Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories

Sistah Lois

March 16, 2021 Sistah Lois Season 1 Episode 10
Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories
Sistah Lois
Show Notes Transcript

Sistah Lois
Youtube
IG: @sistahafrikan

Mentioned:
Jade Electra | DJ Relentless
Louise Cloverly Bennett

Our conversation with Sistah covered her time growing up in Manitoba, moving out to Toronto with her son, encounters with racism, and her joy of music and the arts. A section of our conversation will be shared in a later episode where she recounts her experience working for CN Railway. 

Bio:
Sistah Lois (pronounced “Loyce”) is an incredibly talented singer,  actor, creatrix across disciplines. She is, she says “a muddah, dawtah, sistah, afrikan princess, is a dynamic OGEdutainer and musical messenger.” 

Born in Trinidad,  she lived in the Caribbean and in the UK as a child.  She has lived in Canada since she was eight years old.  Reverend Kelly Addison, of KGL TV near Toronto, Canada, calls her “a national treasure.”   Those who are lucky enough to spend time in the presence of the wise and wonderful Sistah Lois, would heartily agree.

Known for decades in Toronto for her strong voice, both when she rises it in song and when she speaks out as an activist and artist. 

“I explore spiritual, musical, creative, rebellious journey and lifestyle experiences from these diverse cultural challenges coupled with non-traditional labour logistical backgrounds,” she says, explaining the scope of her work.  “I wish to expound about the experience of a black feminist telling how I survived varied assaults all along with the how and why our cause goes still ignored in the age of the #metoo (who2) movement.” 

Sistah Lois awakens, inspires, motivates, Educates, Entertains, and Energizes Audiences…

Take Notice w Sistah


[00:01 – 05:31]

Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Welcome to Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories. I am your host Allison Preisinger-Heggins. The mission of this project is to Take Notice, to listen, to hold space by amplifying Black stories, experiences and voices; Conversations on family life, finding joy and interest of folks in our country and around the world who encounter racism on a daily basis. A portion of these discussions will be dedicated to holding space for guests who are comfortable sharing their personal experiences with racism. Stories help us all learn and connect; we are here to listen to Take Notice, thank you for being with us. Let us take a moment to recognize to Take Notice of the voices that are so often unheard. Land acknowledgement statements are an important part of honoring those whose land we now live and work on. I have chosen to begin each episode this way to spark ideas and keep these conversations in the front of our minds, so that we may learn how to do better. 

I would like to acknowledge the land on which this episode was created. I would like to show gratitude to the traditional ancestral land of the Shoalwater Bay and Chinook tribes, recognizing that these names are not the original names of the people of these areas. As I continue to learn how to better acknowledge native people of these lands, I will adjust the wording of the beginning of each episode. I encourage listeners to research the land on which you live and are listening right now, recognizing this is just the beginning. Welcome to another episode of Take Notice and thank you for being with us. My guest for this episode, connected with us all the way from Toronto Canada, which brings me to point out that we should expand the wording in our mission to include the entire world, instead of just this country when we talk about people of color and Black people being confronted with racism on a daily basis. 

Something we will take a look at and I did kind of adjust for this episode's mission statement that I read, just a moment ago. My guest for this episode is a deeply talented storyteller, musician, and all-around human. She goes by many names but prefers Sistah and I apologize, Sistah that I pronounce your name incorrectly, at least once in our conversation, not Sistah but Lois, so apologies. Our conversation went so long that I had to cut a section out to share with you for a later special episode, most of our time together was my absorbing Sistah’s wisdom and stories, which I could have done for even longer than we did. She shares a poem in the middle of our conversation that I could listen to over and over, so much truth weave together in just a few minutes, and so I am excited for you all to hear that. Sistah was born in Trinidad, lived in the Caribbean and in the UK as a child; she has lived in Canada since she was eight years old. 

