Friday, April 24, 2015

Without Her

          Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love Edwidge. I can't get enough of her! Her stories, recordings of her reading her stories, recordings of other people reading her stories... I can just eat it up! Okay, I may actually idolize her in a way

          Yesterday, Edwige published this piece in NYT's "Walking New York" and I really enjoyed reading it so I thought I'd share

Without Her by Edwidge Dandicat
April 23 2015;

"I had walked the 15 or so blocks between the Newkirk Avenue subway station and my parents' house in East Flatbush for 25 years, but never with such a sense of dread. My mother recently died of ovarian cancer, and I wanted to revisit that stretch of Avenue D that she and I had sauntered, strolled, and marched along together throughout much of my life. I wanted to see if she would still be walking these same streets -- alone, invisibly, without me.

My mother and I walked for many reasons. When it was warm outside and we were both feeling heavy. Or when her doctor told her that she should walk between 20 and 30 minutes a day. Other times, we walked because she wanted to talk to me.

"Let me tell you something," she would say in Creole; "Ban m di w yon bagay." Then our walk would turn into a monologue about some issue of great concern to her: the fact that I wasn't going to church as much, or that I was  not sleeping enough or taking better care of myself.

I looked so much like my mother, who had come to New York from Haiti in her early 30s, that people often mistook picture of her a a younger woman for pictures of me. Our bodies even moved the same, swaying a little bit from side to side, at a rhythm and pace that sometimes nearly had us colliding. I adore my mother and longed to collide with her, in lieu of a hug, which would have embarrassed her. My mother couldn't easily say, "I love you," but often during these walks her body said it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her watching out for me, for possible potholes and sudden dips in curbs. She would always take the street side so that she would be more vulnerable than I was to passing cars.

My mother and I were not always going to the same place. I was often going to college at Barnard and later to work when I was employed there. Back then, my mother was working at a textile factory in Manhattan, and she and I would leave the house together. If we'd just missed a bus, and the "dollar cabs" that followed the bus route were full, my mother immediately started walking to the next bus stop. Sometimes, we'd make it all the way to the subway hiking between stops, my mother harboring a look of worry on her face.

Later that night, I would hear her tell my father, "He yelled at me for being late." "He," I assummed, was factory foreman. She shared this not to gain sympathy but to remind herself that she could not afford to miss the bus. Winters nearly stopped our walks. But every now and the, we would have no choice but to make the trek, our breath forming clouds in front of us. Behind that frozen mist, my mother always notived that I was wearing the wrong kind of hat, scarf, or gloves, and I would see another kind of worry on her face.

"My only daughter, how are you supposed to get on in this world?" she'd say. "You will feel all this cold in your bones when you're old."
Sometimes we walked in the opposite direction, not toward the subways station but away from it, stopping at the grocer's near St. Augustine's Episcopal Church to pick up some mangoes, breadfruits, avocados and sugar-cane stalks, laid out especially for the Caribbean clientele. Right before we got home, we would reach St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church, where we'd attend funerals, including that of my mother's older brother, Uncle Justin. On the opposite corner was Frank J. Barone Funerral Home. Crossing the street felt a little bit like treading a piece of holy ground, because so many people had walked it while shedding tears.

More than once, my mother and I saw a hearse pull up and a gurney with a sheet-covered body being pushed through the funeral home's side door. My mother could turn to me and say in Creole, " Nou rantre tet devan. Nou soti pye devan."

Most of us enter this world headfirst, then we leave it feet first.

She said it so many time that she sometimes abbreviated the words; Tet devan. Pye devan.

On the most recent walk, outside the funeral home on Avenue D, yet another gurney pulled up and was pushed through the narrow door. I noticed that the dead person's head was the last thing to disappear. And I couldn't help whispering to myself as I entered my old family house, Tet devan. Pye devan. Headfirst. Feet first.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Found a beautiful piece on my former classmate Annelyse Gelman's blog, thought I'd link it here

Claudia Rankine // excerpt from Citizen & interview on NPR 
originally posted by 08kjl on tumblr: "Note: As a child, I never EVER got past day one of a new diary. So I’m pleased to have completed two illustrations in my women of poetry fan art series. My goal is to get at least 4, which will clearly legitimize my use of the word “series.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Missing Austin HARD right now

Hey there Internet,
I thought I'd give it a go and link to Tribeza, a fairly new Austin magazine. I've been pretty into what they've been publishing, they give a little bit of attention to Austin's awesome POC in arts and music, which is pretty unprecedented. Seeing as SXSW is coming up and I'm stuck in the PNW, I thought I could play pretend and post a bit about the shows and workshops I wish I could attend. Thank goodness its a well documented event and I can oogle from afar.

