Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Excerpt from draft, "Studio Dreams"

I had a dream right before I left 
the heart flower paper airplane cage.
here is what happened.  there was 
hats and fathers
an ornate white bird cage 
brown leather bird mask
on the floor, tiny wooden toy 
wheeled animals 
the trees lost their heads
at the side swipe of a little boy’s hand.
& then the whirring 
{a hummingbird’s wings,
a teleportation device
an enthusiastic audience claps 
jet fueled grass-faced spirit dances}

falling. air tunnel. heart racing don’t care
snap ~ a hay colored parachute.
knees impact like an angry slap.
the black road burns off a layer of callouses.
dust. an armadillo.  a rusty truck 
one flower petulantly stares at a cloudless sky
horses Alice Walker the rolling hills. 

I am confused. 
the palm trees take off their masks. 
{ghost goat girl in her purple dress
waves and motions to me 
we meander a maze of wooden shacks
to the old slaughter house.
she dips one toe in the stone trough
where the blood ran off. & disappears.)

I shimmy under the shed. collect a jaw bone.
an old woman with snakes for hair 
shakes a backbone bellowing laughter.

a sudden reluctant peace crashes through my sternum 
erupts from my tear ducts when I realize the old woman is me
and this is the lost dream of a 20 year old girl
resurrected and frail.  presumed dead just like all the other 

good little Brown girls no one remembers. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

White Tears

one day, I will gather my White women.
every last last loving friend who ever said

"smh" or "no words" or "I can't believe that." 
"this make me sad." "this hurts my heart."

I will ask them to kneel before me & cry
into a hand crafted amber vessel.

I will collect each facile drop. save it
for all times I am in danger.

that they can not be there to save me.
I will at least have this magic potion made 

of the finest White woman water.
anoint the foreheads of my beloved boys.

it will save my friends from being dragged out
& drowned by my riptide heart. my tears are 

fathomless & seldom seen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

quick notes on a few non-violent parenting things I do

parenting is a relationship I initiated.  as parents, we have the power to determine the dynamics of that relationship.  we define what kind of relationship we are going to have based upon the actions we choose.

I want to be in an honest, respectful, trusting, caring relationship. my children are here because I decided to let them come here when the Spirit offered me this opportunity.

however, they are not extensions of me.  they are individuals with their own personalities, preferences and interests.  over time I have learned that my children are not a product.  they are an on-going process to which I have committed.  we are learning things from each other. we both make mistakes.

as Black parents, I notice we spend a lot of time worrying that our children’s behavior is a life or death issue.  it isn’t.  our children make decisions about how they engage the world. for my son, especially, this can be life or death.  the simple fact of his Black maleness urges me ~ no compels and commands me ~ to make every effort to model calm, rational, caring behavior. this will be his best survival strategy.  

giving him the ability to self-regulate; to take time to consider his actions; to learn to trust his decision making capability, these are tools he will use the rest of his life. 

I am not a great parent. I don't define myself that way because it is not a useful way of orienting myself to the world. what I can say is that I work very hard on being a thoughtful parent, a listening parent, a mindful parent.  this is the right style for me, in this moment, at this time.  that is the absolutely most important part of my parenting. I try to always understand that my parenting practices are not fixed and immutable.  they are ever adapting to the changing needs of my child.

so this is what works for me.

don’t offer choices that aren’t there.  life requirements aren’t a test.  don’t ask questions when there is only one correct answer.  

if it’s time to go; put on a hat; or put the toys away, don’t ask a child if they want to do it.  they don’t want to do it.  they are children. 

you don’t have to me a mean dictator barking orders.  a simple, “please put your hat on”  or ‘thank you for cleaning your toys up now” suffices. 

when you are offering choices.  honor the decision they make.  oh, how painful this can be.  I can get a real flashy pair of rose colored glasses on and expect my child to make a difficult choice because I am absolutely 100% positive that know they know what the “right choice” is.  and that because they are such a fantastic, glorious child, they will make the right choice. they are still a fantastic, glorious child. but, they are a child. 

I am eternally challenged to do the right thing in this instance.   “okay, then, sure. we can stand here and look at this puddle for the next 30 minutes.  the zoo is always there. 

