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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fruitvale Station

I  saw Fruitvale Station last night. WOW! I am so exhausted trying to protect my own son that I am just about smothering him and myself.

Philly's own crusading/activist lawyer Michael Coard will lead a discussion on Fruitvale Station at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. A recommendation from Juliet Goodfriend, BMFI's President: Fruitvale Station is perhaps the most affecting and interesting movie I’ve seen all year. It succeeds in bringing you inside the lives of people whom we all should know better than we do.

See the acclaimed drama at BMFI starting this Friday. Join Michael Coard, Esquire, for a discussion following the 7:00 pm screening on Monday, July 29.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Drone by Solmaz Sharif

Victims of Drones
  I am horrified by the Zimmerman verdict. I am equally confounded not by President Obama’s response to the verdict, which I welcomed, but his myopic generosity of spirit and public policy that fails to allow him to see himself also in the children killed by U.S. drones.  It is time that we connect the dots and rise into a quality of action that validates and protects all life. 
   I share with you a poem entitled Drone by Solmaz Sharif.  


By Solmaz Sharif

Let this be the Body
through which the War has passed.
—Frank Bidart

somewhere I did not learn mow down or mop up • somewhere I wouldn’t hear your father must come with me or I must fingerprint your grandmother can you translate please • the FBI has my cousins’ computers • my father says say whatever you want over the phone • my father says don’t let them scare you that’s what they want • my mother has a hard time believing anything’s bugged • my father and I always talk like the world listens • my father is still on the bus with contraband papers under his seat as uniforms storm down the aisle • it was my job to put a cross on each home with dead for clearing • it was my job to dig graves into the soccer field • I wrote red tracksuit • I wrote Shahida, headless, found beside Saad Mosque • buried in the same grave as the above • I wrote unidentified fingers • found inside Oldsmobile car • I wrote their epitaphs in chalk • from my son’s wedding mattress I know this mound’s his room • I dropped to a knee and engaged the enemy • I emptied my clip then finished the job • I took two steps in and threw a grenade • I took no more than two steps into a room before firing • in Haditha we cleared homes Fallujah-style • my father was reading the Koran when they shot him through the chest • they fired into the closet • the kitchen • the ninety-year-old standing over the stove • just where was I • uno a uno tu cara en todos los buses urbanos • Here lie the mortal remains of one who in life searched your face • call me when you get home • let’s miss an appointment together • let’s miss another flight to repeated strip searches • that Haditha bed • magenta queen sheets and a wood-shelved headboard and blood splattered up the walls to the ceiling • they held each other • they slept on opposing ends wishing one would leave • mother doesn’t know who I am anymore • I write Mustapha Mohammad Khalaf, fifteen months old • I write Here lies an unknown martyr, a big security guard with a blue shirt, found near an industrial area with a chain of keys • Martyr unknown, only bones • they ask if I have anything to declare then limit my response to fruits and nuts • an American interrupts an A and B conversation to tell me you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do • he strikes me as a misstep away from she was asking for it • what did you expect after fishing Popov from a trash bin • what did you expect after accepting a marbled palace • they drag the man who killed my uncle out of a hole • they inspect him for ticks on national television • no one in my family celebrates • when the FBI knocks I tell them I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do; they get a kick out of that • she just lay there and took it like a champ • she was dying for it • at a protest a man sells a shirt that says My dick would pull out of Iraq • my mother tape-records my laugh to mail bubble-wrapped back home • my mother records me singing Ye shabe mahtab mah meeyad to khab • I am singing the moon will come one night and take me away sidestreet by sidestreet • sitting on a pilled suburban carpet or picking blue felt off the hand-me-down couch • the displaced whatnots • I practice the work of worms • how much I can wear away with no one watching • two generations ago my blood moved through borders according to grazing and seasons • then a lifeline of planes • planes fly so close to my head filled with bomblets and disappeared men • scaffolding sprouts nooses sagging with my dead • I burn my finger on the broiler and smell trenches • my uncle pissing himself • shopping bags are legs • there is half a head in the gutter • I say Hello NSA when I place a call • somewhere a file details my sexual habits • some tribunal may read it all back to me • Golsorkhi, I know the cell they will put me in • they put me onto a crooked pile of others to rot • is this what happens to a brain born into war • a city of broken teeth • the thuds of falling • we have learned to sing a child calm in a bomb shelter • I am singing to her still

Saturday, July 20, 2013


*Artwork by Tim Okamura



Black women scholars for a long time have been writing about the avoidance of really hearing black women’s speech. Indeed, all the black women writers who are now published began from the basic history that black women’s speech has been silenced in dominant discourses, from bell hooks in her book Talking Back to Gayatri Spivak’s rhetorical question, Can the subaltern speak?, which described rhetorically how women of color are already spoken for by the way they are constructed.

