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Archive for the tag “black writer”

Why We Must Not Go Quietly…

“Yeah, we’re gonna tear it up/ We gonna trash it up/ Gonna round it up/

Gonna shake it up/ Oh no no no, I will not lie down/

Turn this thing around/ I will not go quietly…” –Don Henley

When, Black America, did we go hoarse? When did we become so consumed with Being Mary Jane and rocking 2 Chainz that we could allow our community to be subject to this country’s greatest Scandal? When did we become so afraid of discomfort that we would allow ourselves to be comfortable with injustices that plague our daily lives and our well-being?

And this isn’t just about Michael Brown’s cold blooded murder and Darren Wilson’s exoneration.  This isn’t just about Tamir Rice and our boys’ inability to play cops and robbers with toy guns in a neighborhood park. This isn’t just about the acquittal of George Zimmerman, or the choke hold that killed Eric Garner, or the conviction of Marissa Alexander for telling her abuser to back off with a warning shot.

Oh, it is much bigger than this.

This is about voter ID laws in Southern states– laws that serve to reenact a new Jim Crow era by disproportionately disenfranchising black folks, immigrants and formerly incarcerated men and women from using their voices at the polls. This is about Republican governors’ refusal to expand Medicaid in half of the states across this country, once again disproportionately affecting the accessibility to affordable healthcare in impoverished and underserved communities full of people who are dark like me or who speak languages too foreign for the GOP to care about.  This is about crack carrying heavier charges than cocaine and about what kind of trouble weed in the hood could get you versus pot in the suburbs.  This is about HIV growing fastest among people of color than any other group. This is about an entire nation blatantly disrespecting our President on all fronts because he is a Black man.

And yet, there has never been a time when our people have acted as cowardly as they do today.  Are we so distracted by raunchy rap music and ratchet reality TV that we have forgotten ourselves?  Are we so busy filling the pews of mega-churches that we can no longer preach about our rightful place in this world? Are we so enamored by Facebook posts, Instagram images and Twitter tweets that we do not read in black and white the words of Garvey, Washington, X, Davis, King?—Because they still ring true today.  Oh, yes—their words still ring true today.

And they would not have gone quietly, lying down and allowing the powers that be to walk all over us so we can feel a false sense of peace.  They would not have sat in front of their televisions, lit up with scenes from protests and peace rallies, and pray for it all to blow over soon.  Because it will not blow over soon.

Today, we are more powerful than we have ever been. With social media, cell phones and greater solidarity across color lines than ever before, we have the potential to mobilize, organize and create a force to be reckoned with.  This is not the time to be quiet, to be cowardly, to be fearful.  We must be strong, vigilant, active and brave if we are to pursue fight for justice.  It is time for us to stop living off of yesterday’s legacy and start building up our own.

“We must organize for the absolute purpose of bettering our condition, industrially, commercially, socially, religiously and politically. We must organize, not to hate other men and women, but to lift ourselves, and to demand respect of all humanity. Our goal is not to create offense on the part of other races, but to be heard and to be given the rights to which we are entitled.  We must determine among ourselves that all barriers placed in the way of our progress must be removed, must be cleared away for we desire to see the light of a brighter day.”Marcus Garvey, an excerpt from “The Future as I See It.” (I took liberties and heavily edited, revised and modernized this excerpt– and I take full responsibility for it.)

How to Make Noise? Contact and get involved with these organizations:

POWER

PURP (People Utilizing Real Power)

National Action Network

PICO National Network

NAACP

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Grave

Day 7. For Granny. November 2012

Yesterday I learned
That death is cold and gray.
Facing stone
Kneeling on new grass
Arms outstretched
And splayed fingers
Reaching for what my soul
Had lost.
I brought no gifts
I performed no ancient rituals
Nor did I recite religious rants
For the lost.
I only sat
Sinking into broken earth
the wind washing over me
Offering my tears
For all that is no more.

Sister Girlfriends

Day 6. Excerpt from “Same-Sex Spirituality” an essay from the “Faith and Bullshit” collection. Circa 2011.

