Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Woman" by Nikki Giovanni

By now, if you have been reading my blog, you know that Nikki Giovanni is my all time favorite poet. She writes and conveys her messages in ways that really speaks to my heart. 

This is really corny, but I love to hear her read her own writings. I feel really crazy for admitting this, but in my car, I have the The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection CD, and sometimes when I ride alone, I listen to the CD. OK, I already know that this is true nerd behaviorBut the CD really is awesome, and she gives commentary between the poems that helps the listeners to understand her and her poetry.

On the CD, she shares poems about Tupac, Rosa Parks, Betty Shabazz, the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Langston Hughes, being in love, going to the moon etc.     

Listening to the CD really sets my heart on fire.

Below is one of my favorite poems by Nikki Giovanni that I have been analyzing with my students for years. It always leads to great discussions and leaves my girl students feeling empowered and boy students feeling attacked. Boy, do I have to do a lot of explaining.

Woman is not on the CD, but I really wish that it was:

                                   Woman by Nikki Giovanni

                                           she wanted to be a blade
                                            of grass amid the fields
                                            but he wouldn’t agree
                                            to be the dandelion

                                            she wanted to be a robin singing
                                            through the leaves
                                            but he refused to be
                                            her tree

                                            she spun herself into a web
                                            and looking for a place to rest
                                            turned to him
                                            but he stood straight
                                            declining to be her corner

                                            she tried to be a book
                                            but he wouldn’t read

                                            she turned herself into a bulb
                                            but he wouldn’t let her grow

                                            she decided to become
                                            a woman
                                            and though he still refused
                                            to be a man
                                            she decided it was all

Deep Right?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"The Undiscovered Paul Robeson" by Paul Robeson Jr

(Please excuse the ranting, raging, and stream of consciousness thoughts, which is when a writer writes whatever he is thinking about in no particular order.)

Let's play a game. How many of these Civil Rights Giants can you name and state their influence or what they did during or before the Civil Rights Movement?



# 4

I will not insult anyone by giving the details of numbers 1 or 2, we all know that #1 is Dr. King and Malcolm X, and #2 is Rosa Parks. I will not waste your time by telling you their significances or influences during the Civil Rights Movement (If you don't know, where the hell have you been? These people are just about the only people talked about during Black History Month).

I will cut you some slack with #3 (But why should I do that? He is still living. He is a US Congressman. He did risk his life several times during the Civil Rights Movement). Anyway, #3 is John Lewis, US Congressman.

#4 is Paul Robeson who was an influential African American singer, actor, and social activist. (Why the hell do I know so little about this man?" It behooves me!!! I've attended elementary, middle, and high school, a historically Black college, and two majority White Universities, please tell me why this man was left out?)

Last summer at my training to teach Advance Placement Literature (AP Literature), one of our guest was an author. He mentioned the book The Undiscovered Paul Robeson by Paul Robeson Jr, and you know me, I instantly downloaded this book.

Well, it has taken me a WHOLE year to get to this book, and I sure am happy, sad, and mad that I read this book. Happy that I discovered Paul Robeson, sad that he is not a household name, and mad that I had to discover him.

In this novel, Paul Robeson Jr. gives detail accounts of his father's life. He attended the majority White Rutgers University in 1915 where he excelled academically and in football. He attended Columbia Law School, while playing professional football and pursing an acting career (Please tell me how he did all of this with a family, and today we are complaining about....................).

His acting and singing career really took off, and he was literally in demand around the globe. He played the part of Othello in the play Othello and established himself as a great Shakespearean actor. His great voice captivated people everywhere that he sang. He is most famous for singing Ol' Man River. (Click on the link below to enjoy his wonderful voice.)

However, all of those accomplishments are great, but his main platform became Civil Rights and not just Blacks in American Civil Rights, but he spoke about Civil Rights in the world, which caused him to be constantly watched by the government, denied a passport, and eventually led to him being severely depressed and having bouts with mental illness.

Now, I pride myself on knowing "The People" and this novel added so much insight to a man whom I practically knew nothing about. (I am happy that I was on a plane when I finished this book or else I would have let out a loud howl that would have been heard around the world).

I really applaud Paul Robeson Jr. who thought enough about his father to write his story and write it with dignity. (If I were his daughter, I'm not sure if I would have been able to control my anger long enough to write this book. I would have been thinking "How dare they leave my Giant of a father out of American History?" As stated by Bill Cosby "Come on, People!")

So, if you are new to Paul Robeson like I am, please read this book and any other books that you find about this incredible man.

Now that I know and you know, we must make it our business to make sure that other people know.

I hope that my ranting and raging was not distracting, but I'm just saying......

