Friday, December 14, 2012

...i wrote this for them.

1 Someone’s child wanted ice cream after school today.
2 Two more had a sleepover planned, and were finally going to convince dad to put the tent up in the den.
3 Another was to spend the weekend with grandma listening to her favorite old stories.
4 Maybe another was promised a trip to the movies, if he’d done well on his math test today.
5 Someone had plans to create

her Christmas wish list this evening.
6 Another was hoping her list was still valid after getting in trouble yesterday.
7 Their birthdays are next week, and they couldn’t wait.
8 Their birthdays were last week, and they were giddy from the fun.
9 He was just getting better at tying his shoes.
10 He loved sitting next to his teacher and watching her write his name.
11 She wanted to help her mom bake cupcakes to bring to school next Friday before winter break.
12 After three months, she was finally getting used to the idea of leaving Mommy and Daddy and coming to school for half the day.
13 In six months, he would’ve gotten skipped to the second grade because he was so bright.
14 In nine months, they would’ve been ready to present their science projects at the competition.
15 Next year, someone would’ve started flag football, or soccer, or ballet, or chess club.
16 In sixth grade, she would’ve been the city wide spelling bee champion.
17 In twelfth grade, he was to be valedictorian with a scholarship to the school of his choice.
18 They were going to be parents remembering their first year in kindergarten as they dropped their child off for her first day at Sandy Hook Elementary….

Rest in Peace, children.
I'm thinking of you, we're all thinking of you. ♥

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


After watching President Obama and Mitt Romney's debate, and hearing Romney try to sale the "benefit" of Self Deportation, my funny bone got inspired (cause you know I think I'm funny sometimes!)


[Automated message] "Thank you for calling the United States Self-Deportation Department. To proceed in English, please press 1. Para continuar en Espanol, oprima numero dos."

[Woman presses number]

Self -Deportation Agent: "Yes, thank you for calling Self-Deportation. How may I assist you here at U.S.S.D.D."

Woman: "I'd like to file a claim."

SDA: "A self-deportation claim? Yes, ma'am. On what grounds?"

Woman: "I'd like to deport myself as soon as possible. My kids are bad as hell and my husband is a jerk. My mother in law is here illegally as well and has been staying with us for nine years, along with her sister, my brother, his wife, their kids-- my nieces and nephew, my children and our daughter's chihuahua."

SDA: "...nephew...children...and daughter's.... chihuahuah. Check. Okay, and when would you like to leave?"

Woman: "My bags are already packed. As a matter of fact, I'm on my cell calling you from the parking lot right now. When is the next plane, train or boat leaving?"

SDA: "Well, ma'am, it will take six weeks to process your Self-Deportation form, and then another two to three months before we could schedule you a ticket for transportation out of the country because so many people have been volunteering to 'self deportate'. We aren't able to accommodate the increase in 'self-deporting' candidates at the moment."

Woman: "Daggone it!..... Well, can I pay an extra fee to expedite the service?"

SDA: "I'm sorry, ma'am. Expedited service for Self-Deportation is only available to exclusive parties. You will have to stay in the country until a space becomes available for you to leave."

Woman: "[Sigh] Okay... Should I try back in a few weeks?"

SDA: "Sure ma'am, six to eight weeks. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"

Woman: "No."

SDA: "Well, you go on back home. And thank you for calling Self-Deportation! Good day!"

--And SCENE--

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This Song, It Holds Our Youth

This is a poem I wrote for the Sounds for Sierra Leone Project last summer and had the pleasure of performing at a benefit that the organization hosted to raise funds and awareness last summer:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

To BE a Pan Am Blackbird! (We should all be so lucky!)

Pan American Black Birds
discussion panel @ Maysles Cinema

So, I'm officially (and, to be frank) jealously inspired by the fabulous life-changing experiences that the Pan Am Blackbirds shared last night of their time as flight attendants (Stewardesses!) with Pan American Airlines in the early 1970's through the 1980's. I've always had a hankering to see the world by means of globe trotting and even tried to become a flight attendant with a few airlines about eight or nine years ago. Now I realize, however, that I probably would not have had the same level of glamor and sophistication that these ladies experienced during the glory years of working for an airline like Pan Am!

