Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Hardest Thing to Know, Part 3

The is the last installment of my short story, "The Hardest Thing to Know." I hope you have enjoyed reading this piece as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. Please leave me your thoughts below.

“He can’t even protect you” the master whispered.
Now, he was behind her and inhaled her scent. She turned to flee, but he caught her arm. Her tribeswoman’s words played in her ears. He grabbed her around the waist and threw her to the ground. She scrambled up and lunged for the door again only to meet his arm around her waist again. This time he climbed on top of her. She scratched at his face and managed to kick him. She fought the woman’s words away as she fought with her master. He landed an intricate punch.
“I didn’t want to have to do this,” she heard him say as her eyes rolled and her body surrendered.
She awoke to the night. Her naked body felt the soft linens. Her eyes beheld fine furniture and soft candlelight. She saw her field clothes cleaned and neatly folded on a chair. Her hands caressed the cowrie shell necklace her Man had made her before the nets, ships, chains, and whips. Something was crawling around her shoulders. She jumped, then realized it was her own hair unbraided and in its full length and glory. She sat up in the bed and faced herself in a mirror, but she did not know herself. Her mind finally held the weight of all that had transpired and shoulders drooped. Now her mind was racing and her body was dressing itself, then was running full speed towards her Shack.
            She found her Man lying on his stomach there, bloody. He had been fatally beaten, whipped, and there were gashes and bruises all over his body. He was supposed to die. He looked as if he were only sleeping. She began gathering materials to clean and wrap his wounds. She could barely hold any of the cleansers. Her dark, thin hands were shaking and boiling hot tears ran heat all over her face. She realized the wounds were already cleaned. He let out a heavy sigh and the wounds began scabbing before her eyes.
He was dreaming. He saw them together in their old village. She was pregnant and he was walking with a little boy with her eyes. He was telling them stories of his travels in other times. Then, he saw himself running to the mansion. He saw the four white men sitting on the porch descend the steps. He clenched her machete and waited for them to approach. He heard the gunshot and felt the pain in his neck. He charged towards them only to be met with more gunshots. He kept charging and felt the whips on his back. He cut the whips and a few of the white men with his machete. He felt the bullet enter his skull. Then, he saw an Elder standing over him in his Shack with a bloody bullet in her hand. Then, he saw darkness.
She raced from the Shack, and back around the field the wind was whipping through her dress and her hair. Her loneliness began to creep around her and slowed her run. She began sobbing as she walked toward the beach. She felt the cool water caress her toes and she walked toward the current. She was the last of the tribe in this hell and she was no longer pure. The tips of her hair kissed the salty water. Her Man had been tortured to the point of death. She had nothing else to offer anyone. Not herself or her Man. She was standing under the water. He would have a better life without her. She knew she would love him again in another time and place. As she inhaled deeply and gave up the ghost, the cowrie shell necklace floated towards the shore and rested in the sand. 
A sharp pain raced up the Man’s back and he sat up abruptly. He could feel her spirit floating around him, but he had to be sure. He had no patience for running, so he flew to the beach. His heavy body thudded as he landed at the very spot her necklace laid. He did not need to see her body floating away from the shore to understand her decision. He picked up her lonely necklace, wrapped it around his thick wrist, then, turned toward the horizon and flew towards another time, so he could find her spirit’s next home. Maybe, in this new place, they could love again. Because the hardest thing to know is that in some times, love is not enough. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hardest Thing to Know, Part 2

 This is the second part of my short story "The Hardest Thing to Know." I hope you enjoy it and please tell me what you think. 

