Still I Rise

I’m still celebrating  National Poetry Month with another one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou.  Scroll down to the video to hear her reciting Still I Rise with her luscious, mesmerizing voice.  Enjoy and recite or publish your favorite poems this month.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqOqo50LSZ0&feature=related]

13. Good Hair

When I went natural two years and three months ago, I spent most of my time watching You Tube videos of women styling their hair and reviewing products and reading books about the upkeep of afro hair.  Newly naturals often have a hard time trying to figure out what’s the best way to take care of the hair that they haven’t seen for the most part since they were children.  I ordered Good Hair For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff from amazon because I still enjoy reading books about natural hair.  Actually, it’s the title that attracted me.  The reference to Ntozake Shange’s play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf made me smile.  What didn’t make me smile was the expression “good hair”.  I hate it when people talk about good hair or a grade of hair as if it was milk or beef. That’s an expression that every African-American knows well and has heard way too many times in their lives. “Ooh girl she’s got that good hair!”  What is “good hair” you ask?  Good hair is hair that lays down easily, that curls perfectly, and blows in the wind.  It’s hair that is closest to Caucasians’ hair.

Hair is so important to African-American women.  We are willing to beg, borrow, and steal a fortune to keep up and discipline our hair to fit into what many consider to be the accepted way to have publicly presentable, professional hair.  In order to do this anything goes:  weaves, wigs, relaxers, hot combing, texturizers, curly perms or jheri curls.  All these different alternatives to wearing and accepting one’s natural hair are extremely costly, time-consuming, but most of all damaging.  In Good Hair written by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner, she traces her own hair journey from childhood to adulthood and she has literally done it all to her hair, along with countless times of having to cut off all her hair to only regrow it and mess it up again.  Her book is an excellent account of what not to do, while also giving good advice about what would be better.    As I was reading, I kept asking myself what is she looking for now and why is she doing THAT to her hair.  It’s the classic case of trying to force your hair to behave in a way that it can’t and won’t.  We have all been there.  Fortunately for me, I was too afraid to do anything else to my hair except relax it and that was damaging enough.  Moreover, I did that for thirty years, before the constantly itchy red scalp from my last professional relaxer was too much for me.   These past two years have been an eye opener for me to accept my hair as is and to stop comparing my hair to other races and even to other African-American women.

Overall, Good Hair is an opening birds eye view to becoming natural.  Bonner goes into the details of how to go natural either by doing a big chop or through transitioning.  She explains the options and how tos.  She gives a quick breakdown on the structure of hair; for example why it’s so dry, why does it break so easily, and talks about hair anatomy and type.  She also talks about shampooing, conditioning, daily maintenance, and hair tools.  She basically covers what you would generally find in this type of book, but it’s not in-depth.  Broader-spectrum books like The Science of Black Hair are more interesting because they link the scientific with the everyday and deals with the why and why not of afro hair care.  Bonner’s Good Hair doesn’t go into quite so much detail, although for some it may be enough.  The only other problem with this book was the editing, which annoyed me.  Wow! It was atrocious!  Unfortunately  there were so many mistakes, from missing words in sentences to incorrect tense usage; which I want to believe was due to typos.  In my opinion, this little 93 page book is just ok.  So I’d give it three stars.  It was published in 1990 and since then there have been many other informative books published on the market about natural hair.  If you want a no-nonsense humoristic read and information without too much detail, this is the book for you.

Bonner wrote other books called Plaited Glory For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Braids, Locks, and Twists in 1996, where she differentiates between styles, costs, and salons, The Kitchen Beautician For Colored Girls Who’ve Dissed the Beauty Standard When it Became to Ruff in 1997, where she talks about hair and skin care regimens and how to become a mixtress, and all on an affordable budget, and Nice Dreads:  Hair Care Basics and Inspiration for Colored Girls Who’ve considered Locking Their Hair in 2005, where she talks about keeping locks looking their best and cultivating buds.  I haven’t read these books but I hope they were edited better than Good Hair.  The best thing that Bonner did was to document her hair journey through these books.  I think it’s something everybody should do when they go natural.  Growing natural healthy “good hair” takes time and sometimes we can become so impatient that we’re sure our hair isn’t growing or think that it looks the same.  Growing good natural hair takes patience.  Documenting through pictures, videos, diaries, writing down our favorite products or personal home mixes can help determine what is and isn’t good for our hair.  Good luck to all those newbie naturals, transitioners, and to long-term naturals.  Keep persevering to good hair….

Speaking of “good hair”, check out the clips below which are from Chris Rock’s comic documentary film Good Hair.  It is an interesting look into the cultural aspects of hair in the African-American community and the hair industry and the billions of dollars it earns from African-American women willing to spend whatever amount of money to tame and maintain straight, acceptable hair in today’s society.  Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGcFBNDrluE]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCEX34-1o6M]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrJamE_hcck&feature=relmfu]

It's National Poetry Month

I had no idea but found out that April is National Poetry Month, after reading The Daily Post today.  Apparently it has gone on since 1996 and was started by the Academy of American Poets. Here are the goals for National Poetry Month, that I found on a site called poets.org

  • “Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets”
  • “Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry”
  • “Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways”
  • “Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum”
  • “Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media”
  • “Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books” (poets.org)

Here are some ways you can celebrate National Poetry month.  You could memorize a poem, host a poetry reading, start a poetry reading group, put some poetry in an unexpected place, read poetry to family and friends, put a poem in a letter, etc.  We should all be honoring poetry and American poets.  So here’s how I’m celebrating by publishing one of my favorite poems from Maya Angelou.  Enjoy!

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

12. Catching Fire

And the games continue….Suzanne Collins continues the saga of Katniss Everdeen and the districts of Panem in this very suspenseful second novel of the trilogy The Hunger Games called Catching Fire.  Ominously dark and mysterious, we see Katniss and Peeta living in the Victors Village along with Haymitch.  Three houses alone in a neighborhood.  Katniss lives with her mother and little sister Prim.  Haymitch and Peeta live alone.

Since Katniss and Peeta are the winners of the Games they must tour all the districts, which is like making them relive the Games all over again.  It forces them to remember each tribute and how they died.  Along the way there is an undercurrent of uprisings in district 11. I won’t write anymore because I’ll be forced to write spoilers.  Hope I haven’t told you too much already.

Anyway, get on it people and read it!  It’s very interesting and yes it’s YA  literature (Young Adult lit).  There are some good themes running through this trilogy such as government control, reality shows, psychology of survival, propaganda, etc. I’m sure it will be made into a movie next year, but I probably won’t go see it.  I was so thoroughly disappointed with The Hunger Games as a movie.  As of today, I’m on to the last novel Mockingjay. I fear for the characters and for the end….

As I was searching for interesting facts about Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games, I ran across articles and You Tube videos of a controversy over the movie.  Apparently there were Hunger Games fans that didn’t agree with the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Rue because she was black.  I just couldn’t believe this. Rue is described as having dark brown skin in the book, but besides that only a racist could say that they didn’t feel anything when she was killed because she was black.  Really? I couldn’t believe these so-called fans had the gall to write this nonsense on twitter.  Needless to say, a real fan called them out by copying off their tweets and putting them on display on Facebook.  Masses of people started bombarding their accounts and they had to become private or had to discontinue their accounts.  I happened upon this interesting interview of Amandla Stenberg, who is an intelligent, well-spoken fourteen year old and has almost grown up in commercials on American tv.  She really looks like what I had imagined Rue would look like, just adorable.  Check her out!  I’m sure we’ll be seeing her in more films.

racist-hunger-games-fans-that-failed-reading-com

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11. The White Tiger

Balram Halwai alias Munna is a driver – sarcastic, humorous, critical, angry, and a wealth of information on modern-day India.  He becomes a wanted man after murdering is master.  At no point as a reader was I sympathetic towards Balram.  I believe this was done on purpose.  In spite of everything, Balram does weave interesting tales, which keep you reading to the end.  The White Tiger is an in your face gritty, realistic novel revolving around the tragic life of Balram Halwai and particularly the harsh, slavish life in India.  Weak stomachs abstain.  The White Tiger is full of audacious, enticing, and repulsive smells.  One’s imagination is heightened to the max.

India is painted as a place riddled with poverty, violence. corruption, and contradictions; although universally speaking I think most countries are contradictory and contain degrees of these things.  Reading The White Tiger is like having your face shoved in wet, gooey mud and then having to clean it with a kleenex.  It sticks to you like a second skin.  Some may find it an ongoing complaint of 276 pages and will say it’s one big bore, but I felt I was being instructed about what it is to be an Indian trying to maneuver through this  unkind, violent, corrupt and unforgiving place.  The book carries a lot of themes throughout such as socialism vs. capitalism, family ties, master servant relationships, life in developing countries and its economic effect on their citizens etc.  I guess if I analyzed from an academic point of view you’d have the three conflicts: man against man, man against nature, and man against himself.  I can’t decide which theme is the strongest.

Aravind Adiga’s main desire was to write a book that would entertain readers, not necessarily to make some political statement.  The novel is absolutely brilliant!  It’s a must read.  I understand why Adiga won the 2008 Man Booker Prize.  The White Tiger was so well constructed that I really believe it is a work of art.  On the front cover is written, “One of the most powerful books I’ve read in decades.  No hyperbole.  This debut novel hit me like a kick to the head — the same effect Richard Wright’s Native Son and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man had.”  – USA Today.  When Adiga was asked who were his literary influences he cited Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright.  This is very clear while reading.  They are some of my favorite writers too.  Their novels contain such power and harsh reality that almost makes you feel slightly voyeuristic, but mostly enlightened.  I bought this book a year and a half ago because I had read quite a few articles on this prize-winning novel and it sat on the shelf unfortunately until now.  Wish I would have read it sooner, but I’m delighted that I finally got around to this five-star wonder!

My book club this afternoon had one of the best discussions in a long time.  Seems as if almost everyone enjoyed the book.  We had a few who weren’t so sure but the overall majority was a thumbs up!  One of the book club members stated, “I loved the book but I don’t want to go to India.”

Aravind Adiga and his family emigrated to Australia where he continued studying in high school.  He later studied English Literature at Oxford and Columbia Universities. He went on to a successful career as a financial journalist having written articles for the Financial Times and Money. Subsequently, he worked for Time magazine and went on to write The White Tiger while he was on freelance.  In 2008, Adiga joined the prestigious group of Indian born writers, Salmon Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai in winning the Man Booker Prize.