Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Me with Willie Brown

I say it all the time. Oh the gifted folks I know! Just art and mo art throughout my circle. I met Willie Brown and Woody while I was booking comedians for G Mac's Comedy Show almost twelve years ago at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, California. When Willie showed up, Greg Dalton (G Mac) would always say after the show how great it was to be able to put up such great, rare talent. Almost weekly you could see Katt Williams, Mike Epps, Rodney Perry and to present a ventriloquist in the middle of all that talent to a crowd of people who had never seen such an act and may never again, was...a rainbow. Like how a rainbow appears with all this color from seemingly nowhere? Willie was like that and always very professional. At 6'5" and elegantly dressed with suitcase in hand (Woody's home), he managed to enter the room with a quiet, warm presence. But once he got on stage, pulled Woody out and brought him to life, it was on! The folks, our folks, young and old hip-hoppers, folks they say don't appreciate something different, were mesmerized!

Time has blessed me to call Willie Brown, friend. There is so much to his story that you will never read about or see in an interview. I am honored to hear his stories outside of the resume. These stories, these background stories are the mat holding the puzzle while it's being worked. I am also honored that he allowed me to share this with you.

J* Tell me again about when you were a teenager and took that trip to the convention.

W* I found out about a national ventriloquists convention that took place in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky right outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was sponsored by the Vent. Haven Museum, the North American Association of Ventriloquists, also known as NAAV. After I found about it I knew I wanted to attend it. I saved my money from my odd jobs, raking leaves and whatever I could to make some extra cash.

J* How old were you?

W* Fifteen.

J* So you flew by yourself?

W* Yeah. I saved my money and registered for the four day convention. They had seminars and shows featuring ventriloquists, some nationally known others novices.

J* How much money?

W* I can't remember how much, but I paid for a round trip plane ticket from Hartford, Connecticut to Cincinnati, Ohio, plus ground transportation to and from the hotel, plus all four days at the hotel and I had to buy food. And I had the money! I had the money to do whatever I needed to do.

J* Just from cuttin' grass and stuff?

W* Yeah. Cuttin' grass, working for my aunt doing some data entry stuff, whatever I could get my hands on, all legal of course.

J* Of course.

W* But while I was there I met some of the greats.

J* How did you know they were greats?

W* Because I knew my history as a ventriloquist. There was a great ventriloquist named Jimmy Nelson and Danny O'Day (character). He was big in vaudeville and he had a famous puppet named Farfel (a dog) who used to do the nestle commercial. (Imitates Jimmy Nelson and Farfel, singing in dog's voice) N-E-S-T-L-E-S Nestle makes the very best choooocoooolate. And then his mouth would close real hard. (Laughs)
I also met a young Jeff Dunham. He was good even back then. Along with Colonel Bill Boley and Clinton Detweiler, the owner of Maher Vent. Studios. He helped me a lot.

J* How?

W* He was very instrumental in helping me train through a correspondence course that I took by mail. He would grade my test and listen to my voice over cassette tape and let me know how I was progressing. I also met a man who would later become a mentor to me, one of the greatest African American ventriloquists, Willie Tyler and Lester. He was mostly known for his tour on the Motown review where he worked alongside The Temptations, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and many other very talented groups from the Motown stable.

J* I'm interested in how you knew you wanted to do this?

W* I was fortunate in that I was able to catch two annual ventriloquist specials that were on HBO. The first one was called The Vent Event. That was taped at the Mayfair Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

J* Is that still going on?

W* No. That was just that time. It featured some of the most popular ventriloquists at that time. Even the great Edgar Bergen, Candice Bergen's father and Charlie McCarthy, Jimmy Nelson, Daniel Day, Jay Johnson from the hit sitcom, Soap, along with Shari Lewis and Lambchop.

J* Lambchop is the puppet?

W* Yeah, the sock puppet, remember? She had her own TV show for years. And there was Stew Scott, he had a Los Vegas show. He died. Jim Teter with his presidential puppets. Willie Tyler was on it doing his famous hambone routine which I borrowed for a number of years, I didn't know any better.

J* You just stumbled on this show or were you interested before that?

W* Before that. I had already finished the course by then. I was exposed to ventriloquism through my childhood, through Paul Winchell. He had a television show and had his characters Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smith. I remember being very enthralled at that show as a kid.

J* How old were you?

W* I was a little kid. Maybe four. I didn't see another ventriloquist until I saw Jay Johnson from the TV show, Soap. Remember that show? With Robert Guillaume (Benson). That show ignited the distant show Winchell and Mahoney. I think it was called Winchell and Mahoney? I immediately fell in love with it, combined with my love for magic. Which is my first love.

I already had the discipline to be a ventriloquist from magic. Being in front of the mirror so long practicing.

I told my mother, "I wanna be a ventriloquist." She said, "You wanna do everything." I told her, "I want a dummy." She bought me a dummy for Christmas. It's name was Willie Talk. I think it was made by Hasbro. It came with a little book on how to throw your voice. I just did what it told me to do. So I already had a voice for my first character, Woody. I called it Woody 'cause dummies are made of wood. I didn't know any better. Then I went on BET's Comic View and D L Hugley was the host. That was in '92. I was branded after that. Three years later I did Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam. Those two shows put me on the map nationally. It increased my shows nationally and internationally. I went to all of the major cities playing comedy shows like, All Jokes Aside in Chicago, Illinois, The Laugh House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Improv in Miami and others.

J* What about in college?

W* I performed as a hobby and also at sorority and fraternity functions and off campus at officer's clubs and nightclubs.

J* Are you trippin' sometimes? Like in the middle of the night sometimes do you stare at the ceiling like wow, I'm still doing this?

