Thursday, September 29, 2011

Does life just happens, or is it predetermined?

My neice, Tia, doing what I use to love to do as a kid!

As a very young child, I wanted to be a teacher. I remember gathering as many children as I could and having school in my parents' car porch. (Yes, car porch! That's what's we called garages, in Alabama, in the '70s.) Of course, I was always the teacher.

In high school, I gave serious thought to what I wanted to be when I grew up! It just seem natural that a person who loves book and loves to teach would become an English teacher.

Now, I am a high school teacher, and I am living my dream!

I am really pondering if life just happens, or is it predetermined?

Share your ideas, I really want to know them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"The One Right Now: Perfection" Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

The Bible is one of the most fascinating books ever written; the stories have stood the test of time. I'm not sure if all of the Bible should be taken literally, but I really want to believe that I can literally and figuratively walk on water, tell a mountain to move and it moves, be put into a fiery furnace and when I come out, not be burnt or even smell like smoke. Somebody knows what I am talking about.

However, there is a quote from the Bible that I take literally, and it can be found in the Old Testament Habakkuk 2:2. From the English Revised Version it says "And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it."

To write my visions for my life and make it plain, I decided to create a vision board. For those who don't know, a vision board is literally a poster board where I put words and images that convey the visions for my life: I have a lady running and doing yoga, I have the image of people laughing and talking etc. I have words such as What are you eating, Go to Ghana soon, and Meet and form a relationship with Toni Morrison.

My vision board!

Meet and form a relationship with Toni Morrison. I know what you are thinking, but I really want to get to know this wonderful, bright writer, and I do believe that it will happen.

Wednesday night, The George Washington University hosted a conversation with Toni Morrison. She came on the stage and instantly she was captivating. Her presence is enough to quiet an entire auditorium and put joy, amazement, wonder, and anticipation in a person's mind.

Toni Morrison at The George Washington University: I'm loving that hat!

She talked about her life and her books. She also read from her novel A Mercy. (There is nothing like hearing an author read her own words).

Finally, she took questions from the audience!

A student from Howard University asked Toni which one of her books did she enjoy writing the most? Toni said:

"The One that I'm Writing Right Now: Perfection"

This lady is deep! This answer almost took my breathe away. I really wanted to do one of those praise dances from back in the day.

"The One that I'm Writing Right Now: Perfection"

Being the person that I am, I started to think, "Why not apply this answer to life." Why not live with the idea that whatever we are doing right now is the best ever: my best pain, my best happiness, my best struggle, my best day, my best teaching, my best workout, my best RIGHT NOW: PERFECTION despite and inspite of  the situation?

One thing I know for sure is that RIGHT NOW is all that we have. Why not make it the BEST, RIGHT NOW!

So, my vision of meeting and forming a relationship with Toni Morrison has not happened yet, but know that because I have written the vision and made it plain, I am going to do my part to make this happen.

I promise that when I meet her, you, my readers, will get to read all about.

Make today your BEST ever.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Hard Times Require Furious Dancing" by Alice Walker

Alice Walker
When I was in college, my roommate Deitrea and I would get stressed out from time to time. Eventhough she use to party, and I would drink and party, we were still very good girls who felt that it was an ultimate sin to say a curse word. So, to relieve stress, we would say the word motherf#@@#  and laugh until we cried.

Deitrea: College Roommate

When I lived in Detroit, I had a great friend named Brenda Childress and we both loved to laugh, and we would laugh at just about anything.

In the late 90's, Detroit had a BAD snow storm. When I lived there, school never closed because of snow, but this snow storm caused school to be closed. So, you know that this storm was BAD.

Brenda and I decided that we had had enough of being in the house, so we got into her SMALL Toyota Corolla during the worse snowstorm that Detroit had seen in years and went for a ride. Needless to say, we got stuck on a snow pile and it took quite a few men to FREE us. We laughed, laughed, and laughed all the way home. Mission accomplished: we had released the stress that was built up from being in the house for days and days during a BIG snow storm.

