Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Longing for, More

"I was cold and I danced to keep warm."~ Josephine Baker
"Ms. Josephine-" Kaya Omodele replies, "this is why I write."

Suffered a thousand deaths.
caged in an eight-by-ten
a bull in a pen
pacing steps, grunting
confined in concreted spaces
designed to
gut spirit from ribs
and plastic wrap thoughts
in stifling loneliness.

When Lonely oozes through
these cinderblocks
and tussles with my dreams
sucking warmth from conscience;
your photos spark the darkness
with so much soul-rousing light,
your taste lingers, sweet,
like tongue kissing time.

Though you're not here in my arms tonight
your memory I hug tight
I'm so longing for-
sssshhhhhhh-
a hint of your scent
in that Egyptian-cotton, white sundress
wispy whispers, "Yes,"
breathless
essence
of you.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blessed Earthday, Rastafari

There is no night in Zion, there is no night there
HalleluJah there is no night there
Rastafari is my light
I&I need no candle light
HalleluJah there is no night there.

"Let Jah arise and let his enemies be scattered: let them that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of Jah. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before Jah: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto Jah, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah (Rastafari) and rejoice before him."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Abeng Tribute: A Grandmother's Love

Abeng Tribute To A Grandmother's Love
by K.Omodele@TheAbeng


My grandparents' love was pure, over half-century cured. I don't mean theirs was the definition of love because dictionaries only spurt out academic verbiage. And my Grandparents' love wasn't that rhetorical, I-love-you kind of love; words lightly strung together to be routinely regurgitated on some exam day: subject, verb, object; sometimes dangling pacifiers, sometimes carefully placed manipulators, sometimes careless whispers. My Grandparents' love was none of those.

My grandparents' love lasted a lifetime- I witnessed this myself. They really and truly were best friends for life. Ever heard  about that love-you-til-we-old-and-gray love? They had that in real life.

Sure, they sucked teeth and threw words at each other from time to time, but they were forever doting on one another. He suffered from diabetes and she was riddled with arthritis. And so, every night they had this love ritual:

Since she could see the cc marks on the syringe better than he, she'd draw his dosage of insulin for him then pass him the needle. Then, she'd drip eye drops to treat his glaucoma and gently dab the excess that leaked out his eyes. Next, he'd break out the rubbing alcohol and ICY HOT and massage all her joints - knuckles, elbows, knees, ankles - for bout a whole hour while they watched TV. Every night they loved each other up this way. I saw it with my own eyes.

Granny's love is a living, being, doing thing, natural like breathing. Like, minding* a baby grandson so his mom could properly educate herself. And like, showing him how to use a rolling pin when making roti; how to grind real scorching scotch-bonnet and blazing bird peppers to make a loving batch of fire-pepper sauce. And how to dry pepper seeds by putting them out to sun; then once dried, she told me where and how to plant them (oh sorry, "sow" them) in soil.

Granny's love never wavered. Over decades, across borders, from Berbice to NY, raising children and grandchildren, through good and tough times, it never waned.
Even when mischief was tickling her bones.
"Grandma, I'm dapper like my grandfather, right?"
"Nah Boy. When that man used to walk down The Strand, every girl and they mother stop and stare." Smiling, eyes closed, face beaming at the recaptured image. "You handsome though, close."

Growing up, I loathed bringing strain to Granny's eyes. Couldn't begin to account the amount of wrinkles I etched in her face.

- "Ow Boy. How you could do something like THAT?"
- "You hard ears or what?"
- "You don't have no shame? You mustn't treat woman like that. You wouldn't want nobody treating your sister, or mother, or daughter so."
"But Granny, you don't see how she-"
"Go and tell her you sorry! You just like your father."
- "I was washing your pants and, here, what is THIS?!" As if she didn't already know the answer. "How much for this?"
"Ten dollars, Granny."
"For this lil bit a thing? You schupid or what?" Shaking her head.
I felt smaller than that bag of weed.

