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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Renaissance Man: Blessed Earthday, Ivor Edson Brown

 Blessed Earthstrong, Ivor
By K. Omodele @theabeng

"Don't judge the man you see before you by those you seen before!" ~ I.E. Brown, The Love Ethic

Today is my cousin Ivor Edson Brown's Earthday, which means it's the anniversary of the day he drew his first breath on Earth.
I mentioned before, on this blog, our final reasoning over the phone, talking clear 'cross the Pond. I could tell you how, in our catching up with each other's life, he listened tentatively and was compassionate when imparting his wisdom. I could share how we laughed, hard, 'til we belly nearly buss, at a Church Street memory- me, at seven and fresh off the plane from America, gripping a cricket bat over my shoulder like a baseball bat, waiting for my cousin to bowl me the ball.

I could tell you 'bout his mind- BRILLIANT; whenever we'd notice one another Online on FB, we would drop in and chat about history or economics or music, sometimes expound on something that caught his eye here in my posts. See, Cuzzo and me, we shared the Rodway passion for African history, culture and art. And, dissecting politricks.*
I could go on for days 'bout his gifts and talents; our tribe's creativity permeates his poetry and saturates his song, tapping form from hip-hop styles and melting tone from Windrush**/Caribbean themes. I could express what he means to us that knew him, those who came to love him. But here, you can see for yourself, read what people thought about my cousin

Brixton Man

Born in London to a Jamaican father and St. Lucian mother, Ivor also spent years in Georgetown and Vieux-Fort; so, Ivor is truly a Son of the Caribbean. Like the Caribbean sun, he shines passion-hot and flows with his convictions.
I heard, somewhere, that a man's true wealth isn't measured by the amount of possessions he's acquired in life, but by the amount of lives he's touched. Then Ivor, Man, I hope you know how we feel about you.

Remembering Ivor Edson Brown

"For if you always think of me, I will have never gone."
Never Gone! Never Forgotten!
One Love, Cuz...


Ivor's #CaribbeanPoetry

                 Amongst The Architecture
                 copyright Ivor Edson Brown

Let's blaze it up in the name of those that death became
and those who name loved ones amongst the slain.
Aggression is almost instinctive in the city where the blitz* hit,
estates dominate the landscape of every district.
Where men love to boast about crime, bait theyselves up,
Police had done spy them from a mile.
Now, which one of these stooges can come test my heights?
We're fire and ice, like logic and the fool's advice.
My Garveyite foresight, reveals to me what fools see in hindsight.
Looking beyond the hype, price tags and bright lights,
beyond all-a-dat drawing knife and gun fights,
beyond the stereotypes that plague the inner city.
The ignorance only serves to make the crisis worse,
the devil's ways infiltrate even the wisest church.
Me and my people deal with life science, year to year
and still stay shitty and pissy like estate** stairs, for real.

I drink with Africans straight from the continent
and live amongst immigrants in my estate tenement.
Speaking with my pen again, I think in black ink.
Sisters, youths and grown men again, come we make the link.
I wrote this, hoping you will quote this to one another,
take it with you as you travel through this concrete Gomorrah.
In a left hand drive with Dutch plates, my brandy spills,
bunin' lean-up on the right, sliding down Brixton Hill.
Watching the fatherless play crime games in the early hours,
Getting their name mentioned, screw face, sour.
Over estimating power, under estimating their potential,
75% of black youth leave school with no credentials.
Coming off their estates calling that ghetto,
'cause there's coppers on the outside and guns in the middle.
False prophets say the working on it, speaking in riddles,
the average age of killers dropping north and south of the river.
Equipped to kill and contemplating murder, that's a child, lord.
Fools drift to sleep and slide off.
Pseudo Afrocentric baby mothers and fathers clashing,
gwan neglect your seed, I guarantee your revolution ain't gonna happen.
That's the legacy from the black holocaust years.
I urinate on architecture built on the proceeds of slave trade.

Look into yourself for answers.
You better have a plan for your child 'cause the system's
got plans for us.

copyright I.E. Brown

Read more of Ivor's Writing

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Abeng Review: Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (@Tanehisicoates)

By K. Omodele @TheAbeng

"Americans believe in the reality of 'race'  as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism...inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other natural phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men. But race is the child of racism, not the father," writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between The World and Me, which was released earlier this year by Spiegel and Grau.*

Ta-Nehisi's book is composed as a deeply emotive letter to his teen-aged son, Samori, in which an African-American father, in the wake of the Mike Brown killing, interprets his perceptions of America's fixation with the idea of "race" and this institution's impact on black bodies and psyches. The author sketches a portrait of how Dreamers (those deeply imbedded in "The Dream") casually regard the entrapment, violation and destruction of black bodies as unfortunate, but natural, events; then, he details the visceral fear black people live with in our own bodies, in our own homes, in our their own communities.
While Between The World and Me is lauded for its eloquent language, well-articulated self-awakenings and revelations, for me the genius of this Ta-Nehisi Coates's writing is his connectability.

