LITERARY MAGAZINE OF THE YOUNG/GIFTED/BLACK/POWERFULLY FEMININE ISSUE ONE
SUMMER '16: THE AWKARD & BEAUTIFUL STAGES OF A BLACK GIRL'S GRIEF WORDS JADZIA FLOYD | TALIA FLOYD | MYKELA FRAZIER | AMINA GEORGIE SOL ARI LEANDRY | BREYAUNA NELSON | AMIA PAIGE IMAGES SALKIS RE COVER "AM I BLACK ENOUGH?"
REMMUS YRANOITULOVER A
LITERARY MAGAZINE OF THE YOUNG/GIFTED/BLACK/POWERFULLY FEMININE ISSUE ONE
SUMMER '16: THE AWKARD & BEAUTIFUL STAGES OF A BLACK GIRL'S GRIEF WORDS JADZIA FLOYD | TALIA FLOYD | MYKELA FRAZIER | AMINA GEORGIE SOL ARI LEANDRY | BREYAUNA NELSON | AMIA PAIGE IMAGES SALKIS RE COVER "WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?"
REMMUS YRANOITULOVER A
LITERARY MAGAZINE OF THE YOUNG/GIFTED/BLACK/POWERFULLY FEMININE ISSUE ONE
SUMMER '16: THE AWKARD & BEAUTIFUL STAGES OF A BLACK GIRL'S GRIEF WORDS JADZIA FLOYD | TALIA FLOYD | MYKELA FRAZIER | AMINA GEORGIE SOL ARI LEANDRY | BREYAUNA NELSON | AMIA PAIGE IMAGES SALKIS RE COVER "I WOKE UP LIKE THIS"
REMMUS YRANOITULOVER A
A REVOLUTIONARY SUMMER THE AWKARD & BEAUTIFUL STAGES OF A BLACK GIRL'S GRIEF SUMMER 2016
A REVOLUTIONARY SUMMER WWW.AREVOLUTIONARYSUMMER.COM
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THE AWKARD & BEAUTIFUL STAGES OF A BLACK GIRL'S GRIEF August 2016. Volume One. Number One A Revolutionary
Editor-In-Chief Andria Nacina Cole
Summer (ARS) is an
Malene Kai Bell
reading and writing
dedicated to the dissection of womanist literary works. It exists to keep Black girls whole. To balance the scales, to offer up a Nobel Laureate, radical poet, and love story for every stupid, shallow representation of her. ARS validates Black girl language, thought, hair, and hips. It traces, analyzes, justifies, and celebrates Black girl herstory. It contributes forcefully, unapologetically to a sound Black girl future.
(Otherwise, it will need to get busy gathering Black girl bones.)
A Re vol uti on ary Su m me r
Premier Hallelujah Yes Lord Issue
ARS Trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to visit the legendary Sonia Sanchez, Summer 2015
Every Sunday across the summer up to 25 young women gather to read and discuss the quintessential works of over a dozen womanist literary giants. They do so under the tutelage of two published authors and master teachers. Sessions begin promptly at noon and end at 3PM. Light snacks and refreshments are provided. Daughters must be prepared to share a bit of themselves (the creative parts, and perhaps, the personal ones); to discuss, enthusiastically and seriously, complex literary texts; to dedicate energy and effort to the completion of thought-provoking writing projects; and to reflect on their experiences—both those spurred by the literature and those galvanized by
ARS Vocabulary Magazine is the intellectual property of Andria Nacina Cole © 2016.
their peers. Upon registration, daughters receive a course outline, but effectively they: Come to discussions prepared to interpret,
Imitate the distinctive writing styles of the
analyze, and evaluate what they’ve read. |
authors under study in order to hone their
Answer questions essential to each text
own budding skills and to learn the
and apply those answers to authentic
importance of taking creative risks. |
circumstances | Acquire new vocabulary
Produce written and oral products that
words and vocabulary acquisition
aptly reflect their understanding of the
strategies so that they are better able to
texts, the world, and themselves. | Read
articulate their thinking and give their rich
excerpts of their own creative work before
inner lives proper due. | Learn to expertly
an audience of loved ones at ARS's closing
summarize a text by calling on a variety of
reading strategies, and gather from this synthesis of skills that a clear, deep, wide understanding of an idea increases likelihood that it will be owned, pondered meaningfully, and employed elsewhere. | Wield the power of context—that is, dissect and appreciate their first impression of a particular word choice, paragraph, event, character or idea, but never settle for the initial thought. Instead, throw the foundational perspective up against others—those that are bigger, those that are smaller, more complicated, and less comfortable, all in the deliberate effort to comprehend. | Image: Rebecka Jackson
The premier issue of A Revolutionary Summer Literary Magazine is dedicated to Korryn Gaines. And every subsequent issue shall grow in ways we'd imagine she'd have grown had she the opportunity.
You can support Korryn's children here.
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” -Zora Neale Hurston
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S • subtle, accidental, on purpose conversation about what growing Black girls gotta read to be whole (The Bluest Eye, The Color Purple, and Wounded in the House of a Friend, for example) • spirit • champions: DENITRESSE FERRELL SHELLEY ETTINGER BRINA BOLDEN LYNNETTE JOHNSON BRIANNA DOWNING SHANI SMITH ISRAEL & DONESHA MILLER SHONDA NICOLE GLADDEN CHARNETTA HARVEY NYCHELE EAST KIM JACKSON DAMARIS HILL RASHIDA GOVAN MELODY SHORT & ADRIENNE COLE NICHELLE CALHOUN YOLANDA MANNING CHEKESHA CARTER • volunteers: Jessica Hudgins, Khusana Jackson, Clynthia Burton, Neanna Roane McLean, Zakia Wright, Joy Johnson • every single solitary donor, from those who gave enough to make us clutch our pearls to those who made us nod Amen • Brianna Downing for expressing her love for our daughters in a real live physical way • guest writers: Susan Muaddi Darraj, Tayari Jones, Sonia Sanchez • our friend Mungu Sanchez • Morgan Park Association
T A B L E O F R E V O L U T I O N A R Y C O N T E N T S Us 1 Love 3 Preface 7 Mama Sonia 9 Beautiful Faces & Names 10
The Work 25 Resurrection according to Amina Georgie Synthetic Heartbeat 26 | Try Us 27 Redemption according to Amia Paige My Superhero 28 Accountability according to Breyauna Nelson You Changed 29 | I am Your Daughter 30 | Thank You Letter to Daddy 31 Intuition according to Talia Floyd Anger, Apathy, Emptiness: Tales of Compromise and Coming Home from Kentucky to Find More Racism 32 Anger according to Sol Ari Leandry Fragile Sweet Anger 36 | Dear First Love 37 | Note to Self 38 | Admitting the Love 39 Hope according to Jadzia Floyd Ava 40 Emptiness according to Mykela Frazier Excerpt from Metamorphosis 45 | The Black Woman & the Sun 47
ABOUT US ANDRIA Andria Nacina Cole read The Color Purple in 9th grade. There was no one to tell. She read Beloved in 11th. Shared the glamour and devastation of it with a white man chemistry professor, which is okay. He nodded when her eyes got wide, but also when she cried. She did not read Sonia Sanchez until college, and Gayl Jones? She was 35 before she knew her. Also, along the way were: June Jordan, Lucille Clifton, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Edwidge Danticat, Ntozake Shange, Zadie Smith, Warsan Shire, Dorothy West, Paule Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston, Nikki Finney, Jamaica Kincaid, Toi Derricotte—the list is getting long and not nearly enough; it’s missing Jimmy Baldwin and Prince, for instance (of course Prince should be read). Each womanist tilted her some. Put her in her body a bit. Arundhati Roy, for instance, made her pay better attention to her own chopped up, glorious, on time (right on time) speech. Every one gifted her a thing. And she used them, the things—the command of metaphor, the stripped down structure, the burdened structure, the tone achieved little word by little word—to write her own stories, which have been published in places as illustrious as Ploughshares and as dope/obscure as Fiction Circus. What she has learned by practice and careful study has been supplemented, a wee bit, by degrees in creative writing from Morgan State University and fiction from Johns Hopkins. She has also garnered a few awards, including five grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, one of which was the organization's top prize. She is the 2010 recipient of the Cohen Award and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grantee.
In addition to her writing experience, she is a certified special education teacher seeking gainful, purposeful, use her/don't abuse her employment. She taught middle and high school for 13 wonderful, difficult years, and still maintains relationships with many of her students. She has also taught a variety of English classes at the college level. Currently, she supports underserved schools across the country in their quest to drastically improve the literacy skills of struggling students. Should she be asked to sum up her thinking on the education of young readers and writers, particularly the ones with the world between their knees and some tint to their skin, she’d say something like: “They ought to break out their pencils. They ought to be apprentices to the craft. They ought to find an expert and hawk-watch as she engages with a text. They ought to get ready to die and die again, and fight with fist, tooth, and nail to know a book.”