Reverend Kelly, Addison of KGLTV near Toronto Canada calls her a national treasure and those who are lucky enough to spend time in the presence of the wise and wonderful Sistah Lois would heartily agree. Known for decades in Toronto for her strong voice, both when she raises it in song and when she speaks out as an activist and artist. Sistah Lois awakens, inspires, motivates, educates, entertains and energizes audiences. I want to give you all a quick heads up that we struggled a bit with technology for this episode. So thanks for bearing with us, on the sound quality I appreciate you listening and I know you are going to enjoy this episode. Sistah Lois is definitely a treasure. I think we worked it out enough for a very enjoyable listen. So, thanks for being here, please enjoy my conversation with Sistah. Take Notice would like to take the time to acknowledge Black owned businesses, organizations and artists. 

If you have a suggestion of, who we should highlight during our episodes, please find us on social media or visit our website. Black mama's matter alliance is a Black women-led cross-sectorial alliance, they center Black mamas to advocate, drive research, build power and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights and justice. Their goals include changes in policy, cultivating research, advanced care for Black mamas and to shift culture by redirecting and reframing the conversation on Black maternal health and amplifying the voices of Black mothers. To learn more and support, please visit Blackmamasmatter.org. How do you prefer to be…? 


Sistah Lois 

Sistah…


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Sistah Lois or just Sistah…? 


Sistah Lois 

Sistah Lois, l-o-i-s is actually pronounced l-o-y-c-e. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, okay. Yes. 


Sistah Lois 

Yeah. So, you could say Lois, just call me by my first name, my granny called me but nobody ever calls me Lois. But a lot of people just call me Sistah and I have a lot of pseudonyms because I do a variety of styles of work in different communities, and pseudonyms, and super case become part of that positioning, you know. So, you might be walking with me down the street and think, you and I are really close and you know my name, and at least five different people will go by and call me five different things and you will be like, god, I knew you, right? It is like that. 


[05:32 – 10:29]

Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Well, I would love to hear about… so you said you grew up in Manitoba. Is that right? 


Sistah Lois 

Yes. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Can you kind of explain where you grew up and who you are surrounded by? And maybe explain where Manitoba is because a lot of the listeners, I think are in the states and including me I am not as familiar with all the territories and things. 


Sistah Lois 

Okay. Alright, so you are in Washington, above Washington State is a portion of British Columbia and Alberta, above the Dakotas and Montana is Saskatchewan Manitoba. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Okay. Yeah, so very cold there… 


Sistah Lois 

Yeah, extremely cold there… And very flat as far as the eye can see, a fella from Winnipeg wrote once in a song, the land around is slapped, slapped, slapped, just like perfect the line in a song, right? Because it is the reality, it is the bump that if you blink you would not see it, that is how we felt back then. But now that I have been away for years and I get a chance to go back to do different work, I am like, this is like, this was okay, it was great but this was okay. Now, the story, oh who was I surrounded by, oh I had lots of family, lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of family, aunts, cousins, and some cousins that were so much older than me in years, that I called them aunt and uncle. My father came from a family of 13 and he was number eight. So, by the time he came along, there were kids of number two and three, you understand that were his age or older and I know I just recently in November buried an aunt, who was the 13th of the 13. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, wow! 


Sistah Lois 

And she was the same age as one of her older sister's daughters, who I have always called auntie because she is like got so many years on me but she was really a cousin. You understand but it is the years, right? So, yeah, I had a lot of family, expanded family, on the prairies, before we knew about Blackness, we called each other Sarah’s children and so if you see another Sarah child, coming up the street, coming down the street for however far, you are crossing the street to wave at them, to nod at them, to engage them, find out who they might be related to, you might know because they could be from the loyalists people that came up from Alberta, or they could be nova scotia people, or they could be someone from Barbados, or whatever, who might know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody. So, the idea of us being like a tribe was something I kind of grew up with. I am going to stay away for a second and come back, so much so that when my son and I first came to Ontario, our first walk out, we saw a person of color walking towards us, and we had our smiles all at the ready as we were getting closer, and that person reached out and punched my son, right in the neck. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, no. 


Sistah Lois 

I just kept walking and we both were so like culture shocked, we were like oh my god, how dare you, my god, and we were like, I guess the whole Sarah child thing is not really here, boy. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, Wow!