W* I'm very blessed. I have a cousin who is a pilot and another who is a physical therapist, another who is heavily into computers, another excelled in the military. I always felt like they made it and I was still trying to get there. Like in show business you can't just say, "Well, I'm a doctor now". In show business there is no test. Although you are tested! And now I see myself still evolving and it's not what I thought it was when I used to watch the Mike Douglas Show.

J* What did you think it was going to be like?

W* I thought that once you did Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas, I'm dating myself now. Some people don't even know what those shows are, but once you did those shows, you made it.

I've worked with some great entertainers. When I worked with Gladys Knight my name was on the marquis at the Tropicana. There was another time I was at the Tropicana and I didn't have such a great show. The show was called Comedy Stop at the Trop. I felt jinxed by the manager. Whenever he was there I was sub par, but when he wasn't there I killed. If only he could have seen it. He moved me from the headliner spot to the middle spot after the first night. But he kept my money the same. It hurt my ego. I had to really study that crowd. It was a mixture of old Italians, Jewish, north eastern crowds. Whenever we did connect, it was great.

What was so great was that I got to go back to the Tropicana to open for Gladys and The Temptations, which was an even bigger venue than the Comedy Stop at the Trop. It was a bigger room.

J* Did you go by and see the manager? Was he still there?

W* Yeah he was there. I didn't go see him. He wasn't good for my energy. I no longer go to places that don't serve me, I need to get something out of it. It could be a comedy club, an AA meeting, a church. It has to mean something to me.

J* Tell me about Clean Comedy Clinic.

W* While I was in L.A., I came across comedians who were doing comedy at churches and I got ushered into cleaning up my act and doing more Christian venues. God gave me a gift to perform for all people. I began working with Clean Comedians, an agency in Los Angeles and also Outreach another agency out of Vista, California. From there I began a crusade to bring comedy to the world. Clean, funny, gut busting comedy to the world. As a healing instrument. I call myself a laugh doctor.

So I did end up getting my doctorate after all. Didn't I?

My life by Robin R. Reed (from PLAYGROUND POLITICS BY ROBIN R. REED)

My life is really, really cool and it's fun to be me sometimes. What's cool about me is that I'm always sometimes the tallest person in my class so the kids pick me on there team to play kick ball even though I can't kick that far but they think I can. Terry can kick farther than I can but they don't pick her because she's fat and mean. It's not bad that she's fat because people can't help it if they eat too much but she don't have to be mean to people. Especially people that don't be mean to her.

But anyways, my hair is longer than some of the other black girls at my school but not all of them. The Japaneese girls think I'm cool but I'm not though but I'm cooler than them! I have a little sister and I even like her alot. One day I'm going to be a very famous writer and if I have time I might be a model and actress and lawyer. I am also going to work at JC Penney because they have cute clothes and I'm going to give my mom alot of free clothes and makeup too. She is pretty.

Anyways, when I am a famous writer I'm going to write a letter to the president of the United States of America and tell him that black people have rights too and not to be mean to black people because we useto be slaves like on Roots but we are not anymore! My uncle knows all about everything about black people and he told me. I like to get letters from him. He is in jail so he rights me alot. He is not bad. He's fun. My dad is fun too and he is not in jail. When I'm big I'm going to be rich and when I march around to put money in the offering at church I'm going to be up there a long time because I have more money than they do. I sing in the little kids choir at church but I don't sing loud. I sing soft because the other kids sing better than me but I can run faster than them so it's ok. None of them can sing better than my auntie Janice. She can sing better than anybody and my mom can usher better than anybody. And my grandmother has the most firestick candy of all of the old ladies at my church.

I don't have a boyfriend but oneday I will. Sometimes I think I'm not cute and sometimes I think I am. They say that Donna P. is the cutest girl in school but she is not taller than me. I think she can run faster than me so I don't race her. I have the best writing in my class. One of these days when I'm like 20 years old or something I'm going to travel around the whole entire world and write a famous book about it. Everybody in my class is going to remember me and the boys are going to whish they were my boyfriend but to bad for them because I will be marry already to somebody who is cuter than them and has a faster car and is nicer too. My husband is going to hold my hand when we go to church and the movies. I dont have to give him a kiss if I don't want to. He won't be mad. He will be lucky. I will tell my daughter not to be kissing boys at the park like Lisa useto. She wasn't fass she just like to kiss but not me. I don't like other peoples germs because I might be a doctor one day and a doctor can't have germs. I'm probably going to have a boy to.

I don't think I will have a whole lotta kids like my grandmother did. Maybe just a boy and a girl and they can travel around the world with me and my husband can come too. but he might have to work construction. I will take pictures of the world for him. He will be lucky! When I finish eating my food and writing this famous story about my life then I'm going to go to cheerleading practice. I'm not the best one on my team but I can run faster than all of them except for 2 of them. But my hair is longer than those 2 girls so it's ok. Being a cheeleader is not as important as being a famous writer anyways. Maybe I won't let my daughter be a cheerleader. She needs to be practicing her cursive writing anyway. Sunday I'm going to give a speech at church and I hope I don't mess up. The boys at my church don't think I'm cute but that's ok because they aren't either. If I could have anything I want I will probably pick to be able to sing real good and not to be scared of anything. There is alot to write about me but I'm not going to tell you everything because I don't no you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

IN-SERVICE REPORT for the home health agency

This morning the client was quiet and eating her breakfast.

No. I did not take her vital signs. We shared our favorite Bible stories. I told her Adam's brother Stuart got killed on All My Children. We remembered Luke and Laura together. Neither of us knew if Vickie was still crazy or not. Robin has sure grown up. A doctor like her mama. We mixed all the ABC soaps up and made our own concoction.

