Words without Borders; The Home of International Literature

Words without Borders; The Home of International Literature
Check out The Indigenous Writing Project: Contemporary Guaraní Poetry

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Nina in Liberia

Many are unfamiliar with this chapter in Nina Simone's life; the years she lived in the West Africa country of Liberia- 1974-77. She left on the eve of the start of Liberia's civil war. She said in Liberian Calypso, a song inspired by her time there:

*Artwork-Martha Rich

"1974, that's the year
I went straight home 'cause I had so much to fear
I had dreamed for oh so long
That one day I'd be going home…"
To read more about this period in Nina's life, see link here: https://www.guernicamag.com/nina-simone-in-liberia/
Kudos to literary activist Debra Wright who organized the ultimate tribute to Nina Simone; a poetry anthology dedicated to her. Wright compiled and edited "Philly Jawns:
For Women Revisited" which features 40 Philadelphia women poets exploring the nuances and complexities of the incomparable Nina Simone. My poem, Nina in Liberia, which is included in this project, pays homage , in a small way, to the time when Nina graced the coast of West Africa.

                                                      Collage by Pat McLean-Smith

Link to purchase this anthology:

Tuesday, March 3, 2020


Photo Credit- Joanna Austin
 I came to see the play, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, running now through March 7 at the Wilma Theater, not as a theatre critic-which I am not-but as an aging African-American resident of a neighborhood that is rapidly changing. Mine is a neighborhood changing in ways that will seemingly guarantee the erasure of my community and its collective history.  I came dejected and cynical.
   But in deft hands of director Jaylene Clark Owens, who also wrote and performs in this multilayered performance piece, along with co-creators Hollis Heath and Janelle Heatley, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale delivers what art should; brazen commentary laced with lots of hope. This trifecta of masterful actresses takes the audience on a journey through time and a changing Harlem, which could easily be so many Philadelphia neighborhoods. And on this adventure through dance battles, song, old school hand games and rhymes and powerful spoken word, the central characters asks of themselves and of us- how do we, as longstanding communities, in transition, against great economic pressures, preserve what we have known and love. Difficult questions are raised and explored with joy and fierce honesty.

   Although Killer Whale is a personal love letter to Harlem, so many people who are not from Harlem have said they can relate to it because it reminds them of their neighborhood, their sense of community, their childhood memories," said Owens, a member of the Wilma HotHouse acting company and this year’s winner of the F. Otto Haas Barrymore Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist.

  The show originated after Owens posted on Facebook about the burgeoning gentrification of Harlem in 2010. “Harlem is looking more and more like the belly of a killer whale,” she wrote. A former teacher encouraged her to expand the post into a spoken word play. 

Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale has since received dozens of presentations, most recently a successful limited engagement at Theater Horizon. “I love how these three women bring their humor, energy, and sarcasm into a very serious subject that every city, particularly Philadelphia, is grappling with,” Wilma Theater Artistic Director Blanka Zizka.

   In addition to the public performances, the Wilma will host four student matinees of Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, reaching hundreds of students at Philadelphia public high schools. Many of these students will go on to create their own original works in response to the show through Wilmagination, the Wilma’s school residency program.  

Extended by popular demand!
February 26-March 7, 2020
Wilma Theater
265 S. Broad Street (Broad &Spruce Streets)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Box Office: 215-546-7824

*Chyann Sapp is also a co-creator of this project.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Monday Poets Featuring Octavia McBride-Ahebee & Sekai'afua Zankel at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Audience members enjoying this evening of poetry at the Phila.
Free Library Monday Poets Series/Photo-Andrea Walls

Photo- Andrea Walls

So honored to be included in The D'Archive. These are photos from the Philadelphia Free Library's Monday Poets Series featuring myself -Octavia McBride-Ahebee- and Sekai'afua Zankel . Thanks Andrea. You can see more of her amazing work at www.thedarchive.com
McBride-Ahebee listening intently to Zankel's performance. Photos/Andrea Walls

Octavia McBride-Ahebee reading and signing her books at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Monday Poets-Feb. 10, 2020- Photos AndreaWalls


Monday, February 10, 2020

Monday Poets at the Free Library of Philadelphia Presents Octavia McBride Ahebee & Sekai'afua Zankel

Poet Sekai'afua Zankel and Percussionist Extraordinaire, Poet, Playwright Karen Smith

Available on Amazon

Friday, February 7, 2020

Kirwyn Sutherland Reads from New Collection - Jump Ship- at Penn Book Center

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor
So honored to celebrate with Kirwyn Sutherland the release of his new poetry collection Jump Ship! His featured reading yesterday, at the Penn Book Center, was phenomenal. Kudos to poets Husnaa Hashim, Wes Matthews and Kassidi Jones for sharing their work as well. Humbled to have been a part of the lineup.

Shoutout to the Faye, the events coordinator at the Penn Book Center, who was so welcoming and who has a fierce, upcoming lineup of writers passing through- Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Feminista Jones, Sonia Sanchez just to name a few.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Moonstone Arts Presents Poetry Through the Generations; Sojourner Ahebee and Octavia McBride-Ahebee -

Sojourner and I were honored to share our journey through generations of poetry with poet Charles Carr.Our Our conversation aired on Philly Cam.

I also took this opportunity to pay tribute to Rose Martin and those first educators in our lives who ignited those passions that would come to guide our existence. Martin, now deceased, was a teacher at the Overbrook Elementary School, in Philadelphia. Each year, in the 1970's, she organized the Black Poetry Panorama, in which just about every student, from kindergarten to sixth grade, had to learn and recite several poems for this huge and anticipated event. Hosted at Overbrook High School, students dressed up, came out with friends and family and recited their poetry.

Imagine a community of about 400 households filled with African-American children learning poems by Langston HughesPaul Laurence DunbarNikki GiovanniClaude McKayRobert HaydenJames Weldon JonsonGwendolyn Brooks and Countee Cullen to name a few.

This was more than 50 years ago and even my mother, now deceased, who had Alzheimer’s near the end of her life, could still recall and recite Langston Hughes’ poem "The Negro Mother" because of the time she helped me to memorize this very long poem for Martin's event.

I came of age in a school setting and a neighborhood community that saw magic in words, knew the power of a poem to inspire and respected the writer as one who could be part of a vanguard.

Moonstone Arts Presents: Philly Loves Poetry Feburary 2020 from PhillyCAM on Vimeo.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Pendeja, You Ain't My Steinbeck; Criticism of the Novel American Dirt

Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Museum of Black Joy; A Healing,Photographic Journey of Black Transcendence

Join photographer Andrea Walls on a healing journey through 365 days of imagery depicting non-traumatic Black Life in Philadelphia  and beyond, including those that document transcendent acts of art and resistance.

Photo-Andrea Walls

The Project

Enter the d'archive or follow @urbanarchivist to join Andrea Walls on a 365-day photographic journey of discovery, as she locates and documents scenes that embody ordinary expressions of joy, wonder, freedom, transcendence, and solidarity. 
Photos- Andrea Walls