A year ago

So much has changed since last year. New life expectations, new goals, new beginnings and new projects. My life has taken a turn on its own, and I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing. When it comes to school, I went from wanting to become a chemist, to a nurse, to a biochemist, to a chemist again. I feel like a lot of the decisions I thought I was making, I made out of simple curiosity. Curiosity didn’t bring me far. It just guided me back to where I was supposed to be in the first place. I’m trying to learn from my past mistakes and I’m giving this semester a good shot. I’m giving myself another chance at life. The way I perceived myself professionally was not positive enough. I prayed and my prayers got answered. I may not understand all that is happening right now, but I know that God’s got a plan and He’s revealing it to me day by day. I am such a control freak that I try to control everything on my own. Well God decided that He had matters in His own hands and I should trust Him completely.

Temptation and Lust

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Temptation and Lust

 

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been going through a spiritual battle. The battle was between my spirit and flesh. Throughout the battle, I often wondered where God was, but the truth is halfway through the battle he left my side to let me have a go at the battle alone. He did this, I believe, because I fought so hard to get my way, and momentarily forgot about his will and purpose for my life. I won’t reveal what I was tempted by and lusted after in this post, but if you’ve ever been tempted by the lust of the flesh or the lust of the eye, you can relate. As soon as I stopped trying to do things my way instead of God’s, God told me to go aside and rest while he calmed the storm (my heartache and pain). Yet at times…

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The angry black woman

When I read how black women are described online and when I hear people’s opinions about us, it makes me sick. I feel like us as black women have to go an extra mile when it comes to proving to the world that we do not let our emotions get in the way of the decisions we make. I also feel like we are not allowed to be upset about something without being judged and to me, this is a problem.

I am a black woman, and I am not angry. But I do believe I have a right to be angry by times and I shouldn’t be feared for that. When people finally get to know you, they realize (and tell you) that “after all, you’re not as angry as you look”. And when such judgemental things about me come out of their mouth, I either choose to remain silent, or I answer “you see what you allow your mind to see”. Often times they don’t understand what I mean, and I don’t mind it because it just proves my point.

Society obeys to the laws of prejudice and they’re trying to make it look like it’s normal. I may sound angry (which I am not), but this is a mild, but an actual form of racism. I don’t understand how we’ve come to this point where it is acceptable for others to disrespect us and be openly racist and we do not respond, nor do we act upon it. This is sad, especially when we think about what our ancestors had to go through for us to be able to live the life that we live now. I don’t buy into the whole “you’re lucky to be educated and be where you are, so shut up and live” unspoken speech we get through looks when we decide to take a stand. I think there’s still a lot that needs to be done and it starts in the mind. It starts with education. It starts with dealing with the prejudice that states that black women are angry women.

The ups and the downs

You know how in life you get ups and you get downs? It’s crazy how it just feels like you’re on a roller coaster or something. For me, it feels as bad when I’m high on the hill as when I’m deep down in the valley. When I’m on top of my game, I tend to think about the fact that the low is coming, that it’s right around the corner waiting for me to pass by. It’s a bit depressing by times, but I can’t help but think like that. And when I’m on my downs… let’s just not go there. This has got to be one of the worst feelings in life: I feel bad, but I actually think I deserve to feel bad. So what I usually do is suck it in and live it up.
The moment you realize it’s not okay to feel comfortable in this dark area of life, you start valuing yourself more. You understand that you have more worth, that God created you for a purpose and it has to be fulfilled. He’s the one in control and (whether you accept it or not) He’s gonna remain in control because you on your own, cannot control your whole life. Friends come and go. People are going to disappoint you. You’re gonna get hurt at times, but you’ve gotta get back on your feet and get up because the show must go on.
I’ve been down before. By down I mean deep into places I never thought my mind could reach. And the worst part is that it all happens in the mind, where no one can actually get. So long as you do not get help, not many people will notice. And if you’re as good as an actress as I am, people will even think you’re doing just fine. But I went so low, only immeasurable power could get me out of there. I would look happy during the day, and be depressed at night because of the way others would treat me. I remember one time when I started asking myself questions as to what would be their reaction if I died. And slowly these thoughts started to creep their way in my mind and slowly I would go to that when people would hurt me. I wasn’t even aware of the problem, but God delivered me anyway. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was having suicidal thoughts when He came and filled my soul with love and kindness. He poured it out and I felt it over me like never before.
That’s why I don’t ever wanna go back to these dark corners. I’ve left them for good and nothing that people say or do will ever make me go back there. Nothing. I really needed to write this message because I feel like as humans we tend to forget a lot, and writing stuff down relaxes me and makes every thing feel a little more formal. So now I formally declare that Jesus has already won this fight, all I gotta do is stay on His side and He’ll protect me.

