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Comics and Graphic Narratives; A Global Cultural Commons

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

World AIDS Day-Dec. 1, 2011-Remembering A Great Love

 Photo by Mozambique PEPFAR team
The Japanese Teahouse
To Greg Witcher
By Octavia McBride-Ahebee

I can now see
the skirt hems of hants
stitched by the hands of the living
they keep with them in this sphere
the shame and vanity of us all
and so hide their naked spirits
in calico gowns shielding indigo slips
made loose for easy movement

La Fleur cannot see the ghosts of this house
vying for perfume and overripe papaya
spreading like yeast
in anticipation of bounty
spreading with the unyielding spell of raw cauliflower
He hears their whispers
entangled in the whistling overtones of searching mice
their frosted threats to lick
the healing fungus off the backs of caterpillars
and press into dust with their weightless humor
another cloak of his torment
-the anointed AZT

Yet
his third eye is sane, blighted
perceiving the lust of fear
flapping in its own daydreams
anxious to walk backwards
with those who die away from home

La Fleur wants to sleep with cannons
near the vacant majesty of the Citadelle
under the guard of the grand Baron Samedi
in a grave that slides with no conscience
when the soil breathes too heavily
when forgotten things are collected

He wants to leave my city of foot-long sandwiches
and soft pretzels,
of trolley cars that triumph underneath the unbecoming frailty
of a cowed city
whose river has no bend
to return to Cap-Haitian
saluting the honeyed fantasies of home
spawned by the simple need
of man who can’t build on the cunning of tomorrow

I whisper in his ear still open to thought
I hold his hand, scaled and aloof,
still greedy for the soles of other’s fingertips
I say forget the cannons
and the piece of earth that exhales with no attention
my hants are vain
they dress in slips of purple and blue
today, we will sip evergreen plants
in the park where the Japanese teahouse sings
and we will berate any presumption
yours were days unspent.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology -Read On

Illustration by Sharon Rosenzweig

Please explore the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology which is ever growing and now runs 538 pages.  Round and Whole, a poem by me-Octavia McBride-Ahebee-, can be found on pp. 493-494.  And do also check out the illustrations by Sharon Rosenzweig of real OWS supporters, which starts on p. 403.
Here’s the link:


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Harvest of the Tongue; An Artist Survives- Mossa Bildner and Us All

Gary Lucas and Mossa Bildner

I recently watched the movie version of The Grapes of Wrath with my children after serving another inventive interpretation of spaghetti as an elegant family meal. It’s hard to believe this movie was made in 1940. I had forgotten how bold and brave and honest this film is and its continued relevancy still rings clear.  The fight is still on.
Artist, composer, singer, linguist, translator and teacher Mossa Bildner is the face of me and so many others.  Thank God or whoever, that we have our art to keep us buoyed, because these are sinister times. I salute her example of holding her head up and a giving a face and a voice to where We are in this space and time.    

This interview was recorded two years ago.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gloria Steinem and Mona Eltahawy in Conversation; Dreaming is a Form of Planning

Mona Eltahawy and Gloria Steinem
Poppies by Georgia O'Keeffe

Ladies, even gentleman, get your coffee or whatever drink gives you comfort and listen to this wonderfully enlightening conversation between American feminist Gloria Steinem and Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy.

http://hammer.ucla.edu/watchlisten/watchlisten/show_id/759419

Friday, November 18, 2011

All is Well- Naseer Shamma

The Fabulous Iraqi Oud Player Naseer Shamma
 Give yourself this treat and listen:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwcm1oHVVlo&feature=related

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa- A Point of Entry into the World

Photo-Ed Kashi
Photo- Ed Kashi
Photo-Ed Kashi

In 1994, I was a new, middle-aged American bride living in my husband’s home of Cote d’Ivoire. I had arrived in August and by November I was student at the University of Abidjan’s French language program for non-French speakers. At that time, Liberia’s civil war was in full rage and many Liberians had taken refuge in Abidjan. Some were lucky enough to receive United Nations scholarships which enabled them to take French language courses at the University of Abidjan as well. They became my peers, my friends and my refuge from the callousness of Francophones. They were also my point of entry into Liberian history, Liberian-American history, factional fighting, changing alliances and the delicious joy of rice with palava sauce.

