#BlaPoWriMo – Survival of the Fit

It always amazes me how much of Africa still lives in us, despite being generations removed. From our communal thinking, to staple dishes like beans and rice, to language, and religion. We didn’t lose anything. 🙂

#ThisIsMyPoetryBlog

We brought much with us inside those ships
when we emigrated to this new world
of golden promise and opportunity.
Okra & chillies & black-eyed pea seeds
we stowed away in little hiding places –
along with knowledge – how to grow rice,
how to make bread from dried corn, how to deep
fry meats to tenderize them, make them last –  
physical things, to nourish, sustain us.
But our name, our faith, our spirituality
also survived the Middle Passage,
along with our mathematics, our psychology,
& our cosmology. It all survived.
Underestimate us. Fine. We will be.

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#BlaPoWriMo – Old School Church Songs

I won’t lie, I was singing “I Know It Was the Blood” while reading this poem. We don’t sing enough spirituals and hymns in church today. Like Tamela Mann said, that “back in the day praise.” The fact that slaves could still praise and hope on the Lord despite their toils and trials should be an inspiration for us all. Especially those of us who so quickly lose faith when things get tough.

#ThisIsMyPoetryBlog

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”―Buddha

the old ladies
in the big hats
singing the songs of Zion –

not in the choir,
but from the corner
facing the pulpit –
the Amen Corner –
the pre-11:00am-service devotion –

“I know it was the blood
Yes, I know it was the blood
I know it was the blood for me –
One day when I was lost
Jesus died upon the cross
And I know it was the blood for me.”

I don’t know if they still
sing these old songs in black churches –
I lost that cultural connection –
like so many artifacts overlooked,
broken, moving from place to place.

But I remember them, fondly –
a part of my youth and upbringing.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
It is true.

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#BlaPoWriMo – Fridays

I know how to count to 10 in Swahili, say “Great is the Lord” in Yoruba (a rough translation I think), and love in Swahili (thanks to the Lion King II).

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do—learn an African language and feel just a little more connected to my roots. But having knowledge of a tongue other than one’s native English is always a great way to broaden one’s horizons. By the way I love the Japanese poetry form. I write a lot of haiku and tanka myself.

Ok, time to visit Ray’s blog. This poem is all about the love of culture and language. A great example of what BlaPoWriMo is all about!

#ThisIsMyPoetryBlog

Friday mornings always take me back in time
to foreign language classes & my turn coming
to say what I’m doing for the weekend – 

I used to regret not learning an African language
while living overseas – but no more.
More Portuguese is spoken in Africa
than in Portugal. More Arabic than in Arabia.
Numbers speak. What are the Ghanaians saying
on Twitter today? Is it in English or Twi? 

See what I mean? So I’m feeling fulfilled
this Friday morning, recalling phrases
& words in Arabic & Portuguese,
& writing in Haiku. My list of weekend
activities is ready for recitation.

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#BlaPoWriMo – The Roots of Our Love

Another beautiful poem written for BlaPoWriMo! I love the image of the tangled roots beneath the soil. I like to imagine them being tree roots, extending deeper and further out. A strong, solid foundation for love.

Show Ray your love, guys!

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#BlaPoWriMo – The roots of our love

“We’ll meet again and then we must decide upon the hour
When we’ll allow our destinies to intertwine and flower.”
                                                              From Sonnet #8

with a nod to Deleuze and Guattari –

Over the passing years our love has grown: 
a mass of tangled roots beneath the soil.

Only an expert gardener would appreciate
this rhizome, how interconnected at every point –

each node drawing nourishment from the soil
surrounding it – every connecting root as essential

as the adjoining nodes. No prior unity defines us –
there is no original order to regulate or codify –

we name this love. Errant roots sometimes rupture,
break or fail, and remake their connections

in multitudinous…

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#BlaPoWriMo – Reflections on the 70’s

Thank you Raymond Maxwell for joining #BlaPoWriMo again this year! Check out his poem, “Reflections on the 70’s.” I love this poem’s opening line. And while I wasn’t around during the 70’s, I think this poem and the subsequent playlist is an accurate description of a complex decade. Enjoy!

#ThisIsMyPoetryBlog

No two snowflakes fall the same,
and even teardrops are different in type –
no other pair, but us, was meant to be.

Still life in the 70’s was plagued
by a fake sense of urgency.
The end, it seemed, was always
located just around the corner,
and there didn’t seem to be, then,
another half century in front of me,
of us, of life, of time to get things
done, as now we know there was.

Still for a decade of my life
I was a lost and lonely manchild.
Things always seemed to fall apart –
over and over and over again –
until I found my stride, my voice.

I’m making a playlist to capture
in song all the highs and lows of those
rocky years. I’ll name it on Spotify –
Devotion, no, the sunshine of your love.