Sistah Lois

Right. So, I mean we found out later that that neighborhood was the neighborhood close to where the Canadian mental health association had their building. So, it might have been a mad person, I do not know, we do not know but it was still a shock. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Okay. 


Sistah Lois 

Like a huge Shock, while you have your smiles and your greetings and your heart all are ready to meet somebody and then whoop, right? Anyhow, back to Winnipeg… so, yeah in Winnipeg, we had family, not just in Winnipeg, like I still have people all the way out all BC Chilliwack, Albert’s Fort, Abler Foil, Vancouver, Victoria, the island, all the way through red deer, Edmonton. I have a cousin that is working in Fort McMurray right now; we are all the way down. I have cousin still in Saskatoon, and Regina, and little small towns on the outskirts of Winnipeg and then of course! Winnipeg. 

[10:30 – 15:04]

Sistah Lois 

And I am over here but that used to be a one-off thing but not anymore. Now I have people in Milton and Canora and all over Ontario. So, yeah we have really kind of moved around my family and as I told you, it was a very large clan on my dad's side, and fairly large, although only four on my mother's side but her baby sister had like six or something or seven and so, they all had kids, so, yeah we are fairly large. Like people laugh at me because on Facebook or what is the other thing, IG, social media. People will send me things and I will always be saying thanks baby cousin, and people are like how many baby cousins do you have, it is usually like a surprise and because of it, in Manitoba, I was there to watch things change or even after, long after I left things finally changed, so that the first Black policeman or the first Black female policeman or the first Black female coroner that they have right now, all those people, were people who I used to braid their hair every Sunday when they were little kids, their parents would bring them to my mom's house, so I was like I knew you was babies and now you are like these people. 

You know what I mean? In isolated places, the way racism works and how long it takes for people to break through and so, I often think about the things I did not get but I feel that… but you were a pioneer too because just your being there and being present and doing the few things, you did do, made it possible for them, to be the first of.


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Sistah Lois 

And so, they may not tell me that, and I am not looking for anyone to thank me, it is just an observation, it is just that anyone who took the lashes first, the first blows, will be the ones who often times may go unnoticed. But, you are not taking the first blows for gratitude; you are taking it because it is something that just has to be done. We have someone has to break down barriers; someone has to force doors open and keep their foot in it. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Sistah Lois 

So, yeah, so surrounded by all kinds of people, I wanted to tell you a particular story about my love of music. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Sistah Lois 

I still love music and I still play the piano, and I did not really… our family, my dad did not purchase a piano for our family until I was almost fifteen. But, from about age eight, maybe eight, nine, in the little school that I was going to… piano was taught as an extracurricular activity, and only to the chosen few, who maybe their parents might have paid  something who knows. But, there was a young woman, who I guess realized that I had an interest, and I think the first couple times she did it, she did not know, she was breaking a rule, well she knew she was breaking a rule but she did not know how much trouble she was getting in. But recess time, when it was recess time for my age group, she, a few years older than me. I think I was, maybe grade three and she was in grade nine, she was one of the few young women that taught the piano lessons and they would teach those piano lessons at a piano in the auditorium that was pushed up against the bottom of the stage. 

And you know what school auditorium looks like. On the back side of that auditorium, how you get into the stage, like from the little green room, there was a door that went outside, right to the playground. So, sometimes if she remembered, she would unlock the lock, which means that while everybody is playing and swinging and sliding and doing whatever, if I touch that knob and it gives… I just got to put my body in and lock it quickly behind me, and hope nobody saw me. Then I would tiptoe up the stage; lay on my belly, and between the curtain, and the edge of the stage looking down on the back of the piano, so that the fingers are going in the opposite direction, right? Backwards, I am paying attention to the lesson she is giving to the kids who are taking piano lessons and I did that 9, 9, 10, 11, 12, so seven years before we got a piano. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, wow! 


