“A la Vida” / “Here’s to Life”: canción distintiva de Shirley Horn

Loving elderly Black couple

A la Vida (letras: Phyllis Molinary / música: Artie Butler)
[canción distintiva de Shirley Horn (1934-2005)]
.
No tengo quejas ni arrepentimientos.
Aún creo en perseguir los sueños y hacer las apuestas.
Pero yo he aprendido ésto:
lo que tú das es todo que recibirás
– entonces dála una mejor vuelta en esta vida.
.
He tenido mi porción y he bebido más que bastante.
Y aunque estoy satisfecha, aún así tengo hambre de
ver lo que hay más adelante, más allá de la cresta de la colina
y hacerlo todo – de nuevo.
.
Pues, ¡a la Vida! y a todo el júbilo que nos jala.
Pues, ¡a la Vida! –– por los visionarios y sus sueños.
.
Raro es como vuela el Tiempo,
como el amor cambiará de hola acogedora hacia adiós triste;
como el amor te deja con los recuerdos que ya has memorizado
– para mantenerte caliente durante esos inviernos.
.
Mira, no hay “sí” en “ayer”,
¿Y quién comprende lo que lleve la mañana
– o lo que la mañana requise?
Pero siempre y cuando yo sea parte del juego pues quiero jugarlo
– por las risas, por la vida, y por el amor.
.
Entonces…¡a la Vida! y a todo el gozo que nos jala.
Sí, ¡a la Vida! –– por los soñadores y sus visiones.
Que soportares las tormentas, y
que mejorare todo lo que ya es bueno.
A la Vida… al Amor…
y…¡a ti!

. . .
Here’s to Life (lyrics by Phyllis Molinary / music by Artie Butler)
[as sung by Shirley Horn (1934-2005)]
.
No complaints and no regrets,
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets.
But I have learned that all you give is all you get;
So give it all you got.
.
I had my share, I drank my fill; and even though
I’m satisfied––I’m hungry still
To see what’s down another road, beyond the hill––
And do it all again.
.
So here’s to Life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to Life––for dreamers and their dreams.
.
Funny how the time just flies,
How love can go from warm hellos to sad goodbyes,
And leave you with the memories you’ve memorized
To keep your winters warm.
For there’s no ‘yes’ in yesterday; and who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away? As long as I’m still in the game I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love.
.
So here’s to Life and every joy it brings.
Here’s to Life––for dreamers and their dreams.
.
May all your storms be weathered,
And may all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.
.
May all your storms be weathered,
And may all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you!
. . .

Interpretación por Shirley Horn:

https://youtu.be/UTv3TONfTTQ

. . . . .


“As dearly as possible”: the Life of Ida B. Wells + poems by Lucille Clifton and Sterling A. Brown

.     .     .

Ida B. Wells portrait by Bruce Patrick Jones_graphite and watercolour

Ida B. Wells portrait by Bruce Patrick Jones_graphite and watercolour

.     .     .

IDA B. WELLS (African-American journalist / civil-rights activist, 1862-1931)

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Born to slave parents in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, Ida Bell Wells grew up to become a gutsy journalist and a pioneer civil-rights activist who launched a virtual one-woman crusade against the vicious practice of Lynching (a murderous mob action taken by Whites in the decades following Emancipation as a form of intimidation and social control mainly of newly-free Blacks). In her early 20s, after asserting her place in but being forcibly removed from a railway car, Wells went on to co-own and write for a Memphis newspaper, The Free Speech, and to write passionate editorials which resulted in both death threats made upon her plus an act of arson that destroyed the business.
.
In school the young Ida favoured reading Shakespeare and The Bible, but at the age of 16 both of her parents died during a yellow-fever epidemic, leaving Ida to care for her six younger siblings. She obtained a teaching position at a rural school which paid her $25 per month. Later on, while her brothers remained in Holly Springs to train as carpenter’s apprentices, she moved with her sisters to her aunt’s home near Memphis, Tennessee. She began to teach in Shelby County, and also to attend Fisk University to broaden her teaching skills. It was in May of 1884 that the discriminatory railway-car incident occurred, and some time after that the name “Iola” began to appear in print in black publications as the author of articles about race and politics in the South. Miss Wells had been using the pseudonym for less than a year when, in 1887, she attended the National Afro-American Press Convention and was named the most prominent correspondent for the American black press.
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Miss Wells did not shy away from controversy when she wrote for Free Speech. An anonymous article she penned was critical of Memphis’s separate but not-so-equal schools. She described rundown buildings and teachers who had received little more education than their students. Such revelations irked members of the local Board of Education. They also took issue with her claim that a member of the all-white board was having an affair with a black teacher. The ensuing uproar cost Wells her teaching job.
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Yet she was now prepared to focus more fully on the newspaper and what its very name – Free Speech – entailed. She gradually earned enough to purchase a half-share of Free Speech, and while her partner, J.L. Fleming, handled business matters, Miss Wells handled the editorial and subscription departments, and under her leadership circulation increased from 1,500 to 4,000. Readers continued to rely on Free Speech to tackle controversial subjects, even when that meant speaking out against blacks as well as whites — even when it meant challenging the widely-accepted practice of Lynching.
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When word reached Miss Wells that her friend Tom Moss, the father of her goddaughter, had been lynched, she learned a great deal more about the horrific practice than she could’ve imagined. Until that time, Wells, like most other people, knew that there were usually two reasons why a black man was lynched: he was accused of raping a white woman, or he was accused of killing a white man. Yet Moss’s “crime” was that he successfully competed with a white grocer, and for this reason he and his partners were murdered. Wells now understood that lynchings were not being used to weed out criminals but to enforce the ugly values of White Supremacy. So, in a series of scathing editorials in Free Speech, she urged Memphis’ black populace to boycott the city’s new streetcar line and to pack up their belongings and move out West if they could manage it.
.
African Americans heeded Wells’ pleas and began leaving Memphis by the hundreds. Two pastors of large black churches took their entire congregations to Oklahoma, and others soon followed. Those who stayed behind boycotted white businesses, creating financial hardships for commercial establishments as well as for the public transportation system. The city’s papers attempted to dissuade blacks from leaving by reporting on the hostile American Indians and dangerous diseases awaiting them out West. To counter their claims, Wells spent three weeks traveling in Oklahoma and published a firsthand account of the actual conditions. She was fast becoming a target for angry white men and women, so she was advised by her friends to ease up on her editorials. Instead, though, she decided to carry a pistol. In later years she was to recall: “[I had] already determined to sell my life as dearly as possible if attacked. I felt if I could take one lyncher with me, that might even up the score a little bit.”
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After the murders of Moss and his partners, Wells spent some months investigating other lynchings across the South. Traveling from Texas to Virginia, she interviewed both whites and blacks in order to discern truth from rumour. Margaret Truman has written in her book Women of Courage: “To call this dangerous work is an understatement. Imagine a lone black woman in a small town in Alabama or Mississippi, asking questions that no one wanted to answer about a crime that half the whites in the town might’ve committed.” Miss Wells was to learn that rape was far from being the only crime lodged against victims of lynch mobs. Indeed, men had been lynched for “being saucy.”
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In May of 1892, an article appeared in Free Speech stating that “nobody in this section believes the old thread-bare lie that Negro men assault white women. If Southern white men are not careful they will over-reach themselves and a conclusion will be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.” Many white citizens of Memphis did not appreciate the implication that some of their women might prefer the company of black men, and the editor of one Memphis newspaper declared that the “black wretch who had written that foul lie should be tied to a stake at the corner of Main and Madison Streets, a pair of tailor’s shears used on him, and he should then be burned at the stake.”
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Wells, en route to New York City and unaware of the impact of her latest anonymous editorial, did not discover its fallout until reaching her destination. Fellow journalist T. Thomas Fortune, editor of the New York Age, informed her that a mob of white men had marched into the Free Speech offices, demolished the printing press, and set fire to the building. Fleming, Wells’s partner, had escaped just before the attack and was in hiding. The angry group had promised that both editors would be lynched if they ever again set foot again in Memphis. Wells received telegrams and letters from friends begging her not to return. They told her that there were instructions to kill her on sight.
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And so, Miss Wells remained in New York and accepted a job from Fortune at the New York Age. Among the first stories she wrote for the newspaper was a front-page spread detailing names, dates, and locations of several dozen lynchings. In some cases, the lynchers were prominent members of society who could have easily gone through proper legal channels had there been actual evidence of their victims’ guilt.
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That particular issue of the Age sold 10,000 copies, yet it reached a predominantly black audience — not the northern white progressives Wells knew she needed to move to action if she wanted to stop the brutalities of Lynching. In 1893, therefore, she embarked upon a speaking tour of the British Isles and Europe, and it was in those overseas nations that she found white people who were more receptive to her activist concerns. Via this circuitous route, Miss Wells’ message – with the help of various newspaper editors and organizations such as the London-based Anti-Lynching Committee and the Society of Brotherhood of Man – made its way back to the United States. Some American newspaper editorials continued to attack Wells, referring to her as “the slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress.” And she faced the opposition of both conservative whites and upper-class blacks who feared any threat to the security of their positions.
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“Home” after her overseas speaking tour, Wells moved to Chicago in 1893 or 1894, and began working for The Conservator, a black newspaper founded and edited by a lawyer named Ferdinand Barnett. When blacks were excluded from participating in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (held in Chicago), she teamed up with Barnett and Frederick Douglass to compile a booklet entitled “The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not Represented in the World’s Columbian Exposition.” Thousands of copies of it were distributed during the fair. Miss Wells also published A Red Record, which recounted three years’ worth of American lynchings, and in order to avoid any charges of bias, she gathered all of her data from white-published sources, primarily the Chicago Tribune.
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In 1895, at the age of 33, Miss Wells married Barnett, who shared her passion for civil rights. They remained in Chicago, and Mrs. Wells-Barnett divided her time between raising four children and working on various causes: the anti-lynching crusade; establishing kindergartens in the black district of Chicago; and – with reformer Jane Addams – protesting successfully against a plan to segregate the city’s schools.
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Ida Wells-Barnett – now a wife and mother – kept on speaking out against discrimination…
She denounced the restriction of blacks to the backs of buses and theatre balconies, plus their exclusion from organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). In 1909, Wells-Barnett attended the conference of “radical” activists that led to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Perhaps not surprisingly – given her feisty and energetic character – she resigned not long afterwards, frustrated that the organization was not committed enough to militant action. Some years earlier, she had quit the Afro-American Council in protest against Booker T. Washington and his policy of “accommodation”.
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In the last decades of her passionate life, Wells-Barnett devoted most of her time and energy to various civic and political activities in Chicago. From 1913 until 1916, for instance, she worked as an adult probation officer. She also remained busy with club work and founded the first African-American women’s suffrage organization. She even ran for state senator in the 1930 elections, though she was easily defeated.
.
Imagine if Ida Wells-Barnett had been able to see into the future?
She might then have seen how much she influenced the civil-rights movement of the 1960s – and a new era in race relations – with her own battles against discrimination all those decades earlier.  Ida Wells-Barnett died of kidney disease in 1931 at the age of sixty-nine. But she is remembered here and now in the 21st century as a courageous pioneer for truth and justice – and as an African-American woman of whom we should all be proud.
. . .
The above biographical essay and commentary has been edited for length. It first appeared in Americans Who Tell The Truth: Models of Courageous Citizenship © The Gale Group