She remembered she was beautiful today. There was a bond formed between us during the pilgrimage from the living room to the bathroom. One. Step. One. Step. One. Step. She trusted me. We trusted each other. I would flush the release of her bowels and still look at her as woman. As warrior. And she would see me as the same.

This evening the client ate all of her lunch. And walked up and down her hallway. Alone.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Me with my mother


J* What do you pray about every night?

P* I pray for my children, that I can get through the day, for my church, my pastor and friends.

J* What inspires you?

P* I am inspired at how you stand on the promises of God.

J* When you remember Richard what do you remember?

P* I remember his laughter and his jokes.

J* When you remember your childhood what do you remember first?

P* I remember living in the projects and crossing the streets to the rec. And Jimmy crying when I had to leave to go to kindergarten.

J* What do you want your grandchildren to know about your childhood?

P* That we made our own toys and we didn't have it as easy as them. And it didn't take as much money to entertain us as it does them.

J* What don't you talk about about sarcoids?

P* Nothing I don't talk about. I'm trying to tell everybody about it. And that it affects mostly black women.

J* Was there a time you didn't want to talk about it?

P* When I first got it.

J* Why?

P* 'Cause there was so little known about it. So little I knew about it. I just knew I had it. That's all. It was almost rare at that time for me.

J* What does St. Mark do for you?

P* A sense of belonging, friendships, old friendships. People who knew my mother, father, old friendships.

J* Is there anything you want me to ask you that you want people to know?

P* No. I know where I'm going. If I should leave here. I know where I'll be.

J* Do you think about that a lot.

P* I know that it's good to know. A lot of my friends just went all of a sudden. Whatever you're going to do, you have to just do today 'cause tomorrow is not promised to you. The key is to do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. You don't want nobody to cuss you out, don't cuss nobody out. I'll trust anybody 'till they give me a reason not to.

J* Were you scared when I went to Georgia?

P* Yes. You didn't have no cell phone.

J* Is there ever a day that you don't worry about us?

P* Not worry. But think about. Not a matter of worry. I think, is there something I could do? There was a time when I worried about everything. Makin' up stuff to worry about. Now I have to condition myself not to worry 'cause sarcoids is a stress related disease.

J* How do you condition yourself not to worry?

P* I tell myself it's gon be what its gon be and that's all it's gon be, says Popeye the sailor man (laughs). I have a saying that I go by, that's on all my email, that says "worry looks around, sorry looks back, faith looks up."

J* What song inspires you?

P* (sings) There's a leak in this old building, my soul has got to move to a building not made by hand, amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me (end song).
This body is breaking down. Look at it, you maybe have one day, one week, one year. Think about it. In five years I'll be sixty-five. I don't think I'll live past sixty-five. That's pretty old. I don't try to make no ten year plan. Not that I'll be gone in five, but I don't be makin' no ten year plan. Five might be stretchin' it. Whatever you gon do, you should just do it. I mean you got to lean on God.

J* Are you worried about anything now?

P* I'm not worried about not one thing. I got my policy, my grave site, my plans, in other words, I got my ticket. (sings) Got my ticket in my hand and I'm bound for the promise land. Two thousand years ago it was already determined that we were gon have this conversation. What is gon be is gon be.

J* If you were outside of your body where would you go first?

P* Every place I wish I was a fly on the wall at. Birdie will understand that perfectly.

J* Why are you and Birdie close?

P* It's a funny thing. We didn't get really close until Richard died, I guess. We worked so closely and she has that personality. Both of our husbands had passed, we liked to go to the same places. She opens up her house to me and she's free to do anything here.

J* So everything is as it should be?

P* Everything is what it is. I can handle a creditor callin' me without gettin' all panicky. You do what you can do, and that's all you can do. When I was strugglin' (laughs) you remember when you were little and I dressed up like a man to deposit the money in the drop box in the middle of the night so nobody would bother me? Lights was gettin' disconnected (laughs lightly). I put on his hard hat and big ole jacket and put that money in the box.

J* Are you working on anything right now?

P* Yeah. The pictures. I'm trying to put all my pictures in one album. Pat gave me that idea.

J* And then what's the next project.

P* One of these days I'll get back to doing my puzzles. If not, I just won't.

J* What's the last thing you think about when you go to sleep?

P* Whatever book I'm reading at the time, or what time I have to get up so I can go to work.

J* What does heaven look like?

P* I don't think we gon be flyin' 'round in no wings or nothin'. Everybody has a renewed mind and renewed spirit. Everything is about praise and worship.

J* So you could be in heaven now?

P* No, it's a step process. I don't want people to feel like they are in heaven now 'cause then what do you have to look forward to? If you think you in heaven now then you could let your guard down and the devil can still tempt you. In heaven there will be no devil.

J* What would you want to say to your loved ones months and years later after you're gone? You know, in those moments when we may feel sad.

P* I would want to visit them in a dream and tell them everything is alright. Don't put nobody on a pedestal. Aint nothing and nobody that important.

(silence)

J* You ok?

P* Yeah.

J* You sure?

P* Yeah, I'm on facebook lookin' at these pictures.

Please visit www.p3rsarcoids.blogspot.com and read my mother's story about living with sarcoids.

Because Uraeus is Uraeus

(phone ringing)

Uraeus: Hello.

Mom: Hey, Honey, how you doin'?

Uraeus: Fine.

Mom: Whatchu doin'?

Uraeus: Um. Working on a project for school.

Mom: What is it?

Uraeus: Um, we have to pick someone from history and write about 'em and do a skit about him in class and dress like him.

Mom: That is cool. Who are you doing?

Uraeus: Hannibal.

