Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Today is the last day of 2011 and I have a list of resolutions that I've actually started on earlier this month. 2011 was very challenging. But, it was highly illuminating. I did a lot.  I was blessed to have the opportunity to try new things and know what it is I want to do and what it is I don't want to do. I realized that I no longer am interested in maintaining an online personal blog. It was fun while it lasted. It was cathartic. It really taught me a lot as well in operating on line-- from using HTML, using photos, etc. But, I think, I have lost an interest in the oversharing blogging requires sometimes. I think I want to focus on writing some books, too.

My website at http://www.KhadijahOnline.com will remain up and running, of course, to attract clients and document my appearances and work. But, this blog will no longer be updated.

I thank you all who have visited my blog, left comments, retweeted my blog on Twitter, etc. There are tons of blogs online, and you taking the time to read mine has meant a lot.

I hope your 2012 totally rocks.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving: Giving and Learning

Happy Thanksgiving. I work at Northern Virginia Community College and in October, I had assigned my class the assignment of making a commercial or PSA about something they are passionate about. The students were in groups of about five and were to create a video to screen in the class. This group decided to begin a community service at the church across from our campus. None of these students had volunteered before and the community service-- giving food to people who are not homeless, but struggling financially, really touched them. They told the class how the people were just like all of us and were "normal", not the stereotype we have of people who are poor and hungry. Thought I'd share their experience.
 
 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Infinite. A Poem for Troy Davis

Somehow, I can't fall back into my every day routine without my mind creeping back to the horror of this past Wednesday. I listened on the radio as somehow was executed. That reality haunts me, that we've come to this in our history. That we listen to people being unjustly killed. That radio programs and tv shows count ratings as folks crowd in to stay aware of someone's murder. Wow.

Troy Davis' execution was so highly traumatic for me. I will admit that I never openly condemned the death penalty, but, it isn't because I don't disagree with it. My opinion and advocacy has always been around addressing the corrupt legal system first. A legal system that disproportionately imprisons black people and enforces policy borne through slavery is not something our country should be upholding. Troy Davis' case, infused with all types of inaccuracies, questionable doubt and inconsistencies deserved a fair trial and that never happened. Not only should he not been executed, he should, most likely, not even have been imprisoned.

That's why when folks bring up the executions of other people who have been executed since Davis' death, I can honestly say that I'm not there yet. My issue isn't the death penalty simply, and its morally wrong existence. I am dismayed with our entire justice system, focused on how to assist in its dismantling and rebirth.


Infinite
A poem for Troy Davis

Bits of information about his life floated like ripped pieces of gossamer
along the wind tunnel formed between mouths and fingers on keyboards,
tap, tap, tapping his name out in full standing

Troy Anthony Davis

lived. unevenly in the minds of those outside
composed from a collage of recanted testimonies, dusty memories and clipped quotes,
he breathed but for a moment on the outside his prison, slowly pieced together,
glued incohesively together from tears, pleas and acknowledgements on his behalf.
His name tethered to the emblem of injustice. Red, white and blue. Stars falling.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Didn't Hear About Troy Davis Before Yesterday? Get Over Yourself.

The tears, avid attention to the Democracy Now! broadcast and twitter sparring last night in the name of Troy Davis didn't stop the man from being executed at 11:08pm Wednesday evening. The hashtag #TroyDavis didn't wield powers to unlatch him from the gurney he lay to await word on whether he was going to be killed or not when his execution, originally set for 7pm was halted. Carefully explaining the details of his court case and his dire situation to my 8 year-old last night after she asked me why I was sad and angry both at once didn't somehow make everything magically turn-out to end on a happy note either. I mean, after all, it was just a day. Building awareness and changing people's minds about something as singularly significant as saving a man's life isn't supposed to happen in a day, right?

If you read any of the posts on social media tweets and Facebook posts, you'll likely hear the refrain that "Who was Troy Davis" or "Why ya'll only talking 'bout him now right before he dies." Every single one of these posts pissed me off, simply because, in this man's final hours, fools were frantically trying to rate his importance based on whether they had heard about him before. For, if they didn't know who he was, then he can't be that big of a deal, right? Wrong. Get over yourself.

Troy Davis hadn't been an item of importance for just a day. While many in the Twitter world had only heard of him yesterday, those on the front lines, paying attention to the emails from desperate relatives, the obscure online postings from frantic loved ones of the incarcerated and the like knew of Troy's story and the many others like him who are falsely accused, imprisoned or punished in extreme ways for simple infractions that don't usually warrant imprisonment.

We knew that Troy Davis' sister Martina has been on the front lines battling for her brother for years. Personally, I've received emails, seen Facebook posts and been in the loop since at least 2008 regarding his case and the others like him. I participated in a rally last year for two sisters incarcerated and doing hard time for a $16 crime and Troy Davis' name came up often and importantly with those there well aware of who he was. I've prayed and fellowshipped in groups rallying around him and shared what I've known with others who would be most likely to receive it and pass it on.

