My Vocal Memoir: Oratory on Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday Photo Credit: Gus Bennett, Jr. h/t Dr. Yaba Blay #PrettyPeriod365
Easter Sunday
Photo Credit: Gus Bennett, Jr. h/t Dr. Yaba Blay #PrettyPeriod365

Fitting in

A black Catholic girl’s poetry from an Easter Sunday memory

white stockings never covered my ashy legs.
I wore frilly white ankle socks
buckled into black patent leather shoes.
I tried to dye the ash, like colored eggs, in Vaseline intensive care lotion
kept close at hand for the long drive on Easter Sunday.

granddaddy drove the family to downtown Northeast
with granny in the front seat
mama, aunt bernetta, and me in the back.

We were picture perfect in bonnets and a Fedora
as we crossed the MD/DC border with our contraband;
straight-from-the-oven
sweet potatoes in Karo syrup,
homemade buns hidden on laps
and a pot of greens safely tucked in the trunk.

The previous Easter, my great Uncle Don
bought a deed embedded on my tongue.
Oratory was mandatory back then
and in 1970 a dollar bill was the ultimate reward.
There will be candy!

Handing me a laminated wallet-sized card
of a poem by Saint Francis of Assissi
and a copy of Lincoln’s Gettyburg address,
Uncle Don bent down to my level and
staring right into my eyes he gently said:
“Memorize it!”

The deed of recitation evoked the intangible promise of Emancipation,
resurrecting an origin myth to be consumed and repeated from memory.

In the backseat, in muted fright
and last-minute trepidation,
I madly memorized the verses as we arrived.

Standing in the living room with everyone watching
I read aloud: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”
And then attempted Lincoln’s longer address “…that this nation
shall have a new birth of freedom.”

We girls and women have been fighting for
any benefits from such bargains ever since.

With the piece-work memory of a grown woman,
I can still stitch together a couple of those lines:

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Doubt … faith.
Darkness … light.

Just before Cathechism, a process of confirming one’s faith through recitation,
my mother pulled me from the Catholic Church
that had forbade her attendance since my birth.
Forgiveness was never granted
for her unmarried sin.

Let this ode be my prayer, my Gettysburg address,
conjured to remedy the injury and harm visited upon
the souls of child-bearing girls and women.

I conjure Uncle Don’s command to memorize it
to embrace a sometimes intangible promise,
with no need to seek consolation.
Let our good and best works voice our presence.

Resurrect love for yourself and others as best you can.
Be still and know we are more than mere girls or women.
We are a light in the darkness
We bring hope and life despite a world of despair
We occupy a space of divine love
waiting to be resurrected in ourselves
right
now.

Written by Kyra Gaunt ©2016

In Memory of Julian Bond (1940 – 2015)

A portrait of Julian Bond by Eduardo Montes-Bradley,7 April 2012

A portrait of Julian Bond by Eduardo Montes-Bradley, 7 April 2012

LOOK AT THAT GIRL

Look at that girl shake that thing,
We can’t all be Martin Luther King.
Copyright © Julian Bond, 1960, all rights reserved.

This was written sometime in the very early ’60s — or perhaps even ’58 or ’59, — when I was a Morehouse College student. From time to time, usually through the auspices of some religiously oriented campus group, we’d be invited to meet with our white counterparts at Emory or Agnes Scott. We’d wear our Sunday best and sip tea and eat cookies. Typically a well-meaning white student would say as we were parting — ‘If only they were all like you.’ That prompted the poem.” — JBond.

A memory of dance with Julian Bond

My very first day teaching as a professor at UVA in 1996, Julian Bond sat in on my hiphop class titled Black Popular Music Culture aka Music 208. It was such an honor. 80 of the 90 students who showed up that first day in a choir room in the basement of Old Cabell Hall were black (that happened only one at a predominately white institution (PWI) but it seemed that none of them recognized who he was or knew the legacy he’d built as a civil rights activist.

I started class with a poem about The Lawn and me professin hip-hop “Dat don’t mean I know everything, jus means I got a jawb— to represent!” and taught them how to do “Check One,” a body musicking exercise I invented to teach black musical ideals like individuality within collectivity, call and response, syncopation and the musical break. I remember introducing him and being so honored by his presence in very first class teaching at Thomas Jefferson’s university or Uncle Thom’s plantation as I would satirically call it.

Julian Bond invited me to lunch. We walked to the Corner — the site where Martese Johnson, an honor student was brutally beaten and wrongfully arrested by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control because of the color of his skin in March of 2015.

 

 

Back in 1996 over lunch at The Corner, I asked Julian if he had learned any dances and what he could remember about them. I was exploring how musical blackness was learned and thought this was a great question to ask the Civil Rights Leader who help found SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee). He insisted he didn’t know how to dance. He had two left feet. But about 15 minutes into our conversation, he suddenly got up and showed me the only dance he knew. He grabbed the inseam of his pant-leg with his dominant hand, lifting the hem about an inch above his ankle. “This was the dance anyone could do if you didn’t really know how to dance.” He pivoted back and forth on his dominant side while the other leg remained planted to an imagined beat from the days of Segregation. That moment made my day! It was such a pleasure.