Always poetry

Sometimes a cashier
At a craft store
Department store
Nurse's aide
Sweeper of your neighbor's floor
All times a poet

There is art to be found in sore feet sometimes
Sometimes
Heart to be strengthened in
Gathering of shopping carts
Sometimes
When the heart is available/open

I am collecting stories
Never lonely
Rhythm in my head

Many hats worn in a day
A week
A month
A mortgage

Only a poet could live this life

Journey
Mountains, valleys
All ways always
Poetry

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fine (2009)

September 3rd this year I will turn 40
40
Strands of gray at my temples
Junk in my trunk only a grown woman can carry
40

Didn't know I could love me more
I do
This me
This right now me
Moving slower
On purpose (mostly)

Layers falling off
Soul showin
Finally grown enough to not like you
If I don't feel like it
Spirit enough to know that you are only an extension of myself
And to give us both a chance

I have nothing to prove to you, world
There is no where to make it to
There is nothing to get
Only everything to give
I have it all

Spa divas (from THE CORNERS OF MY SHAPING)

I am sitting on a brown leather couch
Slouching really
Comfortable with laptop between my legs
I am in the spa on Olympic east of Crenshaw
No one complains that I am typing on my computer
It is most important that I am comfortable
I am

Everything happens south of Wilshire
On and just east of Crenshaw
You can buy two tacos for under a dollar
Can get your car washed for $7.99 on Tuesdays before 9
Get a blow job and caught up in a drive by at the same time
Name it and it can happen over here

This is a space for women
All women
Only women
Beautiful women
We are all beautiful
Naked under thin cotton lime green robes

Woman on the couch next to me is telling her friend
Another friend of theirs left her husband
Her friend responds that she knew it was going to happen
Husband had it coming
In the next breath she warns her friend
To beware of Barbara because she is a bit of a gossip

Forty-five women here
Forty-five reasons
Releasing our frustrations, fears
Relaxing, dreaming
Daring ourselves to be ourselves

Breast of all shapes
Thighs of all sizes
Chocolate of every hue

Woman in the sauna
Has had a long day
She rests her head on cement siding
Each exhale
Every contract
Coffee break
Fired secretary
Inappropriate touch

Washing off the day
I cannot stare
Sometimes I do
Stare
See myself in these women
All of them
They stare
They see themselves in me

Most of the women in here are Korean
I dance to the rhythm of the language
People say they sound angry
I understand
We are like that too when we get excited
Sometimes they are louder than one should be in a spa
I think

They are just excited
I say
They are just excited
Just excited
I keep dancing

Women are so beautiful
Old and young
Gucci and Goodwill
Black and white Korean and Samoan
There is a bond I think
Between naked women in short lime green robes

Beer by Robin R. Reed (from PLAYGROUND POLITICS BY ROBIN R. REED)

If you drink beer then you will throw up alot and you will have to get a divorce. Then you cannot live with your wife and daughters until you say that you are very very sorry.

If you really knew me, you knew that...

(fill in the blank)

Why this blog?

This is my way
Of leaving me with you
Telling you my story
Inside
Private

For my family
For my son
For my friends
My people

My ego will want to edit too much
Too much I want you to know
Too much too important to omit
Too many little pieces
That make up
Me

Why this blog
I dont know
Really
Just following
Orders

Happy birthday, Bubba

Dear Bubba,

I was talking to Therman this morning and he reminded me that today is your birthday. He shared a letter he wrote to you and I sat on the other end of the phone and silently, softly, cried. I miss you. I think about you often. On my mantle at home I have a dashiki that I think Herman gave to you. I have it folded there because it is my way of physically seeing you in my home. I always see you in my mind.

I miss you so much, Bubba. I know that I still have you. I have you in my heart and memory. I have you in the many stories I share about you with my son. Yes, I have a son, Uraeus. You may remember his grandmother, Celestine, from your childhood. You were older but she and my mother were good friends. I tell Uraeus many stories about you.

I remember when I was in elementary school you used to write letters to me from jail. I was always happy, proud, honored to receive your letters. You told me about books to read and to always dig for the truth. I remember you told me that the truth was something that I would always have to search for. I never forgot that. I will never forget you or the conversations we shared.

I am living in Georgia now. I still haven't been able to answer the question as to why Georgia? I don't know. It was a Spirit move. I was following guidance and it led me here.

You were such an important person (man) in my life. I always felt...understood by you. I could express ideas with you and always get at least a good conversation about them. You were one of the most intelligent men I knew. The most intelligent a lot of people knew. Not just because you were so smart, by way of books. But I remember listening to stories about how you defended yourself in court and won. You probably understood the law better than most lawyers.

You cared, Bubba. Cared about your family, siblings, parents, friends, the people. Our people. Black people. You taught me to care too. I have an understanding about what it is to be and love being black because you cared. You cared about the brothas and sistas on the street with you. They loved you for that. You were their "Brotha Bob."

I remember once I took you to the liquor store and when you came out you asked me to give your "friend" a ride home. You spoke to her about her family and old times. I found out later that you didn't even know her but that you didn't want me to feel uncomfortable about a stranger in my backseat. You did things like that. I allowed you to put me in situations like that too often! I know you loved me, Bubba.

You loved us all. Thank you, Bubba. Thank you Robert Davis. Thank you Brotha Bob.

Robin

Dear Michael Jackson

I, like millions around the world sat numb yesterday at the news of your passing. I, however quickly did go through the seven stages of grief from denial to finally acceptance and some time throughout the day I may repeat them all. My ego is crafty, you know. During the night it even made up that it was all some stunt that I would be mad at you later about. My ego wants the world perfect (familar).