I won't attempt to re-tell all of the stories they shared last night, because I would be doing their anecdotes a disservice. I will, however, revel on the highlights of what they shared, and gush over why I am SO INSPIRED!

I am ever-intrigued that these women, many of whom were college students or graduates, decided to take a chance on an unlikely career choice that catapulted them into the most fascinating of uncharted territories with Pan Am in the year of 1969. There weren't many African Americans being hired at the time, so these women were most certainly trailblazers in the truest since. Decisions were made to postpone college in order to take flight, and it was in this choice that they gained the most valuable experiences that they eventually took back to university and moved on to second careers (and family life) along the way.

The sistas were definitely fierce and as classy as they come last night during the panel! They spoke of favorite shopping and eating in Rome, dating in Tehran, favorite beaches in Sao Paulo, days off in Tokyo, Morocco, and Kinshasa... They spouted off international routes and airline flights as if explaining transit bus and train schedules! They remarked on the commonality of appearance with people of color all over the world ("We are NOT minorities!"), and how nobody talks about the darker complexioned folks in places that are not known for darker skin like Iran where one of the Blackbirds had to try to convince military that she was in fact Black American and not Iranian. They were candid about how White Americans received them at the time in the early 70's, many of whom WANTED them to be something OTHER than Black American, making them Latina or Jamaican or from Martinique or somewhere more exotic than the US east coast or south. One said that a woman asked how she came to speak English so well, and she replied that it was a result of her parents and the Philadelphia school system! But, in all regards, they represented their culture as Black women to the fullest extent and advocated many rights for the women, black American and African, being hired into PanAm after them.

I think my FAVORITE stories were of how many of them came to meet husbands from THE Continent along the journey!! As one woman put it, "I decided there were no Black men for me in America, so IMPORTED my husband from Senegal!" Another spoke of researching her roots all over Africa which led to meeting a husband who is Ethiopian, while another spoke of her late husband who was a part  of the Liberian government, I believe it was. I heard stories of being in other parts of the world and coming across a brotha and deciding that it would be worth the evening's adventure to meet up for dinner and drinks! And yet another Blackbird told the story of how she developed a friendship with one of the Black pilots who was also on the panel which blossomed into a love affair many years later, and now they are husband and wife! To hear of the their courtship alone is enough to make anyone swoon with envy!  (Well, certainly me, anyway!)

And even though I am awe-inspired by their whimsical tales of jet-setting through a charmed life in the 70s and 80s, what I take to heart and what has really increased my own confidence are their subsequent chapters upon leaving Pan American Airlines. What I LOVE about these women were that ALL of them, the ones on the panel, went on to complete their bachelors degrees, obtain professional degrees, and had/have outstanding careers in nursing, law, education, banking, and international social services. One, a fellow Howard University graduate,completed her MBA and was appointed by President Clinton to an Ambassador ranked position as US Executive Director of the African Development Bank. One completed her Doctorate of Education and is currently the Director of Educational Outreach at the Harvard Medical School. One mentioned that she got not one but TWO law degrees and is now retired from practicing International Law. Another is retired from the nursing profession where she got her Masters in an OB-GYN related specialty. And yet another is the director of a non-profit that assists the elderly. THESE WOMEN have taken ambition and life experience to the ultimate maximum, and are still making room for new chapters in their lives.

I left there so full of inspiration that I was near tears (happy tears!) at the possibility of what else there is to encounter in my own life! THEY have crafted a masterful blueprint of what it means to be a trailblazer and create a path just by following instinct and opportunity. They had no idea when they took that stewardess job back in 1970 (and the years to follow) that they'd be creating a life that would inspire wide-eyed dreamers like myself! It wasn't in the cards for me to be a flight attendant (I called my mom and told her I wish I had been born in 1947 so that I could be graduating from college in '69 and become a stewardess for Pan Am!), but I will continue to live the adventure that has MY name on it, adding more stamps to my passport with each passing season!

