On January 6, 2021, I received a text from Karla, my best friend, with a single question: “How did you know?”
Washington, DC was besieged by violent insurgents who were ordered by then-President Donald Trump to storm the Capitol to stop the confirmation of the election he lost to Joe Biden. Karla was shocked and confused as the attack unfolded, unable to understand how months earlier I had warned her of the likelihood of such violence.
“I dated a man like Trump,” I said. “I know how far they will go to win.”
I spent the entire year of my life prior to this day trying to gain freedom for myself and my family from the grips of my abusers: my ex and the United States of America. After allowing me to return to my home country of Trinidad and Tobago with our two children to escape American racism, her father turned to the US court system to try and regain control of my life by falsely claiming , I am a kidnapper.
“You want to go to jail?” he taunted and threatened during the talks.
I was appalled that he would go so far as to drag me back into our abusive relationship. One that, despite my many attempts to fix it and make it work, has engulfed me in constant pain, disappointment, and toxicity. But I had already received a message from the Universe, and it had other plans for me: During Carnival 2020, my sister Niki came with an unexpected message. One that promised we would be free.
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As the Maxi meandered through the hills of Maraval, the cool breeze was both refreshing and invigorating. It was 4 a.m. on February 24, 2020, Shrove Monday morning, and I was on the bus with my sister and our friend Katrina. We made our way to Port of Spain to attend the J’ouvert and I imagined that Carnival 2020 was going to be the best of my life. The music of the big trucks waved us as we approached the city center. As soon as we approached a band filled with big trucks blasting Soca, we jumped off the bus and looked forward to getting lost in the sea of revelers. The bass pounded through my body and awakened my spirit. I sipped my drink while my body twisted and swayed to enjoy the rhythm. People chipped, cried, and rolled their waists. The cloak of honesty was laid off.
I turned to Niki and her face was contorted with emotion.
“The ancestors, they are here,” she said.
Tears ran down her face.
“They said we’ll be free this year,” Niki shouted, louder this time. “We will be free.”
“We’re already free,” I said to Niki before breaking away from our group to have wine with a random guy.
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“Tiff, it was so nice,” Niki whispered later that day. “The message I received from the ancestors:
“We will be free.”
I couldn’t help but stumble upon how the statement was eroding my present moment of bliss. Why was our freedom a matter of the future when we had everything I could have dreamed of in that moment? I pushed her statement aside, not allowing the discomfort she had caused to get the better of me.
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On a sunny morning months later, while scrolling through Facebook, I watched video of George Floyd breathing his last under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. I scrolled through the day’s headlines and terror swept over me like a rogue wave. Suddenly I was back in America, plunged into an abyss of systemic racism captured in heartbreaking detail by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Michael Brown and Black’s endless list of names Children and adults who have lost their lives to police brutality. . . . As the days passed and the number of deaths from COVID-19 and the protests mounted, it became even more apparent to us abroad how precarious it would have been to stay in the US. If I hadn’t returned to Trinidad with my family—my sister, our three children, and my mother, who was a nurse for years before eventually retiring—we could have been a part of that statistic.
“Mom, look – chocolate!” My daughter’s sweet voice tumbled in like a lifeline and lifted me from the depths of America’s darkness.
She held out her small brown hands, covered in melted, sticky goo, to me. I reached out to pull her towards me and buried my face in her neck. Her small body comforted me. The tide was turning and I realized the sun was still shining, the breeze was still blowing and we were safe. Not a day went by that I didn’t celebrate: we fled.
Not long after that, I stumbled across a song called “Billion Dollar Dream” released by a Trinidadian artist, Jiselle Singer. The sound of the artist’s sweet voice raised questions that were most pressing to me at that moment:
will you get up
will you get up
Will you stand up for rights?
will you get up
will you get up
Don’t give up the fight
I listened to the song on the beach and was overcome with gratitude and sadness for the sacrifices of those who came before us and died in bondage with only dream and hope that the next generation can experience true freedom. For those whose lives have been claimed or tortured by the evils of racism and all other forms of abuse. Through my DNA and that of every Black person in the western hemisphere, our African ancestors and their stories live on. It’s a survival story. However, as I scanned the moonlit ocean and my eyes fell on my mother, daughter and son on its sandy shores, exchanging whispers and giggles while pointing to colorful Christmas lights lined up on a nearby tree, I realized that black life is not simply defined by survival, but by magic. All forces of good seen and unseen conspired to bring us together safely in this beautiful moment. That night I realized I wasn’t alone in the fight. And I would never give up the fight.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; who should I fearI heard my mother whisper.
Her mantra floated away into the universe. I finally understood the power of living off a Black woman’s prayer.
https://www.salon.com/2022/02/26/before-jan-6-i-knew-violence-was-coming-i-know-how-far-men-like-will-go-to-win/ Before Jan. 6, I knew violence was coming. I know how far men like Trump will go to win