During my brief stint as a formal student in this university, I had many introductions, by my classmates who came from all over English-speaking Africa, to their ambitions, to their struggles and the struggles and successes of their home countries. Though I had had a long history with Nigerians back home, through literature, friendships and as a child when my grandmother hosted a couple-Gabriel and Martini- during the Biafra War, I had never known about the Ogoni people of Nigeria, the Niger Delta and the environmental degradation oil companies like Shell had unleashed. It was Boma, a young man and classmate from the Niger Delta oil region of Nigeria, who so passionately articulated the history of this region and the unchecked abuses it sustained at the hands of big, Western oil companies with the complicity of the Nigerian government.

Over grilled corn or plantain, under fruit trees I listened to Boma and learned of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other equally courageous people and whole communities who challenged the environmental, economic and political abuses perpetrated in their homeland. It was this time I became a short wave radio fiend and listened throughout the day to the BBC’s African service. I could hear interviews with Mr. Saro-Wiwa and follow his campaigns. He became a hero for me on this African sojourn.

In November of 1995, I was still in Cote d’Ivoire, pregnant with my first child, who was due at the end of that month. I was in love with my life and my family and my new country. I cannot describe the devastation and sense of disbelief I physically felt when I heard on Nov. 10, 1995 that the Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged by the Nigerian government with the complicity of Shell Oil.

As Americans, we have seen firsthand, with our recent experience with the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, what shameless and rapacious behaviors these oil companies display. Well, know that the people of the Niger Delta region have been experiencing this for decades and nothing has been done. Know that this is happening and raise your concerns.

Ed Kashi is a phenomenal photojournalist. The above photos are his and here is a link to an interview he gave concerning his project in the Niger Delta. http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/q-and-a/1720326/vii-photos-ed-kashi-we-change-consume

Here is my poem inspired by Ken Saro-Wiwa and the simple fact that the personal is the political. Here in my poem is a couple on a lovers’ chase , whose every movement is met by some apparatus associated with the oil extraction activity.

A Chase Through the Niger Delta
For Ken Saro-Wiwa
By Octavia McBride-Ahebee

When my feet pound the damp earth
distancing themselves from the fears of the day
awakening,
as my toes collect mineral wealth
and ancestors’ blessings,
the hope of the world
because I am chased by a lover
in heat
in whose mouth sprouts mango-colored hibiscus,
our blissful flight is still broken,
overthrown by surface pipes,
snaking conduits of slick poison,
fallen piñatas full of slippery promises
lined in fire and incessant flares
engulfing
with fury and inflamed detachment
the tops of our crop’s heads
drowning our stomachs in greasy blackness
stuffing our chest with soot and oil’s disdain
is how a pair of lovers
whose day began unspoiled
fueled by the thrill of a dreamy chase
became uninspired and polluted.
-the end-

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Come Each Day to the Whole of the World

Drawing by Omar S. of I.C.S.A.
Here’s the link to a recent interview I did with Miriam’s Well; Poetry, Land Art and Beyond. Enjoy!
http://miriamswell.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/3-questions-for-octavia-mcbride-ahebee/

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On Being Gay, Ghanaian and Many Other Things; Kwame Anthony Appiah

Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah/ Photo-Greg Martin

I count Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ghanaian-British philosopher, Princeton University Professor and president of the Pen American Center, as one of a very few contemporary academics who has successfully engaged non-academics to entertain many of his ideas concerning moral and political thought. He is very much the public philosopher is same way I count Cornel West, Noam Chomsky and Henry Louis Gates.

I found his discussion about being gay and Ghanaian fascinating and insightful. Here is the link to that discussion.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nikki Rosa and the Photographs of Nana Kofi Acquah

Photo- Nana Kofi Acquah
Photo- Nana Kofi Acquah

 
An excerpt from Nikki Giovanni’s “Nikki Rosa”

….And though you're poor it isn't poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn't your father's drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
Christmases
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they'll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy


I thought of this poem when I awoke one morning last week to be greeted in my inbox by the wonderful photographs of Ghanaian photographer Nana Kofi Acquah. Many of the photographs were of my beloved Cote d’Ivoire and they showed what I remember and keep in my heart; the beauty, the resilience and innovation of a phenomenal people. Like the Giovanni, Acquah celebrates what most outsiders can’t get or don’t want to and that is we make our way in this world, despite unimaginable obstacles, and we do so using our humanity and sheer inventiveness. And we arrive often at what is joyous and celebratory. Enjoy these photographs of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana and support Acquah’s efforts. Here’s the link.

http://nanakofiacquah.blogspot.com/