[15:05–20:05] 
 Sistah Lois 

And when we did get a piano, I was able to teach myself because I… well because it is where it started but everywhere I saw a piano player, I observed. I was always watching and trying to pick up but that was where I was hearing a lot of the stuff explained because she was giving a piano lesson. Now, I got in lots of trouble that was back in the day where you could get strapped, and my principal beat me like crazy, for not going outside and in addition of getting licks, you get letters sent home to your parents and I remember saying to someone once, I came home trying to like force stall problems and saying to my dad, I got in trouble in school today, seeing if I could get there first, and he was like they already called, in fact they sent a letter that you do not want to go outside for recess. I said daddy it has nothing to do with going outside but it is where the piano is, it is where the lessons are going on, that is what is holding my interest and so, he was like, oh well, are you willing to take the licks? I am like, if I have to. He says; well then lie on your belly and absorb all you can and one day we will get a piano and you will work it out.

 

Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

That is awesome!


Sistah Lois 

So, I did and I am not the greatest piano player in the world but I play, I accompany myself and I accompany others and, you know. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Wonderful! 


Sistah Lois 

So, yeah I got in trouble and I got licks and I thought I was getting in huge trouble with my family and years later because we are still friends. I was talking about it with the young lady, who used to leave the door unlocked for me and she said; oh my god! I am glad you brought that up; I used to get in trouble with my family too. I said; really? She said; yeah, they used to drag me in the office, and write letters to my father because her mom was visually impaired, so her mother could not read any letters and say how I was betraying our race by helping you. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Wow, really? 


Sistah Lois 

Yeah. She was English in Scott’s blend or something, and she was like, I said; oh my goodness! You had to carry that around, she was not that much older than me. So, she is like 16, 17, carry the weight of being a race betrayer. And, I know who we have in common because of the closeness of communities and I still see to this age, she is in her 60s, and she is still somewhat ostracized from those groups. They do not treat her same and I know a lot of it has to do with because she befriended this girl, and she broke all the rules by doing it, right? 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Sistah Lois 

And so sometimes we hope and wish that there is a time coming, where you do not have to feel like a rebel to be kind… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Sistah Lois 

Treat people decently. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Sistah Lois 

That is what basically she was, you know and I was considered a rebel for trying to steal this information, no one paid for you to have these piano lessons and I remember her saying to the principal but she is really quick, she is not bothering anybody, she is just picking it up on her own and he revealed and said; yeah, she is quick, that is why we do not need to give her any more help and I thought oh that was not very nice, I mean, but you are a little girl and you do not know about words like racism and ism, you just know there is all these little things that happen, where you are treated differently and blah… so, yeah, so that is the story of childhood and racism and then I am going to jump ahead to just 2019, right here in Toronto in our underground subway system. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Alright! 


Sistah Lois 

And as I told you, we grew up calling each other Sarah’s children, I never, it was not the southern states. The N-word was not a word that outside of reading Huck Finn, and Tom Sawyer, and whatnot, it was not something that was used. It might have been amongst like ballers, football players and basketball players with an A. I think I might have heard it occasionally but until certain kind of music changed, I really never heard it and when it was referred to in conversation because our indigenous people on the prairies were called the natives, every time I heard the N-word, I thought they were talking about the natives. I was a little girl and I was going by the treatment thing, the way the N-word people got treated in the states, I saw the pictures, I saw being hosed down from higher fire hydrants, and beating smashed up in the 60s and whatnot and so, you are a little girl, you are getting ideas and pictures mixed up with information and the people who were getting that really rough neck treatment that I could see on the prairies were the indigenous people. 