You were always in my world. In the seventh grade it was every Black girl's question to bear, who we would marry, you or Prince. No on laughed at Sharee who wore pink lipstick after gym class with MIKE stamped in black ink on her bottom lip. And that Tuesday evening when Bro. Harris carried us in the St. Mark Baptist bus to choir practice and we saw Bill coming out of V.I.P. record store with "worldly" music, we knew he was busted! But when he pulled "Off the Wall" out of his bag Bro. Harris' only admonisment to him was that he had "better be on time for church come Sunday." We understood. You were the exception to most things and always in my world, Michael.

You were always ours. We lent you to the world, but you were ours. We were always connected to you, even when it seemed we didn't understand you. As the cycle goes with families, we were angry with you sometimes. You were our little brother, you were our big brother. Bless your mother's heart, your father's heart. The hearts of your siblings. We moved in with all of you. Loved you and judged you. We felt that we could. Because we loved you like that. In the name of "family" and "protecting you" we crossed the lines. Because we loved you like that.

We know that you felt lonely. Still you reached out to us in the way that you could. From the stage. From the studio. Through the videos. We felt you reaching to us. Thank you, brother. Our magic brother. Our brother who sang and danced like no other before.

You broke through barriers for you and for us. Barriers we may never know the full story behind. Thank you, dear brother. Dance brother. Dance and sind and be in peace.

Your sister,

Jaha Zainabu

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear Headache

Don't even think of getting any closer. No, I will not give you medication.

About me

001. My favorite color is red.
002. I was born Long Beach, California.
003. I write poetry.
004. I make lists.
005. I hide when I am afraid.
006. I love my home in Georgia.
007. I like a neat environment.
008. I have a close relationship and am in constant communication with God.
009. I get sleepy when I am resisting something I don't want to do.
010. I love to sing.
011. I do not sing very well.
012. I have a son.
013. I am 25 pounds overweight.
014. I love who I am.
015. I keep my hair short because I love it.
016. I am sleepy now.
017. I am resisting now.
018. My water bill is due.
019. I am an artist.
020. I am a good friend.
021. I am a good listener.
022. I love to walk.
023. I love to swim.
024. I am beautiful.
025. I love to paint.
026. Aretha Franklin is my favorite singer.
027. Just the two of us by Bill Withers is my favorite song.
028. I love my private time.
029. I love spending time with my family and friends.
030. My favorite fruit is watermelon.
031. My favorite authors are James Baldwin and Toni Morrison.
032. I love laying in the bed with my mother and son watching movies.
033. I love organizing and decorating homes.
034. I don't have cable TV.
035. I should drink more water.
036. I failed geometry in the 10th grade but other than that I got good grades in school.
037. I love big clunky shoes.
038. I love to read.
039. Sometimes I youtube Iyanla Vanzant and Byron Katie in the middle of the night.
040. I am a Landmark graduate.
041. People speak well of me.
042. People speak badly of me.
043. I love the smell of jasmine.
044. I love taking nature photos.
045. I love old school hip hop, emphasis on old school.
046. I was born Robin Rachael (pronounced Rashelle) Reed.

The inspiration room





I am up early this morning. Ok, not early, early, but before 9am early and I am sitting in the room I call "the inspiration room" also called "my office" also called "the guest room" also called "Therman's room". Therman is my uncle who visits when Georgia is not too hot. Today, as I have no guests, am not working at the moment per say and Georgia is HOT so Therman is outski, it is "the inspiration room."

On one wall there is a collage of magazine clippings, art, postcards, notes, cards, poems, pictures that inspire me. On another wall, the wall that faces the bed, there is a large painting (by me) of a colorful woman with her eyes closed smelling flowers. I call her "the dream angel." On the wall with the windows, there is a mural (again by me) of the sun behind a large red flower and tall bamboo. In the summer, when the windows and blinds are open, which is usually, this painting seems to blend with the all of the trees and nature outside, which was why I painted it. In the winter, when the windows and blinds are open, which is usually, the painting is reminder to me that no matter if the sky outside is gray and the trees have no leaves, I can always see a colorful day. Which was why I painted it. On the wall that holds the bed, above the headboard there is a large (I like large) painting on canvas (by guess who...me) of a woman/man who is laying on her/his back and whose body is divided into half human and the other half piano. There are bold letters throughout the painting that say "OUR LOVE", "IN PRAISE", and "SPIRIT". This...room is actually designed to be what the builders call a "teen suite" which I found out is a room where the children/teens hang out and watch TV, play games...It's the largest room in the house and my son already has a bedroom and any hanging out of the teens can be done in the living room, basement, garage, or yard, soooooo, I started creating something else in this big box of a room. In front of one window, at the foot of the bed there is a beautiful tan love seat with comfortable pillows and in front of the love seat, a wooden table I found at a yard sale. I painted a rose colored background on the top of the table and a large red flower on top which kind of connects to the flower on the wall. I use this table to hold my computer and a couple of books. I don't keep much extra in this room because the walls are so full. In front of the table (on the collage wall) is a nightstand and on top of that sits a small TV.

Ok now, when you read "flowers, dream angels, collages and teen suites" don't think that this is a girly, girly room. It's grown, it's alive. It's inspiring. In here I create new possibilities. Today I am creating LOVE, ART, HAPPINESS.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Meantime

Sometimes it’s just about not feeling like it. What it? A whole lotta its. Like not feeling like waking up, going to bed, going to work, cooking dinner, picking the kids up from school, making love. You know, all of it. None of it. The thing is though that it gotta get done. And you the one most likely gotta do it. That’s what it is. That’s all it is. It all come down to choosing it.

In the moment again

My mother was checked into room 2315 at Kaiser Hospital hospital last night. Her chest? Pains? Swelling somewhere? She is in California. I am in Georgia. I felt far away from home. Far away from her. Vulnerable. There was nothing for me to do but pray, wait, breathe. Believe. Believe. Breathe. Pray. Wait. As the night turned into morning I realized that I am always vulnerable. Wherever I am. Wherever I am, whatever the circumstances, there is never much more for me to do, than surrender to what is.

