Embodying Ancestry: Brittany

Themes: Palestine, Italian, Arabic, immigration, dance, music, matriarchy, clothing, jewelry

“I  grew up with my grandmother & my mother and their both from Palestine so I felt like there was a tear in my identity because I  was growing up eating Arabic food everyday & listening to Arabic music. I  don’t speak Arabic, but if my grandmother speaks to me I  know what she’s saying. I have a relationship with my dad, but in terms of being immersed in the culture like I  was with my Palestinian side, I  didn’t have that experience. I  know where my family is from in Italy, we’re from Lucca and Genoa. I’ve grateful that I’ve been to Italy and I  know where my family is from, but I  just don’t know that much about my Italian side. And its funny because I  look Italian! I guess those are the genes in me that are super apparent.”

“A huge thing that my family experienced when they immigrated in the 50s is that they had to get rid of their identity to fit into American culture. My grandmother stopped speaking Arabic to her kids and she straightened their hair everyday with big cans of tomato sauce. They wanted them to be white so badly so they wouldn’t be rejected. It has generational effects because I think that’s why my mom married a white man to continue perpetuating. So I’m rejecting that because I’m super proud of being Palestinian and it gets me tight when I  see those checkboxes. There is one called MENA — it stands for Middle Eastern/North African and its in parenthesis next to White. And I’m like, “I’m not checking that damn box!” It takes away from who we are! Palestinian and White are not synonymous. Palestinian culture is way different from straight European culture.”

Palestinian roots & rhythms.

Dancing bodies are vessels for ancestor’s spirits. 

“This throbe is specific to Ramallah. It’s actually where my family is from in Palestine. The colors are very specific to Ramallah and the West Bank areas. This is the traditional Palestinian wear — you would wear this everyday if you wanted to or you could wear this to church or weddings and special occasions too.”

“I  have these bracelets that are also from Palestine and they’ve been passed down generationally. This one is from my grandma (top) and this one is from my mom (bottom). My mom has six or seven of them and I  would know when she was coming in because I  would hear the jingle When I get married, I’m suppose to put them on my right wrist. I  don’t know the meaning behind that, but it was told to me when I  was 15 when I got these.”

More Participants

Lontia | Marylin | Amy | Jasmine | Christie | Geraldine | Patricia | Laura | Angela & Diana | Tsedaye | Eddie | Lola | Briana | Simone | SINI | Italy | Ekua | Anika | Reem | Bobo | Kei | Macy | Sarah | DaMonique | Nandi | Anise | Yadira

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