Cultural Critic. African American Studies Scholar. Author. Educator.
Note: Posted below you will find a few of the postings from the annual Blackwards events. They are just FYI. The party is closed right now. Check back during the next Black History Month or email your name and email address and you will be notified of any special events. Sorry we missed you.
BLACKWARDS (blăk'werds) adv. 1. At, to, or towards black. 2.movement towards understanding black and black understanding: towards African-centered thought. ™
Welcome! Thanks for stopping by our national Blackwards party. This page was created to help folks understand African-centered, or Black thought and threaded nuances of African ideology. While we all know people are just people, cultural specificity does cause folks to function in uniquely beautiful ways. Blackwards is our way of celebrating the Beautiful Black of this wonderful vibrantly colored world. Come on in. Get comfortable. I'm Kim. If you need anything, let me know (click here). Here's how this works:
* This is the check-in page. (No foul language, self-hate or other foolishness beyond this point)
* Proceed to the Blackwards Data section below to pick up your reading for today. Think about it.
* On to the Party/Chat Room (Check your drag first - this is where it all goes down - all eyes on you!)
Most recent Party Room cocktail: Posting from "On My Mind" (Followed by Blackwards postings)
Previous postings listed chronologically starting at the bottom of the page.
I created a tribute to my son's recent graduation. I have had to post it everywhere, because it works no where! Dang! Hopefully, my ole trusty site can bear the load of all these fond memories :-). Enjoy! Let's see.
First, I must say Happy Mother's Day to all, especially to my dear, sweet Mother, and her everlasting memory!
Well... all the macaroni-Elmer's-glued-to-milk-carton jewelry box recipients, and the belt grabbin', Excedrin poppin', pedicure appointment missin', run up to the school to take the forgotten lunch, I think I should hide in the closet for 21 years mothers, should take notice:
***Alert***The day is coming!!!!***Stay Tuned***
My daughter just turned 15 a month ago. Yesterday she presented me with a gift - that she bought - with her own saved money - in advance of the holiday. It is gorgeous! She gave me a silver charm bracelet with 2 charms: one was a heart engraved with a message "Mom, thank you for always believing in me, Love Maya." My son, the ultimate man holiday nonchalant-ee, sent me flowers with a card that read, "Thanks for always helping me to remember what is important in life... and today it is You!" This Sunday he graduates from Morehouse!
My husband added to the day and took me to a Kim-type-flick matinee, etc. It was a beautiful day. Let me just say... Will somebody, just make sure the folks know I lived a good one - no regrets - and don't let them put too much makeup on me (I like looking natural). Lol! Because... I must be dying! This place feels too much like heaven! :-)
Mother's Day matinee... Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day. Well... The good: I liked the way the film was shot... there were a couple of good actors in the flick... sort of didactic but major messages were well taken... The bad: storyline was choppy and the writing was not-so-good... Overall, it was aaaiiight. I'm willing to support Jakes as he works out the kinks and develops his craft :-).
Saw the Harry Belafonte bio at Chatham Theater, here in Chicago yesterday.
My critique: Great must see show! Very informative; provides many little or unknown historical links. He has obviously had a rich and expansive career as an entertainer and activist. The movie was emotion stirring for me. I light-pressure clapped for several things throughout the flick, swallowed and blinked in quick repetitions too many times to keep track. This dude was involved in many major movements, with the greatest of Black leaders and struggles.
One sad note for me was a critical analysis I couldn't avoid, even in my position as a great fan: Mr. Belafonte, in my "African-centered" opinion :-), had/has and affinity for "Whiteness." I can hear my critics now... just because 2 of his 3 wives were White, that doesn't mean he preferred Whiteness... just because many of his closest associations were with White entertainers or Black entertainers whose closest associations were also with Whites, doesn't mean anything. Race didn't matter to him. Well, I disagree.
Mr. Belafonte has done GREAT things! We could say that and leave it there, but some may confuse the minutia of his experience as the ideal model for existence. Naw, naw... it is necessary to celebrate his good, and appreciate his greatness, as well as critique his flaws. He like many of the greats who were captured in a world of blatant subjugation, were victims of self-inflicted racism even though their actions were born of resistance and opposition to racism. It's deep and I won't get into it here. It is something all Black people still suffer from, some more than others. I'll just say for me it was apparent in the bio - the great bio, I should reiterate!
My mom loved Belafonte which is why I was so excited to see his bio. In viewing the bio I felt the presence of my dear sweet now departed mother who LOVED me passionately, and made me smile when she, in her Black Power Soul Mama way, filled with fervor and conviction tried to dissuade me from wearing my hair natural, or at least, as she would offer in conclusion - "not when you're going out with me!" Lol!!! When you see those oxymoronic displays of love so close and so authentic, you come to understand and treat the problem with compassion. This is why I can't help but to honor the life of Mr. Belafonte; You gotta love the dude!
Mrs. Monroe was my 3rd grade teacher. She was my favorite. Her love and care made a huge impact on the person I would later become. I have tried to figure out why she has meant so much to me. What was it about her that made her stick out from all of the other great teachers I encountered in elementary and high school? This morning I have been trying to go back to that third grade class - the mobile unit to the south of the paved area. The mobile units had been added to accommodate the changing community. White folks were fleeing and upwardly mobile Black folks were filling in all the spaces until there was not space enough to house all the students. So they poured some gravel over the grass and plopped mobile units on top. There were thin metal, wobbly railings and a few short steps pushed against those units. She would open the door, step out almost ducking to clear the doorway, most often smiling or sister-woman raised eyebrow greeting us.
"Mr. Such-and-Such, I know you are not out of my line... I'm gonna take a second to close my eyes and clear my sight because I think I'm seeing things."
Within a split second the named child (tough or undisciplined as he might be in other environments with other adults) would be in his place, tall and appreciative. Mrs. Monroe had a way about her that was warm and affirming. For me, she made being smart COOL. I knew most of the answers and was learning that it was not cool to be so intelligent - it made you different. Sometimes you needed to hold your hands, sit on them if need be, but don't allow them to shoot up above the level of comfort in the class. Well, Mrs. Monroe must have sensed that I was being trained to contain myself, so she made it her business to find ways for me to work at my level. When Janet and I, and a couple of others would finish our work early, Mrs. Monroe would give us other things to do. She would even schedule us to come in early or stay late to "help her with things." Hers was a wonderful learning environment that encouraged me to embrace my authentic self. She reminded me of my mother away from my mother. Maybe it was her unique little southern, yet citified accent. She was not from us, here in Chicago, but the twang in her speech said she was from somewhere someone in our past had once been. Her frame was eight feet tall, at least, back then. Later in life I paid tribute to her in one of my books and my friend, Janet somehow contacted her and told her about it. On the opening night for my Gallery down on Michigan, she came out. What a surprise! Dag! Where'd she come from?! I couldn't stop smiling. It felt like her classroom all over again. She was humble and sweet and slightly embarrassed by the attention all the ex-students gave her at the event. She was then only about 5'9", or so, maybe even less.
This morning her funeral is being held in St. Louis. I wanted to attend, but could not. I'll bet her casket stretches from the funeral home to the border of that state. In fact, I imagine it is open because the fullness of that great woman can not be condensed enough to fit into such a space. Hhhhhh...
To Mrs. Monroe I pay tribute today. We thank God for her life, her spirit, and her willingness to allow herself to be used in such a mighty way. We will always love her, and the experiences she created! Awesome, awesome woman! May God bless her soul, and may she rest in peace at God's feet. See you later, Mrs. Monroe.
Sometimes, when critical analysis gets too ugly and it seems to yield a continuum of negativity, I take a "GOOD!" break. I ask my students, "What's good?!" I want them to tell me something specific that is good in their family, their life, and/or their community. Culturally, Black folks have a hard time with this request because in a communal culture the goal is to limit hierarchies and inflated egos, and telling the good about yourself can be perceived as bragging. We just do what we do. So what we slayed the tiger with our bare hands when passing the school playground on our daily 24 mile walk to work, and still made it on time. 'Twas nothin'. No need to even thank me. The rip wounds on my arms and torso will stop burning by the time the blisters on my feet begin to throb, the blood will air dry from the lengthy walk, and I'll stitch up the tattered clothes with strands of my hair before I reach mile 21. Easy.
I completely understand this logic. My life exists in it and it is quite a force for maximizing productivity. However, on occasion folks need to pause and take account of the journey and at least some of the gains, the beauty of it all. This helps to keep people human and to keep folk mindful of the purpose of the journey.
So today I ask everyone who reads this site to jot down 1 thing that is good right now... not something that used to be good, blah, blah, blah until someone did something, blah, blah blah... or not something that will be good when folks stop, or start, or realize, or , blah, blah, blah... What's good RIGHT NOW?!
Tell at least 2 people about your good thang, today! No explanations. No quantifiers or qualifiers. Just the good.
Here are mine for today:
My son graduates from Morehouse this semester, and my daughter memorized her monologue yesterday! Heyyyyyyy!!!!
Today's message... ignorance is a disease; selfishness is symptomatic of a person with low, low, low self esteem. Children are not possessions or pawns. Shame on miserable grown folks who knowingly destroy the lives of their children simply because they can. Pray for children of psycho, lonely, bitter, ladies, and pray for compassion for the ladies, because they were probably once in the position they so easily place their children in. Stop the cycle, ladies!
Saw Angela Bassett tonight at St. Sabina. She's a beautiful, regal woman with the convictions and cultural awareness of an African Queen. Gotta love her. Thanks to my students who attended the event. Next Friday night Iyanla Vanzant will lecture at St. Sabina and sign her new book. The event is free!
Happy birthday to me, it's been more than a week, plus happy anniversareeeee, and happy spring time 3d. You had to sing it to feel it :-).
Well, long time no see. What do I want to tell you? Hmmm. So much...
Soweto Gospel Choir - saw them on my b-day 3/11. My God! If you get the chance, see them; you'll love 'em.
Visited St. Sabina to check out Father Mike on my b-day. Great message! This dude is full of fire. He makes you wanna go out and first spank some folks, then hug everybody! Later that day, my family and friends cooked dinner for me. They patiently waited for me to return from my last minute Soweto Gospel Choir outing. We all found out that you can't surprise a stubborn 40 sum'n year old brut like me. I greatly appreciate their effort, though :-).
Big thanks to Mike for GREAT Bulls seats! Kelly got to see Philly (get whooped - lol).
National Council on Black Studies - the conference was interesting. I would say it was great, but I hate that they have 2 million, thirteen hundred, and four panels all scheduled each hour, simultaneously. WTH?! How are we expected to maximize our learning?... Send an arm to one, an elbow to the other, an ankle to the one that least matches our area of focus... Whaaaa? It was good, though. I learned a lot and enjoyed sharing time, ideas, and experiences with friends. Kelly was on a plenary panel - I should say "The" plenary panel, which has its time slot all by itself, so that all can attend. Thanks to Haki Madhubuti for inviting him to share that space. There were four of them and they all did a great job!
Speaking of sharing space... last month Rev. Moss came to CSU to share with the faculty, and later in the month Rev. Wright came and guest-lectured in Kelly's class. Dang! Talk about African-centered education... community, church, academia, NOI, Spike Lee and the arts... you've gotta love this place and all that is possible here :-)! I was educated here. I teach here. Some believe I'll be buried here... Uhhh, nah! Lol.
Folks celebrated the life of Susan Reese (my children's aunt) on 3/17. Everyone had known and remembered her just as I had: smiley and full of life. What an awesome tribute to the bigness of her personality and her heart. The celebration embodied her spirit; the pastor joked that the store owners on 79th street were probably perplexed, wondering where folks were, saddened about losing 50% of their profit for the day, because ALL of 79th was where they were least likely to be - up in that church that afternoon. We love Suzy - may she rest in peace.
Then finally, Trayvon Martin... I'm gonna try not to cry so I can say something about this young guy. I am having a difficult time dealing with his death. I have a son. He is now about to graduate from Morehouse. He once walked through our mixed-race neighborhood. He went to the local store...bought candy... loves iced tea... is the child of Black parents... walks standing up... wears sweat tops... occasionally dons a hood in rainy weather... looks at people who looks at him... talks on his cell phone... has friends... carries in his hands things he's purchased... is fearful when there is unwarranted attention and threats from strange people... would call for help if he thought someone somewhere might hear his humanity - find and give to him his inalienable right to be himself... slightly sags :-)... parties on weekends... loves living. Then the deafening "BANG!"... again and again, nickel-off-the-needle-old-45-skippin' in my mind, and the 911 White lady, hysterically crying regrets that are rich and real enough to grab and hold on to... and it's not The Wire, but it's on the wire all day, and all night... and through my tears I imagine I can see his feet, walking freely - high steppin'... and I daydream and I wonder if Trayvon Martin would have pledged Q.
Okay, this is one of my favorites for this week...
Mos Def did a remix twist on Kanye and Jay-Z's Niggas in Paris. Pretty courageous, Sir! We love Mos for his consistency and his fearlessness - Yeahhhhhh! Watch Ye and J first, then Mos Def and you'll get it. Listen to the lyrics and disregard the Illuminati reference. Wow!
11:43 p.m. - Just got in from a hot Sunday night date with my man ;-). We went to see The Convert at The Goodman Theater, here in Chicago. My God! If you haven't seen it, SEE IT! Great play! Every actor was convincing and became the character. The writing was unbelievable and held you captive without booms and bangs and cheap cliches. It is a must see! Won't be there long. It is the best I've seen in a long, long time!
ps. I haven't forgotten about the circles :-). Soon, vairrddeee soon...
No Whitney Houston commentary. I think I said most of what I thought of her and what she meant to my young life, while she was living. I'll just say she was a lovely lady, and a phenomenal talent. I appreciate having been exposed to her music and the beauty of her spirit. That's it for that.
I'm working hard, folks. I have little time to write :-(. I'll get something posted here soon. My mood is all deep and thoughtful and reflective. Hmmm... Let me see... The next writing I do will be at some point in the next couple of days and it will have something to do with (dun, dunta, dun - hear the drumbeat) CIRCLES. Yep, you read that right; that's what it says - circles. Start thinking about circles and why circles are relevant to life.
I'll meet you back here soon and you can write me and tell me if you were thinking what I'm thinking :-).
By now you should be able to tell that I am sleepy and silly - LOL. Therefore, I have to bid you farewell for this evening. Just wanted you to know that I'm still here.
I just had lunch at a quaint little spot. If you are in Chicago, on the south side of the city, try J. Bistro @ 9836 S. Western. The turkey burger was delicious!! Mmmmm... Plus, I'm told they have live jazz on Thursday nights.
Okay, let me get this story out before the i-tis gets me :-).
Soul Train creator Don Cornelius died this week. His show impacted many folks' lives. Here, in Chicago folks took to the streets, up north, and celebrated his life and legacy with a huge Soul Train line. No, I wasn't there and didn't participate in the line this week, but I have participated in many. I loved Soul Train... sat stuck in front of the tv learning how to be, watching the swagger of Black folks on Soul Train.
One very fond memory of Soul Train comes in the form of a conversation. When I was a young woman, still an undergraduate student in college, I had an experience I will never forget. Moses Malone was a famous NBA player. He was friends with my co-worker at the salon where I worked as a shampoo tech (yep). We all had gone out a couple of times. One time he came to town and he and my friend, and a couple of other folks went out to eat. It was a Friday night. I was suppose to meet them, but didn't show.
The next morning I was away from home for a little while. I don't remember why. When I arrived home my father told me someone had called a couple of times. He said the person said his name was Moses. I was a bit surprised, but not shocked. My friend had told me that Moses wanted to speak with me and had her calling me the day before. I told my dad that the caller was "THE Moses of Moses Malone & the Sixers". He responded with a very calm "I thought so." Then he went on to create a narrative about the call and what he and Moses each had said. While my father was in the midst of telling me the story, the phone rang. I answered and it was, again, Moses.
"Hey, you're a hard person to catch up with. What you gotta do that takes all day and night."
"What'd u mean? I was only out for a minute... what's up?"
"I know you heard I've been trying to talk to you. I want you to know I think you making a big mistake -". He stopped mid-sentence. There was a slight pause, I imagine for redirection of his thoughts. "But, uh, before we get to that" his raised voice, hollowed out and echoing, flooded my ear, drowning out the formulations of my comeback on his criticisms of me and my decision. "What channel is Soul Train on down here?!" he asked. "I've been flippin' these channels and checkin' times for hours. Somebody said 10. The guy downstairs here at the hotel said 10:30... I can't believe people don't know what time and channel Soul Train comes on." His disbelief was palatable. "I ain't never seen nothin' like this. It's crazy!"
I can't remember my exact reply; all I know is that I definitely knew the correct time and channel, and that knowledge forged an authentic respect between me and the big guy. Since I correctly led him to Soul Train, he took it easy (a bit) on me for not being willing to date "The Rookie" whom he assured me would be great some day. He told me I would forever regret not accepting his hook-up with "The Rookie" who had taken an interest in me. Afterall, the guy, according to Moses, was a decent and deserving budding superstar. "You gotta be crazy," I remember him saying to me. "The Rookie," as he affectionately called him was none other than Michael Jordan. I eventually ran into Jordan several times out and about in Chicago (I had already met him once with Moses and friends, which supposedly initiated the other invites) and all was forever well. I have never regretted not dating him, though. Really. $$$$$ You $$$ gotta $$$$ believe $$$ me :-). Lol. No, actually MJ was a very nice, respectful, and at the time soft spoken gentle-giant-type of dude. I thought he was handsome and polite, but I already had a boyfriend. I haven't bumped into Jordan in years, but if I were to see him I would probably give him a generic lifeless "hello" and smile slyly to myself thinking, "Man... you think those championships were sum'n... sshhhoot... Soul Train and the long forgotten Moses Malone almost got you the prize of your life, Bruh!"
Rest in peace, Don Cornelius... as your legacy and the Soul Train lives and rolls on and on...