Literature saved my life. In particular, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple shifted my consciousness. It exposed me to the particulars of a woman’s experience with a womanist’s voice; it helped me know myself. Helped me name my experience, the sexism that lurked under the surface of my relationships, my upbringing. Ultimately, reading authors like Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and Sonia Sanchez liberated me to tell the tales, speak the poems that lay dormant inside of me, and release internal and external bondages. However, Walker didn’t cross my path until my first year in undergrad at Morgan State University, and neither did Sonia Sanchez. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I encountered them sooner. It was through reading these women and many others that I found my path, and it is in this Spirit that we share A Revolutionary Summer. My approach to teaching comes out of current circle work that I engage in with youth in Baltimore City, from my former experience as an English teacher and college professor, and more importantly from my own intuitive, creative connections. Though formally trained as a writer (B.A. in creative writing, Morgan State University; M.A. in poetry from Hopkins), I find that intuition blended with truth-telling shapes craft, while revision perfects it.
ABOUT US MALENE Our young women have stories to tell, emotions to feel, womanhood to explore, self-knowing to cultivate. Creative expression and deep reading lead to a Self uninhibited by the shoulds, coulds, and musts we too often plague young women with. If not our mothers, then who? Who will teach us what it is to be a woman? To be Black? Who will give voice to our pleasure, our pain and in-betweens?
Bio Note: Malene has published work in The Los Angeles Review, The Baltimore Review, Urbanite, and The Infinite Field Magazine. She is the winner of the 2010 Orlando Prize for Sudden Fiction and past recipient of a Maryland Our fiercest inspirations come through an State Arts Council grant for poetry. She has unfiltered, naked, free flow of thought and developed and taught creative writing inspirited energy. This is best birthed within a workshops for women and girls, and is non-judgmental, push-the-envelope kind of space, particularly proud of the workshops she once under the guidance of push-the-envelope kinds of facilitated at The House of Ruth in Baltimore. teachers and texts. The space must be safe too. Currently, she uses creative writing as a tool for healing in her work with women in her By safe space, I mean a space of honoring. private practice. Honoring of language and so-called ‘dialect'; a space where authentic voice, rather than imitation or censoring prevails.
L O V E
FOR THE PAST TWO SUMMERS, DOZENS OF ARS SUPPORTERS HAVE PURCHASED T-SHIRTS TO HELP GUARANTEE ALL PARTICIPATING DAUGHTERS ARE ABLE TO READ A WEALTH OF BOOKS... FOR FREE.
BECAUSE OF YOU, A GIRL READ...
Toni Morrison Alice Walker Lucille Clifton Sonia Sanchez Zora Neale Hurston Edwidge Dandicat Paule Marshall Susan Muaddi Darraj Toi Derricotte Katori Hall Harriet Ann Jacobs bell hooks Tananarive Due Tayari Jones
THANK YOU! 6
I N T H E V O I C E :
A B S E N C E O F O P P R E S S I O N P r e f a c e
m a l e n e
k a i
b e l l
Within the folded arms and beneath the tongues of young Black girls—between the lipgloss and swift talk or silent butterfly walk—story lives. These stories are both inherited and practiced; they are imposed, impressed, and tucked under the eyelids. Before their first words (before even their mothers' first words) the story lived. The horrific, alongside the ugly, beneath the mute. The first story, a womb story—mother. The second story, crafted by the hands of those who wiped the bottoms and kissed the drool from the pouting lips—family. The last story, the one the world tells about Black girls and Black women and Black boys and Black men and Black babies—that story is cellular. World. That story is engrained in the DNA and expressed in culture. For the Black feminine, then, the story of the heroine, the story of beauty, of love, of loss, of experience must be delicately built. First, the cultural DNA. The shoddy parts must exposed, and then laid to rest. Then, the enlivened parts—the ones that prove Black womanhood, though tough, possesses a depth and brilliance that makes onlookers call out “magic” and possessors: “heritage”/“Divine Code”—they must be spun, much like gold. Like Beyoncé says, “I woke up like this.” The Black girl story is that kind of flawless.
And we danced with its raw beauty/worked overtime to illuminate it this summer. We took off the heavy garment of white supremacist patriarchy, dismantled its tools and fell over laughing at the absurdity of its attempted denial of Black womanhood/power/humanity/beauty. We asked questions like, “How could the first Man and Woman not be honored?” In other words: “How you gon demean your own Mother and Father?” (We ALL come from Africa, honey.)” We asked, “Where do race, sex, and class intersect?” And, “What’s it like living there?” “Why is womanism a deep purple and feminism a light lavender?” “What micro-aggressions and grand tortures have our Mothers and Fathers endured, such that our first name is Resilience and our middle name Try Me?” And, we corrected, swiftly, any scorn directed at our names. “What you laughing/turning your nose up at? My name means Queen, Light, Sun, God-like. These are the gifts my family bears.” (Needless to say, the sneers dissipated.) Our muscle memory awakened. Our consciousness spread so that the illusion of wrongness, of inferiority, was cast out by the Light of Truth. And then, they, our daughters, spoke. And the speaking lived, and the ears rung, and the silence was broken. This collection of literature is daughter-tongue, fierce, poetic, birthed. Because…“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” –Zora Neale Hurston 8
MAMA SONIA LAST SUMMER, REVOLUTIONARY DAUGHTERS SAT AT THE FEET OF BLACK ARTS MOVEMENT PIONEER SONIA SANCHEZ. IN ADDITION TO FEEDING THEM AND GIFTING THEM SIGNED COPIES OF HER BOOK MORNING HAIKU, SHE TAUGHT THEM A LITTLE SOMETHING ABOUT THEIR NAMES. THIS SUMMER THEY LEARNED THE TERM MISOGYNOIR—IT DESCRIBES THE UNIQUE INTERSECTION OF RACISM, ANTI-BLACKNESS, AND SEXISM, AND IT WAS INVENTED IN 2010 BY MOYA BAILEY. THEY DISCUSSED THE POWER OF CREATING A WORD TO DESCRIBE A THING THAT HAS NEVER BEEN PROPERLY IDENTIFIED. THEY REVELED IN THE BEAUTIFUL, USEFUL NAMES IN STORIES LIKE HOODOO LOVE AND THEY GAVE IT ALL A SHOT. THEY HONORED THEIR BLACK GIRL NAMES AND CREATED THEIR MEANINGS IF THE WORLD HADN'T DONE A GOOD ENOUGH JOBS WITH THE DEFINITIONS.
“THINKING ABOUT GRACIOUSNESS. AND BEING INVITED INTO THE HOME OF A WORLD-RENOWNED POET WITH EIGHT CHILDREN IN TOW. AND ABOUT SAID POET ASKING EACH GIRL HER NAME AND IF SHE DIDN'T KNOW IT, TELLING THE GIRL HER NAME'S MEANING, AND IN EVERY CASE TELLING HER TO LOVE IT—ITS THREE SYLLABLES, ITS AFRICANNESS, THE FACT THAT HER MOMMA HAD GIVEN IT TO HER OUT OF SENSE OF CREATIVITY, SURE, BUT ESPECIALLY OUT OF THE SENSE THAT SHE WAS IMPORTANT. AND THEN GOING FURTHER AND GIVING THE GIRLS THE NITTY GRITTY AND REMINDING THEM NOT TO LAUGH WHEN THEY HEAR TAKEISHA OR DAQUAN OR ANY OTHER BLACK ASS NAME, BUT TO INSTEAD APPLY TO ITS PRONUNCIATION THE SAME THOUGHT AND SERIOUSNESS THEY APPLY TO THE PRONUNCIATION OF, SAY, PRYZBYLEWSKI. (SO WHAT THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW WE NAME OUR CHILDREN? THAT YOU LOOK AT A SWEET BABY BOY AND CALL HIM BOB IS ODD TO ME, BUT HE IS YOURS AND MINE ARE MINE AND BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT IT TOOK TO ARRIVE AT MY CHILD'S NAME, I RESPECT YOUR CHOICE.)" -ANDRIA NACINA COLE
ABOUT SAID REVOLUTIONARIES
Jadzia Pronounced: /Jed - ZEE - uh/ (or whatever comes closest) Common mispronunciations: Infinite Gender: Feminine Usage: Slavic, Germanic, Baltimorean History/Origin: Nickname of Jadwiga, the first female King of Poland; Jadzia Dax, Chief Science Officer on Deep Space 9 Meaning: Natural introvert, with a voice that breathes insight when given space; an artist trying to figure out how to be creative; values duality; can be two or more things at once; bright, analytical, socially awkward and incapable of putting up with BS; a feminist or womanist, depending on the day; quiet—often mistaken for naive, meek, and between 14 and 16 years old (she’s nearly 20); gains sustenance from consuming the tears of men, white people and the un-woke; having never been told to think otherwise, finds the hair, acne and scars on her arms, legs and face beautiful; feels godly; cooks without measuring spices; occasionally overcomes crippling anxiety and transforms into Becky Slayer; concerned with the destruction of the white heteropatriarchy and the release date for Voltron: Legendary Defender, Season 2 Context: “Jadzia thought of something really clever to add to the conversation…after everyone was already gone.”