Calmly Communicate Clear Consequences 

be prepared to enact consequences for bad behavior.  I have left groceries in the aisle. left after 5 minutes of a long anticipated coffee date.  in the very early pre- 2 years when we ate out, I carried cash.  if tempers were unmanageable, we left. I kept a mental tally of our order, added extra for maternal brain death and an acceptable tip. I had to use it twice.  we got home. ate bread. drank water. and I communicated we had better opportunities.

no need to guilt. no need to call names. no need to be emotional.  the facts are the worst thing about what happened. (this is my attorney father slipping out.) state the facts.  screaming in restaurants is not okay. you screamed. we left. this bread and water is dinner. we can always make different choices tomorrow. the end. no further discussion required.

back to the zoo versus the puddle.  so, they’ve made their choice.  and you are living with it.  they don’t see the long term. that’s your job.  I always make sure that they know the consequences of their choice.  and have them repeat it back to me so I know that they understand. 

“tell me, I’II may have to wait a long time for another zoo time if we don’t go now.”
if they can repeat that then...cool...carry on.

Focus On The Positive
It’s all wonderful to think they should get some kind of warm fuzzy internal reward for doing the right thing.  Well, they don’t.  When a child does the right thing without being asked, notice that behavior.  

I praise and thank my son for all kinds of trivial things.  “I really like it when you turn the tv off quickly, get your shoes and coat and go stand by the car. It really helps me keep our schedule.  Thank you.”

“I really like it when...” is one of the most useful parenting / teaching phrases I have ever found.  After awhile, children actively seek this attention.  This phrase has gotten me through many a teaching artist gig.  It can be exhausting noticing all the very many, many wonderful things children do.  It is a choice for me.  Do I want to leave that classroom exhausted and dispirited? Or exhausted and deeply fulfilled? I choose the latter feeling.

side note: even adults don’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling about doing the right thing.  but, we do them.  and it’s nice when someone notices.  we thank my husband for going to work. he thanks me for making dinner. living in gratitude creates a positive environment.

Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
Internet rules apply to real life.  Don’t feed the trolls.  Don’t make a big drama.    Develop selective hearing.  

I don’t hear whining.  I don’t hear rudeness.   don’t talk about things they already know.  (Unless you are engaged in a quiet discussion about what exact thought process lead them into doing something they clearly knew was wrong.)

I do hear screaming.  I do acknowledge turmoil.  Acknowledge the normalcy of the feeling.  But, they can’t do that near me.  I have other more interesting things to do.  they can go work that out far away from me.  I’ll be here to do wonderful interesting things with them when they get back.

Expect Good Behavior. “Here is what I know about you...”

I often list all the reasons I am surprised that we are having a discipline moment.  it usually begins with “here’s what I know about you. you are a thoughtful person.  so I’m really surprised that you’ve done this thing. I need to hear about what isn’t working for you, so you don’t feel like you need to behave this way again.  this is the part where really active listening occurs.

Do What You Say You Are Going To Do
if you say there will be ice cream. there had better be ice cream. 

if it is going to be 5 minutes. set the timer.

if you said you could hear the whole story. when it’s a good time, go say, “I wanted to hear all about the worm in the mud. and I have time now to hear the whooooole story.” (sometimes they’ve forgotten about the worm in the mud. what is important is they know that you were listening and that you care.

now after 11 years of observing me honor my word my son says. “well, actually Mama if you say it’s going to happen it will happen. as long as you have absolute and total control over it happening. “

Find The Real Problem
sometimes, when a child is resistant to the correct choice, there is actually a deeper underlying reason.  in spite of believing that I am a fantastic active listener.  at times, I am so far from to make that statement would seem delusional to my child.

toilet training was one of those times.  he was just a little over 2 years old. one day, he woke up and simply wouldn't let me change his diaper.  well, I did not wrestle him to the ground and change him. I let that diaper get ripe.  I kept checking in with him about that diaper. eventually, I needed to let him know I had to make a decision for his health and well-being.  I said, "I'm going to take that diaper off because I don't want you to get sick. Do you want a new diaper?" he said, "No." and I stopped and thought about that.  so I asked, "When I take your diaper off, you don't want a new diaper?" he said, "Yes." that was was an epiphany moment for me.  he had been presented with lots and lots of information about toileting. he wasn't being defiant. he was making a huge life decision and just needed a little space to commit.  he never looked back. he never had an accident.

every now and then I need to say, "is this one of those times you need me to listen and not say anything?"  this has done wonders for creating an atmosphere where the child is clear that this is almost an amnesty zone. a time when you can just let them work through all of their conflicting feelings and emotions without fear of a lecture, punishment, or advice. sometimes, they need to hear themselves say things out loud so that they can find their way to their own solutions.

I have come to see that when I offer care, concern, respect and honor, I get it back.