No classes today. Headed to revive myself: hair, nails, skin, muscles... mind.
Minister Farrakhan spoke at CSU the night before last... I found out most of the attendees had not see him speak before... those attendees found out that they agreed with him more than they disagreed with what they thought they knew of him from the media - though they "might not have agreed with everything he said." The goal was for folks to hear and judge for themselves - the message and the man. Thanks to Minister Farrakhan!
Also, huge thanks to all the folks who came out... Derrick Rice (my buddy) came from ATL., a gentleman came from Miami, Father Pfleger and his staff were in the bldg., Sam "I Am" was there :-), soooo many students (former and current) and faculty and staff were all present. Chicago Council on Black Studies came out with students from our Black Studies partner schools in Illinois: Zoe, Armstead, and the crew :-)... Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Kwesi did a great job of gettting us fired up... then Dr. Harris shared his teaching perspective and put the event in its proper and intended context for us - wow! Nyssa, Lisa, Faheem, and Ibrahim all made the program flow smoothly. We all appreciate the CSU community for its effort and support!
Okay so, I just received the results from my DNA test. I already tested and found out that people with my same DNA exist in Sierra Leone - The Mende People, and Guinea Bissau - The Balanta People... I'm excited! Tell me more. Now, a few years later I take a test for racial make-up, basically to see how strong my Native American genes are. I have about six weeks to ponder this thing, while waiting on results. Uhh... maybe I'll contact Sherman Alexie and see if he can help me get to my people. Bet there are a bunch of 'em left, even after all the tragedies and challenges...
Fast forward to today... the results are here! Heyyyyy! I open the mail and read this:
Kim L. Dulaney
We have determined your DNA mix. ...Your sample shows genetic similarity to individuals representing West Sub-Saharan African populations with a calculated value of 77% ± 2% and European populations with a calculated value of 23% ± 2%.
There was a pie chart off to the side of the note - 2 colors - 1 split. I searched for the other pages, other percentages, sum'n... then it clicks in my mind 23+77=100. What in the frick-frattin'?! Both my great grandmothers were Native American (according to legend). I began to get a bit frustrated, wondering who spiked my history with this fake DNA, then I remembered what I heard from Skip Gates on a program on television just last week. He said most African Americans swear they have Native American blood, when in fact they actually have White blood that they wished was Native American blood. What?! :-) Well...(breath)...I file the results, flip my hand to the air and say out loud to myself, "KMA, science is limited." ;-)
2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress (ANC) – South Africa ’s (and Africa ’s) oldest continuous liberation movement. The ANC is rolling out a non-partisan year-long program of celebrations in South Africa and across the globe. In so doing they will recognize the role each of the country’s major constituencies (labor, women, youth…) and provinces has played in the struggle for freedom. It will also recognize and honor the support of those international partners who helped to abolish apartheid and establish South Africa ’s democracy. The centenary celebrations will highlight not only South Africa's historical accomplishments but serve as a launch of ANC/ South Africa ’s next 100 years emphasizing the need for additional work to make economic democracy possible for more South Africans.
For several months, the Midwest ANC Centenary Committee has been planning a kickoff celebration and brainstorming a series of educational and cultural activities that will occur throughout 2012 in the Midwest to celebrate ANC's 100th Birthday. The Chicago ANC CENTENARY kickoff will be held on Sunday, January 8, 2012 at Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) located at 400 W. 95th St. in Chicago, IL from 3-5pm. To celebrate this historic occasion there will be a panel discussion on the RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND THE ANTI-APARTHEID STRUGGLE. The panelists include: Prof. Harold Rogers, Moderator, Dr. Rachel Rubin, UIC, Attorney Stan Willis, Prof. Johann Buis, Wheaton College and Nicole Lee, Executive Director of TRANSAFRICA.
On Friday, January 6th at 7:00pm Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright will lecture on the role of the Church in Africa. Rev. Wright's lecture is part of the kickoff weekend and we are honored to have him as part of the celebration. There will also be worship services featuring South Africa on Sunday, January 8th at St. Sabina Catholic Church (8:30am), 1210 West 78th Place, Chicago, and TUCC (7:30am, 11:30am and 6pm).
We look forward to this exciting opportunity to put Africa front and center once again, and to rekindle support for South Africa’s model of peaceful change and promise of economic and social justice. Please join us for one or more of these free events – we hope to see you at the kickoff and encourage you to share this invitation with friends and colleagues.
The Chicago-Midwest ANC Centenary Coordinating Committee
2011 Harambee Na Nguzo Saba (Harambee and The Seven Pillars)
Put CSU into your Kwanzaa observance calendar, Thursday, Dec. 29, 4 - 10pm in the gym building. Kwesi Ron Harris says, "This year CSU celebrates the principle of Ujamma (cooperative economics). Pemon Rami, educational programs director at the Dusable Museum of African-American History will offer the keynote."
This event is sponsored by the Office of Enrollment Management with Y2Kwanzaa.org, TheBlackMall.com and the American Cancer Society.
I was in Atlanta last weekend. My good friend had a 50th Birthday party. He had events planned for the entire weekend. We went for the Friday night affair – only, but ended up staying until Monday.
Grades are in. Worked on them all weekend. The semester is over. Hhhhh...
This week has been chocked full of things to do. I have so many things to attend, so many obligations that it is clear to me what my New Year’s resolution will be. Breathe.
Friday night I went to a student’s graduation/wedding celebration. The student is a lovely young woman who will do great things. Though I was hosting a celebration at my own home on the same night, I had to show up and give my support to this student as she begins this new chapter in her life. I am glad I went. Her grandparents were this lovely couple that has been married since 1958. They shared stories, etc. with Kelly and I and it was a really wonderfully calm and enriching experience. Congrats to Renica Caston on her graduation and marriage!
Later that night... the ladies from TUCC’s Hurston Hughes Writers’ Group came through. Three of the ladies recently lost a loved one – very recently. We almost cancelled our annual celebration figuring no one would be in the mood for a celebration. However, we spoke about it and realized we are always in the mood for writing. The strange thing is, as a writer, when you enter the world through the writers’ way, all things look like a celebrationJ. The writer’s ultimate desire is to get beneath and all up in things to find organic matter, essence, and truth. Truth, even ugly truth, always lends itself to clarity, which causes celebration. And so, we got down in the dirt, climbed in graves and resurrected the essence of folks, then dusted and cleaned some stuff and prepared to use what we were able to salvage from the wrecks of life as tools for the rest of the journey. What an awesome gift!!!
Yesterday, Man... Kelly rushed out to early morning quality control checks at Black Star Saturday school sites. Then we met at the Chicago Council on Black Studies meeting. A few new folks were there and there is new programming in Black Studies at a couple of Chicago area colleges: Kennedy King, Harold Washington, Concordia... Kewl! These are exciting introductions and we look forward to working with the Council and its individual and institutional members in the upcoming year! The foundation for solid and truly effective education starts with the knowledge of self!
Dag! I forgot to mention Karenga, the creator of Kwanza, and a premier Black Studies scholar who was at the DuSable Museum this week. He is always deep and refreshing and he did not disappoint. Note: Folks should really try to get out and support DuSable. They have great programming!
Back to yesterday...
After the meeting, we attended the Black Chicago History Forum at Woodson Library (9500 @ Halsted). Side note on Woodson: this would have been Carter G. Woodson’s 136th birthday – check out this link for more infohttp://www.asalh.org/WoodsonHome.html . Okay, so, the guest lecturer discussed his new book titled Muse in Bronzeville. Got it. Haven’t read it, but will soon.
Next... The Pre-Kwanza Festive at Chicago State University sponsored by WVON. It was much better than I expected. 1st year... good turn out... lots of vendors with a wide range of products... food... fun... good event!
One of the greatest highlights of the day... Kelly spoke at the 2011 Colts Football League Banquet. One of his students is the director of the program, which is in the Roseland Community. Her husband runs the program. They are doing a great job over there and should be commended and supported by Black folks throughout Chicago. The banquet was free, had food prepared by Real Men Cook, was well attended, gave out trophies, plaques, and certificates of achievement, and was an enjoyable and inspiring event. Note: Of the three guys who coach the teams, one was once the coach of the other two (back in the day). You follow that?! Talk about mentorship and intergenerational giving back to the community... you have to love it!
Then to Chicken and Waffles down there off 39th @ King Drive with our long lost buddies, Dr. Beaty and Dr. Watkins. Both ran Chicago Black Studies Programs but recently joined Howard University to work on a graduate Black Studies Program. We met at our old favorite munching spot and were joined by graduates from CSU’s AFAM Studies Program. Get this. It blew me away. One of the graduates from last year’s class, Sir Reggie (as he has earned that title), PICKED UP THE TAB for the entire group! Students, professors, everybody! Dang, young fella! J
Finally, the last stop of the night, Dr. Watkins’ Annual Christmas Basement Party in Chicago’s South Shore area off ot 78th & Jeffrey. This is a different Dr. Watkins from the one noted above. This one works at UIC. His latest work is worth a read: The Assault on Public Education: Confronting the Politics of Corporate School Reform. Every year he has a throw down bash for Christmas. Last night Hispanic folk, European folk, Black folk, Asian folks, young folk, old folk, any group you might imagine all danced to House music, James Brown, steppin' music (and tried to step). etc. It was a scene I could have and should have taped for my Cultural Diversity class. It used to be a straight up Black Studies folk thang. In fact, one year while attending this annual bash and watching the good doctorate-holding Black Studies scholars shake their rumps and party hardy, I realized they were not so stiff and different than me and began to believe maybe I could join their ranks without sacrificing my soul and cultural habits and desires. It’s true!
This is finals week! Hallelujah! Students get to demonstrate that they've mastered the course content and I get to work really hard with great expectation that mornings in bed late with steam rising from teacups and books - fiction books - and paper and pens and napkins with scribbly beginnings of short stories, and long conversations with kids that have gotten way too tall and beautiful and knowledgeable way too quick to be mine, and long afternoons on the couch with this large human snuggly called a husband, and visits from young and old, and music and food, and days that hug so tightly to nights that the two are indistinguishable, and maybe even a few yoga dates, might all be just around the corner. Yeah, yeah, yeah.... (I'm singing the yeahs :-)!
Meanwhile, Y'all should have been at church...
Mmmmm, hhmmm... My church, Trinity United Church of Christ celebrated its 50th anniversary! Wow! That thang was awesome! It was something like I spoke of above, a homecoming vacation celebration with folks who were raised with the church and other friends and family of the church all in one place for a weekend long soiree. It brought back fond memories, warmed my heart, and cleared my head in preparation for the next stretch of this journey. Never fear; if you missed it, you can still hop on in. This church keeps the doors open, welcomes you, and helps to take you where you need to be, or at least to a better place! :-)
If you get a chance, see KinyaRwanda "Forgiveness is Freedom". We saw it at a DuSable sponsored showing last weekend at AMC River East. The movie deals with the conflict between the Tutsi and the Hutu, and offers a perspective much different than the movie Hotel Rwanda. It isn't as sensationalized and deals more with the humanity of the ordeal. At one point in the movie, one of the leaders talks about the way the conflict was created. Hearing the explanation was rather powerful for me because it was a classic use of the methodology my students study, detailing how to construct racism and prejudices. Crazy, weak, and sheer foolishness.
This Thanksgiving we traveled to Philadelphia to spent time with my husband’s family and friends. We had a great time. I met more of his old schoolmates, neighbors, and extended family. My daughter and I were taken to a huge mall, which is of course right up her alley. Then, the highlight of my trip, which would of course involve food - my mother-in-law shared a couple of her recipes: greens and shrimp & rice. She made enough for us to bring some home, and as soon as school breaks I expect to use those recipres and eat both of those dishes until my tastebuds tire and become immune to their flavorings. J
Meanwhile, my son was in the Chi. He made it to town to see us off then we made it back to hang out with him a bit before he had to leave. This guy is a man. I love and am very proud of him and all that he is. And now... my pride in and love for my son brings me to my losses.
For some reason the loss of my mother weighs heavier on me this year, this season, than it has in the past. Maybe because I was with my husband’s family, outside of the cocoon of my own folks, immersed back into the world I hadn’t realized I had distanced myself from. Maybe because I have never ever spent a major holiday away from my immediate family, because it was against my mother’s rules. Maybe because her birthday was November 25th. I don’t know. I just know that I found myself in a battle to stuff in enough food and deliciousness to smush down tears and emotions, at least in public. I love emotions. I believe in crying and getting angry and being overjoyed and confused – all of it. It clears me of clutter and allows me to live freely. However, I admit I love it best when I can control it and decide when and where it should do what. LOL. Yep. Shameful, but true.
The other great loss I have to write about may seem a little strange, but it is real... it is about a pair of shoes. I have this great pair of comfortable shoes. I’ve owned the shoes for a while. I have done all I can to be fairly good to the shoes. I’ve had the caps replaced on the heels a million and nine times; I had a portion of the bottoms resoled; I’ve had them shined and nearly dyed and refurbished on almost every level... and now they are old, and I am running them raggedy. The poor things have a small hole in the sole, but that doesn’t stop me... I’ve tried to keep them off my feet, leave them at rest – pending disposal – but I just can’t bring myself to toss them. Well, this weekend our relationship and my abuse of these cute little shoes was almost exposed. Yes! In church this Sunday morning, 7 sum’n in the a.m., feeling good, my kids were there, my husband was there, the choir was on fire, and those uncontrollable emotions almost tripped me up. When folks were called up front for prayer my son rose from his seat and made his was towards the front of the church. Me, being the mom who loves him and wants to support my son in all he does, I hop up from my seat to follow him and I beckon my daughter to do the same. She reluctantly follows and my heart fills with joy – we are gonna pray together and my son is gonna be sent off on his long drive back to ATL covered in our petition for his safe keeping. Alright! A great way to wrap up the weekend! I get to the alter, locate my child, wait for my other child, grab their hands, drop my limber healthy body towards the floor – no one is behind us, there is space to relax and spread out... with my knees squarely beneath my torso I drop my head, stretch my feet back in all the open space, and suddenly I feel a slight sensation... it is the breeze of alter-kneeling-truth that quickly reminds me there is a small hole in my favorite, most comfortable don’t-want-to-let-them-go shoes L. Dddaaagg! Now I can't even pray right.:-) I can afford shoes! I have two thousand alternate pairs. But here I am breezey-booted! Lol! Kim, you have to stop it! I tucked my foot in a squat, looking and feeling crazy, cementing the hole in my sole to the carpeted floor, hoping not to misrepresent myself. Man, if my mama would have seen that shoe like that! OMG! I’ve been searching high and low to find a replacement pair. Nothing compares. I should’ve added that to my prayer list! God send me a sign, a picture, a ghostly glimpse of the shape of this shoe boot in the window - any window in the world, so I can go get a replica and rid myself of this problem. But, I didn't pray that, and it hasn't happened. I guess I’m gonna take the shoes somewhere far from where it is easy to retrieve them and I’m gonna toss them... in an ocean, off a cliff, into a trash compactor... and I'm gonna do it soon, before the rain stops and I'm tempted to slip them on again yet one more last time . (I can't wear them in the rain; my feet will get wet).
Pray with me people: Lord help me, comfort and keep me AND my faithful shoes that deserve rest after having served me and their purpose so well. Hhhhhhhh... Amen. Amen. And Amen.
Friday night I went to see the movie J. Edgar. It was not too good – I like Leonardo’s acting, but the story was incomplete. It barely gave attention to Hoover’s fixation with Black leaders who fought for justice for Black people – Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr., The Black Panther Party… The movie focused more on building the idea that Hoover had a same sex lover. That point could have been made in one scene. Who really cares about that? The rest of the movie could have delved much deeper into the man’s personality and resultant actions - how he terrorized folks and thwarted efforts for equality. That is what Hoover is known for - at least in my part of town.
I went straight from the theater to an all women’s Bible study. It was great to be in the place with women, calling on God, strengthening each other. Though I enjoyed the service, I left with a headache. At one point in the service a man who had been transformed into a woman gave testimony that once his children graduated high school, he decided to live for himself and do what God told him to do, which was to go all the way and become a woman. My daughter was in church with me. While I know God loves everyone, I took issue with the fact that the church asked this man to testify about his belief that God told him to change. God loves the man!! Absolutely! I love the man as a human being who is equally entitled to grace and blessing from OUR God. Yet, that is a separate issue than God telling him to correct his anatomy. In my mind, that is saying God made a mistake and asked for this man’s help so that he could become “who God intended him to be.” Listening to, and processing the man’s speech felt like a Dave Chappelle or Wayans brother skit. The man looked and sounded much like a man. Many in church yelled and screamed affirmations. It was very confusing and disturbing for me. There are so many things I could say to explain myself, but I won’t. I am not God, so I’ll just say it was beyond my understanding, and I'll leave the rest to the person and God. The man seemed like a nice person. May God bless him as He does us all.
Saturday night I went to see Sinbad!! Oh, that’s a bad bruh! He was hilarious! See him when you get a chance. His relationship jokes/therapy is awesome! My cousins and I had a ladies night and we all could swear Sinbad had been investigating us, watching through our windows as he prepared his material. Laughter is a beautiful thing!
Keep giggling... life is easy... talk to you soon,
Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the gripping account of a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn to shreds by a decades-old civil war. The women's historic yet unsung achievement finds voice in a narrative that intersperses contemporary interviews, archival images, and scenes of present-day Liberia together to recount the experiences and memories of the women who were instrumental in bringing lasting peace to their country.
Join us for a viewing and discussion of this extraordinary film ~
Tio Hardiman, one of the people featured in the film, will be the discussant.
This movie premiered at the Siskel Theater Black Film Festival 2011. It documents work by Ceasefire, a Chicago based organization that works to resolve conflict and prevent violence in many of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.
This event is sponsored by Chicago State University's African American Studies Dept., along with the African Male Resource Center, and the African American Studies Association.
Okay, so I forgot these yesterday. Here are a couple of new songs I need to add to my rainy day like list. Yep, even Lil Wayne.