She had a lot to drink at the party and it has become pretty typical for her to get into some type of funk once the music stops and she has to move from dim-lit dance floors to concrete sidewalks to the carpet in her bedroom, a new mood unveiling itself along the way.  But tonight she is more contemplative than usual.  She and her partner of four years recently ended their stint and it’s obvious that the idea of her ex-girlfriend dating men and moving on makes her feel empty.

We arrive at her house, sloppily climb the stairs and fall on the bed.  Any other night, she is rambling off obscenities and spewing slurred lyrics that make us both laugh until sleep overtakes us.  But not now.  We lay in bed fully clothed.  Close.  The sole light source comes from beyond the windows and the quiet is interrupted only by the swoosh-swoosh of cars on Broad Street and the low hum of the miniature heater that we turned on to knock out the 2am March morning chill that hovered in the room.

I am fading to sleep.  I turn over first to make sure she is already dozing before allowing myself to slip into slumber.  She is staring up at the ceiling.  In the darkness, I see her lashes move with each blink, but otherwise her eyes are wide open.  I turn my body towards hers and move closer, resting my chin on her shoulder.

“What’s wrong, Pumkin?” I ask her through her dreadlocks which are splayed across the pillow.

“I’m sad, Nique.” The sniffles begin and the tears follow. “I miss her.  And I hate this dating shit.  And I don’t feel like I can talk to anybody about how I feel,” she managed between heaves.

“Awww, Pumkin,” I kiss her wet cheek and taste the salt on my lips. “You can always talk to me.  I’m here.”

I wrap my arm snugly around her. She tilts her head to rest on my forehead and continues to cry.  She doesn’t acknowledge my offer tonight and we say nothing more before going to sleep.

Cigarettes and Oil

Day 5. Circa 2010.

He holds the cigarette in his hand, a stream of smoke ascending from the lit tip.  It’s halfway done, even though he has only taken two draws from it.   It burns between his fingers more than it burns between his lips and, at this moment, I wish I smoked so I could take a few hits on it to both taste the wetness he leaves on the paper and to ease my angst about the wastefulness of the thing.

Why do I care? I think to myself.  After all, no one wants anyone to smoke these days with ubiquitous posters and billboards screaming:  “YOUR CIGARETTE KILLS THE AIR AND UNBORN BABIES!” Perhaps I too should preach about the atrocities of burning up an American Spirit and blowing its smoke out your mouth.   That’s not my thing, though—I leave that for the environment freaks and fault-finding Christians.

I inhale the secondhand smoke that mingles with the scent of his body which smells of sandalwood or patchouli, likely a fragrance oil that he purchased from some Muslim guy who sells them on a North Philly street or in an underground subway car.

Who can resist an aromatic roll of scented oil from the strange hand extended to you on your commute from City Hall to Cecil B. Moore?  You know this guy in the long robe and short pants makes a living from these miniature vials and if you have a five dollar bill, you hand it to him—still crumpled from your pants pocket—and watch a smile appear somewhere between the bushy beard on his chin and the knit kufi pulled over his brow.  With this, he uses both hands to place the small bottles in your palm, gives a hearty thanks and then glides over to the other passengers, occasionally bidding “Salaam-ailakum” to the burka-covered woman or other bearded brother dressed just like him.      

I am thankful for those pious palm-holding, vial-selling, subway peddlers when I am in his presence.  I am even thankful for menthol Newports, Marlboro soft packs, and Camel Lights when he’s around.  If he ever asks if the smoke bothers me, I would tell him how hopeful I am that the scent of his cigarette stays with me until I arrive home and get in bed—just let the smell of smoke ascend above my head and form a halo around me as I sleep. 

Or I would just say to him, “No, it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Confession in a Parked Car

Day 4. a poetry class journal entry. Circa 2009

 

There is only stale air and failed words

Between us

There has been no truth for days

Now silence

Endless deliberation

Be honest or tell lies?

Lies

That have fallen flat for days

And widened the chasm

Between us

He sits up straight

Separated

only by the inches

Between us

Steering wheel in hand,

His head low,

He confessed.

