Guest Column: Wake-Up America!  Part II Healing Racism by Dr. Kim McMillon, Professor & Author

Kim McMillon, Wake-Up America Organizer

How do we heal as a nation and as a world? I believe it is through dialogue, speaking from the heart, and sitting and listening to those that have experienced the horror of racism and are demanding real social change. It is easy to cling to white privilege or bask in the ignorance of racism.

 As a world, we are being asked to find and heal that part of ourselves that is dark because of old beliefs and paradigms that no longer work. As people of a global world, it is our time to step into the light and understand that the world is shifting.  Racism has no part in this new understanding of what it means to be human and to have compassion and empathy for our brothers and sisters on Planet Earth. 

Now is the time to awaken. May the words of these beautiful poets open hearts and minds.

The “Wake Up America” Poets will perform on Sunday, July 12 from 2-4:30 pm on Facebook Live and Zoom! Tune in for Poetry that speaks to Freedom, Love, Peace, and Equality for All!!!!

To Join the “Wake-Up America” Zoom Poetathon click onto the link below on July 12 at 2 pm.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8615962043

THE POETS

Brief Biographies

 

 Necola Adams is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Gonella Realty in Merced, and the owner of Mrs. Adams Gourmet cookies, the cookies with an attitude.

Michelle Allison Actress/Theater Credits include, “Blues in the Night”, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”, “Fences”, “The Piano Lesson”, and “Truly Unforgettable the Untold Story of Natalie Cole”, Singer/Songwriter, Producer “4 All Seasons”, “Still”, Community Activist. Past President of the Merced Branch of the NAACP, National Council of Negro Women, Merced Sunrise Rotary, Quality Board Dignity Health, Commnunity Advisory Chair for Valley PBS Fresno, and elected official of the Winton Water District.

Karla Brundage is a Bay Area based poet, activist, and educator with a passion for social justice. Karla is a board member of the Before Columbus Foundation, which provides recognition and a wider audience for the wealth of cultural and ethnic diversity that constitutes American writing. Her poetry book, Swallowing Watermelons, was published by Ishmael Reed Publishing Company in 2006. Her poetry, short stories and essays have been widely anthologized and can be found in Hip Mama, Literary Kitchen, Lotus Press, Bamboo Ridge Press, Vibe and Konch Literary Magazine. She holds an MA in Education from San Francisco State University and an MFA from Mills College.

Lucinda J. Clark is the Founder of P.R.A. Publishing and the Poetry Matters Project Ltd. She has written and published a four-part poetry series titled View From the Middle of the Road with various emerging writers from many areas of the arts. She is currently a contributor to the Accentuated Reading Project. Her mission is to build community connections through collaborations based on literary arts.

Paul Corman-Roberts full length collection of poems “Bone Moon Palace” is forthcoming from Nomadic Press in the Fall of 2020. He is an original co-founder of Oakland’s Beast Crawl Literary Festival which is slated to make its return in 2020. 

John Curl is the author of two novels, a memoir, history, poetry, and translations of ancient Maya, Aztec, and Quechua poets. He practiced custom woodworking at Heartwood Cooperative Woodshop in Berkeley,CA for over 40 years.  He was chairman of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC),promoting arts and industries in the manufacturing zone, and served as a Berkeley planning commissioner. Hewas a founding member of the committee organizing the annual Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day PowWow. He has a degree in Comparative Literature from CCNY (CUNY), was a longtime board member of PEN Oakland and PEN USA, and is a member of the San Francisco Revolutionary Poets Brigade.

Iris De Anda a Guanaca Tapatia poet & speaker has been featured with KPFK Pacifica Radio, organized with Academy of American Poets, performed at  Los Angeles Latino Book Festival , Feria del Libro TIjuana, and is  named one of Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color. Author of Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon.

Rich Ferguson – Photo by Cat Gwynn

Pushcart-nominated poet Rich Ferguson has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Moby, and other esteemed poets and musicians. He is a featured performer in the film, What About Me? featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, and others. His poetry and award-winning spoken-word music videos have been widely anthologized, and he was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His poetry collection, 8th & Agony, is out on Punk Hostage Press, and his debut novel, New Jersey Me, has been released by Rare Bird Books. His newest poetry collection, Everything is Radiant Between the Hates, will be published in the Fall of 2020 by Moon Tide Press.