Talia Pronounced: /TAL yuh/ Gender: Feminine Usage: African American, Black Diminutives: Natalia Variants: Thalia, Talya History: The Sci-Fi show, Babylon 5; after character Talia Winters, modified human with psychic powers who loses her mind; the Hebrew and Arabic name meaning “dew from Heaven” Meaning: Smart but not as smart as she thinks she is; takes pride in being a bitch; trying to redefine femininity with her body; trying to live her beliefs about what is true; closet perfectionist; wears mom's and grandma's jewelry to remind herself who shaped her; she can’t help but laugh and smile and giggle, even when she is spitting truth, slaying the patriarchy, calling out white supremacy; if you touch her locs you will lose a hand; sometimes she hides just so she can be alone with a book and a cup of jasmine tea; always ready to start talking; not sure when to stop Context: “Is Talia still talking?”
Mykela Pronounced: / My-keh-la/ Gender: Feminine Usage: African American Diminutives: Kela Variants: Mikayla, Michela, Mykel History: Derived from Michael, meaning "like God" Meaning: Ever since she found out her name meant like God, she was determined to act like a goddess, but not that crosslegged, hush mouth version of a goddess; She tried that before —in fact she came from the womb quiet, only spoke when she was spoken to and never said what she felt; It wasn’t until she was described as “timid” and “boring” that she decided that shit wasn’t going to cut it; From then on, every time she had something to say the people next door would hear it. Still, from time to time she will go quiet; she’ll go so far within you’ll have to fight to bring her back; when she does return, she’ll bring light, a bright one, a light that will blind your eyes and make you sweat, but you crave once it’s gone; she is radiant; she is the sun Context: “Mykela speaks and your ideas about things change."
Amina PRONOUNCED: /Ahâ&#x20AC;˘meâ&#x20AC;˘na/ Gender: feminine Usage: Islamic, African Diminutives: Damina, Mina Variants: Ahmina, Aminah History: Originated in what is now West Nigeria; Amina was a Hausa Muslim Warrior Queen of Zazzau Meaning: Trustworthy, faithful, reliable; As capable as a man; has an appetite for solving people's problems, but her recipe book is beginning to overflow; Opens up to all, but won't hesitate to cut negative nonsense out of her life; Smiles brightly; Laughs 24/7, like she's at a comedy show; Shape-shifter of emotions; Some know her as chill, others as a social butterfly; Looks sweet and innocent, but contains hidden flavors within Context: "Amina, she opens up to all and cuts off those who deceive her."
SOL ARI LEANDRY
SOL PRONOUNCED \Sōl\
Gender: Masculine when Jewish, feminine when Portuguese Usage: Spanish, and newly African American Diminutives: Not a one, in the technical sense, though her baby brother calls her "Nana" Variants: None available; she's considering making her own History: Comes from the Spanish word for "sun" Meaning: Could stand for "Shit Out of Luck," if you are unlucky enough to lose her; high yellow, like butter; big ass head and hips even bigger; loves glitter and her makeup is always on point; makes everyone she meets fall in love/never want to leave; lazy at times but will come through when needed; never on time to anything, anything at all Context: "Sol didn't fall into love. She jumped."
BREYAUNA Pronounced: /BREE-AH-NA/ Gender: Feminine Usage: Irish, African American Diminutives: Bre, Brie, Yauna Variants: Briana, Brianna, Breanna History: the feminine and better form of Brian; Edmund Spenser used it in the epic 1590 poem "The Faerie Queene"; not commonly used until the 1970s, when it sung to Black people and became popular across the United States Meaning: princess, a girl who don't take nobody's shit and admires BeyoncĂŠ like no other; loyal and worthy; don't take her kindness for weakness; usually has a resting bitch face; Colgate smile with a dope shape; mentality of a hustler; intelligent, witty, yearning for success; the one who dances with a passion; if she gotta take an L she gonna take it to her face; never lets anybody rob her of her honesty, 'cause that's all she's got. Context: "Breyauna don't let nobody run over her."
Pronounced: /Uh-MEE-Uh/ Gender: Feminine Usage: Latin, French Diminutives: Mia, Mee
Variants: Amiya, Amy, Amya History: Comes from the Indian Amiya, meaning delight. Meaning: woman of God; beloved; her mom saw a baby girl who she loved dearly; a little girl who stands tall as a mountain; will grow up to say, "The hell with what people say; I'm the shit and I know it," then walk away like Tyra Banks and not care who's looking Context: "Amia has a bomb ass personality; she's a joy to be around."
Note about the work: Revolutionary daughters were charged with writing to each of the stages of grief highlighted in BeyoncĂŠ's visual album Lemonade. The stages appear in no particular order and have been widely interpreted. Not every stage of grief was written to.
Image by Salkis Re
BY AMINA GEORGIE
I EXPECTED MY DAD TO COME HOME TODAY HE'D WALK IN WITH A HUGE SMILE I'D RUN INTO HIS ARMS MOMMA WOULD GREET HIM WITH A KISS WE'D HAVE DINNER TOGETHER HE'D TUCK ME IN AND THE NEXT DAY WE'D DO IT ALL AGAIN. INSTEAD, THE PHONE RANG MOMMA WAS CRYING WE RUSHED TO THE HOSPITAL I HEARD STRANGE MUSIC I HEAR STRANGE MUSIC THAT'S MY DADDY'S LIFE. I RAN TO LAY MY HEAD ON HIS CHEST HIS HEART BEATS TO THE PACE OF A YELLOW TRAFFIC LIGHT SOON AFTER CONVERTING TO RED BODY FREEZING COLD HIS SOUL IS THE ONLY ONE BREATHING HIS GHOST WATCHES AS I SEIZE HIM A GOSPEL OF BREATH BENEATH HIM HIS HEART BEATS FASTER LIKE A HUMMINGBIRD'S ALERTNESS. COULD THAT BE HIS LIFE REJUVENATING WITHIN HIM? NO. IT WAS ONLY MY HEART BEAT.
BY AMINA GEORGIE
HOLD ONTO YOUR BABY BOY, YOUR MAN, SONS, COUSINS, UNCLES, BROTHERS SHIELD THEM FROM FATALITY SPEAK THE TRUTH DONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T HIDE IT SLYLY SNEAK PAST THOSE PIGS SEND IT OUT, RAW TO THE WORLD RECEIVE IT INVESTIGATE THEN ACT PEACEFULLY. THAT'S WHAT WE BEEN DOING UNTIL THEY COME RIDIN ROUN INSTIGATING SHIT WE MUST KEEP OUR ENERGY IN SYNC AGGRESSION WITHIN OUR SPEECH WHILE DISTANT FROM ACTS OF VIOLENCE. SHOOT CAUSE WE'RE BREATHING SHOOT CAUSE WE'RE LAUGHING SHOOT CAUSE WE'RE EXCEEDING SHOOT CAUSE WE'RE HUMAN BUT WHEN A WHITE MAN WALKS DOWN THE STREET WITH A MACHETE WHAT Y'ALL GON DO? NOTHIN.
