Friday, January 2, 2015

I AM HERE Reading & Book Signing

Here are a few pictures and some write-ups about the I AM HERE reading and book signing event with authors Jacqueline Woodson, Zetta Elliott, Renee Watson, and Tonya Cherie Hegamin.


Photo by Melissa Blemur

Photo by Melissa Blemur

Photo by Melissa Blemur

Photo by Tequila Minsky

Photo by Tequila Minsky
Photo by Melissa Blemur
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Celebrating Black Girls and Women: The “I Am Here” Reading and Exhibition

 
On Saturday, December 13, I had a difficult choice between joining a march in New York City to protest the recent police shootings of unarmed black men and attending a book event in Brooklyn to celebrate black girls and women. The book event was the second major public event of the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club, organized by the Haitian-born writer and activist Ibi Zoboi. Ibi and I attended graduate school together at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and my friend Zetta Elliott was one of the four authors invited to speak. I am also familiar with the work of other three authors who spoke—Renee Watson, Tonya Cherie Hegamin, and Jacqueline Woodson. I recently reviewed Tonya’s historical novel, Willow, for “Waging Peace,” and Jackie Woodson recently won the National Book Award for her memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming.
Photographer Delphine Fawundu
Photographer Delphine Fawundu
Before the event got under way, I saw an exhibit of photography by Delphine Fawundu—black-and-white photos of black girls in New York City, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. Fawundu spoke briefly about the photos, which she took over a period of 20 years. In them, the girls are jumping rope, doing schoolwork, helping with household chores and at the market, and enjoying the company of family and friends. She wanted to show positive images of black girls because those images don’t get the attention in mainstream media. For instance, the most recent media images of girls and women in West Africa are grisly photos of death from Ebola. And while Ebola is a serious and frightening illness, there are many more people, even in the most affected countries, who have not fallen ill and are going about their daily lives—the kind of lives depicted in the “I Am Here” exhibit.
The author panel attracted a full house, with every seat taken and many people having to stand. Independent bookstore Greenlight Books, located in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood and specializing in culturally diverse children’s and young adult books, ran a busy sale table. The event began with three preteens from the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club reading their favorite poems from Brown Girl Dreaming.
Jacqueline Woodson reads from her National Book Award-winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming.
Jacqueline Woodson reads from her National Book Award-winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming.
Each of the four authors read passages from their books, followed by questions first from the members of the book club and then from the audience. Jackie Woodson read three poems—one about leaving her Brooklyn classroom during the Pledge of Allegiance out of respect for her grandparents’ religious beliefs, one about an uncle who became a Black Muslim in prison, and one about the origins of her Bushwick neighborhood.
Renee Watson read from her middle grade novel What Momma Left Me, about a girl in middle school coming to terms with the violent death of her mother at the hands of her father. The passage featured the protagonist’s grandfather, a positive role for her and her brother who points out that brother Danny received a lot of material things from his father but didn’t get what he really needed.
Read more here


And here's an article written by photographer Tequila Minsky in Caribbean Life News


Author Lyn Miller-Lachmann writes about the event on her blog:

The “I Am Here” Reading and Exhibition and the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club

The “I Am Here” Reading and Exhibition and the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club

Ibi Zoboi curated the exhibit and organized this panel as part of the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club.
Ibi Zoboi curated the exhibit and organized this panel as part of the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club.
This past weekend I had a difficult choice between joining a march in New York City to protest the recent police shootings of unarmed black men and attending a book event in Brooklyn to celebrate black girls and women. The book event was the second major public event of the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club, organized by the Haitian-born writer and activist Ibi Zoboi. Ibi and I attended graduate school together at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and my friend Zetta Elliott was one of the four authors invited to speak. I am also familiar with the work of other three authors who spoke—Renee Watson, Tonya Cherie Hegamin, and Jacqueline Woodson. In August I reviewed Tonya’s historical novel, Willow, for The Pirate Tree, and last month Jackie Woodson won the National Book Award for her memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming.
Photographer Delphine Fawundu, with photos in the background.
Photographer Delphine Fawundu, with photos in the background.
Before the event got under way, I saw an exhibit of photography by Delphine Fawundu—black-and-white photos of black girls in New York City, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. Fawundu spoke briefly about the photos, which she took over a period of 20 years. In them, the girls are jumping rope, doing schoolwork, helping with household chores and at the market, and enjoying the company of family and friends. She wanted to show positive images of black girls because those images don’t get the attention in mainstream media. For instance, the most recent media images of girls and women in West Africa are grisly photos of death from Ebola. And while Ebola is a serious and frightening illness, there are many more people, even in the most affected countries, who have not fallen ill and are going about their daily lives—the kind of lives depicted in the “I Am Here” exhibit. 
Read more here.