I cried.

Four months apart

Had been too long.

Of Silent Types

Day 3. Poetry. Circa 2009.

Lately,

I have tried to refrain

from saying I love you

and, instead, be like you.

Lately, I see

that love ain’t about

the words formed

in my mouth

or in cursive

on little lime-green post-its

that I have placed

in your brown bagged lunch with chips,

but on your face

and in your eyes

when you pick me up

on rainy days.

One God. Same God.

Day 2. This is an excerpt from my senior thesis work,

a collection of essays titled “Faith and Bullshit.” Circa 2011.

There is no light outside the window when he begins to move restlessly in bed—only an orange glow that spills onto the carpet and against the walls from the lamppost across the street.  I finally feel his warmth slipping away as he slowly peels back the comforter and sheets, careful not to disturb me.  It is minutes from sunrise and Hasan has to make his first salat.   He slips into a pair of shorts and t-shirt and tiptoes to the bathroom to make wudhu before he makes his prayers.  I lie awake in bed, silent as if still asleep, and listen to the way the water moves in the bathroom: the steady stream from the faucet to the basin intermittently interrupted by his cupped hands scooping water to his face, around his arms, and on top of his head—and then the squeaky turn of the knob to close the water valve.  He shuffles out of the bathroom, feeling his way through darkness until he reaches his designated place of prayer—a little area in the corner of the bedroom that allows him to face the Ka’abah.

 He begins the series of movements that accompany his prayer routine—takbir, ruku, qiyaam, sujud, jalsah—as he utters the rhythmic, foreign words from his mouth, his monotone voice sounding musical at certain intervals of his recital.  I am completely awake in bed now, eyes fixed on the ceiling, pondering when and how I would get on my knees and make my own petitions to God.  I decidedly keep my place after convincing myself that Hasan is hardly worried about who is holier than who—that was usually my role in our relationship.

After several minutes, Hasan completes his sura and, for a brief moment, there is stillness in the room.  The morning light has finally rested on the pillows and throughout the house and I am able to clearly make out Hasan’s silhouette as he disrobes before rejoining me under the sheets.  My body is considerably warmer than his now, so he pulls me close—my back to his chest and one of my breasts already cradled in his palm.  I feel his humid breath on the nape of my neck before he settles his lips there to whisper a sweet and sensual “good morning” which will serve as his invitation to commit today’s first sin.

It wasn’t long before meeting Hasan that I had settled into my own religious walk— the original faith of my childhood now repackaged and reintroduced as a personalized adult version of Christianity.  This new and improved God wanted to be my friend, my father and was described with words like patient, forgiving, full of grace which were different from the harsher and more familiar terms like angry, wrathful, and jealous.  While it seemed so much easier to worship this nice God, it was often just as bewildering to have once been plagued with legalistic checks and balances to now only be covered in the “blood of the Lamb,” once and forever after repentance. The Presbyterian doctrine of today seemed so different from the Pentecostal gospel of my youth.

Yet I never revealed such ambivalence about my beliefs to Hasan.  Instead, we engaged in stimulating conversations about our respective faiths—he maintained that there was only one God, and both Muslims and Christians served the same God, while I insisted that his religion lacked the vital component of recognizing Jesus Christ as Savior of mankind and ultimately the channel through which one reached salvation.  Hasan would allow me to say my piece before he offered a reassuring smile, sometimes lifting my hands to his lips before speaking again. After a long pause he would respond softly, “Zenique, the truth will find you.”

My Own Affirmation

I believe that when I return to Africa, I will write my best work.  I will write one story or many of them that will be as notable as the works of Morrison, Walker, Kincaid, Bambara.  I will breathe life back into Black Literature.  I feel it in my bones and I know I will do this—like Chimamanda Adichie knew she could write an American novel; like Natasha Tretheway knew she could produce Pulitzer-winning poetry; Like Edwidge Danticat knew she could write beautifully when representing two, and sometimes three, different lands.   I will do this work and you will one day count my name amongst those who are aforementioned here.  I just need you to believe with me.

 

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