Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thank You


There are two jams this week

"Thank You" is a track from Stay Human, the third studio release by Michael Franti & Spearhead in 2001(wiki) (lyrics).

"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" is a 1969 hit single recorded by Sly and the Family Stone, recognized as one of the greatest and most influential funk songs of all time. (Wiki) (Lyrics)

Kai's Thoughts:   

When I was in elementary school, my mother would sometimes drop me off to school early so that she could get to work on time. If my teachers were around they would let me sit in the classroom and work on the computer. I remember when we got a computer in our one room library that had access to the world wide web, I’d spend early mornings there studying the WNBA and ABL (American Basketball League) websites just dreaming of the day I’d be able to play with the pros. 
I absolutely adored Ms. Felgenhauer, my fourth grade teacher. I remember being really creative in her class and because I enjoyed it so much it didn’t really feel like school at all. One morning I was helping her get ready for the week. We were talking--now I have to tell you that I sometimes didn’t realize my own age because I often times liked to sit and listen to adults talk and if they engaged me even better—and she asked me how I thought her class was going. I responded, “Well, I love your class, but we don’t really learn anything.” She was so angry and hurt, her response, “You are learning, you just don’t know it.” I do believe our 4th grade class lacked in rigor (but really what does/should that mean for a fourth grader). Shouldn’t we be singing and imagining new hybrid animals like the lizardcat? Shouldn’t we be taking the time to dream and play? Isn’t that where the revolution is conceived? 
I remember being obsessed with corn snakes and worms. I’d collect worms in shoeboxes with mud and grass. I collected worms from gutter streams and bring them to class. I was never told that that wasn’t okay. I wasn’t told that I was weird or odd. I was curious (okay, maybe a little weird;-). I think back on that moment now and I see how I was beginning to decipher what education was supposed to look and feel like formally, while experiencing something different—something more pleasurable, a place where I could draw things that I had never seen in real life. Dreaming is work even though many of us dreamers don’t get acknowledged for the kind work we do. I want to thank Ms. Felgenhauer because I think you were right—I didn’t know then just how much you were teaching me about teaching myself and allowing myself to dream and be creative. I want to thank some of the folks who have been master teachers to me. Of course this list is not comprehensive, but I want to acknowledge some of those master teachers.

Mom: My first teacher. Because you never doubted me, I never doubted me. You always have my back and push me to keep going even if I’m challenging you. You have made me stronger. You have made me compassionate. You have made me gentle because you taught me how to care for you when you needed it. I appreciate you and you will always forever ever be my number one teacher. (You also made me a Scrabble master;-)

Dad: You taught me blues and basslines. You sang to me in harmony, all three parts sometimes. You taught me how to walk without needing to know where I’m going. You helped me to learn the importance of the journey. You modeled for me openness, a kindness with strangers that I aspire to. You taught me how to go with the flow. But most you taught me that people can and should change. You continue to teach me about true forgiveness and deep healing. You’ve taught me the sacred medicine of laughter and I thank you.

Gwen (My aunt/preschool teacher): You have taught me love for community. You have taught me how to be prepared for a fight.  You have taught me about loyalty and the importance of family. I Thank you for all of the work you have done and all the work you continue to do—you do it with/for love (because we know it’s not for the money) and I appreciate you.
Ms. Ella (pre-school teacher): I thank you for those moments when you would come get me during nap time and ask me if I wanted to do something else. I wasn’t always sleepy and you allowed me to be awake. Thanks for letting me help you make snacks with you. I remember those moments as some of the most tender I have experienced. I thank you for modeling for me kindness and a nurturing calm.

Mr. Flemming (Elementary School teacher): Thank you for showing me that there are many ways to be a teacher. For you teaching was not about how well one did on the test, even though I was obsessed with this. You taught me that honesty is important but sometimes rules are not always to be followed. I thank you for teaching us about Hatshepsut—you made sure we knew that it was indeed possible for Black women to rule the world. I thank you.

Mrs. Stoermer (Elementary school teacher): I thank you for always pushing us. I thank you for taking us camping and allowing us to experience the wilderness.  I thank you for taking an interest in my educational journey and moving me to the spaces where I got access to the best. I admire your passion for teaching. I thank you.

Mr. Ajamu (Middle school teacher/coach): I thank you for teaching me how to play basketball. I thank you for always pushing me to take the game seriously. You have taught me to recognize the poetry in dance (even though I could never catch the beat myself). You taught me how to be proud and value myself and what I bring to the table always because you were always so proud and confident.

Ms. Vargo (Middle School teacher): I thank you for taking me and my writing seriously. You were the first person to teach me how to read a text closely. You taught me about emotional intelligence and empathy. You created a holistic classroom space where we couldn’t think about the texts we read without encountering ourselves—our deepest loves, our goals, our fears, and our pain. Thanks putting Ender’s Game on our reading list. I appreciate your friendship and mentorship over the years.

