I could speak all words
Without an utterance of sound
And they would leave indentations
In the clouds as evidence of their truth
390 miles away the rain…sighs
the battle for
black or white
declares victory in
a field of
color muted by
and ostentatious adjectives
the smell of
wounded nouns hangs
in the air
and the ghost
of screaming bold face
sustains me until
the next battle
I have always said, I believe in the economy of words. Their ability to create sustenance for those that are starving or well-fed; words create desire whether in reality or dreams.
National Poetry Writing Month allows those that fed to flex their appellation skills. For their audience a buffet is served.
Every year I start strong with #NaPoWriMo and usually fizzle out around week two. This year my goal is to finish. Let’s see if I can make my love affair with syllabary fed the audience for 30 days. Wish me luck…
Kells. The R. Robert. The Piped Piper. The last name’s irony should not be left unchecked. Robert Kelly performed on The Soul Train Music Awards last night. They actually gave him the “honor” of closing the show. Usually, something designated for a great and popular talent, which many, many, many years ago Kelly would have been seen in that light with no questions asked. However, I do have questions or maybe they are just rhetorical thoughts coming out as WTH.
The Soul Train Awards was a pretty great show this year. The performances were on point and the tributes to Babyface were memorable. ( Who knew he wrote ” Tender Roni”?) Erykah Badu done an amazing job as host and the audience seem to be enjoying themselves. (Although, it was puzzling to me how our sister Erykah could shade the dead horse named Iggy Azalea, yet stand next to Kelly on the stage at the end of the award show like they were old pals, high fiving and everything.) About 15 minutes before the end of the show, there is a blurb that R. Kelly’s performance was up next and I promptly changed the channel on my television. Robert Kelly gets none of my viewing minutes because just in case anyone has forgotten, this is the human that peed on underage girls, groomed underage girls like Creepy McCreepers expertly do, video taped those atrocious and vile things he perpetrated on the underage girls and then two-stepped himself right out of court with the magic of money, great lawyers and blind fandom.
And yet, last night across the sands of Black Twitter, were black women using 140 characters to shake their shoulders to the musical stylings of R. Kelly. Some even stating , they are conflicted by his known past behavior. But, they can’t stop dancing or they know he did these disgusting things to young girls. But hey, they grew up to his music, so he gets a pass for the next 5 minutes. Say Huh?
Since those tapes were revealed in 2002, black women young and old have been coming to Robert Kelly’s defense and in the same breath saying they KNOW it was him in the video. They will come up with any excuse about why they still say, ” Seems Like Your Ready” is their jam. ” Those girls just wanted to be with a star.” or “Their parents knew what was going on.” Ironically, these are the same women who were lightning quick to check Michael B. Jordan for using the word, “female” or protest the use an ill-advised meme stating the tired claim of “angry black woman”. Nonetheless, curiously singing along to a R. Kelly song and bragging about it is…okay.
I don’t expect B.E.T to know better and apparently we cannot count on Centric, the channel that purports itself to be ” The First Network Designed For Black Women”; WAIT, read those words slowly out loud one mo’ gen THE. FIRST. NETWORK. DESIGNED. FOR. BLACK. WOMEN. to not have Robert Kelly singing on a stage filled with black women to an audience full of black women as if 2002 never happened. As if in 2013, The Village Voice did not publish an excellent in-depth expose’ on Kelly’s tangled web of predatory acts. As if, there were not pictures of Robert and a young girl “which allegedly depicted Kelly “involved in sexual conduct with the female minor” found on Kelly’s camera during a search warrant. As if when his last album was released and #AskRKelly did not get him drugged through Twitter with a quickness. I’m willing to bet the entire farm, that some of the same women who participated in the #AskRKelly slay-age were dancing and singing in their living rooms last night while he performed.
Let me put this as plain as possible; if you were rocking or singing along to Robert Kelly’s music last night, you should look yourself in the mirror a little bit longer tonight. If you posted on social media last night that you were “jam’n”, “shoulder shaking”, “head nod’n” or toe tapping to Robert Kelly’s music last night, you should question whether you would think he was pivotal in your music upbringing if that was your sister, niece or daughter in those videos. If you have used your voice, whether it be auditory or written to say at any point, Black Women Matter, you should be ashamed.
Approximately four days after the levees broke and the water drowned New Orleans, its homes, land and humans; then FEMA Director, Mike Brown did a satellite interview with CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien stating the environment was too dangerous for FEMA to come in and save lives and spirits, that were being lost day after day as residents of New Orleans and surrounding areas just sat in hopelessness. I remember watching that interview with my neighbors and one of them said with the self-righteousness of ignorance with no bliss, ” Why did those people build homes in a known flood zone and not expect this if a hurricane came.” At that point, I lost ever ounce of decorum I exhibit on a daily basis and went ( pardon the expression…or not) smooth off. I asked if he asked the same question of people who build and then RE-build their homes in Tornado Alley. Of course, his answer was, “no”.