[20:06 – 25:17]

Sistah Lois 

So, I was thinking the N-word was for the natives, because that is an N-word too and I do not think I even was sure that I thought that, I think it is one of those things you just take for granted, and then you never talk it out with anyone, it is just information you have in your hand. But, I remember in the 80s, I think it was 89, my son and I, I got here in 88, and he got here a little bit later in 89. When he first started school here, he came home one day crying, and said; mom! Like you are really pissed off, like not sad but kind of like, why did not you tell me? I would betray him in some way by not telling him that we were. I said but we are not. Oh, no we are that is what all the Black girls at school told me, right? And I said; maybe it is just like an urban term and because we were living by the prairies which is kind of rural, and maybe we just do not get how they use it here, but I said; I do not think that is us, I do not think it is a word you want to attach yourself to, and I do not think I remember him ever outside of the occasional certain music that had it in it. I do not think I ever heard him say it, right? 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Sistah Lois 

So, it is not something that was used by us or by people we knew or loved, right? So, imagine my shock, when in October 2019, I think I am the only one on the elevator going down to the trains and I only recognize there is someone behind me, when I hear you effing and of course, Bitch, Slut, and Whore and every kind of word that you can say about women, right? And he kept saying Nigger, Nigger, Nigger, Nigger, in between everything over and over, Nigger this, Nigger that, constantly. But, the gist of the whole thing, outside of the words was that how sorry he was that we were not in the US of A, first he said Detroit or maybe even New York, because he could pull out a gun right here, bam smash flam, and shoot me down and no one would care or mourn my death, and he could just step over me and go about his business and I do not know how far it was from the first floor to the trains but it felt like forever. 

And I had my back turned to him but it was like his spit was going by me and on to the glass, right? And at the same time that all that was happening, my only thing I could get out, I was so big and just so… I hummed… which are the first four notes of all Canada, the national anthem, and it was kind of like, maybe I am rebellious even in the face of what could have been dangerous. You know what I mean? Because it was really dangerous, but the saddest part of it was, he would not stop when we got downstairs, he followed me onto the train and kept cussing and then he spit on me and as I sat there cleaning his spittle off my eyelashes and off my face. I looked around and I saw there is six or seven people on the train, who were like pulling their scarves up, and looking down in books, and pulling phones up to their face to ignore the situation, and pretend like they did not see and I was like, wow! When I was a little girl in Winnipeg, walking to school in the morning, and the polish mamas would spit on us, they would never hit you, they would always spit right close to your eyelash or whatever, they never spit on you, right? 

They just spit in your vicinity, there was always some other mother, maybe a Ukrainian or Italian mother who would say; oh, that is not nice or something, you know. So, you knew that there was someone who might be noticing. This is 2019 and this happened to me on TTC, they did not miss me, they hit me smack on, and not a soul saw. Oh, I know they saw but not a soul would look up. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Sistah Lois 

And I just came home and of course! I wrote a piece about it because art is how I save myself and I wrote a piece called the first four notes, where I talk about the first four notes of the national anthem, and a bunch of other songs, that we immediately, our hearts go to when certain things happen and… well we cannot sing that because it costs money but you know what I am saying, there is melodies that that first four notes will take you there. Now everybody knows she is a brick house, right? You want to sing the rest, right? Or… you know first four notes are really very important to us. We just have not taken the time and so if that had not happened to me, I would have created this beautiful piece about the first four notes. 

[25:18 – 30:10]

Sistah Lois 

And how they evoke either a sense of safety or security or sameness or familiarity or home, and then I thought if you had time, I have a piece about home that I wanted to share with you. Do you have time? 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Absolutely, I would love to hear that. 


Sistah Lois 

Okay. It is called where we all want to go. Oh, we have been wailing and crying out for far too long, we have been screaming internally too, and fighting loud, and the battle's been strong, to find a, oh… we feel we need to be long, still, we hold tight, living in our visions, we have kind of settled into imagination, yes the wailing and the crying that we have done for far so long, with our heads and shoulders bowed down, silently we have been fighting out, while really, kind of unable to scream loud and strong, because we are bearing this weight, and this shame of someone else's atrocity. Now, we all know we are us genocide tale, it is been told but how we were taken from home on big ships as chattel, and they were sure that we would all forget or at least some folks hoped, that would be a distant memory, that we deny, and we would neglect, they would deny, and we would be compelled to forget, while we would be filling up on all these new gods, and the new kings, and these books, Qurans and Torahs and bibles, and all our ancestralized spirits were abandoned, because now we have learned holier words, like fucking god damn! 

