Monday, August 29, 2005


there is a book you need to buy, or get from the library, or tell your library to buy, or just go to the bookstore and pull up a chair and devote an afternoon and devote a some time to reading - every page, cover to cover. and then tell your mamanem and your sisters and friends, and your brothers and your boyfriends too. this is not an optional assignment, ya heard? miss glory is serious, now.

the name of the book is "naked: black women bare all about their skin, hair, hips, lips, and other parts." the editors are two sisters, ayana byrd and akiba solomon, and there is a foreword by sonia sanchez. it is published by penguin, and i saw it in borders express and in barnes and noble. try amazon too. or even better, your local black book merchant. however you get your hands on it, please, read this book!

and then discuss the book which is full of stories and observations from black women of different sizes and hues and ages, who are talking about their perceptions of their own bodies and how their perceptions have impacted the various facets of their lives. and then write your own story, like i did. and if you're comfortable, share the stories with each other. so we will understand each other more.

i am coming to the realization that the ability to understand and claim and change our lives, individually and collectively, is inextricably connected to our ability to put words to our feelings and thoughts and then say them shout them even whisper them if we have to. this book (and me thinking too much) has me thinking about why maya angelou's autobiography is so soul stirring. why the journals i've been keeping since i was seven are among my most treasured possessions. why uncle tom's cabin got the abolitionists all stirred up. why the constitution of the united states makes people marvel. why the "i have a dream" speech stops people in their tracks. why i can't get enough of reading and writing. communication is powerful. it can complicate things or make them plain. it can make people think, incite them to action, calm storms... i'm awed by it every time i see how communication moves people.

anyway, like i said, i am serious about that book - i ain't playing. make it a christmas present for the maturing teenage girls you love. even read your favorite parts to your significant other. just make sure you at least get to reading!!!

(happy birthday tasha! love you!)

Friday, August 26, 2005

freestyle writing this morning

you have nappy hair.
it is black and brown and red and blonde
it hangs as locks
curls up as twists
it frames your head like pictures of the messiah's halo
as you hello
i mellow
i listen
i gaze
i love the way you say those things
you spit you holla you move you dance you shout
i let your energy arrest me
your questions test me
i answer with all my heart and soul
you see
i am your biggest fan
and man or woman
you take me places dispensing graces
benevolently and generously
you send me from ivory coast
to broad and thomspon 2nd street mount ephraim avenue
you got my head noddin
you got me bangin out beats on tables
you got me thankful for your skills
and i love you
you mirror
you griot
you little sister
you big brother
you family cause we all got the same mother
your breath is my breath
i bleed your blood
your words and thoughts run over me like
water in the flood
my two fish swimming up and down your stream
i dream tasting your yams i dream powered by steam
from your mind
from your voice
which i thank God for
thank you for baptising me
thank you for words that are swords
carving through the ignorance of a clouded reality
serving up slices of all of our commonalities
kiss the mike
make it yours
and give thanks to the Source
thanks for teaching
i've enjoyed your course.

i remain, always,
your biggest fan.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


i didn't realize how important one of my goals was to me until i had to defer it in favor of something a little more practical and less inspiring. i am one of those people who has an innate need to believe in something. i am imaginative, a dreamer whose head is often in the clouds. i may speak realism a lot, but on the sneak tip, i think like an optimist. i've always been this way. God made me like this because He knew if i didn't purposely dream, i'd probably never use the gifts He's given me to ever get from point a to point be.

anyway, i never realized how important the goal was to me because maybe i was taking the goal for granted. there's nothing i've wanted to do in life that i didn't just do. i am spoiled in that way. i swallow fears, gather resources, hustle, pray, whatever i gotta do, and i make things happen for myself. but this particular dream... let's just say you can't roll off the side of your bed one morning and fall into it. and it's not like i've never had to work for a dream. it took several years to get my education, and i had to work to get it. maybe that's why i was on this instant gratification kick for this particular dream - i wanted what i wanted. now. with the quickness. i was making moves, you know? hustling, etc...

and then i realized that i had to wait. simple as that. so i had a temper tantrum and pulled back. at one point, my dream was why i actually didn't mind going to work each morning (which is huge cause i am NOT a morning person). it was the toy i pulled out to play with when i got bored or frustrated or shoot, if i just wanted something to think about. but after i realized i had to wait even though i thought i deserved it (now!), i stopped thinking about it. begrudgingly at first. but over time, i was willing myself to not think about the dream, knowing i'd just get mad about not having what i wanted. little details in my life started to suffer. here and there, things i'd pay otherwise pay better attention to started to fall off from lack of care, at home, at work, in relationships... i was in a funk.

