Category Archives: blogger

vacation in history

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I was planning a trip to the beach. Fortunately, Atlanta affords me the leisure of choosing between various Georgia Islands, or a few hours drive to Florida, South Carolina or the coast of Alabama. I decided to do a quick turn around trip to one of the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia. Distracted, I began to flip through Facebook and came across an article about Igbo Landing or Ebo landing.

“The Igbo Landing occurred when Igbo slaves who had taken control of their ship marched into the water and drowned at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia.

After surviving the rigours of the Middle Passage, the 75 Igbo slaves who were bought for labour on the plantations of John Couper and Thomas Spalding for 100 dollars each.

The slaves were chained and put aboard a small ship to be transported to their destinations. During this voyage, they took control of the ship and grounded it, drowning their captors in the process.”

(from the site pulse.ng)

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I looked up St. Simons Island and discovered it was a mere 4.5 hours away and I could choose lodging on the island or in nearby Brunswick, Ga. There are so many stories to be told. So many lands to be visited and honored or memorialized, and as a writer I believe there are always new words to discover. New smells and newly uncovered ways to describe emotions. So I booked my lodging, fueled up the Buick, and hit the road.

Continue reading vacation in history

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She Chronicles presents: Joylissa LeFleur

New School

     Sex education for me and many young black girls in the 1980s consisted of shallow, scary, guilt-laden directives on what to and (especially) not to do. From the women in my family I learned, 1. Keep your skirt down and your panties up. 2. Good girls don’t… (do anything related to sex with men, definitely not with women, and especially not with yourself). 3. All men want is sex. The only thing my father ever said regarding sex was, “Ain’t no abortions in this house”. From school I learned that if I insisted on being a wild, unruly, teenager and having sex, absolutely use condoms because unprotected sex causes pregnancy and nasty diseases that itch, burn, stink and cause sores. Finally, from the church I learned that my body is solely for my husband’s pleasure when making babies and premarital sex will certainly send me straight to hell.

     To say old school sex education was less than comprehensive is an understatement. Additionally, girls’ education was drastically different from, and often in direct opposition to, boys’. While girls were taught to guard and value virginity at all costs, boys were often encouraged prove their prowess by having sex with multiple girls and women before, during and after marriage. Girls were given chastisements for chastity. Boys were given condoms and told, “Just don’t bring home no babies”.

     In addition to being inaccurate and contradictory, these lessons lacked information on anatomy (female and male), autonomy, consent, sexual assault (particularly by acquaintances and family), the reproductive process, and pleasure. How do you talk about sex and not talk about pleasure?

     Not only was the teaching incomplete, it was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually dangerous, proving detrimental to girls’ development into holistically sound women. Hence, the staggering number of sexual assault survivors who have come forward during the rise of #MeToo is not surprising given society’s, especially women’s, poor sex education. Sadder still is that as bad as the sex education of the 1980’s was, for previous generations it was worse. Basically, our parents didn’t teach us better because they didn’t know any better.

     But better knowledge is widely available now. And those who know better must do better and teach others so they can do better as well. We must uproot the culture of sexual guilt, shame, oppression, repression, silence, toxic masculinity and rape that has grown from the seeds of miseducation and flourished under sexist and patriarchal reign and rain. Simultaneously, we must sow new seeds of equality, respect, honesty, trust and communication to cultivate a new society free from sexual violence.

     In teaching we must continue learning, to avoid inadvertently imparting obsolete and therefore erroneous information to those trying to learn. Education, like sexuality, is fluid: it can change over time. We must be prepared to adapt. And now that we know what we must do, let’s begin. The bell is ringing. School is back in session.

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joylissa

Joylissa LeFleur 
A perpetual conundrum with a purple pen, Joylissa LeFleur is a sexy black woman storyteller spreading love on this ball called earth one laptop keystroke at a time. A morally upstanding member of humanity, she is not above being bribed with beach trips, books, or stimulating conversations over popcorn and spirits.
Contact Joy at getloveandjoy@gmail.com and check out her musings at

 

An Act of Interruption

All along I have been doing work that interrupted the silencing of black women in his-story. This his-story includes the actual absence of her presence or her presence represented in vilified images or characteristics. Effortlessly, even through the pen strokes of black people, black women characterizations are resembling or in actuality that of the socially oppressive jezebel, tragic mulatto or big mama. Until going in to studies for Africana Women’s Studies, I didn’t have the language of what I was doing nor did I have the connections of other women that have doing this work for years.

My last novel, The Town Dance, I was inserting the silent voice of people who were victims to same gender sexual assault. The novel was my support for a dear friend who had been sexually assaulted by her girlfriend and dismissed the encounter with an uncomfortable laugh. I’ll never forget her looking at me, forcing a smile then saying, “she’s strong”. This was over 15 years ago. When I finally decided to write the novel, my internet search on the topic led me to pornographic sites or inconclusive court hearings. The writing process was therapy for me. Even though I have a community of gay friends, both men and women, I was terrified to be plagued with being considered “gay” if I wrote the book. Actual terror would travel my body as I imagined people staring at me questioning if I was a gay women. I had to confront my homophobia and fears, have confronting, vulnerable conversations with friends and then heal. Afterwards, I wrote the book.