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BlaPoWriMo: 14 Days of “Black” Love Poetry

Return to me a soft reply
On which I must with joy rely
Give me thy hand and then thy heart
Entirely mingled not to part
Relume the tapor near expired
Seeking a friend so long desired—

From “Acrostics” by George Moses Horton, 1844

George Moses Horton, born a slave in Northampton County, North Carolina around 1797, was the first African American to publish a book of poetry in the South. He gained fame in the Chapel Hill area for selling personalized love poems to students for 25 to 75 cents apiece.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today, and truly the entire month of February, is all about matters of the heart. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, a parent or a pet owner (which is essentially the same thing), religious or spiritual, there’s no better feeling than to be loved by someone.

In a world so consumed by hatred and division, what we need more than anything right now is L-O-V-E.

So it’s only fitting that Black Poetry Writing Month 2017 be all about the L word. If you’ve never heard of Black Poetry Writing Month, as the name suggests, it is a month-long poetry writing challenge that focuses on subjects of race and the black experience in America and/or the African diaspora (past or present). I started this project a year ago and was so overjoyed by the enthusiasm and the participation of my fellow bloggers that I’ve decided to bring it back for another year, and hopefully for years to come.

This year, we’re going to do BlaPoWriMo a little differently. For the second half of February, I challenge you to pen a love poem a day—a black love poem, specifically. Your love poems can be romantic, familial, platonic, or religious. They can be about the love of oneself or of one’s heritage. The love or desire for freedom, literal or figurative. The love of blackness, whether that be skin tone, body image, or culture. The possibilities are as endless as love itself.

So if you participated in Black Poetry Writing Month last year, even if you only read the poems, or if this is your first time hearing about BlaPoWriMo, whatever the reason that brought you here today, I invite you to join the challenge. Write a “black” love poem each day for the next fortnight. Post it on your blog and tag it BlaPoWriMo. Link your poems back to this post in the comments section, or share on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. You don’t have to be black to join the challenge. Black Poetry Writing Month, like Black History Month, is a learning experience for everyone.

So learn with us!

Love with us!

Yes, even write with us!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

31 Days of Holiday Hooligans is Back!

Happy December, everyone! After a long summer hiatus, I feel it’s only right that I bring back 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans and rediscover my love for creating stories.

I had so much fun doing this last year, and this year, I invite you to join me in the holiday shenanigans! 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans is all about the not-so-happy-go-lucky stories at Christmas time. While some call this season the “most wonderful time of the year,” others may call it the saddest, or the wackiest, or the craziest, or just the down right annoying because the radio station keeps playing the same old Christmas songs! If you’re one of those people, then this challenge is for you!

I have no rules, other than the obvious: your stories must be holiday themed. You can ping all of your stories back to this post, or tag them 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans, so I and anyone else who’s interested can easily find them.

If you’re a fan of my Moral Mondays challenge, this could be something fun to hold you until Moral Mondays returns from indefinite hiatus. I’m not that great of a weekly challenge hostess (of course, if anyone would like to take over the reigns for Moral Mondays on their own blog, be my guest) but I live for these spur of the moment, month-long challenges.

This year, I think I want to interconnect all of my stories around a group of friends at the holidays. Stay tuned for the first installment later today, and please join me on the holiday train! If you missed last year’s 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans, check out this post. I have all of my holiday hooligan tales of 2015 pinged back to it.

Happy Holidays!

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Where Have You Been All My Life?

Hi ya! Did you miss me? I know I’ve been MIA for quite a while. I try my best to explain why in this new blog post if you wanna check it out. By the way, I missed you too. 🙂

Single . . . Mingle Me Not

Raise your hand if you started singing Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” when you read that title . . .

Where have you been all my li-i-i-i-i-ife

Where have you been all my li-i-i-i-i-ife
Where have you been all my li-i-i-i-i-ife
Where have you been all my li-i-i-i-i-ife

rihanna_where_have_you_been

Where have you been . . . all my life?
Oh, just under a rock, chiseling my thoughts with broken off finger nails.

Where have you been . . . all my life?
That’s such a strange question. If asked by a man to a woman, it’s probably the second cheesiest pick-up line ever created (the first being “You look familiar—have I seen you in my dreams…”)

Where have you been . . . all my life?
A witty dialogue exchange between love interested characters that you think perfectly shows their chemistry until your editor screams, “Cut it!”

But before I get…

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Call for Submissions

It’s that time again! Sediments Literary-Arts Journal is looking for submissions to Issue 8. Just under two years old, Sediments  is a quarterly online and semi-annual print magazine that publishes work from established as well as new and emerging writers and artists. It’s totally free to submit, and all submissions are blind, so we don’t know the identity of the artist until we make a decision on the work. If you’re curious to know what type of work usually gets accepted into Sediments, here’s a look at recently published Issue 7.

