November 2012 sitting in the sterile immigration processing center, I had to make the biggest choice of my life thus far. Do I stay? Or do I go back?
Two (2) weeks earlier I was sharing with my friend that I would have to go back to Jamaica. I did not get the work permit and my dad did not have any more money to pay the international school fees. I had it all planned out. I knew I wanted to live in Toronto. After experiencing the village, clubs, my first pride and young men like me walking around free to be. I knew this was the place for me. So this was the plan; I’d travel back home, get a job, work hard, save my money and then apply for school again. Then I’d come back and do it right this time, work and then live in Toronto.
My friend said words that ran deep to my soul. “Micha! You a go back a Jamaica? Go do wah? You know there are other ways to stay here right?” Really? How Divo? He paused for a few seconds. Then he looked around subtly but seemingly secretive. Then he whispered,“You cah be a refugee”. “A wah? A refugee? Why would I do that? No, that’s not for me”. What I was really saying was that I am not one of those people. I had pride, way too much, now looking back at it.
When he said refugee all I knew of was people escaping wars, hostile conditions, exile, displacement, hopeless, homeless and just a grim situation and I thought to myself, no that’s not for me. Divo relaxed back in his seat and gave me a look that said “you think you better than people, bitch”
Two days later, we were sitting on the patio with our friend Mills and the conversation came back up. I was taken aback feeling a bit betrayed and embarrassed. Now Mills knew my business. I hate when people know my business. I was upset. But Mills and Divo reassured me that this was what I needed. A road to freedom.
They had done this process and wanted to give me access to my own freedom and safety. They stood for my life. These two Jamaican men, I am proud to call friends, stood for my life. I reconsidered. I went home that night and became a world renowned Researcher and Googled everything around being a queer refugee.
I was now sitting in the refugee claimant center fully knowing the impact of my choice. Once you’re a refugee you cannot return home. The home I always knew. The home where my mother is. My father, my grandmother. Choosing this means I’d never be able to return to see them. Something inside me broke and ached. The worst feeling I ever felt in my life. I was giving up all I knew. Burning my bridge to go back home. I felt so guilty, this was so wrong.
For some reason, I was so certain this was what I needed to do at this time in my life. After filling out the forms. Divo turned to me and said in a soft loving voice “gurl, you ready for the rest of your life?” I nodded my head still feeling the guilt of choosing myself then signed my signature to my new life. For the first time in my life, I felt like I chose me. You know, I chose my life. I chose freedom. I did not know what kind of future God had in store for me, but I sure as hell knew it would be a better life than what it would have been returning to Jamaica.
Throughout the years I have had to keep learning this lesson of choosing what’s necessary. It’s been tough to say the least but always the best, the right choice. I learned that I am the only one who can choose me powerfully. I had to keep dealing with the shame, guilt and that grimy feeling that came with choosing me and to live life as it came naturally to me.
I believe every human needs to learn this lesson. To choose yourself powerfully means, but is not limited to, choosing to love oneself, to accept oneself, to enjoy oneself, to care for oneself, to forgive oneself, to heal oneself, to allow oneself the space to discover what’s beyond oneself and most necessarily to FREE oneself from mental slavery. I chose all of the above today, tomorrow and for the rest of my life.
I must say, what I didn’t realize was that in that moment of choosing myself I was choosing to go on my spiritual journey.
I get to create music that I love, even if it’s not what the people need. I get to tell my story in the way I want to tell it. My parents are alive and well and we have nothing unresolved. Calls and conversations about everything, especially the uncomfortable stuff. Fully self expressed even when I shake. I am at peace with me and what I want. I am clear about the vision for my life and destiny I get to design. I stand for what matters and moves me. Speaking and shifting spaces for children like me. I get to dance how it flows through me naturally. I speak not from what my past dictates that I should say and who I should be. I get to invent and reinvent my life. I get to be unleashed in expressing and receiving love. My love life is active and I get to choose even when I get disappointed.
I step into my leadership from a whole new space, one that brings peace and connection. I get to give my self space. What’s it like to have space? Space to breathe, space to create, space from the stresses and worries that occupied most of my life. They are not consuming my every last drop of energy anymore. I have space at home to be. I have space in my art to disrupt and show up in a way that’s new and fucking uncomfortable. The constant narrative I had running through my mind and life that I will never be received fully and will always be misunderstood. I am clear now that it’s all made up to keep me small and scared of shining my light in the world.
Micha has been working alongside groundwork redux as artistic associate, collaborating on their upcoming show speaking of sneaking, a co-production with Buddies in association with Obsidian Theatre. Micha will be joining creator/performer daniel jelani ellis and director/dramaturg d’bi.young anitafrika for the talkback following the Black Out Night performance of speaking of sneaking on Sept 23, 7:30pm.