4 WRITERS ROOM
’17 - ’18
The Reality Is That You Are
Copyright ÂŠ 2018 Copyright of individual pieces remains with the authors. Cover design by Kaci Kwiatek. Back cover photograph by Mark Dawkins.
INTRODUCTION The three of us walk up 32nd, winding our way through Mantua. The longer we’re out, the more we slip into silence, the clicks of camera shutters replacing conversation. We’re all looking at something. On Haverford, we pause, spread out across the sidewalk. I snap a few photos of houses on the other side of the street. I watch Mark move farther down the block, his camera trained on a set of bay windows. He’s wearing his hood up, with a dark sweatshirt layered under a black bomber jacket and a pair of ripped denim jeans that all of the boys at school seem to own. The top right window pane is missing, leaving a dark, empty square in the house’s facade. A scraggly tree in the yard below leans at an angle toward the house. Its bare branches look almost like they grow directly through that missing window pane and inside the house. Tash is right next to me. Her camera hangs straight down from the strap around her neck. She looks at me. A small smile on her face. A denim jacket one size too big hangs loose on her frame and a thick-knit beanie with a fluffy, black pom-pom sits atop her head. Her eyes are bright, voice more affected than usual. “Do you hear the birds?” she asks. My eyes fall shut as I listen and in that split second, I think: be like a camera. A lesson learned years ago from my first Writers Room workshop. The air is crisp, the sky overcast. The weather is typical of the long, drawn out end of Philadelphia winters—that liminal space between seasons, unable to commit to either staying one thing or becoming
the next. It’s misty. When I inhale, I register the smell of the city, of rain on pavement. And then, the sound of the birds. A chorus of loud, excited chirping from a nearby bush. If she hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have noticed. I wouldn’t have been listening. I think about Tash and Mark, both of them on either side of me, paying close attention to the details of the neighborhood. I am watching them grow, I think, and feel surprised at the thought. I keep coming back to moments like these. Calling each other out. Requiring each other’s presence. Be here now. Pay attention. These moments are when we see each other, which helps us see ourselves. And now, regardless of where we come from or what brought us here, we see ourselves as connected. The work collected here is made from those moments, that point of connection. We invite you to join us.
Lauren Lowe, ‘17 April 2018 Writers Room Studio
TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction
1. DEAR MEMORY... I wish you were here… Dear Memory by Christine Nieman
House by Victoria Huggins Peurifoy
Getting Clean by Roger Converse
Excerpt from Memoir Visual Poem Chanda Rice
from Time Stamps Briyanna Hymms
I used to see them by Yonique Myrie
Salt Water by Elena Karanfilian
I’m still discovering by Nimra Sohail
I would sow seeds of Edges, Ends & Kitchen by Carin Spotted Eagle
Of Conway, Of Philly by Jasmine James
It Takes a Village by Liz Abrams
Relationship in My Life Snow Did Not Arrive by Rahkinah Laurel
2. TRIPOD Amir Curry, Alicia DeSimone, Jordan McCullough, Carol Richardson McCullough
Victoria Huggins Peurifoy, Kyle Howey, Dahmere Town
Patricia Burton, Kaliyah Pitts, Devin Welsh
Brenda Bailey, Kayla Watson, Jasmine James
Mark Dawkins, Natasha Hajo, Norman Cain
Rosalyn Cliett and Sarah Wagner-Bloom
Robeson Tripod: Philadelphia Streets
Field and Studio Portraits
3. FOLLOW THE NORTH STAR Four Haiku by Johngeline Ferguson
Photograph by James Howley
Rainy Days by Sarah Adigba
A Modern Day Cinderfella Story, To: Edward E. by Earl Hackett
The New Word of God, Private Library by MK Punky
My Senior Year, Chained to Me by Runette Nia Ebo
Sea Green by Briyanna Hymms
My World Doesnâ€™t Fit in a Carry-on Bag by Pavel Stan
from Animated Photo Album by Angela Array-Westavino
Darlene by Johngeline Ferguson
Jazztet Excerpt by George L. Starks
Dreaming Writers House by Carol Richardson McCullough
About the Writers
1. DEAR MEMORY... 1
DEAR MEMORY Dear memory, you plague me, even when I think I’m free you draw me back, snap my mind into tiny shards. Dear memory, you comfort me, hold my hand and squeeze back. Dear memory, you fail me, once and ever again and again. A moment is sooner lost than remembered, instead you crystallize around those days, those hours stretched to years. You haunt me through deserts and oceans of poisoned air. You find me when I should be better off, when the cobwebs around my smile start to loosen and suddenly I’m suffocating on your dense, dark waves. But memory, you lie to me, you hold up a funhouse mirror and bounce rays of light into my eyes. I see nothing not colored or punctured by your wrath. You hold all the cards and strings. Like a disobedient puppet I try to cling to my own memories. I try to choose my good hours and stretch them for days, but inevitably you let them slip. Hours becomes minutes becomes fleeting seconds. Dear memory, my friend and foe, the elephant on my breaking back, the chains rattling around my neck, I’d ask you to leave but you’re all I have of so much I don’t have anymore. The living die but you live in me, never quieted until I find my own rest. Dear memory, I cling to you, as each life raft sinks you buoy me back to life. All you hold and all you will hold. In a moment, in a sigh, it’s the stretches and shadows of what I will be that have to come out; those moments that pass me by, there will be more. There have to be more.
I wish you were here…
In a moment, in a sigh, in a day, in a time, So far away, but just a break from yesterday. Fading from the corner of my eye, slipping through a crack in the pavement, cascading off the side of a cliff. Word-soaked pages fill a screen as at the end of the babbling that simple acclamation is scrawled in size 8 font. “I am a writer.”
I thought I knew then but I let myself forget as the joy of remembering combats the sorrows of loss.
Victoria Huggins Peurifoy
THE HOUSE I’m still discovering things in my house as I downsize from having rooms filled with those precious articles of stuff I love... Books, storage boxes photographs, music, 45’s, 33 and 1/3’s, and even some 78’s, clothing, knick knack paddy whack give a dog a bone... it’s all so much. The creativity of my mind makes me want to focus only on my writing, making jewelry, collecting old cameras, and wondering when I will have the time to deal with it all. Actually, I don’t want to deal with it, look at it, or think about any of it. I want to sit by a quiet stream and completely contemplate life through writing about it. But I’m always reverted back to all the paper, ink and fountain pens, decisions, decisions, decisions... I’m going to go to sleep. Maybe I’ll have a better attitude tomorrow.
Stuff, things, trash, decisions, Contemplation woes Can drive you crazy
GETTING CLEAN In my youth I badly sought to have a cleaning. I wanted to know who God really was. I believed, like so many non-agnostics, but I did not know beyond a feeling that I was loved. It didn’t seem enough to believe without knowing something of what this Person was thinking. Various sacred books describe God as holy (clean or pure). My instincts also told me this. And it nagged me, “What does this have to do with me?” Underneath the glass writing blotter on my desk in my Philadelphia home there are two old photos. One is of a young man posing with his forearm propped on the shoulder of a middle-aged man with his hands on his hips. Behind them much of the sky is filled with the white cap of Mt. Ararat. The other photo is of an ancient Ottoman fortress, Isak Pasa Palace, perched in the hills of Eastern Turkey. In my closet there is a box with a stack of essay books that I used to make a journal to record my travels. 40 years ago I was sitting in my room at the Ersal Otel in the town of Doğubeyazıt, Turkey. Several days earlier I boarded a ship in Istanbul headed North on the Bosphorus Strait, which empties into the Black Sea. After three days cruising east I disembarked at the port city of Samsun. Hitching from there a truck driver took me along the two-day route through mountains and plains to this midsized town near the eastern edge of the country. There was a public teahouse below my hotel room. That afternoon I met a guy in his mid-twenties, who worked there sometimes, whose name was Hamit. Serving my tea he asked if he could sit at my table to talk. He knew very little English and it was a great opportunity for me to practice the Turkish that I had been studying 6
for the past few months while traveling the country. After about an hour of conversation, Hamit invited me to go to the Turkish bath, or hammam early the next morning. I thought that would be a great way to start the day and then I would make my 14-km hike to Isak Pasa Palace. Ever since I saw a photograph of this beautiful palace in an art gallery in Istanbul I had been determined to visit the place and stand where the photographer stood to capture that shot. This was the primary reason why I traveled that far, about 20 miles from the border of Iran, where 90 American hostages were presently imprisoned. After I would get back from seeing the Palace Hamit said that he would take me to a little village outside of town. This was just what I wanted to do while I was out there, to actually meet people who have lived in virtually the same culture for thousands of years. I didn’t make it to the bath that following day. Early that morning I did leave with Hamit thinking that we were going to the hammam, but he decided to go straight to the village. I was so dirty then that I would have skipped the village but he didn’t tell me he changed his mind until we had gotten off the horse and wagon out of town to further hitchhike for trucks on the highway headed east. Water is supplied to the town bath in Dogubayzit only in the early morning. This is when residents come to get their ritual scouring. The change of plan meant I’d miss the bath that day. I was angry that he had changed the plans and not let me in on it. The hotel did not have bathing facilities as most did not. Istanbul was the last time I bathed, about a week ago. Hamit flagged down a truck that was headed for Iran and we rode about 20 miles from Doğubeyazıt to a mile-long dirt road with deep 7
wagon wheel ruts, which led northward to the village. As we began walking north from the highway I could see to the east the border patrol across the plane from the village. We went to visit a 60-yearold man who lives there that Hamit knew. We came to his friendâ€™s hut but only the daughter was there. The outer wall of the hut was 12 inch-thick dried mud. The inside was divided into three chambers separated by hanging fabric. The floor was dirt, covered with carpets. The walls had a couple of mosaic prints hanging on them that resembled tapestries. The young woman said he was out on the plains cutting grass to bring in for the goats. She walked out about a half-mile with us until we could see him in view, swinging his scythe. When we were close enough to call out he stopped and waited for us to approach. We sat with him for a while. Hamit gave him 10 packs of tobacco that he had bought in town earlier. He rolled some cigarettes where we sat and smoked in the middle of the open plane of sparse, stubby grass. The two of them talked for about 15 minutes while I did my best to understand what they were saying. At that time I gestured that I wanted to take a picture of them with Agra Dagi (Mount Ararat) in the background. Certain scriptures relate a huge ship that became grounded on the top of this mountain after a devastating flood where all the people of the earth drowned except for those on this arc. Scripture relates it as a necessary bathing or cleansing of humankind. A prefigure of Baptism. Besides Hamitâ€™s tea serving job, there was another enterprise in which he was involved, which I was afraid to enter into my journal. 8
He was a drug smuggler. Poppies, from which heroin is derived, flourished in the country of Turkey, but apparently much more across the border in Iran. Hamit said that he had contacts in Iran and Germany and would transport heroin into Europe. This was a time when Turkey was experiencing much unrest and one by one, parts of the country were falling under martial law. I felt I had to be careful about entering sensitive material in my log fearing that if my bags were ever opened at a checkpoint I might be in trouble. We later went back to his hut where I met two of his other daughters and his Kurdish wife. His wife and three daughters were dressed in brilliantly colored fabric, which contrasted so much with the brown hues of the field and the few surrounding mud structures. His wife had some flat bread baking on a rock in the sun, which she served us with yogurt made with goats’ milk. I was grateful for the meal and then Hamit gestured that we should leave. He had known that I was annoyed that I hadn’t had a bath before we went out for the day, so he had a consolation plan. About a mile away across the plane there was a small river. Perhaps it bordered the two countries. We both got down to our skivvies and went into the river to have a bath. While we were standing waist deep in the water there was a man who approached us at the other bank. I assumed he was Iranian. I had this strange feeling of overexposure standing in my underwear with what some might consider the “enemy” approaching. Although I didn’t understand the words that were exchanged between him and Hamit, the casual tone of the conversation put me at ease.
We did not have any soap with us and after I was dry I didnâ€™t feel any cleaner than before I had my bath. The holiness that I sought I thought I could find in the aggregate of people of faith. I needed to shed my ignorance, like dirt with water. Surely God would show me holiness. What does he want me to do? It canâ€™t be just intuition. It seemed like I had not gotten any closer, not yet.
A SCHLITZ, A CIGARETTE, AND A PIGEON See, when I got here, I came with deformed legs. Both of them were turned inward, and I had to have them broken at the hips and ankles set in a cast with a bar in between which they said I wore for over two years. At least they did do that for me! If your child had any type of deformity when I was coming up, they would immediately send you to Pennhurst Hospital. Pennhurst was a dark place like a black hole where all deformed children were sent to live and were abused and died. Now they hold seances and Halloween parties there. Already God had intervened on my behalf and HE did not intend that for me. I could walk on my own. I could run! I would not be confined to a wheelchair! I wanted so much to be accepted. As I grew, I grew into a fat little chubby girl with an ugly grin--you think maybe that “they” would have taken me to the dentist and got my teeth fixed? But none of them cared about me. I was what “they” called a strange kid, maybe because they still saw me as deformed. Jackie would forever tell people that I suffered from what is now called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Even today she still tells people this--and I am grown? 11
When I was coming up in the 60s, women were very demure. Momma and her girlfriends wore their long hair all brushed back in a chignon, and they never let their hair out in public: that was a sign of being classified as a “loose woman!” They wore: white crisped shirt and a skirt, or a neat dress with an apron over it with kitten heels. “If you don’t iron your clothes, people will talk about you,” said Momma. Fuck, people will talk about you whether you iron your clothes or not! They did look like Real Women. Always poised in their attire and character. But they really didn’t care about children, they were very abusive. Children were meant to be seen, not heard! She would say all kinds of things like, “Straighten dat foot out when you walk, turn dat’ foot in!” We looked like the basic children in old Easter pictures. Sometimes Momma would get me dressed first only to find me up a tree. Somehow I would tear the ruffled hem off jumping down. “This damn girl won’t keep still if I tied her to a tree!” she’d say. I was a straight tomboy. Alfred and Jackie hated having me around. I was a kid and wanted to play with whomever would let me. Sometimes Jackie would push me in the corner and beat me in my head with a tortoise shell brush for no reason just because she could and no one would have stopped her anyway.
When we moved to Abbotsford I buried the brush in the yard! Most of the time I spent with my godmother Annie Ruth while Momma worked. She was a maid for a Jewish family named Savitz. They had a small department store downtown. Otherwise, I’d be under Momma and her girlfriends listening to adult conversations which should never happen because delicate ears misinterpreted shit. On Fridays, they would walk up to Columbia Avenue to get roasted pigeon and a Schlitz beer, and they would sit on the stoop and talk and smoke their cigarettes. Momma: “Chile, don’t look now but here comes Essy!” Essy: “How y’all doin’?” They would all say together at one time: “FINE! Girl.” Essy: Can I have one of your smokes?” (looking at Momma). Momma: “Now you know I don’t smoke and they belong to Mary’s husband Edgar and you know how he is about people reading his paper before him, so you KNOW you can’t get one of them!” Essy: “Well, OK, I guess I see y’all later, bye den!” “BYE!” they all said as she walked away.
Momma: â€œYou know you a poor hoe when you been out all night wit a man and you come back wit a wet butt, no cigarettes and no money? Mary, hand me my damn cigarettes!â€? And this is why children should not be in the company of adults when they talking grown talk.
To be continued.....
FROM TIME STAMPS Bensalem • 1996 Longan berry. Think the size of a dark cherry. A beige woody skinned fruit, speckled lightly, more like leopard than cheetah. The layer of skin is thin. Peel it to reveal a fleshy clear-white layer of meat. Peel deeper and find a dark pit. Ranging in size, people like it when the pit is small, much like avocados. The ambulance was slow to come and by the time of its arrival, I would’ve been dead. This little ounce of bones, flesh and blood, this tiny little nervous system making that synaptic connection of what seeds are, was asphyxiating. The longan seed was passable for a grown adult. Babies barely teething should handle the fruit with caution. There were no warning labels for curious babies to read, nor was there a warning label on the curious baby for the unsuspecting new dad. Pa freaked out, called mah, dialed 911 and then hovered. Mah was a bit more proactive. Before I lost you –you were turning so purple– I took you on my knee the xiphoid process of your little chest pressed on to my patella and with a firm pound to the middle of your back the seed dislodged and you began to cry. I don’t owe her a life debt. Oh heavens no. She would never bring that up that way. I do owe it her to be alive though. To make something good with the second chance from that chance happening onwards. I owe it to myself to make something of myself. Something practical, tangible, cause-fulfilling. My parents, they gave up a lot of things for me to do something practical for myself and be able to provide for myself, so I feel like I owe it to them to 16
become something worth saying Yeah, I gave up a lot for my kid, but look where she is now, so it’s all worth it in the end. I know that sounds messed up but my dynamic with my parents has kind of always been that way; I go to school, spend time away from them so long that I barely know their thoughts, but at least I’d get a good degree out of it. Mah didn’t get her chance to save the world. But here’s MY chance. I can do something. I can do anything. I’m an American. But I’m also a Cambodian. I have to do something.
Ah Pot • sometime in 1975 Sweltering heat, mixed with billowing dust clouds kicked up by revving motos with destinations no one knows on iron-rich roads marked only by skids. Someone was being taken away, a seemingly harmless old man, lightning wire death his final destination, crouching with his tiny granddaughter. His last wish was a cigarette. She knew something was going to change. She must not have understood why he was being taken away, willingly. He must’ve vowed that she wasn’t the precocious child he knew. She ran, the distance felt in small calves and even smaller feet, maybe some yards, what felt like miles. A cigarette pack, her last memory of him, imprinted were his fingers slipping from hers between the exchange. They took him from her. They were targeting the intelligent. Its mark? Anyone with a decent job, or even glasses. The papers that proved it. The arts that showcased talent. The instruments that limelighted skill. Monks. They were rounded up and taken away, never to be seen again. 17
I don’t know if she cried. I don’t know if she remembers. I don’t think she wants to. The goal was survival. The child in her never had the time to dream. Née 1970 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Khun Mearedey was the fourth daughter to louk Khun Hok and louk srey Hout Orn, the eighth of eight. She was the least likely to survive a genocide. The least likely to make it to 48. Yet she proved Ah Pot wrong and lived. Mah tells me of the scenes seen through the eyes of a child, no older than 5. If she was anything like she is now, eyes intelligent, sparkling with quick wit for survival, skin far too light to pass for working class, she would have died that year, if she didn’t learn to never reveal all her cards at once. Maybe my cards were supposed to remain hidden up my sleeves, drawn when necessary. I have drawing, painting, poetry, up my sleeves, but above all academics. Out of fear that the previous four things would be taken away, I do not boast these things around her. They don’t matter as much as academia in her eyes. I think I understand why. The smartest people in her life were taken away, a doctor and an engineer. She likes to prove people wrong. Pa doesn’t say much about who he lost. Know that he is the eighth of 15, duly promoted to eldest. Hymms Sovanara’s story would be told through eyes 13 years senior to those of Khun Mearedey’s. To tell his story without knowing his story feels like I am weaving a false image to a tale that is not my own. I’ve tried to see through his eyes, only to turn up with clouded saltwater-lined lenses. 18
I USED TO SEE THEM I used to see them at the corner, decked out in white shirts with that “all business look” on their face. Growing up there made you foolproof, ruling school, walking with a swag. When the bullets started flying, you hid beneath the creaky beds and hope to God you don’t end up dead. White shirts are easily stained and thus began a brain drain. We left in droves but some did stay. Now, years later, they try to whitewash the past away.
SALT WATER* The smell of salt water filled my nose. I could feel the sun rays heating up my face. I felt small beads of sweat starting to form on my forehead. I slowly opened my eyes and looked up at my father’s silhouette, the sun was behind my father’s head making him resemble a saint, I could see the outline of his smile as he joked around with my brother. I lifted my head from my father’s lap and turned to look at my older sister. She was sitting next to my mother doing needle point. She was making a kitten playing with a ball of yarn, I never understood my sister’s love for this silly activity. I tugged on my mother’s dress and asked how much longer we were going to be at sea. She looked at me with her kind brown eyes, looking into her eyes was like looking into a pool of truth. She could never hide anything in her eyes. I could tell she had been crying, she had cried every day since we left home. She did not want to leave grandma and grandpa behind, she was scared she would not find job in America because she didn’t speak much English. I was looking forward to our new lives, I never got along well with the girls back home. They all had dreams of being mothers and housewives. I stood at the edge of the ship feeling the wind gently blow my hair back. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the smell of the ocean and the sun. I thought about the new opportunities I was going to have. My father told wonderful stories about America, he said I could do anything I wanted there. There was no limit to what I could imagine. I wanted to be a scientist just like my father. A dream that would be made fun of back home. My teachers would tell me girls needed to be home to take care of the family, not working like real people. I knew America would be different, I knew I would be different. *Written for side-by-side fiction-writing workshop 20
I’M STILL DISCOVERING I’m still discovering things about the world. About myself. It’s a continuous stream. When I was younger, all these discoveries were bypassed in the careless daze of adolescent adventure. Summer afternoons were spent chasing the boys who thought cooties would kill them and begging my mom for some change to chase after the ice cream truck. Now, instead of chasing for fun, I run to save time. Run from one class to another. Run from one meeting to another. Run to get lunch. Forgot it was cash only. Run to the ATM. Run back to lunch again. Run to the next class with my lunch. I am discovering I don’t have enough time.
