported me in Houston in the early 1980s, pushing me, forcing me almost, to step out of the comfortable habits of deference and diffidence that have kept me from shining with my full light ever since.
I recognize this feeling. It happened when I was giving birth. It’s the feeling you get when going back is no longer a choice, when only to go forward means to survive.
This is my birthday show in several senses, the first solo show I will have performed in DC and the first of my poetry ritual theater pieces to fully merge spirituality, poetry, and feminism. I will be dedicating the show to Zaki and Dabney and will be invoking their spirits.
Popcorn to follow.