Paul Robeson as Othello

Paul Robeson doing what he loved to do: Sing

What an awesome man with an awesome story!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"The Power of Now" in action

In another one of my post titled The Third Jesus, I mentioned a book by Eckhart Tolle titled The Power of Now. In this book, Tolle talks about being present wherever you are. For some people this concept is foreign, so let me show you what it looks like.

The Bay!

One of my best friends, Deitrea Martir, met me in San Francisco for a short vacation. We really didn't have a plan; we were going to see what happened.

The first afternoon, we went to a roof top and had lunch. We really didn't talk much about the lunch, the restaurant etc. We mainly just sat there for about an hour or two and were present in that moment. We were on vacation, there was no where that we really needed to be, so we just sat there and savored the moments.

During the stay, we had an impromptu dinner with an old college friend, biked the Golden Gate Bridge, shopped, and sometimes we just sat. I don't know about Deitrea, but I felt present in every moment and did not feel the need to label everything as good or bad; it just was.

Here are someone of the images that we noticed and appreciated on our biking excursions:

This big hill that we biked! I thought we would never reach the top!

That big hill behind us made our bodies notice it.

Cathedral of Art

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Bay

The boat that took us back to the starting point. We were going to bike back,
but we thought,
"What the heck?" lets boat back.

To get to the place where you can be in the Now is a process, and it does not happen overnight. But, if you practice being where you are, it becomes a habit, and we all know that habits are hard to break.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Part 3 "If There Is No Struggle, There is No progress!"

This weekend, I thought a lot about my daddy, LJ Stallworth, and his struggles.

My Daddy

One of his struggles was working for Alabama Power Struggle for years and keeping notes of who was being hired and who was being promoted. He recounted the fact that when many other Blacks found out that he was planning to sue the company for discrimination, they no longer wanted to be bothered with him, fearing that they may lose their jobs if they were associated with the law suit. If you knew my Daddy, you know that he kept pressing on until he singled handedly sued and won a discrimination suit against Alabama Power Company, and everyone benefited, even those who shunned him.

Another one of his struggles is that he had an accident while working for Alabama Power Company and lost one of his eyes. Because of the medication that he was taking, he could no longer drink alcohol. This morning, my mother told me about how he lost many of his friends, because he was no longer a drinker. Imagine that!!!

This leads to my struggle. You all know that Berhane, the greatest trainer in the whole wide world, told me that I needed to cut back on the sugars and not drink alcohol for awhile. Just know that when you are trying to make a change in your life, many people will not be comfortable with the change, but like my Daddy, you must keep pressing forward.

Saturday, I was having a moment, I was with friends and I really wanted to be social and have just one drink. One drink can't hurt right?  I texted Berhane in my weak moment and said "I shouldn't drink right?" and his response was "No, you've come tooo far to mess up now." With that confirmation, I was able to resist and still have a great time. (Know that I am grinning from ear to ear; It felt so good to resist.)

Your struggle may not be a social drink like mine, your struggle may be to exercise regularly, not eat as many sweets, smoking etc. But whatever it is, you need to recognize and surround yourself with people who support your struggle.

I wish my Daddy was still around so I could ask him "Who had his back?" when he needed it the most.

I must add what happened this morning that was really good for my abs:

Berhane: "Your hips are really trimming down"

Me: "I thought that hips were hereditary and couldn't go away."

Berhane: "Have you ever seen a skeleton with hips?"

People, this made me holler, and I am laughing out loud right now.

"The best thing for your abs is laughing. Every time you laugh it strengthens your abs. There are even laughing yoga classes. If you start busting a gust, you are absolutely toning your abs."
–Kristin McGee, Pilates expert

You may want to consider being around people Who got your back and make you laugh!

By the way, Happy 93rd birthday Nelson Mandela. I LOVE THAT MAN!!!!

Click This Link to Read Part 1
Click This Link to Read Part 2

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Sets Your Heart on Fire?

I hope that everyone has something that sets his/her heart on fire. Something, that if you just think about it, it makes your heart glad.

Anyone who really knows me, knows that there are many things that set my heart on fire: a good sermon, any outdoor activity, a great free hip hop concert, a museum, jazz, a great date, a good book etc. As you can see, my heart is set on fire quite often.

My students tell me that everything that I read makes my heart glad, and they are sort of right but not quite right. I do love books and quite a few make my heart glad, but not one book sets my heart on fire like Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

When I think of the main character, Janie, taking the risk and going off with her Teacake, makes my heart glad. A woman deciding that she was going to do what she wanted to do, regardless of what anyone thought, and deal with the consequences, is enough to make my heart shout.