summer’s adventures belonged to childish glee adults don’t have time
Carin Spotted Eagle
I WOULD SOW SEEDS TO... grow peace Tweeting messages of love instead of staying in pieces I would sow these seeds with hope for a better tomorrow Loving, like the global society planting material like diamond twinkling around, My Dear
grow, grow, groovy situation(s)
a Garden of Writers Room Poets the world of Katharine Drexelâ€™s university and the ants inside this pop-up garden once known as University City High
EDGES, ENDS & KITCHEN In the North America The ants work hard ‘til the 1st cold: Disappear… Then they go where they stay until next spring, summer season Ants go to, in! Like the edges, ends and kitchen of Negro hair. Most lay flat No show of kinky curl or nap What lingers under that wig cap, a head rag, or Kemah? The weave glued or sewn? Who taught you that it’s too ugly; like your nails without polish? Empowering the Korean Nation? East Indian, Brazilian, enslavement of their female machismo economy? You afraid of Celie’s hairdo in the Color Purple, too…
OF CONWAY, OF PHILLY I sat down with my grandparents because I’ve always been interested in hearing more about their perception of the world. I feel as though my generation is deeply entrenched in pseudo-political pedagogy that we are losing sight of so many other elements of our modern culture. Or adversely, some of us are struggling to look past all of the flashing headlines. I wanted to get a glimpse of their youth. Hear more apart from the tidbits my grandfather would inject our holiday conversations with; more than the anecdotes my grandmother would pull up like tourist attraction signs as we made our way to family reunions —down South— in the past. A seemingly simple yet complex life…this is a conversation:
GRANDFATHER’S SECTION Where were you? In the line of your siblings, were you the oldest? I was the seventh. They called me puny. You were the last boy? Or the second to last boy, You had a younger brother... I had two younger brothers. Joseph and Carlton. You get along with them? Oh yeah I got along with all my siblings, but I was only close to one. And that’s the one..I was close to him….next to him. And he died 24
when he was only 47 years old. How’d he die? Aneurysm. And that was… Carlton…And they said that it came from, back in those days, when we were carting a mule. The mule ran away and he fell out of the wagon and the doctors said it was a possibility that this caused it later in his life. Back in the 70’s, surgery on the brain weren’t as popular as it is now. The doctor gave ya a chance to pick survival rate, and he chose not to do anything But I’ve been blessed, even with my health issues…high blood diabetes…heart. But none of that bothers me. Still going strong. Definitely, and I think about that, being 86-years-old. Could be a lot worse. What do you remember about your childhood? When you a little boy. [laughs]
I remember I was sick a lot and I couldn’t play like the rest of my siblings. When did you stop getting so sick? In my teens, I went in the military when I was 20, so naturally I was better between my early teens and when I was 19… 20-years old. When I was in the military, during my….my basic training, I contracted pneumonia and I was in the hospital for 22 days…then I got a 30 day convalescent leave to come home, before going back. I was stationed in Fort Lennonwood, Missouri. And then I was deployed to England. I was in England for two years… What made you wanna join the army? I didn’t…I had no choiceOh, you were drafted? Yeah back in those days you were. I always thought you wanted to go. Back in those days, you just had no choice. Once you became 18, that was it and they’d draft you. You would go whether you wanted to or not. But they don’t have the draft anymore…
So what did you think about politics back then, about the president back then? What did I think? You know, it really wasn’t an issue back then. You know growing up in the South, we didn’t have too much to say about anything. We didn’t have any rights…well we had rights, but we wasn’t able to exercise our rights. That’s one of the reasons…. I mean I didn’t want to go in the military, but I was kind of glad when I got drafted because it gave me a chance to get away. Yeah I can’t imagine, because for me, I’ve always grown up talking about the president. When I was younger, it was Bush. Then Obama and now Trump. So you have something to talk about as far as the president is concerned… Right, but we don’t have any Jim Crow, or major wars, so my generation is very privileged— Right, and we was raised up where the Ku Klux Klan was active back in those days. And it was like they more or less did what they wanted to do with black people. So, I can….. I can remember a lot of things that went on back then, I didn’t even envision what we have now. Yeah, I was thinking about that, like it must be so weird to be able to go where you want, do what you want..… say what you want to people. Where when you was my age, you couldn’t do none of that. Right….well when I was your age, I was in the military— 27
Oh yeah —I became 21 in the military. But before then…nothing..nothing that I can say I was happy about. Jut didn’t happen. We lived in the country, we went to town on a wagon. And we didn’t go every Saturday, it was like two or three of us go this Saturday, a different bunch the next. But see it wasn’t bad to us, because we didn’t know anything different. So when I went to the military and came back, it was a whole different world to me. Because when I thought was that I was suffering just like the white people, the white boys were but yet come back home and see signs… “Colored” here, “White” there, Because you wasn’t allowed to go in the drug stores because then, drug stores had a fountain where you could sit, but you weren’t allowed to. You was fightin’ for a country that didn’t even love you. [after some lunch] Get someone that can do something for you, or you can be bad by yourself. In your situation, you have a better chance to be better off than your mother. See every generation should be better, and I’m better...well better off, than my parents. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And I’m happy and so pleased to see you grow up. And with the mindset that you have, you’re going to go places. I’m trying to. And you will! With the mindset that you have. Ever since you were a little child, you were smart. And now it’s matured, and I can see that you’re gonna go places in your life. I mean that. 28
I appreciate that! In high school, I felt like everyone else had a plan. I had these skills, but didn’t know what I wanted to do with them. I loved to write and use writing as a tool for selfexpression and therapy, but other people just didn’t look at it the same way I did, so I was so discouraged. That’s natural. But I’ve found my place. I started thinking at the end of the day, I don’t wanna be 80 and not have tried. I wanna try. See sometimes I think I should have pursued education more. But back in the day, with uneducated parents, they just didn’t push for it. Right, I feel like they pushed the Bible more. They pushed the Bible, they pushed…y’know, by them not doing anything not knowing anything except farming. That’s what they pushed. But y’know, I just don’t understand how they spent their entire life not knowing anything else. I started working in a factory, that's the first job I had, in Philadelphia, doing factory work. And then, but to me everything was a stepping stone. I started working in a pipe ware cleanup, picking up dirty pipes. Then I got a job in another factory, manufacturing heating and air conditioning material. Then I was like a stock guy; teaching stock and keep up on the stock with buyers who came from New York. And I knew I wasn’t gonna stay there. 29
And then there was this milkman who would bring milk to the guys that worked there. He stopped me one time and said, “Hey, how are you doing? Y’know…you don’t fit here…you don’t belong here. I’m gonna put in a word for you if you would like this type of work”. And he did. He told me the guy to see and I ended up taking his route. From ’63 to 1966, I was a milkman. I had no knowledge of that at all, but I was pretty good in my head as far as counting and keeping books. I remember my mom used to tell me she would get up real early and make breakfast for you. Oh yeah, eggs, grits, biscuits, sausage….can’t eat too much of that now. [laughs] A different time, huh grandpa? Yeah…much different now. I always felt like this house was a little haven on Huntingdon St. Oh yeah, I don’t bother with them out there, you know I’m a loner. I stay pretty much to myself. I have friends, but I need my space for me as well. I had a guy ask me when I was younger, “Phil, why you live up there? Ain’t you nervous”. But I always say, “I may live in North Philly, but I’m not of North Philly.”
GRANDMOTHER’S SECTION Well what do you remember of your childhood grandma? Not a lot happened. [laughs] What about your grandparents? I’ve heard you mention them once or twice…. Oh I can remember um when they gathered tobacco, and they used to call it stringing tobacco, before they put it in the barn to cure it. My grandmother would have two of us on one side of her. Me and Margaret was here, and she would pick up because we were moving too slow. Would you sell it right after? Yeah How old were you? Oh probably six years old. You were real close with your grandma right? Well, we lived close together until I was about eleven. Our life was on the farm. We would be hoeing the field…that’s what its’ called Phil? What’s that? 31
[rolls eyes and laughs] But we harvested that, cotton, corn…all of that. And I can remember also, we was probably about ten years old, we ain’t have no washing machine and we would wash clothes in a tub. Did you like it? No I didn’t like it. In addition to washing our clothes, we also had to wash baby clothes; cloth diapers. It was just what I did. I didn’t like it… but… Wasn’t no choice. That’s what I was telling her, Mabel…… I knew in my mind, I was not gonna be a farmer like my parents. I knew once I became an adult, I’m outta here! Did you go to high school and all that? Yeah, but I wasn’t a good student. I just barely passed. Really? Did you like school? I can’t say that I liked school…I…I can’t say that I did. I didn’t like school, but after getting older, I wished I had gone to more. I feel like I had a problem with learning. 32
Why you say that? Because I didn’t retain things, and sometimes understand….if you a little bit shy, you don’t ask questions. And understanding something…it didn’t come natural. I think the only thing I really liked was sewing. I like that… cuz… well now… I don’t know if they still have that in high school… Not so much. They have maybe home ec classes at some schools, but they didn’t have it in my school. They have more specialized classes. Kind of like Dobbins up there…What kind of school is that again? Charter? Or….oh it’s vocational? A vocational school. Right. When your mother went there, they had cooking and sewing, auto-mechanics…. Some high schools do still have classes like that. You have to learn to take care of yourself, because if you live 20 or 25 miles from a store or something, you got to grow your own vegetables….sew your own clothing….I remember my mother used to make our slips…and..panties. She made quilts, and she would use food sacks to make pillows. Basically…that was my childhood. And I never learned to milk a cow. [laughs] (Grandfather) You ain’t never learn to milk a cow? 33
(Grandmother) No! My father used to show us how, but I just couldn’t get it. But it was me and Margaret’s job to tend to the cows and we would to them out to this green pasture area and let the cows graze. [after some tea] Well what do you think about today’s world, grandma? Are you not “of North Philly” like grandpa feels? Not really. I mean we’ve lived here, we raised our kids here. But it’s definitely different nowadays. It’s a different world. You have pepper spray? Yes, but….well, it’s at home. [I laugh nervously] [chuckling] What good is that gonna do you sweetheart? None at all, grandma. It’s rough out there. You have people just standing on the corner all day. More drugs, more streetwalkers… Streetwalkers? Y’know…night-workers…prostitutes honey. Oh! 34
[laughs] Yeah, it’s a mess out there. I remember the block parties we used to have. I ain’t really like you playing with them kids. I know; but they weren’t too bad. Most families were ok. Yeah, the families were fine; it was the culture. It is the culture.. that…that you just get sucked into sometimes. (Grandfather) I stay in the house. (Grandmother) Alright Phil. But yes, it’s a new world.
My grandparents helped raise me and have always given me the room to voice my fears, my doubts…they answered with Bible passages and understanding. They don’t judge me and only judge the world to protect their own. Seeing what I’ve seen, which is not even comparable to what they’re experienced, I often feel like I’m not “of Philly” either. I don’t know where my true spirit lies, but I plan to have my future intertwined with this city. I want to make a world worth living for people that may get overlooked. I want to give a voice to other who feel that may not quite be “of Philly.” 35
IT TAKES A VILLAGE In my old neighborhood, as a child I never got over the old ladies, who sat en masse--watching, commenting, gossiping, picking apart, bickering, making bets, sending us to the store for newspapers, soda, pastries, as we made our five-and-dimes for the next days. I did not realize, in the 1940s, that these old ladies performed duties as homemade security guards and our extended family.
RELATIONSHIP IN MY LIFE A chain-link fence relationship in my life is with my sister. We went to the concerts togetherâ€Ś then we has to go back to school, work. A chain link fence relationship. I went to consortium coloring, socializing with people. Latifa went back to working with ill, elder patients. A month later we came back together. Respectively, helping mother, cooking for her my brother and I, cleaning the PHA house all the time for her; my brother cooking for her until the food piles up like money piled up in safes in the bank. My brother goes back to work at Lincoln Financial Field, I go back to Drexel or Consortium... a chain link fence.
SNOW DID NOT ARRIVE
Snow Did Not Arrive. The snow usually stuck to the ground like honey sticks to the top of your mouth. Cars were in traffic bumper to bumper. All the beautiful Christmas lights were displayed on City Hall. There was a merry-go-round in the middle of City Hall. The light show at Dilworth Park in Philadelphia 2017 is fantastic! My sister and I went on Friday December 1, 2017 (Latifa and Rahkinah). This outing means a delightful memory: today, tomorrow and forever.
2. TRIPOD 41
ABOUT TRIPOD: PEOPLE, PLACES, PORTRAITS During the 2017-2018 school year, six groups of three writersâ€” drawn from the community, Drexel University, and local high schoolsâ€”have been working together to create projects of their own design. Using writing and photography together, these intergenerational triads have been documenting West Philadelphia and other parts of the city to tell collaborative stories about the ongoing changes in their neighborhoods.
THE PARTICIPANTS Amir Curry Alicia DeSimone Jordan McCullough Carol McCullough Victoria Huggins Peurifoy Kyle Howey Dahmere Town Patricia Burton Kaliyah Pitts 42
Devin Welsh Brenda Bailey Jasmine James Kayla Watson Mark Dawkins Natasha Hajo Norman Cain Rosalyn Cliett Sarah Wagner-Bloom
Tyler Shine, Constance Clayton Fellow Philadelphia Museum of Art Photographic images are omnipresent in our everyday lives. From the television shows and movies we watch to the advertisements that punctuate our morning commute or the seemingly infinite number of posts on social media, photographs are intimately connected to our sense of self and the environments in which we live. The photographs made by the members of Tripod reflect the myriad point of views that comprise this multigenerational group of individuals who call Philadelphia home. Their acute observations of their neighborhoods, filled with textures, memories, and stories evoke a community in constant flux. Whether they have been here for a few years or are longtime residents, their words and images reveal the idiosyncrasies of a changing city.
Amir Curry, Alicia DeSimone, Jordan McCullough, and Carol Richardson McCullough
(IN)VISIBLE EXPOSURE: A SECURITY CAMERA, OR A LIGHT SWITCH.
INTRODUCTION, A GROUP HISTORY— When we were first exposed to the cameras in the fall, several people in the different groups were fascinated by the chunky, expensive cameras. I, on the other hand was nervous, and insecure. The camera was heavy. – AC
It’s bigger than me and you. History in relief – it is a relief. Leave the past where it lies.
Yesterday, a bird died on my front steps. Today, she’s gone. Now, that memory rests in the stop bath— red from darkroom’s hush— she is pressed into my timeline forever.
Carol looks away— what is beyond the history on the wall? what have we got to show for it? Amir looks in— what can we learn from our societal ancestors? what have we got to show for it?
It’s bigger than you and me. We are the film: always exposed, always developing. – AD 45
A wall made in white People are out of the wall Feels like a civil war â€“ JM
Predators galloping in the light â€“ AC
Sometimes the road gets Rocky and rough but you still Got to keep steppinâ€™ â€“ CM
PORTRAITS (SELF AND OTHER)— Red Yellow Blue Green Indigo Violet White Black Technicolor – CM
Her brown skin’s calling for the lights—she doesn’t miss a beat, it’s about to be a mystical night, you can stamp your feet. Unfaltering steps, she uses her thighs, the crowd looks in her eyes. Unfazed, they rise. – AC
Boldly Muted Tones Complementary contrast Shade. Hue. Vibrancy – CM
I see a black guy but he’s not an actual person. It’s the shadow of a person, a silhouette. He’s a person of color—I mean seriously there is literally color inside of him. These colorful lines make it look like he’s glowing in the dark. He also looks like Oogey Boogey where he had a loose piece of thread and Jack ripped off his entire sack and all that was left of him were bugs. It’s fascinating and artistic. It looks creepy but underneath that, it’s a person and a work of art. – JM
“Above All Else Make It Look Effortless” (drawing) by Toyin Ojih Odutola, 2012
The curtains were sheer and the city could be viewed through them, through the gap. It appeared to be late in the night, the lights from nearby buildings illuminating the darkness. –AC
Philadelphia feels heavy in my mouth and someone tells me I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. But I always keep chewing. I am stuffed and swollen with love. My tongue sits thick in my mouth with the weight of “home.” It’s sticky and bitter and new. Home sweet home. – AD
FOR RENT/FOR SALE signs Pop up in spring like flowers In my neighborhood
A neighborhood’s face Begins to change once others Assess its value – CM
Rent Signs and Red Lines Deferred Dreams we must leave Cash comes not for us – AC
We will always keep Moving and making. Loving and leaving. The holes left behind Let in the light— – AD
sturdy from bricks yet tired from movement, that house is still home. while
not all ignorance is intentional, its bliss is a disease. I
stroll these streets. I am young, rigid, and weak with need. Me, a diseased house. â€“ AD
All I see is an abandoned building, the same one we pass by every once in awhile and it’s still abandoned. It’s a brick building covered in red and blue paint which makes purple by the way. The door is gone and replaced by plastic wrap so people can easily see through it, with coffee spilled on the sidewalk, which doesn’t even look too close to being finished. Next to it is probably a new building, a gated community perhaps where the sign says for rent. I’m sure people are living in it by now. Someone’s water is standing by the gate, half full. What’s above is either a security camera or a light switch. Either way it looks like bug eyes. – JM
My tears are a part of my humanity! Can’t you see? (No don’t lament to me) Fix your face, don’t fall prey to this infirmity, you’re a boy—those tears are an idiosyncrasy Don’t tell me not to weep! – AC
Dilapidation Dreams decay and fade away But light still shines – AC
There is a hierarchy. A scale. I thought we had already figured out that bigger isn’t better. My moments are small and warrant little attention, but they’re mine nonetheless. They are small and mighty and filled with learning. Like me. – AD
Illumination Show us the way to live free From our own darkness – CM
We bonded over the idea of (corrections, revisions, perfection). Until (Carol) said: (“They’re probably just slicing and dicing with their red pens.” I don’t like the color red anymore). – AD
Look up and you might see Love standing right in front of you on these city streets, looking quite different than youâ€™d ever imagined. â€“ CM
FROM THE ARTISTS—
AC – Amir Curry In the beginning I was nervous, I felt directionless and out of my element when I initially encountered the cameras. But as I began to take pictures, I realized the most important part of capturing a photo is recognizing the nuances. I’m passionate about exposing details. But I’m even more passionate about highlighting and exposing the details that would be overlooked.
AD – Alicia DeSimone For the last 6 months, I’ve been working with Carol, Jordan, and Amir. These three are brilliant, unique, and some of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. Carol and Jordan are my neighbors and Amir is a local high school student. We’ve been working on a photo essay, using photography as a means to inspire and strengthen our writing. I’ve learned so much from them about writing, but also about friendship, strength, and the human condition.
JM – Jordan McCullough I was just standing there not perfectly straight but I was trying to make myself fit in the picture. The way I smile doesn’t matter, sometimes I use my teeth, sometimes I don’t. I was thinking, “What am I doing here?” At first I was confused. I didn’t know what to expect. But honestly I was glad to be there. So now I feel pride.
CM – Carol Richardson McCullough Photography offers a way of viewing a world that is constantly changing while preserving a slice of it, pressed within the pages of time. It offers a chance to glimpse what is and what has come before, taking me out of my confines and transporting me into another space. Walking along the street, passing the familiar, I stop now, and look through my lens to get a sharper view of the small detail against the broad backdrop. In this way I partake of the infinite and connect with the Divine.
Victoria Huggins Peurifoy, Kyle Howey, Dahmere Town
[Kyle] I see competition between lines that I often wish I wouldn’t – it’s just that differences to me have always seemed to say that one of two is out of place. But this is never only the case. There’s special meaning in the uncommonness of things. I have to remind myself to take them more holistically. It can be marvelous. Recognizing color in histories that can’t be taught. But we can always use more color, under this shared ceiling of blue. To which the towers all point with us and simply marvel too.
[Victoria] Five buildings exposed their brilliance while one building hides in the shadows. One building with an old design reveals fabulously ornate stylings. But the building on the left… a newer style… is unimpressive. The general hospital-looking building to the right is dingy in comparison to the others, but she’s holding her own. 197 windows are revealed and yet 29 of those windows hide in the shadows. I imagine some folks are looking out, while some with shades, hide what’s inside. Those 29 windows in the shadows hide from the lenses that stare. So many lines, many to count. But these structures all have an angle… that one has to study to figure out.
[Kyle] I am bound to chance’s whim. Progress, if only taken. Here, every seat I’ve taken for longer than I realize becomes shadowed in, unenthralled, eventually. Emotionless, a motionless disdain. Wrought out of lonesomeness, the sick irregularity, a still curiously undamnable refrain. But upon this seat remains a waiting light. Progress, if only taken. Here, chance is all that’s left, but not as long left as I’d hoped. Imperative, enrapturing, essentially.
[Victoria] Once again, I find myself alone, in the dark, in a corner, with shadows all around me. On stage, I’m preparing to go be a part of an act that folks are growing tired of hearing. This space holds the coldness outside, within these bricks that surround me. This rail, that rail, I wish would lead to a better place… So I could be folded and taken to brightness.
[Kyle] And where’s your imaginary date this evening? Still imaginary, I guess. But you’re so nicely dressed for one. Why even come? Why not? I still like to dance. Well I’m real. And I like dancing. But where’s your date? Let’s just call them imaginary too.
[Victoria] Chandeliers so high, the illumination is limitless. Balconies allow for shadowed kisses. When the tables are adorned with ivory cloth, floor arrangements, and candles, a little wine thrown in sets the mood for sure.
[Kyle] I am drawn last to light, As much as it fulfills itself, Commanding me. The red eye offsets life, Corrective, keeping mine in line. The world behind is gorgeous, Artistic, unobtrusive, unaligned, So vibrantly undefined.
[Victoria] Windows of the mind, Imagine mirrors instead. Towers of power or Perception thereof. But the Red light continues to say: Stop, don’t come here. Stop, we’re full. Stop, you’re not wanted here. Stop, I don’t want to be renewed. Stop, I’m fine the way I am. Stop, stop, stop.
[Kyle] Years ago, I would have told you I was comfortable here. Alone with my own thoughts. Worries, more often. But now Iâ€™m terrified of stillness. Surrounded by fears, I never realized where I was amidst the worst of them. Knee deep in a sewer, drenched in a bad parody of living. It felt safe. Riskless. Familiar. Wretchedly subsumed. Wombed. Unendangered, but all the more dangerously still. Fetal. Slumbering. Always waiting to be born.
[Victoria] The lake is beckoning my spirit: Come hither child. As I walk the Dock to see the waterâ€™s depth, The quietness is comforting. As I sit wondering about life, The water rustles over my Toes. The sun goes down and Paints a horizontal rainbow. Choosing shades all of its own. The fragrance of a dayâ€™s ending, Tries to make me think of tomorrow; But the trees sing a song in the Breeze that distracts worry. I should lay on this dock all night And wake up to a beautiful Sunrise and chirping birds.
[Victoria] I don’t know where “Nor” Came from, but I do know that I blew in from the East, west, north, and south. I left An imprint… yes, I did. With 12” of powder I did blanket an entire City. I made all of the Trees and the bushes and even The budding flowers yield to My fury. Nothing In my way stood a chance. Yes, I even helped Trees move away from the homes That they had known for years. Yes, I exposed their roots And in uncommon ways, I Made them spread themselves Long and wide. Sitting on a Bench was impossible with Me around. I covered Its seat, its armrest, and its Legs. The only thing That shielded my fury was The well-laid storm windows and Secure oakwood doors. No room for safe Passage Through sidewalks, streets, Or breezeways. I was determined to have My way. 105 degrees anyone?
[Kyle] What I see and what you see is always different. We have different eyes, Different manners, and different intentions. We live a world of differences And cannot be the same Because pure sameness is a neoliberal fault. A harmful negligent canopy Over these natural inconsistencies between us, Despite a mutual respect Acknowledging it does not forego Any moral contingency Of who you are compared to me. Your different body, Different youth, Different heart, Different path, Is beautiful. Just different from mine.
MY TEETH ARE SHOWING Life has worn on me. In the mist, Iâ€™m suffering. Everyone sees my struggle but Ignores my pain. Water flows through me like Blood from a wounded soldier. My tears freeze as soon as The air can create icicles. Disrepair is my chronic lament. 84
My teeth are showing decay But the breakdown has been Glaring for years. Not until my teeth fall from place Will the neglect be realized. But the damage will be so Severe, only then will my battle be won.
[Dahmere] Cold, yet long, history is what I see in this image. Aging overtime as the relentless cold consumes and corrupts, leaving nothing but frost and ice, covering its vulnerable wounds. And its surroundings falling by the same fate, to end up decorated in snow, to please its frozen queen.
[Kyle] What does it mean? And where does it begin? Perhaps without an end. Tracing something, telling something else. And is it human? Is it no one? Angles, shapes, and outlines of the world. All of the borders, figures, designations. Tracing something, telling something else. But how was it applied? The texture, essence, measure, means? For whom it was meant or would matter to? Tracing something, telling something else. Accidents, maybe, Turned into celebrations. Subtle candles in a fog Not even time can extinguish. And surely the lines will fade, But new eyes recreate them. Tracing something, telling something else. 85
WHAT DO I SEE IN YOU? You are so colorful so vibrant so ornate so different so peculiar so square so glorious so intense so creative so purple and turquoise so vulnerable so confusing so bridge-building so confident so aerodynamic so bubbling so rainbowish so Brickyard so international so cultural so non-generic so eye-opening so troubling so vivid so in-your-face so Wakanda forever.