My mother was released from the hospital this afternoon. Thank You, God.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If you have writer's block then...

001. Listen to the trees in your backyard. Big, tall trees that tell stories. Toni Morrison, Jesus stories.
002. Feel the rhythm of your heart. Thumping. Again. Again.
003. Remember love.
004. Laugh today.
005. Pay close attention to your children. Any body's children.
006. Ride the public transportation.
007. Watch the news.
008. Make a list of what you are thankful for.
009. Tell the truth about what you hide.
010. Keep a journal.
011. Write a letter to someone you feel has done you wrong.
012. Write a letter to someone you feel has done you wrong and put yourself in his shoes in the same situation.
013. Think about someone you feel has done you wrong and remember when you did something similar to someone else.
014. Give.
015. Start blogging.
016. Write an article you would want to appear in your favorite magazine.
017. Read. Read. Read.
018. Write a letter to yourself to be read twenty years from now.
019. Start a journal for your children to be read in ten years.
020. Write out your will.
021. Choose between cleaning your closets or writing a new story, about anything.
022. Write a letter to a friend/relative who has passed on.
023. Write down your thoughts as you are thinking them, as fast as you can.
024. Write down your favorite childhood moment.
025. Write down the lie you told today and why you told it.
026. Make a birthday wish list.
027. Write an essay about what you would do with no lights in your home for a month.
028. Write the lyrics of your favorite song.
029. Write the lyrics of your favorite song and why the song affects you.
030. Write down situations that make you upset.
031. Write down situations that make you happy.
032. Write an essay about what you are afraid of and take action on despite you fear.
033. Describe a room in your home.
034. Describe all of the rooms of your home.
035. Create a vision board and write about it.

Dear Laura




Time has blessed me to call you friend. I am so thankful for the time we spend together, on the phone, in person, in thought, in prayer, in silence. Thank you for the space to be quiet. For the space to be a mess. To be a blessing. To be a friend.

Thank you for the weekends on your couch watching movies, eating peanut butter cups, eating more peanut butter cups, laughing (about the nothing), crying (about the everything). Thank you for the space to say it all. The space to be weak. To be strong. Thank you for reminding me to choose. For reminding me that I get to say.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My father's wisdom - The ocean

My father always had a joke to tell and a story and advice to go along with it if you were willing to listen. Sometimes, even if you weren't. His advice was usually from a perspective you either hadn't heard before or didn't expect from him. Either way, it did behoove you to listen.

I remember once he said that he and Jesus were jokesters, but there was always a message under the stories. He said, "You wanna know when Jesus really wanted His disciples to pay close attention to His stories? Well, He would say 'verily, verily I say unto you.' And notice how He said 'verily' twice." Then he laughed that laugh my father was famous for. That laugh that I will never forget. That laugh that knew sometimes he was casting his pearls before the swine. But he would cast them anyway, not believing in swine. Believing that we are all swine or none of us.

"Verily, verily" he said unto me, that "if you wanna stay outta trouble, don't go to the ocean." Then the laugh again. Truncated, inebriated, but still. The laugh. I was in Georgia and he was in California and I could see him through the phone sitting on his chair closest to the TV, right by the window. I could feel him winding up the gears to his story like the best storytellers. Like Richard Pryor, James Baldwin, like Jesus. "A shark always get a bad rap" he said. Then a pause, for nothing. Or maybe for the sip of something. "You aint never gon wake up in the middle of the night and see a shark standing above yo' bed. You aint never gon walk 'cross a dark parkin' lot an' be scared that a shark might be following you. In fact, the onlyist time a shark can git you, is if you git in the ocean where the shark already live."

And such is the trick of life. Knowing your ocean. "One man's ocean" he said "always different from the next man's." If you are addicted to drugs then the crack house is your ocean and the dealer your shark. If you are a shopaholic, then you don't need to live next to a mall. You don't wanna get eaten by a shark? Stay out of your ocean.

It's true what they say about cherishing every moment. That was the last story he told me (from this side). A week later, he was gone. As if anyone is ever gone. But I have his stories. I have the memory of his laughter. I have is smile. His voice in my head. My father will never be gone.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Me with V Kali




V Kali is one of my favorite poets, not to mention one of my favorite people. I met her at The World Stage in Leimert Park in Los Angeles in ummm?? Ummm?? I guess 94? Wow. I've loved her since that night. Her voice is soft and commanding you to stop what you doin' and pay attention. And then there are those words, that. Make. You. Listen. And don't make me talk about her cookin'. This vegan chef can turn tofu into the best catfish sandwich you never ate.

Brothas and sistas this woman is the balm.

J* What is your most memorable experience?

V* Zuri's passing.

J* If you can choose, where will you go after this lifetime?

V* In.

J* What is your passion?

V* Caring for people. Writing. Talking. Communication is my passion.

J* What did you come to this planet to do?

V* Transform it. I guess that would make me a transformer.

J* Are you doing it?

V* I am.

J* What will most people say about you?

V* I was always late, but it was always on time. I could cook my ass off. I fed people in ways that most people are not fed. I told the truth on most people, even myself. I loved my friends as family. I loved me some mens! People who knew me when I was younger would say that I wanted to be taller. Then I found out that I already was. I love good music. All music is good. The bad stuff is just noise.

J* What will most people say about you that they would be wrong about?

V* Um? Um? That I know so much. I don't know so much. I just know what I know. It's not a perfect thing, but people have me on a pedestal like I can do no wrong and boy are they wrong about that. That I would never eat anything fried. Wrong, wrong, wrong. That I wouldn't wear a mini skirt. That I would never cut my locks. That I would never be with a white boy. I'm into goodness nowadays. Not just the package. Course these white boys come in some nice packages.