Rafael Jesús González taught Creative Writing & Literature, Laney College, Oakland where he founded the Mexican & Latin American Studies Dept., was Poet in residence at Oakland Museum of California and Oakland Public Library 1996. Thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English for his writing in 2003; in 2013 by Berkeley with a Lifetime Achievement; in 2017 named Berkeley’s first Poet Laureate. http://rjgonzalez.blogspot.com/

Teresa Jade LeYung, American naturalized citizen of Chinese ancestry, is a manuscript-theme consultant; author of LOVE MADE OF HEART (archived at the San Francisco History Center), BUILD YOUR WRITER’S PLATFORM & FANBASE IN 22 DAYS, and TALKING TO MY DEAD MOM monologues; advocate for public libraries and public schools. 

Zigi Lowenberg is a performance poet and co-leader of the jazzpoetry ensemble UpSurge! which has produced two CDs, All Hands on Deck, and Chromatology. Her acting and performance credits include The Lysistrata Project, Stein-Toklas Project, John Brown’s Truth, Italian Women’s Stories: From the Resistance, VEIL: Two Sisters, and Matryoshka…a short play in 10 nesting dolls. A member of the National Writers Union and Radical Poets Collective her poetry is published in rabbit and rose, Writers Resist, Snapdragon, Dissident Voice, and Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology. Her essay, “Support the Edge!” appears in the book Creative Lives

Tureeda Mikell, Poet, Story Medicine Woman, named, D’jeli Musa, Woman of Truths, called an activist for holism, is a Chi Gong Energy Therapist, lyricist, executive director of, Tree of Life Foundation Literacy Health Project, has published over seventy student anthologies of poetry for as risk youth via CA Poets in the Schools, throughout San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa and Jefferson Unified School Districts since 1989. She is U. C. Berkeley ’96 Bay Area Writing Project, Summer Fellow, graduate program.  Featured at SOAN Soul Of A Nation, De Young  Museum, Jan 2020, featured poet at De Young Museum Fire Thieves, curated by Kim Shuck, Feb. 2020, book release City Lights Books.  Was featured poet/storyteller for Black Panther 50th Anniversary, Octavia Butler’s 70th Birthday, and Eth-Noh-Tec’s, Nu Wa delegate poet/storyteller in Beijing, China in collaboration with the University of Beijing, 2018. Has been published in Drum Voices Revue, U. C. B. Digital Papers E-Zine, Anacua Literary Arts Journal, Temba Tupu, Walking Naked, by Emory University, Civil Liberties, by Shizue Seigel, and many more nationally and internationally. Her recent book, published by Nomadic Press, February 2020, Synchronicity: The Oracle of Sun Medicine, was placed on Small Press Distributor’s list of recommended reads.  

Peggy Morrison is a California writer who grew up in Long Beach, then raised her daughter, Keema, in Watsonville while working as a bilingual teacher. She now lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Her poetry has been published in Cloud Woman Quarterly, riverbabble, Poecology, Let the World Wonder, Naked Bulb Anthology, Day Without Art,  DoorKnobs & BodyPaint. She is author of one book of poetry: Mom Says (2020)  Along with writing, Peggy loves reading, teaching, gardening, music, and backpacking.

Ayodele Nzinga is the creative driving force of The Lower Bottom Playaz, Oakland’s premiere North American African Theater Company.  She was the founding director of The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater, which was built to facilitate Nzinga’s desire to use theater as a form of engagement for the community of West Oakland. Multifaceted Nzinga, acts, directs, writes, lectures, conducts workshops, teaches acting and writing privately, and performs as a featured spoken word artist in Northern CA.

Angelou Maya & Eugene B. Redmond

Eugene B. Redmond, emeritus professor of English and Black Studies at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, was named Poet Laureate of East St. Louis (Illinois) in 1976, the year Doubleday released his critical history, Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry. Earlier, as a Teacher-Counselor and Poet-in-Residence at SIU’s Experiment in Higher Education (1967-69), his colleagues included Katherine Dunham and Henry Dumas (1934-1968). Also, during the 1960s and 1970s, he helped found several Black Studies Programs and weekly newspapers, including the East St. Louis Monitor for which he wrote a weekly column and the entire editorial page for six years. As literary executor of Dumas’s estate, and with assistance from Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka, Redmond edited several posthumously published volumes of his friend’s writings. These included Ark of Bones (short fiction), Knees of a Natural Man (poetry), Jonoah and the Green Stone (novel) and Echo Tree (collected short fiction). Redmond was Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence in Pan African/Ethnic Studies at California State University-Sacramento from 1970-85. While at CSUS he won a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and an Outstanding Faculty Research/Teaching Award; and lectured at universities in the U.S., Africa, and Europe.