The Girls of Hip Hop - TRIBEZA
Qi Rada of Riders Against the Storm
Megz Kelli of Magna Carda
and Anya


all photos are from Tribeza's article " The Girls of Hip Hop"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Workshop recap!

          Last week, I hosted my first workshop at the U. There was a lot going on within the school and the multicultural center where we were hosted, so the attendance wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. All together, we had about half a dozen students attend, and each of them walked away with a short story which they wrote. We had a really fun and satisfying talk about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 2009 TedTalk on the danger of a single story and having that story dictated by someone other that ourselves. I'm super excited about our next meeting and the prospect of teaching more workshops in this new year. If you are interested in seeing what some of my students wrote, please keep an eye out for

I also wrote a little something and though it pains me to share it, I've got to suck it up
So here it goes...
        " I walk. I walk a lot. I walk to get to know my neighborhood. I walk to clear my head and loosen my joints. I walk to get to work. I walk home. When I walk I see the sky, grey and bright, the rhodies, azaleas, and maples budding and taking color.
          When I walked in my old neighborhood in North Portland, I loved seeing my neighbors who look like me, heads covered by scarves or the hoods of their jackets. I haven't felt this since I was home surrounded by my family. I haven't seen my cheekbones, my profile in other people's faces in so long. I also see neighbors who look like my love; fair and sandy haired. Sometimes, I even think, "Damn, this gentrification thing isn't all right but its alright."
          When I walk, people try to talk to me. Boys slow their cars and are all, "Hey Ms Lauryn Hiiiill" Bitterly, I think about how I wish I was Lauryn, so I could cut them to pieces with my words. I am not Lauryn. Men who look like my father, uncles, and grandfathers ask me, "Where you from, honey?" When I walk with my love, these same boys and men give him the side eye, look at him like he's taken something, they try to start something.
          I cannot give them the stink eye strong enough
but I can't speak, or else I'll spit. Spit hate that I only partially feel. What I want to do is have a conversation about their wives, sisters, and daughters.
Sometimes, I just prefer the doe-eyed looks we get from old white couples and yuppies. I can't stand it, but its the less painful of these evils."

Yours truly,

ps. Please let me know before you reproduce this piece in any way

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dominique Christina threw her daughter a period party

          Just thought I'd share the wonderful, powerful Dominique Christina's spoken word piece on the monthly visitor.
Please watch and enjoy! Dominique Christina and her partner in Sister Outsider, Denice Frohman, are an amazing spoken word duo. Check them out!

May your day be filled with pleasant thoughts and good health

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Giving this blog-thing an earnest shot!

Hello, Hi, How are you?

          As the title of this post states, I'm going to give this blogging thing another shot in earnest. I've been reading some wonderful articles written by social activists, women, and people of color ...and what can I say? I feel inspired. Inspired to turn writing from something I do in private to something I can share with the world. It may not be very organized right now, but I am excited to share what is moving me and developing this blog into a platform for my professional, artistic and personal story.

          So one bit of good news to announce; at the end of this week I am teaching the first *official* installment of my writing workshop at the U. From day one of putting this together, I have been passionate about making our writing practice together into something that is truly collaborative. Over the past few weeks as I have been introduced to some of my future students, I can't help but be in awe at their motivation, confidence, commitment to social justice, and, of course, the fieeerce and bold style they put into their work and studies. I am so excited to work with them and read what they create. One of the goals of this workshop is to give the students a chance to create written and video content for their shared blog,

          While I'm working on content with the students, I hope to hold myself to a higher standard on this blog and post more regularly. I have waaay too many unfinished posts so I am just going to start again and try to develop some regular features about music, storytelling, films, beautiful photography, and uplifting articles I find in the news or on other blogs.