The Field was bathed in heat by now. The Sun rained down heat. The soil exhaled heat. The bodies absorbed heat and heat bounced from body to body. All bodies in your rows before the Sun can make a shadow. The cane rose from the ground trying to touch the sky. We chopped it down. The leaves sometimes sliced Our skin and sweat seeped in to sting. Emerald sugar stalks stretched up from thick roots that hid biting insects and crafty reptiles each biting uniquely, but pain was pain.
Then, the songs began. Old songs that reminded Us of Home. So many tribes, but We learned each others’ songs. The stolen of her tribe were all dead now. She and her Man were the last. The white overseer wanted to stop the songs, but he was too impotent. Usually, his tribesmen tortured those who disobeyed. They were a monstrous tribe. Always screaming, yelling, fighting, violently. The white men whipped, and beat, and raped, and impaled and burned, and disfigured. But We were yet defiant. No one had been punished for songs, so the songs went on and so did the Day until there was Day no more.
In the shack, She fussed over another new cut across His back with water and cleansers and ointment. He let her. Then, he wrapped his heavy arms around her small waist and kissed Her deeply.  She held his chiseled face in her delicate hands that were rough on the inside. In one motion, it seemed he had removed her dress and his own clothing. He removed the cloth from her head and unbraided her hair. He buried His head into Her hair and breathed in her essence. It revived His spirit. The darkness would conceal their affection from the evil of this place. Now they could love. But they had made provisions. They would bear no children here. Never.
We all want to believe. Need to believe that love can conquer all and endure all. However, the hardest thing to know is that is not always true. In some times and places, love is undesirable. It can make you weak, vulnerable. It can kill you.
The next morning, the Man and Woman dressed in their customary fashion. They were oblivious to the events that would change their very existence in a matter of hours. Before they were in the field long enough to sing, the Master summoned the Woman to his house. While she was grateful for the respite from the labor, the trek from the field to the mansion was laborious as well. She hiked over the hills of tall grass, along the beach, and finally, up the steps and around to the path that lead to the rear door. By now the dirt and sweat bound her once long loose plaits to her scalp under her head wrap.
She entered the rear door to find one of her tribeswomen in tears. The woman’s scarred, caramel face showed tear trails that reflected too much pain. She tried to embrace her but the woman only spoke words close to her ear. “If you fight, he’ll make it worse for you here.” When she backed away from the woman, she noticed fresh crimson growing on her dress. She shook her head in disbelief. “But she’s just given birth,” she thought in horror.
“MARIE-EE,” the master sang out. That’s the name the Woman was given, but she never answered to it. This place was not her home. She was frozen in place. He called again. She could hear his boot steps but they were not enough to thaw her from her place. Her arms were still outstretched from the embrace she’d given her bloodied tribeswoman. He was up on her now, he was breathing on her, but she still hadn’t blinked. She saw his hand as it struck her face. She blinked finally. Unthawed, but still very, very cold.
He screamed and gestured wildly, but his words were still foreign to her. However, she had been a woman her whole life and she knew how to read the intentions of men. He, like the other whites on the Place, were wondering why she and her Man had not made children. The Blacks knew why. It was obvious to Us. Now, he was making a crude comment about her husband’s sexual abilities. He grabbed her shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes. She’d never looked at her master up close. His skin was dewy from sweat. His blue eyes looked genuine in contrast to his dark brown hair. No facial hair. He was young, handsome, and terrible.
“Don’t you see Marie. You can live in safety. All you have to do is what you already do. I’ve seen you with the Negro. I can offer you more.” He paused for impact. Nothing. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Hardest Thing to Know, Part 1

I am super excited about the upcoming movie, Django:Unchained. I wrote the following excerpt about three years ago. It is part of my short story "The Hardest Thing to Know." I hope you enjoy it and please leave me your comments.


