You’re on the porch with the broom sweeping the same spot, getting the same sound-dry straw against dry leaf caught in the loose-dirt crevice of the cement tiles. No phone, no footfalls, no welcome variation. It’s 3:15. Your ears strain, stretching down the block, searching through schoolchild chatter for that one voice that will give you ease. Your eyes sting with the effort to see over bushes, look through buildings, cut through everything that separates you from your child’s starting point-the junior high school.

The little kids you keep telling not to cut through your yard are cutting through your yard. Not boisterous-bold and loose-limbed as they used to be in the first and second grades. But not huddled and spooked as they were last year. You had to saw off the dogwood limbs. They’d creak and sway, throwing shadows of alarm on the walkway, sending the children shrieking down the driveway. You couldn’t store mulch in lawnleaf bags then, either. They’d look, even to you, coming upon those humps in your flowerbed, like bagged bodies.

A few months ago, everyone went about wary,  tense, their shoulders hiked to their ears in order to fend off grisly news of slaughter. But now, adults walk as loose-limbed and carefree as the children who are scudding down the driveway, scuffing their shoes, then huddling on the sidewalk below.

The terror is over, the authorities say. The horror is past, they repeat every day. There’ve been no new cases of kidnap and murder since the arrest back in June. You’ve good reason to know the official line is a lie. But you sweep the walk briskly all the way to the hedge, as though in clearing the leaves you can clear from you mind all that you know. You’d truly like to know less.You want to believe. It’s 3:23 on your Mother’s Day watch. And your child is nowhere in sight.

Our women must not pull back in the face of the many different aspects of their struggle, which leads them to courageously and proudly take full charge of their own lives and discover the happiness of being themselves, not the domesticated female of the male. Today, many women still seek the protective cover of a man as the safest way out from all al that oppresses them. They marry without love or joy, just to serve some boor, some dreary male who is far removed from real life and cut off from the struggles of the people.

Often, women will simultaneously demand some haughty independence and at the same time protection, or even worse, to be put under the colonial  protectorate of a male. They do not believe that they can live otherwise. No. We must say again to our sisters that marriage, if it brings society nothing positive and does not bring them happiness, is not indispensable and should be even avoided.

Let us show them our many examples of hardy and fearless pioneers, single women with our without children, who are radiant and blossoming, overflowing with richness and availability for others-even envied by unhappily married women, because of the warmth they generate and the happiness they draw from their freedom, dignity and willingness to help others.

Women have shown sufficient proof of their ability to manage the home and raise children – in short, to be responsible members of society – without the oppressive tutelage of a man. Our society is surely sufficiently advanced to put an end to this banishment of the single woman. Comrade revolutionaries, we should see to it that marriage is a choice that adds something positive, and not some kind of lottery where we know what the ticket costs us, but have no idea what we will end up winning. Human feelings are too noble to be subject to such games.

Excerpted from Thomas Sankara Speaks

Twelve years ago, before I was a Mother myself, I gave my Mom a copy of Mothers of the Revolution. Reading the subheading of the book: The War Experiences of Zimbabwean women, she thought it was going to be the war experiences of gun-toting nappy-haired women who don’t hesitate to shoot upon seeing the white of someone’s skin. But it wasn’t. It was about the quiet, non glamorous, non-romanticized work of revolution; the work that is so quiet we don’t normally see it unless it’s not there…or unless it’s a threat to the dehumanizing status quo.

The whole question of motherhood, revolution and writing has been on my mind lately due to a conversation I had with a sister-friend about the sacrifices inherent in good mothering/parenting. She says that she may not be cut out for motherhood because she wants to be able to spend time writing and having mornings in bed, etc. Oh, how I can relate! What wouldn’t I give for just a week of that!! Then I look at my chocolate bundle of goodness, stubbornness and just plain 6 yr old boyness and I think no. Mornings in bed alone or with a man or a book or music or just the sunshine streaming through the window can’t compare with his scream of laughter when I tickle him in his armpits or the tightness of his arms when he comes to me for a hug after being hurt or even the endless questions that have me telling him to hush.

