Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Love My Bubble, I Wish It Would Burst

and spray harmony all over the world

As I contemplate my almost conquered garden - pictures later - I’d like to draw you towards two interesting discussions happening on Anti-Racist Parent. Recently Maegan "la Mala" Ortiz and our own dear Tami Winfrey had some insightful posts.

Deep, sweet, profound Maegan wrote three intense vignettes about those things we don’t want to expose our children to... but have to because we are all alive in America. Blessed be! Thank you world for providing “learning-all-the-time-opportunities!” Pitooey!

I don’t frequent Anti-Racist Parent frequently. In fact, I only visit when wonderful Deesha at Mamalicious posts something. After reading Maegan’s post and reviewing the comments, all I could think was:

Why is it that a majority of majority parents think that anti-racist parenting involves dancing in a field of sunflowers with gingham-clad pick-a-ninnies and blonde cherubs with linked hands singing some weird hybrid of We Shall Overcome and the Star-Spangled Banner?

Hear my imagination a moment:

National (Black) Anthem Remix

O! say can you see by the dawn's early light

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

We're on to victory, We're on to victory,
We're on to victory someday;

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand someday;

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

We are not afraid, we are not afraid,
We are not afraid today;

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

The truth shall make us free, the truth shall make us free,
The truth shall make us free someday;

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace someday..
Okay - I have a strange imagination...
which it made me think - that’s a nice goal...

but I need to keep my son alive long enough for me to be a grandmother. And these White women seem to think I’m always hunting racism rather than racism always hunting me. I don’t know what I do to provoke it. I’m always just standing there as innocent as innocent can be. Then, !RACISM! leaps up and tries to bite my ass.

It killed Sean Bell. It killed Darryl Turner. I can’t remember a time when Black boys and men weren’t born with a target on their backs. No. I’m not paranoid. Go sign up for a newsfeed titled “Black male man boy killed by police.” Check back with me in 2 months - maybe sooner. Then prove to me how much I’m looking for racism.

But enough! Everyone always needs a little chocolate syrup on their disappointment pie. So, Tami had the courage to discuss the alienation so many middle-class Blacks face when making the right choices for their family. (This, of course after Hilarious tries to divide our community by portraying Obama as elitist. Suddenly - all of us who scrabbled through are checking our elitist pedigree and pruning or purging our family trees n favour of unity.) Tami's brave post How To Teach Diversity In A Diversity Free Zone was right on point.

For me, there was a moment of EEEk! The dirty laundry! And then the calm of standing back to notice the entire neighbourhood has dirty laundry. I made a comment there that I haven’t had the courage to make here. This comment was generated from the exact same awareness of the strange serendipity which brought my husband and me together. We met. We connected. We danced; had dinners; saw great shows. We had some profoundly great sex. And in the afterglow we both looked at each other and without saying anything, we both thought, I always wanted a close Black friend.

So, why can’t we figure out a way to deliver this to our son? (IE - a deep, trusting familiarity and comfort with Brown people.) Why should I worry tha the majority of his closest friends are blonde and blue-eyed? Will there even be an impact on his identity psyche? And finally, will it even matter when he is 21 - especially if we work our asses off now to raise consciousness; make connections based on shared values; and do what we can for those who do not share our current advantages?

Like Tami - I have no answers.

Except one which I was trying to avoid. Why is it that it always seems to come back to some upstart man with a Mother much like my husband’s who insists, Yes, We Can And somehow - eyes wide open - I have to try to make that reality for myself.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Future Is Bright

Thanks to my African-American Unschooling list, I became aware of this wonderful article in The Village Voice, For Some Black Parents, The New Home Room Is Home.

For so long, and especially in the wake of all the sacrifices made for Brown VS Board Of Edu, we have allowed our children to be buried alive by the school systems. I will state that many parents find school situations which work for them. And then there are those parents who would like to home educate, but, find themselves unable to because personal circumstances. These parents make do. And many of them turn "making do" into might fine active parenting indeed.