Alice Walker, one of my favorite authors, (Check out "Meridian," it tells the story of Meridian who just couldn't give up the struggle.) recently released a new collection of poems titled Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. 

Busboy and Poet, a restaurant in DC, had a "Hard Times Require Furious Dancing" dance party featuring Alice Walker. The owner removed most of the table and chairs and the entire restaurant became a dance floor. Everyone in the restaurant was dancing to an African band and later to a DJ. I don't know about anybody else, but after that party, I felt like "everythings gonna be all right."

This is what Alice has to say about hard times and dancing:
I am the youngest of eight siblings. Five of us have died. I share losses, health concerns, and other challenges common to the human condition, especially in these times of war, poverty, environmental devastation, and greed that are quite beyond the most creative imagination. Sometimes it all feels a bit too much to bear. Once a person of periodic deep depressions, a sign of mental suffering in my family that affected each sibling differently, I have matured into someone I never dreamed I would become: an unbridled optimist who sees the glass as always full of something. It may be half full of water, precious in itself, but in the other half there’s a rainbow that could exist only in the vacant space.
I have learned to dance………..
Wishing to honor the role of dance in the healing of families, communities, and nations, I hired a local hall and a local band and invited friends and family from near and far to come together, on Thanksgiving, to dance our sorrows away, or at least to integrate them more smoothly into our daily existence. The next generation of my family, mourning the recent death of a mother, my sister-in-law, created a spirited line dance that assured me that, though we have all encountered our share of grief and troubles, we can still hold the line of beauty, form, and beat — no small accomplishment in a world as challenging as this one.
Hard times require furious dancing. Each of us is the proof.

People dancing in a circle at the Furious Dance Party!

Alice Walker and the Owner of Busboy and Poet!
Me and Rhonda!

People, please share what you do during hard times to relieve stress so that we may be able to give suggestions to those who may be going through hard times now and those of us who may go through hard times in the future.

However, keep it clean, children read this blog from time to time :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

"You Were Gone" by Nikki Giovanni

Have you ever had something on your mind, and you just didn't know why? Well, like I stated in an earlier post, I love to hear Nikki Giovanni read her poetry, and one of the poems that I like to hear her read is "You Were Gone." For the last two or three weeks, the words "You Were Gone" have been on my mind. So, here is the poem:

You Were Gone
Nikki Giovanni

You were gone
like a fly lighting
on that wall
with a spider in the corner
You were gone
like last  week’s paycheck
for this week’s bills
You were gone
like the years between
twenty-five and thirty
as if somehow
You never existed
and if it wouldn’t be
for the gray hairs
I’d never know that
You had come.

Happy Friday!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Good First Week!

This is a picture that a student drew for me. She thought enough of me to do this
the first week of school. Tears!!

This past week, God opened the flood gates, and the DC area got drenched. It rained, and I mean really rained from Monday until Friday. However, on Friday, it rained, rained, rained, but around 1o'clock, God showed us his Mercy; the sun came out, and the weekend was absolutely beautiful.

This really cool thing happened, the rain did not damper the first week of school. I met all of my students, and I must admit, I am already in love. My freshmen were bright-eyed and bush-tailed and captured my heart instantly. My AP 12English students appeared nervous and anxious when I explained to them their work load, but I let them know that I was 100% in this with them, and they seem to relax, but only a little.

My work week ended with me receiving an email from one of my seniors from last year thanking me for pushing him to "dig deep." He also wanted me to know that he received an "A" on his first college paper. I sat and looked at this email for awhile and thought: "This is why I do this job, and do it with love."

My classroom with the big windows.

Books and Desks!

This week I was able to keep to a conscious eating schedule; I have a NEW refrigerator in my room. I was able to do three workouts with Berhane, the best trainer in the world, and I am back on my every Thursday hair appointment schedule. In the midst of all of this, I was able to meet up with friends Thursday and Friday nights to hang out.

Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Johnetta Cole, a living legend, at the fabulous, good-old, old-fashioned Historical Black College (HBCU) football game between Morehouse College and Howard University.

Howard University celebrating after their Victory!