What’s even more ironic about her position is the fact that she had previously informed me, during one of my venting sessions, that my Son is now my revolution. I had understood that since writing

Sankara Mantra (7 Months)

Lashes like mine
Eyes like mine
even in the way
they peruse a room
Skin like mine
but darker.

A bafflement inside me
every time I hear him
referred to as black.
(how’d you get such a black baby?)

It has happened twice.
Just like my response.
(black is beautiful.)

His mouth like his father’s.
He even smirks like him
causing an almost instantaneous
transfer of affection.

Sankara
whose birth filled the holes
that were consuming my heart

Sankara
who is entranced by his reflection
in the mirror
has begun to stand.

I am in awe of his determination
and the fact that
at barely seventeen pounds
his head is already past my knees.

Sankara
who I brought into an oppressive world
clutches his walker with his pudgy fingers
and walks completely around it.

I watch with a joy that is miraculous.

Sankara
Who I brought into an oppressive world
is owed happiness and well-being
and that is a debt I will pay
like Malcolm said
by any means necessary.

 

Still even though I love my revolution too deeply to ever to ever abstain, this quiet work sometimes gets to me.  I once wanted to be louder than oppression. Now I find myself writing poems about wanting quiet! The same sister-friend mentioned earlier says it’s due to maturity but I miss immature me!  I miss the woman who wrote oppression should be shot down like john f. kennedy. I don’t quite know the woman who wants it quiet like days at ocean beach. I don’t know much of anything except there’s a richness to my life that wasn’t there before…no matter how much I gave of myself to the people and causes I believe in.

I guess I just have to unite womb and mind. The pre-mother me heard Tupac say “I’m your son” and even though he wasn’t talking to me, I said yes. And now that I’m a mother, I’m still saying yes.

 

Links:

http://www.postcolonialweb.org/zimbabwe/miscauthors/mothers1.html

Louder than Oppression

My Spirit Talks

Reading is Evolutionary

March 18, 2010

Two years ago a blogger for Circle of Seven Productions posted a blog/rant on my space in favor of reading and literacy. As part of it, she issued a challenge: “I challenge anyone reading this blog to write one blog…just one…encouraging people to read. Encourage them to encourage others to read. READ ANYTHING!”

As I find myself getting almost orgasmically excited by my latest read (The Book of Night Women by Marlon James), my mind traveled to my response to the challenge.

 

Reading is Evolutionary

It was the diary of a young girl living in an era I could never go back because time moves forward.

Just like time, my eyes moved forward through each page growing more and more enamored of the first book that touched me in my black girlness. It was beyond affirming.

That book, The Color Purple by Alice Walker set me on the path to being a writer because it enabled me to see how our life stories can contribute to literature.

It also helped me to redefine the definition of fiction. I have heard a lot of people (black men in particular) say that they don’t read fiction because they’re tired of “lies” or some statement to that effect. I believe however that those statements miss the point of black “fiction”.

It is (or should be) indisputable that prior to the mid to late 20th century our voices were censored. What better way for a people to get in where they fit in that to position their works under the banner of fiction. Is Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man total fiction? Or does it resonate with the experience of black men, regardless of their generation? Toni Morrison’s Beloved was based on the life of Margaret Garner. Margaret Garner’s story isn’t fiction. Is Sethe’s? My favorite James Baldwin novel is If Beale Street Could Talk. I recognized the main character, Tish, in the faces, lives and pride of my sisters. Black fiction is not automatically fictional.

Read.

Even though I am an advocate and a believer in well-written, reality-based “fiction”, that is not the only thing I read. As someone who intimately understands the saying “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”, I also read history. In high school, a teacher slipped me the Autobiography of Malcolm X on the sly. It was a thick paperback that I had to rubber band together in order not to lose any of the pages. Reading that book led me on the path to researching the Black Revolution of the Sixties. My research deepened my awareness of black resistance. At no point were we passive.

Regardless of the danger, we struggled to learn to read when it was dangerous to the point of death. Frederick Douglass described in his autobiography of the poor white boy who showed him how to read. The Free African School movement is an indication of our desire to reclaim what was stolen from us and learn.

Read.

Reading is Evolutionary.

Contraband Marriage

March 17, 2010

We make it work by inches.