. . .

Lynching as a subject for poetry: two examples from poets Lucille Clifton and Sterling Allen Brown:

.

. . .

Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
The Photograph: A Lynching
.
Is it the cut glass
of their eyes
looking up toward
the new gnarled branch
of the black man
hanging from a tree?
.
Is it the white milk pleated
collar of the woman
smiling toward the camera,
her fingers loose around
a christian cross drooping
against her breast?
.
Is it all of us
captured by history into an
accurate album? Will we be
required to view it together
under a gathering sky?

. . .

Sterling A. Brown (1901-1989)
Let Us Suppose
.
Let us suppose him differently placed
In wider fields than these bounded by bayous
And the fringes of moss-hung trees
Over which, in lazy spirals, the carancros [carrion crows] soar and dip.
.
Let us suppose these horizons pushed farther,
So that his eager mind,
His restless senses, his swift eyes,
Could glean more than the sheaves he stored
Time and time again:
Let us suppose him far away from here.
.
Or let us, keeping him here, suppose him
More submissive, less ready for the torrent of hot Cajan speech,
The clenched fist, the flushed face,
The proud scorn and the spurting anger;
Let us suppose him with his hat crumpled in his hand,
The proper slant to his neck, the eyes abashed,
Let us suppose his tender respect for his honour
Calloused, his debt to himself outlawed.
.
Let us suppose him what he could never be.
.
Let us suppose him less thrifty
Less the hustler from early morning until first dark,
Let us suppose his corn weedy,
His cotton rusty, scantily fruited, and his fat mules poor.
His cane a sickly yellow
Like his white neighbour’s.
.
Let us suppose his burnt brick colour,
His shining hair thrown back from his forehead,
His stalwart shoulders, his lean hips,
His gently fused patois of Cajan, Indian, African,
Let us suppose these less the dragnet
To her, who might have been less lonesome
Less driven by Louisiana heat, by lone flat days,
And less hungry.
.
Let us suppose his full-throated laugh
Less repulsive to the crabbed husband,
Let us suppose his swinging strides
Less of an insult to the half-alive scarecrow
Of the neighbouring fields:
Let us suppose him less fermenting to hate.
.
Let us suppose that there had been
In this tiny forgotten parish, among these lost bayous,
No imperative need
Of preserving unsullied,
Anglo-Saxon mastery.
.
Let us suppose –
Oh, let us suppose him alive.

. . .
“Let Us Suppose” was first published in the September 1935 issue of Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life.
.     .     .     .     .


Alberto Henschel: 19th-century Brazilian photographer: Tipos negros / Black Types

Alberto Henschel_from his series Tipos negros or Black Types_Recife, Pernambuco_around 1869

Alberto Henschel_from his series Tipos negros or Black Types_Recife, Pernambuco_around 1869

Alberto Henschel (1827-1882) was a German-born Brazilian photographer from Berlin. An energetic, enterprising businessman, he established photography studios in the cities of Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. While known as both a landscape photographer and, for some time Photographo da Casa Imperial (Photographer of the Royal House) during the reign of Pedro II, his main legacy has been his visual record of the social classes of Brazil. His portraits were often produced in the ‘carte de visite’ format, and included the nobility, wealthy tradesmen, the middle class and, most interestingly, Brazil’s black people – whether slaves or freemen/women. These portraits were taken during the decades before the Lei Áurea, the slavery-abolition law of 1888.
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Alberto Henschel (Berlim, 1827 – Rio de Janeiro, 1882) foi um fotógrafo teuto-brasileiro, considerado o mais diligente empresário da fotografia no Brasil do século XIX. Sua principal contribuição à história
da fotografia no Brasil foi o registro fotográfico de todos os extratos sociais do Brasil oitocentista: retratos, geralmente no padrão carte-de-visite, foram tirados da nobreza, dos ricos comerciantes, da classe média e, mas certamente, dos negros – tantos livres como escravos (em um período ainda anterior à Lei Áurea.

