Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Talk to me

It seems like each person I call myself introducing this blog to says, "Oh, girl I already read it, every day." Well thank you. Please leave a comment every now and then, let me know you're out there. Thanks again, and please keep reading.

Jaha

Letter to parole officer (from Bubba's journal)

I have elected to use this unorthodox approach to convey the following information because I sincerely feel that it will afford me the best, if not the only, opportunity to present it as I think it must be presented, uninterrupted and uninfluenced by the pressures that are naturally produced in the interaction between a parolee and his parole officer, in situations of this type.

As briefly as possible, I will recount last week's experiences, the "week" that I spent in the L. A. County Jail.

As you know, you had me booked into the Long Beach City Jail on Monday, April 2, 1990. Your instructions to me were as follows: upon my release, which would be on the following Monday, April 9, 1990, I was to stop to get my methadone dose, then proceed straight to your office to see you. Very simple. And all was proceeding according to schedule until Saturday, April 7, 1990. On that day, at the noon "pill call" in the L. A. County Jail, I am absolutely certain, with the benefit of hindsight, that I was mistakenly (hopefully) given the wrong medication by the dispensing nurse. I am of the firm opinion that this "wrong medication" was an unusually massive dose of "Thorozine." I am unsure of the spelling, but I am referring to the drug that is generally prescribed for slowing the actions of aggressive and often times, dangerous individuals.

A few hours later, to my utter surprise, I was told to "roll it up for release" on Saturday, April 7, 1990. At about 11:00 pm that night I was finally free. I decided to walk from the county jail to 6th and Main to catch the bus to Long Beach. It was during this time that it dawned on me that something was very wrong with me. I am very tempted to say my actions were those similar to a "Zombie." But in truth that would be slightly overstating it. My head was buzzing, my movements were uncommonly slow and sluggish, and to talk and be understood, required frightening effort.

It is my guess that you simply do not care about anything that one of your parolees considers dear to him if it in some way conflicts with what you feel, from you out-of-touch perch, is "best" for him. Even this insensitive approach would be acceptable to me if you would not attempt to make it appear, when you impose your, at best, borderline legal conditions, that it is the parolee's best interest that you have in mind.

You enter the picture imposing an authority that licenses you to run roughshod over any and all, projects and relationships that may have taken a lifetime to put together, as if only you are able to determine what is good or bad. It seems to me that you are determined to be damned sure that the impact that you have on the parolee's life is that it will damn sure not be the same when you are finished with it, as if that alone is progress.

Well, you have succeeded in fucking mine up. I must be quite careful here, for I nearly wrote something that I would be sorry for.

In fact, I'd better close this note. I think that you can figure out how I feel toward you. Unsparing Hate.

Her "Crazy Streak" (from Bubba's journal - Saturday, December 25, 1993)

She warns that existing somewhere within her is a demonic "urge" that, when triggered, will, in a flash, transform her from normality into an extremely violent, uncontrollable, mindless, caricature of a human being. While in this state, she is unaware that this transformation has taken place. She also is not conscious of her actions, and must be told what she has done while in this violent state when normalcy returns. This transformation is usually triggered by the behavior of a certain individual, who also becomes the target of her violence.

According to her, she has been struggling to gain control of this "demon" within her for a number of years, realizing a measure of success over the past couple of years. To her horror, she has recently become aware of the fact that sufficient control has not yet been obtained. However, to her credit, although she has encountered several situations in which the triggering ingredients were present, she has somehow maintained control. She does, however, have a fear that she might run into the situation in which control slips away from her, and whoever should be in a position to witness this incident will be in quite a shock.

She says that the existence of this "demon" within her is not something that she is proud of. In fact, she says, it frightens her, and unless and until one witnesses one of these transformations, one has no idea of how horrible it can be. She also believes that her warnings are, by far, not taken seriously enough by the special few that she shares this information with. This upsets her, for the most part.

She takes the position, as it relates to me, that because she has informed me about this "demon's" existence, I now share her burden of keeping the lid on this "demon." That is, when/if she informs me that a particular individual is triggering the transformation of her into this violent, mindless creature, I am expected to do whatever is within my power to prevent this transformation from occurring.

Because she is the only authority on this situation, and because I am only as knowledgeable about the situation as she chooses for me to be, with her having the power to manipulate "facts" at will, I am effectively at her beck and call, as long as I take the position that I believe in the "demon's" existence and am willing to help her maintain control over it.

Back-Scratching Pact (from Bubba's journal - Friday, October 4, 1991)

Until recently, for the past month or so, all of my contact with an associate with whom I've conducted business, was wholly dependent upon a third party, the individual who introduced us to each other. Aside form this third party's role as the one who could put him in contact with me when the business need arose, he was totally irrelevant in regards to contributing anything to our business. However, for the rather insignificant role that he was permitted to play, he was very well compensated, from the other guy, of course.

In accordance with the "code" governing such relationships, no attempt to eliminate him (his role) was made by either me or my new-found business associate. The principle embodied in this "code" is that, because the "associate" and I are total strangers, there is absolutely no grounds upon which we can, or should, trust each other, especially given the nature of our business. In effect, the third party is dangerously responsible for the guaranteed safety of the two principals, in every respect. So, it is this "code" that justifies his (the third party) being compensated for his "role," and at the same time, prevents attempts to eliminate him.

But as the situation evolves, the two principals begin to become more familiar and knowledgeable about each other, which normally leads to trust. At some point along this line, enough trust will accumulate to render the "guarantee" of the third party unnecessary and he will be out of a "job."

In this case, however, because the third party was abruptly jailed, this trust-building process was necessarily shortened. Of course, the process had proceeded far enough so that neither of the two principals felt uncomfortable proceeding on without the "benefit" of the third party.

The Water Center 3

1. The Water Center has art on the walls painted by the residents and staff.
2. The Water Center has yoga once a week.
3. There are many healthy plants in The Water Center.
4. There is a large fish tank in the living room of The Water Center.
5. The lives of the staff and residents are transformed at The Water Center.
6. There is healing music playing at The Water Center.
7. There are nutrition classes at The Water Center.
8. There are scholarships to trade schools offered at The Water Center.
9. Mothers have a free day with their children at The Water Center.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233

Me with Daniel (conversation with a prison nurse)

Daniel is a nurse who has been in the mental health field for ten years. I was acquainted with him, via phone, by another nurse who worked at the Union City Jail with him. He has worked at two jails and three prisons.

D* I did some part time work for two months at the Fulton County Jail in the mid ‘90’s, maybe ‘94. I needed the extra cash but later I told them, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you”. I knew it was a matter of time before the inmates were going to sue the county and win. And a few years later they did sue them.

J* What were some of your experiences?

D* Officers would wander off from nurses. They are supposed to be by you. Inmates were wild there. I was routinely having inmates coming on to me sexually. More men than women. The building was about five years old but on the inside it looked like it was fifty years old. It was so battered and poorly maintained. The doors weren’t secure, windows were broken. The officers were fairly indifferent and out of shape. They couldn’t have picked up a gun if they dropped it on the floor.

The building didn’t feel like circulation was very good. The inmates were getting TB but not really being cared for.

J* This was at Fulton County?

D* Yes. Some years later, in ‘96 perhaps, I worked for a couple of months at Metro State Prison. Metro is not too bad. It’s a medium sized facility with about 740 beds or something. Fairly compact, laid out. It was a pretty well run place from the security standpoint.

J* What would I be surprised at?

D* How many health problems there are. Metro was a woman’s diagnostic facility. All women who went to prison went to Metro first. Roughly 400 were on medication routinely. Inmates tend not to be a healthy population.

There were hardly any inpatient beds. You had all these people released with mental health cases with no safety nets.

The prison industry is now the largest in mental health service.



D* If you show any discomfort about being there, the inmates will eat you alive. Things are better for the medical staff than the officers. The officers are treated as the enemy. The inmates usually know that the medical staff is there to help them. I only had a few inmates give me trouble.

J* Did any of the inmates get clingy with you?

D* Not really. Being tough is very important.

J* Why did you leave corrections?

D* I needed a break from the inmates.

I remember there was one inmate in the hole who had killed an officer. Some days he was fairly outgoing and would recite his terrible poetry and rap to me. I would just listen and say, “Thank you for sharing that.”

J* Were you ever alone with him?

D* Oh noooo. These people can be locked down super securely. There was always an officer present.

There is a super max prison that was being built, and this guy, the terrible rapper, he was in line to go there. No, I was never alone with them. The CERT team handled him when he was out of his cell. He would be in chains from the waist down even to go to the shower.

If he was in a good mood, then he might be OK, but if he wasn’t, he flipped. Once I asked how he was doing and he went off. “How the fuck do you think I am! I’m on death row! I’ll kill you!” He was seriously unstable. Back in the ‘50’s he probably would have been committed to a mental hospital and been there for life.

Another guy on death row was a guy who had gotten a lot of attention in the news. He had killed a lot of people in one day. He used to scare some of the staff by speaking in these demon voices.

(laughs) There was one guy, he was on death row too. He honestly believed that he had a pick up truck outside the prison and that he had a job at night at a gold coin plant. He would get angry with the guards because they would make him late for work.

J* Are the death row inmates and general population inmates ever connected?

D* No. I mean, if there is a death row inmate who is in the hole, then he might be able to hear someone in general population from another cell. Death row has their own section. There is extra tight security there. In some ways, there is a little better accommodations. They are more heavily staffed. Their treatment is more closely monitored. The officers are more careful with how they handle them.

For instance, in Jackson, there isn’t a lot of TV action going on for the general population. Maybe a movie once or twice a week, but for death row, there’s lots of TV.

J* Why?