Lloyd & Andre 3000 - Dedication to My Ex
(Okay - for the record... I don't like the video for this one, it's sexist and creepy: the woman is walking around like a brickhouse psycho fatal attraction freak - very unnecessary and wierd). Just listen to the song, but don't watch :-) . http://youtu.be/Sjaq34zocTA
This could go on forever... every 2 seconds I think of a song that should be on the list... even some Patsy Cline (Go Out Walking After Midnight) and Tracy Chapman (Give Me One Reason). Ohhhh... yeah... I have a country list, an alternative list... everythingexcept a hard rock list. :-) I love music!
March 6, 2010 Wow! The moment and the memory is the charge...
Shut my mouth. Are you kidding? I am still shaking. My soul won't rest or settle down. Last night I attended a fundraiser where the Honorable Minister Farrakhan, Father Pfleger, and Rev. Wright were honored. I went expecting to feel something magnificent. I expected to somehow walk away bigger and more absolute having been in the space where history was made, when it was made. As an admirer of the 3 honored men and as an audience member at the event, my expectations would have been met. I would probably be resting soundly right now (5am). However, at one point in the program I was called upon to say a few words. I am a writer and a thinker. As such, I am afforded the benefit of dealing in truth. I am trained that way. I can think things out, sort them out, then find an appropriate and powerful way to color them with words. Unplanned, on-the-spot speaking is much different.
You see... What I know for sure is that it is easy to exist in the world as a critic or an onlooker. It is easy to judge the efforts and intentions of a person when there is only one bright light and you are in the shadows not easily identifiable. It is a heckler's existence - a heckler's luxury. But what about when the light turns your way? No props. No production.
The moment I stepped into the light on that stage I felt inadequate. I thank God for that moment. I found my word-wise self without proper words to speak. I felt small and unworthy. I thank God for that moment. I am a rather accomplished woman. I've done many things. In the presence of my contemporaries I feel full, confident, sometimes arrogant and absolute. There is nothing or no one that intimidates me. But in the light, with the attention of the greatest men my lifetime has witnessed, my words could only reflect my truth: I am not worthy... we are not worthy. I thank God for that moment of truth.
What can I say to men who have given their whole selves to us - men who have stood on the front lines and suffered so that I could tip-toe into success and accomplishment? I was supposed to say something about the school where I work. While I wanted to say many great things about the programs and the commitment of the people, and I wanted to let the crowd know that we do better than most, and I thought it would be a good idea to give an example or two of things the children have taught me, and blah, blah, blah... my truth rendered those things irrelevant. There was nothing I could say. Something came from my mouth, but it was nothing profound, or even proficient. It was what I discovered I am, my generation is, it was inadequate. I wish I could have perpetrated. I wish I knew how.
I can recall that I said something about thinking I would go to work at St. Sabina to "save the little Black children" from the cultural weaknesses of Catholicism. I didn't say it like that, but it is the general gist of what I meant. But the truth is when I got to St. Sabina the children, under the wisdom, guidance, and influence of Father Pfleger, didn't need me to expose them to their culture and self-identity, and they surely didn't need me to save them. In fact, I could make a strong argument that St. Sabina helped to save me. But I couldn't find the clarity to articulate that in the light. When I first began speaking I spoke about Rev. Wright. Surely I could speak about Rev. I have spoken about him many times. But in the light, exposed, I felt like I was speaking in front of my father who already knows my truths, strengths and WEAKNESSES so there was nothing much I could muster. Then I dared not even address the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. I sat one seat away from him during the concert and I could feel his soul. While his spirit was one of encouragement, it was also one of great discernment. I dared not attempt to bamboozle the man. I mean really, what could I say to these men? "I am nothing much, Sirs. When your time on earth is done, your efforts will have been in vain based on what I have offered the world thus far, but thank you and keep up the good work." Thank you would have been a contradiction; I'm sorry would have been more appropriate. That is my lesson from the event. I was hoping for a moment to remember and I got it.
As long as I live I will never forget the standard that was revealed to me when I stood exposed in the spotlight. I am unworthy. We are unworthy, y'all. Our efforts pale in comparison to our predecessors. Our passions pale in comparison. There is much work to be done. Who will feel the charge when put in my presence in my latter years? Who will feel an aching need to be better because I am watching? Who will lose their bravado and have their accomplishments deflated and properly contextualized in the face of my efforts and God's relative yields? Uhhh... I don't know. What I do know is that I had better get to work - we had better get to work. The children are watching. The ancestors and the elders see us. The time is coming when the circle of life will roll us into the light, and the intensity of the moment will be magnified by a prolonged exposure and we will be naked with our truths, and those truths will have permanent resonance on our future, and we will have to answer for all we were and all we never even attempted to be.
Think about it.
Ps. It was an awesome concert (Shannon 1st, then the Whalum bros. Kirk and Kevin)and an unparallelled opportunity. Thanks to Jeri and Janet and the whole planning team for their great effort, and thanks to all the attendees for supporting education and Haitian relief. As for the honorees - without effort they did what they are prone to do - inspire us, and repesent us and themselves well. Thanks!
It's about 3am. I can't sleep. First, I'm too excited. If you are in Chicago and you are not planning to attend the event that will honor Rev. Wright, Minister Farrakhan, and Father Pfleger, then I don't even know what to say about you :-). This thing tonight is like going to see Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X back in the day. As I told my son, one day these men will be written in history books - and come to think of it, I might be the person who writes the book! I wouldn't miss this event for the world. I am honored to be a helper to aid Rev. at the event (thanks to Jeri and Janet for thinking of me). I can only imagine what the ancestors will help me to see, know, and connect when I am standing there in the midst of living history. Wow! What an honor and gift! Happy early b-day to me...
Also, this could be considered a gift, I guess :-(... Yesterday I was basically forced to buy a new car. Most folks would have been excited about that, huh? Me, I am a weird person. I have driven all types of cars. When I was young I drove Corvettes and whatever was new and fresh and rare. A few years ago I was rolling to school in a Range Rover. However, for the past few years I have been driving my longtime companion Mr. Mercury Minivan. I loved it. It seemed to love me. It was a vehicle my daughter walked into at a dealership while I was waiting on my cousin to pick up her new car. My daughter was a toddler and loved the idea of being able to walk through a car - so I bought it for her. I designated it my work car. I always said I would ride that baby until the wheels rolled off. Well, this week that old sweetheart made me miss an appointment I was obligated to attend. I don't do that! This forced me to realize maybe it's time to let him go. So, while he's STILL in the shop with mechanics finding something new wrong every day, I went and bought a car. It is funny what life does to you. I researched and found the best economic value, called the dealer and arranged to pick the car up later in the day. Best value? Without regard for anything but cost, mpg and reliability, and power windows and mirrors of course, I went and got this little car. Fortunately for my daughter, the car had a few modern bells and whistles: Bluetooth technology, satellite radio, iPod connection, etc. The car only cost 18K and I was feeling a little grumpy about it and dreading signing the papers. I'm cheap. Frugal. Something. I don't know how or when it happened, but it is now a bonafide truth. I have become an official penny-pinching square. And I think I like it. :-)
Let's just hope I don't balance the car savings with a justification for 800 pairs of new shoes :-).
Advice of the day - Never take on a doctoral program, celibacy, two jobs, and a manuscript in one cycle. Spread it out. One thing, maybe two at a time. I think my mother's grave illness and her ultimate passing caused me to think about my mortality and pushed me to try to gather all of life and pack it into to my present space.☺ I have a confession. I have Superwoman-itis and whenever I'm in the presence of someone who gives half of their ability to something, it gives me the shakes. It sends me into overload in an effort to produce enough energy to crank-start the half-stepper. I don't know how to pretend that lackluster effort is good. I am a passionate person. I want folks to be alive and excited about things they pursue. I've lived dreams. I know they are possible. I know folks can reach their goals if they just have faith and try. I believe I can do anything. I just have to learn that even if I can, I shouldn't do them all at once.
This advice was forced into my reality today because I had car trouble. I am exhausted. I need Popeye and some spinach right about now, but I'm fasting (no food after 6pm). I guess I'll get me some water and roll on into a rested tomorrow.
Well, I put it out there and someone responded. I'm not saying this is for Jeff, but if someone wants to hit him up and pass on the info, I won't be mad :-). This is from Kim (the other PLJ Kim - Jones).
"Hey Kim, just dropping in to say hi and to ask you to pass on some information
if you know anybody in need. lol. I just started a new stepper's class in
Hammond Indiana with my partner. It's on Thursday's from 7-9 and on Sunday's
from 4-6 for $10. We then have line dance class from 6-9 for $5 at Club Reno's
formerly Orbie's-142 Rimbauch. We do all the new line dances and old ones if
needed with Tomica of Dance Devotion."
Did you hear Tavis Smiley on the Tom Joyner Morning Show today? Well, I did and so did several of my friends. It sounded good to hear Tavis doing his thing again, in the morning. Tavis spoke about an event he will host at Chicago State University on March 20th. I am excited about that. CSU is my home. I don't remember how Tavis framed the theme for the event, but if I had to tell a friend what I thought the whole thing was going to be about, I'd say it's about Black folks falling to sleep at the wheel. Black folks got a new shiny car and don't remember that they have to drive that thing to where it needs to go. Don't forget to keep your eyes on the road. Know where you are going and how to navigate your journey based on your previous driving experience. A car is a car is a car - some shiny and new, some old and cruddy, all still capable of crashing, all still guaranteed to get off course without the proper attention to controlling the steering wheel. Don't be too impressed with the chauffeurs. Know the road so you will know where folks are taking you. Don't get too tired and fall to sleep at the wheel. Pay attention, people. Get a map. Chart your course, remembering from which you came. Here goes (not my video):
Let me make my thoughts completely clear; I am not one who believes in living in the past, but I am one who knows the value of a good lesson. Underrepresented groups who had to fight for basic human rights for hundreds of years need not soon forget the fight or ignore the imbalanced support structures or frames that remain in place. It is the same old car, same old engine, just a new body with a banging sound system and TVs in the headrest for your entertainment. Poor folks still can be put out of the car. They don't own the car. They still can't afford to go to the doctor if the car crashes. Truth be told poor folks can't even drive the car to where they want it to go; poor folks are just suppose to be happy to get a ride some times. C'mon y'all. You know we need a Black agenda, and a woman's agenda, and a general poor folk’s agenda... We can't drive in circles; we need a map!
I seem to have started a love fest yesterday. Everybody loves me, and I love everybody. This fact, the remnants of Valentine's Day in the air, and it being Black History Month and all, caused me to get trapped in discourse about love and what could and should be done in the name and honor of love. Some folks feel the looseleaf type of existence is not fun anymore; disappearing acts are not funny or entertaining. At some point love has to bind the loose pages - tie that thing together. Well... what can I say? I can't really argue against that. I know I'm guilty. Many of my friends (men and women) are guilty. It seems we prefer parallels, as opposed to fusions :-). There are a whole lot of reasons why. However, I wonder if we all were broke, or somehow in positions where needs were more pronounced and unavoidable, would we then find value worthy of self-compromise or ego-less communication in each other. Then could we permit ourselves to want or need others, shamelessly... fearlessly? Hmmmm....
Standing here right next to you
Know that I’m watching all u do
Spending years on top of time
"You-and-I" memories filling my mind
Can’t get away
think I shouldn’t stay
to make it okay
Every time I think of lifewithout you
I think of birds with no wings
seasons with no Spring
and bars on mars
locked into a parallelall by myself
Riding here, passenger to a King
Knowing you are my everything
Waiting for something that doesn’t exist
Magnets on bulls-eyes, but still I miss
Can’t get away
think I shouldn’t stay
to make it okay
don’t want to be alrightwithout you
don’t want to leave you standing by
don’t want to act like I don't need you
don't want to live the lie
in a parallel spell.
Ouuuu! This thing is so elementary, but I like it. Don't you wish you could say it to somebody?☺ Go ahead, use it; it's yours.
Be easy, be bold, be a soldier of love (like Ms. Sade).
Well, I love you too, and you, and you... I love everybody! How about that?! That should do it,☺.
February 19th, 2010 Good morning!
This is just a quick good morning greeting for my friend. Hi. Hope all is well. I know you're reading me. I'm praying that life is, or will be what you thought it would. I'm praying for your strength and clarity. I love you!
Give yourself a kiss for me :-). Thanks. I wish I could hand-deliver something special to each and everyone of you today. However, since that is not even a remote possibility, I will do what I can. Ok. Let me get my mind to crankin'... Here goes -
What it is...
It is the sound between the syllables, the sound that lingers at the end of the words
It is eye-to-eye conviction and compassion
It is the smell of human-ness pushing through the scent of candles and creams
It's a roaring belly laugh and a wide chipped-tooth grin
It is the feeling of rivers and streams of disappointment sandwiched between the jaws of life and undimpled sad-faced cheeks
It is an unshelled-peanut-partner real, vulnerable, maintaining in the midst of burning caviar-camera lights and painfully gritty glam and glitter
It is a touch of skin... the pressed print of a gentle pat on the back... a hand held long after the greeting
It is dream sharing and fantasy flights that travel to places that never were and will never be... and blinded vision that visits them
It is truth and forgiveness
It is the forever that encompasses the never again
It is love and it is now.
Okay, it's a tad bit deep, but what can I say... I was up too late last night; I'm tired - plus I heard language that was so bad, I need to wash my mind out with sumn'. I went to a DL, DC, Wilborn, and Simmore comedy show last night. It was funny, and very, very raw.
I need something mentally sweet and deep today :-). Hopefully, you do too.
Today I'm only about 21 years old. That's because yesterday I walked into a time machine where I went from 8 to 18 :-). I have to thank Kevin for inviting me to his birthday/Superbowl celebration. I had a great time. I saw people I haven't see since elementary school. I signed books at the affair. That was fun. I must admit I was only half prepared - bare bones presentation. It was much like setting up to sell books to your cousins you haven't seen in a while. Thanks to Debbie for sharing her candles and aviance; what a warm and sweet spirit she is. Congrats to Wayne on opening his new fast food spot on 111th street right next to
. I hear the food is great. If you live on the south side of Chicago, please support my dear friend. Somebody please give Jeff some steppin' lessons☺... it's a good fake-out, though, Jeff - I appreciate you. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the number of folks who have followed my work. It warmed my heart to hear from you. I know Chi-Town folks come out to my events and buy my books, but I had no idea folks who went to school with me were reading this site. Good thing I never said any of your names☺.
Anyway, today I wanted to make sure I took time out to publicly say sum'n to all my beautiful peers who have helped to color my life so bright - What up Edward F. Dunne and Percy L. Julian alum? You all are still looking good and still loving and living well. I toast my morning tea to y'all. Yes, Janie, I'm still sipping - a little less, though☺.
I just finished watching the Hope For Haiti Now 2 hour program. It was really a great demonstration of the connectedness that exists in almost all of humankind. At one point in the show I thought only the magic of art, especially music, can achieve something as broad, as universal, and as antithetical to media-embellished and media-preserved cultural stereotypes as this display has. That thought entered my mind at the point where Bruce Springsteen performed the classic We Shall Overcome. Wow! I believe that is when I donated, but it may have been when that fine crooning John Legend did his thing, or maybe during Jennifer Hudson's spirit-filled performance... or just maybe it was when Justin Timberlake got that Hallelujah going. Or Wyclef... Yeah! My goodness! I can't be sure :-). What I am sure of is that there is a thread that binds folks when, one way or another, the bold stroke of reality swipes away barriers to reveal tragic and horrific inequities.
Let me tell you what my students said this week as we sought to explore the history of Haiti. I showed them a map. We traced the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade. I reminded them of projects we did last year that revealed our connections to Africa. I showed them where folks with my same DNA exist today and we traced the route that brought my ancestors to America and took some folks from the same coast of West Africa to Haiti and other places.
We had great conversations, the pure kind that only children can initiate. Many of the children were well informed about the situation. Their parents had used the news attention as a teaching moment. Yet, others were baffled and confused. They asked questions that I probably would have asked at their age, having not been exposed to varied historical perspectives. "Aren't they devil worshippers? That's what God does when you choose to worship the devil." "Naw, man. They do voodoo." "No, they are just wild and violent." Everyone was allowed to speak freely about what they thought they knew about Haiti and Haitian people. When asked why they thought the things they thought, or where they had learned the things they shared, they all claimed to have heard it somewhere, on tv or somewhere, but they could not remember the exact source.
In a roundtable discussion I challenged my students to use facts to try to rebuild or to formulate new perspectives of Haiti's history and their past and current relationship with the United States and other countries. We talked about the revolt that ended in 1804. We discussed what that revolt may have made Haitian folks and others think or feel. I advised the students to try to analyze recorded accounts with a few questions in mind: Who would gain from the major action that occurred? Who would lose? From which vantage point is the account being told, the person who gained or the person who suffered a loss? What immediate impact or lasting legacy may have resulted from the major action?
In the end, our Socratic exploration of this most devastating current event and the historical dealings that probably compounded the problem led us to decide that there were no winners. The Haitian revolt left Haitians with a cautiously warranted inflated sense of self that rendered them a wounded disposition of distrust and a sort of preemptive confrontational tendency. (These are my words - my summation of our conversation :-). Generations later Haitians are still extremely concerned about their independence and autonomy, yet not concerned enough about the destructive practices of their own government against their own people. Then too, America is ugly and bruised. America is still scared of Haitian strength, courage, and spirit. That which folks don't understand, they fear, especially when they may have participated in some type of ill act against the person, place, or thing. Their fears drive the creation of fantastic warped realities about the unknown. This is demonstrated in the notion that folks who fought against slavery, for their own freedom, are unruly savages, and so are their kids, and their kids kids. Our government is still disassociating from Haiti for not bowing to American ideology and control. We are still somewhat irritated at their insisting on being who they are. America can be a bit overwhelming. We are capitalists. We want to possess and own, or at least have a stake in everything of value. It is much like the person who offers you a free couch for your new home, then expects to be allowed to sleep on it every night because they bought it for you. At some point the blanketed wood floor becomes more appealing than the costly cushioned couch for which you seem to owe more than you agreed to, or can ever pay.
