Drafted and Shafted

May 29, 2017

Everyday, the street sweepers’ contempt
swept us, nothing and nobody exempt.

The whites of their eyes forecast doom
in their matrix soundstage of a room.

They insisted on incising my rights
with a language full of curses and slights.

You won’t catch me on the front line
being one God says is all mine.

It’ll be prison time you’ll reap
or on this floor, your blood will seep.

Either way I’d be gone, nonexistent
so I chose the path of least resistance.

For the first time, the gun in my hands is legal
which surprised me into feeling regal.

I wanted to swagger around like John Wayne
but everyone treated me like Major Payne.

To make sure I was constantly outdoors
They sent me on senseless missions to explore.

When my grumblings became a roar
MP’s dropped me in the real war.

One day their bombs blew my body apart
destroying my will to depart.

Hercules

November 25, 2016

The crisis is arrived when we must assert our rights, or submit to every imposition, that can be heaped upon us, till custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway. (George Washington)

 

Slave prettily pretending
on the promenade.
A plethora of coins
pushing the false narrative
But then

But then
I was sent from the city
of brotherly love
to break rocks
and dig in the mud
for material
to shore up his house.

Hands that used to craft meals
that had him crowing
are now stiff, swollen
and seditious.

They take me far from
wife, daughters and son
far from the illusion of immunity
to the immortality
of being one
of the not inconsiderable few
who successfully escaped
the first president.

 

 

For more information about Hercules, check out the following links:

http://www.npr.org/2008/02/19/18950467/hercules-and-hemings-presidents-slave-chefs

Recollections and Private Memoirs of George Washington

http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/hercules/#note4

 

 

Homeschooling Journey #2

November 20, 2016

It’s been two years since I posted about homeschooling. Yes, we are still doing it. When it comes to my son’s education, I claim unschooler more than any other identity in the homeschooling universe. I admit that when we first embarked on this journey, I was still in the grasp of traditional schooling and therefore, printed out copious amount of worksheets, bought books that contained things I assumed he needed to know, etc, etc. We, my son and I, both struggled with the workload I wanted to assign him. Eventually, as we got into the groove, I let go of a lot of traditional education thinking that was, truthfully, handicapping the process. That was year one.

Year two, my ideas were still muddied about the whole thing but I had to consistently remind myself why I pulled him out of school and what I wanted to accomplish with this new process. I wanted him to be a free-thinker. As I said, over and over, to family and friends and acquaintances, I’m not raising a slave. If unschooling was something that required a mission statement, that would be it: I’m not raising a slave. Of course that means he is free to disagree with me and frequently does; which sometimes raises my parental ire. As I tell him “sometimes, it’s just best to say yes, mom” and leave the “battle” for another day when I’m more open to his entreaties.

Heading into year three, I have to say that I am simply amazed by how much my son learns if I step outside the process! As a result of him sharing what he’s researched, I’ve learned things I had no interest in learning but still…I am amazed and proud. Not only is my son intelligent but he has a sense of self I didn’t have at his age (12) and he feels free to share his growth (although he doesn’t yet see it as such) with me.

Of course, I can’t totally let go of things I think he should know; especially as high school creeps up on the horizon. At this point, I am thinking he should go to the local high school and experience what that is all about. But I am not sure. I don’t want arbitrary standardized testing to negatively impact on his educational growth. I also am firmly opposed to some educational bureaucrat trying to track him. When he was still in traditional school, a teacher called me to advocate for that and I shut that down. Quick, fast and in a hurry.

I was tracked as a kid. My mother, an immigrant, assumed that the educational professionals knew something she didn’t know about her troublesome girl child and let them put me into “special” ed. As painful and contradictory as that decision was, I don’t blame her. I understand, now,  that she didn’t understand the context in which such decisions are made. The minute, figuratively speaking, I graduated from high school, I started reading about education. As “troublesome” as I was, I was never anti-education. I was, simply, anti-school.

One of the books I still remember was authored by Jonathan Kozol. Savage Inequalities changed my educational life but still, I couldn’t totally repudiate my mother’s sensibility because I was raised to respect and honor the elders in my family. The fact that their reality  didn’t correspond to my reality was neither here nor there. It is only now, as I approach 50, that I have the ovaries to say a respectful  yet direct no. I refuse to put my son through what I went through. I will not sacrifice him as I feel as I was sacrificed.

So here we are, approaching the third year of unschooling. I find myself starting to think about the high school on the horizon: whether I actually want him to attend in this current environment and what I need to do to prepare him if the mutual (yet parental-directed) decision is for high school  or to go straight to community college as a readying environment for a 4 year college.

