south africa


i am the daughter of immigrants .
my greatgrandparents fled from Lithuania during the Bolshevik revolution from persecution for being Jewish
(Lithuania : “Lyti” / the Land of Rain)
leaving with nothing somehow landing in Capetown, South Africa
(“Camissa” / Place of Sweet Waters)
they were taken in and took refuge there
and in the following generation, my grandparents studied medicine. when my grandfather couldn’t afford to continue his education, neighboring farmers and friends pooled money so he could complete medical school. he became a doctor; my grandmother a nurse and they worked intimately with the Zulu tribe
my grandfather befriending the local ‘witch doctor’, learning from his traditional clapping and chanting healing ceremonies, 
integrating medicine of the western mind and indigenous village wisdom
building bridges between black and white, creating alliances in service to the health of the people. 
when apartheid was instated in 1948 my grandparents were banned from their life’s work and the health center was closed down. they were exiled and received death threats for continuing
so with 3 young children (one my mother) and another on the way
they boarded a boat and
landed in north carolina, united states of america
where it was the 1950s and the work in racial justice & health continued
and my grandfather founded the school of Epidemiology at UNC
i just recently learned of these stories, these trials of successive generations 
and now i make my way with my family to that place of sweet waters
to meet our foreign family
to let the land speak, uncovering hidden histories living in my dna
to assimilate and desimilate my identities 
to let my ancestors see their home again through my eyes
to behold mama africa,
that grief-stricken jubilant powerful cradle of humankind 
to see what is to be seen
to be in awe
to be an ally
to learn and to remember
roots, culture, history, humility, humanity
to go like water and return like water.