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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Love then what is it?

Love then what is it?
Two bodies twisting together
The tender baby bonding at the breast
The patriot-soldier in her devotion
The love of the people for their leader
The implicit trust?

What then is love
Where shall we find it
How ought we create it
What breeds it what keeps it
What distinguishes it
From everything else we do?

Love then what is it
Do we know?
Is there someone
A sage who can explain
Is there somewhere a book
A song a tree
To make it plain?

And if nobody tells us
How will we know
If nobody shows us
How will we know
What then is love?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On the [Red] Road....

Recently home from the Mashpee Pow Wow up on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. 

(Photo courtesy of Joyce Rain Anderson)

Wow, those Mashpee Wampanoags sure
know how to throw a powwow!!!

Deer meat, quahog chowder, raffles, quail, handsome men,bluefish, beautiful women, wampum, rabbit, contests galore and FIREBALL!!!

Guess they ought to since this was their 90TH annual...but still I gotta give 'em credit because they have survived so much and only recently (2007) got "recognized" by the [colonialist] federal government.

All those hundreds of years that the US government was saying they were wiped out they just kept on having pow wows and handing down traditions generation to generation. Impressive.

Keep in mind these are the Indians [think Squanto] who first befriended the misguided pilgrims-- a kindness they would live to regret.

Unfortunately there are other Wampanoag tribes who have yet to be recognized (like the Pocasset). They were at the Pow Wow too. 

How long will it take the US to recognize all the surviving descendants of all the tribes they tried to exterminate? 

My prediction: just as  long as it takes that same government to make amends with the descendants of the millions of Indigenous Africans kidnapped and enslaved in this country.

Meanwhile we will all still be having our Juneteenths and Pow Wows and will still be passing down our stories because you can't kill the spirit, people.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Album: Say You're Sorry

So I have been going into the recording studio of late to work on my next poetry album, which I have affectionately dubbed my "angry album." I am collaborating on this album with a talented musician by the name of Nik Ritchie. He is also recording the album.

The centerpiece of the album is a poem I have been working on for some time called "Say You're Sorry: A Rant About Slavery" I decided quite a while ago that as a country we were never going to become anti-racist until we dealt with our shameful history. American racism was born out of our horrific history of slavery and genocide. The land was stolen from the Indigenous people, many of whom were slaughtered, and then Africans were stolen from their homelands and brought in chains to experience hundreds of years of what can only be described as one of the greatest acts of inhumanity in the history of the human being.

But we don't talk about this. The history books I grew up reading made light of slavery. The history books still in circulation when I became a teacher still failed to engage the history of slavery in any sustained way. Current discussions of racism or race relations continue to fail to engage this important issue.

So I am writing this poem and making this album and hoping to start a conversation on slavery and its aftermath. The final poem will be epic in length. Here is an excerpt from one chapter on lynching:

Say you're sorry that the lynching of blacks
Was a form a of recreation
A national pastime in our country
An outing for the whole family
Complete with food and drinks
Say you're sorry the thousands of Black people
Hung up, burned alive
Tortured castrated
Was entertainment for whites

Say you’re sorry it wasn’t
Just an abberant minority of white men
Wasn’t just the White Knights of  Columbus
Or the Klux Klux Clan
Operating under the cover of darkness
Say you're sorry it was whole communities
Law enforcement city mayors
Jailers and judges, legislators,
Upstanding white men

Say you’re sorry antil-ynching legislation
Was defeated in the US Senate
Again and again
In 1922 1937 and 1940
While black bodies hung
While Black bodies burned
Say you're sorry mutilated black bodies
Were hung from flagpoles and rooftops
White racism’s  “old glory”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Yes We Did! (for my students)

Yes, we did
For my students

When I got the job offer
People told me not to take it
Said The South
Is too racist sexist homophobic
For someone like me

They might have been right
But I came here anyway
Told them it may be that way now
But I’m gonna change it

I will teach those racists
How to love Black and Brown people
I said
I will teach those sexists how to love women and girls
I said
I will teach those homophobes
How to love The Queers

And I will gather up
The Young Ones
Teach them to rebel
Against the hatred of their elders
And together all the young ones
They will change things
Yes they will

Its been 7 years
And I changed things
Yes, I did.
Maybe not enough
To save my own skin
But we changed things
Yes we did
My students and I made a difference

We changed things, yes we did!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Taking Back the Night

Tonight the National Organization of Women (NOW), organized a "Take Back the Night" march at the University of Central Florida. They worked with the Student Government Association, the Multicultural Student Center, and other campus organizations and were successful in bringing out a couple hundred students to the event.

Marches to "Take Back the Night" have been held for many years in many cities throughout the world to call attention to the high rates of violence against women. Feminists in the 1960s began to hold these marches composed entirely of women at night to protest the fact that women could not feel safe walking the streets at night. By coming together, shouting, and chanting without men to protect them, these women were able to symbolically  reclaim space. The Take Back the Night events provided platforms for women to denounce  the high incidence of rape in our country while also empowering themselves through testimony and the dissemination of information.

I attended my first "Take Back the Night" march when I was a college student. I am fortunate that because I am now a professor I have students who continue to organize such events and who invite me to participate.

I read a few of my poems at the event. Here is the poem, "Rape: A State of Emergency"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Demands of Existence

Demands of Existence

If I told you to do the impossible
To fight the impossible fight
To pursue the impossible dream
If I told you it was the only thing that would
Make you possible
Would you do it?

If I told you your life was absurd
And unfair and that the cards would be stacked
Ridiculously against you
But that you should live nonetheless
That you must live nonetheless
Would you do it?

If I set wolves at your door and
Snakes in your bed
If I made your neighbors vultures
And your enemies your only friends
If I gave you but a stone for a pillow
And a shack for a home
And told you to awaken each morning
With a plan
To wake each morning
Determined to live
Would you do it?

If I gave you but one hawks feather to pray with
And 7 rocks set in a circle for a temple
If your flock was a ragged and desperate band of thieves
Your children thugs and your own mother addicted to drugs
Would you have the strength to lead them?
Would you have the heart to love them?
Would you have the humility to call yourself one of them?
To claim their faults as your own?

If I colored you black or red and set you down in this white world
If I shaped you woman and set you down in this man’s world
If I fashioned you queer and set you down in this straight world
If I told you to do the impossible
To fight the impossible fight
To pursue the impossible dream
If I told you it was the only thing that would
Make you possible
Would you do it?