BY AMIA PAIGE
MY DAD HAS THE STRENGTH OF A MOUNTAIN MAN. THE STRENGTH TO DO WHATEVER HE PUTS HIS MIND TO. YOU MIGHT SEE A LITTLE MAN WHO STANDS 5'4", BUT I SEE A MAN WHO CAN DO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING. A MAN WHO CAN TURN TWO PENNIES INTO $20 JUST LIKE MAGIC. A MAN WHO HELPS ME BETTER MYSELF AS THE DAYS GO ON. A MAN WHO HELPS ME MATURE AND GET READY TO KICK THE WORLD'S ASS, 'CAUSE JUST LIKE HE TELLS ME, "THE WORLD DON'T OWE YOU SHIT...ALL YOU HAVE IS YOURSELF, AND THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS." I USED TO BE AFRAID OF A LOT OF THINGS, BUT WITH MY FATHER'S HELP I CAN OVERCOME THOSE THINGS AND MAKE MY FUTURE BRIGHTER. I DON'T MEAN TO BRAG, BUT I KNOW I HAVE THE WORLD'S GREATEST SUPER DAD. I DON'T KNOW ANY OTHER MAN WHO HAS WORKED IN A HAIR SALON, BEEN A POLICE OFFICER, A FIREFIGHTER, A PARAMEDIC, DONE HAIR FOR A FUNERAL, AND GONE TO SCHOOL, ALL WHILE RAISING A CHILD WITH A REAL BAD HEADACHE, ON HIS OWN, AND MADE IT LOOK SO GOOD AND EASY. I JUST DON'T SEE HOW HE DOES IT. BECAUSE, RAISING MEâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;I KNOW IT'S NOT EASY. I JUST KNOW IT'S NOT. YOU LOVED ME EVEN WHEN I THOUGHT I DIDN'T DESERVE TO BE LOVED. YOU HUGGED ME TIGHT WHEN I THOUGHT I DIDN'T DESERVE TO BE TOUCHED. YOU SMILED AT ME EVEN WHEN I THOUGHT I DIDN'T DESERVE TO BE LOOKED AT. YOU MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS THE PRETTIEST PERSON EVER, EVEN WHEN I THOUGHT I WASN'T PRETTY ENOUGH. YOU MADE ME STRONGER, EVEN WHEN I FELT WEAK. YOU MADE ME "ME," AND SAYING THANK YOU IS NOT ENOUGH. YOU DESERVE THE WORLD AND ONE DAY I'LL BRING IT TO YOU. I LOVE YOU DAD.
BY BREYAUNA NELSON
YOU WERE THE LIGHT THAT LIGHTENED THE DARKNESS THAT LINGERED IN MY HEART. IT WAS THE WAY YOU USED YOUR KIND WORDS TO BOOST MY CONFIDENCE. THE CUTE GESTURES SUCH AS UNEXPECTED TEXT MESSAGES, THE WAY YOU KISSED MY FOREHEAD BEFORE WE WENT TO SLEEP. THE WAY YOU PROTECTED ME FROM THE HURT. THE WAY YOU WHISPERED, “I PROMISE NOT TO HURT YOU LIKE HE DID.” YOU WERE THE SUNSHINE IN MY SKY. THE FIRST AND LAST PERSON I THOUGHT ABOUT EVERY DAY. THEN YOU CHANGED. YOU SPUN ME IN YOUR WEB OF LIES; THE DECEIT INVADED THE KINDNESS AND LOVE IN YOUR HEART. YOU BROKE ME. YOU WITHDREW YOUR LIGHT AND CAST DARKNESS WHERE IT WAS NOT NEEDED. I THOUGHT MAYBE IF I TRIED HARDER AND CHANGED MY WAYS, MAYBE JUST MAYBE YOU WOULD LOVE ME AGAIN. MAYBE IF I CHANGED MY STYLE, MADE MY FACE UP EVERY DAY, DID THINGS I THOUGHT I WOULD NEVER DO THEN MAYBE THE LIES WOULD STOP; MAYBE I'D GET THE OLD YOU BACK. THE PERSON I FELL FOR, THE KIND-HEARTED MAN WHO WOULD NEVER DO ANYTHING TO HURT ME. BUT, YOU CHANGED. YOU CHANGED FOR THE WORSE. WHEN ALL I WANTED WAS FOR YOU CHANGE FOR THE BETTER. YOU CHANGED, AND MY FEELINGS FOR YOU CHANGED TOO. 29
I AM YOUR DAUGHTER
BY BREYAUNA NELSON
I AM YOUR DAUGHTER. THE BEAUTIFUL CREATION THAT EMERGED FROM YOU. HALF YOU, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT MY MOTHER. I AM YOUR DAUGHTER, YET I AM REPLACED BY HER. YOUR TEMPORARY EUPHORIA. SHE IS NOT ME. SHE WILL NEVER BE. I AM YOUR DAUGHTER. YOUR SEED, YOUR ONLY ONE, NOT YOUR ONLY ONE…PRIORITY. SOMETIMES I AM PLACED TO THE SIDE TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE SIDE…PIECE OF ADVICE: KEEP YOUR SIDE TO THE SIDE AND SLIDE ME TO THE FRONT, WHERE I BELONG. I AM YOUR DAUGHTER. THE CHILD CREATED WITH AN ANGEL. THE ANGELIC CHILD WHOSE HEART CAN’T BEAR TO BE BROKEN BY HER FATHER. THE PERSON WHO IS SUPPOSED TO SET AN EXAMPLE. I AM YOUR DAUGHTER, DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL, DADDY'S NUMBER ONE. SO WHY DO I FEEL THE OPPOSITE?
THANK YOU LETTER TO DADDY
BY BREYAUNA NELSON
DEAR DADDY, THANK YOU FOR BEING THE EXAMPLE OF WHAT I SHOULD NOT WANT IN A MAN. THANK YOU FOR SHOWING ME WHAT LOVE ISN’T. YOUR ACTIONS ARE BITTERSWEET. WHILE THEY HURT ME AND MAKE ME RESENT YOU, THEY ALSO MAKE ME SEE WHAT NOT TO EXPECT IN REAL LOVE. I SHOULDN’T EXPECT THE NEGLECT AND CARELESSNESS OUT OF LOVE. I SHOULD EXPECT THE OPPOSITE. I USED TO QUESTION YOUR MOTIVES AND WONDER WHY YOU DIDN’T ALWAYS WANT TO COME AROUND. YOU'RE A MAN WHO'S NOT A MAN. YOU GIVE FALSE HOPE AND SELL FAKE DREAMS. YOU MISS THE MILESTONES THAT ARE IMPORTANT, LIKE MY FIRST STEPS. SO MANY PROMISES UN-KEPT. I USED TO ALWAYS WAIT FOR YOU TO WALK THROUGH THE DOOR, BUT YOU NEVER SHOWED. YOUR “LOVE” IS TOXIC, AND YET YOU KEEP TRYING TO SPREAD IT. THANK YOU FOR SHOWING ME WHAT A MAN IS NOT. A REAL MAN CARES AND LOVES THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE. HE CHERISHES AND APPRECIATES THEM. YOU TAUGHT ME THINGS AT AN EARLY AGE. YOU TAUGHT ME TO AVOID MEN LIKE YOU. YOU'RE THE REASON WHY I AM SO CAREFUL WITH MY HEART, BECAUSE WHEN I TRIED TO PUT IT IN YOUR PALM, YOU LET IT FALL. THANK YOU FOR SHOWING ME WHAT I DO NOT WANT IN A MAN. THANK YOU FOR NEVER APPRECIATING ME; IT MADE ME APPRECIATE MYSELF MORE. THANK YOU FOR NOT BEING THERE FOR ME TO DEPEND ON; IT TAUGHT ME TO ONLY DEPEND ON MYSELF. THANK YOU FOR LEAVING MY MOTHER; IT TAUGHT HER TO BE STRONGER. THANK YOU FOR LEAVING US; IT TAUGHT ME STRUGGLE. BUT MOST OF ALL THANK YOU, DADDY, FOR NEVER BEING A MAN; IT SHOWED ME TO NEVER CHASE A COWARD.
ANGER, APATHY, EMPTINESS: TALES OF COMPROMISE AND COMING HOME FROM KENTUCKY TO FIND MORE RACISM
BY TALIA FLOYD
COMPROMISE, IN ITS TECHNICAL DEFINITION, MEANS A COUPLE OF THINGS: “AN AGREEMENT OR A SETTLEMENT OF A DISPUTE THAT IS REACHED BY EACH SIDE MAKING CONCESSIONS.” ALTERNATIVELY, IT MEANS, "TO ACCEPT STANDARDS THAT ARE LOWER THAN IS DESIRABLE.” WHEN I WAS ACCEPTED TO BEREA, AND ABOUT A MONTH LATER ACTUALLY DECIDED TO GO, I KNEW I WAS MAKING COMPROMISES. I JUST WASN’T AWARE OF ALL THE COMPROMISES I WOULD BE MAKING. I THOUGHT I WAS TRADING IN A CITY—BALTIMORE—FOR A SMALL TOWN—BEREA—UNDER 15,000 PEOPLE TOTAL. MARYLAND AND KENTUCKY LOOKED SO SIMILAR TO ME—THE PLANTS AND THE LANDSCAPE GREEN, FORESTED AND BEAUTIFUL. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO LIVE IN A SMALLER SLICE OF BALTIMORE BUT WITH MORE WHITE PEOPLE AND LESS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. OF COURSE I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED MORE CLOSELY TO THE WISDOM OF MY ELDERS. WHEN I TOLD PEOPLE I WAS GOING TO COLLEGE IN KENTUCKY THEIR RESPONSE WAS SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF, “KENTUCKY! WOW! THE SOUTH, WOW!” AND THEN WITH A KNOWING CHUCKLE, “THAT’'LL BE AN EXPERIENCE.” I WASN'T SO ARROGANT AS TO ASSUME I WAS READY, BUT I MAY HAVE UNDERESTIMATED HOW UNPREPARED I WOULD BE. MY BODY BECAME A WALKING INTERACTIONAL EXHIBIT FOR CURIOUS WHITE PEOPLE WHO HAD “NEVER REALLY TALKED TO A BLACK PERSON BEFORE,” WHICH I CAN’T ENTIRELY FAULT THEM FOR; THEY ARE NOT THE ONES WHO DECIDED TO INTENTIONALLY AND MALICIOUSLY SEGREGATE THE U.S. IN SUCH A WAY THAT WHITE PEOPLE WOULD NEVER BE PUT IN THE POSITION OF CONFRONTING THEIR OWN RACIAL IDENTITY. I CAN HOWEVER HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE QUESTIONS THAT THEY DIDN’T BOTHER TO GOOGLE.
