Category Archives: determination

some days i feel like, elaine brown

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some days I feel like elaine brown. I feel like I have the courage to love what feels right. I feel like I can stand in front of whomever/whatever and move past the criticism of my past with a smile. like elaine brown, some days I feel like I can change the world and by doing that sometimes you have to start over.

elaine brown is particularly known for her involvement in the black panther party in Oakland, Ca. while many haven’t had interest enough to read what her contributions and positions were in the party, they seem satisfied with knowing and saying, “she’s an ex-panther.” I had the privilege of meeting her twice and opening for her during a lecture in los angeles a few years ago. she was very emphatic with her intent to tell her side of the story. to make sure we left her with more to say.

she wanted us to know she believed in the black panther party with her entire being. she helped the panthers set up its first Free Breakfast for Children program in Los Angeles in addition to the panthers Free Busing to Prisons Program and the Free Legal Aid Program. she had a progressive intent for her people and herself as a woman/spiritual being. in her book, A Taste of Power, she made mention that she eventually left the panther party because she could no longer tolerate the patriarchy and sexism.

and I remember her speaking of love. I remember her sharing personal photos of her and Huey P. Newton and talking about how much she was in love with him. as I was holding one of the photos, she pointed to him and said, “he was fine wasn’t he?” her entire face smiled.

some days I feel like elaine brown in wanting to be whole. wanting to be accepted as an intelligent and critical thinker as well as a lover. and for all of who I am to be safe enough to share as part of the human experience.

some days i feel like, jada pinkett smith

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some days I feel like, jada pinkett smith. I think together we would chase storms. we would roll the thunder in a sports utility vehicle and run down the eye of the storm! we would shave our heads and dress up in an evening gown and pose like “on purpose planted sunflowers”. we would yell into mics and blend our blues and hip hop to heavy metal music in front of an audience of thousands!

I can only imagine her quest for rearing independent thinking children. I can only imagine her desire to remain a desire to a handsome and witty man. jada pinkett smith has seemingly lived the way her childhood friend tupac shakur explained, ‘telling the truth before about yourself before someone else does.’ Her choice of work parallels her mindset as she now lends the influence of her spirit to philanthropy work and activism.

I remember watching her give an interview one time and she mentioned she considered herself to be “viciously ambitious”. yes, some days I feel like jada pinkett smith, especially when I feel beyond my skin!

love marks the spot

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I spilled my heart here.

and in gym during 6th hour.
and in the parking lot of Dairy Queen.
and on the phone when long distance calling cost extra.
and I meant every word I said.

and for you I’d do it again.
for your smile.
for your time.
for the exchange of our secrets.

in the name of love.

some days i feel like a skyscraper (part II)

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Somebody had to do it. And somebody had to re-member. I was there. And it’s not that I want to be given some glory or plaque. I just want artists to know that it wasn’t 1961 when the Los Angeles poetry scene displayed this disproportionately approach to female poets. And now it is so natural for females to get features and travel but not too long ago we were blatantly denied this. And Jaha, Bridget, Rachel and I really changed the perception of when female poets should be allowed to eat.

Did we pave the way? Call it whatever feels good to you. But I know I was there when humiliation and doubt was given to us from our male peers. I was there when the men performers would get paid a different amount than us at the very same show. I was there when our male peers thought the best position for any of us would be next to them in a relationship and when he was denied he campaigned a “she’s gay” rally to save his reputation.

I saw Roni take poetry to the Hollywood comedy clubs.

I saw Sandra, Alice the Poet and MstMuze operate the longest running all female poetry venue in Los Angeles to date.

I saw Deana produce/host sold out poetry shows inside restaurants on Sunset Blvd.

And all I’m saying is, this happened after she/we shared stories and almost cried because we thought we were alone in feeling so indigent for expression. Some days I feel like a skyscraper in the Los Angeles poetry scene. Standing bold, cold and razor sharp with the moods of mother nature, not being erased from the series anytime soon. My love for Jaha, Rachel and Bridget is beyond an ordinary means of measurement. We were there, when it felt like 1961.

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some days i feel like a skyscraper

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I feel part of the smaller story. I feel part of the larger story. Skyscrapers are like small cities with thousands of people that live and work there. Their foundations and superstructures provide different appearances. These tall buildings are seen as symbols of power and greatness. They are improved in live time to stand the test of weather and the moods of mother nature. Yes, some days I feel like a skyscraper… especially when I began spoken word in Los Angeles.

It was clearly the congregated movement of griots and sages before us that declared the time again. Only the shadowless and their corners really thought “they started something new” or “took it to the next level”. Only time would be able to determine those thoughts just as the medu netter has spoken for centuries in the pyramids. Only time, still will reveal that.