D* I don’t know the ins and outs of that.

On death row, they have their lawyers looking out for them. The state doesn’t wanna stir up any problems. I don’t know if these numbers are exactly accurate but it’s something like $20,000 per year spent to lock someone up in general population and like $6,000,000 over the life of the case for a death row inmate.

That one who used to tell me his rap…

J* The terrible rapper?

D* Yeah, he had a life sentence because that county couldn’t afford a death row case.

J* No way!

D* Yep. There is so much money that’s spent. Like with Brian Nichols, a couple million, but that’s not even the end.

I was talking to one of the psychiatrists who said he used to be a death penalty supporter but changed his mind because it’s just not worth it. All that money.

In Jackson, there was a section reserved for the best behaved of the death row inmates. I think it’s death row, maybe something else, but this guy I'm talking about was on the mental health block often. He looked old as dirt. A lot of these folks lived hard. I figured he was in his early 70’s. I found out later he was 42! Not real stable. He was always polite to me though. He ended up doing some rules infractions and lost his recreation time for a couple of weeks. He just lost it.

When I would go to his cell I had to tell him everything. I had to say, “Get out of the bed. Walk to the bars. Pick up the cup. Put the medication in your mouth. Drink the water. Swallow.” I had to tell him everything. When he was confined like that he fell apart. When he got his recreation time back after a while, he was back to himself.

There was another guy who was kept at the end of the row where he couldn’t be heard by everyone. He would be huddled in a corner in his cell with a sheet over his head laughing loudly. He was hallucinating that he was in there with his brother and his brother was telling him jokes. (laughs)

If you told him to do something and he didn’t understand you, he would ask what’s wrong with you. (laughs again) He meant it too. What’s wrong with you? Most mentally ill people usually know that they are mentally ill. Not him. It was YOU.

J* You ever journal these stories?

D* No. I probably should though.

Let me tell you this, at Jackson, there was this officer who was really great. He was in a supervisor position. He could get any of the officers to do anything and he had solid control of the inmates.

J* Because they feared him?

D* Maybe on some level. Some level respect.

He could tell them to jump and they would really ask how high. He would yell at folks and get ‘em shakin’ a little bit. One day I was watching him and noticed he was having fun with this.

J* Is he still there?

D* No. He took a private security job. A shame to see him go. Good officers develop their own style.

Some inmates would only respond if you cussed them out. But there is a certain style with which you could do that. Some new officers would come in loud and cursing. The inmates would see through that and not show them respect. The best officers were the middle aged women.

You know, prisons only work because the inmates agree to be inmates. They could take over the place in fifteen minutes if they didn’t agree to that. The thing is though, they couldn’t agree or come to that kind of unity. The ones who are mentally stable look down on the mentally ill inmates. This race against that one. This gang against another.

J* So it’s to the guards advantage that the inmates don’t get along.

D* Well, in a way. Not that they encourage it though.

Lockup is a criminal world. The guards can’t catch all of it. There are sex crimes and so there are a lot of STD’s in prison. It’s a violation for them to be having sex, so there are no condoms.

J* But they know that they’re having sex, why don’t they give them condoms?

D* That’s against the law. The inmates steal latex gloves from the medical staff. And they get other things. The trustees are not very trustworthy. They pass around information.

J* What kind of information?

D* Staff movement, who’s on staff, they pass contraband, materials for making drinks. If they know an inmate who is depressed, they give him razor blades and encourage him to kill himself.

J* Why?

D* Entertainment.

They do a bad job a lot of times and end up having to get treated. It’s messy. The blood and marks.

J* Where do they get razors anyway?

D* Inmates are good at hiding things. There was an inmate who was boasting about being so good at hiding things, mostly in his mouth. He wanted to prove that he could hide his pills in his mouth. So I gave him his pills, gave him water, watched him swallow. He opened his mouth and the officer shined the light in his mouth. Saw nothing. The inmate closed his mouth then spit out the pill.

After that I gave him more water and he took his pill. I think.

There was an inmate who used to hide razor blades in his nose.

J* What kind of razor blade?

D* Like the kind in a disposable razor.

J* Ouch.

D* Sometimes they cut into their penis and hide things there.

J* What?

D* Yeah. They cut a little bit, let it heal. Cut some more. Then some more. Soon there is a pocket there. The officers are supposed to squeeze the penis when they search them but they don’t.

J* Are there a lot of mental health inmates in Union City?

D* A lot. But many didn’t get treated.

J* Because…?

D* It was too expensive to treat them. There are a lot of illnesses and diseases not properly treated. MRSA is very common in jails.

There is a lot (pause) a lot going on.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dear Roshann (from Bubba's journal - Tuesday, January 28, 1992)

My dearest niece, how are you coming along? Normally, I would use the space that I am now writing on to apologize to you for taking so long to drop you a line. However, thanks to the level of growth that has been achieved, resulting from our correspondences, that has become unnecessary. You are one of, at least, four people that I seriously correspond with through the mail. I have neglected them all over the past many weeks, because for me to write a letter, I must be "in the mood." The "mood" just hit me, and you are first on the list, that is, the most important.

I know that your first "return" home, as far as enjoyment is concerned, left a lot to be desired. This is quite the norm for people being away from home for the first time. Usually, their expectations are unrealistic. The remainder of your returns, I will guarantee you, will be much more enjoyable. You will see to that, for you will make the necessary adjustments. You are my "baby." And these are simple words of encouragement and understanding to a strong, growing and beautiful, young lady. Stay focused. Study hard. Learn. It is all about, and up to, YOU.

Robyn is quite excited about returning to school, which is wonderful. Her renewed interest and enthusiasm is a direct result of the admirable effort that you are putting forth in becoming all that you can be. It is always a rewarding experience to realize that you are having a positive influence on the lives of others, and you are. But back to Robyn. She and I, like you and I are finding that there is quite a lot of room for us to grow together. I find it all very interesting.

Although I am writing this letter on January 28, 1992, I will refrain from mailing it until I am able to put a little money in it. This may take a week, or more. I, of all people, know how precious a letter is to one in your circumstance(prison), and I also know how precious money is. So, I think that you might understand and appreciate my holding on to this letter for a few days in order to make it "complete." I'll sign off now, and finish this page when I get the money.

Bubba

Thursday, February 6, 12:00pm

I draw your attention to the time of day on the line above because I know that you will recognize that writing a letter at this time is a tremendous departure from my rigidly regular schedule. Being home at this time, even, is out of the ordinary. I'm here awaiting a phone call from my social worker. the message that she will have for me is that I should come to the county building to pick up my check. So, in the meantime, I think that it is a good idea to finish this letter to you.

While you were here, we briefly discussed your freshly-discovered interest in real estate. We agreed that it was well worth pursuing. My reason for mentioning it now is because I want to point out that I support your reasoning on this issue.

You correctly realize that the bottom line is money, the most possible. You also know that the degree that you are working for is extremely important, because it represents higher income in the long run. Real estate may be studied incidentally as you earn your degree, but it may very likely become your primary pursuit after graduation because of its lucrativeness. My point is that I admire you for keeping your options open. You are very special, and you are wisely concerned about the feelings of those close to you, perhaps to a fault. I'm trying to encourage you to think more about Roshann's interest and to place more value in your ability to decide what is best for Roshann. I am, if not your most, one of your most ardent and loyal supporters. You can do no wrong in my book, as long as it is nothing but a mistake.

A distinction between timing and timely (from Bubba's journal - Wednesday, October 2, 1991)

An individual peripherally connected to me on the basis of the difference in our status in a particular group, after correctly concluding, as a result of his having observed me without my being aware of it, that I desperately needed help (in every aspect of the word), called me and asked me what could he do to make a difference in my condition. He left no room for me to doubt his sincerity or his willingness to surrender any, and all, that was reasonably in his power to give.

I was taken aback both by his generosity and his perceptiveness. I couldn't bring myself to ask him for any more than the bare minimum of my immediate needs, which amounted to $2.00. He immediately forked over the $2.00. But he also just sort of "hung around," and before very long he had allowed himself to be asked for at least an additional $10.00, to which he promptly and ungrudgingly complied.

It was during accompanying conversation that he made it quite clear to me that it was the high esteem in which he regarded me, based on good things that he had heard others say about me, that had motivated him to treat me as he had. Along with others present on that lot, we spent a couple of hours or more talking. We learned that there were quite a number of people that we commonly knew, both in and out of prison.

During the following couple of weeks, we periodically came into contact with each other. Because I actually didn't have money to offer him as "payment of appreciation," none was offered, and he gave no indication whatsoever that any was expected.

Today, however, after two weeks, I happened to be in a position where I could, and did, hand him $1.00 as an "appreciation payment." He was surprised. He accepted that $1.00 as if it was $20.00, and folded it over a stack of bills that would easily amount to $100.00.

He then stated that he had not expected any money from me. But that that dollar had increased his respect for me significantly. Now, I was surprised. But it soon dawned on me that after two weeks, he had wrongly thought that I felt entitled to the money that he had so kindly given me, and he was willing to accept that.

The dollar that I gave him had the effect that it did because of its "timeliness."

Had two more weeks been allowed to pass before I was in position to give him that dollar, it is a safe bet that the entire payment would have been viewed differently. Instead of seeing it as me giving him that $1.00 at my earliest opportunity/convenience, it is quite likely that he would have viewed it as I saw myself as enjoying the position that I could pay him back, if at all, at my leisure. As if I was indeed entitled to it based upon my superior status in our relationship.

He would have accepted the money alright. But with the attitude that he would have been a fool to turn any money down. But I would never get the kind of consideration from him that I got the day he spent that money on me.

Timing and Timely.