          From space, the Place seemed peaceful. Serene. The emerald fields of sugar cane leaves swayed carelessly in the last of the night air. Mosquitoes hummed their vampire song. The crude brown shacks slept as the white mansion snored. From up here, the scene appeared serene, peaceful. But the Sun knew better, so it peaked over the horizon before it showed its entire face reluctant to begin another day of pain. There was no real rest here because there was no peace for the soul or mind. The sleep was artificial like the smiles We plastered on Our faces to live. Everyone would devour this “rest” like greedy pigs although We all knew it would not be enough. The heat rays snuck into the cracks of a shack like coolness thieves. A single ray of light hit a fragment of a strategically placed mirror and that light beamed right into the Woman’s face.
          Her eyes opened. She turned from the beam and looked at her Man. She touched his newest gash. It was an accident. She cut him deeply with her machete while working in the cane fields yesterday. She winced at the image of the abysmal laceration and crimson blood running from his arm. She had fussed over it all night, but it had already scabbed over. She was both relieved and grieved. He healed too quickly from the severest of injuries. Once, while in the old country, he tried to explain to her why. He told her how he had lived in Rome, Spain, and Egypt. How he came to West Africa to find a quiet, peaceful existence. He found his peace in her. Nothing good can stay. Presently, she looked around the Shack. Everything was brown and earthen. The wooden walls and roof, dirt floors, even their folded work clothes were dingy and beige. The only glimpse of bright was the bunch of bananas in the corner. She looked over at the large,ebony heap that was her Man.
          His health allowed them to survive the nightmarish Middle Passage to into this hell. So many people died on those vessels and many dying here. Often, she wished they had died too. She feared they would be here for their whole lives and that was tragic. The other sad thought, if they were here, who was looking over things in the village she wondered. She had heard that much of her village was scattered about in this new land. That thought killed her insides every time and she became infuriated before the Sun was over the horizon. If our generation is lost in this hell, who will teach the next? They will be lost because we have been stolen. A hot tear ran down her sable cheek and her full lips trembled with rage.
          He kissed the cheek. Her full, dark lips revealed spacey, white teeth. Without him, she would have been killed moons ago. Her anger blurs her sense sometimes. She buried her head into his neck and breathed in his heat. It revived her spirit. His hand wandered between her legs and she giggled. There is no time for love now, she told him in the old language. There is only time for work she said as she rose. Her glorious dark body was already beaded with sweat that ran a crooked path down her back along deep gashes from the whips. Souvenirs for not working hard enough. Fast enough. Long enough. She slipped on a work dress and began wrapping her long kinky braids in cloth. He stood. His own body was flawless as if he’d never endured a lash or gash. His body told a lie that only his soul could relay truthfully. He dressed in rough trousers and a torn shirt. As he secured his pants, kissed her neck, and held her in his black, muscled arms. His round, boyish eyes looked deep into her slanted, piercing ones. Dong! Dong! Dong! No time for love.
          They worked together in the fields. She chopped swiftly and he gathered what she chopped. He also chopped down the stalks she missed in her haste. He was watching the back of her dress dance and missed the stalks he swung for. Shhwick! She turned just in time to see the whip lick his back and blood run from His shirt. The white man screamed something in his tongue while shaking the whip at her Man. Unaffected, he chopped the stalks and gathered the rest. She was still staring at the white man and the other slaves moved past. Her fury returned. The white man screamed at Her and walked toward Her with his whip in hand. Her Man grabbed her machete. The white man stopped when he did that. Welding both machetes, He chopped down four stalks in one violent stroke and told her, in the old language: Gather. She obeyed and They advanced. Indolently, the white man returned to his post.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Are You Willing to Wait For?

Patience is a virtue. We have all heard this old adage yet, it seems, few of us actually practice this principle. Our society has no time for patience. We live in a world of instant everything: instant messaging, instant coffee, instant gratification. Every single American probably utters the phrase, “I don’t have time for this,” at least five times a day. And what is “this”? “This” could be the annoying people you work for and/or with, morning traffic, afternoon traffic, a slow server at a restaurant, the bus, etc.  Anyone or anything that is not ready when we are ready, we dismiss with “I don’t have time.” How can we have time with all of the roles we must fulfill, people depending on us, deadlines and due dates looming about our heads? The world is on our shoulders and we have more worries than we have time to list them all. Or do we?

Thanksgiving night, my husband, his best friend, and I went grazing for the ever elusive, but highly anticipated Black Friday deal. We drove past stores with lines and only went into the few that were open. It wasn't even Friday. Not even close. It was 8:30 on Thursday night, yet there they were. Thousands of people waiting for midnight. Waiting for stores to close and then re-open with new drastic markdowns and discounts. Stores that did not have lines were packed with people anxiously searching for the best price. In Target, people stood in lines that snaked around the aisles. Families sent out scouts for popcorn and slushies. I would love to tell you that we found the bargain of a lifetime. I wish I could write that my husband and I found the computer with everything we wanted for only half of what we budgeted. I would like to say that my husband’s buddy found an Ipod for $75. That did not happen. The prices were not low enough for us to spend three hours in line, so we left.

This excursion of ours was not completely fruitless. I discovered that Americans, who claim to be constantly pressed for time, somehow found several hours to could stand in line for things. Stuff. I realized that our society’s instant gratification mentality only applies in certain cases. We may not have time to call our parents, spend time with our children, or thank God for all of His blessings, but we do have time to wait in line for a television that has been marked down. We make time for what matters most to us.

