Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gigi the Snow Angel

Gigi enjoyed all the snow she found in Delaware!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Plantains: A Taste of Ghana in My Kitchen

One of my students from Ghana recently reminded me that plantains, a nutritious and delicious treat, can be cooked in a variety of ways. She likes to boil her plantains, but I like to fry mine. I prefer to wait until the plantains are very soft and almost black before I cut them in circular pieces and fry them until they are dark brown and slightly crispy. (Yummy!) My student, B, likes to boil her plantains when they are greenish yellow. But I do know another woman from Ghana who cuts her plantains in large pieces and fries them. I guess the phrase "to each, his own" applies to the ways people like to eat this exotic banana.

My friend Annette, who is from Jamaica, taught me how to make porridge with very green bananas when my daughter was still an infant. It was one of the few things Gigi would eat when she was very young. To make the porridge, you peel a very green plantain and cut it into pieces. Blend the slices in a blender, along with a bit of water. Pour the pureed liquid in a pot and add sweetened condense milk, a touch of vanilla, and a bit of nutmeg (first test to see if your child's stomach can handle the nutmeg.) Bring the ingredients to a slow boil on your stovetop, stirring occasionally. When the liquid thickens, remove the pot from the heat. Place the plantain porridge in a bowl for your child and serve when it has cooled a bit. I'm sure your baby will love this concoction as much as Gigi did. It's a great way to give your child the necessary iron and potassium he or she needs. (I ate a lot of it myself and was quite satisfied!)

Plantains are very popular in various parts of Africa, Asia, India and Latin American countries. They are close relatives of bananas, but are longer, have thicker skins, and are typically eaten cooked instead of raw. The skin of plantains ranges in color from green and yellow to brownish black, while their flesh varies from cream to salmon-colored. South American Indians boiled the plantain peels and drank this liquid as a remedy for colds.

Pick up a few the next time you go to your grocery store (or the nearest International food store.) The sweet, exotic taste of this delicious fruit is sure to grow on you!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Despite Harsh Conditions

Every being that lives, grows.
Each will grow despite harsh
conditions and beautify its

Like a tundra bloom,
the most striking and beautiful
flower is the one that blossoms
despite frigid, brutal conditions.

-- Judith Garrett Garrison and
Scott Sheperd

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Respect Your Hair

"Trust the universe and respect your hair." -- Bob Marley

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hair Braiders at Work

Two school boys plait the hair of a school girl in Kijabe, Kenya.

This shot is priceless! Oh, to see this scene on an American playground or park with African-American girls and boys. We not only need to pass down this African tradition of hair braiding to our girls, let's teach our boys to do it too! Think of the value this would add to the lives of little girls who would have the privilege of getting their hair braided (plaited) by their brothers and fathers.

Talk about the love of a brother!

Photo Source: Africa Knows

Monday, November 23, 2009

Languid Charm: Swahili Music from Kenya and Tanzania

What a fluid and melodic title for such mesmerizing and expressive music: Poetry and Languid Charm. This recording, a tantalizing masterpiece, is a compilation of taarab (poetry chanted over African and Arabic music), which was recorded in Tanzania and Kenya from the 1920s through the '50s.

Although I don't know the meanings of the words these singers are singing, somehow I DO know, if that makes any sense. You hear joy, fun, saddness, boldness, sensuality and so many other things in these songs. Some numbers use only one instrument and you don't realize it until after the song is over.

There's a song with children singing that makes you want to sing, dance, and cry for joy all at the same time. I can't wait to purchase this CD. I've borrowed it from the public library a couple of times already. I've probably paid more overdue fines on this one than I should have.

The titles of the tracks alone conjure up provocative and lively images. You can see the pictures that the songs create before you even hear the music.

1. Yearning Keeps Increasing In My Heart
2. There Isn't One Who Wouldn't Desire You If You Clean Yourself Up
3. You Are a Cat
4. Don't Be Greedy
5. Sheikh Salim's Song
6. Taksim (Improvisation) On the Nahawand Maqam -- Song For Two Instruments (This my favorite!)
7. Oh Lord Of Heaven
8. I Am Ill My Fellow
9. Cassava Of Jang'ombe
10. Like a Wooden Boat With Outrigger
11. Ee Baba Pakistani
12. Nahawand No.2
13. There Is No End
14. I Am Done With Being Questioned
15. I Desire a Flower (Love)
16. Where Is the Message?

Click here and listen to number 6.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Reprise: Bring the Boys (and Girls) Home

"Bring the Boys Home" has been bouncing around in my head for about a week or so. I’m hopeful that people in power will read this and heed the call.

The U.S. Command banned the song from the U.S. Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam war, claiming it would “give aid and comfort to the enemy.” Freda Payne released the tune 35 years ago as a single, but it wasn’t added to her “Contact” album until the song became a hit. We still hear echoes from the lyrics today.

Fathers are pleading, lovers are all alone
Mothers are praying-send our sons back home
You marched them away--yes, you did-on ships and planes
To the senseless war, facing death in vain

Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Turn the ships around, lay your weapons down

Can't you see 'em march across the sky, all the soldiers that have died
Tryin' to get home--can't you see them tryin' to get home?
Tryin' to get home--they're tryin' to get home
Cease all fire on the battlefield
Enough men have already been wounded or killed

Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Turn the ships around, lay your weapons down
(Mothers, fathers and lovers, can't you see them)

Oooh, oooh...
Tryin' to get home--can't you see them tryin' to get home?
Oooh, oooh...
Tryin' to get home--they're tryin' to get home

Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
Bring the boys home (bring 'em back alive)
What they doing over there, now (bring 'em back alive)
When we need them over here, now (bring 'em back alive)
What they doing over there, now (bring 'em back alive)
When we need them over here, now (bring 'em back alive)
I hope the powers that be will work hard to bring the boys and girls home—alive.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NASCAR Princess

NASCAR is big in North Carolina so it's no wonder that the kids got to do some NASCAR-like "tire changing" at one of the local Halloween parties. Check Gigi out, changing a tire like a professional!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Helping a Child Rape Victim in Richmond, Calif.