Heritage of self-determination, self-respect, and self-reliance, wow! Once we were free in a state in nature but now it is all been replaced by this thing called golden rules. So, willingly we swallow all of that bamboozle, the frank and Duffy and delft culture, are worse, we learn to turn our every other cheek. So, complacent to be girl and boy toys, and tools of someone else's trade, nevertheless our inner cells is always recollected, come on, you cannot tell me you forgot, you have got DNA proof, that is what documents from whence we all descended, while we were being taught amongst ourselves to fuss and fret and fight against Africa as a continent, refer to it as Africa, a throwaway country, no honey it is 60 plus countries. First we feared it, and then we rejected it. For more tangible delusions and the dreams, so now we are caught up in this new thing, it is a new Blackness; it is Black lives matterness, for this generation we are trying to strive to settle in a stranger's space, fighting each other for a stolen land, knowing we all once had land to call our own. 

And then you watch how the people that are indigenous to this place, are not treated any better, in fact they are more of an outcast in the race and even I and I is a recent immigrant, we can find a hustle, we can find some scam along the way until the reality of the native raping seeks in and it all comes to light, and we realize, we are caught up, where they would been killed off and robbed, we were brought up to fill a dead Indian’s place to help carry someone else's waste, and to make haze, as we race to climb somebody else's ladder, and to keep pace with a rhythm that is not anything like our own, because now it is money. Money is the god, we got the bling-bling, and we got possessions that are the new motherland, wow! 

[30:11 – 35:18]

Sistah Lois 

And the complexity of the complicity of our emotions that are revoked, when we hear people say; why do not you all just go back home… we wish we could, you see, we always knew where home was, I walk in my home, my heavens are my home. So, I know where my words are coming from. I hope you know where you are coming from or people talk about we are marching to Mount Zion. Well, some of us might be but Mount Zion is not where I am heading. You see Mount Zion is not even some place I am planning to go. Mount Zion, my mountain is where I have to dwell each and every day that is home for me. So, each time that I allow my heart to look only as Africa, as a cabin land, as my motherland. Every time I can see… well it is got all these possibilities. In fact in this Black skin, my possibilities are endless. I have the eve gene. I can bring every possible kind of child onto the planet. So, personally I should just be striving every day to just fill my well with the things that feed my being. 

I want to utilize the Phoenician alphabet more because that is ours and it is our art and our words and these are our songs and our melodies. We need to reclaim them. I am going to reclaim them. As you can see I have recovered some of my clothing in my headdress, but I am still working on building a strong mind, on reclaiming my confidence. You see, these thoughts are not just dreams because I know a few folks that had been some dreams, this is not that, these are vain hopes, these are visions, they are not just lost in imagination, these are things, I have an intention to take back because change cannot come from wishing, change has to come from intentionality, to take back all the things that you were forced to leave behind, that is how we reclaim. That is where we want to go. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Thank you Sistah, that was so beautiful! Oh, taking it in. 


Sistah Lois 

It is heavy and yet it is light too. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Oh, yeah. 


Sistah Lois 

It is heavy, it is light, and there is laughter… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

So much! Yeah. Oh it is, so… 


Sistah Lois 

But if we could not laugh we would be crying all the time, come on. So, I heard a comedian the other day say something about, do not have to ask Black people how they feel, they created the blues, there is a whole genre of music that tells you exactly how we feel it. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Sure, enough. Yeah. Oh, wow! Oh, that is so beautiful! Is that a new piece for you or is it somewhere you can find? 


Sistah Lois 

No, but it is a timely piece. I am forever writing, and I just recently received a theater projects grant from the Ontario arts council, and it was something that I took so long to apply for because I did not know, you know, I came to art late in life, even though I came to art early in life. The first part of my life was all about singing for Jesus, and then I came away from that and I started doing very non-people things. I am a machinist and a heavy-duty diesel equipment mechanic by trade. So, I only worked with machines for a very long time and just left people at the side and then when I got fairly damaged at work, I fell back into music and while singing music, acting doors open for me because my voice could be used to do a variety of things and I am very grateful for that avenue. But, what it is also done and revealed to me is that sometimes old people see you and you think they are joking and talking and silliness and you ignore them. 