And, that's what I do. That's what the folks I follow online and typically hang with do, too. People like Sista Marpessa, a revolutionary who has mobilized movements online to protest and rally support offline and who I met while covering a story about the Scott sisters. People like the remarkable poet/rapper Spoken Word out of Virginia who is always on the frontlines whether to lend her talents to events that raise awareness about those issues most affecting people of color. Or, groups like One Common Unity that operate by a mission to gather and present programming that is always intended to educate, build awareness and infuse the arts into the common space.

My point is, is that Troy Davis' story wasn't an overnight media blitz that just came out of nowhere. People choosing alternative media options, and staying connected to groups and individuals who care about social justice issues makes a world of difference about what you hear about. If you are relying on the mainstream media to choose for you what is worth paying attention to, then you will forever be out of the loop and continuing to be reactionary to things that only come out and in your radar when the media decides it wants to boost its ratings. So, my simple advice is, you may want to get new friends or change the patterns in which you receive news. Because, if not, you may very well be in the dark when the next important movement hits, because, chances are, if it's something relevant and really important to the masses, it most likely won't be first seen on MTV.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bill O'Reilly, Soybeans & Breastfeeding, Oh My!

My baby Khari in 2004


In light of Bill O'Reilly's recent words of stupidity (really, when ISN'T he spouting inflammatory dumbness?) about breastfeeding and how it will cost the government a fortune once breastfeeding pumps are covered by government subsidy, I thought it would make sense to revisit my blogging advocacy regarding breastfeeding. I actually started blogging in 2005 on iparenting.com about being a breastfeeding mom and have had essays featured on ClubMom.com and other sites early on sharing my own breastfeeding story. I nursed my daughter until she was three years-old and I believe wholeheartedly that nursing her from birth has positively impacted her immune system.

On the Womenshealth.gov website, you will find the common facts that we all hear about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. Among them are:
  • Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.
  • As a result, breastfed infants grow exactly the way they should. They tend to gain less unnecessary weight and to be leaner. This may result in being less overweight later in life.
  • Premature babies do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula.
  • Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born pre-maturely.
Lips Sealed About Breastfeeding
Maybe it's because breasts have become such a sexualized subject, it's hard to talk about them in connection to babies. Maybe we've chosen collective amnesia given our slave history as nurse maids. Whatever it is, within our community we DON'T talk on a regular basis about the significance of breastfeeding and the long-term ramifications that occur when other means of feeding our babies are given precedence over nursing from the breast. Consumed with the here and now and thinking that the issue of breastfeeding is only significant when a child is a baby, more and more information is pointing to the fact that behavior issues and ailments in adolescence and adulthood stem from the "first foods" fed to a person when they were a newborn.

For many children in the African-American community, that first food is less-likely to be  breastmilk, yet, the statistics are improving a bit. According to the CDC:

  • Breastfeeding rates increased significantly among non-Hispanic black women from 36% in 1993-1994 to 65% in 2005-2006.
  • Breastfeeding rates in 1999-2006 were significantly higher among those with higher income (74%) compared with those who had lower income (57%).
  • Breastfeeding rates among mothers 30 years and older were significantly higher than those of younger mothers.
These rates are the highest recorded since national breastfeeding data have been collected. However, disparities remain between Black women and women of other racial and ethnic groups. With support groups like La Leche and web sites like Babycenter.com cropping up everywhere with tons of information on the topic, what is the root of this disparity?  It can't be from lack of information on the benefits. Perhaps its the lack of information on the effects of using formula.

According to the statistic above, if a little over half of African-American women who gave birth in US hospitals in 2001 were breastfeeding, than almost half were feeding their babies formulas. With new studies showing that black children in larger numbers, when compared to children of other ethnicities, develop some type of intolerance to cow's milk, the formula of choice is often a soy alternative that can be brought as easily as its milk counterpart. I fed my daughter Khari soy formula in tandem with breastfeeding when she began daycare and when my expressed milk was not abundant enough to sustain her through the day. How safe is the soy alternative?


 Soy Milk Even More Deadly?
Two studies by University of Illinois food science and human nutrition professor Sharon Donovan show that the soy isoflavone genistein, in amounts present in commercial soy infant formulas, may inhibit intestinal cell growth in babies. In the first study, published in the Journal of Nutrition in June 2004, Donovan treated intestinal cells in culture with genistein in the amount present in soy infant formula and found that the cells "basically stopped proliferating." The intestine-- which aids the body in disposing of toxins and waste in the system-- is adversely affected when babies are fed soy formula.

Dr. Francis Crinella, clinical professor of pediatrics at UC-Irvine, and Trinh Tran, a graduate researcher at the UC-Davis Department of Animal Studies, have described how the soybean plant lifts up manganese in the soil and concentrates it so that its use in soy-based infant formula can result in as many as 200 times the levels found in breastmilk.

