P / P Essay: Dear Elder Odetta

Photo Credit: Odetta: A powerful woman of the 60s

Dear Elder Odetta,

I need your guidance.

Much like the days when I need James’, Angela’s, Toni’s and my grandmother’s guidance and strength – today, I specifically need you. I need you and your guitar songs. My guitar was my best friend for so long. Now, I need an elder’s acoustic guitar.

Old spirituals and work songs course through my bloodline, my tiny blue veins running through my faint, seemingly thin skin. Right now, to me, my skin looks like paper – paper thin, pale African American skin. No, not that colorism paleness, but tiny blue veins residing under a soft layer of flesh that needs more sun while intertwining with muscles, arteries and small bones, moving my blood to my heart. 

My elder, my ancestor, Odetta – I ask for your wisdom and prayers. And if you can spare one song, even just a rhythm and one chorus, you can send it to me and we can write the song together. I’ll add a hook and a chorus, and you can write the bridge and final chorus? Oh, that would be a dream. It would be healing.

Elder Odetta, your wisdom, your prayer and a song is requested because I need your help. I recently asked elder Bearden in my thoughts and in my writing a short time ago for help to learn how to survive through the hard times.

Lately, I can’t seem to dredge together my usual smile. All I can do is give meek grin of sorrow and very little eye contact. I keep my eyes down but I still try to keep my shoulders back.

I still to go to the marketplace and am forced to listen to soap operas of mine or other strangers lives while standing in line waiting to order breakfast. I don’t mind it. That’s the beauty of being crammed with people who have different ideas, who have free speech and some to spend time with their friends and family. I like old market places, I like to walk and I like to talk to people. 

I am a simple woman. I’ve done a lot of great things. But feeling at home in neighborhoods where my grandmother used to walk too fast for me to catch up no matter how hard I tried, so we could jump on the Lexington Market subway over 20 years ago… no one understands how blessed that makes me feel.

The peace and joy of getting lost in Mount Vernon, knowing everything inch of Charles Village and not being ashamed of my roots of Edmondson Village, Fulton Avenue and Fayette St…and the sadness that no one remembers me as a little girl.

No one knows this side of me – my connection with my home town.  I miss my ancestors, the ones who had to look down and pick me up and hug me when I was small. No bit of books, money, jobs or anything will take away my true and personal reasons of being where I am today – I came to see my family soon after the Uprising to see if they were safe, to see what I could do.

I have to open up…..because I don’t want to get lost in translation. I remember when it was safe to go to the corner store to play Ms. Pac-Man, waiting for my older cousins to buy a pack of Newports from those machines where you could grab a button and pull it straight out to make a soft pack appear for our Unkie, and divvy up the change to buy candy for ourselves.

But that was all in the past. A past I am proud of, but now, in my present as a woman, elder Odetta, I ask you to teach me how to make it through. Teach me how to grow into an elder. Please share a song with me from wherever you are and please send me your prayers of blessings, grace, clarity and resilience.

.je

 

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P / P Essay: Toni Morrison’s Self-Regard and Women’s History Month

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Photo Credit: forgotten

Hmm, The Source of Self-Regard. With respect to my trans and female identified sisters, I was born a girl child. My DNA, my birthed body happened to be what Earthlings call “a woman.”

I have no desire to go on a tangent about what a woman is or how I own this body that was circumstantially delivered into this realm in Baltimore City in 1986. I am more concerned with my spirit. I am more interested in my consciousness. My, what some may deem “beauty” is not a source of anything as it may or may not fade away. My body will continue to change just as it has since the day I was born.

Self-regard, what Merriam-Webster describes as”consideration of oneself or one’s own interests…” I personally like google’s description, “regard or consideration for oneself; self-respect,” is something I don’t think about consciously, but in my subconscious it defines the way I walk, stand, speak, interact and the decisions I make.

Today is the first day of Women’s History Month. This history, the Herstory of a circumstantial body defined by beings long ago is recognized, if not celebrated today.

