The Little Things: Nope

I have immense respect for Denzel Washington and his acting chops. It doesn’t hurt that he is a particularly gorgeous black man. 

Denzel Washington

The last thing I saw him in was August Wilson’s Fences (2016) starring opposite Viola Davis. Then I learned that he had bought the rights to all of Wilson’s plays. So when I saw him speak about the film version of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), a masterpiece also starring Davis, my respect for the man and his work only grew. 

When I saw that he was starring in a new release, The Little Things (2021), I jumped at the chance to see him in action again. 

First, I’ll admit, I haven’t seen much of Washington’s more popular work. So, it’s quite possible that the atrocity that I saw unfold on screen in The Little Things is not an anomaly—perhaps someone can tell me. 

The Little Things is a kind of police thriller, centering Washington as the protagonist, Sheriff Joe Deacon, who is seemingly haunted by the unsolved serial murders of several women years before. The film takes place in 1990 when the murders have started again. Deacon joins forces with detective Jim Baxter to solve the crimes. 

The Little Things

The two set their sights on a local creep, Albert Sparma, who spends his free time following unsolved crimes, occasionally confessing to them. 

The pair are like dogs with a bone, so focused they are on Sparma as the culprit that they ignore any evidence to the contrary. 

I couldn’t agree more with Matt Goldberg who, in his review, places the film in a larger context, as it should be. Films are not made in isolation. There are reasons that certain years and places are chosen. Whether the director, John Lee Hancock, was conscious of his decisions or not, his choices are bold slaps in the face to those of us who are all too familiar with the way these kinds of things play out and at whose expense. 

As Goldberg observes about the plot, “The problem is that the film is too sympathetic towards Deke and Baxter. Ultimately, they are the film’s heroes, and when they cross that line of doing an evil thing, the film gives them a cop-out by showing that Deke’s shooting was accidental and Sparma basically had it coming by taunting a guy who was already primed to kill him.”

Again, the film is set in 1990. By doing so, perhaps Hancock hoped to avoid dealing with current events, but again, as Goldberg reminds us, “these events have sadly always been current. Rodney King was beaten by LAPD officers in March 1991, five months after the events of The Little Things, and it’s not like King was the first person ever assaulted by the police who then got away with their crimes. Creating a narrative about how cops commit crimes in the name of personal closure and then feel kind of guilty about it afterwards is letting powerful people off the hook. While it is possible to thread this needle of cops melting down in their search for answers…The Little Things comes off as kind of tone-deaf. It’s one thing to ponder the inner lives of your officers, but Hancock ultimately turns a blind eye towards what these cover ups do to a society.”

Monsters and Men

Reflecting on The Little Things, I was reminded of another cop film that I recently watched: Monsters and Men (2018) which, using the Eric Garner murder as inspiration, explores the fates of three men of color, Manny, Dennis, and Zyrick, who take different paths to resolution in the aftermath of the police murder of a local man, Darius Larsen. 

Monsters’ director, Reinaldo Marcus Green, tries to take a nuanced approach to the choices that people make when faced with an impossible situation. The thing that I left that film with, however, was the question of why it is always people of color who must bear the burden of “doing the right thing.” 

Manny’s life is pretty much ruined by the two white cops who are responsible for the murder of Darius, and who are free to continue with their “bad apple” behavior of harassing black men who are simply trying to live their lives. 

Zyrick is willing to sacrifice his chance at the baseball majors to stand up for justice. 

Dennis chooses to place himself squarely behind the blue wall because he has a lot to lose if he decides to do otherwise. 

Again, the film attempts some nuance. But again, my question remains. Larsen, who served in the military, is dead and blamed for his own murder, while the “bad apple” trope is trotted out as if the whole freaking bushel is not rotten to the core. 

Similarly, in The Little Things, Sparma had it coming. How dare he taunt a cop who has a wife and two girls and who “only wants to do the right thing:” find the depraved murderer of women?

But, it seems clear to me that the only things Sparma’s guilty of are being poor, alone, and morbidly fascinated with unsolved crimes. 

Conversely, both Deacon and Baxter are portrayed as good cops who accidentally did bad things. 