These and other experts believe that such high concentrations could pose a threat to the immature metabolic systems of babies up to 6 months of age.

 

The size of the market for soy-based infant formula is held very closely, yet an independent expert estimates the market for all infant formula to be about $3 billion, with soy-based formula accounting for about $750 million of that, having doubled in the last 10 years.

"The brain undergoes a tremendous proliferation of neutrons, dentrites and synapses during the first months of life," Crinella says. "The brain especially is vulnerable in early life precisely because such rampant growth is taking place, and at that time intrusions by potentially toxic substances like manganese perturbing the emerging neural organization can exert long-term effects. Manganese ingested during a period of rapid brain growth and deposited in the critical basal ganglia region may affect behavior during puberty when powerful stresses are un- leashed on the dopamine neurons, and altered behavioral patterns appear."

These altered behavioral patterns during late childhood and early adolescence, according to Crinella, may be diagnosed as hyperactivity with attentional deficit - or perhaps as "manganese-toxicity syndrome."

Everett Hodges, founder of the Violence Research Foundation, thinks Crinella's case is overwhelming. "Criminals ages 16 and 17 years old today, some of them born to poor mothers between 1983 and 1984, could have received from the government soy formula with enough manganese to disrupt growing brains,  and this may be why adolescents have difficulty restraining aggressive impulses now."

With African-American youth-- namely boys-- being at the top of the list when diagnosed with ADHD, learning disabilities and a whole host of other "special needs" that often lead to them being kicked out of school or pigeon-holed into special education classes, this news is alarming.



Dr. Stanley van den Noort, a member of the foundation's board, is former dean of the UC-Irvine College of Medicine. He says, "I think the data presented at the conference are convincing that manganese is a neurotoxin. Newborn infants exposed to high levels of manganese may be predisposed to neurological problems. We should exercise strong caution in the use of soy-based formula around the world."

Naomi Baumslag, clinical professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical College and president of the Woman's Public Health Network, says, "Only 50 percent of newborns today suckle at the mother's breast even once. After six months, the number has fallen to only one mother in five. Often mothers for the sake of convenience plunk soy bottles into the infant's mouth. Why do so many mothers in the United States imagine they have given birth to a baby soybean instead of a human child?"

Baumslag goes further: " There is a great deal of scientific evidence that soy formula can be damaging to newborns, quite aside from the manganese."

She says a tablespoon of soy formula can be dangerous both for what it does not have and for what it has.
That spoonful may be deficient in linoleic and oleic essential fatty acids, DHA-brain-growth factor, epidermal growth factor, lactoferrin, casomorphin and immune factors such as IgA, neutrophils, macrophages, T-cells, B-cells and interferon - all provided by the mother in breast milk to defend her baby.

And this information regarding soy just adds to the information already out there on milk-based formulas. For over twenty years, a war has been waged between advocates for breastfeeding and those in the formula industry who peddle their product as being the best things for babies, a close second to breastmilk. In 1981, aides to the World Health Organization resigned when the formula industry began to spread their campaign promoting formula to third world countries that revere the practice of breastfeeding out of tradition, economic necessity and common sense (see article at: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9500E0D91438F932A15756C0A967948260)

You Are What You Eat


Often accused of being a conspiracy theorist, I pass this information on intentionally and with forthright honesty. I do believe that it is a conspiracy but not necessarily one that is aimed solely at our community. I believe that how we feed our children has become as commercialized as everything else we do-- from how we attend school to what types of homes we buy. In order to stay atop of the information machine without being passively led to believe that your choice is indeed your best choice possible, you must consider all of the evidence before you. Look at the big picture of how black children are currently faring physically, mentally and behavior-wise and consider how we can turn things around with how we first begin to feed our children, growing them on the breast.


------------------



Check out the following resources to read up more on the topic:

