When I decided to write the Yoga with Aunty Mo I knew I wanted to feature the children who do yoga with me. It just seemed obvious to me since it was written from their perspective. It also seemed obvious that I would self publish on Amazon. I didn’t stop for one moment to think about the broader implications about small island children of color seeing themselves in a book. I didn’t think about little white kids in the US and UK reading about children in the Caribbean. It all just seemed like a natural progression of what I was doing.
Then I’m sitting in the kitchen talking to my mom about how everyone seems very impressed by the book; with one simple sentence my mom made me realize how important this book is. “As a child I could never imagine a book with St Lucian children.” When my mom grew up all books were Eurocentric and mostly about white children. She couldn’t even imagine anything different. By the time I went to high school we were reading C. Everard Palmer and Sam Selvon. Books like Jumbie Bird, A Brighter Sun and The Sun Salutes You were a crucial part of my literary foundation. Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew were behind me. I wanted to read about rural Caribbean life. I was home.
By the time I read Colonial Girl School by Olive Senior I was ready to be unapologetically me. No colonizer was going to tell me how to look, act or be. My skin was not too dark, my hair did not need to be tamed, my speech did not need to be refined. I did not realize this was just revolutionary. After all Bob Marley sang redemption song in 1980 so I wasn’t going to allow myself to be kept in mental slavery. I was free. My great grandfather was the last of my ancestors born on a plantation. His mother had most likely been a slave. He taught himself to read. He told me that if I could read no one could fool me; and I loved to read. I loved to hear voices like mine. No one would will my skin pale, muffle my laughter, dekink my hair or deny my sex.
At my fancy white college in the US I found comfort in the words of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. I was the darker sister and the phenomenal woman. I was so in love that I decided the story of my life would be “Still I rise”. I was deeply inspired by the tone. They wrote about the struggle, they acknowledged it. Then they predicted success. They knew who they were and they were not ashamed. They embraced their heritage as well as the hope of a brighter future. “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” They didn’t wallow. They stepped into their power. “They’ll see how beautiful I am; And be ashamed.”
In this progression of events writing a book that features a rural community in St Lucia and the children who live in it seems only natural. Selling that book on Amazon seems equally natural. It is the era of the self published Author. After all I didn’t see my book as social commentary. My book isn’t calling for freedom from colonialism or the patriarchy. My book doesn’t even really talk about life in Mon Repos. I just put what was in my heart on paper. But actions don’t exist in a vacuum and I am shaped by my experiences. So my little book is actually social commentary.
Without every saying this yoga with Aunty Mo announces that yoga is not just for privileged white children. With pictures it shows you that brown and black children do yoga too. It shows you that children have yoga instructors in their families and they respect them. It shows you that children can have fun in nature and that you can find beauty everywhere. It shouts that a little girl from Mon Repos grow up to write a book that a little boy in Washington DC will proudly read. It screams to the world we are here, we matter, we belong.
In an era when the world is become more tribal and isolationists Yoga with Aunty Mo signals to the world that we can still produce greatness in St Lucia. It says that children of color have hopes and dreams too. Without ever uttering those words it inspires an entire generation to reach for their dreams. And I did that without actually meaning to. For that I am proud and inspired to keep going.