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.

Faces and Masks Cento

December 3, 2015

I don’t normally incorporate poetic forms in my work but having come across the form of the cento, I thought that sounds interesting. I flipped through several books to pick the words that would form the basis of the piece. The lyricism of Eduardo Galeono’s trilogy Memory of Fire fired my imagination the most for this exercise and so I went with Faces and Masks, the 2nd volume in the series. Here is my attempt at a cento:

 

Ever since dawn
the ground has been steaming
pleading for a drink
while the living seek shade
and fan themselves.

Hidalgo spent the night with his eyes
fixed on the ceiling of the cell
saying goodbye:

my father didn’t put me among the rich
or the generals or those who have money
or claim to have it.

my father put me with the poor
because i am poor.

At the edge of the village of Morón
a common grave
swallows the bones of a poet
who until yesterday
had a guitar
and a name.

His unshrouded body
ends up in the earth;
his couplets, also naked,
also plebeian,
abide in the winds.

On the street
someone plucks
lamentations
from a guitar.

Something, Not Nothing

December 1, 2015

Earlier today I was hit with the desire to post a blog but I had no idea what to write about. I inquired of my resident expert “What do you think I should blog about?” but then we got busy getting him to the barbershop and then school. Errands were needed to be run. A book to be bought. And now it is post 5pm. My child, who had the whole of last week off from school [we are no longer homeschooling although he does attend a self-directed learning school] in observance of a national holiday we don’t celebrate used the time to wreck his schedule by turning into a Minecraft night owl, is asleep. Mother Nature and Daylight Savings has turned the 5 o’clock hour into nighttime and I am having a glass of wine as I type this.

But let me backtrack for a minute. It is imperative (yes, imperative!) that I state that the errands mentioned above included finally getting the glasses I desperately need in order to read my dearly loved books without having to resort to large print! But … it turns out I don’t know how to wear glasses. Let me be more precise. I don’t know how to see through bifocal glasses. I wanted glasses that enabled me to continue reading but turns out I needed “distance” glasses as well. So the science of the matter dictated that I got bifocal glasses that I don’t know how to see of. The optometrist told me to “raise my head and lower my eyes” in order to read. You should see me trying to do it. I look like someone who hears, and feels, the beat of music but can’t quite get the rhythm right enough to head nod without looking spastic. If every video (or picture) I took of myself didn’t come out absolutely awful, I would show you but they do so you’re just going to have to trust me.

I mentioned above that the errands I had to run included buying a book. This is the book:

20151201_160409.jpg

Triggers are usually seen as a negative but in the case of A Year of Yes, the triggers “yes” set off are positive. I’m not going to go into all of them but I will say one of them: John Lennon’s first encounter with Yoko Ono. John’s Yoko-sponsored trip into the world of yes started with that meeting. I flirt with yes; have philosophical conversations with yes and now with this book, Shonda has become my metaphorical Yoko. What might I accomplish if I spend 2016 positively, consciously, saying yes? I’ve said no plenty. Maybe it’s time to flip the yang, so to speak.

So….this is how you write about “nothing”. When I was in high school, I used to have conversations with teachers outside of the classroom. One teacher told me when I have nothing to write about, write about nothing. This is me writing about nothing. But what is really nothing? How can you quantify nothing? You can’t.

But yes? Yes is something. Saying yes is something. And I am saying something, not nothing.

First Freestyle of 2014

January 3, 2014

My bed is full of ashes
ghosts and fingers that creep
like vines.

I, limbless
perambulate
the contours of a dream
that approaches
a nightmare.

I am home and horizontal.

forty-six years
of diaspora living
and finally, i see
myself again.

forty-six years of living
and i refuse to apologize
anymore

unless i am wrong
and wrongness always
has a personal
and a political component

so goodbye, good riddance
and good luck.

i loved you once.
honestly.
as freely as i could
i loved you
and attempted to bring
the best of myself
to our relationship

but the best of me
is revolutionary
and in a non-revolutionary era
that is a form of suicide

and i refuse to commit to that.

forty-six years
of diaspora living
and finally, i see
and love myself

again.

Freestyle #1

November 21, 2013

The funkiness of fun
absolution from writing
what seems to be
yesteryear.

thoughts and memories,
the heart and science
mingling, interbreeding

casting aspersions
on the culture somehow
still deemed sacrosanct

ii

echoes of theory
resonating in the inner ear
and the third eye

three hundred and sixty degrees
of consciousness includes
ascension to humanity

still, interrelatedly, i say
huey and john brown are reflections
of the gun culture i admire

iii

my thirteen self intrudes
full of the awareness
of dec. 9, 1980

tape deck, white irish
teacher crying.
what is going on?

imagine
my thrown-for-a-loop self
confronting this grief

not quite a decade
before a teacher slipped me
the autobiography of malcolm x

on the sly.
see when i give thanks
it isn’t to smash

it’s an articulation
of how truly, honestly
my life was saved

but maybe your life
doesn’t need saving.
maybe you’re free

because you either
made your piece
or your concession

iv

i don’t know
but i just spent a half hour
hugging my child

who told me
a few hours earlier
that he was too old

for my kisses
but when he hugs me
i’ll be damned if i let go

first

Older than Hip Hop

January 6, 2013

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.

Excerpted from my book, Still Living on my Feet

 

Two of my Poems Published

December 4, 2011

Two of my poems, The Death of California Revisited & Weaver Woman, were just published by Outward Link. Check them out!