Eldercare: The Forgotten Feminist Issue.

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(This was written late last year; I pitched it a few places but received little interest. I’m posting it here because, well, it’s an important conversation.)

One of my favorite pictures of my mom. Mom, back in the day.

As I write this my mother is fast asleep in a nursing home, her third stint in 15 months. It is a heartbreaking thing, watching your parent slowly succumb to her mortality. You try to prepare yourself for the call you’ll get in the middle of the night from a nurse reluctant to give you the news you’ve been dreading for years. But no amount of preparation will ready you for that call. No amount of alcohol will lessen the pain. Even writing about it is hard because it forces you to deal with an absolute, inescapable truth. She is dying, and you are powerless to stop it.

The woman I now visit several times a week is not…

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A Girl My Age

All at once...

For Maya

A girl my age.

A girl the age I was

when I first saw her story.

I was a girl vacationing in Cape Cod with my family.

She was a girl in St. Louis Missouri

On a television screen,

but real as life

for a girl my age

watching a girl my age with a family,

be taken

but not destroyed.

A girl my age stopped talking for years

but never stopped communicating.

A girl my age went away

yet never left.

A girl my age

returned with words overflowing

returned with wisdom

never knowing

how she would shape the world,

returned with her own life

in her own hands

and her own voice.

A girl my age,

long since a woman

now passed on

and newly reborn

in the voices of women like me,

who spin silence into power.

-ZG

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Nothing beautiful asks for attention

So I opened my Tumblr this afternoon and I saw this picture. It just got to me. Not only what was written was troubling, but also the depth of the words and the dark background; it just got to me. “Nothing Beautiful Asks for Attention”.
For so many years I’ve been questionning myself as to whether I was good enough or not. Some may find their worth in life accomplishments, projects, talents, even wearing make-up, but it just seemed like for me, none of those would apply. Soon in a young woman’s life, she realizes her accomplishments are correlated to her looks and the way she behaves with men. I’ve soon realized that in order for me to get jobs and to make friends at school I had to conform to a certain level of “attention seeking behaviour”. I never actually wanted this for my life, but like a lot of other aspects of it, it just kinda happened on its own. So I decided I would be shaped by people’s looks and what they would see when they’d look at me: that is the way I dressed, did my hair, wore make-up, spoke, walked, danced etc. You probably heard this many times but this world is a really hard one to live in. All I would care about was the way people perceived me and it shaped me (in an odd, weird kinda way).
Some women meet the man of their dream who makes them feel like they don’t need anybody’s approval anymore to break this vicious cycle, but I got a different story. No drama, no drastic event, not even a handsome young man. I decided to focus on the real aspects and essence of life, and that didn’t have anything to do with my looks or the way people would see me. I experienced faith in such a way, even I can’t fully describe it. It’s like God wanted me to know that I was worth more, but He did it in such an amazing way: He just made sure I would never forget my worth anymore. Knowing that you are beautiful and that you do not need other people’s approval to move on with your life is one of the best feelings someone could ever experience. It brought me to a place where self-confidence went along with humbleness of heart and it simply made me a better person. The day a woman realizes that “Nothing Beautiful Asks for Attention”, she understands a huge chunck of her life. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
Have any stories you want to share? Leave a comment below. .

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There’s a Certain Slant of Light

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are

None may teach it – Any
‘Tis the Seal Despair
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air

When it comes, the Landscape listens
Shadows – hold their breath

When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death

– Emily Dickinson

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The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain: Langston Hughes on the real Harlem renaissance.

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One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet–not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I want to write like a white poet”; meaning subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet”; meaning behind that, “I would like to be white.” And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself. And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet. But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America–this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.

But let us look at the immediate background of this young poet. His family is of what I suppose one would call the Negro middle class: people who are by no means rich yet never uncomfortable nor hungry–smug, contented, respectable folk, members of the Baptist church. The father goes to work every morning. He is the chief steward at a large white club. The mother sometimes does fancy sewing or supervises parties for the rich families of the town. The children go to a mixed school. In the home they read white papers and magazines. And the mother often says, “Don’t be like niggers” when the children are bad. A frequent phrase from the father is, “Look how well a white man does things.” And so the word white comes to be unconsciously a symbol of all the virtues. It holds for the children beauty, morality, and money. The whisper of “I want to be white” runs silently through their minds. This young poet’s home is, I believe, a fairly typical home of the colored middle class. One sees immediately how difficult it would be for an artist born in such a home to interest himself in interpreting the beauty of his own people. He is never taught to see that beauty. He is taught rather not to see it, or if he does, to be ashamed of it when it is not according to Caucasian patterns.