It seems to me that as close as these two words are in meaning, "timely" seems to be more susceptible to human control. While, on the other hand, "timing" seems more spontaneous, more under the control of natural forces.

I had nothing to do with when I gave him that dollar. I had no idea about whether it was timely or not. But he perceived it as timely. Had I been trying to time it, the result may have, probably would have been, disastrous.

Note (from Bubba's journal)

Taking advantage of this opportunity to say hello to you, even in this unorthodox manner, proves to be irresistible. My brother, Herman understandably has reservations about being party in this. How could he know that you were one of my favorite teachers? In all probability he feels that you don't even remember me. I have, as a matter of necessity, authorized him to read this note. It was the only way I could get him to deliver it. He had to make certain that this was a simple note of greeting.

I am "Bubba" Davis. In the school year 1955-1956, I was one of your 9th grade students at Franklin Jr. High School. In fact, I was in two of your classes. You taught me English and Drama.

Your roommate also taught me that school year. She was my Glee Club teacher.

In the event that you fail to remember me by name, I hope that the additional information provided will ring a bell. If you do not remember me, it will only prove that you are human. If, on the other hand, you should remember me, then through Herman, send me a verbal return greeting.

The African American Position (from Bubba's journal)

The position that the African American finds himself in today is incredibly disastrous. Our problems, enormous qualitatively and quantitatively, are unique compared to the problems faced by other groups of people around the world.

The most glaring feature about us that sets our problems apart form others is our inability to unite. Although it doesn’t seem possible, we become more and more fragmented with the passage of time.


We must come up with something that all of us can identify with and embrace. Something relatively simple, but containing the power to get our serious attention, something do-able, motivating. Not too complex, to avoid excluding the less intelligent of us.

This may sound like an impossible task considering that it would have a uniting effect on us, and that this has been our most vital need throughout our history here in America. It just seems to be too simple to accomplish that much. But it must be kept in mind that this is merely the starting point. Its purpose is to get our collective attention in order for us to be addressed as a people, setting the stage for the implementation of step two, which we should already have prepared.

We really should make the search and discovery of this “something” our top priority. Urgent and critical! It should get the “gang bangers” attention as well as our professionals, middle class and homeless, our wretched and our misfits, our rich and our kids. It has to force each of us to acknowledge kinship with each other. We need to look for and find whatever may be, NOW, at whatever price. Remember the slogan: “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL.”

Wit-matching (from Bubba's journal)

Must avoid "wit-matching" situations; i.e., situations where it appears that there is some competition to see who can best express their point, where the point itself takes a back seat to how it is expressed. It's called "keeping your eye on the ball."

The problem (from Bubba's journal)

My biggest problem lies in the area between recognizing what I should do, and not doing it. I'm sure that all of us share that problem in varying degrees, but my experiences with it seem to be pathological. It needs immediate and very serious attention.

We shall begin this discussion with a definition of the problem. I am talking about improving my condition and position. Identifying things in my present condition that need changing, or eliminating. And likewise, identifying that which I desire, or need to change into, or add. Formulating a plan of action to accomplish these goals, and putting the plan into action.

How simple that sounds. But, as I said above, I run into big problems when I get to the "putting the plan into action" part of the equation.

The bike (from Bubba's journal - Thursday, November 9, 1989)

Today I was asked by a "friend" to "watch" her bike while she went inside of the store to cash her check. The bike was unusual, being a "bicycle built for two." While she was inside taking care of her business, the bike attracted the attention of three young "gang bangers." They began asking me questions about the bike, such as: did the bike belong to me? Who did it belong to? Was I watching it? Etc. Their intentions to "have" the bike became quite apparent. To leave my "post" to go inside to warn the woman of the developing situation would have been equivalent to abandoning it. It would have provided the youngsters with the opportunity that they were wishing for. In short order, one of them who had been faking such high level of interest and admiration in the bike, mounted it, to "see how it felt." This was it. As he displayed his intention to "ride it," I made my move to prevent the bike from moving. As I did so, a voice from behind me, close enough to whisper said, "Don't get yourself hurt behind this bicycle, Pops." When I turned around to see what kind of threat he was posing, I saw her just emerging from the store. She sees her bike in the act of being taken, and screams, "No." She immediately gives chase, but it is too late.

When the realization that her bike is gone hits her, she naturally turns to me and accuses me of literally giving the culprits her bike. This is the only logical interpretation that she can make according to what she saw.

What she saw was a guy riding off with her bike while I turned my back the other way. She couldn't have heard the threat made by the other one.

She threatened that I would not get away with that; that she was going to get some men that would deal with me, and placed the value of the bike at $600.00. She was unwilling to listen to anything that I had to say, and at one point mentioned the word "kill."

This happened just before dark, and I usually end my day when it gets dark, so I decided, due to the circumstances, to end it a little earlier.

The next day, around 2:00pm, she showed up in the company of another woman. She beckoned for me to approach her, and I did. When I met her, she told me that she and her brother had run into a youngster riding that bike later that same day that it had been taken and took it back. Her purpose for finding me was to inform me that I could now disregard the threats that she had made to me. I appreciated that. I paid a small price for a hell of a lesson.

Not sharing (from Bubba's journal - Monday, November 6, 1989)

Today I was asked by a friend in desperate need, to lend him the use of my "outfit." There were several other "users" present. I refused to let him use it. Just a couple of days prior to this incident, he ha requested the same favor from me. On that occasion, after seriously admonishing him and explaining to him that I did not share my outfit with anyone, I gave him a "spare" that I happened to have with me for him to keep. And I reminded him of that episode as I refused to let him use it in the present situation.

He appeared to be shocked by my refusing him when he finally realized how serious I was. Shocked and angry. What's more is that the others present seemed to share his sentiments. They all appeared to feel that my action was unreasonable; that I was being "chicken shit," despite the fact that they were all aware, each of them, of my long-standing policy of non-sharing. These circumstances deserve a closer look.

Clearly these ultimate emotions of shock and anger were the result of disappointment being allowed to progress and mature. Disappointment because they expected me to relent, as I have in the past.

Hanson's Market Crew (from Bubba's journal)

For the first time, I am going to observe and analyze the group of humans that "hang-out" around Hanson's Market on 20th Street and Atlantic Avenue as a group.

Of course, sub-dividing this group based on varying criteria is essentially what we'll be engaging ourselves in. For instance, we will be able to subdivide the group on the basis of "attendance," who shows up there everyday as opposed to those who "just drop by occasionally." Of those who show up daily, is there a difference in the number of hours that they spend there, and if so, what type of difference do these differing hours make? Are some hours worth more than others? In other words, are there "quality hours" if you will? Can the group be sub-divided on the basis of interests, values, concerns, etc.? If so, how significant are these differences? Do they amount to "conflicting interests?" These are only a few of the questions that we will be dealing with.

As this project proceeds, as we organize and reorganize the data collected, an outline of a hierarchy should be simultaneously making its appearance. Giving rise to the asking of such consequent questions as, "What qualities do they respect, and why? How do these things benefit the welfare of the group?"

Throughout the gathering of this info and the countless variety of times and ways in which it is utilized, we shall keep our eyes on the development of a profile.

On this "set," predominately there are two basic groups of people; drug abusers and alcohol abusers. Of course, like everything else is real life, it isn't that simple. For example, many of the drug users also use alcohol. To put it better, many of the drug abusers also have an alcohol problem, and would therefore hold membership in both groups.

Within the drug using group, which we shall refer to as group "d" henceforth, the dominate drug of choice is heroin, preferably with some cocaine in powdered form, mixed with it, to be taken intravenously. Also to be found, in very small number, are those who would choose to smoke "rock" cocaine over the mixture mentioned above. And we have the intravenous user who also enjoys smoking cocaine, and he may, in addition, like his alcohol.

Respect at AA meeting (from Bubba's journal)

A young lady is addressing a group of about twenty other drug abusers at an AA meeting. The overwhelming majority, if not all of the listeners are there because they have been ordered there by their parole officers, but the vast majority of those show the speakers who volunteer to come there and speak proper respect. They listen to them. They give them (what appears to be) their sincere attention.

However, this incident involves one of those disrespectful ones. Suddenly, he is carrying on a low-toned conversation (which he has imposed) with one of the other listeners among the small group located at the base of a stairway. He is complaining about having to have to come there and listen to these "sob stories." He is disturbing the thought processes of the ones who are in earshot. But no one shows it.

Just as suddenly, he makes a sharp statement slightly louder than his previous complaint rudely expanding his disrespectful presence past the one listener with whom he began his conversation in a rather challenging, belligerent manner. Seemingly prepared to deal with any and all possible response, except the one that he received. No responses at all. No one paid him any attention.

He wanted some attention, any kind of attention. He wanted to be recognized. He wanted an audience. Not the whole group. Heaven forbid. No, he only wanted the attention of those few at the base of the stairs.

When he got no response, in quick order, he began to listen to the young lady, like the rest of us.

Respect (from Bubba's journal)

Respect seems to exist independent of man's will. One does not say, "I think that I'll respect this person that I am about to be introduced to simply because I want to." It doesn't happen that way. If one is not worthy of respect, we cannot clothe him with it, whether we want to or not. Respect must be earned. Furthermore, once established, respect has the power to grow, to reproduce itself, if you will, independently of our will. For example, an inmate in a penal institution very slowly and painstakingly, eventually won the respect of a certain correctional officer who happened to hold the rank of lieutenant. This officer was known as a "hard officer", by both lower ranking officers and inmates alike. Earning his respect was, to understate it, difficult at best. He was not easily impressed.

