Category Archives: education

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

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The Making of Mississippi Window Cracks

(the prologue to Mississippi Window Cracks written in 2006)

A few years ago I decided that after all the books and movies I had read and seen related to the civil rights struggles and the state called Mississippi, it was time to take a visit.  I arranged to spend a few days in Jackson, Mississippi, with a colleague of mine so I could walk the land that enveloped the energy of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Margaret Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Emmett Till and the streets of the infamous “Freedom Summers”.  My time there was filled with meeting civil rights heroes that are still alive, pouring libation on slave plantations, visiting museums and other historic sites, relaxing on the porch fanning flies until the sunset, and of course the southern cuisine.

One morning, my friend declared she knew the best place in town for a good bowl of grits.  Upon arriving at the cozy, corner diner downtown, she turned the car off and told me to put a crack in the window.  I told her that living in Los Angeles, people really didn’t do that but I remember it from growing up in Kansas City, Mo. Effortlessly, she rolled a crack in the driver’s side window.  I followed hastily already tasting the buttery grits in my mouth.  She turned and looked at me then spoke with hesitance in her voice.

“What’s that?”, she asked.

“What’s what?”

“I thought you were going to put a crack in the window.”

“I did.”

“That’s a crack?,” she asked sarcastically.

Now feeling totally self conscious I affirmed, “Yeah, this is the kind of window crack I used to do in the summertime in Kansas City.”

“Well this ain’t Missouri, this is Mississippi!  You better put a bigger crack in that window as hott as it is out here!”

I gave the handle on the window a few more turns to open it up.

She encouraged me, “A little more.”

I carefully cranked it until I gained her nod of approval, “Like this?”

“Yeah!  Now that there is a Mississippi window crack!”

The funny part about this story is how serious it got!  It was almost a borderline argument.  But as we walked in the diner, we laughed and joked how that would be a good title for a poem and who was going to write it first.  Well, here is my book of short stories that chronicle the tales fed to me through the trees, music, and people I met during my time spend in Jackson.  Instead of vacationing in the Bahamas or Paris, take a visit down in the deep south to a part of history, your history, our history.  You ever heard the saying, “There’s the United States and then there’s Mississippi?”  It’s the truth!  Go feel it for yourself!

with love,

nikki skies

PS – The grits were delicious!

Mississippi Window Crack

Get your autographed copy here!

Classic Langston Hughes

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In the 2nd grade, I told my class I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. My teacher made me memorize this poem. I didn’t understand it but I was told I “had to know it” if I wanted to be in the arts.  So I never forgot.

With time, I was told being a black woman in the arts meant I had to be better at quoting Shakespeare, knowing Frost, knowing Poe, understanding Greek theatre, and audition for all the classic plays in American literature that I could. Even though none of the characters described my features or spoke like me or ate the food that I ate or told my story.

Maybe when I stood in front of the class and said I wanted to be an actress my teacher knew… she just knew she’d better make me memorize this Langston Hughes poem and tell me sternly, “don’t forget this.” And I never forgot.

And through my (mis)education and living life in the arts, my dream indeed was deferred. But I remembered this poem, and fully understand it now.

It Exists! A Poet’s Handbook!

I have been asked so often various questions on how a poet is supposed to act, where they are supposed to perform, who they are supposed to support… I answer the question and conclude with, “this is my perspective.”  I try to remember my conversations and dialogue with various artists and crowds at educational institutions to be better prepared for these “life of a poet questions”.  Recently as I was browsing the shelves of the poetry section of a used book store…

“Run Toward Fear: Poems and a Poet’s Handbook” by Haki Madhubuti

An elder, award winning poet, essayist, educator, founder & publisher of Third World Press and founder of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State.  I suppose he too became bombarded with questions from our generation on this art form now once again prominently (cause this isn’t new people!) in the forefront called poetry and wrote words of refreshing encouragement and guidance.

Pick the book up!  Writers and performers PERIOD not just poets! I have to share a few things until you get to the bookstore!

poetshandbook

Continue reading It Exists! A Poet’s Handbook!

Aim Higher! (take what you can?…)

Something is better than nothing, right?