[Victoria] I wish I was tall and shiny like that building next door. I’ve been here a long, long time and when I look over there, I can even see the clouds reflected in the glass of that building. No matter which direction people come, East or West on the Schuylkill Expressway, they can see her shining brightly. But they don’t see me. I wish they could see me from so far away. I wish I could shine like her.
[Dahmere] The sky is clear Like a salmon blue The clouds, barely visible Having nothing to do, As the buildings nest, Sitting, waiting for today’s due, And when the city rests You’ll be able to see it too
OMNIPOTENCE No matter whether power is taken or granted, strict or unrestrained, designated or peripheral, weak are those who take the hill and smile. 89
[Kyle] Manifest feelings, tucked in corners, further pacified in frame. Just for onlookers to name. A slow resurfacing, inflected, never accidental, understood by everyone the same.
[Kyle] We evolve at different steps and different paces, Verses that never have to rhyme. But some will live by selfish metaphors, Eluding one for all to climb.
[Victoria] Darkness with a spot Of Hope gives a feeling of Rescue and mercy
[Dahmere] An endless rabbit hole that some people just canâ€™t climb out. With only very few escapes to be shown through decrepit cracks of light. Some fall so far that they can never return which divides people between race, class, wealth, status. And all to reach the top where they believe the light is, but itâ€™s there, because from the beginning it was nothing more than a delusion.
[Kyle] Telling stories beneath a storm. Blanketed in comfortable promises. Making adventures on overcast days. Your eyes that meet me halfway. Our elbows on marble, and smiles as random. Pillow forts and Gameboy Colors. The days that end too soon. Some of the moments that remind me Iâ€™m here.
[Victoria] There were five letters. Letters from a loved one. Letters that were written in the sixties. Letters that told a story of ravage and pain. Letters that a soldier had written from the place where he was in Vietnam; from a place where he was in Greenland; from a place where he wasnâ€™t home. Five letters that told the story of survival and a desire to come home. A story of not wanting to be where he was. Because the people that he was fighting could be vicious at times. The people that he was fighting didnâ€™t want us over there anyway. The people that he was fighting were trying to kill him. Five historical letters that told it all. Letters that said that even children could be dangerous. Now all we see is the imprint of where they used to be. All we see is a reflection of what used to be. Gone are the words that used to be, faded into cement where feet trample and care not.
[Dahmere] Fractured light and faded squares. A path into alternate dimensions. 90 degree angles that form a gateway to another. Stained on the ground are past failed attempts. But take notice to the movement of these squares as it shows progress. And though this gateway might have failed and been destroyed, it was a necessary sacrifice in order to progress forward.
[Kyle] Iâ€™m reminded of the town I grew up in. They all look the same to me in winter. Several vacant hotel buildings, overlooking trim and recreated fields. Printer paper white skies, canvas for a dormant sketch of what is left.
[Dahmere] Question everything! Why is the grass green? Where is everyone? Who lives in those buildings? Where are the clouds? Where is the sun? Where were those buildings made? Does a team play here? What’s on that billboard? Would you have a picnic here?
[Dahmere] I feel a little different towards this one. There is a lot of detail in it, and I like that. I especially like how sunny it is on the other side of the glass. It makes me feel like I’m isolated and that I want to go out and breathe fresh air. In addition, the patterns on the window also tells me that I’m not in a bad place, that there’s safety here after all. 96
[Dahmere] (641) I see change, it’s not the same as I remember it. The layout is still somewhat similar but a little more polished. I hear occasional cars driving by familiar, yet unfamiliar voices. I don’t hear the creaks and cracks anymore. But I can still hear my past. I see the old faces of my youth but I can see vague new faces that I don’t recognize. And they have taken my place here, in doing what I did here every day. Where I lost my first tooth. Where I would watch TV. Where I would play video games. Where I would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Where I would go to sleep at night. Where I would spend time with my family. What it meant to me, was home. I used to live here before I moved. I could never see living anywhere else but here. This is where I grew up. I only wish I could remember the first time I saw it. 97
Patricia Burton, Kaliyah Pitts, Devin Welsh
STAIRWAY In the stairway I see me and my friends hanging out, skipping class, laughing and stopping to hear if the principal coming. That stairway is a place where for some odd reason, only me and my friends linger around. As I think about that place, I hear my annoying laugh and my best friend laugh. I hear her telling me stuff that I can’t believe she did, and I hear Newman telling us, “Get to class now.” I mainly see my best friend and other close friends there. Oh yeah, and I can’t forget the other students that walk past us in the middle of our conversation. There was a lot that happened in that stairway. Photo shoot, best friends fighting, being chased by friends, laughing, hiding from the teacher, skipping class, crying, and petty arguments. I want to remember all the good time I had in that stairway because in life you need good things to outweigh the bad.
The bond that was formed in 2014 grows each and every day so many different personalities but each one compliments each other. When Iâ€™m with my friends I know something fun will happen no matter where we are or what situation we may be in. The bond we have will forever be strong our love, motivation and our pride will never let it weaken. My friendship with them is: headaches, petty fights, being late to class, playing hide and seek in the school, sitting in the stairwell laughing, going into other classrooms being loud, going over each other house to dance and hangout, crying with each other when one of us is hurt or mad, and teaching Azi how to twerk. My friendship with them is: crazy, hard to understand at time, emotional, fun, weird, amazing and heartfulling.
“Stand tall and never fold.” When all odds seem like they’re against me I never let that hold me back. As the obstacles get harder I will get stronger, no matter the hardship I will always stand tall and never fold. “No honor, no glory.” My mindset was formed as the year went by. When I was little I always thought things were so easy; as I got older I realized that I have to face a lot of obstacles in order to get what I strive for and that is to be successful.
Writers Room oh Writers Room Where do I start? As I look At this picture I can see Writing not only writing but somebody else’s thoughts. That’s the thing about Writers Room the people here motivate me to write my thoughts down. I have to admit when I first started out as a Writers Room member I was scared to write my thoughts down because I thought that I would be judged on what I wrote. That feeling soon disappeared as I became more confident in my writing and more comfortable around the people that motivated me and helped me. Don’t get me wrong I’m still shy about writing and reading out loud but that gets easier and easier every time I come and meet up at Drexel. 101
As I look at this picture I see a young lady ready for anything, she seems like she got everything figured out, she knows what she wants to be in life, she knows how to make it happen, and she’s ready to take that one extra step to make it all happen. Although this is what I see in the picture this is not actually true. This young lady in this picture is me and let me tell you something, I don’t have everything figured out even though it may look like it, I don’t. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be in life. I been trying to figure out that since I was little, I am now in high school and I still don’t know. Many people have ask what I plan on doing after high school and am I ready for college and I tell them I don’t know, because I really don’t, and I honestly don’t think I’m ready to move onto the next chapter in my life. But hey, that’s life and life waits for nobody. I just have to keep fighting through obstacles and keep trying different things until I find that one thing that’s perfect for me.
Where am I from? Well that’s kinda hard for me to answer. Some people would say they’re from Philly or New York but I can’t just say that. Yes I’m from Philly, West Philly to be exact. A place where almost everybody smoke or sell drugs but I’m not just from there I came from generations and generations of strong black women who never gave up in what they believe in. I came from love that is still together even after 30 years, I came from years of slavery even though I wasn’t born during that time my ancestors was. As I look at this picture a lot of questions run through my head and one of the questions is why when somebody asks, “Where are you from?” people respond with their hometown but not with their origin.
I took this picture in my school. Devin was being shown around by me and I ended up taking this picture when he turned around. Some lines in this picture is the lines on the window. The shadows coming from the lines are perfect. What is missing from this photo is Kyle, Dahmere, and Mark. I didnâ€™t get the chance to get them in this picture because they was off somewhere else. The light is coming from the window giving this mysterious look to the picture. Far off in the distance there is gates. They are the same gates that me and Azi leave out of to go get food from Stacyâ€™s. 105
The most clearest thing in this picture is Devin but he is also the most shadowy.
Some questions: How did I get it to come out like this? What was Devin doing?
I also took this picture in the school. I was trying to re-capture the picture I took of Zah with Devin in his place instead. The lines in this picture are the lines on the lockers, the walls, and the lines of the zipper on Devinâ€™s jacket. Just outside the picture are kids at their lockers talking and playing around. The light in this picture is coming from the light on the ceiling. This light is perfectly reflected on the doors and the floor.
Q: How did photography change you? A: Photography changed the way I look at things. It also gave me something to look forward to in the future. Before photography I didn’t really see the beauty in things in a way, yeah I have noticed that some things were cute but it’s much more than that. When I got into photography I started looking at the history of the objects and how I could make that picture better. Photography gave me the chance to learn and make photos better. It also gave me a career to look forward to. When I first started this project I expected that we would just be writing, and reading what we wrote out loud to other people every time we met up, but it turns out that we ended up doing more than that. As the months went by the project had exceeded my expectations. Instead of just writing we got introduced to photography and got the chance to take amazing photos. I have noticed that I have taken a liking to photography and been introduced to this art form. Before I knew about Writers Room I didn’t have a clue about what type of art form I wanted to pursue, I just knew that I wanted to get into art, I felt like that’s something I could be good at. When I started the project all that changed, I began to realize that photography was something that I can really take serious. Each day I learn more about photography and I love it. I like that I get to capture moments and show them to people and I get to see their reaction. That really makes me want to do more with photography. I believe that this change was good for me it gave me the opportunity to experience photography.
I have noticed that my work as a photographer is much stronger then my work as a writer. When I write there is flaws, flaws that I may not see but other people do see, so I need to start writing more so I can learn where my flaws are at and how I can fix them. It’s been pretty exciting and nerve-wracking being a part of Writers Room. There a lot of people with strong mindsets and different ways of thinking. I say its nerve-wracking because when it’s time for me to read what I write I be nervous and a little shy but that is where the exciting part come in. After I get done with reading I get to hear their opinion on what I wrote and that gives me the chance to become better, so next time when I write I can apply what I learned. This is also the same with photography: I get to hear different opinions on what I could do to make it better. Photography is definitely something I would like to continue I believe I can make a career out of it. I have had a lot of people tell me that I’m very good at it so that leads me to thinking that I should do what I’m good at and get paid for it. Some things I would like to do differently is come to school on time and get more of my work done and also turn in my work for Writers Room on time.
WHAT IS MEMORY? (1) A wise man once said that history is written through the eyes of the Victor, the Hunter so to speak. But man is not a solitary animal and since we are all intricately connected, writing a true historical account that includes the contribution and value that all cultures have to offer would be most beneficial to us all. It is in that spirit of inclusion that leads and necessitates a true understanding. In my limited scholarly attempt to unfold truths not commonly known, I am perceiving the African American contribution found in that tapestry. A wonderful tapestry of life that includes many colors, all interwoven, inter-connected, yet still vibrant and strong in its own right. We are all familiar with the limited civic education that we receive throughout our schooling. What Iâ€™m interested in sharing and exploring is akin to finding the true story of many unseen heroes who paved the way and broke down barriers while making invaluable contributions to the history of this country even while being persecuted by it and in spite of it. If America were to live up to her true ideals of equal rights and justice for all, decent housing and living wages would be a reality for everyone, eliminating the need for mass incarceration, police brutality and poverty. Philadelphia has the highest percentage of homeless veterans. Philadelphia is the poorest big city in America. How can that be? The birthplace of the nation? Home of the first capital of the US? But its dark underbelly reveals a history of contradictions 110
and hypocrisy that persists even to this day. A spirit of elitism and entitlement continues to subjugate and control the masses who struggle mightily to survive on a daily basis. Pennâ€™s Landing once was the auction block that sold and separated families until it was finally outlawed. Meanwhile George Washington shuttled his slaves back and forth every six months to avoid capture. Free Africans lived in Philadelphia and with the help of abolitionists fought against the institution of slavery. Many prominent families made valuable contributions to the history of this nation. It was not without its struggles, but families were united whenever they managed to escape north during the UGRR. William Still's here in Philadelphia was responsible for shuttling folks further north once the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1831, which gave slave catchers jurisdiction to kidnap folks back to slavery. Many live in low income neighborhoods with marginal resources from the city. Schools are sub-standard, with antiquated books, and libraries, and limited enrichment and sports, computers. Today, descendants of those African Americans here in Philadelphia still struggle with many of the same issues their ancestors did, ie. bigotry, violence, discrimination, and poverty. During the Great Migration from 1910-1960 when 6 million blacks left the south to head north to escape violence and lack of opportunity only to find much of the same happening here and a cool reception. They were in competition with other immigrants from Europe and etc. who were arriving to America just as the Industrial Revolution 111
was beginning. Changes were coming for sure...but nobody had no idea how massive it would be. In 1899 W.E.B. DuBois wrote his famous novel, The Philadelphia Negro which expelled a lot of myths and stereotypes about African Americans. He presented scientific evidence, scholarly proof that disputed the current sociological writings of the day that created statistics to prove the inferiority of the African. DuBois notably provided historical documentation, but history itself was being written by the likes of Octavius Catto, Paul Robeson, etc. This year we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the novel through a year long celebration of his writings.
(2) Memory is part of the patchwork that shapes, molds and creates who you are now and are capable of becoming. Like fabric squares assembled on a quilt sewn together by family, friends and culture creating community. If love is the foundation, then memory is the glue that sustains generations of connections; all stitched together to create elaborate patterns, designs and even more connections. And memory is always there waiting. It could surface as innocuously as a smell or taste that could evoke memories that seem a whole lifetime away. My life growing up in Philadelphia has been a lot like that. I grew up during the early 50s and 60s, while America was experiencing its 112
most turbulent times in its history. But looking back with a sense of wonder through a child’s eyes, all I remember was the beginning of TV in 1954 and watching “Bertie the Bunnyip” a character similar to Sesame Street. We went swimming at the Y at Broad/Jeff. And we went to the Pearl Movie Theater for only 10¢! Back then, the Thanksgiving Day Parade used to come all the way up Broad St to Lehigh, so we would stand outside my grandmother’s house at York St and watch it as it proceeded north on Broad St. Every Friday my father would pick us up from foster care for weekend visitation. I remember consuming belly-busting mounds of potato salad, greens and fried chicken on Sundays at Father Divine’s Hotel, a historic landmark at Broad/Fairmount. Saturdays we’d go bowling at the bowling alley at Broad/Glenwood. Now 60 years later I can still bowl a couple of strikes...lol. Once I get warmed up. Later on during my teenage years after we came home from foster care, was the beginning of Motown in the early 60s. We would go to American Bandstand at 46th/Market to the Dick Clark Show and go to the Steel Pier in AC for the Jerry Blavat show. But the memories I cherish the most are times spent at the Uptown Theater at Broad/ Dauphin. Teens and even gang members [would call a truce] from all over the city, to come and witness some of Motown’s greatest, ie. Temptations, James Brown, 4 Tops, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, just to name a few. Philadelphia has always been a music mecca dating all the way back to the 40s with its abundance of jazz clubs. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King was assassinated and the riots came. While all the fire, fury and rage 113
exploded out into the streets, communities, families and dreams were destroyed. Neighborhoods once vibrant and self-sustaining, years later remain shuttered, monuments to a time when politics and racial inequality collided in an ongoing struggle. Very little reconstruction was ever done in these neighborhoods and gentrification has claimed the ashes. Generations of families continue to be forced out by developers with politicians in their pockets.
(3) On Sunday, February 4, 2018 the Eagles, Philadelphiaâ€™s football team, won the football championship Super Bowl for the first time since 1960. After years of dormancy, the city of Philadelphia erupted like a mighty volcano, its thousands of fans pouring out into the streets like molten lava. Except for a few minor incidents, the Eagles Parade offered the city of Philadelphia the potentiality of entering a new era in her history. She seems to be living up to her image as the City of Brotherly Love. As fans of all ages, races and religions converged on the streets to celebrate their long awaited Championship, the feeling throughout the city was electrifying! Some fans traveled from as far away as Florida, Detroit, California, and Germany. Many stood up to 12 hours and even overnight in sub-freezing temperatures with the look of ecstasy on their faces and joy in reaching a community goal. It was then that I saw the possibility of all races uniting on a common goal. Over one million people gathered peacefully in the Spirit of Brotherhood. Iâ€™m sure the Founding Fathers would be amazed and pleased at the camaraderie amongst the people. 114
Oftentimes during early American history, discussions and debates got very heated and outright raucous as legislators struggled to build a Union while exerting independence from Great Britain. Battles ensued daily over ideologies that struggled to find consensus regarding the direction of their newly found republic. But, Philadelphia has always been like “A Tale of Two Cities.” The seen and the unseen. The part that’s displayed to the world, and the part that’s hidden. Like looking through a kaleidoscope, the images are portrayed and interpolated according to how we control and manipulate the apparatus, through race, culture, economics and law. Policies have been created that have led to generations of poverty, crime, lack of housing and education, which perpetuates a system of exploitation and mass incarceration. Families have been decimated, communities disrupted and destroyed and our children continue to suffer. So while we celebrate this great victory, let the mighty Eagle spread forth its wings to cover up and bless all of Philadelphia.
THE SHEARS They looked brand new when they belonged to you – their silver sheen giving a mirror’s appearance – despite having first belonged to your mother, and now you’ve passed them on to mine. The black case they’re in still smells like the sewing room at the Grant Avenue house. Every time I hear the hum of her sewing machine I can’t help but think of you; Dad too. The new machine you got her for her birthday is a bit faster but the hum is still similar. Somehow we’ll both find ourselves downstairs idling around the table; not talking, just listening to the hum. Once, Dad told me about how as a kid he would sit with you in the sewing room while you worked on someone’s prom dress, or another woman’s wedding dress. He told me how he would hold the pins sometimes, and other times he was in charge of the money; he still thinks you didn’t charge nearly enough for those dresses, but generosity was always sort of your thing. I still remember sitting in the sewing room in North Carolina during that summer I came to visit. I remember waiting up for midnight for you to start your shift at Aetna, and how I’d run in to your sewing room/office while you were working. I remember how you were working on Harry Potter book seven and how you’d read that to me in between calls, and how it was funny to me when you’d switch from your reading voice to your phone voice and back again. I remember that almost being like a game, but maybe I was just an easily entertained 9-year-old. I remember that break-time was at 3 a.m. and how we only had so much time to get downstairs to make our late-night snack before we had to get back up to work (a habit that has returned to me in college). Sometimes, when I’m reading to myself, I can almost hear your voice reading to me in my head; it makes cultural anthropology a bit more palatable. 116
THE BOOKS I had been talking with Aunt Leslie about missing your voice right around the time the ALS took it from you – from us – indefinitely. While that never stopped you from telling us you loved us with three pats on the heart, and eventually just a nod of the head, I was terrified that I’d someday forget what your voice sounded like. The memories are stored away somewhere, triggered by almost anything, but a voice is more elusive; yours was made up of certain tell-tale tones and qualities – the sing song-iness that you’d bring to anything and everything; the warmth; the way you would read; the way it could calm a crying me without fail – it was scary to think that those things could just atrophy from my memories of you. I remembered that while you were in North Carolina you had 117
recorded “Hank Zipzer” books on little tapes that I’d play in my blue Olympus recorder, and I told Leslie how I’d lost track of them when we moved a few years back. I’m still torn up that I’d taken something so precious for granted when I thought I had so many more years with you. But that was when she told me about a few books you had recorded for her daughter, Ji’Mia, and that I could borrow them. She had given them to me shortly after you had passed, and I couldn’t wait to hear your voice again. When I opened “Goodnight Moon” and your voice started playing – your reading voice – I lost it. It was the closest I had been to being curled up on the couch or sitting in the sewing room with you; part of me was happy to have heard your voice and to know that I’d never lose it again, but that didn’t make it any easier. I haven’t listened to the recordings since; we gave the books to Lance and he’s going to record them digitally and he’ll have them for me when I’m ready again. I think it tears Lance up knowing that his son won’t get the chance to get to know the woman you were, the woman who raised us- shaped us, or how much you loved him. But you have given us a lifetime of stories and memories that we’ll tell to Miles with smiles stretched across our faces. He will know you, Mom-Mom. He may not remember the first time you held him, but the look on your face alone is enough for him to know that he has, and will always have, your love. You should see him now, he looks so much like Lance, and he makes all the funny faces in the world; his eyes are so expressive and warm like yours, and he’s even got your smirk down. I know you’re watching over him and he may not know it yet, but he’s the luckiest little boy in the world to have someone like you in his corner. It makes all the difference in the world.
THE DOG TAG The dictionary on my laptop defines a dog tag as “North American informal: a soldier’s metal identity tag, worn on a chain around the neck.” If this woman was anything, she was a soldier. I’m not sure “dog tag” totally fits this piece, but “soldier” doesn’t fully capture my Mom-Mom either, so I suppose it’ll work. This dog tag is a metallic medallion, if you will, with a laser-etched image of Juanita on the front, with her finger print reproduced on the back, so that when worn, it would hang somewhere over our hearts. My dad, my uncle Lance, and I each have one to remember the woman who shaped our lives, though each one of us has a different picture of her. Each picture is meant to capture the image of the woman we remember; my image was taken from a picture she and I took at the tail-end of my senior year of high school. Her face just sort of communicates the feeling she had given me my whole life, whether she was physically with me or not: “I’m proud of you, I’m in your corner, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.” That sounds a bit presumptuous, but I think it’s true. She had been particularly proud that day, because it was the awards ceremony the day before my graduation, and I was the first of her boys to be walking at graduation from North Penn, despite both my father and uncle having been through its halls. On the flip side of this medallion is her fingerprint. We were asked to choose between having her finger print and her face on each of our medallions, but if you’re lucky enough to have known this woman, you know she wouldn’t be stopped by something as simple as a protocol, so we got both. The fingerprint represents the clear and visible mark she has made on each of our lives; it represents the years she spent taking care of us, looking out for us, working for our sake, enduring physical and mental pain, and all the while, loving us unconditionally.
I wore this medallion for the first time at her celebration of life, which was held at the church/facility that also housed my first daycare after being primarily in her care. She had gotten a second job there when I started at the daycare, and some of my earliest memories were there with her. Members of our family from all over the states came to celebrate her life; she was the glue that held our big messy family together and afloat. I, for the first time in my memory, met her brother and my great uncle, Sumner, from Boston. Growing up, they lived in Boston for a time where he decided to stay, and he shared her faint Boston accent; I stood in the rain talking to Sumner because he shared her accent and her calm demeanor and warm eyes, and because he had stories about her that I’d never heard. At one point, Sumner saw my medallion and asked to see it, initially enthralled by her picture on the face of it. I took it off and let him hold it, and it was then that he saw her finger print on the back and took a moment, pressing his own finger against it, “that’s my big sister,” he murmured in disbelief, “I can’t believe she’s gone.” I spent almost the entirety of that family gathering with my eyes on the door, waiting for her to make her entrance into the hall; she would make a fuss about her picture being everywhere while holding a camera of her own. She would make sure that she spoke to every person, making sure everyone had enough to eat, wiping away the tears caused by her absence. But the whole time I had my eyes on that door, I had this medallion around my neck and in my hand, knowing very well that encased within it were her ashes. She wasn’t there, here, or anywhere, but at the same time, she is. She’s with each of us, always, in (and on) our hearts.