Wanda Sabir is a journalist and author, moonlighting as a college professor in Alameda, California (wandaspicks.com). For 30 years, one of her many literary events has been hosting the first Saturday every February (1990-2020) at the West Oakland Library: A Celebration of African American Writers and Their Poetry. She is also a Depth Psychologist, with deep roots in the bayous of Louisiana where she was born. Her interests and expertise are historic trauma and trauma healing—the Maafa, specifically ancestral memories, dream tending, women prisoners, and the use of art to stimulate those forgotten conversations, especially among Diaspora descendants. She is co-founder of MAAFA San Francisco Bay Area, in its 25th Season October 2020 (maafasfbayarea.com), co-founder of The International Coalition for the Commemoration of African Ancestors of the Middle Passage (remembertheancestors.com) and recent recipient of the Distinguished 400 Award, 400 Years of African American History Commission (2019) She is a Transformative Justice (TJ) or Community Accountability facilitator and believes the true revolution starts at home.  

Kim Shuck, the current Poet Laureate of San Francisco, is widely published in journals, anthologies and a couple of solo books. She enjoys volunteering in SFUSD elementary school classrooms to share her loves of origami, poetry and basket making… in other words, math of various kinds. In 2019 Shuck was awarded an inaugural National Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, and a PEN Oakland Censorship Award.

Kathryn Waddell Takara, PhD, is the author of eight books of poetry, a biography, and a collection of oral histories. In 2010, she was honored with the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Recently Takara was selected as a recipient of the distinguished History Makers interview available in the Library of Congress and on line, delivered a lecture to a UN/NGO on Knighthood, gave several interviews and poetry readings, completed another poetry collection, Red Dreams Volcano Visions, and co-produced a jazz event featuring the music of Thelonious Monk.  She performed eco-poetry at Paliku Arts Festival at Windward Community College, published articles in writers of The Black Chicago Renaissance, Black Hollywood Unchained and The Chaminade Review. In 2018-2019,she gave poetry readings in New York City, Richmond Virginia, California and in the Hawaiian Islands. Some of her poetry has been translated into Chinese. Born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, in the Jim Crow era, Takara is a long-time resident of Hawai`i. Retired, she was an Associate Professor at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, where she developed and taught courses in African American and African history, politics, literature, and culture. During her tenure, she organized major conferences on a variety of African American, Black Diaspora, and minority issues, inviting national and international scholars to participate. Takara earned her PhD in Political Science and an MA in French. An instructor of college-level French for over 10 years, she has given poetry readings in Bordeaux, France; Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; and Niamey, Niger. In May 2017, she traveled to China for the eighth time to lecture and perform her poetry at Qingdao University and Beijing University of Foreign Studies. She has appeared in television programs and documentary films and has given frequent interviews to publications and the media.

NYC poet Raymond Nat Turner is Artistic Director of the stalwart JazzPoetry Ensemble UpSurge! He has appeared at numerous festivals and venues including the Monterey Jazz Festival and Panafest in Ghana West Africa. He currently is Poet-in-Residence at Black Agenda Report. Turner has opened for such luminaries as James Baldwin, People’s Advocate Cynthia McKinney, radical sportswriter Dave Zirin and CA Congresswoman Barbara Lee following her lone vote against going to war. http://www.upsurgejazz.com for more on Turner.

Safi wa Nairobi has been sharing the visual voice as a means of creative expression over two decades. Safi’s photographs and film represent documentary storytelling and have been exhibited in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. Safi wa Nairobi earned the B.S. in Political Economy of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, and an M.A. in Media Studies (video) at New College of California. Safi has 20 plus years’ experience in the visual arts and more than 10 years producing radio.

 

The Conversation 

  1. How do you become an ally to those experiencing racial oppression?

 Rafael Jesús González:  We become allies to our brothers and sisters experiencing racial oppression by standing by them, supporting them, protecting them, confronting and acting to change the attitudes and institutions that perpetuate and maintain racism. We flood the streets, the phones, the internet to demand justice and make change.

Kathryn Takara:  I share my experiences, verbally and in writing, of growing up in Jim Crow Alabama and the various means of resistance that I witnessed from Dr. M. L  King to SNCC, to the Northern Student Movement, to the Black Arts Movements, to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and the NAACP, Urban League, etc.

