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 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


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 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

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year to Wing Out On Faith

Big things are planned for 2011. Am I planning big things for 2011? Now, that is the question.

I typically make end-of-the-year lists that detail what my highlights from the year were and reflecting on what worked and what didn't, but, admittedly, other than vague goals of what I want to have in the coming year, I don't typically do as much comprehensive pre-planning before the year starts. Yet, thankfully, most times, big things-- good, big things, usually tend to happen.

I attribute it all to my perfect awareness of synchronicity. Everything happens for a reason. You just have to pay attention to what that reason may be.

For instance, this past year, I became a writer for, one of my more popular gigs as a writer since I started writing online in 2006. Writing for SoulBounce was totally random. I mean, I heard about the writing opportunity one week in January, applied and was hired the next week. I didn't pre-plan it, but it worked out. The synchronicity of it was that my writing sample was a review I had written about a concert I had attended the month before, in Dec. 2009. So, if I hadn't attended the concert in Dec., written the review for my Liberated Muse blog and had that available for submission for the SoulBounce position as contributing editor, then I probably wouldn't have spent this past year as a part of that site's staff. That's just one example.

Another is the genesis of my play's production. My play Running: AMOK debuting in the Capital Fringe Fest in 2010 was a major act of synchronicity. I wrote the play. I applied for the Fringe Fest (not knowing about all of the associated costs, but knowing I had a great time performing in the Fest in 2009) and got accepted. I had none of the 600+ bucks necessary to confirm my participation. I didn't freak, but I was sure that I probably wasn't going to be in the Fringe Fest in 2010. Money was becoming quite tight. So, early in 2010, having dinner with my musician friend Gary Young, upon having a conversation where Gary stated that he wanted to become a patron to some of his artist friends who are doing art projects, I asked him how would he like to be a producer of my play and help compose music to the songs I've written, and well, as they say, the rest is history. Synchronicity at its finest.

So, with that said, I'm not too sure if starting to write fully-fleshed out plans is in my best interest. Some of my finest moments were by "accident", including the conception of my one and only child. I know, TMI, but I'm just trying to illustrate my point. Trusting that it'll be ok has worked out for me so far, why switch up now?


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