If I’m having a particularly hard day, or if I’m missing her extra that day, I’ll run my fingers over her finger print and look at her picture, and for that moment she is here, she is tangible. When the light hits her portrait a certain way, her face lights up and it’s like she’s coming up off the cold metal, inside of which is her ashes, but also, with them, is all of our memories—the times we’ve shared, the things I miss about her. 121
Fridays at Writers Room are what allow me to feel comfortable calling myself a writer. I get to be in a creative space with wildly intelligent and thoughtful people that never fail to teach me something. Working with my new friend Kaliyah has shown me how important it can be to have a genuine passion for the project at hand, but also that placing a crazy amount of pressure on anything can be discouraging. At the same time, she has shown me that a degree of fun can go a long way, even if she has some misguided opinions on the miracle of coffee. Kaliyah is one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met, and working with Miss Patricia has taught me that you could have a world’s worth of knowledge, but it does you no good if you’re too shy to share it! I don’t think I could’ve helped Kaliyah at all or grow myself in the way that I have, had I not had the opportunity to work in my Tripod group. Sometimes, though, when I’m sitting down to write, I find myself falling into the same traps that I tried to help Kaliyah avoid. I’d find myself scratching out sentences or ripping out entire pages for fear that I have nothing to say or no place saying what I have already. All it takes, though, is some time to re-realize that writing is a process, and not one that is easily done, especially not alone. Writing isn’t inherently profound if you use big SAT words or write for the sake of sounding important. Writers Room has re-trained me to love writing for the sake of writing. From the moment I found out I was going to be a part of Tripod, I’d told Rachel about the project I wanted to create/curate, one that I’ve been mulling over in my brain since July. In a way, I was asking Rachel for permission, but it wasn’t her permission that I needed. It was permission from myself. It was as though I commissioned 122
myself to do a project that I thought I wasn’t qualified to do. I felt an immense pressure to capture the most amazing qualities of the most amazing woman, and it wasn’t until Rachel sat me down and helped me realize that I was the only thing stopping myself from creating, that I was doing my grandmother, the project group, and myself a disservice by being too scared to write. This experience, the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with on the project that I was lucky enough to be part of, has helped me grow leaps and bounds from where I was to where I am, both as a writer and as a person. Working with Kaliyah and Pat has shown me a world I always wished existed, one where we learn and share and teach and grow and write, a place where I feel comfortable enough to share my thoughts and form new ones, a place I wasn’t sure I’d ever see, but coming up on these final few weeks of this project, I realized that I’m a part of that world.
THE BOY WITH THE BALL
Kaliyah In this frame there is a playground, somewhere kids can run around and be kids. Somewhere to meet new friends at or just play around with their family. It might just be me but when I was younger I used to hate just sitting on the bench watching my cousins play, but now that bench seems like the perfect spot to sit and relax while I watch kids play. Just outside of it there are people rushing to work, just hanging around conversing with they friends, kids playing basketball, cars beeping their horns because some driver decided to stop at a green light and people walking round taking photos, which was us.
Patricia I remember the joy of playing ball. Any kind would do, I remember. Dodgeball, king ball, baby in the air, oldy mommy witch...all the street games we played well in the evening as warm summer breezes carried our laughter through open windows and rooftop patios where folks gathered to catch the smallest promise of a breeze. Children bring a carefree, joyful exuberance to life. They see possibilities not limitations. As the little guy in the photo shows they wait expectantly as the ball approaches confident that they will catch it, or maybe the bounce is part of the joy? To experience the up and down of the ball was our preparation for life...and sometimes we totally missed the catch and we were “out of the game.” But that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm in the least, because we knew that we could always put our dibs in for next game.
Devin What’s in the frame: The boy and his boots are walking with a purpose, a destination in mind: that ball. Where’s it gonna end up, he doesn’t care, that isn’t his concern. He doesn’t see the bright red stop sign a few feet above his grey-hatted head, nor does he care what it has to say. That’s not his concern. His eyes fixed on the ball bounce with it as it tries to escape him, but it won’t, you can tell by the way he’s steppin’, that ball is his one and only concern.
Just outside the frame/what happens after: “Boy, don’t you go in that street.” A nice stranger scoops the ball up off the black concrete and bounces it back to the boy, putting both him and his mama back at ease. “Don’t just take it and run– whaddya say?” But that boy didn’t hear her; he was just happy to have his ball back, and the stranger could feel the gratitude in the way that boy bounded back for the court. Words weren’t his concern. Maybe the stranger remembers chasing his ball into the street, catching heat from his mama, and the stranger who helped him. He smiled and saw the boy chasing his ball up and down the court. Now that the stranger can relate to, the feeling of chasing that ball as it bounces toward a dream that he’s had since before the stranger helped him. He smiled again. 126
Brenda Bailey, Jasmine James, Kayla Watson
MABEL TAYLOR’S SPEAKEASY There was a time, not so long ago, when on Sundays the bars, liquor stores, grocery stores as a matter of fact most of the stores, were closed. Sunday was a sacred day. People went to church and rested to prepare for work on Monday. However, some found a way to make money from home. They sold soul food, liquor and a good time. It was called the speakeasy. The one in my community was Mabel Taylor’s. She was quite the entrepreneur. You could play cards for money and the house got a cut. You could enjoy a meal and have a cocktail all at a price. Liquor was sold in shots, half pints, and pints. You would receive a set up with your drink order (ice, cups and soda). Living on Ludwick Street, we were in walking distance from Mabel’s. I can hear my mother asking my father where he was going. Around the corner to Mabel’s was his response. My mother would smile and say he was going to see his girlfriend. When his brother/ friends came looking for him she would tell them he is over his girlfriend’s house and they knew exactly where to go. Selling liquor on Sunday was against the law. You had to use code words. Sometimes if my dad had too much to drink and went to sleep, Mabel’s husband Goldie would come and tell my mother. She would go and wake him up. No one wanted to get punched out trying to wake him up. She knew the secret: throw cold water in his face and move out of the way fast. I do not remember there being any fighting but there were plenty of people hooking up. Speakeasy love affairs. Today, liquor stores, bars, and grocery stores--just about everything is open on Sunday. And most restaurants serve alcohol. The speakeasy is a thing of the past. The house on 41st 127
Street is still there with many memories within the walls. Looking at the house I can hear the sweet sounds of music coming out of the front door. See the women in their dresses looking beautiful, the men in their suits and ties some coming from church, others coming from home. Ms. Mabel and Goldie are gone but the memories linger. I guess you could say those were the good old days.
LUDWICK STREET 1 I loved living on Ludwick Street. It was not the suburbs, but I had a giant backyard. This is where I first felt grass under my feet and fell in love with the fresh cut smell of it. Whenever I ride through the parks and smell it I remember Ludwick Street. Laying in the grass, watching my mother hang clothes on an umbrella clothesline, watching the caretaker remove the garbage and put it out for trash day. I hear the greetings from the neighbors passing by, and those hanging out their own clothes. I see her smiling and the sun shining on her face. The house was a small two bedroom with an eat-in kitchen and a living room. We sat at the table as a family. In the summer we left the door open to cool the house. The screen door kept the flies out. Sitting on the steps after dinner, watching the cars go by was how many a summerâ€™s night was spent. The memories are so vivid. I can smell the grass and feel the love. I shared the terrace with families that lived on Budd Street and Haverford Avenue. I walked to Martha Washington elementary school with my mother three times a day. We came home for lunch. Greetings came from those we knew and those we did not. People spoke as they passed by in that time. Playing with friends in the terrace, we were the envy of those who did not live there. Playing double dutch with clothesline rope, shooting dead manâ€™s bluff with bottle caps. My favorite was wall ball. I could really slam that ball. Went to visit Ludwick Street. The terrace is gone, but the church we use to peek in to see the ladies shouting is still there. I have been told that when you get older short term memory begins to fade and long term memory pushes its way forward.
REMEMBERING THE SONGS OF CHILDHOOD I’ve been told when a boy kiss a girl, they take a trip around the world Yea, Yea Shopa doo wop one Shopa doo wop two All the way to ten. Body rotating around Smiling at the boy you want to go around the world with as you take off running. Lewis would always catch me, put his arm around my neck and smile. We would walk through the terrace together and he would always say, right after he kissed me, “You going around the world with me?” “Yeah,” was my response. But his mama was not having it, her vanilla baby was not having anything to do with dark chocolate. No mocha babies coming from me. Then one day he moved. Looked for him. Was heart-broken. Cried, but that passed. No worries. Never went around the world with vanilla, only dark chocolate. 130
ME TOO Such a beautiful baby. Look at the legs on that girl Your booty is damn, girl Look at your subtle breast Better not tell Who gone believe you
GRAFF WORLD Every community needs a superhero, a sign of hope that there is someone to protect them from dangers real and unreal. Just like our graff world superhero. He provides hope for the nodder. Hope for those lost in the dark. A beacon of light in the darkness.
HOW MANY TIMES How many times have I died in this lifetime? Was it when the trumpet played the sweet melody of my blues? That bass guitar, strumming my sorrow How many times have I died in this lifetime? The hands of locs that caressed my body and smelled of musk. The lion of Judah. At the hands of the gunga that made me shake in gigantic hands, the size of me. How many times have I died in this lifetime? White lines on the mirror reflecting the zebra lines for European streets. Psychedelic walks in the park, the sun rays pouring like rain. How many times have I died in this lifetime? Only my Savior knows How many times death comes in a lifetime.
BAGGAGE Memories come and go like clouds on a windy day Dwelling and being down about it, what a waste of time. Old baggage weighing me down. I chose to say â€œThank you,â€? for leaving me in a foreign land. I was shown hospitality even though I was a stranger Negative baggage weighing me down. I received the education the haters said I would not get. Friends who love me still, just as I am Baggage weighing me down. Thank you for trying to break me down. I grew stronger, smarter. Learned to do for myself. Baggage has become light as the clouds floating in the sky.
Dear Kayla, Working on this project with you these past months has given my heart joy. Your youthful outlook has given me a different point of view on many things. You are a camera genius. You have opened my eyes to see things that I thought eyesores in the community. I see them now as assets. Great things are waiting for you. Keep looking through the lens. Kind Amazing Youthful Lovely Accepting
Peace, Ms. Brenda
Writers Room has encouraged me beyond my expectations. I liked to write but I would look at something I had written and just leave it and move on. People at Writers Room have encouraged me to keep trying, to dig deep. I really appreciate the encouragement because “practice does make progress.” Working on the projects with young people, seeing them blossom and become the best writers they can, is inspiring. They are not waiting until they are retired. But all flowers don’t bloom at the same time. I want to thank Ms. Kirsten, Ms. Rachel and Ms. Valerie for their encouragement and words of wisdom and love. Thank U.
Peace, Brenda Bailey
MY SPRING BREAK I met this girl full of wonder, Thursday afternoon after being hit on by a couple dudes *shivers* Different was she, I fought her best friend and she still vibes with me. Something about her set me on fire, I don’t know what it was, Maybe the way she walked, The way she talked, Or was it was the way you can tell she’s in her own world. Somebody dared me to kiss her, Looking at her I saw a light blush creep up on her cheek; not too visible, Unless you just focus on her, Asking wasn’t an option, Especially while standing on a shuttle bus full of passengers, Soft and tender she was, And that was that. She was my spring and I was her break.
TRY ME I lost you once I’m not losing you again You left me for a year and probably didn’t care Tried calling Tried fake calling, acting like I butt dialed you It didn’t work I tried texting you to catch up on live No answers I even tried “accidentally” texting Still no reply That hurt and put a dark spot on my heart But as soon as I was over you I felt better Then that very same day you called and texted
Dear Kayla, I’ve most enjoyed my time working with you because of your photography skills. Your face really lights up when explaining something we don’t know. You’re passionate about it and that’s really nice to see. I’ve also admired people who were able to find something they’re passionate about in high school, because that definitely wasn’t me. At times it seemed like with writing it was a little harder to find your groove with; but when you sat down, were given a topic and space and time to create, you can up with some amazing pieces! You very much work through your emotions about a situation on the page; I remember you telling Ms. Brenda and I that we needed to loosen up more with our writing. I was confused initially because I abhor structure and find it very hard to be confined to a single set of rules, especially as it applies to my poetry. But I definitely took in your comments and reflected on my writing. I usually am trying to make a point with what my finished project has to say, and this may look as though I’m trying too hard or too structured. In actuality, it’s far from it, however, I definitely feel that my prose could use more of me within it. I write, of course, how I think; it’s a reflection of the way my mind 139
works. But in the past few years, I’ve been trying to change the way I think and maybe it’s time my writing has reflected more of that evolution. Thank you for always being frank, and sharing stories of your mother. The light in you attitude and expressions about your mother remind me of my relationship with my own mother. Full of life and very tight. We’ve been close since I was young and I pray that your relationship will remain the same as well. It has been a wonderful experience working with you again, from Mighty Writers to here. I hope you continue to search for ways to capture your own light in the same way you capture the varied light of the world behind your lens.
Dear Jasmine, I want to thank you for the great experience of, writing and creating with you. You are doing great things and I see you in great places. The theme we decided on as a group was a good match for the team. Thank you for your patience and kindness; I will not look at your generation the same because of you. You have great ideas and I see you doing great things in your life. Jewel Awesome Smile Mellow Insightful Nice Encourages
Peace, Ms. Brenda
NOT DOING GREAT THINGS Everybody’s off doing great things I’m not
I sit in my bed Resting my head Hoping they’ll leave The demons unsheathe To stab at my will of power until
g i v e
I don’t want to be a statistic Used by big business To pull us down anymore than we have drowned A constant reminder, our futures can’t get brighter “Because all you’ll ever be” if you do this “All you’ll ever achieve” if you do that You can’t tell what I’m gonna do So they tell me that I got something to prove 142
i t ’ s
h a r d
So like Brooks said back in tenth Under that tent of assumption “You’ll never do that because you can’t get down pat….abc, xyz, 123, alkaline metals to allotropy. Thermal conductivity and the electromagnetic spectrum” And I’m supposed to puff up my chest to spite him Invite him, entice him Brush off the negativity Embrace the toxicity Understand the malice, the biting venom of his words And build a palace out of determination and hard work.
But fast forward to now and it’s true I can’t or won’t or don’t know the true meaning of determination I become the embodiment of extermination Of this nation Even with patience 143
I’m a patient to this life Just be patient, it’ll work out Just be patient, you’ll get there Just be patient, stop with the doubt Just be patient, life’s not always fair Now I chose stability over creativity A plan in hand, over uncertainty Assertiveness and blurting facts Over quiet, sit back, relax, go with the flow And the happiness will show I hope But to ensure, be sure of the cure Undeterred by the lack of spurs I had to roll up and show up Can’t get any lower, so I chose to float above.
LOSS Sometimes I am it I feel loss in my home Loss at a banquet Thundering through the existential dome I become stormy weather.
It’s a baby forest. There are branches stretching every which way; it reminds of the opening scene to a Disney movie. You Know How It Goes… Someone’s parents just died, odds are it’s the mother. In a sorrowful but majestic way. There’s not much else in the frame besides branches and leaves. This is the way I like it. 146
Her front locks are splayed by the wind Increasing in momentum as we stand admiring the changes And recognizing the losses Proud in her stance and unshakeable frequency She remembers her neighborhood Thereâ€™s distress, in face and heart Of a memory eclipsing the present In Womanhood, a pheasant might be plucked free of its spirit and hastened in its life expectancy Drowning in unrecognition Lowering the partition to be freed, only by her imagination, But this pheasant lets no one impede her vision She tells stories of aberration In her own life and others, countless brothers in this city Fighting for a committee of understanding All this grasped from her uneasy smile, parceled with confidence The continuance of her spiritual bounty Found with the grapes of staff, working for a more inclusive and immersive future She writes the tales told through tainted tears and teeth So sheer Her spirit is incomparable In awe, we watch her continue to be great. 147
She wanted a picture by the bus stop. We initially went outside just to look at shrubbery, even in though this cold weather would definitely prevent us from getting anything lively or colorful. We hung around the sign in front of the short brick walkway connecting Penn and Drexel. We moved towards 32nd St. and she began getting into character, breaking out into short jobs back and forth as she pretended to be chasing after a bus. I asked her to stand still for moment and took this photo. I was moved; unhinged at how movie-like it appeared to be. A still from film about the 60’s in Philly. I wanted to write that film just from what she’d told me about Ludwick St. and her childhood; I could already hear the cacophony of children’s voices mimicking the anecdote Brenda shared not too long ago. She used to sing some song and get paired up with another young soul, destined to be soulmates. “We were fresh.”
â€œIf you love anything, you should love your mother, Jehovah and your dog.â€?
I remember helping my mother pick out this address plate, although I can’t remember if we chose it before or after we moved. It makes me think of jaded summers, lying inside on the couch and watching tv. It makes me nostalgic for our art museum trips and the nights where we’d relish in the gems we found at the Odunde festival. The address plate isn’t our home, you could replace it in minutes if cracked or broken by rambunctious kids. But somehow when I look at it, a whole timelines of my childhood runs like those suspenseful movie scenes where a character is viewing the old timey reel of their life, trying to figure out where exactly everything changed. In a way, I am that character. Things definitely didn’t change for the worse, but I did feel like a sense of self died when I left 711A. When I realized we would have to move, I didn’t think I would be so attached. In general, the hassle of packaging everything up and trying to figure out how to find comfort in a new house was daunting. But the actuality of leaving, of possibly forgetting when my mother redid my entire room for my birthday, or taking home the caterpillars to watch blossom during my time in preschool, or screaming in terror as some dude in a green Dipsy suit tried to bring the Teletubbies to life at my three-yearold birthday party; I still feel the reverberations of the incident, 150
as the horror movie noir film elements of my memory color my traumatizing perspective of a man simply trying to get paid for wearing a smelly suit in a stuffy backyard. All of these things, however, I carried with me. I was concerned about forgetting me, myself as a child, but these memories became more vibrant than ever. Even visiting the house eleven years after I left it still fills me with the melancholic sanguine attitude of someone whoâ€™ll never replace or truly lose 711A.
This used to be a salon owned by the mother of one of my best friends. I donâ€™t know if our mothers knew each other prior to them owning the shop there, but they became close and she ended up doing my momâ€™s makeup for her wedding. This place used to shout 151
orange and yellow bursts, Jill Scott and Floetry in the background as you passed by. The door would be propped open, the smell of essential oils was strong, and they reached for you with foundation smudged hands. Nicholas and his mother would come over occasionally and Nicholas and I would find our way to my room to play with Barbies and other toys. He seemed to take after his mother; a sense of fashion and style dripping from his speech about how I should dress and braid their hair. He liked to call me his princess, and I wasn’t sure if it was because my name is Jasmine or because I actually had some allure. Or because I was just always around. I never quite believe people when they says things like, “I like you”. It always seems kind of fake. Nonetheless, I like spending time with him. Once, for my birthday, we went somewhere together. I don’t really remember exactly what we did, but it might have been arcade or carnival themed because I remember we came away from the experience with lots of candy. I was wearing one of those candy necklaces and just touching it, licking the powdered sugar from my fingers. We were in the backseat chatting, my social tolerance was definitely depleted for the day. I remember already being kind of annoyed; even at a young age, my introverted personality was strong and my aptitude for being around people for extended periods of time not yet developed. I also am the type of person that likes to wear a particular outfit on a special day, save a good sandwich as a reward for finishing my homework, or in this case, preserve a candy necklace until I was ready to eat it. Anyway, at some point he reached over and asked when I was going to start eating my necklace. Then suddenly he leaned in towards my neck and took a bite from it. I don’t remember seeing much of him after that.
My mom used to have neighborhood watch meetings here occasionally. That was how I first remember visiting this recreation center. Eventually, thanks to my stepfather, I ended up playing soccer here. I don’t remember what it was like getting started, just that I enjoyed the liberty of challenging people on the field (or basketball court for the indoor season). You obviously weren’t outright allowed to knock people down, but pushing up against and kicking the ball away was so satisfying to me. I wasn’t much concerned with analyzing or developing the skill of the sport until I was at least eleven. I stopped playing soccer right before I started high school because after starting tryouts for the team, I didn’t think I was good enough. I was nervous and doubtful, and even though I would have very likely just ended up on the bench, I felt my connection to the sport dissipated after I left the Monarchs and moved to Ardmore. This center was everything for me though; it was the site of the first team I joined, a mecca for cultural events, there was a boxing league that would train on the first floor, bake sales and energetic kids running around on the second. The pool in the summertime was fun as well. Everybody would come and bring their own pool toys but end up losing them before they left. Kids would come in 153
droves from blocks over to get relief from the heat. I remember the chipped paint, the rusted parts of the pool area. The overcrowded lines to get in, tired parents sipping sugary drinks and hoping their kids would tire out. As far as they were concerned, this was their camp. On the playground, you found kids of all ages interacting and messing with each other. You’d see tweens looking out for the little ones but indoctrinating those two or three years their junior of the rules of the playground. What you should or shouldn’t try, where you should stand, who to pester for food.
This is where I first met Andrew. I think my mother expressed the idea that she was dating him to me, but I don’t know if I actually 154
processed it until we came here. He was friendly and nice but laid back. I do remember him saying you can get anything you want. I liked to test people normally, but I didn’t exactly mean to run the bill up like I did. I genuinely wanted to try a few different breakfast dishes. And my mother and I did not exactly brunch before she dated Andrew. So once the line died down and we got a table, I was prepared for a feast. I got pancakes and sausage, eggs, toast, fruit, some kind of pudding I think, orange juice and a muffin. I definitely drawled but I didn’t realize it until much later in their relationship because his poke face was on point. My mom didn’t really say too much other than her coded glances and nudges under the table as I kept listing off my breakfast order. Andrew didn’t even bat an eye and I only ate about 30% of what I ordered. I decided I liked him then.
Dear Ms. Brenda, You’re full of life and wear the evolution of your surroundings on the sleeve of your writing. Your stories speak volumes about how you interpret the world and it’s inspiring. I’ve collected some stories of my own, but the way I choose to explain and rationalize them is by tiptoeing through the memory. You power through with your creative sails at full mast and I admire the way you try to express yourself to others. I could really feel how Ludwick St. used to be; you know those flashback scenes in movies, where the whole frame shudders into another era? The physical reality melting into a daintier time, or the bellows of now meshing with the scratchy record of yesterday? That’s what happened to me walking along your neighborhood taking pictures. You describing the speakeasy scene and us collectively explaining what a speakeasy was to Kayla, it was nice. I had only known a speakeasy through movies and text, mostly painted as a place for Italian gangsters and other mob-like people. You peeled back the mystery and I respect your analysis! That’s the way you do things, simple and easy, but vibrant and unwavering. It had been a pleasure creating this collection of stories, poems and other writing with you!