But anyway, fortunately, beneath all of the padded and shielded truths and existences, there are souls... plain human souls that feel the same pain when innocence is prematurely aborted and children are left without safety and care... souls that thirst and hunger... souls that cringe at open-air unnatural and unfinished single-sided dirt road rocky weed-ridden graves where spent life can not yet be fully exhausted, just tucked and hidden in the folds of forever no more... souls that frown, cry, scream, and whisper without words - "Damn!"
We are the human species: a soulful creation. Graciously, and thankfully art reminds us of that fact.
Here is an interesting truth (believe it or not): The soul of a man is murdered when it ceases to find its likeness in others. The earthquake shook the curtains down, now all can see - soul to soul.
January 18, 2009 Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!
Today is the day we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Be sure to search the web and find footage of some of his speeches to watch. Go beyond the "I Have a Dream" speech and you will find that this guy was an amazing and wonderfully committed man. The attention and praise he receives is well deserved.
Also, in honor of Dr. King and his legacy today is a designated day of service. Do something to help someone else today. Then take some time to reflect about what you can do to make yourself a better person, focused on issues and things greater and larger than yourself.
For fear that I may say something ignorant, I won't say much at all. I need to acknowledge that my perspective is strongly influenced by my fields of study and my experiences. My background is in environmental engineering, African American Studies, and English. As a child my family had a vacation home in the rural area of Michigan, where we raised horses, cows, chickens, pigs, and other animals and we also planted and harvested vegetables from a garden my father forced us to tend. My mother wasn't too particular about country living. She was a sort of prissy city woman, but my father was a Mississippi born and bred guy who wanted his children to respect the earth and organic-style living. My combined city/country upbringing, as well as my work experience with the environment, and with African ideology leads me to believe in balance and respect for all things, including ecosystems. I believe nature has a way of taking care of itself when left alone or when treated with respect. It is my belief that human obsession with need to know and control everything disrupts the natural balance of life. This may be an ignorant idealistic way of viewing the world, but for me it is sensible and absolute.
We cannot make everything bow to our desires, pleasures, and explorations. It is unnatural. All of existence is connected. We need to have a holistic understanding of existence and we have to pay attention to what the earth can bear. We have to be sure to consider the effects of our added luxuries, and scientific expansions. When we don't, disastrous phenomenons occur and appear as "mystical curses" :-) in small and foreign places - on the borders and peninsulas of humanity and innocence - first. Eventually, the boundaries move closer and closer to the impossible and we modernize ourselves into a bad situation.
Watching the footage from Haiti made me think about scenes from the movie 2012. It also made me feel apologetic - like I wanted to apologize for running my air conditioner too long in the summer, or keeping my home too warm in the winter. Made me wish Haiti had a better understanding of what that little piece of land could carry or support. Wish they hadn't had sanctions and disassociations in the past that stifled their future, and left them few alternatives. It made me wish scientists around the world weren't funded well enough to figure out how to manipulate the atmosphere and make it rain :-).
Most profoundly, though, the images I've seen on tv have caused me to have a gritty sort of uneasiness, and made me pray that folks trapped under that rubble were not alone or digging towards daylight in their final moments. I can't even begin to phathom what those gone and those left may have, or may still be experiencing. May God have mercy on Haitians, Haiti and all of the other small forgotten people and places who have become the recent recipients of effects from advancements, experiments, and distant or historical causes and prejudices for which they had no direct blame and from which they bore no benefit. Wow! Mercy, mercy, mercy...
God's speed and mercy,
January 5th, 2010 New Year / New Life...
I made some resolutions - just a couple. I am always careful to not make promises I know I can't or don't even plan to give my best effort to keep. If I just make an extensive list of everything I think needs changing, then I would be likely to make myself into a liar. I strongly dislike liars so I limit my goals to that which there is a great chance I can accomplish. This year's resolutions are simple, yet complex.
* write a book (finish at least half)
* I will try to help those who try to help themselves; the rest I will leave to God.
* I will spend more time enjoying family and friends.
* This year I will grab onto some things and let a few things go. I will not hoard and hold on to that which does not and will never again serve a purpose in the life I am living, or the life I plan to live. Since I am a person who feels a sense of loss after something as simple as trading in my car, then this will probably be my most difficult feat to accomplish this year. I'm allowing myself one night of tears for each major old treasure I must discard. I've already discarded two obviously broken treasures. I think I'll cry for them tonight. Then on to the next thing :-).
* I will finish the course work for my doctorate degree - wooo-hoooo!!!!!!!!!
* Finally, I will keep it moving!
I hope you have put some deep thought into your goals, and made plans that make sense and support your aims.
Below I've posted an article I received a few days ago from The Black Star Project. Enjoy!
Whether It Is New Year's Eve or
"Watch Night" or "Freedom's Eve",
the Black Community in America Celebrates Freedom from Slavery as of 11:59 pm, December 31, 1862
"On that night, Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had actually become law."
Written by Charyn D. Sutton
If you live or grew up in a Black community in the United States, you have probably heard of "Watch Night Services," the gathering of the faithful in church on New Year's Eve. The service usually begins anywhere from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and ends at midnight with the entrance of the New Year. Some folks come to church first, before going to out to celebrate. For others, church is the only New Year's Eve event.
Illustration Citation: Heard and Moseley. "Waiting for the hour [Emancipation] December 31, 1862.
Like many others, I always assumed that Watch Night was a fairly standard Christian religious service -- made a bit more Afrocentric because that's what happens when elements of Christianity become linked with the Black Church. And yes, there is a history of Watch Night in the Methodist tradition. Still, it seemed that most predominately White Christian churches did not include Watch Night services on their calendars, but focused instead on Christmas Eve programs. In fact, there were instances where clergy in Mainline denominations wondered aloud about the propriety of linking religious services with a secular holiday like New Year's Eve.
However, in doing some research, I discovered there are two essential reasons for the importance of New Year's Eve services in African American congregations. Many of the Watch Night Services in Black communities that we celebrate today can be traced back to gatherings on December 31, 1862, also known as "Freedom's Eve." On that night, Americans of African descent came together in churches, gathering places and private homes throughout the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had become law. Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863, and according to Lincoln's promise, all slaves in the Confederate States were legally free. People remained in churches and other gathering places, eagerly awaiting word that Emancipation had been declared. When the actual news of freedom was received later that day, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God.
Women sit through and pray at a Watch Night Service
But even before 1862 and the possibility of a Presidential Emancipation, African people had gathered on New Year's Eve on plantations across the South. That is because many owners of enslaved Africans tallied up their business accounts on the first day of each new year. Human property was sold along with land and furnishings to satisfy debts. Families and friends were separated. Often they never saw each other again in this earthly world. Thus coming together on December 31 might be the last time for enslaved and free Africans to be together with loved ones.
So, Black folks in North America have gathered annually on New Year's Eve since the earliest days, praising God for bringing us safely through another year and praying for the future. Certainly, those traditional gatherings were made even more poignant by the events of 1863 which brought freedom to the slaves and the Year of Jubilee. Many generations have passed since and most of us were never taught the African American history of Watch Night. Yet our traditions and our faith still bring us together at the end of every year to celebrate once again "how we got over."
Preparing for the Watch Night Service
For more info on The Black Star Project click here, or write to:
The Black Star Project
3509 S. King Dr., Suite 2B
Chicago, IL 60653
I had a great Christmas, hopefully you did too. The week went too fast. The food was too much and too rich for me, but it was worth it. I have enjoyed my family and friends in a way that I haven't been afforded in well... 12 months :-). Now I can feel myself begin to wound back up into work mode. I welcome it, though - it's like flying free, just looping for a bit, then setting aim back towards your target destination. I have already reviewed the past and set new goals for the new year. I'll tell you about that on a later date. The thing I want to tell you today, as you set your own goals and resolutions for the new year is that you have the power to do most of the things of your dreams. Period. Just try! Shed the fear of shame or embarrassment. Speak your desires, and then work with your whole self to achieve them.
Look at this...
My sister works with an organization that runs shelters for homeless families. Well, long story short she was recently in a "chance" meeting with our dear friend who works with Trinity United Church of Christ's (TUCC) preschool. Now, you must understand that when they took on the endeavor that brought them to the meeting they had no idea each other was involved. Some would call it coincidence. I don't. Then later after they did the work they were together to do, my sister reached out to the friend from the meeting, who she has known since she was 4 years old, who was in the meeting by chance, and told her of some of the needs of the people in the shelter. Well, I said long story short, but I don't know how to do that too well. Anyway, the bottom line is our friend and TUCC worked the shelter needs into their Kwanzaa program that takes place tomorrow. They are gonna pick up the folks from the shelter, take them to the church and supply them with goods they never expected. All this happened because both my sister and our friend are strong individuals who believe in the power of God. Oh this sounds trivial, but it is powerful. When you believe something you function in accordance with the expectation that it can and will be done. Oh my! I'm trying to help you get this thing.
My sister wasn't expecting what our friend did; she was simply mentioning it - doing what she could to get help for the people she knew were in need. Her intentions were pure. Her effort was not calculated, controlled or overly scripted. She opened her heart and opened her mouth. Our friend then opened her heart and her mouth, then TUCC opened its heart and collective mouth and others answered the call. That is what African American folks knew to do right out of slavery. That is how they progressed expediently, in proportion to the timeline of their subjugation.
Pretention and ego kills folks. It drowns them. The fallacy that "I am all powerful and capable, alone" beats folks down. Fear of being revealed and seen beyond the facade chokes folks to death. When you understand that everyone around you has some form of inefficiency or inadequacy in relation to someone else's abilities, then you are more likely to embrace your gift or strengths. When you embrace your strengths then you get familiar with passion and purpose and those things get you going - they turn you on. They make you bold and weird and awkwardly confident. It is more powerful than loads of money... sexier than sex itself. Better than just good company, more impressive than fancy titles, more enjoyable than eating good food... better than a good book or music... I'm trying to think of the things you might enjoy or respect. The point is existence in a pure place driven by passion and purpose is the ultimate high and it ALWAYS yields success - of some form.
This year make it your goal to tell the truth about something you are insecure or nervous about. Open up. Don't go get yourself fired from work or nothing like that :-). Just extend yourself a bit. When you don't know something, if the setting is safe, say "I don't know." If the setting is not safe (like it might cost you your sustenance), then at least tell yourself the truth - "I don’t know that", then once you are clear from the setting go seek the answer. Stretch. Grow. Be better. That is all you can guarantee - I will give my best effort and I will be better than I was. Then "chance" will occur more and more for you and ultimately you will be made to realize that chance is the intricate, elaborate work of God that you are too small-minded to even comprehend. I don't even try to figure and plot it out anymore. I just trust and roll with it - with full effort, though.
That is my New Years piece for you. Trust, work, and roll. I have some other stuff for you: my thoughts about women and family and our communal focus, but believe it or not I'm tired of talking right now. LOL! I just wanted to get this in before you finalized your plans for the new year. Go rest, and I'm going to go play my daughter's WII Fit; that thing is addictive :-).
Merry Christmas! May God grant you all of what you need, and at least a little of what you really, really want. May love warm your blood and fill your body. May family and good friends give you cause to give thanks. Then may you remember everything is birthed with purpose and access to the power to fulfill that purpose - Jesus and you, too!
Last week I taught my students in African American Studies class the history, meaning, and traditions of Christmas. We also looked at how people celebrate Christmas in Africa. Then we looked at the history, meaning, and traditions of Kwanzaa. Many students thought Kwanzaa was the African Christmas. They were shocked to find out Kwanzaa has nothing to do with Christ or Christmas (Christ Mass); Kwanzaa is a celebration of culture, not religion. One celebration does not replace the other. Plus, Kwanzaa is not an African celebration. Africans on the continent live African culture and are immersed in it daily. As African Americans there was a need to reclaim and reaffirm the principles and ideological traditions of our African ancestors. That is why an African American scholar by the name of Dr. Maulana Karenga created the Kwanzaa celebration back in 1966.
So, anyway... Whether you celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa, or Christmas or Kwanzaa, take a moment to try to understand what you are celebrating and why. You don't have to do a critical analysis like I'm prone to do J, but at least try to know the basics so you won't be misguided. Also, I think it is important to introduce a cultural element into your celebrations. You don't necessarily have to celebrate Kwanzaa in order to celebrate culture. Last year I took a DNA test to find out where people with my same DNA exist in Africa today. I took the test through African Ancestry, the company that Skip Gates used when he did the special program with Oprah, Chris Rock, Quincy Jones, etc. I found out that Africans with my DNA are located in Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. Since Christmas is always at my house, I incorporated my findings into my family Christmas celebration. Everyone was excited about the information. After we looked at the certificates, maps, and other associated things, we did our usual music and dancing, only this time my silly sister and cousin grabbed these African decorative drums I have and tried to play them with our old school Temptations, P-Funk, and Marvin Gaye. Then my dancing aunt added her interpretation of how our ancestors "must-have" danced to this added drum beat. It was a fusion of an innate sum'n and a socially adapted sum'n. It was hilarious and wonderful.
This year I'm sure we will dance and sing, and someone will add the drums, then we'll build on that and add something new that I'll introduce this year, and the tradition will continue and expand. The reason it is important to me is not just because I am a person who studies culture, but because we must realize that if ethnic groups (all of them) don't capture and keep their culture, then there will be none. America has no culture of its own, outside of the culture of capitalism. Any American traditions that are unrelated to capitalism are tidbits or remnants brought here and borrowed from various ethnic groups from other countries. So, in order to not live shallow lives based purely on shopping and loot, ethnic groups have to infuse culture and ideological rooting. If this is new to you, start off with some greens and beans or other foods, just be sure to toss in a story about how your grandmama or granddaddy liked to eat this or that and how your mama learned to cook this or that, or whatever. I'm just suggesting you connect to something, somehow. Then when you give thanks for your gifts it will mean a little more. It will be a richer experience; it isn't about money as much as it is about depth and quality. Trust me, if you connect to something deeper, your life will be better for it. Try it and let me know how it worked.
Okay, so, don't be confused - Life is not always perfect for me. Yes, I am often happy, or at least happy more than I am sad. It is not really about the challenges I face, as much as it is about the choices I make, and how I choose to think about my journey. As you know, my mother just passed in April of this year. Not much else could be worse. Innumerable middle-sized and little problems occur daily: a couple of weeks ago someone stole my dog; while out of town this weekend my laptop crashed (with a complete semester and a year's worth of work on it); stressed about the laptop, this afternoon I ate wrong and too much, now my stomach hurts J. How do I manage? How am I managing life's challenges and the demands of my obligations? Well, to the one writer who inquired, all I can say is I ride the rim. This is for you:
I Ride the Rim:A Reflection on Life
When you have achieved a certain level of success, your life can become scripted for you.Who you are to be, when, and how, are all questions answered for you by those who hold you in high regard.The expectations of your fans or followers basically dictate your life.It takes a special skill to navigate the terms of life while rolling in the lane of success and accomplishment. Different folks use various techniques to make it through life’s rocky and sometimes tumultuous terrain.I ride the rim.
Riding the rim is something like taking a back seat in life when you are use to driving.It is about managing trouble and troubled times in your life.It requires extreme self-confidence and unwavering belief in God.I ride the rim.This means when I am rolling down a path, following the rules of the road, minding my own business, fully alert, prepared, and aware of where I want to go... when I have directions, have calculated the trip time, got the car tuned up, full of gas and family and friends... when the open road is before me, winding miles of asphalt in pinstripes in my view... I ride the rim.
When the tire explodes and the car trembles beneath my grip, I ride the rim.Spare tire gone, control of things seemingly relinquished, I hold on. Having done all I could to position myself for a “successful” trip, I resolve to make it.Some folks pull over.Some have blankets, food, and water packed for survival just in case they can’t make it.Others believe in karma and circumstance and say this must be where they were meant to be and they just set up home wherever the difficulty is introduced or seems too much to manage.I keep rolling.Knowing that God is in control, I smile, rattle and roll.I am rarely ashamed or embarrassed.I understand who I am and what I am supposed to do.So then, as long as the engine starts and the mechanisms click in and kick in and the necessary combustion propels the car forward, I’m riding... rubber worn thin, raw metal on rocks, radio on ridiculous J... I ride the rim, baby!Because God told me to go... because the car can move... because the sun rises in the morning... because axles and cars can be replaced... I do as I’m told, control myself, my ego, and my urge to control my environment, and I roll... occasionally I pick up a Goose or two, occasionally I dance through the night on the hood while a trusted driver steers, every once in a while I stick my foot out for an on-the-fly pedicure or get a facial, but I keep rolling... tire or rim, I roll... that’s it.I roll with it. Knowing that God is taking me where I need to be, I dare to do what most careful intelligently cautious yet confused folks would not - I ride the rim: I have faith, I surrender to my purpose, and I never give up.
Here's a picture from The PGA event in New Orleans yesterday. Read the story below.
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November 13, 2009 Check out Kevin!
Hey everyone! Would you check this info out. This morning a friend of mine called me to tell me about this historic event that he is blessed to be a part of. His name is Kevin A. Williams (WAK). He is an artist who is originally from Chicago. I am sure you have seen his work somewhere at some point in your life. Kevin is a very good friend of mine. He has an amazing story of struggle and commitment to his gift of art. I am so absolutely proud of him! Here, read this...