“DO BLACK PEOPLE TAN?” YES, WE TAN. “WHAT DOES YOUR HAIR LOOK LIKE WHEN IT COMES OUT?” I HAVE LOCS, THEY DON’T COME OUT. “WHAT HAPPENED IN BALTIMORE WAS CRAZY!” NOT REALLY, WHEN YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF SYSTEMATIC AND VIOLENT OPPRESSION. THERE IS AN UNFORTUNATE INTERSECTION BETWEEN BLACKNESS AND FEMALENESS IN WHICH PEOPLE BELIEVE THEY HAVE SOME KIND OF RIGHT TO YOUR BODY BECAUSE SOCIETY HAS PROCLAIMED THAT SOME ELEMENTS OF YOUR PERSON ARE PUBLIC PROPERTY. I'M NOT TOUCHY FEELY, I DON’T GO IN FOR HUGS, I PREFER HANDSHAKES, I DON’T DO CUDDLES OR SNUGGLES. PHYSICAL TOUCH TO ME IS PERSONAL AND INTIMATE, NOT SOMETHING TO BE SHARED WITH EVERYONE. I EXPECT TO BE ASKED BEFORE I'M TOUCHED, SO WHEN HANDS REACHED TO GRAB AT MY NATURAL LOCS EXCLAIMING AT THE TEXTURE, THE WEIGHT, THE STRANGENESS OF IT, I FELT AS IF I WAS NOTHING MORE THAN A MANIKIN MADE TO IMPART THE MAGIC OF DIVERSITY. “HOW INTERESTING!” “HOW COOL!” “WOW, IT'S ROUGHER/SOFTER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE!” “IS IT ALL YOURS?” “IS THIS REAL?” “I LOVE YOUR BRAIDS!” “I LOVE YOUR DREADS!” “HOW DO YOU GET IT LIKE THIS?” AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: WHEN SOMEONE ASKED, “CAN I TOUCH IT?” AS THEY ROLLED IT IN THEIR HANDS. BETTER YET WHEN THEY HOLD MY HAIR UP TO THEIR OWN HEAD AND ASK, “WOULD IT LOOK GOOD ON ME?” THE WORDS "NO, BITCH" COME TO MIND, BUT I'VE BEEN TOLD THAT CUSSING DOESN'T INSPIRE OPEN DIALOGUE, SO I SAY A LITTLE ELEVATOR SPEECH: “HEY, I'M SORRY, BUT I ACTUALLY HAVE A RULE ABOUT PEOPLE TOUCHING MY HAIR.” SOME INTELLIGENT PEOPLE GET THE CLUE AT THIS POINT; SADLY, NOT EVERYONE IS SO BLESSED. “YEAH...IT ISN’T A PETTING ZOO...YOU CAN ASK, BUT THE ANSWER WILL BE NO.” I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THAT I WAS UNBENDING, RESILIENT, BUT THEN I PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE CALLED THIS PIECE COMPROMISE, WOULD I? I HAD BOUNDARIES CHALLENGED I DIDN’T REALIZE I HAD. WHEN I WALKED INTO A WHITE STORE AND WAS IGNORED COMPLETELY I HONESTLY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. IT'S NOT THAT THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN IN BALTIMORE, BUT IN BALTIMORE I ALREADY KNOW WHERE TO GO. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SERVE ME, FINE. I'LL TAKE MY MONEY ELSEWHERE. BUT WHEN YOU LIVE IN A TINY TOWN YOU FIND THE BOUNDARIES IMPOSED BY YOUR RACE BECOME VISIBLE IN A NEW WAY. 33
I FELT LIKE WALLS WERE BEING BUILT UP AROUND ME, PREVENTING ANY ESCAPE FROM THE PERCEPTIONS OF OTHERS. TRYING TO EXPLAIN THIS, ESPECIALLY TO MY WHITE FRIENDS WAS DIFFICULT. I TOLD A FRIEND I NO LONGER WENT TO THE ANTIQUE SHOP DOWN THE BLOCK BECAUSE OF THE REACTION OF THE WHITE STAFF (AND THE COAL BLACK, RED-LIPPED AND SMILING PORCELAIN FIGURES THAT PUT THE NAIL IN THE COFFIN). SHE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO GO BACK, UNABASHED AND UNASHAMED, AND MAKE THEM SPEAK TO ME, MAKE THEM SERVE ME, LIKE ANY OTHER CUSTOMER. I LAUGHED AND INFORMED HER THAT NO, I WAS NEVER GOING BACK. I THINK SOME OF THEM SEE THE EXTERNAL BATTLE OF FORCING THE WORLD TO SEE US. THE IDEA OF AVOIDING A PLACE BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT WANTED IS LIKE GIVING UP TO THESE HALF-AWAKENED WHITE PEOPLE. HOWEVER, THAT APPROACH MAKES ME FEEL LIKE I ONLY EXIST IN REACTION. THAT MY PURPOSE BECOMES NOTHING MORE THAN A SHADOW OF WHITE ACTION AND BEHAVIOR. I BELIEVE THAT LIVING IN A STATE OF REACTION ONLY CONTORTS THE SPIRIT. IT'S REALLY MORE MUSEUM TIME. I'M NOT INTERESTED IN TEACHING PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT INTERESTED IN LEARNING, PEOPLE WHO DO NOT EVEN HAVE A GRAIN OF EMPATHY OR COMPASSION TO LOOK AT OR SPEAK TO ME WHEN I TRY TO GIVE THEM MONEY FOR THEIR WHITE OWNED BUSINESSES. RACISM AT HOME TASTES LIKE BETRAYAL. SURE YOU'LL GET YOUR BLATANT ANGRY DUMB RACISTS—YOU'LL FIND THOSE EVERYWHERE. I'M TALKING ABOUT THE “EDUCATED” WHITE LIBERALS WHO THINK THEY'VE GROWN BEYOND RACISM. COMMONLY FOUND IN NONPROFITS AND UNIVERSITIES, THIS BRAND OF RACIST SEEMS TO BELIEVE THAT HE RESPECTS BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE AND IS FREE FROM RACISM. OF COURSE SOCIAL SCIENTISTS LIKE ANTHONY GREENWALD AND MAHZARIN R. BANAJI HAVE KNOWN THAT NEARLY EVERYONE IN THE U.S. IS AFFLICTED WITH VARYING FLAVORS OF RACISM THAT PRIVILEGES WHITE PEOPLE. IN TERMS OF POWER, PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE EXCLUDED FROM RACISM. BUT IN TERMS OF PREJUDICE AND SELF-HATRED MANY OF US ARE MIRED IN OUR OWN INTERNALIZED RACISM.
IT’S THE PEOPLE WHO HOLD REAL POWER THAT ARE THE MOST INSIDIOUS IN HOW THEY SEEK TO MAINTAIN IT. COMPROMISE HAS NOT BEEN THE FRIEND OF BLACK PEOPLE IN THE PAST; IT CALLS TO MIND THE 3/5THS COMPROMISE AND THE COMPROMISE OF 1850. THINKING ON ALL THIS I'VE COME UP WITH MY OWN DEFINITION OF COMPROMISE: THE ACT OF PRETENDING TO BE SOMETHING LESS THAN A BLACK WOMAN IN ORDER TO APPEASE SOCIETY'S DESIRE TO ERASE OUR EXISTENCE. BLACK WOMEN COMPROMISE. SOME OF US PRETEND THAT THE ONLY HAIR THAT GROWS ON OUR BODIES IS ON TOP OF OUR HEAD. SOME PRETEND THAT OUR HAIR COMES IN TAME, STRAIGHT LINES RATHER THAN PERSISTENT KINKS AND CURLS (OTHERS KNOW THIS AND CHOOSE STRAIGHT HAIR BECAUSE THEY WANT IT, NOT BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ELSE). WE ARE TOLD THAT COLLEGE WILL SAVE US, THAT WHAT WE REALLY NEED IS EDUCATION (OR INDOCTRINATION, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST). I HAVE NOT YET FOUND THIS TO BE THE CASE. IT IS EVERY BIT AS OBNOXIOUS AS PEOPLE PUSHING THEIR WHITE JESUS ON YOU SO THAT YOU CAN BE “SAVED.” I FALL INTO THE LIES OF WHAT WE ARE, THAT WE ARE SOMEHOW MORE SEXUAL, SULTRY. THAT WE ARE THE JEZEBEL. THAT WE ARE INHERENTLY MORE AGGRESSIVE, MORE SASSY THAN OTHER WOMEN. GUESS WHAT AMERICA? BEING OPPRESSED FOR BOTH RACE AND GENDER WOULD MAKE YOU A LITTLE DEFENSIVE. WE ARE NOBODY'S AUNT JEMIMA, NO MAMMIE HERE TO COMFORT AND LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. OUR LOVE SHOULD BE CONDITIONAL. MY LOVE IS NOT SOMETHING THAT I WILL GIVE UNTIL MY OWN SPIRIT HAS BEEN BOXED INTO A SHAPE IT CAN NEVER FULLY TAKE; YOU HAVE TO EARN IT. AND THERE IS NO CONCLUSION HERE, BECAUSE I’M STILL IN IT.