Best, Jazz 156
Mark Dawkins, Natasha Hajo, Norman Cain
POSTCARD FROM HOME* The image on the front of the postcard would be a vase full of pennies. It shows that something beautiful can be filled for almost nothing. I would send the postcard to my friends and the name of our block would be on the back. One thing people donâ€™t notice about my neighborhood is the lack of unity, it is very divided, there are mini neighborhoods in one big one and not a lot of people notice it. My neighborhood influenced me a lot and made me who I am. How I talk, walk, and carry myself is all because of my neighborhood and my parents. A true product of my environment. I impact my neighborhood in a good way. They like the positive things Iâ€™m doing and I will continue to set an example. *From LL workshop at Robeson.
*From Carol’s First Tuesday Workshop: “Love, Letters and Otherwise.” Step 1. Look back on your life from where you are now, as though your life is a book that you are living, and break it down into chapters. (Write the table of contents for your life.) Trouble Trappin with love Passion My side Time wasted Thoughts
Step 2. What stands out in your mind as a notable memory from some of your chapters? List out a couple of ideas. The decisions stands out most to me… I call it the hole, where I’m from not many people make it to 18, because of the decisions they made. It’s easy to fall in, the system is made for black men to remain stagnant. When all you see is bad it’s easy to become that.
Step 3. Then zoom in—write a ‘love’ letter to the memory, the subject of the memory, or the version of you that experienced the memory. Love, love is what I have for my city. A great deal of it, but this does not mean this is the place for me. Memories good and bad flood my brain when I think about my life, never shaking the fact that I am a product of my environment. My neighborhood. How different would my life be if I grew up in a different city, a different state? Would I still have the same love for this place, are the memories worth it? I will never know, what I do know is that I will never forget my love, as I begin to paint a picture that will last forever.
DEAR BASKETBALL You have taken all my energy, you have drained me mentally, you taught me discipline and focus, but also how to smile. The game has become fun again, less pressure, and time is winding down. I’ve just played my last regular season game, wishing I could reverse time and do it again. Although we are done here our journey is just starting. Leaving the neighborhood that taught me the game to play at the next level and continue my education won’t be easy, because just like you, my neighborhood raised me. The lessons I learned won’t be replaced or forgotten. The love I have for the things that taught me lessons are unbreakable, think you can tell by the look on my face.
YELLOW TAPE Nothing is groundbreaking in my neighborhood, nothing but the ground breaking. Cracked streets and sidewalks are concealed by yellow tape. Cracked skulls on sidewalks, escalated due to the streets, concealed by yellow tape. Some things might never get fixed. Why does this stop us? Why does this stop us if the person we care about is lying on the ground, if the streets and buildings we love are injured? Because the tape reads do not enter? Somebody has to do something, or maybe something is too much. From the outside looking in you see what everyone else sees: a community, houses that stand in a row with little difference on the exterior, a school that stands sturdy but has its bruises. And a park that tells a story, a story from the inside. Now dirt hills arise sturdy like the metal structures that stand in the middle of the field. Fields that I used to play in are now in the hands of the future. The park that raised me will soon become secondary to a gym exactly 15 steps away from it. The 15 steps will be 15 minutes of memories. A long walk. The swings in the park donâ€™t screech but are not played on. My prints in the grass cannot be traced, because they are covered. Voices cannot be heard because of construction. I feel empty, because my park is. As I grow old it ages with me. My thoughts are like the writing on the wall, scrambled full of pain but can never be erased.
SHELLS Treating all my days the same knowing each one will be different. Wake up, school, home, wake up, school home. Never paying much detail to the things in between, but on this day I had to. The air felt no different, it’s winter, but not the coldest, hoodie and a jacket was all I wore. The laces hung from my shoes, as I showed they weren’t made for running, just walking. Would you care? Would you notice my shoes? The shooter didn’t. Hoping he didn’t notice me, too quick to see, turning shell tops into Nike sprinters. Actually hearing the shell drop after the BOOM almost made me shell shock, but I couldn’t be. With everything spinning my legs seemed to take me straight, making quick turns to get away, not stopping until I was blocks away. My senses became stronger but everything felt still, quiet, numb, like I was all alone. Reality is that you are. Our way is different, the culture makes us static, each decision we make determines who we are, and the environment shapes us. Philly, am I crazy to say this is normal?
46TH The movement is different. When I’m around you my energy changes, I feel free, I think about now instead of tomorrow. The air I breathe is light, while my mind levels, our bond is unbreakable. For now at least. I treat you as if you have feelings, but mine are to care about. Saying “I will neva change” is just a clouded mind. Do you care? Of course you don’t you’re just a place. But you’re my place. I stayed through the winter love, and the summer madness. It was fun to me, but not to mamma, but my loyalty lied with you. Do you care? If I left how would you feel? Would you change on me? If I came back would everything be different? I’m doing it again. Maybe change is good for both of us. Anyways I found some new friends. I like them, they seem to care about me and my future. Look at their faces. “Your neighborhood is not a person it can’t see.” I feel crazy sometimes but you mean a lot to me, and I know you see them just like me. The place I love most will soon be behind me as I move on in life, wondering will it still be a part of me as I take many steps towards my future. Could I forget this place, the hate, the love, the excitement. I don’t think so, but will it forget me?
My project experience—TRIPOD at Writers Room: people, places, portraits—has been more joyful than anything. The job is serious, but fun as well. During this project I’ve become an artist, not just a writer, not just a photographer, but I have learned how to merge the two while widening my thoughts. During this project I have come together with the Writers Room team to create a photo-documentary of the city of Philadelphia and my neighborhood. Throughout this time I have learned how to use a Canon camera to capture life as it is in the city of Philadelphia. I take the photos and relate as I write my story through the lens of a camera. From the start, I pictured me and my partners working together to make a wonderful project. I’ve been working with Tash Hajo, who is an artist at Writers Room and a junior at Drexel University. I’ve also been working with Norman Cain, who is a senior who lives in the community. We share the same goals. For me it’s more about learning so I can be able to teach. I feel like the people in this program have been willing to help me understand and complete this project rather than let me go through the motions. This is a very important time in my life and this program/project slows things down and is helping me become a better person. The space I was in during my project was always calm and relaxing. It elevated my performance. I grew as a writer, a photographer, and person. The Writers Room studio on Drexel’s campus is where I write and meet with students, professors, and writers like Lauren, Tash, Rachel Wenrick, and Norman. We talk about writing, which clears my head and allows me to think.
Once I entered Writers Room I felt a different energy. I felt like the people there had a task at hand but wanted me to be comfortable, they cared. This made me care. I took this serious, I felt like I would be letting them down. The change that was made was good. It made us closer, it made the work easier; the things that I didnâ€™t see in photos, in life, I see now, things are coming naturally. The people I had around me made me feel welcome. More than a team of writers, with one goal in mind we grew a bond to accomplish it. I felt comfortable expressing myself and it made the writing easier. I took it serious and in a short amount of time I learned that my writing can touch people and make a difference. Taking in all the things I learned during this time took some time to process. But the one thing that stands out is being yourself. Expressing yourself through your writing will help you become one with yourself. You will be at peace and you will have a story to tell one of your own. Everyone has their own story, how will you tell it? My expectations coming into this project was not this. My thoughts were little and my view was small. In the beginning my writing was just words, a photo was just a photo, there was no difference to me in what I saw or what I wrote. As the project moved forward it opened my eyes and made me think. This changed me as an artist, as a person. I am happy I made this change. The work Iâ€™m doing is growing. It is mature, myself as well. I need help, I get it; if I need space, I get it, this allows me to grow not just with my work but with my thoughts. My thoughts are key and the people I work with during this project understands that. It helps me grow. The art I seen surprised me the most, it was very different, I felt like each picture meant something deeper. Getting the chance to create my own made me very 168
excited. I want to be able to capture something in my community and tell a story that is deeper than the surface. There are many moments that stick out to me when I think about my project. The laughs, the fun, the crying, the work, and the coffee. Everything I’ve been doing during this time has made my experience great. The way that I’m treated is most important to me. I have a base when I am at Writers Room. When I’m there I am a part of that team. A team that is serious about what they do, a team that works together very well. A team that has each other’s back. There is always great energy that puts me in the mood to tell a story. I would do the project again. Everything I got out of this has helped me, it kept me focused. The people I worked with made it easy for me. The experience was great and I would recommend this for other students. During this project everything has been unexpected. I never thought I would be writing with a purpose— the project, the environment, the people around me changed me and how I think. When I’m there I’m in a different space, a different zone, I feel at home, just like my writing the lights can be bright or dim. Even when I leave my thoughts are still racing feeling like I can write a book, things continue, just like life my view is the same as the pictures I take. The movement is just different.
“You never close your eyes anymore; I don’t find the red line. Don’t you worry whose story it is to tell. TURN A-ROUND, TURN A-ROUND, TURN A-ROUND It should be a story told.”
The color of the sky reminds me of the bleakness inherent in every 170
February. Outside is gray and wet with a bitter wind, serving as a reminder that Spring is still out of reach. I follow just a few steps behind the others, taking note of what they notice and counting the adornments of the neighborhood. A single sneaker, empty bottles of liquor, a doll smushed into the mud. We reach Wallie’s corner store and I laugh, thinking about the fluctuating prices of groceries inside— nothing in this city is static. Soon we pass Brandywine, Haverford, and stop on Mount Vernon. I’ve memorized the name of the streets but I can never pinpoint where they are in relation to one another. We stop at a playground with a jungle gym made up of yellows, blues, and reds. Somehow the colors still don’t stand out, even with the bleached sky as the backdrop. We stand on the outside of the fence looking in on the desolate playground for a few silent moments. I hear, for what feels like the first time, the steady rhythm of the city. I hum along to a song that wasn’t written for me. We press forward in the neighborhood, focusing our cameras on the preservable and the powerful.
REMEMORY Lots of silent nodding made up for with written words Photo wars Stickers (mark) Listening and laughing Having my B.S. called out in a skillful, guiding way
I am in the writing studio with Mark and Lauren. It’s 1:00 in the afternoon but I still don’t feel fully awake— the dim lighting doesn’t help, and yet I’m thankful for it. I ask Mark if he’d join me in grabbing a cup of coffee before we shoot photos in Mantua. Lauren has yet to have her first cup either, so the three of us saunter on over to Joe. For the first time I feel like I am a part of something, but not in a grand, revelational manner. More like a “this is cool and I’d like it to keep going,” sort of way. The experience has been slowly trickling and engulfing all at once. We each get coffee and leave before Mark acknowledges that his is too bitter. All three of us turn around and head back to determine the right amount of sugar.
It is early in the morning and I am in the only bedroom at my grandmother’s house. I always preferred sleeping closest to the wall even though it made getting up difficult. I lie awake trying to think of how to climb over five of my cousins’ bodies without waking them and wonder at the same time how they could sleep through the call to prayer that vibrated throughout the entire city. I crawl over the bed’s railing, careful not to step on the two sleeping on the floor, and tiptoe to the bathroom. My morning routine here is different than it is at home. I head downstairs in my pajamas and ragged flip-flops, using all my might to yank open the steel door at the bottom. The unforgettable heat greets me and wraps around my body just to strike me. I ring the bell of my aunt’s house next door, rubbing my eyes as the rest of Damascus heads to the mosque. This version of myself is one I have lost all touch with.
II I only hear the call to prayer at my relatives’ homes now. This is because some of my aunts and uncles have apps on their phones that sound off when it’s time for worship. The call is hard to notice over small talk. I must have been 11 or 12 years old the last time I visited Syria.
III I remember the jealousy I felt of my brother, who was able to stay with my dad while I had to branch off to the women’s section of the mosque by myself. My only memories of going into the local mosque with my mother are related to funerals. I struggled adjusting the pale headscarf brought from home as the service started and darted out of the washroom to find any open space. I’d kneel, anchoring myself, to repeat the only prayers 175
I knew. I always kept my attention on how to breathe through the motions while the words lost their meaning with repetition.
My family found a religion teacher to come to our house shortly after we made the pilgrimage to Mecca. We had a group of other young Muslims join us every week. The woman focused more on teaching stories and morals than she did on prayers, which I liked. My favorite part of the lesson was jumping on the trampoline with my friends before their parents picked them up.
V In 2012 I paid a visit to Best Buy because Channel Orange had been released. I heard the line “if it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion” right around the same time I began to question Islam. Even though the song is about unrequited love, it made me confident in my doubting. I committed every other song on the album to memory.
The opening prayer in the Quran is the only one I can recite. I recently found a website called MuslimInc.com and according to one of its articles, I am six prayers short of the “7 [Prayers] Every Muslim Should Memorize.”
I think back to walking towards a cafe with a one-worded name indifferent to the plethora of eateries flooding the city. The weather isnâ€™t unpleasant but still unsuitable for the month of May. Everything I pass appears unprocessed while the air bears a concoction true to Philadelphia: trash, gasoline, and the petrichor from earlier in the morning. I hear, at the same capacity of sound, the fleeting cars and my troubled breathing. A woman wearing a hijab comes my way while pushing a baby stroller. I smile at her in hopes of some recognition, some form of participation in an undisclosed language indicating that she sees me and grasps that we may be similar in ways more than one. I begin to question what my traces look like and wonder how the unrefined form still exists. She hesitates before the corners of her lips curl up into a fleeting smile and she passes me by.
Writers Room/Tripod as seen by Mark:
Joyful Serious, but fun A team that has each other’s back – MD
This past fall, Writers Room released a book with LoLa 38 called “Words like Love + Light.” I remember thinking the title was perfect because words like love and light are all that come to mind when I think of the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had through Writers Room. I think I picked up on the descriptions of Writers Room in your reflection because it’s been very similar for me, especially in terms of the Tripod project. Joyful is how I feel hearing Mr. Cain’s stories and your “byeee you guys” send-off. It’s also how I feel every time I read any of your pieces, even though that joy is usually overshadowed by awe. The things you notice, the questions you ask, and the ability you have to put them into writing makes me admire your movement and rethink mine. Serious but fun is how I would describe our photo-outings and writing workshops. We’re always cracking jokes and laughing in the process, but I think seriousness takes shape in both our photos and writing. When I hear “a team that has each other’s back,” a few things come to mind. I first think of saying I would fight for Norman Cain and the chance to work in a Tripod group with him. He responded by saying he would fight for me too. I think of Rachel and Lauren who not only have our backs, but are always willing and able to help fix our posture. You offering me your jacket while taking pictures in the cold was a small instance that, in addition to past events, let me 179
know you also have my back. The last thing I think is to make sure you know that I have your back too. This description of a team resonated with me because I feel, for what might be the first time, a part of something bigger than me. I think what allowed me to feel this in the first place was knowing you and Mr. Cain are in it just as much as I am and that you are both willing to teach me the things I do not know. This recurring realization took its final form when we went to Olive Street and passed your old house on Markoe to take pictures. I watched Mr. Cain point to nearly every site, explain what it was, and tell his firsthand account of it. I watched you do a similar thing. From the Bethel Highway Church to James Shuler Memorial Gym, I found I felt a closeness to my Tripod group that I couldnâ€™t have felt unless I experienced these places too. I tried to stay in the background and just observe before realizing I was with people way more attentive than I am. This is a note I scribbled down from that day on 3/27: Just finished shooting in West Philly with Norman and Mark. I feel equal parts heavy and much lighter than before. Light because of these people and the traces theyâ€™re willing to bare and show me. Heavy because my heart is full.
While the Tripod deadline date was engraved in my brain, I didn’t realize how close it Really was until that day. I thought about how you said “I don’t want it to end, I’m going to miss it.” The entire experience has been joyful, serious, fun, and has felt a lot like the words love and light. I’d like to believe our legs are all tied together—yours, mine, Norman’s, and everyone else’s involved—as a result of our experiences together with this project. That being said, I’m going to miss working on Tripod but I don’t know that I see an end in sight.
Dear Mr. Cain, Hearing about the park you and Mark have shared was amazing for me. To picture you both moving, running, playing, going through all the motions in the same place, you then and Mark now, resulted in a series of flashing images in my mind. There didnâ€™t seem to be any space for me, though, no matter how I tried to picture it. I felt frustrated for intruding on the moment, frustrated for feeling left out, and most importantly, frustrated about being frustrated while this beautiful thing was unfolding in front of all of us. How can I get in there from out here? This always seems to be the question for me. What Iâ€™m asking from you, Mr. Cain, is not for any answer, but maybe to just bear with me while I try to figure out what it means for me as the other, the outsider, and perhaps the reason, in part, for the Then becoming the Now. Iâ€™m looking forward to, and feeling very lucky for, the ability to write together, grow together, and fight for one another should we need to.
MAKING MY BONES It was a typical Sunday. Dressed for church, my two younger sisters, younger brother and I left our respective bedrooms, and descended the stairs in unison at 7:30 am. Upon arriving in the kitchen, under the watchful eye of our God-fearing mother, we each in accordance to age took to our knees and rendered a prayer. After grace we partook of our traditional Sunday breakfast: buttered grits, scrambled eggs crisp, baconâ€”which we ate to the sound of gospel songs rendered by groups like the Soul Stirrers and The Dixie Hummingbirds. After breakfast we walked around the corner to our church. Upon arriving we went to our respective classes. At the completion of our classes I took advantage of the agreement my mother and I had. She told me that I had to attend Sunday school each Sunday, but I would be required to only go to church twice a month. I rushed home, changed my clothes, grabbed my tattered basketball glove and rushed to the corner where all the guys gathered before going to the Mill Creek playground for our annual Sunday baseball game. Shortly after we arrived, teams were chosen. I was picked to be the lead batter by my team. However, before any of us could take our positions we heard a desperate cry for help coming from a guy from our crew named Lonnie. Two guys were beating him, one was an older guy and the other was his cousin. My crew was stunned. We could not believe that outsiders had the audacity to come into our turf and attack a member of our crew. I had the bat in my hand and the rest of the guys were behind me. 183
The guys that were attacking Lonnie were from an area of West Philadelphia called The Top. In fact, the oldest attacker was named Toppy in deference to his status in his crew. Actually, he was too old to be gang-banging with guys in our age range. He was definably defying the rules of gang warfare. The other culprit was Lonnie’s cousin. He was angry with Lonnie because the night before Lonnie chastised him for attempting to fight with a younger guy over a girl. Lonnie’s cousin was also from The Top. Because he had a relative in our neighborhood, he was granted permission by the senior crew, known as the Fabulous Kings to be there. The incident in question took place the night before at a Catholic parish dance. In order to not have a full gang fight between the two neighborhoods, an agreement was reached and carried out. The three junior members of the top crew came into our neighborhood and gave “Fair Ones,” which were fair fights, to three members of our crew. After the completion of the ritual, all, was forgotten. However, it was not forgotten by at least two members of the top crew. Toppy stopped punching Lonnie long enough to look at us defiantly and proclaimed, “Y’all just have to smash me.” I had the bat in my hand. Maybe I thought I should smash the two guys with it. After all they brokered the truce. But I was no gang banger; I was the secretary treasurer of the Sunday school. What would my parents say if I carried out my thoughts? Then I thought of what would happen to us if we allowed the travesty unfolding in front of us to go unpunished. Our seniors would descend upon us with a decapitating fury. We would not be able to hold our heads up. Our cowardice would be known throughout the city. 184
Lonnie was still pleading for help. I clutched the bat tightly and led the crew towards the culprits. Toppy had a change of heart and said “Okay,” and ran across the field with Lonnie’s cousin behind him. After we finished the game, two of the older guys in our crew asked me to accompany them to the leader of our neighborhood gang to tell what had transpired. When we spoke to him, he said that Toppy had already come to him with an apology. I had earned my bones. In hindsight, I do not think I would have used the bat. I think I would have allowed the boys to take care of the situation.
THE YOUNG JAIL BIRDS
One pleasant afternoon in the spring of 1953 when I was 13 years old, my crew and I, at the suggestion of this guy, Bunny, who was our senior by two or three years, decided to leave our neighborhood and walk ten blocks to the father Divine Mission to play basketball in the mission’s gym. The idea was not a good one because it would mean traveling through hostile territory and the older guy, Bunny, was always leading us into detrimental situations. We nonetheless decided to do what he had suggested. We apprehensively embarked upon our journey, and after rapidly walking, sometimes trotting, and constantly looking over our shoulders for would be marauders, we finally reached our destination. However, the gym was closed. We had to take the long walk back to our neighborhood. On the way back we had to pass across an overpass that overlooked a railroad yard. There were several crates of 1 quart milk bottles at the edge of the overpass—remember this story took place in 1953—years before the advent of plastic containers housing liquids. This guy, Bunny, our know-it-all, self-appointed head honcho began to posture. He could not resist demonstrating how (in his mind) intelligent he was. He started counting the milk bottles. He was always doing stuff like that. I recall how he would supposedly solve equations on the street via chalk. Did he know anything about higher math? I doubt it. Before Bunny finished counting the bottles and gave us a mathematics lecture (he was always inflating his ego) we notice a police car turning the corner. We ran. Being a slow runner, I trailed the pack. After we had run ¾ of a block all of the guys except me jumped under a car. How clever. I kept running, I was apprehended a few seconds later. 186
We were all placed in the police car. Our adventure had turned into a nightmare. We did not know why we were arrested, and our illustrious leader was visibly more shook-up than the other members of our crew. For once he was silent. “Why were you handling the milk bottles?” one of the policemen asked Bunny. “You know how boys are,” Bunny replied. The police glanced at each other and slowly shook their heads in unison. In hindsight, I think Bunny had been influenced by the sitcom “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it to Beaver,” and the characters and situations found in “Archie Comic Books.” His response to the officer’s question clearly did not reflect the reality of our crew. We were not white kids from suburbia; we were, rather, poor black kids from the ghetto who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We did not bother to ask why we were in custody. We huddled in the back of the car. We knew we were on our way to the 39th Police district, at 39th and Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia. When the police car cruised past the border of our neighborhood, we tried to become invisible, because we would have never been able to eliminate the stigma of being in police custody. Our neighbors would not forget such a transgression. 187
When we reached the 39th district, we were placed in a cell. We still did not know what we had done wrong. Incidentally, we had been jokingly placed, by the police, in the exact cell a year earlier—at the precinct’s inaugural opening. Being placed in the cell this time, of course was different; however we did not panic. All of us—except Bunny—found our situation humorous. Bunny was silent. After fifteen minutes, one of the arresting Officers entered the cell, glanced at each Young Jail Bird and asked in a stern voice, “Who is turning on the fire plug around your way?” Our reply was a simultaneous, “I don’t know.” Why tell on yourself? We were already in jail. Why make things worse? The officer smirked, looked at us for a moment and said that we were placed in jail because we had been suspected of throwing milk bottle at trains from the overpass where we were spotted. We assured him that we would never do something like that. And that was the truth. We were allowed to go. On the way back to our neighborhood we vowed to never tell what had transpired. Our leader, Bunny, had not shown courage during our ordeal; he stopped hanging out with us.