NOTE: I have a full grown wonderful daughter engaged in the process of becoming who she should be. I am thankful to her for being a teacher to me about ways to improve my parenting.  the bulk of these suggestions reflect the parenting of my son. there is a 16 year gap between the two of them.

just thinking about discipline

my parents gave each other parental autonomy. my mother spanked. my father did not spank. I have to say, it was more agonizing being disciplined by my father. he would sit us down to talk. and he wouldn't stop the talk until we had come to some remorseful self-awareness about how selfish, greedy or stupid we had been and how we had known better and still made poor choices. and then he would ask us how we would punish ourselves. and we had friends, so we knew about all kinds of punishments. 

with Mom, we were up and back to our bad selves. with my father, we were grounding ourselves for weeks, taking away our own tv privileges and writing essays about our badness. he taught us how to self-regulate.  because his parents taught him how to self-regulate.

spanking ultimately derives from not having enough time to contemplate and develop strategies to address the adult's unmet needs. to be able to be perfectly present in the whirlwind of ever changing needs a child expresses is truly challenging and requires diligent self-checking. 

when do I say no?  I say no when I actually care enough to stand up and walk across a room to do something about enforcing that “no.”  when do I say yes?  I say it when I enthusiastically support the activity.  typically, I communicate my ambivalence through a middle ground statement.  “I don’t see why not.”  If I can’t think of actual real, tangible reasons why something should not occur, then I empower my child to make that choice.  

however, this isn’t really a switch-up fixit fad. it began practicing this response in very early childhood.  I never said, ‘no’ unless it was an irrefutable and unchangeable fact. (usually around concerns of health and safety.  the times when you need a child to understand that they must freeze in their tracks or get hit by a car.) instead,   I always said, ‘this is why not” and provided a list of concerns. this way, by the time the child is older, they have a history of understanding that you don’t say no just to be arbitrary and mean.  

I find myself telling my son all the time, “I feel bad when I have to say no.  Every fiber of my being wants you to be a happy person. but, this thing you are requesting right now? this is a short term happy.  it isn’t going to make you become the person you want to be. so, the hard part of my job is saying no. because I love you.’

that takes a lot of time.  the same amount of time Dad spent with me.  the time he had to take out of his busy, tiring day to deal with some knucklehead decision I made because I was young; thought I could get away with it; and had very little impulse control. time he could have spent watching Hawaii Five-O or preparing for work the next day.  but, he took the time.  discipline was about building life skills. it wasn’t a problem to be ticked off a list so he could get about the rest of his day and reinforce his disagreement with what I had done.

in all fairness to my mother, she was an executive for a major corporation, a community activist and was responsible for the care and cleaning of a massive house, household maintenance and overseeing the needs of two independently minded children. (often while her husband was on the road.) I would say she had a lot of unmet needs.  she would say, she doesn’t have time to wallow around in thinking about her unmet needs when there are things to get done in the world. (i salute her. she is an incredible and amazing woman.)

it has taken me a lot of time to cherish and value what both of my parents gave me through their parenting techniques.  some days, it would be entirely inappropriate for me to leisurely root around my garden of unmet needs looking for truffles of despair.  in those days, I need to take swift and immediate action. fix the problem and move on.  other days, and always with my child, I am reminded to take the time.  to slow down. to breathe and think before choosing which words I will use.  yes. no. I don’t see why not.

children behave poorly when they have unmet needs. making sure a child's needs are met - hungry, thirsty, tired, unengaged (bored) - can prevent a child from acting out. this is being a pro-active parent. this is something we as African Americans could do better at in general. be proactive not reactive.

we need to live healthy lifestyles. we need to open spaces in our lives for spiritual and emotional refreshment. we need to anticipate our needs, so that we can plan to get them met. we need to slow down. everybody needs to slow down.  we need to begin seeing ourselves in the long term.   I don’t see why not.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Dear Baleen,

you, the loneliest 200 ton blue black girl 
in the whole world. ripple along 

trusting any song is always 
better than none. 

notice even tempestuous weather ~ 
a punk rock hurricane or pattering globules waltzing ~

has some composer. know the way your food 
sounds like celebrating African women

krill! krill! 
sing! sing! 

even if you canΚΌt see me
I hear you sister! 

your wrong throated depth of 51.57 Hz 
or the difference of 20 hurts 

lower. your power 
seeks a new ear. 

my throat closed. 
I no longer tried

until I heard your sleek cicatrix 
muscled darkness calling

sing! krill! 
krill! sing! 

your own kind can’t hear you 
calling out over twenty years 

competing against  marine noise 
pollution; invalid frequencies; 

forgotten migration paths
swim. your own thing

opens my mouth.