However, just as one cannot bestow respect at will, neither can he withhold it at will. The inmate who won the lieutenant's respect simply possessed the qualities that the lieutenant had to grudgingly respect. To be sure, he put those qualities to the most strenuous tests imaginable. But they proved to be genuine by passing these tests, and the lieutenant became powerless in his attempts to withhold his respect for the inmate. He began calling the inmate "Mr. Doe."

One day the lieutenant and a sergeant encountered "John" walking in a hallway and the lieutenant addressed him as "Mr. Doe" in front of the shocked sergeant. The sergeant could not believe his ears. He told other officers about it, and began pointing out "John" to them.

It was not long before nearly all of the officers holding rank below the lieutenant was calling "John" "Mr. Doe." Grudgingly, I might add. For they too put "John's" qualities to tests. But once the ball starts to roll...

A COURSE IN MIRACLES - The Meaning of Miracles 41-50

Principles of Miracles

41. Wholeness is the perceptual content of miracles. They thus correct, or atone for, the faulty perception of lack.

42. A major contribution of miracles is their strength in releasing you from your false sense of isolation, deprivation and lack.

43. Miracles arise from a miraculous state of mind, or a state of miracle-readiness.

44. The miracle is an expression of an inner awareness of Christ and the acceptance of His Atonement.

45. A miracle is never lost. It may touch many people you have not even met, and produce undreamed of changes n situations of which you are not even aware.

46. The Holy Spirit is the highest communication medium. Miracles do not involve this type of communication, because they are temporary communication devices. When you return to your original form of communication with God by direct revelation, the need for miracles is over.

47. The miracle is a learning device that lessens the need for time. It establishes an out-of-pattern time interval not under the usual laws of time. In this sense it is timeless.

48. The miracle is the only device at your immediate disposal for controlling time. Only revelation transcends it, having nothing to do with time at all.

49. the miracle makes no distinction among degrees of misperception. It is a device for perception-correction, effective quite apart from either the degree or the direction of the error. This is its true indiscriminateness.

50. The miracle compares what you have made with creation, accepting what is in accord with it as true, and rejecting what is out of accord as false.

The Water Center 2

1. The Water Center houses four women with their children under 18.
2. The Water Center has art therapy for mothers and children.
3. The Water Center has psychological therapy for mothers and children.
4. The Water Center has energy healing once a week (massage, reiki...)
5. Women and children can stay up to two years at The Water Center.
6. The Water Center provides college financial assistance for children.
7. The Water Center provides Mommy and Me classes.
8. The Water Center assists mothers with job placement.
9. The Water Center provides education tutoring for mothers and children.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233

It's raining tape recorders!

Yesterday I put out there that I wanted a digital camera and a tape recorder for my interviews and this morning about 1:00 my mother called and said she had a tape recorder and 20 minutes ago my aunt Val called and said she had a digital recorder she would send me. With a digital recorder I can upload conversations directly onto the computer. So, soon you won't just be reading conversations, you will be hearing them as well. Pretty smooth, eh?

Thank you Mom and Val!

Nailah sent me a quote from Rev. Michael Beckwith's sermon at Agape last Sunday. "Your divine gifts will make their own way and take you with them." Love it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

I. Just. Can't. Move. Right. Now.

I posted a blog earlier about viewing the world's issues. About how looking at life, outside of your own problems seem to make yours that much smaller. Well, not smaller really, because no food in the fridge is still no food in the fridge whether there are children starving in Africa or not. But often what we worry about is not as immediate as not having had food for a week. I'm saying that looking at the world outside of ourselves puts things in perspective sometimes.

For those of you who know me, really know me, then you know that I have not gotten over the drama of living month to month. Just haven't. Recession or not. Power bill is due tomorrow and I was sitting here thinking, "Umkaaaaayyyeee, bill is due tomorrow and I don't wanna be in the dark come Wednesday." $71.00 power is the problem of the world. Really?

Then I read an article about a woman in San Antonio, Texas who ate her three and a half weeks old baby's brain and other body parts claiming that the devil made her do it. "Three of his tiny toes chewed off, his face torn away, his head severed and his brains ripped out."

Possibly postpartum, some other mental illness, all speculations right now. Whatever the reasons though, her baby is dead. Her little boy is dead. Scott Wesley Buccholtz-Sanchez is dead.

And me and my power bill. You and your car payment. She with her manicure appointment and the ladies are charging too much these days. He with his Tahoe and gas is going up again. We are in our own worlds. I am in mine. Otty Sanchez is someones neighbor. Someone stood next to her in line at the corner store. Someone cut her grass. Someone rode behind her on the bus. No one knew.

Someone said that it is irresponsible to print problems without solutions. Maybe. I don't know. I just don't know.

Dear folks

My 40th birthday is comin' up and I know I'm not 10 years old or nothin' like that but I could use a tape recorder and a digital camera for my interviews. Just puttin' it out there.

Write now

I had a conversation with a young woman recently who said she wanted to be a writer. I asked what she was writing about now and she replied that right now she is not writing because so much is going on in her life. Her brother recently passed, then there was this circumstance, and that one, and she had a baby, she was busy, and still the pain of her brother's passing.

I understand. I do. And that's why we write. That's what we write about. Our right now. Writers write. Through our pain, love, frustrations, bills, hunger, repossessions, successes, disconnections, faults, failures, blames, gas, parents, siblings, three day pay or quit notices, losses, gains. Through it all, we write. Because. We need to say it. Someone needs to read it.

The Water Center

In 2005 I registered for a course called The Landmark Forum. It's the first course in what Landmark Education calls "The curriculum for living." In this course there were about 150 people from many different backgrounds. We began having a conversation about "problems." It was during this conversation that the Landmark Forum leader made the following statement, "It's not that your problems are so big, it's that your problems are not big enough." Of course that provoked more discussion and internal dialogues that listed individual problems and thoughts of "She doesn't know me, I've got xxx going on..."

That statement was to introduce the idea that most of us spend our lives focused on our own individual issues. My phone bill, my rent, my car, my job... The leader of the discussion used the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. who took on a bigger "problem" a bigger issue if you will. A problem of racism in this country. He had a phone bill, rent due, children to feed. And, there was a problem of racism in this country. Did his other issues go away? No. Even after he paid his rent, phone bill, gas bill, power bill, fed his children, would racism still exists. Yes. Is racism still a problem in this country? Yes! But did he make a difference that made a difference, in the face of all of his other problems. Yes.

About six years ago I worked for a safe house in Los Angeles called The Jenesse Center. It was a safe house for women and children leaving domestic violence situations. My job at the center was to work with the children. I assisted with craft projects, created Mommy and me programs, read, played, cried, laughed. All of it. Not necessarily in that order. Since that time at the center I have often thought of creating something like that. A safe, healing place where women could go with their children. I scratched out ideas on countless sheets of paper of what it would look like, what services it would provide.

I have always been passionate about helping people in this circumstance. Last year, I began posting blogs on my myspace page about women and domestic violence. Those stories, called Red Stories have been transferred to this blog. If you have not read them I invite you to do so. My intention with this blog is to include interviews with men, women, children who have lived through / are living in this situation.

I was on the phone with my cousin April this evening and she, seemingly out of the blue, said, "Jaha, I want you to win the lottery." When I perused my thoughts about what I would really do with my lottery winnings, I said, "Me too. I would open up a home for women and children who are leaving situations of domestic violence." Suddenly all of the paper scratches from years ago started coming together. We talked more about my dream safe house and then I had to get off of the phone.

I started thinking about that conversation years ago in that room in Los Angeles at Landmark Education and my "problems" and how they are going to be there whether or not I am taking steps toward my dream. My $71.00 power bill gets smaller and loses power the more I thought about how this dream could become a reality, one step at a time. I thought about the impact I could make with so many people. The difference that makes a difference that I could be.

We spend our time praying and sending God everywhere, when really God uses us. He/She uses our hands to heal, our mouths to speak, our fingers to touch. Why not me? Why not you?

So I don't know where the center will be. Not yet. But it will be. It will be called THE WATER CENTER. There is healing in water, strength in water, purity, forgiveness, power, future.

Please stay on the lookout for more Red Stories, more interviews, more conversations. Please send your prayers, keep watching while one brick at a time, THE WATER CENTER is built.

Ahhhh...I like that (message from Therman)

John and I want to commission you to come to Salt Lake City --sometime around the time you take Uraeus back to CA to interview an 87-year old woman, in conjunction with a project we have come upon. Details later. I think you will be as excited as we are about it.

DFR 2009

I leave Thursday morning from Atlanta to Chicago for the Davis Family Reunion! I'm excited about this reunion because I'll be with my family, be in Chicago (I love, love Chicago), I'll be with family I haven't seen in way too long. You know who you are, Angela, Robin! I'm looking forward to celebration togetherness, celebrating Therman's...return.

Therman has declared his position in the family as one of CONNECTION. And CONNECTION is showing up all around us. I have connected with Jackie and Jimmy more in the short time I've spent with Therman than I have the almost four years we have been in the same state. My communication with Robin has always been very infrequent, but lately we have been sharing ourselves with each other through blogs, email and prayer. I'm so looking forward to sitting down with her.

I found out recently that Ronnie and Jacquie will not be there. I'm still hoping that I'll be pleasantly surprised by them just showing up.

Uraeus has been spending most of the summer with my mother, Roshann, Donald, Reuben and Deja and I'm looking forward to seeing him (most of all). He will be coming back to Atlanta with me from there.

Look forward to updates on my trip to Chicago from the airport, the reunion and on the way back!