If you‘d like to send cards, donations, and words of encouragement to the 15-year-old Richmond High School student who suffered the heinous act of violence earlier this week, use this address: Richmond High School Student, 250 23rd Street, Richmond, CA 94804-1011. Make checks payable to: Richmond High Student Fund.

As many as 20 people witnessed the brutal rape of a 15-year-old girl in Richmond, Calif. Saturday night. That sentence alone made me stand up, get mad, call some friends and rail about the horrific vision of it all. It’s hard to fathom the sheer callousness and cruelty of the bystanders.

Not only did some of those 20 folks stand and watch, some of the onlookers and participants cheered it along, and videotaped it with cell phones.

Would one or more of them dare to post those videos on Youtube? And if they did, how many people would click in to watch the heinous violence against this child? I’d be afraid to tally up the number of people who would actually log on to watch the unfolding of this act of rape.

But that’s the kind of world we live in, isn’t it? Remember when a certain R & B star (R. Kelly) was accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl? Remember the circulation of the video? How many people sat down at their computers and watched that travesty?

Let’s pray that these cell phone video tapes of the rape in Richmond never make it to Youtube or receive any kind of circulation.

Let’s pray that the next time someone witnesses a criminal act, like the vicious rape of a child taking place, that they have the courage to shout at the attackers, call 911, call for help, run to help the victim.

Unfortunately in this case, nobody called 911, nobody tried to stop the sexual violence, nobody came to this young girl’s rescue. Nobody.

I wish and hope and pray that the onlookers to this crime will be arrested. “Witnesses are rarely prosecuted for failing to report a crime,” Eugene O’Donnell, a New York law professor told ABC news.

"I can't tell you how many cases I had where there was someone standing feet away from a rape, and I wanted to try them as an accomplice but couldn't," Linda Fairstein, a former New York City sex crimes prosecutor, told ABC.

How many cases? How many cases, indeed. Even one case like this is too much.

This whole incident brings to mind the plot of a movie made in the late 80s titled, “The Accused.” Based on a true Massachusetts rape case, the movie features Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias, a young woman who goes to a bar one night and has a bit too much to drink. She finds herself in a room in the back of the bar dancing to music playing on a jukebox. She flirts with a man on the dance floor and that man, also drunk, begins to sexually assault her. Two other men hold her down while this happens. Then a few other guys, who are looking on, also rape Tobias, while others cheer, chant and egg him on. After the brutality ends, Tobias runs sobbing from the bar out onto the highway to find help.

In Roger Ebert’s review of this movie he writes:

This is the first film I can remember that considers the responsibility of bystanders in a rape case. The drunken fraternity boys and townies who climb on the furniture and chant and cheer are accessories to rape, although our society sometimes has difficulty in understanding that.

How difficult is this to understand?

I believe that the proliferation of easily accessed pornography on television, the internet and other places has a lot to do with the ease with which some can stand by and watch such a thing happen. Too many are desensitized to violence, especially sexual violence that they see constantly in the media and other places.

It shouldn’t be hard to understand that it is just plain, flat-out wrong to watch such a brutal act of violence against anyone, especially a child. And it is also wrong not to at least pick up a phone (which at that point shouldn’t even be considered to be a recording device), and dial 911.

What do you say?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First Meeting: Single Mothers Support Group

Join other single mothers to discuss your needs, hopes, and dreams for your family. Come to the startup meeting for a Support Group for Single Mothers.

Are you feeling overwhelmed as a single mother? Have you perhaps dreamed of sharing your childcare needs with others? What about holding a pow wow to create tutoring opportunities to help accelerate your child's progress in school?

Consider that there may be other mothers in the Charlotte area who feel like you do and would like to support each other. If you’d like to join others to help start a support group for single mothers in Charlotte, please attend our first meeting on Friday, November 6, 2009 at 7 p.m.

For more information about the group and where the meetings will be held, contact Alicia Benjamin at

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Backspin: Treasure Chest of Old School Hip Hop

I've been missin' out on the musical gold of satellite radio! I discovered a station called Backspin, featuring the pioneers of Old School rap/hip hop just a few days ago. I had forgotten how much I admired some of those rhythms and rhymes. Can you place these snippets of clips from some old school hits?

1. "I'm brown....from the boogie down"

2. "This groove is set to soothe and move you. Party people now it's time to....Get up....everybody get up"

3. "Hyped like a poet, on the mic I'll show it. Do-re-mi fa-so-la ti-doe it."
(I wanted to jump up and dance, but I was driving the car.)

4. You a paper chaser, you got your block on fire. Remain' a G, until the moment you expire. You know what it is to make nothin' outa somethin'. You handle your biz and don't be cryin' and sufferin'."

You can't tell me that's not poetry. This performer's delivery is so rhythmically perfect even I can replicate it (sort of).

And this was the last of my satellite radio meal:

5. "Spread the word, cause I'm in EFFECT. A smooth operator, operatin' correctly."