NOTE: Scientists have been observing a Baleen whale who sings at the wrong frequency. She follows no known migratory patterns, can not find other whales and has been singing alone for over 20 years. New York Times article.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Home Educating & Gardening

home educating and gardening are similar. you get dirty. there's always water involved. the wind is more important than you know. sometimes there's fire. & sometimes that's necessary. not good or bad. 

not everything is about planting seeds. there's bulbs and tubers. there's transplants and cuttings. 

there will always be weeds. not good or bad. sometimes, they come to heal you. sometimes one of your good natural neighbors needs them for food & shelter. they teach judgment and generosity. the ones that are bad will kill everything you love. so, you have to dig them out by the root. sometimes, fire is involved.

there is always repetition.

always check the compost pile. it might offer more than nourishment. it may have next years fruit already growing.

you have to know the plants. nothing ever happens at the same time. not everything will happen in the same year. some skip a year. some you've got to put in year after year, especially if you like them. some come back after winter's rest. some a year. some can kill you. you have to know whether their beauty is worth the risk. some benevolent volunteers, just show up to remind you you don't have to do everything yourself.

some feed your body. some feed your soul. some do both. not one is more important than the other just because of what they do. you, your friends, your family and the Council Of Elders you assemble are the evergreens. make sure you plant those wisely so they don't overshadow.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Post-Modern Minstrals: White Male Artist Hires A Black Actress To Portray His Fictional Black Woman Artist

real or imagined, lyrical, 
literal, euphemistic, financial 
symbolic and/or metaphysical ~
to pillage and plunder Africa;
steal Black bodies; conquer & command 

~ { [ the elastic soul spark of Black women 
be Pygmalion'ed - extracted & siphoned 
into fragile glass vials - jammed 
into molds~ served like jello, wine or 
fired into reproductive vessels ~ ] }

this has never been problematic for Whites
except when any discussion of their right 
to do so disrupts their center 

or perception of self as perfect. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

National Poetry Month...

Thought I'd post something with which I've been toying.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

August Wilson Center - Symbol Of A Greater Problem For Black Artist

You've met Christiane D. Leach  here on a few years ago. I blogged about The Formiable Christiane D. Leach in 2008 when I was thinking about folks people should know.  Now, here is a story you won't believe.  It's a story about the way gentrification hurts communities of color.  It is a real story.  And this time, it just got up close and personal.  

Meet Christiane D. Leach a respected Pittsburgh artist who is internationally known for cool beats and smooth vocals.  As the Artist Relations Coordinator for The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, her purpose is to make Pittsburgh a more viable and sustainable place to live and work as an artist. Part of that viability is being able to purchase a home.  In November of 2013, she planned and implemented HE-HO,one of the most comprehensive conferences for artists to learn about affordable health care and home ownership.

Little did anyone know, during that conference, through no fault of her own, Leach became homeless. Her landlord sold the house she was renting, gave her 30 days to vacate and the closing date on her new home was delayed once again.  Her credit score was good. She had her closing costs in hand.  She had completed all the necessary paper work.  She had done everything in her power to move the deal forward to a successful conclusion.  

She was working with the most logical choice to help her achieve her own dream of home ownership, the FHA. The FHA has successfully helped millions of low to moderate home buyers purchase homes, moving America away from a nation of renters to a nation of home owners.  

The only thing she failed to take into full account is Pittsburgh’s attitude toward Black neighborhoods.  Since1980, Black population in the region has increased, while the Black population in the City Of Pittsburgh has decreased.  From 1990 the Black population in Pittsburgh has dropped from 101,139 to 79,710. 

Gentrification, inability to afford housing and obstacles to obtaining properties in distressed areas have all served to push Black out of the center city.  

After over a year of attempting to purchase a home, Leach was informed today that the only way she will be able to purchase her home in the distressed area of Homewood  is through cash or an owner financed loan.  In essence, unless you have cash, the only way to be a home owner in a distressed neighborhood is to have over $30,000 on hand.  Not many people today - let alone African Americans - have that kind of money sitting in a bank account. 

The dilemma of the August Wilson Center is symbolic of a larger attitude that Black Pittsburghers are incapable of being responsible of property. Here are some action statements for people who want to help. 1) Tweet her note http://tinyurl.com/ocah57y with the hashtag#FHApghredlines or #pghredlines.
2) Or Tweet this blog http://tinyurl.com/m6f438z with the hashtag#FHApghredlines or #pghredlines.
3) Share on Facebook and Google +

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Animating "Electronic Corpse: Poems From A Digital Salon"

As much as I enjoy making and creating my own work, I love being an artist in community.  And sometimes, I can't stand it that not everybody knows about every massively inspiring creation I encounter in my own life.   

