Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Turn Down the Fire

A smile
a touch can make things better
unlike the fickleness of weather
true love is tender
too soon to tell
if this is forever
if there is a forever
a place that's quiet
and so familiar
but turn down the fire
love takes time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

K Essays

If I Interviewed Obama...
Remembering Fanon
When Doves Cry - The 2010 Haiti Earthquake
Dancehall Music is Not Reggae
Best Pickings
Who' You Callin' a Negro?
My Two Ladies
When Dumb Wasn't Cool
Bang, Bang. I'm Dead!
Racismo-- Let's Talk About It
Letter to President Obama
Slave Auction/White Boy
Put a Dent in It - A Response to Racial Profiling
Why All Community Colleges Need a Male Center?
Black Masculinities
Youth Participation in Neighborhood and Community Settings
Monkey Doo
Letter to My Prez - Wyclef Jean for President
28 Days and A Mule - The Trouble With Black History Month
How'You Like Her Now?-- The Makings of An Irish Rasta
The Writing Process: On Writing For and About Young Black Males

*Photo by Lisa Dubois

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dust and Sky

Love was sensed and love was seen
Manifested there within
Wrinkles of the young and the old
At the side of eyes they fold.

In a seam they were formed
By the laughter they had stormed,
That had reached the bellies and
Smiles that stretched from end to end
Chased away inhibition
Things learned in this unison;
Hiding flaws that laid behind
Sealed lips is a waste of mind.
Strum, strum joined by a soft hum,
Dum-da-dum, beats of a drum,
A call for you, for everyone,
Join that tangible action.
Happiness is contagious,
Works its way beyond ages
Proven by those secret smiles
On your lips, they’ve traveled miles.
You don’t need a mother tongue
When body language has sung
‘Another songs of freedom’.
Love finds its way to become
Blinded by liberty and
Walk with life and hope in hand.
On the streets, yes on all streets
Call the universe to beats
All young ones come join the row;
The leaders of tomorrow.
As we meet along the way
We remind ourselves each day
‘No man is my enemy,
My own hands imprison me.’
Two doors open, dust and sky
And you’re told that you can fly
Heart of life hails unity
Hand in glove we soar gently.

by Najma Pirani
Collage, acrylic on canvas by Susan Cornelis

Sweet, Sweet Tammi

In the middle of writing my chapter on abusive men for my upcoming book on young Black males, I got distracted by TV One's unsung songster, Tammi Terrell whose painful life seemed to mirror the abusers
I was tackling on paper. She was gang raped when she was a teenager, spent her life desperately seeking love and approval from men, got repeated beat downs by the likes of James Brown and David Ruffin of the Temptations and later developed a brain tumor. Yet, after eight brain surgeries and a string of duets with marvin gaye, she managed to leave her mark. She did finally get to experience true love before transitioning, after finding it in a doctor. How interesting that is, since her initial plan, before entering the music biz, was to become a medical doctor herself; even took classes while getting signed to motown...

Did she go the right way or did the right way have the wrong teachers? I can't call it. But stay in peace, our sweet, sweet tammi.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Best Pickings

Sista, this
This is not the time or place
To be throwing a tantrum
What was was, yes
And if anything's going to be
It will be the fact that
You learn to make wine
Out of store brand grape juice
You're resourceful that way
Or did you forget?....

A White woman was speaking to a group of angry Black women on the subject of Black men choosing her over them. Most anglo-saxons, particularly females, tend to avoid this type of confrontation. But this one wasn't stepping down or moving to the side. She held her own by reminding the sistas that it's the brothas who pursue her; that if anything, their anger should be directed at them. "But ask yourself this question", she said. "What is it about me that he finds more appealing? And don't give me that crap about long hair and alabaster skin! Not when you can buy the illusion and put on the bleach. It's even deeper than that. More to do with Black men needing to feel like kings; the kind of nurturing many of them didn't get from their mothers. When he speaks, I listen. When he tries to speak to you, you cut him off and say what? 'Nigga, please!' But you resent me for being the one who allows him to be himself. I'm not your bitch. Don't put your sht on me!

Even now, I have to speak thru a Black man just so you can focus on the message and not the color. But I watch how you cut him down, behind your doors and in the boardroom. You despise him. You resent him. But you don't know him. If you did, you'd know that toning it down doesn't mean losing your queen status. You'd know that the empowerment of females doesn't mean disempowering males. Those of you who have that softer touch aren't threatened by me. In fact, you're open to crossing over because you've come to a place where you no longer place limitations on yourselves and your options. But it's she. The sista with the fist up who won't even learn how to cook him a good meal, so busy wanting to be wined n dined. But what have you done for him lately? And don't say you give up the nani because nani's overrated. Fifteen standard minutes of getting your eyes to roll back can't compare to holding the little boy in him and whispering in his ear,

"This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you

This is to be with you
To hold you and kiss you too
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn't do
This is to mother you

All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the wrongs you have done
I will take from you when I'm done
All mistakes made in distress
All your unhappiness
I will take away with my kiss
I will give you tenderness

For I am so glad I've found you
Although my arms have always been around you
Sweet baby, although you did not see me
I see you

And I'm here to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you."*

There're times when I feel guilty for being the object of his affection and the focus of your outrage. But not anymore. Not even when you cut your eyes at him whenever you see us arm in arm and in love which is the point you often miss. It's not always about the objectification of the Black man, but you do it. In your Tyler Perry minstrel shows. It's not always about the Black dik, but you do it. Every time you tell him to shut up and just perform. And it's not always about White females getting the best pickings, if you tell him at the age of five to man-up and stop his crying. I'm not your bitch. Don't put your sht on me!

