Category Archives: friendships

a Village of Didactics

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Every village has the fire starters, the roux makers, the pot stirrers and the servers.  To sustain we must eat.  To eat we must prepare.  To prepare we must know what it is we need.

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I come from a village of didactics that met around various fires in Los Angeles, Ca.  I have served all of the above positions and mainly now operate as a pot stirrer and server.  The village I come from readied me for travels across the country and I have eaten at other tables and I have found comfort in Atlanta, Ga.

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While we do have a fine manuscript for direction, “Run Towards Fear: A Poet’s Handbook” written by our elder from the Black Arts Movement, Haki Madhubuti.  I recently asked a few art comrades, “what is their responsibility as an artist?”  This is their response composed as prose.

My Responsibility to You

This is to you,

from a disposition of utmost sincere expression

The occupancy where colors announce families/ one word at a time

risk taking words that demand                                                     / reflection

words that are bold and confront the world

/ stop it from going to sleep.

Yes!  From what and who I am today delivering pillars of truth and honesty

for a better me / an honest transparent me / accepting all of me

a perpetual student vulnerable to the cultivation of my own thinking

an informed voice to the mentally blind

agitating synonyms and proposed purpose

and by default      /manipulate life.

Continue reading a Village of Didactics

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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happy muse/happy me

This is like seeing an evening rainbow after an afternoon of thunderstorms. Like, listening in a comatose stance to the radio hip hop mix and then coming alive when some old LL Cool J comes on!

This one is definitely a song to dance to with your children! My girls and I have claimed this as our summer song! We dance and sing in the car and we don’t care who is watching!

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This is perfect timing for me as I am being visited by my muse and this time around I am listening and taking care of her! Enjoy and have a good day!

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more memories to create!

Since I have made friends with other moms I learn of the little things they do to create sweet memories for their children.  Over the past couple of years I have had several friends tell me about “Elf on the Shelf.”  So you send a letter to the north pole and request  an elf or several stuffed elves to visit your house for a specific time.  Every morning your kids wake up and search for the elf in the house as it has done different “fun” things around your house.  I am planning for the holidays now and suggested getting one for my nieces… THEY HAD A FIT!

What was I thinking?  These are the same girls that flipped out about the tooth fairy coming in their room while they are sleeping!  And actually when I thought about it, who wouldn’t be afraid of the tooth fairy?  (Come on, the thought of someone sneaking in your room while you are sleep and reaching under your pillow… yep… I can’t blame them for being freaked out!)  I told them about the elf on the shelf and they were intrigued and interested until they heard that the elf would be doing stuff in the house while they are sleep.  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I found this conversation to be so hilarious!  The oldest girl vowed a solid, “NO”, the middle girl is afraid but curious and the youngest girl is game to go because she knows her sisters will protect her.

It’s all about creating memories right?  RIGHT!  I went on amazon.com and ordered my elf on the shelf for the 2013 holidays!  Of course I’ll post the adventures of “elf on the shelf” when they begin in November!

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DC Dreaming

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I recently visited my grad school city of Washington DC where I attended Howard University.  I abruptly left the city in the middle of a semester and said good bye’s to a group of the most intellectually creative individuals I know.  It had been some 17 years since I’d visited the city and a lot had changed!

This southern city of Atlanta has not grown on me and it will be six years in January.  I know, I know… this is the new “black Hollywood” this city is “where it’s at”, well not for me.  I have lived in quite a few cities and fell in love almost instantly.  Even with putting into perspective this move was life altering with taking guardianship of five children, Atlanta has simply not settled in my heart.  It is the south… the dirty south with their own style of politics.  It is truly black OR white. NO gray or other colors in between.  Regardless of education or professional connections, this part of the south is black OR white… that is the determining factor.

Now, by no means am I saying there is nothing good about this city.  I have friends who LOVE living here and friends who come to visit every chance they get because they LOVE Atlanta.  The artists here are hands down some of the best writers I have met in my life!  They are exposed to some of the most beautiful landscapes, colors and family stories to document and/or perform.  The “family feel” that has a dominant spirit around the city is often missing from other major cities I have lived in.  And now with caring for children, schooling is important and I live in one of the best counties for education in Atlanta.  (they care for/about black children and their well being.)  But as far as my personal growth as an artist and my growth as a maturing single woman… the “A” is not for me.