 

 

 

I Represent

July 21, 2016

I Represent

I represent the oppressed black womb
penetrated too early in its development.
No one takes the time to explain abortion
before I am strapped in the clinic gurney
to have the baby he planted scraped out.
One day, I was watching Dora and the next day
my teacher said I was a statistic. I don’t know.
I just know I’m not a little girl any more.

I represent the oppressed black vagina
smothered under an endless stream of men
who push and push but never take the time
to differentiate me from girl 6, 5, 4, 3, 2,
or even the one they call the bottom.
You only see me to call me names:
whore, trick, bitch.
One day I’ll be free of this stroll
and will only respond
to the name my mother gave me.

I represent the oppressed black woman
former stripper, former whore, former convict
who came through hell and back
yet still exudes sulfur.
Five children but crack obliterated
the memories and names of their fathers.
They look at me when I come home
smelling of a hundred billion sold
and say they’re hungry.
My response, before I close the bedroom door is
so am I, babies, so am I.

I represent the oppressed conscious black woman
who has all of her eyes open to see the world
but yet only inhabits 6 square blocks of the concrete jungle.
She sits at night with her seeds reworking homework lessons
of Christmas, Columbus and colonization.
She transforms the three R’s into righteous revolutionary rebellion.

Sometimes, I am allowed to sit in and participate in all of their lives.
Sometimes, the door is shut either angrily or in the silence of defeat.
Either way, I am still a poet and my pen represents the oppressed.

20160627_122507_E 6th St

 

Here, I eat the chips
of childhood;
salt in the air
and salt and vinegar
in my mouth.

Salivating stillness
after the turtle-like triumph
of treading to the top
we put a period
on the promenade.

Proudly private people
we prostrate ourselves
in lounge chairs
designed for that express
purpose.

This is one of the views
that reduces reaction
to irrelevancy.

 

© 2016 Tichaona Munhamo Chinyelu (photo and text)

(Originally posted on my book review blog, Diary of a Mad Reader)

I am someone who reads books that break my heart, time and time again. The Book of Night Women broke my heart. Apparently, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which I’m 14 pages away from finishing, is going to do the same. And they’re both by Marlon James.

I so want to say that I hate him and his damn novels but that wouldn’t be true. They resonate too deep for hate. The Book of Night Women stayed with me so long I was extremely reluctant to buy A Brief History. I waited; saw it in my favorite bookstore, saw it win prestige and still said I ain’t buying fucking bullshit that breaks my fucking heart. I nah fi do it.

But…

Marley

whose music reached me before Prince.

Marley

whose reggae connected me to my family in a way no other music does.

And so I bought it…and started reading.

Fucking Marlon James, man. I mean, damn.

I can’t fault him for his knowledge, or sense, of history. I can’t fault him for me reading past the sick ass murder that occurred in the first few pages. I can’t fault him anymore than I could fault Dylan for Masters of War or NWA for Fuck the Police or War for The World is a Ghetto because neither him or Dylan or NWA or War are the originators of this violent ass world I’m raising my son in.

I can’t even fault him for my reaction to a book that I haven’t yet finished, although I only have 14 pages left out of a 686 page novel. I can’t fault him for me feeling sorrow for the fictional psychopath Josey Wales. I can’t fault him because he’s an honest writer. His research is solid. His writing is beyond great. I can’t do anything but finish the novel, post this review and this song…

Selassie I Jah Rastafari

Addendum: I just finished the book. Considering the deranged violence that occurred throughout the book was that I would end it smiling and happy but I did! I’d read the whole tome all over again just to read that ending but first, I need a year or two to recover, just like I did with The Book of Night Women. With this ending, I do believe Marlon James has joined my very small list of favorite writers.

3 Poems Published!

March 11, 2016

3 of my poems were selected for publication by The Moxie Bee! Head on over there, check them out, leave some feedback!

TMC

Today is my son’s 12th birthday. 12 years! Time flies and flies! Motherhood has, of course, changed me…for the better. Over the years since I’ve become a Mother, I have seen a lot of things that assault what it means, for me, an African woman who is consciously single, to be a Mother. Be clear, when I say consciously single, I mean that. I ended my marriage but not my interaction with his dad (my was-band). It was after our divorce that I got pregnant. His dad and I discussed remarrying and my answer was a resounding no!

Don’t get me wrong. I still have love for his dad. We went through a lot together…and apart…and there is no other man in the world, if it was possible to go back and re-choose, that I would have chosen to be my child’s father. I recognized, even at that stage when my child (aka fetus) wasn’t formed enough to move inside me, that two different things were at play. There was the relationship of a man and a woman. And there was the relationship between father and child. I believed then and still believe now that it’s wasn’t necessary for his dad and I to be together in order for his dad to have a relationship with our child.

