Thoughts from an immigrant Mom

I have these flashes of memory sometimes. They are intense, visceral kernels of memory that, for a singular moment, take me back home. My favourite moments are actually the the most mundane memories. Just the other day, I was talking to my partner when all of a sudden I remembered standing in a big parking lot in Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad. The parking lot is opposite the tennis courts my friends and I would to frequent. For a moment, though standing in my Toronto kitchen, I could feel the gentle Marabella breeze and see the swaying palm trees that line the perimeter of the lot. I could remember smelling the mild saltiness of the air and feeling the exhilarating warmth of a great tennis workout. That memory was not particularly significant. It is valuable to me only because it was a perfectly ordinary day that belonged to another incarnation of my life. Those perfectly normal moments from when I lived in Trinidad – the moments I took for granted for their plainness – those memories are now irreplaceable nuggets of nostalgia.

My daughter is 5 months old now and in having her, I’ve reopened a trove of memories and emotions that I’d long forgotten. When I was young I didn’t think I’d have children. When I allowed myself that fantasy though, I imagined taking my child to see practices at steel pan yards or to play traditional Red Indian Mas in south Trinidad. I imagined pushing her on the swings at San Fernando Hill Playground or rolling about in the sand at Mayaro Beach. Even in my dreams, I find myself thinking about my childhood and the places that meant something to me. Though I’ve been in Canada for a long time, still, the stories of my life are layered onto the most mundane places, in Trinidad. Places where I loved and laughed. But I don’t live there anymore. And in some senses those places no longer exist.

The truth is though, that my daughter will likely grow up in Toronto. These streets will be her stage. I might take her to visit those places. But really? She’d just be visiting. Her story will be vastly different from my own. This is part of being an immigrant. I have not yet made this place mine, but she certainly will by virtue of the fact that this is the first world she will come to know. I wonder about that. I worry about that. It took me 10 years to figure out how to dress appropriately for winter. How in the world am I supposed to guide her in a land that I don’t really know myself?

I look at events across the border and I worry; what if one day she’s not wanted here? I made a gamble by trading community ties and familiarity in Trinidad for freedom and safety from crime here in Canada. What if that gamble backfires and this place becomes more dangerous to her?

I’m encouraged by the new found community here that motherhood has shown me. I’m encouraged by the liberal values that Toronto exhibits. In the present political climate, though my gamble is currently safe, I mourn for non-white immigrants in America and Syrian refugees everywhere. In them I see my own worst fears played out as the caprice of nations sell out human rights and dignity. I wish I could promise my daughter certainty. Certainty however, appears to be fools gold.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Hanna Herbertson

This is the seventh post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Hanna Herbertson of Blackgold Dance Crew

Seeing Hanna dance makes us want to dance. She is everything we love here at the Coloured Collective – sassy, passionate and talented. Born in South Korea, Hanna Herbertson moved to Sweden at an early age, where she grew up on an island in the Baltic sea called Gotland. Today, Hanna has extensive experience teaching dance as well as performing for audiences across the globe.

In September 2009, Hanna founded Blackgold Dance Crew together with choreographers Genius and History. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Hanna talked to us about her style of dance and inspiration:

‘How did you get into Danehall?
Growing up in Sweden I listened a lot to the radio and watched MTV. When I first heard tunes by Chaka Demus and Pliers and Shabba Ranks, I fell in love with dancehall music. The dance came later when Sean Paul buss and I discovered the party dances. I used to order dvd from parties in Jamaica and in NYC to learn, this was before youtube.. Lol!
When I came to NYC to study dance I ventured out from the commercial schools and went out the Brooklyn parties and danced with Jamaican dancers. Then in 2009 I was able to go to Jamaica for the first time. The rest is history 🙂

‘Can you describe what it is about Dancehall that you fell in love with?’
The music, the attitude and the freedom of expression was something that I had never experienced before in other cultures.

Dancer, Hanna Herbertson

‘What kinds of style you integrate with Dancehall?’
In the beginning when I started teaching and choreographing Caribbean style of dance I fused it more. Styles like belly dancing, soca, african, salsa etc. The last 4-5 years I’ve been gravitation more and more towards Jamaican dancehall though. Don’t like to be pigeonholed since I’ve studied many different kinds of dance styles so I have kept the name “Dancehall Fusion” and I still mash up styles when I think it’s appropriate.

‘Tell us about Blackgold Dance Crew and the kind of work that you do.’

In 2009 I started doing shows together with two choreographers/dancers from NYC, Genius and History. We quickly discovered that we had great chemistry as a trio and decided to form a dance crew and teach classes together. We ended up working with experienced dancehall artists like Mr Vegas and Mr Lexx. We have preformed and taught at high schools and collages around the US.

Internationally I’ve been teaching workshops, have created shows and done collaboration projects in countries like Jamaica, Germany, France, Finland and more. One of my current projects is working with Singaporean/Canadian artist Masia One. I’m in Toronto right now with her performing and teaching this week.

‘Finally Hanna, what would you say makes you a Colourful woman?’
Being adopted from South Korea, raised in Sweden and now living in NYC and doing dancehall, I’m living a colorful cultural mash up dream. Raised by a strong single mother who never got to travel much she always supported my endeavors and choice of profession. That has contributed a lot to my drive to learn, experience and enjoy life to the fullest and to live my life like it’s golden.

If you are in Toronto this week you’d be mad not to check out Hanna’s show the details of which are below.

Also to learn more about Hanna and her ongoing work, visit her website