And since Sparma is white, then it can’t be about race, right? 

And since Deacon is black and gets his foible covered up by a white man and a black woman it really can’t be about race, right? 

Actually, what this casting does is again, point to the corruption of the whole system while playing into the hands of those who would argue that there is no problem of race in the (in)justice system. 

The danger in this kind of move is that, as we have seen again and again, if it is not checked, the truth gets rewritten in the American imagination, while the reality remains ignored. 

I’m surprised and really disappointed that Washington let himself be used in this way. 

So, nope. 

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Review of Joy Harjo’s Crazy Brave

Joy Harjo

For the longest time I had the United States poet laureate, Joy Harjo’s memoir, Crazy Brave (2013), in my Amazon wishlist. The book’s cover, which features the profile of a beautiful raven haired woman, made me want to know more about her. 

Crazy Brave

I have always felt a kinship with indigenous people and their struggles, which, as a person of African descent, clearly aligned with my own.

Then, of course, there is Julie Dash’s groundbreaking 1991 film Daughters of the Dust, which intrigues with the intimation of long-recognized kinship between indigenous people and people of African descent. 

And as a student of “Caribbean” cultures and histories I have learned about the maroon communities that were populated by both indigenous people and those who had been enslaved, but who together escaped to the mountains in search of refuge and respite from the barbarism of European colonialism. 

A long time ago friend gifted me with Jack A. Forbes’ Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples (1993), but the book was dry and I was young, so it has sat on my shelves for decades. I do not plan to read it.

Last year as the work to honor and uphold Standing Rock took root while the capitalist Earth rapists forged on I came across Dina Gilio-Whitaker’s As Long As the Grass Grows: The Indigenous fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock (2019). Again, it seems daunting. But I plan to read it.

There is so much I don’t know, so much to know.

The need to learn more about indigenous struggles became even more urgent this past year as I read story after story about how, as it has done in African American communities, COVID 19 has decimated indigenous communities

Beyond the news I figured I’d work with the personal, but how?

The universe was ready with an answer when, during my brief stint as part of a women’s writing group I was sent a poem by Joy Harjo entitled “Remember

Here’s a video of Harjo reading “remember”:

https://www.joyharjo.com/videos/remember-by-joy-harjo

I was brought to tears when I first read her words and have returned to the poem again and again—when I need to ground myself and remember what is truly important—which is often. 

So, I returned to my Wishlist and ordered Crazy Brave on my kindle. 

I immediately fell in love with the directness of the writing, intertwined with the poetry as Spirit worked through Harjo.

There are four sections introduced by orientations to the narrative via the four directions of the Earth, the Sun, the Winds, and the Waters: East, North, West, and South. 

The narrative chronicles Harjo’s life from childhood through to early adulthood when she steps into her power as a writer. 

Harjo’s story is a powerful one. She reveals a lot in a direct manner through her mastery of the word, but there are worlds in the silences.

Reading Crazy Brave is an experience that you have to have for yourself. 

I promise, you will be forever changed for having done so.  

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Celebrating True Love: Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Frederick Douglass

This past Sunday was Valentine’s Day, celebrated far and wide by millions of people, or at least hundreds of thousands.

But what many do not remember is that February 14th is also the chosen birthday of the great abolitionist and suffragist Frederick Douglass.

Douglass was a man who embodied Love in the most expansive sense. risking his life over and again to free those who were enslaved mentally, physically, and spiritually.

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Before we get into the other stars of this post, let’s listen to the words of another Freedom Fighter whom we commonly associate with Love: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Check out Dr. King ‘s definition of Love:

So, in honor of Love in its broadest sense, I share with you a powerful TED Talk by a contemporary spiritual warrior, Rev. angel Kyodo williams.

Rev. angel Kyodo williams

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And now onto Douglass:

10 Facts You Might Not Know About Frederick Douglass

Thanks to the National Parks Conservation Association

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass escaped slavery at age 20 and went on to become one of the most important political activists fighting for emancipation and the equality of all people. He published three autobiographies, spent years writing and editing an influential abolitionist newspaper, broke barriers for African Americans in government service, served as an international spokesman and statesman, and helped combat racial prejudice during the Reconstruction Era. And yet there is even more to know about Frederick Douglass’ remarkable story than the facts we learn in school.