i don't know what made me realize that the funk was a direct result of me shoving my dream into the back of a junk drawer somewhere. all i know is that i am not allowed to do that anymore. "later" doesn't mean "never." "can't have it now" doesn't mean "can't dream and prepare for it now." i am rebuilding the dream, hyping myself up again. and this time, i won't neglect it. i realize now that i needed it to energize me like a plant needs sunlight. i need the joy of anticipation in my life. i must reach, i must grow, i must aspire.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


as a child, i didn't always live in the hood. when i was small, my family lived down south, in areas where my parents didn't have to worry about gunshots. i was a little "country" so to speak. i knew about sesame street, honeysuckle bushes, plum trees, creeks, and the sound cicadas make at night. we moved up north twenty years ago. my new home had rowhouses and graffiti, which i hadn't seen before. tennis shoes, which i would later call sneakers, hung from wires in the air. there were more people, more cars. it was the mid-80s and hip-hop was everywhere. this place was dirty. people would drive by with stereos blasting. there wasn't as much grass, and the trees even looked different. kids in school that year would tell me to say words like "doll" or "bear" to hear my country accent, which i later learned to drop and pick up at will.

growing up, i loved my home. i felt safe there. i never got jumped, robbed, stabbed, shot at. i never had to duck bullets, although, yeah, i heard them sometimes. i can tell the difference between a firecracker and a car backfiring and a shot being fired. i had kids on my block to play with. grownups that i looked up to. we played outside on the sidewalk and out in the street, our games reflecting the grown-ups who sometimes made no sense:

"my mother and your mother were hanging the clothes.
my mother punched your mother right dead in the nose.
what color was the blood?"
"r-e-d spells red and you are not the one to be it in this
game of freeze tag!"

in my city, i went to public elementary school, and learned about heroes, black and white, male and female. i learned about the stock market, computers, and south african apartheid. i was on our unofficial drill team at recess, and learned to jump double dutch, which i love and will play to this day. i learned a love and a familiarity with people who looked like me, whether or not they had two parents, or whether or not they were on welfare, or whether or not their house was kept nasty. i learned how to play the dozens, though, too. i'm so glad my parents raised me where they did. a place where i could learn to appreciate caribbean music and learn there's a difference in being from the dominican republic and puerto rico. a place where i could play softball after school and in the summer. where we couldn't get a pizza delivered from a major chain, but the ice cream man still loved us. even though throughout all this we would have to leave the city to buy anything cause we had no quality affordable retail. and then have to deal with hearing people saying bad things about the crime and the ignorance in my city. nationwide. i left the city i love to go to school determined to show the world that there are smart people with good upbringings from the hood, who were articulate and clean and knew how to act . i love telling people where i grew up. i was saddened by the black people i met in school who were more comfortable with white people than with us. i was even frightened that my more affluent children could one day be like that.

i am seriously considering buying a house in my old city. because as fond as my memories were, i grew up resenting black professional people who were too good or too scared to live in my city. i thought they thought they were better than me. i thought that i would never run away and not look back - never be so afraid of my own people that i couldn't live among them and be a resource, a role model for the little girls, another homeowner, another taxpayer. i'm still thinking about the idea.

but i'm starting to understand those black professionals from the suburbs. it's been eight years since i called my city home. yeah, i've changed but so has my neighborhood. the street isn't as well kept. there are more boarded houses. neighbors have moved out. shoot, even my own parents have moved out, with me cheering them on. and fights over parking spaces, bad water, and backed up sewers are challenges i would be CHOOSING to face. not to mention the school system i'd be choosing. i know i sound old, but my generation seems alien to me, and the babies - they're NOT babies. my old teachers tell me they don't even WANT to learn - don't appreciate knowledge.

this could mean my presence and leadership could be needed now more than ever. and it could mean my presence and leadership could be wasted now more than ever. and if i decide to come back home, it better not be for the city's edification. cause even Jesus was rejected at home. if i go back, it better be because i'm called to be there. cause i WANT to be there. and not because i think i can save my city or because i think i'll really be able to help or be appreciated. cause that may not happen. but i can't say i don't wonder about what can be done about fighting further decline and sticking up for the residents during the gentrification that's taking place. where does a sista find her place? could i still be a soldier from the 'burbs?

Monday, August 22, 2005


i went to what i believe was the 27th annual unity day yesterday. it's a day when everybody goes to the benjamin franklin parkway in philadelphia for music, food, and vendors. now i'll be honest. i don't actually see where the unity is in unity day. first of all, most of the people who come for unity day are black. and that's cool - i love black people. but the promotion for the event is like, this is about unity for everyone, different types of cultures, different types of people, bla bla bla. it really turns out to be "black people day." in addition, it's not like it's a communal experience when you're walking all through the vendors and food and stuff. it's like walking through a crowded subway platform. each person is trying to get where they're going, and that's it. i guess the unity/communal stuff happens near the music stages. i wouldn't know - it was too hot to try getting up in all them people. but that's not what i meant to talk about. i don't care if there's unity at unity day or not.