[35:19 – 40:18]

Sistah Lois 

There is a well-known Jamaican poet by the name of Louise Coverley Bennett, who really made Patwa popular by taking it to the world, and her books, and her stories, and telling people. Patwa is a language in English, it is not some sort of little derivative, I had opportunity to meet her once, actually more than once but this particular time was the very first time we met and I had volunteered at this event, just because I wanted to get to see her. And, so I volunteered to do child care because I knew she would be doing stories with the kids and I do not mind sitting on the floor with some children. Well, it became my job to get them to… when she was trying to come tell the stories and somehow in that process, I guess I must have revealed something about myself because she leaned over, once she found her sitting spot, and she said; are you a storyteller? And I said; no, I am not. She said; oh, yes you are. I said; oh really? She said; yeah. She said; one day they will be calling you Trine Lou. 

Well, before she said that she said what is your name, and I went to tell her my name, and she would sweat like this, as if to say do not bother to tell me your name because one day they will call you Trine Lou, because she was miss Lou, right? And from Jamaica, Jamaica Lou, so she thought Trine-Trinidadian Lou. So, I said; how did you know I was Trinidadian? Because at that time I did not think I had any accent, right? I was recently from the prairies. She said; oh I got it, I could hear it in you. I said; really, so I have some. She said; oh yeah, it is there, it is there and she went on to do what she came here to do and just October last year, there was a family who owned a restaurant in the city, who would also volunteer at this event and they were serving food. So, when Miss Lou made the statement to me, there are only two adults there, these two elders that were serving the food, heard her say that to me. 

And for years, every time I would go into their restaurant or even call for something, if I wanted to make an order and the person was just not like getting what I was trying to say, I was like, just tell them it is Trine Lou, or I would be like walk in the door, and they would all go Trine Lou, and they would be. But, it was only this particular family, but now nobody knows that because she died, and they have died, and the only one who knows the story, now is me. But did I know that life was going to take me to a place where I would end up telling stories and I would be Trine Lou. So, I just laugh at them like I need to write something one day and part of it has to encompass that story, there has to be some honor given to the storytellers, who come before, who sometimes see potential in you that you do not see in yourself. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. 


Sistah Lois 

So, for her to call me that Trine Lou, for me to be where I am at now, where I am actually telling stories, you know. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. There is this question that I ask every guest, and I would love to hear your answer. The question is what would make you feel seen as genuinely equal? 


Sistah Lois 

I do not know if equality ever exists on the planet. I look at the feminist movement and I, as my mother always pointed out to me, we do not need the same kind of emancipation, that melanin rejected women require from their husbands. The same kind of things that the oppressor practiced on all other nations, they first practiced on their own women, and thinking about that I realized, so we are looking for different kinds of equality. She said; of course! When we worked in cane and cotton fields, we did not get a break to make babies, we had to keep going and do everything in the one shot, you lay down or you stand up, we did not even used to lay down to make babies. So, I thought oh, so we are never going to be equal to white women, and we do not want to be equal to the melanin rejected because of their experiences with the men that oppress the planet and then we looked at, well, African men, they have massage noise, they have misogyny, all these little mucho, macho, machismo behaviors, and where do those come from. 

And then she said; well, it seems that way in this society, but if you are looking at how they would be in their natural setting, everyone has their job, everyone has their place, and everyone has a task and so those things enhance each other. Those things work together as a unit. 

[40:19 – 45:03]

Sistah Lois 

And so equality is not something that anyone seeks today, it might feel like you are on the bottom and this afternoon because of the task, the family is involved in, you know how more than anyone else. So you are the top and those things vary. I just thought mama might have a clue; the very interesting response is that the top and the bottom, like yin and yang is a cycle, so there is no equality. If you want just like a balance, this is my half and this is your half, but the equality is not working in that circle as a unit brings equality. Thank you so much for asking me that question. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Thank you for your answer. Thank you so much. I would love to hear where people can find your work and any other organizations or artists that you want to support through this platform as well; I would love to hear those things before we are all finished up. 


