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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger Dies at 94

Pete Seeger
Singer/Songwriter 1919-2014

Painting by Robert Shetterly

His work made me realize as a young girl how words carry power.
Rest in Peace:

Here is a link to Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing at President Obama's 2009 inauguration along with a youth chorus:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Paul Robeson-A Man For All Seasons: Activist, Singer, Athlete, Scholar, Actor

Remembering the great Paul Robeson on the anniversary of his death.

Paul Robeson is greeting W.E.B. Du Bois at the 1949 World Peace Congress in Paris, France. Photograph source: W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts.
Mood Indigo
By Ntozake Shange

it hasnt always been this way
ellington was not a street
robeson no mere memory
du bois walked up my father's stairs
hummed some tune over me
sleeping in the company of men
who changed the world

it wasn't always like this
why ray barretto used to be a side-man
& dizzy's hair was not always grey
I remember i was there
i listened in the company of men
politics as necessary as collards
music even in our dreams

our house was filled with all kinda folks
our windows were not cement or steel
our doors opened like our daddy's arms
held us safe & loved

children growing in the company of men
old southern men & young slick ones
sonny til was not a boy
the clovers no rag-tag orphans
our crooners/we belonged to a whole world
nkrumah was no foreigner
virgil akins was not the only fighter

it hasnt always been this way
ellington was not a street

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Physics of Loosing A Father and When Ivoirian Girls Are Most Hungry ; Sojourner Ahebee


Painting by Ivoirian Artist Massogona Sylla
     Today I was speaking with my dear friend, Deidre, an American who I met years ago when I first came to Cote d'Ivoire. We left Cote d'Ivoire together at the start of the civil strife and she has since returned. She shared sad news about the death of an incredible woman who was very much a part of our lives in CI.
     I was sharing with my son, who is younger than my daughter Sojourner by three years, some of my memories of this woman and some general memories of CI I thought might interest him.  He has little memory of his life in his birth country.  Even the photographs and paintings dispersed throughout our home  that capture our lives there carry no compass for him. We both have come to rely on Sojourner and  her own memories and how her poetry resurrects fragments of our lives and the phenomenal people who still sit with us.
This is a painting of my husband as a child in Abidjan and me as a girl in Philadelphia.
* Richard Tehimou
Me standing with my husband's favorite musicians: Monk, Ella, Mingus, Miles and  Auguste listening to his beloved Billie Holiday. Richard Tehimou

  Below is a video of the appointment ceremony of the 2013 National Student Poets, which include Michaela Coplen, Nathan Cummings, Louis Lafair, Aline Dolinh and Sojourner Ahebee; such an amazingly talented group of young people.  Sojo reads two of her poems at the start of this program.  My husband  would be so proud.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Amid Increasing Persecution of Gays in Africa, Writer Binyavanga Wainaina Comes Out

Bravo to Binyavanga Wainaina and the courage it takes to claim who you are!

* Source: Africa is a Country
(A lost chapter from One Day I Will Write About This Place)
11 July, 2000.
This is not the right version of events.
Hey mum. I was putting my head on her shoulder, that last afternoon before she died. She was lying on her hospital bed. Kenyatta. Intensive Care. Critical Care. There. Because this time I will not be away in South Africa, fucking things up in that chaotic way of mine. I will arrive on time, and be there when she dies. My heart arrives on time. I am holding my dying mother’s hand. I am lifting her hand. Her hand will be swollen with diabetes. Her organs are failing. Hey mum. Ooooh. My mind sighs. My heart! I am whispering in her ear. She is awake, listening, soft calm loving, with my head right inside in her breathspace. She is so big – my mother, in this world, near the next world, each breath slow, but steady, as it should be. Inhale. She can carry everything. I will whisper, louder, in my minds-breath. To hers. She will listen, even if she doesn’t hear. Can she?
Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say. It grooves so easy, a breath, a noise out of my mouth, mixed up with her breath, and she exhales. My heart gasps sharp and now my mind screams, sharp, so so hurt so so angry.
“I have never thrown my heart at you mum. You have never asked me to.”
Only my mind says. This. Not my mouth. But surely the jerk of my breath and heart, there next to hers, has been registered? Is she letting me in?
Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear.
“I am a homosexual, mum.”
July, 2000.
This is the right version of events.
I am living in South Africa, without having seen my mother for five years, even though she is sick, because I am afraid and ashamed, and because I will be thirty years old and possibly without a visa to return here if I leave. I am hurricaning to move my life so I can see her. But she is in Nakuru, collapsing, and they will be rushing her kidneys to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, where there will be a dialysis machine and a tropical storm of experts awaiting her.
Relatives will rush to see her and, organs will collapse, and machines will kick into action. I am rushing, winding up everything to leave South Africa. It will take two more days for me to leave, to fly out, when, in the morning of 11 July 2000, my uncle calls me to ask if I am sitting down.
“She’s gone, Ken.”
I will call my Auntie Grace in that family gathering nanosecond to find a way to cry urgently inside Baba, but they say he is crying and thundering and lightning in his 505 car around Nairobi because his wife is dead and nobody can find him for hours. Three days ago, he told me it was too late to come to see her. He told me to not risk losing my ability to return to South Africa by coming home for the funeral. I should not be travelling carelessly in that artist way of mine, without papers. Kenneth! He frowns on the phone. I cannot risk illegal deportation, he says, and losing everything. But it is my mother.
I am twenty nine. It is 11 July, 2000. I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.
It will take me five years after my mother’s death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl’s Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.
Anyway. It will not be a hurricane of diabetes that kills mum inside Kenyatta Hospital Critical Care, before I have taken four steps to get on a plane to sit by her side.
Will leave a small window open the night before she dies, in the July Kenyatta Hospital cold.
It is my birthday today. 18 January 2013. Two years ago, on 11 July 2011, my father had a massive stroke and was brain dead in minutes. Exactly eleven years to the day my mother died. His heart beat for four days, but there was nothing to tell him.
I am five years old.
He stood there, in overalls, awkward, his chest a railway track of sweaty bumps, and little hard beads of hair. Everything about him is smooth-slow. Bits of brown on a cracked tooth, that endless long smile. A good thing for me the slow way he moves, because I am transparent to people’s patterns, and can trip so easily and fall into snarls and fear with jerky people. A long easy smile, he lifts me in the air and swings. He smells of diesel, and the world of all other people’s movements has disappeared. I am away from everybody for the first time in my life, and it is glorious, and then it is a tunnel of fear. There are no creaks in him, like a tractor he will climb any hill, steadily. If he walks away, now, with me, I will go with him forever. I know if he puts me down my legs will not move again. I am so ashamed, I stop myself from clinging. I jump away from him and avoid him forever. For twentysomething years, I even hug men awkwardly.
There will be this feeling again. Stronger, firmer now. Aged maybe seven. Once with another slow easy golfer at Nakuru Golf Club, and I am shaking because he shook my hand. Then I am crying alone in the toilet because the repeat of this feeling has made me suddenly ripped apart and lonely. The feeling is not sexual. It is certain. It is overwhelming. It wants to make a home. It comes every few months like a bout of malaria and leaves me shaken for days, and confused for months. I do nothing about it.
I am five when I close my self into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often. I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books. I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch.