Also, thank you so much to Genevieve and Steve for hosting the reunion this year.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dear E. Lynn Harris

I found out yesterday that you made your transition to the other side two days ago. My prayers are that your spirit is at peace. Thank you. Thank you for saying yes to the call to be an author. Thank you for being a voice of freedom to so many. You gave voice to more than young, black, gay, men. While reading your AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS I wanted to be right there with yall in Miss Thing's Wings getting advice from Uncle Doc.

Thank you for sharing your work so powerfully, so bravely, so freely. You will always be with us. In our homes, libraries, in our hearts. Enjoy your wings Mr. Harris. Fly now. Fly!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Today I will see God in every one I meet

I will speak to every one
as if I am speaking to God
I will talk about every one
as if I am talking about God
I will do business with every one
as if I am doing business with God
I will forgive every one
as God forgives me

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Club 908

(2007 post)

Last night I was the feature poet at a spot called CLUB 908 in Conyers, GA. I knew nothing about the venue except the address. I had not even met the brotha who hosts and runs the monthly spot, El. We had a brief conversation about a week before to discuss...the business. All sounded good, I was available, sure.

A friend of mine rode out to the spot with me. Lucky for me he is more familiar with the back roads than I. Club 908 is located in Old Towne Conyers. It looks like a movie set at Paramount Studios. Old Towne-ish-y buidings, with salons and bars and restaurants. Super clean, tiny streets, train tracks running through the town, even a botanical garden. It looked almost like Mayberry in color. This little area nestled off highway 675 surrounded, seemingly protected, by the trees.

I had no clue when I woke up yesterday morning that the evening would be so wonderful. When we pulled up we did not need to look at the address to know we were in the right location. I know poets when I see 'em. We stepped inside and let me tell you...It was Fantasy Island gorgeous.

There was a jazz band on stage playing. A screen posted high with jazz legends in black and white. Photos of Billie Holiday I had not seen before. The crowd was mostly black, 30 something plus. Dressed kind of dressy, casual, fly (you know how we do it, black folks). There was a buffet of food which was included in the entrance fee, which, I don't even know what that was. The drinks came in house party servings (you know, all the way to the top). I ordered my usual Merlot and my friend ordered...I don't even remember, but whatever it was the two drinks only came up to $4.50 which is UNHEARD OF in L. A.

And the show continued. El, the host, a handsome, locked, chocolate brotha with radio smooth voice called up the poets on the open mic list. But before I go further I must mention here his lovely wife Cookie. She greeted me when I came into the club and took my merchandise to sell. She strikes me as that type that you know is way supportive of her man and whatever he is doing. Behind every great man is a great woman...(insert Cookie's face here.)

So the poets go up, not too many, maybe four doing one maybe two pieces. What strikes me as cool is the way the audience listened. No, really LISTENED, to each word as if that is what they got dressed for and came out FOR. Poets, remember when audiences did that? What was also refreshing was how none of the poets sounded or looked like the other. Like they were there to SHARE. Some reading from papers and journals, 'cause that's what they wanted to SHARE. It was not a DEF JAM audition.
I went up and the love continued. They listened. They gave energy. I gave it back. I had books and cd's for sale and they bought, and bought and bought.

This event, I think has been going on for about a year now and happens monthly. Don't know when the next one is, but I guess it's the first Saturday of each month, and I'm trying to be up in there.

Club 908 is this poets dream spot hidden in the woods waiting for the world to catch up.

Introduction (from THE CORNERS OF MY SHAPING)

Every writer sets out to write the book that will change the world. Change the world? At this point in my life I just wanna let it out. Finally. Honestly. My own stories. My own life. Breathe in and out with no lingering stories there nagging to get out. And right now, they are nagging. Memories, stories, self-conversations popping up at unsuitable times. But are the times ever...unsuitable? They come, I feel, when they are ready to be handled with care, written about, sketched out, set free.

Life is what it is. We are dealt the cards we're dealt and expectantly play the best hand we can play. I have humbly learned that I am not the accretion of my stories. I am not my bank statements or career choices, height or marital status. Not my gender or shoe size or gynecological appointments, kept or no. I am not any of the definitions I have used to describe myself. Woman, lover, mother, daughter, writer, sister, friend, artist, dot, dot, dot. I am infinite possibilities and have decided to embrace all of who I am, and who I am not. I embrace all of my experiences, understanding that I needed them to form me into who I am today. Wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now. My experiences are, each of them, the pleasant ones and those that still hurt too much to mention, plainly the corners of my shaping.

I, right now, abdicate my position of right and faultless, knowing that it never existed, accepting that it doesn't matter anyway. I also release, right here in these pages, my stories. OK, some of them. I am now of the understanding that what has happened in my life and my stories about what has happened in my life are separate. The drama has always come with me trying to make them the same. They are not. What happened is what happened. I created my stories from my own background and sensitivities and ran with it. Called enough people to validate my point of view and there you have it. Me, the self appointed victim of my life, choosing to pay more attention to the ebb than the flow. I accept that as I created that position, I am powerful enough to create a new reality. I heretofore create a space and possibility of a life of me achieving my goals, loving myself fully and accepting others as I love and accept myself. I create right now a journey of success and lessons learned and love given and received. And so it is.

To order THE CORNERS OF MY SHAPING please visit www.poetcd.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Diamonds

blood
my people
my boys
my men
family
slavery
surviving
too much in one lifetime
don't you think?
don't you?

my people
my boys
my men
my children
my future
dying for your vanity
but enough is never enough for you
is it?

it is easy to stay in your ignorance
it is better not to know sometimes right?
here comes the bride
there is too much to say
more than a poem
bigger than art
more than a documentary on DVD
or at the movies
this is my life

Musings of a Black Woman going through the change of life. Every day a Black Woman going through the change of life.

There are things a woman thinks about when she is dying
Don't ask me how I know
She think about water mostly
How it tickle your face as it rise above your neck
She think about music
Long slow deep southern gospel
Aretha
Religion

She remember the sweet Jesus her grandmother knew
Whether she can hold a tune or no she sing from bottom belly
She find her tribe with those sounds
Groaning moaning feel good don't feel good make you better healing sounds

Long and drawn out
A dying woman think about the times she stood still
She remember the moss and vines growing between her toes

In that moment she is moved to move
She is compelled to live and break free of the chains she tied around her own neck
She know better now
She know now that safe aint always so safe
Roses aint always so sweet like she thought

A young woman being still and safe might start to think a choke hold is a soft caress
And it aint
A shackle is a shackle
And a kiss is a kiss

But what do young safe living women know

This dying I'm doing is good for me
Letting be dead my yesterday and walking big footed into tomorrow

I don't know what's out there for me
I just trust God to know the world He created
I believe the clouds can hold me like they promise

There are things a woman thinks about when she know tomorrow is coming

To Live for a Living

Someone asked me what I mean when I say I live for a living. Simply put:

I wake up early before the sun
drink tea
change the furniture in my house...often
I think before I speak...but not too long
write letters to my son in my journal
breathe
I make mistakes
pray...all the time
write poetry
recite poetry
in the shower, on the toilet, in the car, while on hold with the gas company
water company
power company

I speak to strangers on the street
and recognize that we are the same no matter the circumstance
I enjoy what I eat and the glass of wine that goes with it
I laugh even when it's not funny
I listen, especially when I'm confronted and it doesn't feel good
I'm defensive and I get over it
I'm insecure and I say so
I recognize that I am a beautiful woman
I say really mean things to myself...ugly, fat, boring, no good
and I tell myself to shut up
I pray
I pray
I cry
I make sure my friends know how important they are to me
I love my son with everything I have
and everything I don't
I take naps
I stand on stage and tell the world the truth of my business
trusting it will make a difference that makes a difference for someone else
I write stories
I tell stories
I paint
I lie
I cheat
I pray
I give
and give
and give

I go to the spa
I clean my house
I pray
I call my mother and tell her I love her
I gossip
I pray
I get depressed and get over it
I stand on stage and tell a thousand folks about it
I get paid
I write books
I sing songs...badly...but I really love to sing
I admit when I'm wrong and do what I can to clean it up

I create my world with my words, thoughts and prayers
I'm careful about what I say when I'm consciously creating my tomorrow
I know that my world is a result of what I speak
I give God the glory for being the Source of all of my supply
I live
for
a
living...

Art. Connection. Culture.

A normal day for me. If normal can be defined at all. Up early. Breakfast. Some television. Today's day included a drive out to City Hall East in Atlanta, Georgia. On the fifth floor of City Hall East is where the Office of Cultural Affairs has its offices. For now at least. I understand that the building has been sold and the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) must relocate. As an art lover, an artist, a mother, a new resident of the outskirts of Atlanta, I am paying close attention to this news.

But this is not about Atlanta or the OCA, not about art or culture; this is not even about my day, not really, but kinda. On the first floor as I entered the building under the dark parking structure, past the metal detector and police officers, down the long white corridor, was an exhibit called Body Maps which featured ten life sized outlined bodies of nine women and one man. Each body map was a separate painting. The art was colorful which is what first caught my attention. It was childlike and left-handed and honestly brilliant in a Basquiat kind of way. There were some words and phrases written on each painting. Most of the writing was in a South African language. But next to each painting was a literary description of the painting and a bit about the artist/author. I stood there and the tears were building and building fast. BODY MAPS inspired the book, LONG LIFE, a collaborative book of positive HIV stories of the Bamanani women.