Dr. Cole turned and looked me in the eyes and asked me:

"What do you do for a living?"

I told her, and she said to little old me:

 "You are a SHERO."

I said "No, not really, but I do love my job"

She repeated "Yes, you are a SHERO."

This was very humbling coming from a modern day GIANT.

Dr. Johnette Cole is an anthropologist who collected data in Africa, took Spelman College to a whole 'nother level as their president and has done so many other greats things, and she thinks that I am a SHERO. Very humbling to say the least!

One of my heroes: Johnette Cole, ex-president of Spelman College.

I started my Sunday at church with a great 9/11 message: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

After church, I met friends in DC for my favorite festival: Adams Morgan Day.

With Friends at Adams Morgan Day!

Me with the owner of New Orleans Cafe in Adams Morgan!
Right now, I am completely beat, but my dear friend, Dr. Semple, stated that "If you are not tired at the end of a day, then you ain't living."

So, I guess I am living.

If this week is any indication of what is to come this school year, I have a whole lot to look forward too!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vance Lang Doing the Damn Thang!

My nephew: Vance Lang

In schools, all across American, there are students who are labeled Gifted and Talented. If my nephew, Vance, was school age, he would have this label. He is a self-taught musician who works with high school band students during his free time, he is a poet who use to send his family poems, but he stopped for some unknown reason (Vance, what Happened?). He is a DJ who really knows how to entertain the crowd, and he can run a TV station all by himself: camera man, production man, anchor man etc. He is also easygoing and super funny; his Facebook posts always bring a smile to my face.

When my daddy and Vance's granddaddy died, LJ Stallworth, Vance shared this poem with his family and friends. I am going to share it here with his permission:

Subject: In Memory
Date:  Wed, 24, January 2001  06:53

Hello All
I am sending this message for my family, but I thought that I would offer something to inspire everyone. We are always getting e-mails from some unknown person giving us words of encouragement and inspiration so, I decided to start my own.  In the last week I lost my grandfather, and it still hasn't quite settled in on me yet, but I am dealing with it.  Even though he didn't leave us with a suitcase full of money, he did leave us with our family intact.  He is gone, but the things that he taught us still live on.  His strength flows through all of us, and he is touching you right now if you are reading this e-mail. I am glad that I have my family and that they love and protect me.  Not because I am the greatest in the world but simply because I am theirs (Deep huh).  Anyway, I wanted to send out a copy of the poem that I wrote so my family can see it. For everyone else, use it anyway you can.

Its hard to put the words together
When I'm trying to say good-bye
It's hard to think about you
without wanting to cry
The selfish part of me wants to be sad
Why did you go away?
The truth is you've done so much
so I can't be sad on this day.
It's hard for me to accept you leaving.
I thought we had plenty of time
I guess taking the small things for granted
left me with tears in my eyes
I know you're in a better place
but I really want you here.
I really miss the conversations
although it wasn't always what I wanted to hear
We're all going to miss you
we love you dear
We have to live without you
but in our hearts you're always here
Words can only say so much
but there's so much I want to say to you
But what is it that I can say
To get this message to you
Really I just want to tell you good-bye
You told me to do good and I'll always try
For your wife, daughters, grandchildren, family and friends
co-workers, neighbors, the list doesn't end
We know that you are gone and we must move on,
We will because it was you that taught us to be strong.
Vance Lang January 2001

and I will leave you with a quote from my granddaddy
"I am the one who did so much with such a little.  Now I can do most anything with nothing"

Now you see, Vance Lang is a great poet, person and nephew.

Vance Lang doing his TV thang with his Mardi Gras beads on!
Vance Lang DJing and eating on a chicken wing at Mardi Gras!

Oh, I forgot to add, Vance Lang is single and only the serious may inquire.

Vance Lang doing the damn thang!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Beyonce and/or Sasha Fierce

Today, there are so many references to literature in our everyday lives: "What's in a name?" from Romeo and Juliet, "The Midas Touch" from Greek Mythology, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde" from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

On my students' summer reading list was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. So, I have spent some time reading and thinking about this novel. One of the messages that I got from the book is that we are all doubled, meaning that we have a good side and a bad side. According to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if we allow our bad side to come out it, it will basically take over.