For racial culture the home of a self-styled “high-class” Negro has nothing better to offer. Instead there will be perhaps more aping of things white than in a less cultured or less wealthy home. The father is perhaps a doctor, lawyer, landowner, or politician. The mother may be a social worker, or a teacher, or she may do nothing and have a maid. Father is often dark but he has usually married the lightest woman he could find. The family attend a fashionable church where few really colored faces are to be found. And they themselves draw a color line. In the North they go to white theaters and white movies. And in the South they have at least two cars and a house “like white folks.” Nordic manners, Nordic faces, Nordic hair, Nordic art (if any), and an Episcopal heaven. A very high mountain indeed for the would-be racial artist to climb in order to discover himself and his people.

But then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority–may the Lord be praised! The people who have their nip of gin on Saturday nights and are not too important to themselves or the community, or too well fed, or too learned to watch the lazy world go round. They live on Seventh Street in Washington or State Street in Chicago and they do not particularly care whether they are like white folks or anybody else. Their joy runs, bang! into ecstasy. Their religion soars to a shout. Work maybe a little today, rest a little tomorrow. Play awhile. Sing awhile. O, let’s dance! These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself. Whereas the better-class Negro would tell the artist what to do, the people at least let him alone when he does appear. And they are not ashamed of him–if they know he exists at all. And they accept what beauty is their own without question.

Certainly there is, for the American Negro artist who can escape the restrictions the more advanced among his own group would put upon him, a great field of unused material ready for his art. Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their “white” culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient material to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work. And when he chooses to touch on the relations between Negroes and whites in this country with their innumerable overtones and undertones, surely, and especially for literature and the drama, there is an inexhaustible supply of themes at hand. To these the Negro artist can give his racial individuality, his heritage of rhythm and warmth, and his incongruous humor that so often, as in the Blues, becomes ironic laughter mixed with tears. But let us look again at the mountain.

A prominent Negro clubwoman in Philadelphia paid eleven dollars to hear Raquel Meller sing Andalusian popular songs. But she told me a few weeks before she would not think of going to hear “that woman.” Clara Smith, a great black artist, sing Negro folk songs. And many an upper-class Negro church, even now, would not dream of employing a spiritual in its services. The drab melodies in white folks’ hymnbooks are much to be preferred. “We want to worship the Lord correctly and quietly. We don’t believe in ‘shouting.’ Let’s be dull like the Nordics,” they say, in effect.

The road for the serious black artist, then, who would produce a racial art is most certainly rocky and the mountain is high. Until recently he received almost no encouragement for his work from either white or colored people. The fine novels of Chestnutt go out of print with neither race noticing their passing. The quaint charm and humor of Dunbar’s dialect verse brought to him, in his day, largely the same kind of encouragement one would give a sideshow freak (A colored man writing poetry! How odd!) or a clown (How amusing!).

The present vogue in things Negro, although it may do as much harm as good for the budding colored artist, has at least done this: it has brought him forcibly to the attention of his own people among whom for so long, unless the other race had noticed him beforehand, he was a prophet with little honor. I understand that Charles Gilpin acted for years in Negro theaters without any special acclaim from his own, but when Broadway gave him eight curtain calls, Negroes, too, began to beat a tin pan in his honor. I know a young colored writer, a manual worker by day, who had been writing well for the colored magazines for some years, but it was not until he recently broke into the white publications and his first book was accepted by a prominent New York publisher that the “best” Negroes in his city took the trouble to discover that he lived there. Then almost immediately they decided to give a grand dinner for him. But the society ladies were careful to whisper to his mother that perhaps she’d better not come. They were not sure she would have an evening gown.

The Negro artist works against an undertow of sharp criticism and misunderstanding from his own group and unintentional bribes from the whites. “O, be respectable, write about nice people, show how good we are,” say the Negroes. “Be stereotyped, don’t go too far, don’t shatter our illusions about you, don’t amuse us too seriously. We will pay you,” say the whites. Both would have told Jean Toomer not to write “Cane.” The colored people did not praise it. The white people did not buy it. Most of the colored people who did read “Cane” hated it. They are afraid of it. Although the critics gave it good reviews the public remained indifferent. Yet (excepting the work of Du Bois) “Cane” contains the finest prose written by a Negro in America. And like the singing of Robeson, it is truly racial.