After home educating the early years, I sent my daughter, Imani, to a series of schools. None of them served her. Her final school was Schenley High School, which actually was the best place to end her formal education.

Schenley is a magnet school serving a depressed community whilst offering a Baccalaureate degree to which other children in Pittsburgh are bussed. However, there are three tiers, mainstream, honours and baccalaureate. Whilst there, she began to notice that the children from the registered district were all shunted into the mainstream program. This program didn't even have books for the students. Because she was in their cachement area, we fought hard to get her out of mainstream and into Baccalaureate. They conceded by placing her in Honours. (Her elitist private school transcripts weren't good enough - mostly because of her skin colour. )

Interestingly enough, it was Imani who brought this to my attention. Her ability to befriend children from all backgrounds and walks of life let her flow seamlessly from group to group. Eventually, she went on to produce a short documentary for her senior project. Her thesis? Magnet school programs exist to provide the illusion of desegregation while maintaining the status quo. (Yes, I'm right proud of my daughter, she a bit of all right.)

The recent issue with those two boys in Scranton, PA who got suspended for hightailing it over to meet Barack Obama. It got me thinking about links and circles. So many Whites today feel as if "urban ethics and realities" have invaded their lovely suburban lives through the CD players of their teens.

Now - enter the most threatening of all Black men...an articulate, charismatic, positive Black man with a call to action. This terrifying man wants them to do the unthinkable...create change. And now, he's convinced two White boys - who should have known better - to go truant. But, that's an urban Black thing, isn't it? Skipping out of school? So, these boys must be punished - and punished severely lest they forget where their true allegiances lie.

And yet - White Suburban kids are the often worst behaved. And have the financial resources to engage in some pretty nasty stuff. (One of the many reasons Imani left Winchester-Thurston and ended up at Schenley High School. )

White Suburbanites believe their children to be always and forever perfect. No matter how repeatedly these children step out, there is always a way to "explain" away the behaviour. They forgot their meds; their father had a long business trip; the teacher handed out paper which easily gives paper cuts. There seems to be a "protect our children at all costs" mentality. Often by blaming anything other than themselves.

One of the reasons I home educate is that I believe children should be rewarded for positive ideas and assisted in trying them; testing them and sometimes failing. Yes, those boys could have asked permission. But, they noticed his motorcade making an impromptu stop at a diner. By the time they had wrangled permission, he would have been gone. And they were thoughtful enough to ask him to sign a note saying they had met. I think the disciplinary action could have been more creative. Maybe a three page essay about the importance of Obama in American history. Or why Obama's collaborative message seems to be the politics of the future. Or what would motivate a class president to make an atypical choice which violated the school rules. That would have been appropriate.

My daughter played hooky from exams once. According to her student handbook, the school was "closed" when the public schools were closed. Children who lived closer to home got a snow day and extra to study. When she argued her "case," she was promptly suspended. he White students got detention. She was "clearly" the ring leader. She violated the "spirit of the law," not the law itself. I argued with the principal that she should have to spend the next few free periods re-writing the snow policy so there would no future loopholes. My father - an attorney who agreed with me - and I were told that we were being an uncooperative. They threatened not to invite us back - in spite of the fact my mother was a former Board Chair, a major donor and I was an alum paying full tuition. (The rule book was revised without my daughter's aid.)

This is systemic throughout all education warehouses. We scream, "the system is in crisis!" Then, we punish the very children who might turn it around. All children play hooky. Some hang out on street corners and get into all manner of antisocial behaviour. Others try to meet political candidates. Or like my own hooky-playing child, go to the library to get a real education.

In relation to Scranton Public High School, I think it would be good if Obama went back and did a rally at the school as we get closer to November. Perhaps they should invite him to be their commencement speaker. But, until that fantasy comes true, I'm happy to be amoung the growing ranks of Black home educators.

