Do you remember when you began to decolonize my mind? From the very beginning. The schools in our predominantly white neighborhood couldn’t touch it. I remember, you used to tell me:

“Anyone who tries to teach you the Native Americans were celebrating with the Pilgrims for Thanksgiving is either a liar or doesn’t know their real history.”

I haven’t forgotten. Now, I ask New Zealand the same question: are you a liar, or did you just forget your history?

Photograph of a lake; mountains and gray, cloudy sky in the background; tawny field in the foreground

You’ve never been to New Zealand before. It’s a privilege, I know. A privilege you worked hard for me to have; I’m grateful. A privilege.

I’ll tell you what my privilege allowed for me to witness: mountains capped with snow and ice. Dead volcanoes, topped with commercial buildings and trees alike. A beach covered in volcanic, black sands, stretching for miles and miles. The sun, burning me through the hole in the ozone layer in the atmosphere. Sheep . . . so many sheep. Walking clouds.

Image of a tawny field; in the middle distance, off to the right, a cluster of sheep, tightly huddled together

My privilege also allowed me to reflect, to see my reflection. Our reflection—did you ever realize that New Zealand is colonized land? I know it’s all foreign regardless, foreign because it’s the land of the upside-down; a land we have forgotten in our lives as Black women because we’re still lost in our lives as Black women on the land we inhabit. But this foreign place should have remained foreign to the people who took it over.

I had forgotten that, even though you tried to teach me, back home. Home, like we could stitch our centuries-old refugee flag into that dirt and feel any more welcome.

Could the Māori? Could they have possibly found some semblance of home, whether it be in routine, or non-routine, or performative art in active spaces, that we have not yet found on American ground?

On their land, the literal burning grounds of Rotorua, something was lifted from me, possibly brought closer inside. This realization of multiple possible futures. Into and out. The geothermal energy expelling from the earth personified the mental fog. Living clouds.

What did he say?

Photograph of smoke rising from volcanic rocks

“We are proud.”

That’s all it took for me to be convinced.

How many times have you said that to me? Plenty, plentiful, plenty. Sometimes, you call me late at night, because you’re scared that I might not know it, how proud you are. You call me at ungodly hours, I’m half-asleep, but I press the phone right up to my ear so it feels like your words are going directly into me. Into and unto, you are proud.

He said they’re proud, too. The Māori people had their slice of land–they got their reparations, no matter how small, and that was something to be recognized. They deserve the whole world, but that doesn’t mean they can’t celebrate the little piece they fought for.

This is what I mean when I say multiple possible futures. Multiplicity is the dream I aspire to, now.

I’ve seen that things don’t have to be the same around the world. I’ve been taught that things don’t have to be the same in one house. In one home. In one place–time and space are constructs we live in based on our individual realities. Why subscribe a people to one future?

Photograph, closeup, of abstract art, twisted forms show streaks of yellow, black, and red ink

My life is not your life is not our lives.

We were taken to look at art in Christchurch. Maybe, the accurate way to put it is: we walked through Christchurch, there was art in our path. There was one massive piece that twisted and turned into itself at some points, exploded out at others. I walked into it, feeling surrounded by some expressionism I couldn’t yet grasp.

I’m sure Christchurch bears an entirely different connotation to you now. The place your daughter could have died.

“You may have dodged a bullet,” you messaged me.

Fifty people did not.

Christchurch decided on its own, distinct future. After one deadly, horrible mass shooting, they changed. Gun reform laws put in place. People reckoning with some part of their collective troubles. There’s more to be dealt with there, but it’s a reckoning regardless.

I could die here, home. When twenty children were murdered in their classrooms and we did nothing. When forty-nine were killed in a nightclub and we did nothing. When fifty-eight were gunned down in Vegas and we did nothing.

All this nothingness, you’d think home was black matter, inexplicably anchored to Earth.

When the shooters in Christchurch killed fifty people in 2019, Māori members of the Black Power movement in New Zealand performed the haka at the memorial site.

Photograph of a person, taken from behind, looking out at the mountains from a meadow

The Black Panther Party in the U.S. was persecuted and erased with the murder of Huey Newton in 1989. There are no more soldiers against white supremacy left to memorialize those we’ve lost on our own soil. Standing in solidarity in the most literal sense, I am left bereft in the ugly face of my own country.

So are you.

Photograph of a line of people following a path through a meadow of tall grass and wildflowers; mountains in the distance

I don’t know what else to tell you about, except maybe the leaving.

We marched like ants through the hills, through the buildings, through the airports. Moving through one space drastically different than the next in a matter of hours.

I was warped through time hole after time hole–through blackened caves, through mundane morning conversations, through half-packed bars riddled with British card games. I smiled at all of it; travel didn’t corrupt my sense of humor, maybe shifted my sense of self. I am young, after all.

My journey didn’t end when my feet stepped off that thirty-hour flight back to New York. It didn’t end when all of us hugged goodbye and packed ourselves in groups of four into cabs, when, one by one, we slipped away at a red light closest to our cross streets.

My journey ended when I trekked up the six flights of stairs to my apartment door, key to lock, threshold agape and raw, and you weren’t there. My home hasn’t been yours for a while now.

I left you four years ago. I wanted to make you proud.


Photograph of a wide, flat expanse of lava rocks under a blue sky with cumulus clouds; in the distance but at the center of the frame stands a person

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