Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When You Meet God, You Meet Yourself!

I'm not big on religion and government, since they both stifle the spirit. But I do have a deep respect for the unseen and the multitude of messages that come at us and through us every single day. Bishop Noel Jones once said, "When you meet your god, you meet yourself." I like that quote because it gives attention to the importance of being one's self, following your calling, even in the face of ridicule or cowardness. For many of us, including myself, it's a lifelong process. For some, it's as easy and as simple as saying

I'm driven by people like Jones. They have courage and
purpose. The same courage and purpose it took for me to reject
doctoral studies money in the name of holding on to my identity
and having my own voice.

The following are quotes from other people--well-known or
from my own kitchen--who also inspire me, as I hope they inspire you--

"To imagine that some little thing--food, sex, power, fame--will make you happy is to deceive oneself. Only something as vast
and deep as your real self can make you truly and lastingly
."--Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Hindu Sage

"The scientific method is a product of individuals who are
limited in their perception to what their eyes, ears, nose, skin,
and tongue can reveal to them...Our goal is no longer survival,
but spiritual growth
. That requires the development of inner
knowing and inner authority. It requires the heart, not the
intellect."-- Gary Zukav, Spritual Advisor

"Every crisis I've been through has somehow made things better
for me."-- Corey Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ

"You can't control how others act, but you can control how you react to them."-- U.S. Anderson, Motivationalist

"If you speak the truth you don't need a memory."-- Judge Judy, TV Court Figure

"When fear comes out like that, it becomes loathing, and then it becomes judgement...Is my child here for my heart? Or am I here for his heart?"-- Sean Penn, Film Director

"Children come through us, not from us."-- Kahlil Gibran, Islamic Prophet

"You keep being so picky that one day you'll end up picking shit!"-- Trinidadian grandmother

"You gotta give in before you give up."-- My daughter, Chanou at 17

"Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deep-seated that it is invisible because it is normal."-- Shirley Chisolm, First Black woman elected to U.S. Congress

"I don't want to think. Tell me what to think."-- Rev. Jeremy Wright

"If you look at Matthew 25:25 it says, 'Shut da fuck up!'"-- Margaret Cho, Comedian

"We don't need another committee. We don't need to meet with so-called 'respected members of the community'. We need progressive, revolutionary action!"-- 101 Black Law Enforcement

"Poor folks, Black and White, have been virtually brainwashed to hate each other when it's our government we should be suspicious of."-- Rabbi Steven Leder

"Being manly or masculine, and being feminine or soft, have nothing to do with being a man or a woman. If you can't be all of you, then you're not at all a man or a woman."-- John Love, Jr., Actor

"If we face up to the terrible reality we are in, we can change our destiny."--Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Muslim Activist

"If you really want to see someone, close your eyes."-- Bob Marley, Rastafarian Icon

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Year the Butterfly Was Mine...

J Journal

The J Journal folks at John Jay College of Criminal Justice have just included me in their very first issue scheduled to drop this spring. It's a short piece I wrote about the quick and harsh reality of prison intake that I simply call Tuesday. The Journal also includes my writer/comrade, Jason Trask who told them about me, in the first place. Thanks for lookin' out, J!

Taj Lounge

For this year's Black History Month I did a collaboration with photographer, Ocean Morisset at New York City's Taj Lounge. Checkout Morisset's own site (www.omorisset.myexpose.com) for some of the most beautiful and dramatic work around!....In the meantime, here are three pieces I offered Taj beginning with the calling on those who recently crossed over, including my grandmother Agnes Dera--

This one's for Mish, btw...

In this place
This sacred place
We held so dear to our hearts
And in our collective consciousness
This bothered ground we called our home;
Our reason to fight again and again
All in the name of pan-African Salvation
We stand in truth
Having resolved our struggle with the pale one
And with one another
To now simply be
Each of us
Doing what we were called to do
As dedication to the promise
Those before us had made
Before relinquishing their very breaths
To aborted uprisigns and public castrations

In this here place
With our hands clutched together
Bowing our heads
As we call upon those who await us
For the renewal of our plight
We so lovingly pay homage to
This borrowed soil
On which we've chosen
As our point of reference
Without division of any kind
But with the conviction of one force
One people
One objective
In the name of spiritual egression

It is at this moment
That we make the decision
To return to our most basic of rituals
As in before captivity and social bufoonery
To look on and ahead
Without the meaning of 'I'

That this day
We begin at the end
At the beginning again
Our heels fixed firmly
In our agreement to transition
Having learned from our past
Leaving behind the chains that once defined us
And lift our heads towards the All Knowing
To finally
Once and for all
After being forced to despise our own
As we sing the praise of justice and forever
Give the sign
Then disappear.

There is a stench in our Jamaica
A law
We know too well
An obvious intrusion
But too deeply Woven in our ways To admit...

Tropical breezes
Over charred, leftover bodies
Carry shattered wills
Up North
To the Mainland
Where others
Have fled but
Where sacrificial
Souls take their revenge
By invading our living rooms

They burned him alive, this young lad
For acting too much like his kind
A familiar sight to the badges
A burden of sorts
Like the melody of the strange fruit
That still haunts our minds

There is a stench in our Jamaica
And a mother who declares,
This is God's doing
Or they'll com foh me too

No pity for the different
But honor for the killings
Caribbean negritude at its worse
While married men play in the dark

They stoned her to death, the latest one
And this after raping her
One by one
Her sister all the way in Zimbabwe heard her cries
As they held hands under the same forgiving sky

There is a stench in our Jamaica
Blood marks in Brooklyn
A bullet in Newark for every face who braves their truth
Suspects are shadows
Protected by the Bible
A paradise of convenience
A treason of sorts
To the one who still misses the luscious blue hills
That look over food market chatter
And the Rastaman's repugnance

If not his own father
Then it will have to be the pale one
Who gives him water when no one else takes the cause
Suspects are guilty
But protected by the Bible
And tradition reflects a people's mortality--
I kill you, I kill myself

There is a stench in our Jamaica
And a patriot who's not welcomed in his own land
Jah have mercy on the poor
God bless the child that can't leave home.