This is one of those statements that need to be eradicated from culture!  NO!  Something is not better than nothing!  This statement keeps us from our highest potential.  This statement has been a crutch for mediocrity and a grand contradiction in the education of families and the progression of communities.  Such unconscious statements have survived our families and we keep them relative without actualizing the potential danger.

Continue reading Aim Higher! (take what you can?…)

The Casualties of “Keeping it Real”

“Keeping It Real” Campaign

Genocide – the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.

1)  This is the first generation that will not exceed their parents academically for the African American community.

2)  This is also the first generation where the elders fear the youth.

Happen stance?  Believe what you want but I’m going with the notion that both of the previous statements were strategic actions. 

Continue reading The Casualties of “Keeping it Real”

A Fault in Schooling

childwithchalk

A few years back I remember there being a flux of best selling books on entrepreneurship and how to become an effective leader.  The company I was working for actually bought a few in bulk and made them available to all members of management to read and keep in rotation until we had read them all.  I have recently been having conversations with colleagues who stand with an austere tone that they wasted time in college only to collect debt on degrees they have no use for. These discussions have made me reflect on whether or not entrepreneurship was provided as an opportunity during our course work.

One of my friends shared with me that she remembered sitting in the office of one of our professors and confiding in him that she was interested in taking the writing track for her MFA.  She told him that ultimately she wanted to write for television in Hollywood.  She said he began to laugh so unsparingly that tears fell from his eyes.  After his laughing rant, he advised her she was in that program to become a teacher.  There was no conversation on “how” her visions could be actualized.  I think back to reading those leadership books while I was working to sustain someone elses’ dream and I remembered I had quite a few “a-ha” moments.  I learned of life/business strategies I had not learned from my parents or at any level in my schooling.  In undergrad and graduate school I had been given the basic tools to seek employment but I had not been given tools, or conversation, on how to be an independent artist or entrepreneur.  I had no direction on how to create my own paths. Continue reading A Fault in Schooling

…say, I Love You

…just tell someone that today.

we’re so used to not hearing it the other person will probably think you are:

1. interested in them/attracted to them
2. gay if you are saying it to someone of the same sex

when someone tells me “I Love You” i feel:

regal, special, important, valued

my friend Bilal just returned from the Ivory Coast and he said he witnessed African men holding hands as they walked down the road or when they stood speaking to one another.  no… no homosexuality.  he also told me that he had great anxiety about his first day of school for an African class.  he shared that the man that walked him to the school was standing next to him and grabbed his hand.  Bilal said there was a sudden high level of fiery energy that went through his body and he got through his workshop effortlessly.  after class, all the school children came up, hugged him at the knees and said “I Love You”.  this man stands 6 foot 3 inches and he said their expressions brought him to his knees.

so just try it today.

I love you,
nikki skies

 

africanchildrensmiling

Not Worth the Degree?

“There has to be more than what you see.”

This is what I say to friends that tell me that if they could do it over again they would not go to college.  A majority of them have found jobs outside of the fields they studied and made successful careers in them.  A few of them say for the work they are doing now, they only needed the on the job training offered so they are paying student loans “for nothing”.

“There has to be more you got from college.”

The majority of my friends from undergraduate and graduate school are from the Humanities and Social Science fields.  According to the National Center of Education Statistics, on average the unemployment rate for those fields have always been a steady 9.6%, the highest of any field of college study.  My friends divide between specific studies in theatre/speech communication, and the fields of psychology and criminal justice.  I look at how much these fields have grown with cultural and societal changes and clearly understand the difficulty in finding work.   I myself have had to find other fields of employment for financial support.  But would I say my degree wasn’t worth it?

I studied for my undergraduate degree at Grambling State University and chose to major in Theatre.  I had been into community theatre and the arts since I was a young child and had been writing poetry at a young age.  I remember during my senior year in high school, a friend who graduated a year ahead of me, and had the same reverence for theatre that I had, describe her displeasure she had with first year of college at a predominately white college.  She told me that the production season was booked with white productions and her confidence at being considered for any of the lead roles was dismal.  She “created” a love for costume design.  That gave me a different perspective on how to choose where I would go for college.  Being that I wanted to go into theatre, I applied to Pace University in New York and to Grambling State University (GSU) in Louisiana and was accepted to both.  I chose GSU.  “The Place Where Everybody is Somebody.”

gsu

Continue reading Not Worth the Degree?