As the Thanksgiving holiday moves into rear view, and signs of Christmas loom ahead, let us concentrate on the what truly matters most. We may not have time for traffic, and tedious paperwork, but always make time for people, especially your family. If your family is anything like mine, they are much more valuable to you than any electronic device and far more entertaining. 

Thanks for taking the time to read "What Are You Willing to Wait For?". Please follow my blog clicking "Join This Site."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Natural Question

I have a living bucket list. Since I underwent the “big chop” on my 22nd birthday, I have vowed to change something with every following birthday. For next the few birthdays, I got a tattoo, went tandem hang gliding, and my natural hair crept down my shoulders. Then, I got bored with my hair. So on June 5th, 2009, I donated ten inches of my natural hair to Locks of Love, then, permed and cut the remainder into a short short bob: Toni Braxton circa 1996. All was well, until the new growth began. I felt conflicted. I welcomed the hair growth, but how could two textures coexist on three inches of hair? For about six months, I continued to perm my hair and endure the burning torture session called a “touch up.” By month seven, enough was enough. I went back to roller sets, twist outs, and the like. My relaxed hair and my natural hair would just have to get along because I was not going to peel another scab from scalp. I vowed to never perm my hair again. And I haven’t. Then, I got bored and colored my hair on June 5th 2011.
As with most women, my hair is an expression and extension of my beauty. I love and embrace everything it is and everything it is not. I consider myself a card carrying member of Team Natural now that every strand on my head is natural again, but some argue my credentials. In my travels, I have had many conversations with Black women about what being natural means. Below are some biases on the natural question along with my thoughts.
·         “If you flat iron your hair all the time, you might as well get a perm.”
Negative. A perm is a permanent, chemical process that irreversibly changes your texture and damages the hair. Most women who perm their hair flat iron it as well adding more damage. Not to mention that most White women typically blow dry and flat iron and/or curl their hair everyday or every other day without a perm. We can do the same thing.
·         “If you color your natural hair, it’s not really natural.”
I disagree. While permanent color can alter your texture, it does not straighten it. As I am learning, colored hair behaves different from non-colored hair, but it is all one curly-kinky-wavy mass of loveliness.
·         “If your hair is natural, you need to set it in a twist out, Bantu knots or something.”
Nope. India Aire said it best. “Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I don’t.” The most important thing I have learned on my hair journey is that you cannot tame the natural mane. You can only hope to contain it. That’s why I have six different combs with varying teeth. Part of the freedom of being natural is letting your hair do its own thing. It doesn’t have to be in uniformed, military precision curls. That’s the beauty of it.   
·         “You can be natural because you got ‘good’ hair. I couldn’t do that.”
EEEEEENK!! Wrong answer. Caution: I will probably offend someone with the following:
As a people, we MUST let go of the “good” hair mantra. If we honestly look at the root of that statement, it bears a strange, ugly fruit. There weren’t enough Native Americans to procreate with every Black person’s great-grandmother. Our female ancestors were victimized by horrific sexual violence and manipulation, usually at the hands of White men. That chapter in history is over, and “good” hair is not a consolation prize. Please let it go.
 If you want to go natural, do it. If not, that’s cool too. As long as your hair is well-moisturized and growing, it is all good.

Long hair....

Short hair...

Transitioning hair...

Natural hair...

My hair...
You’ve read what I think. I’d like to hear from you. What do you think about “The Natural Question?”

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More Than A Right

I have never been a morning person. I’m still not. When I was a college student at Middle Tennessee State University, there were many mornings I did not want to leave my room. Whether I was exhausted from partying or studying or working, some mornings required an extra boost. One such morning during my sophomore year, I drowsily showered, dressed, and prepared for my classes dreading the tasks ahead. At the time, I lived in Gracy Hall, an “exterior” dorm.  In other words, the dorm was like a motel. The door to the room opened to a  balcony outside. When I locked my third floor dorm room on this particular morning, I looked down at the other students moving about their daily routines. The image of heads and backpacks was very arresting. I realized two things: 1) the third floor was pretty high off the ground, and 2) there weren't many African Americans here. Certainly, I knew that I was a minority at MTSU, but as I watched the students from that vantage point it became crystal clear. It was a privilege to be there.