The evening ended on a brilliant note, and each of the women said that they are currently collaborating to write an anthology memoir of their experiences. I would hope that this panel discussion could turn into a major motion picture documentary characterizing their stories. We have seen so many films and tv series told from various perspectives about moments in mainstream history, and yet sometimes the stories told (and re-told) about Black Americans are SO LIMITED in scope. If more young, and quite frankly older people heard the true life accounts that these Pan Am Blackbirds were sharing, I really believe it would underscore and enlighten the view that there is no one way to achieve success in this life! CHASE the adventure, and it will create THE PATH you are meant to lead!

I dedicate this favorite song of mine "Blackbird" to the FIERCE and classy Pan American Blackbirds! I REALLY am thankful to have met them and can't wait to hear more about their journeys in the skies and beyond!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

once upon a time...

there was a boy who i'd talk to every day by phone, or chat, or text, or face to face, for hours and days at a time....... and we became great friends, and close confiandantes... and eventually became passionate lovers of all things "us"..... and i loved him unconditionally, for many years, just because at one point, he'd talk to me about any and everything, every day. and i liked him.

.........i'd love for something like that to happen again. at some point.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

What the -Anisa Effect- has taught me.

I've had a little over 24 hours to process Anisa's passing, and it's going to take a lot more to really come to grips with the loss of her being, despite understanding how ferocious the monster Cancer can be. You see, Anisa is one of those stars that shone bright yet hung low enough to embrace every day; she was the type of star that if you bothered to leave your house with the intentions to enjoy a musical evening under the glow of the moon, surely somewhere in the city, Anisa was to be found SHINING. And THAT is the poignancy of her life. It is what I'll always cherish of her memory.

I spent the waking hours of last night really analyzing what our friend Augi called her ---> relentless DRIVE <--- to continue doing what she loved: Being on stage singing R&B. Even before ever becoming aware of her fate with cancer, Anisa's DRIVE was ridiculous! It only took a thought, and sometimes very little planning, and Anisa was DOING IT! Over the late 90's and up until recently, she was able to collaborate with what can be considered an All Star lineup of NYC's indie-music artists; it'd take all day to list the various musicians, MCs and singers this girl has worked with in her life!! Where I fit in is small scale, a fleeting moment even: 

A few years ago, Anisa hosted an open mic that our friend Nate brought to the Five Spot in Brooklyn; during those years, I, along with Augi, would sing a lot of the background vocals for and with Anisa and the many artists that graced the Five every Wednesday during that time period. And thus was the beautifully FUN Soul F'Real open mic showcase; in those glorious days (as my memory would have it), we truly lived Wednesday to Wednesday for the joy of what went on during our shows and working with everyone. I was, by far, -not- the best singer in that room, ever, BUT I so cherish how I was able to find my voice, groove and comfortable spot on the stage as a result of Anisa and Augi's encouragement. And I love how I've grown as a singer because of the seeds planted during that time. I struggle with wondering, now, did I actually TELL HER the degree to which I appreciated the time we regularly worked together..... (Every now and then, people come up to me in Brooklyn, some I recognize and some I don't, saying, "Hey, I used to come by the Five Spot every Wednesday a few years ago and see you guys! How's Anisa???" Those moments will now be bittersweet, but mostly sweet.)

Soul F'Real, however, is only one project of a LONG LIST of showcases, collaborations, recordings and jam sessions that Anisa did in her short life. Had cancer not stricken her, I know for a fact that the list of performances and recordings would have only continued. And, again, I point this out because I'm really understanding Anisa's drive to do what she loved on THIS side of the circumstance.