Am I proud to be a woman? I don’t know. Like I mentioned, I don’t think about it much. It does not define me, but our stories, particularly Black women’s stories fascinate, excite and inspire me. I am also considered to be Black American woman – these words are just words and it is what it is. I have the choice to truly connect with what I’ve been told and given about what those words mean, but again, it’s our stories, our experiences, what the words that describe us do to our experiences on this Earth that fascinates me and touches me. Continue reading

P / P Master Class Three: Affordable Hacks When Investing In Your Writing Career

Now that we’ve gotten passed lesson one and two which covered Time Management and Surviving Rejection, I still believe before we get to actively searching for jobs, pitching stories and writing proposals, it’s good to make sure we know how to make small investments in our home office and career to have the tools needed to have a stable foundation for your career.

I am pretty sure I have written that I usually work from my home office. I work also on site when I am teaching or in meetings. I also have some newsroom experience. But whether you are looking for a staff position or a sustainable full time freelance/contract career, an office is an office. It’s great to be organized where ever you are.

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Photo Source: Source: The Writing Cooperative

Make sure your office is mobile.

It’s a great idea to invest in a backpack, a decent laptop bag or large purse so you can carry your laptop and other tools in order to be able to write and take notes wherever you go. You can work or write on a train or plan while traveling at a coffee shop or in offsite meetings.

Building your home office and library.

Once again, whether you want to have a full time freelance writing career or a staff position, I can promise you, you will be getting emails and edits back from your employers and editors after regular work hours. My advice is to have a designated place for your books and desk so you can work on projects from home.

Why having a collection of books is the most important thing you need as a writer or creative person.

Reading is the basis of success to writing, point blank. There’s no way around it. Having non-fiction books on history, writing, biographies of successful people, best seller books on business book and marketing, books on topics of your personal interest and studies gives you an important set of references besides just using Google. I know we are in the digital age and you may find yourself working on more digital platforms, but writing and creative work will always be an intellectual, vulnerable, fast paced career. Continue reading

P / P Bookmark Reads – Diverse Articles for the Eclectic Reader

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I always promise to send friends and family articles, books I’ve read and music I’ve listened to during lively conversations about art and life. I try to go through my bookshelves and music and remember links of articles I’ve forgotten the title of to share on the weekends. All this rummaging and forgetting made me realize, I should probably find a way to organize all the things I like and promise to share.

This caused me to create a “Bookmarked Reads” category in my email folders so I don’t have to rack my brain. There are maybe 30 articles in that folder right now, but here are nine that I think are important to share.

.je

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NPR.org

JAZZ NIGHT IN AMERICA: THE RADIO PROGRAM

By: Sarah Kerson and Nate Chinen

Women In Jazz? For Artemis, It’s Bigger Than A Cause

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Essence Special Report

Essence Special Report: Sex Trafficking In The Black Community

Written By: Donna M. Owens

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Ram Dass Blog

The Consciousness of Saints

Written By: Ram Dass

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Pitchfork Review

Michael O’Shea Michael O’Shea

Written By: Andy Beta

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Photo: ALLCHIVAL • 1982

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P/ P Essay: Black History Month Begins Today

Today, Black History Month begins.

In our inner circles and connective conversations, particularly with Black men, the answer to the simple question, “Are you Martin or are you Malcolm?” will shape an African American’s life in relation to how they navigate systemic racism.

I personally like to think of myself as Coretta Scott King. Until writing this piece, I did not feel it appropriate to begin to associate parts of myself that connect with Betty Shabazz (Betty X). But it made me think, maybe I have attributes of both women within me. I learned a lot about her as Mrs. King was an active feminist, she was always available to me in that we had that connection, which I consider to be an important part of my identity.

I wouldn’t be surprised if an African American answered the Martin and Malcolm question with, “I’m a little of both.” But those who truly know themselves know if they are water (Martin) or Fire (Malcolm). We know ourselves pretty well as our natures are easy to access on a primal level. Continue reading

P / P Influencers: Laiona Michelle – A Connection Through Fate & Failure

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Laiona Michelle as Nina Simone for the new play she wrote and stars in “Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical,” which opens at opens at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J., Jan. 29, 2019 and runs until Feb. 24.

I met actress and playwright, Laiona Michelle out of fate and failure. I interviewed her a few weeks ago for New York Amsterdam News.  When I went to transcribe the recording of our interview, I realized my recording device malfunctioned and I lost our original interview. As a journalist, losing your interview recording is pretty embarrassing. I had to admit my mistake to her publicist and my editor and humbly re-ask for an interview with Laiona to make sure we got her story published in time to promote the opening of her new play. She was kind enough to oblige.