Can you name any of the artists who penned the above lyrics? Juvenile is one of them and as I heard his song "Ha" on satellite radio recently, I remembered the eloquence of the music video for the song. The video for "Ha" is very well made and entertaining for several reasons. It's filmed in New Orleans in the Magnolia Projects, where Juvenile grew up. The video shows footage of random children and adults in the Big Easy, at least 6 years prior to Hurricane Katrina. You see the beauty, pain, strength and vulnerable humanity in the faces of these smiling, straight-faced, and frowning residents, medics and police officers. As I watch the video now, I can't help but wonder how many of these babies and grown folks were affected by the devastation of Katrina.

There's something both ominous and comical about the way Juvenile repeats lines from the Forest Gump film, "Run Forrest, Run Forrest, Run!" in "Ha" because as he says the lines, the music video shows a young boy running from police officers in an alley.

And for you Latin jazz/salsa lovers out there, if you don't know about it, you gotta check out Juvenile's "Follow Me Now" song that is oh so lively and ingenious. It's a harmonious and witty blend of hip hop and Latin flavors. I love the way the music video features shots of Latinos and African-Americans, smiling, dancing, and just actin' silly. Check it out here:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Prayer to God for Balance (Yoruba)

Ki nle 'ke odi.
Raise me above all misfortune.

Kiemaa gbe'mi n'ija kiemaa gbe mi leke isoro lojo gbogbo ni gbogbo ojo aye mi.
Raise me above all misfortune that might come my way while on this earth.

Kiemaa gbe 're.
Always bring me good fortune.

Bi'ku ba sunmo itosi ki e bami ye ojo iku.
If death is near help us to avert it.

Odun tiatibi mi sinu aye ki e bami ye ojo iku fun ara mi ati awon omo mi ti mo bi. Kiamaku ni kekere, kiamaku iku ina, kiamaku iku oro, kiamaku ike ejo, kiamaku sinu omi.
Avert death for all my children avert death for all those I include in my prayers. May they not die young, may they not die in fire, may they not die in tragedy, may they not die in shame, may they not die in water.

Ki e maf'foju re wo mi, ki awon omo araye lee maa fi oju rere wo mi.
I beg you to look upon me with good eyes so the world will be favorable to me and my children, may I be free from illness.

Ki e ma jeki nsaisan ki nsegun odi ki nrehin ota.
Let me overcome my enemies.

Ki e si'na aje fun me, ki awon omo araye wa maa bami, ra oja ti mo ba niita warawara, ipeku Orun e pehinda lodo mi.
Open the way to wealth for me, that the whole world will want the products of my work, let death pass me by.

Ki e da mi ni abiyamo tiyoo bimo rere ti won, yoo gb'ehin si sinu aye ate beebee.
May I be known as a parent who produces good children, who will stand behind me, follow my guidance and bury me at the end of my life.

Ki e ka ibi kuro lona fun mi lode aye.
Remove all obstacles wherever I go in the world.

Ki e bami ka'wo Iku, arun ejo ofo ofo efun edi apeta oso.
Protect me from death, disease, litigation, loss and hexing, prevent harm from those who work hexes.

Ki o r'omo gbe sire, ki e jeki oruko mi han si rere, ki ipa mi laye ma parun.
Let my name not be spoken with contempt, let my name be famous in the world, let my lineage flourish in the world.

Ki e jeki ngboki nto ki npa ewu s'ehin.
Let me live long and see my hair turn white.

Ase, ase, ase, 'se o.
May it be so, may it be so, may it be so.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reprise: Think on These Things (Gullah Version)

Philippians 4:8-9 (Gullah version from De Nyew Testament)

Here Paul is speaking to the people:

Me Christian bredren, las ob all, A da tell ya, mus keep on da study bout jes dem ting wa good mo den all an wa people oughta gii praise fa. Study bout dem ting wa true, dem ting wa honorable, dem ting wa right een God eye, dem ting wa ain neba mek people sin, dem ting wa mek ya wahn fa lob um, an dem ting wa people know fa be good fa true. Do dem ting A done laan oona. Mus do wa A beena tell ya fa do an wa ya see dat A da do. An God wa da gii we peace, e gwine be dey wid oona.

Translation for oona = You

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Who Am I?

(Taken from Neil T. Anderson's book, Victory Over the Darkness)

I am the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13)
I am the light of the world (Matt. 5:14)
I am a child of God (John 1:12)
I am a part of the true vine, a channel of Christ's life (John 15:1,5)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15)
I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit (John 15:16)
I am a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18)
I am enslaved to God (Romans 6:22)
I am a child of God; God is spiritually my Father (Romans 8:14,15; Gal. 3:26; 4:6)
I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him (Romans 8:17)
I am a temple a dwelling place of God. His Spirit and His life dwells in me (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19)
I am united to the Lord and am one Spirit with Him (1 Cor.6:17)
I am a member of Christ's Body 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph.5:30)
I am a new creature (2 Cor. 5: 17)
I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18,19)
I am a child of God and one in Christ ( Gal. 3:26,28)
I am an heir of God since I am a child of God (Gal. 4:6,7)
I am a saint ( Eph. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2)
I am God's workmanship--His handiwork--born anew in Christ to do His work (Eph. 2:10)
I am a fellow citizen with the rest of God's family ( Eph. 2:19)
I am a prisoner of Christ (Eph. 3:1; 4:1)
I am righteous and holy (Eph. 4:24)
I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven right now (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 2:6)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:4)
I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life (Col.3:4)
I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4)
I am a child of light and not of darkness (1 Thess. 5:5)
I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1)
I am a partaker of Christ; I share in His life (Heb. 3:14)
I am one of God's living stones, being built up in Christ as s spiritual house
(1 Peter 2:5)
I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God's own possession (1 Peter 2:9,10)
I am an alien and stranger to this world in which I temporarily live (1 Peter 2:11)
I am an enemy of the devil (1 Peter 5:8)
I am a child of God and I will resemble Christ when He returns (1 John 3: 1,2)
I am born of God, and the evil one -- the devil -- cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
I am not the Great I AM, (Exodus 3:14; John 8:24, 28, 58) But by the grace of God I am what I am (1 Cor. 15:10)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Love, Not Love: Michael Moore's Capitalism

I saw Michael Moore's latest addition to his opus on how America is swiftly going down the drain today and was far more affected by this film than I thought I'd be.