Here are a few things that might surprise you about this pioneering historic figure as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate the bicentennial of his birth at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., February 17-18, 2018.

  1. One of the reasons we celebrate Black History Month in February is because of Frederick Douglass. Historian and educator Carter G. Woodson founded the precursor to Black History Month, “Negro History Week,” to coincide with the time of year when both Douglass and Abraham Lincoln celebrated their birthdays. Although Douglass was born into slavery and his actual birth date is unknown, he chose to commemorate his birthday on February 14.

2. Douglass was the most photographed American of the 19th century, sitting for more portraits than even Abraham Lincoln. Douglass intentionally sought out the cameras, believing that photography was an important tool for achieving civil rights because it offered a way to portray African Americans fairly and accurately. He intentionally did not smile for the camera because he wanted to counter “happy slave” caricatures that were common at the time, particularly in places such as minstrel shows where white actors performed racist skits in blackface.

3. Frederick Douglass chose his name from a poem. Douglass was born with the name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. After he successfully escaped slavery in 1838, he and his wife adopted the name Douglass from a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, “The Lady of the Lake,” at the suggestion of a friend.

4. Douglass became a free man thanks to help from European allies. His first autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” was so popular after it was published in 1845, he feared the publicity could lead to his capture, and he chose to live in Ireland and Britain for two years. While abroad, he went on a speaking tour and his British supporters were so moved, they collected funds to purchase his freedom in 1846. His autobiographies remain some of the most important and widely read accounts of slavery today.

5. Douglass was the only African American to attend the First Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Shortly after the convention, Douglass wrote in his influential weekly abolitionist newspaper, the North Star, “In respect to political rights, we hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man.” In 1866, he cofounded the American Equal Rights Association with Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other feminist leaders supporting suffrage for all people.

6. During the Civil War, Douglass passionately helped enlist free black men to fight in the Union Army, convinced it would help African Americans win freedom, respect and full citizenship. He wrote persuasive articles in his weekly newspaper, and when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 allowing African Americans to serve, two of Douglass’ sons were among the first to enlist. Douglass also helped improve conditions for the soldiers, meeting with Lincoln on issues such as equal pay and merit-based promotions, which African American soldiers eventually received.

7. Douglass was the first African American to receive a vote for president at a major political party convention. The vote came from the Kentucky delegation during the Republican National Convention of 1888.

8. Douglass was also the first African American to receive a vice presidential nomination when Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, chose him as her running mate at the Equal Rights Party Convention in 1872, although he did not acknowledge the nomination or campaign for the office.

9. Later in his life, Douglass did much of his writing and deep thinking in a one-room cabin that he referred to as his “Growlery.” This odd name for the building on Douglass’ Cedar Hill property in Washington, D.C., was likely a reference to “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens; in the book, the character John Jarndyce has a small library next to his bedroom where he goes when he needs a place of refuge. Today, the Park Service maintains a replica of the Growlery at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site made with materials from the original stone structure.

10. Many of Douglass’ possessions were lost in a devastating fire in 1877. Douglass was visiting Washington, D.C., in 1877 when his home in Rochester, New York, burned down in a suspected arson that destroyed most of his family’s possessions. He went on to purchase Cedar Hill, the property that would become his final home and the national park site in his name, and he lived in the nation’s capital from that point on instead of returning to New York. Hundreds of Douglass’ letters and the only known complete set of Douglass’ newspapers were lost in the 1877 fire, and no photographs of the Rochester home survive. All of the books, furniture and photographs that firefighters saved from the blaze were sent to Cedar Hill, however, and the Park Service continues to preserve surviving artifacts, from his collection of walking canes to the violin he taught his grandson to play. In 1927, the city of Rochester built a public library at the site of Douglass’ former home that was formally renamed the Frederick Douglass Community Library in 2016.

Learn more about Douglass and his legacy at www.nps.gov/frdo

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Happy Birthday Mr. Douglass!!