It was that same need to create, collaborate and build community that inspired a non-profit, I co-founded and ran with Christiane Leach, Sun Crumbs.  Back in those days, when I encountered incredible artists, the first thing I did was scheme about a way to get them to present in Pittsburgh.  Christiane and I eventually shut down Sun Crumbs because funders were more interested in changing our vision to meet their own objectives and models. 

A few years ago, I decided to stop asking permission to do my art work.  I applied for very few grants. When I did apply, I presented the work as I saw it within, rather than as a list of objectives funders laid out before me.  Needless to say, I went unfunded more than I went funded.  Not surprisingly, my work was more supported abroad than at home in Pittsburgh.  

Living in London, brought about a tremendous inner freedom. My time spent at Historic Royal Palaces, University Of East London and City Lit College made me vibrate due to the positive reinforcement for being honest within my own artwork.  All of these experiences lead me to artist residencies and retreats.  

When I returned home to Pittsburgh, I made a conscious decision to no longer ask permission to create and produce.  I was simply going to do it.  So, I produced my one woman show, "She Diva Died. & Come Again?"  I realized, that changes in technology would free me to pursue my own work in community with other artists.  With all of this in mind, I began The Svaha Paradox Salon which responds with agility to under-exposed artists whose voices are marginalized due to the way in which they are performed in the minds of the dominant culture. And together, we share the results with audiences. 

Svaha Paradox Salon resumes where the Sun Crumbs left off in 2003 to seek out artists whose exceptional work requires support from non-traditional sources. Svaha Paradox Salon provides the encouragement necessary to complete these projects.

In 2012, I noticed M. Ayodele Heath was hosting digital salons on Facebook.   Inspired by the early 20th century French surrealist parlor game, Exquisite Corpse, M Ayodele Heath was offering group poetry writing exercises. (Syllabic Sundays, Metaphoric Mondays, Wildcard Wednesdays, and Free Verse Fridays).   I asked him, how he was archiving these.  He had thought about it.  I (and other participants) encouraged him to do more than think about it.  Then, I asked him if he'd be willing to let The Svaha Paradox Salon make this project our first book.  

To date, over 130 of these exercises have been created by poets of all experiences and geographies – from state poet laureates to the casual journaler; from South Carolina to South Korea to South Africa. We've selected the best.  The poems in Electronic Corpse: Poems From A Digital Salon reflect the way in which social media has transformed the ability of artists to engage with each other regardless of physical constraints or externally driven outcomes. 

It’s a truly unique and layered book.  The anthology has two sections: the collaborative poems and poems from the most frequent contributors.  The reason we are publishing individual poems is our hope that by seeing the individual poem, the determined reader might excavate that poet's voice within the larger voice of the group.  Almost like a soloist in a choral piece.

The most  important part of this anthology is for archival reasons.  Unlike pre-digital artistic communities, there will be no cocktail napkins or scrawled notebook pages to reconstruct the ways in which artistic communities engage.  In regards to social media - entire conversations can be lost if one person deletes their account.  This book archives one digital salon over the period of a year.

Making art and building arts community is truly amazing in the Digital Era.  Some days, I wonder if the same tools had been available in 1998, whether Electronic Corpse: Poems From A Digital Salon would be the twentieth anthology I've produced.  Regardless, I am happy to start somewhere.  This book feels like one of the many reasons I showed up for this life. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Typical Conversation About Race In Pittsburgh

[Negro lies on the sidewalk]

Al: Look at that wound!
Be: That's a bleeding wound!
Clear: That's a bleeding wound! open all the way down to the bone!
Dammit: That arm has a bone in it!
Al: Look at the bone!
Be: That's a bone with blood all around it and ripped muscles!
Clear: Are you sure that's not a ligament or tendons?
Dammit: It certainly is something.
Whitey: It could be a movie prosthetic. Are you an actor?
Negro: A little help here? I'm bleeding out.
JC Negro II: (rolls up his sleeves, kneels down and begins holding Negro's wound together.) Anyone got a bandage?
Al: Um, I'm actually just about to use this band-aid.
Be: Here, have this organic sea foam and Indonesian dirt tincture.
Clear: Have you tried yoga?
Dammit: We should get a Hazmet team in to clean up this concrete. It's a biohazard. Think of future generations!
Whitey: I'll write up a report about this polluted concrete right away. Ow! Paper cut!
Negro: (whispers )a little help?
Al: A paper cut! Are you okay?
Be: Omg! White light! White healing light all around you!
Clear: Call an ambulance!
Dammit: Omg! Omg! Omg!
Whitey: Owwwww! I'm dying!
JC Negro II: I got this! (rips off his shirt, tears it into strips of bandage, and wraps Whitey's paper cut. turns and look at Negro) You got this, Negro?
Negro: I got this.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka | October 7, 1934 / January 9, 2014