i LOVE unity day. my parents used to take me every year when i was little. we would get in the car and ride over the ben franklin bridge from camden. as you're riding over the bridge, you get to see philly's tall buildings, including my favorite, the one with the neon PSFS. then we would park in my dad's secret "nobody knows this place to park" parking spot, and walk to the parkway where all the people were. there are all these colors and smells, and people with all kinds of hairstyles and clothes. it was an adventure for me back then. the vendors had incense and special soaps, t-shirts and toys, drums and gourds and eclectic jewelry and african prints and black art and soul music tapes (tapes, not CDs)... unity day was one of my first teachers about african culture and the existence of a diaspora - which was important, cause it's not like i was gonna get that from or a new ed.ition tape. i would see women wearing west african dresses and gelees and men with that beautiful igbo bone structure. i saw black people with locks - up til then i thought whoopi was the only one LOL. it was inspiring, horizon-broadening and self-affirming to see such a variety of beautiful black people. i think it made me love us more. cause it's not like mainstream or even hood culture gave me these images. my neighborhood was full of gold chain wearing, yo-baby-yo slanging, jheri curl juice dripping label hos.

anyway, this was the beginning of my love for the scent of egyptian musk oil, which my dad bought for me back then, and of handmade jewelry and those bronze bangles with the flattened edges. my parents used to take me to gatherings like this all the time in philly, especially stuff with live soul music, or zydeco at the jambalaya jam, or jazz and even blues. imagine a short skinny nine-year-old with braids sticking out of the side of her head, scared to be seen getting down with the music but swaying her non-existent hips anyway. yeah. *shaking my head* that was me...

i haven't been to unity day in about 9 or 10 years. i'm glad to see things haven't changed. i bought some earrings and bracelets, and a couple of gourds for the living room. tried not to flirt with this gambian dude, who couldn't understand why i told him i'm not ready for marriage. had some fried plantains and roast corn and a lemon yum-yum. and enjoyed my afternoon. and i think i can see where the unity is in unity day, too. just being there makes me feel like i am part of something beautiful. so in it's own way the gathering itself gives you that sense of belonging and ownership that is akin to unity.

man, i shoulda got that "good times" t-shirt. next year, i'm bringing more money...

Friday, August 19, 2005


oooh yeah, i'm a punk. i coulda sang last night. really. my voice wasn't that jacked. but for real though, i just punked. plus, my best friend was there. and this guy i have a slight crush on was there. so i just postponed facing my fear and read a coupla poems about love and then sat my narrow behind down. but i still managed to enjoy myself. word to the wise - when you ain't been feeling well and you're still getting over your bug, don't put too much stress on your throat, mmkay? cause you'll be miserable the next day, as i am this morning.

i'll tell you something though. i learned a lesson last night. like to hear it here it go. all the time i been reading, i've been doing it off the paper. at first, because i really didn't expect to start reading my poetry in front of other people. but, i found myself in a situation... you know how it is, so then i read for the first time (got my cherry busted), got some good feedback, and been doing it since. my reading for others is kinda like a good accident that happened to me, so it's not like i been at home planning with my poems, reading and remembering and reciting in the mirror. my thing is more like, i birth it, i re-read it out loud over and over again until it paints the right picture, and then i shove the paper in my black and white marble composition notebook until i wind up at an open-mic and i feel like reading something. and my thing is, if i can convey the same pictures and feelings reading off the paper as i can if i didn't have it in my hand, then why take the time to memorize the piece? cause look, i got a job and things i'm trying to handle, and time spent getting these pieces in my head is not the best use of my time, especially not when i ain't trying to slam or make a cd or any of the stuff poets do with their art. this is casual to me, not crucial, you know?

okay, problem number one. excuses are... well we all know what excuses are. and all that mess about why i'm still reading off the paper looks like a bunch of excuses to me, now that i done typed it out plain for myself and my miniscule readership to see. problem number two - let's get deeper with this. why was i even coming up with excuses? laziness? fear of failure? or even worse (and more likely) fear of success? man, that don't even sound like me. *shaking my head at myself* but here's what was made more evident to me last night on the mic - problem number three: i can't really truly share myself with the folks who are actually being kind enough to listen to me if i can't look them in the eye. i can't respond to their expressions, their mm hmms, nods of affirmation, or shaking heads of dissent - unless i am looking at them and seeing what experience they're having while i tell my mind to them.

last night when i was on the mic, i felt like i was missing something. and halfway through the second poem i read, i realized that it was interaction with the audience. for the sake of not getting lost, i had to keep my eyes on the page the whole time i was up there. and it felt lonely and incomplete.

so now, damn it, i'm sucked in. i gotta learn my frikking poems. and no i'm not happy about the extra step. but i know the next time i get on the mic, i'll be glad i did it. i think i'll enjoy the experience of sharing more. and i think an audience will see more of who i am and not just how well i can read.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


i neglected to mention that my dear cousins were getting over some illness they got after sitting on an international flight for about 14, 16 hours with gross people. but i mean, they'd had a week to get over it by the time i even came to visit. and i've got a diesel immune system, right?