I've read reviews by more than one writer who admit that Moore makes some good points with Capitalism: A Love Story:

* The majority of banking systems in the U.S. are corrupt
* Workers are underpaid and used like tokens
* The rich make a concentrated effort to keep the poor right where they want them (us) -- poor
* Many of our representatives are selfish and corrupt
* There's more but I won't go on

But the reviewers also say, "What's he want us to do about it?" Well, it's obvious that the man wants us to get up off our butts and DO SOMETHING. I'm sure Moore is saying to us all, "Be creative!" Write to your Congressional representatives and tell them what you want, protest in the streets, demand that the banks give loans to people want to create viable small businesses and buy affordable homes, demand universal healthcare for the country's citizens, etc.

He certainly made me want to change our dire circumstances. Moore's Love Story really makes me want to get more active and vocal. I'm sure it will have the same effect on you once you see this masterpiece.

One portion of the film that keeps ringing in my head is a chant that some people in Miami sang when they banded together to help a family re-enter a home that they were thrown out of for not being able to pay the mortgage. The home had been foreclosed and the family, which included several children, were living in an old truck in their neighborhood. Some of the neighbors decided to help the family by forcing open the locked doors and taking down the boards on the windows, so that the displaced clan could reclaim the house. When the officials, including police officers, came to remove the family from their home, the good folks told the officials that they weren't going anywhere. In addition to telling them how unfair their ousting was, the family, their neighbors, and other supporters, shouted over and over: "Ain't no party like a people power party, cause a people power party don't stop!"

Here's what Michael Moore has to say about his film:

"It's a crime story. But it's also a war story about class warfare. And a vampire movie, with the upper 1 percent feeding off the rest of us. And, of course, it's also a love story. Only it's about an abusive relationship.

"It's not about an individual, like Roger Smith, or a corporation, or even an issue, like health care. This is the big enchilada. This is about the thing that dominates all our lives — the economy. I made this movie as if it was going to be the last movie I was allowed to make.

"It's a comedy."

Read Sean P. Means' article about Moore's film in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Check out the trailer for the movie below, then go see the film today!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Merry Times at Myrtle Beach

We had a ball y'all, last weekend at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina!

Gigi asked if she'd see glass on the beach. "No, baby" I said. "It's not like the beach in Brooklyn. It's CLEAN."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Van Gogh, O'Keefe and Gigi: The Poetry of Things

I went thrift store shopping today and found this lovely "Cafe Terrace at Night" Van Gogh print that will look lovely in the dining area. As I was leaving my second thrift store for the day, I spotted the same print and had to have it. I love hanging multiple images of the same scene or person on the wall. Like Andy Warhol, I guess it's my love of film and the idea of seeing one of many single images together that inspires me to do this.

Another great thrift store find was Georgia O'Keefe's "Pink Tulips" that has the name of her "The Poetry of Things" exhibit written below the flower.
This goes nicely with some flower paintings that Gigi did at an arts summer camp. The students were introduced to the work of Van Gogh and Georgia O'Keefe and were obviously told to paint pieces influenced by these two great artists. I'll hang Gigi's Van Gogh-like paintings by that master's work in the dining area. I know we'll have delightful eating experiences among the vibrant and stimulating artwork of Gigi and Van Gogh.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Israeli Ads Warn Against Assimilation

While I was checking one of my favorite blogs today, mymy, I was startled to read about an Israeli government advertising campaign that warns Jews in the Diaspora against marrying non-Jews. The ad goes on to encourage young Diaspora Jews to move to Israel.


Is it me, or is there something askew here? Why would a government that represents a group of people who have been gravely discriminated against throughout history, back a campaign warning its citizens not to intermarry with "those other people." Seems I'm not the only one perplexed by this effort. Jonathan Cook's article which appeared in the Abu Dhabi publication, The National states:

The campaign quickly provoked a storm of debate on Jewish blog sites, especially in the United States, with some terming it “divisive” and an insult to Jewish offspring of intermarriage. A link to Masa’s “Lost” campaign had been dropped from the front page of its website yesterday, possibly in response to the backlash.

Cook's article also says:

The issue of assimilation has been thrust into the limelight by a series of surveys over several years carried out by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, a think-tank established in Jerusalem in 2002 comprising leading Israeli and Diaspora officials.

The institute’s research has shown that Israel is the only country in the world with a significant Jewish population not decreasing in size. The decline elsewhere is ascribed both to low birth rates and to widespread intermarriage.

According to the institute, about half of all Jews in Western Europe and the United States assimilate, while the figure for the former Soviet Jewry is reported to reach 80 per cent.

Israel, whose Jewish population of 5.6 million accounts for 41 per cent of worldwide Jewry, has obstructed intermarriage between its Jewish and Arab citizens by refusing to recognize such marriages unless they are performed abroad.