Still, I was a womanist and when I found out I was carrying a boy, I sat in the ultrasound room and cried my heart out. Of course, now I look back and say “that was hormones”. But still, I had spent a lot of time and emotional energy deciding on a name for a girl. I was convinced, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to give birth to a girl. Still bound by a patriarchal understanding that women can’t raise boys to manhood, I wasn’t at all happy about the fact that my child was going to have a penis!  So I cried, something I do only when I am extremely upset!

But then the day came. When I felt the first contraction, I immediately gave up any idea of giving birth naturally and said “give me the epidural”. I look back now and say “you punk, you were so scared of the pain, you allowed the nurses to give you a shot in your spine” and said shot numbed me so much I was unable to feel my legs, let alone “push”. And the white female doctor, who was so unfamiliar with black women’s health issues, that she had to look up, in my presence, what it meant that I carried the sickle cell trait, decided, eventually, that she would have to bring my child into the world through a Caesarian. And she also gave me a scar I haven’t been able to eradicate to this day; presumably because black people heal unlike white people…

Still, I love that scar and I love the boy I gave birth to. I realized, pretty quickly, that my womanist bent meant I was more qualified, emotionally and culturally speaking, to be a mother of a boy than I was of a girl. In other words, I wasn’t a “girly girl”. I don’t wear makeup. Whenever I wear a dress or a skirt, people in my circle feel it necessary to exclaim and exalt me for doing so as if a dress or a skirt suddenly demonstrates to them that I possess a vagina; even though I do so whenever the weather is conducive. I don’t torture my feet by wearing what I call “hooker heels”.

I used to agonize about the above like it meant that I was, inherently, deficient in feminine qualities (aka “ain’t I a woman?”). And then I had a conversation with a now-former Sister-friend and said conversation resulted in me saying “I’m okay and have been for quite a while”. I realized that it wasn’t me that was deficient. The motherhood model was what was deficient.

Once I realized, and embraced that I was and continue to be, able to raise a boy to manhood. I realized that all the patriarchal/hotep folks who were very vocally against women raising boys weren’t against it because they doubted a woman’s ability. They were against it because they disagreed with the kind of man women such as I were raising. We weren’t (and are not) raising our boys (they don’t consider the girls) to be the Barack Obama version of Kaitlyn Jenner. (Ponder that for a moment)

As I routinely state on my private (friends only) Facebook page, I am raising a man, not a slave. And as my child (and I) celebrate his twelfth year of existence in a country where black children can’t play in a park without being murdered by those who are alleged to “protect and serve”, I give thanks to all I am that enables me to do so (raise a man, not a slave).

So…happy, happy bornday (he was born, I gave birth) to my very, very beloved yng blk star. May you continue to thrive and grow…and define for yourself what it means to be you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel

March 4, 2016

i.

discordant
never/
polyrhythmic
like life
we were/
in the beginning/
many feet make many sounds

we took the tree
and made it talk/
a jungle of sounds
we produced
everyone for miles around
heard it
gravitated towards it

then strangers came
chanting like gregor
tolling the bell
like igor

creating a cacophony
a frankenstein sound
that we ran from/
the reverberation of our feet
and the clamor of our pursuers
disturbed the serenity of the forest
forever

ii.

our feet were forced
to wade in the water
and the god the strangers proclaimed
didn’t trouble the waters
enough

we moaned
a sound as new to us
as the clang of metal when we shifted
as the strangely accented voices
ordering us to stop the dirges

but we couldn’t stop
even after the ship docked
even after survival dictated
that we scale down our humanity.

Out of our misery grew the gospel.

 

Excerpted from my first book, In the Whirlwind.

©2006 Tichaona Munhamo Chinyelu

Older than Hip Hop

February 18, 2016

Before 16 bars imprisoned words,
before rhymes were as predictable
as a cop’s nightstick upside your head,
my pen positioned itself
in the continuum of black words.

Shaka Zulu and Uhuru
are the main threads of my weave
so there’s no need for me to loom
larger than sacred life.

I’ll leave that to you and you and you
while my words through the needle go
attempting to be part of the quilt
reconnecting the unraveled threads of black life.

I’m not a superstar.
I’m just a star shining alongside my fellow stars.
Together, we illuminate what’s right
and I like it like that.
So you and you and you
can keep on masturbating to finger snaps
while I read ngugi
trying to decolonize my mind
so that my words can turn into wombs
breeding the fire next time.