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.