Reading Between The World and Me is what it must feel like in a blues joint and realizing a singer/musician is actually harmonizing in the key of your life, riff by riff, tune after tune. When Ta-Nehisi instructs Samori that " are a black boy and you must be responsible for your body in a way other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you," I think many blacks in America nod their heads to that familiar beat. I remember spreading my teen-aged wings around Flatbush, Brooklyn, back in the days and my beloved Aunt anxiously running through her checklist each time I was about to hit the front door:
-"Be very careful out there!"
-"Remember, the Police don't like young black men in America. This country fears you."
-"Don't go out at night with that radio, you'll be a target for police and thieves."
-"I know this is how you all dress, but America doesn't know you like I know you; they only see you as a threat when you dress so."

But as a teen, I flexed invincibly, unconquerably, and even when I learned about Michael Stewart, Yusef Hawkins, and all them countless others, it still didn't sink in- I thought, 'Auntie must be paranoid, for real.' That's until I found out first hand, one night at the end of a DT** gun nozzle, that "stop and frisk" is a jeering understatement of how they kidnap our bodies during the process. We're captured, immobilized and chucked on walls against our wills, then physically violated by search without warrant. So that, many of us feel like criminals long before we commit a crime. 

Although Ta-Nehisi focuses on the specificity of his and other black lives ("Slavery is not an indefinable mass of flesh. It is a particular, specific enslaved woman, whose mind is as active as your own."), his personal truths ring with the universal- from his vulnerability during his brush with street life to the volatility of a routine traffic stop to his awareness and insistence that the consciousness of "children of Trans-Atlantic rape" must make us recognize oppression in the broader sense and empathize with others who are oppressed.

And so, the author relates his African-American experience (from Baltimore, DC, Chicago, Brooklyn) with the maata*** of the African Diaspora (making note that much of France's wealth "was built on the plunder of Haitian bodies, on the plunder of Wolof bodies...") while recalling how the Roma and their children who begged in Paris' streets were addressed with venom.

Between The World and Me is a cause and effect discussion of what it feels like to be inside a body that  has been  marginalized, exploited and disenfranchised; it is an emotional testimony to America's past and present; it is an indictment of systematic racism: school-, zoning-, social-, mass incarceration and prison-; it argues that black bodies matter despite the casual attitude of The Dreamers, despite the violence of attack dogs and lynchings and planned housing policies that created ghettoes that became killing fields. It is a narrative for us, by us, and of us- all. "This is your country," writes Ta-Nehisi Coates, "-this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it."


* an imprint of Penguin Random Howuse, LLC
**Detective; plain-clothes police
*** maata~ the struggle

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Teaching And Learning: A Prison Writing Class

copyright K. Omodele 2015 @TheAbeng

Life is all about growth and development. I've been teaching an ACE* Creative Writing class in a prison for two semesters now and if you had to give me a dollar for each time in my life I envisioned being a teacher or tutor, you'd keep your money and fork over naught. If I'd ever had such aspirations, I'd have prepared myself- read a tutorial or two on teaching, taken some college courses in whatever classes undergraduate teachers take. If teaching had even whispered to me feebly in a dream, I might have at least fished some point of views from my aunt, great-aunt, or grandfather concerning their careers, their life-long passions.

But for me, there was no such calling; just a hard-jolting circumstance that presented me an opportunity to do something new. The only experiences I had to draw back from were a few months of community service with a county recreation center as a youth sports instructor and reasonings with youth about African history and Rastafarian culture. That's it! No literary degree in Fine Arts, no PhD in English or Writing. I stand in front my ACE creative writing class armed with no more than a bow strung with correspondence writing courses, a quiver filled with a lifetime of my own writings, and the passion of an artist with a will to tear himself off the street.

So, last Monday evening at 6 pm, as I defined the nuances of significant and concrete details, an image came to me in flashback; so, I scribbled it on the white board, using a rust-red, dry erase marker, for my students to ponder:

Ma used to make sweet-to-the-heart limeade by squeezing some bitter, sour limes off a spotted-up, old, blighted tree in our front yard.

* Adult Continuing Education

Read Cry Redemption for more "Creative Writings from Prison and Incarcerated Writers"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Three Quotes by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I (On Universal Brotherhood, Tolerance, Discrimination and Injustice)

His Majesty's words sound resounding empathy and reason the world can use in these hours, in these days, in our times...

