Category: Uncategorized

This tree is Paul Robeson

Coming from a place where a little girl who thought she would be a dancer, or an actress, or a poet, not knowing that actors could be activists or that all art is political, became a teacher. Staged in a gallery like a choreopoem and an experiment in four parts in tribute to the legacy of Black art and aesthetics that move and shape–though molded by pain crafts joy like a river or a dance and a song, these thoughts are about a tree, planted in dirt that tells his/story. Classified and constructed, analyzed and named, this talk is about a tree.

Close your eyes and imagine the tallest tree in our forest

Our tree

This tree

This tree whose feet are planted firmly in dark rich soil like roots that find water deep below the surface

This tree whose body is like an aged and weathered trunk that has passed the test of time

This tree whose shoulders, broad and dense, carry arms like branches that move with the wind

This tree whose hands extend in service with cupped fingers to concentrate sound in spite of all the noise

This tree whose fruit is borne high, almost unreachable unless you are willing to ascend to experience the gift of its sweetness…

Can you see it?

This tree

That stands as the tallest tree in the forest…

Our forest

Of Black 

And Brown

And Red

And White

And Blue

Blue Black blues

Black and Blue blues

Bruised and blistered

Weathered and tried

Like Miles Davis, and Coltrane 

Sultry like Lena and 

Light like Hazel

Deep like voice

This tree is 

Paul Robeson.

#Robeson125

Monique Matters: Two books in conversation

I am reading two books—gifts—slowly

Sipping them like a 

Strong drink or a hot beverage

That has the power to wound or to heal…

I am reading two books—challenges—slowly

With sorrow for the here and now

Of this moment

With sadness and loss close and distant…

Viral

Justice

Exposes the truths and hurts of being vulnerable

Reminding me

You are your best thing.

In conversation with each other I understand this message of grief that is good…

The list, perhaps a checklist of reminders, keep me…

  1. We are not alone in our grief; those in authority and those in association with us are also grieving
  2. Grief is a choice and a key to a growth mindset
  3. Grief is a healthy response to loss and disappointment; denying loss causes many to get stuck (or sick and tired)
  4. Grief helps us make transitions in life
  5. Grief is healed in community
  6. Grief takes time
  7. Grief is a key to spiritual growth

Balanced with reminders about all the things, I wish I could have done

Arms thought weak are always strong enough to hold

Dear ones close and distant…

Regret, an emotional response to the revelation that I just got in my own way

Regret is neither good nor bad

Regret is a thinking pattern of revisiting things that cannot be revised

And yet it is…

I dedicate these morning thoughts to Monique Corbin in the spirit of #SayHerName.

Though here for only a season

Like seeds blown prematurely

Her impact is significant.

She loved students

Guided them lovingly

As she lifted her chin and tilted her wrapped head to wonder…

What do you need?

How can I help you?

Forsaking some rules to protect the most vulnerable…

She cared.

I am reading two books:

Viral Justice and You are Your Best Thing.

Their subtexts are as important as the title banners under which they fall…

How [do] we grow the world we want and

[How can we use] Vulnerability, shame resilience and the Black experience

As a source for our health, wealth, healing, recovery and repair…

In conversation with each other, the answer rests therein…herein…in these books, on these pages…in concert and as a collection. In solidarity and digested with intention.

This thought, these lines from BB:

“When you say, ‘I don’t trust any antiracism work that doesn’t embrace and see our humanity,’ I can feel the call for love. I get it so fully right now. It’s like you’re telling us that if you don’t see the heart and the love and the humanity and the joy of the Black experience–of Black humanity–then the antiracism work is bankrupt.” (p. xx) and the response of TB:

“I don’t want to talk about how this thing really bothers me–but I need to and I can only do that with some semblance of safety. I want this book to be a soft place to land. ‘Give our humanity breathing room.'” (p. xxi).

Burke, T., & Brown, B. (Eds.). (2021). You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience. Random House.