Our hands extended above our heads

pushing at the concrete

understanding that

even if it’s turned into a wall

that wall will one day crack and then break

under the pressure of our hands

and we will breathe free

Contraband Marriage book cover

In prison, a place where emotions based on affection are just about non-existent, love becomes the rarest of commodities; and as such is both highly prized and legislated.

By falling in love with a man who was incarcerated, I was participating in an activity considered contrary to the status quo on a variety of levels. Black people aren’t supposed to love one another. Black women aren’t supposed to love Black men. And no one is supposed to love the prisoners. But it happens and such love becomes contraband; something to be smuggled in and experienced on the sly.

Contraband Marriage covers those oppressive times and travels along the hemline of loving after incarceration, digging deep into its affects on that love, my walk into motherhood and how simple the decision to disentangle became when a child was involved. In multi-color, it paints the pains of the personal being political, the bumpy terrain of healing and the beautiful difficulty that can be forgiveness. It is a love story written in lyric and free form, set in reality with a different ever after.

ISBN:  978-0-9789355-5-9

For previews and ordering info, please visit my storefront.

Mad!!

January 10, 2010

This mad reader is mad! Not mad as in Ebonics mad but the English definition. I am irate. Bad books do that to me. I was at Target the other day looking for something interesting to read. I know, I know. What Mad Reader in her/his right mind goes to Target for their reading material? In my struggle to institute one stop shopping, I ended up at Target. If I hadn’t been distracted by the need to get toilet tissue, pull-ups and the sled my child has wanted since before this season’s  most wintry weather arrived, I wouldn’t have bought the book that makes this Mad Reader mad!

What is the name of the book? The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. The title is undoubtedly attention getting for someone referred to as revolutionary heathen and other names of that sort. But I can’t find any degree of love for the daughter or any of the characters.

I had written notes about the book upon my initial read. Then the voice of a friend who has a penchant for nicknames mentally intruded and said tachamo (which, alongside dolphin and bubba, is what this friend sporadically calls me), you’re not giving the book a chance. So I stopped note-taking and continued reading.

But. Oh. My. God. If reading were to be suddenly made into a torture tactic employed by the cia, all the cia agents would need in their arsenal is this particular book.

Maybe it’s the result of my reading habits being deeply rooted in awareness that “people of color” are the majority of the human inhabitants of planet Earth. I want to learn their history, read their stories, absorb their lingua franca and then reciprocate by sharing my own.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that there’s almost nothing of me in this book. I find that too alienating to continue, let alone reciprocate. What could I reciprocate? That in this book, any vestiges of me reside only in the misshapen head of an enslaved African child and the notches on the narrator’s Uncle’s saddle; notches which indicate the number of indigenous people said uncle has killed.

Whatever the reason, 125 pages into a 332 page novel, this Mad Reader is throwing in the towel. It may be premature. I may find, if I continue to read, that the teenage narrator grows to have normal (read non-Puritan) powers of discernment and regrets being enamored of murderers…simply because they talk to you and call you daughter and tell stories in a way different from normal Puritan culture. It may be. It just may be. I’m can’t drum up enough interest to find out.

************

The same friend mentioned above  laughed when I told her my feelings about the book. She said that means the book was effective because it made me feel what the Puritans were like. Of course, I don’t like them ( the Puritans and/.or the characters in this book) but they weren’t likable people. The book does an admirable job in showing that. Their society seems tense and forbidding. The land of Jonathan Edwards and his Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God. So I will keep reading and give a final analysis so the Mad Reader can close the book on this particular read.

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Women Unbound Meme

November 19, 2009

I was making one of my semi-regular trips through the blogosphere when I came across the Women Unbound challenge at Black-Eyed Susan’s blog. As a womanist, the idea of women unbound is, of course, intriguing. So I visited the source website

: Women Unbound and once I read about it, I decided to participate at the suffragette level. Here are my answers to the posted questions:

What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?

Feminism means, to me, the white woman’s struggle to have all the legal rights and prerogatives of white men in society.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

To quote Alice Walker: “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” I like lavender but I love purple.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

Society isn’t structured as if there is just one monolith called woman (or women). What’s the biggest obstacle for some women might not be biggest obstacle for other. So I can’t answer this particular question.