Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For Malcolm Shabazz...

yellow roses in my mother's room  mean
i'm sorry     sadness comes in     generations
an inheritance       split    flayed    displayed
better than all others
the crown                                       weight
the undue burden of the truly exceptional
most special of your kind
persisting unafraid    saffron bloom
to remind us of fragility   or beauty  or                         revolution
or to ponder darkly               brightly
the fate of young kings
the crimes for which             there are no apologies.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Among Others Unnamed & Unmarked

for Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, Aiyana Jones, Henry Glover, Justin Sipp, James Brisette, Ronald Madison, Kiymani Gray, Oscar Grant, Wharlest Jackson, Keith Atkinson, Rachel Corrie, Wendell Allen, Chavis Carter, Rekia Boyd, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, George Junnius Stinney Jr., Emmit Till, Ismail,Zakaria, Ahed, and Mohamed Bakr...
                      -Among Others  Unnamed  Unmarked

In a dark so deep
we cannot see it---
we are running
from memory.

                                                       a white
                                               girl’s flesh turning  
                                            a weight           a bulldozer

a bare-chest    
pajama'd bottom
one bullet in Gentilly
                                                                    a bridge  after a storm
a mother's arm
shot off
near her child's body
                                                                                on a beach under sky fire
too shocked to scream.


How much     
is thirty-one years
a stolen skull?
                                                    what of when you do scream?
                                                            I CAN'T BREATHE!
on an NYC street. 

how many of us are born double jointed?


With hands tied
one bullet in the brain
                                                                     who will call
                                                                   out our names?

Recollection is a fugue
we do(n’t)
at will.


supremacy flattens
who you back
to fight back



Who is left
to pick up
                                      the debris of bones?


Whose crush
makes you


Thursday, July 3, 2014


Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame   
How a sound comes into a word, coloured   
By who pays what for speaking.
Audre Lorde

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blood, Sugar, Sex, and Mammy Magic


 In 2014, if you are going to make a 75 foot long, 35 1/2 foot tall bleached- white, Sugar Mammy Sphinx, it had better say something, right? Kara Walker's sculpture and Hilton Als' glowing review of it ( New Yorker  Digital ) does say something, indeed--and that something is disturbing. Profoundly.

I'm a Black woman from New Orleans. Sugar is in my DNA. My black, mulatto, maroon, and NDN family broke the soil-- chopped, bled, died and gave birth to its bitter sweetness. Fast forward to the now and the future; where we will have been awed by the Mammy Sphinx's erection and eventual decay. Then let's say: how have we changed by her birth and death? by art?


Full Disclosure: I've read exactly one essay in Als' magnum opus, White Girls... This essay, "Philosopher or Dog", reads like the Mammy Sphinx sees to me. It is one of those supposed boundary- pushing, speculative re-imaginings of a life, none of us has any real access to. As such, some can feel free to intellectually project. And some will accept the projection. Louise Little, mother of Malcolm. Louise, the mulatto. The Black female body, which never belongs to herself. Not even in death. Louise can be vehicle now. Vehicle  for the continued self and group flagellation her body inspires.  What  do we discover in the phantasmagorical ( disclaimer : I said, because Als uses this word, I would)  fantasies of Louise's rescue from victimhood, by way of  author's insertion that just maybe, she or her mother, loved  her white Grenadian father? Als does not think much of the Louise of her son's autobiography. A Louise that Malcolm recalls, quite decidedly despised her mother's rapist.


Als does love the Mammy Sphinx. He isn't alone. After all she has the brilliance of her vulva and rear uncovered. Praise be--the revision not nearly as "secretive" or protective of such national treasures as the original carving. Mammy Sphinx, unlike the Louise that Malcolm remembered, is filled with righteous understanding of what she can do for us with her pussy. She will not go crazy. She will find subversive  majesty in knowing her place.  "Though bigger than us," as Als puts it, "she stills wears a kerchief to remind us where she comes from...that that ass is{n't} [for] free? Moreover, she does not set the price.

What is old and what is new? Black women in kerchiefs can be loved in the splendor of their beautiful servitude. Consumed and splayed, "...regal, yet totemic of subjugation."  Makes me think tangentially of Lupita. Loving and hatefully, said to be doing "important work as Patsy, and merely a fetish as a cover girl. Als hints at a more rebellious read of The Mammy Sphinx, one that might be sayin, fuck you,  to her victimhood. To be as he calls her, Cleopatra as worker. This makes the gaze more easy. Always has. Better she be white---"built to crumble"; the help; the one in need of favors; refinement---one, historically and archetypically , enslaved by her watchers need for her to serve. Better for her to know her place, than we will see her. Write about her. Know that we are beautiful, more free from history than she. Unless you are she. Than better you shrink in front of accomplishment; bow even as a giant. Better again, be bleached than raw brown, and if the Giza Valley is not sufficient a legacy--- better to the lonely-only. Better exposed than nothing in their eyes at all.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

On to Africa Part 2: Can Anybody Hear Me?



city roosters crow:


I sit in the strange chill of this morning--up with the thoughts I went to sleep with. Roots. Deep ones--my own and the roots of Contempt for them. The nameless ones of us in America. The assault seems to come daily and from many obvious and sly angles. The world is busy. Personal, political, and creative activity in the lives of many of the Black women I know, demonstrate to me that lots of us are trying to dually name and rebuke this elusive Thing.

I kill time on purpose and by accident; sometimes on the Internet. Twitter is a medium that for all its pluses is also a place to test the barometer on social/political attitudes toward Black women. Oby Ezekwesli, a  resident of Abuja, Nigeria, recently started the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to draw attention to the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by rebel group Boko Haram. Her hashtag's original intent, as I understood it, was to confront both the silence in the international media and pressure the Nigerian government to act in its citizens' interests.

Fast forward and its sunrise in New Orleans. I am thinking of missing women and girls. There is one in particular, I am looking for right now in New Orleans. Gone into the night of anonymity. Sunrise and city roosters crow with no word, no message from her. Michelle Obama had a message. It said: Bring Back Our Girls. I'd like for that to happen. I'd like to sit respectfully in the dissonance of seeing my face tell my face to Bring Us Back and wonder if I'm being militarized in that process.  I wonder what it would be like To be free to cast my lot, with who I may, for my own safety.  I'd like to be able to say : don't put words in a Black woman's mouth; lest you be ate alive once we open it.  I'm thinking of the 500K, I heard a white lady made to co-opt a hashtag and shared suffering.... and wondering..... how some people can use this to play respectability politics....and how some of the anti imperialists online have found the time to chastise those with skin like mine?

This morning, I'm convinced that ignorance beside familiarity, is also an ingredient in the recipe for Contempt. Driven by a lack of reason, the abbreviated equation from some goes:

US, Israeli, Saudi, & Chinese imperial interest in Africa
Corruption in Nigerian Government
Boko Haram

= Black Americans (Women) have the wrong politics

I shudder in the peculiar cold of this sunrise. This sunrise that does not know or care for Nigeria or its women any more than it knows or cares, where in Africa, I or my line was stolen from. Tell me, who they are. Then tell me to who my loyalty should lie. Chew a root--set a root--and watch for the signs. Which direction this is all headed in...

Whose Child Am I?