Here are some of my all time favorite quotes from Their Eyes Were Watching God that make me smile when I think of them:

"Put me down easy, Janie, Ah'm a cracked plate."

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

"Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget"

"She didn't read books so she didn't know that she was the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop." 

"He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place,"

You'se something tuh make uh man forgit tuh git old and forgit to die."  WOW!!!!!

So Ah'm back home again and Ah's satisfied tuh be heah. Ah done been tuh de horizon and back  and now Ah can set heah in my house and live by comparisons."

I could go on and on but.........................

Today and everyday, I will focus on things that set my heart on fire. Will you do the same?

Here are some other things that set my heart on fire:

Zora, daring to smoke cigarettes in public when
it was viewed as inappropriate for women.
Riding my bike with Tammy on the National Mall

A first lady who is fit, sets my heart on fire!

The Great Outdoors!
Me with friends in Los Cabos on my birthday.
Tuskegee's Homecoming! The Best Homecoming in the land.
At a dinner with the niece of Zora Neale Hurston

What sets your heart on fire? Holler......

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's On Your Mind Monday

Me and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
On one of my DC excursions, I ran into Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. I had no idea that he was sooo tall, smart, handsome, athletically built and ethnic looking. Ooops, sorry about the mistake!

If I could tell him one thing today, it would be PLEASE, do not extend the school year or the school day. When would the students and the teachers have time to read for pleasure, go outside for a walk, write blogs, walk the dog, do nothing etc?

Is there anything that you would like to tell the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, today? HOLLER......................


Saturday, July 9, 2011


After reading a post about motivation from Black Girls Guide to Weight Lost, I've been thinking a lot about motivation versus habit. I found a poem by Nikki Giovanni that pretty much sums up my thoughts:


Nikki Giovanni

i haven't written a poem in so long
i may have forgotten how
unless writing a poem
is like riding a bike
or swimming upstream
or loving you
it may be a habit that once acquired
is never lost

Happy Saturday!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller

Awesome Writer John Frey
John Frey took a beating from Oprah for categorizing his novel, A Million Little Pieces, as an autobiography, when actually, it was not. As I watched the show when he got the beaten, I cringed because Oprah, nor anyone else, ever acknowledge that A Million Little Pieces was a down right excellent book.

John Frey used his writing skills to draw the reader in. I was captivated from the first page until the last page. The story was so compelling, and I empathized with the main character right away. For the record, I must give John Frey credit for being a darn good writer.

I am always fascinated to know what inspires such a great writer like John Frey. Once I figure out the books that inspire great writers, I usually try and read some of those books. This may seem a bit bizarre, but I figure that good writers must know good writing, so I trust their judgement and follow their lead.

When James Frey was recently on Oprah, he talked about a book that inspired him to want to write. He stated that the author did not follow any rules, and the author did what he wanted to do with his writing. The author was Henry Miller and the novel was Tropic of Cancer. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I downloaded Tropic of Cancer as soon as John Frey mentioned it.

Miller has many detailed sex accounts in this novel, he tells lot of in depth stories about seemingly random people and the narrator, whom I suppose is himself, and he switches from present to past tense quite often. Also, like other great writers, such as Toni Morrison, he uses stream-of-consciousness quite often. Now, many readers have a difficult time with stream-of-consciousness. For those of you who do not know, stream-of consciousness is when the author writes a persons' thought as he is having them. So, just think about how many thoughts you can have in one minute and how random they can be. That's stream-of-consciousness.

So, for a novel to include lots of random sex, random characters, switch from present to past tense quite often, use stream-of-consciousness and still keep the reader interested, I would say that the novel is pretty good.

I am convinced that these type of books make a person smarter because of the higher level skills that are needed to gain the meaning of the text.

After reading this novel, I felt that I understood James Frey a little bit more; he wants to do his own thing, and I don't have a problem with that as long as he labels his work properly.

Thanks to James Frey for the great recommendation.

Henry Miller

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Third Jesus by Deepak Chopra

(The statements in this post only represent my thoughts and the thoughts of people like me. I am not writing The Truth, but I am writing MY TRUTH.)

I've been on a spiritual journey for quite awhile. It started when I was quite young, 25 or 26, living in the big city of Detroit, real far, it felt, from everything that I knew. For me, this was great. I got the opportunity to really think about me and the life that I wanted to live.

In the beginning, I started by reading several books by Iyanla Vanzant and Dr. Phil. Yes, Dr. Phil from the Dr. Phil show. His book, Self Matters, is awesome. I was also attending Word of Faith Christian Center led by Bishop Keith A. Butler where I learned more about The Bible during the three years that I attended his church, than I did all of the previous years of my life, and know that I was raised in the church. Boy was I reading and studying. Finally, In Detroit, reflecting back, when my spiritual journey had gone as far as it could go there, I moved on.

