Territory

 

Longing souls, marking unclaimed territory

Drifting in and out of the periphery

Lost to history, neglected by those with power

Sifting through the hidden anger

 

Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon
Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon

Paint won’t heal the scars

Even when you’re looking at the stars

Taint the narrative, forge your own

Easel of our own design

 

Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon
Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon

Gentle strokes with blurred lines

Build up ghetto shrines

Gems embedded in the cement

Binge on the discontent

 

Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon
Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon

Hieroglyphs of the youth

Hidden messages beneath the truth

Heist words from a lost lexicon

Hingeless energy used as ammunition

 

Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon
Graffiti on historic walls on Church Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. By Stephanie Hanlon

Misdirected bravado

Sold as art nouveau

Mystique worth millions

Soberly placed under setting suns

 

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Survival

 

Unrest brewing, streets swelling, free flowing

Mothers, fathers, elders, fighters – sowing

Boiling point long past, deep breath, let’s go meet

 

Survival - Christiansted market watermill on St. Croix, VI. by Stephanie Hanlon

 

Nothing is left to lose, it’s time, rally

Strategy, hype, coursing through the alley

Jugs of water overflow, splash the street

 

Survival - Christiansted market watermill on St. Croix, VI. by Stephanie Hanlon

 

Prepare for the worst, but expect worse still

Heart pumping, fists are rising, not a drill

Just maybe, just maybe we will win

 

Survival - Christiansted market watermill on St. Croix, VI. by Stephanie Hanlon

 

Visions of taking over the mountain top

The vantage point of dominance atop

Fight until we can feel it in our skin

 

Survival - Christiansted market watermill on St. Croix, VI. by Stephanie Hanlon

 

Moist earth and grass between our fingers, toes

Gripping and clawing our way up, we rose

Meet us at the water well at high sun

 

Refocus, reinforce and quench our thirst

Water flowing in our favor, dam burst

Protecting us from the fire, undone

 

East to west, the wells nourish us, anchor

Cooling the fire within, the rancor

Stock up now, wet our lips, fill our bellies

 

Because this, this is a new beginning

Leave us all on the mountain top grinning

Meet at the well, low sun, tin cup marries

 

Cheers to the water that carries us through

Borrowed

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Foreign patterns embedded in native lands

Curving roads cut through stories untold

Ground up mountain with the sweat of slaves

Sliced through ancient sea creatures

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Leave hungry the children of those who starved

Leave homeless the nurturing jumbie

Cutting with the grain reveals the loss

Cutting against is all too real

The secrets of the depth

The strength of the sea

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Twisting, turning until we can’t see

The truth once hidden in the walls

Now on display for all to see

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Field Journal – Tamarind Tree Inspires

Singer and songwriter Tia, along with backup singers Letitia, Janney and Umojah - William and Bobs - perform under the tamarand tree by the fort in Christiansted, St. Croix.
Singer/ songwriter Tia, along with backup singers Letitia, Janney and Umojah – William and Bobs – perform under the tamarind tree by the fort in Christiansted, St. Croix.

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There is just so much here I hardly know where to start, so I just will. This is really about a tamarind tree, you can see it there behind these musicians performing under its shade. I love this tree, every time I pass I think about all that tree has seen, been a part of. It sits an equal distance from the Caribbean sea on one side and a Danish colonial fort on the other, surrounded by a rolling green lawn, in Christiansted, St. Croix. It is a gathering place, the tree even has a hexagon of park benches to encourage gathering.

Recently I began photographing the tree, writing about it and researching its history and significance in Caribbean and African culture. I’m all over this tree. I’ve been reading about the lore that mischievous jumbies live there, that archaeologists have found several burial grounds near tamarind trees and the working assumption is that the spirits of the dead could get to the tree easier if buried close by. I’ve read about the duality of the Tamarind tree – that it nourishes and shades on the one hand, yet haunts and causes trouble on the other. And for me, this provides ample inspiration for a tale giving this tree in particular its due.

Earlier today, my daughter and I were scootering along the boardwalk and ended up by the tree. Actually, my daughter gravitated toward it because there were four men and women doing extreme yoga – you know the kind, where people hold each other up by their feet and hands and stay in these intense positions for as long as possible. It looked pretty difficult and cool. They did their moves under the shade of the tamarind tree and seemed very at peace with things. My five-year old daughter was of course fascinated and took some pictures of them, and just watched in awe. I watched but was pretty fixated on the tree and I took out my notebook to continue my story about the tree.

Trying to maintain the integrity of the lore, I tried desperately to find mischief in the tree, I came up empty every time. But I forged ahead, even speculating that it grew its branches just out of our reach to make the tamarind harder to taste – I was reaching really.

Not long after the yogis packed up, this group of artists showed up, beaming full of light. They got right into their jam session under the tree and it was magic. An organic sound with natural, soft tones from lead singer Tia, multi-rhythmic harmonizing from backup singers Letitia and Janney, and light guitar riffs from Bobs and William, of Umojah.

I got my camera and phone ready, signaled to Tia to see if I was cool to chronicle, and started a live video while shooting some stills with my Nikon D500. It was brilliant – the birds chimed in, the wind got through, but it all worked together. It was just this beautiful, natural moment where all things aligned, creative energy flowed so freely through us all that we just created amongst one another.

I realized then that I wasn’t writing about mischievous jumbie, I was writing about inspirational ones – my story is changing and I like where it’s headed.

Stay tuned!

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Layers 3

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Peaking through broken cement, a secret

Hidden dreams, and the sweat of those who dared

Each brick and brush stroke telling a story

Of those who tried, had a vision, stood here

With each layer, an intimacy unearthed

Together becoming something new, dreams

Yellows, blues, brick red, aged earth colors

Unified by cracks, holes, the same struggle

Urban ecosystem, empty facade

A burning ambition, despite the odds

Fostering growth of a new kind, purpose

Roots break through, water always finds a way

Animals burrow near, humans loiter

Some see lost dreams, others see redemption

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