Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Color Blue

posted originally via Put On BLAST! listserv (

Peace, Fam.

Spike Lee told Kevin Powell last night that the Michael Jackson Tribute that he's doing (and the one that everyone is talking about) is STILL happening today at Prospect Park in Brooklyn (12 noon - 5:00pm). Disregard any rumor that it's canceled. There may be a little rain, but so what. More details about the tribute are at It's going to be a beautiful event!

As so many of you already know, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast 4 years ago this past week. August 29 is a big anniversary date for that region, for our community, and for the world. As a simple but meaningful show of thoughtfulness, Kevin and I asking people to wear something BLUE in honor of those who died from, as well as those who survived, Hurricane Katrina.

Now, August 29 will forever hold an extra powerful meaning for our community. It is the birthday of our beloved Michael Jackson and it is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It is the day that God picked for Katherine Jackson to give birth to Michael and it is the day that God picked to trouble the waters in New Orleans. If you think calmly for a moment, you will see the power of the color blue as it relates to this date.

In Yoruba/African culture, blue is the color of Yemoja, an Orisha. Simply defined, an Orisha is a force of nature (or what I like to call "a piece of God Almighty on earth"). Yemoja is "the ultimate symbol and the personification of motherhood...divine, human life." From this energy, we are blessed with many things, including children and the "principle of everlastingness." The ocean, also the color blue, is the "largest environment for life in the world." It is there - to the ocean, to the water (the classic symbol of life and motherhood) that we go to seek healing and cleansing. Yemoja brings us clouds and rainfall because we can't be nurtured without the life-sustaining, refreshing properties of water.

But in life, everything has an opposite. When the dark side of our humanity gets to roam free in the world, dark things happen and life loses many battles. God troubles the waters, the ocean explodes, and we drown in its outrage. While the history books say that Hurricane Katrina was one of the greatest natural disasters that this country has ever experienced, many of us know that the story is deeper than that. The depth of the disaster had more to do with human neglect than nature. And we have Spike Lee's ground-breaking documentary "When The Levees Broke" for much of the insight on this story. Had it not been for the prejudiced abandonment of black people and people who were poor by government agencies that saw them as dispensable, then Hurricane Katrina would not have been as catastrophic.

God also troubles the ground we stand on, our dreams are disrupted, so we seek escape as best we know how. We learned yesterday, from the Los Angeles Coroner's office that Michael Jackson died from a prescription drug overdose. But many of us know that the story is deeper than that. The life and death of Michael Jackson represents a complexity that baffles most. Gone too soon, he (and the good he symbolized), left many of us yearning for a less harsh world. I think it fair to say, however, that his need for escape was unknowable and it appears to have cost him his life.

So on the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (and later Hurricane Rita)...and on what would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday, I hope the rain continues, quite frankly. Let it do what it do! The need for cleansing is a deep-rooted need so let's be rained upon.

Today, I will wear the color blue because I believe in the maternal, healing properties of water and the ocean. It will be my superficial way to celebrate the life of Michael Jackson and to honor the memory of those were lost in Katrina's passage. Tomorrow, I will continue to do the work required to make life more bearable.

I hope to see you in the park!


April R. Silver
Social Entrepreneur, Activist, Writer


Notes on Yemoja from "Black Gods: Orisa Studies in the New World" by Gary Edwards & John Mason

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