Journey with In(dia) Poetry

Over the past ten months, I’ve written several poems around my work and experiences in India as an AIF Clinton Fellow. I’m excited to share some of them with you here today.

Journey with In(dia)
This poem highlights the decision to come to India and how it is impacting my life. This poem is about stepping out and doing something out of the ordinary. It also talks about this journey within – Journey with In – dia. It is about the country but it is also about the fact that we live with ourselves for 80-something years and there is still so much to explore within our own selves. Many people fear being alone with themselves. They fear the honest stories they will hear from within.

Am I good enough, Am I ready
Will I do it right, is this steady
I gotta get out of my head already
Overthinking, analyzing
Comparing myself to you and I’m sure you don’t even care
I had to do something to get out of my head and into my heart
Start from start
Do not pass go
Do not collect $200
It’s crazy,
The average human being lives for about 65 years and never really knows themselves fully
There is a universe inside, so much to explore, so much to learn
And yet, many choose to ignore facing self.
I gotta get outta my head and into my heart

8,759 miles

There’s so much depth in me
I feared deep diving
Because I only recently learned to swim

303 days, 7,272 hours

I peered off the edge of me
Thinking if I went too deep
I couldn’t come back
So I settled for the outskirts, surface parts of me

14,096 kilometers

Only showing the tip of the iceberg, Gigantic
Until Truth comes crashing in, Titanic
Hiding the storm raging within
I’ve wondered years deceptively
Not digging, prying, investigating

I traveled 8,759 miles to India, 14,096 kilometers
Here for 303 days, 7,272 hours
All of this to travel 18 inches
Getting out of my head and into my heart…
The art of being, My life is fueled by my being and my being fuels my doing
This is my doing, my Journey with IN.

 

***

Go There
How do you challenge yourself to get outside of your comfort zone. Going there is about spending time to venture deep into myself and encounter the things that are so tempting to keep hidden. It is difficult to show these things to the world on social media or in blogs. We keep things hidden deep within. We do things to cover them up and we keep moving. Is it even worth doing that deep dive and uncovering things? I traveled all the way to India to stir up some things that are as close as anyone can get to me.

Go there
And don’t leave there until there is a change
Shake things up a bit
Ruffle some feathers
Heck, tear the feathers’s completely off if you have to
Just don’t leave that place the same
Leave your mark there
Find a place of need and set up shop there
Take your pick
The problems are plenty and the solutions are few
Solve the problem
Carve it into walls
Engrave it
Let that mark show in permanent ink
Heck, scribble your marks all over the walls, the floors, the ceiling just don’t leave that place the same
Go there
Deep into the unknown and get lost there
Those places that no on dare to venture
Yes there
Find solace there

I just decided to go
I sold things, quit my job and decided that I wanted to experience something else
Expand my perspective
Serve with my skills and talents
Learn from a different culture
Lead in capacities I had only imagined were possible
This is a scary place. Stepping off of the plan and into ambiguity
But I am doing it, everyday
Moving and shifting and sifting and changing
Rearranging my perspective
This, this is changing me
I feel myself being transformed as I form new opinions
Storm in I am born again
Pressed against the surface, the squeeze I on
I plead for relief but I have come too far
Change is painful
Overwhelmed and almost drowning
Deep under water but I surprise me
At the height of my suffering, I don’t die, I grow gills
Now I am breathing under water
And it surprises me. So I sit, drenched in air and water and I pen down my thoughts
Those things caught up in the web of my thinking, and it surprises me
But I knew I had to go there
Delve a little deeper into myself.
Push myself a little harder to write things down
Capture these moments in their rawest form
Putting myself out there I go there
Down the road less traveled… I go there
Where most people from where I am from can’t go
And I am willing to get my hands dirty
I am willing to make mistakes
I am willing to take the chance
Willing to serve
Eager to learn
Empowered to lead

Go there
And don’t leave there until there is a change
Shake things up a bit
Ruffle some feathers
Heck, tear the feathers’s completely off if you have to
Just don’t leave that place the same
Leave your mark there
Find a place of need and set up shop there
Take your pick
The problems are plenty and the solutions are few
Solve the problem
Carve it into walls
Engrave it
Let that mark show in permanent ink
Heck, scribble your marks all over the walls, the floors, the ceiling just don’t leave that place the same
Go there
Deep into the unknown and get lost there
Those places that no on dare to venture
Yes there, Find solace there

Go alone
Turn over some stones
Roam around
Peek through the blinds designed to keep things in
Blur the lines dividing comfort zones
Take off your shoes and feel the realness of the ground
Then look up, and experience the vastness of the sky
You are one
But you must go
Listen
Can’t you hear it calling you
You were never meant to play it safe
Change your pace to match that of your ambitions
My intuition called me out
In the middle of a room full of thousands of people
And I answered the call
I answered them all
And I breath now. Both on land and under water.
All because I went
With an intent to change a place
But that place changed me
Now I face me
Proud of the change I see
She, that girl that breaths both water and air

 

***

Caste Away Black
I worked with youth in foster care for over 1 years. I, myself, knew this system too well as a former foster youth. While visiting Chindu, an organization that uses the arts to empower marginalized people, I realized that there were similarities in marginalized people all over the world. I drew a parallel between African Americans and lower caste Indians. I was intrigued by the stories I heard about lower caste Indians being in a village outside of a village and how they were resourceful with everything they had. I knew this resourcefulness oh so well. The creativity that comes from poverty. In this poem, I recount and encounter with a young African American man in foster care in the U.S. and my experience listening to a lower caste individual in India tell their stories.