mm hmm. i have a sinus infection. which may have come from leaving hot virginia for the (only recently) mild jersey. or sleeping in a room with air conditioning, which i usually don't do. or it may have come from my cousins. all i know is that yesterday when i was alternating sleep with hitting snooze on the alarm clock, those little sleep snatches were serious! i would have, like, a whole dream in the space of five minutes and wake up feeling like i had slept all night. that shoulda been my first sign, cause i don't usually sleep that heavy. anyway, by the time i left work yesterday i was a little dizzy, my stomach was acting funny, my post nasal drip was whupping me, and my whole neck and shoulders hurt. *pout*

so i went home and played nurse. i bought some food, cause i don't cook when i'm sick, some orange juice that was on sale that calls itself "immunity defense," and some vic.ks sinus d.ay q.uil. ate, drank, drugged, took a nap. i was a little bored after i woke up, but then i used my warm pack on my muscles. i love my warm pack. it was made by these kids from my hometown (y'all know the one with all the bad press, that was called the most dangerous city in america). anyway, they went to wa.lma.rt and bought fabric and jasmine rice and some essential oils and mixed up the scent with the rice, made little baggies for the rice with the fabric, and created aromatherapy hot/cold bags. little entrepreneurs. they use the money to support their after-school program. i personally feel like they could take some of that space program money and give it to those kids instead of making them be martha stewart for free just to afford an after school program, but that's a whole nother blog entry, and besides that, i'm proud of those babies.

anyway, i feel better today, and i managed to get rid of a lot of this congestion, so hopefully i'll be at 100 percent by tonight. which is important, because i had planned on getting up enough nerve to sing at tonight's open mic, which is something i've never done before. i really want to conquer this fear and do it at least once. i don't like being scared of stuff, so i gotta do this. which is why i brought my vi.cks to work, along with healthy munchies, and my warm pack that i pretend the kids made just for me. i'ma keep on nursing myself until i'm alllll better :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

i don't do magic

my favorite cousin, who is like a brother to me, reenacted his overseas wedding for the family over the weekend. it was a pleasure to meet his wife. they are obviously falling all over each other with happiness and love and i wish them the best. but my gosh, they are soooo young! can it be that my parents were two years younger than them when they got married? can it be that my cousin and his wife are two years younger than me? i can't imagine having gotten married at the age my parents were... and i thank God i didn't get married (i almost did) at the same age my cousin and his wife have. i mean, to each his own, but i can't picture myself married.

which is really funny, because like i said, i almost did it a couple of years ago, and if it wasn't for my ex-fiancee, i would probably be married now. but still, i can't picture it.

which is really funny, because it seems everybody else in my life can picture it. in fact, my cousin encouraged me to catch the bouquet at the wedding. riiiight. like i'm gonna throw some bows with my loved ones over some plastic flowers that are somehow supposed to magically bring me to the other side of the broom. riiiight. i don't do magic.

an elder in my family expressed concern about me driving my rental car alone from new jersey to the wedding in virginia and back. he said he would pray for me that God sends a mate to care for me and protect me. wow. but he sounds just like my beloved father, who always asks, "who you coming with," when i tell him i'm driving home. i don't know what it is about the idea of me driving alone for 4 and 1/2 hours that gets them so worried about when i'm gonna get married, but apparently this is a worrisome thought. (which is why i have a cell phone.)

then the other thing about weddings is every one is looking at me like, "you next, ain'tcha?" and i'm looking at them like, do you see a fiancee on my arm? did i bring a date to this wedding? do i ever? i can't be the next one to get married without having someone to marry folks, i mean really. i take it all in stride, knowing everyone thinks i should be married because i'm cute enough and smart enough and nice enough and about that age. i know they are wishing me well, and i appreciate folks wanting me to be paired up and happy. i won't front like i don't want to be paired up and happy. what's really funny is that people act like i don't know i'm single. and like i can't be happy unless i get married. trust me, there are fifty million things that remind me daily that i am single. and over this quarter-century, i have learned and am still learning how to just be happy with or without him. i figure that the best way for him to find me is to get out of my apartment sometimes by doing stuff i like to do. and if he doesn't find me, at least i'm getting out and doing stuff i like to do, which is more than i can say for a bunch of married people...

that sounds like a plan - that sounds better than magic. which is exactly why i hung back while all those nuts tore up the bouquet trying to catch it. i ain't taking no black eye for some magic.

Friday, August 12, 2005


salt adds flavor to food. people like it. it's useful. it preserves things. salt has its bad points too. it's harmful in a wound. too much gives folks high blood pressure.

my honesty is like salt. it makes me the breath of fresh air i sometimes am. but it can also simultaneously be a major pain. my oldest and dearest friends know better than to haphazardly ask me what i think or casually ask me for advice. cause i am honest. and opinionated. and comfortable with every aspect of this facet of myself.

i'm not saying i have no tact and discretion. i'm just saying i don't believe in smudging the edges, blurring my opinion, and leaving stuff out to avoid the not-so-pretty things about the truth. and i am unapologetic about it.

sometimes it comes in handy.

"glory, what do you think about this skirt on me?"
"I think you should change it or at least tie a scarf around your behind so we don't all have to see exactly which day-of-the-week drawls you have on today."
"You're right, I didn't see that, thanks, I'll change."

which ultimately makes me closer with friends cause they know I'll never lie just to be nice.

sometimes it pisses people off.