Macedo (Boarding school advisor): I thank you for your self-awareness. I admire your will to always do better. I thank you for helping me navigate Dana Hall. I thank you for coming to visit me at camp that one summer when I didn’t think I would return. Your encouragement was/is felt and I appreciate you.

Professor Hicks: Thank you for pushing me like no other professor or teacher before. You called me out and asked me to step my game up—no one had ever done that before. I thank you for teaching me to take myself and my work seriously. I thank you for teaching me about blackness, space, place, and history. I thank you for introducing me to Robin D.G. Kelley’s work. You are a master teacher and I am so grateful to have studied under you.

Professor Edwards: You taught me Black Marxism, Stuart Hall, and the meaning of Africana studies. You taught me how to read a text. I thank you for sharing your brilliance with the world and with me—we need it. I appreciate you.

Professor Keeling: I appreciate the way you travel with music and poetry always in tow. You have taught me about Black queer futures and women of color feminist genealogies. You remind us of the histories of the Black radical imagination, proving that we are never alone. I thank you.

Professor Clyde Woods: You taught me how to speak up even if afraid. You taught me friendship. You gave me mentorship. You were concerned with Black life—that’s what you loved and that is what you endorsed. I appreciate the hard questions, the times you would put me on the spot. You showed me how to do this work with love. I am grateful for all the wisdom you shared while you were here and for the road maps you left behind so that we might not get lost.

Professor Robin D.G. Kelley: Thank you for teaching me about poetry, surrealism, and Monk. I thank you for your generosity as a scholar and a mentor. You teach me that freedom dreaming is essential to life. I appreciate you.

Professor Alexis Pauline Gumbs: You gave me something to carry in my wallet. You bring poetry from the future back and forth and all around. You make it clear and there’s no doubt that when you speak we all listen. You boldly bring us messages back from our ancestors. I am grateful for your kindness, your brilliance, your ability to create alternative spaces of knowledge production where we might pursue our dreams in health and with joy. I thank you. 

Treva Ellison: You are both my friend and my intellectual/creative partner. I appreciate your encouragement and the time you have taken to create with me. You show me that there are multiple ways to tell a story and sometimes the best way isn’t with words and writing—sometimes it is in the chords you play on the guitar or a hum or perhaps a stencil. I appreciate your wisdom and the poetry with which you walk. I thank you and I am thankful for you. 

Patrisse Cullors-Brignac: You have taught me community. You have taught me about friendship enduring. You have taught me how to make art out of disaster. You have taught me how to turn insanity to power. You teach me the importance of organizing. You teach me forgiveness and compassion. I appreciate you.

This list goes on and I am so thankful for all of those master teachers I list above. Of course there is also: Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Fred Moten, Jordan Camp, Christina Heatherton, Julia Wallace, Analena Hope, Prentis Hemphill, Cole B. Cole, Lanita Jacobs, Laura Pulido, Sharon Holland, Rod Ferguson, C. Riley Snorton, D’Lo, Shana Redmond, Sarah Haley, La Marr Jurelle, Qween Hollins, C. Jerome Woods, Jewel Thais-Williams, Katie Kent, Maria Elena Cepeda, D.L. Smith,  Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Jefferey King, Maylei Blackwell, Adaku Utah, Kelly Lewis, Patricia Torres, Jeremie Preston, and the list goes on (and on and on and on and)…

I am more than grateful for all of the master teachers who I have encountered in life so far. I share the songs above and this poem below—THANK YOU.


Coming together/ it is easier to work/ after our bodies/ meet/ paper and pen/ neither care nor profit/ whether we write or not/ but as your body moves/ under my hands/ charged and waiting/ we cut the leash/ you create me against your thighs/ hilly with images/ moving through our word countries/ my body/ writes into your flesh/ the poem/ you make of me./ Touching you I catch midnight/ as moon fires set in my throat / I love you flesh into blossom/ I made you/ and take you made/ into me.
-Audre Lorde

Monday, October 15, 2012

Place to Belong


 "Place to Belong" is a track from Little Dragon's  2007 self titled album "Little Dragon."(Lyrics)


Kai's Thoughts:   

I run (in)to the dark before the sun rises  
                                                I run into the moon’s mo(u)rning
        I Want to hang on                                                I long to be held in the space where darkness meets light
                               I convene with God
                                                                       I ask for clarity
I need to get my soul-spirit-body right                                              So I am unafraid of this night light
                                                                 This mo(u)rning                                                                            Let it come
      I watch you go                              I need to grow and I need to know        How to mother myself
                How to brother myself                      So I run for my health                  I run (in)to myself fully                               
The only place where I can shed the tears                                                                            They fall easy as I push through
                                        With sweat they fall, bathing the concrete underneath my feet
                                                                                                  And I keep running (in)to the mo(u)rning
I meet myself in all the places I reside in this body
                                                               Fully present to all that is here now
                                                                                                                             My body is filled with knowledge
               I am ready to discover
 Home                                          in these arms of mine                               for they are indeed yearning

                                I remind myself that everything I need 
I have                                                                                        I (re)member  me
               in pieces and whole                                                                                       I (re)member me                                                                                                                      