Sistah Lois 

Well, I belong to… what you call a house and the mother of my house is the name of Jade Electra, Jade Electra is drag queen, when Jade Electra is not a drag queen, Jade Elektra is a DJ, called DJ relentless and DJ relentless does a lot of work around town to help people mingle, started off with the positive, HIV positive group of people and then he said; you know what, it cannot be just us, like more people are in this struggle trying to work to bring people to another level of understanding, and to build community. So, I want to throw out a hail up, the people should check out the music of Jade Electra and DJ relentless, someone I love. I want to throw out M-DOR Bessie Phillip, a playwright; she won the 2019 pen award. So, you can Google her, I want to throw out a big up to my grandchildren in Australia because you may not recognize because of the distance how much you are loved and how much I want nothing but good things and I want you all to win and to do the best. 

So, I always want to throw love out in their direction. To my son wherever he is at this time, I want him to know, he is always loved. About myself, I have several YouTube stations, YouTube Black Sash Sistah Louis, once you are in there, it will let you know about Sistah new vision and Sistah Omni love diva, which are my other stations. So you will find them there. On IG, Instagram, I am under Sistah African, and on Facebook it is Sistah Lois, two separate word, Lois is l-o-i-s, a Sistah with an H and where else can you find me. I have a few little things, I am forever writing and creating and putting things up somewhere and my desire is to amalgamate and pull my life together for a long time, long before COVID, I would say, there is all kinds of young people who know this computer thing. I do not need to learn this. 

I just need to write good songs, to write good poems, go out and do my thing and I will just bring these people in, you know. Well, COVID has made it that you cannot do that; you need to learn to do that stuff yourself and so, I am in a position where I need to learn about what the right equipment is for the job, and just I need to gain some confidence with not being so afraid about which buttons for this and blah… but I am coming along, I am coming along slowly and I am very happy that you were willing to be so patient with me, very happy that I am learning this thing, I see it is the future, it is how we may not get back into theaters, and this is how we are going to be communicating. So, I am trying to figure out ways that this African princess can meet with her community, even though she does not leave her dates, but which is kind of cool too. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Right. 


Sistah Lois 

Just wrap your hair up and throw on a clean shirt and you are like… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yes. 


Sistah Lois 

Something to be scared about this COVID business… 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yes. I hear you. Oh, thank you so much for joining me and sharing your stories, and your wisdom, and your life, for this project and for Take Notice. I definitely want to stay connected and maybe get some more stories recorded of yours in the future…


Sistah Lois 

That would be lovely!


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

That would be wonderful! And also I would love to help you figure out your tech stuff as well, so just… 


Sistah Lois 

That will be great! 


[45:04 – 46:25]

Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Stay connected; let me know if I can help in any way. 


Sistah Lois 

And I love the name, ‘taking notice’. We need to be seen, everyone wants to be seen, and the greatest fear is to die in obscurity. So, thank you so much for taking notice. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Absolutely! 


Sistah Lois 

You have added that little bit more value to me today and so, I will have more joy the next story I tell because you took notice today. So, it is like such a highly appropriated on point title. I love it! Thank you. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Yeah. Thank you, I appreciate that. Yeah. I am glad. Wonderful! Thank you very much, Sistah Lois. 


Sistah Lois 

Thank you very much for sharing your time, your act, your craft, and yeah we are going to get together again because you are going to show me some stuff, some computer stuff. 


Allison Preisinger-Heggins 

Absolutely! Thank you for joining us for Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories. Please subscribe and follow us on social media, we are at Take Notice podcast; it would really help us out, if you could take a couple of minutes to review our podcast. Thank you for your support. Take Notice: Amplifying Black Stories is produced, hosted and edited by Allison Preisinger-Heggins, co-produced by Amanda Rae, music by Version Big Fi featuring Darius Higgins. Thank you for being with us and thank you for taking notice.