"As we do not practice or permit discrimination within our nation, so we despise it wherever it is found. As we guarantee to all the right to worship as he chooses, so we denounce the policy which sets man against man on the issues of religion. As we extend the hand of Universal Brotherhood to all, without regard to race or colour, so we condemn any social or political order which distinguishes among God's children."

"If we raise our voices against injustice, wherever it be found, if we demand a stop to aggression wherever it occurs and under whatever guise and brand the aggressor as such, and if we do so on a wholly impartial basis, we can serve as the collective conscience of the world."

"Let us not recoil in hatred against those who, even while protesting their freedom from bias and prejudice, reveal by their actions that the poison of discrimination has left its lasting effects, and by this reaction, reveal that we, no less than they, are susceptible to that virus which is called intolerance."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Prophets Vexed (A Sonnet)

Caribbean Poetry: Prophets Vexed (A Sonnet)
Abeng Caribbean Poetry: Prophets Vexed (A Sonnet)
copyright 2015 K. Omodele

"The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less."
~ Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice

The Prophets of Paths shudder at voices bawling
from blood-boiled rage unleashed 'pon innocents' shoulders.
In this Reign of Techs compassion's tumbled and fallen
like boots kicked off feet of war-disgusted soldiers.

Prophets shake heads as zealots hurl stones at caskets
Misspoken parables prop up houses 'pon sand
"Knowledge without wisdom is water carried in baskets.
Jah Word shall spread thru bloodshed, with sword in-hand."

Prophets vexed cringe; proverbs bent into gun rhetoric
Trumpeted Truths, now off-key, rankled-ranted sound
slanted words echoed. Bodies bucked, bullets bellowed
Humanity butchered, understanding drowned.

Bare Innocents killed
Ey, Wicked, be still!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Tribe's Traditions: Once A Man, Twice A Child

copyright  K. Omodele 2015  .@TheAbeng

It's my tribe's tradition that we mind our elders; we home them, dine them, clothe them, include elders in life's events - holidays, birthdays, weddings, reunions; we cringe at the thought of placing our elders in nursing homes. In quiet moments, we read with our elders, cook with our elders, and listen, fascinated, by their old-time stories about the British, independence and the train line that ran all the way from Town to country. In our day to day, we turn garden soil for them, turn over mattresses for them, turn on TV shows for them, and twist open mango-achar* jars when arthritis done bend-up their fingers like some old-guava -tree twigs. Sometimes, we chauffer them around: shopping, visiting, appointment meeting, beauty saloning - nails, hair, and spa.

When my family gathers up, generations row like some parakeets 'bout who was the greatest West Indies cricket captain- Sobers or Lloyd?** We wind up to Sparrow, skank to Toots and the Maytals, groove with delight when Tinga Stewart tells we to "Play The Music/Jump like leggo beast!" Oh, and you should see how we all love three-step with liveliness to Percy and Benny and Sam- "Bring It All Home To Me!" Yeah- Yeah... But when we fling on dancehall,*** the elders screwface in disgust and confusion.

When I was a 'lil youth, my Granny, her sister (my Great-Aunt) and my Grandfather took care of my Great-Grandfather, Papa, in his final years. I got ancient-days images of Papa flickering through my memory; he, skin like burnt brass and hair like wool. I recall vaguely, he was fierce when it came to his mangoes, so you better had take your eyes of his mango tree.

I also remember, later, how my Uncle Stuartie (Jah Bless you, me Lion) and his wife took care of another one of my Great-Aunts when she couldn't manage living on her own any longer. And my Auntie has my Granny, who's 94 years old, and her sister, 90, taking care of them the best she can. Been doing this now for three decades, through two marriages, with a lioness heart and spirit. Sometimes despair wells up Auntie's eyes because my Granny now needs help getting dressed and my Great-Aunt keeps forgetting how to make her morning coffee. So, my younger Auntie rises early o'clock, prepares them breakfast, changes what-so-ever needs changing, washes whatever needs washing, with nuff**** love and care, honor and devotion.
One day it will be my generations' turn to care for my aunts and uncles, my parents. This is the way of our tribe. And we gon' uphold this tradition, no matter where on Earth we roam. The younger youth better had learn. This is what we do, in my family, my tribe.

*achar is spicy, pickled green (unripe) mango
**Sir Garfield Sobers from Barbados; Clive Lloyd from Guyana. Two captains of great West Indies teams, representing different eras
*** dancehall reggae is a more uptempo, faster, younger genre
**** plenty; a lot; much
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