I am usually attracted to art with mothers and babies and red is my favorite color. My attention went first to the painting by Ncedeka. From a distance she could be telling the story of a long day and finally putting her beautiful sleepy baby down to nap. But then something grabs you and demands that you stop and know that there is more to this to tell. Much more. Much more to this exhibit then I was prepped for. Look at me, needing to be prepped for real life. Ncedeka painted a picture of herself holding her baby because she is happy when she thinks of her baby. Her baby who died in 1999 after only a year and four months on this planet. She became sick. She was told that her baby did not have HIV but her health kept failing. Ncedeka was unknowingly carrying the virus and was breastfeeding her child. She wishes still that she could have more children. Thozama is a young girl whose stepfather beat her and said that he would no longer pay for her to go to school because she had a boyfriend. She went to live with her boyfriend whom she later broke up with because he had twelve other girlfriends. "Always changing, changing, changing." She met another man and married him. Thozama found out that she is HIV positive and believes she contracted the disease from her first boyfriend because "he is getting thinner." Her husband told her that if she goes to find out her status not to tell him because he cannot sleep with someone who is positive. So she did not tell him and they have a child. She has only told the rest of the world. No one else. At Bongiwe's story I had to release the tears that had been building. "I was raped. But I would say I was fortunate because not all of them raped me. The other one hit me with a beer bottle on my head and blood started coming out." And then there is Babalwa who is also HIV positive and has to deal with this daily and lives in a community where so many are sick because of this disease says, "I feel like my life is not finished." Nomawhetu was beaten and stabbed by men trying to rob her and she defended herself by stabbing one of the men. She tells this story and you know that there are many, many stories she has to tell. But she is living through it. She closes by saying that her sister killed herself. And you just know that Nomawhetu will live through this too. This too? Some of them do not have the drugs available to them that they need but they understand that finding something to be happy about keeps them going as Victoria says "When I get sad, I get sore and I feel the pain all around my heart." Me too, Victoria, me too. Noloyiso remembers her first boyfriend, Babs when she is sad. She loved him and had their baby when she was in the ninth grade. The same year he died. Before he found out she was pregnant. She has had other boyfriends, but it is Babs she misses. Bulelwa was beaten by her grandmother for getting pregnant but her grandmother is there with her everyday to take care of her baby. Grandmothers.

Thobani was the only man in the group. He dropped out. This seems to be how many of the men are dealing with this issue. Not discussing it. He comes to the group when he is really sick, as many men do, but by then it is too late. My tour of the BODY MAPS ended with Nondumiso's story. "If you hear the president saying something you think it's the truth. But here in South Africa the president is not always telling the truth." The president? Lying? Come on now Nondumiso.

This was not some newspaper. This was not some campaign for condoms; these were real women who had real lives and real families to feed and real babies waiting for them to get better and feed them and live forever. Forever with a normal life. If again, normal could be defined at all. One woman told of witnessing her own mother dying. She said that she was glad that God took her because there was nothing else she could do to help. The insides of her bones were showing.

So I was standing there, in front of each piece, crying, moving slowly thinking about the four other times I had passed the stories before. I remember walking through the gallery the first time the exhibit went up and casually commenting that the paintings were "beautiful" and "ohhh, this one's really pretty, red is my favorite color." But this was more than "beautiful," more than "pretty" and not about my favorite color at all.

How easy it is for us to complain about points in our lives that shape us. Whatever it is that they mean to us, we make them mean that. We can choose to grow from them. We can choose to accept that there, surrounding these rough edges are clouds and good times and love and flowers and sex and children and people and family and more real life.

Nightcap

I asked my dad to tell me about Vietnam
from the books I remember trees
always the trees with me
me and trees

He remembers children
dead ones
picking them up
their heads falling apart
bodies ripped in two, three, too many pieces to ever have a real funeral for
he doesn't remember Vietnam
he washes those memories with Schlitz malt liquor and mary jane, rum, vodka, whatever
always the washing with him
still

He doesn't remember Vietnam
then what are the tears for?
those
the ones you're hiding
tears are impossible to hide
I am hiding my humanity

One of those Days

Gotta hurry up and git home real quick an take my bra off 'cause titties aint supposed to be all squeezed up on the 75 south after a long day they juss aint thas all

Karen McDonald




Palace Keniston...

I am visiting home for the summer. Plenty of folks to see and conversations to have. Thursday evening I left Compton from visiting Riua's, a mentor of mine, and headed for Leimert Park to meet George by 8:30. We were invited to have dinner at his sister Karen's house. I greatly respect and admire Karen in a way that is still very down to earth and I am completely comfortable in her presence. She makes you feel like she is on your side and your back is got. I was excited about the evening. I made the quick left on 43rd Place from Vernon and turned right on Degnan and saw George already there talking to El when I pulled up. He asked if I wanted to leave my truck and ride with him up the hill to Karen's. Tempting, but I was already listening to the gospel song I kept repeating and wasn't quite ready for the groove to end. Besides, I was in my mother's Expedition and the tags were recently expired and leaving the truck on the street in Leimert Park might mean that I could return to a ticket. "No, I'll follow you." I silently laughed as he got into his Pathfinder and we drove less than three miles up into Baldwin Hills. We were alone in our twelve-seater suvs following each other just three miles away at a time when gas is at a whopping $3.15 a gallon. What is this world coming to?

We drove up the hill that held the beautiful homes onto Keniston and parked. I quickly took in the blessing and the nostalgia of being back home in Los Angeles and prepared myself for...I dunno...the majesty of Karen McDonald. Karen is a dancer. A dance teacher. A life coach, you know this is true if you have ever sat in one of her dance classes. A mother of two awesome and grown children, Tau, her son and daughter Nina, whom they also call Kamala, also a dancer. There is something special about Karen. Special to say the very least. She stands about 5'7" and is vegan thin and Goddess gorgeous with short brown hair twisted in small knots that I bet are holding stories I may never be grown up enough to write. She has a small nose and freckles. Like me. I smile because I make it mean something fabulous about me that we have small noses and freckles together. We seek glory where we can get it don't we? She moves gracefully and dresses like a dancer. Always.

As I walked up the walkway against it's immaculately laid out lawn, I could smell...I'm not sure what it was. Incense I think. Musk? Outside. She gracefully greeted us at the dark brown front wooden door just under the ark that sat on the brick porch. We took our shoes off as we entered the barefoot enclave. Her home is like a museum. I could not look her in the face as she spoke because there was art and spells all around and I, like a two year old at bedtime, feared I might miss something if I didn't stare it down and touch it. "Ohh...where'd you get this one?" Every room. Impeccable. I had been there a couple of times before for specific occasions but had never gotten the tour. You know the tour. By the owner when you get to hear the stories about the place. I got the tour this time. Na nana naaaaa naaaa!

We walked through the dining area, past the kitchen and through the washroom to the backyard. I felt like I was in a spa. There was a dark charcoal rubber puzzle type mat covering the cement floor and outdoor tables with Merlot colored umbrellas. Then I walked up three steps and was on the lawn and immediately to my side there was a hammock. A for real no joke one where I could sleep and manifest my dreams. The tour could have ended for me right there. Karen is enough like that. You should take her in pieces. And if you are wise, you receive only the pieces she offers. She offered me sacred pieces of her yesterday. Her home, her conversation, her food, her art. And I accepted. Honored.

We went back inside and walked downstairs into the garage. Don't worry about what's so special about a garage. Only a fool would even ask. It's Karen's garage and you simply get ready. I did. Though of course I was not prepared. I was suddenly in a guru's workshop. Where she makes her magic and casts her spells. For now that's all I'll say about the garage. I will not give out all of the secrets. You were not invited after all. I was. George was.

Back up the stairs past the kitchen where this time I noticed the exposed pantry and how the food was aligned perfectly like and army in formation. Birds in the sky were more like it. We went into the living room where there was a big mirror where she dances, when she dances in the house. Wood floor and a piano in the corner. The baskets. I didn't mention the baskets yet. There were baskets everywhere. Perfectly placed. These baskets held the breath of angels, the whispers of God, the wishes of the ancestors. Something poetic like that. Even better.

In the den, I called it the den, was the magic room where we watched the film of her student's dance recital. I felt special. But before that we had dinner. Karen, George and myself. The dining room (the other one?) is a room that sits adjacent to the den. She slid open the door and I was wowed. I, you should know, am a pretty good designer. And I spend enough time watching HGTV (home and gardening television). So wowing me is not the easiest feat. The ceiling was painted red. The table was beautifully set with candles and dishes that were carefully selected. She brought a bowl of soap water to us where we dipped our fingers and she dried our hands. I was served. It reminded me of the Biblical times when they washed each other's feet.

The appetizer was rice with asparagus and broccoli. And the entree was salad. A zebra stripped bowl of color. Delicious. We had pomegranate juice in champagne glasses. Class. Then for dessert we had mango ice cream and an oatmeal cookie. In between that we shared the stories of our yesterdays.

Somewhere toward the end of the salad Tau came in. I am always in love with the way he is with his mother. He stood over her and held her shoulders while he spoke to her describing his day. She listened. Like grown women listen. Like mamas listen. Head held back and tilted not missing a word.

After watching the recital videos I said goodnight. She and George walked me out and I drove home. High. I will be grown like that.

Roots

Troy and Bubba are in heaven
with Gram and Grandaddy
we don't know where Therman is
there is Mildred and my mother
Bobby and Janice
Don and John
Jimmy and Herman.

Mary was three days old when she left
she saw heaven first
Gram used to remind us to remember Mary

Mary
Mary
Mary davis
Baby Mary

I wonder sometimes
if she would have grown to be an artist
like me
painted pictures of God and birds
forgot to breathe when she was nervous
have big feet and funny toes and perfect cursive

did she cry when she left
or did she know all along
I wonder
I wander

I think sometimes that I remember Mary by myself
I pretend that we are friends
that her soul is pure
best to hold my secrets

The Nuyo

So it was the cutest a couple of years ago when I was in new york and this young writer sat behind me and said "excuse me, are you miss zainabu?"