Terrance Hayes | Blacks in voting booths are Blacks in boxes too


Last night’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer was a real treat. They featured Pittsburgh poet, Terrance Hayes, who has become one of the most significant new voices in both poetry and more specifically Black poetry. As our elders transition, it is heartening to witness how the song continues. Old melodies blend with new rhythms. Watch the segment here. Hayes reads from Hip Logic which won the National Poetry Series in 2002 and his new collection, Wind In A Box, published in 2006.

I wanted to share two of my favourite poems of Hayes below. (Well, I have many favourite poems - but these two strike me as typical of the person I’m glad to have shared dinner with from time to time.) I put them below because they would never be read on national television.

Considering how long it to me to warm to Sonnet and embrace it as a brilliant poem, I know for certain that it’s power and irony would be lost on the general American public. However, this poem definitively portrays: Hayes' sense of humour, quietly defiant self-definition; and command of poetic standards. Because he knows the “rules” so well, he can break and remake them with grace and ease. I like that about him. (Sounds like one of my cherished political candidates.)

Sonnet
by Terrance Hayes
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
We sliced the watermelon into smiles.
-from Hip Logic


The Blue Seuss from Wind In A Box says more about the current election than most people have. Listen to it here. No, really - go take a listen!


The Blue Seuss
by Terrance Hayes

Blacks in one box
Blacks in two box
Blacks on
Blacks stacked in boxes stacked on boxes
Blacks in boxes stacked on shores
Blacks in boxes stacked on boats in darkness
Blacks in boxes do not float
Blacks in boxes count their losses
Blacks on boat docks
Blacks on auction
Blacks on wagons
Blacks with masters in the houses
Blacks with bosses in the fields
Blacks in helmets toting rifles
Blacks in Harlem toting banjoes boots and quilts
Blacks on foot
Blacks on buses
Blacks on backwood hardwood stages singing blues
Blacks on Broadway singing too
Blacks can Charleston
Blacks can foxtrot
Blacks can bebop
Blacks can moonwalk
Blacks can beatbox
Blacks can run fast too
Blacks on
Blacks and
Blacks on knees and
Blacks on couches
Blacks on Good Times
Blacks on Roots
Blacks on Cosby
Blacks in voting booths are
Blacks in boxes
Blacks beside
Blacks in rows of houses are
Blacks in boxes too
- from Wind In A Box
If you are an educator, his poetry is exceptionally well crafted and yet remain accessible. When you begin a poetry unit with children, these poems can gently ease you into some powerful discussions.

Terrance has a lovely wife Yona and two incredible children, Ua and Arron to support. Consider adding these collections to your library.

MORE RESOURCES:
Terrance Hayes on NPR with the poem, The Blue Terrance.


Poem, The Blue Bowie in Jubliat

Read more of or about Terrance Hayes here.

My Aesthetic Schizophrenia: An Interview with Terrance Hayes by
Jonathan Moody

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sweet Little Lambs | We Grow Them, Harvest Them Young, & Feast On Their Bones The Rest Of Their Lives

And folks ask me why I home educate?

In Scranton, Pa, two eager, politically-minded high school students, Colin Saltry and Joey Daniel, noticed Obama's motorcade pull into a diner during gym class. What would any intelligent teenager do? Dash over for an autograph! It was gym class. These are teenagers!

Teenagers are not known for exceptionally fantastic impulse control or logic for that matter. Obama...gym class...Obama...gym class? You make the choice.

Heading back from coffee break do you stop and have an informal or chat with Obama? Some adults would have a problem refraining from skipping over to meet the man. I would. If I went back to work - with a signature and a glowing, puff-up-the-chest story, very likely my boss would shake his/her head. Maybe give me a stern warning.

Did that happen to these children who were bright enough to even figure out that a person of historical importance was about to cross their path for the -probably - one and only time in their life recieve such understanding?

NO! These two were suspended for meeting Barack Obama. (They even returned with a note he signed for them.) One of the children is a class president. He was forced to resign. So, the kid who tries on the role of governance and political service is punished for seeking to interact with a veteran of governance and political service.