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Review of Men Sa Lanme Di by Arnold Antonin

Men Sa Lanme Di

Men Sa Lanme Di (Ainsi Parla la Mer) (So Spoke the Sea), a short by the wonderful Arnold Antonin, is a meditation on and by Mother Ocean.

The title echoes that of the celebrated noiriste, Jean Price Mars’ ethnographic study, Ainsi Parla l’Oncle (So Spoke the Uncle), which called for a celebration of Ayiti’s Black and Indigenous  wisdom embedded in her folkloric tradition. In 1928, at the height of the 19-year American military occupation, Price-Mars did the unthinkable. He proposed that, contrary to the many lies that had been told about the worthlessness of Ayitien people’s cultural practices, the truth was that those traditions held the key to the island nation’s true wealth. 

Men Sa Lanme Di draws on that tradition of uncovering Ayiti’s many gifts, not from the perspective of its people, but from Mother Earth, which has sustained them in their ongoing struggle for true liberation.

It was the ocean that brought Christopher Columbus to Ayiti in the 15th century.

It was that same ocean that brought enslaved Africans to the island to be consumed for the benefit of Europe.

It was the land on which their descendants toiled, again for centuries, before, under the shelter of the night sky and deep in the forest, they called upon the natural powers of their collective spiritual traditions to defeat the French, making the nascent Black nation the first in the western hemisphere, even while surrounded on all sides by slaveholding countries!! 

In the twentieth century that ocean brought German businessmen to the island and then the Americans who overturned Ayiti’s constitution and for the entire time of the occupation, flew the American flag at the palace.

The land witnessed and supported the armed struggle by valiant men and women, Cacos, to resist that occupation. 

Arnold Antonin has directed many films that celebrate Haitian history and culture. I have written about one of my favorites, Les Amours d’un Zombi (2010), a satirical work that reclaims the figure of the zombi, so long wielded against the Ayitien people. Gary Victor, a well-known master of the macabre, who wrote the script for Les Amours, also wrote the script for Men Sa Lanme Di

Gary Victor

(On a side note, when I reached out to Mr. Antonin as I was writing a book which featured Les Amours in one of its chapters, he was extremely gracious, helpful, and supportive of my work. 

I met Mr. Victor one night in Port-au-Prince at a fun little place called La Detente. He was also very gracious and patient with me as I gushed about how much I loved his work.) 

Men Sa Lanme Di was part of the African Diaspora International Film Festival that ran back in December. I didn’t get to see it on its first run, but caught it when there was an encore screening of some of the festival favorites in January.

I’m glad I did. 

The writer and director pack a lot into a mere 49 minutes. 

I love that the story of Ayiti is told by Mother Ocean and supplemented by talking heads.

I love that they begin by informing the viewer that all of the scenes that they are about to witness were filmed in Ayiti and if what they see challenges their perception then they need to change their perception!

I love that all the people featured speak Kreyol.

I love that the film draws from a wide swath of the population, calling on visual artists, sevites, politicians, conservationists, entrepreneurs, historians, fishermen, fish sellers, biologists, deep sea divers, among others, to contribute to the collective story of the interconnectedness of humanity and the natural world. 

I love that the film begins with Ayiti’s beauty. 

I love that it really strives to present a balanced picture of the nation’s strengths as well as her challenges. 

Watching the film made me want to jump on a plane, to feel the sun on my skin. To visit with my beloveds, suck sticky sweet mango from the peel, sip a cold Prestige, eat aransaw and spaghetti, because even though they are both imported Haitians know how to combine the two to make something spectacular, or eat okra soup with pounded yam, a dish brought over to the island with enslaved West Africans, and that can still be found in Port-au-Prince, if one knows where to look.

Part of the work of Men Sa Lanme Di is to wake the viewer up to the crisis that Mother Ocean is in. To that end, Antonin and Victor spend a good deal of the film highlighting the pollution that is choking Ayiti’s waters. 

It is a horrifying picture. 

The collaborators make clear that unless something is done now to reverse the damage there will be nothing left of Her.