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Alberto Henschel_ portrait from his Black Types series_Bahia, Brazil_around 1869

Alberto Henschel_ portrait from his Black Types series_Bahia, Brazil_around 1869

Alberto Henschel_Moça cafusa (Girl of mixed Negro and Indian blood)_Pernambuco_1869

Alberto Henschel_Moça cafusa (Girl of mixed Negro and Indian blood)_Pernambuco_1869

Alberto Henschel_Retrato cafusa_1869

Alberto Henschel_Retrato cafusa_1869

Alberto Henschel_retrato da negra de Pernambuco_1869

Alberto Henschel_retrato da negra de Pernambuco_1869

Alberto Henschel_uma negra de Pernambuco_1869

Alberto Henschel_uma negra de Pernambuco_1869

Alberto Henschel_Negra de Pernambuco_1869Alberto Henschel_Negra de Pernambuco_Brasil_1869Alberto Henschel_Negra de Bahia_1869

Alberto Henschel_Negra com criança na Bahia_c. 1869_Salvador, Bahia

Alberto Henschel_Negra com criança na Bahia_c. 1869_Salvador, Bahia

Alberto Henschel_Retrato negro_1869Alberto Henschel_1869_Retratos_Tipos negrosAlberto Henschel_portrait from Black Types_around 1869 in Brazil

Alberto Henschel_portrait of a middle-aged man with hat_from the series Tipos negros_around 1869

Alberto Henschel_portrait of a middle-aged man with hat_from the series Tipos negros_around 1869

Alberto Henschel_Retratos_Tipos negros_Recife_1869

. . . . .


Brazilian Women Poets (Cadernos Negros / “Black Notebooks”, 1997): new translations from the Portuguese: Rufino, da Silva, Evaristo, Ribeiro, Vieira, Alves, Fátima, Tadeu

Steadfast and Strong_collage by Brazilian artist Ananda Nahu

Steadfast and Strong_collage by Brazilian artist Ananda Nahu

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Alzira Rufino (born 1949, Santos, São Paulo state)
POLICE REPORT
.
The black woman is not stopped
by this brutish thing
by this lukewarm discrimination
your strength is a secret
show your speech through your pores
your scream will echo in the city
they weed your dignity
as poisonous weeds
they hurt you with arrows commended
they experiment on you
your négritude – Blackness –
disturbs,
your whirlpool of forces drowns all around it
they don’t want your presence
they cross your name with absence
come, black woman,
be, black woman,
see, black woman –
after the storm

. . .
BOLETIM DE OCORRÊNCIAS
.
Mulher negra não para
por essa coisa bruta
por essa discriminação morna
tua força ainda é segredo
mostra tua fala nos poros
o grito ecoará na cidade
capinam como mato venenoso
a tua dignidade
ferem-te com flechas encomendadas
te fazem alvo de experiências
tua negritude
incomoda
teu redemoinho de forças afoga
não querem a tua presença
riscam teu nome com ausência
mulher negra, chega,
mulher negra, seja,
mulher negra, veja,
depois do temporal
. . .
Ana Célia da Silva (born in Salvador da Bahia)
JOE
(To my father)
.
Down the street
there goes Joe,
sad and tired
Joe’s the people
Joe is Joe
An urn-less fakir
A stage-less actor
A nameless acrobat
There goes Joe
No present
No future
And any past he gets
he tries to forget
At times he cries
He rarely laughs
He always thinks
he’ll leave
as a sad inheritance
for the future
the tightrope
the shack
the empty casserole
and a bread-less family
. . .

(Para meu pai)
.
Descendo a rua
lá vai o Zé,
triste e cansado
ele é o povo
ele é o Zé.
Faquir sem urna,
ator sem palco,
acrobata anônimo,
lá vai o Zé.
Não tem presente,
Não tem futuro,
se tem passado
tenta esquecer.
Às vezes chora,
bem pouco ri,
vive pensando
que vai deixar
de triste herança
para o futuro,
a corda bamba,
o barracão
marmita vazia
e família sem pão.
. . .
Conceição Evaristo (born 1946, Belo Horizonte)
IN WRITING…
.
In writing hunger
With empty-palmed hands
when the hole-stomach
expels famished desires
there is, in this demented movement
the dream-hoping
for any leftovers.
.
In writing cold
with the tip of my bones
caring in my body the tremor
of pain and shelterless-ness
there is, in this tense movement
the warmth-hoping
for any miserable little vest.
.
In writing pain,
alone,
searching for the resonance
of another in me
there is in this constant movement
the illusion-hoping
for our doubled consonance.
.
In writing life
fading and swimming
on departure’s test tube
there is, in this useless movement
the treacherous-hoping
for catching Time
and caressing eternity.
. . .
AO ESCREVER…
.
Ao escrever a fome
com as palmas das mão vazias
quando o buraco-estômago
expele famélicos desejos
há neste demente movimento
o sonho-esperança
de alguma migalha alimento.
.
Ao escrever o frio
com a ponta de meus ossos
e tendo no corpo o tremor
da dor e do desabrigo,
há neste tenso movimento
o calor-esperança
de alguma mísera veste.
.
Ao escrever a dor,
sozinha,
buscando a ressonância
de outro em mim
há neste constante movimento
a ilusão-esperaça
da dupla sonância nossa.
.
Ao escrever a vida
no tubo de ensaio da partida
esmaecida nadando,
há neste inútil movimento
a enganosa-esperança
de laçar o tempo
e afagar o eterno.
. . .
Esmeralda Ribeiro (born 1958, São Paulo)
LOVE’S ENIGMA
.
There is an island
There is ivory
There is an archipelago in me
.
I’m the same actress rehearsing
every day
the same love case
lived by a whisker.
.
Inside me
solitude dressed as a Harlequin
.
I’m that one that although full of bruises
makes her body like cinnamon
perfumed grass
for her negro to sleep
.
Inside me
Illusions drawn with Indian ink
.
I am that woman
trying to wake up sleeping beauties
but, inside, I am a princess
in profound lethargy.
.
Inside me
a warrior’s strength dressed in satin.
.
I am that one who at night
hides as a chameleon
eye’s pearly drops
in warm passion.
.
Inside me
lives at last the enigma of love.
.
I am that one which no verb translates
before the loneliness and the pain,
that one with insane behaviours
That’s me – the eternal
Mary Joanne.
. . .
ENIGMA DO AMOR
.
Há uma ilha
há marfim
há tristes arquipélagos em mim.
.
Sou a mesma atriz que ensaia
todos os dias
o mesmo caso de amor
vivido por um triz.
.
Dentro de mim
solidão vestida de Arlequim.
.
Sou aquela cheia de hematomas,
mas que faz do corpo relva
com aroma de canela
pro seu negro dormir.
.
Dentro de mim
ilusões traçadas à nanquim.
.
Sou aquela mulher
tentando despertar belas adormecidas
mas, no íntimo, sou a princesa
em profunda letargia.
.
Dentro de mim
força guerreira vestida de cetim.

Sou aquela que à noite
esconde como camaleão
gotas de pérolas d’olho
na cálida paixão.
.
Dentro de mim
enfim mora o enigma do amor.
.
Sou aquela que nenhum verbo traduz
diante da solidão e da dor
aquela que tem atitudes insanas
Esta sou eu, a eterna
Maria Joana.
.

