Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poem of the Month

Life Is Fine by Langston Hughes
I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love--
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry--
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Watching Young One Sleep

Mama whispers secrets to Niahra in the dark, 'cause Mama knew what would happen when she uttered those words. Mama thought, Maybe I shouldn't have said it that way...but what other way to say it? When she finally said those words,

"Look baby, it ain't easy being Black, and it's not gonna get any better If you thought so then you've been fooled by the lies they tell you. Don't be fooled. Because they would rather have your eyes and ears blurred with smokes and screens instead of watching their world shatter. But you know what you're experiencing...so never forget. Use what you know. Use what you learn."

Mama knew this would be a lot for her daughter to stew on. And she's right There is no other way to say it There is no other way to tell your child that this will be life and there's no large green mountain to escape too

And she thought...she thought...that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't have to tell her little one anything. That she could pass the way the store clerk cut their eyes at them as happenstance. Or Niahra's noticing of the creeking cracking five levels of steps they walked up everyday to reach their cramped apartment as a, "Well, it just so happens" type of explanation. But her constant questions kept jabbing the surface, "Mama why don't these steps ever get fixed?" or, "Mama why's the rent so high?" or, "Mama, why isn't our place as nice as the houses over there?" or even, "Mama, why do those White people look at us all funny like that?"

Now her questions have become even more clear, even more spot on. Mama can't just pass it off as, "Well baby, it's just this..." or, "Niahra it's just that...it's a bad day, it's a bad attitude, it's a bad time of month, they just forgot, it's nothing to do with us, it's nothing to do with you..." Niahra sees the patterns and she's been counting them all along.

Can't blame her. I raised her to think. Mama thought.
But we've made it through. We've made it through, a long line little one, you come from a long line of fighting women, the darkest of the dark, the blackest of the black. They worked and toiled. They'd wake up 4 in the morning and walk 4 miles to the river with their empty buckets and then walk four miles back home with those empty buckets filled to the brim with water effortlessly balanced on their heads. I should know, I did it. I did it.

But Mama was worried. Worried about this young one. You see, Niahra usually talks. Just talks, all the time. Especially during dinner. You know, little conversations like, "Mama I don't like this...mama why'd you make the rice this way...mama Chinese food rather than fu-fu." You see, Niahra would talk and Mama could always figure her out. You know what I mean? Respond! Say, "Well what do you mean Chinese food rather than fu-fu, I only got fufu and this is what you'll eat..."





But Niahra. She didn't speak this time during dinner, and Mama couldn't respond to figure her little one out. Then after that, Mama usually asked Niahra to wash the dishes. Now in the normal scenario Niahra will usually fuss, suck her teeth, twist her mouth, roll those big eyes of hers...none of that, none of that this time. Just lips tightly pursed together that barely eeked out a, "yes Mama." And big brown eyes that seemed devoid of any expression. Mama didn't even know if Niahra had really heard her so she asked, "Child did you hear me?" And Mama watched this little one's head move up and down in a nodding fashion and go about washing the dishes.

No voice, just a nod. Just a nod? "Niahra! Have you lost your words?!" Mama asked. Then Niahra with the faintest of voice said, "...Nope. Just don't feel like talking much." Well why's her voice so thin, it's usually fuller than that? It can stretch for miles. For miles! Uh oh. Mama thought. Niahra doesn't know. But this is the testing ground, if her voice is caught in her throat then it'll rot her insides. Then, she'll take this to work, she'll take this to school, she'll take this to her life and she'll boil inside. Mhhmmm.

Mama stayed up with her daughter, just watching her rest inside herself. She rubbed Niahra's head and just watched. "You come from a line of fighters, survivors. With their mouth's wide open to make sense of the world around them daughter. To act. You gotta open yours. You've got to." Niahra didn't know, but for the next month Mama would watch her in her sleep. Talking to her during the day, not promising her a life of easy, but pushing her to be fearless. Pushing her for a life of survival. In the night, she would whisper other words, whisper hush-hushed things of building strength.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL

For those of us who live at the shoreline

standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

- Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FEMINISM FOR REAL

I've been reading alot of literature to lift up my spirits, mostly the experiences of other women of color. This helps. I'll be posting literature that has been feeding my soul, and propelling me forward, hope it feeds and propels yours.


