An Ode to Complex Movement

by Violeta Donawa

A housemate in Detroit
From Pennsylvania
Once told me that she had a polyamorous relationship to place
That multiple cities called to her that she all loved equally but different.

A sister-teacher-friend in Detroit
By way of Puerto Rico
Once told me that people have always moved between borders
That migration has always been a part of the human experience.

My maternal family in Detroit
By way of the mountains of Appalachia in West Virginia
By way, too, of Georgia
By way of the TransAtlantic
By way of enslaved Africans
By way of roots unknown from this land and that land,
By way of enslaver -
Have had a complex relationship toward movement particularly,
When movement looks like kidnapping and displacement,
When movement looks like restriction under Jim Crow and racist mortgage lending practices
When movement looks like “the rent is too damn high” so we are forced to move where there are cheaper prices,
effects of gentrification.

But when movement looks like dancing - do you move?
What say you?
And when moving looks like clapping and tambourines
Holy spirits and holy ghosts and mounted bodies by ancestors and ridden bodies by orishas
And when movement lay foundation and groundwork for a pathway toward liberation
And when movement is led by following cosmological direction of generals like Harriet,
And when movement remembers that borders were constructed separating us from each other for another’s gain - think the “Berlin Conference.”

Ypsilanti, oh Ypsilanti, what does it mean for this Detroit Black spirit-woman to call you “home”?
Cities live inside me - Detroit, Salvador, Luanda, Belém, Lansing -
Ypsilanti,
A city once resided in by a great-grand ancestor who moved Ohio-North,
Whose land I will not be able to find due to development and our elders’ missing memories.
Ypsilanti, what does it mean for this traveling, escaping, and now rooting daughter to call you home?
So much shared history between your Black roots and my own,
White pine, forsythia, cottonwood, sumac
Diasporic and intertwined.
I asked Spirit, “Why here? Why Michigan, at all, where racism is profuse and throughout?”
It said to me “that before Michigan, remember … Mishigami” and the Great Lakes Basin -
To remember that borders are human-made,
Too, on this land - colonially made,
That there are peoples whose shapings of land are very different and precede 1701, 1823, and 1837,
That whiteness does not own Michigan or timelines or borders,
And neither does it have a monopoly over you and your liberation and your relationship to place(s).

A house-mate, A sister-teacher-friend, A set of histories, An ancestor, Spirit
All point me here, and I am here.

I look forward to getting to know you.