The Black Plague

Steppers Delight Giclee On Canvas by John Holyfield

They treated them like The Black Plague.

This walking pestilence ravaging the Earth.

Walking all proud-like and powerful

all royalty-like and purposeful

infecting generations of people with its culture, music, dance, and cornrolls.

This was a virus that needed to be controlled.

They could not have this thing infecting people with all this hope.

COVID-19 is terrifying, but empowering the people was worse

so, the powers that be raised their glasses, smiled and solidified the oath.

 

The first phase was overt

strip them of their names, rape their wives, and remove their clothes.

Next, shackle them together and dismantle their dignity.

The vaccination was so far working.

They became Mammies instead of Mothers

and Negroes instead of Kings.

 

But the Black Plague continued to spread

continued to influence

and shift the direction of the Earth

there was no restraining the wind

out of its affliction grew the epidemic

of black excellence

building communities, gaining wealth, and reestablishing identity.

The so-called powers had to take their power back

and so, they infected their neighborhoods with crack.

Mass incarcerate them

“Jump Jim Crow” them

redline them

school-to-prison pipeline them

hide their history

hide their truth

miseducate them and kill the youth.

Put your knees on their necks

and stick your knives in their backs.

But none of it worked.

 

It was a secret deeper than White Supremacy

more in-depth than the witchcraft of stolen identity

deeper than unarmed black men bleeding in the streets

more frightening than charred bodies hanging from trees

more detailed than this apparent sickness was the truth

these people they called plagues were not plagues at all

they were Prophets

and healers of the Earth.

 

It was no wonder the more they were afflicted,

the more they grew.

My Memoir Writing Journey

What exactly am I working on now? A lot of things but mostly my memoir. Now that Keep Yourself Full is on its way out, I want to get this done and I will have to deter a lot of projects to do it. At least until I finish the first draft and then I can work on other stuff and just work on the memoir from there. (I will still revise The Stella Trilogy first and release my next collection of poetry).

This is the hardest writing job I’ve ever undertaken. I have deleted everything I ever sent my email list as a sneak peek two years ago (can’t believe I let you in on that *insert eye-ball roll*) and have started over. I am fifty pages and nine chapters into the first draft so it’s not so bad considering starting over. What I don’t want this memoir to be is an autobiography. I’ve always wanted to write an autobiography, but that’s before I learned the difference between the two.

I learned memoirs differ from autobiographies. Memoirs are popular because they center on one theme and read like novels, making them much more interesting than the chronological format of the autobiography.

Theme

One thing I am working on is not making this psychoanalytic if that’s the right word. While I’ve endured much trauma in my life, I don’t want this to be a dark history of my crazy. I don’t want this to be a therapy session. This is difficult because I’m not a sugarcoat type person and neither is my mother. I gotta keep it all the way real. I gotta be honest. How do I do this without going too far?

My title is “I Wasn’t Built to Break,” so my theme is to take all the things that have been obstacles and challenges in my life, that could have broken me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but didn’t. This means that I will not go into every single detail of my life but I will focus on certain significant events, starting with growing up in the Robert Taylor Projects.

Anyone who grew up in any of Chicago’s projects is a survivor in my eyes, a warrior. It meant they not only escaped the drugs, violence, poverty, neglect, and gangs, but they also escaped literal death. Perched above the high-risers of Robert Taylor and Cabrini Green, snipers (aka Gang Members) with high-powered rifles would sit on a top floor (in a vacant apartment) and shoot their rivals. These bullets though, often hit innocent bystanders, mostly children.

I remember my Uncle coming to school to get us early because the buildings were shooting, and we had to run to our building. When I say it was a Warzone, I mean that literally. And none of us project kids ever got counseling or therapy for the things we saw. Not even the classmates of the seven-year-old Dantrell Davis from Cabrini who was shot by a sniper on his way to school in 1992 in front of his mother, teachers, police officers, and classmates.

Historical

Writing a memoir is no easy task so my approach is to research and write this as if I am writing a historical novel. Since I enjoy writing Historical Fiction, I want to incorporate history into my testimony. Instead of focusing on my experiences only, I want to take us back into the politics of some of what was going on in the world I did not have knowledge of as a kid. There’s my world where I can only see what’s in front of me and around me and then there’s the world at large. How did the decisions of others affect me, one of 21,000 children growing up in what became known as one of the poorest urban communities in the United States, a concentration of poverty they called it?

I want to go into how the projects under the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) replaced the Chicago Slums, the discriminatory policies like redlining that kept blacks from purchasing homes in their own neighborhoods, the kitchenettes and one-room basements blacks lived in during the 30s, 40s and 50s, the beacon of hope the projects promised as a replacement, the mixed-community that was there (because whites and blacks both lived in the PJs!), the racial riots that never made the news, and the racist policies that caused many white families to move out of the projects and into the suburbs.

And what about the Plan for Transformation that demolished Public Housing and replaced them with a mixed-income community of condos and townhomes? What did this cultural mix mean for former public housing residents? And who was Robert Taylor? The black man on the board of CHA who opposed building the projects on the same land as the slums? The black man who wanted to spread the buildings out, so they fully integrated blacks throughout Chicago and who, after CHA refused, quit. I hope that if I do this, it will be a much enjoyable read.

I want to incorporate both history and personal testimony with the testimony supporting history. I remember for instance that whole “Homie the Clown” Scare of the early 90s. I remember that because I had nightmares of the clown coming into our apartment and chasing me around the couch. In 1991, rumors surfaced that a man who we called “Homie the Clown” was riding around in a van kidnapping and killing kids.

