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Welcome to Words without Border’s tenth annual Queer issue.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Patrick Awuah; Restoring Our Faith with His Action

       Last year I won a writing contest sponsored by United Planet, an organization that sends volunteers around the world to work on various social and economic projects. The real outcome of these projects is to foster cross-cultural understanding. My entry for the contest was a poem called Oasis.

      I taught for seven years at The International Community School of Abidjan, an American Embassy -sponsored school in the West African country of Cote d’Ivoire. Prior to Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war, I.C.S.A. had a student body of more than 500 students who represented more than 70 nationalities. What an amazing environment to grow as a teacher and a writer!
      I wrote the poem Oasis as an introduction to a unit study on poetry. I wanted my fourth grade students to recognize and appreciate that understanding poetry requires diligence and many readings. But, I wanted them to approach the task of trying to derive meaning from a poem in spirit of joy and fun. I asked them to imagine themselves as poetry detectives, who were looking for clues that led to meaning. As an introductory activity, I wrote this poem, Oasis. Each day, I would read several stanzas about a particular student and the class would have to reason their way as to what student I was describing. After selecting the student a particular stanza captured, some students illustrated the stanzas. I have included these illustrations as well.
      This poem, these illustrations and The International Community School of Abidjan are testaments that people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions and political views can work together and love each other when such a challenge is presented and then nurtured.
      The students of this fourth grade class are now juniors in college. For many of us, our lives were torn apart by the war in Cote d’Ivoire and necessitated us moving to other places. One of the students involved in this project, who has since relocated to Florida, last year requested from me a copy of the poem and the illustrations. She wanted a tangible complement to her memory of the marvelous life we all had in Cote d’Ivoire because we were, indeed, the world.

       Here is the link to poem Oasis and its illustrations.

      I share all of this to say that I am so thrilled by the vision and action of many young people, particularly young Africans who recognize that they are the solution to the African continent’s challenges. Such young people remind me so much of my students.
Here is video link to Patrick Awuah,a young man from Ghana, who went to Swarthmore College and then on to a lucrative career with Microsoft. But, after becoming a parent, he became more ambitious in his expectations and faith for Ghana. He returned home and founded Ashesi University, an oasis where progressive and ethical leaders are being groomed. Listen and have your faith restored.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mona R. Washington-Provincetown; An Essay on Race and Gender

*Last summer, Ms. Washington and I were fortunate enough to take a workshop at the renowned Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. The following essay, which originally appeared in the North Star News, was inspired by Ms. Washington’s observations of Provincetown; a very unique arts colony and gay summer retreat. To read this essay in its entirety, click on the North Star News link below.

Provincetown is about the only place I’ll buy a white man a drink.

I need a break after my writing workshop, so Monday night I go to a drag show with my friend Octavia, and we’re standing in line. Early. Too early she says. We’re second. She wants a soda or something, so we flag down this cute brother who’s working there and he says stay in line because the rush is about to start. Sure enough twenty-five white guys get in line within the next five minutes. Then more, and more, until there’s a line out to Commercial Street.

I turn to Octavia and smugly say, “Aren’t you glad we didn’t leave to get that soda?” As soon as I finish my sentence six white boys walk up to the front of the line to cut. I’m as hot as fish grease! I have my Black women’s hair issues standing in line in all that humidity, losing my curls and now these white boys.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sea Breeze: A Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings

Sea Breeze; A Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings is another gem of online publications. As its name indicates, it is a journal that addresses the concerns of Liberia and its Diaspora.

My poem, Deliver Me From the Hands of Strange Children, first appeared in Sea Breeze.

Please take time to discover a wonderful and needed journal. Here's the link.

Deliver Me From The Hands of Strange Children
By Octavia McBride-Ahebee

On the Day of the Dead,
On the day we plead on their behalf,
he *naked me,
stripped my body
in front of carved saints, elegantly stoic
cloistered in their own uselessness
he naked me
in front of bands of soldier boys, spellbound and spoiled,
wearing their sisters’ dresses and their mothers’ wigs
their necks encased in feather boas and forest paint
their waists jeweled with the feces of Cold War arsenals

in a church garden wild with perfume
under a bush plum tree
the kind we make our Christmas pudding from
he naked me
he naked me
as I quietly pleaded to the holy queen
as he told me her ears were stuffed with cassava leaves
and her son’s many failures
as he pissed his discontent in my face

he laid me beneath a neighboring mango tree
magnificent in its promise to shield
and he used a bayonet like a crochet hook
pushing through my vagina
in search of hidden bounty
in search of buried cell phones and soiled cash
pulling from its walls only prayer beads
christened by frightened menses
for such a gross disappointment
he placed mary’s head
machete-sharpened and faceless
in there instead

*Naked, used as a verb, is a Liberian description of the military tactic employed by boy soldiers in which they stripped civilians, particularly women, of their clothing as a means of humiliation.

Damazine; An Online Journal of the Muslim World

My most recent publication is in the current issue of Damazine, a new and growing voice of the Muslim world, which is our world. My poem, An Engagement For Burning, which appears in Damazine, was inspired by the problem of women burning themselves, self-immolation, particularly in Herat, Afghanistan.

Here's the link
Here's a link to a series of news stories about this problem.