For me, I think that while her acclaim and the level of professional opportunities she reached may not be as far reaching as many of her peers and collaborators, Anisa has consistently been working at her craft, goals and desires in a way that made NOT SINGING a non-option. At the point where Anisa had an idea, before you knew it, she'd hustled up a location and a band, and #BOOM flyers were out! At the point where creative differences perhaps occurred, Anisa would find other opportunities to do what she wanted on other stages. It's like she knew that there is no shortage of stages in NYC! When I think of many of the indie singers I've come across over the years, Anisa comes to mind with having sang background for them or been featured on their recordings. 

Besides the Soul F'Real memories, which are eternally legendary in my mind, my favorite memory of helping Anisa push a vision through was the Christmas Soul Carolers idea in 2008! While certainly there were unforgettable moments along with questionable moments during our little experiment in caroling with Anisa (!!!!!!!), what was so admirable was that she literally MADE IT HAPPEN with a simple vision to sing for New Yorkers and tourists in Times Square, had the group record three songs despite having no budget, and had tons of the -Tis The Season Joy- throughout the whole experience... and the five of us will never forget that time with her. That steady JOY & OPTIMISM in her spirit that will follow as a part of her overall legacy. (AND the smile.... and the laugh.... and the dancing.... and the beatboxing!)

So, Anisa's legacy is inspirational to me because it represents having the wherewithall to DO what you create in your mind to do, and to leave your indelible mark on the world (Much like the HU sister we lost only days ago, Kibibi Dillon, another glowing yet embraceable STAR who left the world much too soon). They are teaching me that you --DO--, not simply because someone asked you to do it, but because you KNOW that you were put here to DO it. Anisa has also taught me that regardless of whether connections with musical collaborators last long-term or not, there's ALWAYS someone else or another incarnation of that connection or project or partner to get creative work done, or to simply re-connect later on different, more progressive terms; there's always someone who will listen to what it is you want to do with them, and give you the opportunity to DO IT, either with them or in their establishment, or where EVER. It's not like I didn't realize this before she passed away, I totally know this, but it is underscored and emboldened in my mind ever more so, now that I'm able to really survey what she did and how she did it over the past decade.

And, so... my new year's resolution is more of an affirmation of life for Anisa, and a proclamation for the things I want to do as a part of the example she's illuminated and the inspiration she's left: 

I purpose to do less THINKING about what it is I want to do, musically and creatively, and just simply DO IT. Most of my friends and loved ones include musicians, vocalists, MCs, writers, filmmakers, djs, photographers, publicists,  actors, illustrators, all kinds of creative types, educators and COUNTLESS supporters (shout out to EVERYONE in my life that I love-- which is basically everyone!) What a joy it would be to begin a season of collaborating with them (or --YOU, dear reader!--) on projects that can contribute to the all inclusive legacy we have. So, I am putting it out there, to God, to the universe, to my friends, to my loved ones, and to those I don't know: 

Let's allow 
The Anisa Effect 
to draws us together
and create some beautiful music. <3

RIP ANISA FUJAH, and thank you.

.....KEEP SHINING.......

<3 <3 <3

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Anisa, rest in power

there's so much to say, but for now, i'll just listen.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meet the family of the 2yr old Freestyle Phenom from Youtube!

Late last week, the impressive video of a baby boy in London only two years old with a brilliant freestyle flow went viral on YouTube. The video, showing little Khaliyl Iloyi flowing his way into the hearts of hip-hop and baby lovers worldwide, was uploaded in late November and will soon have over a million hits!

What I love is that lil Khaliyl is going HARD with his, but I'm sure everyone's question is, WHERE HE GET THAT FLOW FROM????

Apparently, not only was he born with the gift, but his older brother, Kieyen, also has a golden mic in his hand! Here he is at age 3 spittin' a verse that seems like it's fiyah (if only I could understand everything he was saying)!! I know what' s really up though, @1:57 he declares "Nobody can test me now!!" And you know what... I BELIEVE HIM! Although, I kind of want to see Khaliyl and Kieyen battle it out on the playground!!! LOL!

