I am in this space of radical love and self-acceptance. In my devouring of the fire of Feminista Jones; the medicine at the shoulder, knee, yea, hands of Toni Morrison; … Continue reading MAY BOOK REVIEW: THIS WILL BE MY UNDOING by Morgan Jerkins
There is something to be said for being authentic and having the opportunity to grow. In the space crafted this month for revolutionaries, I had to put a spotlight on … Continue reading ‘This Is Not Your Daddy’s Civil Rights Movement’: Why Tef Poe Feels Like The Best Kept Secret
As a woman a faith, I have to remember the anchor scripture of the joy of the Lord is your strength. Things like gratitude journals have become buzz words and … Continue reading Your Life Should Be A Gratitude Journal
This work is not my own, but written by a Father Oracle, Langston Hughes (1902-1967). In keeping with the theme of this month, I thought this fitting. Let us be reminded that life is precious–and black children are entitled to know and see theirs are just as precious as anyone else’s.
When Kids Die
This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.
Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.
Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together
Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
You are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.
Black writers matter. The black experience in this nation cannot be accused of not having been recorded enough, spoken of enough, or analyzed enough. In the current climate of the … Continue reading When They Get Coates
Power is to whom you give it. There comes a time in this life where you will be forced to evaluate whom has power over you, and why.
Outside from the agencies whose existence is based in protection, there those in your life whom will try and tell you their intent is of a similar ilk.
This power, this influence, for the most part is wielded by people in your life whom only wish to see you win. It is wielded in benevolence, with courage and boldness to remind you of whom you are and can become.
However, more often than not this influence roots and lingers in under the beds Shakespeare says are crowded. This is from the people closest to us whom have seen us at a point of weakness–rather than helping us, they tell is what we did wrong, always do or will never do right.
They become evil sooth-sayers, casting hexes of discontent, bitterness, jealousy and apathy over all those in their pathways. They will tell you these things as if you have no concept of your own self. They have not lived a life or had experiences where someone celebrated them, wanted to celebrate them or denied their existence.
These people can only give you what they have: nothing.
Every day you choose whom you will become. Each day you are given holds the potential to be life-changing. I don’t say this as if the world around you does not present or beset you with unique problems. I say this because no matter how big the problem is, you will always be larger than the problem. You determine what you determine.
Some things spoken over you may be hurtful, disguised help or frank opinion. You do not have to accept this, even from from the people you know or love.
You don’t have to accept poison as medicine or influence as a Gospel. You determine what will steer your life–nothing and no one else.
I am fond of saying the first 18 years of your life may not be under your control, but the rest of your life is. Uprooting the weeds in the garden of your heart and head is never easy, I assure you. It took me a decade to get over what my father had said about me writing as a career.
What helped me what the feeling I had when I wrote. The attention I got as a I wrote and now that feeling could not be replicated by anything else.
Choose what you will listen to that will shape and empower you. All you are exposed to indeed shapes you. What does not add to you will only steal and a chief thieves of joy ads competition and envy.
What shall you become once you decide who it is you are?
In this life, the only thing you own, is you.
Today I meant to write about something uplifting, but that was before the onslaught of this week and the case of Cyntoia Brown.
For those unaware, see here for the complete article.
Twenty-nine-year-old Cyntoia Brown has been locked up in a Tennessee prison for 13 years, after she was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the killing of a man who hired her as a prostitute when she was 16.
At trial, Brown’s lawyers argued she was a runaway who was raped, abused and forced into prostitution by a man known as “Kut Throat.” She will be eligible for parole after she turns 69.
I saw her documentary on her a few years ago and was astounded. The documentary was on YouTube. Before reading further, I suggest you view it.
I know you may be thinking this deviates from my topic of influence this month, but I assure you it doesn’t. Influence is only as potent or insidious as those who wield it. The more I looked at this story (before Kim Kardashian sent her lawyer after it), the more my heart grieved for her.
“Kut Throat” used his adult influence on a then 16 year old girl to force her into prostitution. In new millenium terms, we would call this sex trafficking.
He sold a 16-year-old girl for sex to the highest bidder. He put a child in an adult position by sheer force of will–ergo ill influence.
After she was violated by all these paying monsters, “Kut Throat” pimped her. A John took her to his home to have sex with her. When she thought she was reaching for a gun, she shot and killed him. She took his guns and whatever money he had and ran.
Now, should she have killed him?
Was he going to let her go?
We will never know.
The dirty fact is this: she did what she had to in order to live. With all she had endured, all Kut Throat did to her, on top of her life before the pimp found her–Is unbelievable. However, this nation likes its black girls docile or ratchet. Controllable and predictable or whorish and savage.
The favorite is the silent, suffering mammy.
The incredible thing? She now wants to use all that has happened to her to help everyone whom will listen. She wants to tell what happened to her so that the same trick that trapped her will not ensnare someone else.
