I met Abraham Gibson at THE WAVE CAFE over a month ago where he performed a poem that he had written for the groups amazing project which successfully embraces people with additional needs as a valued part of the community. WAVE= We Are Valued Equally. While speaking about the success of the evening, Abraham told me that he performs poetry around Europe, so naturally I went straight to Youtube when I reached home and discovered this diamond of a poem.
Abraham is highly talented and presents his work beautifully. I love the delicacy of the subject that is literally hammered home with a passion! Subtitled 'Black and White Love,' there is no mistaking the bonds that shackle these two highly colourful salt of the earth friends together. With loyalty and integrity these women are happy to face the wrath of anyone who dares cross their personal boundaries. Nancy is having none of it when Riva is subjected to racist behaviour during her hospital stay and she literally went into warrior mode; which must have taken people by storm as racism was clearly embedded within society and especially public institutions therefore people would not have expected Nancy to react in that way.
What is interesting about the structure of Nancy and Riva is that Nancy seems to be the predominant characterso you wonder where the friendship sprang from. We do not discover until the end of the poem that Riva approached and supported Nancy during the 'worst winter of her life.' It is what is not said that speaks as clearly as the words. Riva is the observer, she is strong, comfortable to be around and sarcasm will roll off her like water off a duck's back because she sees beyond the obvious. Riva probably came to the UK on a promise and found the reality not just disappointing but totally shocking. It may have taken a great deal of courage for her to knock on Nancy's door, but I imagine Nancy had lost her husband and Riva would have been aware of this therefore her humanity overcame fear. They may well have passed each other occasionally however there may well have been some naturally scepticism about one another and they may well have remained virtual strangers for many years.
The background information is critical to the piece. You can feel how saddened Nancy has become with the demise of the estate where she has lived for 55 years. Despite the druggies and pitbulls these two ladies clearly worked at maintaining there dignity and see themselves as a few steps removed from their neighbours. Abraham's storytelling, character portrayals and especially the interactions between Nancy and Riva are gripping yet whilst the humour flows we are left with a feeling of underlying sadness. Who will miss Nancy and Riva? What will happen in the long term to tenants of the estate? And how can racism and other crimes ever be tackled successfully in a world full of closed minds and ever dwindling resources? I have replayed this so many times now and it is a poem that lends itself to debate- maybe it should be in the school literature curriculum!
Jaz McKenzie~The Word Magician