PGA OF AMERICA Commissions Artist Kevin A. Williams to Commemorate the lives of four African American Golf Pioneers
Atlanta, Georgia (November 9, 2009) – The PGA of America has commissioned award-winning internationally renowned artist Kevin A. Williams to commemorate the lives of four African American golf pioneers. Three of the men, Ted Rhodes, John Shippen and Bill Spiller were denied the opportunity for membership to the PGA due to a “Caucasian-Only” clause in the bylaws that prevented membership by non-white players. The clause was removed in 1961 during the annual PGA meeting. The fourth pioneer recognized is boxing legend Joe Louis Barrow, Sr. who was an advocate for diversity in golf. The PGA has granted posthumous membership to the three players and honorary membership to Joe Louis. Along with this honor is a 22” x 28” Williams’s original oil painting memorializing the lives of these distinguished men.
Jim Remy, President of PGA America in a release by the PGA stated, "The PGA of America believes these men, but for the color of their skin, would have been PGA members who play the game, teach the game and promote the game. The PGA of America recognizes the importance of honoring these gentlemen with their rightful place in golf history.” He further states, “ We are pleased that the descendants of these four great Americans have accepted and embraced our Association's sincere efforts to recognize Ted Rhodes, John Shippen and Bill Spiller as PGA members, and Joe Louis as an Honorary Member."
The four men will be honored and the oil painting entitled “Dawn of Greatness” unveiled during a ceremony at the 93rd PGA Annual meeting on Saturday, November 14, 2009 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The long overdue membership is a historic event along with the selection of the artist Kevin A. Williams who will hold the distinct honor of being the first African American Artist whose work will hang in the PGA Museum.
Mr. Williams is a visual historian documenting African American history and experiences for close to two decades. He was selected by the PGA after members of the organization saw his depiction of Shady Rest Country Club, the first African American owned golf country club in the United States . “I am honored that I was chosen to immortalize these incredible men. They represent strength, honor and dignity during a time when diversity was not an option,” said Williams. The painting will be mounted in the PGA Historical Center Museum located in St. Lucie , Florida .
About the Artist – Kevin A. Williams
Kevin A. Williams is an artist on a mission, but it’s no solo trip: He wants to take you on the journey, too. His destination is a place where African-American history is appreciated, owned and created. So far, tens of thousands of people have willingly followed Williams to that vista – including talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, and the late actor comedian Bernie Mac. From celebrity homes to small businesses, corporate offices and women’s spas, Williams’ original and lithograph artwork hangs from coast to coast. Williams also creates a number of commissioned works annually.
As the best-selling artist in the African-American print market, Williams is a popular personality at national art shows, conferences of African-American groups and major international events, including the Essence Music Festival. His art has been featured on television’s “Law & Order” (NBC) and “Soul Food” (Showtime). For more information visit www.kawilliamsart.com.
October 16th, 2009 "Sweetest Day" Poem
Well, today is Sweetest Day, and just as it always happens, I almost missed it. What is it, anyway? Oh, yeah, it is the day women are suppose to laud the men in their lives - much like Valentine's Day for women. Never fear, I'm ready. The gift of writing is a swell gift. Even when it is last minute all a writer has to do is open his/her heart, let the words flow, and presto! The gift of truth is colorfully, and wonderfully wrapped and ready to be presented. So... this morning I wrote a gift of truth. Unfortunately, I can't publish here - it's personal :-)... but I can tell you it is about the sweetest thing a love has ever given me, and it changed my life - forever.
However, what I can and will publish here is well wishes and words of thanks to the wonderful males in my life: my father, my brother, my wonderfully brilliant son, my cousins, nephews, buddies, and mentors.
First Came Man
I knew you first
You told me and showed me
I came to know me
because you were and are man
Thanks for your honesty, consistency, support, appreciation, comraderie, and strength; I don't know who I would be without having experienced you!
PS. How's that for spontaneous flow? It's real, too! I mean every word!
October 13th, 2009 “What the baby gon’ do?”
Okay people, I have much to tell you in a brief amount of time. Please pardon my rambling. This past Sunday St. Sabina Academy had their annual Education Sunday Event. Dr. Evelyn Bethune was the guest speaker. Dr. Bethune is the granddaughter of Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of
. The students and I researched the life of Mary McLeod Bethune since her granddaughter was going to be speaking at the school. That is the backdrop of what I'd like to tell you today.
Now for the main point... I have a cousin that keeps me abreast of contemporary, underground street language. I love street language. It is always creative, poignant, and full of cultural swagger that can not be replicated. Guys in the gut of the hood have a saying they spout whenever someone in their presence begins to rant and rave and complain. Someone can be in full stride, detailing the complications they face when attempting some simple feat, and instead of stroking the speaker's back and assuring him/her that they can accomplish the thing they desire, the listener will respond with a simple question: "What the baby gon' do?"
This is a kind, yet grounded way of reminding folks to stop whining, "man up", and stop making excuses. "What the baby gon' do?" - Translation: What is the baby going to do? J If you do the crying and whimpering about all the challenges and difficulties that are involved in simple, common-sense tasks, then what will the children do? You've stolen their positions, their roles. They find themselves in an inescapable position where they must save you from your defeatist attitudes.That is what we watched the children do in the recent Fenger High School incident.They were trying to own something, if only a position and space, for only a moment in time.I’ve seen it before.I’ve dated and loved it.I grew up with and know those spirits.If only we would show these kids a better way to be seen and heard and respected. Well...Back to my example…
Last week the children and I found that Mary McLeod Bethune was born 10 years after slavery was abolished. Her mama, daddy, and older siblings had all been slaves. In fact, her daddy had to work extra hours to earn money to pay for Ms. Bethune's mama. Mary McLeod Bethune was the only person in her family who could read. She was the 15th of 17 children and was the sole chosen child that was able to attend school. She came home and taught her other family members what she learned in school. She later paid for her younger sisters to attend school. She rode a second-hand bike around town collecting donations door to door in order to ante up the $11 monthly rent needed to start the school. The school used crushed berries as ink, burnt charcoal as pencils and boxes as desks and chairs. Once one of Bethune's students was ill and was kept on a back porch at a Whites Only hospital in the area. Bethune was angry, but had to leave the student there because she was in desperate need of medical attention. However, when the student was well enough to leave, Bethune returned to her school and home and started a 2 bed hospital. That hospital grew to 20 beds and was known for having saved the lives of many Black folks in the area.
So what are you gonna do? What is really gangster? What does power and strength look like? What's for real, for real tough? Wait on state mandates? Wait on someone to come and save your children? Wait on the great hero to come and relieve you of your parental and communal duties? Waste your time and your God-given abilities hoping and wishing for a better day? What are you gonna do? Or better yet, before you answer all of that, first tell me, what the baby gon' do?
Use the examples of our ancestors as inspiration. Get up, get out and get sum'n today. Control your CHILD. Run your house. If things are out of control, then it is out of your control; seek help. Boarding school is better than the grave, isn't it? Take your house back. Teach your kids. Learn something with them. Don't be a helpless whiner. Again, I ask as my brothers from the wild wild hun'neds ask, "what the baby gon' do?"
Stand up for your child!Stand up to your CHILD! Everyone will be better for it.
October 4, 2009 Strengths and Weaknesses
Today I was leading a group of third graders in a project I call a goal ladder. The ladder is made from strips of paper which function as steps. On each step the students are to note a step they must take in life in order to reach their life goal, which is noted on a large colored strip of paper at the top of the ladder. Well... while I was circulating and assisting with assembly of the ladders, a particular 3rd grade student in this African American Studies class handed me his strips and I proceeded to staple the steps to what would serve as the side anchors. The student watched, occasionally lifting a hand to help me properly line up his papers. Then, very matter-of-factly he stated "you're not too good with cutting." He never stopped, or even paused his assisting me, just fixed his eyes on the strips.
Without looking up, and speaking in a tone for private conversations, I replied "You found me out. Cutting isn't my forte."
The student said nothing.
"My thing. My specialty, you know?" I kept working, stapling the rugged-edged paper strips I had distributed earlier. "I'm gonna have to practice."
"Practice and slow down," the frog in his throat replied. Then with motions and resolve seemingly borrowed from my deceased-before-the-student-was-born grandfather, the student focused on his business. "Can you spell education on the board?" He asked. "And finish?" I need to write it on my first step." Then as he accepted the assembled ladder from my hands, giving continued attention to the uneven rips, he turned to reach for crayons and/or markers and added, "Keep at it; you'll get it."
I handed him a dictionary from the shelf and immediately he and I were gone... on to our various challenges, encouraged by nature's balance of strengths and weaknesses.
All of life should be so simple.
September 24th, 2009 Talkin' 'bout words...
As you well know, I am a writer. As to be expected, I love words. Oftentimes, some words and the way they are used will excite me - just turn me on. At other times words and word usage will make me wanna holler... make me want to just strip away the frills and expose the naked truth of what folks are really saying. Well, close your eyes if you are easily offended, shy, insecure, or tender at heart. It's time to get naked. This exposure is for my folks in the field of education. Too many times I've heard the lovely saying "all children can learn." Folks recite those words and shut down conferences, town hall meetings, and their loudest and most ardent critics. "All kids can learn." Yep. Sounds good. Who would dare refute that? "All kids can learn." Well, I dare not oppose that position. It is a most popular one. It is the philosophy of most of my colleagues and comrades. It is an irrefutable truth. Right?
But what does it mean? "All kids can learn." To me this statement in the context of an education philosophy is much like "All men are created equal", as it is written in the United States Constitution. It is an empty, shell of a sentence. It has about as much substance as its purpose of appeasement. Any reasonably sane individual knows that all men are created equal. Just like any reasonably sane individual knows that all kids can learn. These type of statements are like appetizers at a soul food restaurant. They beg the question, what else have you got? They are usually seemingly unrelated, yet actually core causal components of inarticulate outbursts that would be better understood and punctuated in the simplicity of a charge like "prove it!"
I don't have the time to parallel these hypocritical somewhat idiomatic phrases, or mottos, or whatever we would like to call them. You can do that at your leisure. All I'm trying to say is when you turn off the violins and remove the rose-colored glasses, these couple of sentences deflate from grand pronouncements and affirmations of institutionalized equality to a more garbled ambiguous something that you have to listen real close to hear; it sounds a little like the voice of the great young philosopher Arnold and his classic Socratic-based formulation: "What U talkin' 'bout Willis?" Makes you wanna squint one eye and maybe scratch your head where there's no itch.
No offense. I'm just talking about words.
September 2nd, 2009 S-l-o-w M-o-t-i-o-n...
I know I am slow. You keep checking back and finding the same old posts. I apologize for that. I'm going to do better. I would tell you the list of "to-do's" that consumes my space daily, but it would only tire you to read it. So, in this brief moment I have with you today, I would rather spend time uplifting you - like encouraging you to read a book I recently read. The title of the book is The Shack. It is an easy-read, 200 sum odd page novel. It was given to me as a gift. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't want to give too much of the plot of the book away. I'll just say it is an interesting co-mingle of fiction and life's most elemental realities. If you get a chance, read it and email me your thoughts.
July 28th, 2009 Second Chances & Whitney Houston!
My new favorite song is Whitney Houston's I Look to You. Hurray for Whitney!
When Michael Jackson passed unexpectedly, I didn't write anything. I just watched and listened, trying to see beyond the facade, trying to hear the words behind the media chatter. I learned some things watching the way the media functions. I would have liked to be able to say THE MEDIA is totally and completely responsible for the demise of Michael Jackson and other celebrities. If I found that to be true, I would have gladly posted it on the front home page of this site. I would have written something powerful and paid to send it out in a press release, making the world feel and know what I concretely discovered. However, that was not the case.
I watched the media initially try to clown Michael Jackson's legacy when he first passed, only to be redirected by statements and the sentiments of the people. During celeb interviews, folks would stress the importance of the man's work and his contributions to the betterment of humankind. At first I remember thinking, even when this guy poses no threat to no one, he is not afforded basic human rights; even in death he is nothing more than a commodity to most. How do people forget to feel? How can we not imagine the pain a person feels when we, the public, require so much of them, watch their every move, criticize every detail of their existence? Is that not enough to push folks to extremes and abnormalities?
But, power to the people! The people demanded Michael have at least a moment where the world could be reminded of what we loved about him. It is back to business as usual, but for a moment we were reminded of what Michael Jackson gave to us... how his emptying of himself saved us from ourselves and our own realities... how he grabbed us and led us into a cleared out space where he had labored tirelessly and drained himself emotionally then colored it with music and dance so that we were free to safely move about and sing along and bop to the beat, without the struggle of having to deal with the dirt, grime and harshness, or the ugly and tiresome cleaning up process. He helped us to see our essence, to find and appreciate our centers, our souls.
Likewise, that is what Whitney Houston did for us. Whitney in her clean classic looks, with her clear crisp vocals and gutted organic emotion... she reminded us that we are fortified in the good of our existence. All else falls away when Whitney gets to the bottom of emotional lyrics steeped in common, universal reality. And so, she is back. Center stage. What are we gonna do? Hate from the sidelines? Taunt, celebrate, and perpetuate failure? Wait for her demise to say all the good we should have said about her, to her? Or will we respect human frailty, appreciate the gift she has been, remind her of her power and presence of God, and encourage her while she is still able to receive it? I am of the opinion that we should not cry for her later, if we were not willing to cry with her in the thick of her trials. Contemporary technology affords average individuals avenues to speak to the masses. In case you didn't know, I'm telling you. This is our second chance. I believe we failed Michael Jackson. We pressed him into the corner of the world, then laughed as he dangled over the edge, turned our heads the other way when he stayed out there by himself too long. Maybe if we would have said something, huh? Something positive. Something real and raw. Something that made him see what we once saw in him.
Well, that is what maturity is - getting the lessons. Learning. Right? So then, when we know better, we do better. What am I saying? Open your mouths people. Say sum'n! "Whitney we love you!" Let her hear something positive. "We appreciate your efforts to help us feel and know and manage ourselves! You are a cold sister, Whitney!" Stop trying to feel better by finding the worst in others. "We believe in you, Whitney, and because you told us and showed us how to, we believe in miracles! Do your thing, Ms. Houston! Good to see you! Go get 'em, Girl!"
PS. For an interesting report on Michael Jackson, check out the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's 7/26/09 teaching (www.NOI.org). Order the tape of the event - The Crucifixion of Michael Jackson. It was powerful! - Made me feel silly for thinking I knew something, based on gossip and nothingness.
It's been a couple of weeks. I've been to a couple of conferences. I've had a few interesting experiences. Allow me to ramble a bit and hopefully, you can keep up.
I'll start with the Annual NCBS Conference which was held 3/19-21 in Atlanta. What a culturally rich and warm experience. Because I always learn something other than, or in addition to what the teacher is teaching, I came away from the NCBS Conference feeling good about my children's futures. When my daughter is ready, I think she might actually have a pool of comparably raised and educated prospects from which to choose a mate (or from which I can choose one for her J). My son and his rights of passage Morehouse experiences might just balance out and land him squarely where I have spent a lifetime hoping and fighting for him to be. But me?...
Weird. I don't know what's happening with me. I am turning into Queen Nerd Lady. I was single in warm Atlanta... surrounded by folks whose passions mirror mine - FINE, smart, gainfully employed men... and every night I passed up opportunities for great extended conversations, good food, and music and dancing, and I optioned to go to my room and stay there... one night to watch movies and grade papers, one night to rest and grade papers. What is up with that?
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Next... this is gonna rock you. Couched between AFAM Studies conferences I had this experience: I teach AFAM Studies to elementary school children who happen to be African American. Throughout the year we have been exploring African culture and relating it to African American culture: Africanisms that have survived in America (regardless of how minute). Well, the school year is broken down into segments that deal with elements of culture - education, family structure and life/marriage, language, religion, governing systems/politics, art, etc. For the past couple of weeks we have focused on art work created by African Americans. We watched biographies of Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. Both of these artists achieved great success which spawned from the Harlem Renaissance Period. I listed terms on the board so the children could properly dialogue about art, using jargon from that field. I explained concepts. Art is one of my passions, so we went deep. We talked about technique, lines, purpose, exaggeration verses realism, etc. When we began our conversation about color and its use, I was flabbergasted. In my excited state I scribbled a list of items and actions on the board. "If you wanted to show people the sound, you use color that you know would make them think of something familiar to the sound... So what color would you put in the background of these pictures in a painting?" The kids followed my passion. Their hands flew up into the air. I pointed at the board, beginning with the first word I'd written. "Trumpet." I motioned my hands, pulling the bottom closed fist down, then back up to meet the closed fist that rested against my lips. I made deep sounds, trying to emulate that of the deep note of a trumpet. "Yellow!" One student yelled, once called on. "Why yellow?" I asked. "Because a trumpet is sort of yellow colored and its sound is big like the big light from the sun." A different student offered, "Blue because the sound is deep, like the ocean, and it’s blue." We were on a roll. The kids were excited. I was excited. Man, this is what teaching is supposed to be. I wished I had a camera taping the whole thing to show somebody how much fun teaching can be! Yeah, all of that. I was charged up! We had almost gone through the whole list before my time with the kids would end. I quickly pointed to the last few words. We had to hurry. I lifted my hands and pointed. The word was "fussing". "What would fussing look like? What color?" The kids were out of their seats ooo-oooing. I quickly called on a few. "What color and why?" There was almost a unanimous choice. "BLACK!" I could roll with black. It's powerful and domineering, so if someone was being admonished or straightened out, it might be a person of power, and the color black, and guidance, and yeah, I could see that. "Why?" I asked the kids, hurriedly. Explanations sounded from all around the room. "It's mean... it's evil... it's bad... it's violent... it's ugly..."
Oh my God! I grabbed my heart much like Fred Sanford used to do. My excited rush slowed. Are you kidding me? "That hurts," I told the kids. "I'm Black. To hear you say all of those negative things about me and my color hurts. I feel like crying." The room was silent. The kids were watching my every move, expecting a dramatic performance, which I often provide. So, I do. Though I was not at all playing, or performing, in effort to not emotionally scar these little kids I quickly placed my hands on my hips, erected my body, and began a performance. "I am the black you don't know or understand. I am rich and powerful and beautiful. You can't easily change me - I'm that strong! I cover the earth at night while things are calm and cool and resting to grow." The kids were smiling and sitting totally still. For homework I told them to create a work of art using black in a positive way - and be able to explain what it represented in their work. This type of exchange went on all week with each class I encountered. I was almost broken by Friday. Then came my 8th grade boys. You have to understand the context. The boys could be called bad, at first glance. They are busy-bodies, always moving and wrestling, and playing. They are full of bravado and space-claiming aggression. Well... it seems that might be what is needed. When we came to the part of the lesson where the students apply color to items and actions, not one of these dudes applied black to anything negative. They applied black to strong sounding instruments, and one even applied black to a kiss.
