- Guest Bloggers
- Being a Two-fisted Reader by Sandra Proto
- Some Quick Book Reviews
- Book Review: The Children of Wasafa by Sandra Proto
- Book Review: A Lesson Before Dying by Sandra Proto
- Book Review: The Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden by Sandra Proto
- Poem: Awakening (First Day of School)
- Poem: E(ye)motion
- Poem: Four Seasons (Haiku)
- Poem: What the Hell is the MTA Doing?
- Poem: winter observation in a school yard
Monday, September 8, 2014
Monday, August 4, 2014
(This article was written and first posted in 2009. I just needed to reflect on this to push me back to my creative self)
There is a recognizable ebb and flow to the process of recovering our creative selves. As we gain strength, so will some of the attacks of self-doubt. This is normal, and we can deal with these stronger attacks when we see them as symptoms of recovery. As you learn to recognize, nurture, and protect your inner artist, you will be able to move beyond pain and creative constrictions.-Julia Cameron
Six years ago I was writing heavily. I was engrossed in my short stories and enjoyed seeing them come into completion. I also was performing and reading my poetry, acting, taking writing classes, and doing yoga. I was single and living my life as an “Artist.” But soon unexpected events in my life took precedence: my sister’s death, the removal of my left ovary due to a cyst, my miracle pregnancy (at least that’s what I believed even though my doctor reassured me at the time of the removal I had one perfectly good ovary), quitting smoking (this was a miracle in itself), marriage, my move to Long Island, and another pregnancy.
During this time, I stopped writing altogether (except for collaborating with my aunt on a play) and even though, I felt like the short stories were finished, I was not confident enough to send them out for publication; instead I placed them in a black binder in my file cabinet. I basically “stuck them in a drawer” (a writing term meaning when a writing piece does not come together you put it away for a while and hopefully return to it with fresh eyes). The short stories remained in my file cabinet for several years because my days were filled with the practicalities of being a housewife and mother— there was no time for writing.
Eventually, the same lethargic state I had when my sister died took refuge in me. I felt Sandra the Writer, Sandra the Artist slowly disappearing. I remembered years ago reading Terry McMillan’s Disappearing Acts. Both protagonists lost who they were when they established a romantic relationship with each other. They became what the other person expected them to be. We are all expected to be a good wife/husband, a nurturing parent, a dutiful employee, etc., but we also should have expectations for ourselves—remember who we are. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to remember “who we were” before the obstacles and journeys in our lives changed us. We need to stop and reflect on the positive life lessons our journeys and obstacles teach us. For me, my sister’s death taught me how to let go of someone that I love and not be so selfish. It took awhile for me to accept her death. I was angry and hurt that she left me. But, looking back on her last night, I realized she was suffering and the best thing for her was to let God take her home. Another obstacle was losing my left ovary (first of all I thank God that the cyst was not malignant). This tragedy has shown me that sometimes things are not as bad as you think and there is still hope. Also, I’m looking at the positive that the new roles in my life are bringing to me. Being a mother is helping me improve on my own self-confidence because I am working so hard to instil it in my daughters (I’m learning to practice what I preach) and marriage has grounded me in a way that brought normalcy to my life. No longer am I focused solely on the romanticism of being an artist but on the reality of being human.
I have embraced the changes in my life and getting back to my old writing artistic self again. I pulled out some writings from a project that I started in 1999 about the people of Rockaway, I started editing my poetry to self-publish them, I took out the black binder of short stories and found out that they needed revising, I launched two websites: my own personal one and another about Rockaway.
I guess for six years I was “stuck in a drawer.” I’m glad I finally cleaned it out because I found a better me.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
A year later, I composed this poem to reflect on that last night I had with my sister:
As you laid in your pain
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Some say like a blackberry.