Shame on you, Principal Bryan McGraw and Assistant Superintendent William King.

Couldn't find an email. So if your feeling feisty - or just want to blame yesterday's poll showing on someone and take it out on them verbally. Have a go!

Give A
Fax
Scranton High School Phone
570-348-3561


Or Phone
570-348-3481
570-348-3482


Read more here.

Fine Chefs Feeding My Inner Princess | Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

Often, you read an author's debut work, and that is the end of your relationship with them. Sometimes, you see something truly special peeking through the awkward places. Many disappoint you with their second try. But, this is not the case with Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

I write a lot about my inner princess. Especially in today's market where Disney and Mattel are doing their absolute best to choke our children's inner creative lives. Sure, the modern Disney princess is less of a victim. But, there are always trade-offs. If she is brown - she has no marketable clothing. If she is White, she is defiant and often disrespectful of her parents. Let me not even address the despicable, misogynist Mattel's Barbie media whose sole mission it to actively teach girls how to perfect the ideal bitchy, aggressive, uncooperative, diva persona.

Regardless, of these larger mainstream failures, my inner princess is less ravenous than she used to be. Nnendi Okorafor-Mbachu is an active participant in making this happen. When I read, Zahrah The Wind Seeker, I was intrigued. Here was an author whose stunning imagination managed to get her Afrocentric, young adult, speculative fiction novel published by a major publishing house. (Black women, all women stand up and cheer that victory.) And she was not only able to do this - but - she did it with a main character who is "African," dreadlock, (dadalocked) and challenged Eurocentric concepts of beauty. Finally, she had the audacity to write a book in which a brown female character and a brown male character have a healthy, age-appropriate, loving and equal relationship. Glory! Glory! How could this have slipped past the censors!

I discussed this book in greater detail in another blog. I promised I'd let you know how the next book was. So here I am inviting you to read The Shadow Speaker.

This author made such an immense leap between the first book, Zahrah The Wndseeker and the second, The Shadow Speaker. Obviously a dedicated and sincere writer, Okorafor-Mbachu attacked her second novel like one of her heroines tackles a problem. Not quite full on - but slowly, thoughtfully - occasionally impetuously and without regard for the option of failure. This novel was so full and rich. Not once stilted or awkward. Each of the characters were fully realized without being heavy on back story or using age-old devices.

From the author's website - a synopsis

"Niger, West Africa, 2070

When fifteen-year old Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, her world shatters. In an era of mind-blowing technology and seductive magic, Ejii embarks on a mystical journey to track down her father's killer. With a newfound friend by her side, Ejii comes face to face with an earth turned inside out -- and with her own magical powers.

But Ejii soon discovers that her travels across the sands of the Sahara have a greater purpose. Her people need to be protected from a force seeking to annihilate them. And Ejii may be just the hero to do it."


For some reason, I get the sense that if this novel had been available when I was a 9 to 12 year old girl, I would have had a very different life. Perhaps, I would have been more aware about our environment; the devestating impact of imperialism and colonialism; and a touch more aware of both my inner and outer beauty. I would have had a hero. Not a princess - a hero.

And that may make all the difference in some young woman's life today. This author has helped me face and dismantle some of my internalised isms. Through her work, I'm not looking as much for princesses as I am learning to embrace more realistic action figures.

These are two books which have become part of my library. Check them out!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We'll See To Things In The Morning

until then...here I am feeling ....well... bitter.

Pulse On PA

Live Pennsylvania Primaries coverage and discussion here.

African American Political Pundit has a PA Primary Round-Up, if you missed the above here.

Thanks AfroSpear!

Peace Portfolio - Ethan Draws An End To War

My friend Karen has a son. A lovely boy who believes he can change the world. Here is a video which will very likely become part of his peace portfolio.


Consider making one for your sons and daughters. It doesn't have to be complicated. Just notice and capture one of their peaceful moments. And, like Karen, do share it with me.

If you are just tuning in, here is information about the importance of making a peace portfolio for your son.