And reflecting a Vodou sensibility that ALL of nature is connected, they intimate that without Her there is no us. 

It was hard to watch that part of the film. I was reminded of La Saline and Cite Katon, makeshift areas that sprang up when Francois Papa Doc Duvalier imported thousands of people from the countryside to vote for him and then abandoned them in the city in the 1950s. I was also reminded of when I first lived in Ayiti and would buy my lunch from a marchande. To do so I and anyone else who wanted to buy from her had to bring our own container from home. Now, when you buy take away you get it in a styrofoam container and, to add insult to injury, have it wrapped in a flimsy black plastic bag!! 

I was also reminded of the farming community in the Arbonite region where I’ve spent time and the waste crisis that they are dealing with as a result of the popularity of energy drinks like Toro, sold in plastic bottles and styrofoam containers and plastic bags that pollute the streams and rivers.

The banana leaves that used to serve as plates are shunned for disposable ones and fingers are shunned for sporks. The spaghetti packages that once held their now staple breakfast ingredients blow in the wind to be eaten and never digested by the goats and cows. 

There was one thing I did not agree with Antonin and Victor on: that is in laying the blame for Ayiti’s pollution problems solely at her feet. I remember a few years ago, the then president of Ayiti tried to cease the importation of styrofoam containers from the Dominican Republic, a very profitable business. In retaliation, the DR began expelling Haitian workers…again! How does one stand up to that kind of bullying!? 

We also have to remember that the deforestation that is responsible for so much of Ayiti’s top soil washing into the sea did not begin in the past few years. It didn’t begin in the past few centuries. It began with the French who cut down Ayiti’s forest in order to build a plantation economy and introduce livestock.

It began with the metropole’s bottomless hunger for mahogany and other woods which were shipped to France to be made into furniture. 

It came with the Christians who teach that the trees that are sacred to sevite such as the Mapou, but which also signal the presence of water, are evil and should be burned and cut down!

With slavery and colonization came the stripping away of the wisdom that had sustained generations of farmers who, by the way, were stolen from their homelands because of their agricultural prowess. Now we want to blame Haitian farmers for trying to eke out a living from soil that has been drained of all of its nutrients?! 

While yet again, those who profit from their wanton exploitation of the land and her people get away unscathed!

No!!! 

Again, No!

In the end, Antonin and Victor, channeling Mother Earth, encourage Ayitiens to leve, kanpe. 

If only the rest of the world would take its foot off of her neck. 

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Arnold Antonin

Arnold Antonin is known both inside and outside the country for his social, political and cultural commitment. With more than 60 films to his credit, he directed the first Haitian feature film.

He was honored for his body of work at the Djibril Diop Mambety Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2002. He was awarded three consecutive times the Paul Robeson Prize for the best film from the African Diaspora at the FESPACO in Ouagadougou in 2007, 2009 and 2011, as well as numerous prizes and mentions in various festivals for his documentaries and fiction films. He was president of the Haitian Association of Filmmakers (AHC) from 2005 to 2009.

In 1986, he founded the Pétion-Bolivar Centre, one of whose primary objectives is to encourage the democratization of the audiovisual sector in Haiti. It is also through this organization that Arnold Antonin directs his documentaries and fictions.

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Remember Our Power: An Inspired Nudge from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A few weeks ago I wrote about the magnificence of Nnedi Okorafor’s short story “Mother of Invention.” I’ve also been reading Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body is Not an Apology, which I mentioned in a post a few weeks before that. It would seem that the universe in her infinite wisdom was sending me literature to help guide me toward a more loving relationship with my body. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short story, “Zikora,” was just what I needed to set out boldly the path of self-exploration that so many women have yet to even recognize, let alone move toward. 

The story is very short, but mighty. To summarize, the narrative action takes place in a hospital room and explores the emotional storms endured by a young woman, Zikora, who is about to give birth as her mother sits by, detached and emotionally unavailable. Through flashbacks the reader learns that Zikora is a successful DC lawyer, abandoned by her lover as soon as she told him she was pregnant.