Shaunga Tagore: “A Slam on Feminism in Academia (poem)

your ideal graduate student is
someone who doesn’t have to experience community organizing
because you’ve already assigned them five chapters to read about it

your ideal graduate student is
someone who can’t talk about positionality or privilege
without referencing some article

your ideal graduate student is
rich enough
white enough
straight enough
able-bodied and -minded enough
to be given luxury of enjoying sitting in a corner reading 900 pages a week
(with their fair trade starbucks coffee in hand and their lulu lemon track pants on ass)

your ideal graduate student
IS NOT ME

so WHY did you let me through these doors in the first place
if you were just gonna turn around and shove me out?

to fill some quote for affirmative action?
to appear like a progressive program without putting in the effort of actually being one?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

POEM FOR MAY



Our ancestors suffered the lash
the devastation of their children being ripped away
only to drink in the pysche of the oppressor
Of our bodies being used to inflict pain
to force depraved pleasure
to breed
to erase...
Our words
re-written
re-phrased
filtered
made "easier"
for those who would rather press us down
hoping the cracks will swallow us whole


The desolation of not having anything to eat
of standing in the welfare lines
of working with no return
Of playing the game to feed
to clothe
to shelter
to get by
some call it the "shuck and jive"
others call it the grind
We survive


We've felt
the sting of unanswered questions
cold lessons
about living
Black
living
poor
living
a woman
living
Other
than the norm


Still
In a tiny space
a hand touches the head of a child
whispering secrets passed down from determined mouths
saying,
"Keep going young one. The world is yours.
You're a shining star you are.
I've tried for you, for you to live.
Ain't that a blessing?
Ain't that a victory?
Ain't that a gift?
Keep going, keeping going, keep going..."
And the child sleeps
And the child can rest
And can find something in the pockets and corners
of resistance
in the side glances
in the little rhythms of "mhmms" and the "i know what that is"
in the head nods
The gazes
In the people gathering to lift their voices
To make the world one where all can live
The child can rest
the child can dream
just like those before us did

THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK

Excerpt from “The Bridge Poem” by Donna Kate Rushin

I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody

Nobody
Can talk to anybody
Without me
Right?

I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents.

Then
I’ve got to explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

From where I stand

You are defined as delicate

Fragile

Needing comfort

Safety

Respect

The lines of work

Labor

Pain

Survival

This does not show on your face like they show on those who live outside the margins

You remain unmarked

Mush-faced

As you sit there

Demanding

Comfort

From the world

Admiration

Relief

Praise

You ask for us

To not challenge

To keep you clean

Pure

Coddled

White

While we turn calloused

Marked

Resilient

You remain fragile

When you look at us

Are you not ashamed?

Condescending?

Scathing?

Wretched?

To only love something unless you pity

Unless you’re guilty

Unless cloaked in authority

Really

Does this make you feel

Unafraid?

We are expected

To love

Unfailingly

No matter the cost

I am told

Love.

No matter the searing of spirit

I am told

Love!

For the world

Because you ruin it

So I love with an unyielding fury inside

I love you

To keep myself alive

I. Love. You.

While you resist

And remain

Unsullied

We wait

You remain

Unsullied

We wait

You deny

You ignore

You forget

That there were some who chose

Who gave up

Who tried

Who risked

Who stood

Who died

You

You

You

You would rather be unsullied

Well now

You remain unsullied

Untouched

unsullied

YOU!

Expect me to become occupied with your concerns

While I must swallow all of mine

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Audre Lorde

Thank you Audre Lorde, this helps.

"I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.... What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language."