In DC, I continued to read and study. Because there are so many people in the DC area with so many different stories, I began to become more accepting, tolerant, and appreciative of different people, ideas and thoughts. Once I got to this place, life really became more fulfilling and meaningful. It's so freeing to allow people and situations to BE instead of trying to change them.

Some of the books that have been instrumental to me on this Journey is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle who states in his book that " Realize deeply that Now is all you ever have. Make The Now the primary focus of your life." I try to enjoy wherever I am and not judge every situation. Some things just are. They do not have to be good or bad but is. Sounds crazy, but try it, if only for a few minutes, just be wherever you are with no judgement.

Another book that really fed my spiritual journey is Love and Awakening by John Welwood. In this book Welwood states: "When we are cut off from something inside ourselves, then it feels all the more urgent to get it from someone else. This urgency often has a life-or-death emotional charge. And we direct that at others, it pushes them away. But when you give yourself what you need, other people feel less pressured and that lets people move toward you."  WOW!  Stop and read again. This man is deep.

The Bible has been the primary source on this journey. Now, I love to read Old English so I prefer the King James' version of The Bible, but this year I have been reading The One Year Bible where a person can read the entire Bible in one year. I love it!  I don't have to give much explanation for The Bible, it speaks for itself: It is the master blueprint for life.

Excuse me for going around the way to get to The Third Jesus, but I needed you to know how I came to read this book in the first place: Andrew Young, former Mayor of Atlanta, mentioned it in a speech, and I thought that maybe it could add to my spiritual journey.

This book takes biblical scriptures and look at Jesus from different perspectives.  He discusses the idea of us raising our level of consciousness to a God-consciousness. For example, he states that in order "to bring peace to yourself, you must quell your own violence; the enemy outside serves only to mirror the enemy inside. Your ability to remain nonviolent depends on a shift in consciousness, and if you are successful in changing yourself, reality will mirror the change back to you." WOW!!!!

At the end of the book, Chopra offers fifteen steps to God-Consciousness. If you are at the beginning or the middle of your journey, check this book out, but if you are not into abstract thinking, then this might not be the book for you.

Not sure where you are on your journey or if you are on a journey at all, but I hope that you are living the life that you like and is living it consciously.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Inspiration

It's been one week since school has ended. Now, I will be doing a lot of reading and writing about books. In that spirit, I would like to share a few of the things that I use for inspiration:

This poster, which is also on the walls of my house, is a constant reminder of why Dr. King was in Memphis when he was killed: to march with sanitation workers. They just wanted to be treated like men. Dr. King heard their cry and rushed to their cause!

Lorraine Hansberry, in 1958, raised funds to produce her play, A Raisin in the Sun, which opened in March 1959 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway, meeting with great success. She was 29 years old.

Members of the Black Panther Party: Young, Educated, Talented and Misunderstood.

Alright, get ready for some sho' nuff literary blogs now that I have summons my inspiration.

All three photos were taken, by me, from a Civil Rights exhibit at the Museum of American History in Washington DC. Check it out!

Happy Saturday and 4th of July weekend.

Freedom is a wonderful thing, Ain't it?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Part 2 "If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress!"

Me, doing what I love to do!
So, my trainer told me to cut back on my sugar intake, and I was not happy about it. The next day I started tracking my calories and by lunch time, I was already over 15 grams of sugar. Not added sugar, but sugar from blueberries, nectarine, a little peanut butter and my favorite Ezekiel Bread. Now, if this bread is named after the chapter in the bible, how can it possibly have that evil sugar?  While the sugar in the bread is all natural, it is still sugar.

I texted Berhane and said "It's impossible to eat 15 grams or less of sugar a day."

He responded, "I'm going to need you to do it." 

This is when I wanted to do something crazy like throw a chair, scream, tell him that he was ridiculous, but instead I made up in my mind that I would try it.

So, the next day, I modified my breakfast and had a fourth of a cup of blueberries with my oatmeal, I did not eat peanut butter nor Ezekiel Bread, instead I had a boil egg and a few nuts. I also made some other adjustments throughout the day. I did not reach the goal of 15 grams of sugar  or less by the end of the day, but I was definitely a whole lot closer to the goal.

I am learning, "Rome was not built over night" and neither will a fine, health body. I had to throw fine in. Although I am concerned with the inside of my body, I'm just as concerned about the outside. Sorry Berhane, I know you stress health more than anything else, but I had to be honest :)

In my head, I am singing a spiritual "One Day at a Time Sweet Jesus" ............

If you know the words, join me.........................

Me, in the middle of the day, during a workout
 Read Part 1

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