Writing 101 Assignment #16: Mine Your Own Material – Speech

“Speech is basic. If you can’t control your words, you can’t control anything.” – Yecheilyah

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We’ve all been here. The orgasmic rush of an undisciplined tongue trying to figure out if it should spill the beans this morning. The aching necessity to feel our very own thoughts in our own mouths, and the satisfaction of these words sweet against the palate. It starts with the mind. A single thought gives birth to language, and a single scent of emotion strives to find its way on top our lips. Pay no heed to logic or common sense says this voice. Just the flavor of desire hanging on the edges of our hearts and waiting to fall like children from our mouths. Speech. There is no refund policy. Words cannot be taken back or traded or made invisible. Cannot be sucked like air back on top our lips, into our mouths and inside our chest. Cannot send its signal to the brain again and ask him to take them back. Speech can only be controlled. So dissect your mind and determine which thoughts are worthy to make it into the air or onto the page. Choose them like you chose your wedding dress. Carefully. Choose them like you chose your school. Wisely. Treat your words as if they are die hard criminals and you must release some of them for early parole. Which will you choose? Cradle your thoughts in your arms like an infant for words are just as fragile and vulnerable. Once spoken, like eggs once broken, they can never be repaired. The tweet I posted some time ago meant that the person, who cannot control the words of his own mouth, won’t have the strength to control anything else in his life. For his words are his. They come from his mind and from his heart. And we, why we cannot dig into his chest and choose them for him.

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Writing 101: Weekly Wrap-Up 11-15

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Assignment #11: If We Were Having Coffee Right Now
Assignment #12: Critique a Piece of Work – “We Real Cool”
Assignment #13: The Third Eye: 203- Word Story
Assignment #14: Recreate a Single Day
Assignment #15: When Music Becomes Movement

For your convenience, I have added a page to my Writing 101 Assignments to make them easier to find even after the course has ended.

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Writing 101 Assignment #15: When Music Becomes Movement

 

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou

Music is powerful energy. I cannot remember growing up without holding on to some kind of tune. Lyrically swinging from one place to the next, music always moves me. When I’m music I am ocean. I am sea. I am one racing body of water. I am tucked between the words and feeling every psalm with my soul.

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I believe music can be both positive and negative. It is capable of building up and also tearing down depending on what kind of energy is associated with it. Music can move us and it can make us move. When we listen to music, it’s processed in many different areas of the brain. People have been known to either learn from music or become corrupt from music. I believe it’s because of the power that music carries. It has the capacity to put us in a different state of mind. It can be relaxing or hype, virtuous or malicious.

I enjoy music that combines both lyric and tune. Good music to me is defined by its capacity to be audibly enjoyable but also mentally stimulating in a positive way. Warm my spirit or cultivate my mind but do not just make me dance. Bring me joy or bring me meditation but bring me. Carry me. That’s it. I enjoy music that carries me into a place that grows me.

I rarely listen to modern mainstream music but some of my favorite throwbacks are:

My People Hold On – Eddie Kendricks
When You Believe – Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston
Clean Hands – Alanis Morissette
Mariah Carey – Hero
The Point of it All – Anthony Hamilton
Everything – Mary J. Blige
Love Is – Jah Cure
The Truth – India Aire
Spend My Life with You – Eric Benet
Another Again – John Legend
For You – Kenny Latimore
Love – Musiq Soulchild
Like You’ll Never See Me Again – Alicia Keys
Get It Together – India Aire
My Love is Your Love – Whitney Houston
I Love Me Some Him – Toni Braxton
Share My World – Mary J Blige

I love 90s love songs. I don’t think you have ever really been in love until you can relate to a 90s love song. If you can’t listen to Mary J and understand heart break then you just don’t know. But I’m also what people call an old soul. (My big sister always calls me old) I’ve always thought beyond my age and when it comes to music I’m the same way. The kinds of music I really enjoy are what the old folk call “The Dusties”, the Marvin Gaye, the Luther Vandross, or The Temptations if you will. I love too the sound of the blues and jazz. If there is any one song that would define me right now it wouldn’t be anything on my list; it would probably come from something from way back in the day.

Writing 101 Assignment #14: Recreate a Single Day

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Age: 10

I lay on the concrete and it felt like nothing underneath my skin. Not like a bed of rocks or warm gravel. It just felt like nothing and I didn’t want anyone to touch me. Now, if only I could get the message across to someone. Anyone. Guess I should go ahead and harness those telepathic powers. “Please don’t move me, please don’t move me, please don’t move me.” Now, I’ll just lie here and keep repeating myself. That’s it everyone, walk around. Nothing to see here. I was caught in conversation with my own thoughts that summer afternoon when someone scooped me into their arms and then suddenly I couldn’t breathe.