But in spite of the Nordicized Negro intelligentsia and the desires of some white editors we have an honest American Negro literature already with us. Now I await the rise of the Negro theater. Our folk music, having achieved world-wide fame, offers itself to the genius of the great individual American Negro composer who is to come. And within the next decade I expect to see the work of a growing school of colored artists who paint and model the beauty of dark faces and create with new technique the expressions of their own soul-world. And the Negro dancers who will dance like flame and the singers who will continue to carry our songs to all who listen–they will be with us in even greater numbers tomorrow.

Most of my own poems are racial in theme and treatment, derived from the life I know. In many of them I try to grasp and hold some of the meanings and rhythms of jazz. I am sincere as I know how to be in these poems and yet after every reading I answer questions like these from my own people: Do you think Negroes should always write about Negroes? I wish you wouldn’t read some of your poems to white folks. How do you find any thing interesting in a place like a cabaret? Why do you write about black people? You aren’t black. What makes you do so many jazz poems?

But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America: the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul–the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile. Yet the Philadelphia clubwoman is ashamed to say that her race created it and she does not like me to write about it. The old subconscious “white is best” runs through her mind. Years of study under white teachers, a lifetime of white books, pictures, and papers, and white manners, morals, and Puritan standards made her dislike the spirituals. And now she turns up her nose at jazz and all its manifestations–likewise almost everything else distinctly racial. She doesn’t care for the Winold Reiss portraits of Negroes because they are “too Negro.” She does not want a true picture of herself from anybody. She wants the artist to flatter her, to make the white world believe that all Negroes are as smug and as near white in soul as she wants to be. But, to my mind, it is the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering “I want to be white,” hidden in the aspirations of his people, to “Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro–and beautiful!”

So I am ashamed for the black poet who says, “I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” as though his own racial world were not as interesting as any other world. I am ashamed, too, for the colored artist who runs from the painting of Negro faces to the painting of sunsets after the manner of the academicians because he fears the strange un-whiteness of his own features. An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.

Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing Blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near-intellectuals until they listen and perhaps understand. Let Paul Robeson singing Water Boy, and Rudolph Fisher writing about the streets of Harlem, and Jean Toomer holding the heart of Georgia in his hands, and Aaron Douglas drawing strange black fantasies cause the smug Negro middle class to turn from their white, respectable, ordinary books and papers to catch a glimmer of their own beauty. We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.

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I don’t need a job, a job needs me

So I’ve come to the realization that I do not need a job, but rather that a job needed me. 

I started working at the age of 14 because I wanted to pay for a trip to Walt Disney World. So young, yet so determined. My parents ended up completing the money after they saw how determined I was. After this job I started working in an amusement park, but hated the job so much, I didn’t last more than a summer. Right after this job I did what most teenagers do, and I worked in a McDonald’s. I can’t pretend I didn’t like it, because that’d be a lie. I didn’t like the fact that the shifts were hard, and the smells, and the oil every where, and the managers screaming. But I met some of my closest friends and we’ve known each other for about 6 years now. I worked there for 3 years and then I left because I was fed up with the job. This is the longest I’ve ever had a job. After this, I worked in a DAVIDsTEA for winter vacays, and then for a clothing store the next summer, and then a restaurant the following winter, but I never stayed more than a few months. Right now, I’m unemployed. It’s partly a choice and partly because I can’t find the job that will fit me perfectly. I’m 20 years old and I’ve had 11 jobs in my life. I think I have this thing we can call a radar for the jobs I know I won’t be happy at. I’ve had plenty of job interviews and got a lot of phone calls too (I bless the Lord for that) but every time, a few factors seemed to make the employers reluctant at the idea of hiring me: the schedule. I go to university full time, but I still have a lot of free time on my hands. And I go to church on Saturdays, celebrate the Holy Sabbath, so I don’t work from Friday night to Saturday night. Weirdly enough, this always seems to be an issue. Even if I can offer my whole Sunday, it never seems to be enough. I don’t really know what to do at this point. Every time I have an interview, I get hired, and then when we talk about the schedule, they say they’ll call me back (which I know they won’t do). I’m still praying for God to show me exactly what He wants me to do because at this point, I have no clue. It’s weird that at 20 years old, I can’t find a job. If someone would’ve told me in the past, I’d laugh at them. I never really had troubles finding jobs in the past and now, here I am. With great qualifiications, but little respect because I’m a student and religious.

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