What this has meant historically is that black people and women under Jim Crow laws and up to the 19th Amendment were not able to testify in court, especially if testifying against a white person. When they did speak, their words were consigned to fussing, nonsense, ignorance. Black women writers and scholars have battled these perceptions for years and now there are avenues in which we can get our voices heard, at times with difficulty or less the obvious positioning that occurs.

Enter Rachel Jaentel, the prosecution’s star witness in the George Zimmerman murder trial, who, in her being, fits fully the stereotyped positions in which black women have been placed. In other words, she walks into an already constructed set of understandings in which the black and poor woman is seen.

Constructed as a problem from the start, she was clear in her interview with Piers Morgan on CNN that she had many months of encounters with defense attorney Don West and that it was only her home training of not speaking back to adults that stopped her from saying what she really felt about him.

Rachel’s clarification that she has a bone disability which makes her words come out wrong and slower than is normal makes our point even stronger. A physical disability was taken to mean stupidity in the fullest historical sense in which disabilities have been treated. In her words, there are “words I can say; others no.”
Rachel began her response to Morgan’s first question with the words: “Disappointed. Upset. Angry. Questioning.” Importantly, she proceeded to fill in some necessary knowledge gaps as far as Trayvon Martin was concerned. He was a calm, chill-loving person who loved his family, especially his mother, she said. Trayvon was a funny person to his friends. He was a bit lazy and would not, it seemed, stretch to do too much unless pushed.
And what did they talk about for all those hours? What they were going to do and be in life. Ironically Trayvon never got to realize this projection into the future and this, to me, is what perhaps hurt Rachel as equally as finding out that the person she was talking to was dead minutes after their last conversation.

She was on the phone with him until 7:16 p.m. and he died at 7:17 p.m., a time when “people are walking their dogs,” still walking around. So what could drive Zimmerman to such an irrational conclusion for a young boy walking on the street at 7 p.m.? The racial profiling response from numerous communities speaks volumes here, as does Rachel’s sense that Zimmerman “was finally going to get one.”

So, ironically, Juror B37, a white Southern woman, in the true tradition of the South, saw Rachel as inadequate in terms of her education and communication skills and felt something akin to pity for her and so discounted her story.

But Rachel’s comment, “I will hold back,” when prompted with the quote by the interviewer reveals a certain care, for the obvious response would have been to speak back to the ignorance and racism implicit in such a statement. Her clear position that this entire thing was not racial is an impressive moment of confidence in knowing the truth.

This is the testimony we did not hear for it seems the combination of racism, sexism and classism positioned this black young woman negatively from a variety of quarters: the prosecutors, who did not know how to use her credibly; the defense attorneys, who pillaged her and helped make her seem untrustworthy; the jurors’ patronizing assumptions about her; the media’s general, immediate, conditioned response; the legal pundits who generally had negative views except for the occasional lone black woman lawyer from time to time; some in the larger community – black and white – who saw her as inadequate, illiterate, uninformed, an embarrassment.

But there is a smart inner ghetto-fabulous logic to Rachel’s thought processes: Why would a young woman say she does not “do death”? There are several great responses possible here which we can pursue from the abhorrence of inner-city violence to the respect for the dead and the fear of spirits that sometimes run in Caribbean and African-American Southern cultures of which she is a descendant.

But, beyond that, she operates from a post-hip-hop “new school” framing which plays with language and in which “cracka” is the security guard or modern overseer, as was his ancestor, the Florida “cracker” or overseer who cracked whips on animals and/or black people.

So Rachel got that right. The Florida Humanities Council has a great research booklet on the “Florida Crackers” that I would recommend all in the media become familiar with.

Yes, this is a racialized Southern term, though in no way symmetrical with the N-word but assigned to poor whites who try to use authority on black people.

And, finally, for me, as I have said before, the fact that the prosecution made more of “cracker” than they did of “creepy” and “creeped out” in a state that has had its share of sexual predators is not an unreasonable fear for two 17-year-olds.

I am happy that Tom Joyner has offered Rachel a scholarship to further her education. With her experience at 19, thrust into the spotlight that she did not ask for, she will be able now to grow beyond this and, with the right critical skills training and education, will become one of the professionals we will be pleased to have around for years to come.

I would love to have her in my classes.

Carole Boyce Davies, professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University, is the former director of African Diaspora Studies at Florida International University.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Boys Write Now-Writing Workshops for Male Students

Check out these teen writers- James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, W.E. B. Du Bois and Fredrick Douglass

Boys Write Now

The Philadelphia Writing Project and Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are sponsoring  writing workshops in Philadelphia for male students, in grades 7-12,  this August. 