That question and answer from my neighbor was basically the sentiment of people who had never struggled through the type of complete devastation nor helplessness we were witnessing during the days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. As the nation watched people being rescued from roof tops, bodies floating down subdivision streets and thousands of people at the Superdome “living” in sub par conditions and literally starving; some completely disconnected themselves from empathy and began to criticize the actual victims. Those days for me were more than just eye-opening, they were belief system changing; soul rearranging and simply put…heart breaking.
I watched that scrolling banner on CNN of children who had been separated from their parents by hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles, when General Honore’ finally got military tanks and school buses to the Superdome to get New Orleanians to safety. I heard the multitude of debates about “who, what, when and why”. I listened to blame being passed like a game of ” Hot Potato” between the Mayor, Governor… residents and I listened to Federal Officials telling blatant lies and making excuses for why people were dying in the chairs they had sat in for days and the constant wails of hungry infants permeated the air.
At this point, I questioned what kind of country did we really live in. We’ve always been known to speak about the freedoms we have as Americans to anyone willing to listen. We actually have this weird type of arrogance about that fact, which can come across as braggadocious. Nonetheless, this same country watched its citizens (who became “refugees”, depending on which news network you viewed) become broken by Mother Nature and were more interested in blaming them versus saving their lives. We should have been ashamed of what we let happen in New Orleans and yet…we were not.
After all the news cameras left, Telethons were over and Katrina was no longer water cooler banter at workplaces, the city and its occupants who did not leave had to still deal with homes barely standing, no employment, unsafe food or water and FEMA trailers that turned out to be some what of a death trap. America went on with her life with Hurricane Katrina in the rear view mirror.
As this “anniversary” comes around this year. I recall that Soledad O’Brien interview vividly, as she stated to Mike Brown, ” How is it possible that we’re getting better intel than you’re getting? We had a crew in the air. We were showing live pictures of the people outside of the Convention Center. We had a National Guardsman who was talking to us, who was telling us he estimated the crowd at 50,000 people. That was at 8:00 in the morning yesterday. And also, we’ve been reporting that officials have been telling people to go to the Convention Center if they want any hope of relief. I don’t understand how FEMA cannot have this information The mayor, the former mayor, putting out SOS’s on Tuesday morning, crying on national television, saying please send in some troops. So the idea that, yes, I understand that you’re feeding people and trying to get in there now, but it’s Friday. It’s Friday.”
His response was the twin of aloofness and damage control. I decided on that day to retire my rose-colored glasses…forever.
I have never been afraid of the police. In my lifetime I’ve never witnessed the police be unreasonable or cruel to anyone in my circle or someone I knew personally. I admit for a long time because of those three facts, I pondered the “If only they had…” , “Why didn’t he…” , “They were only doing their jobs…” for brief moments when the issue of police brutality was brought up. My cognitive dissonance was off the Richter Scale because I know police officers. I have them in my family and I could not fully grasp the conflicting narrative of “protect and serve” versus ” killing without cause”.
Interesting enough, I weeped strong tears when the Rodney King verdict was handed down. In my teenage heart and mind I could not fathom how those police officers could essentially beat a man like a forgotten dog. ( Even though, an actually dog probably would have garnered better treatment.) I was a budding militant the next day; planning a silent protest an walk-out while walking to school that morning. My efforts were thwarted by loose lips and the school administration. Nonetheless, I was all about action.
However as I look back now, I realize…I thought it only happened on the OTHER side of the country, to those people, and in only those neighborhoods. The anger had never hit home. I had never been sucker punched in my gut with the realization. The sadness never made me feel as if I could not breathe.
As I have had to talk with my daughter over the past two years explaining how fragile our black existence has become and watch her innocence, about that reality slowly become less pronounced on her face, it has been eye-opening and heart breaking at the same time. She is a teenager and her best friends are a real life representation of the rainbow coalition in diversity. In all of her childhood wonder my daughter has never had to confront race head- on. And then there was Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. I have told her the story of my militant high school days and she has witnessed her mom school many on stereotypes, advocacy, service, neighborhood, culture and pride. But, Trayvon was 17 years old when he was murdered, very close to her age and he became the boys she goes to school with. The boys she laughed and ate lunch with in the café. Trayvon became tangible.
I prepared her for the Zimmerman verdict. I informed her, it was a very real possibility, he could walk out of that courtroom a free man. Yet, nothing I could vocalize could sate the silence in our house when the words, ” not guilty” were said. Absolutely nothing I could say could dissipate the sadness in the air. So, we actively participated in rallies, matches, stand-ins and protest for change, not only because we were angry. But, also because my daughter needed to feel and witness that Trayvon’s life mattered.
Yet now, my own beliefs have wavered; do we matter? Back then we had Johnathan, Malissa, Timothy, Tanika, Rekia, and Alesia. Now we have Walter, Eric, Mike, Ezell, Freddie….and Sandra, who could have easily been me driving down the road in broad daylight committing a minor traffic violation of ” improper lane change with no signal” and end up alone and dead in a jail cell…or it could have been my daughter.