Monday, August 22, 2005


i went to what i believe was the 27th annual unity day yesterday. it's a day when everybody goes to the benjamin franklin parkway in philadelphia for music, food, and vendors. now i'll be honest. i don't actually see where the unity is in unity day. first of all, most of the people who come for unity day are black. and that's cool - i love black people. but the promotion for the event is like, this is about unity for everyone, different types of cultures, different types of people, bla bla bla. it really turns out to be "black people day." in addition, it's not like it's a communal experience when you're walking all through the vendors and food and stuff. it's like walking through a crowded subway platform. each person is trying to get where they're going, and that's it. i guess the unity/communal stuff happens near the music stages. i wouldn't know - it was too hot to try getting up in all them people. but that's not what i meant to talk about. i don't care if there's unity at unity day or not.

i LOVE unity day. my parents used to take me every year when i was little. we would get in the car and ride over the ben franklin bridge from camden. as you're riding over the bridge, you get to see philly's tall buildings, including my favorite, the one with the neon PSFS. then we would park in my dad's secret "nobody knows this place to park" parking spot, and walk to the parkway where all the people were. there are all these colors and smells, and people with all kinds of hairstyles and clothes. it was an adventure for me back then. the vendors had incense and special soaps, t-shirts and toys, drums and gourds and eclectic jewelry and african prints and black art and soul music tapes (tapes, not CDs)... unity day was one of my first teachers about african culture and the existence of a diaspora - which was important, cause it's not like i was gonna get that from or a new ed.ition tape. i would see women wearing west african dresses and gelees and men with that beautiful igbo bone structure. i saw black people with locks - up til then i thought whoopi was the only one LOL. it was inspiring, horizon-broadening and self-affirming to see such a variety of beautiful black people. i think it made me love us more. cause it's not like mainstream or even hood culture gave me these images. my neighborhood was full of gold chain wearing, yo-baby-yo slanging, jheri curl juice dripping label hos.

anyway, this was the beginning of my love for the scent of egyptian musk oil, which my dad bought for me back then, and of handmade jewelry and those bronze bangles with the flattened edges. my parents used to take me to gatherings like this all the time in philly, especially stuff with live soul music, or zydeco at the jambalaya jam, or jazz and even blues. imagine a short skinny nine-year-old with braids sticking out of the side of her head, scared to be seen getting down with the music but swaying her non-existent hips anyway. yeah. *shaking my head* that was me...

i haven't been to unity day in about 9 or 10 years. i'm glad to see things haven't changed. i bought some earrings and bracelets, and a couple of gourds for the living room. tried not to flirt with this gambian dude, who couldn't understand why i told him i'm not ready for marriage. had some fried plantains and roast corn and a lemon yum-yum. and enjoyed my afternoon. and i think i can see where the unity is in unity day, too. just being there makes me feel like i am part of something beautiful. so in it's own way the gathering itself gives you that sense of belonging and ownership that is akin to unity.

man, i shoulda got that "good times" t-shirt. next year, i'm bringing more money...