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Reading List for World Refugee Day; Click Map to Read On!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Finishing Line Press Poets Reading at Musehouse in Philadelphia

 
 
I'm thrilled to be reading at Musehouse in Philadelphia next week.

Join us for a reading and book signing by Poets of Finishing Line Press

at Musehouse; A Center for the Literary Arts
...

DATE: Saturday, March 10, 2012
TIME: 7 pm
LOCATION: 7924 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia PA 19118
Free Admission 
267-331-9552

I'll be reading from my new collection of poetry-Where My Birthmark Dances.

Here's what Lillian Dunn, of Apiary Magazine, said about my new collection of poetry-Where My Birthmark Dances:

The Ancient Romans used to call a person's creative spirit her "genius," and recognized the labor of setting it free as one of love and sacrifice. Octavia McBride-Ahebee's latest collection is just such a labor. Her poems depict human longing, love and dignity in the context of global inequality with fierce, uncompromising grace. As her characters speak, she creates indelible sensory images of loveliness and affection, profound misery and anger, letting each co-exist on the page. The resulting complexity of tone makes space for nuanced and compelling human voices that might otherwise be categorized as "victims" or "villains" of oppression. It takes the full use of genius to notice and capture these contradictions, and a deep social conscience to care so passionately about writing them down. This collection is one of McBride-Ahebee's "bighearted magnolia trees," its trunk scarred by the fire of sacrifice, its blossoms and branches so beautiful you don't want to leave their shade."
 
Other Finishing Line Press Poets  reading will be Karen McPherson.  She will read from her collection Sketching Elise and Donna Wolf-Palacio will read from her collection What I Don't Know.
 
Do come out and join us.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Poet Dean Atta; I Am Nobody's Nigger

I Am Nobody's Nigger - by Dean Atta - http://www.twitter.com/DeanAtta

Rappers when you use the word "nigger" remember that's one of the last words Stephen Lawrence heard, so don't tell me it's a reclaimed word.
I am nobody's nigger
So please, let my ancestors rest in peace
Not turn in their graves in Jamaica plantations
Or the watery graves of the slave trade
Thrown overboard into middle passage
Just for insurance claims
They were chained up on a boat
As many as they could manage and stay afloat
Stripped of dignity and all hope
Awaiting their masters and European names
But the sick and the injured were dead weight to toss
And Lloyds of London would cover that cost.
I am nobody's nigger
So you can tell Weezy and Drake
That they made a mistake
I am nobody's nigger now
So you can tell Kanye and Jigga
I am not a nigger... in Paris
I'm not a nigger in London
I'm not a nigger in New York
I'm not a nigger in Kingston
I'm not a nigger in Accra
Or a nigger with attitude in Compton
Cos "I don't wanna be called yo nigga"
How were you raised on Public Enemy
And still became your own worst enemy?
You killed Hip Hop and resurrected headless zombies
That can't think for themselves or see where they're going
Or quench the blood lust because there's no blood flowing
In their hearts, just in the streets
They don't give a damn as long as they eating
Their hearts ain't beating, they're cold as ice (bling)
Because they would put money over everything
Money over self respect or self esteem
Or empowering the youth to follow their dreams
Stacking paper cos it's greater than love it seems
Call me "nigger" cos you're scared of what "brother" means
To know that we share something unspeakable
To know that as high as we rise we are not seen as equal
To know that racism is institutional thinking
And that "nigger" is the last word you heard before a lynching.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bravo to Zambia for Winning the African Cup of Nations

I was rooting for Cote d'Ivoire to ultimately win the African Cup of Nations, but Zambia did. I must say Chipolopolo Africa Unlimited really impressed me and won me over as well. Bravo to Zambia and all of the various African teams that participated in the 2012 African Cup of Nations. You avenged the ancestors by showing the world how magical soccer can be.


 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let's Be Honorable...? Remembering Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.
Audre Lorde

Let’s be honorable and tell the truth is a layered and complex concept that permeates my elementary classroom and a refrain often uttered by eight-year-olds to encourage a fellow classmate, for example, to voluntarily acknowledge a misdeed of how a misappropriated object was acquired.  The goal is not just the return of the Spiderman pencil or the Hello Kitty eraser; the ultimate goal is for the offending party to understand the ramifications of this behavior on the victim and to use that knowledge to add to their growing bank of magnanimity.    And it’s amazing how effective a demand for the truth can be and what benefits it gives to both the seeker and transgressor.
So, with regard to the death of the incredibly talented Whitney Houston, let’s be honorable and tell the truth.   We are a horribly homophobic culture and our own fears and misconceptions too often drive others into the most desolate spaces where what is affirming and healthy and forward-thinking is not allowed to enter. But what is permitted is hurt and shame in all of its ugly manifestations.
You want to honor Whitney?  Simply do so in the most powerful way one can, by being kind and being accepting of the people you so claim to love.
A Litany for Survival
By Audre Lorde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children's mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Celebrating Winnie Mandela, Too!

