© 2011 Indigo K. Bethea
When I think of love, I think of Providence
And its 3 rivers.
Love, like the history of these waters starts out wild and free
Completely at ease in its beauty
Love, like these waters changes over time
Gets covered up, or loses its way
And though you hope to hold on to some essential essence of yourself,
You can’t help but be changed…
When I think about love, and the way it changes
I think about the Jewelry District.
The Jewelry district to me is a story of manufacturing heartbreak
A belle of the ball who has lost her party
Prettied with her Greek Revival and Federal style buildings
Left to sit with only her memories
“Did you know that some of the biggest manufacturing plants in the country were here?” She’ll say to anyone
who cares to listen.
“Did you know how many men came to call on me? They came from places like Ireland, Germany, Portugal,
Italy, Sweden, Cape Verde, and more places too numerous to name…”
Far into the night she could bask in her memories of the early 1900s,
Closing her eyes when she mentioned the devastation of the Great Depression
Opening them slowly when she described the flurry of WWII
Closing them again, keeping them closed when talking about tomorrow’s hope for a
Because a woman whose heart has been deeply broken knows not to
When I think of love and the need for hope,
I think of Water Place Park,
Three rivers once closed
With architecture, waterfires and casual passersbyers.
And I want to tell my Jewelry District belle, my South Providence belle, my Pawtucket and Central Falls belles
To remember that love lives in renaissance
Not in decay.
Because love is wild and free, unashamed, untamed.
HOW I CAME
© 2011 Indigo K. Bethea
How I came (repeat 3x’s)
Was by way of U-Haul Truck
Two Black women, one older, one younger
Navigating the interstate, the interstices, the inbetweens of New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
How I came is also the story of how I got lost
Wondering when I would finally be ready to start that graduate degree in Anthropology
Wondering if my inexperienced driving self could handle a U-Haul packed with all my belongings on a rainy
June morning in 2003.
Marveling at my mother’s composure as she handles map-quested directions
How I came (repeat 3x’s)
Really is the story of how I got lost
Imagining what the thing called Brown University would be
Never guessing my connection to its history
John Brown and slavery,
Imagine an African American girl headed to the Ivy League University that slavery built…
To the place that graduated Dr. John Hope, who would help found the NAACP, and Crispus Attucks
Association to serve communities of color. An association which would later be renamed The John Hope
Settlement House. A man who would later become the first Black president of Moorehouse College.
Nervously checking front view, rear view, side view for the phantom car/vehicle/entity
That could effortlessly wreck my journey.
“You’re doing well!” my mother says in between reveries of road trips taken with the friends of her youth,
speeding tickets and first cars.
“Thanks” I say in between clenched bubble gum chewing teeth
…got ta get the nerves out somehow.
Hubba Bubba work your magic!
Loosening up on the Mass Turnpike, “I got this!” I say to myself
Even getting bold enough to comment on the driving of others
“What is that chick thinking? Digging in her back seat when her eyes need to be in her front!”
And “oh no mistah, you keep your tail in your lane. Don’t even think about coming over here!”
Ms. Sassy “got this driving thing” and her laughing story-filled momma on the road,
On the way
To Brown University
Cause we just made it to Rhode Island and Map Quest ain’t failed us yet.
Rhode Island, the Ocean State, whose climate would rule out agricultural slavery, but whose waterways would
welcome slave ships and whaling, even as Roger Williams of Providence Plantations was the first to demand
liberty from England.
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations…how ironic that the Providence Plantation of Roger Williams’
yesteryear would become the primary home of RI’s people of color today. Yet not so ironic to know that even in
2003, more than 100 years after slavery, Black communities in particular would consistently be underserved.
Crossing through overpasses and underpasses
Story-filled Momma let’s out a “oops, we took the wrong turn!!”
How I came (3x’s)
Really is the story of how I got lost, mad, and found again.
Passing through mill towns, only later would I learn how the money from slavery turned into mills, factories,
“What kind of place only has three street signs?” I fuss out loud.
“Must be some insider/outsider stuff, huh?” Some ole ‘if you don’t know then you don’t belong’ nonsense.”
Story Tellin Mama and Sassy Indigo—soo close to the promised land and without street signs to guide us…
Patience Testing—Why don’t these people know their own city? What’s up with all this “where Dunkin Donuts
used to be?” When you should really be saying, “Where the Black Wall Street used to be.”
Parking Treachery—How the heck do you parallel park a U-Haul anyway?
Wearily Arriving—finally made it to the campus, to the dormitory
Snoring on the pillow mumbling, “Bring this grad school thing on…I got this…”
Daylight finds me at Brown University
Staring eye to eye with a moment out of history
Yet past the slave forts, the Doors of No Returns, islands off the coast of Senegal
Was a Cape Verdean woman department secretary
With eyes…popping out of her sockets as I throw my arms around her saying
“I’ve read about you in my college books!!”
Oh yeah, it’s official, I’m here yawl, and I got this!
"How I Came" was written for a project called
"Understanding Our Past," and the project goal was
to create original poetry and oral histories which
connected our present lives to the local histories of
Rhode Island. Under the leadership of Delores
Walters, PhD, I had the privilege of working with the
following people: Satta Jallah, Reza Clifton, Corey
Taylor and Len Cabral.
"Lovely Providence" came about after I had
been invited to participate in the Providence Sings
375 event. I had recently been given a short
history lesson by John Fuzek about the changes to
the rivers in Providence, which in turn made
WaterFire as we know it possible. That made me
think about how romantic down town Providence is,
and then with a bit more research I began to
imagine Providence as a woman who dared to
love. After that, the poem pretty much wrote itself.
INDIGO K. BETHEA
Believe me when I tell you I have been expressing myself creatively ever since I got my first pack of crayons.
Of course at that time my art--an unauthorized crayon mural across my bedroom wall--was received with a
solid spanking! An early lesson in the pain of criticism! It wasn't until I got to JHS that I really began writing
poetry. In HS, my writing began to take on its own voice and expanded to prose. And joyfully, the satisfaction
I got from writing, painting, dancing, and performing--which blossomed during my college years--continues on
to this day. The voices I use in my work, whether in painting or in writing, vary. However what is consistent is
that they are honest, probing, intense, spiritually grounded, whimsical at times, and drawn from the bedrock of
African Diasporic traditions.
When not in artistic mode, I have been accused of being a Cultural Anthropologist and adjunct professor at
various local colleges and universities. I am pleased to announce the release of my second poetry book: “But
Beautiful”—Reflections on Love and Loss. This and my first publication, A Calling Out to Nubia: Poetry for the
Young and Old, can be found at Amazon.com
If you would like to learn more about the poetry initiatives Indigo is involved in, please check out
INDIGO K. BETHEA
HOW I CAME
Indigo Bethea - Spoken Word
Recorded at Scredco Studio
by Greg Bass