"A closed window looks down
on a dirty courtyard, and Black people
call across or scream across or walk across
defying physics in the stream of their will.

Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone's
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air.

We are beautiful people
With African imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants
with African eyes, and noses, and arms
tho we sprawl in gray chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.

We have been captured,
and we labor to make our getaway, into
the ancient image; into a new

Correspondence with ourselves
and our Black family. We need magic
now we need the spells, to raise up
return, destroy,and create. What will be

the sacred word?

Amiri Baraka - October 7, 1934 / January 9, 2014

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Two Remarkable Girls Take A Stand Against Girl Scout Cookies

I want to talk about something extraordinary.  Two young activists (12 and 10) told me they had written to Michelle Obama and the Girl Scouts to explain why won't be participating in selling cookies this year.  They told me that harvesting palm oil is one of the primary problems creating orangutan habitat loss.  Seven years ago, this was brought to the attention of the Girl Scouts and they made a “pie crust promise” to find a solution. They’d like to see the Girl Scouts make good on their promise.

I’m impressed that two young women decided to commit to taking action about which something the care very deeply.  They cared enough to share their concern with me.  They cared enough to ask for help letting people know about a problem. Together we photoshopped images to get attention for the issue.  And they started a petition on change.org  
In order to understand how extraordinary this is, think back to yourself at age 10 and 12.   The urge to be “part of the group” at that age is strong.  This is the time in most young women’s lives when they are worried about fitting in.  But, this issue is so important to them, that they chose not to do something they feel is ethically wrong just to be part of a group.  

I think we should stand with them so that they will know that they belong to a larger group of people committed to creating a better world.  

Here's what you can do.

  1. Sign their petition.
  2. Share the information so people can make informed decisions. 
  3. Make a donation to the Girl Scouts and let them know you don’t want cookies. If you are a Girl Scout, simply ask for donations to the girl scouts and/or bake your own cookies and give them away as a reward.
  4. Stand in solidarity then write your own letter. If you are a Girl Scout, refuse to sell the cookies as a member or troop and write a letter.

Girl Scouts of the USA
420 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10018-2798

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

thinking about artists and identity politics

(in the wake of the Ani DiFranco fiasco starring Buddy Wakefield, Toshi Reagon and Saul Williams)

ultimately, the product of real artists is our heart and soul.  it hurts when people don't like our work.  it's akin to hearing, 'I don't like you.'  the journey of the artist whose product revolves around identity politics is even harder. we know that the system we challenge is filled with people who don't like us and we are okay ~ even proud of ~ of that.  but, the product we bring to market is also wrapped up in hope. truly, the audiences we have worked so hard to earn demand that our hearts and souls to be stronger ~ wiser ~ smarter.  because we have stood up and said no to a system to which so many of us are still bound.  

our audiences are not like our close friends and family who pardon our frail humanity. those dear ones who know us to be good people even though we fart precisely at three o'clock every morning.  and when we deliver a truly faulty product, they will come at us.  

this is the time for us to rise to the occasion of our higher selves.  this is the time we peel back our rib cages and expose our hearts to their knives.  say, 'see? I am broken also. help me.' and then allow them to put down their knives and stitch the aorta back. for too often, our hearts have grown weary of placing plastic bandages on something that has grown rigid and brittle in the light of market share.  

this is the time we invite them in and allow them to help us become again to them what they have hoped we have tried to remain all along.  this is the time of a true and meaningful repentance. the time for action. the time to to put the match to hope's kindling and let them relight all of us.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Calling In | From One To Another One

Toshi Reagon responded to the kerfuffle about Ani DiFranco's messy venue selection here.