As the product of a single mother, and a working class family, the societal cards were and are stacked against me. Moreover, I am descended from slaves, sharecroppers, and maids.  My ancestors would have loved the opportunities I have been afforded. I have an obligation to take advantage of every single chance I have. Earning an education was an opportunity my ancestors sacrificed, toiled and prayed for. As I stood on the balcony of Gracy Hall eight years ago, I realized that I was living their American Dream.
Like education, voting often seems like more a nuisance than privilege. There’s the paperwork and the waiting, not to mention the added pressure to make the right choice. I am not writing to make plea for any particular party, policy, or politician. This is about doing what others could only hope for. This is about understanding the scripture “To whom much is given, much is required.” If your ancestors were poor, female, non-white, or all of the above, YOU MUST VOTE!! It is more than a right. It is a privilege that we have done little to earn. We owe it to our foreparents.
P.S. There is only one America. Let’s move in it the right direction. Forward.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Falling Out of Love With Rap

When I was five years old, I memorized all of the words to Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.” That's when I fell in love with rap. My sister was in high school, and I got to tag along when she borrowed our mom's car. We listened to Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D, Big Daddy Kane, and MC Lyte. I wanted to be MC Lyte when I grew up. I can remember exactly where I was when I heard Bone Thugs N Harmony’s debut single “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.” I used to tear up when I heard Eve’s “Love is Blind” because the lyrics were so moving and poignant. “Hard Knock Life” was the soundtrack to my sophomore year in high school and Jay-Z became my favorite rapper. I have written countless papers listening to the Blueprint 2. When College Dropout was released, I felt like Kanye had been reading my journal. My first year as a teacher, I listened to Three Six Mafia’s Most Known Unkowns every morning on my way to work. I LOVE RAP!!

I don’t call it hip-hop because when I was introduced to it, it was rap. Years later, there was a distinction made between rap, which had the negative, street, gangsta, connotation and hip-hop, which was more positive, socially uplifting. Then, the music industry blurred that distinction and it all became hip-hop. I would like to say that as an educated, intellectual woman, I only listened to socially conscious music. I would love to be that person. I am not. If C-Murder’s “F*** Them Other N******” came on right now, I would stop typing, slide my chair back from the desk, and start dancing and rapping because I know every single word. Although I have never done any of the acts portrayed in the song, the lyrics are delivered with such conviction and power. C-Murder eloquently and rhythmically “rides the beat.” This song is his Mona Lisa. Whether you call it rap, or hip-hop, as a genre, I love it. At least I used to.

Maybe it’s because I have gotten older. Maybe it’s because I am a writer and I can tell when another writer takes his/her time to craft a phrase or when he/she just writes down the first thing that comes to his/her mind. Perhaps it’s because, as a teacher, I see how literally young people take the songs they hear. I am not sure of the cause, but I have a hard time finding rap music that I actually like. As I previously stated, I am not above bumping some hard core club only music, but even the club songs are so … well… ignorant. Not in the message, but in the delivery. I am not saying that every song that comes on the radio has to be some deep, cognitively aware form of poetry, but at least make the words rhyme and stay consistent.

Let’s compare apples to apples. The Ying Yang Twins were not deep and their music did not evoke reflection, but at least they painted a picture with their lyrics.  

From “Say I Yi Yi:”
She got her hands up on her knees and her bows on her thighs 
She got the twerkin and the servin so I know that she fly 
She got me hype, I wanna bite her right now yi yi 
Say I yi yi yi yi.

 Not intellectually stimulating, but an attempt. Now, Two Chainz just says random stuff that doesn’t go together, make logical sense, or tell a story. He’s like Waka Flocka minus the colorful sounds. Two Chainz is thirty-six years old and he went to college. Clearly, he can try harder, but why would he? The listeners just want something to get _______(high, drunk, wasted) to.

From “Birthday Song”
They ask me what I do and who I do it for

And how I come up with this shit up in the studio

All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe

All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe

When I die, bury me inside the Gucci store
When I die, bury me inside the Louis store
All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe
All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe

So what is my point. If the lowest form of rap is sliding into the abyss, what can we say about the rest of it. Nothing. Mr. College Dropout is actually on this record talking about threesomes. There was a time when even the club records had a modicum of literary merit. Now, even that is gone out of the window. What can be said for the rest of the genre? If you’re like me, and you love rap music, stop supporting the crap they’re calling rap and demand better. 

I want to know how you feel about this. Please leave a comment below.