J* What do you lie about?

V* My fears. My vulnerability. About certain pains. Ummm? The conditions I find myself in. I lie about most things because I don't think people will believe me. 'Cause they got me on a fuckin' pedestal!

J* What do you hide?

V* My fat. Nobody knows I have it. They call me a role model and they don't know how close they are to the truth. I got rolls for days! I hide my grief often. My real grief. I show you my light grief. I don't show you my real grief. That's the kinda grief that grips, like those Firestone tires. I don't ever want anybody else to feel some of the things I felt. Ever. I'll put 'em in a poem but by that time they been glossed over with pen and paper. I don't mind sharin''em, but that gut wrenching how it really was...naaaa. I've already felt it.

J* What are you proud of?

V* I'm proud that I'm able to be the kind of person that people just love my ass! I'm loved by some extraordinary people. My children say sometimes "I don't like you" I say that's ok, I got a whole lotta people that love me. And my kids love me. I know that. It's a badge of honor. So many people just love me. Yeah. I'm proud of that. I'm proud to be a really good friend and to have really good friends.

J* What do you want?

V* Ummm? I want wholeness. Wait, somebody said if I want something then it implies that I don't have it.

J* Let's say that you do have it.

V* I want to experience the wealth that I generate. I want to be without impediments. I want someone to touch the hem of my garment and be healed. I want to speak and wipe away the famine. I want to free other peoples minds. Free yo mind yo ass will follow.

J* What do you want for your children and grandchildren?

V* Integrity, courage, peace within freedom. Not peace and some war on the side. Peace. Flexibility. Honor. Family. Guidance and protection. God. Some rhythm and blues. Dance. Flava. Rhythm. Course they already got that. Most of that. Vision. Clear vision.

J* What has been your consistent message to your children and grandchildren?

V* You will always have me. I told Zuri that I'm the queen and she is the princess. My grandchildren, I tell them when they say they want their mother, I tell them that they will always have their mother, they just have her differently. I tell my children that they will always have me. Life doesn't end, it just changes form. We don't die, we just step into another room. I also tell them to clean up what you mess up.

J* What do your locks mean to you?

V* Freedom. I don't have to do nothin' to my hair. I don't have to buy any scarves. Or hats. Or umbrellas even. And um...I don't have to carry a gun.

J* Say more about that.

V* Crouching tiger hidden...I hit you with my best shot. A switch don't have nothin' on this.

J* Have you ever been physically abused?

V* Yes. I would love to name names at this point. Yeah I'll tell who did it. I been physically abused by my father and my youngest children's father. I aint scared of them. It only took once. The last man who hit me was the last man who hit me. He only clipped me and he left and that saved us both. What comes up when you say physically abused is domestic violence and much of that is not physical. The emotional abuse was much worse than that piece a slap. But all the people who physically abused me are either under the ground or are heading there fast.

J* You didn't have nothin' to do with that did you?

V* (laughing) No! Lord have mercy. That's where my compassion comes in. 'Cause there was a time.

J* How did you survive?

V* By escaping. Leaving my body. Been trying to get back in ever since. That's the biggest challenge I have. Leaving my body and taking care of other people. That gave me something to do. I got really good at taking care of other people so that the same thing wouldn't happen to them.

J* What does being a vegetarian mean to you?

V* Nothing. How much money is meat? Good God! I got Connie some lamb chops and they were $8 for two! The steaks were what? $40! You spend all that to eat somethin' that's dead? Cost effective. Vegetarianism is kind and helpful to my body. All the diseases I had growing up, I will never have again. Mostly 'cause of my diet. I had kidney infections and ulcers, inflamed liver...good gracious. I had a number of things and didn't take medication and all 'cause of diet. Well, lifestyle 'cause I don't diet.

J* What was your favorite moment as a child?

V* Climbing trees. I still like to climb trees. Sittin' in the tree and watchin' people go by and they don't know you up there. My life on the east coast was really special. New England was special. It's clean. Family. Family. Family. As far as the eye can see.

J* What does your name mean?

V* V is my initial for my birth name Venela. I'm told it means sweet. However there are derivations that are culturally connected. There is a town in South Africa called Wenela. My father's twin sister who died when she was young, her name was Venela. I'm named for her. His father was from Guyana and I believe there was a connection there. I have heritage from India by way of Guyana. And Kali is a Hindu goddess. She's black mama. She's the goddess of transformation. I didn't know that when I took on that name.

J* Why did you take on the name?

V* I was in a taxi cab in 1969 and the driver said I reminded him of his sister. It just rang with me. I just started writing the name. I ran into an Aborigine at the marketplace and she said I reminded her of her daughter. Nurigan. So I was V Kali Nurigan for a while. I was affected by the sound of the names. I probably looked at them for a year. But I always believe that less is more. So I just go by V Kali. People been callin' me V since 1966 and some people call me Kali. I start to correct them but I just let them go on.

J* What would you want your biography called?

V* Ummm? Whatever it is will be one word.

J* How would you describe your relationship with God?

V* Sweet. Honest. The only relationship there is. Even if you're not true to yourself, you're true to yourself.

J* What song puts you in a good mood?

V* Back to the middle. Maybe that's not the name of it. What's that song that India.Aire sings?

J* What is your favorite thing to do when you're alone?

V* Walk around with no clothes on and the windows open. I actually like to cook in the nude, but that's a challenge when it comes to grease.