One would have thought the time was 1961 and women were still only allowed to be house attendants. When in fact it was 2001. Writing and performing poetry was not new to me. I was shocked that it was being critiqued and shared in seemingly ‘non art environments’. Coffee shops, lobbies of recreational centers, after hours at businesses and theatres in need of publicity. The art form was taking on a new timeframe and would need new walls to hold it’s voice.

In an already big city. A city with the most highly structured designed skyscrapers, one would think she could just pick up where June Jordan left off. Just take the notebook from Gwendolyn Brooks and turn the page. But it wasn’t like that for Jaha Zainabu, Bridget Gray and Rachel Kann, my “come up” crew. None of us were novices to the arts. Together we were decades of stories, poems, lectures, theatre and visual art. Together we split the city and nestled our art amongst those who neighbored our homes. We supported our venues week after week and then by bequest, politics were engaged in our arts but this time the agenda was to undermine. From history our community arts had a focus of meeting weekly to “build and feed each other”. These new politics were of division because all of us would not be able to eat. In fact, it happened so fast we weren’t even able to decide on our seasonings! And many owned microwaves and had never lit a stove or practiced patience with a crock pot. But she/we stood there.

One would have thought it was 1961 they way we were over looked to perform feature poetry shows. One of us was even told, “women can’t hold the audience attention to do a feature segment”. And week after week, we went and supported the self served. And we began to see the bending of the art. This was called open mic, to disavow the necessity for us to hold one another accountable. We were allowed to do and say anything and not read or study and some times not even demanded to practice. Our art scene became like loose, dangled dred locs from an unhealthy scalp. Her voice strewn like sidewalk abandoned Christmas trees. With the desperate opportunity for manhood to be demonstrated, she/we were overlooked. It was not 1961.

Now about this, She was given the mic and then cut short by loud music playing in the background to a host dancing behind her begging for a laugh and a few smiles. She wasn’t given the same time limit, as he. And She, was given time on the stage to express her newest and most intimate poetry piece. She was accepted by the audience with warm applause and finger snaps. Capsized with emotion, she stepped away to gather herself only to have the host scold the audience clapping for her by saying, “We don’t do that here”. And then She, was too serious and her voice was too loud. “You should write some love poems”, he declared to her after she received thunderous applause when all night he received scattered rain drops. And then She, was a performer amidst reading writers. And while both are styles of interpretation, it distinguished her natural flame to a fire and cast her away feeling lost and unheard.

And she/we were paid less. And she/we were heard less. And then one night we all talked. And we almost cried. And we all had the same story and we all reaffirmed it wasn’t 1961. And Rachel decided we should do our own. And we did. And we sold out a night club on Hollywood Blvd with an all female poetry feature show. The first of it’s kind during this wave of poetry in Los Angeles. And we ate. And then our four corners of the city saw what we were made of. That temblor thwarting technology that doesn’t fall during earthquakes. That strong wavering skyscraper that houses thousands of people working and living with stories to tell.

(part II tomorrow)

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a different kind of vicious

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The snow is gone. The trees are still bare. We survived without losing electricity. And the kids only have two snow days to make up at the end of the school year.

The culmination of a week and I had an incredible one with writing. I am consistent in writing everyday and this comes simple when I have nothing else to do. For example, turning my television off! Listening to music with no words so I don’t have to focus on someone else’s verbs. I remember space like this when I lived solo in LA. And I didn’t take it for granted but I did have something different back then. I had a fierce determination. A different kind of vicious.

Disregard the cliché, but I lived in a place with no space and time. I lived in that kind of confidence everyone has before you share with someone and adopt doubt. To me it was about a matter of opportunity. I had the body of material. I had the body of emotions. And I had the body. (the body body…36,24,34) I had a vicious overall outlook on art like my predecessors. I had a library to waylay me into the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement. I was indicative of significant worth. Period. I was perfectly positioned for success. And from what I prepared, I received.

There is a difference with reverence and support. And my spirit told me I didn’t have enough of the latter but I hoped I could muster enough to maintain humility. My solution when I couldn’t differentiate the two was to simply stop. Pull away and not perform. Get a job that demanded an early bedtime so I could not perform at late venues or the Sunday hot spots. Me trying to supply my mental with sustenance brought about a negative implication and it confused me.

And then poetry became political with the performance form of slam. And I became even more confused with how we can skip from the spiritual formula of creating to wanting an instant result of “winning”. I stopped.

I am in the present of creating a body of work that needs an opportunity. I am clothed with a fierce determination. A different kind of vicious. And I appreciate this cycle of not being caught up in a space or time. What will the outcome be this go around? Very different! Because I know differently.