Photo of dred by Ocean Morisset

You kill us
With your guns
But we keep coming Back and coming back
We die slowly and
In our blood
But we coming back And coming back
Our will to live Ignores all logic
And we keep
Coming back
And coming back

The Moors tried
To show you
Martin tried
To love you
But still you murder us
But we keep coming back and coming back

You would have known better
If you looked passed Your Good Book

Stay with me, now...

That we change faces like the moon
And we keep coming back and coming back

Sean Bell
But we keep coming back and coming back
For we are spirit

Stay with me...

And spirit never dies
So we keep coming back and coming back

Your son
His music
Your daughter
Her new man

And we keep coming back and coming back

One day your lies will tell on themselves
The way vultures lead hyenas to dead carcasses
That's why we keep coming back and coming back
Coming back and coming back

So that the day you meet your Maker

Stay with me, now...

Will be the day you aim and fire
Not at us
But at yourself

So we keep coming back and coming back
Coming back and coming back
Coming back and coming back
We keep coming back and coming back!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Poetry is spirit trying to get at something...

Showdown in Newark

Street culture is not Black culture
Poor choices begets poverty

Young people are not well
A neighborhood is not a trash can

You want change?
I want total restoration

Power is Black calling out Black

Power is pulling your pants up
And exposing your mind instead!

Poetry is spirit trying to get at something
Like staying up way late in the night
Playing tag with sleeplessness

Poetry is passion rushing in and out of itself
Like the hurried music of Baraka and Shange
Alive and soaring through space and back

Poetry is pain not having a meeting place
You can't hold it,
Put it down
Or leave it
Because it's indefinite
And yet, you create it

Poetry is dance coming through
Like Alvin Ailey never died
Just look at how the brothas
Shoot up to the basket!

Poetry is anger raging through your veins
You can't hold it,
Put it down
Or leave it
Because it's much bigger than you
And yet, you control it

Poetry is pleading for resurrection
For love to come in
And this time

To stay

is spirit
Trying to get at something...

Black fist up

I don't think Black people realize just how significant P Diddy's ad in the middle of Times Square is to American culture and New York politics. Only forty years ago U.S. Black Olympiats, John Carlos and Tommie Smith got their medals taken from them and families destroyed for showing the Black Power sign at the 1968 Games....I took this pic while crossing busy 7th Ave. I had to aim my cam high enough to shoot past people's heads. Not the most extraordinary pic, but it does make me proud!

Excerpts from "Before You Fly Off"...

"...If my perception of beauty is Marilyn Monroe but my daughter looks like India Arie, I'm taking a big chance on instilling self-hate messages in our home. Just like if my photo calendar shows only pictures of gorgeous blackberry sistas while my daughter looks like Alicia Keyes...The healthy, more natural thing to do is to show balance. Because Black means all colors coming together..."

"...Like why rock a wig, in the first place? Is it your way of expressing the many wonderful sides of your personality, or is it a sign that you'd rather do away with your nappy because it represents a hair texture and continent you despise?...self-empowerment or self-degradation?..."

"...Is this you?
I don't take constructive criticism well
I'm a great talker, but not a good listener
I like to have the last word

I get defensive
when someone tries to call me on my mess

I spend more attention on my looks and things I own
than on what kind of person I am

I like to control people and situations
I make friends with only those who tolerate my negative ways,
and avoid those who challenge me..."

Harlem Book Signing

My very first book signing! Didn't yet know about palm cards or blogs, and my book cover wasn't the fanciest. But I managed to sell all 200 copies in one night!...It's important to follow your dreams, your calling, your instincts, your guides. This is, afterall, your life.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Message to a Young Blood

You can't be Muslim on Monday
And maybe on Tuesday
Can't preach what you don't practice

You can't call yourself Boriqua
And not know Taina
Can't be a godbody if you don't wash your ass!

You can't call yourself nigga
To justify nigger

Can't be a brotha and disrespect sista

You can't rule the world with a line you picked up
Can't be immortal when your rap is typical

You can never be free if your freedom is money
Can't look fly if your insides got maggots

You can't look at music
Without looking at yourself

Can't act a fool if your life means anything to you

Inhaling paper bag is inhaling dye
And dye is what makes your lips look so purple

Can't be immortal and not earn your name
Can't say you'teachin if teaching means saggin'

Can't have a revolution
If you can't spell revolution!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Before You Fly Off...

Before You Fly Off - Vol. One is a parent/teen guide for and about Black girls in the hood from a father's perspective offering candid advice from pressures of body image to struggles with relationships . It is supported by the City University of New York's Research Foundation as part of their alternative secondary education initiative and can be purchased at Hue Man Bookstore & Cafe and Sisters Uptown Bookstore, both in Harlem, NY. This non-traditional yet popular guide is also available for ordering on line at amazon.com and at Target stores. Volume Two is scheduled for distribution in 2009.