Needless to say, I was proud. I have been thinking about that ever since. In fact, this morning I thought about it. I will be thinking about it for a while, equating it to my love for rebels and outliers, trying to understand how to create spaces that allow for this Black male aggression, passion and self-love, as these guys move on through their academic careers and their lives. These are the guys that will not grow up to hurt us if we dare to love them as much as they love us, before they are pushed into the headlock hug of the streets.
~ ~ ~
Then there was ASCAC in Chicago, my second conference in less than two weeks. I'm tired of typing, so I'll just say, I get it! These conferences and my lesson from the young students were perfectly aligned and positioned to infer that there is hope and to encourage me and let me know that my work, and the work of folks like me is not in vain. Thanks ASCAC!
~ ~ ~
Finally, I have to say something about Maya Angelou. My daughter and I went to see her speak Friday night. Long story short, I named my daughter after Miss Angelou. I was pregnant when I went to see Miss Angelou 12 years ago. It was a fancy gala. She stood there and spoke of her good and bad without flinching. She embodied a power in truth and transparency that I had not witnessed in man or woman. I was big and pregnant and my daughter kept kicking "right-ons!" in the right side of my belly. I was rubbing to make her still, but she wouldn't let up. Watching and listening to Maya Angelou back then, and wishing for that strength in my own daughter, and having my daughter connect with my wish and Maya's voice, made me make the decision to name my daughter Maya.
So, there we were full circle. My daughter and I had been out all day at a programming session for the new school she will attend next year. She tested into what has been called the "best school in Chicago." She will be going to that high school for a special 7th and 8th grade program. We topped that off with words, a handshake and a huge smile from Miss Maya Angelou. Life is good if you keep at it, huh?!
Free Write 3/10/09 - I appreciate...
I have to write to you tonight because tomorrow I hope to be somewhere with some hands "laid on me" - a masseuse (I think that's the term for ladies, I'm going to have a manJ). I'm also going to be handling business. That is one thing that is drastically different than it was in my younger years; these days there is no such thing as a day off. Everyday there is something that must be done.
Well... what have I learned in the past year? My affirmations and confirmations are too many to post. The entire world wide web might just come crashing down if I try to tell you all the things that were taught to me over the past year, give or take a couple of months. I'll just mention a few things for you to ponder.
I learned that there is nothing better than being a woman, and being able and free to be all that "woman" entails. There is nothing more powerfully positioned and equipped to heal the world than woman.
I learned how to roll. You keep trying to stand up and you could possibly break your legs and permanently lose your ability to walk. Sometimes it's best to curl up with yourself and just roll with it. If you are a seasoned "Stander" you'll know when to unfold and get back up. The main objective is simply to keep it movin' - at all cost.
Coming out of a long-term relationship, I must say something that I don't want folks to misinterpret. I believe "love conquers all", but I've learned that statement is far more complex than its superficial use.
And I will end with this one. I have learned that my parents were greater blessings than I previously realized. I love my parents and have always given them credit for being wonderfully balanced, grounded guides for myself and my siblings. This year they have been married 49 years. I have thanked them for teaching me to love honestly and to live with integrity. Since my mother has been ill, I have learned that one of the greatest lessons I was taught by my parents is "appreciation." I appreciate everything... and I do mean everything! My children. My family. My friends. My acquaintances. My germy dog. The good. The bad. The lessons. People. Opportunities. Obstacles. Life. I express my appreciation actively with reciprocation and acknowledgement and it gives me great joy.
So I appreciate this new chance to live some more and learn and love some more and laugh some more and grow and change some more and cry some more and share some more and just be... some more...
Thanks to God!
Have some cake and ice cream tomorrow - on me!
Free Write 2/22/09 - Patti Labelle and Crazy
On Friday night 2/20 I went to see Patti Labelle. She was speaking at St. Sabina Church as part of their Black History Speaker's Series. I had not planned to see Ms. Patti. I had prior commitments that uncharacteristically ended early, then I drove by the church and there was a parking spot that appeared to be left open for me, so I felt I was destined to be there.
The event was structured as a chat where Patti was discussing her life with Cheryl Burton, a Chicago-based news anchor for ABC Channel 7. Well, that's enough of setting the scene. I want to get to the part of the story where I tell you I realize I'm not quite normal in the mind. At one point in the discussion Patti Labelle is talking about her desires for her future - you know the question interviewers always ask about what is yet undone that the entertainer would like to accomplish. Patti says she has yet to achieve platinum status in record sales. Her aim for the future is to achieve platinum status as a recording artist.
A moment after Ms Patti had expressed her desire, while I was still caught up in the shock and sadness about the fact that she's made more than 30 albums but never sold more than a million copies of a single one, I saw a light illuminating from my purse which was on my lap. I checked my cell phone and I had just missed an incoming call from my dear friend, Rob (R. Kelly).
Well now... I'm at this event where it was an improbability that I would be able to attend... Patti wants a platinum selling record... the hit maker is one of my best friends and I'm sure he would feel my passion for Ms Patti and do his best to help me to help her... So then, this has to be a sign from God. Right? Plus, I know the folks who are sponsoring the event where Patti is speaking. Blah, blah, blah...
After the event I was on my way to Rob's where a bunch of us meet and mingle from time to time. I had a brilliant idea. I'll text Father Pfleger, the event sponsor, and have him to ask Ms Patti if she wants to roll out to Rob's with me to go get that platinum status she seeks. I pulled my car over, was just about done typing the text when something shook me. I realized - I must be a little crazy. In fact, I am just straight up abnormal. There I was formulating a text message after 9pm at night, to a priest, about a 64 year old superstar, inviting her to another star's house with an assumption that it would all just flow with a sense of normalcy that would yield yet another funny story I would someday tell an audience of non-believers.
That is how I roll. I figure if you have a need and I have access to, or knowledge of a means to fulfill that need, then let's make it happen. I don't usually think twice about it. Friday night it took all I had in me to not push that "send" button for that text. The only way I compromised myself out of sending the message was by assuring myself that I could make it happen at a later date because all of the people involved (with the exception of Patti Labelle) were friends of mine whom I could readily contact.
But isn't that strange? Not just me. The fact that in every situation, with every problem or imagined problem, there is a solution among us, yet because of the regulatory standards and norms we have socially constructed, most of our personal and collective problems will be left unattended to. If you think about it, that is what is really crazy. The fact that I have the desire, the vision, and the means to help, but won't for fear of how it will be perceived is far crazier than the fact that I almost sent a text that my soul told me was warranted.
Think about it. It's crazy, isn't it - me and my out-of-the-box fantasy-living self, and all of y'all and your notions that we all should live with etiquette restrictions that stifle our growth and healing? I guess we are all crazy in one way or another.
Free Write 11/4/08 - Obama Wins! - Oh, what a feeling!
My sister called and said she felt she might be having an asthma attack. In the same instance my heart pressed into itself as if trying to squeeze or wring something out. I didn't even know my heart had been leaking. I guess you could say I was flooded with emotions. For the first few seconds after they announced that Obama clinched the presidency, I couldn't respond. I tried dropping to my knees, as I had anticipated I might do. However, that motion was more commanded than it was natural. I didn't totally feel it. The weight was too heavy, or too light, or too absolutely unfathomable. I felt much like I felt when I had a child - That came out of me? I did something that miraculous? Though birthing children had been done on some level (millions of levels) before, it had never looked like me, came from my private place, and been intimately attached to, or associated with my personal DNA. Mothers know what it's like in the instance when the baby is out and it is being checked out by the doctor and nurses, and you get a hold of your vision and catch your first glimpse of your child's tiny blood-streaked legs, moving. There is a moment when you are not elated, not worried, not in pain, just numb and awestruck. What you feel, the way you connect with the creator in that instance is unlike anything you have or will ever feel again.
Until a night like tonight - Here, in the murder capital of the United States, in front of the entire world, you see a man who looks like you, lives in your neighborhood, attends your church, plays basketball at the gym where your friends play, walks with the swagger of your daddy, or your son... and you see him step out ahead of his country's ugly racist history and stand before the world as the president elect of the most powerful country in the free world - then you feel it again. You feel the majesty of the most merciful, God. At least I did. I shed tears. I yelled. I was silent and still. I felt sick to the stomach and heart. I think I could've died and would have lived a full life - in that moment. It made me happy and sad.
I don't want to explain that right now. Don't want to raise the newborn right away, just look at it for a while... just want to feel good, and proud, and cry some more. Just want to think about my son and the young men I teach in classes, everyday. Want to believe I won't have to work so hard to make them believe. Want to hope my daughter will have better mate selections than the ones on the news of late. Want to go to sleep tonight watching the reporters scramble to figure out, track, and analyze man moves in what was really a God game. Want to fall asleep dreaming that there is an African American male president of the United States of America. Want to ride this emotional flood to the enormity of the sea... if only for one night.
Free Write 10/3/08 - Palomino Pattern: A Memo to Me
Once while I was on a camping trip with my daughter I saw an unusual sight. It was a horse, a female Palomino. She was golden brown with a blond mane that flapped wildly in sync when she trotted. I knew her pedigree without inquiry because I had grown up around horses. My parents bought a farm - a vacation home for us when I was a kid. My father was determined to have his children experience a piece of the life he'd known and appreciated as a kid growing up in Missisippi. So, almost every weekend, and surely every summer for most of my youth, my family headed to a classic 40 acre piece of property in Grand Junction, Michigan. We raised pigs, chickens, hens, turkeys and cows they expected us to eat, but I never did, and we owned a few horses.
I guess that is why I noticed her - this Palomino reminded me of Golden Lady, a beautiful and my most favorite horse of ours. Only this horse did not seem to possess the temperment that made me favor Golden Lady. This horse seemed wild and untamed, as if she'd never been broken or trained. She ran in circles, pausing only for brief periods in exhausted submission. Then it seemed she'd catch her breath and break out into a trot, then a full stretch looping circles unevenly, extending her pattern with each wild loop. I lingered behind the campers, and stood behind a fence watching her, trying to figure her out. I was drawn to her. I had never seen such a thing and something in my spirit locked me into hers. I wanted to bridle her, take her to a supply of hay, rub her to stillness. But I couldn't.
After a short while one of the women who worked on the farm beside the campground walked up. "Lost?" She spoke as she busied herself moving something on the ground.
"No. Well, not really. Just wondering about that horse."
Then before she could finish, I interrupted. "The Palomino. She's been running in circles for at least ten minutes. Going nowhere. Just spinning a big loop around the pasture..."
"Oh, yeh. She's been going at it for about two weeks now. She's looking for her colt. Just separated them a couple of weeks ago and she's grieving, that's all. "
"Really? I've never seen that before. I grew up around horses as a kid and I've never known one to behave like that."
"Maybe you didn't notice it, but they all do it. Some for four weeks, some for as many as eight."
"Hmph. Interesting." I offered. Then I walked away to catch up with the group. I thought about that horse for hours, wrestling with the notion that every thing that lives and breathes could have the capacity to love, care, and grieve, even the work horse.
And so today I remember the spirit of that Palomino; I feel it in a special way. My mother is very ill - once again near death. It seems like I just left the hospital and I am working through my day awaiting the time to go back.
So then, even when my body is slumped and still
my soul and spirit is restless and running
there is no calm for me right now
only space and duty and time ticking too fast
my feet have developed iron u-shaped shoes and their soles are clod-like and cumbersome
I too, am spinning, searching for a connection, chasing a yesterday that holds captive the key to my tomorrow. So then, I petition my Superwoman self to please pardon me. Bear with me, for a moment at least, while I exercise my nature-of-the-living, in this Palomino Pattern.
Free Write - Morning 9/14/08:
He was all I could hope for in a man - two truths (his and mine) and a plan,
But he didn’t know how to win – never stayed in a game till the end
He could put balls in holes with his eyes closed
he was a smooth, mellow dude - never loud, never rude
had skills that gave thrills that could have sealed limitless deals
and I loved him so...
But he didn’t know how to win – never stayed in a game till the end
Could’ve went pro, but was afraid to let go
So he won women and street fame, but never, ever, ever, won a championship game.
Though his were the greatest hands to ever touch a ball.
The opening topic for June is dedicated to 2 of my former students: Eboni and Tamika. Thanks for writing. I appreciate your encouraging words and continued support.
Alright. A former student recently wrote to me for advice. Here's what this lovely young woman wrote:
"Ms. Dulaney, First and foremost, I wish you all the blessing from God. I hope you and your family are doing well. I want to talk to you because during the time I was enrolled in your class I enjoyed you as a teacher. Now that I am NOT currently enrolled in school, I often think about how great of a person you were to me. You inspired me to keep trying even in the moment of me losing my father during the year. It has been hard for me lately to even think about returning to school... Being a single mother of three and family always depending on me as well all other aspects of life trying to bring me down. I wanted to know what advice can you share with me? How a single mother who strives to do her best for herself & kids make it in this economy at this time? Some people suggest I prioritize and go from there, but what if everything that is presented to me is very important... Just having a diploma is not enough for my career (13 yrs). I do not see the option to leave because of the time I have invested into this Company. This is how I look at things, if I go to school, my kids feel neglected because I am not around. If I do not get my degree, I will soon lose my job because of the competition out here... Just seeking words of wisdom from someone I admire... Thank you for taking your time to read my e-mail."
The funny thing is, I always have advice for folks who don't want or need my advice, but as soon as someone asks for it I'm hesitant. I always worry about imposing my ideals on other people's lives. However, I will offer this - One day at a time. In my humble opinion, that is the only way to live life successfully. There is no place to get to, so there should be no hurried anxiety, and therefore no overwhelming sense of missing accomplishments. Say to yourself, "I will always do that which I can. I will do that which I can to the best of my ability. That is all that is required of me." Then let it go.
Also, I must add my anecdotal truth - that is I could do nothing without help from God. I know our society is so self-sufficient we have come to believe we are existentialists, in control of the totality of ourselves. I don't believe it. In fact, I know it to NOT be true. I do believe we have choices and those choices greatly impact our lives, but I don't believe our choices dictate the totality of our realities. I feel just as the song by Marvin Sapp expresses - Never Would've Made It... For real.
Take one class a semester on Saturdays while your children are in Bible study at a church, girl scouts or boy scouts, a Park District class or something. For me I stuck school into my social slot. Time I would have spent gossiping or dating, I spent in class. Now, in my pursuit of a doctorate degree, I'm enrolled in one evening class and one online class. Try that. Finances... well, just go back to the basics. We don't really need all that we think we need. If I told you what I survived on while I went back to school fulltime, you'd cry for me. I cried for me, occasionally. :-) But everything lasts but for a season. Be focused, get moving and when you wake up school will be done. Be sure to pause and catch your breath occasionally. Hit me back if it feels like you're suffocating. :-)
Special note: Thanks to my longtime buddy for the many breaths he provided this past weekend. It's been a while since I partied like a rock star! Wow!
Have advice? Post in the Chat room. Thanks!
Good News for Good Friday...(April 2008)
Well, you've been checking my site, checking with me for my thoughts on the controversy surrounding my pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. I have been reluctant to give a public statement on this matter. I've been reluctant because unlike times in the past when I felt the need to translate cultural actions and statements for you, Reverend Wright's statements require no translation. The guy is an anointed genius. I don't use that characterization lightly. I am embarrassed at the notion that I might make an attempt to explain someone of his intellectual caliber; so I won't. View the tapes - the whole thing.
I will tell you that Rev's eldest daughters are two of my dearest friends. His oldest was in my class from 2nd grade through high school. I have known her for almost 40 years. As teens we rebelled against our parents together. As young adults we partied together. As mature women we have prayed together. So, I know the full complexity of man-daddy-Rev. Wright. That is why it makes me smile, and does not surprise me that with all the media digging and searching, nothing but TRUTH has been found. So then, the media has been charged with the difficult ugly task of twisting and sculpting something sensational out of the plain, old, unsexy truth. I don't know where the story is. The fact that a pastor might have some level of disdain for sin: war; the killing of innocent people; the judging, discriminating against and marginalizing of innocent people... Where's the scoop - the BIG story?
I think the bigger story is one that is truly shameful. Ignorance. Ignorance is the big story here. As sophisticated as we Americans are, folks are yet so ignorant they are unable to engage in critical thought. No street sense. No common sense. They are too educated, or uneducated to listen and think, too spiritually disconnected to engage in basic Christ-like behavior: the act of separating sin from sinners. Rev. is an educated, street smart, Christian man. He hates sin. Listen to him preach. Again, I won't attempt to translate. Listen to him. He loves truth and hates sin - not people.
The funny thing is, I heard the sermon. I was there, but I think I couldn't see well. The Sunday he preached the sermon I saw clipped on the news, I believe there were White Americans standing up clapping in the pew in front of me. I remember because the week before there were Black folks standing up in the pew in front of me. All this standing in front of me, blocking my view because I was late and didn't get the seat I prefer. Folks pile into to Trinity United Church of Christ to hear a Word from God. They come to hear a truth translation properly contextualized for their reality. To deem that Word or truth "distorted" or "separatist" is to assume Americans are monolithic and uni-cultured. It is to say that Asante Sana and gracias is not as valid as thank you. It is to say that Langston Hughes and Junot Diaz are somehow twisted distortions of Frost. It is an elitist idealism that is, in itself, not validated across the collection of subcultures that are squeezed into this land we call America. America is a salad, not a soup. There is no melted down forced conformity, just a blending - a tossing gently together, all parts accenting the whole.