"glory, I am so sick and tired of him fill-in-annoying-thing-he-does-here."
"Have you talked to him about it?"
"How is he supposed to know how much that bothers you if you don't say nothing? Is this how the whole relationship is going to be? He pisses you off, you gulp it down it like a scooby snack, and then complain to me about it until he finally dumps you over something else when you coulda just dumped him now, or at least had a better time of it by being honest earlier on? Shooooot, want ME to call him? I'LL tell him, cause this stuff you telling me, you should be telling him..."

which ultimately makes my friends resent me cause i didn't play the sympathetic role like i was supposed to. i chose the "this is partly your fault too" road, which ain't always what people want to hear.

i do not specialize in what people want to hear. i do not cater to people fishing for reassurance when they ought to know what's up for themselves. i do sympathy sometimes. i do encouragement sometimes. i do compliments, even. but i don't do pity. i don't back people up when i think they're wrong. i don't change my opinion cause of peer pressure or fear. if you want someone to have a weak will or lie to you or support some stupidity, i ain't the one.

to that end, i try my best to not say anything to people unless i'm asked (or unless i have something nice to say.) but if you ask, brace yourself.

shout out to my aggie/owl/homie who's birthday is today - smooches - may the extravaganza be extraordinary, and may you not get drunk and have miscellaneous relations with some chick that you will regret later....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


don't wake me up. like how my cousin called my house this past saturday at 9:30 a.m. to ask me some stupid question about something that coulda waited until some decent hour. or like how my mom, who is staying as a houseguest, did this morning, wondering if i was gonna be late for work. i know what i'm doing! i been getting myself to work and school for years now just fine all this time and i don't need no help. trust me, i know what time it is. i am fully aware of what my alarm clock said when it woke me up and i turned it back the hell off. i have opened my eyes just enough to comprehend and gauge the passage of time, and i know exactly how much time i have to get to where i'm going. and you wasting my few-more-minutes time by asking me if i'm going to be okay is hemmin up my progress.

i shouldn't have to be getting up anyway. we no longer live in an agrarian society. there is no reason why we should have to get up early in the morning to go anywhere picking string beans or cotton or whatever else. if we wanted, we could all start the workday at 1:00 in the afternoon. makes sense to me. i discussed this with my mom this morning after i finally got up and started getting ready for work. she starts with some early bird gets the worm foolishness. every corny bone i have in my body must come directly from her. i am not a bird. i don't want no damn worms. next. so she suggests that it's good that our workday is early because daylight is supposed to give you energy. so let me get this straight. i'm supposed to use the most energetic part of my day working for the man instead of using the most energetic part of my day for myself, doing what i love? aw naw dawg. that don't make no damn sense. it should be the other way around. i should do what i have to do AFTER i done got finished doing what makes me happy. that prioritizes things in order of importance, see?

of course all this translates into me being a not-so-chipper morning person. and i don't do coffee or paxil or prozac. so what people get when they wake me up in the morning, or when they say hi at work is the real me that maybe people shouldn't know about. i try to warn co-workers, "holla at me after bout 10, 11:30," but do you think these people listen to me? that's why they get a lot of mumbling or silence or deadpan stares in the morning when they be askin me stuff about how my weekend was or how it's going. first of all, why you asking when you really don't care. are you going to do anything but feign sympathy and offer no solutions if i happen to tell you that my weekend or last night or how it's going sucked? secondly, if you gon ask me stupid questions, can you do that after most of the morning has passed so that i can have enough time to put my mask on, put some suburbia in my voice and reply, "oh it was great, how bout yours" as if i care, ala truman in the truman show? small talk is not my strong suit when i'm in an honest mood, which just happens to occur often in the morning. these people keep playing with me and i'ma wind up telling them the truth about their stanky breath or how the barber screwed them over the weekend.

all this could be avoided if i could just come in at 1:00. i wonder if i could get some kind of get-out-of-mornings-free pass from a doctor or something that i can use for the rest of my life. my mom said she feels sorry for my husband and kids (how you gon feel sorry for people you don't even know yet) cause of my busted morning attitude. what will i do when the kids have to go to school in the morning and i'm growling at them cause it's morning and they dragging to make the bus? not my job, mom. i'll put em to bed, let him wake them up. well, what about my husband? he can't ever wake me up? hell no. if he was smart enough to marry me, he'll be smart enough to leave me alone. at least let my bedroom be a sanctuary of sleep. where mornings are respected as the "i work hard enough to do what i wanna do in the morning" time.

if i'm not working for myself on my own schedule within the next ten years, i'ma just quit my job and lobby congress to fix this 7-8-9 to 5 workday foolishness myself. (i probably won't get anything done, what with waking up at 11:00 and all, missing phone opportunities and stuff, but whatever. at least i'll have my mornings.)

anyway, happy anniversary to my parents, even though neither one of y'all even attempts to mess with the internet. thirty-one years. impressive...