Julian was a lecturer then. I think many of us who knew his legacy were shocked that U.Va. had not granted him a professorship. But perhaps being a lecturer was perfect for the ongoing work and activism he continued through his lifetime, ended too soon but surely packed with profound contributions that most of us never witness in far fewer years. To his family and close friends, I send my condolences.

He nor his legacy will not be forgotten. I intend to use the poem above as part of my scholarship and as a dedication in my upcoming lectures in Minneapolis and at U.VA this fall when I talk about twerking and a conscientious connectivity to black girls online. Bond’s poem was and continues to be a testament to the lives of black girls and women as they stomp and roll their blues away in an era of increasing segregation, poverty and the social immobility of black children under 18, as well as the continued wealth gap between whites and blacks that has seen little change in the last 50 years.

The brief but profound poem by Bond reminds me how much orality, poetry and the word matters to black people despite what others say about our speech, the ways we talk and the ways we are literate (or not). #blacklifematters

All we have always wanted is a little respect and the dignity every human being deserves. In honor of Bond’s legacy, a little girl shakin it to respect.

 

#blackgirlsmatter #blackwomenmatter
#blacktransgenderwomenmatter#blacktransgendermenmatter
#blackdisabledpeoplematter
#blackboysmatter #blackmenmatter
#dignitymatters

“Violence is Black children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years worth of education.”
Julian Bond

Trending on YouTube: For Black Girls

I started writing because there’s an absence of things I was familiar with or that I dreamed about. One of my senses of anger is related to this…  — Ntozake Shange

Button Poetry:
Crystal Valentine & Aaliyah Jihad – “To Be Black and Woman and Alive”

Throw Your Daughter a Period Party. #period #bottomlines

“If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.”  #thebloodandtheblessing ― June Jordan

“Democracy, Imagination & Peeps of Color”

 

 

After spending all of my adult life on what I will generously call the Left, I have become suspicious and uninterested in any Art tied to an ism. I agree with Adrienne Rich’s call for an art that “goes to the edge of meaning” as well as Art that discovers new resonance in the familiar. But, if ever we need an avant- garde (for lack of a better term), it is now. 

From THINKING OUT LOUDDEMOCRACY, IMAGINATION AND PEEPS OF COLOR

http://www.augustwilsoncenter.org/aacc_pdfs/DiversityRevisited.pDf

This essay/talk was given by poet by Sekou Sundiata. Must read. This doc was discussed and dissected at HarlemStage Friday night. It challenges people of color and “people of whiteness” to rethink not diversity but our democracy and this State. A poet, Sekou speaks also to the power of words, imagination and art to facilitate the 51st state of our union.

My work has always existed at the intersection of art and democracy with girls, learning and ethnography at the center of it. Socialization of self, group and how we represent ourselves in seemingly sovereign ways to others and how we seek to maintain our cultural values and ways in this democracy.

Invite you to read and share.

Haikus for a tr…

Haikus for a true revolution
(or a software glitch)

I

Teaching college sucks.
Textbooks might be wide open
But not the adults.

II

Cognitive threats hold
biological stockholms.
These lectures don’t stop.

III

Will your teaching touch
on more than autotron-ing?
Would you pass their test?

IV     (...What the hell are we fighting for?)

When knowing makes so
little difference,
cld touch offer more?

Poetry by kyra0city

Rethinking Intimacy

I had a great experience of sadness today. Just being with that I was truly sad and shared it with a friend. True intimacy emerged. Intimacy still is so often collapsed with sex and physical interaction. Found a great article on intimacy and boundaries. (Photo from Intimacy: The Sensual Essence of Flowers by Joyce Tenneson)

“Most of us are much more hurt when our feelings are [not returned or are disrespected] than when our behaviors are criticized. This is especially true about our hidden desires for someone to nurture us. In an intimate relationship, this is the experiential truth that is most risky to show. When we reveal our dependence on the other person, criticism can feel devastating.

[Sometimes] We’ve lost some hope that we can immediately experience that tender connection. When this happens, we can’t let go of the pain unless we have the capacity to mourn. When we have to pull back and rely on ourselves alone, it’s important to feel sad. Many of us do not do this well because we have a sense of shame about sadness. And because we’re blocked from feeling sad, we’re often blocked from pulling back into our own frame of reference. Healthy sadness is an essential tool for deepening intimacy. It allows us to lessen our risks because it allows us to separate emotionally when we need to.” Bryce Kaye

Can you tell me
…….your darkest secret

and share about
………the greatest meal
you’ll never have?

©2008 Kyra Gaunt