The reminders that our ‘bodies tell stories that our mouths will never speak. A paraphrase of a subtitle on the chapter titled WEATHER…I feel this. (Benjamin, R. (2022). Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want. Princeton University Press).

The key to our health and wellness is our stories and our truths…

Purging ourselves of these pains and these hurts…

In solidarity, collection and cooperation with our selves…

We are human and want to do more than survive.

We deserve this.

Rest in peace Monique.

Reflections of Imperfect Communication

I have been thinking a lot about what I say, and how I say it, why I think it important to say anything…

Somehow, what we have learned during the last few years in isolation has not meant silence…the speeches we have heard have been loud and public in our mind, on our televisions, in our ears…the noise is deafening.

So I thought today about Rhetoric…Aristotelian varieties where ethos, logos and pathos converge…maybe answers exist there to understand this whole thing.

Ethos is the thing that gives the speaker credibility to an audience and is based on character, good will and intelligence (emotional, spiritual, multiple)

Logos has always meant “the Word” and applies to the language that establishes what is true and “good” as in logic–readable and discernible–as proof of truths

Pathos like in pathology is about the hearer…the audience…filtered through another’s life and experience

There is no way I could know what that has been…what their nature has been…what baggage they carry or how my choices of words and actions could trigger the storm that would unsettle their life…especially if I, the speaker, fall short…except my motives be pure.

Keep growing…

Brokenness: An artifact

Like this dollar left on the table

We are broken

Crumpled and torn

Battered and bitter

The singleness of a single

Standing alone

Needing and wanting but resolute in its significance

Up close you imagine the history

That from afar leaves little clue

Of the trauma and the pain

That tape and bandaids will never heal.

Stranger Danger

Being called a N*igg#!

In a strange [and strangely familiar] place

While walking on the street

Or playing on a court

Will never be okay

And is nearly impossible to forget.

While I appreciate the academics of an intervention and a strategy,

Racial trauma IS racial stress–labor, abuse, predation–and changes your life forever.

I was 21 walking on a street in Colorado by myself as a college student in a new place, by myself…on assignment to write stories about science and enjoy the freedoms my school-imbued pedigree released to me.

I was so scared in that moment, in the first week, on the second day that I could do nothing but be afraid of being by myself…on assignment…

Being my self…on assignment.

I did not have the terms or language, nor did I think or imagine ideas that were coded as:

Just fear and anxiety.

Was it my Blackness, my womanness, the boldness of my youth or some combination of all the things outside of my control, encoded in the social DNA and historical fabric of that moment only days after the uprisings that defined the 90s? Would they come for me? Who were they anyway? I could not see them, I only heard them…I do not know them. They are strangers and this is strange. How did I get here? Why am I here?

It was so terrifyingly ironic…the combined sounds of anthems from NWA and Sir Mix-a-lot swirling in the air accosted by unfamiliar voices with very familiar tones.

So many questions. No answers.

Fast forward thirty years, another girl on assignment, to play a game bearing letters and numbers of a team surrounded by people suffered the same experience…

Stranger danger

Strange fruit

Legacy lingering

Father’s & Freedom Day

On a recent trip to Harlem and to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, an exhibit called Been Seen stirred up so many emotions in me. The gallery was filled with images of us, in the past and in this moment, projecting into our future about Black Futures made stronger by our past. This picture by Ricky Day is a visual poem, a love song, from a father to a child. It reminded me of this precious relationship…a parent-child tie crafted by God.

Chase and Kendahl by Ricky Day

Fathers: grand and simple…complicated, complex, common and conceptual. They lift us–at least mine did. Not perfectly, not always steady or for a long time but for whatever moments, gazing into their eyes in joy, fear and love, fathers matter. My life was changed by this scene when I was a child lying on the floor at my grandfather’s house…watching. Watching her be born, he made a commitment, he sacrificed his freedom to secure the feeling of her (and her mother’s safety). Can you imagine that?! I can.