Ananda Nahu_Queen

Ananda Nahu_Queen

Lia Vieira (born 1958, Rio de Janeiro)
EAGERNESS
.
In the memory blinks
images of remote times
and recent things
The air is heavy
always has been
There’s hunger in the world outside
There’s no eating.
There’s tiredness in the world here inside
There is big fear
something frightful
As if nothing might
ever sprout again.
There’s something deformed here inside
Madness that explodes
about to crash / soul made of glass
Maybe is the answer I’m waiting for
Maybe is my ego
egocentric, egotistic, which
– throbbing –
is eager for love.
. . .
ÂNSIA
.
Pisca a memória
imagens de tempos remotos
e também de coisas recentes.
O ar está pesado
tem estado
No mundo lá for a há fome.
Não se come.
No mundo cá dentro há cansaço.
Há um medo grande
uma coisa de susto.
Como se fosse acontecer
não brotar nunca mais.
Há algo disforme cá dentro.
Loucura que explode
prestes a estilhaçar / alma de vidro.
Talvez seja a resposta que espero…
Talvez seja apenas meu ego,
egocêntrico, egoísta, que,
latejante …
deseja amor.
. . .
Miriam Alves (born 1952, São Paulo)
INNER LANDSCAPE
.
The night breeds chords
the joyful star turns into a moon
a dream’s sonata rolls along the asphalt
.
A sleeping sky confuses itself
the sun shines over it with
a middle-of-the-night smile
dew splashes on the roofs
.
The sky’s face muddles
half nights, half days
a dawn rises
a playful child is born
wrapped in dawn’s early hours
.
Wake up, day!
There’s eagerness for hope!
. . .
PAISAGEM INTERIOR
.
A madrugada respira acordes
estrela brincalhona enluará
sonata dum sonho rola asfalto
.
O céu todo em sono confunde-se
o sol ilumina-o com
um sorriso madrugada
respinga orvalho nos telhados
.
A face do céu confunde-se
meio em noites, meio em dias
desponta uma autora
nasce uma criança brincalhona
toda envolta em madrugada.
.
Acorda dia!
há fome de esperança!
. . .
Sônia Fátima (born 1951, Araraquara, São Paulo state)
THE IT
.
The night brought me it:
I don’t know if I call it
I don’t know if I contradict it
or if I just don’t care about
the Benedict
. . .
O DITO
.
A noite trouxe-me isto:
não sei se ligo para o dito
não sei se desdigo o dito
ou simplesmente não ligo
para o Benê-dito
. . .
Teresinha Tadeu (born in São Paulo)
STILTS
.
The dirty water grabs you
quietly, falsely, and you don’t even scream
You mix your innocence
with crab feces and mud
.
And you sleep precociously
holding your toy.
Gliding over the water
under the stilts.
.
The sun comes and goes
and doesn’t dry you out
in its foamy sheets
You’re one less to share the bread!
. . .
PALAFITAS
.
A água insalubre te recolhe
quieta, falsa, e tu nem gritas.
Misturas tua alvura
com fezes caranguejo e lama.
.
E dormes precocemente
segurando teu brinquedo.
Deslizando sob as águas
debaixo das palafitas.
.
O sol se vem e se vai
e não te enxuga
no lençol de espumas.
És menos um, na partilha do pão!
. . .

Other Black Brazilian poets featured in Cadernos Negros

https://zocalopoets.com/2014/06/

. . . . .


“The Road Before Us”: Gay Black Poets from a generation ago

Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Ice_B_February 2016

Preface to The Road Before Us: 100 Gay Black Poets (1991)
.
The Road Before Us could have taken a far different path. As its editor and co-publisher, what I wanted foremost was a collection that would provide one more stepping-stone on the road to gay black poetical empowerment. Too often this has been the road not taken.
.
Each poet in this volume is represented by one poem…..
I relish this mixture of styles, which are as wide-ranging as our concerns. The myths, metaphors, and mundaneness of our gay black community, like those of any other community, broaden and deepen everyone’s knowledge of what it is to be human.
.
Most of the poets in this anthology have never appeared in a book before…..
It is my dream that all these fine young writers will keep penning poetry, polishing their craft, and juicing up a literally dying art.
.
The title The Road Before Us is borrowed from a line in the poem “Hejira” that the late Redvers JeanMarie wrote about our friendship. He dedicated it to me. I cherish it. It is anthologized here. The choice of “gay black poets” rather than “black gay poets” was a personal one. I originally used the working subtitle Gay African-American Poets – to which some contributors strongly objected because they were not born in the United States and, moreover, have not chosen to naturalize as American citizens (as I have).
.
Afrocentrists in our community have chosen the term “black gay” to identify themselves. As they insist, black comes first. Interracialists in our community have chosen the term “gay black” to identify themselves. As they insist, gay comes first. Both groups’ self-descriptions are ironically erroneous. It’s not which word comes first that matters, but rather the grammatical context in which those words are used – either as an adjective or as a noun. An adjective is a modifier of a noun. The former is dependent upon the latter.
.
I have never labeled myself either Afrocentrist or interracialist. From reading or seeing my theatre pieces, many might characterize me as an Afrocentrist; but others might immediately characterize me as an interracialist because I have loved and lived with a white man for the past eleven years.
.
Although I make no excuses or apologies for the racially bold statements in my writings, I also owe no one any justification of my “till-death-do-us-part” interracialist relationship. While the black gay vs. gay black debate rages on, in much-needed constructive dialogue, we’d best ponder, as L. Lloyd Jordan did at the conclusion of his essay “Black Gay vs. Gay Black”(BLK, June 1990): “Who are gay blacks and black gays? Halves of a whole. Brothers.”
.
Furthermore, I consider my sexuality a preference. Most of us have an inclination to bisexuality that we don’t acknowledge or act upon. I am very proud of my gayness – which is not to be confused with homosexuality.
.
In the preface to his book Gay Spirit, Mark Thompson explains this distinction clearly: “Gay implies a social identity and consciousness actively chosen, while homosexual refers to a specific form of sexuality. A person may be homosexual, but that does not necessarily imply that he or she would be gay.”
I declare that a person may be gay – but not necessarily homosexual.
.
Colour – and it is much more than skin pigmentation – is not a preference. The same has not to this day been scientifically demonstrated regarding our gayness, which is so much more than sexual orientation. It’s hard to imagine that any writer in this anthology would ever want to change either his colour or his gayness, given a choice.
.
I realize that these views add fuel to the “fire and brimstone” pronouncements of those in far-right politics who argue that we lesbians and gays could change to “normal” if we wanted to.
.
While I agree with our lesbian and gay community’s tenet that some of us can’t change, I would stand up anytime to Jesse Helms and his ilk, and declare loudly that, whatever the case may be, I refuse to change. Far too many of us continuously let church and state dictate our fate, by submitting to their painful spiritual and political butt-fuck.
.
What does all this politics have to do with poetry?
As Judy Grahn said in a keynote address at OutWrite ’90: “Poetry predicts us, tells us where we are going next.”
.
Shouldn’t we, the poets in this anthology, dispatch to Helms our gay black poems each time he gets up in front of the Senate and spews forth yet another homophobic or racist harangue without fairness of debate and real challenge? Couldn’t fifty of us (one representing each state of siege that he wants to turn our USA into) also fax him full-size etchings of our dicks to be inserted in The Congressional Record. Then ours would not be the dicks of death – as popularly characterized – but truly the dicks of everlasting political life.
. . .
Some months ago I urged all the contributors who are HIV-positive or have AIDS to come out. I felt than, and I still feel, that there is nothing that those of us in this predicament could reveal in our bios that is more urgent and deserving of mention than our sero-positivity or diagnosis.
.
A number of contributors agreed. I applaud their trust and thrust. Others who have previously come out publicly chose not to do so in this instance. A few who I know to be in the last stages of HIV illness cited confidentiality and their right of privacy.
.
While sympathetic to the right of privacy issue, I also find it part of the overall problem. It fosters anonymity rather than visibility. And when we don’t show en masse the lives, the faces, and the hearts of AIDS – ours included – we are accepting all the connotations of shame, all the mystification of sin and repentance that those who are plainly simple-minded place on a virus.
.
AIDS is a Pandora’s Box.
There is real jeopardy in revealing sero-positivity, publicly or privately. In gay black poetry the issue has been primarily dealt with from a third-person narrative rather than a first-person focus.
.
Meanwhile, in highly disproportionate numbers compared to our percentage in the American population, and adding to the lowering of our expected paltry sixty-year-or-so lifespan as black men, there are many gay disappearing acts among us, too often played solo, or for a small – and not so captive – audience. As the late Joseph Beam, editor of In The Life, anticipated and stated: “These days the nights are cold-blooded and the silence echoes with complicity.”
.
Back in April 1988 Joe [Joseph Beam] stayed overnight at my apartment, as he always did when he visited New York City. I detected the [AIDS] syndrome beneath the moodiness, innuendoes, and fungus of the fingers. I did not disclose to him my own sero-positivity, although – thinking of it now – I believe that he detected more than just a holocaust obsession in the poems I shared with him.
.
What kind of “deadly guessing game” were Joe and I – two of the better-known gay black writers – supposedly leaders – and most importantly, friends – playing with each other? What kind of label do I attach to my name, after leaving unreturned messages on his answering maching, for not marching down to Philadelphia and knocking on / down his door?
.
Yes, I am sick of the destructive threats that HIV constantly poses to my life-partner, my lovers, my friends, my communities, and me. On my desk, pictures of Redvers [JeanMarie], David [Frechette], and Ortez [Alderson] – to whose memory this anthology is dedicated – are framed like icons.
.
Each time I write I hear their voices, backed by a chorus of others I loved (“One AIDS death every eight minutes; it ain’t enough to write, you gotta demonstrate!”) pound in my head, like those sanctifying drums, especially tambou assôto, I used to hear in my childhood in Haiti in the hours of darkness.
. . .
May the rhythm of our gay black hearts be as uplifting in our daily lives as it is in our essays, anthologies, films, rallies, one-night-stands – and poems.
.
May the rhetoric never rage like the grandstand of many pedantics in the gay white community, which we so often hasten to castigate for claiming to speak on behalf of our “rainbow” community.
.
And most of all, may we come to believe in each other – heroes, first, to ourselves – unafraid to “strike a pose” and take a stand.
.
Ours is a country where omens abound out of control. Ours is a country tempted by fascism. Ours is a country in a demythologized age, perhaps void of salvation. Yet I don’t believe in the destruction of America, but in a reconstitution that recognizes our fully participating gay black voices.
Silence = Death.
Writing = Life.
Publishing = Survival.
.
With sixty T-cells left, I live on borrowed time. However, self-pity and sympathy are not part of my survival kit – another factor why making this book a reality became a first priority.
.
But when I do die, killed like hundreds of thousands in this AIDS war, may it transpire that every Memorial Day – until the circus of media, clown masks of stigma, and jeers of hysteria stop in our country; and certainly until a cure is found, or at least until a do-or-die governmental, scientific, and societal commitment to discover one finally gets underway – my life-partner, mother, lovers, friends, fellow poets, somebody, anybody…burn the Stars and Stripes then toss the ashes over my grave.
.
And please don’t sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” – but, furiously, read back every poem in the following pages.
.
Assotto Saint, nom de guerre
Summer 1991, New York City

Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Ice_A_February 2016

Poems from The Road Before Us: 100 Gay Black Poets, edited by Assotto Saint, published 1991
. . .
Blackberri
Love Song
.
1.
you move me to poetry
to song
you’re often in my thoughts
are my thoughts
moving me to poetry
to song
then to poetry
2.
even your silence
tells me things
your heart can’t
and when you are near
you can no more
maintain than i
3.
in a dream
i loved you long
and deep
you let go
i let go
without a touch
i awoke wet
surprised
4.
you move me to poetry
to song
you’re in my fantasies
are my fantasies
realized
realize
you are moving me to poetry
to song
then to poetry
again

. . .
Eric Stephen Booth
An Exercise in Misogyny
.
So I lied and told her that I loved her
Starved, she took me seriously
My heart couldn’t make a U-turn
Out of pity I married her
.
I hit her when I was wrong, then gave her
Roses with thorns to reconfirm our vows
Out of fear of being exposed
Growing up just like dad
.
Through journeys of weekend violence
It dawned on me after our fourth child
That my heart wasn’t steering
And my brain was on automatic drive
.
She damned me to hell
My mother couldn’t believe her ears
After a lifetime of masculine strife
I came face to face with my fears
. . .’

Rory Buchanan
Barbecues
.
I was taught
men marry women
have two point five kids
ranch homes in suburbs
with impossibly green lawns
surrounded by
pristine white picket fences
shop at pathmark and k-mart
buy tools from sears
go to church every sunday
pray for salvation
find mistresses when bored
.
I was told
it was wrong to
love another man
touch the way I do
mingle spirits and fluids
feel okay about who I am
listen to my heart
expose the real me
admit to being gay
.
I was warned
that if I followed my
unconventional desires
slept with a man
satisfied wants
fulfilled needs
I would burn in hell
fry forever
.
So
I tell them
“Start the barbecue”.
. . .
John E. Bush
Remember Me
.
Remember me for the love I gave
and tried to give
for the companionship we shared
held dear
– remember me.
.
Although I would have liked
our time together to have been longer
so much I wanted to do
so much you expected of me
it was not to be
– still remember me.
.
Think about those good times
when we laughed and dined
at the table of fellowship
good times now gone
yet preserved forever in your memory
– remember me.
.
Know that my love for you
was not one that was duty-bound
but it emerged sincerely
from some unknown place
a love once mine
now left to you to hold
and pass on to others
when it is your turn to leave
– so remember me.
Not in a sorrow of despair
but triumphantly
remember me.
. . .
Rickey Butler
After the Fuck
.
when the sheets are up
the curtains drawn
and your eyes get all fuzzy
because of the sun,
don’t disappear
. . .
Don Charles
Pony Boy
.
White man
Wealthy man
Bed is cold
Body old
Black man
Healthy man
Firm and young
Heavy hung
.
Silver man
Pays to score
Horny guy
Out to buy
Mocha man
Plays the whore
Life is hell
Got to sell
.
Business man
Undercover
Hotel suite
So discreet
Hustler man
Hired lover
Money’s right
Spends the night
.
Respected man
Life of leisure
Owns the town
Sneaks around
Survivor man
Selling pleasure
Rich man’s toy
Pony boy
. . .
J. Coleman
When I write to Godmother
.
I’m careful with
Language
Slang takes a holiday
.
careful not to twist
my tongue
She must not hear the
loose metaphor nights
.
nor smell the necks I’ve licked –
.
I don’t smack my lips
She must not see
the boys I’ve kissed
nor hear the whispers –
.
She must not examine my prose
for nuance
nor read between
too many lines –
.
But if asked
I won’t deny perdition –
What price
a letter!
.
I feel pen pricks
in my soul.
.
With a clean sheet of paper in hand
and newly brushed teeth
I ask
.
“How are you?”
. . .
Carl Cook
Love Letter #25
.
September has
the clearest air
the coolest nights
the brightest moons lie still
like autumn leaves
I am renewed
by thoughts of you
.
Tomorrow
my love
I may need to wear a raincoat
galoshes made of manufactured latex
an umbrella wide enough
to keep us dry
in a sudden storm
.
But I am
of the faith
that storms will pass
the rains will dry
and love as cool and clear
as September air
will still be ours
. . .

Rodney G. Dildy
Heroes
.
The heroes have died
Died twisting to blind
leadened boogies
Died broken blue midst indigo
moods, sworded bone
unsheathed ivory
blood-burned biceps
Died cold-dredged
worm-swollen
thru mute catfish alleys
My heroes
they have all died
over or underqualified
neglected or exposed
from genius and gross
stupidities
Died dirty-nailed
greasy-necked
Died gem-cysted
diamond-eyed
Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Snow_A_February 2016
Sean Drakes
Love Lesson #1
(To Richard Cousar, whose death to AIDS encourages safer-sex behaviour, drives knowledge-sharing, stimulates my artistic responses to the epidemic, and has taught me what love feels like.)
.
I
.
A summer Sunday on Christopher Street
brought us together:
Two black gay men
yearning for love.
Quicker than instantly,
we shared secrets, passion,
weekends and underwear.
Suddenly, my six months exhausted,
I had to package
then file
this ideal come true.
I was twenty-one,
he, forty-three,
and rekindling
a thirteen-year romance
as I coped with foreign feelings.
.
II
.
The bright winter moon
guided me –
a messenger of good will
and faith
in a plastic pouch –
to and from his hospital
bedside.
Day by day,
kisses,
hugs
and offerings failed
to salvage my friend,
till after I hung up the phone,
a restless night
became
endless.
. . .
Roy Gonsalves
Black Summer
.
I know what it’s like to pick peppermint
from my garden
to make tea to calm my shattered nerves
wishing for magic to render sanity.
.
I’ve torn memories in my photos
ripped decorations by ex-lovers
snipped petunias for fun
burned hate letters in the fire of the grill.
I know what it’s like to recite
eighteen psalms in one night
to pray not to become one of Satan’s disciples
and cast a deadly spell.
.
I’ve heard whispers from my lover’s lips
telling me he’s sleeping with my so-called friend
I’ve lived harlequin romances
and watched them turn into bloody nightmares
where I became the murderer.
.
I know what it’s like to plot murder
to shoot a friend in the face
and watch his smile fall blank
to beat bloody my belovéd
with a hammer
and leave him in the cellar.
.
I know what it’s like to choke on hatred
despise the image in the mirror
and every living thing that moves.
I know the terror of being alone
for fear I might kill myself.
I’ve seen impatiens in my garden
shrivel up and die before my eyes.
I know what it’s like to be dead.
.
I’ve been to a funeral
in my own home
heard the ancestors scream:
“It’s not your time…”
I’ve watched summer turn black.
I know what it’s like to have your heart
turn into hot ice
waiting to burn.
. . .
L.D. Hartfield-Coe
Drifting
.
You have been wasting a life /
with struggle and strife /
still you wonder /
late at night /
will the dawn ever come /
the rain stop /
so you can /
reach out for the light /
and make amends /
raining again /
will the sun ever shine /
a rainbow will be his sign /

