When I first started going to Cuba as an adult, one of my singular pleasures was taking the ferry across Havana Bay from the city to the village of Regla. The ferries were old, unsteady tugboats that dripped oil and fuel into the water but provided a panoramic view of the Cuban capital, especially the colonial district in Old Havana.
The trip itself cost pennies, was almost always silent but for the heavy breathing of the tugboat itself, and dropped anchor right in front of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Regla. The official story is that this Marian image was concocted by St. Augustine himself for the city of Hippo in northern Africa in the 5th century and then made its way to Spain and the Americas.
But in Cuba, Our Lady of Regla — since her birth a black Madonna — is mostly associated with Yemaya, the Yoruba goddess of the sea.
“Who are you rooting for in the final four?” one of Grace’s pals asked.
“Netherlands!” Grace responded emphatically. The surprise was double: Grace had been in slo-mo most of the evening, jet-lagged from her first trip to Vietnam, her family’s ancestral home, and now that she’d had a jolt of energy it was for the Netherlands?
“Noooo!” said the friend.
“Well, the Dutch were the colonial power in South Africa, after all.”
“Oh right,” said Grace. “I hadn’t even considered the post-colonial implications.”
“We were hoping for Uruguay but in the face of a contest between colonizers, we must err on the side of Achy’s very own.”
The heartbreak over Uruguay hadn’t been simply that they’d played such a fierce game against the Netherlands before falling 3-2. It was also that, as a relatively inoffensive little country, rooting for them doesn’t require a whole lot of compromise.
“That’s really what the World Cup is all about, isn’t it?” Grace sighed. “You know what team I was really curious about? North Korea.”
“Oh, man, they got smashed.”
“Yeah, I watched the game in Vietnam and it was really somber. Everyone was really worried about the aftermath for the North Korean players.
“Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain it, Eli, I’m so sorry …”
Oh yes, the fierce face, the snarl on the screen is Daniel Day-Lewis – there’s no question of that.
“If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake …”
But the voice … er, no, not the voice.
“There it is: that’s the straw, see?”
The guy who’s speaking the words is actually Fard Muhammed, a fellow much darker, much more robust than Day Lewis, and his pointing out of the straw is, frankly, compromised.
See, he’s holding a mic in one hand, and though he knows the scene pretty well, he still can’t take his eyes off a second screen – the one the audience doesn’t see in front of him – where he’s following the film captions.
“My straw reaches acrooooooooooooooooooss the room and starts to drink your milkshake.”
Muhammed holds his finger in the air, moving opposite of Day-Lewis behind him on the screen, so that they criss-cross. He’s missing the rasp, the menace.
The woman was asking for five words, just five words, but she wasn’t liking the offerings. “If this is your first time at the Pow-Wow …” she was saying, instructing the neophytes.
The women in the audience at the Jeffrey Pub – old school butches and femmy femmes, hip hop bois and curvy belly dancers, young smartasses and stick-thin singles, cuddling couples and gangs of girlfriends – were eating it up: shouting back, heckling, jiving, laughing and applauding.
The Pow-Wow’s been around for more than a decade with a mission to support, develop and increase the visibility of women artists, particularly women of color. C.C. Carter, its founder and artistic director, performs here frequently, but Staceyann Chin, Tai Freedom Ford, Perre Shelton and E. Nina Jay and many others all drop in from time to time and rock the house. (In fact, E.
Disembodied male voice from a building alongside Jeffrey Blvd after the march: "I think that's just about the prettiest march this city and I have ever seen ... And did you see those chicks on bikes? Those were real bikes, man!"