Thursday, December 4, 2014

Reflection: A Lesson Before Dying


Nine months ago I finished reading A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines. I initially gave it a four-star rating because I felt it was lacking in showing Jefferson’s side of the story.
 If you have never read A Lesson Before Dying, the story is about a young man who was found guilty of murdering a liquor store owner during a robbery and was executed.  Jefferson is a young man who is described as being “slow” and who follows two young men into the liquor store. Jefferson claims that one of the two men was the one that killed the liquor store owner. When the police officers arrived, they found all three men dead and Jefferson taking money from the cash register.  Jefferson went to trial for the robbery and murder of the liquor store owner.  His lawyer tried to establish his innocent by comparing him to a “hog.”  This comparison of “hog” brings me to Claude McKay’s poem about the race riots of 1919, If We Must Die:

If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursed lot.

Ernest J. Gaines’ use of “hog” is the center point of the story because Jefferson’s aunt, who is his caregiver enlist the African-American teacher, Grant Wiggins as a mentor for Jefferson.  She wants Grant Wiggins to teach Jefferson how to be a “man” so he can die a “man” and not a “hog.” 
The story is told through the eyes of Grant Wiggins except for one chapter that Jefferson is telling his story before his execution.  I, as a reader, wanted to hear from Jefferson’s mouth what had happened in the liquor store.  When Mr. Gaines did not let that happen; I felt cheated as a reader.  I didn’t get it why he chose not to have Jefferson explain himself.  I did get the whole “man” part.  Because at the end, Jefferson “walked” like a “man” to his death and with that he taught Grant Wiggins how to be a “man” and take responsibility.
Yes, that is a lesson learned.
But, also what I learned from A Lesson Before Dying, by witnessing what has been happening with the killing of black men and boys from Emmett Till to Eric Garner, is that whether one whistle’s at a white woman, steals cigars and cigarettes, holds a toy gun, celebrate at a Bachelor’s Party, wear a hooded sweatshirt and eat Skittles or just having a right to defend someone:
A black man pleaded to the white men

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.”

Is that it is justifiable to kill a black man or boy because in the eyes of the law—they are always in the wrong.

Note:  I have changed my review to five-stars because I get it now.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Reflection: Back to School Revisited




The last time I took an online course. Hurricane Sandy showed up and knocked out my power so I could not finish it.  The ten week course was Fundamentals of Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Creative Nonfiction Magazine that started in September of 2012.  The intensity of the work was very similar to a college course. There was a heavy reading schedule, expectations to participate in forums, group work, and the option to write essays.  I participated in all and was in the middle of my second essay when Hurricane Sandy touched down.  Because Sandy left me without power, I had to charge my phone and laptop at a local McDonalds that actually had power.  I could have tried to finish the course by going to McDonalds every day for a couple of hours but I had a family to tend to.  So, I had to put my education on hold. I don’t regret it because I did learn a lot when I participated.

With several other family situations that occurred the following year—2013— I decided to concentrate more on my writing and was able to finish the poetry chapbook, Springs Tepid Breath—that I released earlier this year.  But as this year been progressing, I felt the need to enroll in some kind of course.  I wanted to re-educate myself.  I remember reading about how Coursera offered free educational courses and how they had a poetry course about some well known poets called Modern & Contemporary American Poetry. I hadn’t taken a full course in poetry since 2005 when I took Flesh & Spirit:  Writing the Body with Tina Chang (before she became Poet Laureate of Brooklyn). As of late, I’ve been concentrating on poetry, so this seemed right up my alley.  The course started this weekend.  Hopefully, I will be able to finish it without any natural disasters getting in my way.

Wish me luck!

 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reflection: Cleaning Out My Drawers


(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

Reflection: Our Last Night- In memory of my sister Alberta

(Note:  This is a re-post from 3 years ago.  This year marks ten years since my sister's death.)
Seven years ago, I received the call that I did not want to receive.  My sister's doctor had called to give his condolences. 

This horrific news left a hole in my heart because I felt guilty for not staying with her the night before.  I thought if I had stayed with her I could have saved her. 

A year later, I composed this poem to reflect on that last night I had with my sister: 


Our Last Night (In memory of my sister Alberta)

As you laid in your pain

(that were hot iron spokes jabbing your joints).

I rubbed your kneecaps.
My warm touch could not surpass your discomfort.

My heart shattered into dull crystal shards.

There was a war inside of you. 
You cried out for your medication.

The morphine patches did not work.

You needed your shot of Demerol.

