Tag Archives: destiny

the artist and the endless nights

One of the roles of the artist is to re-create life’s perception within a societal context. Some say the conditions of the moment define the creation of art through political, cultural and religious/philosophical terms. With that, there will always be an audience for our voices, so why do we torture ourselves with endless edits and insecurities of not being artistically accepted?

So many of us sit surrounded by genius pieces of art inspired by our immediate communities. Award winning poems and best selling novels. We have garage spaces and storage units full of paintings and sculptures that depict an opulence of emotions. And the fear of our vulnerability being labeled as weak disables us from sharing. And the masses of our culture in the states does not support our profession so we get a “regular job”. And turn our passion into a past time or extra way to make money.

Everyday of the week. In every situation in life. The individual in the position to persuade or that perceived the story will always have an audience that understands and supports them. As artists, we have to identify when in our lives we began to believe no one would appreciate our art and stop this. Because no matter what the discourse is from the expression, it will be perceived by someone that understands and folds our endless nights.

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when does sugar become sweet? by nikki skies

from the root? from perception? from the experience? when does sugar become sweet?

For me it is from the experience. And it is probably this for most others since we are not physically sugar canes. Be that, when does art become good? When is a love affair over? When is enough enough? When am I a bad parent?

These are all boundaries I have created for myself. My own little box I keep painted and maintained to look like my body with smooth brown skin. Perhaps like my mother felt when rearing my sister, brother and I, she was doing the best she could. She was doing what she knew and felt best at that time. And at times her decisions were based on her personal needs and I encountered moments of disappointment. However, what made me feel this way? The root, the perception or the experience?

It is all.

My oldest niece lives with associate disorder. (I have accepted this is the nice way of saying early stages of schizophrenia.) She dissociates herself with authority. She is bold and impulsive and therefore dissociates herself with effect. I am her guardian and have experienced bouts of fear and anger and sadness with this realization. Even though my sweetheart is an honor roll student in middle school, she does not understand these conversations I have with her. I can tell by the narrowing of her eyes. She just knows she is being scolded for “something”. When does her sugar become sweet? At her root? Her perception? Her experience? Is there truly an impact for her to acquaint with when she, like everyone else, is simply living out her karma?

Fear is the unknown. And like any parent, I send myself in frenzied panic attacks over her future. But when free from ostentation, I can empty my mind and live with her sugar being sweet under all three possibilities. Therefore declaring her a whole person.

motherdaughterpraying

some days i feel like a skyscraper

laskylineblackandwhite

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 zen note

One day, as the big temple bell was being rung, the Buddha asked Ananda, “Where does the bell sound come from?”
“The bell.”
The Buddha said, “The bell? But if there were no bell stick, how would the sound appear?”
Ananda hastily corrected himself. “The stick! The stick!”
“The stick? If there were no air, how could the sound come here?”
“Yes! Of course! It come from the air!”
The Buddha asked, “Air? But unless you have an ear, you cannot hear the bell sound.”
“Yes! I need an ear to hear it. So it comes from my ear.”
The Buddha replied, “Your ear? If you have no consciousness, how can you understand the bell?”
“My consciousness makes the sound.”
“My consciousness? So, Ananda, if you have no mind, how do you hear the bell sound?”
“It was created by mind alone.”

COMMENTARY
True form is without thinking. Truth is unmoving. Name and form, appearing and disappearing – these things never existed. Time and space are always moving. The world of name is the world of opposites. See, hear smell, speak, act and think clearly.

from the book I’m currently reading:
zenperfect

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

rubydeeandossie

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

A Lifestyle

Nikki Skies, Howard University Days

even back then I knew I would have a lifestyle in the arts in some form or fashion.  capture the stares of strangers and live in the heat of the light.  a bit more relaxed now.  not as serious.  still believe that voice in my head and that message in my heart. – Photo by Lydia Douglass-Cordova