As you can see, the quarterly magazines are pretty small. This is because each individual piece is published on the website homepage for a week (see what’s being featured this week). So if your work doesn’t get accepted, please understand that it’s not because it wasn’t awesome.

Our bigger magazines are the semi annual prints, which are also themed. Submissions for the next themed issue open July 1, and the theme is “Happy Holidays!” (more info to come soon). So please feel free to submit to both and spread the word!

Sediments accepts fiction, poetry, and art. Deadline for Issue 8 is June 30. By the way, I’m dying to see more fiction and art. There haven’t been many submissions in those categories yet, so please submit!


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Book Review: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Book Description:

60931Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her 26th birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stays grow longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.


Kindred, a neo-slave narrative (fictionalized account of slavery), shows how slavery can still affect us, even when we’re generations removed from it. For Dana, it has a very literal effect. While unpacking her things in her new home with her husband, Kevin, Dana falls under a sudden dizzy spell that sends her back in time to antebellum Maryland, where she meets a distant white relative (hence the title, Kindred). She’s drawn to him each time his life is in danger and must assimilate herself into a very different era and culture — become a slave — and when needed, save his life enough times so that he can eventually father her great-grandmother. Every time Rufus draws her, the stay grows longer, extending from hours, to months, to even years, and Dana must come to terms with the fact that she must play the part of a slave woman, denying herself the basic freedoms she had back in 1976, in order to survive until she can find a way back home.

So often we treat slavery like a history lesson — a dark chapter in our country’s distant past that we choose to forget or pretend has no relevance in today’s world when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Slavery very much becomes a reality for Dana, and no matter how hard we try to ignore it, it has been a reality for us too. Think of terms such as light skin vs. dark skin (house slaves vs. field slaves), Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, the “N” word, white guilt, or white privilege — all are effects of slavery that still sting today.

Chapter three presents an excellent example of white privilege. It’s Dana’s third trip back, and this time, Kevin accompanies her. In this chapter, we learn that Kevin is white. For two months, Dana and Kevin “act” out their roles of slave and slave master. Then Kevin makes the mistake of saying life in antebellum Maryland isn’t so bad. To him, it would be like acting, but Dana is constantly reminded how she fits in this world. She sees the little black children play slave auction, learning their own objectification early. She’s forced to watch a man have the skin whipped off his back — a warning to the other slaves against insubordination. And later, she herself receives the same beating for teaching another slave how to read.

But Kevin will soon learn that antebellum life isn’t so easy, and it will age him, tremendously.

Reading Kindred made me want to retrace my family tree, as Dana had. While my Ancestry DNA results revealed a lot about my heritage, they did little to connect me with my distant relatives, so I found a 100% free database to search for records using the names I had from our family tree.

Unfortunately, especially for blacks in America, we will inevitably reach a date where all the information suddenly stops. For me, it was 1870, roughly seven years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in the U.S. From that 1870 census, I learned that my great-great-grandfather, who was rumored to have been white, was actually labeled mulatto, and his parents — also mulatto — were more than likely born slaves. As far what happened to them prior to 1870 — who their parents were, who their masters (and most likely my distant relatives) were — I’ll probably never know.

That’s how slavery slaps you in the face sometimes.

Like it slapped Dana, and beat her, and whipped her, and attempted to rape her. That’s another harsh realization Dana has to face about her ancestors (and I about mine, as well); it’s highly probable that she — or rather, her great-grandmother — was not conceived from a mutual love between two parents, but from one overpowering the other simply because there’s nothing that tells him he can’t.

What’s most striking about this novel is its concept of home. The more time Dana and Kevin spend in the past, the harder it becomes for them to adjust to normal life when they return “home.” And even when they’re back in 1976 California for good, the first thing they do is fly to Maryland to visit their ancestral home to see what happened to the people who had become like family to them.

Of course, they’ll never know what happened. If they did, we wouldn’t still be asking questions today.

Why do we continue to run back to the past? Yesterday, I was telling my aunt that every year, there’s a new movie or television special out about slavery. This year, Hollywood is releasing two feature films: Free State of Jones and The Birth of a Nation. On TV, the History Channel is presenting Roots on Memorial Day, and Underground premiered earlier this Spring on WGN.

I fear we’ll always have questions about our troubling past, and no matter how many books we read, how many movies with watch, how many plantations we visit, or how many historical databases we search, we’ll never find the answers we seek. We may be over 150 years removed from slavery, but it’s not rid of us yet. It probably never will be. It’s why I love how this novel ends so much. Some may find the ending unsatisfying, but can any answer we receive from slavery ever truly be satisfying? What happens on Dana’s final exit from the past is a very literal and physical illustration of how slavery snatches so much away from us, even when we’ve never experienced it ourselves.

Kindred is probably the best novel I’ve read so far this year, and while I felt some parts could have been edited or polished better, especially in the beginning and in some of the character dialogue, it didn’t make that much of a difference on my score…

4.5/5 stars!

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