Now, the third tier of this influence is the legal system–a system never designed to benefit or serve women, people of color or immigrants or the poor–God help you if you intersect any of these.
The legal system saw Cyntoia Brown like many of us see feral cats: Something for someone else to deal with and when dealing with them, do so harshly so there will be no others like those. The legal system decided her life was inconsequential and irredeemable in the face of all that had happened to her, so they decided to throw her away. The influence, the power and sway of the rule of law, let those in power do as the mob wished with her.
There has been new effort for her release and I am overjoyed. She deserves a chance at life and to impart and yes, to live. If all you own in this life is you, then whom are other folk to tell you whom you are or the limits of what you can become?
Ms. Cyntoia Brown #410593
Tennessee Prison for Women
Unit 1 West, D-49
3881 Stewarts Lane
Nashville, TN 37218
I hear sleigh bells ring-ting-tingling, too! Let’s get it!
#AnthonyLamarSmith #BlackLivesMatter #Coverup#CorruptPolice #ChangeTheSystem #Resist#FightBack
There are times where I can say with metered rage that I hate St. Louis. Courtesy of The Riverfront Times, this week, it was revealed there was a coverup during the investigation of the officer involved shooting involving police murderer of the moment, Jason Stockley. This is an exercpt from the article posted on December 5th:
The missing lab reports would have been crucial to the family’s position, Watkins argues. They show then-officer Stockley’s DNA was on a Taurus handgun recovered from Smith’s car. The now-former cop and his partner chased Smith at high speeds before they rammed his car and Stockley shot him five times.
The ex-cop claimed that Smith was reaching for the gun and that he shot him in self defense.
Yet an analysis done by a St. Louis police lab technician in February 2012 shows that not only was Stockley’s DNA found on a screw head on the gun, but that Smith’s DNA was not present.
I wish I could be shocked. I wish I could be surprised. I wish I could stop wishing. St. Louis recognizes three deities as Almighty: Money, The Cardinals and the police. When confronted with facts that the police are corrupt, tactics are terror based and you demand your humanity, you’re accused of being anti-police. Indeed, I’m anti-police as they are in the current permutation.They are still an arm of the kinder, gentler Klan. This is why we resist. We know what a lie looks like and refuse to remain silent. He killed Anthony Lamar Smith because he could. Why? There’s a good ol’ boy as a prosecutor whom can’t indict ‘a ham sandwich,’ unless a black person has one. I knew it. I just knew it.
Sponsor a future black lawyer. They are needed. The mentor to Thurgood Marshall was helped by Mark Twain. The $900,000 settlement doesn’t replace Anthony to his family and to quote Sunni Patterson, in her poem We Know This Place, “Not always have we had amnesia.”
#WalterScott #IsItJustice #Resist #DismantleThePolice #Resist
Michael Slager killed Walter Scott on cell phone video shot by a bystander. He shot him as he was running away. He then planted a weapon on him. All on video. December 7th he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. I have no joy about this. I want him to understand that black is not weapon, and forgiveness hasn’t reached my heart for this. I am angry. I am beyond frustrated. I wonder what is in white officers whom wield the badge, a car and service weapon to see color as a threat. I wonder if when these scary officers wash their faces and repeat “I feared for my life,” like I teach my children manners. I wonder if there are enough good officers that notice enough to care. I wonder how many graves are watered with the tears of young widows and broken mothers.
Hope is not something black mothers or any other woman of color is allowed to give up. We fight to remain alive, strong and to hope. My hope was this man be locked up because black life is greater than any settlement, any endorsement deal, any jersey or television appearance or concert ticket.We matter.Our humanity is not a stunt from God.We matte and we will keep hoping. And like Nehemiah whom rebuilt the walls and gates of his place of his birth, we fight as we rebuild.
#AuntieApril #AprilRyan #AprilDRyan #BlackWoman #BlackWomenWork #ChristmasParty #WhiteHouseChristmasParty
I follow Ms. April D. Ryan on Twitter. I love her. I have watched how this ongoing grease fire in Hell’s back acre perpetuating as an administration has treated her, my auntie April. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders thinks she can just over look her, not answer her questions, or answer them halfway…
Yet, April Ryan is not shook or scared or tripping off this! I spoke about the power of influence and strength of presence, April has been a role model for me as a woman right now. She’s shown me to keep showing up, and keep it pushing in the face of people who want you to stop, give up or tone it down for comfort.
April D. Ryan is goals as I pursue this writing. I admire her tenacity, her boldness and her dogged nature—I love that about her. I love that she ain’t phased by bullshit and still pushes to get her job done, make her presence known–seeing her puts steel in my back.
The fact she got snubbed for a Christmas by this madness masquerading as government only lets me know she’s doing her job. In doing that job, she ain’t got to go where they don’t pay her. Or don’t want her.
Washington has enough token negroes. Aunt April is not one of them–besides, words are how we get off the plantation.
I’m a writer.
A word alchemist.