Publications

  1. A Well-Kept Secret- Breastfeeding's Benefits to Mothers (Copyright © LLLI) - This publication contains information on the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby and the mother. It includes information on physiologic effects and long-term benefits.
    http://www.lalecheleague.org/NB/NBJulAug01p124.html
  2. Benefits of Breastfeeding ( Copyright © Linkages Project) - This fact sheet briefly describes the different health benefits that breastfeeding has on mothers and babies.
    http://www.linkagesproject.org/technical/bf_benefits.php
  3. Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee) - This booklet explains the health and emotional benefits that breastfeeding has on mothers and children. It also gives information on the environmental and economic benefits of breastfeeding.
    http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Issue-Papers/Benefits.pdf
  4. Federal resource  Breast Milk - This publication contains information on breast milk. It explains why it is better than cow milk, how breast milk is produced, how to establish, maintain or increase your milk supply, and how to store it.
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002451.htm
  5. Breast-feeding and Bottle-feeding (Copyright © Kids Health) - This publication contains information on the benefits of breastfeeding, the pros and cons of bottle-feeding, instructions on how to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, as well as answers to common breastfeeding questions.
    http://www.kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?dn=KidsHealth&lic=1&ps=107&cat_id=
    20051&article_set=22567
  6. Can Breastfeeding Prevent Illnesses? (Copyright © LLLI) - This publication contains information on how breastfeeding can prevent some illnesses in your baby.
    http://www.lalecheleague.org/FAQ/prevention.html
  7. Federal resource  Close to the Heart: Breastfeeding Our Children, Honoring Our Values - This publication contains information on why breastfeeding is important, benefits of breastfeeding, and how breastfeeding is a value held by Native American women.
    http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/close_to_the_heart.pdf
  8. Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee) - This publication explains the medical and economic costs of not breastfeeding, and it has information on the non-medical costs of artificial feeding.
    http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Issue-Papers/Economics.pdf
  9. Federal resource  Feeding Baby with Breast Milk or Formula - This brochure helps parents decide on the way to feed their baby. Breastfeeding is the best, but if it's not possible, there are helpful tips for using formula.
    http://www.fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/feedbby.html
  10. Feeding Your Newborn (Copyright © Kids Health) - This publication contains information on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, the advantages of breastfeeding, limitations of both, and possible challenges.
    http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/food/infants/feednewborn.html
  11. Got Mom... (Copyright © ACNM) - GotMom.org was created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives to provide breastfeeding information and resources for mothers and families. It contains information on why breast milk is best, dispels common misunderstandings about breastfeeding, and it provides a list of resources that can help women and families with breastfeeding, information for employers, and links to the latest research findings.
    http://www.gotmom.org/
  12. Mama's Baby: Happy, Healthy and Breastfed (Copyright © Black Women's Health Imperative) - This site encourages women to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. It also addresses the barriers to breastfeeding that women often face and gives tips for overcoming these barriers and having a successful breastfeeding relationship.
    http://www.blackwomenshealth.org/breastfeeding
  13. The Comprehensive Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © ACNM) - This publication lists the beneficial effects that breastfeeding has on mothers, babies, and society.
    http://www.gotmom.org/best/benefits.htm
  14. What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding my Toddler? (Copyright © 2006 La Leche League International) - This publication describes how breastfeeding your toddler can help their ability to mature and their understanding of discipline as well as provide protection from illness and allergies.
    http://www.lalecheleague.org/FAQ/advantagetoddler.html

Organizations

  1. African-American Breastfeeding Alliance
    http://www.aabaonline.com/


  2. American Academy of Pediatrics
    http://www.aap.org/


  3. American College of Nurse-Midwives
    http://www.midwife.org/


  4. Breastfeeding Basics
    http://www.breastfeedingbasics.org/


  5. Bright Future Lactation Resource Centre
    http://www.bflrc.com/


  6. International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)
    http://www.ilca.org/


  7. Kids Health
    http://www.kidshealth.org


  8. La Leche League International
    http://www.lalecheleague.org/


  9. Linkages Project
    http://www.linkagesproject.org/


  10. Federal resource  Maternal and Child Health Bureau, HRSA, HHS
    http://www.mchb.hrsa.gov/


  11. Federal resource  National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, MCHB, HRSA, HHS
    http://www.ncemch.org/


  12. National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
    http://www.hmhb.org/index.html


  13. Federal resource  National Women's Health Information Center, OWH, HHS
    http://www.womenshealth.gov


  14. Federal resource  Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, (WIC) USDA
    http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/


  15. United Nations Children's Fund
    http://www.unicef.org/


  16. World Alliance For Breastfeeding Action
    http://www.waba.org.my/

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lesson From Spirit on a Random Bike Ride


I hadn't ridden a bike in more than twenty years. My last bike was a brown ten speed that I rode in my early teens after I could no longer fit on my beloved pink Huffy with its long leather seat and pink tassels. While I loved riding as a youngster-- starting as a pig-tailed 6 years-old on my Huffy-- bike riding was no longer an interest after turning 14.

My break-up with bike riding signified a new phase in my life. For, other than swimming and dancing when going out to a party, there were no other forms of exercise that I engaged in any more. Pretty soon, after I stopped bike riding, I sort of lost interest in sports. I had gone from being engaged in everything-- from roller skating, and soccer to double dutch and kickball-- to really not doing much aerobic activity.

One hundred pounds later, at 37, I was invited to go on a bike ride by my spouse. Heavier, and shamefully out-of-shape breathing-wise, I was a bit hesitant but agreed to go. My spouse, who has been biking regularly this past year--recently purchasing a second-hand professional bike that usually runs over one thousand in cost, was supportive. He wanted me to come out to ride the trail we've walked and run in the past and offered his old bike for me to use. He handed me a bike helmet that reminded me of a soldier's helmet one straps on for war. And, how appropriate. I didn't know then that this bike ride would be continuing a war I had been having with myself for years now.