THINGS MY MOTHER SAID TO ME My mother was a short giant of an “absolutely no nonsense” 189
woman whose self-proclaimed position of boss was never challenged. She would tell anyone (no matter the time and place) to do something, and what she demanded was done without resistance. For instance, I’ve seen her break up many corner crap games; likewise, I can recall several instances when she actually went into the streets’ gambling den and told the hardened card players to curtail the vile noise that the entire the street could hear. And they complied. She did not waste words on idle gossip, trivial matters or to hear herself talk; to the contrary, when she spoke it was for a relevant reason, and those who were within hearing range definitely listened. Including myself. I listened to her—partly, because I did not want to encounter her anger, but mainly because of my respect for her and her information, advice, guidance, dictates, etc. that she dispensed. Over the years, in her discussions that she has conducted with me, she has issued, mandatory mandates, rendered perceptions, engaged in serious discussions and has given me tons of well needed counseling. I will never forget those sessions. She could be quite the disciplinarian. I can remember coming into the house after a pleasant day of playing and immediately being the recipient of the whipping that I was promised earlier, a whipping that had escaped my mind... Between the painful licks from the belt and my pronouncements of I-ain’t-gonna-do-it no-more my mother would say Didn’t-I-tellyou-not-to. Those whippings hurt, but there was something called a “Good Talking To” that would have me sobbing from the soul. “The Good Talking To” would consist of phrases like, “I’m Ashamed of you,” and “You know better.” I remember my mother religiously lining each of my four siblings up and saying in a stern voice, “What do you say when you speak 190
to a grown person?” We would chime “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am.” And during the holidays when children were required to say poems (which were called pieces) in church she would line us up and urge us to use our hands, eyes, hesitation, pronunciation and enunciation for the best presentation effect. My mother also had a humorous side. When I received the award for being the top student in my sixth grade special education class, she said, “If Norman is the smartest kid in the class, God help the rest.” Before breaking out into a prolonged, uncontrollable laugh. Whenever she had to inform me about something she knew would be disappointing news for me, she used a love filled gentle voice. “Sissy’s house caught fire last night. Sissy is dead.” Sissy was the first girl that I had ever been romantically interested in I have never forgotten her untimely death; however, there were more romantic interests. Once, when I was a teenager, she looked me in the eyes and said, “I know what your problem is—girls.” And she was correct. A few years later, when a serious heartbreak had me in a state of depression, she said, “There will be other girls.” She was right. When I became older and seemingly a veteran of heartbreaks, my mother adamantly said, “Get your own place.” She was right. When I left my parents’ home on the morning of July 5, 1965 to report to the army, she urged me to hold my head up and a year and a half later when I came home on leave, she touched me and said with a tone of relief in her voice, “You came Home.” During what I surmise was my mid-life crisis era, my mom constantly told me to not throw away my gifts. 191
And when I told her about a dream I had about her father, mother, and uncle she said that they were urging me to keep the faith. During a period in my life when nothing was going right and I was making wrong decisions my mother would constantly tell me to not discard my gifts. When I told her that I had had a dream about her parents and her father’s brother she said, “They are telling you that you can do it.” If one did a wonderful deed my mother would not necessarily congratulate them, as she felt that they were doing what was expected of them. My mother once told me to be careful around police, because they will not hesitate to kill you. So whenever she told me “You did a good job,” it meant a lot to me and encouraged me to strive as hard as I possibly could. There are of course many other things that my mother said to me, and everything she said to me was said in love, and if the tone of her deliveries were sometimes harsh, it was merely to display “Tough Love” and to leave an everlasting message.
Dear Natasha, When Rachel told me that you would fight to be in my tripod group, I was both startled and elated. My verbal response to you at that magical time, was that I would also fight for us to be to be in the same group. Before that incident, I think that we had only acknowledged each other by nodding our heads or by rendering a brief greeting. When I heard that you would fight to be in a Tripod group with me, my mind begin to click. I surmised that you saw something in me that caught your inner eye, and I concluded that our inner eyes had connected, and ordained that we would be on the same team. And what a team. You, the Drexel student; Mark, the high school student; and me, the elderly community member who was happy to be in such a pleasant and challenging situation. Several weeks after our exchange I received a letter from you that addressed your attempt to figure out how you could mesh with me and Mark. Again I was startled, for I assumed that you had already realized that you were a part of our sector of the Tripod Experience. But after reading your letter several times, I could sympathize with your position. You felt that you could only imagine—not relate to—my past and Mark’s present memories of the Belmont and Mill Creek neighborhoods. In your letter to me you stated that you felt left out, that you considered yourself the other, and that you were frustrated. You asked, “How can I get in there from here?” While I wanted to answer your letter immediately after receiving it, I was unable to comply with my wishes, because the words that I needed to convince you, that you were not an outsider, evaded 194
me. Several months have passed since I received your letter. Now, the words that I searched for have manifested themselves in several ways: the way that you have embraced the Tripod experience, your constant presence in the Writers Room studio, the ease I sensed in you during our field trip in the Belmont/Mill Creek neighborhoods—the neighborhoods that you initially felt would render you an outsider. I remember, that at one juncture during that trip, Lauren had to encourage you to rejoin the group. You were more than a few yards away taking a picture. You were so engrossed. I smiled. While you were not raised where Mark and I were raised, you definitely have a facet of it in your mental fabric; and you definitely have a host of photographs of the Belmont/ Mill Creek neighborhoods. I remembered you asking me in your letter: “How can I get in there from here?” My answer is that you have always been in the crew. And the scribes of eternity know that to be a fact, for they have already entered your contributions to the Tripod Project on the papyruses of time, with an emphasis on your being an honorary member of the Belmont/Mill Creek neighborhoods. I want to say much more, but I do not want to miss my deadline. You know how it is with writers. I will end by saying that it has been a pleasure working with you, and that I would fight to work with you again. Yours Truly, Norman
To: Mark Dawkins After reading your two pieces: “46th” and your mid-project reflection, that were submitted to writers room on 2/16/2018 and 2/22/2018 respectively, I was able to see, I believe, at least a snippet of the intuitiveness that is a major part of your personality. Several weeks ago when I hastily read your letter entitled “46th,” I was certain that you were writing a love letter; however, upon carefully reading it several weeks later, I was captivated by the way you utilized personification to metaphorically assimilate a neighborhood into an object of love. You did not hesitate to let your feeling flow. You spoke of love, wanting to be accepted, and the ease that you felt when you were in the confines of your neighborhood. Your exuberant mid-project reflection, which you referred to as the Tripod experience, enabled me to ascertain the immense level of your dedication to both the project and the members that are a part of the project. You wrote of how words and photos were just were words and photos to you initially, but became the elements that eventually—after the project moved forward—had you open your eyes, think, and change you as an artist and a person. Again you wrote of how you relished the camaraderie you experienced of the Writer Room group, how being with the members of the group made you feel at ease. I can relate to both of your papers. When I took the field trip with you, Natasha, and Lauren a few weeks ago, I recognized, through your dialogue with them and your teasing of them, that you were a gregarious soul in your own right. Your reticence and reluctance to read your wonderful writings is just a facet of your being. I also could visualize how you 196
responded to our working as a team when we took pictures of the various sites. I must say that in retrospect, our outing in the streets Belmont/Mill Creek was a crossroad where the past and present met. By that I mean that we both were from the same area. I represented the past and you the present. And Natasha and Lauren were able to take the trip with us. It was if we were inside of a Time Machine. You attend the Ward AME Church, located at 43rd and Aspen Street, the same church that I was raised in. You trained in the boxing gym that was up the street from where I was raised. The dilapidated building that you knew as the Bottom of The Sea Food Restaurant, and which was located at 43rd and Fairmount Avenue, was a drug store back in the day. Me and my crew hung out in front of that bygone establishment, drank milk floats at its counter. Memories of my crew flooded my mind when I reminisced in front of the wire fence that enclosed the weed strewn, Olive Street, the street where I was raised for the first sixteen years of my life. Our time traveling took us to my elementary school, Martha Washington, the Mill Creek Playground where I played softball and basketball, to the hind side of Sulzberger Junior High, where I was a student from 1954 through 57. I witnessed the ongoing construction projects that was conducted behind the school. When I was being raised in the area, I never imagined that one day a recreation center would stand beside the playground and that the modernized houses in your neighborhood would stand where the projects once stood. I understand your love for the neighborhood. I was blessed to be born and raised there. 197
Lastly, I want to address your righteous fixation with team effort, something that endeared you to our wonderful project. Being a basketball player, you recognize the importance of a team functioning together. You definitely bought that concept to our project. I could not help smiling when I saw the pictures of your basketball team. Evidently you could not help smiling when those pictures where taken. I read your letter to basketball. You said to basketball that it taught you how to smile, as well as discipline and how to focus. Those are my sentiments exactly. Iâ€™m a former basketball player. You saw the YMCA on 43rd street where I learned the game. We played on a long, narrow, outside court. My love for the game kept me out of trouble and helped to lead me on the path that I transverse today, a path of contentment, a path that has taken me to our beloved project. I sincerely believe that you, Lauren, Natasha and I are traveling the same path. We are a team. If you keep doing what you are doing you will always be the winner that you are. Yours Truly, Norman
Rosalyn Cliett and Sarah Wagner-Bloom
SHARING KEYS A key is anything that unlocks anything else... a word, a smell, a taste, a prayer
I have my keys, I should say my key— it’s singular because it opens both locks to the door. It’s on a key ring that I like so much; for one it’s sleek, silver, and it has a light, one that I can use in those dark places at night.
Growing up, my bedroom window overlooked the alleyway between my house and the neighbors. With my lights turned off, the blue glow from their TV would shine into my room, so I almost always had the blinds closed. One didn’t open, either, because they were about 30-years old and my mother would always complain that it was a fire hazard. In college, my dorm rooms overlooked Buckley field or the Sheraton Hotel. It wasn’t until my junior year that I got the view—sparkling towers framed by white window frames (both open properly) and white lace curtains that used to filter the TV light. Through my bedroom window I’ve seen the world turn cold and gray only to warm itself up again until we can’t take the heat anymore.
In the past, most of us didn’t even lock our doors, and if we left our bikes or any other possessions outside overnight, they were there the next morning untouched. The houses on my block had porches, and everybody had porch furniture, lounge chair, 200
a glider which was a three-seater that you could swing back and forth, and an armchair. So on those nice summer nights I would lay outside on the glider enjoying the summer breeze looking at the stars in the sky... Oh yea, we use to have a sky full of stars. And I would try and count them, and watch them as I talked to God, I didn’t know him that well at the time, but we kept company until I’d fall asleep and would find myself waking up the next morning on the porch.
Religion was a source of conflict as confusion throughout my childhood. Growing up in a split household meant that I had many expectations from the different sides of the family: different politics, food preferences and traditions, rites of passage, and identity. For the longest time I avoided making a decision because there was very much an atmosphere— not from my parents, who never sent me to Hebrew school or attended church—that I had to choose one or the other.
And as an adult you get to make those decisions. And those decisions are predicated on your emotions, sparked by a taste, and the memory of how good something was, which creates a craving to try and recreate that feeling in 201
time. Or simply by the aroma that permeates the air.
My mom and I went to the Farmer’s market that was set up on the perimeter of a small park. There, my mom bought chicken eggs the color of sea glass, kale before it was cool, and sunset-dipped Swiss chard. I grew up between two worlds: my father’s Jewish family, and my mother’s Lutheran family. The only disappointing meals I have eaten in my life have been during the holidays.
I like clean, citrusy smells, they take me back on my trip to San Diego years ago... Let me tell you 202
how the days started every morningâ€”it was as if God would cleanse the earth, and the air before we would start our day. The air was so clean you just wanted to stand in the yard and take deep breaths of air in and out, and as you did that, it was like breathing new life, strength, and power to address the day. As my friend and I walked around getting a tour of their place, we ended in their yard which was large and fenced in. Their neighbor had a couple of large trees that hung over into their yard, one was a lemon tree and the other was an orange tree they were so bright and beautiful that they looked artificial. So my friend reached up and picked a couple of oranges and lemons. Then we went back into the house, to wash off the fruit. And upon cutting it open, you have never smelled anything like it, nor have you tasted anything like it.
Last year, my dad prepared a rack of lamb with a cherry sauce, green beans, and a cheese board. This past year, we had a Cuban style Christmas dinner with rice, beans, and roast pork. These dinners are always my favorite part of the holiday... the three of us are able to be ourselves and do things our own way. It was always clear to me that food and our way of eating was our religion; more important than Saints or Maccabees.
We knew the only way up from that table was to clean our plate. Food was a big part of our family traditionâ€”you were welcome to eat as much as you please, accompanied by Just Donâ€™t Waste Any.
Easter will be easy this year. We will sit around my grandparents’ kitchen table, passing around about five pounds of potato salad (served at every get together), they will make comments about how great Donald Trump is without mentioning him directly, and declare that there was too much food and next year we should only make two items. Everyone will talk about how full they are and that they “don’t eat like that anymore.”
My family was the first love in my life. We were such a close knit family. Back then we lived within a block or two from each other. I grew up with all of my Aunts, Uncles and cousins. We did everything together, we would play together, get in trouble together, pray together, picnics, camping, go to the Y— you name it we did it. Our parents were close and they kept us close. There were seven in the Hatten clan, four boys & three girls, plus there were two sets of first cousins: the older set which I was a part of and the younger set totaling 22. One of my cousins, Floyd, who we called Ja bo’ would make his rounds coming from school. He’d stop over my Aunt Irene’s house first, eat a little something, then over to our house to see what my mom had cooked, eat. And then go around the corner where he lived and eat again. 205
When I was 14, one of my cousins had a necklace with a key charm. Her boyfriend had a longer chain with a lock on the end. The symbolism wasn’t lost on me. Seeing my cousin with her boyfriend was the first time I saw someone close to my age be “in love.”
There comes a time in a person’s life when you know you need more, and I wanted more. I remember telling a young man that I was seeing at the time, that there was nothing wrong with him, but that I decided to follow after Jesus. And I knew it was God calling me to Himself. Because I thought the sun rose and set in that brother and the sex was phenomenal, but it wasn’t going anywhere. And I needed more. There were a lots of things I wanted to know and things I wanted to understand. 206
I wasn’t Jewish enough for Jewish people and I wasn’t Christian when I’m in a group of Christians. I knew this too when my cousin’s grandfather told me how much I looked like Barbara Streisand (way more like Jennifer Grey, thank you very much). It was meant to be a compliment. My boyfriend’s sister had her confirmation in a Lutheran church in South Jersey. The service was pretty tame until the pastor began ranting about how the Jews are damned because they didn’t only not accept Jesus, they murdered him! Lucky for me, every time she would bring up the Jews, Tyler’s family would either cheer for me or giggle.
Oh Sarah, I’m so sorry they took you through all of that, when it is so simple. I remember a time I was reading the Bible and came across a scripture that talked about The Simplicity of God. I remember getting angry, because at that time, my life was anything but simple and I began to express myself in a semi-mild irritated rage, “Talking about this thing being simple—it’s not simple!” But as you continue to walk with Him and get self and finite wisdom out of the way you’ll find it is simple... and the statement about the Jews is all a lie. You see, religious people can be so busy reading the letter that they miss the Spiritual Truth of the matter. And God’s up there just shaking his head... 207
You know, I lose my keys a lot. If I donâ€™t leave them in a different purse sometimes Iâ€™ll leave them in the door.
Because you know nothing is ever where you put it (smile). I guess you can call it my help, and the key gives me the freedom to come am go as I please...
A key is anything that unlocks anything else... a word, a smell, a taste, a prayer
ARTISTSâ€™ NOTES Sarah Wagner-Bloom on Rosalyn Cliett:
Roz is the kind of person I never thought I would have a relationship with. We donâ€™t think things have the same explanation or reason for happening, but Ros has showed me how you can see the light in every situation. Ros has seen many ups and downs and experienced more life and death than I. She could have seen the emptiness, the part that makes everyone give up, but she sees the part of it that taught her something or helped her grow. She calls what she sees God. She is the only person who says that who I believe when she tells me she saw Him or He tapped her on the shoulder. She does not use Him to justify evils or the hatred in the world, the way I grew up seeing people use God.
Rosalyn Cliett on Sarah Wagner-Bloom:
The pairing with Sarah turned out to be a blessing to me. Because I didn’t know how things were going to turn out—me being a Senior Black woman, in a real time relationship with God, and Sarah being a young Drexel Senior, born between a Jewish and Lutheran background. But the moment I met Sarah she was like a breath of fresh air. Not only was she young, energetic, but open and without prejudice. There was such a warmth of friendship and goodwill that exuded from her. She made me feel accepted, as an equal and as a partner. Sarah is someone I could easy talk to, and as we shared some things we experienced with one another, we found we had more in common then we ever would have imagined. Sarah is a very wise young lady, wise beyond her years. She smart and quick, and well-grounded. Sarah is silly, funny, and very photogenic. It was a pleasure to work with her. And I learned a lot from Sarah. She’s a real techie and fast reader. I'm glad we had this time together, and I will miss her, she's that kind of person. But I know that as Sarah embarks on the next part of her destiny, she will succeed.
My prayers are always with you From The Tribe of Judah, Your Sister Roz
ROBESON TRIPOD / PHILADELPHIA STREETS “West Philadelphia born and raised on the playground where I spent most of my days.” For many of us this is not just a song it is reality. Many days outside of the house is the reality of kids our age, raised by & if fortunate you learn from your parents. If not you are forced to learn by the streets. Long blocks and skinny alleys, orange skies. And the noise of everything is something we have all experienced. The sounds on the inside affects us as if we live by a standard, a code that almost seems amusing because we can’t escape, knowing and embracing how we have become one with our city. We see it through a lens like we are not here, and the picture is always vivid, a slideshow of our memories, paints a picture of ever play we’ve been and how we portray it. Trap blocks and parks aren’t the least of my worries. School and libraries are avoided by many. Corner stores are just as crowded as abandoned buildings, outside and in. Small buildings, tall buildings, old cars, new cars, broken streets, or broken hearts, our memories create the image just as much as our eyes. How do you see it?
FIELD AND STUDIO PORTRAITS Jasmine James, Kayla Watson
Jasmine James, Brenda Bailey
Devin Welsh, Kaliyah Pitts, Kyle Howey
Devin Welsh, Dahmere Town, Mark Dawkins, Kyle Howey
Norman Cain, Mark Dawkins
Norman Cain, Mark Dawkins
Sarah Bloom, Rosalyn Cliett
Devin Welsh, Dahmere Town, Kyle Howey, Mark Dawkins
Carol + Jordan McCullough
Kyle Howey, Dahmere Town
Natasha Hajo, Patricia Burton
3. FOLLOW THE NORTH STAR 221
FOUR HAIKU Night Sky Darkness all over out yonder Always with twinkling lights and Vermontâ€™s moonlight Night Sky, I wonder
Him Comely, love looking at him Mighty in stature and a meticulous dresser Yes, crazy about him
Hair Kinky coarse tightly curled 4ctype My natural hair always hungry for moisture Love, my nappy hair
Her Mother Earth, Mother Nature too Richly, royally, and naturally pigmented, sheâ€™s gorgeous Momma, I love you
PHOTOGRAPH My father was always angry when I was a teenager. He was an inventor, and a successful one at that. Forever coming up with wacky contraptions of questionable utility, my father eventually struck gold. On such an occasion, I recall my father hunkering over a large bit of metal in his musty workshop with the surprisingly pleasant scent of baked bread wafting out. With a start, the machine bounced into life and spat a piece of burnt bread into my father’s bearded face. Laughing, he picked me up and told me he’d done it, his beard now leopard-print with breadcrumbs. Our neighbors at the time, a young married couple would make for excellent lab rats, my father mused. So within the hour, John and sable-haired Linda were shuffled into my family’s basement to witness what my father had created. Linda thought it the best thing since sliced bread, and John, the new face of Connecticut GE, eyedthe machine conspicuously, clearly bemused. My father proceeded to go on about how all he’d needed to create the contraption was a mess of copper springs and a hefty magnet. I don’t know the intricacies, but when my family returned from visiting our cousins in Michigan, the patent for a “toaster” had already been filed, and owned by GE what seemed like days later. My father didn’t know what happened, but a few weeks later, we discovered the two shimmering sky-blue Cadillacs in the Jefferson’s driveway.
My father spent the rest of my adolescence waging a bitter court case against GE and John Jefferson. The proceedings left us broke and my father scarred, mentally and emotionally. Soon after the case began, John & Linda moved to Cape Cod, and thatâ€™s when I snuck into their house to find this photograph under a shred of carpet in their bedroom.
e s fiction-writing workshop
RAINY DAYS I was almost 7 when we (my mother, father, brothers and I) moved to our new house. By September of 2018, 15 years will have passed; f-i-f-t-e-e-n years, can you believe it? If only I could collect time like sand; if only I could relive each and every memory as easily as a grain of sand currently falls from my hand. I would count every single one diligently; I would tell some friends never to forget me. I would savor my feet in the rainy mud, knowing that times like that would become exceedingly rare. In my eyes then, our new house was big, almost too big. Much larger than the house we used to have. Our old house wasn’t a ‘house’ per say but an apartment that saw always the influx of several family members: grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles. When they came, they would bring stories from the village and of the trip to Lagos, stories peppered with Idoma (“Ada,” they would say to me, “you understand that, apo?”) narrated in accents different, much slower, than my quick, spritely Lagos accent. These stories were much better than cartoon network on TV, which we were hardly allowed to watch during the week anyway. I remember, at the dedication for the new house, going to my parents’ bedroom, and saying that it was “Big oooh” with the “oh“ dragged out, expressing my surprise. The color scheme had been brown, everything, the walls, the door. The curtains seemed like parts of something unending, one big space of brown. The walls later became sky blue, as did the curtains. My sister was born 2 years later in the blue.
In my mind, I imagined that my dad had built the house all by himself. Putting brick over brick, cement smeared between each brick, and he might as well. He was there every day at the site, pushing and prodding the workers. Inspecting the bricks, making sure he wasn’t getting cheated, shouting, screaming down their slovenliness. Sometimes, I would do ‘aproko’, put myself in a situation to really hear how the work was going. If I asked I would be given generic answers. But I wanted to know more, always wanted to know more. So I would pretend like I was sleeping, or hide behind the bed while my parents talked about the specifics. I learnt, and this stuck with me, that my dad once forced the workers to work till 9pm, almost unheard of, because he didn’t like the work they had done previously. In this new house, we weren’t allowed to put pencil scribbles on the walls as we did in the old house. My dad had rented the last one, so perhaps there it was more permissible. Scribbling had started something for me. It had taught me that I had the power to express myself, in a way that I would be heard even when I was long gone; of course I didn’t think that then when I was making scribbles. I just wanted to have fun, to be. One day, I expressed my dislike for a particular aunt on the wall just by the main door in the old house. I remember just having turned 4 years old (and having a huge birthday party), but I can’t remember what that particular aunt did. I remember, and this is one of the few things I remember from my early childhood, being so proud of myself. For one, I could finally write and also, at least she would see it. I even remember how my handwriting looked, big block letters, wonky of “I hate you Aunty Mary”. I like to imagine the people who rented the house after us got to see the letters just before it was painted over, and that they wondered who the child and Aunty Mary were. Daddy warned us severely, my two brothers and I then, not to scribble on the inner walls of the house because the paint was expensive. And when Daddy talked, we listened: He was lord, king and judge but we loved him so, even though he intimidated us at times without even saying a word. In my childhood, my father had always seemed so indestructible, big, towering. Nobody could mess 226
with my Dad on the playground or pull his hair. He was in a plane higher than mere mortals like I. We heeded this warning. So much so that my sister, who was not yet born or imagined, would join us to also heed the warning. Luckily for us, our new house wasn’t painted outside just yet. And the grainy, grey-colored and plastered concrete drew us like fruit flies to over-ripe fruit. We had found a new outlet, an even handier one than scribbling: making finger-prints on the concrete with mud. The problem was, you couldn’t always get the mud. We weren’t allowed to mix water from the gardening tap with soil because it would waste water. Not that we cared about that, but our Mother would scream our heads off if we did. Our family pumped our own water, like several families did. Because we had to pump the water, we had to buy a generator, which meant we had to buy diesel. Diesel was expensive, even in an oil-producing nation like ours. We couldn’t wait on Water Services to supply water to our house; it just couldn’t seem to handle the sprawling, tentacled city Lagos had become, seemingly overnight. So we had to get our own water somehow. Some families got wells but most who could afford to used pumps. Rainy days became special, especially the rains that completely drenched and filled the earth, the type that brought worms deep under the soil out of hiding. The type of rain you could smell coming from about 2 hours away. The smell of rain, to me, was the sweetest smell there was: indicative of an expressive near future. A smell that I would later find, in primary 4 while reading a big book of stuff, is called ‘Petrichor’.
