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.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday's love story

Today's story of love at first encounter that inspired me............ for better or for worse, sooner, or later, love is on the way!

Love blooms in Zuccotti Park: Protesting Occupy Wall Street lovebirds tie the knot

Activists met at protest in September

Originally Published: Sunday, November 13 2011, 1:27 PM

Two lovebirds who met protesting Wall Street in Zuccotti Park tied the knot Sunday morning at a humble ceremony in a small corner of the ongoing demonstration.

In front of about a dozen friends and onlookers, Emery Abdel-Latif, 24, and Micha Balon, 19, held a traditional Muslim wedding on Trinity Place and Liberty Street, perched on a small bench next to the park's famous sculpture of a seated man with a briefcase.

“We have to be able to understand truly how unique this relationship is,” said Khalid Latif, the chaplain at New York University who married the eager duo.

“You have been given a deep blessing today,” he said.

The two activists met in September when they were trying to find a space in the crowded park to pray. They immediately hit it off.

A month later, they both knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together - without delay.

“We met here and it’s cheap. We don’t have to pay anything,” said the giddy bride, dressed in a white skirt and blouse with a small cloak.

“I'm really glad God has granted me someone who cares about people in this world other than himself.”

Balon, a Hunter College student from Staten Island studying human rights and Middle East studies, said marrying in Zuccotti Park’s “sacred space” ensured their life together was starting on the right note.

“This is a good way not to make the marriage about ourselves,” she said. “We are fighting for equality here. This is a great way to start off our marriage.”

Abdel-Latif, a prospective law student from West Chester County, Pa., said Balon changed his life.

“I'm not sure I believed in love before I met her,” he said. “She's the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

After they sealed the deal, the small crowd applauded and the couple scrambled to take wedding photos amid the sea of tents.

“I think it’s a cute love story - one of the cutest I've ever heard,” said Quainat Zaman, 19, a college friend of Balon’s.

In another part of the park, a huge phalanx of volunteer doctors and nurses dispensed free flu shots to protect the protesters with winter looming.

“We're getting 99 doctors and nurses here to help the 99%,” said Dr. John Jacoby with Physicians for a National Health Program. “We are here to say that everyone needs health care.”

Dr. Mary O'Brien, who was helping out, said: “Many people here are young and healthy. We'd like to keep them that way.”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

the latest of many love stories that move me

I was encouraged by one of my favorite New Yorkers to create a scrapbook collection of the truest of true love stories that I happen come across..... You see, I'm voracious for these type of anecdotes; the enviable true life accounts of two people standing at the crossroad of that ride-or-die realization, "YEAH.... you are the one for me!" And the life changing journey that ensues once they're really ready to sing that Willie Hutch hook to one another--I choose you, baby-- and mean it. (I collect these stories and keep them tucked away in my mental treasure chest with hopes that I'll one day add my own enviable experience to the top of the pile.) While I haven't really gotten around to chronicling each and every one of these savored love stories I've heard (just yet, anyway), I relish in the opportunity to recount the ones that come to me and really shape the way I think about this thing called love.


Last week, I had a conversation with someone who shared this story with me:

About ten years ago, at the age of 34, I was living in Russia in the process of a bitter divorce. At the time, a very spiritual women told me that I would have a long life after I journey to another place, perhaps to another country. I did not believe her then, but here it is ten years later, and I am here in America. Looking back, I was a young women who was very upset after my divorce process and I was thinking about my life. I wanted a happy life. So, I decided to see about meeting someone on an internet dating site and I searched for men in my city. After a while I noticed that I could change the city and even the country of your search, so of course I chose America, New York City! One day while searching I saw the picture of a very nice man and looked at his profile. When he saw that I looked at his profile, he wrote me. This led to us chatting on a regular basis. And that is how our love story began.

After 9 months of chatting every day, and later talking by phone three times a day - everyday - we decided to meet. At the time, we just happened to get very bad news that he had gotten cancer, and so, for me, there was only one option. We decided to fight it - together. That's how I got to New York.

We were together for about five years,
and it was the happiest years
of my life.

But, one year ago, he died.........

After his death, I decided to become a registered nurse because I want to help people who have cancer or other diseases.....

She went on to talk about the determination she has in continuing this life here in NYC as a 44 year old widow who's trajectory changed just because she was willing to take an [extreme/life changing] chance on love.

At 34 (one and a half years older than my current age*), she was living in Russia, crushed over a marriage that did not work, unhappy and not sure what the rest of her story entailed. Someone spoke into her life that set the wheels in motion to her journey across many seas. Yet she didn't have the faith, or maybe the wherewithal that led to faith, to even know that the option this woman had spoken to her was even a possibility. And then one day, just on a whim, she changed a setting on her online dating profile which led to another whole existence one decade later. Who knew her love story would be only five or six short years. But it had such an impact beyond LOVE that not only did it bring joy ("the happiest years of my life") but it shaped who she is becoming for the duration of her journey in this life.

I've thought about this every day since hearing it. Mainly because, I'm a sucker for a precious love story; my parents have one, a few of my friends have them, I'm sent links to read about the stories involving couples I'll never meet but know through the snapshot of their love... I watch sitcoms that champion life changing love connections and daydream that I'll experience such a connection over the arc of many, many fruitful years with a warm fella who knows how to make me smile. But rarely do I think about, what if it's only five or six years that I'll have such a connection with said love before one of us is called into the next realm. (Nobody really thinks about that, right?) I mean, if such circumstance were to occur, even in the tragedy, surely it will have been worth the ride. (I am reminded of Sunshyne's short and sweet love story before going on into glory.) But it also underscores the degree to which that person you're connected with really impacts who you become in life and vice versa. To what degree is the love of your life helping to shape who you are becoming, in the most positive ways? That's a beautiful question to answer when you're with the right person.

So, from this story, I am inspired. Because it is a bonafide, legitimate love story. (Sidebar: I watched the movie "Love Story"with Ryan O'neal and Ali MacGraw about a year ago, and it had some of the same tragic yet inspiring elements....) But also because I am a witness to the impact of a person (who is no longer among the living) on their beloved, a woman who took the chance to love him back. First, in her broken limited scope of life, then from across the distance of continents, and lastly, through a major illness that ultimately took his life.

I applaud them both. And I cherish their story.

*I often jokingly, but half seriously, say that I'm such a latebloomer that I'll probably be 40 before I get ready to marry someone, let alone think about a kid, but I love how her story began at an age that I haven't even reached yet. For whatever it's worth, it just proves that there is no set time, parameters or time zones to determine when true love is going to hit you up! Werd.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's getting closer to the date that we need to move

and I'm really bummed about it. I'm trying to just suck it up and find a place for us to move to, but nothing is speaking to me. Well, us. And because of that, I would be willing to move into the house next door, even though there's all kinds of problems and issues, because at least it's on the block that I want to be on. But my brother is not keen on that idea, and based on the seeming drama around the property, my parents don't think it's a good idea either. So, the question becomes, do we leave the neighborhood altogether? Do we decide to increase our desired rent to stay in the vicinity? Do we ask for an extension to find a place (right now we have until Oct? Do we need until Dec?) Anyway..... it's all weighing too heavily on my mind, and doesn't seem to be anything my brother is worrying too much about. I mean, I find the places to look at and tell him what time we need to be there... other than that, he can basically live anywhere. I, on the other hand, have this ridiculous connection to my community, the block I live on, the park across the street. And it's just becoming too much to say, okay I am ready to walk away, because I am not. I keep looking for divine intervention, or a miracle of sorts that will determine that we do not have to pack up and leave. Or if we do, we still get to stay within a one block radius.