“Homey the Clown,” was the name of a character played by Damon Wayans on the early 90s sketch-comedy show In Living Color. The character was an angry black ex-con who carried a sock for knocking bad kids upside the head. His catchphrase was “Homey don’t play that.” Our “Homie the Clown” was allegedly dressed as a clown and went around kidnapping kids. Rumors said that he rode in a van and liked to stand next to mailboxes eating bananas.

This sounds silly now, but it was serious back then, just like the recent clown scares. We got let out of school early and children were afraid to walk by mailboxes. It also didn’t help that Stephen King’s IT had also just come out.

Community

It wasn’t all bad though so I want to talk about the close-knit community that existed there too that never made the news. Generations of families grew up together in what is rarely seen today. My mother’s friend, who lived next door, helped her to babysit. People watched one another children, shopped together, stepped up when someone was in need and shared food. We could go next door or downstairs to ask if someone had sugar or flour. We bartered services and passed along information about job openings or what was new at the Aid office and the candy lady was an entrepreneur. She used her food stamps to open a candy store back when you can get one piece of candy for every penny you had, better known as Penny Candy. People threw house parties and sleepovers.

Robert Taylor was not just a concentration of poverty. It was also a thriving community. When things were good, they were really good, and everyone was family. But you didn’t see this on the news. We were not all crack babies. We were not animals.

No Whining Wednesday – Expect What You Cannot See

It’s been a minute since we’ve had a No Whining Wednesday, where we do not complain, whine or criticize for a 24 hour period.

If this is your first NWW be sure to CLICK HERE to learn more about this segment. For the rest of you, welcome back!

The No Whining Wednesday Badge

We hold onto hope with shaking hands and weak hearts. It is something we fall back on in times of desperation and fear. We cry out loud for it, searching for solutions to our problems when there’s nothing left to do but wait. When things are out of our hands and we are no longer in control then, and only then, do we hope because there’s nothing left to do.

It is time for an upgrade.

Expect What You Cannot See

Hope by definition is the substance of what is expected, the proof of what we cannot see. To strengthen expectation is to begin to expect things to happen that is not yet foreseeable. To build in hope is to start to look at life, not through the lens of what is not here, but what is yet to come.

It may seem impossible that you will be relieved of Child Support or that you will get out of prison in time to see your children grow up, that you will find the love of your life or that you will be healed from that disease. It may seem impossible that you can love again after being broken or recover from a traumatic experience. It’s difficult to look at these kinds of situations, many of which we have no control, and expect things to turn out OK. It’s difficult because everything physical says that it will not. Your appeal was denied, your Child Support Payments increased, the doctor says there is no cure and your emotions won’t simmer from heartache.

All the assistance, research, history, and the data is working against you.

But, then, there is hope…

When you can expect things to turn out differently despite all the physical proof that it won’t, this is hope.

When you start to expect what you cannot see. This is hope.

Hope is expecting something to happen that you cannot see is possible but you still expect it. It is, as the saying goes, taking the first step even though you cannot see the whole staircase. You know it leads to a place. You can’t see where it is or what’s up there but you know something’s there. It is when you are willing to be uncomfortable for a time because you expect that things will (despite the “evidence” that it won’t) get better.

To upgrade the hope in your life, you must begin to expect what you cannot see.

When you change your perspective, the way you see things and the way you think about them, your entire life will begin to change.

The Power of Influence

I was browsing my archives and thought it was interesting that I came upon this post I wrote on the same day it was published two years ago, August 10, 2015.  I don’t believe in coincidences so I am re-posting this for whoever needs to read it. It is, after all, Throwback Thursday.


What if I told you that inventions were built on your smile? If I told you, that babies were made from your good morning? That because of you someone glided their way home today. Kissed sunshine into the arms of a loved one or sat down to give birth to their first poem. Trembling and afraid, they are virgin to this moment. Nothing to warn them of the Sanchez in their blood or the Maya on their skin but here they are because you loved them. What if I told you that inside the creases of your armpits were hugs that wrote masterpieces, which sang platinum albums, and wiped away tears as easily and as gently as music? What if I told you that your words are music? That someone somewhere is listening to you strum their pain with your fingers. That with your words alone you Lauryn Hill them back to Zion. Never underestimate the hope you unknowingly gift to others, like slow songs that mean nothing until you are desperate enough to listen to the words.

The PBS Blog Podcast – Episode 1: HOPE

I have something new for you guys! You’ve read my writing. Now hear me speak!

A new month is upon us and I have something new for you. I am calling it The PBS Blog Podcast:

The PBS Blog Podcast is an audio version of Yecheilyah’s blog “The PBS Blog” and will contain words of inspiration and writing tips to carry you through the week.

I am always looking for ways to add value to this blog so I am expanding my platform to include audio posts filled with inspiration, motivation, and writing tips in ways that can benefit you throughout the week.

That said, I don’t know how often these episodes will come but if you subscribe to my Soundcloud page HERE (and this blog) you are sure to be updated.

The first episode is called Hope. Enjoy!

(Music by Cyborg of Shadowville Productions)

https://soundcloud.com/user-573689310/the-pbs-blog-podcast-ep-1-hope


Yecheilyah is an Author, Blogger, and Poet. Her latest Release, Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One) is available now on Amazon:

“I must say not only did I enjoy the story, which is the first book in a series, but I, a middle-aged British white woman, also learned a little more of black American history at the same time. The author managed to weave aspiring writer Nora White’s fictional character in amongst the life and times of 1920’s Jazz age poets and novelists Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.”

 – Amazon Customer Review

Get Renaissance: The Nora White Story now on Amazon.