VOTE TODAY | & About That "Bitterness" Issue

Today, if you are in Pennsylvania, you will go to your polling station and vote.

You will vote for Barack Obama.

You will press that lever thinking, “Yes, We Can!

If you doubt this... if you are still wondering about bitterness - I shall refer you here: “Bitter,indeed


Excerpt - “The "bitterness" refers, of course, to the discrimination and mistreatment which people of colour faced for centuries. No one, today, can dispute the fact that the promises of America -- equality, fairness and justice -- were denied on the basis of race and colour, as well as ethnic background, religion, economic status and gender, for long periods of our national history. It should not come as a shock that the victims of this discrimination became bitter and angry, at the very least. But that bitterness in no way reflects diminution of the belief in the ideals and promises for which our nation stands.”
- Eric Springer


Don't just read the quote - view the whole thing. And it gets deeper. But, then again, that’s just my Daddy speaking. That’s the son of a garment worker who went on to become A. Philip Randolph’s right hand woman. That’s the “elitist” son of a woman who is called “Mama Africa” in Tanzania, Kenya and a host of other African nations. That’s the son of a woman who baked me biscuits and showed me where her wrists had been deformed from carrying serving trays and doing piece work. (All so she could raise “an elitist.”)

Claude McKay
America
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood,
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Today, all I ask is that you eat the bread of bitterness and release hope. Look for the letters O-B-A-M-A. Then, pull the lever next to them. No one is you! The only thing you can hope for is that the person you put in the big chair comes closest to your experience and ideals Don't allow us to sink into the sand. Don't bare your neck for the tiger to glutton yourself on the body already made anemic by Bush.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Please Vote Today | And In PA Tomorrow

I want ya'll to feel Toni Brown tonight. So, I'm keeping this short.

Move On ran a "Make A 30 Second Ad" competition for Obama's campaign. You can vote here for Obama tonight. But, if you are in Pennsylvania, I urge you to make the most important vote at your polling station tomorrow.

Transition | Toni Brown

(November 2, 1962 - April 19, 2008)


I met Toni Brown at Cave Canem. She was a very sweet woman. The bite of her poems was never evident in her person. I just learned that she made her transition on Saturday, April 19th from respiratory complications. I will miss this voice.

Whenever I encountered one of her poems, I always thought, “I want to see more of these.” Like this poem of hers:

Dreadlocks
by Toni Brown

See
these ropes of hair
This is how
it would have grown
on my head
in the bowels of a ship
long ago

Understand
we dark still living
who crawled or
were dragged
hair matted flat
into this New World
would have been
dreadful

And this fabulous poem here. The page has an audio recording.

THE WITCH
by Toni Brown

One Day I came home from school
to find my mother
had cleaned my room
She said it was a hell hole

She took down my beloved Huey Newton poster
My California sliding into the sea poster
My magic words and fortune cookie fortunes
She removed the mural I had swirled

green-black and red on a sheet
of plastic and tacked to the wall
She took my stereo and all of my records
She made my bed She hung up my clothes

For two weeks I slept
on top of the bed naked
I disturbed nothing on my bureau
nothing on my bookshelf or bedside table
I wore my uniform to school
at home I wore the same jeans
and tie-dye tee shirt every day

II

One day I came home from school
my posters were returned
rolled into cylinders neat
rubber banded all in a row on the floor

my sheet of plastic watercolor lay
flat on my still made bed
my records were stacked beside
my returned record player

for two weeks I left everything
exactly where it lay
except the mural I moved it
to the floor at night
I put it back each day

III

One Day I came home from school
closed my bedroom door
though it was forbidden
I put the posters back on the wall with hammer
and nails I put my mural back on the wall
with epoxy I took off my uniform
balled it up and threw it in a corner
I put on my jeans and tie-dye tee shirt one last time
played Jimi Hendrix' Electric Lady Land LOUD