A project that has been in my head for years comes from visits to Montgomery, Alabama and one of their historic sites from the civil rights movement. This relatively flat land, small city was once a huge mobilizing force for progressive efforts of black people. The communities that once flourished are now abandoned and its buildings dilapidated. But the stories live on.

The stories of the brave men that faced, often times, violent resistance in their fight against Jim Crow. As always, I wondered what the women were doing. The beautiful black and white photos that display their wrinkle-free dresses and unstained white or pastel colored gloves gave them a physical presence. But the texts were absent of their words, their actions. So I began research and found women that I felt needed to be given voice. After years of imagining their world, visiting Montgomery and sitting in my car in the neighborhood I wanted to focus on, the book is slated be released October of 2019. My first take at historical fiction. I love this book and so excited to share it with the world in the upcoming months.

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when they know better…

These teens that live in my house know all I have been talking about is how I wanted to finish my three 20-page papers for grad school and how I wanted my semester in teaching to be OVER! When both had come, I asked that they let me sit/lay around and not do anything. Not cook, not wash… I didn’t even want to think. Just give me 24 hours to re-center my breath. They agreed.

We mailed out our Christmas cards and boxes to family in other states, put up our house decorations and caught up on television shows I had missed out on. We shared the cooking for the holidays and my youngest even baked desserts all by herself! Their grades are posted online so now parents don’t have to wait until the paper report comes out. I asked about them twice, and both times my oldest pulled out her chrome book and demonstrated that the website was down.

Today I asked about the site and it worked…

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If you are a parent you already now what this face means!!! “WHY WOULD YOU WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO TELL ME WHAT I SHOULD BE EXPECTING WITH THESE GRADES?!” I am thankful that they let me relax when they saw I had fallen asleep on the couch or read a book of fiction that I had been missing. (for 4 months my life consisted of non-fiction books and essays!) But somewhere along the line, there was space and time to prep me! So now I am sitting at my desk trying to write a list of things that teenagers with grade point averages of 2.5 and 2.3 can do in my house! NOT TOO MUCH!

I now have three phones and an immaculately spotless home! I also have a list of their short term goals. After my lecture on education and questioning if they studied and gave 100%, I’m not saying we won’t be here again – but I am saying they will tell me ahead of time. (if there is a next time)

as parents

parents – (n) The hardest working person in the universe.

We can see beyond horizons and be as blind as bats.

We can hear as keen as owls and be as deaf as a day gone.

We can be energetically defeated.

parenting – (v) The hardest job in the universe.

I dare to say our most imminent goal is to ensure our children can live successful independent lives. And to make sure that goal stays in the forefront of our mind, we will do what we must. That includes perfect vision in a forest and closing our eyes in the light. As long as the goal is protected.

That is how I try to reach the parents of my students. Some of them have a spry and transparent engagement with the social and educational growth of their child. But the majority are only proactive towards their counsel to teachers on their personal goal and avoid any reactionary response on classroom feedback that does not comply with the said goal.

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As a parent, I have had uncomfortable conversations in regards to the behavior of my three. And some have been the embarrassing repeated behaviors of “overly social”, “running in the hall” or “incomplete assignments.  I had to grow into a position with my parenting to concede that, the same behavior I correct them with at home, is the same tone they exhibit with other adults. So when I get phone calls and reports that my youngest, who only stops talking when she is sleep, is “overly social” in class, I believe it. I’m not sure what it is that shapes in parents heads that their child’s calamity somehow stops the second they enter the school building. If your child is flipping furniture at home, there is a 90.9% chance you child will come into the classroom and do the same.

Continue reading as parents

My Promised Summer of Reading

I love to read. Period. I didn’t get to do a lot of that this past year. I was a rookie English Literature teacher, I was preparing graduate school packages and doing more drafts on my latest novel. This summer it was all about reading, drafting (writing) and getting out of the city (beaches).

My favorite 3 that I read this summer:
Alice Walker -Anyone who knows me knows that I love prose and I love folklore. The prose in this book is magical! I found her POV writing to be confusing at times but it served its purpose for the storytelling. But the prose writing made me fall back in LOVE (again) with the magic of words.

Jamaica Kincaid – I can always count on her to teach me more technique on first person fiction writing. She is a genius with sentence temperature! Your typical story has structure for plot movement. She can twist plot in every sentence to keep you hanging on! But the genius part is, she’s writing just as we think. Constant growth/contradiction. Magic of words!

Mary Monroe – This was my second Mary Monroe book that I’ve read. The first one I read years ago and I suppose with life piled on top I forgot about her. NO MORE! This was my favorite book of the summer! I haven’t fallen in love and cared about characters as much as I did in this book in a long time! Magic of words!