We also learn of moments in her college years when she allowed a man to abuse her body. Finally we learn of Zikora’s mother’s painful past and struggle for dignity after her husband deserted her, his senior wife, for a woman who bore him a son. Indeed as has been written about the text, as Zikora undertakes the travail of childbirth, “she begins to see more clearly what her own mother wants for her, for her new baby, and for herself.” But, more importantly, at least for me,  it also explores how freaking difficult it is to live in this world in a female body. 

The similarity between Okorafor’s depiction of childbirth and that by Adichie is in their rawness; the way that they detail the experience of childbirth in all of its earthiness, primality, and let’s face it, gore. And at the end of it all, both women usher through a precious new life. 

Tell me that’s not power. 

And it is just one of the many magics of womanhood that should be revered, not rejected as Anwuli’s and Zikora’s former partners do. It should not be devalued as too many of us do when we hand our power over to men as Zikora does as a young woman. It is found in insisting on our dignity as Zikora’s mother and Anwuli eventually do. 

Both short stories, Okorafor’s “Mother of Invention” and Adichie’s “Zikora,” were cathartic, gifting me with the ability to remember my own difficult youth and younger adulthood and, with a renewed conviction, reject the disempowering stories that I have been fed about my femaleness.

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Like “Mother of Invention” you can read Adichie’s “Zikora” for free here.

Check out Adichie’s brilliant TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” while you’re at it:

Finally, two greats joined the ancestors in the past couple of weeks:

The beautiful and talented Emmy and Tony award-winning actress, Cicely Tyson, passed away this past Thursday at 96.

She had just recently published her memoir, Just As I Am (2021)

https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/cicely-tyson-dead-dies-1234895188/

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The incomparable Hank Aaron, nicknamed “Hammer” or “Hammerin’ Hank,” also passed away a little over a week ago at the age of 86.

While I’m not a big baseball fan, I do have immense respect for his groundbreaking work! He was a beautiful soul.

Rest in Power, Dear Ones!!

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Ok, that’s it for now…

Until next week, as usual,

Walk Beautifully!!

Toni

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The People’s Inauguration is Live!

From The People’s Inauguration Website

America is in transition—will we birth a multiracial democracy where every person is safe and free? The answer lies with us.

Valarie Kaur, renowned civil rights activist, author, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, invites you to The People’s Inauguration—a free, 10-day online journey to help us reckon with all we have lost and point us toward a vision of the society we can build together, grounded in love.

In Valarie’s words: “Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view, but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being.”

Join Valarie and an extraordinary community of visionaries, artists, activists, and healers in this global movement to reclaim love as a force for justice and change in our world. In the wake of recent turmoil, violence, and insurrection, it is more important than ever to come together around justice, healing, and renewal. May The People’s Inauguration be medicine for the moment.

Ten Days of Revolutionary Love

All evening conversations take place at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

Day 1, Friday, January 22, WONDER

Baratunde Thurston, Allie Young & Simran Jeet Singh

Day 2, Saturday, January 23, GRIEVE
Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews & Najeeba Syeed

Day 3, Sunday, January 24, FIGHT
Ai-jen Poo, Caitlin Breedlove & Isa Noyola 

Day 4, Monday, January 25, RAGE
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Amy Olrick & Maggie Wheeler

Day 5, Tuesday, January 26, LISTEN
Sister Simone Campbell & Van Jones

Day 6, Wednesday, January 27, REIMAGINE
Brian McLaren, Lisa Sharon Harper, Deepa Iyer & Sherrilyn Ifill

Day 7, Thursday, January 28, BREATHE
Seane Corn, adrienne maree brown & Daphne Frias

Day 8, Friday, January 29, PUSH
Rev. angel Kyodo williams & Susan Raffo

Day 9, Saturday, January 30, TRANSITION
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III

Day 10, Sunday, January 31, JOY
Ani DiFranco, Resistance Revival Chorus, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis & Dr. Parker J. Palmer

Then join Monday, February 1 for a special send-off from Valarie!
https://thepeoplesinauguration.org
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And Still We Rise!: Amanda Gorman and the People’s Inauguration

Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, read her “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Dr. Joseph Biden, Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Now 22-years-old, West LA raised Gorman was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at the age of 16.