FRAGILE SWEET ANGER
BY SOL ARI LEANDRY
I DO NOT EXPRESS MY ANGER IN A TYPICAL WAY. I DO NOT SLAM THINGS AND CURSE THROUGHOUT THE DAY. I MAY GET FRUSTRATED, BUT NEVER ANXIOUS. I TEND TO SIT STILL AND EMOTIONLESS. DON'T EXPECT ME TO STAND UP HERE AND SCREAM ABOUT MY ANGER. I'M MORE OF THE BORING TYPE. YOU KNOW, THE FRIEND THAT YOU TRUST WILL NEVER HAVE YOUR CHILD IN DANGER. MY SERIES OF POEMS ISN'T PARTICULARLY HAPPY, BUT I HOPE YOU CAN RELATE, BECAUSE YOU'RE GOING TO ONLY HEAR ABOUT THE THINGS THAT I HATE. I HATE SPINACH AND BROCCOLI AND SQUASH AND TOMATOES, TOO. I HATE BAD ASS KIDS AND ADULTS WHO NEGLECT THEIR CHILDREN AND CARE MORE ABOUT THEIR BOO. IT GRINDS MY GEARS WHEN PEOPLE SPELL "LOSE" LIKE "LOOSE," AND WHEN OLD PEOPLE TELL ME THAT I NEED TO DRINK MORE PRUNE JUICE. SO THAT'S MY INTRODUCTION, KIDS, AND I HOPE YOU ENJOY THE REST. AND IF YOU DON'T, I DON'T CARE, BECAUSE I KNOW I DID MY BEST. I'M GOING TO TELL YOU THE THINGS THAT I DO NOT LIKE OR THAT HAVE ANGERED ME BEFORE. HOWEVER, IT'S GOING TO COME OUT FRAGILE AND SWEET BECAUSE AS I'VE SAID EARLIER I DO NOT CURSE OR SLAM THINGS TO THE FLOOR. 36
DEAR FIRST LOVE
BY SOL ARI LEANDRY
YOU KNOW HOW PEOPLE SAY, "YOU NEVER TRULY GET OVER YOUR FIRST LOVE"? WELL, THAT'S NOT YOU. YOU NEVER CROSS MY MIND, AND IF SOMETHING WERE TO HAPPEN TO YOU, I WOULD CARE, BUT I WOULDN'T REALLY CARE. DEAR FIRST LOVE, I REMEMBER THE TIME WHEN YOU MADE ME FEEL CRAZY. YOU TOLD ME THE TREE IN MY BACK YARD HAD ORANGE LEAVES WITH A BLUE TRUNK WHEN I COULD HAVE SWORN IT WAS GREEN AND BROWN. "WHY ARE YOU EVEN WORRIED ABOUT IT?" YOU ASKED, MAKING ME FEEL LIKE A COMPLETE LUNATIC. DEAR FIRST LOVE, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY I'M WRITING TO OR ABOUT YOU. YOU DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ME AND I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU, SO WHAT'S THE POINT, YOU KNOW? BUT I'VE REALIZED SOME THINGS ABOUT YOU AFTER THESE COUPLE OF YEARS AND I JUST HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE. DEAR FIRST LOVE, THE THINGS THAT I REALIZED IS THAT: A) YOU HAVE AFFECTED EVERY RELATIONSHIP OF MINE FOLLOWING OURS AND, B) I AM THE WAY I AM BECAUSE OF YOU. DEAR FIRST LOVE, I DON'T LET THE PEOPLE I LIKE BUY ME THINGS BECAUSE YOU NEVER BOUGHT ME ANYTHING. I DON'T LIKE WHEN THEY TAKE ME OUT ON DATES, EITHER. GUESS WHY? BECAUSE YOU NEVER TOOK ME OUT THROUGH OUR ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP. I DON'T LIKE WHEN PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS MISSING ME & WANTING TO BE AROUND ME BECAUSE YOU NEVER MADE ANY EFFORT TO SEE ME. DEAR FIRST LOVE, I DON'T HATE YOU, BUT I HATE WHO YOU WERE TO ME. THAT IS A PERSON I REGRET MEETING AND HOPE ONE DAY WILL RECEIVE HIS KARMA. I LAUGHED WHEN YOUR GIRLFRIEND CHEATED ON YOU AND I HOPE SHE DOES IT AGAIN. BUT AS I'VE SAID BEFORE, I DON'T CARE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU. I ONLY WISH YOU THE WORST. 37
NOTE TO SELF
BY SOL ARI LEANDRY
YOU'RE SO STUPID. YOU LEAVE THE ONES WHO WERE HERE TO STAY AND KEEP THE ONES WHO WERE ALREADY GONE. YOU FAIL TO GLORIFY YOUR GIFTS, YET PRAISE YOUR PUNISHMENTS. YOU PUSHED AWAY THE BRIGHTEST STAR IN THE SKY FOR A CRUMBLE OF AN ASTEROID, GAVE A DIAMOND FOR A ROCK, A DIME FOR A NICKEL, AND A GODDESS FOR A DEMON. YOU INVITED THE VAMPIRE INTO YOUR HOME, THE SNAKE INTO YOUR BED, AND THE POISON INTO YOUR HEART. I DESPISE YOU. YOU NOT ONLY CAUSED RAIN TO POUR INSIDE ME BUT FED A FIRE OF ENVY IN MY HEART. YOU CLOSED THE CURTAIN ON THE BEAUTIFUL SUN AND OPENED THE DOOR FOR THE STORM. YOU TREATED A BUTTERFLY WITH DISRESPECT, YET FELL TO YOUR KNEES FOR A ROACH. I HATE YOU. YOU LOVED WHEN IT WAS NOT ALLOWED AND HATED LOVE ITSELF. YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF THE ABSENCES AND THE DISAPPEARANCES THAT OCCUR RAPIDLY. YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF ABANDONMENT AND DEPRESSION. YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF YOUR OWN SADNESS AND DESPAIR. DO I HATE YOU? OR DO I REALLY HATE LOVE?
ADMITTING THE LOVE
BY SOL ARI LEANDRY
YOU HAVE BEATEN ME FOR THE LAST TIME.
YOU ARE THE REASON I AM THE WAY I AM.
YOUR GAMES ARE COLD AND WICKED AND ALWAYS END IN AN EXCRUCIATING PAIN.
AND AS MANY TIMES AS I FALL INTO YOUR TRAP, I FAIL TO RECOGNIZE THAT YOU USE THE SAME PIECE OF CHEESE.
I CANNOT DESCRIBE MY HATRED TOWARDS YOU WITHOUT ADMITTING THE LOVE.
I ENVY YOU BECAUSE YOU'VE GIVEN ME THE BRIGHTEST THINGS, AND THEN TAKEN THEM AWAY FROM ME.
YOU ARE THE MOST TERRIFYING ENJOYMENT I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.
I HAVE LEARNED YOUR WAYS.
NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU DO ME WRONG, I CAN'T SEEM TO LET YOU GO.
YOU PLAY A GAME OF UPS AND DOWNS THAT SEEMS TO ALWAYS END ON THE I ALWAYS COME BACK TO YOU, AS AN GROUND. ADDICT DOES HIS DRUGS. YOU'RE CONFUSED AND YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU WANT TO GO. YOU ARE A NEVER ENDING ROLLER COASTER AND I'VE ALWAYS LOVED RIDES, BUT I BELIEVE I'M GOING TO PUKE. I AM ANGRY WITH YOU. 39
AND LOVE, YOU ARE ONE STRONG ASS DOSE OF HEROINE.