I was curious what I would feel when I visited DC. I was curious if I would want to move back? What would the energy be? I took the bus from Atlanta to DC. (hey, when you have kids, any time you can have a long length of time to listen to your heartbeat and only think about yourself…you will buy that time whenever/wherever you can!) I slept most of the ride to DC and upon getting my rental car and driving out of Union Station, there was DC. I quickly remembered all the buildings and downtown with all the circles and parked cars everywhere… I was TERRIFIED! It felt like someone was watching me at every stop light! I didn’t know which lane to be in to get to New Jersey St while driving DuPont Circle! Why are the cyclist lanes so damn close to the cars driving?! Where are all these people jogging to at 9:30pm??! Why are there people with business suits walking? Have they really just gotten off work? I remembered… I didn’t like DC! Remember why you left so abruptly during grad school?…

Then there were my colleagues. We caught each other up on where we are in life. Discussed recent awards and credits to our art. Laughed about our yesterdays 🙂 Talked about our plans and immediate goals in our perspective art forms. They filled me in on the ever so obvious gentrification that has happened in the greater Washington DC area.  (It is no longer chocolate city, Atlanta is!) And we even discussed our fears… Now, I remembered why I stayed at Howard while I did. These minds. These perfect mixtures of left and right brain thinkers. I have an amazing circle of family friends in LA… but not like this.

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I remember everyone being so serious in DC. Everyone had a gym membership or therapist. No one laughing. Everyone had somewhere to go and they had to get there in 6 minutes! Fast paced!! That is not what I needed in my life at that time. I was moving from Louisiana, Grambling State “where everybody is somebody”! And DC was everybody for themselves. I was not comfortable, I felt out of place. Perhaps I am just thirsty for some type of artistic/progressive connections, but I was sold. Project Move Out of Atlanta began immediately! The kids will finish up this school year and we will begin new in DC or Philly August 2014.

I look forward to using both sides of my brain and being creatively driven in a city where politics live.  And if DC doesn’t make the cut, it is a short drive away from Philly, a city I have been wanting to live in for quite a few years now.  DC re-charged my batteries!  My goals have deadlines now!  Don’t short change a bus ride people!  It allowed me to do some DC dreaming…

Five Tips to “Selfie Pics” Men Should Follow

After a delightful conversation with some girlfriends on dating, I have summed up a few tips for men to follow when sending out selfie pics to women they are interested in. If you want to present yourself as a single/available man you may want to:

1. Change the pillow you’re laying on, unless you really like Betty Boop.

2. Remove the flat irons/curling irons from the counter in front of you.

3. Remove the bras and pantyhose hanging over the shower rod behind you.

4. Close the closet door behind you so your girlfriends/wives dresses aren’t showing.

5. Move the family vacation picture taken at Disneyland from the nightstand so it’s not showing.

ijs…

Memphis Trues

My mother’s family is from Mound City and Marion, Arkansas so traveling to this area for family reunions was an annual summer event. These rural areas are the outskirts of Memphis, Tenn.

I recently went to Memphis with a woman that I have called friend for the past 29 years, Vanessa. Buddies since junior high school! Between us, we have lived in nine different states! Both of our birthdays are in July and a few years ago we decided to travel to a different city and see what it has to offer. Last year we did Chicago and just this past weekend we met up in Memphis. Now even though I have been to Memphis before, I had never been as an adult and without holding the hands of a younger cousin, etc. Once I got back to Atlanta, I knew I wanted to share photos and write about the city but then I decided I should write about friendship.
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So what do we do? We laugh, eat what the locals eat, laugh, talk about our relationships (she’s actually married her high school sweetheart and they’ve been together for the past 25 years!), take a city tour, talk for hours and sleep in. I know the things I told her will stay with her and we will re-visit next year and throughout the year. She knows her ideas and thoughts are safe with me. Friends like this, don’t judge but gently persuade. When she laughs at me I don’t get offended. We don’t support pity parties but encourage each other to look to the light. To get to the point, we trust each other. Trust is what has sustained us all these years.

To all those who have true friends, time can/will get away from you so make the time to nurture those relationships. Of course you hear all these tips for your significant others but don’t take for granted your friendships. They need TLC too. I just traded in the Memphis blues to maintain some Memphis trues!