I guess I will just have to learn to get on with it.... You know. This needs to be done, so find a place and believe that it will be the best apartment situation for you to move into. sad right now.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturday night

When you're at home, nursing a summercold, and have been in the bed all day.....

and then gone to the neighbor's for some dinner, a bit of tea, vitamin C, and tlc.....

and then you end up back at home, in the bed... still nursing the summercold..

you wonder why there's no sweetheart around,
and start to miss that mythic companion that you hear about
that takes care of you when you're sick.

i actually physically feel a lot better than I did yesterday,
but, I still miss *somebody* being around, to make me smile.

..........oh well...... back to the interwebz i go for enjoyment.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Rest in Peace to Grandma Huxtable, Clarice Taylor

"I'm a couple of days late mentioning the passing of Clarice Taylor, who died on Monday at the age of 93, but indulge me.

Taylor played Anna Huxtable, Cliff's mother, on The Cosby Show, beginning in 1984. She and Earle Hyman, who played her husband Russell, put together quite possibly the fullest portrayal of grandparents that the half-hour sitcom has ever produced. (Clair's parents, played by jazz great Joe Williams and Ethel Ayler, showed up much less frequently but just as effectively.)

Certainly, some of the credit goes to the decision to write them as revered, rather than just daffy, and to emphasize over and over that they were not dreaded as comedy grandparents often are. They were not unwelcome nags, they were not out-of-touch bundles of fussing and fretting — they were fun, and seeing them was a treat, without any of the impatience and eye-rolling that older relatives are assumed to inspire, particularly in teenagers.

And, of course, for Russell and Anna's 49th anniversary, the family put together a musical salute that, even when television wasn't heavily analyzed episode by episode and assigned grades by a hundred different internet destinations, was an instant and widely discussed classic. (Before discussion forums and texting, that's what happened — you went to school, or to work, and everybody said, "DID YOU SEE THAT COSBY LAST NIGHT?" Hard to believe, I know.)

But for all that characters come from writers, Taylor and Hyman also brought Anna and Russell both easy good humor and tremendous dignity. They were open about struggles (especially during the civil rights movement), but they embraced their son and his family with playful affection. They were in the family, not imposed upon it. Of course, as playful as they were, as kind as they were, they were also revered and treated as treasures. (When young Theo got his ear pierced, it was his grandparents who were assumed to be the ultimate in potentially condemning authority, but they turned out to be understanding — it perfectly sums up their role, really.)

"It wasn't Taylor's only role — she also appeared on Sesame Street, and in Clint Eastwood's Play Misty For Me, and in other roles. But, not for nothing, she may have been one of the most fully formed grandmothers that a half-hour comedy ever had."


I'm just realizing that I haven't posted a blog in almost a month.... but I have been living a wonderful life that is worthy of documenting, for sure.

So. I guess, at some point, whether it's in this blog, or in a memoir, I'll get it all out!

Cheers to the joy of life!


Monday, May 02, 2011

"...Hungry to feel good about something" --Brian Williams, MSNBC

That best sums up what I witnessed in lower Manhattan of the Americans spilling out into the streets chanting USA-USA-USA in celebration of the breaking news on bin Laden.

I'll set up the scene that led to me unexpectedly being amongst the midnight marauders @2am:

I was spending the evening with dear friends in Brooklyn pontificating the likelihood (or even unlikelihood) of certain things in recent history such as, say, did OJ actually do it? or did Michael actually bleach his skin? Age old questions to which we know the answers yet still debate ad naseum when amongst old friends and rum is involved... Someone happened to go online shortly after midnight and looked up saying, "Something on facebook saying that Osama bin Laden is dead??" and we all look up like, "What? nahhhhh..." but I opened the lap top to confirm what he was talking about. (I'll spare you the content of conversation that followed--ranging from "wow, dag, forreal?" to "you all believe anything they tell you, don't you???!!!!") We spent the next 30 mins being entertained by fb statuses and tweets supporting both opinions of this news. The general consensus, though, was a sobering "well, what does it all mean??" whether he died today or six months ago, or is still alive? Like, folks get it on the surface, but really...... what does it mean?

Anyway, I ended up getting home around 1am and my brother was sitting in the living room with his jacket and shoes on watching MSNBC. On the screen were the images; scores of people between Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House and Ground Zero in NYC flooding the streets in jubilation and victory... I wasn't aware that all of this was going on because we weren't watching the news on TV at my friends'. I thought about how the last time people have flooded the streets like this was when Obama was elected in Nov. 2008; on that evening I decided to stay home and watch the news as it unfolded from my bed instead of experience it out amongst the hustle and bustle of the people. So at 1:30am, I decided to get on the train and go out to Manhattan to check the scene... simple as that.

I arrived into the heart of American Patriotism at Ground Zero around 2am.

I witnessed first hand the chanting in creative variation...... the screams and hoots, the mass euphoria in the form of bursts of song... the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in unison. And the flags.... so many flags, stars and stripes, stripes and peace signs. Huge flags that could have been stolen from buildings...There was a brotha out hustling little $1 American flags. I said, "Brotha, WHERE you get those flags? WHY do you have so many of them this time of night?" He responded, "I knew this day was coming! You didn't?" Me: "No, actually, I didn't know this day was coming. Not today, not May 2nd 2011. I can definitely say that I did not." "Well, I did," he said, "You trying to get a flag?" "I'm good, brotha, thanks..." I continued forging through the throngs of people.

You definitely could tell who the family members of 9/11 victims were. They didn't just exercise euphoric patriotism; for them, this was a celebration of the lives of their loved ones more than anything else. More than vindication, it was a time to remember and reflect. Some people stood silent and said nothing, and you could only imagine what consumed their thoughts. There was a number of photographs and portraits accompanied by touching stories by family members. The Emerald Society of the NYPD played a haunting rendition of Amazing Grace on bagpipe while soldiers, FDNY (and goofballs) climbed the high street signs of Church and Vessey to lead the mass of folks below with more chanting. College boys sat on one another's shoulders and chanted ".....Nah nah nah naaahhhh, heeeeyyy heyyyy heyyyy, GOOD BYEEEEE" while party girls body surfed. New Yorkers were really holding the scene down...