I burned a stick of sandalwood incense and three candles
As the music played I danced a wild cool jerk, boogaloo
pulled open the junk drawer in my bureau
I spun in the smoke and Jimi's song spewing
the contents of the drawer around like
chicken blood

Another poem here in a publication of Leeway Foundation grantees.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Good Saturday Morning Read


Bill Cosby has been traveling the country doing "call outs" in the Black community. The call outs are an extended version of the famous "Pound Cake Speech," which caused controversy when it was delivered in 2004 at the NAACP awards ceremony. In his article, "This Is How We Lost to the White Man," Ta-Nehisi Coates provides interesting insight on Bill Cosby, his solutions for the Black community and the schism between advocates of self-reliance and activists for integration.

If nothing else, the article made me question the way in which privilege or lack thereof influences the way in which we view our world. It made me stop and pause. Regardless of how insulated Cosby is in his billionaire world, he is out there doing something. He is speaking to people about doing it for themselves. (Not to mention giving money to HBCU's and created the only cartoon with a Black primary character, Little Bill.) And I wondered why we are always criticise people who ask us to help ourselves. If we don't like how someone is doing something, then, get up and go do it your own way.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Choosing Life - Mundane As It Is

I’ve been feeling kind of guilty lately. I haven’t posted much of anything profound. (Not that I ever do.) I haven’t mused about the presidential race - even though my state is currently the hot news topic. I have been quietly scratching my inner demons behind the ear; tossing them a juicy titbit and then lopping off their heads. I’ve been doing this by tuning back into my world and spending less time online. (As if I ever spend very much time on-line.)

I have to admit - folks like Deesha over at Mamalicious, Raving Black Lunatic, Tami at What Tami Said and Inkognegro to mention a few - inspire me. I was downright proud to be part of the 32 Days Of Black History. The pressure to continuously dig for and communicate small insights that month was exhilarating. The discipline of topical, timely blogging eviscerated my rather lame writing advice of making one’s bed every morning. Blogging - genuine, original content - takes more discipline than that. Its equivalent is cleaning one house from top to bottom daily and holding a garage sale of the rubbish at 3:00 pm each day. That’s a lot of work.

My job does not allow me be in front of a computer all day. My job involves: keeping a tidy house; cooking meals; graciously supporting my ever patient, loving husband; wiping asses and noses; traipsing around to classes, museums, play parks; friend’s houses and negotiating a four year old into a chair to do or review lessons.

A few months ago, after I dropped off my husband’s dry cleaning, I stood back in abject horror and realised I am a housewife! (Gasp, eeek, whatever happened?) Tonight, I breath a sigh of relief and say, “Well, it’s hard work, but, it won’t give me a heart attack.” So, I have to admit that the guilt and self-smacking I’ve been experiencing about my return to observances of puddles, birds, crocuses, children and puppy dogs has been alleviated.

Thank you, New York Times, for re-affirming to me that slow, observant, aware and easy.

After 15 Years - A Bit Of Wee Music I Can Rave About

Something I’ve been waiting for for over 15 years has arrived! But - first - I must back track.

In my recent reflection on my life after King, I forgot to credit the song, “Chinese Proverb” from Sweet Honey In the Rock’s Experience 101 CD. For this, in the most humble, stricken manner apologise to this most wonderful artists. I would have said grovel - but right now they aren’t angry at me. But, I would grovel because this is a CD, I not only hear almost daily, but has become a huge portion of the soundtrack for my life right now. Winston loves it. And it doesn’t make me feel like a crazy person.

Some of the best children’s music can do this to me. Winston and I both appreciate Laurie Berkner. But, she can only be on the roughly 55 to 78 minutes of daily driving we do without me feeling as if careening into the next ditch would solve every small issue in my life. It is exceptionally well-written kid music.

I understand that my life right now is all about living in an age appropriate reality. For this reason, I am grateful to artists who help me preserve some core of my adult self. Sweet Honey In The Rock does this. And for this reason I have to also give a great big thank you for “Still the Same Me.” The tracks entitled “Improv Time” are often my salvation during long drives. I can sing one part. Winston chooses another. And we get to be creative and stimulated artistically and intellectually together! Do I need to repeat myself? Do you understand what a precious gift this is?

