Among/Landed (Li Chiao-Ping Dance)
I Am (Text for Among/Landed; Li Chiao-Ping Dance) Author/performer: Linda Belans, EdD
I am a woman. I am a Jew. I am a grandmother of six children -- ages 6 to 16. Two are white. Four are black. I am the granddaughter of immigrants who escaped pogroms and fascism in Russia and Romania.
My conditions pre-exist me and my progeny
My mother Bess, a first generation American, was born to Romanian parents who survived the treacherous boat trip to America, driven by promise. Or fear. Or both. Whispered family lore is their first-born baby died during that crossing. Only recently have I begun to allow myself to imagine burying a child at sea. Or having my babies ripped from arms and locked in cages. In the 21st century. In America.
Yiskadal v’yiskadash sh’may rabah (Sung)
My Romanian bubby Shendel with her silver braid cascading over her curved spine was a tiny woman of few words – even fewer in English. But she held sway over her five children and her silent husband, Moishe. I’ll never know what they witnessed in Romania. What they experienced during the raids on peasants. They never spoke of it, not even in their Yiddish mother tongue.
We have many secrets in our family
My sturdy Russian grandmother Zalotta peddled rags every day, on foot, up and down the hilly cobblestone streets of Pittsburgh. She had two young children to feed –my father Abraham and his little sister May. Their mother would come home late at night, covered in steel mill soot that blanketed the city and smothered lungs. She died at midlife. I can only imagine her loneliness – a destitute immigrant widow, with two small children, at the turn of the 20th century. In America.
In the summer of 2017, a thousand of us mobilized in downtown Durham, North Carolina. We came to confront the Klan. A fearless woman leader of color stood akimbo on the court house steps next to the toppled confederate statue. She raised her fist in victory. Abruptly, a blunted bald white man sprang beside her. He raised his hand in Nazi salute. Two miles down the road, my daughter rushed her two young boys from the Jewish Community Center building where they raised the alarm.
I don’t know how to protect those whom I love. This causes me great anxiety. On a daily basis. On an hourly basis.
Romania recedes into the distance. Russia hovers.
We were born into pre-existing conditions. I fear for my grandchildren –2 Jewish. 4 Black. In America.
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev V'lo Yil'm'du od milchama (Sung)