Hours Earlier
June, 1997 – Afternoon

The bell roared its final lyric from  the interior of Scott Joplin Elementary School and finally released us. “Thanks Auntie Roslyn!”

A whole dollar. It’s official; I am on to bigger and better things now. Turns out it really does pay to get good grades. Moving on up out the fourth grade. Time to bring all the toys outside to celebrate.

As night dawned and the street lights came on, Mama yelled that it was time for my sister and I to come home.  It was a beautiful day out and the ice cream truck took advantage as it sung down the street. I decided it was time to spend.

“But mama said to come in the house,” whined my twin sister.

“Just hold my toys till I come back”, I said annoyed. Why she can’t just go with the flow?

I wasn’t interested in Twin’s backtalk, just ice cream. Did she not see that I had just been a devil for Halloween? She better get it together. I mean sure, the pitchfork is made of plastic with a cute light bulb, but I know how to use it.

The ice cream truck sang its way down the street with its “Pop goes the weasel hymn”. And being as careful as I could with anxious feet I embarked on my journey. “Yea, this will only take a minute. Life is about taking risks little sister. I’ll be back before you know it.”

***********

So here I am, floating in the air and unable to breathe.

“Told yall not to move me. Grown-ups. They never listen.” I didn’t hear screams. I didn’t feel the impact. I don’t remember anything outside of rolling from the hood of the car and being picked up from the ground and put in the grass again. “There, that’s better. I can breathe now.”

There is no pain as I lay here surrounded by the neighborhood. I don’t know what everyone’s looking at. I scanned my surroundings in awe of the large crowd and realized my left hand was being squeezed by some woman. Her tears soaked her face and she pleaded her apologies over and over again. “Oh, so your the one who hit me. No worries, I forgive you. It’s really not all that bad. Not like I feel anything. Plus, you do know it’s really not your fault right? Yup, its mine. Just don’t tell Twin. You keep secrets right? You keep mine and I’ll keep yours. Oh come on, will you stop the crying already? It’s really not that bad. I don’t feel anything. Oh that’s right, you can’t hear me. No one can. I’m liking these powers. Nice. Next time mom says—

“She shouldn’t have been running across the street,” said a familiar voice in the crowd.

It was cousin Rachel. There, take a scowl. You better be careful lady. Who knows what I can do with my new super powers.

An Hour Later – The Hospital

So I’m sad to tell you that my super powers wore off. I still can’t speak but I’m starting to feel pain. According to the voices around me I’d broken my leg, or more precisely, my femur bone, the longest bone in your body, located in the thigh area. So now I’m staring at the ceiling waiting for the doctors to come back. Mom is on the other side of me and my entire right leg is wrapped in some kind of casing that feels like its getting heavier and heavier. “Oh boy, this is it. I’m dying. I’m officially dying.” My voice opened up and I started to cry. “What’s taking them so long? This is unbearable! What is this thing on my leg?! It’s so heavy. It has to be a cast. They must know my super powers are gone. Who would be so cruel as to wrap my broken leg in a cast! It feels like a big fat man was sitting on my leg. I know he’s around here somewhere, I just can’t see him. I don’t think I’ll have a leg left. It’s sinking deeper and deeper into the bed and the mattress is starting to fold over.

So the “doctors” finally came back and wheeled me into surgery. I wonder about the evil doctor who commanded his men to try and make my leg disappear. I’m sure he wanted to do away with me and I was being taken to a secret laboratory in which this would happen. Wait, he’s trying to give me something. It’s poison. I knew it! Wait, what’s happening? No, don’t put that in my ….”

Recovery

What a day. First I get attacked by the white car. Then I get kidnapped and drugged by men pretending to be doctors and now I’m sitting up in a hospital bed. Let me check to see if all of my body parts are here. Head. Check. Arms. Check. Face in tack. Check. Good, I can wiggle my toes. Check. Left leg is fine. Right—

“Ahhh!”

I started to cry again. Someone had stapled me back together. I instantly thought of my fourth grade teacher who stapled his thumb on occasion to let us know he was crazy enough not to mess with. “Was he in on this? I wouldn’t doubt it.” I wondered what kind of technology they were using. I’d better be careful not to touch the staples. It may activate some special gadget and suck me deep into the floor. Maybe I’ll just count them. One….two…three…ten…eighteen…twenty-four! Oh my, this must really be serious. I’m sure there’s a tracking device in there somewhere. And what did they do with my real leg?