The ride started out easy enough. I still had my balance and was able to begin riding quite easily. Once my feet found the pedals and my butt got acclimated to the seat's raised position, I shot off down the path, giggling at how good I was doing already. I didn't pay attention to how my spouse paced himself and rode carefully behind me. I didn't pay attention long enough to the deer and birds who stood on the wooded sidelines, staring at us as we rode by under the blazing hot sun.

"You shouldn't ride so fast," my spouse cautioned.

I heard but didn't quickly reply. I didn't slow down either. I thought about how impressed with myself I would feel reaching the end of the five mile trail. I thought how cool I must look on my bike, representing for the full-figured women. I forgot to breathe.

Yes. Typically, I don't breathe regularly. As weird as that sounds, it's quite normal for me to say, often when I'm explaining why I don't smell something that everyone else smells or why I'm so tired after a day of not really doing anything but sitting in front of the computer. I don't exhale. I often go for thirty seconds or more without breathing. For swimming, it's a pretty useful technique. Out-of-water activities typically require you to breathe, though. Stress has primed me for breath-holding as of late. High stress over the past years of my life has basically conditioned me to hold my breath when upset, when worried, when busy and, ultimately, when just being.

One mile into the bike ride, a shot of pain tore from my chest. My lungs were ready to explode. I began to breathe in ragged, sharp breaths until I braked. I wasn't fatigued, but I couldn't breathe. I gulped in air and looked around me. As I paused, the beautiful wooded area around me came into sharper focus. I didn't even notice as I whizzed by earlier. Now, struggling to breathe, a baby deer who had been staring at us trotted back to its hiding place.

"You want to rest some more," my spouse asked.

"Uh-uh," I replied.

I could breathe, took a large inhale and hopped back on my bike. Embarassed that I was holding him up, I wanted to get back on the trail and get to the end. I broke into high speed, learning nothing from my earlier breathing pain. I was doing good as I made it up inclines and avoided opportunities to crash or wobble.

"You hear the babbling brook," my spouse asked from behind me.

Rushing water could be heard as a small brook now ran besides us. He rode ahead of me, suggesting that I follow his pace. It helped as I fell back and decreased my speed a bit. Somehow, I was ahead of him soon, focused on the end goal, oblivious to the scenery around me or the journey there. The pain from my starving lungs forced me to stop again. This time, dizziness accompanied the pain. The 90+ weather outside now felt like 200 degrees. I felt like I was dying.

This time, I had to find shade. I laid down my towel I had brought along and lay on my back after throwing up a little. On my back, I could feel my chest heave painfully and my heart beating to catch up. The heaving and my heartbeat slowed down considerably as I peered up to the sky while on my back. A bug eaten leaf caught my attention immediately. At the tippy top of the tree it grew from, the bug-eaten leaf looked like a green snowflake. Light streamed through its holes and gave it a halo-like effect that mesmerized me. I could hear the rustle of the wind through the trees and fell intrigued those that blanketed me in coolness, shielding me from the heat. In this moment, I was fully present. I wasn't thinking of any end goals, wasn't racing toward a meaningless end point. Wasn't obsessed with anything outside of the Now.

The full realization of that moment swept over me.

Snatches of past actions of me busily engaged in everything, enjoying nothing, tore into my thoughts. As I lay on my back gazing upwards, tears fell from my eyes. My spouse lay beside me and together we listened to the wind and watched the varied leaf patterns above us.

To him and to the Spirit, I whispered, "I get it. I get it."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Not a So Long, Just a See Ya Later: My Personal Blog Hiatus

This week was terrible and awesome all at once. Life works that way often, it seems. Some of the awesome the greeted me this week was being recognized by eMedia as a "Woman of Power". The recognition ceremony was held this past Thursday at Eden's Lounge in Baltimore, MD and my wonderful spouse, good friend and cast mate Quineice were there to cheer me on. The wonderful Shani Elliot, a local writer and online radio host, I learned, nominated me for the recognition. I was so honored by this and told her so. Women uplifting other women is a beautiful thing. Here are some shots from that evening:

Photographer Stevie Robinson took this shot of me accepting my award

ERIC STEWART AND WOMEN OF POWER 2.3.11:
Patricia Fitzhugh, Khadijah Ali-Coleman, LaShella Miller, Wendy McIntyre, Dr. Monifa Jackson, Tarsha Beaver and Genevieve Wilson


My sweetie came out to support

My good friend Quineice was in the house!

This shot is funny. I have no idea who that man is.

Writers Jaye Hunnie and Shanit Elliot on one side and my girl Quineice on the other!

Taking a Break

So, I'm going to be taking a break from this blog for a while. I have some wonderful things cooking up and will be devoting more time now to putting my book together that I want to release this year. With every intention, I've tried to stay at the same level of activity and do the book, but, I realize that cutting back is crucial. I will be updating my other sites for my play and my professional work, so please be sure to visit them regularly-- or subscribe to receive email updates-- to get alerts on upcoming workshops and performances. I have one of each coming up in March!