I am often "the one" and understand that it comes 
with a heavy load of responsibility. regardless 
of your choices, there will be questions, 
assertions, assumptions and name calling 
mixed together with a liberal smattering of self-righteous 

"see? it's /not\ okay." sometimes, the choices 
"the one" are asked to make are difficult 

and painful. too often, the task of "the one" is 
to solder together odd bits and pieces into what might look 
like a hybrid gramophone/ boombox/ ipod hybrid 
so it mimics a flawless rendition of multiple voices 

in time and space. sometimes those voices have 
to be sampled, remixed and accompanied 
live. this is a deep and awkward labor. 

sometimes, the one has to choose the terms of engagement
the way a recovering alcoholic enters a bar. 
if the alcoholic is spiritually fit, they can withstand 
with ease and grace the temptations 
to be drawn back into their illness.  what I hear you saying is ~ 

you see yourself as spiritually fit ~ you are an equal partner in the venture. 
your place is one where you have the ability to co-create the experience, 
direct the programming, define stated objectives, intend 
outcomes ... with equality in revenue sharing. 

if this is the case, if you seek not to improve your position within 
patriarchal White Supremacy and are using this event to dismantle 
it, then I applaud and admire you. 

I will watch closely to learn how you do this. your brand is
unlike your mother's ~ which has always stayed close 
to an indisputable mission to dismantle White Supremacy and patriarchy.

it may just be that you have grown large enough 
to think about being able to walk in her shoes. and I trust 
in her good role-modeling to see you through 
this swamp of thoughtless entitled female White supremacist 

behavior. so, my sister, I am watching carefully 
to see how you do this tender dangerous work.
I have much to learn about the way 
"one" has always been asked to create 
change. and achieves it single-handedly.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Report From Nottoway Plantation

(site of Ani DiFranco’s "Righteous Retreat in The Big Easy)

them ghosts gonna 
respect no privacy or tenderness.
hobble they tires like runaways.
cut strings like ham.
sing the stillborn song. holler down 

holy hell.  them ghosts gonna
sprinkle glass in they food.
rub fingernails on they larynx.
bite out they tongues. 
break they fingers.  suck marrow 
out they phalanges n metatarsals. 
put brambles on they eyeballs. 

suffocate they. them ghosts gonna
rub on they like they was rubbed on.
play thorns on they eardrums.
yank they pubic hairs out.
brand they tastebuds.
salt paper cuts.
watch they young sold far.
push say please up they nose into they brain.
chop down they money tree.
confetti they money times 

five generations. them ghosts never forget.

just say no.  sign the petition.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Few Words For Roxanne Jones

without Mother Shaming

Here is an article from Roxanne Jones. She is a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and a former vice president at ESPN. She is a national lecturer on sports, entertainment and women's topics and a recipient of the 2010 Woman of the Year award from Women in Sports and Events.

Mother Teaches Son To Get A "Sexual Consent" By Text

I could go there.  But, I won't.  Instead, I'll say a little piece of my piece.  Then, I'll go back to the actually incredibly hard and rewarding work of raising a boy to become a good man.

1) A woman can say no at the very last second. Really, she can say no even after she texted yes. 

2) Perhaps sons should be taught to say no to girls who are drunk. Sons should not be taught tricks to get around date rape. If you can't get any from a sober girl, you probably have some inner work to do. 

3) The right kind of preparation for boys is teaching boys that it is not the girl's responsibility to "not get raped." It is the boy's responsibility not to rape. See #2 

4) No court of law would accept this tactic. See #1. 

5) Sending a "confirmation of consent" text to a girl you intend to have no further relationship is creepy at best and abusive at worst. Don't have sex with people you do not plan to have a continued relationship. 

6) If you think your boy is going to be "the all conquering hero," then teach him the dynamics of consensual polyamory.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Love Supreme - following bliss.

So, The Win thinks A Love Supreme is his lucky math song.  So, he shared this idea with his teacher at the Afro American Music Institute, Howard Alexander.  After two lessons, this is the result.


There is something to be said for trusting your child to find the right teachers who facilitate and encourage them to follow their bliss.  These days, I spend a lot of time reminding myself that I have raised a child who knows what he is doing. This I think is the hardest part of home educating.

Please like and share! Support quality musical education! If you shop Amazon, you can donate to the Afro American Music Institute by clicking the following link.  http://smile.amazon.com/ch/25-1689025http://smile.amazon.com/ch/25-1689025

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Experiment #2 - Untitled Text

I've done another experiment. I don't care for it as much as the first one.  I think I am trying to push too much.  Or rather, I'm the kid who was given the whole big box of crayons...
with some oil paints...
and some glue...
and some tissue paper.
When I was much better off with two pencils.