I came of age during funk and hip hop. And as much as I love Hippity Hop, from time to time, my itchy adult fingers punch that dreadful radio dial. Before Winston, I learned to just listen to the beat. And even then - it wasn't heart-deep satisfying to the core in the way it used to be before gangsters.

In college, I used to assert that hip-hop could be the most powerful educational tool of the century (last.) I reflected that people use rhyme and chanting to memorise. I insisted that - well-used - hip hop could be a method of conditioning learners to comprehend complex ideas using chant, rhyme and rhythm which would then create long term retention through capitalising on the muscle memory of dance.

My idea has become reality. Let me introduce Songs of Higher Learning! I test drove these CD’s with my 8 year old, public schooled neighbour. Within the first 3 seconds of the intro to “The Bill Of Rights,” he had his hand on the waist of his trousers, his other hand in the air and was weaving back and forth giving the response with his head thrown back. Good enough for me.

Go check them out. And in relation to my recent post about teaching our children to survive police encounters, every Black child in America should have a copy of the US History, Government, Vol. 1 CD. Their website has samples and a full pdf of all lyrics to all songs.

So...

Q - Are they prefect?
A - No.

Q - Are they competent?
A - More than.

Q - Does it cost too much?
A - Does 10 bucks a CD for hard core facts which will be on their standardised tests sound too much for you?

Q - Will I loose my mind with repetitive listening?
A - No - You’ll be relearning a lot and after that - you can just truly listen to the beats.

I feel sorry for my son. He’s getting the full set for his birthday next week. It’s always a balance. Right now, he doesn’t know the difference. But, it won’t be too long before he’s rolling his eyes and sighing. In our house, it always seems to be “Happy Christmas, Easter, Birthday....here are some lovely school supplies. I’m glad he is still young and grateful.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

2 Days Late Or 363 Early

Well, Garageband and I are working hard to rectify our differences. We may need to call in a mediator. Not to mention You Tube's refusal to upload this piece all of yesterday.

Friday, I wanted to take a moment to review how lucky we are for the generosity of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family. They made tremendous sacrifices while he was still among us and after.

I was 3 years old when he was assassinated. On the first anniversary, I remember explaining why it was a terribly sad day to a 3 year old White neighbour friend. These are the things pre-school children talked about back then. I was roughly the same age as my son is now.

Race is now dealt with in an “age appropriate manner.” And for some small reason, I’m glad I can lead on our strength and resilience rather than our victimisation and oppression.

So - here is what I came up with - better two days late than never at all.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Today’s Rhythm #2 | Magic Circle

Just feeling proud for a moment about the way in which a boy, a stick and a dried up puddle can be magic.... I am posting “Today’s Rhythm #2” (Even though it took me two weeks to edit and build the soundtrack.)

More in the below post. But, I am recalling an Arrested Development Song, Children Play With Earth, which fits quite nicely with the attitude of the video below.

Again that URL my friend Karen sent me about how important it is for children to touch their souls. Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills

Just FYI - I fixed the Peace Portfolio below and you can hear what Winston actually has to say....

Assumptions | Undirected Play

I recently met a new neighbour at a peace march. Winston, my husband and I were standing in the street talking and listening to the music when a lovely middle age, White woman marched up to us.

She wanted to let us know she’d seen this past year and wanted to introduce herself. We were charmed. (Sort of - I mean - it takes a peace march to inspire a formal introduction? Our yard is eternally filled yacking, gabbing, gossiping neighbours, friends and shrieking kids.)

Regardless, we were pleased to meet a new neighbour. But, then she asked the strangest thing. “Do you run a day care out of your home?”

Confused, I splutter laughed, “No! Why!”

“Well,” she cheerfully asserts, “You always have such great kid-centered activities going on in your yard.”