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

This Woman's Work


"In 1997, American R&B musician Maxwell covered 'This Woman's Work' for the release of his album MTV Unplugged. The artist later re-recorded the song in studio for his album Now (2001). This version of the song was released as the album's second single in 2001 and peaked in the US Billboard charts at #58 (Billboard Hot 100)[6] and #16 (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs). This version also appeared in the movie Love & Basketball. 'This Woman's Work' was performed on season 9 of American Idol by Michael Lynche. Kate Bush's ‘This Woman’s Work’ Got Deandre Brackensick into the TOP 24: on American Idol Final Judgement 2012." (Wiki) (Lyrics)

Kai's Thoughts: 

So I'm trying something a little different this week. Let me know what you think...


He walked into his home office and slumped down in his large brown lazy boy. He could no longer stand the weight of his own body or perhaps it was the weight of his own mind--it was always in/on his mind. He fought against the feeling daily, not knowing who to turn to. Who could really help him carry such weight? God was great—his mother had introduced him to God long ago, but he longed for the arms of a woman, his mother, a lover, a friend, someone who might help carry the weight, but for now all he had was this chair. It was sturdy and soft. He had imagined fading into it completely. He did want to disappear.

He wanted a break, but time would never stop for him—he was always trying to catch up. He never felt good enough and knew that was always his motivator—he wanted to prove he could win despite the voices in his heart that told him he was destined to fail. These inner voices were his own of course matched by those voices of everyday haters who liked to remind him of his imperfection. But this man was loved by most—there were so many who supported him, who told him of his brilliance and beauty, but he never said it to himself. He never felt it for himself—love. He could only feel the ugly he had experienced in his short life thus far, he was only 23-years-old. Everything that he did, he did to survive against the odds.  

He remembers being in his mother’s womb. She didn’t know what was happening in her womb exactly—she became ill. According to medical specialist his mother had borne her last child 15 years prior and she was to bear no more. But he wanted to be born and he wanted her to be his mother and she wanted him to be her baby. It was a struggle for them both. Once the mother realized she was pregnant and not dying of some rare dis-ease, she felt joy. God had given her a miracle child, but holding this child made her so sick. Yes, he was too long for her, so by the sixth month she could no longer walk with ease, without pain, but she carried him still. Inside her womb a war was occurring. What his mother never knew was that there were two babies in her womb, two babies that wanted to be born. He remembers this. He remembers sharing the space, but not wanting to share. He remembers kicking and punching his sibling. He remembers hating this other child. He didn’t know that all of his rage was not only felt by his sibling, but also his mother who had to carry them both. He regrets that now.

He wishes that his sibling had fought back harder. He wishes his sibling had lived. Now he finds himself alone in a room and he wishes he could cry out to his sibling. He wishes his sibling would cry out to him.

He’s the only one who remembers the other child though his mother also carries the scars from his rage in the womb. He was born fighting even when fighting wasn’t necessary, it was the only way he knew how move. He collected guilt like debt, heavy—but for him victory had always mattered most. Lately victory was starting to feel oppositional to life. In the eyes of many he was a winner, but he despised himself. He hated to be alone with himself because he could no longer charm himself. He removed the mask and in the mirror he saw himself a monster.

In that chair, he traveled back to his mother’s womb, back to when there were two inside her. He took note of the space inside, it was much larger than he remembered and he felt afraid. The sibling he thought he’d murdered was there with him, facing him. He reached out to touch the other body, but his sibling was afraid, remembering what had happened before. He realized that he had no right to reach out and touch with out asking permission first. He became aware of his sense of entitlement over this other body and to his mother’s womb. He stared and motioned to his sibling. He moved his body as best he could in the form of what he imagined peace and apology might look like. The sibling lifted his head and slowly moved closer. The sibling put his hand on his brother’s face and held it there. The force, the power that emanated between them, shocked and soothed the brother. He closed his eyes and felt deeply. He could no longer hold all he had been holding and his sibling knew it too. When he opened his eyes, he was alone in the womb again. He searched for the sibling—he didn’t want to lose them again. Afraid that he had once again hurt his sibling, he began to weep. He cried and cried and cried some more.

He reached out to the edges of the womb space and saw something he hadn’t seen before. In his mothers womb there was a mirror and his reflection became apparent. He saw himself and he saw his sibling—they had been merged. He had been looking for himself but he thought he was looking for another. He couldn’t understand how he managed long ago to destroy a sibling and how he was that sibling. Jarred by the notion, he wept more. He could no longer carry the weight, so he cried in the womb of his mother. He cried until his feelings calmed. He looked around the womb and said a prayer. He gave thanks to his mother for holding him despite the pain he inflicted upon her body. He was grateful for her love. She had to bear all of his rage, all of his confusion, all of his pain, all of his dreams and nightmares while also carrying her own. She held all of that inside for him.

As he came back to himself in his office, in that chair, he prayed a prayer for his mother, for himself and for the universe. He had been born again and was grateful for the rebirth.