They shoot horses don’t they?  
Your usual neatly curled hair was disheveled.

The nurse suggested that I comb it.

I climbed into bed with you and knelt behind you.

I brushed and combed through your tarnished hair

and made a part down the middle; a bitter

sour smell rose up my nostrils.

It was a familiar odor

(the odor of my own hair when it needed washing).

You sat still as I cornrowed two Scarlet O’Hara plaits

on either side of your head.

The war had seemed to cease.  
When I was finished, I took my green ponytail holder from

my hair and married the two ends of your braids. You

handed me your favorite scarf
(the one imprinted with all of the countries’ flags).

I tied the scarf around your head.

You turned to me and smiled.

It was a smile that I had never seen before.

My eyes locked with yours and the crystal shards

fused with one another making my heart whole again.  
My medicine lasted a little while; then the war began again.

The nurse came into your room to administer your shot.

You told her where you wanted it.

She forcefully stabbed your right thigh.

You did not cry, but laid there with your eyes closed.

Waiting on relief.
I walked over to you and kissed your moist warm forehead.

I then sat down and opened up my book, “A Song Flung Up to Heaven.”
I peered over a page and heard your brown eyes say good-bye.

As I was writing this; I felt comfort in knowing that she no longer was in pain and I realized that God was the one to save her. 

RIP Big Sis.  Love & Miss you!
(Our Last Night appears in the book Wrapped up in Life with Omniscient Eyes)


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Reflection: Motherhood Memories


With my belly protruding and sweat running down my back, I boarded the sardined-packed E-train on 5th Avenue in New York City.  This was mid-July of 2006.  I was six months pregnant, but looked more like nine months.  I canvassed the train for an empty seat and there were none available. When we pulled out of the station, I held on tight to an empty space of a silver pole, stiffened my legs, and swayed in the direction of our destination.  Even though, I worked in an office and sat down all day, the weight of my first daughter made my legs wobbly.   A woman of Jamaican descent noticed me and offered her seat.  I was very grateful.  I sat down next to a man reading a newspaper and across from me was a man just staring into space.  I thought to myself, Chivalry is dead! I’m not old-fashioned but I do believe that someone— it doesn’t matter if you are male or female—should offer their seat to the elderly, disabled, a person with a young child, or an expectant mother.  This is the humane thing to do.  But instead of me griping about these men on my way home, I decided to enjoy the comfort of sitting down and rubbing my belly.  I still was in disbelief that I was pregnant.  A year prior, my left ovary was removed because a cyst mangled it so badly that there was no hope for survival. Before this, I thought I was barren because most women my age had their children when they were teenagers or twenty-something, and even in their early thirties.  But, I had just turned thirty-eight and was experiencing the pregnancy of my first child.  I felt a little long in the tooth for this new role, and lost. 

Three months later, when I had my daughter via emergency C-section because I did not dilate (the 10-week Lamaze class was a complete waste) I felt even more lost.  I couldn’t get the most natural thing a mother could do for her baby—breastfeed—right.  During my pregnancy, I schooled myself by reading The Complete Book of Breastfeeding.   I thought I was doing everything right but my daughter still refused to nurse.  When I left the hospital, I was so engorged that I looked like I had two torpedoes in my bra. I thought the problem was that my daughter was not latched on properly and I also blamed the nurses because I felt that they were too quick to give my daughter the bottle when I was so adamant about breastfeeding.  A couple of days later, when I went back to the hospital for my daughter’s first check up, I requested to see the Lactation Nurse to get to the bottom of this.  The Lactation Nurse confirmed that my daughter was latched on correctly, but it looked like she was drinking the milk begrudgingly.  My poor baby was probably intimidated by my weapons of mass destruction.  I decided not to traumatize her any longer and started expressing my milk.   Well, expressing lasted about a month and a half because I was so drained (no pun intended) and stressed about my new role as a mom and my impending move from my one-bedroom apartment in the inner-city to a house in suburbia, that I didn’t pump every two hours like I was supposed to.  So, I dried up like day old Munchkins. 

After squeezing what little milk I had and mixing it with Enfamil—I deemed myself a bad mother.  I reached out for help from people around me, who had children, but they were all from the “Old School.”  They couldn’t understand why when my daughter was born she had to sleep on her back and not her stomach to avoid the risk of SIDS or that a baby had to wait until they were four months old before they ate solids— instead of calming a colicky baby with a little bit of rice cereal in their formula.  I had to admit after several weeks of rocking my daughter to sleep in the rocker and suffering from sleep deprivation—I did succumb to giving her a little cereal.  She didn’t catch on too well and started to choke.  I felt guilty and regressed back to rocking her to sleep.

