Category Archives: writers

some days i feel like, bell hooks

bell hooks

some days I feel like, bell hooks. I feel radical enough to express my mental health even when it exposes my family. It is done with respect and an ambition to grow. I can’t remember the first book I read by bell hooks but I remember feeling like I was having an incredibly intimate and engaging conversation. like the writing legacy I want to leave behind, bell hooks has mastered her craft. she stands alone with the interconnectivity she entails with gender, race and capitalism. she is pro a progressive and critically thinking culture. she is pro living life in a just and freedom filled way.

some days I feel like, bell hooks.

I come from that good stuff

that stuff that dreamed. my generation had one of the highest high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates. we were at the cusp of technology. the apex of video games (Atari) and cable television. I remember when “God Bless America” played on the television channel before the network would turn off for the night. I’m from that old school learning of patience and manners being taught by everyone. I remember the bad kids being “paddled” in the principal’s office. I remember how long it took to dial a phone number on a rotary phone. (especially if they had 9’s or 0’s in their number!)

I come from that good stuff of after school programs and free summer programs at the local boys club or ymca. I come from organized marching drill teams and family reunions every year. I come from a grandmamma that got on her knees every night to pray. a family that knew how to hunt and fish for food.

I come from being nurtured to dream. a schooling with arts integration. that culminated in my generation being so inspired and viciously ambitious. we were provided an outlet to create, imagine and dream.

not so much for our kids now. they call them the “microwave kids”. they don’t have to go to the library. they don’t even have to go outside to play or talk with one another. they can do everything via internet and online gaming. now the arts are a privilege for those that can afford it. and that is the impression most have.

the impression is dancers come from wealthy families that can afford for them to train for years. and writers were all left family trust funds so they can sit around and stare out of windows while they write best sellers. the impression is theatre actors are funded by their wealthy family members that sit on the board of trustees for the winter and spring programming. art is viewed as unattainable. the absence of art has our children where they are today.

they are at a lose for individuality. they are born in a box of selections for a career. collectively our communities have shun anything outside of our “safe boxes”. the boxes created to keep us from being murdered or kidnapped or lynched. yes, we still battle that psychological warfare. my dreams were “I could be anything I wanted” and I was presented various platforms to fail and succeed. now our children are told, “you can be anything you want but..” and they aren’t given a safe place to test it out. after so many failures accompanied by laughs and “I told you so’s” from their peers, it is easier for them to stop. and to save their esteem we allow it.

arts is integrated in all studies at school. I believe it is strategic that it has been removed from public schooling and community centers. too many close calls of that next generation connecting their oneness inside of themselves. what if our children figured that out? they would become genius and critical thinkers and seek to remedy all their ills. they would then be from that good stuff like I come from.

God help us. Ancestors guide.

their gold

“Let’s go ahead and be, Betty and Malcolm to infinity
not boo and nigga to never,
Me Ruby Dee and you be my Ossie!”
– excerpt from the poem Make We by Nikki Skies

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They existed before we could quit. Before we began to measure faith. And I don’t know what their arguments were about! I don’t know if they ever went to bed mad at one another! But I can’t find an article of them speaking ill of the other or talking about giving up.

I see a complete picture. It’s like they’re looking at the end. They spotted the pot of gold and this is the best poker face they could deliver to hide their joy! I imagine this picture is after the blessings of their families for them to unite. After he promised her family he would now be the provider. This is after she agreed what he would bring to the table would be enough.

Perhaps this is before Malcolm X began to rise. This is a still when our antiques were their current treasures. This is a still of the black arts movement! If you stare long enough Ossie begins to sweat and pulse points on Ruby Dee’s neck palpitate subtly.

They look like they are ready to conquer the world.
They look like they will create their way out of any situation.
They look like a purposed love.
and I stand on their shoulders.

Ossie Davis and Rube Dee

Some Things I am Convinced Of

I am convinced of my ancestors effortless being of linking the seven sciences. 