At 19, while in college at Harvard, she was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

Amanda Gorman, Youth Poet Laureate

24 Hours of Reality: “Earthrise” by Amanda Gorman

“Earthrise” by Amanda Gorman

The Miracle of Morning

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The People’s Inauguration

Again, yesterday thankfully, found the nation and the world witnessing the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Dr. Joseph Biden.

The prayer is that the country and the world will be able to get down to the work of healing after four relentless years of vicious bodily, mental and spiritual assault–trauma ya’ll!

To support this process, Valarie Kaur, founder of The Revolutionary Love Project, entreats anyone who is interested in our individual and collective healing to participate in The People’s Inauguration, making a vow to “collective renewal, accountability, and a strong moral vision for the country we could become.”

https://thepeoplesinauguration.org/about/#oath 

The People’s Inauguration on Beth Zemsky Podcast

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Until next week,

Continue to walk beautifully!

Toni

Posted in African-American, black women, culture, history, lecture, literature, Writer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Calling It! Person of the Year: Ms. Stacey Abrams!!

Ms. Stacey Abrams

We’ve had a heck of a year—the dying dinosaur continues to roar. 

But civilization, true civilization, forges ahead. 

And Black women are leading the way. 

Case in point: Ms. Stacey Abrams, a beacon of a civil democratic society in which everyone who wishes to, gets their voice heard, where every vote counts. 

I’ll admit, very often I’m quite late to political parties.

But once I arrive, I’m all in, partying with the best!!

Stacey Abrams is the very best.

She has shown herself time and again, to be About the People, For the People, and With the People. 

So, I’m calling it!!

Although TIME’s Person of the Year is twelve months away I am declaring Stacey Adams the winner. 

I suspect that those of you who read this blog will be well-aware of her work. 

But, as is always my desire, I share myriad examples of our brilliance. 

Abrams is brilliant. 

Check out a couple of articles: one about her importance as a political strategist and relatedly,  the other about her latest victory. 

Stacey Abrams: The Political Strategist Who Won Georgia

For Stacey Abrams, Revenge is a Dish Best Served Blue” 

To learn more about the woman behind the name I watched the documentary, All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020), produced by Abrams and available on Prime Video. 

Here’s a preview:

The fact that the film is behind a pay wall is unfortunate. It should be widely available for free or low cost, because knowledge is power. Understanding that the voter suppression that we have seen reinvigorated in the past few years is out of a playbook that has been wielded by those who hold onto their power with a death grip for centuries is critical to our ability to resist it.

All In is not just about Abrams. It is inextricably about the long American tradition of exclusion and suppression that has been kept in place through the deployment of ideological, psychological, political, economic, and physical violence. 

I appreciate this fact about the film as an extension of what I have witnessed over and again in Abrams’ words and deeds: that the fight that she has taken on is not just about her. But it is about us all if we, as a nation, hope to ever live up to the promise of democracy (a challenge that the great Frederick Douglass issued back in 1852 with his speech, “What to the Slave is The Fourth of July?“)

We’re still asking that question almost 200 years later. 

Abrams’ hard work in Georgia has paid off, paving the way for the Senate victories by Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, solidifying Georgia’s political transformation, and ensuring that President-elect Joe Biden will have an easier job. 

I encourage you to check out All In: The Fight for Democracy. It is heartbreaking and enlightening. It will put into perspective the shameful and disgusting behavior we saw unfold at the capitol building a few days ago. 

The organization that Abrams founded, Fair Fight PAC, promotes fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourages voter participation in elections, and educates voters about elections and their voting rights. The organization brings awareness to the public on election reform, advocates for election reform at all levels, and engages in other voter education programs and communications.

To end this post I share with you a video that I very gratefully received in my inbox the morning after the Georgia elections and that reminded me of another amazing Black woman, Ella Fitzgerald.

Enjoy!!

Ella Fitzgerald
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Just in Case You Don’t Already Know The Truth…

Here are two eargasms for you!!

Enjoy!

I play these on repeat when I need to tap into the magnificence of living on the same Earth as these Masters!!

