What part of your body do you love and why?
I love my wrists to my fingertips because I adorned them with tattoos that reflect some of the most pivotal moments in my life. Each adinkra symbol tells a story of triumph, and the ink that is fading on my fingers supports the vision I have for my future. The fern is on the inside of my left forearm; it reminds me that I can get through anything. The symbol of interdependence is the one tattoo I share with my cousins - it’s a reminder that together we can do the impossible. The last symbol on my left arm, the one furthest up my arm is the symbol of transformation. I got it while on tour in 2008, at a stop in New Orleans, after deciding that an ex-boyfriend’s marriage was my salvation. In the space between my right thumb and pointer is the symbol of the altar; it reminds me that my body is my temple. And the tattoo gifted me by my tribe of sister-friends is spread across four fingers - the north star on the pointer, followed in script on the other fingers Harriet Tubman Dreams. I adorned my temple as Jahan did the Taj Mahal for his wife - with love and gratitude.
When do you feel most powerful?
I feel most powerful when I am creating something - a curriculum, an outfit, a poem, a meal. The challenge then is knowing that it is perfectly matched with the power to destroy. As such, I feel equally as powerful when I am able to deconstruct or destroy a thing. I see destruction as a path for the phoenix. And when I have destroyed something, I sleep easy knowing that growth and new life is on the other side of it for myself and/or others.
What quality in your character best describes your spirit?
Relentless. When a colleague told me I was the Harriet Tubman of Dreaming, I knew, even more than she could imagine, how spot on she was. I do the thing others tell me is insane, over the top, too much in service of others. I thrive on witnessing other people getting free.
Scar Story: Tell the story of a scar on your body, heart or spirit. All scars are not visible, that doesn’t mean the wound is not real.
I was 15 years old, rocking my cheerleading uniform in the auditorium. A young man, not too much younger than me was sitting next to me and points to my thigh, “Eww you have cellulite.” I rolled my eyes. My mom had cellulite on her upper thighs, and my body looked nothing like my mom’s. I was an athlete. I wasn’t overweight. I couldn’t possibly have cellulite. When I finally got in front of a mirror, I was confused. No cellulite to be found. Then, I applied pressure. There it was, hiding beneath the surface. I was mortified, disgusted, embarrassed. I couldn’t understand how I could be so active and still have something I only attributed to bodies that were uncared for.
There were special creams, covering my legs in plastic wraps, brushing my skin, and oh so many articles. As I got older, less active, and gained more weight, the cellulite needed no pressure at all to show. Eventually I just stopped showing my legs above my knees, and stopped wearing particular types of fabric, that accentuated the bumpy flesh beneath.
My romantic relationships suffered most, even with other aspects of my body in great shape, I was never able to lose the cellulite. Therefore, I was unwilling to stand in front of my partner with the lights on, without needing to cover my legs.
It took hearing a story about a friend that painted her stretch marks and seeing her body as a work of art and years of affirmation from my lover to finally accept my fate. Nevertheless, you still won’t catch me in spandex leggings without a pattern!
My Fly Is Public Art.
Sallomé Hralima, 33, Brooklyn, NY