In 22 years I have accumulated more tattoos than I can name. My body is a collage of revolutionary icons, spiritual truths and personal portraits of people that have saved my life in this fight.
When I tell people that I have a ” body suit” I’m always asked – ” What’s your favorite?” it always comes down to 2 things: the portraits of my grandparents and the stomach piece I have of a Hindu god. Pretty much everyone knows the story of my beloved grandparents and all they did for me in my Iife, but very few know the story of the Hindu god. And the truth is…. neither did I until very recently.
Now, while it’s true that I don’t just put anything on body, it could be fairly said that I may not know everything about each depiction. Sure- we mostly know the story of Malcolm X ‘ s life. Assata Shakur. Nelson Mandela. But, I also have Nigerian words on me like OGUN and ORISHA that may be deeper than the elementary definitions I know. And I probably took that route with the Hindu god. It looked so beautiful and mystic to me that I fell in love with it. I have studied Hinduism and Buddhism along with all the other major religions and as with all the other religions I have found a beauty, a strength, a knowledge, a meaning. But, a lesson would be taught to me…. or shall I say a reminder of how we manifest things from our inner into our outer.
I originally saw this picture in a Yoga magazine. Now, technically, I knew It was a god of love and devotion, but I never got the deities name. I got the work done in 2014 on Hughes Unit. It wouldn’t be until early this year that I found another picture of the deity and it cited his name:
The story and the parallels of this god’s life and my own would rattle me to my core. And I’d like to share that story and parallels.
Hanuman is the child of Kesari and Anjana. His spiritual father is Vayu.
First connection: Vayu is the wind-god. I am a Libra and Libras are AIR signs.
Second: Hanuman was expressed as a symbol of nationalism and resistance to persecution. He is viewed as the ideal combination of “strength, heroic initiative and assertive excellence”.
As one who stood against the death penalty this was the ultimate resistance to persecution (don’† forget the ” Drag Me ” protest done on the way to the Walls Unit https://youtu.be/QZ52gOhTN3s ) and to live 10 years in the bowels of death row it takes more than being heroic or strong – it takes the Love of the Universe to create a force Iike that.
Third: Hanuman played a role as a general in the army. My role in helping found D.R.I.V.E. on death row definitely made me feel like a General, but we all were just trying to give back. Servant Leaders. And Servant Leaders lead to see others succeed.
Fourth: In one story Hanuman mistakes the sun for a ripe piece of fruit and tried to snatch it. Indra intervened and struck his thunderbolt.
Hanuman fell to the earth dead. Shiva – the lord Hanuman is known for being extremely devote to- intervenes and resuscitates him and returns him to life. The anti-death penalty movement definitely resuscitated me and brought me “back to life”. Rose me from death row, now here able to carrying out my service to those I love.
Fifth: the last and most important story is that Hanuman was taken captive when he was on scout for his friend’s (Rama) wife (Sita). He is put to torture and his tail is put on fire by demon King Ravana. Hanuman evades the fire for a little while, but eventually his tail catches fire but he shrinks his size and escapes out a window – jumping rooftop to rooftop and in the process burns down the city as he gets away. Well, we all know how close I came to being set on a chemical fire (potassium chloride – ehh emm) and in the process gave ol’ Ricky Perry a run for his money- thanks to the CEDP and ISO setting the town of Austin in fire in the most amazing protest and activism known to our history. They haven’t gotten enough credit (see writing: ‘‘Saving Kenneth Foster: Speaking with Others in the Belly of the Beast of capital punishment,’’ by Jennifer Asenas, Bryan J. McCann, Kathleen Feyh, and Dana L. Cloud)
There may even be a few more, but I think you get the picture. I subconsciously attracted to this picture and it was a being that have gone through some similar things that I have. Imagination, fantasy or not…. there it is. But, that’s what humans do. We have imagined everything we know in life- from computers to virtual reality to space ships in the sky.
Below is a picture of Hanuman how it looks on my stomach- except on mine he has 6 arms (he has even been depicted with 5 heads though it’s uncommon).
At some point in our existence we created such deities in every culture. Zeus. Osiris. Odin. Thor. Shango. It is the YEARNING within to capture the side of us that is truly the most important – our spiritual essence. Our good essence. It’s hard to see in this world of madness, but it’s such devotees to strength and identity and love that keeps the human spirit alive. May it find a way to continue to live. Even if we have to remake mankind….. like we did thousands of thousands of years ago.
LONG LIVE HANUMAN!
PS: I must tell the story of the man that did the tattoo. After much scrutiny was coming down about jurors not always wanting to give out the death penalty so much, but wasn’t ok with possible release after 40 years for certain crimes…. the Legislator made the Life Without Parole for capital cases. The man that did this tattoo barely avoided the death penalty and was the FIRST to receive L-W-O-P in
Texas. The payment of this tattoo would go to get this man a pen-pal ad where he would spiritually connect with his soul mate who has now moved to Texas and seeks to get his LWOP removed. Talk about devote. Hanuman was doing his thing even before we knew it.