The second interview was early on a Saturday morning and our conversation was much more light-hearted and fun because we were, at that point, familiar with one another because of our first interview. She was incredibly inspiring, intelligent and kind.

Laiona spoke about her new upcoming play which she wrote and stars in, Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical:

The show is speaking to all the little girl blues out there in the world. The ones that have the desire to do something that may appear to be unreachable. I know when I was a little girl, I was always drawn to Shakespeare. I remember going to see my first Shakespeare play, which was Romeo and Juliet, and I saw that Romeo was a Black male. I was so shocked. I thought, “I didn’t know we could talk like that.” I thought it seemed so far from me, and I became more attracted to [theater].

When we think about art, oftentimes when you’re young it feels like it’s unreachable. For Nina, in particular, I picked the title because she always wanted to be known as the first Black classical pianist. She was born a child prodigy, and she recognized [musical] notes as a baby. So, that’s all she wanted, and that was one of her biggest heartbreaks. I think the walkaway for this show is for young people to feel, you can have that, too. Art is for everyone. Whether you want to be a ballerina or in opera, art is colorblind. She lived in a time where, it just wasn’t like that. I think now, the word “inclusion” is everywhere, which is very important.

I’m talking for all those little blue, Brown, Black girls and boys out there, or whoever identifies with wanting something that seems unreachable. -Laiona Michelle

Read my full interview with Laiona at New York Amsterdam News here, where she talks about overcoming the entertainment industries resistance towards Black brilliance and playwrights when she was beginning her career.

 

P / P Repost: Read Zora Neale Hurston’s Powerful letter to W.E.B Du Bois About Honoring the Ancestors

Written and posted by Because of Them We Can:

Zora Neale Hurston was putting on for the culture long before the phrase came into existence. Raised in the culturally affirming environment of Eatonville, Florida (the nation’s first incorporated African American town), she was exposed to Black excellence on a daily basis.

She went on to attend Howard University and later become Barnard College’s first Black graduate. As one of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, she used her voice to advocate for the rights and protection of African Americans – as well as challenge her peers.

In doing so, she wrote a letter to fellow luminary W.E.B. Du Bois, the Dean of American Negro Artists, asking him why there wasn’t a cemetery for influential African Americans and challenging him to establish one. See for yourself.

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P / P Master Class Lesson Two: Commitment to Surviving Rejection

P / P Master Class is a series of writing advice for aspiring writers.

I know there are some writers that, from the outside, make their careers look easy. But attaining, and more importantly, maintaining a professional writing career, whether it be creative writing, nonfiction or journalism can take decades.

I personally began writing as soon as I learned how to write my letters and structure sentences, around the age of 5 or 6 years old. By the time I was 8, I was filling drugstore spiral notebooks with imaginative short stories. The stories ranged from innocent love stories, to fables to scary vampire tales. Once the internet became accessible to the public (1998 or so), I began blogging and building my own websites that functioned as glossily designed journals where I could digitally share my thoughts and youthful perspective of the world with anyone who wanted to connect with my writing.

Nonetheless, my writing career didn’t begin to gel and open professional doors until 2010 when I created a music blog called, TPR-Mag.com, which covered experimental, shoegaze and underground psych rock music from North America, Asia and Eastern and Western Europe.

Stroke of luck – you can network at any age.

In 2009, I moved into an old, refurbished loft building in Brooklyn, NY filled with dozens of young, ambitious, diverse people who were jump starting their creative arts, fashion design, performance and writing careers. We were a community and threw parties, spending as much time as we could together, bonding, making music and using our live/work spaces to craft and further whatever creative pursuits we were chasing at the time. It was a really fertile (and affordable) time in New York City. My neighbor, Isabela Raygoza (who has gone on to edit for MTV, Audible and is currently a regular writer for Rolling Stone), got a job as music editor for Remezcla.com, the largest English language Latin American culture website in the United States. Isa offered me a job as a writer and I jumped at the chance. Remezcla gave me a name for myself as a popular niche writer who covered underground music in Central and South America.

Respecting your paid opportunities.