The Bookstore on the Corner

The bookstore on the corner
don't carry new poetry
I say this aint new
I wrote this a long time ago

The bookstore on the corner
don't carry poetry books by new authors
I say I aint no new author
I'm dang near 40
I been writin a real long time

The bookstore on the corner
say folks don't buy poetry
by folks they don't know

I say they do to
I sold 15 on the way up in here

But the bookstore on the corner
say poetry don't sell
I tell him that's 'cause
the bookstores on the corner
don't sell em

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our Daughters Now

For Unique Bishop

Our daughters are killing each other
With guns with knives with sex with cars
These are our little girls

Los Angeles
Street gangs
Words

Who were you remembering
Who told you to do this
The whys are irrelevant right now
Who was right is irrelevant right now

A mother is gasping for breath right now
Goddess help her breathe
Please give her breath

You struck down her daughter
Our daughter
With you car
Struck down
Four months pregnant
Now she is dead
Her baby is dead
Our baby is dead

I cannot write this poem
I need this to mean something
But what good is it if it does

So what about what you were fighting about
What are you fighting for now
I am sorry for you
And you dont need my pity
What good is my sorry

And you are my daughter
Behind bars
Bad food
Prison guards
Solitary
Rats

You are my daughter
Lessons to be learned
Prayers to give
Forgiveness to ask for

You are still my daughter
Her daughter
Their daughter

I may never see you face to face
Never hold your head in my lap
Never feed you soup or love you like you
Think you need

I am here
Lifting you
To Spirit
To Goddess
The One Mother

Parent / Teacher Conference

My son's teacher called to say
He is daydreaming in class
While she is speaking
Daydreaming
Daydreaming
All the time daydreaming

His grades?

A plus grades
Almost all the time a's
What can we do?

I don't know
Maybe his daydreams
Are a better
Teacher than
You

Pretty Women Fart

You keep calling it wind
Gas
Mood

Pretty women fart
You can't call it what it is
You fear the scent of
Us

Our scent
Our smell
Our nasty
Our power

All women are pretty
All women are beautiful

That cunt
That bitch
That slut
That dyke
That whore
That ho

Pretty women fart
You can't take our humanness

Our Spirit
Our God
Our Be

We are human and life
Water and fish
Mountains, art

You can't take our magic

So you call it something else

Me with me part 2

?* And???...

Jaha* And today is one of those days. Not really one of those days. One of those moments that's all. When I could just quit. But I won't. Thank God I've grown enough to read the signs.

?* What are they saying?

Jaha* In the past, I would feel like this and I think it was time to crawl in a corner and disappear.

?* And now?

Jaha* And now I hold my head up and remember Whose I am. Circumstances are just circumstances. Just temporary. Not real. Uraeus is real. My mother is real. My family, my friends, my dog, Love is real. God is real.

Everything else is just...

?* So if you don't crawl in a corner, then what do you do?

Jaha* I pray. I turn the music up. I put on a flowing skirt. I dance.

?* To what?

Jaha* Beautiful Anyway.

Trees

Leaves are changing colors
Green red orange yellow brown
I stand at my window
Cannot stop staring

Leaves are not this color
In los angeles
Not this color
Not in the jungle
Not on Adams or Crenshaw
Not on Pico or LaBrea

Here right now
They are red orange yellow
Stand in front of my mirror
I am changing colors
I have become a tree
A georgia tree

Spots of gray at my temples
Brown on my teeth
Charcoal under my eyes
Red clay in my toes
Green in my eyes
Truth on my tongue

I have become a tree
Where birds nest
Fly away
Dogs piss
Make their mark
Where God whispers
Angels gather

It's raining now
That's OK
I am a tree
Changing colors
Growing roots
Housing squirrels
It's raining now
That's OK
Sun will shine
I will still be a tree

Taller tree
Closer to the sun
Deeper roots

I am a tree
Shading lovers
Forgiving the fearful

I was not this color in Los Angeles
Not in the jungle
Not on Adams or Pico
Not on Crenshaw or Normandie
Western or Slauson
Not on 43rd
Not on degnan

I am still the same tree
Taller
Older
Deeper
More colorful tree

Nailah, Life in Session

You could say it's the voice. But it starts long before she opens her mouth. Nailah's presence is Mama. The conduit, the sticky that holds the children together like beeswax, like gospel, like rent paid. And we are the children. We the spirits hungry for music, that kinda music. Remember? The grit filled gut rollin' voice that represented the souf looooong fo TI and nim. That voice that understood the whispered prayers of every nappy head girl smart enough for her mother's kitchen but couldn't pass the paper bag test. Yeah, you remember.

"Nappy hair and mud stained skin/ made it clear from the beginning/ I would never know this world/ from a pretty girl's perspective." These lyrics from "Beautiful Anyway" fell outa Nailah's mouth, and that voice. Honey hush! That voice that makes you remember yourself barefoot in dirt, makes you remember safety like a thunderstorm and you nestled in Daddy's arms with yo mama's biscuits.

My ego cannot resist telling you that I have the blessing of calling this woman friend. Of sitting on her couch and eating her food (all of it), drinking her wine (again, all of it), closing my eyes and listening to her rehearse with her band. Over and over and never enough. There is a room in her home painted red. The ceiling, the walls, red rugs on the floor. That's my favorite room. Her husband Paul (Pablo!) gets on the drums and makes his own magic that compliments her excellently. The butter to her beans. She sits on the piano bench holding the mic and the band members are there. Nailah and Pablo's son and daughter (the talented wonder mites) are running around like this happens every Saturday night in everyone's home, what?

I aint tryina tell what to do or nothin'. But you want to get nailah's cd. You want to be at the next show. If you miss out, don't say I aint never told you nothin'.

NailahMusic.com

A COURSE IN MIRACLES - The Meaning of Miracles 31-40

Principles of Miracles

31. Miracles should inspire gratitude, not awe. You should thank God for what you really are. The children of God are holy and the miracle honors their holiness, which can be hidden but never lost.

32. I inspire all miracles, which are really intercessions. They intercede for your holiness and make your perceptions holy. By placing you beyond the physical laws they raise you into the sphere of celestial order. In this order you are perfect.

33. Miracles honor you because you are lovable. They dispel illusions about yourself and perceive the light in you. They thus atone for your errors by freeing you from your nightmares. By releasing your mind from the imprisonment of our illusions, they restore your sanity.

34. Miracles restore the mind to its fullness. By atoning for lack they establish perfection. The spirit's strength leaves no room for intrusions.

35. Miracles are expressions of love, but they may not always have observable effects.

36. Miracles are examples of right thinking, aligning your perceptions with truth as God created it.

37. A miracle is a correction introduced into false thinking by me. It acts as a catalyst, breaking up erroneous perception and reorganizing it properly. This places you under the Atonement principle, where perception is healed. Until this has occurred, knowledge of the Divine Order is impossible.

38. The Holy Spirit is the mechanism of miracles. He recognizes both God's creations and your illusions. He separates the true from the false by His ability to perceive totally rather than selectively.

39. The miracle dissolves error because the Holy Spirit identifies error as false or unreal. This is the same as saying that by perceiving light, darkness automatically disappears.

40. The miracle acknowledges everyone as your brother and mine. It is a way of perceiving the universal mark of God.

Moving on

I break through boundaries of old conversations
What she said what he did
His promises can never be solid as HIS as HERS as SPIRIT
Ever forward one foot in front the other
This time I will not turn back
This time I will love me
This time I will be my friend

Not news at 10 or any other time

If alllllllll the Georgia cops were not posted on I 75
maybe there would have been one around
when my girl got mugged in the west end

Phillipians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I am enough and enough shows up all around me

I forget sometimes how blessed I am
Then I pick up a paintbrush
Dip it in color
These people come out
On canvases
On wood
Walls
Walls
Walls
On floors
On faces
On tables

These faces familiar
These people tell me who I am
Tell me they love me
That I am love
Love is all there is
I believe them.

Something

There is a pain in my belly
Not really a pain
A feeling
In the bottom
On the right
Kinda

I'm about to start my period
It's not that
It's different
Gospel music helps
Gospel, James Cleveland, and Aretha
Sometimes Erykah Badu
Nailah does too

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

My Uncle Bubba is really great. Sometimes he is my favorite uncle. Sometimes John is sometimes Therman sometimes Don. Herman and Jimmy do not care if they are my favorite or not. They are happy all the time anyway. It's hard to pick. Bubba's real name is Robert. Alot of time he is in jail but he is not bad. Sometimes he takes drugs but that's all. He does not beat people up or say alot of bad words or steel things. The police still don't like it when you use drugs though. He does it anyway so he goes to jail and writes letters to me. He tells me what books to read and he says that the truth is something that you have to search for. He says that I will understand that later on when I'm big. Bubba is a muslum. Some grownups say that muslums don't believe in Jesus but they do to. Bubba is still going to heaven even though he is a muslum and sometimes goes to jail. Just because you take drugs sometimes and go to jail do not mean you can't live forever with God and the rest of us. When I talk to Bubba he talk to me like I'm bigger and not a little kid. I guess that's how muslums are supposed to talk to kids. They must have to read alot to because he does and he always want me to read books about people who are black. Some of them are dead that he read about and some of them are not. It is very important to know where you come from other wise where will you go to in the future. Black people have to take they future in they own hands because we can't depend on the white man for everything. Bubba already search for that truth.

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

The cafeteria is fun to eat at sometimes. Sometimes they have good food sometimes they do not. The hamburgers are the best but not the sloppyjoes. They are to messy. I eat lunch fast so I can check out the big red bouncy ball to play foursquare. Sometimes I play tetherball if the line is not to long or if Pam is not there because she step on the line and cheet.