. . .
F. Spencer Irvin
Black Culture in the Park
.
There’s a lot of culture in the park.
From the handsomest B-boys
To the sassiest Divas;
The Black Bourgeosie
To Homeless America.
There’s a lot of culture in the park.
A large wooded area:
A place with fountains and ponds,
Hills and rocks, grass and trees
Where “boys” walk, look, searing,
And men grope, seek, searching
For orgasms.
Do you practise “safe sex”?
Neither did they.
There’s a lot of culture in the park.
A youngman of twenty-eight or so:
A beautiful man, but a man of the streets –
Survivor – he asked me to pay him
Three bucks, and he’d take care of me.
There’s a lot of Black culture in the park.
. . .

G. Winston James
To Be Brave
.
Can you hear my footsteps as I approach the waiting grave?
Can you see my despair as I descend into death’s cave?
Do you recall the day when I imbibed that savage blood?
Do you know of shattered dreams, crushing of frozen rosebud?
How can I look ’round at my prints buried in the deep snow?
How can I bear that as it melts all trace of me will go?
Can you hear my footsteps as I approach the waiting grave?
If so, will you be there with me to help me to be brave?
. . .
Redvers JeanMarie
Hejira
(for Yves Lubin)*
.
There were no colours
A night without azure
And a cloud-covered moon misted
Our skins
Such yearning could not be pinned
A rustle of trees gave no answers
Nor the ambient air
A sense of plenitude
The road before us with no symbols
A restrictive sense of nothingness
Wrapped us firm
I’ve a natural strength
And can follow with you
I heard myself
Whisper
Questions long forgotten
What we’ve become
Has no name
. . .
* Yves Lubin = Assotto Saint
. . .
Sidney Curtis Johnson
Sunday, November 6, 1987
.
He came
like
the day
awakening
colour
without
ever
straining
its reason.

.

I stared
like
a child
at the circus
awed
with
dim hope
answering
his call.

. . .
Anthony B. Knight-Dewey
Loneliness
.
Loneliness is an abandoned house.
It creaks with stillness and rests
on the blackness of its foundation.
It sits alone in the backyard of our minds,
yet stands out and demands recognition.
It hides elusively behind the rubbish of life,
yet shines a light most radian from its highest loft.
It is weather-beaten from years of torment and anguish,
but still retains its shape and strength.
.
Loneliness gives no clues or suggestions.
Secrets are hidden and locked away in the attic of darkness.
Groans and cries race through the pitted corridor
down the infested stairwell
to the moldy basement.
.
Loneliness gathers dust in the dungeon of time.
The windows of hope and aspiration are boarded up
with the greyness of despair.
.
Yet, only in loneliness does one experience
all those dimensions that are one,
those distant faraway lands of beingness –
the spirit supreme,
the temple eternal.
. . .
Steve Langley
Butch
.
My name Butch
I work at the hardware store
I got this l’il gal I be messin wif
Fine as shit
She wanna move in wif me
But I don’t need no bitch up under me
Wantin this and that
I be hangin out at this punk club
Somethin to do
I may get a drink, get high
But I don’t talk to nobody
If I do hook wif somebody
I go to they place
I may let em suck my dick
I may fuck em
But I don’t be kissin em
And they bet not try to kiss me
I’ll beat the shit out of em
I don’t give em my name or my number
Not my real one
Once I git off
I’m gone
. . .
Harvey J. Lucas
Too Late to Say I Love You
(for David)
.
Often he was parental,
But the rebellious pride masked
His contentment with concern.
.
Often he was great,
Generic in dress – forceful passion –
And a dynamic friend.
.
Often he was risqué,
Public kisses – arrogant smirks –
Not afraid to say anything.
.
Now, I often remember him:
Consumed by that inscrutable entity
Of eternal silence.
. . .
Jerome Mack
Flaw
.
Sometimes
i wish i could
rid myself
of this skin
that covers me
subdue carnality
pick fights
with truth
pull husk
over conscience
i would…
there’s just no
hiding place
.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers on Snow_February 2016
Scott Mackey
I Couldn’t Speak His Language
(for Romuald Du Clos de Saint André)
.
when i first me him
he was only a boy,
but not really.
.
he allowed me to believe
i was in control – the man,
old, wise and mature.
.
reality obscured the dream
because
i couldn’t speak his language.
.
he knew
but needed to hear
what i couldn’t say.
.
a part of me burns
as i become
desperately aware of my mortality.
.
i didn’t realize
.
how important
words could be.
. . .
Vernon Maulsby
Gender Bender
(To Richard)
.
Is it safe for me
to let my hair down
and speak freely with you?
Will this woman’s heart
speaking through a deep throat
make you dismiss me
as just another gender bender,
incomplete in your eyes?
Can I share the men I’ve loved,
the women I’ve liked, the fears
of death that sired my children?
Would you understand,
or should I just sit here,
and make lewd jokes, as we
talk of sports I never watch?
. . .
Rodney McCoy, Jr.
Pop
.
I used to dream
of a ghost in
silk
satin
lace
.
Dreaming of
gold
tightening around
my finger
like a blessing
or was it a noose
.
These dreams
were my mother’s smile
handed down
to my sister
and me
thinking it was
our birthright
our duty
our gift to her
.
But the day I kissed
your mustached lips
silk
satin
lace
to me
.
Those dreams
and my mother’s smile
popped loud
painful
absent forever
. . .
Jim Murrell
Bermuda
.
Fine.
Hot.
Luminous.
Infinite carapace of day ingathers hard, riding noon fire
On molten hillocks beyond the coral.
Sun-drovered come
Sarabands of iodine, nomad across the sea grape.
Pupils burn to pinpoint smoke: rolling glitter of
Water’s desert.
Our boat burns in rise and slap
And indigo swells from the east:
My father, the friends of his youth, myself.
.
And I am thirteen, struggling to man manliness.
Head, heart, stomach…vortex.
Resolve eddies on fuming wash of clubbed fish blood.
Betrayal of inner ear for which gravity is not enough.
And the rum talk: pompous, monotonous.
Men and ritual braiding the deep world into submission –
Pattern of a weaving,
A harnessing I cannot learn.
. . .
L. Phillip Richardson
The Book of Lists
.
so fickle ink on first acquaintance
i penciled them in
the urban gods
the fleeting sparkles
the would-be stars
were the heavens kinder those days
.
by name i now browse the list
the ABCs of ruthless order
unordered by homeless strays
the innumerable nicknames
attached to numbers
on unattached slips of paper
at home in my book
like family
.
i remember the first call
in my ear the first word
high on “hi”
the voice vibrating man vibes
then the jittery jive
of jigsaw sympathies
the flirts
the dirts
the jerks
the hurts
still hurting
.
suddenly i see
the old book older
its frayed memories losing the fray
as some fall free
come loose without restraint
no spine
no rubber binds them
holds them close
.
i chill
with each name i can’t erase
how graceless and cheap faint recall
leaving dead men in leaded glory
in the book of lists
i keep
. . .
Bryan Scott
Roller Coaster
.
You’ve called but haven’t spoken.
You’ve expressed but haven’t clearly stated.
You’ve suggested but haven’t taken action.
You’ve reached out but haven’t connected.
You’ve touched but haven’t felt.
You’ve been here yet you seemed elsewhere.
You’ve mentioned “love” but implied “like”.
Before I get on this emotional rollercoaster
I’d better listen to the silence…
. . .
Jamez L. Smith
Dreaded Visitation
(for my Grandmother)
.
The knock on the door
on the lazy Saturday afternoon
comes
like the toll of Donne’s bell.
Someone runs
and turns the television off.
The air becomes as still
as a dead fish.
Slowly, carefully,
Grandmama tips toward the window.
Another knock breaks
the silence,
and Grandmama freezes
like a doe suddenly aware
of the hunters stalking her.
Finally,
Grandmama reaches the window
and, recognizing the form outside,
breathes a sigh of relief.
She opens the door.
“What took you so long?”
the visitor asks.
Grandmama replies:
“We thought you was a Jehovah’s Witness.”
. . .
Marvin K. White
Last Rights
.
When I learned of Gregory’s death
I cried silently
But at the funeral
Giiiiirl I’m telling you
I rocked Miss Church
Hell I fell to my knees twice
before I reached my seat
Three people had to carry me
To my pew
I swayed and swooned
Blew my nose
On any and every available sleeve
The snot was flying everywhere
Then when I finally saw his body
My body jerked itself
Right inside that casket
And when I placed my lips on his
Honey the place was shaking
I returned to my seat
But not before passing by his mother
Who I’m sure at this point
Was through with me
I threw myself on her knees
Shouting “Help me
Help me Jesus”
When someone in the choir
Sang out “Work it girl
Wooooork it”
All hell broke loose
I was carried out
Kicking and screaming
Ushered into the waiting limo
Which sped me to his family’s house
Where I feasted
On fried chicken
Hot water corn bread
Macaroni and cheese
Johnny Walker Black
Finally in my rightful place
. . .