                         (Grammar, Arithmetic, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music)

I am convinced my ancestors altruistic nature taught this ingenuity to everyone else on the earth

I am convinced once it was duplicated the magic just wasn’t the same… it never had the same exact medicinal results

I am convinced this angered the foreign thieves

I am convinced the foreign thieves feared our wedded power if we were to ever reconnect the power of It All

so we were taught to compete in a way that destroyed families/communities/dynasties

we were distracted with results while the formulas to create now became our quest

and this continued through captivity

but we began to communicate through drums and quilts and songs

and then some of us were chosen to eat and… we were separated again

something happened in the 50’s/60’s where we began to communicate through song and dance and sermons and theatre

and then some of us were chosen to eat and… we were separated again

and then we created a culture of hip hop with music and dance and graffiti and religion and clothes

and then some of us were chosen to eat and… we were separated again

and then poetry began to crawl then walk and ran from corner to corner of the world

and we met at coffee houses and corners and churches

and then some were chosen to eat and… we were separated again

I am convinced the spirits of our ancestors will garner enough energy to once again present an opportunity for us to reconnect ourselves as One

and this time my dear Artists,

We Must Feed Each Other until we get the formula just right!

We must bite the hands of the presenter and

re-member Ourselves.

I am convinced of this.

 

diary: from here

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Another day “from here” with snow still spread on our lawns and the kids are in the house with a major case of cabin fever. They are so desperate to get out of the house they are willing to go see “Frozen” at the movies. At their ages of 7, 9 and 11, cartoons are a complete waste of my money! They just need to get out! We have a little sunshine so the snow and ice should no longer be a threat on the roads. We are still now plagued with the frozen tree branches falling and breaking power lines. Please let us get through tomorrow…

I created a calendar for me to submit my new plays to contests, etc. My ten minute play, Son Unknown, about Virgil Ware has to get out into the world! The only thing preventing that is ME. Keeping it saved on my laptop under the folder “writings”. He has been a secret for too long! I have to get this script out there. If all works out, it will become a short film by the end of the summer. I get to sharpen my scriptwriting chops! That is what I studied my MFA for! Very exciting for me to be able to see this script come to life on stage as well as film 🙂

The film process will make me tell the story visually. With that, I am planning a 3 day trip to Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and parts of the Delta in Mississippi. I need to record the trees and streets and some other visual clips that can be shown in the film. Last time I visited Mississippi, my short book came to fruition. What will come of this journey?…

Only I stand in the way of my works not being read in coffee shops, libraries and book stores. Move over Nik!

“You don’t have writer’s block, you just don’t want to tell the truth.” – Nikki Skies

when myspace was the ISH

I am always very late to check into the latest technological gadgets and all the social media circles. I guess you can say I am easily intimidated with having to learn all the download, upload, add a link, rank your friends stuff. My friends would always ask me when was I going to get on and start posting stuff. In my head I was protesting! First they take away letter writing, then you don’t make phone calls you text and now you don’t text you type on the internet. (And in between all this, no one has told me what to do with all the cd’s I still have?! Now we download music?) Well, I remember when I finally decided to join Myspace and how it really helped catapult my performance poetry career.

It was right before the release of my poetry cd, “Moody”. I consulted with some friends on which sites to download photos to download for my profile (never understood that!) and how to download videos and my spoken word. I was performing feature spots heavily on the LA scene at the time and after performances I would mention my Myspace page and have friend requests from nearly everyone in the audience a few hours later. It became a link for performance opportunities in other cities and eventually other states. I’m sure this is how a lot of spoken word artists were able to arrange self supported tours and for venues to bring in talent to their perspective venues. Myspace social networking allowed me to create a following and literally have my next potential paying gig sitting in the audience. I realized the opportunities were limitless and only a keystroke away.

