Contact in Context: The Highs and Lows of Intercultural Communication

Reflections on the Stand Against Racism (April 2018)

As poetry month comes to an end, I find it rather poetic that like many other calendar memorials, I choose to color outside of the lines presented. In forming allies within and without the community where I serve, I am challenged to be precise in my use of language…knowing the difference between contact and context. Tangentially related, treated as synonymous (on occasion) but so, vastly, different.

High contact reflects close proximity, the thought makes me claustrophobic. There is no need for words (context–verbal cuing) when somehow the chemistry of closeness helps you discern exactly what is meant by your nearest neighbor, friend or relative. I reflect on row homes and projects where the fragrance of sin and satisfaction permeate corridors and building frames…for years. I know what you did, last night, last month, last year. I know your habits because, well, I can hear it, smell it and even taste it in the air.

High context reflects the need to absolutely use the standards and conventions of language to convey an idea. The manipulative way that you say “I am so confused” or “I don’t understand” govern the discourse…always. If it is not stated explicitly, it might as well not be said.


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Spelman As Birthplace

What many don’t know is that I was born in a small laboratory on the campus of Spelman College. Not the student but the teacher…

An assistant like a birthing coach, bringing life forward from a womb prepared for the journey.

Fertile like the crescent, I Am EGO Tripping like Nikki, turning myself into myself I have become joy.

“Sistah, what does this mean?”

The first question on the first day forced me to turn soil, uncover diamonds in the rough, mine precious metals–tough from tumble–pump oil and uranium as energetic as the sun.

Every symbol, every note, singing with the strength of that circle.


Like a miner’s tool carving answers to the brokenness that comes from failure, until the next day when water reveals the jewels, the treasure.

Like gold only better.

Life-giving, sustaining.

Like water.

Flow and hustle…one and the same.



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Effect. No Affect.

You are more than what you do.

You are what I feel.



Sweet like kissed lips.



Bitter like truth.

No domino, just Morton…like the salt of the ocean on a warm and rainy day.

What you do to make me take my medicine…

Like Nikki said in “A Good Cry”

Like what it is

“If I have to hospital”

“The medicine for love is sex” but I don’t want to be cured in spite of my desire to receive your treatment.

Are you real or can I expect to be changed by your placebo affect?

Not domino

Just Morton

Though sweet, not salty

Just loving on purpose and anticipating the end of this here trial.

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Where I’m From

Shadows cast by cemetery trees and skyscrapers…

Hot dog trucks along grassy greens.

City pools, train tracks and Edison’s old factory

Black Maria down the street

Super fund site in, my backyard

Next door neighbors’ grape vines sprawling over an almost unwired fence.

Two mile wild walk from the promise of well integrated schools where grateful families bused their children to greatness…

Hot pressed hair after choir rehearsal for white dress and badges on Sunday. Thank you Lord for hymnals falling apart in the pew. Lights flickering in the fellowship hall from foot-stomping joy above.

Lights out, kerosene and cornbread too salty…too sweet. Yellow like cake, not white, like right…with buttermilk and love stirred by hand with bacon grease from the can on the side of the stove.

Where’s daddy? Why daddy? Mommy when?

Subways screeching, escalator rolling, conductor mumbling


Sit down girl, get up baby, pancakes steaming love.

Where I’m from, we love on purpose, play on purpose, talk on purpose, walk on purpose, take on purpose…

Wearing her on our shoulders like grandma’s fox-faced stole.

From Brick City to O’Jays’ home, Jackie Gleason’s school across the street, Latimer’s legacy, Radon Girls, Black Girl Magic from Jersey to New York, Ohio to North Carolina…I’m from good, bad and wonderful.

Black love and joy.

One parent, two parent, three parent



Work done to grow me and show me God’s love and pure mercy.

Over dinner,

Over Roots,

Over Good Times,

Where I’m from…

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Black and Blue

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 7.20.41 AM

For Officer T, Officer L, Officer F

…may your feet be shod with the gospel of peace…

What do you do when you are both Black and Blue?

Black Lives Matter.

Do blue lives matter

When they are Black?

War-scarred flesh, not torn but swollen

Cells battered by unimaginable abuse

Bruised by flogging

Inside and out.

How do we-they protect and serve in our community when we are asked to protect our enemies? Within. Without.

Inside and out. The forces battling…





Are our enemies protecting our right to serve…our community?

What does a Black officer do when she stands between two, three, four, more…systems?







Blind justice does not exist when you see.

Thoughts and prayers

Taps and serenades

Are not enough for those of us who are blue and Black: civilian, officer–be civil, officer…please.

Blue. Confused. Angry. Sad. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. Depressed.

Black. Skin. In the Game. Music. Love. Matters.

Yes. We need more PEACE officers in the communities being over-policed.

Servants prepared to stand in solidarity with what is right, dismissing their own fears in the face of significant hurt. We are not feral. We are not rabid. We are scared…so we run. You have run, so you know the sensation of panic Black Boy. Be BIGGER



Change will come.


Change will come.

Gun violence is married to police violence. Inextricably linked in fact in a way that fear and faith are two sides of the same coin.

What do you do when they come for you? We are not bad. We are scared. We want to live…today, tomorrow, next year…so we can see change. Fatal force at the hands of those who did not serve us well.

Laquan McDonald, Chicago, 16 times

Stephon Clark, Sacramento, 20 times

Today’s shootings are yesterday’s lynchings.

Make no mistake.

What do you do when you are both Black and Blue?




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Class of 1992


Torn…between the major and the minor


Challenged…by the debate between Black man and Black woman


Thomas on top of the




Applied…to be judged by those who don’t know me but need me to be present


Torn…between old and new


Challenged…by the Black boy and Black girl


Myself after being



Torn…heart between midnight and noon


Challenged…by the Black college and the not


Torn…away from childhood for something else


Challenged…by the tassel toss




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Idea of

Contentment today…

Honored by your


Energy and


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