I thought about telling mama about these evil men but I didn’t want to blow my cover. If she was protecting me they couldn’t know about it. I’m kind of tired now so we’ll have to talk about escape routes in the morning. Guess I’ll get some sleep since mom’s up. She can watch the door.

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Writing 101 – Assignment #13 – The Third Eye: 203-Word Story

The Third Eye

Mrs. Labno was a small woman. Short and petite with a splash of hip. It would not have occurred to me that she was mid-wife to my third eye. That this little lady would lend it to me all small and delicate and black, and I cherished the way it hung from my neck like a giant eye engraved in my chest. I wasn’t an alien but I had transformed. One minute I was in class and the next I was at an assembly. I could record twice as much information and move between space like the wind. No one saw me coming. It wasn’t until later that they saw how I invaded their privacy, catching their mouths in the middle of conversations and freezing basketballs mid-air before they reached the hoop. Cheerleaders died when I separated their teeth and caught the gum underneath their tongues. No one was safe. The optical controls were far more attentive than my other two and the vibration reduction kept the images still that wished to crawl away. I was a junior in High School when I joined the yearbook team and Mrs. Labno introduced me to photography. I would forever uphold passion for the third eye.

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Writing 101 – Assignment #12: Critique a Piece of Work – “We Real Cool”

Today I will be critiquing Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool” for today’s Blogging U assignment:

We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon.

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Gwendolyn Brooks is the renowned poet from Chicago that we have grown to love. In her own words, Brooks explains her inspiration behind this poem, which began while walking passed a pool hall in a Chicago neighborhood. She saw there a group of young men and pondered to herself how they felt about themselves. “I wrote [‘We Real Cool’] because I was passing by a pool hall in my community one afternoon during school time, and I saw, therein, a little bunch of boys – I say here in this poem, seven – and they were shooting pool. But instead of asking myself, ‘Why aren’t they in school?’ I asked myself, ‘I wonder how they feel about themselves?” Gwendolyn Brooks

I think when people read this poem they are put in the mind that these boys are too cool for school and when I first read it, years ago, I have to say I summed it up to pretty much mean that. Here are a group of young men who would rather partake in other activities rather than an education and as a result they die living the life they have chosen. However, with maturity came a different understanding of this poem.

“We Real Cool” is a poem that speaks from the point of view of these seven young men and it is why Brooks recites it the way that she does. The “We” is to carry lightness. Not so much to be pronounced harshly, but it is a slang that is carried in a  kind of whisper and you’ll hear this if you’ve ever heard Brooks recite it. So it is indication that this is not Gwendolyn Brooks who speaks, but it is the young men speaking and they are expressing a feeling about themselves that has been brought on due their interaction with a certain establishment.

“We
Jazz June.”

June is a symbol of an establishment. Typically, Americans adore June as a month. It is the time of summer; a time where school ends and the sun is out, and children play. June is in short a fun time. A time where people are married, and children have birthday parties. Traditionally, people cannot wait for June to come because it represents that transition into the summer months where things are happy and vibrant and lively and fun. For these young men however they “Jazz June” meaning they do not like it. They are not looking forward to June but they “Jazz” June. Jazz is a slang word meaning that the young men are willing to do anything that would annoy June; anything that would rebel against June. And so June is a symbol for an establishment. It is to say that these young men feel left out of it. They do not feel part of the system and so they leave school, they stay out late, they sin (which is not so much a transgression of biblical law in this sense but more so a transgression of the laws of the land. It is a symbol of their rebellion) and they do anything in general that will contradict June.

“We
Die soon.”

The final line, “We die soon” is a result of the life that they live. Not so much how fast living leads to death (which it does) but more deeply it is the treatment of their lives by the institutions in which they are rebelling against itself. Because they are locked out of it, their lives are not as valid, valued, or cherished and so eventually they die. The young men are expressing, in this poem, their low self-esteem and low self-worth inside of the communities in which they live.

In an interview, Brooks discussed an experience she had at a University where she’d done some reading. She spoke concerning a young black woman who stood up and said, “Why do you keep talking about blackness? We all know that the time for that is over. We are now merely American’s”. Brooks’s response, in brief, was that she’d like for blacks to be proud of where they come from.”