My grandfather transitioned twenty-three years ago and all them years my Grandmother laughed, and cried, and chastised, and ached, and cussed Donald Trump (long before he began popping up daily on CNN); and tantalized, and cooked, and gardened; and loved me, and love us all, our whole tribe, until she was ninety-four, going on ninety-five. And in all them years, she lived her life with fullness. But I always got the feeling she was waiting to see my Grandfather again.
On July 4th, she told my aunt she was tired.
"You hear that band playing?"
"What band, Mommy??" My aunt asked.
"You don't hear it?"
Then my Granny ascended to the ancestors. Left me in a total lunar eclipse - that's when your moon gone and you're left with a black and empty night.

But I know my Grandfather's grinning now. I hope he stocked up plenty of rubbing alcohol and ICY HOT.
They're never really Gone!
Never Forgotten!
Jah Bless.

* taking care of; raising

Monday, July 11, 2016

The African Diaspora: Scenes from Cuba (Vol. I)

The African Diaspora: Cubans of African Descent

The Caribbean island Republic of Cuba is culturally both Latin American and Spanish Caribbean. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade brought Africans whose massive contributions in culture have shaped Cuban culture as a whole.



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CARIBBEAN POETRY: If We Must Die by Claude McKay (Jamaican Poet and Novelist of The Harlem Renaissance)

If We Must Die
by Claude McKay

Strange Fruit

If we must die - let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die - oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

More about Claude McKay

Jamaican Claude McKay: Writer of the Harlem Renaissance

Caribbean Writer Claude McKay: Poet Laureate of the Harlem Renaissance
by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng

Writer Claude McKay was a pre-eminent poet and novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. His experiences coming up in Colonial Jamaica in the late 1800's to the early 1900's heavily influenced McKay's writing; and his encounters with racism in America affected him deeply, just check out his defiance in "If We Must Die", one of my all-time favorite poems.

Claude McKay was born to farmers in the Jamaican countryside in 1889. In 1912 he published two books: Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads; both are volumes of poetry written in patois (Jamaican dialect patwa) and reflected McKay's belief in the resilience, self-sufficiency and strong community values shared by people of his rural Jamaica.

Claude McKay Comes to Harlem
Although migrated from Jamaica to the United States in 1912 to study agriculture at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, by 1914, he had move north to Harlem, like tens of thousands of African-Americans from the South, and immediately began writing poetry again. In 1919, he wrote the sonnet "If We Must Die"- a call to arms for African Americans to stand up to the violence being unleashed on blacks in that post World War I era. In that same year, Claude McKay became contributor and editor at The Liberator magazine.

McKay in Europe (Turns to Communism)
McKay grew angry , rebellious and increasingly more radical in his views against the oppression of blacks.  He attended the  Fourth Congress of The Third Communist International in Moscow in  1922 and by 1923 was living in Western Europe and Tangiers. But soon, he grew disillusioned by, and then became critical of, American, British and Soviet communists. By the 1930's, he abandoned communism altogether. In his vocal criticism of international communism, he never wavered in his championing of the cause of working-class blacks and never stopped bigging up the need for community development. By 1934 McKay was back in Harlem, USA, where he continued to write and publish.
The Claude McKay died in Chicago in 1948.

On June 2, 2016, in a proclamation that June had been declared National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, President Barack Obama stated "...the legacy of Caribbean Americans is one of tenacity and drive... and by carrying out Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay's call to 'strive on to gain the height/ although it may not be in sight', we can enable more young people, at home and in the Caribbean, to reach for the change that is within their grasp."*

* The Weekly Star (June 9-15, 2016 North American Ed., p.19): June Declared National Caribbean-American Heritage Month

Sources
Cooper, Wayne F.. Claude McKay: Rebel Sojourner in the Harlem Renaissance: A Biography. Baton Rouge, LA, 1987

Claude McKay's Works

Poetry
Songs of Jamaica (1912)
Constab Ballads (1912)
Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems (1920)
Harlem Shadows (1922)

Novels
Home to Harlem (1928)
Banjo (1929)
Banana Bottom (1933)

Collections of Short Stories
Gingertown (1932)

Memoir
A Long Way from Home (1937)

Collection of Essays
Harlem, Negro Metropolis (1940)
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