  






Saturday, December 6, 2014

I AM HERE READING & BOOK SIGNING


I'll be hosting a reading and book signing with recent National Award Winner Jacqueline Woodson, Renee Watson, Tonya Cherie Hegamin, and Zetta Elliott as part of the I AM HERE: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces exhibit!

All of these wonderful authors' books feature stories that highlight the magic and wonder of black girlhood, including Woodson's BROWN GIRL DREAMING

My daughters and their friend will be asking the authors a few questions as part of the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club


Friday, October 24, 2014

In Defense of Basket Weaving

A degree in basket weaving… This is supposed to be a metaphor for a useless degree—a degree that will reap no financial rewards whatsoever. There’s an art to basket weaving, of course. In fact, I own many baskets, like the colorful baskets from West Africa, the ones made from recycled magazines, and the ones from the craft store. 

Baskets are necessary. They are vessels. Humanity has always needed vessels. We, in our bodies, are vessels. And we all come from the ultimate vessel--the womb. 

Someone had to weave my baskets with their bare hands. I have a couple of “fair trade” ones, or some made by single mothers in Kenya with shredded bits of American fashion magazines (the irony). I don’t suppose there’s some giant factory with intricate machines weaving baskets. So, of course, there are still basket weavers in the world, and they learned the ancient art from somewhere and from someone. 

My degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults is like a degree in basket weaving—not the “useless” part, but the ancient art part. Telling stories to children is an ancient art. We’ve all been told stories. Stories are our myths and folktales that have evolved into our religions and worldview and cosmology. There are still children being born, of course. So they need stories. The stories of their families, their communities, and their cultures are what ground them to this place, what settles them into their own skins. 

The old stories will give them a frame of reference, a foundation. The new ones will affirm the here and now for them. They will connect them to a certain zeitgeist. 

One of my favorite authors, Ursula K. LeGuin, wrote an essay called “The Carrier Bag Theory.” Part of the idea of the essay is about subverting the lone hero narrative where a man goes forth on an adventure and follows a straight and sometimes narrow path to heroism. There’s evil in the world. The world needs a savior. One man, and only one man, was born to save this world. But he must battle beasts, resist tempting sirens, and confront he becomes the hero of his world. Stories that follow this trajectory are more like ropes or fishing lines or arrows or phallic symbols. Male-centered, and for the most part, Western-centered. They too have served their purpose in history.  

LeGuin proposes in her essay, the Carrier Bag story. The bag is like the womb, the vessel, out of which all the elements of a story can spring forth. In this sense, baskets hold our stories. And stories carry our cultures, our traditions, our morals and taboos. And to weave baskets is to weave our brokenness back together again—to remember the stories that made us whole. 

So when I look around my community, at all those statistics and articles and documentaries about a lack of this, and a dearth of that, and woe the poor children, the underserved, the underprivileged, and the at-risk, there is indeed a crisis. My day job(s) take me into different schools throughout NYC, I have children in public school, and my husband is a veteran public school teacher. I know firsthand that there’s a problem—a big one. And it has to do with stories—the stories children are reading and internalizing about themselves, and the stories they read and hear about other people and the supposed power they have in the world. When the stories we hear and read are not the ones told by our foremothers and forefathers, it’s like having tupperware in place of baskets. Okay, bad analogy. It's like having plastic bags for baskets. Okay, worse analogy. But I hope you get the point.