BY JADZIA FLOYD
GEA HAD NEVER BEEN TO NEW KERIN CITY OR EVEN SEEN MUCH OF IT—AT LEAST NOT SINCE IT HAD BEEN DEVELOPED A FEW YEARS AGO. WHEN SHE WAS A KID, VEE HAD TAKEN HER AND HER COUSINS ON A VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE CHILDREN'S SCIENCE CENTER, BUT TO BE THERE IN PERSON WAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE. DUE TO A HISTORY THAT TEXTBOOKS WOULD DESCRIBE AS “COMPLICATED,” MOST PEOPLE FROM WHYA TENDED TO AVOID NEW KERIN LIKE THE PLAGUE. BUT NOW GEA WAS ON A TRAIN HEADED FOR ITS TOP MEDICAL COMPOUND. SHE SAT ON THE EDGE OF HER SEAT LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW AS SHE PULLED HER PHONE FROM HER SHOULDER BAG AND SELECTED THE SECOND NUMBER ON SPEED DIAL. “HEY, VEE?” “HELLO GEA. DID YOU MAKE IT FROM THE STATION ALL RIGHT?" "YEAH, YEAH. I'M ON THE TRAIN NOW. I'M LIKE TWO STOPS AWAY. WHAT'S THE SURNAME THEY GAVE HER?” “IT'S CRANE. AVA CRANE.” “LIKE THE BIRD?” “IF THAT HELPS YOU REMEMBER, THEN YES. DIDN'T YOU WRITE IT DOWN BEFORE YOU LEFT?” OH YEAH. “AMATEUR,” VEE SAID, JOKINGLY OF COURSE. "THIS STOP: NIEBRON LEE PLAZA." THE TRAIN SLOWED TO A STOP AND THE DOORS SLID OPEN. SHE STEPPED OFF OF THE RAMP INTO A LARGE COURTYARD WITH FOUR INCH GRASS AND THIN TREES THAT ALL SEEMED TO HAVE THE SAME NUMBER OF BRANCHES. THERE WERE EVEN SEVERAL INFORMATIONAL KIOSKS WITH MAPS OF THE CLOSEST ATTRACTIONS, LANDMARKS AND INSTITUTIONS. 40
IT ALL LOOKED VERY…INTENTIONAL. SHE DIDN'T NEED TO STOP. SHE HAD A CLEAR OBJECTIVE AND VEE HAD BEEN VERY SPECIFIC IN HER DIRECTIONS ON THE MOST EFFICIENT ROUTE TO GET TO THE HOSPITAL. SHE WALKED THROUGH THE COURTYARD, DOWN THE MAIN PATH TOWARDS THE HOSPITAL. “ARRIGHT, VEE. I'M GOIN' IN.” "OKAY, GOOD LUCK. ” THE NLU BUILDING WAS SEVERAL STORIES TALL. SHE WALKED THROUGH TALL SLIDING DOORS, INTO A LARGE OPEN WHITE ATRIUM. IT WASN'T CROWDED INSIDE, BUT THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WALKING FROM THE ELEVATORS TO STAIRS TO DIFFERENT HALLWAYS. GEA WAS THE ONLY PERSON DRESSED IN SOMETHING THAT WASN'T A MUTED PASTEL OR GREY. THE FASHION SHE WAS USED TO—LOTS OF PATTERNS AND BRIGHT COLORS AND INTRICATE EMBROIDERY DETAILS—WERE PRETTY COMMON. SHE HAD MADE AN EFFORT TO DRESS THE PART. VEE HAD DONE HER HAIR BEFORE SHE LEFT: CORNROWS NEATLY PULLED BACK INTO A BUN. BUT HERE—DRESSED IN THE MOST NEUTRAL AND UNASSUMING CLOTHES SHE OWNED—IT WAS STILL CLEAR SHE WASN'T FROM THE CITY. IF SHE WASN'T ON AN IMPORTANT MISSION SHE WOULD'VE FLAUNTED THE FACT THAT SHE STOOD OUT SO BADLY. THAT SHE'D COME OFF AS ECCENTRIC, RATHER THAN A CLUELESS FOREIGNER. TO HER RIGHT WAS A LONG ELEVATED PLATFORM AND COUNTER WITH SEVERAL ATTENDANTS SCRIBING AWAY AT THEIR MONITORS. THERE WAS NO LINE, SO SHE WALKED STRAIGHT TO THE FIRST COUNTER. “WELCOME TO NIEBORN LEE GENERAL CARE FACILITY.” HE LOOKED UP FROM HIS MONITOR. “CAN I HELP YOU?” “YEAH. HI.” I'M HERE TO VISIT A FRIEND OF MINE. HER NAME'S AVA.” “LAST NAME, PLEASE?” CRAP! WHAT WAS IT AGAIN?! SHE REACHED INTO HER BAG, SEARCHING FOR THE NOTE SHE'D SCRIBBLED. 41
THE ATTENDANT WAITED PATIENTLY AS SHE FINALLY RETRIEVED THE NOTE. “AH, IT'S...CRANE!” THE ATTENDANT TURNED BACK TO HIS MONITOR, TYPING AWAY. “...LIKE THE BIRD.” GEA ADDED, REALIZING TOO LATE THAT THE EXTRA CLARIFICATION WASN'T NECESSARY. “OF COURSE.” HE SMILED GENTLY, BUT WITH AN EDGE OF INSINCERITY. AS ONE DOES WHEN A LITTLE KID HAS OFFERED HIM A MUD PIE TO EAT. “I'M SORRY. WE HAVE NO CURRENT PATIENTS UNDER THE NAME AVA CRANE." DAMN. THIS WOULD BE THE 5TH DEAD END IN THE LAST YEAR. BUT NO, VEE HAD BEEN POSITIVE THAT THIS WAS THE RIGHT LOCATION. “ARE YOU SURE??” “YES, I'M QUITE SURE, MISS.” PERHAPS SHE HAS BEEN DISCHARGED?” SHE THOUGHT ABOUT PRESSING MORE, BUT THIS LOW LEVEL DESK JOB WORKER REALLY DIDN'T DESERVE TO BE DRAGGED FOR THE ACTIONS OF HIS SUPERIORS. “OK...WELL, THANKS ANYWAY. THEY'D HAVE TO TRY A DIFFERENT TACTIC. AS GEA WALKED SLOWLY BACK TOWARDS THE DOORS SHE LIFTED HER WRIST AND ENTERED THE PATTERN THAT HAD BECOME SECOND NATURE. “HEY GEA. DID YOU FIND ANYTHING?” “JUST TALKED TO THE FRONT DESK. THEY SAID SHE'S NOT HERE.” “IT WAS A LONG SHOT, BUT I'M 90 PERCENT SURE SHE IS BEING KEPT SOMEWHERE IN THIS HOSPITAL. I THINK I CAN FIGURE IT OUT. LEMME JUST...” VEE’S VOICE TRAILED OFF AND GEA COULD HEAR THE KEYSTROKES IN THE BACKGROUND.
“GEA, IF YOU CAN GET UP TO THE UPPER LEVELS, THERE SHOULD BE A BALCONY ABOUT 20 STORIES UP.“ “OK, I'M HEADING OUTSIDE NOW.” GEA WALKED OUT THROUGH THE SLIDING DOORS. FINDING A SECLUDED AREA WAS SURPRISINGLY EASY...JUST A THIN ALLEY BETWEEN THE HOSPITAL AND ONE OF THE ADJOINING BUILDINGS. SHE SLID OFF HER JACKET, REVEALING THE OPEN BACK OF HER SHIRT. BRACING HERSELF AGAINST THE CONCRETE WALL SHE LET HER WINGS UNFURL. SHE ROLLED HER SHOULDERS BACK AS HER MUSCLES ADJUSTED TO THEIR WEIGHT. “READY.” SPREADING HER WINGS SHE LIFTED HERSELF UP INTO THE AIR. IT TOOK HER ABOUT 40 SECONDS TO REACH THE BALCONY. SHE LANDED, TUCKING HER WINGS BEHIND HER. THE BUILDING EXTENDED FOR SEVERAL MORE STORIES, BUT HERE ON THIS BALCONY THERE WAS A DOOR MARKED WITH THE NUMBER 19 WITH LARGE WINDOWS ON EITHER SIDE. SHE CROUCHED DOWN NEXT TO THE WALL, LIGHTLY PRESSING HER HANDS AGAINST THE WINDOWS. A THIN GIRL SAT ON THE EDGE OF AN EXAMINATION TABLE; HER TORSO WAS WRAPPED IN BANDAGES. SEVERAL NURSES STOOD IN THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE LARGE ROOM. “VEE! YEAH, I’M HERE! VEE SHE'S IN THERE, IT'S HER. I CAN SEE HER.” “HOW DOES SHE LOOK. IS SHE OK?” “UMM…SHE LOOKS…KINDA…SAD? BORED?” “IF YOU CAN, SEND ME A PICTURE OF HER, OKAY?” GEA QUICKLY PULLED HER PHONE FROM HER BAG; HER EYES STAYED FIXED ON THE GIRL, AVA. SHE LOOKED CLOSER AS ONE OF THE NURSES WALKED TOWARDS THE GIRL WITH A TRAY IN HER HAND. AS SHE CUT AWAY THE BANDAGES, GEA COULD SEE TWO SWOLLEN LUMPS ON HER BACK. THE WORD DISEASED CAME TO MIND. THE USED, SOILED BANDAGES WERE DISCARDED AS THE OTHER NURSE PREPARED AN INJECTION. AVA SAT MOTIONLESS AS ONE OF THE NURSES EMPTIED THE CONTENTS OF A SYRINGE INTO HER SHOULDER.