Share with you soon!

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Baby, Squirrel Take-Over & Best Week Ever on Twitter

So, last week was major. Good things happened, really good things happened, that gave me faith in humanity. Yes, times are so hard that it's come to that-- finding the good to counteract the negativity. I don't know about you, but sometimes there is stress in just sitting at my desk and getting online, for the first thing to pop up most days is dreadful news. Last week, the news of the week that started earlier in the month was the case of Ohio mom Kelly Williams-Bolar. Click here to get the run-down of the situation. 

Kelly Williams-Bolar


So, after reading about Williams-Bolar, I felt defeated. Defeat was the sentiment because I certainly would have done the same thing if most of my relatives weren't more broke than me and lived in an even worse (or the same) school district as I do. The fact that she was actually living with her dad made the ruling against her worse.

What has been interesting to read are comments that people have made indicating that she didn't really live with her dad because she still had another apartment, acting as if her testimony that she was burglarized and was staying at his place more after the burglary was unrealistic. From personal experience of being burglarized, I know totally that you often don't want to return to the home that you were burglarized in ever because your sense of safety has been violated. But, that's neither here nor there. Folks have gotten caught up in the technicalities because she didn't get rid of her place. Apparently, a poor woman is supposed to only have one domicile. The level at which they went at her though was, to me, more criminal then anything she did. You spend more in investigating and prosecuting someone then the supposed money she "stole" by sending her kids to your school district and that is justified? You're telling us that criminalizing a woman who has jumped through hoops to show she has not only lived in the area, but is coming to your area after being a victim of trauma (WHILE caring for her elderly parent who lives in your district ) is justified? I don't think so.

So, I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon immediately in spreading word about the case and urging people to sign the petition to throw out her charges and release her from jail. I spent practically all day on Tuesday spreading the word. And, her one day early release was definitely a victory. The thing that made this a good part of the week was how it showed social media being used to promote change. My hope is that her story is not forgotten this week and the conversation around school districting and choice doesn't get dropped by the wayside.

Elena Arrives



On Saturday, my baby neice Elena was born! My baby brother who is actually not such a baby-- he is in his late 20's-- became a daddy when his wife gave birth to their 7 pound little girl. I was overcome with love when I saw her picture, she is incredibly beautiful-- not at all new-baby-ugly that most kids are when born. Of course, my little niece's birth got me thinking about the possibility of me having any more little ones in the near future-- thoughts that were immediately erased when my 7 year-old texted me from the living room asking me when I was going to come out of my office and feed the family.


Lions, tigers and squirrels, oh my!



So, there lives this horrid little squirrel or squirrels in our rafters and wall. They are the worst pests ever. They are worst then the loudest neighbor you've ever had in an apartment. They are loud, they scratch and bang and they thump as if they weigh more than four or seven little pounds.

As I type this, I sure hope that they are squirrels and not something else. Yikes!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Poem For the Day #3

it's Tuesday and sometimes eyes unrested forget to really see
the sun shines. For, everything seems really dark
in this place.
Right now, bills pile up to greet you, unopened envelopes
that might as well be see thru,
threatening menaces that jedi-mind trick you into believing
that this is you--
this depressed, broke, debt-owing, non-smiling tired person
that got only two dollars for the week.
Don't even sweat it.
You just need sleep.
Let your mind wrap around some solutions.
Let your spirit unload this heavy coat of overwhelming shame.
Let sleep remind you of your purpose
and try to remember why you're here, why you came.
So, when Tuesday disappears and brings back Wednesday,
you'll be clean. Washed anew.
And, you'll look up, and they'll be the sun
shining brightly

waiting for you

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Judy Blume Was In My Head

I’ve been reading since I was three years-old. Then, my hands were barely big enough to hold a hard-cover illustrated storybook, my lap too small to hold the stacks of books I loved to pull from the shelves at the library. But, my love affair with words was immediate and addictive. Inquisitive (read: nosy) from birth, it seemed, learning to read was my passage-way into constantly unfolding stories and undiscovered worlds. During pre-teen years, my reading addiction led me to create a new type of insubordination that parenting manuals hadn’t prepare my mom for; she routinely had to reprimand me for neglecting my household chores in pursuit of finishing a new book I had checked out from the Book Mobile. So, when I became a new fan of Judy Blume’s young adult books, Mom’s job as disciplinarian became all the harder. For, my voracious appetite for books seemed only heightened when Judy Blume’s books came into my life. While Deenie, Tiger’s Eyes and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing were loved, read, and re-read, nothing was as life-changing as Are You There God?  It’s Me Margaret.