Yaaaaaaaasssss!!!!!

Walk beautifully!

Toni

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Nnedi Okorafor’s “Mother in Invention” and the Power of Woman

Nnedi Okorafor’s “Mother of Invention”

*Illustration by Shyama Golden

I have recently found two short stories that brought back some hard memories. They were both cathartic, gifting me with the ability to remember and, with a renewed conviction, reject the stories that I was told about about my femaleness. 

Self-love is an ongoing process, especially if you’re a black woman. 

This is why I love literature so much.

It teaches.

It heals.

It allows the reader to see herself in the characters.

And to imagine a different way of being in the world; a way that supports a liberated life. 

The first story is “Mother of Invention” by the incomparable Nigerian-American author of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism, Nnedi Okorafor

A most basic synopsis of “Mother of Invention” is that a young mother-to-be in future Nigeria finds herself caught in what would, for her, be a deadly pollen storm. Abandoned by her child’s father, her smart home is her only companion as she goes into labor while the storm kicks up outside. 

I learned about the story from LeVar Burton Reads when he spent a couple of weeks reading the story and the third week in an hour-long interview with Okorafor.*  

I highly recommend it. 

Okorafor is a master storyteller, prolific and gifted in her attention to the details that make all the difference in storytelling. “Mother of Invention” is no exception, vividly depicting not only the natural environment of the Delta region in which the protagonist, Anwuli, lives, but also the environment created by the smart home and the A.I., Obi 3, the only one on whom she can depend. Okorafor also does a wonderful job of creating an emotional environment that holds on to the listener/reader with Burton’s interpretation of the story adding several important dimensions. 

The story is riveting and rendered in such a way that the reader/listener is left at one point in the narrative believing that there is no way Anwuli is going to come out of the storm and the birth alive.

Yet Okorafor imagines a way out; a lesson for those of us who at certain points in our lives, feel like there is no way we will escape our circumstances. There is always a way.

But what struck me most about the story and the telling of it is the way that Okorafor brings into stark relief the fact that no matter how much humans try to separate ourselves from nature, we are nature and nature will reclaim us.

In the midst of the sterility that we associate with A.I. technology: flat, smooth, shiny surfaces, the absence of the human, there is Woman at the center, bringing new life into the world in the most organic way possible. There’s no sterilized hospital room, no masked, suited, and gloved doctors and nurses, no hot water, no epidurals, no bright lights, or brand new blankets in which to wrap the newborn, no sterilized scissors with which to cut the umbilical cord. There is a lone woman in pain, laboring to bring life to another as she fights to save her own life. There’s blood and gore and Earth smells, and Anwuli’s body’s violent reaction to allergens as it tries to keep her alive. 

And in the end there is a brand new human being and his mother who will be able to nourish him for months with only the milk of her body. 

****

Burton asks about the graphic rawness of Okorafor’s depiction of childbirth in his interview with her. 

Her response reinforces her gift as a writer: that she has given birth and even in the midst of the travail she was mentally noting the experience so that she would be able to write about it!!!

How incredible is that???!!!

Okorafor is a true artist, always collecting fodder for her fertile imagination. 

I absolutely love that she uses her experience as a woman and an inventor of worlds to bring certain facts to light: again, that humans are the Earth, that women are freaking amazing with our ability to not only nurture life within our bodies for nine months, but continue to do so once that life is out in the world.

And that out of the mud grows the lotus.

This is what all the pain is about and what a gift it has always been. 

If only our society would celebrate the gift of the Feminine, rather than try to dominate it, humiliate it, suppress it, objectify it, abandon it.

If only we could stop hating ourselves for our power. 

****

“Mother of Invention”,** A Locus Award Finalist, was originally published in Slate as part of Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. It’s also available in Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow (2019).

I’ll leave it there for now and will continue with the second most recent short story to change my life in the new year!

Until then,

Walk beautifully

* Another short story that Burton read on his podcast, “The Winds of Harmattan,” so haunted me that I did a painting about it!

Check out my “Winds of Harmattan“!

**The story is available for free on Slate

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