Safi wa Nairobi: Listening, dialoguing, and respectfully working together, whether in harmony and/or disagreement.

John Curl:  By listening to what oppressed people say. By not remaining silent when we witness oppression or when someone expresses prejudice. By substantively supporting those who are fighting back and those working to bring social justice to the world.

Peggy Morrison:  Listen. Organize and act collectively. Support. Lend strength.

Paul Corman-Roberts:  Organize hard to create the platforms to amplify the voices of the unheard. Also sit down and have lunch or dinner with them from time to time…that goes a long way toward making the foundations of those platforms.

Iris de Anda: As a person of color, I recognize my light skin privilege and work to give voice and space to those affected most by this systematic racist system.

Lucinda J. Clark:  Ask how you can be of assistance. Do not assume that your help is needed or wanted. By asking how you can help, your aid becomes about the situation not you.

Kim Shuck:  Every situation is different. The biggest thing is awareness, I think. But everyone needs different things. I get together with one friend every week and we listen to each other. Even that can be pretty important.

Rich Ferguson:  Speak up, act up, don’t give up.

Zigi Lowenberg: After Michael Stewart, a NYC graffiti artist was murdered by police in ’83, Eleanor Bumpurs was murdered by police in ‘84. A 71-year old grandmother in the Bronx. My Jewish grandmother also lived in a housing project in the Bronx, and at 25-years old I had breathed the polluted air of racism enough to know, it was unlikely that it would ever happen to her, wielding a kitchen knife or not. Yes she and family had survived anti-Jewish oppression, but we were living in a new time and for me, anti-Black racist oppression was and is the current pressing atmospheric condition. Understanding how it operates and how it serves and relates to other forms of oppression takes work and study; how liberation movements in all areas are connected to the brilliant model of Black liberation in its varied forms. For as much as racism has formed our American culture, the Black liberation movement shapes our music, dance, art, clothing, and poetry, and at least that valiant beauty carries us through.

 

  1.       The public has not protested the atrocities that have been taking place in our country, but yet during a pandemic, people are taking to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, why?

Rich Ferguson:  Several perfect storms have created this situation. First, the pandemic has put many people out of work and has kept many of us sheltered in place. People have more time on their hands and have become extremely restless. Being so isolated, people haven’t had the opportunity to express themselves, especially in a public forum. The brutal and senseless death of George Floyd has also caused people to realize that life is fleeting. Any of us can die at any moment, thereby creating an urgency to make our voices heard—even if it means taking to the streets during a pandemic. Yes, some may consider these extreme measures. But these are extreme times that call for drastic measures to break through all the noise and fog of sleepwalking.

Eugene B. Redmond:  Even the hardest, most racist of haters–along with the least conscious among us–may have determined that some Americans love dogs more than human beings like George Floyd.  And can you imagine what the country’s response would have been if a cop had killed an animal during a gleeful eight minutes and 46 seconds of suffocating it? Watching Brother Floyd’s Execution cum Crucifixion was like collapsing Slavery, The Holocaust, East St. Louis 1917 & Tulsa 1920 into one single Blues Epic! What else could move Humans, Gods & Devils Every-Which-a-Way like that? Who could not March or Write during Such Rite of Passage?

Michelle Allison:  Why now. The atrocities of the 60’s were equally ignored until they couldn’t be. As people sat on their couches watching TV seeing children hosed down, people being attacked by dogs they saw a part of what they had only heard.  Finally injustice and outrage brought additional allies to work for change.  With Mr. Floyd, when videos had previously been provided there was always the question by White America “what had they done that we did not see”, always doubt.  This time there was no doubt as to what happened, and the outrage, anger and disbelief of what was done was in sharp contrast as to what they believed America and Freedom and justice to be. So much so they could not sit still, but realized they had an obligation to speak out, because the impact of their silence was more deadly than the Pandemic.  In this moment and time they realized their silence over the years had made them complicit in what happened to Mr. Floyd.

Paul Corman Roberts:  The Pandemic had the effect of having many, many swaths of people sitting at home with their televisions on, not only watching the murder of George Floyd over and over, but also hearing over and over that he had done absolutely nothing to do with it, which had the effect of making the same old tired excuses for law enforcement ring hollow and with the election impending…people needed to mobilize. This is why I’m not entirely pessimistic when it comes to the human species, but I still think this was too much to have happen before this kind of energy manifested.