There were two Hasidic Jewish men sharing a beer off to the side taking it all in. I asked what they thought of the whole thing, and one replied, "This is a good thing. After ten years, it's about time! This is good." I nodded, smiled and moved on. Waded through the crowd some more, read the signs, "WE CHEER FOR PEACE, NOT DEATH!" Saw a dread in a suit and stopped to ask what he thought about this whole thing? In his Trini accent, his sentiments were the same, "It's been ten years, people need something to celebrate, don't you think?" I kept wading through, and asked one more person what he thought, "It's amazing." That's all he said.

But, what exactly is amazing? I keep asking myself. I feel neither joyous patriotism that WE DID IT (no disrespect to Brotha President and his road to victory in 2012), nor do I express conspiracies that this is all a farce. But I do acknowledge that this latest development, the current event in US History unfolding, leaves me uneasy at best. Because, at the end of the day, I don't know what this, any of it, means, as an American, as a citizen of the World, as a human being, as a child of God. And as we all know, the TRUTHS of history are often buried along with the dead, or locked up amongst classified information, only to be dug up by scholars and historians decades, sometimes centuries later.

So, as for the celebrations, I have observed them merely for the sake of watching a piece of history unfold first hand (similar to inauguration day, I WAS there), whatever that history turns out to be. And I get that New Yorkers, if not Americans, but definitely those who were standing where I stood ten years ago, are feeling a burst of jubilee in retribution. For the celebration that was in tribute to the lives lost, I support that one hundred percent. For the hundreds of thousands who have lost lives as a result of this whole thing, from 09- through today, and beyond, I sympathize for the lost of life. I will not ignore that truth in the name of celebration.

Anyway, one thing is for certain; whether you keep living or you give up your life, we will definitely come to understand what this all means, one way or another.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Insight: into the motherless and Muslim first/second wives

There were a number of sista writers who shared their experiences being mothers, daughters and motherless tonight at the Brecht Forum. The trials and tribulations they've overcome by means of their womanhood, persevering, surviving, thriving, being angry, being torn, and healing from and through it all. The panel consisted of Asha Bandele, Staceyann Chin, Stacey Patton, and Dian Brooks, three of whom were abandoned by mothers, two of whom are currently mothers, one of whom is preparing to become such a precious incarnation of herself, and one who's just completed a phd weeks ago in a subject related to childrearing and the affects of post-slavery influences on the Black Family, or something of that nature (I'm SURE I'm writing incorrectly but was impressed with just the same). These sistas shared some heavy tales and testimonies to their journeys, dealing with abuse and abandonment, healing, forgiveness (or the lack thereof) and pressing forward, and so much more. At the close of the symposium I was wrought with the hankering to call my mother and thank her for her overbearing and reliable presence and LOVE MANIFESTED in my life for all of my days since before I was born! It is truly a blessing that I've experienced no abuse in my lifetime, and should I EVER become a mother, I'd pray the same experience of my child... Surely, it's no easy task, but the stories shared this evening were, in deed, inspired and necessary.

But what was most striking to me was the conversation I had with a sista named after a beautiful Persian queen that I'll leave out for the sake of this random posting. She was an ageless Muslima, covered from her eyebrows to her shoe strings, layered in burka and coat, and eager to share a walk to the train with a fellow sistren. My head was also covered, though while my hair hung long below the wrap, I highly doubt she got the impression that I'm also Muslima. She flagged me down as I was leaving the Brecht Forum and insisted on walking with me to the train, which I gladly obliged, as after dark twos traveling by foot are often better than one. On the walk we introduced ourselves and gave our impressions on the speakers who shared. I expressed the same sentiment, that after hearing these stories, I need to call my mom immediately and thank her for her undeniable love, affection, support (financial and otherwise) and mere presence in my life. She shared a little of her experiences as a girl and how they related to the evening's topic, and I smiled as I listened.

Then, still blocks from the train, she turned to me and smiled, "I'm going to share something with you, I don't know why, but with tonight's empowering message I just feel like I should share." And in the course of telling me about her four children ranging from 4 - 16 years of age (I can't escape my special #, 416!), she was nearly in tears when she began to explain that her Muslim husband of so many years (at least 16)--whom she has loved and adored dearly while doing all that she possibly could to be the kind of upstanding wife that a man could appreciate and love--expressed to her that per his religious right, he would like to take a second wife. A SECOND WIFE (and keep HER)! At this day and age: 2011 in Brooklyn, NY! I kept a straight face and listened to her anxieties unfold as we walked, but I could not even imagine what it would be like to hear your husband tell you he desires and intends to take a second wife. She was resolute to explain that though she values being a submissive wife, she is strong and liberated in mindset; she was in the military, afterall. She's obtaining her degree from CUNY. She is doing all that she can to be a positive example of womanhood, being a wife and mother for her three daughters and even her young son who will one day be a Muslim husband. She explained that she even understood that there are many women who are okay with the notion that their husbands may very well exercise their option to take a second wife, so long as it is financially stable for his family. But she was clearly broken from this.

On our walk, she explained how her mother has maintained that she should not stay with this man, but she loves him with all of her heart, and I can understand such a resolve, despite the circumstance. One of the panelists tonight (jokingly?) stated that she is happily engaged to be married for the second time, one year away from age 50, and that she loves this man so much that should he EVER decide that there is another woman that he's interested in leaving her for, she's COMING WITH HIM! "It'll be you, her and ME!" she said... So, this precious queen explained to me that she knows there are women who will not mind their man taking another woman, but she was very resolute that she was in fact NOT that women. But here she was being tested by her husband, and had been on the verge of having to accept his desire as a part of her journey. "It really broke me," she said, and I could see the pain in her face as I listened.

What could I offer in such a circumstance? I've never been married, never been Muslim, never been a mother, and can barely find myself in a legitimate committed adult relationship! Surely, she was just turning to me for a listening ear. I made SURE not to express any semblance of judgement on my part, for I have no business remarking on the decisions between a man and a wife... or do I???

I took this sista, who I very well may never see again, in an embrace on 8th Avenue, and congratulated her on keeping her family together. I confirmed the value in her being a strong young decision maker (i later realized that being 32 I very well could have a 16 year old daughter as well, so she may not have been very much older than me, and certainly didn't look it) and encouraged her to make the decisions that were best for her and her children. I couldn't say too much about the main issue other than I was glad that her husband decided against taking the second wife. Though in reality, from what she shared, it sounds like he actually would have had he been financially able to make it work. Imagine. Of all the things she said, the fact that she is categorically against being a part of a polygamous marriage stood out the most to me. What would she explain to her daughters, and son, she pondered.

We didn't exchange information once we arrived at the train station. We embraced again and went our separate ways after a warm goodbye. But I wonder if I was supposed to get her contact information. Somehow remain in touch. For her to bare her soul to an anonymous sistafriend on a walk from an empowering sistahood symposium to the train says a lot. But we said goodbye.

