Angela Davis and I – Poetry, Cinema, and Social Justice

Angela 1970Afro girlAngela I Met

Angela 2012

1970, Professor Angela Davis and myself, a college freshman; Angela in the 80s our second meeting; Angela in 2012 at the Toronto Film Festival.——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Angela

My conscience commissions me/to take pen and paper/and give meaning to the meaningless word./Your silence castrates me./Day dawns but I am weary/the pages empty, the hours wasted./What is your glory or right?/I would know you/if Knowledge was Freedom./Yet, I am aware of its lie/for knowledge promises prison./I would love you/if Love was Justice./But, law shattered this myth/in the broken faces of his children./I would die for you/if Death was Victory./No, death is defeat/when the hour is not in hand./All this you know and the/unspoken I know not./For after your words/I am ignorant./In the teeth of powers against you/I am weak./And in your woman’s loneliness/I am numb.

“Free Angela Davis & All Political Prisoners,” a documentary film by a Shola Lynch was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. From the clip below it looks like it does a very good job of documenting Davis’s life and the events surrounding her imprisonment and trial from 1970 – 1972.

She was arrested after my freshman year at Stephens College, an all girls school in Columbia, Missouri. Mere months before Angela Davis was put on the FBI’s most wanted list, I visited Fred Hampton, leader of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, Illinois. I interviewed him for research on a paper I was writing, for a class, about revolution. He was a soft spoken, young black man committed to improving the lives of black people. In less than two weeks of my return to college,  police  murdered Hampton while he was sleeping.

That event, coupled with the earlier police brutality I had seen inflicted on peaceful protesters during the Democratic Presidential Convention, and then the arrest of Angela, led me to take a position of opposition and distrust of the American government and “system” for my young adult years.

Angela Davis was hired to teach Marxism at UCLA and later fired because she was a member of the Communist Party. Then her affiliation with the Black Panther party and her association with imprisoned members, led to the trumped up charges that  placed her in jail and on trial. While she was in prison I wrote her a note, just saying I knew she was innocent and supported her cause. I was very surprised when I received a hand written note from her from jail. That she would take the time to write a total stranger, in her situation, greatly impressed me, and confirmed my feeling that she was not a criminal. I wrote the above poem some time after receiving her letter. Yes, she was found innocent of the charges against her, became a professor at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and continues to work for social justice.

When I was living in Washington, DC, a few years later, I met Angela Davis in person. She and I both appeared in a program against South African Apartheid. I danced, she spoke. She appeared shy and nervous, was chain smoking, and still wore her large Afro. In the late eighties, once again, I was graced to be in the company of Angela Davis. This time we met at a woman’s conference in a former convent in Pennsylvania. I represented the Austin, Texas Women’s Peace House. This Angela Davis was the one wearing long locks, no longer smoking cigarettes, her skin vibrant and glowing, her smile warm and welcoming. She was approachable and we engaged in a friendly conversation. Now Angela’s smile is wisely warm as we can see from the photo of her appearance in Toronto last year.

I think “Free Angela & All Political Prisoners” is a hidden cinematic gem which can shine a bright light on the continuing contradictions and injustices keeping this nation from resolving its ongoing problems. Angela Davis continues to hold onto the beliefs that led her to leave Birmingham, Alabama, earn a degree in philosophy and teach. She teaches that another economic paradigm must be developed to counteract the inherent inequities created by capitalism and works to find another form of justice, other than dehumanizing mass incarceration, in order to  realize the sweet dream of “freedom, equality, and justice for all.”  While continuing to teach, in answer to a question about the values and activism of today’s youth, Angela said, “Older people have to be willing to learn from younger people.”

This  movie trailer gives a good preview of the quality of the documentary.

The press conference provides insight into Angela Davis and the purpose of the film.

Free Write Friday

Thanks to Sean Bidd  for introducing me to kellieelmore.com-free-write-friday-lyric-prompt/

This is my first time with this free writing, I look forward to more. The prompt is in quotes, my writing follows.

“Oh yea, they say ‘life goes on’ long after the thrill of living is gone.”

So the Buddhist says, the thrill of living is but an illusion as we travel this endless universe of consciousness. Our bodies change, along with the names, and at some point in the journey we discover that still point of light and the revelation that this life we hold so dear is just a passing game, a momentary dream, we are slipping through. Our true lives so much grander than this material meandering through man’s many malls of meaningless ventures and soul scorching schemes. Oh, but how we can linger in the pleasantness of dreams until we awake into the great consciousness that is one vast illuminating emptiness beyond desire beyond pain beyond pleasure oh to taste the oneness of the great beyond.

As it is Black History Month, today I’m sharing two blogs that I found very worth while. The first you will find at this link, http://browneyedspin.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/paul-robeson-an-extraordinary-man-part-1/. Brown-eyed Spin is doing a series of Black History posts that are well worth the read. Her latest blog led me to research Paul Robeson and the Spanish Civil War, which led to this one, I’ve reblogged. Great photos, a film clip, and information new to me. Plus for film buffs an organization worth knowing about. Savor this moment in Black History.

Black Film Center/Archive

Paul Robeson, the consummate renaissance man, is known as well for his amazing talent (an athlete, polyglot, orator, intellectual, singer, actor) as for his political involvement and passion for social justice.   His involvement in the Spanish Civil War[i] on the side of the Republican forces, though less well known, stands out as an episode that brings together Robeson’s multitude of talents, and shows his backbone in the worldwide struggle against fascism.

After the fascist coup attempt and ensuing breakout of war across Spain in July of 1936, Robeson’s support of the democratically elected Spanish Republic against grew strong.  He explained his support for the effort at a rally in London’s Albert Hall on June 24th, 1937:

The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery.  I have made my choice.  I had no alternative.  The history of the capitalist era is characterized by the degradation of…

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I Am That We May Be

Poetry Cover

Illustration of book cover drawn by me

The poems that I have posted the past couple of weeks were first published in 1974 in my book of poetry, I Am That We May Be. I used the Swahili name, Damali, which meant a beautiful vision, explained in my introduction: “Poems are visions to be shared for the creation of our tomorrow. . .”

The book was published by Third World Press, Chicago, as part of The First Poet Series, being my first – and only – published book of poetry, so far. The favorable comments  I’ve received for the poems posted have given me confidence in my abilities as a poet. Here are two more poems from that book.

That We May Be
In accordance with the natural laws of harmony, man dropped the solitude existence of “I” and found the ever changing perfection of “WE.” (painted on a wall on 14th Street, between Euclid and Fairmont, NW, Washington, DC)

Let us
Remove

the shields from our eyes
that we may see our sameness.

Release

our clenched fists
that we may join hands and create.

Open

our closed ears
that we may hear the other’s song.

For our peoplehood will never rise

Until

We find
the strength within the other.

Let Us
Discover
the meaning of Family
That We May Be.

The Calm

Quite

Rays of the sun
filter through piled clouds
like light reflected
from cut prisms.

Silence

The gray cloud
crawls
across the pied sky
like a huge spider
inching its way
quickly
against the white
motionless whispers
and the blue

Hush

Review of Illimitable Beauty

This is the first review I’ve received from a fellow writer. He also asked some interview questions. I’m working hard to increase my sales. The book will be available for Free to Amazon Prime members on February 9th, 10th, and 23rd. I’m also offering to review other Kindle Singles in exchange for a review of my book on Amazon. So please help spread the word and enjoy the writing of Uzoma.

85 Degrees

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It could have been dismissed as forgetfulness or wasteful thinking but Jewel, a science teacher, is not taking this particular feeling lightly. Not even the sceptical remark of her close girlfriend, Diane, is able to dissuade her from paying attention to this ‘out-of-body’ experience. The more her mind seesaws from her conscious state to realms on Earth and beyond, the more she gets to see, admire, and embrace life from a wider perspective. This divine alteration alongside physical observations finally point her to a sad truth about John, the man she’d loved for more than twenty years; the one who is the father of her children.

My Review:

This novella is delivered with well-structured lines (some of which I find quite poetic). Told from the first person point of view, Payne tactfully reveals the emotions of her main character, Jewel, and how she’s able to relate with other characters as…

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Review Offer for Kindle Single Authors

Hand writing

Fellow WordPress authors, I know you are out there with your published Kindle Single seeking reviews and readers. I, too, have published a Kindle Single, Illimitable Beauty, and my friends who can read or review it, do not have Kindles, so can’t purchase from Amazon to write reviews. I just listened to a webinar that said I should have five to ten reviews on my free days for Kindle Select. I have three free days scheduled, February 9, 10, and 23rd.

If you have a Kindle Single, I will read and review your book in exchange for you doing the same for my book. Just comment to this blog your interest and the title(s) of your book(s). This offer applies to the first ten people who respond.

In addition to reading your Single and reviewing on Amazon, I will post a blog of all of the books I review with links to them on Amazon. Please share and re-blog. Thanks for participating.

Another Poem about Washington, DC

Snowflake Mandala

I walked down Euclid Street, in Northwest Washington, DC, a black neighborhood of working class families in the 1970’s many times.  Now it is a very upscale street with ultra-modern apartments and condos priced from $300,000 to $900,000 dollars. So, this poem, I wrote in the seventies, is dedicated to those families that made this street memorable to me.