I am well-read, with a hungering curiosity and the desire to continue to master this craft with these 26 letters. Make no mistake, I am fiercely protective of my gift, and don’t make that secret.
Which makes what happened to me all the more–infuriating.
In keeping with the theme this month about speech, words and voice, I would be dishonest not to share this. The situation has been rectified as of this posting, but I think it bares confronting for further edification of other writers and artists.
I was asked to write poem for The Awakenings Project , cycle 1 (A1) and I agreed. I wrote the first poem as favor to the artist,Marissa Southards. with the reception of that piece, which yielded the mantra for project: I Am She, She Are We, found in the poem First, Awakenings. It was most excellent to have my work well received. I am still in awe.
With the reception of that work, and the quoting of my work, I was elated. From that popularity, I got the invitation to write another piece for this project, this time for the second cycle, A2. I wrote a piece called *HOW I CAME TO BE, and read it at a celebratory gathering for A2. This piece was written from a hetero-normative, Judeo-Christian vision: seeing as the author identifies as a Christ-believing cis-gender heterosexual woman.
Now, did I need to preface that? Nah.
But I did because I respected all those that were in attendance to the project, regardless of orientation or belief system.
During the reading, I was fine. The poem sounded just like I wanted. In the aftermath, however, there was coup brewing. There was participant, Marcia, whom identified herself as a queer atheist. Okay, fine. She told the creator of the project, and I quote “she was a fan of my work, but she felt that my poem did not represent her, and she didn’t like how I used her word–Amazon.”
By now, y’all know that I am black woman.
Marcia is not.
She wanted me to change my work, and she wanted to see the revision going forward.
Yes, I’m deadass serious.
She didn’t any make effort to speak to me personally, but the artist–whom is a dear friend whom happens to be white. Before I explain the resolution, let me tell you why this is a problem.
No one, and not NO ONE, takes my voice from me. If you take issue with what I said, or how I wrote something, come see me. I don’t need a handler, and I ain’t never been a mammy.
She pulled her white privilege on me, and circumvented me–with the same erasure that she perecieved she had been given. Marcia, I can only persume, thought by doing that I would change my work, or be manipulated to change it. The worse thing? She said she was a fan of my work.
Backhanded compliments do not work. I remember I was insulted and beyond pissed. I felt as if someone had watched me open my mouth to reach in and snatched my voice from my throat. With shock and rage, I called my husband and told him what happened with my immediate thought and quote being:
Who does this bitch think she is?!”
I come from a people where everything we have and had is fought for–even the right to tell our own truth. So, I was comfortable in telling the artist, and I quote, “I am not changing a damn word of it. I can write something else, but I am not changing a word of that.” Some indignities go beyond, “How dare you!” This was one of them.
I was ready to fight!
As long as I have been reading–since 4, writing–since 8, you don’t get to dictate my imagination. You don’t get to pull offense as rank over something I wrote. I have fought too hard to get back to this gift to be punked to change anything.
I thought about that episode of Good Times, where Thelma won the contest but the contest sponsor wanted her to change the phrase black woman, and she wouldn’t. And because she wouldn’t change it, she lost.
I thought about how Phyllis Wheatley. I thought about how brilliant, versed, and enslaved existence– and how she died penniless when given freedom. I thought about Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Sallie Hennings, my grandmothers (Mollie and Arceal) and my beloved Oracle Grandmother, Maya Angelou.
I thought about the women and men of and from whom I am descended and how they may or may not have even known how to spell their names. I would not change a word. It was my work. I made the decision to not be dictated regarding my work. Nall.
The artist sided with me. She put Marcia in her place (before I had to). As a result, Marcia pulled her photo from the project, and my work stayed in tact.
Marcia didn’t apologize to me, and neither did I. I expected what I got–nothing.
I snatched my voice from being stolen.
For my sake, and the ancestors.
*The poems listed are featured in a compliation book for The Awakenings Project–click here to order.
There’s a real distinction between talking and speaking and actual speech.
The problem is there are too many people whom think they know everything, whom say everything they think, and there are people that who know more than you believe they do…but often say nothing.
When you talk you are using your voice, and what you say is heard.
When you take the time to measure what you say which changes what you say from merely talking to speaking, people are apt to listen.
Therein beloveds, lies the difference.
As a writer, my job is to measure words, distinguish speech from talking and sometimes talk to have people listen–which is a constant balancing act. This requires the ability to recognize what it means whenever or wherever I open my mouth. This means I go from being a noisemaker to a voice.
In the English language, there are 23 definitions for the word voice, the ones that are most applicable in this context are as follows:
6.something likened to speech as conveying impressions to the mind
8. the right to present and receive consideration of one’s desires or opinions
12. the person or other agency through which something is expressed or revealed
I choose to be a voice. I choose to be present and engaged and sometimes make noise. I choose to go through this life with metered measure…so when waves need to be made, I indeed will make them.
P.S. You always know a fool because their mouths are always open: you can’t tell them anything, and they don’t listen.