Friday, August 05, 2005


see times like this are when this blog thing comes in handy. i been meaning to get around to explaining why going to an open mic or a featured spoken word performance is important to me. but see i didn't want to write a poem or put it in my private journal (i know you don' t think this is my only journal). i wanted others to be able to read and see what i'm talking about.

first, the reason i started going. i was working at a place where my hair could not be the fuzzy or curly or blown out bushy mess that i have come to love and appreciate. i was soooo wearing the mask. and yeah i know, i know, i can change the world starting with me, bla bla bla, whatever. you try walking up in my job after wearing your hair bone straight and rocking what they want you to wear, and then call yourself having an epiphany and going up in there looking like cree summer's kid sister. i don't feel like the, "what did you do," "ooh, can i touch it"s. nor do i feel like having the words "professional" or "appropriate" hurled at me like unspoken-but-really-spoken accusations of what i'm sposed to be doing but ain't. i'll wear the mask (shoot, even a lot of white people wear the mask), but i will not tap dance. somebody will mess around and knock this chip off my shoulder and then i'ma wind up calling one of my peoples for the bail money and embarrassing my parents. bony fist all up in somebody's adam's apple. anyway, i felt this tension of being in an environment full of people that i have to wear a mask with, and it alarmed me. i needed to figure out a way (being away from the place where i grew up) to be around folks i could be fuzzy with.

i snooped around the internet and stumbled upon a website that told me about this place in norfolk. which had a blurb about this place in richmond (tropical soul, 2-st off of broad). which was about 15-20 minutes from my house (everything is 20 minutes apart in richmond) and had open mic on tuesdays. after work on tuesday, i shoved my work hair into a knit cap and paid my five dollars and was treated to my first experience. and maaaan, wednesday morning i didn't even mind going to work, cause the night before, i got high off contact with other beautiful black people and i was too busy feening for next tuesday to worry about the burden of wearing the mask. i loved the atmosphere. the place is about the size of somebody's living room, okay? between the bar and the stage, that was 1/3 of the space right there. so between the tables, chairs and couches, everybody was in there tight. not violating-my-personal-space tight, but wow, i'm-up-close-enough-to-have-to-look-you-in-the-eye-to-pass-you tight. the artists were passionate, the host was personable, and the audience participated in everything. we were back up singers, beat keepers, amen-ers, go'ne head-ers. that is what is up.

i've since left richmond. so now i drive to spots around here. and there is so much more variety. SOMEbody is doing SOMEthing every. night. of. the. week!!! y'all don't know how much i love philly. but i'll tell you one thing. so far, of the few venues i've been to, only one can rival tropical soul when it comes to enthusiasm. i wouldn'ta thought that. i mean this is PHILLY. hello??? home of jill and kindred, bahamadia, the roots and countless other poets known and unknown... i'm wondering if maybe some of these venues started out with that fiyah and then died down for some reason. maybe if it was only one night a week around here, people would appreciate it more.

lemme ask why somebody would take the time to come out and bring their fiveorten dollars and sit in the art gallery/museum/lounge or what have you to give a lackluster welcome to the artists - the people who set aside their stage fright, or set aside the privacy of their most passionate expressions of themselves? people need to appreciate and support the art before we lose it. i got in front of people for the first time to read my stuff (which is meant more for paper than the mic) maybe about 2 months ago. it felt good to see the looks of recognition in people's eyes when i told my heart and they felt where i was coming from cause they had been there too. that's what i was looking for, to know that somebody was listening. feeling some type of way. thinking about something, at least.

see i think this way - you know why these venues and these writers and these audience members are precious? the same reason why our churches and mosques are precious. this is our legacy - we are communal people. i challenge anyone to show me a place in the diaspora that doesn't have some gathering of souls for sharing and airing the truth and glorifying the Creator and what was created. these gatherings are how we minister to each other's souls. how we educate each other and share in the wonder and the pain and the joy of the human experience. the african experience. y'all betta recognize, these bonds we have are golden. and while i'm at it, do you know how priceless a blessing it is to my self-esteem to be in the presence of all these black people who are DOing the damn thing?

when i go to open mics, i am checking y'all out. every last one of you. looking all beautiful and handsome. all your beautiful african skin tones and native american cheekbones from the ebonies to the redbones, i love you. i love myself when i look at you. i feel smart when i hear your intelligence poured forth upon our listening heads like an anointing of blessed oil. i feel loved and appreciated when brothers get on the mic and talk about their love for their mama, or their lady, or the unnamed sista that's got it going on. i feel like i am not alone when my sisters get on the mic to talk about brothers and life and love and wearing the mask. poets, i tip my hat to each and every one of you. you are leaders in your own way. you are my generation's renaissance except we worldwide now, shoot, we even on hbo now. and like the jazz generation, the harlem renaissance generation, i can talk to my children with pride and authority, knowing that what the last poets started wasn't dropped by us. that my generation picked up that ball and not only learned from it but preserved and further developed the art, resurrected and nurtured the griots inside of us, and remembered to love ourselves and each other with words.

if you ain't been to an open mic, or you've been, but you never realized how important they are, why don't you go? check it out. and if you write, get on the mic. it took me forever, but a certain poet let me know that you never know what the Creator is trying to work through you, so you shouldn't hide that talent. and when and if you go, recognize that if we're going to keep this going, you got to support the artists, clap for them, give your ear over to them, holla back from the audience, give them some eye contact - let them feel you. support the sponsors. buy the cd's. oh, and uh, for real this time (not like work, or other places i won't name) you can and should come as you are...