The advertising campaign is directed particularly at Jews in the United States and Canada, whose combined 5.7 million Jews constitutes the world’s largest Jewish population. Most belong to the liberal Reform stream of Judaism that, unlike Orthodoxy, does not oppose intermarriage.

Check out what David Duke (who now has a Ph.D in History y'all!) has to say about the ads.

Don't believe it? See for yourself:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

ESL Class: Dream Variations

Here's a picture of my English as a Second Language class that met earlier today. We had a good time reading some Langston Hughes poems, including The Negro Speaks of Rivers and Dream Variations. The lesson was about the importance of using the correct rhythm and stress when speaking. We also focused on reading, understanding, and discussing poetry.

I had my students read a few of Langston's poems and we talked about the meaning of some of the words. We also listened to Hughes read his poetry and saw an interpretive dance/performance of Dream Variations on Youtube.

At the end of the class, I asked the students to answer the question, "What does the poem Dream Variations make you think of?"

Here are a few of the responses:

1. I think that dreams can [be]come reality.

2. With a beautiful poem and the happy Dance in the pale evening, she found her identity.

3. I remember one place in my country, I missing the river, and swimming in the clearness and the peace.

I like the poem because the dream, to make effort the black people free in the world.

I think when you try very hard you make really your dream.

4. The life is a poem

Dance, dance tenderly and fling until so far

Look the mother nature, look de fleurs, the trees, the animals and you understand the life

I love it!

The students shown in the picture above come from Colombia, Iran, France, and Korea.

Dream Variations
by Langston Hughes

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me--
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Get Ready: Victor Nunez and His Spoken Word

It's got New Mexico, Ruben Blades, Victor Nunez and poetry! It's a film that I certainly won't miss when it comes anywhere near me. It's Nunez's latest film called "Spoken Word" and as far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with a combination like that.

Nunez directed one of my favorite films, "Ruby in Paradise," which looks, sounds, and feels like a long poem. Robert Ebert has said that Nunez shows a great sympathy and undersanding of his characters. "He cares about his people, what they need, how they feel," Ebert said. I'm excited to see how the characters in "Spoken Word" feel and what they want. It's bound to be a revelation.

Nunez chose one of my favorite actors, Ruben Blades, to appear in this ode to rhythm, words, and images. Blades, who plays the father of the main character in the film, a poet, is a multi-talented performer. He's a Salsa star, holds two law degress, and ran for President of Panama in 1994. As a Salsa musician Blades can croon, dance, and make you want to get up and join the band. As an actor, he can go from sensitive to threatening, and humble to romantic. I love to see him do his thing.

"Spoken Word" is scheduled for a 2010 release date but it premiered on the festival circuit at the New York International Latino Film Festival in July. Here's a description of the film from that film festival's Web site:

When a San Francisco-based spoken word artist returns home to New Mexico to be with his dying father, he finds that he loses his "voice" as he is sucked back into his old life of drugs and violence.

"Spoken Word" takes us into the poet's mind as he attempts to forge a new, even stronger voice, and heal his relationships with his family, his community and himself.

I'll be looking out for the wide release of the film next year, but until then, here's a peek at some of the poetry that's featured in the film:


by Enrique Aviles

I’m here as a civilian
I put aside my rank and uniform
my poetic duty
there’s no beauty in these words
no prose
no rhyme
no verse
no literary value
Get Ready

Take off your jewelry and your watch
might want to loosen up your tie
this is not a lyric moment
not a sonnet
not an epic poem with perfect structure

this has no beauty in mind
there’s no song or rhythm in this piece
my intention is not to touch your heart
Get Ready I’m here to give you back your things
all the stuff you left me with
Get Ready

Make room
here’s your stuff
your lies
your tricks
your evil ways of cunning and f****** me over
Take your s***
your legacy

your scorn
your broken treaty
your notarized agreement
your lawyers
your law
your country
Get Ready

There’s no beauty in these words
I’m here as a civilian
as a threat
as a punk
as a thug
as the image you created
Get ready

I’m here
to kick your a**.

Get ready y'all: "Spoken Word"

A Review of "Spoken Word" in Variety.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gather Together in My Name

A few of the books that I read as a child have remained with me in my memory, my heart and probably in my writing. No writers made more of an impact on me as a girl than James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. Both spoke to me in ways that I find hard to fully explain, but I felt at home with these two. They seemed to know the psyche and spirit of people that seemed familiar to me. Their writing also spoke to me personally and taught me so much about tragedy, love, despair, resiliency, and triumph.

Maya Angelou is a true Renaissance woman. She's been a dancer, writer, actor, poet, diplomat, screenwriter, film director, and poet. Not only is she an immensely gifted artist, but she has overcome such massive obtacles that her series of autobiographies should be given to all young black girls as an example of how to triumph over tragedy.

When Angelou's parents divorced when she was 3 years old, she was sent to Stamps, Arkansas where her grandmother raised her. While visiting her mother when she was 7, her mother's boyfriend raped her and her life seemed to be altered irrevocably by that horrid event. Maya told only her brother Bailey what happened and as you can imagine, the other relatives, including several tough uncles, soon found out. Well, one uncle took justice into his own hands and killed the child molester. Maya, feeling guilty about the man's death, stopped talking for years. It was only after a school teacher introduced her to poetry that she began speaking again -- reciting poetry. In her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou tells this part of her story.

Her second book, Gather Together in My Name, is one that I just recently read again. I'm glad to say that the book was just as precious for me this time around as it was when I read it as a child. I was especially struck by the series of bad relationships that Maya fell into so recklessly. (How I sympathize!) It's obvious that her previous brush with abusive sexuality and her mom's history of too many boyfriends and husbands gave her a distorted view of men and sex.