Dear Uraeus #1

Dear Uraeus

001. I love you.
002. Keep God first.
003. Remember to give thanks.
004. Keep playing chess.
005. Don't get frustrated when you lose your queen. When people know
how to push your buttons, they may try to control you like that.
006. Don't explain your way out of an argument when you don't have to.
State your facts, not your emotions. Apologize where you need to.
Listen to the other side.
007. Don't give your power away.
008. Be a chooser. Don't allow yourself to be chosen by everything, job,
relationship, car...You choose.
009. Pray.
010. Have a regular meditation schedule.
011. Tell the truth, even when it doesn't make you look good.
012. Follow your path.
013. Communicate with everyone as if it is your last time.
014. Think before you speak.
015. Think for yourself.
016. Drink plenty of water.
017. Exercise daily.
018. Clear away the clutter.
019. Give.
020. Stay connected with your family.
021. Respect your elders.
022. Never show up at a woman's home empty handed.
023. Read. Often.
024. Dig for the truth.
025. Learn the lesson on your journey.
026. Cherish the blessings on your journey.
027. Know your purpose.
028. Clean up where your messed up.
029. Listen more than you speak.
030. Know that you are worthy.
031. Talk about what you want in your life. Your life mirrors your
conversation.
032. Love yourself.
033. Never become dependant on any drug or alcohol. Be with life.
034. Mind your mind.
035. Ask questions until you understand.
036. Read the Bible.
037. Read the Course in Miracles.
038. Know the history of this country.
039. Know of history of black people in this country and in Africa.
040. Read Roots, especially the first half of the book.
041. Trust yourself.
042. Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others.
043. Think.
044. Guns and weapons carry a certain energy. Know the magnetic strength
of that energy and do not look for violence. I prefer that you do
not carry a weapon, especially a gun.
045. Do not get involved in a gang.
046. Honor your wife/girlfriend. Keep God first in that relationship.
047. Don't worry.
048. Trust.
049. Forgive.
050. Be a friend.
051. Laugh often.
052. Be slow to anger.
053. Follow your passion.
054. You are unique.
055. Have someone you can confide in. Share with him/her often.
056. Be someone someone else confides in. Make time for him/her often.
057. In an argument with someone you care about, weigh whether or not it
is more important for you to be right, or show love.
058. In every conversation, seek to leave people feeling respected.
059. Stay healthy.
060. Find a way to keep a positive outlook.
061. Honor your word.

Love,
Mom

On the path

Lately my meditation has been walking and working in the yard. Here in Georgia it has been hot as JAWGA all day so I've been doing more working in the yard than walking. Don't know if it's the air, the trees, the peace, but I can hear God's voice so clearly lately. No really, I can hear it. Maybe I've just been allowing myself to be still long enough for it to be clear. While kicking up weeds and potting new plants I heard it today. "Love what and where you are. Stay on the path and don't compare your life to anyone's."

As I thought about this I remembered reading about James Baldwin. He said that when he was working on a story or essay he tried not to read the works of others so that he could get his own voice in his work. That's the part of my path I'm on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stay connected

Connect with me @:
www.facebook.com/jahaz
www.myspace.com/jahazainabu

Breakthrough

Smile anyway today. That's what I'm doing. Your circumstances will catch up eventually. Or you will look around and actually see something to smile about. Try it. I dare you.

Free

Creating freedom today
To be
To accept what is
What is not

To love
Speak
Listen
Dance

Creating freedom today
To spin
Laugh
Laugh some more
About the nothing
About everything

Be

Early Georgia morning
Dark except the lightening
Quiet except the fans
Still except my mind

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life

There are always wounds that won't close
Words that can't be taken back
You can put honey on top
Still there is oleander underneath

Everything is as it should be
Still
'Cause what artist could stand sweet tea all the time
All the time?
What could she paint with only pink
Only pink?

E. Amato on THE CORNERS OF MY SHAPING

(THE CORNERS OF MY SHAPING is a collection of essays, stories, poems, journal entries, life. Order your copy @ www.poetcd.com)

Jaha's greatest gift is that she can give yourself back to you. All those little pieces you've been holding back for fear of not being understood, the ones you pimped and the ones you ho'ed, the ones you loaned and didn't get back and the ones that were straight up stolen. Jaha will give them back to you. Until you are the only you that you truly recognize and honor. That is the gift to inspire, the one that makes us all better even if sometimes it is only momentary.

You cannot pay Jaha what it costs her to live, experience, process and then turn into art this life she is inhabiting and you cannot pay for what it will mean to you as you read it and hear her voice come to life.

E. Amato

xxIn the moment

Today was a slow wake up day. Nowhere to get to fast. I will add fresh water and a new plant to my father's alter. Had a dream about him last night again. He held me and told me that he loved me. He wanted me to know he was with me. I will walk today, cut the grass, I will paint today and mop the floor. Today is that kind of day. Today is a day of observing all of the movement in the quiet. The sound in all the stillness.

There is the some celebration going on in the bird's world right now. They are singing like it's the queen birds birthday. I am ok with that. There was a time when I would not have been. Back then my windows and blinds would have been closed, praying would not have been the first intentional action, except a prayer of "God, please get me through this day." I am thankful today. For where I've come from. For where I will be. For where I am right now. This right now. This blessed right now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

xxCreating happiness just because

I have been waking up lately setting an intention or a declared way of being for the day. I create this intention as creation, not from how I felt last night or what I want to accomplish, but from...nothing. "Nothing" if there is actually "nothing." Today I created happiness as a way of being for the day. Not just happiness for myself but happiness every place I am today.

And so what does that look like? Does it mean that everywhere I go today will look like a scene from High School Musical where folks spontaneously break into song and dance? No. The happiness I am creating for today is happiness as a point of view. There are always a million and one ways to look at something. My declaration is that today I will look through happy glasses.

Sounds corny? Hopefully. I have been through a lot in my life and today I am affording myself a little...corn.

What are you creating?