Register online
 or direct inquiries to the Philadelphia Writing Project 215-898-1919

Sunday, July 14, 2013

For Trayvon; An Ode to Liberty

Artwork of Painter Kehinde Wiley

An Ode to Liberty
By Sojourner Ahebee

I have a brother and he is brown
My mother tells her son that the world is his oyster
Lay claim to all around you, she begs
And he smiles and believes in dreams that can’t be scaled down.

As he gets older, like now, like 10 years old
My brother, who is brown, tall like the Sahara Desert on stilts,
Handsome like the Grand Canyon in a rainstorm
Has only the weapons of a violin and a painter’s brush
And a bedroom plastered with heroes to calm his fears of the things foretold.

Maybe not his fortune, doesn’t have to be
But the wails of a mother tied to the wails of another
Linking hundreds of death cries over lost sons,
Released in one year, cascading through one city
Can spook a little brown boy thinking about living.

I had a friend and he made me wonder about the world
He had crawled through airless tunnels,
Crossed deserts that froze his night tears and rode in trucks with no breath
To arrive here in Our city.

We’d playfully argue
About what makes the best tamales-cornhusk or banana leaves-
And as he cleaned my mother’s car, I played Lila Downs for him
To purposely make him homesick.

We arrived at the carwash one Sunday after praising God and giving thanks
Looking for Cesar,
Not just to clean our car,
But for him to teach us our colors and how to be polite in the language of his home.
He is dead, he coughed himself to death.
Too afraid to seek a helping hand to soothe the fire in his chest.


I invited Alex, a Main Line girl,
To the central branch of the library,
To show off one of the treasures of my urban splendor
But her father said no
Too many homeless men encircling the square
But my mom said they were once young boys
Full of sass and young hope
Until some war ate their souls,
Made them need more than blood in their veins.

I have a stick; it’s more like a wand
I use to tickled Liberty, to play with it
To woo it from its safe havens
And to beg for it to come where I am and spread some love.

Paintings by Kehinde Wiley

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Step into the World; Shirin Neshat and Solmaz Sharif

One of my favorite photographers: Iranian-American Shirin Neshat



Let this be the Body through which the War has passed. —Frank Bidart 

somewhere I did not learn mow down or mop up • somewhere I wouldn’t hear your father must come with me or I must fingerprint your grandmother can you translate please • the FBI has my cousins’ computers • my father says...

Continue here:

*One of my favorite photographers: Iranian-American Shirin Neshat

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Happy Birthday June Jordan !

* Photo- June Jordan, Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde At Phillis Wheatley Poetry Fest, 1979
from “Buffalo Yoga” in Buffalo Yoga
by Charles Wright

...A poem is read by the poet, who then becomes
That poem himself
For a little while,
caught in its glistening tentacles.
The waters of deep remembering
Wash over him, clouds build up
As do the shadowy pools
under the evergreens.
Later, the winds of forgetfulness
Blow in from a thousand miles away
And the poet starts to write.
This is the way the day moves,
and the sparks from its wheels.

What I Will by Suheir Hammad رمضان كريـم

* Photo of Judith Jamison by Max Waldman
What I Will
by Suheir Hammad

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin beak for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you nor dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain’t
louder than this breath.

Here is a link to her amazing presentation of this poem:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Aimé Césaire's A Season in the Congo this Summer in London

by Aimé Césaire
From a translation by Ralph Manheim 

6 July - 17 August 2013

BAFTA Award winning director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) directs Olivier Award winner Chiwetel Ejiofor (BBC2's Dancing on the Edge, Othello at the Donmar Warehouse, Children of Men, Dirty Pretty Things) in the UK premiere of an epic retelling of a vibrant nation’s turbulent first year of freedom.

Pulsing with music and bursting with dance choreographed by the acclaimed Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, this gripping drama charts the rise and fall of legendary leader Patrice Lumumba, whose passionate determination to free his people from Belgian rule inspired great courage and betrayal.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ursula Rucker: Poetry for the Camera At Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia

Ursula Rucker will teach Poetry for the Camera at Scribe Video Center (4212 Chestnut Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia. PA), August 12, 19, and 26 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Poetry, performance and video documentary are allied art forms in the age of hip hop. In this writing workshop, conducted by world renowned poet and recording artist 

Spoken Word  and Recording Artist Ursula Rucker
Ursula Rucker, participants will mine from their life experiences to create performance works for the camera, paying particular attention to the sound and rhythm of words. The workshop will culminate in the video documentation of participants’ new poetry works. Fee: $120. $96 for Scribe members For more information  visit the Scribe Video Center's website: