black august.

black -the color of my true love’s hair- is also the name given to my skin. and I take that name back in pride because there is nothing but strength in this flesh. i carry on, for my ancestors, the memories and experiences of lives gone by and struggles for liberation. we sing our freedom songs to one another where ever we meet: on corners- congregation pews- jail cells- bus seats- sin shacks- chat sites- taxis- dark rooms- and living rooms.

black august is the name we have given this month. in honor of all the triumphs, tragedies and challenges that Africans have faced since coming to these shores. it is also in ceremony and remembrance of fighters that we bless this cycle.

The universe has witnessed major points of african struggle, rebirth and genius in this special month: The first official slaves were brought to this country in August 1619. A general strike of slaves was called for in August of 1843. The Underground Railroad’s founding date is in August. The rebellions of Nat Turner (1831) and Gabriel Prosser (1800) were in August. The MOVE house was bombed by the state in August of 1978. Fred Hampton and Mutulu Shakur are August births. DuBois died in Ghana in August of 1963. and Jonathan Jackson, in protest of his brother George’s arrest, attempted to liberate his kin by taking hostages in the Alameda Courthouse and was killed.

we must remember our moments here. one of the greatest tools of the oppressor is to take away our connections with one another. with our history. with our knowledge that pain and suffering are not infinite and do not have to be. we can create and dream of something better. this sky is the same one that revolutions have been dreamt under and that our revolutionary foremothers moved under.

and these are thoughts for inspiration

thoughts for revolution

the people must be free.

Spells is Might.

spells is might.

they mean no harm to the people nor are they thoughts of the sinister.

spells is power and healing and love open ended and over flowing.

They is intentions sat down by our people, for centuries, under this very sun. And we existed in their embrace- guided by natural intuition and inclination. To cast a spell is to send out a thought to the universe- a blessing of peace and purpose.

bad spells. wicked womyn and forked tongues came with capitalism and the white colonizer seeking to take the resources of of womyn and people of color alike. Salem womyn. Witch womyn. Bitches they were under the male gaze. They communed with one another, prayed for one another

both blessed and affirmed one another through the healing of the Earth- our mother.

black magic. painted like the very skins who practiced it- another white myth.

my people saw sun and moon. dreamt in dirt, rose and ran in fields. laughed in the rivers i’ve hoped to know and made life accordingly. They saw signs and felt vibrations.

we honored the earth. and in turn were blessed.

a spell is a reflection of that very truth. It is a soul gift given from one to another. spells ain’t evil. They’re the makings of life.

Waves of Unrest

He is a Black man-

walking side by side, my lover and I cause panic.

A sea of unrest sits on the faces of white womyn as they run further into themselves and the lies told to them.

I wait on coke cans and such when he sends me a line asking to be held

and I reply “come over.”

I hear sirens outside

and that terror mounts.

He is a Black man-

walking to me at night,

my lover may trigger panic and

die by waves of unrest.

The In Between Papers

I write out of a need to understand the movings inside of me. I write because I want to be able to speak to the raging war and understand it’s factions. I write because I want to own my reality for myself. I write because I want to know myself.

My life has been sprawled throughout dungeons and meadows. I can only understand it through the movement of thought and pen. My life has been shaped by capitalism, racism, patriarchy, ego, and conscious movement. Writing has always served as a way to anchor my experience and seek for the tools of liberation. One of the key components to our rescue from this societies wickedness is an unflinching understanding of the dialectics of our inner workings. My queer and feminist foremothers understood this is the 60’s when they declared the personal to be political. My African ancestors understood this when they created art that reflected and served a purpose in their material lives. My writing is my therapy. It is my spear. I hope to liberate myself and in that process – reach others, build with others and create a new proposition. a richer revolution.

Last week I completed my second chapbook (collection of poetry): “The In-Between Papers”. This small collection of thoughts and prose holds big meaning for me. It is a collection of emotions- understood and cried over. Embraced and celebrated- over the past year. The narrative of the past few months is an intense one as you might imagine from the poetry and writing on this blog. I have found value in owning my truth and sharing it when useful. It helps to lesson the burden or secrets on your heart and helps to place you in the center of your own reality- as an active participant. Folks often draft fantasies out of their lives. They don’t see their own movement within their circumstances and in many instances continue to repeat them. I hope that by sharing these thoughts I can contribute in some way to the growth of someone outside of myself and that I can continue to create, within myself, someone more ready for revolution.

If you would like a copy of this chapbook, hit me in an email! I’d love to send you a copy!!

You can reach me at: cliftonrashad@gmail.com

*special thanks to the Corner Collective for inspiring and pushing me to get this done!

Wings

Image

Mama’s smile has wings

and her arms- warmth.

She’d make sure our water always had sugar and that the stench of poverty never sat on our clothes too unevenly.

She tried to build us with blocks of her own making-

Trust and confidence,

love and faith,

endurance,

strength,

pride and self worth.

Mama sat hiding crack pipes and upturned bottles

Throwing all the nasty bits behind the couch where she thought we didn’t see them.

Sending us floating on smiles.

Mama’s love set foreign standards on our project block

She meant it to carry on . . .

But you can’t make love real for another’s heart.

No more than you can stop the passing sands

And mama’s love can over carry over only so much into the world without her.

There comes a time where us got to find our own.

And grow in it for ourselves.

And you should never mistake the intimacy that comes at the start.

The feelings moving about between moist flesh

and the thoughts dancing about like wonder

The quiet on his face.

Id wish to reshape it-

the space, touch his face and rest.

But sometimes smiles can mean other thangs

and a kiss can be empty.

Love like there is in this world misleads.

Misinforms.

And mistreats.

Leaves you alone and believin’ friends to be lovers and lovers to be eternal

and so on and so on.

I found my love in my wash bason.

Clinging to dirt, reaching for me.

I took a rag and wrapped it.

Whispered to it.

Held it.

Read it for what it was and placed it down.

Talked it off the ledge it was on, in my room.

Amongst all the misfortune and patriarchy.

In my heart theres a space for hope to land.

Dig roots and lead.

And theres a place for my love to breathe.

Move past the manipulation and define itself for itself.

Something like a resolution came about as I went to sleep.

A promise to do better with ourselves.

To teach others how to treat us through how we treat ourselves.

To be able to stand to them and say:

“I am the somebody I want to love”

An Involuntary Recognition of Life

Some calm . . .

setting like sun done come upon me

as I find pieces of myself that were kept away for birthdays, family gatherings, and first dates.

They lie tucked under the bath house bed.

My palm, pressed to skin, feels like solace and I feel still

Laying transfixed, still. . .

My eyes find some man being fucked, violently

His head bent low.

and I saw you laying parallel.

Playing majorette with a couple of torn heart-strings.

Twirling about with some other man’s ruined symphony.

You blew smoke- thick like illusion – and sang of worlds where we weren’t prey for White men eager to waste salt on our endings.

Some part of me sat with you back when food was homemade and basons were bath tubs and we laughed at uncle Floyd’s missing teeth

and dirt roads that no one can drive on

and night’s out and even crack pipes

and we laughed.

And thought on how ghetto life seemed easy compared to this numb terror.

Still . . .

Barely understood thoughts: gold bands and dark skin

Sarah Bartman

melon patches

mule bone

Hurston and Hughes.

gin joints

spades tables

grandma’s hands

reconstruction

a month of Sundays

Loretta

pale skin and Betty Gene

South Carolina

insertion and pain

bleeding at the start

black balls

white dolls

and minstrel shows

money shots, towels and still . . .

we all lay under some White man’s gaze.