The successful sales of my poetry cd and my two books are largely due to the social networking I engaged with on Myspace. Expanding my audience outside of California into a tour of the midwest, south and east coast are all from networking with other artists and venue producers via Myspace. Now there is facebook, foursquare, twitter, tumblr, linkedin and so on. I have a profile on nearly all of them but find myself once again overwhelmed with all the how to gadgets. I suppose after some research on which one, or ones, can be the most supportive to the next phase of my artistic career I will focus on that site. Until I make that decision, I find the networks I am on as different ways to gather political and entertainment news as well as keep in contact with friends. Even though Myspace is pretty much now defunct and I can’t even remember my password, I remember when Myspace was the “ish” and helped me pay my bills.

that “other” job

My first love will always be theatre. Always! My first speaking role was in the kindergarten and I remember my lines to this day! Even when I perform poetry or give a lecture, I still get that feeling I had in kindergarten. My stomach turns, my upper body gets hot and my heart beat becomes rapid.

Even though my mother tried her best to support my dreams and protected me from those who would say “Nikki needs to think about a real job”, I eventually fell prey to insecurities. And of course the reality of trying to support my dreams, pay bills and have a social life was not feasible on an artist income. Like all other artists, I signed up with several different temp agencies and eventually found a niche in team building in corporations and non profit organizations. In between performance gigs and bouts of writers block and times when I wasn’t confident enough to be vulnerable, I’ve held positions as ‘recruiters, trainers and directors’. Of course they have paid very well… and had health benefits.

I have friends that can be grass roots performers and I have friends that will not eat if they don’t get paid for their art. I applaud them! I salute them! The support from their families’ obviously reached further than mine did. These ‘other’ jobs allowed me to advance my art and for me contribute to the pace setting of the direction of our art paths. It allowed me to write/produce/direct a play with a cast of six, self publish a short story book, produce a poetry cd, fund the initiation of a spoken word tour and write/produce/direct my one woman show. Not so bad… but then the annual performance reviews from these jobs continued which meant an increase in salary which included bonus money which meant I was smart enough to continue to pursue other companies and go in asking for more money! (no… I was never interested in teaching, not even as a substitute)

On some award show, someone said, “dreams don’t expire”. That is exactly what I needed to hear! I still have the ambition to become a best selling author and award winning playwright. I still have the goal to be a highly sought after lecturer/speaker and travel internationally. And I have to aim high for excellence because with my ‘other’ job, I have a settled idea of the lifestyle I want to live. And I like to travel and I like lobster…

For those artists with the ‘other’ job… SALUTE! Just remember don’t forget the passion you have for that job you would do for free but simply can’t afford it.

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…

the grits of New Orleans

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I live amongst an amazing circle of friends who write for magazine publications, theater, poetry, novels and short stories. What is amazing is the variety of genres that are covered and how most have embraced this is how the stories come to them. From whomever or where ever they contribute their muse or creative direction, we are all very different.

I am folklore and history. I have been since elementary. I have been visited by songs from oak trees to rural area cobble stone streets. Like most artists, my sleep has been kidnapped by the smells of their cooking and their loud and sometimes hallow laughter. You’ve heard of the “dog whisperer”? Ok, allow me to officially introduce myself, I am Nikki Skies the “southern city whisperer”.
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A summer visit to Jackson, Mississippi inspired my book Mississippi Window Cracks. Working in Montgomery, Al inspired my book Porch n Pork. I recently visited New Orleans for a weekend getaway and was bombarded with voices and stories! From the arrival of marble steps from France to the soulful meals of low country boils to feed families.

I get a romantic story or poem every six years or so. For the most part, excluding the freedom I am creating for this blog, I keep my personal life and stories out of my writings. I would much rather write about you through my colors and seasons. Like how you spent the first musky humid filled night with Katrina, or how your bead strewn streets are actually full of prayers. The life found in your cemetaries and the trusting trance you’d place on swamp gators till daybreak. New Orleans, I heard you. And yes, I will write one of your stories.