These two lil toddler griots are the products of love from parents Femi Iloyi and Roucheon Iloyi. I haven't been able to find out much about who they are, but it seems they are indie artists/MC and songstress, holding it down on the London scene.

One cut from the mom, Roucheon, called "Midnight Melody" I'm really digging. I think it was produced by her husband, but I'm not entirely sure. It's got a summertime, party time cookout vibe to it! Definitely a headbob, bounce rock skate vibe, indeed!

And lastly, the father of the tiny prodigy MCs is Femi Iloyi! I watched this video of him with the older son highlighting their READING LIST which included Holocaust for Beginners, Africa for Beginners, Black Women for Beginners, The Making of Our President Barack Obama, and The Making of Our First Lady Michelle Obama. They also explain how they love comics and graphic novels: "We're a comic family," Femi says before showing a book called Black People in Comics. "We're comic fanatics, but most of all we love history books." I can dig it!

Femi stresses how important it is to read with your children, and clearly that is the first step to having brilliant lil two and three year old MCs with the illest freestyle worldwide, hands down!

CHEERS to the Iloyi family! I am really, really impressed. And I think the world is as well!!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Love Story: World's AID's Day edition

Love and HIV: Couples forge relationships despite challenges

November 30, 2010|By Deborah L. Shelton and Dahleen Glanton, Tribune reporters

Kathy Jacobs-McLoyd didn't expect to fall in love with someone with HIV. But when the man she had recently spent time volunteering with in Kenya sent her a six-page love letter, she opened up to the possibilities.

"One day early on, I turned to look at you or say something and my heart just kind of skipped a beat, it fluttered in my chest … and just as quickly rose to my throat leaving me momentarily speechless," Peter McLoyd wrote.

Within six months, they were married. Now, they are among the country's growing number of HIV serodiscordant couples — or, more simply, "magnet couples" who are attracted to each other even though one partner is positive and one is negative.

As the HIV epidemic moves into its third decade, people who are infected with the virus are living longer, healthier lives, public health officials say. As a result, they are dating, falling in love and forming families, sometimes with a partner who does not have the virus.

Their stories underscore the power of love to conquer fear. But such relationships can bring significant emotional challenges.

For the person without HIV, there is constant worry about the health of his or her loved one. For the positive partner, there is the fear of unintentionally passing on the infection. And for both, there is often anxiety about how friends and family will react to the relationship.

Jacobs-McLoyd, 56, was moved by the love letter she received, but it went unanswered for several days. She knew McLoyd had HIV — he became infected as a result of intravenous drug use about 10 years ago — and she wasn't sure she could get involved.

"Did I want to? Could I? What does this mean?" she remembers nervously asking herself.

In the end, she decided not to let a virus get in the way of love. The couple sealed their commitment with a City Hall marriage in 2004, followed the next year by a traditional African ceremony in Kenya.

"I knew him already," she said. "I knew his character; people loved him. I thought he was a good catch. He was good-looking and sexy, and I thought, 'Why not?'"

In some cases, the HIV-negative person goes into the relationship not knowing their partner is infected — either because the information is not disclosed right away or it is not yet known. The eventual disclosure can be an emotional land mine.

During the dating stage, the biggest hurdle for the HIV-positive person is when to tell the prospective partner, said Celeste Watkins-Hayes, an HIV- AIDS researcher and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

Later, as the relationship becomes more committed, couples often worry about whom to trust with the information, she said.

That issue can remain a sticking point until the couple come to an agreement about which family members and friends should be told, said Rae Lewis-Thornton, an HIV-AIDS activist in Chicago who has lived with the virus for 24 years.

"For many people, it is a difficult relationship because it comes with guilt on the infected person's part. There is always this layer of stigma and shame, which is very real in this country, particularly in the black community," said Lewis-Thornton, who was married to an HIV-negative man for four years before divorcing. "That is a barrier that must be overcome before couples get to a really good place and can be comfortable."