One thing is for certain. I will never forget her. I will remember to keep her name in my prayers and I will think of her often. Because, her spirit is torn. She said, "I'm glad that my husband decided against taking the second wife, but I know that our relationship will never be the same." And that sounds like the comment of someone who knows she will remain there, committed to that relationship. And because she said that, I smiled as I reminded her that as every relationship has its horror and war stories, years from now, perhaps, she will look back and "remember" when things were really tough, yet bet be encouraged by how she was able to come through completely whole on the other side. Because as one of the panelists reminded us, "It's always darkest before the sunrise" and the seasons of life are ever-changing. In this case, I'd certainly like to think so.

for Lady V.

Monday, April 25, 2011

To be or not to be.......childless...

I went to an Easter dinner last night and noticed something very interesting about the ten or so individuals present at the dinner, in addition to myself: Everyone in attendance was childless.

I didn't realize this until late in the evening, well beyond midnight even, as the revelation wasn't something that had been specifically highlighted during the many group discussions over the evening. But I DID notice it, and ended up having a brief conversation with the host about this revelation as she cleared her kitchen and I sipped on some wine.

I find this interesting largely because of the range of demographics at the dinner spanning from mid thirties to mid-70's; white americans (various ages), black americans (various ages), and an italian man; a b&w interracial couple that's been together about 35 years (since they were 17 and 18 years old college freshmen); two educators, a couple of entertainers, two journalists, a producer, a carpenter, a bartender, an attorney, and a librarian/bathroom attendant. Of the other married couples, one in their 50's have been married since 2000 (11 years), and the other in their 70's celebrated their 29th anniversary on April 17th. Both of those wives, in separate conversations I had with them, said that they'd "married late" (in their mid-40s). The wife in her 70's said that she and her beau had not been "blessed with children" which leads me to believe that they at least considered and tried to become parents. The one in her 50's said that she married at 45, but had she married ten years earlier perhaps she would have had children with her husband. The interracial couple in their 50's that's been together since they were teenagers are entertainer and manager, and the wife/manager commented that they've focused on their career over the years and spend a lot of time abroad making things happen (they are world traveled), so having children never really played into the equation.

As for the single individuals in attendance, one is a couple of years older than me and also a professor. She's white american and has spent a number of years living in Italy working on her ph.d before moving to NYC. There was an italian producer there in his 50's as well who I overheard saying that he has never married, and though having "come close a couple of times," he never will. I was interested to have a conversation with him regarding this decision, but decided it was another topic for another day. Then there were the other two african american women, one who is 53 and one who seems like she's in her late 40s. Both single and perhaps either have been at one point or have never married, I can't tell (one may be lez, though she's quite asexual in my opinion).... one is a journalist the other an attorney, both seem to have had longstanding successful careers..... and then there was me: wildchild#1-- 32 years of age, no husband, no bf, no prospects of children, but lot's of adventure. I didn't speak to any of them regarding never having become parents...

When I was in the kitchen talking to the host she mentioned that of all of the people she's known over the years, she's noticed, especially now in her middle aged years, that it's her friends that never had children that seem to have the best marital relationships, in her humble opinion. She implied that though there are various reasons why people decide not to have children, it's the ones who are okay with this decision to remain childless that seem to have the less stress throughout their lives. What she was saying reminded me of an article in the New York Magazine last summer about the topic "I Love My Kids, But I Hate My Life" comparing and contrasting the quality of life of parents versus the childless, both married and single. Again, she did comment though, that had she met her lovely husband (which whom she "adores the little boy in him!" while she herself is a whimsy girl at heart who loves to twirl and dance about her spacious apartment--like me!!!) years before, she would have been inclined to procreate with him. It seems, even, that on the night that I met her a year and a half ago, she mentioned how she'd spent a good portion of her 30's being in love with the wrong man in a relationship that went nowhere other than to waste a portion of her childbearing years (...ok, she didn't say that verbatim but it was something like that), so I'm sure that played into her trajectory... and, naturally, I wonder if such a circumstance would play into my own chances of (not) becoming a mother....

I suppose this is most interesting as I am finding myself in the company of a lot of my peers who are becoming parents (two and three times over) as of late. One friend's wife told me flat out that she *felt sorry for me* for still having feelings for and entertaining a relationship that I've never quite ended because after five years it hasn't led to marriage; she feels I'll look up one day (probably unable to have children) and regret that I wasted so much time in such a fanciful, quixotic relationship (i'm too cool and beautiful for that, she says). Though I know she means well/doesn't mean any harm, I think her comments have been the most extreme regarding my singledom, and the ones I've found most annoying considering my relationship status is the last thing to feel sorry about. (Note to reading audience: PLEASE don't ever feel sorry for me regarding the status of the aforementioned!!!!) Meanwhile, I JUST turned 32.........and I swear, at this day and age, I still have another ten years to decide ANYTHING regarding having a child, should the volume on my biological clock ever begin to start ticking audibly....

So, at the end of the day, regardless of other people's timeframes, one thing last night showed me is that even if I never wind up having a child, life will be good, full of love and laughter. Besides there seems to be a never ending wealth of cousins, nieces, nephews, neighbors and godchildren whose lives I can be a part of should I ever feel the need to play with a warm cooing bundle for a few hours. And at this point, I couldn't be more okay with that if you paid me!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


in one moment i'm certain, in the next i'm fretting. i feel like there is a major decision to be made and time is the main factor. and whereas i can't say that it's theee main factor with a capital M, it is one of the stressors driving me to blinding indecision. and i am completely incapable of making this decision in the moment.

to leave nyc or not to leave; that is the question.

the pros and cons swim around my head every day and i just don't know what side of the equation to definitively land on.

there are justifiable reasons to stay, and there are potentially greater reasons to leave.

i haven't done the pro con list for fear that neither list will end.

plan for my life, i don't do those. i do visions, goals, i daydream. i happen into fortunate circumstances and run them until they don't run anymore. shortlived, they are, but fruitful.

nyc is my heart. my home. i am comfortable here. i trust it. three years short of a decade, and i feel as though i can spend my days here, so long as i have a passport and airfare. i am happy with my job with CUNY and am two years short of being eligible for free tuition (i think... i need to check on that.) technically if i remain working there and start work on a phd, it can be financially worthwhile, two birds with one stone. CUNY schools are well known and respected, and i definitely can find what i want to do within the system. i could study abroad and still have nyc be home base. i like that idea. actually, i love it. i like the idea of having my spot in bk, going to work during the 12 to 15 weeks, taking classes, and taking breaks to travel and study or teach abroad and coming back to my nyc home. writing at length, self publishing my works and my families' work as well. to stay here welcomes the potential of family business taking route and expanding.

staying in the states will also enable me to be able to visit my parents and family whenever i need or want to, and that is definitely a point of value. if i remain and continue to share rent, then there are more opportunities for me to do other things with my money, like travel or eat out or shop or whatever. and no, it's not LIVING abroad, it still provides the opportunity to go somewhere for a little while and come back. there's always the OPPORTUNITY in NYC, that is the truth. people are constantly reinventing themselves here. there's still so much i haven't done in the seven years i've been here. so, that's how i feel about nyc. there is an onion layer to be peeled with each year that i'm here, and the bulb is still far beneath the layers for me.