With little sleep, running back and forth to the pediatrician for Well visits, and my decision to be a stay-at-home mom—I semi-adjusted to motherhood a little over a year.  During this time, I took a break from writing, reading (except children’s books), and anything else that wasn’t associated with being a good mother.  I thought I finally had this mother thing down but there is always a loop hole in everything—I was pregnant again!  I thought, I’m going to have to start this whole thing all over again.  My first pregnancy was full of nausea, carpal tunnel, and excess weight (I gained around sixty pounds with my first daughter).  I thought about another C-section and the recovery time.  I wasn’t too happy about this, but, as my pregnancy progressed I felt the comfort in my youngest daughter’s aggressive kicks.  I read in What to Expect When You’re Expecting about the powerful kicks one feels.  When I was pregnant the first time, I was worried that there was something wrong because my first daughter  didn’t kick me (only punched a little).  But, I realized that my first daughter was more of a Muhammad Ali while  my second daughter was a Jet Li.  I also elected to have another C-section —in fear that I would not dilate this time either; plus I heard horror stories about being ripped from a natural child birth.  To me, having a straight incision was better than having a jagged rip.

As the months passed, it was difficult taking care of two very small children:  my elder daughter was still not walking, while my younger had an issue with spitting up and was on an every two hour nursing schedule.  I had to run to Gastroenteritis to make sure she did not have a digestive problem, which she didn’t.  Yes, my youngest took to nursing the moment she was born and didn’t want to stop. I tried to wean her off after the mandatory year but she lingered on until she was almost eighteen months (she knew her time was up because every time she nursed, I heard a devilish giggle and saw the sly grin of the Cheshire cat).   What saved me from being permanently named Elsie, the cow, was that I needed to have some dental work done.  So, I worked hard trying to wean her off.  After about three months, I finally weaned her down to two feedings—morning and night.  When I finally cut her off completely, she took her sippy cup and went about her business.

Now my daughters are two and a half and forty-one months.  I watch them play, fight, and talk to one another.  My elder daughter is playing the role of the bossy big sister with a mind of her own (she prefers to poopy in her pull-up training pants instead of the toilet).   Meanwhile my younger daughter can be the sweet momma’s girl (caressing my face as she did when she was nursing) or she can be the queen of, I’m not!—meaning she’s not going to say sorry when she hits her sister or she’s not going to stop doing something that she is not suppose to do.

But, as they quickly turn into my big girls, I can’t help but remember those times when we were one. Those times when we shared everything. Those times that I will miss. Those times that I can never get back—unless…
(First published on the Spartan Opinion}
Follow Sandra Proto on Twitter @sandraproto and Like authorsandraproto on Facebook
 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reflection: The Color Problem

Note :  This essay was written years ago before Lupita Nyong'o Oscar win and Karyn Washington's untimely death.  It amazes me that something like skin color is still a problem in our society.  Please read my essay below and also please go to another article written by a friend of mine about the other side of  Colorism (or Intra-racism) issue.
 

She has very dark skin.
Some say like a blackberry.
When she enters a room,
All eyes are locked on this intriguing figure.
She walks in her own little grace,
Her head carefully lowered at the floor,
Her steps as delicate and graceful as a swan.
When she speaks,
Her voice is a whisper like a quiet storm.
All eyes fall on this blackberry beauty.
Not because she is beautiful.
Some say, “She is ugly because she is way too dark.”
Others say, “She is pretty but too dark.”
Blackberry Beauty is scorned.
She is two-tones too dark.
But if she was three-tones too light,
Some would say, “She is ugly because she is a wanna be.”
Others would say, “She is pretty but too light.”
Blackberry Beauty is torn.
She doesn’t know if she is ugly or pretty.
She doesn’t know if her very dark skin is the cause of her ugliness
or if she is just plain ugly.
Blackberry Beauty has all eyes on her.
She slowly raises her head and smiles at the onlookers.
Her walk is still graceful and delicate.
Her voice is still a whisper.
She says, “I am the beautiful Blackberry. I was made to be way too dark because I am ripe. My beauty comes from my blackberry skin and your ugliness comes from your unripe ones.”