The poem was written in the graphics program.  I think lets you view my best attempt at standard text.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Process - Unlisted Second Steel Performance #3

There is something really fun about looking at different stages of work. Almost like watching a live birth, it's kind of painful, embarrassing and a tad messy.  

But, I'm really glad that the folks at Unlisted: a performance series value the evolving process of art making.  Almost like a parent who has sat through endless rehearsals; cheerfully endured practice at home; and is still moved by the end product.

Here are the first notes which were written during a production meeting. 

The link has the text of the first draft. (As does a previous blog entry.)

Here is the performance (No text. I'll put up video later.)  Below is the final text.  (It will be used as a voice over in my documentation video.  coming later)

The Dirt Only Speaks The Truth In Tongues

there are stories in the dirt.  
everything which has ever drawn 
breath whispers its echoing aches 
and ecstasy back to the dirt... 
the more you break your fingernails. 
sift and dig,  my eyelashes 
spell the words, “I  a m  s t i l l  h e r e.”    

on ribs nsibidi rising on smoke tendrils, 
adrinka blackened grill marked gourds, 
heiroglyph harpists playing cedar plank salmon songs,
curl charred silk mazes between your Maize biting teeth
pattering patois chickens with crimson coal applied like kohl 
to the inside of my eyelids in your fire pits
and backyard barbecues I spell, 
w h y  c a n ' t  you  s e e  me?”

the dirt only speaks the truth in tongues 
that were once in the mouths of others.
to those who see alkali smells 
with river silt scorched mouths. 
it has been speaking… open wide. 

I will pack your orifices with mud and rue laced 
salt. and light golden
seal them shut. 
dry and harden, it will. 
know my keloid lovely memories

these hard imagined futures
like itching amputated limbs ~ now. remember. now. 
goose bump spiculum burn ~ now. feel me. now
tympanic buzz ~ now. remember. now. 
I carry you. can cast you down or out.

dirt grows stories. what we know 
is that nothing stays
the same.  our ancestors 
tell our children their history must be scraped 
from under their parent’s fingernails
lest they become infected 
by scratching off their present
like chickens fattened, baffled, tagged.

Monday, October 21, 2013

New Experiments / Return to Origin

This year has been an amazing journey.  Artistically, it has ben a return to my young aesthetic roots.  Only this time, technology is within reach.  My job is to dance on the learning curve.

So, I've been making poems which look like what my journal used to look like before I stopped writing on paper.

Experiment #1

Monday, September 23, 2013

Notes From Project Meeting: Unlisted:Second Steel

I will be participating in Unlisted: Second Steel on September 28th.  My team's site is in The Hill District.  We will be asking:


Here are some notes from our first full production meeting.

/~/ Beginning /~/

there are stories in the dirt.  everything which has ever drawn 
breath whispers its echoing aches and ecstasy back to the dirt... 
the more I  break my fingernails. sift and dig, 
my eyelashes spell the words, 

"W h e r e  a r e  y o u?    
in crimson coals applied like kohl 
to the inside of my eyelids
W h y  c a n ' t  I  s e e  y o u?"

maybe nsibidi, adrinka, heiroglyphs,
the dirt only speaks the truth
to those who see the smell alkali with river silt scorched mouths. 
it has been speaking… in tongues that were once in the mouths of others.

open wide. I will pack your orifices with mud and rue laced salt. 
light golden
seal them shut. dry and harden, it will. the memory
keloid lovely. like me a hard imagined future memory

~ an amputated limb itching ~ now. remember. now. 
now. feel me. now. remember. I carried you.
dirt grows stories. What we know is that nothing stays

the same.  our ancestors tell our children their history
must be scraped from under their parent’s fingernails
lest they become infected by scratching off the present.

Monday, August 26, 2013

She Diva Died. & Come Again? 

be/he/me (myth) retro/speculative
 multi-medi(v)a motherhood art. 

After 10 years of relative quiet and minimal artistic activity, I'm returning to the Pittsburgh arts scene as both a presenter and performer.  This multi-media performance incorporates text, sound, image and movement to portray the battle between the artist and the mother.  The show particularly examines identity as it relates to raising a Black man.

In 2002, Springer stepped off the Pittsburgh arts community stage to raise my son. Christiane Leach and had been running a non-profit arts organization, Sun Crumbs which produced over 50 programs annually.  This is a taste of more great programming to come.

My CD 1999 CD, "In The Image Of Angels" has sold over 800 copies and is available for free download at www.soundcloud.com/christina_springer. You'll also find teasers and outtakes for "She Diva Died & Come Again."