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They say that youth is wasted on the young; that their minds have not fully developed into the capacity to appreciate certain things, particularly a sense of pride in heritage and identity. As I listened to that interview about the young woman I think back to this poem. What strikes me as important to note in regard to “We Real Cool” is its focus on manhood, or rather boyhood. The experience of a black boy in America is different than that of a black girl. And this is a fact that is often gone under the radar. We talk a lot about black women, particularly in regard to a focus on feminism and gender identity and double discrimination far as being both black and woman is concerned. I think this is in many ways a trap because it can easily develop into hatred for our men and if not hatred, blindness to the struggles that they endure and their discrimination’s as well as our own. I think we spend a lot of time focusing on doing it ourselves that we miss the purpose. The purpose being that the strength of black family life is directly tied into the respect and honor that we either have or don’t have for black men as black women. Gwendolyn said it best, “If we don’t pull together then we won’t be here to pull at all.”

I say this to say that there’s a lot of focus on black women and not so much black men. It is not to say that the black experience in America is limited to gender, of course we know that we have all experienced psychological trauma especially the black woman. But we do have to admit that there is not as much attention toward the same kind of trauma exposed to black men. It is a fact that to be a black man is quite different in many ways than to be a black woman. One of these ways is a black man’s treatment in America by its varying institutions be that employment, or simply his struggle to lead his own family. Being unlawfully pulled over by the police is another example, even the calculation of prison beds against the reading scores of black males in the public schools. And so this poem is a reminder, at least to me that black men in America are, in the words of Toni Morrison, criminalized more than any other man or woman for that matter in America, and they are in constant dread for their lives, be that spiritual or physical.

We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon.

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Writing 101: Assignment #11 – Update Your Readers – If We Were Having Coffee Right Now

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If we were having coffee right now…I would not take you to Starbucks. Or dunkin donuts. I would instead invite you to my home where our voices would carry from the kitchen table to the living room sofa, where there are no TVs for a reason (you’d have to go in the TV room for that). And after coasting our mugs and dimming the lamp, which we don’t need much of because of the morning sun, I would bring my legs in and dig into the sofa. I’d probably grab the couch pillow and here we would begin.

If we were having coffee right now… I would ask you if you like the way I redecorated the blog. I don’t usually experiment with themes too much but I wanted to move the furniture to the right side of the room and make my pages more visible. I fell in love with this really cute peach and white button theme. If you’re a guy I would ask you why you just rolled your eyes.

If we were having coffee right now…I would ask you about your favorite post and if my quantity of posts annoys you. I think we’ll laugh about this for a while until you begin to annoy me and I change the subject. “What’s your favorite kind of posts? Poetry? Quotes? Short stories?” Speaking of poetry I really miss the Open Mic. I would like to go back to the stage sometime in the near future. You’re welcomed to come see me perform.

If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you how excited I am for my end of the year road trip. I’ll be visiting a mom of mine in Roswell New Mexico, a place I’ve never been. I will tell you that we’re planning a sleepover and that I’m very excited. I’ll probably start smiling really big because going to see mom means I have an excuse to be a kid again. You would probably smile before rolling your eyes because I am now reaching for the photo album. This could go on forever.

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you about the 3rd Installment of my short story trilogy called Stella, which releases in February. I would take you back down memory lane, passed the cotton fields of the first Stella and beyond the colored line of her granddaughter the second Stella and smack down in the middle of the road where we look at the life of Joseph McNair, Stella’s son. (Please see the home page to see what this book is about). I’m excited  to get my book over to the editor before I conduct my final proofread. I’m still trying to decide on a venue for the release party and book signing. Speaking of book signing, I intentionally decided to wait until after I finished the series to have one for Stella.  So I’m looking to do an event where I can discuss all the books. I’m really behind far as planning goes but I hope to have more event details prepared by next month. I’m also planning to attend the Black History Month Parade in Atlanta in February. So now I’m not sure if I want to release it there or here at home. In any event, I have to finish counting up the cost so I can start my fundraiser. I am also still working on my business plan. Time permitting I can get that finished by next year as well so I can get the ball rolling on looking into some grants.  We’ll see where that goes.

If we were having coffee right now… I would offer you a business card and thank you for hanging out with me and offer you more coffee before we wrapped things up. We stand, laughing like two college friends because your funny. We’d stroll over by the coat hanger and, if you’re a woman, we’ll both have our hands on our hips with our heads tilted slightly to engage in more conversation. By the time we do make it to our jackets we only just open the door. We’ll probably talk a bit more before actually walking through it. If your a man who is married to my new lady friend I’d ask you if you would mind warming the car. You’ll do it. We all know this could go on forever.

If we were having coffee right now… I would wave goodbye to my new blog friend who was so kind as to meet me in person, in my home, over a cup of coffee.

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