Joann Montes, 46, of Chicago, said her boyfriend of eight years doesn't want to tell his family she is infected. As she has become more open about it — she was featured Monday in the Tribune in a story about living with HIV — the public disclosure has put more strain on their relationship.

"We were friends before we dated and he knew about my status, that was never a problem," she said. "The problem came when other people found out we were dating. There were friends who thought it was not a good idea for him to be dating me. They made comments like: 'You can do better than that.'"

The remarks stung, especially because she was trying to come to terms with her HIV, she said.

Such couples also face the challenge of protecting the uninfected partner during sex.

"Couples have to come to an understanding about what safety means in the relationship, and they have to follow it to the letter of the law," Lewis-Thornton said. "That can be harder as you become more comfortable in the relationship. If the condom breaks in the height of sex, do you stop and risk him being angry with you?"

Debbie Rivera's husband, Mike, gets tested regularly for HIV and is uninfected, and the Chicago couple usually practice safe sex. But they agree it is a challenge.

"There are times when we're in the heat of the moment and we don't take precautions," said Debbie Rivera, 31, who tested positive for HIV in 1999. She said that because of antiretroviral medication, the amount of virus in her blood is at undetectable levels.

The chance of transmitting the virus is greatly reduced when antiretroviral drugs have lowered the amount of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for biological reasons, women are less likely to transmit the virus than men. But health experts say the virus can still be transmitted, and they recommend regular condom use.

In Illinois, more than 32,000 people are living with HIV or AIDS, according to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Chicago's HIV infection prevalence rate of 761 per 100,000 population is about three times greater than the national rate of 275 per 100,000.

"I know more and more people who are choosing HIV-infected partners," said Lora Branch, former director of the division of sexually transmitted infections and HIV at the Chicago Department of Public Health. "It's not that unusual anymore."

It is difficult to determine how many people with HIV are part of serodiscordant couples, because little research has been done, said Dr. Deborah Cohan, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California at San Francisco.

"It's a hidden population," she said.

But a study published in 2001 in the journal Family Planning Perspectives found that about half the HIV-positive men and women who were surveyed about their desire to have children reported their spouse or primary partner was HIV-negative, Cohan said.

Branch said she believes gays and heterosexuals make up an equal number of magnet couples, who span the demographic spectrum of race and class.

"The relationships that are most likely to last are ones where the healthy partner goes into it fully knowledgeable about the health risks, the medical challenges and other issues involved with being HIV-positive," said Watkins-Hayes, who is also an associate professor of sociology and African-American studies. "Those who enter these relationships unprepared for what it means are the ones most likely to fail."

The McLoyds, who live in south suburban Matteson, said they decided to be interviewed about their relationship because they wanted to tackle the stigma surrounding HIV. McLoyd is consumer development and advocacy coordinator in prevention and education at the CORE Center. Both have two children from previous relationships.

"We wring our hands about stigma," McLoyd said, speaking about advocates and people with HIV, "but we don't do anything about it. By putting a face to it, you reduce the impact."

Relaxing at home with their Great Dane, D'ogie, the McLoyds are comfortable in their relationship. But Jacobs-McLoyd had not told close family members about her husband's HIV diagnosis before agreeing to participate in this story. The thought of such a conversation caused her to take nervous, deep breaths.

"In the back of my mind, there was this fear they would treat him differently when they found out he was positive because of all the stigma," she said. "I didn't want to make a choice between family and my husband."

Jacobs-McLoyd said she sees she hadn't given her relatives enough credit. "I got really good feedback from those I've told," she said.

The McLoyds say more resources should be available to support couples in their situation, and they want to form a support group.

Jacobs-McLoyd said that although she fights the urge to be overprotective about her husband's health, the couple's relationship is more typical than not.

"(HIV) doesn't define who we are," Jacobs-McLoyd said. "We are just a married couple like any other couple.