but there is the point of a love life or lack there of. whereas i would not plan to go abroad to find love -- at all -- i know for a fact that the past seven years has not panned out in the relationship area. i have met -- who i consider to be-- the love of my life and am convinced that should we ever end up in holy matrimony i would be happy to entertain life where ever he and i should choose to exist, because quite simply, he's my favorite person in this life. happy days or funky days, silly mood or crappy mood, he does it for me. but the reality is that he does not say that i'm the love of his life, and therefore has no current plan find us in holy matrimony. even with this divergent levels of desire, we remain confidantes and companions (he is harry to my sally in the most authentic of ways). i don't know that i'm waiting for anything from him or expecting anything, i only know what i see and experience "now" with him. i see him in front of me each week making me smile and enjoying my company, listening to me rant and complain. he sees my ugly and voices reason (and i do the same of/for him). i fear that i will never tire of his presence, and that i'll look up one day an old lady with an old friend and no husband to call my own. on the contrary, i also fear that should we actually go our separate ways --for good and forever-- the heartbreak would be debilitating. in an unwavering way that has been true since day one and rings true today in year five, he makes me happy in a way no other person has before (i can't say "and never will" because i don't know what "will be", but i can say that my flame is consistent in a way that keeps me from being interested in any one guy for much longer than a couple of months. yet annually, he's the one for me.) ALL that to say, if i stay in nyc, i have this matter of love without claim or destination to contend with. but in each moment we spend together, i am content and want for nothing. so moment to moment, i live.

so, to leave all of that.... the job that's just a job, nothing passionate, but surely enjoyable. the love of my life who is committed to being my friend. the comfort of family and potential to grow in new ways collectively. my adopted city and home and all the adventure there. to leave it all for the potential of an adventure on the world stage i'd always thought i'd already have by now: to live abroad, THAT may really be worth it. to live abroad means a change in trajectory. it means capitalizing on the unknown. Potential is the word of the day. If you can get a visa.. if you can get a job... if you can get affordable housing... if you can gain a support system, then living abroad can end up being an experience that people dream about. That I've dreamt about. That I daydream about. Those are the only points I have on my live abroad side. I've always wanted to do it. IF i can figure out where to go (I keep thinking London, but the reality is, it's sooo expensive and as a student you can only work 11 hrs a week, which is not a lot of money) i can decide on if i will apply to study there. then there's the issue of funding. I don't want another cent of student loans. ...And then whose to say that I want to stay there for the length of time it takes to get a phd. I don't think I want to live in Europe a long time, just long enough to see some places and do some things. People keep saying that if I go, I'll probably end up marrying a EuroAfrican fellow there and staying. It's not what I'm looking for, but I would not be surprised. I neither welcome nor shun the idea. I figure if I can get another advanced degree and gain some adventure in the process then, yay! anything else in the way of life is a bonus.

But again, if we're weighing the options, the option to stay outweighs the option to go. I literally can't make a decision. So I'm going to [continue to] pray about it. God knows what I should do more than anyone. He gave me the desire to see the world. He gave me the intellect to study and research which will aid in an advanced degree. He is fully aware of my love for all things NYC as well as the love for the one man that may last until my final breath. He knows that i love seeing my family often. He knows that i have a number of goals outside of academia that i'm still managing to achieve. And he knows that I don't like regular jobs that involve customer service and that other kind of stuff that you have to do when you don't have many options for income. If i go abroad i can look at having to do any number of those jobs i've either avoided or quit years ago. and that's not appealing.... unless it's in a place where i'm gaining a language skill.

So Lord, what do I do.

Should I stay or should I go?
What about my goals?
What about my heart?

What about my home? Where am I going to live???

Even if I don't figure out where I should go, how to reach my goals, and whether or not i remain single and unattached with a sometime platonic friendboy for the next 8 years, I still have to move out of my apartment in 6 months.

so. because of all of this. i'm fretting just a bit.
So I will be still and know that he is God, and expect the moment when he says MOVE! cause HE answers prayers.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

"without a shadow of a doubt (the shadows of the past and the doubts of the future)" is it that five years later, THIS is still a very accurate account of where I am in my life? (sigh.)

(regardless, i just don't know what to think anymore.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Today's NIGHTMARE (I still can't believe happened!)

I went by the post office this morning to purchase and send a money order, and in filling out the money order on one side of the counter and giving it back to the cashier on the other side, I inadvertently left my wallet sitting on the counter (rushing!)... So, of course, not noticing, I took the next ferry and decided that I'd take a cab to campus so that I could arrive a bit earlier than the shuttle bus would have gotten me there. It wasn't until we approached building 1P in the middle of campus that I realized my wallet was missing, and of course the cab driver assumed I was trying to pull a fast one on her. (Strangely enough, during the ride I'd been reflecting on how I don't see very many West African women cab drivers, and wondering what her day to day experience must consist of, but I never actually said anything to her until we reached the campus and I realized my wallet was gone.)

We verbally went back and forth, me panicking that I'd lost EVERYTHING and her trying to call her dispatcher, whom she could not reach, to find out the procedure. I was explaining (in the most irrational way, I must admit!) that this was an emergency because I was just realizing that I'd lost my wallet and there was nothing I could do to pay the fare at the moment, but that it was of the utmost importance that I get out right then, a point for which she had little regard. She had the doors locked and was driving away from where I needed to get out. I asked over and over again for a card to the cab company so I could bring/send the payment later while demanding she let me out, but she would not oblige saying that she doesn't know me, she hears this all the time, and asking "what do you want me to do about this wallet that's missing?? You have to PAY!" I was like, "Sis, PLEASE, you got to help me, I need to get out! Give me a card anything but I have to get out right now, my wallet is gone! I need to get to the office! I don't know what to do! Let me OUT!!!"

When she threatened to drive me back to the ferry terminal I got the door open (from sticking my arm out of the window and pulling the lever from the outside) at a stop sign on the campus and jumped out of the cab! Before slamming the door shut I kept screaming back and forth to her for a card, but she couldn't believe I got the door open and was getting out, so she refused to give me anything that would indicate where the money would need to go later. I started walking across the campus, damn near having a panic attack, heart pumping way tooo hard, sweating and breathing hard, looking at the clock and realizing it was close to class time (and THIS JUST SO HAPPENED TO BE THE DAY my class was going to be EVALUATED by the chair of the English Dept!)

As I was trying my darnedest to get closer to the building where the Eng dept is, security stopped to detain me in the middle of campus and address the complaint the cabbie made against me, threatening to arrest me (can they do that?) if I continued to walk over to the English office and expressing that I could lose my job if I was arrested. I went back and forth with him! "I'm a professor here!!! (even though I look like a student!), I'm LATE to a class that begins in five minutes!! I'm being EVALUATED TODAY!!! My wallet is missing in Manhattan! The cabbie would not give me any info on where to send the money!!! I have to go to the English office and let the chair know!! I need to get to my class!!! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!" Just boiling over with emotions and panic and uncertainty......

ALL OF THIS was wayyyyyy too much in that moment: the trifecta of unfortunate circumstance (losing my wallet, jumping cab and being threatened to be arrested for "theft of service", and missing my critical evaluation class), so when I called the English office to explain to the secretary what was going on, the tears, snot and incoherent blubbering began! (1000x times more embarrassing than you could ever imagine!)

Security was like "Miss.... Professor...... calm done! PLEASE!!!" But, once I start crying, there's no calming down! (I'm blaming pms hormones run amok in combination with being a certified walking nerve ending that feels every emotion more intensely than one person should ever have to!) So, I didn't calm down. I stayed on the phone and kept trying to explain to the secretary what was going on.... I felt like an irresponsible loser idiot and couldn't figure out for the life of me how all of this escalated into the frenzied misfortune it seemed to be. I'd prepared my lesson for evaluation class days ago and put the finishing touches on my presentation package last night (a step that isn't even necessary, I just like to include it.) I'd woken up 30 minutes early and left before I usually leave my house to reach Staten Island with enough time to get my mind right and be ready for a vibrant class session. Even with leaving early, the train's inconsistent schedule got me to the ferry two minutes two late, and I missed the boat that would have gotten me to campus 40 mins early. THAT'S when I decided to go to the post office and the caper began....... That was definitely fuel to the emotional meltdown I was experiencing: How do you prepare for things to come out perfectly and they just disintegrate before your very eyes??? How do you find yourself in need of immediate help and be met with adverse action against you? In the middle of my tears, I had the very present of mind to pray a very simple prayer: Lord HELP ME! Please!! I need your help! Please, send someone to help me! I don't know what to do....

And He did just that. (Which is why the song "I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry" has been resonating through my being since the ordeal took place....)

As events would continue to unfold, everyone at the college ended up being most gracious in helping me resolve the problem:

First, once the secretary understood what the problem was she sent over $40 to cover any problems when I only needed $16 to cover the fare. (They gave the driver $20 and I sent the other $20 back to her.)

Next, the security office tracked down my wallet at the post office, and notified them that I would be coming back to get it within the hour.

Once the co-chair heard what was going on, she came directly to the security office to lend her support and make sure I was okay. She said that it was no problem to cancel my class today and reschedule the visit, and that she totally understood as she loses things all the time...

And then there was George, the director of Security, who was the biggest angel of mercy for me. He took a vested interest in calming me down ("Wipe your tears, pretty girl!") with anecdotes about his wife losing house keys all the time for all the years they've been married, offered to drive me back to the ferry to go back over and get my wallet, gave me tips on what to do if I ever find myself in that kind of situation again (at least on campus), and even handed me a $5 bill for coffee ("Here, kid, get yourself some coffee and enjoy the rest of your day; life is too short to sweat the small stuff"). His kindness and compassion is akin to a favorite uncle, and I'm just extremely grateful to know this is the community of individuals I work with from week to week.

Once George dropped me off at the terminal, I went over to the cab dispatcher just to explain that as a person who takes a cab from that terminal to campus at least once every couple of weeks, I would never try to skip out on a fare. He was understanding and assured that everything was fine and we shook hands, but not before he explained the policy for not paying fare (which is for the driver to confiscate the cell phone as collateral and bring it to him until the fare is paid.... that's wild). And by the time the boat arrived, I was calm and collected, though extremely exhausted, physically and mentally.

I returned to the post office in lower Manhattan where my wallet was in the proper care of the sweetest post office attendant I've ever met (another angel). She assured me that everything was in there (which it was once I checked!), and even said that she tried to figure out a way to reach me but didn't see a contact # on my checks...) I thanked her, and it seems people who were standing in line were inspired by the small bit of details they were able to glean from our conversation.

When I think about the character of the people who helped me and the way that the circumstance was resolved, it reminded me of how, perhaps, things are within smaller towns, rather the BIG city. NYC has a rap for being a cold hard jungle, but it just proves to me that New Yorkers have hearts of gold when it comes down to helping someone who is in need.

So.....I still don't know how all of this happened... but I know that God's hand was on the outcome.

As soon as I got home, I had a small bite to eat and fell right to sleep..... because when reality is a nightmare, sometimes a sweet dream in a comfy bed is the antidote of choice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a lovely comment someone sent me today!

"I really like your blog and I really appreciate the excellent quality content you are posting here for free for your online readers. thanks."


i have (seemingly regular) "online readers"!!!!

yay! .... eBook, on the way!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

daydreaming of life aboard... recently as a few months from now, since i have to give up my apt anyway.

where there's a will.....

Productive Leisure.

lol.... did I know THIS about SLC when I was attending????

A major component of the College's early curriculum was "productive leisure," wherein students were required to work for eight hours weekly in such fields as modeling, shorthand, typewriting, applying makeup, and gardening.

This may have something to with with my current goal of daily "productive leisure"! Only, my objectives don't include the activities listed above.

Sociolinguistics is...

...the effects of society on a language.

i'm intrigued because for every day that i go into my classroom to help revolutionize the English language skills (as it pertains to writing) of my students, i am constantly remarking on the *negative* effects of society impacting my students' ability to excel in the language on a very basic level.

dare i say that i am interested in the further study of sociolinguistics?


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


(well I think so anyway!)

So, in my quest to get my writing students to increase their English grammar and writing skills as quickly as possible, I have decided that they will begin hand copying excerpts from interesting, well-written texts that indicate proper spelling, grammar, and sentence mechanics. They will be required to copy the text in its entirety in their best penmanship, making sure to write it verbatim. This will be given as homework, and I will encourage them to then read the passage aloud once they've written it, so that they will get a sense of what they've written in relation to how it was typed. I'm anticipating that it will A) allow them to pay more attention to grammar and mechanics, B) help them with reading comprehension by processing the text through writing it, and C) expose them even more to academic writing, especially since most of the reading we do is from the NYT.

I got the inspiration for this exercise from Malcolm X's "Coming to an Awareness of Language" where he explains the process by which he became a world class writer and orator. Because of this, my classes first task at hand copying "example texts" will be from this very essay:

It was because of my letters that I happened to stumble upon starting to acquire some kind of a homemade education. I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters that I wrote. In the street, I had been the most articulate hustler out there—I had commanded attention when I said something. But now, trying to write simple English, I not only wasn't articulate, I wasn't even functional. How would I sound writing in slang, the way I would say it, something such as, "Look, daddy, let me pull your coat about a cat, Elijah Muhammad—"

Many who today hear me somewhere in person, or on television, or those who read something I've said, will think I went to school far beyond the eighth grade. This impression is due entirely to my prison studies.

I saw that the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary— to study, to learn some words. I was lucky enough to reason also that I should try to improve my penmanship. It was sad. I couldn't even write in a straight line. It was both ideas together that moved me to request a dictionary along with some tablets and pencils from the Norfolk Prison Colony school.

I spent two days just riming uncertainly through the dictionary's pages. I'd never realized so many words existed! I didn't know which words I needed to learn. Finally, just to start some kind of action, I began copying.

