Tag Archives: soca

Soca Novice

Full disclosure: I have never been to a Soca party in my life.

As the daughter of a Trini-born woman, though I’ve been to Trinidad twice and stayed a month both times, I have only been to Carnival there once. The first time I went, I was a spoiled Yankee brat. The second time I went, I was a fully depressed mess.

I was born in Brooklyn and for many years my mom took my brother and I to the Labor Day Parade on Eastern Parkway and the Kiddie Carnival behind the Brooklyn Museum.  I’ve eaten coconut jelly, coconut meat, coconut water, sugar cane, Coucou, Roti, Doubles, Sorrel (OMIGOD I LOVE SORREL) Mauby, Ginger Beer that my mom used to make every Summer. I’ve grown up with Calypso, Reggae and Soca being played in the house daily. But I have never been to a Soca party.

To be fair, I’ve never really been that much of a party person. There was a short stint for about a year or so in my late 20s when I did a lot of dancing at Pop Rocks, The Pyramid and Lime Light but most of these were very Gay situations and so I felt relatively confident that I did not have to fight off grabby hands or other unwanted advances on the dance floor which was one of my main concerns. In my American mind, the only reason to go out to a party is to meet people and since I’m married and haven’t been single in over ten years, I just do all my wild dancing at home or on the odd occasion with a friend or two at clubs in the Village.

Soulsistah4real has been trying to get me to go to Carnival literally for years and I’ve always declined. My extroversion is very selective and jumping around in public half naked in bold colors is something I’ve only imagined enjoying as a spectator.  But this weekend while taping some footage to promote Soul Sistah Series next event, “Soca & Scotch,” I learned some new things about Soca dance, music, parties and culture that have really exposed my own Westernized ignorance. It enlightened me about the myriad ways in which my perceptions about sex and sexuality have been co-opted by the White Male gaze.

Throughout it’s history, White America  has always consistently and perversely stripped the meaning of so many African and Afro Caribbean cultural rituals in order to emphasize, overexpose  and market the elements of it that are sorely lacking in their own. This results in a prevalent misrepresentation of any bodily gyrations involved in our cultural ritual dances as “primitive,” “loose” and solely of a sexual nature, meant only to draw sexual advances and too often, sexual assault, which was one of the staples of European colonization. The mind that perceives this is that of the colonizer, the conqueror. It is the mind of patriarchy and it works most effectively in the minds of women.

For me, dance is a way to be overcome by feeling, to have a rhythm take control of my body and let my mind go. It’s one the easiest ways I know to decompress and connect to joy, playfulness and sensuality. The times when I’ve done this at a party with others have been unforgettable and definitively bonding times which can never truly be described in words. Dancing is a language all it’s own. The kind of energy shared when dancing in unison with others always makes me believe in the power of numbers. It’s possibly also why I like Karaoke so much. I can sing with people I don’t even really hang out or know very well and still be happy because we’re all singing together. People are different when they let loose or rather they are more a part of themselves that they don’t always get to show when they are trying to be instead of just being. In this way, music is like magic. The drumbeat is a spiritual conductor. This has always been inherent to Indigenous people of the Diaspora both in ancient times and now.  Rhythm is life and there is more going on in Soca dance than just the sexually titillating, and objectifying appropriation used to describe it by White media.

As I learned over the weekend, Soca music is primarily about dancing, making merry, drinking and finding a partner to do it with. It’s about feeling the vibes!  It is a celebration of life, of spirit, of culture and yes, the essence of that will often manifest itself in a sexual manner because sexuality is the reason we are all here right? Sex and life are inextricably linked. I will go even further than that and say that sexuality and the spirit are also inextricably linked.  It only becomes fragmented in it’s meaning when those who are sexually repressed or conditioned to believe that their bodies and feelings are dirty, sinful and forbidden enter the story. That’s why we have to reclaim our true stories and maintain our own culture so that we can continue to dance ourselves free.

Urban Eve

Droppin my Booty, Hosting an Arts & Culture Event and Praising the Ancestors


So this past week into the weekend has been very eventful and transformative and fun. I’m not used to having such a cluster of activity in my life and I am so thankful that Mercury went direct on June 11th just to ease up the flow of communication as it began.

Last Thursday, Khalilah, aka Soulsistah4real and I took a Soca class at Pearl Studios as part of some research for our next Soul Sistah Series event at the end of July.

More on that soon.

I have not taken a dance class in years so I was really excited and only minimally worried about what it would do to my ailing lower back and creaky knees. LOL!! Well it did nothing but make me sweat, smile and laugh with Khalilah and a bunch of good humored people and our really fun teacher, Kira. There were some steps that came to me instinctively, that my muscles remembered from taking African Dance as a girl and others that were totally new but I was open to it all. One thing I noticed was that in this one really simple move that I loved, I was really challenged by just dropping my butt over and over. I mean it was just dropping your butt to a beat and pushing your arms out to your sides. This is what happens when you don’t go to parties. So I’ve been practicing at home and sometimes at work when I’m waiting for the elevator. Droppin my butt, droppin my butt, oh hi! LOL!!

I also hosted a Creative Arts night event that I and my co-editor at my job have been working on for months. It was not as well attended as we would have liked but the panelists and their presentations were fantastic. Agunda Okeyo, a poet, writer, and activist from Nairobi, Dr. Randall Horton, a poet, and professor, Matt Sedillo, a slam poet from LA who presented remotely via recorded presentation and Farrah Shaikh a writer and painter spoke to the room and engaged Q&A as if it was a full house. Aslo I experienced a totally unexpected moment that had a meditative quality to it by way of a young man who participated in our open mic segment which I will discuss in a post later this week.


And lastly I attended the tribute to the ancestors at Coney Island with Khalilah on Saturday, an event that happens annually to “memorialize enslaves Africans who died at sea in their forced passage to the Americas.” I had been a few times as a young girl with both my parents but never really understood or paid attention to the great meaning it holds. We went for the entire program which started at 12:00 with great live musical performances, readings and just sharing of wisdom and love of the beauty of our race, our culture and our spirit and how to continue to support and promote that energy, growth and creativity. Then we all stood up to be lead by the drummer in a pray to the four corners before we headed out to the sea a few hours later to give our offerings to the ancestors on the water.

Did I mention that everyone was required to wear all white? Do you you understand how beautiful it is to be lying on a blanket in the sand with a good girlfriend, surrounded by brown people of all ages in white, listening to music and waves and smelling incense and sage and…well…herbs? LOL!

How good it is….

Urban Eve