When Maya was preyed on by a smooth talking older man, who turned out to be a pimp, she fell for his fake adoration and he talked her into working as a prostitute. Again Maya confided in her brother Bailey who put a finger in her face and with a quiet rage told her how she was being used and duped by a hustler. Bailey demanded that she go back, pack her bags, pick up her toddler son, and return home -- immediately. Thankfully, Maya obeyed.

Maya's mother also gives her daughter some advice in Gather Together in My Name, that struck me as sound wisdom for black girls and women, even today, over 60 years later. This is what her mom told her, after one of her own beaus tried to cut her with a knife:

"People will take advantage of you if you let them. Especially Negro women. Everybody, his brother and his dog, thinks he can walk a road in a colored woman's behind. But you remember this, now. Your mother raised you. You're full-gown. Let them catch it like they find it. If you haven't been trained at home to their liking tell them to get to stepping." Here a whisper of delight crawled over her face, "Stepping. But not on you."

"You hear me?"

Enough said.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day Trip: Art and Music in Winston-Salem

Gigi and I had a marvelous time over the weekend as we ventured over to Winston-Salem, N.C. for the first time. Since it's only 1 1/2 hours from Charlotte, Winston-Salem is a perfect day trip for us.

We visited the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University first and looked at the African-inspired art of Charles Searles, a Philadelphia-born artist who says he is interested in "making work that feels integrated and crosses cultures.” An exhibition of Searles' work will be on display at the gallery until September 12. If you're anywhere near Winston-Salem, I highly recommend that you check out Searles rhythmic, stimulating and energetic pieces, which include sculptures, paintings, pencil and ink drawings.

After checking out the museum, my little lady and I headed over to Trade Street to do some shopping and eating. I picked up some unique jewelry in a couple of shops that reminded me of the "Hippie" spots that the TV character Monk says are in San Francisco.

We ended the evening enjoying a free Music Festival at Trade and Sixth Street (the Avenue of the Arts), which featured lively blues and jazz by a singer named Velma Houston and her band. Velma really knows how to put on a show -- she got several people up and dancing (some quite provocatively), to her music. What a treat!

Below are a couple of photographs of "found art" built into a wall on Trade street in Winston-Salem.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gather the Children: Support for Single Mothers

Are you feeling overwhelmed as a single mother? Have you perhaps dreamed of sharing your childcare needs with others? What about holding a pow wow to create tutoring opportunities to help accelerate your child's progress in school?

Consider that there may be other mothers in the Charlotte area who feel like you do and would like to support each other.

As a single mother in Charlotte, N.C., I'd like to hear from others who would like to join in forming a support group for single mothers to discuss our needs, hopes, and dreams for our families.

If you want to join in the effort to help yourself, your children, and other single mothers, please contact Alicia at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Healthcare Plan: Win-Win for Me

I'm sure I wouldn't be the first to admit to be muy confused about this whole Obama healthcare initiative. I haven't said much about the controversy for two reasons:

1. As stated above, I don't completely understand what all the intricacies and implications of the plan are. I'm also not completely sure what the politicians mean when they talk about:

- public option
- private insurance
- single payer system

2. I figure it's a win-win situation for me, whatever healthcare policy they adopt, since presently, I DO NOT HAVE healthcare coverage. I'm bound to get SOME KIND of help from the deal. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Prostitution: Girls on Our Streets

This is an opinion piece from The New York Times that was originally published in the spring. This story needs to be republished as many times as possible. What would you do if you knew the name of the police officer that raped the child mentioned in Kristof's article? I know what I'd do.

Something must be done.

Girls on Our Streets
Op-Ed Columnist


Jasmine Caldwell was 14 and selling sex on the streets when an opportunity arose to escape her pimp: an undercover policeman picked her up.

The cop could have rescued her from the pimp, who ran a string of 13 girls and took every cent they earned. If the cop had taken Jasmine to a shelter, she could have resumed her education and tried to put her life back in order.

Instead, the policeman showed her his handcuffs and threatened to send her to prison. Terrified, she cried and pleaded not to be jailed. Then, she said, he offered to release her in exchange for sex.

Afterward, the policeman returned her to the street. Then her pimp beat her up for failing to collect any money.

“That happens a lot,” said Jasmine, who is now 21. “The cops sometimes just want to blackmail you into having sex.”

I’ve often reported on sex trafficking in other countries, and that has made me curious about the situation here in the United States. Prostitution in America isn’t as brutal as it is in, say, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia and Malaysia (where young girls are routinely kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by brothel owners, occasionally even killed). But the scene on American streets is still appalling — and it continues largely because neither the authorities nor society as a whole show much interest in 14-year-old girls pimped on the streets.

Americans tend to think of forced prostitution as the plight of Mexican or Asian women trafficked into the United States and locked up in brothels. Such trafficking is indeed a problem, but the far greater scandal and the worst violence involves American teenage girls.

If a middle-class white girl goes missing, radio stations broadcast amber alerts, and cable TV fills the air with “missing beauty” updates. But 13-year-old black or Latina girls from poor neighborhoods vanish all the time, and the pimps are among the few people who show any interest.

These domestic girls are often runaways or those called “throwaways” by social workers: teenagers who fight with their parents and are then kicked out of the home. These girls tend to be much younger than the women trafficked from abroad and, as best I can tell, are more likely to be controlled by force.