it's a way to increase our love and solidarity as a people - just by listening to each other's words.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

stupid education

the way we go about getting people from childhood to adulthood in this country is completely and totally wrong. how you gon ask a 15-16 year old kid if they wanna go to take the college prep courses and go to college? they don't know. and even if they think they know, they probably don't know the pros and cons of going to college. then you gon tell this same kid somewhere around 16, 17, 18 to "here, take this SAT test, and if you do well you can go to college, and if you don't, well, good luck in the army or trade school or mcdonald's." like there's something wrong with the army or trade school or mcdonald's. i mean, that's debatable but still, it's like, "go to college, or you suck. you suck now, you gon suck later, your job is gon suck, your life is gon suck." whatever, i'll get to how i feel about that statement later. first, let's deal with the sucka - uh, my bad - the kid who buys into this "go to college, have a career" bit.

congratulations - you da man, wo-man, whatever. yay college. now i won't say that college is bad, far from it. i went. and being away from home, gaining independence, working for rent, making friends in a completely new place - that was truly invaluable to me. i even learned how to teach myself things on a level that i hadn't before. learned how to express myself better, form and defend my own informed opinions, learned about other types of people, learned ways to view the world around me... i can go on and on about what i got out of college. but what's more important is what i didn't get out of college. see, i went thinking that i would go to college, get training for a career, come out of college and DO the damn thang. that's the racket. that's what they have you thinking. in the immortal words of eddie murphy, going to college is supposed to get you something that is "betta dan mc-don-oh's!"

well think about it this way. we send 18 year olds to college. tell them to pick a major to study. that's supposed to be the thing that gets you a job after school. so you pick a major. you study it. well, maybe even a couple majors. you know, people act like if you have a few major switches in college, you're a flake. i disagree (and not because i'm biased - i had the same major from freshman year on). i think those people are geniuses! or at least geniuses in the making. because at least they realize before senior year that they don't know what the hell they wanna do with themselves. at least they have a clue that it is ridiculous to tell someone who this country doesn't even think is mature enough to handle a drink that they they're supposed to declare what they would like to do with themselves for, theoretically, the rest of their lives. getouttahere with that!

this is why we got so many college graduates moving back in with their mamanem. or going abroad to "find themselves." or (these are the worst) hanging around the fill-in-the-blank department of their college working on theses that they will never finish and never defend. not because their research ain't on to something. but because these poor souls claim they have a passion for fill-in-the-blank study when they really just don't know what else to do with themselves and they can't make any money with a fill-in-the-blank degree anywhere so they scared to leave school. if you went to college, you know these people. they are the teaching assistants in their late thirties who are grading your papers and who are pissed that they still don't have a phD in fill-in-the-blank and that they still live in the same roach motel flat they were in half their lifetime ago, so they are rather liberal with the red pen and have the nerve to catch an attitude when you don't take fill-in-the-blank seriously, since it ain't your major.

anyway i say all this to say that college is a way to basically take four years to find out that college is not about finding your career or figuring out what you wanna do. not one college graduate i know really is sure about what they wanna do or is doing what would truly make them happy. not one. but every single one of them is in some kind of debt. behind either the student loans or the credit cards they applied for to get a clean t-shirt cause their laundry happened to be backed up that day and they didn't feel like breaking change for quarters.

a college degree is a very expensive piece of paper that makes white people take me a little more seriously despite my youthful appearance and my color and gender. i'm employed because of it. but it's still overrated. just like mama's sandwich that was supposed to be "betta dan mc-don-oh's."

which brings me to the army/trade school/mcdonald's folks. who may have had to struggle a little bit more in the beginning than the college suckas. who may have incomes that on average, grow slower and with a more limited potential than the incomes of the college suckas. but they don't suck. they don't have inferior intelligence. many of them have very nice homes and/or cars - a perk of starting full time employment earlier than the college suckas. many of them have lives that don't suck. and from having spent time in "the real world" and having time to mature before going to college, when and if they do decide to go to college, they will probably make a better choice of major at 25 or 30 or better yet 35 than the 19 or 20 year old college sucka made. question - does it really matter if someone gets a job out of school and is living with his mama to make ends meet, when if he decides to go to college, he's just gonna wind up back in that same bedroom four years later anyway? of course it depends on the situation, but that's a valid question.

i ain't saying that i wish i'd done things differently. i am saying that there are various paths to career fulfillment. i'm saying we need to stop painting the wrong picture for these high school kids, and while we're at it, can we teach them stuff they can really use? like the difference between a fixed or variable interest rate? the utility of renter's insurance? the variety of career paths they can take so that not everyone wants to be a pediatrician, teacher, or lawyer? you know, useful stuff?

just a suggestion.

i tagged myself.

10 years ago: 1995. i was in between my first and second boyfriends ever. still holding on tight to that virginity. in the high school drama club, rehearsing for my first musical and discovering that i love acting. that's the year i had my first job and got my first paycheck, too.

5 years ago: 2000. in the midst of the most substantive and passionate relationship i've ever had to this date and was very much in love (but we split ways about 3 years ago - hey, things happen). very much no longer a virgin. very happy to be an independent woman with my first apartment (workin 'bout 3 three jobs). and trying to figure out what to do after college.