So, I thought alot about this idea of the bad side. And, my thinking lead me to Lord of the Flies by William Golding and how boys who were stranded on an island, for some reason, deflected to their bad side. I thought about the movie "Black Swan" and how the main character's evil side took over, and I also thought about Beyonce. Is Sasha Fierce her bad side, and will it take over if she is not careful? I also thought about us humans, are our good and bad sides in constant battle with each other? Do you ever think bad thoughts and suppress them or act on them?

If you have ever used the phrase, "He's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," I would recommend that you read this book in order to get a basis for what you are talking about. It is the type of book that is very difficult to put down, and it really made me think about human nature. Stevenson is such a clever writer; he adds lots of great details, and he ties them together at the end of the novel and makes the reader say hmmmmm. It is a very short read but packed with thoughtful, engaging information.

I am going to start my school year doing a deep analysis of this book with my students. I hope that I can use this book to get them to always let their good side prevail, because if their bad side comes out, it just might take over.

I am interested in knowing your thoughts on Good vs Evil. HOLLER.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Zeitoun" pronounced Zay-toon

Image from Hurricane Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in  August 2005, I remember seeing many images like the one above, and I literally thought "This couldn't be happening in this country!"

I remember spending countless hours glued to the television feeling anger, disbelief, but mostly sad. I would look at the people who were hot, hungry and begging for help and silently cry.

I remember the racial tension in the air and feeling like lots of other people: The government was slow to respond because the people impacted by the storm were Black.

At the Advance Placement (AP) conference for people who teach high school AP classes, I was given a copy of a book titled Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Needing something to read, I decided to read this book. It is An Entertainment Weekly Book of the Decade, A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner, A New York Times Notable Book, and named One of the Best Books of the Year by The San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, and The Kansas City Star. It is also an American Book Award Winner. And it came with rave reviews from one of my favorite authors, Edwidge Danticat.

This book caused me to have a complete paradigm shift. The media is powerful, and most of the the people who were shown suffering during Hurricane Katrina were Black people, so I unconsciously thought that "The Katrina Situation" was "A Black Situation", but this book, Zeitoun, helped me to see that Katrina was "A People Situation."

When I first started reading this book, I assumed that the characters were Black. Even with a name like Abdulrahman Zeitoun, I still assumed that the characters were Black because of my unconscious thoughts. Once I discovered that the characters were not Black, I was disappointed and almost stopped reading the book. I thought: "The nerve of Dave Eggers to take a Black story and tell it from the point of view of a Syrian and a White lady." But, I overcame myself and continued to read this book, and I am so happy that I did.

Abdulrahman Zietoun in the New Orleans Greyhound bus station where he was held after ­being arrested. Photograph: Julie Dermansky/Polaris

Zeitoun is the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Muslim Syrian-American owner of a painting and contracting company in New Orleans and his wife Kathy, who is a White, Muslim woman from Baton Rogue, Louisiana. Abdulrahamn decided to stay in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and Kathy decided to evacuate with their four children.

Abdulrahman just happened to have a canoe and was able to rescue many people and help many animals. He felt like he was divinely left in New Orleans to help. However, everything changed when cops bursted into his house and took him to a Greyhound bus station that had been converted into a prison. (What really surprised me is how quickly New Orleans was able to build a makeshift prison that was stocked with food and water, and regular citizens were stuck on bridges for days.) Abdulrahman greatest fear happened, and this incident completely changed him!!!

Eggers gives details accounts of the experiences of Zeitoun and many other innocent people who were imprisoned for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This book is captivating and adds another story to the many stories that are already told about the horrible things that happened during Hurricane Katrina. It is a MUST READ!

The 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was August 29th, and I have not been watching much television, but I have not seen or heard any stories about the anniversary. Some people can forget, but others are left with the scars forever.

I am so grateful for authors who feel that everyday people's stories are worthy to be told.

Dave Eggers: Cute Right?
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