Pimps are not the business partners they purport to be. They typically take every penny the girls earn. They work the girls seven nights a week. They sometimes tattoo their girls the way ranchers brand their cattle, and they back up their business model with fists and threats.

“If you don’t earn enough money, you get beat,” said Jasmine, an African-American who has turned her life around with the help of Covenant House, an organization that works with children on the street. “If you say something you’re not supposed to, you get beat. If you stay too long with a customer, you get beat. And if you try to leave the pimp, you get beat.”

The business model of pimping is remarkably similar whether in Atlanta or Calcutta: take vulnerable, disposable girls whom nobody cares about, use a mix of “friendship,” humiliation, beatings, narcotics and threats to break the girls and induce 100 percent compliance, and then rent out their body parts.

It’s not solely violence that keeps the girls working for their pimps. Jasmine fled an abusive home at age 13, and she said she — like most girls — stayed with the pimp mostly because of his emotional manipulation. “I thought he loved me, so I wanted to be around him,” she said.

That’s common. Girls who are starved of self-esteem finally meet a man who showers them with gifts, drugs and dollops of affection. That, and a lack of alternatives, keeps them working for him — and if that isn’t enough, he shoves a gun in the girl’s mouth and threatens to kill her.

Solutions are complicated and involve broader efforts to overcome urban poverty, including improving schools and attempting to shore up the family structure. But a first step is to stop treating these teenagers as criminals and focusing instead on arresting the pimps and the customers — and the corrupt cops.

“The problem isn’t the girls in the streets; it’s the men in the pews,” notes Stephanie Davis, who has worked with Mayor Shirley Franklin to help coordinate a campaign to get teenage prostitutes off the streets.

Two amiable teenage prostitutes, working without a pimp for the “fast money,” told me that there will always be women and girls selling sex voluntarily. They’re probably right. But we can significantly reduce the number of 14-year-old girls who are terrorized by pimps and raped by many men seven nights a week. That’s doable, if it’s a national priority, if we’re willing to create the equivalent of a nationwide amber alert

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Only One Person

Let us close our eyes and pretend to be dead,
So that we may know who will mourn for us.
Let us walk unsteadily and pretend to stumble
So that we might see who will express concern.
It would not be a bad thing, even if we could
count on only one person.
But who will remain is difficult to determine.
This was the teaching of Ifa for Orunmila
When he was going to make people think
that he was dead.
So that he might know who were his true friends.
He was advised to sacrifice.
He heard and he complied.

From the Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings, translated by Maulana Karenga. The Odu Ifa is a body of sacred African texts designed to answer questions of human life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The People are Hungry. The People are Cold.

I've just finished reading Yellow Woman and a Beauty Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today. It's an informative book of essays by Leslie Marmon Silko that explores such topics as the role of rocks and other natural elements in Native American culture. It also looks at Silko's encounters with the U.S. Border Patrol, the role of storytelling in Native American lives, among other topics.

Silko's book is a provocative and telling recount of the author's family experiences and her impressions of life in the Native American culture in New Mexico and Arizona.

Here's a paragraph from her book that made a strong impression on me:

I learned about racism firsthand when I started school. We were punished if we spoke the Laguna language once we crossed onto the school grounds. Every fall, all of us were lined up and herded like cattle to the girls' and boys' bathrooms, where our heads were drenched with smelly insecticide regardless of whether we had lice or not. We were vaccinated in both arms without regard to our individual immunization records.

And here's a poem that Silko features in the book. The poem is written inside a mural, referred to as the Stone Avenue Murual, that's painted at 930 North Stone Avenue in Tuscon, Arizona.

La gente tiene hambre. La gente tiene frío.
Los ricos han robado la tierra.
Los ricos han robado la libertad.
La gente exige justicia. De otra manera, Revolución.

The people are hungry. The people are cold.
The rich have stolen the land.
The rich have stolen freedom.
The people demand justice. Otherwise, Revolution.

(This really speaks to our situation today, doesn't it?)

Silko, born in Albuquerque, N.M., is a former professor of English and creative writing, and author of novels, short stories, essays, poetry, and screenplays. She has won prizes, fellowships and grants from such sources as the National Endowment for the Arts and The Boston Globe. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with her family.

Monday, July 20, 2009

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labor in vain....

-- Psalm 127:1 (Today's New International Version)

God Needs to be at the center of all relationships (friendships, family, marriages). "All other ground is sinking sand."

Matthew 7:24-27 (New International Version)
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of
mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his
house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the
winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because
it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these
words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish
man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams
rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with
a great crash."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tangling of the Hair

Note: If a child comes to stay with you for two days and her mother has just freshly braided her hair in small cornrows, there's no need to take down the braids and redo her hair. Especially if redoing the hair will make it all tangled in the back and hard to comb. This makes more work for the mother, and an unpleasant combing experience for the little girl. The little girl's mother purposely keeps her daughter's hair in African-style braids to avoid such tangling of the hair.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Terrence Howard: Love Makes You Beautiful

Recently I was leafing through an old New York magazine from last Fall, looking for pictures to use for my ESL class, when I saw an announcement in the Nightlife section regarding a Terrence Howard performance with his band at Joe's Pub in Manhattan. I had no idea he had a band. Then I remembered how he talked about his love for music and how he loved to play the guitar and sing when he was promoting the film Hustle and Flow. He mentioned that it was odd that he was playing a rap singer since he wasn't a rap fan -- at all.