My mentor/guide advised that I “find” time to read more. (We’ll see, with my upcoming schedule of teaching and school.) I told her about the books I read and why I chose these three as my top. Her reply was something to the tune of, ‘Because those books asked you something of yourself. They found you. Just as your readers will find your books, so take your time with your writing.

**NOTE: These are not new releases. Alice and Jamaica are two of my favorites and Mary Monroe’s book was published in 1995 (I believe).  Other books I read this summer were:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Liliane by Ntozake Shange

Diablerie by Walter Mosley

How many “I Love You’s” do you do?

There are several things I love about teaching but most notably I enjoy the time off during holidays and summer. (while still receiving a check 🙂 This is especially rewarding to me who spent years as an executive manager in retail and worked every holiday and most weekends.

Now I know you must be thinking, ‘my goodness Nikki, the school year just started didn’t it and you’re already thinking about time off?’ YES! You would be correct in with that assumption! And I think I have just the thing to help me get through the first half of the school year and my first semester in grad school.

A few months back, one of my friends exercised “staying in the moment” by writing daily things on what she most loved about herself. She did this for 60 days and surprisingly enough, she said the first twenty were very laborious. Laborious because she was having a difficult time discovering what she loved, or even liked on some days. The statements had to be instinctively linked about her and not some indirect love for something or someone else. She said this helped with her daily self care even if it was only 5-10 minutes a day. With my schedule becoming 12 hour days Tue-Thur due to school immediately after work, I thought this “I Love…” regiment would be ideal to ensure I think about me.

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For the next 90 days, I am going to write in this little journal different things I Love about me. This is extremely horrifying to me because it involves commitment and I can be so anal (for lack of a better word) when it comes to committing to something and what loyalty means to me. But I am at a stop in my life where I am both an educator and a student, literally, and I am content. How do I insist that I remain present under both titles? By involving myself daily, by communicating with myself daily. Hopefully this 90 day venture will prove to assist with that!

Join me if you may! Also, after this 90 days, it will be Thanksgiving and time for a week break from both work and school 😉 Clever, huh?

a new career, for the 3rd time; the first year

In between speaking engagements or during the interim of writing projects, I picked up side jobs to keep me financially ahead instead of becoming creatively stifled due to trying to maintain or “stay afloat”. After I wrote my play, “Hope’s Return”, I was introduced to the Atlanta theatre world and re-connected with previous theatre buddies. With this, I was invited on several occasions to apply to teaching positions in the theatre capacity.

After years of executive retail store management, I had NO interest in working with a theatre company and devoting my nights and weekends. And after experience with non-profit organizations, I had NO interest in working for a community/neighborhood theatre and contributing countless loads of money to guarantee a successful and professional looking production. Now, I have done both of these positions before and at that time in my life they were incredibly rewarding and I thoroughly enjoyed them. However, that time has come and gone. I have both of those t-shirts folded somewhere in my closet.

A few years ago, I began substitute teaching for public schools. I quickly learned, after several assignments, I was great with pre-k to 4th grade. I didn’t have the language or patience for any grade above 4th grade. I joyfully worked a full school year as a sub, even so that towards the end of the year, I was requested by teachers and principals more than I had to seek assignments. The following school year came and the only thing I wanted to change was to be stable as a long term substitute with two or three schools. I saw a posting for a long term substitute for a school that had three campuses. I thought that this would surely keep me busy and it is exactly what I had prayed for. I applied and got the position.

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I started my six week assignment for a 4th grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher going on maternity leave. I loved the environment of teachers I was around everyday! And as luck would have it, a fellow 4th grade ELA teacher had resigned and would be leaving around the same time my assignment would be over. Administration asked me if I was interested in becoming part of the team as a full-time ELA teacher, I accepted.

So there I was, I had entered a new career (outside of my artistry), for the 3rd time. A job that concluded between 3:30 and 4pm and was conveniently close to my home. And the best part, I was able to impose the magnitude of words in the young minds of brown kids 5 days of week. I was able to share my passion of sentence structure and reading on some impressionable minds.  What I had never taken into account were the behavioral curves and obstacles that reared its’ ugly head every day.

Continue reading a new career, for the 3rd time; the first year

the memories in February

My father died in February. Around the 22nd or so. I purposely misplaced the obituary and forgot the date.  It was the year 2008 or 2009. It was such a blur but I know I was living in Atlanta at the time.

He was my biggest fan but I didn’t know. He was consistent with inconsistency. Or maybe it’s “we” were consistent with inconsistency. But usually the child is allowed to blame the parent so I said “he”. We weren’t consistent like the hurricanes that you expect every year. We were more like tornadoes in the south. It can happen but it would be a surprise. Except we never made the news. Not together at least.  So that was the weather of our relationship.

I called in December, around the holidays cause that’s what you’re supposed to do. His girlfriend answered and told me he was dying. They had given him a few months to live. He told me he was dying a few years before that, so I kind of didn’t believe her. I can’t remember where he was or why she answered the phone. But then he picked up and said, “hello”.

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Continue reading the memories in February