I began to ask each time: "What's the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?" Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, "disappeared" or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What's the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it's personal. And the world won't end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don't miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." And at last you'll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.
"

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Sun's Rays

Little girl’s trying to chase the sun’s rays

Hoping to bag it ‘fore the lights go out

Someone told her she’s one of the sun’s chosen ones

That the sun makes sure to kiss those it loves

Someone explained,

“That’s why you’re dark skinned.”

Ever since…

She’s been trying to bag the sun’s rays

Keep it for herself to play

And to fend off those who say she should be other

Than what she is

Thursday, January 13, 2011

History Don't Tell

History don’t tell my students what they need to know

Students here are dark and poor

History shows them lily white

Shows them men with guns and might

Tells elaborate tales of landed gentry

White male landowners owning all the property

They hear the drones of their declarations, contestations and Modernity

No surprise students start to say, “Maybe someday that could be me!”


History don’t let the students know

The resistance of 500 years ago

The people locked out of the American Dream

The people who labored and toiled this earth

While Massa got fat and lived the dream on their backs

History doesn’t tell the students what they need to know

Need to know to fight all that


The red on the reservation

The black on the plantation

The white indentured servant on the field

The yellow on the railroad

The brown migrant worker

The woman and child’s nimble fingers in the factory

The immigrant who met with a rude awakening

The differently abled body who couldn’t fit into the capitalist’s logic of efficiency

Or the one who loves differently

The supremacy

The divvying people up

For empire dreams

Profit maximizing and expanding on human bodies


History don’t let the students know

The Reality

Of people fighting

Fighting all that

Building solidarity

Voices speaking

Spitting out the great Father’s milk

Demanding something else

Rumbling

Opposing

Resisting

History needs to let students see

Let students see all that

And see these people as themselves

‘Cause when they go out there

And leave the classroom for good

History should have done it's job

And told them the truth

And History needs to give them the tools to use

‘Cause when they leave, leave the classroom for good

It’s the same thing

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Niahra's Shoes

Niahra’s got a job now. A nice desk job where she gets to answer the telephone and run errands for suit and tie people. You know those kind of jobs I'm talking about? The kind of jobs your parents want you to get that requires you to look all “big and bad” and business like. The jobs that make you look like your running things, even when you’re just doing the bidding of someone who is bigger and badder than you. You know that work I'm talking about right? The picking up the phone--“Hello, this is Mr. So an So’s office how may I direct your phone call?”-- kinda work, the behind the desk filing papers work, the gotta be busy, busy, busy-body work. You know what I mean. The secretary work. Niahra’s a secretary.

She got on a pair of brown flats that slightly pinch her toes. I should have gotten a size bigger, she thinks. She would like to return them, but she lost the receipt. Besides that, Niahra’s never been too fond of spending too much of her time with clothes and shoes. She probably put those shoes on knowing they pinched her poor toes just so too, and haphazardly decided that it wouldn’t be a problem…until. It became a problem. She probably didn’t even think about what it would mean to have to wear those shoes for 5 hours and 5 days out of the week. Or. What it would be like to have to walk up the stairs with those shoes and walk down the stairs with those shoes. Or. What it would be like to walk from her office across the street to the post office so she could send her bosses letters express.

And! She never thought. That even as she was standing still to order a medium coffee (not decaf, the suit and tie boss doesn’t put up with decaf) with light cream and 2 sugars that she would feel the little pinch pinch pinching from her shoes. And every time she stands, without fail she feels it. That pinch pinch pinching. She never thought. She never thought how much those shoes could hurt.

Well. Niahra will just have to get over it and move on. I suppose she can try to get some new ones. But you never know what you’re gonna get. With her next professional like shoes they may even have too much heel or too much foot room or even find somewhere else to pinch. Humph! Doesn't she look all business like? Pleated pencil skirt. Check! White collared shirt with the blue shiny buttons. Check! Little silver stud earrings. Check! Brown pumps. Check! Aching feet? Well. Poor thing thought being all business like would exempt her from having foot pain. But those feet ache so...check! Oh well. Ain’t nothing she can do but to yell at these big and bad people who order the smaller people to sweat over making those shoes. And really, what good would that do when they make and sell so goddamn many of them?