I searched YouTube and found some performances by Howard. I must admit, I don't much like his song, "Sanctuary," but I'm quite taken with another number he calls "Love Makes You Beautiful." It's a sad kind of song, with nice instrumentation and haunting background singing by, what sounds like, children. The song (album version) also features a segment that includes Howard and a woman speaking some words about Love that have been directly inspired by the Bible:

Love is longsuffering and kind
Love is not jealous
It does not brag
Does not get puffed up
Does not behave indecently
It bears all things, believes all things, ??? all things, endures all things
Love Never Fails

Howard's album, titled "Shine Through It," didn't shake up the charts, but I'd like to hear more music from Howard anyway. He's got a unique and melancholy musical style that's at least heartfelt and creative.

Here he is singing, "Love Makes You Beautiful" on the Late Show with David Letterman last Fall:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Monstrous Crime: Modern Day Slavery

“This has got to stop.”

If you’ve heard reports about the worldwide problem of modern day slavery, this is what you must have said to yourself. I know I did.

As the mother of a 7-year-old girl, I cannot fathom the idea of her being misused in the way that children and adults, all around the world, are.

When I heard a report on NPR recently about an author’s trek to Haiti to research the dilemma of modern day slavery, I wanted to scream about it.

When Benjamin Skinner, the author of A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery, was conducting research for his book a few years ago, he went to Haiti and discovered that he could buy a 9-year-old girl to use as a sexual and domestic slave for $50.

Skinner went to 12 countries to meet with slaves and traffickers and found that there are more slaves around the world today than at any time in history.
For Skinner, his trip to Haiti was especially eye-opening.

“I pulled up in a car and rolled down the window,” he told NPR. Someone said, ‘Do you want to get a person?”

How detached. How cruel. Can you believe it?

“The thing that struck me more than anything afterwards was how incredibly banal the transaction was,” he told NPR. “It was as if I was negotiating on the street for a used stereo.”

Skinner, who was raised in Wisconsin and northern Nigeria, learned about slavery as a child at Quaker meetings. His great-great grandfather and other family members were abolitionists.

After hearing this story and others about current day child and adult slaves around the world, I started thinking about abolitionism and how more people are needed to help end all forms of slavery.

Let’s join in the cause.

Go here to discover what you can do to help fight modern day slavery and to help victims of this atrocious practice.

Act now!

Ndioro Ndiaye, deputy director general for the International Organization of Migration, reports that an estimated 5.7 million children are laboring in debt bondage, about 1 million young girls are being detained and sexually exploited in prostitution and pornography rings, and 250,00 children are forced to fight as soldiers in about 30 worldwide conflicts.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Draw Closer

James 4:8 (New International Version)
Come near to God and God will come near to you ...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson and Floetry: Butterflies

Michael Jackson's passing has inspired me, along with millions of others I'm sure, to do a mental tally of my favorites by the gloved one.

My top two are: "Butterflies" and "Remember the Time."

Then I remembered that Jackson didn't actually write "Butterflies" -- Marsha Ambrosius, one half of the former group Floetry, wrote the song.

Here's the story of how Jackson discovered the song and made it his own, according to

Marsha Ambrosius of the English Neo-Soul duo Floetry wrote this ballad when she was still at school. She and her Floetry colleague Natalie Stewart ... met Jackson through John McClain, DreamWorks's senior urban executive, who also manages Jackson. MJ heard this song and decided he wanted to record it.

Jackson invited the two Floetry girls to the studio and asked for their input on the recording of the song. Natalie Stewart of Floetry told Yahoo: "It was incredible because he asked, he continually, asked, 'Marsh, what's the next harmony? Girls, does this sound right? What do you think? Is this what you were looking for? He was so open."

Marsha Ambrosius told Yahoo that it took a few minutes for her to calm down. She recalled: "To begin with, I was kinda shook. Because you don't realize how you're going to feel until you're put in that kind of situation. I had the tears in my eyes and got kinda nervous. But as I got into it, I realized it was work, it was a job. I had to vocally conduct a legend."

Ambrosius told VH1 that Stewart had a dream that the two girls were in a limo with Michael. She continued, "He was singing a song and it was like, 'Oh, I like that song.' A year later, we're in the studio cutting 'Butterflies' with Michael Jackson."

A year after this appeared on Invincible, Floetry's original version was included as a bonus track on the English version of their debut album Floetic.

Michael Jackson has said that this is his favorite song on the album.

Ambrosius has gone solo and is currently signed to Dr. Dre's record label, Aftermath Entertainment.

Here's Ambrosius singing this gorgeous song:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Alicia: Beloved Child of God

I want to thank Shelton D. for inspiring me, several months ago, to write the text below by asking me:

What does it mean to be the beloved child of God?

-- Being the beloved child of God means that I go to God for advice and counsel (prayer, the Bible, pastoral counseling, etc.)

-- It means that I know and listen to what God thinks about me and I focus on how God sees me as opposed to how others see me (especially people who have misused me and been abusive).

-- It means that I don't have to be anxious or depressed.

-- It means that I respect my body and my spirit and not allow unclean things into my body or soul. It means that I'll take good care of myself.

-- It means that I respect other people and treat them with compassion and kindness as long as they mean me no harm. It means I have the right to defend and protect myself from harm.

-- Being the beloved child of God means that I deserve to be loved, nurtured, cherished, and adored like God wants me to be. God wants the best for me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gigi and the Grandparents

Gigi and her Grandmom and Granddad, Mary and Bobby

Gigi and MaDear (Grandmom Cynthia)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gigi's Blast: She's Growing Up!

Gigi's Blast: She's Seven Years Old!

I can't believe Gigi actually walked on a tightrope during her 7-year birthday bash. She's braver than her mom!