When I created TPR-Mag.com (TPR was short for a small record label I started called The Process Records in 2008), I made sure I didn’t cover Latin American music on the blog because I wanted to respect my job at Remezcla. I know that seems like a very simple decision, but respecting the boundaries of your paid work opportunities is incredibly important. Continue reading

P / P Reading List: 10 Books To Help Those Who Are Healing Through Grief

The holiday season can be the hardest time of the year for those who have lost loved ones. I myself, have friends and family who are going through the grieving process and it inspired me to share some information about how to heal consciously, radically, transformationally and through love and patience. We are all living this life together as human beings. At any time, one of us can exit this Earth, leaving the people who love us sad, but able to keep us alive in their hearts and memories.

I hope you all have a happy holiday season and that you have inner peace, peace with your family and the self love to go on and grieve for as long as you need to. It can be a lifelong process. We at Publik / Private are here to encourage your healing in any way we can.

.je

 

Radical Joy for Hard Times

by Trebbe Johnson . North Atlantic Books

It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand

by Megan Devine. Sounds True; Unabridged edition Continue reading

P / P Master Class Lesson One: Time Management and Discipline – It’s Not What You Think

P / P Master Class is a series of writing advice for aspiring writers.

Read tips below on how to sculpt your freelance writing routine

I’ve had a string of emails from young students and aspiring writers asking questions about how I broke into the writing industry. Before I can explain how to become a full time professional independent writer, author and journalist, I have to talk about time management and discipline. Since it’s the holidays and it’s too busy a time to give in person workshops, I’m going to be sharing professional advice on Publikprivate.org.

People who know me now think of me as a “morning person,” but the fact that I consistently get up early was totally circumstantial.

I’ve lived bi-coastalally for at least a decade. I would spend a 2-3 years in California (Los Angeles or the Bay Area) or on the East Coast (New York or Baltimore/DC) working, lecturing and writing. I learned how to wake up early by living in California which is three hours behind/earlier than New York. If my NYC or east coast deadline was noon, my deadline was 9am in California. Back then, there were times when I didn’t write my first draft until the morning of, so I would have to get up between 5am and 7am to write and hand in my article on time.

After a couple of years of having 9am deadlines, I naturally learned to get up early. The process wasn’t forced, it was motivated by the fact that I wanted to keep my job. It wasn’t something I was actively training myself to do. So, when I arrived back on the east coast, I’d get up between 8 and 10 am every morning and was able to focus on my work while living alone.

Now that I live in a family environment with a partner and have access to a larger kitchen and home in general, I began to really focus ro create a disciplined and consistent morning routine that started between 7:30am and 8 am every morning.

Time Management & Discipline – It’s Not What You Think

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Don’t just go with the flow in the morning – even if it is working well, you can always do better.

I started shaping a strict discipline though household management. I’d get up around 8am and immediately make a pot of coffee, clean my kitchen (and sometimes bathroom) and cook breakfast. I know this seems simple and old-fashioned, but if you want to be a freelance writer, you’re most likely going to be working from some form of home office. So, essentially you’ll be going from your bed straight to work without a commute.

I personally started looking at preparing breakfast and cleaning my home almost like a military discipline. Since I don’t jog in the morning or have a formal exercise routine, cleaning is my way of staying in shape, getting my heart pumping while providing a healthy, clean environment for myself and the other members of my home.

By the time I’ve made coffee, cleaned, cooked and took out the trash, my mind is sharp, my body had been active for 30 minutes to an hour, and I am ready to sit down and work on a tedious work project.

Your home IS your office.

If you don’t have a designated place to write and work at home, create one. Buy or attain a desk, and keep it organized. An office with papers, files and mail all over the place is not going to make you feel prepared to truly focus on what you have to do. It’s ok to work in your bed if you enjoy doing that, but make sure you make the bed before you get back in, maybe take a shower. Try not to work in your pajamas. Have accessible, comfy clothes you can change into before you get to work.

Getting up early is essential.

I am very aware of the “night writer” and the “day writer”. Some people are naturally nocturnal, but it is very likely as a freelancer, your editor or project leader works in a newsroom or is active and available to answer emails between 9am-5pm. It’s very important to have your first emails and replies in to your boss between 9:30am and 11am. That’s when they’ve had time to get their coffee and finish their own routines. Continue reading