Rev. is recently retired and I already miss him. I am extremely proud of, and grateful for what he has done - the truth he has added to the world. He is a reason I am a professor, and author. He is a reason Obama is a presidential candidate. He is a reason there are doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, administrators, public officials, counselors, and clergymen who understand cultural diversity. He is a reason I give unpaid time to folks who need help finding their voices and language in this loud chatter-filled country. He is one of the main reasons I love this land of the free.
I'm not mad at the media. I take the media for what it is. I'm not mad at Obama. His experiences and interpretations are his own. I definitely am not mad at Rev. His God-filled work stands up and out. I'm happy. I have an inclination towards sociology, anthropology, psychology and spirituality :-). I know that stagnation excites nothing. Folks don't get their feathers ruffled unless something's changing. We are surely fearful of change. I understand it. God bless it ALL. That's the good news this Good Friday. God Bless It All. No one need dare convince me, prove to you, or satisfy others. Truth, in all of its drama and color, speaks for itself. That is why some folks can't stand Truth. Some folks outright despise Truth. Truth always has something to say, and usually will say it loudly. :-) God bless and keep Truth. We love Truth!
Dare to ride with Truth, convertible caught down in the rain, butt naked, fearless and free... truth does not grow dingy, it is forever clean and clear, it welcomes rain and storms, for it knows that "After having been intimate with the rain, one is free to kiss the sun... to breathe, to live and to blossom."
This year during Black History Month we're gonna focus on the issue of writing. This series of postings will be called The Whole Story. Hope you will actively participate (that means do some writing, y'all), and enjoy the process. Please post your comments and experiences in the 'Party Room'. Also, which African American classic and contemporary writers do you like best? Post your answers.
The Whole Story
Thanks for joining this month’s celebration. I have definitely enjoyed you. Hope you enjoyed yourselves. Hope you will continue writing and reading; ultimately it makes the world a bigger, and smaller, and better place. J Below I’ll answer a few of the questions I received this month. Hopefully, the answer to your question will be included. If not, email me and I’ll try to provide a more in depth response.
Where do I suggest aspiring writers focus their attention first?Reading. Read a lot of different authors. Pay attention to what moves the story along, to what captures and holds your attention, and to what does or does not work or flow well. After doing this for a while, you’ll instinctively do it to your own writing.
How can people who don’t have “the gift” become better writers? I don’t believe people are born with the "gift" of writing. I believe I was born with an extreme emotional capacity - a hypersensitivity that enables me to feel, relate, connect, and understand. Writing those feelings down and making the reader get them requires training and practice. Didn’t I tell y’all I’m in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program at CSU? J
Yeh, you’re right, I was writing before I came to this program. So then I guess I’ll say… all you need to do is seek truth and be unafraid to face it, feel it, and write it.
Start by journaling – writing your own truths. Then your fundamental truths will be infused into your characters and your stories.
I already said read – right?
How do I find time to write? I make time; late night or early morning works best for me. For me writing is much like washing my butt, brushing my teeth, combing my hair, breathing, eating (scratch eating) - all the things I don’t think I have time to do, but I can’t not do.
How much money do I make? That ain’t your bit-ness! J No, really, your earnings will vary. Ninety-five percent of authors won’t get rich from writing. Ninety percent won’t even earn a living at it. This is my full time job.
Where do I get my ideas and inspiration for my stories? Real life. If something pisses me off, saddens me, makes me happy, or proud, visits me in my dreams… you’ll read about it. It will be somewhere tucked between the lines and lives on the page. For instance, I was interviewed the other day. The interview focused on a topic that really, really troubles me. I’ve done several interviews with major media sources, to no effect; it seems to change nothing regarding this particular troubling issue. So, the other night long, after the interview had concluded, a story came to me. It was about 4am. I got out of the bed and wrote a story. That is why I write. That is how I cope with life.
Congrats to Barack Obama on his BIG announcement (hear his speech at http://video.msn.com/v/us/msnbc.htm), and to Tavis Smiley on The Covenant In Action reaching Best-Selling status!
This week we'll look at a couple of great writings by African Americans. Each of these writings, as different as they are, have the same basic essay model at their foundation.
I'll start with Tupac Shakur (his piece is shorter), then move to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Tupac's "Me Against the World" - Intro and conclusion in maroon, point 1 in black, 2 in purple, 3 in blue, green is just the chorus, reiterating the intro, which is the thesis for the piece:
Album: Me Against the World
Song: Me Against the World
It's just me against tha World
just me against tha world baby
I got nothin' ta lose
it's just me against tha world
stuck in tha game
me against tha world baby
Can you picture my prophecy?
stress in tha city
tha cops is hot for me
tha projects is full of bullets
tha bodies is droppin'
there ain't no stoppin me
constantly moven while makin millions
leavin dead bodies in abandoned buildings
caries tha children
cause they're illin'
addicted to killin'
a near appeal from tha cap pealin'
what i'm feelin'
but will they last or be blasted
hard headed bastard
maybe he'll listen in his casket
more bodies being buried
i'm losen my homies in a hurry
they're relocating to tha cemetary
got me worried
my visions bluried
tha question is will I live
no one in tha world loves me
i'm headed for danger
don't trust strangers
put one in tha chamber
whatever i'm feelin' is anger
don't wanna make excuses
cause this is how it is
what's tha use
unless we're shootin'
no one notices tha youth
It's Just Me against tha World baby
Me against tha world
It's Just me against tha World
It's Just Me Against tha World
Me Against tha World
cause it's just me against tha world baby
Me against tha World
I got nothin' ta lose
It's Just me against tha world baby
I got nothin' ta lose
Could somebody help me?
i'm out here all by myself
seeing ladies in stores
pictures of my birth
on tha surface what i'm dreamin'
seein' daddy seein'
full of crooked demons
already crazy and screamin'
I guess them nightmares as a child
had me scared
but left me prepared
is there another route?
for crooked outlaws
that are in a villain of young thugs
everyday is more death
plus i'm more rollin
i'm seein more beatins
to proceed with fear
scheme on scheming
and leavin' their peeps grievin'
cause ain't no bucks ta stack up
my nuts is backed up
i'm about ta act up
go load tha mack up
now watch me klack up
try makin' fat cuts
but yo it ain't workin
and evils lurkin
I can see him smirkin
when I gets tha bourbon
go put some work in
and make my mail
riskin 25 with a 'L'
but oh well
Me Against tha World
with nothin' ta lose
it's just me against tha world
It's just Me Against tha World baby
Me Against tha world
I got nothin' ta lose
It's just Me Against tha World
It's just Me Against tha World baby
with nothin ta lose
it's just me against tha world baby
Me against tha world
Me against tha world
I got nothin' ta lose
it's just me against tha World baby
With all this extra stressin'
tha question I wonder is after death
I feel my last breath
when will I finally get to rest from this suppression
they punish tha people that's askin' questions
and those that possess
steal from tha ones without possessions
tha message I stress
to make it stop
study your lessons
don't settle for less
even tha genius asks questions
be grateful for blessins
don't ever change
keep your essence
tha powers in tha people and tha politics we address
always do your best
don't let this pressure make ya panic
and when ya get stranded
and things don't go tha way ya planed it
dreaming of riches
in a position of makin' a difference
politicians and hypocrites
they don't wanna listen
if i'm insane
then tha fame ain't about ta change
it wasn't nothin' like tha game
it's just me Against tha World
Me against tha World
nothin ta lose
It's just Me Against tha world baby
Me Against tha World
got me stuck in tha game
It's just Me Against tha World
i'm outshining [???] tha news
It's just me against tha world baby
Me against tha World
I know it seem hard sometimes, but uh...
remember one thing
through every dark night
there's a bright day after that
so no matter how hard it get
stick ya chest out
keep ya head up
and handle it
Me against tha World
Me against tha world
Me against tha world
In this second piece, written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the basic essay model is apparent: intro and conclusion in maroon, body and points in black.
Also, upon close examination you'll see evidence of the basic essay model in the structure of successful "movements" as noted by Dr. King (look for blue highlights in the letter). King writes of the structure of a non-violent campaign (my explanation in red):
1) Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. Intro to the issue - why care?
2) Negotiation. What are your points?
3) Self-purification Have you addressed opposing opinions and positions fairly, and adequately? - Counter
and 4) Direct action. Conclusion - Again, what's your point and what are you gonna do about it?
There is a basic essay model all writing follows (at least to some general degree). This model is used in all academic writing classes. It is as follows:
Okay. Since we have high school and college students being forced to participate :-), and high school dropouts, as well as aspring PhD's watching, first let me describe the setting for this function. You are all gathered up front in my livingroom. Some folks are sitting on the floor, others are on the couch and standing along the walls. It is cramped, and folks could easily be frustrated :-). So be considerate of other's opinions, and be patient with us.
This this month we will be dealing with the issue, or notion of success. What is success? What does it look like to you? How did you determine the criteria for your definition of success? Let's look at it. Let's explore our history to discover what success looked like for our ancestors. Then let's see if we can draw upon the experience of our ancestors and contemporary others to help us realize our own success.
2/1/06: Food for thought: In African culture, times were considered good if the rain came in spring, the sun showed up and provided the necessary rays to foster the photosynthesis process that made for good and plentiful crop, which allowed for strong and healthy kinfolk and workers, to plant crop in fall... Folks were busy working to eat. History shows that countries and cultures meet their demise when they are afforded too much luxury for too little effort...Hmmm.
2/2/06: Centerstage: What have you done for others lately? In ancient African cultures it was believed that life existed in a circular mode on a circular structure - So then everything was connected. Using this understanding as the basis for their existence, it is understandable why all efforts were given to uplift or strengthen the whole of society. Therefore, those who were exalted (in positions similiar to America's president role) in the society were persons who demonstrated the greatest concern for the group's best interest. Bush?
There needs to be a discussion about thought. We need to know why we think what we think. Have you witnessed things that are unique to African American culture and wondered "Where'd that come from? Why do Black folks do that?" Well, I'm glad you asked. There are legitimate explanations for things like: CP-Time, folks all up in yo' business, thug passion, trash talkin, soul music, etc. This month we'll explore some of these things and see if we can trace their origin back to historic African culture.
2/25/05: "Trash Talkin' ": Imagine you are in a place where there's no television, no telephone, no radio, no internet, no newspapers, no magazines, no books... no media. This is the place where trash talkin' was born. In historic African cultures, Africans nearly worshipped language. Language was not only their means of communicating facts and pertinent details it was used as their form of entertainment as well. Metaphors, parables and vivid imagery was fused with life-lessons, historical facts and traditional values and beliefs. Wide dark eyes, tear-streaked cheeks, bruised aching legs, tightly held hands, sweaty compacted breathing bodies, large lonely ears, smiling fully-inflated lips, angry aching arms, happy hearts and soaring souls were all ushered to a state of equilibrium through the magical power of language. Language is our gift. It's just what we do. Africans and all African descendants are natural linguists. Slang, proper, swear... whatever. We love words! Whether they're over heavy, hollow horns and a tight baseline, or lightly interspersed around the melodic notes of a saxophone’s sullen pleas... WORDS... behind the podium spewing from the guts of the impassioned, incomparable Malcolm X, or in the alley behind Mr. Jones' raised-door garage lounging neatly atop embellished accounts of yesteryear... WORDS... whenever, whatever, wherever there is a space, the African has had and will always have a WORD to fill it.
2/23/05: "Soul Music": The notion that black folks' music is soul music, the depth of emotion put into words carefully chosen to create images in your mind, melodies meant to coerce your blood to attention beneath your skin, the boom-boom-boom drum bass that meets you at your core - can all be traced back to Ancient African culture. In Africa music was not just music for music's sake. In ancient African culture nothing was done purely for one's own satisfaction. Self-gratification was not the order of the time. Everything that was done was done with the purpose of honoring God or the ancestors or basically something or someone outside of one's self. Africans believed their fate was in the hands of God and the ancestors so when they made music or danced to honor the source of their survival, the source of their peace, the architects of their very existence, they did so with every bit of borrowed or gifted breath they possessed - they gave of their hearts and "soul."
2/17/05: "Thug Passion": It's true... African American women have a tendency to favor fellas that possess a lil' edge. Yep. We "don't want no punks!" We tend to equate manhood with aggression of various sorts. In the "hood" or street settings we want physical strength. In the boardroom we want intellectual strength. In this capitalistic society we look for financial strength. We want these things and we want them in abundance! That reality grows out of our most intimate fears. Most actions and ideas people possess are intiated in response to their environment. Our security (being black and female) is extremely fragile, so we seek an increase in stability in our mate. This is not new, people. Even in traditional African cultures that practiced communalism (where folks shared almost everything), there was almost always relative drama or heightened activity with regard to match-making or partner selection. Here enters the aggression factor. Africans negotiated "bride-prices." Not out of greed, but more so as means for gaging the man's commitment to the female which was an indirect means of gauging the likelihood of her security. Families invested gifts to familes. Security! Several African cultures even had a staged "capture" ceremony after the bride-price had been agreed upon by the families and mates involved. During the "capture" ritual the groom would go into a designated place and pretend to "take his woman." The bride would then pretend to resist. Ultimately, the bride would be literally carried away by the sheer strength and will of her man leaving the onlookers with the understanding that this dude would do whatever necessary for his woman!
2/15/05: Workaholic Women: African American women are often criticized for working too much or too hard. What is "too" much? Traditionally women of African descent have simply done what was necessary to sustain their families. In traditional African cultures women and children most often did the bulk of the planting and tending to the crop while the men went away from the village to do other, more dangerous tasks. There was no measurement of what was too hard for folks. People did what worked as dictated by the environmental and social restraints of their particular situations. For Africans in America, slavery has been a constant influence on the way in which we function. During slavery families were frequently torn apart so women had to be prepared to take care of themselves and their families in the absence of the man. After slavery men weren't afforded jobs that paid incomes that would support the family, so women had to work to earn money to subsidize the man's earnings. Still today, many men are disenfranchised by the American system which forces them to the margins of American society. So then, African American women do what African women have always done - they do what they must! Don't hate, Congratulate! Massage a back and give a Sista a break!
2/14/05: "Playa-Playa": Some brothers believe it's natural to have more than one woman. They grab and tug at their African roots when they want to justify infidelity. They say it's innate, it's a natural part of their heritage and there is nothing they can do to overcome it. It seems they may have inherited only a minute portion of their "natural" genes :-). The fact is many Africans traditionally have had more than one mate at a time - but it wasn't exclusive to men. There have been African societies where the women had several mates at a time and the women ruled the society. In either case, it wasn't the majority that participated in this practice. It wasn't uncommon but it wasn't the case most of the time. There were rigid stipulations that had to be adhered to in order to participate in multiples. The main factor which was consistent throughout historical African societies was the fact that in order to indulge in multiples, one had to be able to "properly provide" for each of their multiple partners and all offsprings! The term "provide" covered all realms: financial, emotional, spiritual,etc. Sound inviting?!
2/11/05: In African tradition the naming process is very important. At birth a child might receive a name associated with something the parents wish for him or her. As the child matures he or she is renamed in accordance with his unique character traits or qualities. If this were the practice in America, what would your name be?! A little something to think about...
2/10/05: David Walker said: "Man is a peculiar creature - he is the image of his God, though he may be subject to the most wretched conditions upon earth, yet the spirit and feeling which constitute the creature, man, can never be entirely erased from his breast, because the God who made him after his own image, planted it in his heart."
An Old Ashanti proverb says: "Rain beats a leopard's skin, but it does not wash out the spots."
2/9/05"My Brother's Keeper": The closest thing to ancient African culture that urban America has witnessed is street "gang" culture. What evolved into violent gang-banging culture began as a basic clan. Guys got together and sought a means of survival in a system that was socially constructed to exclude them. Brothers decided they would create their own markets, schools, programs, support systems, governing rules, etc. They had meetings. They had the "LAW" which had to be learned and adhered to. Guys who were disruptive to the system or the neighborhood would be in "violation" and might be subjected to what was called a "pumpkin head." There were chiefs, soldiers, enforcement officers, committeemen and every other role player needed to have a full functioning society. Communalism was realized. People shared outgrown clothes, shoes and work carpools. Gang members had hook-ups with hook-ups who could magically make fifty dollars worth of meat fill the fridge and deep freezers of at least half the homes on the block. Painters painted. Mechanics fixed cars. Meals were bartered for carpentry work, plumbing, hairdo's and news. Black folks succeeded at creating a culture within a culture, where every turtle-necked man and Kangol donned boy proudly echoed the African's sentiment - I am my brother's keeper.
2/8/05"Crabs in a barrel":The whole idea of folks pulling you or keeping you down is a twisted spin-off of a system that was used to promote harmony and prevent gluttony or greed. Folks not wanting 'individuals' to fair better than the 'whole' can be traced back to practices in African culture. For Africans this "keeping you in check" was about balance. No one was to be better than the other. In African culture everyone or everything in the universe is believed to have energy or worth (including inanimate objects). One had to be careful not to disrupt the balance of nature by abusing things. When necessary nature's resources could be used for sustenance but one should never extract from nature more than the minimum required to survive. In many African cultures, the hunter who came back with some rare, great game was not celebrated or revered for his great hunting abilities. In fact, when he returned with the meat, the people's behavior was to be non-chalant, a sort of "yeah, okay, that's cool." Then, as an exercise in humility, the dude who brought the meat would be the last person served. Ethnographers have often described this process as if the hunter was "put down" in a sense. Unfortunately this type of behavior is ineffective in a society with money and greed at its core. "I got mine, you'd better get yours" rides the wind, fills the raindrops and even sprouts from the soil here, in this land of the "free".The United StatesAfrica could wish for. The excess food residual sucked from our butts and guts should be thinly padding the rib cages of the many folks who wear their resource deficiencies painfully across their chests, legs, arms, and cheeks. Umph, umph, umph... is twenty percent of the world's population, yet we consume eighty percent of the world's resources. No one is "checking us." We throw away more food than the children in
2/4/05"Party Over Here!": Traditionally Africans have always found cause for celebration.Africans partied before the season of planting, hosted harvest feasts, partied to bring the rain, partied to stop the rain, partied at births and even partied at the time of deaths. This is because there was an understanding that "God" was in control and the purpose of celebration was to honor "God" at all times, even in times of trial or struggle. How about that?!