Are You There God?, written three years before I was born, was still timely and relevant to my experience as an nine year-old in 1983. The protagonist’s struggles with self-esteem, identity and “girlness” resonated with me so loudly that I was astonished each moment I turned a page, as if someone had plucked my very thoughts and ruminations from my head and penned them to paper. The breast enlargement exercises (“…must, must, must increase my bust”) spoke to my esteem issues around being flat-chested. Margaret’s conversations to God mirrored my own daily night musings about who was God, where was God and why did God do what he did. The book gave me familiar. But, what’s more, I grew in perspective. Blume’s often hilarious and always accurate voice through her character Margaret told me that I was not the only one who felt underdeveloped and confused about religion. As a frizzy-haired, loner yet extroverted little black girl in Maryland, I was reading my own story through the story of a middle-class, socially awkward pre-adolescent little white girl.  How could this be, I asked myself. I came to the conclusion then that we are, ultimately, all the same, where it matters most, at least.
My 5th grade class photo (I'm third row from bottom, 1st from left. Comic Dave Chappelle is top row, 5th from right)
 
I began actively writing around the time I read Are You There God? Lucky enough to be enrolled in an excellent elementary school in Montgomery County in Maryland, I was part of a program that encouraged free writing, brainstorming and story writing. My reading addiction was embraced. Are You There God?, then,  fueled my desire to write about my own feelings and perspective on things and encouraged me to “think out loud” on paper about everything—from relationships to identity.  Around this time, I was becoming a writer. I wrote poems about creation, my own myths based on Greek mythology, and intricate novellas about city life. I played with humor and always tried to infuse my writing with honesty that I found refreshing when I read Blume’s work. Those two traits—humor and honesty—are descriptions that I value when others review my work.
Almost thirty years later, I count Are You There God? as among my top twenty favorite books. Its value is timeless to me. As a young girl, it was a necessary handbook on-hand to refer to during bouts of questioning self-worth, thinking about God or finding a kindred voice that understood the pain of being flat-chested in a big-boobed world. As an adult, it is still a primer on how a strong voice is always the making of an engaging book. With that in mind, I keep it on hand for my own almost –nine year-old daughter who, already is a budding writer and emerging reader. I predict that even if she may not find the same intrinsic value in reading Are You There God? as I did, she will at least realize that somewhere out there is a book that will change her life forever, for the better.

Editor’s note: The essay above is in response to the What Book Changed Your Life Contest by Marita Golden. Winners receive an autographed copy of Marita Golden’s newest book THE WORD: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing. Submission deadline: February 5, 2011. Click here for more contest info. Also, I cut and paste this from my Word document and for some freakish reason, I was unable to re-format it and get rid of the tabs. Shout-out to Alan King, a writer who is part of my network on www.LiberatedMuse.com and posted his own essay which inspired me to write my own post about the book that inspired me. You can read Alan's essay HERE.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Poem For the Day #2


37

my old friends have all turned to melodies--
remembered only during memories when their laughs rang loudest,
when their presence was as dependable as four beats per measure,
in time to a rhythm that  matched our movements, reminding us we were in synch, that weather fair nor stormy would dictate the climate when they’d come calling
my old friends are distant points on my mind’s timeline
faded against landscapes in memory that collect collaged parts of experience
like a tattered scrapbook that is worn yet treasured

by Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

Monday, January 17, 2011

Writing Excerpt-- First Sci-Fi, SuperNatural Piece

NOTE: I have no idea if this is a short story in the making or a novel...the characters just decided to appear last night...so we'll see. Feedback welcome!

-----------
The acrid smell burned her nostrils for only a mere moment before she tasted the sour after-taste of her lunch churn from her belly to her throat. Anell stood up and fled towards the bathroom, accidentally knocking her pencil to the floor and blindly stomping on and stumbling over the shoes of the students whose feet blocked her pathway to the door.  She made it into the hallway before her teacher Mr. Carson even noticed the door had opened. Her vomit splashed onto the floor outside of the bathroom seconds later, abruptly halting her sprint to an empty stall. As chunks of orange chicken and rice floated sadly over a puddle of clear throw-up, 

Anell began to cough uncontrollably, feeling the urge to continue vomiting overtake her body. The school’s janitor, Picard, ran towards her, a white towel slung over his shoulder as if he was coming from a mid-day treadmill work-out.

“Now, now, nothing to see here,” he yelled, swatting at the slowly formed group of students who had paused for a moment to stare in awe at Anell and her puddle of vomit. Ninth-grader Mick Price held his cell phone’s video camera up to record Anell’s couging spasm and the pool of partially digested food before Picard blocked his line of vision.

“Go,” Picard pointed. Mick and the rest of the students reluctantly dispersed.

“I bet you my brother won’t be kissing her anymore after he finds out she just yacked all over the hallway. 
"Gross,” Brandon Scott laughed to his best friend, Carl. The two boys darted to the cafeteria, avoiding Picard’s disproving glance.

“I can’t believe I just did this,” Anell whispered, pulling a tissue out of her pocket and wiping her mouth.  The coughing spell dissipated and the urge to throw up disappeared as quickly as it had emerged.