To which I reply, “We have a kid.”

“Of course,” she nods.

It feels vaguely like she is reassuring herself that this is in fact the case. After all, our son is there holding his self-designed sign. And much as I could go off on a rant about how White people view the Black families who move into their comfortably integrated neighbourhoods. I shall not. There are facts which sit sullen and growling at my feet. And they are that...

we’re different. Really, outstandingly, bizarrely different. I learned this the hard way the other night when I embarrassed myself in front of Deesha’s friends by succumbing to the drink on the onset of menses. (This is a learned behaviour I never unlearned...’nother story...’nother time.) Regardless, we are some hard to understand Negroes.

We are the Negroes who can be your only Black friend and not even care because the quality of our relationship and shared interests transcend the swamp gas of race arousal which suffocates everyone else.

We are the Negroes who suckled MLK Jr’s speech on our Mama’s breast and allowed it to form the very muscles which hold us up.
We are the Negroes whose parents insisted upon our smooth integration and had the law, the finances, the community standing and audacity to raise eyebrows with fountain pen poised over an open chequebook. (May I make a clarification that my husband was not one of the aforementioned Negroes and still his parents fulfilled the first part of the statement.)

We are the Negroes who never stop to think we might be denied by just being ourselves. Daily, we live our daily doing a Nike. (Read “just do it.”)
And assuming everyone else is. (Or isn’t depending upon the information available to them during their formative years; or that peculiar random roll of the die called access; or simply because as good as we got fitting in, White America is eternally shifting to acclimate to our acclimation.)

I’m not saying we had it easy. Jack, Jill and everyone else didn’t like us either. We’re downright weird. Everyone knows you can’t mix up consciousness, community unity and “peace with all people” without being some kind of sell out. And if you are a “sell-out,” you can’t have those uncompromising, so called righteous people rapping at your back.

Nobody likes someone who understand that a box can become 2-dimensional at any moment.

Unless you are weird. And, I’m happy to count a whole lot of “weird” people as my friends. But, the fact remains that, the first few months my husband and I dated were spent whispering, cuddling, touching, oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing, “I always wanted a Black friend.” That’s how lonely we integrated, conscious, Negroes were. We had to find, meet and work out the weird relationship kinks with our life/soul mate in order to have our first real Black friend. And to this day, he is my only close “Black friend.”

But, I digress. This White neighbour couldn’t imagine that we could be as weird as White people with no profit motive involved. This neighbour couldn’t imagine that I could be so resourceful as to find the $4,000 worth of play equipment in our yard for under $80. (At a yard sale in a richer neighbourhood, with lots of schmoozing about home education.) She never asked. She assumed.

And I can understand her assumption. White or Black - people don’t expect their children to use the resources at hand. Many of the kids in our neighbourhood are either in front of a t.v. or pushing buttons on a toy in their yard which tells them what to do. The play park a 1/2 block from our house is filled with unsupervised toddlers and teens. They’ve been turned outside to “play” while the adults watch tv. They tussle and grapple over tiny gameboys and other electronic media. From time to time, they use their creative energy to destroy the equipment.

So we are an anomaly. I am grateful for this. Ad yet, I don’t wish my path on my son. Some days, I wish he could just be quiet and push buttons.

Thanks to my friend Karen, I am validated in my beliefs that "
Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills" regardless of what class, race or gender you are.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Peace Portfolio - Draft 1

Some things come easy. Others demand an almost obsessive, dogged worrying. Below, please find the rough draft of one of those things. For the life of me, I can't find - no matter how many google searches I do - ways to make Garageband cooperate. It lost my loops; deleted every satisfactory edit and laughed in my face.

(Kind of like that Anonymous poster who scoffed at my attempts to put a doomsday umbrella over my son. HeeHee. Now that would be the multi-billion dollar invention of the century! Note to Self: Gotta get the boy off of rocket shoes, hover sandals and on to a doomsday umbrella for Black children!)

Please leave some comments and or tips on how to get this soundtrack working!