1 year ago: finally finished school!!! was swept off my feet by an attractive, wonderfully intelligent and affectionate man and was looking forward to giving him the best that i got (but this one didn't last long - hey, things happen). working my first full-time-i'm-out-of-school-for-real-this-time-job. with another part time retail job on the side. saving money to move back up north so i can get a life.

Today: single but okay with it. for now. working my second out-of-school-for-real-this-time-job. all that work paid off cause i'm back up north and happy to be here and have a life. writing more poetry than ever before. realizing that whether or not i ever grab another open mic (but i know the actress in me will) or if i ever publish my writing (which is still up in the air), or anyone ever feels that i have a talent, i will be writing until the day i die. and discovering new ways to vent my creativity and feed my thirst for knowledge, until the day i die.

Tomorrow: i'own know. sposed to be going to hear Kindred's listening party with my homegirl from college.

5 snacks I enjoy: breyers strawberry ice cream, oatmeal raisin cookies, banana chips, yum-yums (for the clueless, that would be a water icee), apple pie

5 Bands/Groups/Singers I know most of the lyrics of most of their songs: fertile ground, erykah badu, jill scott, tony toni tone, mary j.

5 Things I’d do with 100,000,000: sow into God's faith community, get out of debt, take care of my parents' and grandma's comfortable retirements, invest in myself and the hood i came from, and hook myself up with miscellaneous goodies

5 locations I’d like to runaway to: miami's south beach, meditterranean beaches, caribbean beaches, a peaceful place in west africa where i can learn my rightful culture and history, and my yet unknown husband's embrace

5 bad habits I have: procrastination, being too bluntly honest without compromising my words for the sake of peace, saying i'll do something with the best of intentions and forgetting to do it, forgetting to be more cautious with my expectations of others, using profanity

5 things I like doing: singing, writing, conversing, eating, and sex

5 things I would never wear: never say never...

5 TV shows I like: cosby show, roseanne, hell's kitchen, um... smallville, and um... (had to think about it, i don't like tv that much anymore)... sweetheart, my darling (it's a korean soap opera with english subtitles - don't sleep, this is actually good.)

5 movies I like: do the right thing, harlem nights, brown sugar, the matrix, what's love got to do with it

5 famous people I’d like to meet: maya angelou, barbara walters, paule marshall (author), barack obama, spike lee

5 biggest joys at the moment: liking something i've written, hitting the note perfectly on a song i sing along to, getting my food "spot on" delicious, not dropping the ball on these bills, and knowing that the moment i meet him is closer to me now than it was yesterday

5 people to tag: nope. i ain't the one. if you wanna do this, cut and paste. lol

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

ole folks

i love my grandma. she is a trip, okay? we have a long distance relationship - i live several states away from her. but i make it a point to see her everytime i'm in her town, and no i don't call maybe as often as i should, but i do call when i think to do it. she is a spunky southern woman who has lived a lot of life. when i talk to her, my speech pattern changes. i speak slower, to match her what's-the-hurry pace of words. my chameleon mouth lets my southern accent slip out. and when we talk, it's like i'm sitting behind her, greasing her scalp, parting her soft hair with her pink comb, like we used to do when i would leave the hood to spend weeks with her at a time for any given summer.

we talk about the family (how so-and-so is doing, who we got to pray for, who don got in trouble, who looked happy and healthy at the last family reunion). we talk about life (learn the hard way or take advice) and love (watch out for the mean folk). we talk about karma (what you sow you will reap). her health (7 pills in the morning, 2 at night, some aches here and there, but exercise keeps her going). my parents (laughing at how they bug me all the time to make sure i'm okay). my involuntarily postponed love life (pray on it and don't rush, men my age ain't hitting on nothing, i need to be with an older man instead of one my age). her retired love life (she has a life and she's too busy for some dude to even be an afterthought).

we make each other laugh. and it's cool to share womanhood, which is a burgeoning adventure for me but an accomplished art form for her. we've gotten past sundaes at mcdonalds and sitting still for barrettes on my plaits. now we get down to men, my age and her age, having trouble peeing right into the toilet. we talk about maintaining plenty of things to do and places to go - to keep us busy cause single women with no husbands have to stay on the move. funny how things don't change between my twenties and her seventies. it amazes me that a woman raised in rural virginia in the 30s and 40s is so much like a woman raised in urban new jersey in the 80s and 90s. i guess womanhood is womanhood. faith is faith. love is love. family is family. men are men. life is life. what's lucky for me is her wisdom becomes my wisdom.

she makes the seventies something to look forward to. and she gives me perspective. in the grand scheme of life everything works itself out and comes full circle anyway in one way or another. no point in buggin out about any job or bill or relationship (or the lack of any of those things). it's all just life playing out, and as long as i stay on the ride, life will keep on playing out. there's something beautiful that happens to you when the threat of catastrophe shrinks down like boiled collards. you feel stronger. and confident enough to slow yourself down just enough so people know you ain't in no hurry.