Now that I am living in France, Sarah and I are not able to visit in person with each other every week as we have been so lucky to do these past several years. In anticipation of this paradigm shift, we performed our migration songs in special places around Brussels so we could share them with you on the days we are each ensconced in our homes on either side of the Belgian-French border.
Today, we bring you a song we wrote with friends from foreign places, residents of Petit-Château, and a friend from Gaza who had lived at the center and came back for a visit. The day we met for poetry and songwriting, there were brand new, enormous stickers urging residents against feeding the pigeons. They were not at all subtle, and we began an entire conversation around the idea of not biting the hand that feeds you. One friend mentioned that perhaps the idea was that a hand can heal and be helpful so the sticker was meant for the pigeons to not be afraid of the people.
I want to feed the birds, she cried out. This line found a place in the song, a metaphor for fighting for what we believe in.
We also talked about how to cultivate empathy for strangers. Another participant suggested thinking of a stranger as a child, alone and afraid in a room. Your heart cannot help but open to the vulnerable. You want to gather them in your arms and help them feel better.
We shifted still to the idea of opening our hearts to love ourselves as well. This dialogue inspired the line toward the end, Are you a stranger or really my own Self?
It is easier to respond to what is different with fear. It is easier to surround ourselves with the familiar; that which is tangible, religious, spiritual, and philosophical. However, in this static existence we will not grow or learn or expand beyond the borders of our own being.
We present this song from an alleyway we discovered while exploring the Gay Quarter in downtown Brussels. I had wanted to sing in front of a large mural that was painted on the side of a building across from the RainbowHouse, but the mural was in the process of being repainted. I was at first extremely disappointed. When we walked around a corner and discovered an entire series of poignant paintings I was overjoyed to find something new and beautiful.
It is in letting go of attachment to how the world should be or how we want it to be and embracing what is that we come to learn the most about our Selves and everyone and everything around us.
This embrace is especially important during a pandemic, when we are encouraged to keep our distance from one another. In Brussels, Pride events were cancelled due to COVID but the message of Pride, social justice, and tolerance must transcend all else.
Even while Belgium was the second country in the world to legalize gay marriage, there is a lot of hidden, untold history about the gay movement in the country. The first Pride I was living in Brussels, I went on am LGBTQ+ walking tour of the downtown area. The tour guide told us that it was never safe to be out in the city and that gay bars did not exist. Instead, there would be a kind of traveling bar scene and people had to find out about the venue by word of mouth, knock at the door of the address, and ask to be let in. The entire social scene was underground, and Brussels was not an open place. On the surface, the city seems more open now. There are crosswalks with rainbow colors painted in between the white stripes. I noticed this first in the Gay Quarter back in 2017 and have seen more pop up all over the city. I do not walk through the world as a queer person, so I cannot ever purport to know what this experience is like. I stand for queer rights, and as with every Monday on the Move, our message is one of freedom, celebration of diversity, cultural exchange, and pride in the unique essence of every individual being.
To learn more about the writing of this song, visit: Guiding Song: The hand that hurts can also heal