Kunta Kente lifting Kizzy (Stay put): Behold the only thing greater than yourself

On mother’s day, I enjoy the freedom of deciding what I do (and with whom I do it)…the choice by itself is so wonderful even if slightly scripted by the cards and text messages all day…

Nevertheless, my reason for celebrating has always prioritized making me feel loved in grand and simple ways. Prompted by adult others early on, he now happily obliges all the traditions to my gleeful and humble delight.

When I was young and naive, I used to want a man like my father who would sing to me, teach me like MusiqSoulChild and then I realized those too deny freedom. They are boxes made by fairy tales.

On father’s day, I lament the loss of my own fathers–grand, simple and complicated. They loved music and parks and playing games with us and watching us eat (treats, sweet and melty) and grow up. They enjoyed taking us on vacation and taught us how to rest.

On father’s day, I slow and steady my heart to clap for the men in my life who are fathers and father figures to me, the children we serve as teachers and loved ones in our lives. I wish you freedom of choices to spend the day enjoying with glee and delight all things big and small that keep you humble and working to be…

Love,

joy

On the last day: I A.I.M.

What do teachers do on the last day of school?

Reflect.

What is?

What did?

Who is?

Who did?

Why this? Why that?

What does this mean?

In my typical fashion, I summarize my thoughts–my why–in this way:

I aim to do better and co-operate with others as they strive to do the same.

I hope to create space for us to aim and reach our goals. But what does it mean to aim in a year when direction has felt denied…like when a global positioning signal is dropped?

I am thinking

A + I = M

Achievement plus integrity equals merit

(A-I) = M

Achievement without integrity (or artificial intelligence) is meaningless

Void of human vive, it, like a machine programmed by someone seeking truths outside of real things, suffers realities that are not real…

How do we make it better next time, this time next year?

Aim higher than achievement…

Reach for actualization instead…

Okay…for now..celebrate freedom and seek rest.

Start again when you can.

Secret Cup of Gladness

Ossie Davis, 1917 – 2005

I have loved Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis forever…

Their voices, speaking and thinking

Their presence, on stage and in life

Have always been a guide for my agency.

What does it mean to hold a secret cup of gladness?

What does it mean to drink from a secret cup of gladness?

What does it mean to imagine those words…that idea?

What a gift.

Interview on Paul Robeson

Teacher Activism as Self Care

Early in this school year, I was questioned about what I wanted my legacy to be…

The question took me into a private place of wondering…what did I want my legacy to be in a year of “unprecedented” everything…

Today, on a day of sanctioned teacher self-care, I chose to act with other teachers in the middle of the street with a hand-made sign, tee-shirt and my voice…lifting the weight of a world by raising my arms…

I am not like the sheroes who I have admired all my life

Ella Baker

Anna Julia Cooper

Ida B. Wells

Pauli Murray

Fannie Lou Hamer

But today, I understand them better…I feel the triumph of their legacy.

For the first time this week, since Tuesday, I am able to act without tears…without crying…without rage, not without pain but certainly with a clear(-er) purpose.

Rest in peace to all victims of gun violence

Rest in power to all those who have worked for change

Ode to Trayvon: Mother to Son MMXXII

I can’t imagine

How she feels, how she felt…

When she heard…

She watched him grow and appreciated his swagger

His quirks and his smirks…she knew them as she knew him. They were probably familiar and uniquely shared.

When I look at you, now 22, I feel her pain, even after 10 years.

So this I say to you..me to thee…

Mother to Son,

Shine.

I love you, I hear you, I see you,

You matter

Your joys and your pains…matter.

Keep your head up even when you’re down…

A life built on concrete, sitting on bricks, will never be easy but don’t worry,

Hard is not the enemy.

Ignorance is.

Crystal stairs have never been worth the price to keep them

from being dirty, just to be clean or

saved from being broken.

Taken at Philadelphia Protest: Justice for Trayvon (2012), 12 years old
“Historically Speaking” a moderated discussion with Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother): 5/24/22