Lagos had (and still has) only two seasons: Rainy and Dry Season, or really one, hot. The differences in the seasons were marked by different rainfall averages. As expected, the rainy season had the best type of rain and mid April was its peak season. We would usually be in school sometimes during the rains and would be happy to know that once we got back home, we would have mud to play with. 227
Sometimes we wouldn’t be in school, and those were the best parts of my late childhood. Once it would start raining, we would sit outside on the verandah, three little children with our thick sweaters that our Mother had had custom-made for us because she didn’t think the ones that were available were thick enough, and watch the rain fall. The rain was a relief from the hot humidity, and if our parents weren’t home, we would go out without the sweaters. We hated sweaters anyway; they were too itchy. As the rain fell, we would talk, laugh, play all the games you could possibly play on a not-quite-so-big verandah, waiting. When the rains stopped, torrents that ended at least 2 hours after the started, the soil would be watery. It would be poto-poto, mud. Perfect for finger-painting, mud-slinging if we were feeling adventurous, and just putting your bare foot in. I liked my foot bare in the mud especially, a habit that I still have not kicked. We were rabid, absolutely; we painted horses, our names, a house that looked very much like ours. Sometimes (most times) we fought over who got to paint what. Our paintings were all over our big house, with every rain emboldening us to spread further and further around the house. Sadly, we could not spread up, towards the green roof, because we could not reach so far. If we could, we would happily have fully covered the house with our original designs, to the chagrin of our father. Then one day we came back home to find the walls painted, now green with white applique. We had expected it; we had seen Daddy bring green paint home about 2 weeks ago. I was 9 at this time, my first brother was 7 and my second brother was 4 (he was so eager to tag along with us, a quality he no longer possesses as a brooding teenager). About 2 years had past since we had moved. From then on until I was 10, we would still sit under the verandah, and laugh and play while it rained but we would no longer mud-paint when the rain stopped. Instead, we would swap stories, tell jokes and laugh. Sometimes, and these were rare, we would quietly have a warm cup of bournvita instead.
It was around this time, maybe a year later at 11 years old and with the help of my mother, that I discovered the magic of books. So from then on, till now whenever I am back home from university abroad, I read outside on the verandah. Every time I go home, I find something has changed since they last time I visited. One room has been painted purple instead of pink; an old chair (which now thinking about it brings up so many memories) is gone; the dining room is finally organized. But the rain remains a very familiar, very kind, very old friend. It whispers the same sweet pitter-pattering song, blocking out, for a moment, the hurried frenzied sounds of Lagos.
the first fe
e gr ndchi d of y gr nd other
r h is so
my grandmother’s name. I quite like it because people have said I look a lot like her.  Apo: Idoma equivalent of “right?”  Aproko: someone who pokes his nose into other people’s business. To be fair, it was my business too to since it was also going to be my house.  Maybe it is no surprise that I would grow to be a bit of a perfectionist, just like him. I never rest until it is “perfect”, though I know perfection does not truly exist.  Sometimes he still feels like that to me, although adulthood has managed to make him less super, and more man. y itt e sister wo d go on to find her
ischie o s o t et in trying to ord o er brother th t
was 3 years older than she, and barraging my Skype with millions of emojis just because she could.  Bournvita: popular hot chocolate brand in Nigeria.
A MODERN DAY CINDERFELLA STORY The Philadelphia Eagles road to victory reads like a fairy tale. The team defied the odds to defeat the legendary New England Patriots. For many of the die-hard Eagle fans, that bleed green, it was the fulfillment of a long time dream. I’m not a Philadelphia native, but I can understand their excitement. For generations (50+ years) loyal fans had come to many football games, in all kinds of weather to cheer the home team to victory. They all wanted to witness their team come up as winner, of “the big one.” Sometimes they would get to the playoffs and sometimes they wouldn’t. They were always considered great contenders and they always had a loyal fan base. I was in Philadelphia when the Flyers won the Stanley Cup, and the Phillies won the World Series. Philadelphia is a destination city because of its ties to history. When the Pope came to America he stopped by Philadelphia and the city threw him a parade. When Sylvester Stallone filmed the story of Rocky Balboa, his statue of Rocky became more famous than the real local champ. Joe Frazier: He was the world undisputed heavyweight champion from 1970 – 1973. Maybe “Smokin Joe,” will be remembered mostly, as the opponent of Muhammad Ali, the GOAT (greatest of all time). Their fights were epic. At the start of the season, Carson Wentz appeared to have the keys to the Super Bowl. He was accurate, mobile and fearless. The team was blowing out their opponents and still seen by many outsiders, as least likely to win. When Wentz was injured, the whole fan base “wrenched in pain.” It was like a big balloon popped for the whole city. Nick Foles was the backup quarterback for a team in which the primary quarterback was setting 230
records. Which means Nick had to knock the rust off the old arm, and start firing rockets. Game 1. Eagles 30 – Redskins 17. (Eagles had 2 turnovers, Redskins had 4). As the coach, Doug Pederson, got doused after winning the season opener, Columnist Mike Sielski said “It was a small sign of solidarity and support from the players who liked Pederson and who used him, as a convenient and maybe even genuine source of motivation for the game.” Game 2. Chiefs 27 – Eagles 20. (Eagles had 2 turnovers, Chiefs had none). Eagle safety Malcolm Jenkins said, “We felt like we had control for the 3 1/2 quarters. But when you let a team especially in that atmosphere, linger around in games, it’s tough to come out on top.” Game 3. Eagles 27 – Giants 24. (A nail biter!) Rookie Jake Elliott beats the Giants with a 61-yard field goal near the end of the game. Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News beat writer Les Bowen said “The Giants, desperate to avoid falling to 0-3, went from being shut out to being ahead in the space of 5 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter before the Eagles caught a toehold and clawed back.” Game 4. Eagles 26 – Chargers 24. (A tight game, but they pulled it out). Carson Wentz said, “It’s really big for us… starting with three out of four on the road. Last year we could never find a way to win tight ball games. This year … we’re starting to learn that a little bit.” Game 5. Eagles 34 – Cardinals 7. (A blow out performance) Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz said, “It was probably the most complete game since I’ve been here. All three phases contributing. It was a dominating performance…The most fun game I’ve been a part of for a long time.” 231
Game 6. Eagles 28 -Panthers 23. (Eagles were on the spot, but Wentz was hot!) “On a night when the Eagles faced off against a former NFL MVP who has appeared in a Super Bowl, Wentz was the best quarterback on the field by a wide margin. Cam Newton made enough plays to keep things interesting down to the end, but it was … Wentz who made the difference.” Columnist David Murphy. Game 7. Eagles 34 – Redskins 24. (A bittersweet win!). Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Peterson said, “It’s bittersweet a little bit. We’re excited to get the win but the realization is we got a couple [injured] in this game.” Jordan Hicks and Jason Peters. Game 8. Eagles 33 – 49ers 10. (Jalen went wailing!) Eagles’ cornerback Jalen Mils said,“They had been grilling me all week, talking about how I had no return skills. That kind of went through my mind, so I cut it back. I had to get to the end zone or I wouldn’t have stopped hearing that, for certain.” Beat writer Les Bowen said, “On a gloomy, slippery, sodden afternoon, Jalen Mills neon green hair shone forth from thE Eagles sideline like a beacon…Mills 37-yard interception return for a touchdown, just before halftime was the dagger.” Game 9. Eagles 51 – Broncos 23. (The numbers do the talking!) “The Eagles are as close to dominance as the NFL has right now. They are averaging 31.4 points per game, and they have not scored fewer than 26 points during their seven-game winning streak.” Judy Battista, NFL.com. Game 10. Eagles 37 – Cowboys 9. (Defense was the difference with 4 sacks and 4 forced turnovers). “Doug Pederson’s steady hand has helped carry his team past first-half obstacles. When the Eagles went to the visitors’ locker room at half-time [trailing 9-7], there was no need for a tongue-lashing or a rousing speech. Pederson trust his players and coaches to be professional, and that’s how he has treated them.” Columnist Jeff McLane. Game 11. Eagles 31 – Bears 3. (The Bears were branded by Brandon’s 5 tackles and 2 sacks). “Jim Schwartz’s defense did not allow a touchdown for the second game in a row…The six rushing yards allowed Sunday represented the lowest total by an Eagles opponent since 1950.” Beat writer Les Bowen. Game 12. Seahawks 24 – Eagles 10. (They wanted to, but you don’t win them all). “For the first time in nearly two months, Doug Pederson and the 232
Eagles found themselves in a game in which every decision, every call, and every mistake mattered.” Columnist Jeff McLane. Game 13. Eagles 43 – Rams 35. (A bittersweet win). A knee injury changes the game. “It was bound to happen. Carson Wentz gambled with the footballs gods, one time too many and paid the price.” Columnist Jeff McLane. Game 14. Eagles 34 – Giants 29. (Foles steps in, and the special teams blocks 3 kicks). “By no ends should the 2017 NFL East champions have been clawing and scratching … backed against their end zone by a team that hadn’t scored … 20 points in any of it’s previous four games, was about to fall 2-12 … had just un-benched its starting quarterback … and was playing under an interim head coach.” Beat writer Les Bowen. Nick Foles, who considered quitting the game, was a good quarterback who didn’t get enough actual playing time until Carson Wentz got injured. As the backup, he had to find his rhythm with the coach and the rest of the team. The Eagles were considered underdogs even with Wentz was winning, because it had been so long. Since it had been so long from their last big dance. With Foles at the helm, many didn’t know if he had the bark or the bite. Game 15. Eagles 19 – Raiders 10. (This game made sure that that the path to the Super Bowl went through Philly) “The Eagles… clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC … ensuring that any path to the Super Bowl goes through Philadelphia. But it’s fair to wonder how far down that path they’ll go with the way Nick Foles and the offense played.” Beat writer Zach Berman. Game 16. Cowboys 6 – Eagles 0. (Oops the Eagles messed up) “We still won 13 games. No 1 seed. Everyone got to come through Philly I don’t care if [a reporter was] started at quarterback. We should be confident in that… So yeah, I don’t care who we have as quarterback , who we have at offense, we’d take those odds.” Malcolm Jenkins. Too many Eagles fans had seen Boston and New York walk across the World’s Largest Stage. They wanted that title added to the teams and the cities’ name. Many of the Eagles greats who played for a long time never received the top price. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great recognition, but the Vince Lombardi Trophy is for the whole team.
In many interviews, sports reporters ask the question, how does it feel to win the Super Bowl? Almost all of the players said, it’s what they dreamed about since they were kids. The Philadelphia Eagles took the underdog title and used it for motivation. As a results they fought a battle that will be remembered for a long time. It was the highest scoring game in Super Bowl history. The Patriots lost, but Tom Brady threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns. There is a reason why they call him the GOAT (the greatest of all time). Nick Foles also made a little history by throwing for 373 yards and becoming the first ever player to pass and catch a touchdown, in a Super Bowl game. Brandon Graham strip sack caused the Patriots to lose their fourth-ever Super Bowl loss and was the third for Brady and coach Bill Belichick. Another highlight was a reception and run by Zach Ertz which brought up the question was he a receiver or runner? The ref’s got it right, and the fans in Philly nation were getting ready to book their flight for the big celebration. The story continues, this is just the road, to the final trip. Fifty + years is a lot of time. If you don’t write your memories of special times like this, how will the next generation know. I started blogging a few years ago to keep my mind active. If you want to learn how to put your story together, see how I did it at my blog: https://hackettglobalmarketing.com.
THE NEW WORD OF GOD Two men converse on a sunlit porch. The host is hale, his visitor not. They dream to carry Liberty’s torch: Despotic tyrants the pair will scorch With truth-borne words replacing slingshot. The sick one decries the status quo; The healthy man flays the war machine And rhapsodizes the golden glow Of revolutionary tableaux Exterminating all deeds obscene. The ill man asks, holding up a book, How can we heal our society? You cannot ask me to overlook My Bible’s lies and gobbledygook Masquerading as propriety. Paranoid laugh, then persistent nod. Believe me, friend, the game is not lost. Let’s change the cover, mere minor fraud, Rename this tome The New Word of God And learn the “Poems of Robert Frost.”
PRIVATE LIBRARY O, authors of infinite books, scribes of forever, I hear your cries emanating from shelves in a wood-paneled velvet-draped library where ladies and gentlemen store their unread First Editions. You, Benjamin Franklin and George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe, you have become collectible, stacked side-by-side slave-ship style. Unlikely neighbors. Involuntary intimates. The words contained inside the flat-bound hand-tooled something-or-other leather, thoughts that made you valuable when you lived, pronouncements you authored -- this is why youâ€™re still remembered like childhood afternoons of cut grass and lakeside breezes. Because rarity and not what they say on the page now makes these blessed books a valuable commodity, let us henceforth commence to composing troves of tomes with print runs of one. Weâ€™ll snatch from vapor the kind of luck you can only buy, then one day in the cold dead future, when it will be difficult for us to fully enjoy, our work will be worthy of collection by the better sort of readers, the hoarders with no interest in reading. 238
RuNett Nia Ebo
MY SENIOR YEAR My senior year at Olney High School was filled with traumas and triumphs. One of the trials was the desegregation of Olney High. They claimed it wasnâ€™t necessary but we were quietly bussed to Front and Duncannon to attend. Our prom was a trial because it was in October. We had barely started our senior year and were already going to prom. I had a different escort because my boyfriend and I broke up during the summer. I did pretty well in school which made me happy, but it was the same year Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. We conducted our own protest by marching from school to City Hall. All the students standing together for something.
CHAINED TO ME 3/14/18 Chained to me something you were not ordained to be but you remained with me While this cancer is a pain to me it is not plain to see how this disease is oh so gradually stealing life from me. Grateful to you that fateful day I got the news you were so faithful but I reacted in a way that was so hateful to you, you were graceful and true despite what I put you through. Now, Iâ€™m regretting all the drama that I hurled at you. Shameful of me I made you the target of the grief that came closing in on me not how itâ€™s supposed to be when I need you desperately in this hour of distress when my future seems to be a question mark.
SEA GREEN bury your bones in the sea just to see how heavy you actually are heavy human with heavy footfalls what weighs you down? has your humanity weighed them down? will you finally feel your weight on this world? is it gravity or the weight of living? the average human weight is 137 pounds while the weight of the world pushing down is 14.7 pounds add about 151.7 pounds to all you’ve been through to all you’ve done what a heavy human you’ve become
MY WORLD DOESN’T FIT IN A CARRY-ON BAG I moved twice as I grew up. Out of a 2-room apartment into a house, later into a larger house during my freshman year of high school. When I first entered my room, I looked at the brand-new Ikea furniture, the mattress covered in plastic wrapping, and the pile of books scattered on the desk and wondered about the moment when I was to leave my room and never come back. As time went by, I dreamt of coming to the states to find an education above what Romania had to offer. I worked tirelessly for two years. When the acceptance e-mail came, my dad hugged me with a proud smile as my mother stroked my hair. From that point on, I waited. As the departure drew closer, I grew inexplicably estranged to the world around. I looked at my family at the dinner table and couldn’t bring myself to talk, as if an invisible wall kept me back. Walking the same streets of Bucharest I had known for years now felt like walking through a dissipating dream. As much as I dreamed of the States, I was completely unprepared to face them. The world here had no understanding of who I was. As time went by, I started noticing a strange feeling of lacking. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but some things were missing. I woke up every morning in silence and went to bed alone. When I traveled to the states, I left behind my country’s history, my
education, my family and my friends. I flew here knowing all that. What I hadn’t realized before was much of who I was remained home with them. I sought out people and places who would help me make sense of who I was becoming. Slowly but surely, the passions and hobbies I had left behind found their way back to me. I bought a classical guitar and returned to my three years long study process, and 180 colored markers to add to my 130 colored pencils, to begin drawing again. I was making sense again. One day, I walked past a room I had never noticed before. That fact that I didn’t know of it was curious since I had explored most of Drexel during my first two months of college. Two large doors plated with chalkboard paint stood open towards a modern interior. Above the entrance, “Writers Room” was written inside a grey, outlining rectangle. I thought Cool! and walked away. The next time I passed by the entrance, I began wondering what went on inside. A quiet, incomprehensible chatter snuck outside the room enough,only to raise my curiosity. I saw a professor walk outside the room and studied him carefully, trying to figure out what possible connections he had to the place. As straightforward as the title “Writers Room” was, I still had no idea what went on inside. I theorized it must’ve been a faculty lounge for the English department, because of how alluring I found 243
the interior to be when snooping inside. For almost a month, I walked past the room annoyed at my curiosity, convinced I wasn’t allowed inside. One afternoon, I stood 10 feet away from the door, staring straight at the entrance. With my hands clenched to the straps of my backpack, I took on a defiant expression and walked it. “I’m doing it, and nobody can stop me. This is it!” Contrary to my expectations, nobody stopped me from walking in. I marched to the center of the room, then stood there frozen. Like a dog chasing a car, I had no idea what to do now that I had caught it. A girl sitting at a desk in one of the offices leaned towards her desk to see me better, squinting her eyes in confusion. When she saw my lost face and realized I was new, she got off her chair smiling and introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Lauren. Have you ever been to the Writers Room before?” She shook my hand and took me on a little tour of the space. She guided me into her office and pulled a thick grey curtain in the back of the room, revealing a small chamber with no windows. To the left of the entrance sat a grey bookcase, with books categorized by handwritten pen on paper scotch tape. In front, a small comfortable striped couch with two decorative pillows. To the right, a large vintage desk modestly illuminated by the yellow light of two table lamps. The desk they gave me in my rented dorm space is about half the size of the one I had home. It can barely fit my pencils and markers. Writers Room’s large, wooden desk could easily fit all my belongings, allowing me to try and draw stuff I’d never made before. I bought a A2 size paper (4 times larger than the frequently used letter size, copy paper) and walked into Writers Room once more. I pulled the thick gray curtains, secluding myself inside the safety of the tiny library, and took out my large sheet of paper, carefully placing it at the center of the desk. I arranged my graphite pencils
to the left of it, sat down with my headphones on and started drawing. Identity is a profoundly intrapersonal concept. Who and what I am is defined only by and through my choice of action. Still, when it went missing, I freaked out and started looking for it outside. The more my search persisted, the more the answers eluded me. It seemed as if every action I considered only corroded my certainty. As I delineated the outlines of my drawing, I felt the fog over my eyes slowly dissipate. As the drawing revealed itself, a spark of comfort slowly caught aflame in my chest. As my hand guided the lines staining the white piece of paper, I found myself once more in my parentsâ€™ bedroom, jumping on their bed yelling I got into Drexel. I felt the last embrace of my high-school sweetheart as we parted for college. I heard my best friend laugh as we were fighting to stay awake the last night we spent together. The room felt familiar, and I felt at home. For a brief, fleeting moment, I was myself again. When I stood up to leave, the warm familiarity of the room seemed to remain attached to the pale lamplight now glowing over the empty desk. I put my large sheet of paper away in the service closet and left for class. As I walked away, only one thing remained: The discovery that my world and identity were both hidden in a pale library, in the back of Writers Room.
EXCERPT FROM “ANIMATED PHOTO ALBUM” The arrival into the new city was slow, very slow. The highway was congested, the traffic barely moving. From its elevation, I could see the city, tall buildings and the river. I was staying at a boutique hotel, nothing sophisticated, I didn’t need it, I expected just to come back to sleep, and I was right. Everyday I returned late. The city is well recognized by its murals. I was impressed by the number of enormous designs covering entire buildings. That made it difficult to drive, I became distracted. I stopped several times just to admire the quality of the designs. Many of them represent historic times, while others are colorful compositions adorning the cityscape. Some are traditional, while others are more experimental showing attractive tri-dimensionality, sculptural neon lights or reflections on their mirror mosaics. Each city is unique. Despite the similarities with NYC, Philly has its trolleys, not like those in San Francisco having converted rubber tires, but the real ones, with steel wheels, electric overhead power wires, not cables. The trolley rails reflected the sun. At times, it was somewhat uncomfortable to drive, even wearing sunglasses. They were polished, as if they were new. Trolleys share the roads with the other public transportation, buses, regular traffic and bike lanes. They give the city an atmospheric representation, an aroma from the past. The motor doesn’t go chung, chung, or the bell ding, ding as Judy Garland sang, yet, there is certain melancholy bringing to the present a time that won’t return. The first ones I visualized 246
were modern, white, clean, obviously new; nevertheless, my nostalgia for my European upbringing showed up when I saw the old green ones, covered with the touch of pollution, round corners, moving with certain difficulty, as elders do. I pulled off, merely to observe the vehicle advancingâ€Ś
Crossing the city means crossing the river. As the trolley stopped at a red light, I stared at the calm water, a couple of boats were floating. It was not unusual that communities developed their civilizations along the river banks. However, itâ€™s not the rivers which I like, itâ€™s the bridges. My fascination started at a tender age when I spent hours and hours building them with construction toy sets; indeed, it was before the LEGO was introduced to the market. 247
I counted: one, two, three, four, five.... It was the many bridges that captivated me. All of a sudden, I realized how many pictures of my past were vividly projected in front of me, as an animated photo album. I got mixed feelings, liking the vision, yet bringing nostalgic experiences from childhood and my entire life made me sad. Is this the way aging manifests itself? There they were: private images accumulated for so many years all together framed by the trolley window. Click, the river. Click, the housing. Click the museums, click, click, click, click, clickâ€Ś
Three days going north to south, east to west, and back to my headquarters offered evocative imagery of my personal life. A polysyllabic poetic composition of color, shapes, rhythm and texture captivated my senses. I feel I am here and everywhere at the same time. At night, the luminosity of contemporary buildings that conform the city skylines captivated me. The reflection of the buildings, big and small on the river made me feel at home.