Story Tellers
Anyone close to me knows how much I love listening to podcasts like the Moth, The New Yorker's Fiction podcast, Selected Shorts, This American Life and all its spinoffs. Listening to people's stories, whether creative or biographical, I can really related to their struggles, foibles, and makes me confident that there is some shared human experience that bind us. This week, I really enjoyed listening to cartoonist Matt Diffee's telling of his first submission to the New Yorker's cartoon contest and the struggles of young adulthood

What Am I Listening to?
Well, it would be an understatement to say that I am "into" the great tunes of the 90's and early 2000's. Currently, I've been really into Tamia, especially her song "So Into You"

          Finally, I am linking up with my old classmate's blog, Renaissante. In the brief period of time Olivia and I were in school together, it was clear that she was a beautiful, confident woman and I am so pleased to see what she has been working on. She and her blogging partner, Jenn, have put together what they are calling the "28 Day Self Love Challenge." Though I am a bit late in the game, I am going to blogalong with their prompts and topics and describe how they resonate with me... starting tomorrow morning!

Until then, 
Good night and take care of yourself

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's alive!

So much has happened since my last post, I have no idea where to begin!

          Last month we moved from Portland down to Eugene, Oregon. I was a little apprehensive about the move, but I am so glad we did it. We have been in our new place for about 3 weeks, and it has been wonderful. We have unpacked almost everything and even put our plants in out back in our tiny yard. Before we left Portland, Ted and I started getting really into bonsai and yamadori, so we've started practicing on a few azalea's, pine, and spruce varieties that we found.

          We took a trip to visit my mom, sister, and family friends in Austin. It was AMAZING and recuperative. Seven days in heaven. We went swimming every day, except the days we were traveling. We went to Barton Springs and tried out the new food carts close-by, went to Jacob's Well with Joelene and her boo, and kayaked for hours in the Colorado River in South Austin with our little cousins. While T and I were in Austin, we also took my sweet mother on an afternoon of wine tasting and picnicking through the Hill Country. We went to Duchman Family Vineyards and Bell Springs Winery. I would highly recommend Duchman; the service was great and the setting was absolutely stunning. Usually am not into the pseudo-Tuscan style but it was a very comfortable, beautiful place. We may just have to make visiting the Dripping Springs/ Driftwood area a tradition...

          As usual, we ate tons of wonderful Burundian food at home and even found a new barbecue place that I can highly recommend. Even on one of the hottest summer days, their courtyard seemed to have a cross breeze.
          We went there our last night in town and after a while searching for a place where we could get the trifecta: bbq, music, and good drinks, we settled on Freedmen's out of curiousity even though they didn't have any music that night. Lo and behold, there happened to be a concert going on. (oh Austin, how you thrill me...) We gorged on great, tender barbecue and listen to While we were there, we got a neat history lesson on the building. It was built in 1869 by freedman George Franklin In 1876, Jacob Fontaine started one of the first black newspapers in Texas, the Gold Dollar, in that very building. Fontaine became a reverend, politician, and advocate for freedmen in Austin and the building became a church, a store, a printing press, and a community center for the people of Wheatville, Austin's freedmen settlement. We had a truly beautiful night there and it was really made richer by the bluesy, dark music and history of the place

          We also got a sweet deal and were able to go to Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico. It was my first time in Mexico and I had such an amazing time. We were really lucky and got to stay in a private house in Barra de Potosi, far away from touristy stuff. We spent the week sipping on mescal, swimming, strolling on the beach to local enramadas (and generally gorging on fresh, delicious food), and checking out Playa La Ropa, a great weaver's store front studio in the commercial district of Zihua, and even a great archeological museum and ruins called La Chole. We were so lucky that day because while getting lost on the way there, we ran into the guy whose family discovered most of the artifacts in the museum. I'll do a separate post in a while about that day, it was so amazing to be surrounded by such an ancient and advanced civilization.

I've got a few new posts that I'm drafting, so I'll post again soon. Until then,