Euclid Street

Greenness grows in this ghetto
cleanness neatness

(dirtiness and bareness
this we know)

But

Trees do tower here
and lawns small as match covers
are neat behind wire white wooded fences.
Flowers like flames flood from
yards and trees.
One large full bloomed pink rose
stands starkly alone
before a pealing gray plaster home.
Ignoring the gray littered concrete
delicate violets and blood purple leaves bend,
and almost hidden behind one fence
soft velvet blossoms rest.

Do not say these yards are not green.

Or that the sky is always gray.
On days rare as a trusting smile
the sun blasts the sky clear and bright
as new washed windows.

More children than doors grow here
free as waves of smoke
playing
“I shot you and you ain’t dead”
cursing
“I’m gonna beat his ass”
They speak without fear
and question only with
the curiosity of newness.

The women sit on porches of row houses.
Old women quietly watch worlds walk on.
And the other women, young
and not so young
carrying children, without children
faces work worn and warm
walking wanting wishing
for space and time and dream fulfilled.

Men stagger and stumble and swagger
across sidewalks
tired, torn, without a revolution
but alive beyond the slight breath.

And young men
who think they are cool
so jive, they only fool
themselves.

Life smolders here
within the dark walls
of our black homes.

Life boils here

like a rising tide
to flood
to wash the world clean

to begin a new creation.

Three Poems for Celebration

Black Sketch

Tomorrow this country officially celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe, if he was still alive, he would say, do not celebrate me, I just did my work as a minister. Celebrate this country’s achievement for removing racist laws. Celebrate the descendants of the sons and daughters of Africa who continue to contribute to this country. The following three poems celebrate this community.

Observations of a Saturday Night Crowd

A smokey kaleidoscope my people create
fashioned in coal, khaki and cream,
sewn from spring soil they stream
in tones of acorn and chestnut ornate.

A dusky rainbow, they unfold
eclipses of David’s cloth, in ink and alabaster.
Groomed from the dark that precedes disaster
they glisten in glimpses of gold.

Subtle as autumn’s sober hues,
a variegated harmony of delight
my people of sable sight
redeem dingy chalk avenues.

Troost Express

Once.

I wrote
a poem
about
the bus.

Today.

I know
the unpoetic
truth of
bus riders.

Their faces

are novels

not poetry.

In the Tradition of Beautiful Women

We wear our smiles
with grace and warmth
sweet and delicious
as honeysuckle
on a summer night.

Reader Appreciation Award

readerappreciationaward

Thanks again to Uzoma for nominating me for this award. It’s an especially meaningful award, because it recognizes those who comment regularly on my blogs. Uzoma is a very talented poet and short story writer, do check him out –  Uzoma. 

Here are the rules for this award:

  1.  Assign your top 5 bloggers who have commented the most.
  2.  Be grateful.
  3.  You cannot award the prize to someone who already has it.
  4.  Do not forget to inform the bloggers involved with this award.
  5.  If you do not want to spend the money, no problem. Just admire it.

Here are five bloggers who you know read your blog because they make meaningful comments consistently.

1. http://yeehawranchmamasheri.wordpress.com/

2. http://ericjohnbaker.wordpress.com/

3. http://sherijkennedyriverside.wordpress.com/

4. http://repurposedredhead.com/

5. Professions for PEACE

Illimitable Beauty

Illimitable Beauty Kindle Marketing Cover

Magic happened when I saw my writing in publication, even if it’s just a Kindle Singles. I have a published work. Maybe I’m just one of thousands of Amazon writers, but I can say I have a book for sale. The magic is like fairy dust sprinkled over me making me feel golden and light. And then the magic exploded with a story idea I hadn’t seen coming. So, while I pursue print publication of my manuscript, The Ultimate Wonder, expanded from my story podcasts, I am researching for my next story. I feel a sense of excitement and adventure that is refreshing, energizing, and renewing. I feel like I’ve tasted the river of eternal youth and everything is possible.

This is the story description. For almost twenty years Jewel was an exemplary wife, mother, and high school teacher, but after an out-of-body experience her life changes completely. This story examines how one woman recognizes and resolves contradictions in her life and discovers the illimitable beauty an awakened consciousness reveals.

Below is the link that will take you directly to my author’s page and my book. Please buy it and share it with your friends and families. Everything I read about marketing these days says the key to success is word of mouth.

If you do not have an e-reader, or have friends or family without the latest technology, but would like to read my story, I will gladly send you the story in PDF, with the request for a supportive review on Amazon. (If you have criticisms you don’t want to share on Amazon, just send them to me in an e-mail. I can always make changes.) This offer is good for exactly one week and ends on January 19th.

To request the PDF please send an e-mail to skywalkerstoryteller@gmail.com

Enjoy.     https://www.amazon.com/author/skywalkerstorytellerbooks