He stepped out of the crowd and wanted to greet me
Seeking answers, affirmation
Questioning the systems that got him here
He was angry and had every right to be
So many people were against him and he knew it
He knew it wasn’t true and it wasn’t fair
But “fair” is a luxury of the privileged, he said
Fair is not a right of the poor and disenfranchised
The more and more I looked deep in his eyes
I could see beyond his anger
Although he was 24 years old, a 10-year-old kid screamed out to me
As if I wore the face of his oppressor
As if I bore his new born body
As if I could do something.
I was taken aback.
At the young age of 24, he had been through foster care, homelessness, drugs, and prison.
How could he reverse these mistakes?
Would he always have to carry this with him?
Was his skin too dark to reflect the light of his true potential?
I could not answer this young man.
The “whys” and “hows” were beyond the talking points of my 15-minute speech
Beyond the reach of the policy briefs
Beyond neatly painted stories left incomplete
That night, I couldn’t sleep
How is it that innocent children reap the plight of their parents missteps
Before they even step foot on this planet they are already ten steps behind
Because of their mother’s bad decision
Because of their father’s absence
Because it’s unfair…
How could I help.
At this point, it was more than helping this young man
It was about the systems that did him injustices.
I thought about my friend who went through the same system and still struggles with her mental health and self image.
The young man who, as soon as he got on his feet, ended up in prison.
An old friend who now lives in a mental health facility—all under the age of 30…
How do you get beyond this.
In the United States, African American children still account for 50% of the foster children even they only represent 30% of American children
Black boys are more likely to be imprisoned
Mental health is at an all-time high.
I don’t blame skin, I blame the weight we place on race

I wish we could cast it away
Attack it on all sides.
Blind.

She stepped up to the front of the room
Asking questions, confirmations
Questioning the systems that got her here
She was angry and had every right to be
So many people were against her and she knew it
She knew it wasn’t true and it wasn’t fair
But “fair” is a luxury of the privileged, she said
“Fair is not a right of the poor and disenfranchised”
Forgiveness ran deep as she recounted the injustice of her childhood
What they made her do
How they painted her a certain way
She had resolved the anger and a look of peace rested on her face
Beautiful brown skin and essence as refreshing as the dress adorning her
It was her birthday and she had something to say.
Although she had grown up in the United States, caste was still plaguing her family
She spilled story upon story of injustice
As if we wore the face of her oppressor
As if we bore her new born body
As if we could do something.
I was surprised.
At the young age of 24, she had been through discrimination and harassments simply because of the caste of her family
How could she forgive those who oppressed her?
Would she always have to carry this with her?
Was her skin too dark to reflect the light of her true potential?
I did not have the answers.
My questions of “why” and “how” were beyond the talking points of her 15-minute speech
Beyond the reach of the fellowship etiquette.
Beyond neatly painted stories left incomplete
That night, I couldn’t sleep
How is it that innocent children reap the plight of society’s tradition
Before they even step foot on this planet they are already ten steps behind
Because of their mother’s heartbeat
Because of their father’s bloodline
Because it’s unfair…
How could I help.
At this point, it was more than helping this young woman
It was about the systems that did her injustices.
I thought about a community I met in Bihar who were considered the lowest of the low cast called rat eaters.
The men in Hyderabad who were damned to remove carcasses of dead animals because they were untouchable.
A village outside of the village.
How do you get beyond this.
In India, Dalit communities and lower caste individuals still remain underrepresented in positions of power.
Low caste people are more likely to be imprisoned
Mental health is at an all-time high.
I don’t blame tradition, I blame the weight we place on caste
I wish we could black it all out.

Crystal is a national speaker, author and foster care advocate. She uses the arts to promote individual and community change. Crystal graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in English, Creative Writing and Theater Studies and received her MBA from Georgia State University with a focus in organizational management. Crystal has also worked with child welfare organizations in Georgia in the areas of marketing and communications, strategy and implementation, fundraising and community mobilization, and training and curriculum development. She has also volunteered as the theater director for the teen ministry of an international ministry. Crystal has served as a member of Georgia Governor’s Council for child welfare reform, she is certified in Life Stories® Theater curriculum, and she is a founding member of an advocacy group for foster youth in Georgia called Georgia Empowerment. Crystal is also a young fellow for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative through the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Crystal has traveled the nation as an advocate for foster children and uses her gift of spoken word poetry to challenge and motivate audiences. Crystal’s mission is to inspire people to use their gifts for good to leave their mark on this world in permanent ink.

You Might Also Like

One thought on “Journey with In(dia) Poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Us

Stay up to date on the latest news and help spread the word.

AMERICAN INDIA FOUNDATION IS A REGISTERED 501 (C)(3) Charity. © 2018
NEW YORK | CALIFORNIA | NEW DELHI

Privacy Policy

Get Involved

Our regional chapters let you bring the AIF community offline. Meet up and be a part of a chapter near you.

Join a Chapter