George L. Starks
IF WE HAD JAZZ From “An Evening of Music In Exploration of Another Brooklyn” George L. Starks, Jr., is Professor of Music and Director of the Jazz Orchestra, Jazztet, and Saxtet, at Drexel University. What follows is an excerpt from his remarks that accompanied the Jazztet’s performance on March 9, 2018, an event that was part of the citywide One Book One Philadelphia celebration of Jacqueline Woodson’s novel, Another Brooklyn. This excerpt includes Starks’s opening remarks and others that introduced the performances of five songs that were played: “Anthropology,” Song for My Father,” “Take the A Train,” “Melba’s Tune,” and “St. Thomas.” I agreed to do this before having read Another Brooklyn. Before I knew anything about the book, I had an interest in Jacqueline Woodson. I knew that her mother brought her at a young age from Ohio to South Carolina - to Greenville to be exact, a city that is about 30 miles from my hometown of Anderson. I have a great interest in things dealing with South Carolina. I was also interested in Ms. Woodson because her mother later took her to Brooklyn. Most of the rather large paternal side of my family moved to Brooklyn during the Second Great Migration (1940 - 1970), although my father and one of his brothers did not. Also when I was growing up, baseball was truly the national pastime, and in black communities, most people were Brooklyn Dodger fans. That was because this was the team that brought Jackie Robinson (1947) to Major League Baseball; soon after the Dodgers added Roy Campanella (1948), Don Newcombe (1949), 250
and other black stars (Joe Black, Junior Gilliam, etc.). The first Major League game that I attended was at Ebbets Field, the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The ladies on the Drexel organizing committee for this evening’s program probably did not know those things about me, but they did know to excerpt something from the book that would likely entice me to say “yes” to participating. That was a quote from August, the main character in the book-” If we had had jazz, would we have survived differently?” So I am here along with the Drexel University Jazztet.
Anthropology The piece that we heard was a composition titled “Anthropology.” I wanted to start with that piece because August (Woodson's main character) was an anthropologist. She said that as a child, she had not known the word anthropology. Growing up, I had not known the word ethnomusicology, but the word is not necessarily the thing. Even as a young person, she might have been doing things that were anthropological. I know that my experiences as a young musician during my teen years led to my becoming an ethnomusicologist. If she had had the music that is popularly known as jazz, she might have at least known the word anthropology. That is the
title of one of the best known compositions by Charles Parker, Jr., one of the most important figures in music in the United States in the 20th century, and by extension, one of the most influential figures in the world of music in the 20th century. Anthropology is a field of study that deals with culture, with social relations, with ancestors, and to make a blanket definition of the field, with people. Jazztet Plays Anthropology
Song for My Father One of the most important songs in the literature of African American music is Horace Silverâ€™s â€œSong for My Father.â€? It is important because of the way that black men have been portrayed to the general public since their arrival on these shores. It serves as an antidote to those depictions that have purposely made black men the most demonized beings in this country. It seems not to matter that the unpaid labor of black men and women built this country. It seems not to matter that even today, when black men can find jobs, their pay is often such that it is difficult for black families to climb out of poverty. I often think about the fact that when I was in high school, I frequently made more money playing gigs on the weekend than many, if not most, of the black men in my hometown were able to earn although they worked every day and had families to feed. I often think about the fact that although my father honorably served this country, he never lived a day as a first class citizen. I often think about the fact that my father had to make enormous sacrifices in order to provide for his family. I think about my sons who are wonderful fathers. 252
I think about the “talk” that black parents have to have with their male offspring. I think about all of the men that I know who are perfectly described in Horace Silver’s song. August returned to Brooklyn as an adult for the funeral of her father - the man who brought her - along with her brother - from Tennessee to Brooklyn in order to start a new life. Jazztet plays “Song for My Father” Song for My Father (Horace Silver) – Beginning lyrics: If there was ever a man Who was generous, gracious and good That was my dad The man
Take the ‘A’ Train Trains have always been important in African American history and culture, whether metaphorically as in the Underground Railroad, or as in the Great Migrations with the Southern, Seaboard, Illinois Central, and other rail lines. Local rail lines have also been important and no train has been better known than the legendary “A” train of the New York City subway system. It is best known as “the quickest way to get to Harlem,” as the song’s lyrics tell us. The song stems from Duke Ellington’s telling a young Pittsburgher named Billy Strayhorn how to locate him when he came to New York - “you take the A train to Sugar Hill in Harlem” which is where Ellington lived.” Strayhorn took those directions and created a song that became Ellington’s theme song and a jazz anthem.
Not as well known is that the line also extends into Brooklyn. There is a chorus in “Take the A Train” that recognizes this fact. A chorus that few people seem to know - even those who are quite familiar with “A Train.” That chorus goes: Get aboard the “A” Train To take a little ride around the city Brooklyn or Broadway train You’ll see that old New York is mighty pretty While the “A Train” does not go to Bushwick where the novel is set, it can get you to Brooklyn and you can make connections. In the mid 1930s, the “A” train became a connection between BedfordStuyvesant in Brooklyn and Harlem in Manhattan, providing a means of travel between the principal African American communities in those respective boroughs. Jazztet Plays “Take the ‘A’ Train”
Melba’s Tune Jacqueline Woodson thinks that the young women in her novel would see mirrors of themselves in this music called jazz. The next piece was written by Melba Liston. Ms. Liston was a master trombonist, composer and arranger. A prodigy, she studied with Ms. Alma Hightower, a legendary African American music educator, Ms. Liston joined the orchestra of Gerald Wilson at age seventeen, and later played in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. Among those with whom she collaborated was a Brooklynite, Randy Weston. She worked with Weston for around four decades, and arranged many of his classic compositions, including many with African themes. Although she had to give up the trombone after suffering a stroke, she continued to write music with the aid of a computer.
Ms. Liston’s “Melba’s Tune” is one of the most beautiful ballads in the literature of jazz. Jazztet Plays “Melba’s Tune”
St. Thomas Sylvia came to Brooklyn with her family from the island of Martinique. Gigi came to Brooklyn from South Carolina. Angela said that she was from Brooklyn, and August had come up to Brooklyn with her brother and father from Tennessee. Music shows African Americans their connection to Africans on the continent, to Africans in South America, to Africans in the Caribbean, and to Africans elsewhere in North America. The great pianist Randy Weston called the Bed-Sty in which he grew up an African village. The personnel of the group “Black Magic” in which I played included a Ghanaian master drummer, a trap drummer of Caribbean descent, a pianist who was a gospel music scholar, a vocalist from Connecticut, horn players from Memphis, Boston, and Anderson, SC, and a bassist who subsequently performed with musicians ranging from Earl “Fatha” Hines to Wadada Leo Smith. The music that we played drew from various traditions in the African world. One of my favorite musicians is the saxophonist Sonny Rollins. In 1958, Rollins recorded his “Freedom Suite.” In the liner notes for the album, Rollins wrote, “How ironic that the Negro, who more than any other people can claim America’s culture as his own, is being persecuted and repressed; that the Negro, who has exemplified the humanities in his very existence, is being rewarded with inhumanity.” “Freedom Suite” was also the original title of the album on which it appeared, but those copies were soon withdrawn and the album was reissued under the name of another composition on the recording (“Shadow Waltz”). I purchased a copy of the album 255
that had no album title, no liner notes, and the packaging was a plain white heavyweight record jacket wrapped in clear plastic. Mr. Rollins’ stature is such that he is sometimes referred to as jazz’s greatest living improviser. He is also one of my favorite calypsonians. In his work he draws heavily upon the traditional music of his parents’ native Virgin Islands. The roots of both musics (jazz and calypso) are the same, and they are quite compatible. Rollins is just one of many jazz musicians with Caribbean roots. Though not a Brooklynite, Rollins acquired the nickname “Newk” because of his resemblance to pitcher Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He is famous for having used the Williamsburg Bridge, a bridge that connects Manhattan with Brooklyn, as a place to practice. There has been a move recently to have the bridge renamed in honor of Mr. Rollins. We are going to close with his most famous calypso, St. Thomas, in honor of August, Angela, Gigi, Sylvia, Jacqueline Woodson, and all of you. Please say thank you to our vocalist Kara Delucia, to tenor saxophonist Craig VanRemoortel, trumpeter Patrick Fitzgerald, guitarist Timothy Stolwyk, pianist Daniel Perlman, bassist Joshua Honey, drummer Rhys Evans, and thank you for coming. Jazztet Plays “St. Thomas”
Carol Richardson McCullough
DREAMING WRITERS HOUSE The Writers House, as I understand it, is to be a greater extension of the Writers Room concept, where select writers (Drexel students and Mantua-Powelton/West Philadelphia community members) would not only come together and write, but also reside together, in addition to offering writing sessions and other activities on site periodically. It would also be one instance of neighborhood placement rather than the dis-placement that has historically accompanied university expansion into neighborhoods. WH residents would live in a remodeled home with land space and embellishment with murals. It would be a hub of creativity, with serious production happening on site. It would also be a living space, a home where the two groups would cohabit and create. There could be a neighborhood family occupying the space, in addition to single neighborhood residents, and Drexel students in either single or double living space, with floor plan designed to accommodate such arrangements. Students would reside in the house for a year, while neighbors would opt for a more lengthy period. The neighborhood component would be priced as more “affordable living” to combat the rental increase which usually forces local people to move out so students can move in and pay higher rents that fatten landlords’ coffers. I got involved in the project as a result of my dedication to Writers Room, and, of course, my experience with being forced to move out of my apartment when my landlord (illegally) sold the property to a company which rehabbed and refurbished it, and then raised the rent and rented it out to students. Also, I had heard of the Kelly Writers House on Penn campus and knew that lots of authors, poets, and wordsmiths had frequent offerings open to the 257
community, but I had never attended a function there. When I finally did, I was so impressed with the vibe of the space. There was an incredibly warm and welcoming atmosphere as people gathered to listen to the writers present. At the reception I was able to take note of the surroundings, and I noticed students and others ascending the stairs to access another level, so I inquired, “Does anyone live here?” I mean, beyond being a marvelous venue for poetry readings and literary panel discussions, it was a house. A student told me, “No.” And so I said, “Why not?!” And the possibilities just flooded my mind. The students, who were mostly some variation of English majors, were the perfect hosts, keeping the hors d’oeuvres trays filled and the wine bottles flowing. They seemed to have an energetic camaraderie as they circulated throughout the house, almost as if they lived there. It made me wonder, “‘What if?’…and then, ‘Why not?’” ***If the sky were the limit, and I could shape the House of my dreams… It would be designed to have a common area downstairs where small public functions could be held. It could also be made into a cozy hangout for everyday use as well. This area would have nice but practical and comfortable furnishings. There would be a small kitchen. Lots of windows, but probably bars on them. The house would be partitioned/walled into single rooming rooms with a common bathroom and shared kitchen, plus an apartment that could house a family, with two or three bedrooms. There would be BOOKSHELVES throughout the house, some cases even built into the walls. Writers are readers. Their books need a home, too. A mural (done in collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia, of course) would adorn a side of the house. Quotations could be 258
written on the sidewalk. There would be mosaics in some form as well. Thereâ€™d be a garden, perhaps two. Vegetable and flower (if no residents had allergies to flowers). We could plant an apple tree or two. There could be a balcony where residents could sit outside, above the hubbub below. The possibility of living in a super creative space at a price that I could afford I found very appealing. Opportunities for learning as well as creating, learning to come together and live together, learning from each other old and new ways, creating art in a peaceful environment, would all be positive gains as I see it. Now, with word of a first funder passing on us, it creates both the familiar sadness which follows rejection, as well as a feeling of determination and hopefulness at the prospect of refining the design and perhaps seeking alternative funding, to make it happen anywayâ€Ś Stay tuned.
THE WRITERS Liz Abrams is a Writers Room community member and a member of the side-by-side class Poetry of Place. Sarah Adigba is from Lagos, Nigeria. She has been writing as a way to answer the questions gnawing in her heart. When sheâ€™s not studying for exams, sheâ€™s reading a lot more than she is writing. She is a senior Chemical Engineering major at Drexel. Angela Arrey-Wastavino is an international educator, researcher, visual artist, and occasionally, a fiction writer. Having lived around the world has inspired her to enjoy every moment in life and making friends wherever she goes. She currently resides in Philadelphia, PA. Brenda Bailey is a Writers Room community member and is a member of the Canon Tripod group. Sarah Bloom is a senior Art History major at Drexel. She is a Philadelphia native with a love for baking and cats. She was part of the Canon Tripod project this year. Patricia Burton is a Writers Room community member and was a member of the Canon Tripod project. Norman Cain was born in 1942 and raised on Olive Street in West Philadelphia. He graduated in 1964 from Bluefield State College in West Virginia where he majored in social science and minored in English. A retired social worker, teacher, father of five and grandfather of seven, he is active in several writing groups, including the Best Day of My Life So Far at the Germantown Senior Center. This year he has been a member of the Canon Tripod group. Rosalyn Cliett is a native resident of Philadelphia who loves to write and do anything creative. She came to the Dornsife to use their computer when she heard of the Writers Room, then the side by side Philadelphia story, which are not only exciting but stretched her. Both are essential to her destiny. Roger Converse is a deacon in the Anglican church and located in Philly from the Boston area for seminary in 1989. He also works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship teaching ESL and Bible intro to international students and scholars at U. of Penn. He has old travel journals that he would like share with those who would like 260
to read them, and “Getting Clean” (in this volume) is part of that endeavor. Amir Curry is a West Philadelphia native and a junior at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber. He is passionate about art and writing, and participated in the Canon Tripod project. Mark Dawkins is a senior at Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia. He used to be a boxer, but has never been knocked out, because you only get KO’d when you’re not paying attention. And he is always paying attention. He was part of the Canon Tripod project. Alicia DeSimone is a senior Photography major at Drexel. She is grateful to have been part of the Canon Tripod project and to have worked with her Philadelphia neighbors, who she can now call her friends. She encourages anyone and everyone to pick up a camera and get out there. RuNett Nia Ebo studied Elementary Education at Clark College in the late sixties but her career path changed when she decided to devote her time to using her poetry to reach young people, women in transition and individuals in and out of prison. She is a selfpublished poet and has contributed two poems to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She established a poetry venue called POET-IFY: Poetry to Edify (2006) that she co-hosts with Victoria H. Peurifoy. Johngeline Ferguson is a member of the Writers Room community. Valerie Fox teaches writing at Drexel University. She is especially interested in collaborative and interdisciplinary work. She has been doing collaborative writing with poet Arlene Ang for over ten years now (time flies). Earl Hackett is a writer, blogger, author, and entrepreneur born in Detroit MI. He came to Philly to attend Drexel after serving time in the Air Force. Graduated and commissioned in the Army, he is now retired but writing. Writers Room makes him look at things a little more poetically. Natasha Hajo is a junior English major who is still unsure of how to pump her own gas—a direct result of growing up in New Jersey. She 261
uses copious amounts of coffee to help spew out jittery words onto pages late at night. She loves to love and loves to write. Kyle Howey is an undergraduate student at Drexel, studying English (BA). A former Game Design major with grounded passions in writing and the humanities, he aspires to pursue work in the publishing industry, where he can help other people make their dream novels a reality. He’s a participant in the Canon Tripod project. James Howley is a participant in Professor Nomi Eve’s side-by-side fiction workshop. Briyanna Hymms is a senior Biology major at Drexel with a minor in Writing. She makes a mean paper crane and often feels like an unofficial Fine Arts major. You can find her art on display at the Writers Room studio and the writing center. She’s a regular participant in Writers Room workshops. Jasmine James is a senior English major at Drexel who strives to involve herself within the Philadelphia community. Writers Room has given her the space to reflect on her personal connections and the stories of her friends and family. She was part of the Canon Tripod project this year. Elena Karanfilian is a participant in Professor Nomi Eve’s side-byside fiction workshop. Kirsten Kaschock is an Assistant Professor at Drexel and a bit of an elf. She is a poet because she believes things put together in just the right way make magic. Carin Spotted Eagle The Oldest Butterfly (Creek Nation) spends time in Indian and First Nations Reservations. Carin Spotted Eagle began writing poetry in 1989 and has accumulated 797 typed poems. She has written a series of eight children’s stories and four additional manuscripts. She writes for several blogs and has produced Mr. Jolly & His Posse in the Last DNA. Rahkinah Laurel is a member of the Writers Room community. She’s a resident of Mantua and attended Morton McMichael Elementary School, University City High School, and Community College of Philadelphia. 262
Lauren Lowe is a Drexel alum and ArtistYear fellow currently teaching creative writing at Paul Robeson High School. She is a regular member of Writers Room and a fervent Sixers fan—both have taught her how to trust the process. Carol Richardson McCullough writes to give life to her fantasies, dreaming out loud on paper, to capture things that might otherwise slip away—remembering, exploring, processing, recording, sharing, and celebrating—because the world is filled with wonders too fantastic to ignore. She is an Afrolachian poet and memoirist at heart, a native West Virginian now residing in Philly, re-writing her life’s story. This year she has been a member of the Canon Tripod group. Jordan McCullough was born in Washington, DC and has lived in Philadelphia for two decades. He is a graduate of Philadelphia Academy Charter High School and the Mural Arts Philadelphia Art Education Program. He is an avid movie fan who enjoys drawing and writing every day. Frequently he sits in on workshops and Writers Room events, lending his unique voice. Creativity is key to his world. This year he has been a member of the Canon Tripod group. Yonique Myrie grew up in Jamaica, where she developed a sense of uniqueness and a desire to explore. Such exploration took place through writing. Her writing provides her with an avenue to express that which is left unspoken. She writes from the heart. Christine Nieman is a Drexel alum with a degree in Psychology and a regular member of Writers Room. Victoria Huggins Peurifoy is a retired federal employee. She is a poet, spoken-word artist, author, ghostwriter, photographer, facilitator, student, Uber driver, mother of four, and a grandmother of eight. A native of West Philadelphia, she currently resides in Germantown. This year she has been a member of the Canon Tripod project. Kaliyah Pitts is a senior at Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia. She is an aspiring photographer and would love to take your portrait. She was part of the Canon Tripod project this year. 263
MK Punky is a founder of the ‘80s hardcore band The Clitboys, MK Punky is the author of many books of poetry, essays, journalism, and fiction. MK recently published Report from the Street: Voices of the Homeless (from The Head & the Hand Shockwire chapbook series). Chanda Rice writers: “I am Cinderella living this new life GOD gave me as I trust him in each step. I am an overcomer.” Chanda Cherise Corley Rice is known as Muffy. She was born in 1961 on the train from New York to Philadelphia and was raised in North Philly by her maternal grandmother. She is a resident of Mantua. Nimra Sohail is a Philadelphia native, born and raised. Writing is a way to make sense of her thoughts and feelings, and Writers Room provides an outlet to create work that is unique to her. She is a pre-junior Communications major at Drexel. Pavel Stan is a sophomore Entrepreneurship major from Romania. He draws, reads, writes, plays guitar, loves movies, music, and somehow wants to end up as a personal development coach. Yes, it’s confusing for him too. Dahmere Town is a senior at Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia. He is a visual artist with a special talent for drawing superheroes, perhaps because he’s secretly one himself. He was a member of the Canon Tripod project this year. Kayla Watson is a junior at Pennsylvania Academy Leadership Charter School (PALCS) who loves art, sports, and food. She took part in the Canon Tripod project this year. Devin Welsh is a sophomore English major and a proud member of Writers Room. He’s felt like a writer for a while, but taking part in the Canon Tripod project this year has helped him see himself more as a photographer too. Rachel Wenrick is a writer and a teacher who used to be a waitress and a roofer. All of these require paying attention.
PHOTO CREDITS Angela Array-Westavino: 247, 248 Brenda Bailey: 128, 131, 132 Norman Cain: 185, 189, 193 Rosalyn Cliett: 210 Amir Curry: 47, 49, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70 (Team AC, AD, JM, CM)
Mark Dawkins: 157, 160, 162, 164, 166 Alicia DeSimone: 47, 49, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70 (Team AC, AD, JM, CM)
Natasha Hajo: 170, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178 Kyle Howey: 74, 80, 93, 96 Jasmine James: 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 150, 153, 154, 156 Lauren Lowe, â€˜17: 159 Carol Richardson McCullough: 47, 49, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70 (Team AC, AD, JM, CM)
Jordan McCullough: 47, 49, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70 (Team AC, AD, JM, CM)
Victoria Huggins Peurifoy: 72, 78, 82, 84, 87, 89, 91 Kaliyah Pitts: 99, 100, 104, 105, 107, 124, 212 Dahmere Town: 76, 92, 95, 97 Kayla Watson: 136 Sarah Wagner-Bloom: 199, 200, 202, 203, 204, 206, 208, 209 Devin Welsh: 101, 102, 117, 121
Editor: Associate Editors:
Valerie Fox Kirsten Kaschock Lauren Lowe, â€˜17 Rachel Wenrick
Lora by Cyreal Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson
Printed on the OcĂŠ VarioPrint i300 at Bookmasters, a Follett Company
Canon Solutions America is proud to be a part of the TRIPOD at Writers Room program and we thank Drexel University for making the collaboration possible. We would especially like to thank all of the students, faculty, staff, community members, and everyone at Mighty Writers who supported this great vision and helped make it a success. We look forward to continuing our support of Drexel University and the neighboring communities for years to come.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This book would not have been possible without the help of Sarah Adigba, Kelly Bergh, Kerry Boland, Joseph Bove, Eileen Brennen, Jen Britton, Debbie Buchwald, Dominique Coleman-Williams, Ryan Debold, Dan Driscoll, Anna Drozdowski, Ryan Egan-DeVito, Nick Esposito, Nomi Eve, Adam Feldman, John Fry, Jerry Fuller, Linda Gallant, Richard Gordon, Kelly Hopkins, Andrew Issa, Daniela Jernigan, Jen Jolles, Lucy Kerman, Diane Ketler, John Kirby, Roger Kurtz, Cindy Leesman, Rosalind Remer, Janel McCloskey, Kelly McQuain, Donna Murasko, Ed Pavlic, MK Punky, Bill Rees, Carol Richardson McCullough, Cyndi Rickards, Heather Riley, Khalia Robinson and Mighty Writers West, Sarah Saxton, Tyler Shine, Amina Simmons, Nimra Sohail, George Starks, Sarah Steltz, Brittanie Sterner, Danielle Swan, Katy Travaline, David Unruh, Scott Warnock, Robert Watts, Amy Weaver, Amy Wen, and Christine Witkowski. Special thanks to everyone at Canon Solutions America and Canon USA who made TRIPOD at Writers Room possible. This year has opened our eyes to the possibilities of integrating word and image. We are excited to continue co-creating this innovative program. Numerous works in this book were started in workshops supported by PCA and led by Valerie Fox, Kelly McQuain, and Robert Watts in winter 2018. Other works were written in workshops led by Kirsten Kaschock in summer 2017 for LoLa 38, a creative placemaking collaboration between the Lindy Institute at Drexel University, Wexford Science & Technology, and People's Emergency Center.
This work is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. 267
Writers Room is a College of Arts and Sciences initiative at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, Drexelâ€™s urban extension center at 35th and Spring Garden in West Philadelphia. Here, members of the Mantua, Powelton, and Drexel communities explore writing as a tool for learning and a mode of creative expression. Together, we are creating a shared story. For more on Writers Room visit www.writersroom.online.
4 ’17 - ’18
’17 - ’18
Our annual collection of work from the 2017-2018 season at Writers Room, including writing + photography from the first cohort of TRIPOD wri...
Published on Jun 5, 2018
Our annual collection of work from the 2017-2018 season at Writers Room, including writing + photography from the first cohort of TRIPOD wri...