I wrote this poem thirty years ago when I was an insecure, introverted, overweight pubescent twelve year old. I was the darkest skinned one in my immediate family and all of my friends at the time were either brown-skinned or Latina. I didn’t have a role model to look up to besides actress Cicely Tyson. I admired her not because of her skin tone but because of her acting. I wanted to be an actress and create memorable heroines like Miss Jane Pittman and Harriet Tubman. So in my way to emulate Mrs. Tyson, I searched deep down inside of myself, closed the door to my bedroom, laid down on my bed with pen and composition book in hand, and created Blackberry Beauty. I chose the name from the old saying—blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. I don’t even remember where I heard this from but the phrase stuck to me.

Over the next five years, I composed more poems and standard diary entries. Most of the diary entries were about me not feeling good about myself because I was overweight (while most girls my age experienced their first love, I took comfort in crunchy cheese doodles and General Hospital). Blackberry Beauty represented “self-love” for me and she became my role model.

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

Reflection: Forever Emmett

Everyday, I have a moment of remembering Emmett Till, the young man murdered in Mississippi almost sixty years ago, for offending white men because he paid too much attention to their woman.  Now, the Emmett Tills of today are offending white men by walking in their communities, playing music, and wearing hoodies.
This insanity will not stop because racism will never see its own death.
My aunt wrote a poem re-telling what happened to Emmett Till.  All one have to do is substitute Emmett's name with Sean, Trayvon, Jordan,  and now Tamir, to tell the same story.

Emmett:  He was just a child
As I sat and listened
To the tragic killing
Of Emmett Till…
The story was so horrible
It gave me a chill.
I remembered when it happened…
 It was 1955…
Hatred became alive.
As I listened to his mother
Tell the story:
He was her crown
And glory.
When she sent him off…
By car…
Bus…
Or train…
Little did she know…
She would never see him again…
Death was waiting for him
When he went into town…
His young blood would be spilled
On Mississippi ground.
He went into the store…
And didn’t mean no harm.
He was used to making people laugh
With his humor and charm.
He didn’t know a white woman
He could not touch or look.
He didn’t know the Nigger
And White rulebook.

 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.
A black man pleaded to the white men
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.
How can someone be so mean?
How can one human have so much
Hate for his brother?
God didn’t plan it that way…
He wanted us to love one another.
The bell of injustice rang out
That day.
Blacks could only shake
Their heads
And sadly walk away.
While some mothers
Frantically paced…
Other mothers wept…
I wonder how that
White woman slept?
When he was found…
His mother could only recognize him
By his ring.
For comfort…
The only song she could sing was:
Precious Lord Take My Hand, Lead Me on Let Me Stand.
That child might have grown up
To be a great man.
They robbed him of his youth.
Didn’t allow his mind to develop
And his body to grow.
This world is full of so much hate and strife…
No man has the right to take
Another man’s life.
And the white woman could have dismissed
The whistle and look…
She had the power to destroy the
Nigger and White rulebook.
Do we forgive those men for committing
That horrible crime?
Those men sat and laughed…
And they served no time.
Punishment will be paid for that crime.
Because in Hell,
There is no Nigger and
White rulebook to sell.
Always remember Emmett Till
For he was just a child.
-Mary Overstreet 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reflection: A Sense of Community

In the light of the whole, Marcella Sills fiasco.  I wanted to post something that the Rockaway community need to remember:  The loving feeling of family and leadership.

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

Reflection: I'm Coming Out



 
As 2013 dissolved, making room for 2014, I thought about what had happened in the last twelve months.  There were some sadness in my family from the loss of a loved one, happy moments like my younger daughter's Moving Up Ceremony from Kindergarten and a dance recital that my older daughter pliéd and relevéd to Tinkerbell’s theme song while my younger one tapped to Mary Poppins‘ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  There were fun family outings over the summer to see Annie, the Musical, two trips to an amusement park, and a day at a beautiful botanical garden. Also, there were some revelations about my health—that warrant me to eat healthier and to lose twenty pounds. And of course, the last three months filled with birthdays, anniversaries, and holiday celebrations.

But also with the reminiscence of the past year, I thought of the longevity of my writing life.  I’ve been putting pen to paper and fingertips to the keyboard for the past thirty-four years and had little taps of success that had rattled my door such as my poem, Blackberry Beauty, which I wrote at the age 12, was featured in a staged production, an art exhibit, as well as published in a local newspaper before I published it in Wrapped up in Life Omniscient Eyes in 2011;  I had performed my poetry with two bands: 
 T-7 and Hudson’s Hope live and been recorded on a couple of tracks on their CD’s;  I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing one of the first African-Americans who lived on the Rockaway, New York peninsula; and most recently, I had a pretty decent year with readings and publishing credits.
 
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.