In my slow, painstaking, ragged handwriting, I copied into my tablet everything printed on that first page, down to the punctuation marks.

I believe it took me a day. Then, aloud, I read back, to myself, everything I'd written on the tablet. Over and over, aloud, to myself, I read my own handwriting.

I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words—immensely proud to realize that not only had I written so much at one time, but I'd written words that I never knew were in the world. Moreover, with a little effort, I also could remember what many of these words meant. I reviewed the words whose meanings I didn't remember. Funny thing, from the dictionary first page right now, that "aardvark" springs to my mind. The dictionary had a picture of it, a long-tailed, long-eared, burrowing African mammal, which lives off termites caught by sticking out its tongue as an anteater does for ants.

I was so fascinated that I went on—I copied the dictionary's next page. And the same experience came when I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary's A section had filled a whole tablet —and I went on into the B's. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary. It went a lot faster after so much practice helped me to pick up handwriting speed. Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words.

I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn't have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad's teachings, my correspondence, my visitors... and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.

SO! I'm excited to see if they'll do it and to what degree this will affect their writing. I'm making it mandatory and telling them if they miss one assignment they will have to wait until June to test instead of the one coming up during the 2nd week of April. That will get them because they are REALLLLY jonesin' to take the test and get out of my class! I anticipate that it this will also help to train their eyes to know what to look for while proofreading.

So, wish us all luck!!!!! If this turns out to be a slam dunk, I'm about to doing this for the rest of my time as a writing professor!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

a bit of delirium


too tired to sleep. to sleepy to get up.

so, in limbo, i'm getting my parliament on.

thanks to pilgrim for hipping me to this.

in an unrelated thought, i really think i was born 20yrs after i should've been.

Friday, March 11, 2011

putting things into perspective

on a sunny day in rural japan an 8.something has hit, with a tsunami swelling onto the shore where farms and homes are. people don't even know what's on the way.

cnn is calling it historic. telling people who may not have access to hear them, that they need to move and need to move quickly.

so. i have to move in six months. i have time to prepare, pack my stuff, and move.

what am i complaining about?


where am i supposed to go now? with a letter to vacate the apartment by sept (which has been extended to oct), i'm completely spinning and feeling the same anxiety i felt back when i received the same type of letter when i lived in harlem.

only, the anxiety is not coming from the whole having to move. i mean, granted, i do HATE moving, but i can and will hire movers to make it easier. and now that i know i have six months, i can technically start going through things to get rid of that can make packing easier when it's finally time. and that's if i ACTUALLY take the opportunity to do so. procrastinator that i can, i rarely do things far in advance.

but it's the fact that my life and personal identity is so wrapped up in living on stuyvesant avenue. okay, maybe not my IDENTITY per se, but in a lot of ways i feel like this block is a part of the fabric of who i am. i love it here. i feel like my neighbors are family. the park across the street is a part of my enchanted well being. movies and music in the summer time.

so, i'm not looking forward to leaving. there's a house next door that's vacant. it has been for a very long time, years. about two... i want to move in there, but i have no way to know what's going on. i'll email the real estate agent and see if he says anything, but last time he was very tight lipped about the property and what was happening. as of now, i feel like that is my only bet in being able to stay here.

i don't think it's sucken in quite yet, that i'll have to move. it may not sink in until i find another apartment that i feel like can provide the same amount of magic.

maybe it's time to leave nyc altogether. i was saying that i wanted to move to london. and the only reason i decided against it was because i love my apartment in bk. but if the apt is giving me up, and, as it seems, a lot of other things are giving me up too, maybe it really IS time to go.....

but as of now, i will stay in nyc, at least through the summer. because summers in nyc are the best. maybe by then i will have some insight on where to go: stay in stuyvesent heights, leave bedstuy for crown heights or ft. green. move closer to one of the campuses... or finally move abroad.


in any regards, this sux. ;(

Monday, March 07, 2011

I finally commented on someone's post

of that Why You Aren't Married Article...

It ended up being an essay of sorts:

Back around Valentine's Day, everybody, their sister and their husband posted this article and there seemed to be a lot of support of it. While I found her article well written (I'm actually interested in reading her memoir), I can't say that I, or a number of my single friends, fall into these categories she characterizes. I can definitively say that I'm: Not a bitch, not a slut, not selfish in relationships, have an extremely positive self-worth, and am especially not a shallow liar! I love the shock value, in your face, tell it like it is way the author presents her arguments, HOWEVER, I'd like to counter that a number of women that often "land the husband" are, in fact, bitchy, are shallow, have lying tendencies, can be selfish, and just so happen to know how to seal the deal with THAT particular guy they're marrying. (Just like the author can make general over sweeping commentary on women, so can I!) If I did a case study on the people that I personally know across the country who are between the ages of 28 and 48, and just for fun let's say they're on their first marriage, from the outside looking in, they are ALL dealing with a number of the very issues the author underscores as reasons why middle age women remain single. My parents are marital counselors so I've heard stories ranging from self worth to personality issues amongst spouses (points 1 & 6); I have friends that deal with the infidelity of a spouse and choose to stay in the marriage (points 3, 4 &5); I know people who remain married despite the lack of intimacy and connection because it's a good arrangement (points 2 & 5); I see people who get married in one year and divorced four years later and get REmarried a year after that (which can be attributed to any of these points). I say all of this to support why I don't buy into what she is saying because I don't believe these are THEE REASONS why a large percentage of women in their 30s - 50s remain unmarried. Good writers can convince people of anything and perpetuate notions that aren't entirely valid.

Last week there was an interesting response to the first article, also on HuffPost, here's the link: It may not have been as well written, but I appreciate it moreso because the points of the second article touch on a number of issues that many writers of Women's relationship columns don't highlight. Some women remain single because they choose to believe that with what a good majority of people settle for in marriage, they'd prefer the alternative (until they connect with a person in which they can exist in the most fulfilling way). Also, no one really thinks of the fairytale when it comes to marriage anymore (despite what people like to say). If you speak to a majority of individuals, men AND women, they're quick to make negative remarks about the marriage/commitment experience, even if they're joking. We are very cynical as a society/generation regarding life long marriage, even though we love romantic comedy movies. The second article also points out being the intelligent, attractive, down to earth chick, and NOT being the girl that was chosen (as the girlfriend, got the proposal, et al.), the shallow girl did. Go figure.

This is my favorite quote of the second article:
"...even though I know that marriage isn't a fairy tale, I'd still like to actually be madly in love with the person I'm going to do all of this sacrificing and fighting and laughing and struggling with. I've been in love before, with men who were arguably (and endearingly) more troll than Prince Charming, and I know it can happen again."