“Go back to class, young lady, I’ll clean this here up,” Picard said. He looked at Anell’s tear-streaked face and paused. Bending close, he gently touched her arm.

“How about you go to the nurse’s office and lie down. I’ll let your teacher know where you’ve gone. You’re in Carson’s biology class, right?”


Anell nodded and tried to give him a smile of appreciation.  She pulled her braids off of her face and wrapped them into a bun at the nape of her neck. She watched him walk to the janitor closet and pull a device out that she assumed he would use to clean up the mess she had made. She turned and walked five doors down to where Nurse Thorn’s small infirmary was. She didn’t even have to look up to find the door’s sign signifying where it was, for, she could find it blindfolded. This was the third time this week that she had to go to the infirmary and lie down after suddenly becoming ill.

Nurse Thorn was on her computer when Anell walked in. She looked up when she heard the door open and her face instantly crumpled in annoyance.

“Anell, not again,” she whined. “Didn’t I ask you to stay home for the rest of the week and go see your doctor? You’ve been throwing up, passing out and falling asleep in class all week. Why on earth are you here today?”

Anell looked at her shoes to avoid looking at Nurse Thorn’s wrinkled brow. Heavily exhaling for dramatic effect, Thorn pushed her bulky body to her feet and walked from around her desk to where Anell stood. She pulled on a pair of disposable latex gloves unnecessarily before placing her hand on Anell’s forehead.

“You don’t feel warm to me,” Thorn said, moving to reach for her thermometer. Anell quickly stepped aside and turned her head to block the metal instrument from being shoved in her mouth.

“I don’t have a fever,” said Anell. “I just want to lie down. My stomach is upset again.”

“Well, this isn’t a flophouse,” Thorn spat, tossing the thermometer back into the cup of other medical knick-knacks.  Folding her arms, she looked at Anell curiously before walking back to her desk chair.

“You’re pregnant, aren’t you,” she said without really asking. She chuckled low as she clicked on her computer’s mouse, eyes already quickly fastened on the computer screen. “There are condoms in that basket by the door. You should grab some.”

“I don’t have sex, so I can’t be pregnant,” Anell said, annoyed. Besides, she thought, if I were pregnant, wouldn’t it be too late for condoms? 

She walked into the adjoining room where four small cots lay white and empty in a dimly lit room. She walked to the one in the back on the left and sat down, unfastening her shoes and taking off her sweater. She lay down on her side and covered her shoulders with her sweater before closing her eyes. Sleep immediately snatched her into the same dream she had been having all week.

***
“Nella, you are back,” Sienna squealed, standing over Anell’s face, close enough to kiss her.

Anell opened her eyes quickly and, knocking into Sienna slightly, she shot up out of the bed she was lying in. She looked around frantically at the familiar wall paper, windows and furniture that she had known since she was five years-old. She looked down at her clothes and recognized the purple pajamas she used to wear when she was ten years-old. She turned to her sister in shock and confusion.

“Sienna, what is happening, where am I?”

“Nella, you are back. You have come back to me,” Sienna said. She smiled lovingly at her older sister and grabbed her roughly into a tight embrace. Her small arms circling Anell’s waist as she pressed her face into Anell’s midsection.  Anell peeled her arms from around her waist and knelt in front of her.

“Sienna, I have to go back. I can’t stay here with you. As much as I love you, as much as I love Mom and the baby, I can’t stay here with you, I have to go back home.”

Sienna’s small brown face shone brightly at Anell, unaffected. She grabbed her sister’s hand and pulled her towards the bedroom door. Passing the mirror, Anell caught a glimpse of herself in the ill-fitting pajamas. Her 16 year-old body in the night clothes suited for a smaller child looked ridiculous.  Anell pulled her hand out of Sienna’s grasp and stood still, arms folded.

“Sienna, where are my clothes?”

The young child fell silent. Her brown eyes avoided Anell’s stare and she pouted a bit, picking up her teddy bear from the night table. She walked out of the room without answering.

Anell watched her leave and then turned back to glance in the mirror. In the mirror she was once again dressed in the school uniform she had put on that morning when she had gotten dressed in the apartment she lived in with her aunt and uncle. Her hair was in the bun she had wrapped her braids into after she vomited on the floor. Now that that was taken care of, she was ready to follow Sienna and go downstairs. She was prepared to see her mother and baby brother again, and this time, she wasn’t going to be afraid.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Poem For the Day #1


A Word on the Journey
Alighting from ashes rose the Phoenix, but no one ever speaks of her life as ground soot
No one ever mentions her moment as embers, dimly lit and exhausted, barely breathing
Barely warm
Yet, in her nothingness, she was everything
Gathered in the crevices of the earth that bore of her, in the air that gave her breath, she was in everything
A part of creation, soundlessly  
Gaining momentum, gathering her parts to become whole

by Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

Sociable

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