 Kim Shuck:  There are always tipping points. But I think the details of that murder, in the continuum of all of the murders, plus the tone-deaf things that various politicians are saying and doing, it all comes together and suddenly people who were bearing these horrors just can’t anymore. All of the dots are suddenly connected and it’s not just individuals objecting but the population is filling the streets.

Peggy Morrison:  The pandemic has created an underlying level of anxiety and uncertainty for all of us. We are more sensitive and more vulnerable, making us more aware of our shared humanity and more capable of empathy. The pain of violent suppression of Black Lives is an electric current that shocks us. During this time of the pandemic and shelter in place, many of us are not working, not shopping or consuming, not being entertained. Children are at home with parents.  This has been a meditative time for many people and a time to think about what’s important. Our common humanity is what is important. The travesty of the US government’s disrespect of humanity by blatantly prioritizing profit and political gain over Black Lives and over prevention of death by plague has outraged us and made it clear that we can’t continue giving our permission for our country to keep going in that direction.

Iris de Anda:  People are tired of seeing decades if not centuries of injustice. The recording of these atrocities has made them impossible to ignore and everyday they feel closer to home. George Floyd deserved better and so do our children.

Necola Adams:  Even though there is a pandemic, the number of unarmed Black people being murdered by police officers has stirred up the anger in people of all races. No longer can one remain silent to the injustices committed upon the Black community along with no justice for their deaths. The threat of one virus supersedes the threat of the other. The death toll from the virus of racism is higher than it will ever be from COVID 19, people are fighting to survive from both.

Kathryn Takara:  Young people are learning  Black history, doing research inspired by their parents and the elders, being informed and misinformed on social media, attending higher education institutions, seeing the gut-wrenching experience of the visual murder of George Floyd, and the many documented murders and abuses by various cameras of police brutality. These events and situations have incited the youth with their courage, idealism, and sense of righteous rage have inspired the movement for social and racial equality, their articulation and cries for social justice, the media coverage and providing a voice for the oppressed, and the encouragement of white and other minorities to join in the struggle for Black Lives Matter, etc. resulting in concrete changes.

Zigi Lowenberg: Mass movements, struggle, and resistance against police terror, police criminality, and murder particularly of enslaved Africans and then African-Americans, have been going on in parallel from the beginning. Now, in June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, the scale, the immediacy, the sustained feet in the street, the international solidarity, the recognition and joint struggles the world over, have been remarkable. This has challenged the pattern that locks down and serves the status quo—that nothing can really change.

Lucinda J. Clark:  Three months of being pent up. No jobs, school, human interaction only time to reflect on things they have never had time to do anything about.

John Curl:  So many are protesting now because when those killer cops murdered George Floyd we were already in a transformative moment of reckoning. Because of the pandemic, Trump’s white supremacy onslaught, and centuries of abuse have driven the old system off the cliff into total collapse. Because America has always distributed power and powerlessness, privilege and punishment, prosperity and poverty, health and sickness based on race.  Because white privilege has been the foundation of the system since its inception. Because the system is brutal, and the police are used to enforce it. Because white supremacy is fascism, which we fought World War 2 against, and they teach us in school that we won. Because Trump’s core message is white supremacy, his program is to reverse any social and environmental progress made during Obama; and his strategy is to cause chaos and seize power. Because with a camera in everyone’s pocket, we finally can record the everyday oppression of black people and people of color. Because no progress toward social and environmental justice can be made without eradicating racism. Because reinstating the old system in the emerging world is not a possibility. Because the task of reshaping our world has fallen to us, and we are at a fork in the road, to choose between racism and the path of social justice. Because our only option is to create a livable future for our great grandchildren. Because we are all hanging by a thread. Because this is transformative moment of reckoning.

Teresa Jade LeYung:  The tagline in Dr. Kim McMillon’s poetathon is: “If not NOW, WHEN?” I believe that that mantra plus the ability to document incidents with our personal electronic devices (especially cellphones) plus the speed in which to broadcast content through social media add up to a World Town Crier galvanizing people to protest the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other victims. Here we are, fighting a global enemy named Coronavirus – people old and young risking their lives to save lives – folks making sacrifices by staying home to reduce the spread of infection – friends and neighbors sharing resources . . . yet, all the while, the hideous monster named racial injustice looms across our past and present. What can I do after protesters have gone home? How do I confront apathy and denial? I pledge to get more training from www.ihollaback.org: “We’re on a mission to end harassment—in all its forms.”  The folks at Hollaback! (in 16 countries) have developed new programs, including “Bystander Intervention to Stop Police-Sponsored Violence and Anti-Black Racist Harassment” and “Stand Up Against Street Harassment.” I pledge to not wait to read voting material right before elections but to routinely visit websites of my legislators to communicate to them what laws I want changed, so that I stand with fellow Americans to fully exercise our rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” http://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration

 Tureeda Mikell:  Because they’ve witnessed a life being expunged from George Floyd’s body, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, and can feel their breath limited, smothered, constrained, like a viral foot on their neck. I believe many can feel their humanity is at risk. By now they’ve learned the trickle-down effect of the governing bodies in the USA. They’ll be next!