A young Winnie Mandela with her two daughters

This weekend marks the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island and there will be countless celebrations of Mr. Mandela and rightly so.  But it never sat well with me, the way Winnie was trashed and disposed of by the Mandela camp.   Njabul Ndebele’s novel-The Cry of Winnie Mandela- is worth the read because she attempts to present the political, cultural and psychological contexts in which Winnie Mandela evolved, regressed and reemerged in all of her many personas.   Was she involved in egregiously offensive behavior-I believe so? Should she be held accountable? Definitely ! But she was the face of the anti-apartheid movement for so long, for so many of us and she galvanized us into action. That counts for something.  So, on this day, on the eve of my own fiftieth birthday, when I recall how Winnie inspired me as a young girl to care about South Africa and political and economic justice, I give a shout out to Winnie because it’s damn hard being a mother to a movement and wife to an icon who was not in your bed.

Here’s a link to a 2004 review of The Cry of Winnie Mandela which appeared in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/apr/24/featuresreviews.guardianreview19

Here is an insightful interview with Winnie Mandela:




Be the First in the Water-South African Surfer Avuyile Ndamase

...Water is another matter,
it has no direction but its own bright grace...
                                   -Pablo Neruda




Friday, February 10, 2012

...Because You Tread on My Dreams- Rethinking Education


Photo-Fountainhead by George Krause
I have been working with some amazing little people the last few weeks. I am always looking for ways to excite my students’ sense of learning and looking for ways to create a learning environment where discovery is the core. I am driven by ideas and purpose and self-reflection and thinkers-luminaries-like Ken Robinson help me to better serve my students and keep the passion in my teaching. Have a listen:


He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven by William Butler Yeats
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Octavia Mc Bride-Ahebee - Readings Around Town


Next week, I’m reading at the following venues.

 1.     Moonstone Poetry Series Presents in Celebration of Valentine’s Day :

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"HOW LOVE GOT LOST, STRAYED OR STOLEN"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 , 7:00 p.m.

Moonstone Arts Center

110- S. 13th Street (Upstairs - 2nd floor)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(Not wheel chair accessible)

Free and Open to the Public

For more information contact Maurice Henderson @ (215) 987-7918.  


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2.     The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in  New York
This reading will celebrate The Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology. The OWS Poetry Anthology is a living/breathing, all-inclusive, and constantly expanding anthology of poetry in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The anthology is huge; maybe even one of the largest collections of poetic dissidence ever compiled while a movement was gathering and working to make its voices known.

Admission to the event is free and the reading will be modeled similarly to the Friday evening poetry assembly readings that have taken place at Liberty Plaza for the majority of the occupation there. Readers will sign up to read from the anthology or from work they feel to be relevant to the OWS movement, and then chosen by lot.
For more information about the OWS Poetry Anthology: http://peopleslibrary.wordpress.com/

And a big shout out to Stephen Boyer and his incredible diligence and commitment to making this project happen.

Friday, February 17, 2012
10:00 p.m.

The Poetry Project
at St. Mark's Church
 131 E. 10th Street
 New York, NY 10003 
 212-674-0910


Happy Birthday ! Auguste !

Photo by Iranian Visual Artist Shirin Neshat- Learn more about her: http://www.iranchamber.com/art/sneshat/shirin_neshat.php

Auguste
By Octavia McBride-Ahebee

1.  It is your spirit they seek to exorcise,
to push with thin prayers and secret, celebratory praises
from our house
where we had planted flowers ofprotection.
Jump inside of me,
away from the swinging incense
and gutted chants
meant to trap and strip your retreating soul.
I will take you for a dance
across the very floors where we made life,
Barron's Sunshower will frame your requiem,
and restore your faith.

2.  I am glad you are home with me,
in a house where love has always reigned,
running the hallways I had run,
racing to be a man for me.
You will grow, again,
to shed the weight of dead conventions,
to repeal pledges made to voles and vamps,
to become not my groom, again,
but our son.

3.  What pushed you to jump realms,
to leap across what we were living,
to even plan under the star that brought me to you,
for your departure,
for the hole in my heart,
for the one in your head?

4.  I sleep now,
in a sitting position,
my eyes pulled wide open
by pills I pop in neat intervals
to regulate my sadness,
while I wait to catch you
swinging on the arc of a night rainbow.
I swing on my father's redbrick terrace,
the one that is not covered-open to the elements,
I swing not back and forth in a rhythm that calms,
but side to side,
in a motion meant to evoke the spirits,
to wake the dead,
to push you from your hiding place
so I can say goodbye.