I am a homosexual.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mexican Composer Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2

Today I went to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert hosted at Girard College. The Philadelphia School District’s All City Choir sung the heck out of Go Down, Moses and Lift Every Voice and Sing. Charlotte Blake Alston’s reading of King’s I Have a Dream speech was absolutely spellbinding.

But my great discovery of the day was of the contemporary Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. The Philadelphia Orchestra played his composition Danzon No.2 which I am now filling my house with. I love the rhythm of this piece. Give a listen and stay with it until the end. It makes me feel all is possible.

*Photo below: " The 1968 Summer Olympics were held in October to escape the searing heat of a Mexico City summer, but it was political heat that marked these games. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated in the previous months, and Mexican security forces had massacred hundreds of students that summer. In addition, several black athletes had threatened a boycott as a political statement. The 200-meter race was a classic, with Tommie Smith setting a world record. The medal ceremony could have been a mundane moment -- yet it was anything but, as Smith and bronze-medal winner John Carlos bowed their heads and standing barefooted, raised their black-gloved fists in salute as the national anthem played. "It was the sign that sports had evolved to where it could be a political and social phenomenon," said Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, who has also worked for the other two big network sports operations. "It catapulted the sports world right off the sports pages." Source: LA Times

Friday, January 17, 2014

Silence is Betrayal- Martin Luther King's Anti-Vietnam War Speech

Listen to this MLK speech, Beyond Vietnam; A Time to Break Silence. It was delivered on April 4, 1967.  Exactly a year later he would be killed and not by a lone gunman.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

ABC of African Feminists - Elaine Salo

Check out this wonderful  list of African Feminists compiled by Elaine Salo.  Do you have names to add?

Ama Ata Aidoo
Bessie Head
Nawal el Sadaaw
Tsitsi Dangarembga

Monday, January 13, 2014

*Philadelphia- Zion Baptist Church’s MLK Celebration

Annual All-Faith City-Wide Service Honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Zion Baptist Church, located at Broad and Venango Streets,Philadelphia, PA,  on Monday January 20, 2014 at 10:00  A.M.

Dr. William Hite, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Public Schools, is the King Day keynote speaker. Congressman Fattah has confirmed his attendance and others have been invited.

Reverend A. Carl Prince, Senior Pastor

* Artwork-Inspired by King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, featured on DeviantArt, an online art collective, by user lefgozerdesign. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Become a Slam Poet in Five Steps by Gayle Danley

Folks, this is truly delicious. Check out Become a Slam Poet in Five Steps by Gayle Danley. The animation, the narration, the whole spirit of this collaboration is quite poignant. Writing teachers, use this to pull your students in and then let them soar on their own. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Amiri Baraka 1934-2014

“And now each night, I count the stars.
And each night I get the same number.
And when the stars won't come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.”
― Amiri Baraka

This is my favorite photograph of Amiri Baraka with his newborn son.
New York City. 1959.  Photo by Burt Glinn

Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Art Sanctuary's Read With Me: The MLK Project

What has now become an annual event, during MLK Weekend, Art Sanctuary will continue to explore the timeless themes found in Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail".

New this year, in partnership with Eastern State Penitentiary, children ages 7-12 and their families can create art in response to themes found in the letter. Visitors will also have the opportunity to film themselves reading a section of the letter inside the penitentiary as part of Read With Me: The MLK Project. These activities are free and open to the public. No reservations required.

Dates:      Saturday - Monday, January 18 - 20, 2014
Time:       10:30 am - 4:30 pm
Location: Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Street (corner of 22nd & Fairmount Sts)
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Cost:        FREE

Check out the Read with Me: The MLK Project video

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"We Will No Longer Stay Silent to This Classism": NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ramya Ramana

At Wednesday’s inauguration for Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City’s 2014 Youth Poet Laureate Ramya Ramana read a poem titled "New York City," dedicated to Bill de Blasio. Ramana is a youth activist and a first-year student at St. John’s University.