When Chris Met Katrina


The boat whistled it’s way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help.  They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there.  As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside.  Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets.  Police were patrolling the doors.  Chris knocked but the policeman just stood and shook their heads in the negative.  Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too.  He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.

Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes.  He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans.  His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done.  Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed.  Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor.  He was all of nine years old.  With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.

A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog.  The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet.  From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed.  But he knew underneath he was probably  paddling his legs wild as the devil!  Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try.  He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked.  He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.

A little ways down, Chris spotted the small boat and whistled to get their attention.  They acknowledged him by waving.  Other people began to whistle and try and make their way to the boat too so Chris picked up his pace.  The eyes of the dog swimming nearby were showing signs of exhaustion.  There was no telling how long the dog had been in the water.  The dog let out a bark, then went under the water.  Within seconds, his head reappeared and he began to bark in desperation.  Chris was mindful to stay as far away from the dog as possible to avoid being bitten.  The small boat reeved it’s engine as they waited for him.  The dog’s bark now became aggressive as he continued to swim towards Chris.  The men on the boat splashed water towards the dog to slow him down and distract  his concentration on swimming.

“Come on man!  Dat dog look mad or summin’!,” one of the men said.

Chris turned his head to witness the dog go under again.  He started to run on his tip toes because he knew he would get sprayed with the dirty water when the dog came back up.  He reached the boat and threw his bag of food aboard.  He could feel the water spray on the back of his neck as the dog shook its’ head.  The men reached down and pulled Chris on the boat.

“They wasn’t lettin’ nobody in down at the hospital huh?,” Gunner asked.

“Naw,” Chris simply replied.

The boat pulled away and the dog continued to swim behind it.  His eyes were bulging as he barked pleas of help.  There was nothing in sight for the dog to take refuge on.  The dog’s shiny, brown coat disappeared under the water a third time, not to emerge again.


snippets of When Chris Met Katrina from the book, Mississippi Window Cracks

ms window crack pic

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Love for Louisiana, Re-membering Katrina


August 29, 2005 marks the day the world has now recorded as one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States.  Hurricane Katrina struck the poorest region in this country, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  She changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.


The following story was inspired by an interview I conducted with my neighbor.  He moved to Los Angeles after losing everything to the storm in New Orleans.  Although the story is fiction, and written to connect with the other short stories in the book, some of the incidents, times and locations are true accounts of what he described to me during his four day ordeal of waiting to be rescued.  My neighbor declined interviews from dozens of Los Angeles newspapers that contacted him.  His simple request to me was that his name be Chris in the story.  I am honored he felt comfortable enough to share such an intimate story with me.  He cried twice and broke down once.  A man who can no longer sleep when it rains.  A man proud to be from New Orleans but angry that he was left to die.


I dedicate the story, When Chris Met Katrina to EJ from apartment #7


my Grambling State University roommate, Kelly Lawrence.  A Louisiana native whose face flashed on CNN news with her three children at the Houston Astrodome.

And respectively,

to the millions of people

effected directly and indirectly.

love, libations and prayers.



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www. amazon.com/author/nikkiskies

One Person’s Art and the Interpretation

I recently sat down to watch Lee Daniels’ The Butler. I had mixed feelings about going to see it at the movie theatre because it was close to the holidays and people were calling it the “male version” of the movie, The Help. (which I didn’t see either)  Well, I fixed a light lunch and sat down to watch this movie and it wasn’t about him being butler at all!  At least not from my interpretation.


I found the movie to be rich in storytelling about spiritual and political growth. It showed the development of one expressing the political and humanitarian side of fighing for freedom.  The movie also displayed parents who allowed their children to actualize themselves.  There was a development of friends into family relationships and I truly appreciated the love stories.  With all of the fully developed story lines and superb acting, I didn’t see the focus being about his occupation as a butler at all.  Perhaps it’s just my poetic eye, but being a butler was only the analogy to set a location.

This is also close to my perception of the movie, “12 Years a Slave.  People cried, “not another slave movie!” But it wasn’t about him being a slave. It was about family, perservance, courage and reciprocity.  Another fully developed story with superb acting that should be seen.

If you are a writer, The Butler is a wonderful example of story crafting.  Check it out! (or watch it again with a new perspective)

it is what it is…


1) When you begin to lose that poker face of “fake it until you make it”.
2) When you find yourself not wanting to go to bed because you will have to get up and go to work.
3) When you begin calculating just how low of a pay cut you can take JUST TO GET OUT OF YOUR CURRENT SITUATION!