I'm not writing a response as a woman looking for a husband right now (I really enjoy being a free bird!) or bitter about the lack of commitment I've experienced in recent years (being a "it's better to love and lost" theorist), but as a woman thinking rationally about the situation and choosing to acknowledge that what the first author writes does not illustrate my experience. So, as Public Enemy said: Don't believe the HYPE!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

heavy heart.

i learned tonight
that another bright, charismatic, talented and enchanting life force has been taken all too soon. and by too soon i mean sooner than what anyone that encountered him would have ever imagined. the kind of person you'd expect to live to be a hundred and five, and have great great grandchildren to whom he gives enchanting tale after tale of all the wonderful things he did in his life and people he knew and helped and challenged and changed and loved. and now people are left broken..

one of which is a friend who loved this person dearly.

and now she's voyaging on a month long trip out side of the country

to honor the wanderlust of the love they shared.

and i pray she recovers

from losing the love of her life
from making the kind of connection you only see in the movies
or read about in the books
or see others with and hope you will experience.

i'm praying for her*
that she rises from the ashes of grief.

you just never understand why these things happen
the way they do.

*because, i know what it FEELS like to nurture a love for a particular individual (who just blows your mind in every way) in hopes that that nurtured love and friendship will turn into a lifelong exercise of connection. And I can't imagine it being gone in an instance by the separation of death. Not right now. Not ever... separation by non-commitment, i can handle. separation by spirit leaving body, *no words*

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In other words...I'm HUNGRY!

Shakespearean sized hunger:

Why doth thou afflict
me when faithfully there is
so little food prepared
in mine kitchen......?

Make haste!
and flee my belly,
I pray,
with a sandwich
and some tea!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Twelve hour adventure in Paris!!!

So, after dancing all night at with the Brits and the Brazilians, Juju and I showered, changed, and was on our way to the St. Pancras station at King's Cross to catch the Eurostar to Paris early Saturday morning. What were we thinking????!!!!!

I thought I'd sleep on the train, but I was too excited. Ju, on the other hand, was sleep shortly after we'd made it out of London. As the ticket agent had explained, the countryside was a lovely scenic backdrop to our journey to Paris Gare du Nord. I can't front, I was a bit nervous considering I speak very little to no French. I was feeling inadequate and wondering why it is that I've yet to master more than English and I'm almost 32. And, I mean, I can get along in Spanish, French, not so much..... It was interesting that with the very few phrases that I actually know in French, I'd say them and then Spanish would come rushing to my mind! "Bonjour, como se llama 'telephone??' Es 'telefonique' no?" Ummm, no! "Ahhh monsieur, a que hora es, s'il vous plait?" Not, quite. "Madamoiselle, por favor, un bolsa para mis cosas??" NO! I am determined to learn French though, so 2011 will have to be the year I begin a concentrated effort. Even now I'm looking up classes at 92y since they seem to offer them every few weeks... but it looks like their most recent classes began on 2/1.. oh well.

So, once we arrived in gay Paree, we figured out how to make it around on Le Metro! First we stopped for our first official Parisian croissant and expresso, before heading to Le Tour Eiffel! I'll spare you the details of how spectacular the Eiffel Tower was and recount our funniest moment of the trip! So, there were all of these Senegalese vendors on the road leading to the base of the Tower. While Julia was looking to purchase a lighter from one, we noticed a wave of people starting to run in our general direction! A stampede of sorts, and it was quite scary and comical all in the same breath. Mainly because Julia noticed the stampede and started running with them, whereas I more calmly surveyed the area and determined that a) only the African vendors were running, and b) none of the other tourists or Europeans looked even remotely concerned. It was quite amusing to realize that there was one Parisian police officer on a bicycle rolling around trying to confiscate their loot! ONE officer on a bike! And ten, twenty, thirty five vendors (and Julia!) were running like crazy, jumping over gates trying to get away!! She ran for about a yard or two, then stopped to see that I was not running so she should probably stop! MAN did we crack up!!! For the rest of our lives, we will be crackin up over that incident!!!

So, once we finally got ready to leave the Eiffel Tower area we made our way past the Trocadero, where we added our names in dry board marker to the vandalized stone (I was sooo nervous!!) and passed by our first vendor to fall in love with one of us, Aziz! He was from Morocco and when I bought the little purse from him, he asked for a hug and a kiss, so I humbly obliged! He was very "ooo-lala my belle!", a very charming fellow! Then we made our way over to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées which is one of the most famous streets in the world! When we got off the metro, we walked over to the Les Invalides, which was completely and utterly ornate and beautiful! Walking along the river Seine, we could barely contain our excitement! This is where we crossed paths with our next Parisian who fell madly in love with Julia, Fabrice the roasted chestnut vendor. He also was a charming fellow, and had a lot of interesting conversation for us to show how nice the Parisians are. He explained that he loved jazz music, as opposed to hip-hop, and proposed to Julia just before I bought a package of war, tasty chestnuts!

From there, we made our way to the Lourve, which was very majestic, indeed! We didn't have enough time to go in, but we mainly stood silent taking the scene in at a misty sundown in Paris listening a man play a haunting flute melody. I cannot wait to go back!

After spending a serene time at the Lourve, we continued forging through the street of Paree, and ended up in a Brazilian peace rally where there were drummers and dancers all in white coats and attire chanting for some kind of civil change. I wish I'd been able to understand what they were saying, but it was quite the site!!! We took that in for about twenty minutes or so, then found a souvenir shop to by things for family and friends...

After a bit of shopping, it was just after sundown, so we thought we'd make our way to Chateau Rouge, the little Africa of Paris. Before we arrived, we were in le metro and passed a young man singing Ordinary People by John Legend, so I decided to stop and sing with him!! It was great! Folks came by and stopped and put money in his little tip jar. And after Ordinary People we sang So High, also by John Legend... That was quite entertaining, and I actually made a point to video record all of the music I heard underground in Le Metro. I keep saying it, but it was all quite enchanting!

Once we arrived at Chateau Rouge, we found a guy from Senegal I believe to show us to a little hole in the wall restaurant where we could eat. Of course he spoke no English, nor did the proprietor, but we were able to order. And she was nice enough to find a guy in the restaurant who did speak English, in case we needed to ask for something. That was definitely the greatest representation of Poisson Fritte we could have ever had! A man from Zaire who spoke no English made his way over to our table, and insisted on engaging me in conversation, the little conversation that we could possibly have. It consisted of a lot of "how are you"s and "you are beautiful"s and "thank yous" etc. He asked for my number, I kindly declined. As kindly as I could in French'glish. However, inside of that little hole in the wall spot was the most entertainment one could find on a Saturday night! It was sort of juke joint, sort of hood spot, very African! The characters in there!!! One guy had on a braided outfit (that's the best way I can describe it) and was standing up making some kind of monologue, but it seems no one was really listening to him. Julia was calling him the Dave Chappelle of Paris. Then some other cats came in dressed just as wack....

We had no idea what the total was but left her what we thought would cover the cost of dinner plus a nice tip... Then with the little energy we had, was able to find our way back to Nord, two stops away. We definitely slept on the way back, and grabbed a taxi from St. Pancrass back to Ben's flat.

Overall, we made a whirlwind of an appearance to the Paris scene! I must return soon and really DO it. But, that was a wonderful introduction....... :D C'est la vie! And what a wonderful life it is!