Today, the growing positive role models for African-American young women are not based on skin tone but on body weight. Even though there is a movement to stop the obesity among our youth—young women who are considered overweight can look up to full-figured celebrities like Oprah, Queen Latifa, Mo’Nique, and Gabourey Sidibe for inspiration. I am happy for this—especially Gabourey Sidibe because she is both a full-figured young woman and a blackberry beauty. But there is still a need for more role models with darker skin tones.
A couple of years ago I worked as a Teaching Artist at an after-school program in a urban middle school, where all the students were African-American and Hispanic. There, I overheard a group of African-American girls talking about how black a fellow classmate was as they walked home. I even heard a chestnut colored young man yell to another young man, who was very dark skinned, “That’s why you’re black and ugly.” Recently, on my Facebook News Feed, a friend posted a comment about how one of her students did not want to be black anymore because being black made her feel ugly. It saddens me that intra-racism and self-hatred is still prevalent among our youth.
As parents, teachers, caregivers, friends, and neighbors, we must do more to help our youth to love thyself. The first step is to stop calling them derogatory names when we reprimand them. I have heard parents and caregivers call a child stupid, idiot, and used profanity as a means to show who is in control. The child, then internalize this and their self-confidence is diminished. Second, we need to show them that we have self-love for ourselves by not accepting being called out of our names and making sure our image is of the positive nature. Because, yes it is true, we are our children’s first teachers. Instead of being the sharp pin that deflates whatever self-love our children has—we should be the enriched air that fills them up with hope and dignity.
In my personal life, my daughters are half Italian. They did not inherit my dark complexion but you know they are half African-American because they have my family’s distinctive broad nose. Being bi-racial, they are going to have to face all kinds of obstacles in their life. They will be labelled and judged by society because of their diverse family background. That’s why I know I have to teach them to be proud of who they are, never think that they are better than someone else, to always respect others, and never to internalize negativity.
Maybe with our extra efforts, our children can accept and project self-love.
Please Read: On My Mind: Colorisms Do Hurt by DuEwa Frazier for the flip side
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
To the tragic killing
Of Emmett Till…
It was 1955…
Hatred became alive.
His young blood would be spilled
A few words whispered
Was all it took.
(When you put the word
hate and Nigger together
prejudice will manifest.
Your mind will go into action.
Your hand and feet
Will do the rest)
They didn’t kill him right away.
They waited a while.
And said, “He’s just a child.”
The white men threatened the black man
And said, “Keep your mouth shut if you
Wanna live to be sixty-four.”
As they dragged his body out the door…
They made the black man clean up
Their bloody mess.
(Another way of inflicting pain
On our people I guess)
They bound his body
And threw it in the river
So it wouldn’t be seen.
The whistle and look…
She had the power to destroy the
Nigger and White rulebook.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
For the last seven years, Marcella Sills and those individuals who ignored the pleas of "un-just" have help to rip apart the already crumbling Rockaway family by going after the innocent children.
The lack of care and concern is unacceptable. But, I am not surprised by it. The African-American community of Rockaway have and is still being ignored. Todays, political leaders and community advocates are trying to change that but, the issue at P.S 106 should have not have happened. I know everyone can not be at every place at once but someone should have listened to the pleas of the people before the New York Post became the whistle blower. But, do applaud the New York Post--even though I do not like their sensationalism journalistic approach--for bringing attention to this issue.
But, like I said, I wanted to post something to remind the people of Rockaway that there is someone who cares about them and want to keep the Rockaway family together, Cynthia Woods.
As a person of color, the long anticipated event in Rockaway is the Function at the Junction. Former Rockawaites travel from different parts of the country to join Rockaway residents in this annual reunion. They all come to Bayswater Park with a cooler full of barbecue and memories. Five years ago I sat down with Cynthia Woods, founder of the Function at the Junction and talked to her about who she admired growing up and the Function's history.
|Photo by Sandra Proto|
Sandra Proto: When you were growing up in Rockaway, who did you admire in the community?