Safi wa Nairobi:  For centuries, the public have protested some of the atrocities that have been taking place in the United States. This is the boiling point, with many souls bubbling over due to the death of George Floyd. Hear we calling? Echo. Echo. Echo…

Raymond Nat Turner:  I don’t agree that “The public has not protested the atrocities that have been taking place in our country.” Charlottesville is one recent example that comes to mind. Resistance to racist police murders and police terror that is taking place now is on a larger scale than anything we’ve seen in recent history. In part, it is the result of the world reaching a cumulative tipping point—boiling water turning into steam, so to speak!

Rafael Jesús González: There is always a cumulative effect; George Floyd’s murder, one of a great many, was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” I suspect that being “sheltered in place” gave us the time and focused our attention on the internet and in a way forced many of us to see and be affected by “witnessing” the murder via the video on the internet. Pain, indignation, anger shared (via the internet) encouraged much needed action to confront endemic racism encouraged and fomented by the fascist-dominated Federal (and often State) government.

Ayodele Nzinga:  Tipping points are reached gradually. Robert Chrisman told me once in an interview that the pendulum between right and wrong was in constant motion. King in a letter from a Birmingham jail penned he believed, “the moral arc (Chrisman’s pendulum)of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I think it (the movement of the arc/pendulum) is work for human hands and that this moment might represent a tipping point if properly leveraged. We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that revealed us as human and interconnected; a historic moment when race and class appeared for a moment not to matter in the indiscriminate possibility that we might die from something we could not see. Humbling. To think of death, which is always present, consciously. Then as the curtain rolled back centuries of inequity were revealed in daylight and we were hesitantly pressed into discussing what always existed but was easy to ignore until the very fact of ignoring it threatened the comfort of those not marginalized but interconnected and in many ways dependent on those they have systemically marginalized.

Also revealed at this moment of ‘clear vision’ was the incompetence of leadership from local to national levels and the human scramble to know the unknown and restore order in a chaotic descent into ‘not normal’ leaving heretics like me to whisper loudly — “normal was broken”. Or to say more clearly it was not broken, in fact, it worked perfectly to keep me a day late and a dollar short — so therefore like a runaway slave I wanted us to leverage being able to see behind the curtain with a push to the pendulum, to instruct the moral arc to bend, to harness this wind and make it blow for us. All this in the room with the baggage of widespread PTSD that is as rampant as bad credit in disenfranchised communities.

The same communities dealing with gentrification, dislocation, homelessness, housing insecurity, food insecurity, surrounded by state and communal violence now vividly experiencing the inequity in the medical system. All this, as mainstream America suffers from fatal cabin fever and withdrawals from capitalistic injections of capital signaled by White folks with guns marching to demand the opening of America. Then the murders begin/continue, as White women behave like White women (who don’t care if the camera is running ((so sure are they of their privilege to order our existence to be palatable to them)), make hate calls to the police targeting Black bodies and Amaud Abery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are murdered. Floyd lynched on TV repeated over and over scarring, wounding, ripping the skin off old wounds — undeniably demands an answer. Perhaps we have reached a tipping point. Perhaps.

   3.   How do you believe we can change the world for the better?

Wanda Sabir: I am not interested in changing the world—it’s too big. I am interested in the world Black people occupy. Someone mentioned a White History Month where white people would have to read Howard Zinn’s a People’s History of the United States, Chancellor Williams’s The Destruction of Black Civilization and Carter G. Woodson’s The Miseducation of the Negro; Malcolm X’s writings esp. The Autobiography of Malcolm X with Alex Haley, a slave narrative collection like Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (plus his many other books in this series of narratives), Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Bullwhip Days and Kidada E. Williams’s They Left Great Marks on Me.

 Peggy Morrison:  One step at a time, one day at a time, one breath at a time, one thought at a time, acting with respect and in consciousness of equity.  Organize, educate, communicate, unite, respect, de-colonize, create, share.

John Curl:  We need to find cooperative solutions to social problems. We need to stop romanticizing extreme individualism, competition, and privatized wealth.   We need to promote sharing and social ownership of property. We need to recognize the right of each to a fair share of the world’s wealth and privileges. We need to recognize the right of the natural world to be free from human abuse. We need to recognize that, for the short time we are here, we are the earth’s caretakers and the caretakers of each other; that the welfare of each depends on the shared welfare of us all; that our earth home is the equal birthright of all; that we all belong to her and she is not private property.

Lucinda J. Clark:  One person at a time if need be.

Kathryn Takara:  Reaching out beyond our comfort zone and familiar conditions to talk with and listen to people who are different, outside of our normal contacts, neighborhoods, income brackets, and by traveling and inner reflection as to who we really are and what we want the world to be like for our children: equal opportunity, respect, and justice.

 Raymond Nat Turner:  Yes. And we are. Sometimes very, very slowly—and seeminglyswiftly at other times. But, like it or not, we’re always changing it…

Rich Ferguson:  It might sound trite, but it begins and ends with love. In this day and age, when hate-mongering racists like our so-called president openly peddle their ideologies on social media, it takes real courage to love and hold a well-lit place in your heart for love and not let it die.

Iris de Anda:  Take small steps everyday even when you feel like they won’t make a difference. As a collective, we can bring forth a new paradigm for ourselves and our future generations.

Paul Corman Roberts:  Walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Everybody has to do it.

Rafael Jesús GonzálezWe can change the world for the better by awakening to the causes that make it unjust and destructive and take action (personal, political) to make the systemic, institutional changes that must be made to protect the Earth and ensure justice without which there can be no peace.

Kim Shuck:  I don’t know, I’m still back at hoping we can.

Teresa Jade LeYung:  How can we change the world for the better?  While Ihave no answers, questions weigh on me as a U.S. citizen.

Zigi Lowenberg: Daily discussions, raw awareness, rigorous study, bringing one’s talents in creative ways to this dismantling of racist oppression which shows up in many costumes, uniforms and disguises—we can manifest a renaissance of sorts.

 Safi wa Nairobi:  Justice. Jimmy Cliff once penned the song Peace: 

How is there going to be peace?
When there is no justice, oh no, oh

How is there going to be peace?
When there is no justice, oh no, oh

Someone is taking more than their share
Of the bounties of this land and that’s not fair

So little people got more than they need
While there’s so many hungry mouths in the world to feed
And I would give my heart so true
And I would give my love for you, tell me

How is there going to be peace?
When there is no justice, oh no, oh

How is there going to be peace?
When there is no justice, oh no, oh

Someone has taken my share
And they just don’t give a damn, no they don’t care

So, you just might as well face it
‘Cause there ain’t no other way to erase it
Well I would give my heart so true
And I will give my love for you, tell me

How is there going to be peace?
When there is no justice, oh no, oh

How is there going to be peace?
When there is no justice, oh no, tell me if you know

Tell me if you know now, hey

And I would give my heart so true

I would give my love to you

And I would give my heart so true

How is there going to be peace, when there is no justice, oh no, oh…

 

  1. As a poet, how would you like to be remembered?

 Paul Corman Roberts:  As someone who gave a damn and tried.

Safi wa Nairobi:  Remember me as one of many: one who pens to share the load, embracing the vision and wisdom of the many. One.

Kathryn Takara:  As a teacher, poet, leader, thinker, enlightened being.

Raymond Nat Turner:  The Town Crier

Rafael Jesús González:  I would like to be remembered as one who used his craft of the word to give voice in defense of the Earth and in the name of justice and peace and celebration of life.

Iris de Anda:  Poets are here to inspire people into action or to paint a new picture with our words. I hope my voice can be a small offering in this way.

Peggy Morrison:  One voice, one sincere, authentic voice of my experience as part of the collective voice that shapes our shared past, present, future, a voice infused with love, committed to social justice.

Wanda Sabir:  I’d like to be remembered as a person who knew the importance of words to create and destroy and used her words and life to elevate her people, Black people.

John Curl:  That I contributed to the spiritual revolution that transformed the culture of domination into a culture of sharing.

Lucinda J. Clark:  That I built bridges that crossed and reached people across the globe no age, gender, racial or social group was missed.

Kim Shuck:  As someone who made space for other people and wrote a few good lines.

Zigi Lowenberg: As a love warrior.

Rich Ferguson:  For doing my best to uphold the tradition of the spoken and written word, for fostering an appreciation of poetry, and how words matter. Also, for my appreciation of how poetry is like music, that it contains rhythm, melody, and beat—that I strive to sing whenever I perform or put pen to page.

 

5. What line or stanza of poetry best describes you?

Kathryn Takara:  I am a poem becoming.

Raymond Nat Turner:  “The hyphen between African and Amerikkkan is Wyoming-wide; wishing-well steep; Himalaya-high and Grand Canyon-deep—Long as rambling roads, plantation to penitentiary…”

—Raymond Nat Turner “The Hyphen Between African and Amerikkkan is Wyoming-wide”

 Rafael Jesús González

Dreamer, visionary, fool,
the dog of mundane fact
snaps at his heels,
tears his pants,
exposes his butt to the air
reminding him that for what
he seeks no word can fit.

(from “Loco poeta/Fool Poet”
© Rafael Jesús González 2020)

 Rich Ferguson:  “If it doesn’t come rushing out of you / don’t do it / unless it comes bursting out of your / ears and your head and your ass / and your bellybutton / don’t do it / if you have to sit for an hour / staring at your computer screen / or hunched over your / typewriter / don’t do it… / when it is known to you truly / it will do it by / itself and will keep doing it / until you die or it dies in / you / there is no other way / there never was” – Bukowski

Iris de Anda:  Words are our Medicine.

Zigi Lowenberg: A line from my earliest performance poem, done quite a long time ago still tickles me, “Sharing our cultures is like tongue-kissing the planet.”

Paul Corman Roberts:  I couldn’t even begin to know the answer to this…how about this: “He needed someone else to figure him out and explain him to him.”

Kim Shuck:  Maybe something Clara Hsu wrote about me, “The mama poet has come.” Is that arrogant? Yeah, probably.

John Curl: 

Rainbow Weather

But those murmurs in the gales

gusting all around us

sing of something

just beyond the storm:

rainbow weather’s rolling in,

I can smell it, I swear it,

By John Curl

Safi wa Nairobi:  This is a Sankofa moment: (1) going back to the past “…a just tings an’ times, wonders and signs, but no get mystic, be realistic, and ‘im ‘ear a next voice like the sea say, sometimes the pungent odor of decay, signal say brand new life dere ‘pon de way. From Tings an’ Times, by dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson.

(2) in order to move forward “…we crown ourselves in new languages, corona, crown shakra, our dance to rhythms in the air, we light candles with matches made of marrow and morrow, clay, mud, water, sand, fire, earth, air, flesh, breath, words, poetry.” From Now is All That Matters…” by Wanda Sabir.

Lucinda J. Clark:  Reading so much right now.. from the poem If

“If you can keep your head about you while those around you are losing theirs.”

–Rudyard Kipling

Wanda Sabir:  Presently, I am resonating with Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “When Malindy Sings;” arr. & written by Oscar Brown Jr., performed by Abby Lincoln on “Straight Ahead” (1961) and Oscar Brown Jr. on “Between Heaven and Hell” (1962) the year my family moved from New Orleans to San Francisco. My father traded one hell for another, yet, I learned through parental example, resistance is not how much noise one makes, rather it is the quality of the voice, its durable message that makes a legacy—all I had to do was join the choir: Malindy past, Malindy now and Malindy to come. Dunbar writes:  https://poets.org/poem/when-malindy-sings

“. . . Who dat says dat humble praises

Wif de Master nevah counts?

Heish yo’ mouf, I hyeah dat music,

Ez hit rises up an’ mounts—

Floatin’ by de hills an’ valleys,

Way above dis buryin’ sod,

Ez hit makes its way in glory

To de very gates of God!

“Oh, hit’s sweetah dan de music

Of an edicated band;

An’ hit’s dearah dan de battle’s

Song o’ triumph in de lan’.

It seems holier dan evenin’

When de solemn chu’ch bell rings,

Ez I sit an’ ca’mly listen

While Malindy sings.

“Towsah, stop dat ba’kin’, hyeah me!

Mandy, mek dat chile keep still;

Don’t you hyeah de echoes callin’

F’om de valley to de hill?

Let me listen, I can hyeah it,

Th’oo de bresh of angels’ wings,

Sof an’ sweet, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,”

Ez Malindy sings.”

 

 

 

Raymond Nat Turner and Ziggy Lowenberg – photo courtesy of Mia Chambers
Graffiti Piece: Let_Freedom_Ring’