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

I guess it would be fun to have a big sister. I don't have one and Tara said that aunties don't count. Zee has a big sister who is almost in high school and she said that boys like girls who wear make up and shave they eyebrows off and draw some on. If a big sister have a little sister who does not look real good with shiny red lipstick and cannot draw staight eyebrows then she should not tell her little sister to do that.

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

If a mom and a dad get a divorce that means that the dad has to move out and the mom and the daughters have to make there own grits and eggs. Just because the dad moves out does not mean that he does not love the mom and the girls. He loves them very much and the mom to but it just means that he has to live closer to his construction job so he can get to work on time.

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

My dog Fritz died on Saturday and then I prayed for him when I went to Sunday school the next day. I was very sad and I even cried. I did not want the other kids to thnk I was a baby so I told them that I was crying because Jesus died for everybodys sins and my stomach hurt to. I asked Jesus to forgive me for telling a story. He did.

When Grandmommy combs my hair by Robin R. Reed (from PLAYGROUND POLITICS BY ROBIN R. REED)

When Grandmommy combs my hair sometimes she puts it in to many ponytails like I am little. I like my hair in to or three but not in seven or eight or nine. Sometimes when she puts it in to many ponytails she gives me a bang in the front like I'm big but a bang does not look cute with nine ponytails sticking out but grandmothers have jerry curls so they dont no that.

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

When I am a grownup I am going to tell my daughter that when it is summer she does not have to walk all the way to the park with her little sister to get that nasty balony sandwich and apple and cracker at the park. She can stay at home and practice her cursive and write a famous story and color and watch cartoons if she want to.

Hmmm?

As I was getting into my car the other morning a woman stopped me during her daily walk to tell me that Jesus had told her that I would let my hair grow. I didn't have the heart to tell her that it was Jesus who gave me the $29.99 for the clippers in the first place.

And

Prayer and mornings and open windows
Frogs and crickets and chirping birds outside
And crap to clean up
Stories to set straight
Others and self to forgive and forgive
And release and let go and love
Kisses from my son
My sun
Watching him sleep

All that makes me woman

Interior. Women's clothing store. Day

Little girl: (pointing at me) Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?

Mommy: Shhhh, Honey.

Little girl: (still pointing. voice raised a bit) But Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?

Mommy: Honey, shhh!

Little girl: MoMMY! is that a BOY or a GIRL?!

Mommy: Honey, obviously it's a girl. See, she has on lip gloss.

Me: Wow.

Now what

Quickly got over him calling me a bitch
Any given afternoon
It's possible
Was the way "girl" crawled out of his mouth
Like he cant look at me and tell
"Girls" don't come quite grown as me

A word to the wise

Never believe a poet
Telling a story
About somebody else
Even if you are wrong
It is safer to believe
She is talking about
Herself
Her man
Her abortion
Her fantasy
Her fear
We file our secrets under pseudonyms
Samantha
Josephina
Marigold
Frank

They grow up so fast

Uraeus, at 10 almost 11 was watching TV and I started rubbing his back. "Mom, stop. please!" Then regretfully turned around and put his hand on mine and said, "I'm sorry. It's not you. It's me."

If you have writer's block then:

1. You have not been on public transportation in a while.
2. You have not sat in an emergency room recently.
3. You have no access to a pen, pencil, computer, nail polish.
4. You do not have children.
5. You have not watched a sunset recently.
6. You have not applied for food stamps.
7. You have not gone to visit a loved one in jail.
8. You are not in school.
9. You have not had the grilled stuft burrito from Taco Bell.
10. You have not sat on the bus stop on Crenshaw and King.
11. You have not been to the airport to see lovers kiss goodbye.
12. You go to bed before the crackheads come out.
13. You have not applied for a job recently.
14. Your city is not named in any rap song.

Forever untitled

Philly Airport
Lay over from Atlanta
Gate B5 flight 755 to Los Angeles
Roshann will pick me up
US Airways

The man at the counter said
I was lucky to be leaving Atlanta
Going to Los Angeles
I nodded
Smiled
I am polite
A good girl
Lucky girl
Whatever that means

You were my father
You are my father
It is all still so new
I have resolved
I will not refer to you in past tense

5:30
Zone 7
They are boarding first class and zone 1
I have to wait
They don't care that I am your daughter
They are stupid at US Airways
First class through zone 2 only
Now 3

I am leaving Philly
To Los Angeles
To my father's funeral
And then to his grave

Red Stories 10 - Childish stories I made up about relationships that are not true, but I made them up anyway.

1. All men cheat.
2. If you really love a man and give your all in the relationship, he will not appreciate you or what you do and he will leave. You must leave him first.
3. All men who play professional sports are liars and cheaters. (I'm still trying to believe that's not true.)
4. Being a man's friend is the only way to really know him. Once you're in a romantic relationship he will hide who he really is.
5. All me lie.
6. Men only care about their own feelings.
7. Men get into relationships to control women.
8. Men who like to dance a lot are secretly gay and are using you to hide that.
9. Most male preachers are perverts.
10. Most of the men in church are lying cheaters who are only in church on Sundays because of the dirt they do all week.
11. Men will look you right in the face and lie to you and hold onto the lie for life.
12. Black men say they want natural looking black women (but only if one of her parents is naturally white.)
13. Relationships are only supposed to last two maybe three years at the most.
14. When a man tells you he loves you, its OK to say it back to him, but when he turns away roll your eyes and say "Yeah right" in your head.
15. All women were sexually abused as children and we never really get over it.

Dear reader,
I've walked around with lies about men and relationships for most of my life. I love men. Always have. Trouble is, we go through what we go through and many of us think that the comfort of a man is supposed to heal it (whatever it is / was).
I've lied to myself about even having issues with men. Issues with myself.

The ego is something, you know. Mine tells me that if I act like I've got it all together then that alone will majestically make that so. I pretend that I have made perfect peace with my past and the ghosts of lovers past don't creep into my consciousness and affect who I'm being in the present. The truth is, I've got a lot of healing to do.

I believe we have the relationships we have because of the stories we tell ourselves and believe to be true (deep within us). You wanna know what you really believe about relationships? Look at yours. Here's the blessing. A belief is just a belief. No matter how long it took to form, we CAN believe something else. My problem was that I tried to believe something else before I got straight about the stories I made up in the first place. Here's another thing. No matter how much evidence we have to prove the stories were living, the moment we believed them, we made them up to be true.

Note: When you are being straight with yourself, don't be afraid if your list looks ugly. The straighter you are the more ugly it may seem. Trust me, my list is uglier that this. My ego is still only letting me go so far on a blog. For now. (and why do we act like we cant control our egos?)

By the way, I'm a woman on her front porch drinking tea getting ready for work. Not a psychologist. Thinking, meditating, praying, sharing my thoughts. Let your truth come to you.

Red Stories 9b

I was in tenth grade and Wendy was a senior and was one of those sweet girls who was beautiful at the same time and wore her long brown hair in a straight ponytail that swung from side to side when she walked and his name was not Tommy but I will call him that here and I don't know why I would protect his privacy and not hers and why do we do that?

I was rushing to class when Tommy grabbed the top two buttons of Wendy's shirt and she looked at me and seemed embarrassed and I was scared for her as she buttoned her shirt and I wondered why she would button her shirt that didn't look bad at all the way it was and why he felt he could grab her clothes at all and look at her that way and I didn't like Tommy after that and figured the other guys on the football team were the same way and I didn't want a guy grabbing my shirt and looking mean at me.

So Jason was kind (and that's not his name) but I never gave him a chance 'cause he was tall like Tommy and on the football team too and since then there's been this thing I don't like about guys who play football and it's crazy I know but we do that sometimes we cut ourselves off because we are that afraid of being hurt.

Approximately 40% of black women report coercive contact of a sexual nature by age eighteen.
Africana voices against violence, tufts university, statistics, 2002
www.ase.tufts.edu/womenscenter/peace/africana/newsite/statistics.htm

Red Stories 9a - and...

I was in junior high and Myra was in high school and she was very beautiful with Hershey brown skin and black girl long hair (just past her shoulders) and brown eyes and pretty white teeth and was really nice and I don't remember him so well but rumor had it he had them green eyes and folks say it was on the 'cause of that he shot her 'cause if he couldn't have her nobody could and so...

Red Stories 8 - Open spaces

I'm fine now
Looking all around
Victim of no one
Not your wild horse to tame
I am the trees I breathe now
The ocean I swim

I am the open space I was looking for all along
I admit I did not know myself then
That didn't mean I needed you to teach me me
I needed a friend
A lover in the truest sense of the word
Someone to give me the time and space I needed to give my own self me

Time and space were never in your box to give
It was unfair of me to even expect
I confess my memory has not been kind to you over the years

I'm fine now
No longer need to blame you now
You only showed up as you
It wasn't your fault
I wasn't ready to give you me

Red Stories 7 - You...Woman

When there are some things you just know
Because the heavens told you
You woman when you bathe in the rivers alone and smile at the stars
When you go to bed and howl at the moon
You miss your lover
But won't sacrifice you dignity for his hand
Right then
You woman

You woman 'cause girls don't come quite grown as you
Get up offa your knees
Dance with the sun
Don't hold you head in shame when others scandalize your name
They don't know the sagacity you gained

Up you mighty woman
Spit shine your uterus and set it on your mantle
The way your face transforms when the skies light up
Birds sing your rites of passage song
You laugh like woman

From daisies on birthdays to roses on fresh graves
Shol smell like woman
There aint nothin mama can do for you no more
But inscribe her wisdom in your bosom
Send you to the fields to conquer your fears
You woman now