Andre De Shields
His (Blues) Story
.
Verse I
.
Before there was Desdemona,
Iago would warm Othello’s bed.
Before there was Desdemona,
Iago would warm Othello’s bed.
He would sharpen his sword,
Fill his lamp with oil,
And rub his woolly head.
.
Verse II
.
Before Caesar knew Cleopatra,
He would hold Mark Antony to his chest.
Before Caesar knew Cleopatra,
He would hold Mark Antony to his chest.
And that’s why the Queen of the Nile
Invited a serpent to make a home in her breast.
.
Stop Time
.
Now Achilles destroyed the Trojans
Because of a boy in his tent.
And if it hadn’t been for Jimmy Baldwin,
Young Giovanni would’ve had no rent.
When Alexander marched out of Egypt,
He was fierce; he was festive; he was grand.
And when Jesus chose his disciples,
He made everyone a man.
.
Verse III
.
So,
when you study your history,
You’d better learn it like you should.
‘Cause after God created the Heavens and the Earth,
And separated the light from the darkness,
And divided the water from the waters,
And gathered the dry land from the seas,
And produced vegetation according to its kind,
And hung the moon, and sun, and stars in the sky,
And threw birds in the air and fish in the ocean,
And placed wild creatures in the forest,
God said:
“I’m lonely. I think I’ll make Me a man in My image.”
And, so, He did.
Then, God looked around at all He had done and shouted:
“This is good.”

. . .

Assotto Saint (born Yves François Lubin) was a Haitian-American poet, performance artist, musician and editor. He increased the visibility of black queer authors and themes during the 1980s and early 1990s. In addition, Saint was both one of the first black activists to disclose his HIV-positive status and one of the first poets to respond to the AIDS crisis in his work.

Assotto Saint photographed by Robert Giard in 1987

Assotto Saint photographed by Robert Giard in 1987

. . . . .


Countee Cullen: poems from “The Black Christ” (1929) and “Color” (1925)

Illustration from 1929 by Charles Cullen for the epic poem The Black Christ written by Countee Cullen 1903 to 1946

Poems from The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929) by Countee Cullen (1903-1946)
. . .
Little Sonnet to Little Friends
.
Let me not the proud of heart condemn
Me that I mould my ways to hers,
Groping for healing in a hem
No wind of passion ever stirs;
Nor let them sweetly pity me
When I am out of sound and sight;
They waste their time and energy;
No mares encumber me at night.
.
Always a trifle fond and strange,
And some have said a bit bizarre,
Say, “Here’s the sun,” I would not change
It for my dead and burnt-out star.
Shine as it will, I have no doubt
Some day the sun, too, may go out.
. . .
Mood
.
I think an impulse stronger than my mind
May some day grasp a knife, unloose a vial,
Or with a little leaden ball unbind
The cords that tie me to the rank and file.
My hands grow quarrelsome with bitterness,
And darkly bent upon the final fray;
Night with its stars upon a grave seems less
Indecent than the too complacent day.
.
God knows I would be kind, let live, speak fair,
Requite an honest debt with more than just,
And love for Christ’s dear sake these shapes that wear
A pride that had its genesis in dust,–
The meek are promised much in a book I know
But one grows weary turning cheek to blow.

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the poem Minutely Hurt_1929

Minutely Hurt
.
Since I was minutely hurt,
Giant griefs and woes
Only find me staunchly girt
Against all other blows.
.
Once an atom cracks the heart
All is done and said;
Poison, steel, and fiery dart
May then be buffeted.
. . .

Revelation
.
Pity me, I said;
But you cried, Pity you;
And suddenly I saw
Higher than my own grief grew.
I saw a tree of woe so tall,
So deeply boughed with grief,
That matched with it my bitter plant
Was dwarfed into a leaf.
. . .
Song in Spite of Myself
.
Never love with all your heart,
It only ends in aching;
And bit by bit to the smallest part
That organ will be breaking.
.
Never love with all your mind,
It only ends in fretting;
In musing on sweet joys behind,
Too poignant for forgetting.
.
Never love with all your soul,
For such there is no ending,
Though a mind that frets may find control,
And a shattered heart find mending.
.
Give but a grain of the heart’s rich seed,
Confine some under cover,
And when love goes, bid him God-speed.
And find another lover.
. . .
One Day I Told My Love
.
One day I told my love my heart,
Disclosed it out and in;
I let her read the ill-writ chart
Small with virtue, big with sin.
.
I took it from the hidden socket
Where it was wont to grieve;
“I’ll turn it,” I said, “into a locket,
Or a bright band for your sleeve.”
.
I let her hold the naked thing
No one had seen before;
And had she willed, her hand might wring
It dry and drop it to the floor.
.
It was a gentle thing she did,
The wisest and the best;
“The proper place for a heart,” she said
“Is back in the sheltering breast.”
. . .
Black Majesty
(After reading John W. Vandercook’s chronicle of sable glory)
.
These men were kings, albeit they were black,
Christophe and Dessalines and L’Ouverture;
Their majesty has made me turn my back
Upon a plaint I once shaped to endure.
These men were black, I say, but they were crowned
And purple-clad, however brief their time.
Stifle your agony; let grief be drowned;
We know joy had a day once and a clime.
.
Dark gutter-snipe, black sprawler-in-the-mud,
A thing men did a man may do again.
What answer filters through your sluggish blood
To these dark ghosts who knew so bright a reign?
“Lo, I am dark, but comely,” Sheba sings.
“And we were black,” three shades reply, “but kings.”

