Thank you Ms Lorde for everything. We remember you…
I was introduced to Nikki Giovanni through the poem, “Ego Tripping”
“I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended
except by my permission”
“I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
I was maybe a senior in high school when I found Giovanni through this poem at my local library. And I remember the embarrassed feeling I got after I read the poem. I thought…”who is this woman bragging on herself?” “who does she think she is to be referencing herself a Queen and being the mother to Hannibal and Noah?” I remember it felt great but it was also foreign. I almost didn’t want to be caught reading it.
What I realize now is that may have been my first time being introduced to an African American feminine narrative.
The poem wasn’t about doors or boats from Robert Frost.
The poem wasn’t about hope and feathers from Emily Dickinson.
It wasn’t the blues from Langston Hughes.
It wasn’t Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton or Paul Lawrence Dunbar…
or my beloved Maya Angelou and her Caged Bird…
Nikki Giovanni was the first time I read an African American woman refer to herself as beautiful and being directly connected to all things beautiful in the art world of poetry.
I remembering sitting on the floor in the middle of the aisle at the library and reading the poems in her book and imagining a Tennessee cloud looking like cotton candy… women being judged for the length of their Sunday school dresses… summer love… and even to this day when someone mentions her name… it makes me smile and remember meeting her in the library that afternoon.
When I walked across the Pettus Bridge in Selma for the 50th anniversary earlier this year, Rev. Al Sharpton said something in a sermon that struck a cord with me. He said, “We praise our dead and condemn the living.” It made me want to acknowledge everyone that has served as inspiration to me before they left this planet!
So today, I acknowledge Nikki Giovanni! I speak her name for inspiring me and making me feel so embarrassingly, wonderful and warm about myself one afternoon at the library 🙂 The audacity of learning from poetry!
“In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons. The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity.” Maya Angelou
“My soul should always look back and wonder at the mountains I had climbed and the rivers I had forged and the challenges which still await down the road. I am strengthened by that knowledge.” Maya Angelou
When she was once being “timidly attacked” by a Hollywood producer who was interested in developing one of her short stories into a television show: “I promise you, you do not want me as your adversary because, once I feel myself under threat, I fight to win, and in that case I will forget that I am thirty years older than you, with a reputation for being passionate.” Maya Angelou
she continued in this chapter:
“I am never proud to participate in violence, yet, I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves, that we can be ready and able to come to our own defense when and wherever needed.” Maya Angelou
“Racism still rages behind many smiling faces, and women are still spoken of in some circles, as conveniently pretty vessels. Macon, Georgia is down south, New York City is up south. Blithering ignorance can be found wherever you choose to live.” Maya Angelou
“Southern themes will range from generous and luscious love to cruel and bitter hate, but no one can ever claim that the South is petty or indifferent. [In the south] black people walk with an air which implies “when I walk in, they may like me or dislike me, but everybody knows I’m here.” Maya Angelou
Jolivette: Art must be functional. Artist must be critical thinkers who observe, analyze, interrogate, and offer solutions to the problems within their (our) communities. As a poet, Dr. Mother Angelou observed the pain of her people.
She analyzed the conditions of her people. She interrogated herself to see how she could best contribute to the ongoing work, begun before she was born, to help heal the hurt and pain of her people. It is obvious that her answers came in the form of ‘be positive’ and ‘uplift’ your people with your work and words and your work-in-words. There is nothing more genuine than seeing ones own humanity and the humanity of others and being positive in the face of treacherous negativity.
How would you characterize Angelou’s style—her language, her tone, her choice of metaphors, and so on?
Continue reading Gifts for Mother Maya by Jolivette Anderson
April 4th =
The bornday of Dr. Maya Angelou
The assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Here’s one of her many messages, “Love Liberates”
1) Although Angelou writes almost exclusively for African Americans, she has a huge following from other races. Why do you think this is?
The Honorable Mother Maya writes from her experience as a human being first. Yes, I know that sounds cliche’-ish… “same-ing”, if you will, the initiation of a struggling explanation, but if one listened to ‘Mother-Sister’, you can sense what was an insistent appetency to set right and at the same time comfort in her addressing us… all of us. Although her literary gifts to us were addressed from a woman’s eyes, simply because she was one, she was the glowing and towering, vibrant, flowing seductive and insistent, yet sweetly confident member of this human race first and wanted us all to feel that same sublime rendering of naked and free’d expression of self.
Little girls, givers of life- [where her story and destiny begins] come in all colors and influences and each deserves love and encouraging and protecting. If the opposite is present, the difference dissipates and only the commonality of pain and tragedy, joy and ascending, remain- none of which is specific to any particular race, opinion, or culture. Her living is / was certainly on common ground with the human spirit set in each of us regardless of our location or station or not; as well as her truths. That kind of naked, bold, unencumbered, raw, vivid, biting and sometimes seducing caressing, and loving truth in her writing, sets us all on common playing ground.
How would you characterize Angelou’s style – her language, her tone, her choice of metaphors, and so on?
Continue reading Gifts for Mother Maya by Reverdia da’ River Woman
“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” -Toni Morrison
As a young girl, my mother had to chose what utilities she would keep on and which ones she would let go to keep my sister, brother and I fed and clothed. Phone service NEVER made the “stay on” list and gas service was optional during summer months. Cable television was not discussed in my home because we only had two televisions and they were black and white. (yes, color televisions were available and no I won’t tell the year or my age). My escape was reading. The easiest series of books to find in sequential collections at thrift stores at the time were the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. And I read them all! Continue reading a Higher Re-Education Program (Writer’s Edition)