2/3/05The "Sistergirl" Bonds: Women have this great need to socialize with, to consult and console, to clique with, other females. This is not new. In most African cultures there were clearly defined roles determined primarily by gender. In most cases there existed a communal or cooperative environment. Everyone worked to fulfill the needs of the whole. The women worked together and the men worked together. In a presentation called "We Have No Word for Sex" a married couple, Sobunfu and Malidoma Some' from the Dagara People of West Africa explained that not only did they work man with men and woman with women - they often slept in gender-based rooms apart from their respective spouses. This practice supported their traditional beliefs regarding intamacy. According to the Some's, the Dagara people believed that only persons of like gender could provide the nurturing and guidance needed to help individuals to grow to their full potential. I distinctly recall the idea that the wife shared a room with the mother-in-law (when they were at home in
Africa - they live in New York now). This was common practice among the Dagara people. The husband and wife share private time frequently enough. They say this type of arrangement enables them to have an appreciation for one another that isn't driven by sex. In fact, in their language they "have no word for sex," but I get the feeling they have a few for "sisterfriend."
2/2/05Note:Africa is a continent consisting of many cultures and societies. Just like in all other continents, countries, etc. many things have changed since the beginning of recorded history. In order to study and understand African or African American history we must pay attention to core elements and consistent patterns then juxtapose those things against the environment and the pervading issues of the applicable time period. Many of the initial historical accounts that were made available in the United States were translations by "others" who had no connection to the reported culture. We must always get varied views and be aware of the sources of our information.A whole lot of words to simply say the same things our grandmas told us - look beneath the surface - there are two or more sides to every story - things aren't always as they appear.
2/1/05CP-Time Historic African society functioned in sync with nature. Nature was the Africans' watch. The sun would send her rays to peek in and signal that she was on her way up. 'Round
, she would allow her rays to get playful and fiesty and they would move close to the African to see how much heat he could stand. When they tired, they would pull into the sun's bosom and she would make her way down to rest. There was a rhythym that was mandatory for survival in African society. You had to gather your food and complete your chores before the sun retired. The sun knew the African needed her. She was polite. She never left abruptly. She'd just sort of sigh and ease away as if she didn't really want to go. The African paced himself to her rhythym. So if the African said he was coming later, some time between the sun gathering her rays and her actual departure, the African would show up. He (the African) respected nature. He never tried to rush, control or manipulate nature. He simply followed as he was led. CP-Time is derived from African thought regarding time. Cp-Time is non-rushed - a sort of I'll-get-there-when-I-get-there type of attitude - never early, never too late - just sort of in the natural rhythym of things in my environment. Note: Don't try this at work. America is on European time. KD
Shameless Plug for a group of men who have committed their lives to the betterment of Black folks. Thanks to Minister Michael Muhammad and all the other soldiers in The New Black Leadership Coalition! ~ Please visit www.designandprint95.cceasy.com for all your business and social printing needs. A portion of the profit from your purchase will go to support their work.
Author Kim L. Dulaney's Group or Organization Affiliation:
National Association of Black Journalists - Chicago Chapter
Note: Please read Thought Questions and More Info listed at the bottom of the page.
This month we're going to talk about health. I wish I could have begun this dialogue painting mental pictures of folks on the track... stretching and twisting towards the sun, preparing for a heart-healthy walk or fat-fighting run. I wish I could've began by talking about things like "black folks need to be conscious of their diet" or "we need to make a conscientious effort to incorporate exercise into our daily routines, we need to take time for meditation, create a space for solace and peace"... No doubt these things are all important, however, we as African Americans would be remiss to even part our lips or direct our minds to health without beginning the discussion at the point that is most ailing our people - AIDS. This topic is so ugly, it's so out of control we can't even truly comprehend its magnitude. So we don't even try. We close our eyes, cover our ears, pull the shades over our sensibilities and hope for the best for "those folks" not wanting to embrace the fact that we are those folks. We've got to do better. We have to force ourselves to face this thing.
I was bothered by the fact that I could no longer freely and fully indulge in sexual intimacy without having to safeguard my life. Think about that. The deepest faction of life itself when properly handled... the space where I can help my man grow ten feet beyond his reality to believe in and construct a new... the place where he crowns me Miss America and affords me the adulation I was born to bare... the space where black men and women have traditionally found a reason to try again... is now tainted. Folks like to say you can find fuel for these things in other spaces and places and it's true, and no, sex isn't the be-all end-all to life or intimacy but anyone who has experienced a full, well-fed love will concur with the fact that physical intimacy helps.
I was once bothered by the notion that my generation is charged with the task of re-energizing a Black Power Movement without access to the tools that helped to "bring together" and solidly forge "soul" commitments. Peace and Love? How? Sistahs fear dudes with promiscuous tendencies and two-sided secrets. Brothers feel the disconnect of sistahs and misconstrue their apprehension as a broadswipe against black manhood. The fantasy is lost in the fear. It forces folks to look at each other differently - logically. All this results from sex or the lack there of, at least I thought so.
Then I was startled by the statistics. I began to realize AIDS was much bigger than personal pleasures. Whew! Much, much, much bigger. When folks started withering away like sun-deprived tulips... I watched AIDS work its way through the gardens of our communities. It went from a drug thing to a gay thing to a down-low thing to a love thing. It’s now a part of the soil. AIDS has wrapped itself in the nutrients that feed the soul - the elements that sustain our existence. Folks are now dying to live. Simple. AIDS is so much bigger than the physical act that facilitates it. It’s huge! It's as tragic as, if not worse than slavery. Your children and their children are being born into it. Just look at
Lifestyles of the Rich and the Needy: American-vs-Ugandan Lifestyles
(Written Novemeber 4, 2003 for a Physical Science Course)
Today’s headline news in New York City, a major city in America was as follows: “Giants Put an End to the Vikings’ Streak.” According to the New York Times, Ike Hilliard’s catch for a 14-yard touchdown with 3 minutes 39 seconds left struck the final blow in the Giants’ win over the previously undefeated Minnesota Vikings.” Millions enjoyed their favorite brand of beer, chips, dip, peanuts and other party choice snacks as they watched the game from the safety of their heat-controlled homes or favorite local bar with their entire focus being the triumph of their favorite group of wealthy game-playing men.
Meanwhile the BBC News was reporting on “Children ‘massacred’ in DR Congo” near Uganda. Some 40 of the 60 people killed in the massacre were children, according to the source. They found bodies, killed by bullets or machetes, in five mass graves... We can assume none of the dead bodies found were stocky or overweight - that is a fact that would have been reported because fat is a rarity in Uganda where food is scarce and choice of themed snacks is unheard of.
This brief glimpse into the lifestyles of average Americans and average Ugandans reveals there are extreme differences. A longer glance at our lives further confirms our differences.
When I decided I was ready to write this report, I walked over to my workstation, decided which of my three computers I wanted to use for the project, powered the chosen computer up, turned on the television to keep me company while my children slept comfortably and in good health in the other room, decided it would be nice to have some warm tea while working, walked a few feet away (without leaving my home, without working to ignite a big fire), turned a knob and watched as a flame jumped up through the black rack that warmed in preparation for my teapot (a special decorative vessel used to warm water for a specific drink). Then I turned another knob, which instantly yielded clean fresh water with a choice of warm or cold. I filled the teapot, went back to the workstation, sat down in a cushy black chair and began researching my subject. I didn’t concern myself with calculations that would determine when the water should boil, the teapot was conveniently designed to figure that out for me and alert me with a whistle when it had completed its job. So I was free to concentrate on my research. I searched through newspapers, federal files, published papers and various other sources. I searched through these sources without ever leaving or cluttering my home. I searched through sources that spanned the globe in a few short hours. I didn’t spend much time on information I deemed irrelevant. I happened to have an efficient assistant that sorted through the information and afforded me the luxury of zeroing in on specific data - this particular assistant is called America Online. In the comfort of my home with powered lights I took my time and waded through the info until well past . At one point I had to get up and walk over to a small box on the wall to push a small tab slightly to the left to reduce the temperature. The warm tea seemed to heat me up a bit and the forced-air heating that automatically distributed itself evenly through my home was somewhat excessive. After turning down my heat and selecting a low-fat snack from the refrigerator (a large, electronically chilled box that keeps food fresh), I finalized the sorting of my Ugandan facts and prepared to write this paper that was due on Tuesday, the first of three days a week that I attend my school for higher learning (optional schooling after 13 years of free education), taking my full-time load of four classes during a few hours in the afternoon and evening. I don’t attend the school because I have to or particularly need to, I attend because I just want to, I feel more knowledge can only help me to become better informed.
Far away in a distant land at this very moment, a woman about my age lies beneath a net, hopefully shielded from the death of a disease-carrying mosquito, on a cloth on a hard floor, in a corner, in a dark, tight space, exhausted, clutching her dying child. This woman herself is sick but can not divulge that information nor can she seek medical attention. She is one of the few who is afforded higher education and a chance to elevate her entire village from its state of poverty. If this woman admits she is afflicted with AIDS she will be ejected from her school and rejected by her society. Never mind the fact that she became afflicted while breeding in attempt to increase her family’s wealth by producing more workers. No one cares how she became infected. The point is - she’s infected and like so many of her family and friends who could not afford medicine, she too will die a slow, torturous death. In her sickness this woman is stronger than I have ever been! This woman will rise before the sun, tear herself away from her sick child, walk a mile to the well to get water (she’s not fortunate to be one of the 10% of the 25,632,794 citizens with running water), wash one of her two outfits and hang it out to dry, make her way through the masses of orphaned children (44% of the population is under age 15) to the market with hopes of selling something small she has been able to acquire, before going to her deficiently supplied school to cram her stressed yet resilient mind as she does seven days a week from 8am to 8pm in eight classes each semester. Though brilliant, this woman’s life is limited by her culture, government, and her marginal access to world data and technology. This woman’s sick body, whose 46-year life expectancy is reducing at a rapid rate, will function off of a fairly decent diet of fruit, vegetables and lots of carbohydrates provided in her one and only meal for the day. This woman is not afforded much in a population where the average salary is $260 per year. She isn’t even afforded the luxury of worry. She well understands that her child is probably out quickening her death as she lives near and scavenges through squalor and filth in search of something of worth. She knows the dangers she herself will face on her long walk home from school after her long day as a secondary, unattended to and unappreciated female citizen. When she finally makes it to her home, this woman will take her bought charcoal from its huge bag and make one fire to heat the 55 gallon tank that gravity feeds the communal shower and she will make another fire to heat water to do chores and to provide light for study. Then, she will tend to the strands of her poverty-torn family determined, as mothers are universally, to be the thread that binds. Finally this pillar-of-a-woman, will retire for a few brief hours until time to do it all again.
I reserve my tears for this woman! I reserve my praise and my prayers for this woman - May God hear her silent cries and use our excessive American “wants” to fill her basic Ugandan “needs.”
Kanis, Dr.. Personal Presentation. September 30, 2003.
Other issues: (This info was provided by my Dr. Joseph S. Thomas D.D, M.D., M.B.A.)
Take heed of his free advice - please!
** Facts about Cervical Cancer - 50% of the women who get cervical cancer never had a pap smear in their life. 99% have HPV (human papilloma virus) this virus causes warts on the genitals and several types can accelerate mutations that lead to cancer. Multiple partners expose the woman to many carcinogenic substances as well as increases the risk of HIV. Although the Pap smear is about 41% sensitive it is an excellent screening test and can lead to diagnosis and treating precancerous lesions and thus actually prevents invasive carcinoma. So why do black women wait too long to get Pap smears? FEAR... only fear can kill your body, soul and spirit. Overcome fear with knowledge and a solid sense of self-importance.
** Did you know that it is now a medical fact that high fat diets have been proven to cause cancer? Want to reduce your risk of cancer or premature death?
- Stop smoking
- Start exercising daily
- Food choices: low fat
- Get yearly Pap smears
- Food choices: fruits and vegetables
- Increase Anti-oxidants
- Reduce mental stress effects
- Increase spiritual connections
- Demand cleaner air & water (reduce toxin exposure)
- Universal precautions
** This AIDS thing may be a bit redundant yet it is worth repeating. Recent Chicago research indicated white males weren't aware they had HIV 50% of the time, Hispanic males weren't aware 70% of the time and Black males weren't aware they were HIV positive 90% of the time! Whoa! Denial is deadly! Get tested! AIDS among black girls 13 to 19 has doubled in the past few years. Talk to your children! The number one cause of death in black women 25 to 45 is now AIDS! Wow!
** One in two black women will die from heart related illness. Stop stressing. Let it go. WALK it off - literally.
** Annual minimal health checks:
30's - Pap smear, STD's
40's - Pap smear, STD's, Mammogram
50's - Pap's smear, Mammogram, Osteoporosis
** NOTE ** Most health issues can be corrected or at least managed with medication, vitamins, etc. We take care of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, yet we pay no attention to our health until it's failing. Some health issues Black folks face can be attributed to public health policies and practices but truth be told, many of our issues are just that - OUR ISSUES! Get to know your body - listen to it - love it - take care of it. We'll work on the system but in the interim do your best for yourself.
RUWell is a wellness assessment based on the seven dynamic dimensions of wellness (Physical, Social, Emotional, Intellectual, Environmental, Spiritual, and Time). Researchers refer to the dimensions as dynamic because they are always changing. Each dimension is affected by the other. As you read through the RUWell assessment, take note of how one dimension of wellness may affect other areas of wellness. The purpose of the RUWell assessment is to provide you with an increased awareness about your individual wellness. With this increased awareness you can identify which dimensions of wellness you are currently satisfied with and which dimensions could use some improvement. Check the answer that best fits your response to each of the statements listed below.
I am physically active at least four times per week for 30 minutes.
I drink at least 64 ounces of water every day.
I eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
I eat breakfast every morning.
I get approximately 8 hours of sleep every night.
I choose to avoid the use of tobacco products and my exposure to tobacco smoke.
I examine my breasts or testes on a monthly basis.
I maintain normal blood pressure. (If you do not know your blood pressure, answer "almost never".)
I wear my sealt belt regularly.
I am satisfied with my energy levels.
I am appropriately concerned about unacceptable social conditions.
I stay current on the state of world affairs.
I exercise my right to vote.
I enjoy helping others (including strangers, family, and friends).
I enjoy my work.
I am comfortable meeting new people in a variety of settings.
I participate in a wide variety of groups, including educational, recreational, religious, and occupational groups.
I contribute time and/or money to at least one organization that strives to better my community.
I take time to spend "quality" time with my family and friends.
I possess good communication skills (both giving and receiving).
I am able to express my anger positively.
I believe there are no such things as mistakes, only different degrees od success.
My intimate relationships are satisfying.
Humor is a part of my daily life.
I see change as a positive experience and accept its presence with a sense of confidence.
I can manage the stress in my life.
I resolve conflict in a respectful manner.
I take out time for myself without feeling guilty.
I allow myself to experience a variety of emotions and find positive ways to express them.
I have a strong sense of self confidence and self-esteem.
I am able to concentrate easily.
I enjoy learning.
I make decisions with a minimum amount of stress and worry.
I enjoy learning about different topics from a variety of mediums (e.g., the Internet, books, newspapers, and magazines).
I am aware of the influence my social environment has on my thinking.
I use my sense of creativity to solve problems.
I am skeptical and demonstrate critical thinking.
I am open minded.
I am able to express my opinions and feelings to others easily.
I learn from my life experiences.
I recycle various materials.
I conserve energy and materials at home, school, and work.
I take my own bags when shopping.
I am concerned about the presence of pesticides when buying food products.
I turn water off when I'm brushing my teeth, washing my car, shaving, etc.
I use alternative transportation (e.g., walk, bike, rollerblade, and skateboard) or carpool whenever possible.
I purchase recyclable or biodegradable products.
I am interested in learning more about how I can preserve natural resources.
I consciously reduce the amount of waste I produce.
I am concerned about the global environment and its effects on the quality of life.
Making time for prayer or other spiritual behavior is part of my regular routine.
My values and morals affect my daily behavior and choices.
My life has a positive direction and meaning.
I help others who are less fortunate then I.
I seek comfort and support from my faith when needed.
I see myself as part of a "bigger" picture.
I am able to discuss my own death with my family and friends.
I see the future as an opportunity for personal growth.
I am satisfied with the direction of my spirituality.
My daily behavior and life long choices are largely influenced by internal factors rather than external factors.
I am satisfied with the balance between my work time and leisure time.
I maintain a comfortable pace of life.
I am satisfied with my ability to manage and control my workload.
I do not feel unreasonably hurried in my daily routine.
I don't have problems getting started on large tasks or projects.
I make time in my daily routine for relaxation and play.
I maintain control over my time.
I do not procrastinate.
I regularly prioritize and schedule my daily tasks.
I practice the concept of simplicity whenever possible to minimize overload in my life.
Congratulations! You have completed the RUWell assessment. Please take a moment to reflect upon your scores in each category. In which dimensions did you mostly answer "Almost Always?" These dimensions represent positive areas of your individual wellness. In which dimensions did you mostly answer "Almost Never?" You may want to strive to enhance your level of wellness by making some positive changes in these dimensions. To derive an average for each section, give 3 points for "Almost Always", 2 points for "Sometimes", and 1 point for "Almost Never" - add the total points for each section then divide that number by 11. Remember one dimension is not more important than another. For a high level of wellness to occur, all dimensions must positively work together. Perhaps you could begin by improving your weakest dimension and set a realistic goal for improvement in the other areas. Good luck in reaching a higher level of wellness. Be well!