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the 1929 poem Song of Praise by Countee Cullen
Song of Praise
.
Who lies with his milk-white maiden,
Bound in the length of her pale gold hair,
Cooled by her lips with the cold kiss laden,
He lies, but he loves not there.
.
Who lies with his nut-brown maiden,
Bruised to the bone by her sin-black hair,
Warmed with the wine that her full lips trade in,
He lies, and his love lies there.

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the epic poem "The Black Christ" by Countee Cullen

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the epic poem “The Black Christ” by Countee Cullen

Illustration by Charles Cullen for the 1929 epic poem The Black Christ by Countee CullenCharles Cullen illustration for The Black Christ_1929.     .     .

Four poems from Countee Cullen’s Color (1925)

.
Caprice
.
“I’ll tell him, when he comes,” she said,
“Body and baggage, to go,
Though the night be darker than my hair,
And the ground be hard with snow.”
.
But when he came with his gay black head
Thrown back, and his lips apart,
She flipped a light hair from his coat,
And sobbed against his heart.
. . .
Sacrament
.
She gave her body for my meat,
Her soul to be my wine,
And prayed that I be made complete
In sunlight and starshine.
.
With such abandoned grace she gave
Of all that passion taught her,
She never knew her tidal wave
Cast bread on stagnant water.
. . .
Bread and Wine
.
From death of star to new star’s birth,
This ache of limb, this throb of head,
This sweaty shop, this smell of earth,
For this we pray, “Give daily bread.”
.
Then tenuous with dreams the night,
The feel of soft brown hands in mine,
Strength from your lips for one more fight:
Bread’s not so dry when dipped in wine.
. . .
Gods
.
I fast and pray and go to church,
And put my penny in,
But God’s not fooled by such slight tricks,
And I’m not saved from sin.
.
I cannot hide from Him the gods
That revel in my heart,
Nor can I find an easy word
To tell them to depart:
.
God’s alabaster turrets gleam
Too high for me to win,
Unless He turns His face and lets
Me bring my own gods in.

. . . . .


Black History Month: Vintage Black Paper Dolls

"Aunt Dinah, the Colored Cook, comes to join the Paper Doll Family"_McCall's Magazine, April 1911_Aunt Dinah is presented in a realistic, straightforward manner, as all the dolls in this McCall's series were.

“Aunt Dinah, the Colored Cook, comes to join the Paper Doll Family”_McCall’s Magazine, April 1911_Aunt Dinah is presented in a realistic, straightforward manner, as all the dolls in this McCall’s series were.

.     .     .

In the early twentieth century, paper dolls were a popular plaything for children. Cheap and easy to make, these cut-out paper figures could be dressed with paper clothes attached by tabs. The figures were often of idealistic characters: beautiful children, perfect families, fashionable ladies representing the power élite of the day. Boxed sets and books could be readily bought in stores, but many were available in magazines and newspaper comic strips as a special treat for the kids.
.
From the late 1800s to the mid 1950s, black paper dolls were rare and stereotypical in white-owned North-American media. Black adult females were shown as maids or ‘mammies’, caregivers to young white children. Black children as paper dolls always had at least one garment that was tattered and patched, and black adult males were almost never shown.
.
The outstanding exception to the above stereotypes was the creation of Torchy Brown by a black woman cartoonist named Jackie Ormes. The Torchy Brown comic strips and accompanying paper dolls appeared in black newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender in the early 1950s. Torchy herself, created by Ormes in the 1930s, was a strong and glamorous woman-of-colour who certainly did not wear rags. With the advent of desegregation and the Black Power movement in the United States, more and more positive images of black paper dolls finally appeared.
.
The images shown here cover the early stereotypes. Yet one can understand that, at the time, many blacks may have been pleased to see any representations of themselves in prestigious magazines such as McCall’s and Woman’s Home Companion. It was also during this period – in 1939, to be exact – that Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for portraying a ‘mammy’ in the film “Gone With The Wind”;  McDaniel was also featured in a paper doll book of the film.

Bruce Patrick Jones

.     .     .

Rastus_Little Louise's Friend_Vintage Black paper doll_from Good Housekeeping, November 1909

Rastus_Little Louise’s Friend_Vintage Black paper doll_from Good Housekeeping, November 1909

Charming Rastus, gently stereotyped with patches and watermelon, was positioned as a friend of Little Louise, a blond, blue-eyed girl.

Farina (little girl in the middle)_from the Our Gang series in_Woman's Home Companion, October 1925

Farina (little girl in the middle)_from the Our Gang series in_Woman’s Home Companion, October 1925

Patches and rags define pretty Farina, though Fattie’s costume is tattered too. This exquisite illustration was by Frances Tipton Hunter.

Katy's black mammy has taken care of her ever since she was a little baby_painted by Katharine Shane_from Woman's Home Companion, June 1927

Katy’s black mammy has taken care of her ever since she was a little baby_painted by Katharine Shane_from Woman’s Home Companion, June 1927

What well-to-do little girl from The South wouldn’t have had her very own ‘mammy’ in 1927?

Mandy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, September 1932

Mandy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, September 1932

Mandy, a warm and loving creation by Canada’s Lydia Fraser.

Topsy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, October 1932

Topsy by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, October 1932

Topsy’s ‘kitchen dress’ suggests she’ll follow mommy Mandy’s line of work.

Topsy's Brother Sam by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, July 1933

Topsy’s Brother Sam by Lydia Fraser_Canadian Home Journal, July 1933

Sam’s wardrobe defines a hard workin’ little guy: bellboy and newspaper seller.  As well – the ubiquitous patches on his overalls.

Sunny Sammy's Nurse Diana_drawn by Corinne Pauli Waterall_from Pictorial Review, March 1934

Sunny Sammy’s Nurse Diana_drawn by Corinne Pauli Waterall_from Pictorial Review, March 1934

Sunny Sammy’s cherub-cheeked nurse pre-dates Hattie McDaniels in “Gone With The Wind”.

Svarta Nelly_Elefantbabyn_Krokodilungen_Tre påklädningsdockor från Negerlandet_Vintage Black paper doll from a 1935 Swedish newspaper called Allers

Svarta Nelly_Elefantbabyn_Krokodilungen_Tre påklädningsdockor från Negerlandet_Vintage Black paper doll from a 1935 Swedish newspaper called Allers

Black Nelly was a Swedish take on a little African girl, shown here with a totally European set of clothes.

Little Black Sambo by Martin_from an Oklahoma City newspaper_June 1937

Little Black Sambo by Martin_from an Oklahoma City newspaper_June 1937

Sweet Little Sambo seems almost to be a cartoon version of Rastus (second from top).

Effie Slivers_appeared in Lena Pry and Jane Arden comic strips_by Monte Barrett and Jack W. McGuire_Vintage Black paper doll from 1938

Effie Slivers_appeared in Lena Pry and Jane Arden comic strips_by Monte Barrett and Jack W. McGuire_Vintage Black paper doll from 1938

Effie Slivers was Lena Pry’s (mouthy) maid in this 1930s strip. Lucky Effie gets a dressy outfit, too.

Opal_from Girls: Boots and her Buddies by Martin_from The Detroit News, Sunday December 11th, 1938

Opal_from Girls: Boots and her Buddies by Martin_from The Detroit News, Sunday December 11th, 1938

Opal was a stark contrast to slim, blonde Boots, star of the comic strip in which Opal appeared. Still, artist Martin did give her a rich wardrobe.

.     .     .

Zócalo Poets feature about Jackie Ormes: https://zocalopoets.com/2015/02/28/jackie-ormes-torchy-candy-patty-jo-ginger/

.     .     .

Opening today (February 20th):

Stereotypes to Civil Rights: Black Paper Dolls in America

featuring the private collection of author, lecturer, and collector Arabella Grayson, and exploring the 150-year evolution of cultural images of African-Americans in paper dolls—from Little Black Sambo and Aunt Jemima to Jackie Robinson and Missy Elliott.

Till August 21st, 2016,

at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures,

Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.

http://www.toyandminiaturemuseum.org

 

 .     .     .     .     .