Author's note: I'm an educator and I write books for and about marginalized Black youth. My first project, a help guide for Black teenage girls. I know a lot of nurturing, wonderful and attractive Black women who deserve "the best pickings". But I do meet and advise sistas who fit the image this White woman is referring to. And, my dear sistas, when we brothas get together without y'all around; when we feel free and safe enough to express our innermost feelings (we generally believe we cannot in your presence), we do tell each other how everyone else is more nurturing and supportive to us than you. If any of you are put off by this, then you're only confirming what we believe in private. That you don't take constructive criticism well, that you can't handle the truth and that's why we lie. Sometimes to ourselves, just to keep the peace. But those of you who are willing to listen to a different perspective can stop the generalizing by making a difference. If you have a husband, boyfriend or potential partner, I challenge you to set some time out with him tonight in a quiet, private, loving space. If you have chidlren, find a sitter. We need your total attention for this.

Now, brothaman is most likely going to be caught off guard and be a bit cautious, especially if you've never done this before. If you're the type that tends to cut him off when he speaks, don't be surprised if he thinks it's a set up. So be easy as you begin to explain why the two of you are here. Try to be casual about it. Something like, Babe, (or whatever endearing term you use for him) listen to this... The point of this exercise is not to share YOUR feelings because it won't be about you. Control your desire to control the conversation. This is all about him feeling like he can express his emotions. His way.

Timing is everything, so if there're other matters that may interfere with the flow then it may be best to save it for later. But when the mood is right; when the both of you are in that zone where intimacy (not sex) and harmony are at their best, hold him close to you and the intention which, again, is to allow him to reveal his child to you. Not his macho or provider/protector role, but his self. While you're reading, let him interject, if he wants to or just let him process. Have fun with it. But don't give him any indication that you're completely at odds with the message. You may very well be, and that's you're right. But it's not about you right now, remember?

In the end, you want to be sure to ask the following key questions-- Do you think I'm controlling?...Am I a nurturing person?...Do I come off bossy?...Do I cut you off when you speak? I love you and love us, and I want to make sure you're happy." Like I said, if he's not used to you being this interested in him, he'll need a moment to regroup; maybe ask you what is this really about? Depending on how connected y'all are, to begin with, will determine what happens from there. If your love is beyond sex and superficials, then the convo should go smoothly. The two of you may very well engage in some good lovin' afterwards with a loud appreciation for your being sensitive to his own feelings. If your union is based on what he does for you and how you look, then this can be an opportunity for the both of you to reconsider your priorities, especially if there're children involved. Because the war between genders begins in kindergarten; subtle inuendos kids throw at each other that were once merely sitcom laugh lines and bedroom jabs-- lazy good-for-nothing, golddigger, he should know, she's always complaining, simple, silly, faggot, ho, nigga, bitch... They play this type of dress up all the way through high school when they no longer trust each other, but feel forced to deal with one another for society or fam-sake until one of them either screams or flees.

When all is said and done, remind each other that Black people still suffer from post-slavery syndrome, that politics do enter the bedroom and that there's a reason why so many brothas prefer long hair and light-skinned sistas. Not only out of historical scars, but from more current media and fashion trends that dictate how we look at one another and ourselves. Some of us are beginning to recognize the self-loathing in our language and ways, but our music videos say we still got a ways to go.

There's also this rumor about Black men prefering White women cos they don't mind domination. But that's not a lovestyle. That's control, self-esteem issues, and a chic who doesn't yet know her name.

Look, a blonde is still like carrying the American Express card! We think she'll help open doors that you can't. Other brothas turn to White for solace, not realizing they're only setting themselves up for a parent/child relationship. She'll have her turn at fidgeting in her seat as she reads these here words, while you and I nod that universal pan-african nod that keeps us from killing each other altogether. So let's consider this too-- Why is it that when brothas crossover they lose their Black? Their African? They're not even men anymore, but safe, little boys who need White mama to tell them what to do? When you can't feel like a king with your sista but accept being treated like a child by a White woman, the issue is no longer whether or not Black women are nurturing enough towards Black men but what's going on with him? The individual without the Black collective? Might sound a bit raw, but how many times have we seen this script played out? Or does it come down to power and control? Who gets to keep the Black man in check and who gets to reconstruct him?

When all is said and done, it's not about White women stealing good Black men from Black women or, for that matter, Black women who date outside of their race, but Black men being allowed to live their lives fully and authentically, and to be celebrated for daring to do so.

*Sinead O'Connor

You Already Know

I like it when the writing just flows, like a pathway meant just for me. at best, it's only my spiritual guides dictating from my fingers to the keys while whispering in my ear the well-anticipated words of a father turned shaman....you already know!

From my next book of poems, Throw.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Before They Learn

Before they learn to call each other nigga, pimp and dog; before they learn what marginalizing means and what it sounds like to hate their skin color, and before they learn to stop smiling altogether.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Images XI - Roof Garden

Max keeps getting in the way...