Cynthia Woods: My softball coach, Mr. Kenneth Perkins. And the reason why I admired him was because he was like a father figure for all the girls. He had his own family but he was really like our father. He made you feel like you belonged to his family and he was there for you. You could talk to him about anything-he was just a family man. My parents had split when we were young and he was a person we looked up to. He bought my first pair of gold earrings when I graduated from high school-I still have those earrings. He's a person who has never been recognized in the community but had a real strong impact on the young people in the community.
Sandra Proto: I'm going to jump to my next question. What prompted you to start the Function at the Junction?
Cynthia Woods: A friend of mine, Gladys Renée Edmonds Hunter...was sick and she was dying of cancer. We would always talk about different people in the community and bringing people together-not seeing people just at funerals. Just bringing people back together. Just have fun-just be with people-just bring back that "community" that we lost. She gave me the idea-Why don't we have a reunion? And it's so ironic because the day of the reunion was the day they had her cremation. So, I can feel her spirit every year since we had the reunion. I can feel her spirit because she was a very jovial person, and very happy, and loved life.
Sandra Proto: So, the Function at the Junction is very nostalgic?
Cynthia Woods: Very much so. People haven't seen each other in twenty, thirty years, and when they see each other it's always an embracement, crying, and happiness. It's just like a day that can never be relived and ever year you see people come back to the community. Every year it’s a different set of people—it’s not always the same people. I look forward to that. And every year we have lost people since the reunion began. This is why I keep it going. People don’t know how important it is to the Rockaway community—especially for African-Americans who have lived in the community—who grew up in the community. I mean, there is not much really left for them in the community. This is something that is really important.
Cynthia Woods keeps it going because she is very compassionate about the state of Rockaway and its people. She told me she was finally comfortable being called a Community Advocate and Activist. Just like Goldie Maple, Sarah Colson, Reverend May, and Reverend Mason (to name a few) were considered pillars of the community, so should Cynthia Woods. Mrs. Woods considered Kenneth Perkins a father to her and he has been an obvious positive influence on her as well. As I look at the accomplishment that Mrs. Woods has with the success of the Function at the Junction, I can say she is the “Mother of Rockaway”— forever nurturing the community.
But she also need help to keep this event going. She is in need of committed individuals to be a part of the team of the Function of the Junction. If interested please, comment on this post with your email address and I will give it to her or if you have her information please contact her directly.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
I am truly grateful for these opportunities, but I think that my writing life should have more of a success story. I blame myself for lacking the confidence to market and push myself further. Some people say that the fear of ‘success’ more than the fear of ‘failure’ zaps one’s confidence and motivation. I think the fear of Success and Failure tag-teamed me and pushed me into a corner—making me feel oppressed. That is why one of my goals for 2014 is to improve on self-promotion. And to motivate me, I have made Diana Ross' song I'm Coming Out my theme song for this goal. I am ready to push Failure to the side and make my way to unlock the door of Success. I am ready to bang my drum and blow my horn and let my tresses fly in the wind (as I imagine Diana's hair is doing while she is singing). I have the feeling of empowerment—I can do anything and I will do everything.
Listen, everyone must find something that pushes them further towards their goals. Whether it’s reading; exercise; eating; yoga, meditation or listening to music. As long as it will help you to reach the next level in your goal I say do it and don't look back. That is what I’m going to do while I'm Coming Out plays in my head or is vibrating between my lips.
Sandra Proto debut poem at the age of twelve was entitled, giving homage to the first time it snowed in April. She wrote as an English class assignment and her teacher was so impressed by the poem that he tried to get it published. After this experience, Sandra became a "Bedroom Poet" who composed , and many others. (her signature poem) was featured in SaSi's Production of Identity @ Space at 24 in 2000. Sandra has performed with the funky, folky, reggae rock band Hudson’s Hope. Her poetry is featured on VAMPIRE LESBIANS and ALL I CAN SEE IS HER EYES tracks of their demo CD. Sandra is also, a fiction writer, playwright, and an essayist.To learn more go to: