Ever since I can remember, I have always lived in what I often refer to as an “in-between” space or “in-between spaces.” That just means that in a world that is defined by boundaries and by categories, the in-between space is the undefined space in between the defined spaces.
These are spaces in which the categories about who we are supposed to be are not clearly defined. We thus have the freedom in these spaces, to define and develop identities that take in different elements from the defined worlds. In other words, in these spaces, we can choose to be anything we want. We can define ourselves according to our own rules, based on what we like about the worlds we encounter.
Let’s take my “nationality identities” as an example. As a Malawian-born American-raised individual who was socialized in a Ghanaian-American context in Arlington, Texas amongst a heterogeneous and wide range mixture of African-Americans and first generation “American Africans,” which is actually my space?
The reality is that depending on the day of the week, and what is motivating and inspiring me, I can feel like any of them and from time to time, can feel like all of them. I find myself crossing over and living amongst all these spaces. I understand and speak most of their languages, can feel their subtle quirks, and can often times translate “them” to the “others” and vice-versa.
I share this to say, for some of us, the only “home” we will ever know is in these “in-between” spaces. These “in-between” spaces can be applied to nationality, they can be applied to gender identify, to where one feels like they belong spiritually and religiously and so on and so forth.
Recognizing that it is in the “in-between” spaces that we feel most comfortable, doesn’t mean that we don’t really have a home. All it means is that our home is defined by the many footprints that we have left in the many spaces that we have been.
Because these “in-between” spaces are where we most feel at home, there is an opportunity for us to use the language that we know; a language that has life as a result of the many categories that encompass who we are. There is power in being able to float and transcend in many spaces, which enables us to translate what we hear and what we see in ways that can touch many different types of people.
We live “in between spaces” and we build bridges. That is just who we are. And because of that, we have the great privilege to be able to look at the world from a peculiar perspective and are able to speak many languages, and are able to belong without really belonging. These to me are rich experiences that we must allow to influence our work as we share stories, and as we continue to work towards creating a world that is a lot more tolerant of difference; a world that accepts and celebrates the in between.
Here is a poem that is so close to my heart, and that resonates with my “in-betweeness.” I hope it speaks to you, as it does to me.
-Unravel Away Artist-
The Bridge Poem
By: Donna Kate Rushin (1981)
I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Can talk to anybody
Without me Right?
I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the Ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…
I’ve got the explain myself
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.
I’m sick of it
I’m sick of filling in your gaps
Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people
Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip
I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
I’m sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long
I’m sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf you your better selves
I am sick
Of having to remind you
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die
The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
My own weaknesses
I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
I will be useful
-from This Bridge Called My Back