“OH MY GOD, VEE,” GEA SAID. “I THINK THEY'RE SUPPRESSING HER WINGS.” “GEA. TAKE A BREATH.” VEE'S VOICE WAS CALM. ALL BUT ONE OF THE NURSES HAD LEFT THE ROOM AND GEA WATCHED AS THE GIRL TRIED TO LIE DOWN WITHOUT TOUCHING HER BACK TO THE TABLE. “GEA YOU SHOULD COME BACK.” _________________________
GEA LANDED BACK ON THE GROUND AND RETRACTED HER WINGS. LEAVING THE ALLEY, SHE LOOKED FOR A PLACE TO SIT DOWN, BUT SINCE SHE HAD NO CHANGE ON HAND NONE OF THE COIN OPERATED BENCHES WOULD BE AN OPTION. AS GETTING AN ASS FULL OF SPIKES WASN’T A PART OF HER LIFE PLAN, SHE OPTED TO PLANT HERSELF ON A SUNNY SPOT ON THE GRASS. SHE CLOSED HER EYES, AND TRIED TO SLOW HER HEARTBEAT. THE IMAGE OF THE GIRLS BACK RESONATED IN HER MIND. “VEE WE’VE GOTTA GET HER OUT OF THERE.” “THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE'RE GONNA DO.” GEA WAS SILENT. SHE HUNG HER HEAD. “I KNOW IT'S HARD, BUT THE ONLY WAY WE CAN HELP HER IS IF WE STAY COMPOSED AND ORGANIZED. THAT'S WHY YOU NEED TO COME BACK, SO WE CAN MAKE A PLAN, OKAY?” VEE HAD ALWAYS BEEN THE QUIETER OF THE TWO, BUT HER WORDS WERE TRUE AND RESONATED WITH STRENGTH. “IT'S ALL GONNA WORK OUT, OKAY? YOU KNOW I'M NOT JUST SAYING THAT.” “I KNOW.” GEA LOOKED BACK AT THE HOSPITAL. SHE COULD STILL SEE THE LARGE WINDOW WHERE THEIR LOST GIRL WAS TRAPPED. “I'M ON MY WAY.”
EXCERPT FROM METAMORPHOSIS BY MYKELA FRAZIER
THROUGHOUT MY LIFE I'VE HAD WHAT I LIKE TO CALL “FILLERS.” WOMEN WHO CAME INTO MY LIFE TO DROP LITTLE GEMS AND THEN QUICKLY GO ON ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS. TO MY FATHER, THESE WOMEN WOULD FILL THE HOLES IN MY HEART THAT MY MOTHER WAS SUPPOSED TO FILL. AND SOMETIMES, IT DID WORK. IN FACT, TEMPORARILY, I WOULD FORGET THAT I DIDN’T HAVE A MOM. HOWEVER, DEEP DOWN, WHERE I BURIED ALL OF MY FEELINGS, ALL I WANTED WAS MY MOTHER…MY REAL MOTHER. I FELT THE SHARP PAIN OF HER ABSENCE EVERY SILENT BIRTHDAY (AND MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT IN-BETWEEN). I LONGED FOR HER. SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO GUIDE ME AND I RESENTED HER FOR NOT BEING THERE FOR ME. MY MOTHER WASN'T THERE WHEN I FIRST GOT MY HEART BROKEN AND COULDN'T STOP CRYING FOR WEEKS. SHE WASN'T THERE TO GIVE ME GUIDANCE WHEN I WAS SEARCHING FOR THE PERFECT JUNIOR PROM DRESS. SHE WASN'T THERE TO WATCH ME GROW AND MATURE. SHE WASN'T THERE. AND THOUGH I COULD PUT ON MY LONG BLACK DRESS WITH A KNITTED VEIL OVER MY FACE, PREPARING TO MOURN THE LOSS OF MY MOTHER, IS IT REALLY WORTH IT? LETTING THE RAIN POUR OVER MY LIFE WON'T STOP IT FROM MOVING FORWARD. DROWNING IN SORROW AND PITY WON’T BRING MY MOTHER BACK FROM WHEREVER SHE'S HIDING. I BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING HAPPENING TO US IS PREPARING US FOR SOMETHING GREATER, SOMETHING BETTER. SO, THOUGH I'D LOVE TO HAVE A WOMAN TO LOOK UP TO AND CALL MY MOTHER, IT WASN’T IN THE CARDS FOR ME. IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO REALIZE IT, BUT I LOVE WHO I AM AND I LOVE WHO I'M BECOMING.
WHAT I LOVE MOST IS THAT I DIDN'T NEED THE WOMAN PEOPLE CALL “MOMMY” TO HELP ME REALIZE MY SELF-WORTH. WITHOUT REALLY KNOWING IT, I BEGAN TO SELF-MOTHER MYSELF. I TAUGHT MYSELF THE ART OF DOING MY HAIR AND MAKEUP. I TAUGHT MYSELF (WITH THE HELP OF MY FATHER) NOT TO LET GUYS MISTREAT ME AND USE ME. I TAUGHT MYSELF THAT IT'S OKAY TO BE SAD AND IT'S OKAY TO CRY. AS I MOVE ONTO THE NEXT STAGE IN MY LIFE, I PLAN TO TEACH MYSELF HOW TO BUILD A HOUSEHOLD AND THAT MATCHING DECOR IS IMPORTANT (THIS IS SOMETHING MY FATHER REFUSES TO UNDERSTAND). I WILL TEACH MYSELF HOW TO BE A KICK-ASS WIFE, AND WHEN IT'S TIME TO HAVE MY OWN CHILD, THOUGH I WON'T HAVE MY OWN MOTHER TO COACH ME AND TELL ME THE DOS AND DON'TS OF MOTHERHOOD, I'LL HOLD MY BABY GIRL IN MY ARMS. HER ABSENCE WILL COME INTO MY MIND, BUT I WON’T NEED TO TEACH MYSELF HOW TO BE A MOTHER.
THE BLACK WOMAN & THE SUN BY MYKELA FRAZIER
ON A BLISTERING AFTERNOON, THE SUN IS BEAMING DOWN THROUGH THE THICK, HUMID AIR SHINING, RADIATING LETTING EVERYONE FEEL HER PRESENCE. WHILE CUMULUS CLOUDS GRAZE AWAY UNABLE TO STAND HER FIERCE FLAMES, PEOPLE BELOW FIND RELIEF UNDER SHADY OAK TREES AND PORCH UMBRELLAS, HOWEVER THE BLACK WOMAN EMERGES FROM THE DARKNESS & DANCES THROUGH THE SUN'S RAYS, EMBRACING HER WITH GRACE. WITH COCOA ARMS STRETCHED WIDE AND MOCHA PONDS CLOSED, THE BLACK WOMAN AND THE SUN MAKE LOVE TO THE SOUND OF THE WIND AS ITS LIGHT SEEPS THROUGH HER PORES. NOW THE SUN SHINES FOR THE BLACK WOMAN, SENDING AGAPE LOVE THROUGH HER MELANIN SKIN. IT YEARNS FOR HER PRIDE HER PEACE HER PRESENCE HER PRAISE. SHE IS NO LONGER SCARED OF HER GRIT AND HER FIRE. SHE WALKS WITH POISE, DANCING IN THE LIGHT & PLAYING HIDE & SEEK WITH THE DARKNESS. 47
AND AS THE SUN SETS THE BLACK WOMAN SITS, WATCHING THE SKY TURN FROM BLUE, TO PINK AND THEN TO ORANGE AS THE SUN IS FORCED TO DIM ITS LIGHT FOR A WHILE. & BEFORE THE SUN MEETS THE MOON, SHE PUSHES ONE LAST BEAM OF GOLDEN RADIANCE & THE SUN KISSES THE BLACK WOMAN'S CHEEK, PRAYING THEY'D MEET AGAIN AT SUNRISE.