4)  When you hear the above caption come out of your mouth as you call your job on Monday morning.

it is what it is… and it is clearly time to go!

I’m a Storyteller but this is Non-Fiction

This is not a fairy or fable.  This isn’t one of my historical reference blogs or a post to honor someone.  This is non-fiction.  This blog is about living the facts of raising two young black men.  My nephews, who are now the ages of 20 and 16.  In particular the oldest who stands a little over 6’1″ with skin stained to the hue of blackberries.

This is about his dubious eyes when I tried to explain I needed to have a conversation about his skin tone and it had nothing to do with science or medicine.  No, it wasn’t me fussing because he forgot to put lotion on his elbows again.  It was about politics and its’ rapacious attachment to control.  The greed of it all and the pretentious stare down the broad of your nose.  The side of politics that tries to keep African Americans comfortably controlled to avoid another time span of collective awareness or us developing a community of critical thinkers.  This conversation was to show him how living outside of himself will keep him hungry.  How, breathing below his intuition will have him comfortable with eating from a blood stained hand that has slapped him repeatedly and then make him feel actuated to say, ‘thank you.’  “I know you’d rather be downstairs playing video games, but I need you to hear me out…’

He is not from my body but from my heart.  He is from my desires of him never learning to believe his doubts.  Every parents dream right?  I keep safe in my heart the time he was being teased by his cousins about his name, Tajh Jelani, ‘Almighty Prince/Crown.’  I told him that with a name like that it was easier for God to find him.  Surprisingly enough, that answer was satisfying.  Or, it was enough to have him think about it.  A few years later, his younger brother, Tariq Jamal, ‘Beautiful Morning Star’, asked me why I picked that name for him.  Before I could answer, Tajh responded, “because God can find you quicker.”  Tariq seemed to be soothed just as his brother had a few years earlier.  And these are the stories of apples and cinnamon or trains and trucks I want to relate to my beloved nephews.  But the fact is, even though they are protected by prayer on the sides and in back of them, something is waiting in front.  And it is well oiled and camafloughed as justice.  It has several names.  Too many to name here!  It is vile and fueled by emotion so I won’t give it a name to place it in vibration.  But it is there to teach him about his place in society.  And its’ teachings are wrong so ‘I need a few more minutes…’


‘You are feared.  The fear is you will one day re-member your brilliance.  You will re-member that fear does not exist in an abundant soul such as yours.  You are second chance and from a lineage of dare and possibility.  Your body is the prototype.  Your skin is blessed.  And the propaganda is grand enough to distract you to focus only on your physical so you dare not think about thinking.  You are the tallest of your friends and the darkest of your friends and you will be sought first.  You can be in the back seat with a seat belt on and a bible in your lap.  Simply because of the way you look you will be the first to get down on the ground.  And this will be confusing and offend you.  You will be served your first taste of injustice.  I need you to stay calm.  I need you to give your winning face.  You know the face you give when you are about to yell, “Uno!”  We have no idea you are getting ready to win and you hide your emotion, this is called a poker face.  I need you to give it.  I need you to remember the officers name and what they are stopping you for.  I need you to come home.  I need you to believe me right now.  This incident may be a reality for you one day.  I need you to call me before you get in the car with a friend that has been drinking or smoking.  Even if you are high or drunk yourself.  This isn’t one of my stories.  This talk may be as important if not equally important as the sex talk we had a couple of years ago.  I hope you are listening.’

And I’m sure this was “the talk” given to:

Sean Bell*Eric Garner*your cousin*Trayvon Martin*Oscar Grant*your uncle*Michael Brown*Jordan Davis*your brother*Renisha McBride*your aunt*……..

Have you had “the talk” with your black child today?




Pic of the Same Side


They look like my cousins.  One of them could be my brothers friend.  In the back they have my nephew and his friends.  See, this mess won’t reach the homes where their families are.  They will have to get through the front line first and then the young and strong before they get to Big Momma’s house.  And we have the babies in bed so it’s on and popping when your big toe hits the front lawn.

This picture is not intimidating.  I wouldn’t clutch my purse as I walked past them.  This picture shows them on the same side.  The side that we sometimes forget we have the common interest in…Justice.