I recently came across a video about expensive art degrees. It makes me sad. And for a moment, it made me feel not very smart. But I had to shift my perspective. I truly believe art is healing work. I have to see it as such. And art is a science. Basket weaving is a very intricate science— think fractals in math. And the most valuable thing I learned from story art school is that great stories, like baskets, can have mathematical patterns. Yes, like the snowflake the snowflake method. They can be graphed and charted and measured and quantified. It’s a science and it’s a healing art. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I AM HERE: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces

I Am Here: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces- an 
exhibition of photographs and words curated by Delphine Fawunda & Ibi Zoboi

From Curator, Ibi Zoboi:
As a mother of two daughters, it's become crucial for me to constantly think of safe spaces for them to truly grow and dream and know that the world belongs to them. I don't try to hide the negative truths about their world, instead, I let them know that they are safe within their own bodies and there are indeed safe spaces all around for them to play and laugh out loud. 

As a writer for children, I know that reading can be a safe space for little brown girls. By highlighting quotes from successful black women and books that feature black girls on their covers and within their pages, I want to affirm that their stories are indeed relevant. There is such a dearth of images of little black girls simply being their wonderful, unique selves. The I AM HERE exhibit will serve as a safe space where girls and their families can simply embrace the magic and joy of girlhood. 

About Delphine Fawunduhttp://www.delphinefawundu.com/





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Triple 7 Challenge

Nothing like a good 'ole work-in-progress challenge to dust off this cobwebbed blog. More on that later.

But for now, I gladly accept the 777 challenge from VCFA classmate, friend, & former roomie, Heather Demetrios. The 777 challenge is, according to Heather, "this thing where writers are challenging other writers to post the first full seven lines of their work in progress, on page seven, seven lines down." Ooookay. I shall give this a try. 


I've been writing my current project for the past--what year is this?--oh, SIX YEARS! And yes, it took an MFA for me to figure out HOW to actually write it--meaning, including all those story craft things to make it an actually STORY. I've worked on other books since then, of course. But this is... l'histoire de mon coeur. This does not mean, however, that it's any good in its current condition, but I love it. It is my heart of hearts. And that's all that matters when I have to read it over and over and over again and fix this and change that. Oy! 


I'm undecided about the title, but my work-in-progress is a YA fantasy based on Vodou mythology & Haitian/Dominican history.

So, this is UNTITLED, 7 lines, 7 pages in, 7 lines down:



The eye is open. The serpent is awake.
It isn’t smoke. The djab have linked themselves to form a shield of darkness around me. They only move aside to let the white light from the stone’s eye beam straight into the dawn air. I take a quick gulp of air keeping my eyes shut hoping, praying that maybe a teeny tiny djab had not managed to slip into my body. I hold that small breath—my eyes tearing, sweat easing down my forehead, cheeks, and neck. 
A bell rings in the distance. “Ana!” 

Now tagging Kiini Ibura SalaamDaniel Jose OlderZetta ElliottLynn Joseph

Monday, August 25, 2014

CRESCENDO

for the mothers. and the holes they must fill. 

The breath, the sweat
the in, the out
the rhythm

the push, the pull
the force, the life
the egg so round

the pulsing
the heat
the rising like air

the pounding, the pounding
the rhythm
the pain
the scream

the push, the pull

the cries so sweet
the life so warm
the body so small

the nestling in arms
the suckling on breasts
the life, the life
the rhythm, the rhythm

the changing
the feeding
the loving
the cooing
the kissing
the snuggling
the life, the life
the breath so new

the stumpy legs
the tiny feet
the world so wide
the very first steps

the school
the words
the songs
the alphabet
the teachers like them
the students like us

the tests
the homework
the stepping-ups

the laughter
the play
the smiles
the sunshine
the snow
the darkness
the high-tides
the joyrides 

the fear
the calls
the prayers
the songs
the worry
the coughs
the sneezes
the bites
the bumps
the salves
the syrups
the soothings 

the fingers
the toes
the deepening voice

the uncles
the aunts
the grandfathers
the mothers
the blood
the ancestors
the africans
the humans

the mountains
the valleys
the rivers
the oceans
the moonlight
the sun
the stars
the stardust
the dust
the ashes
the powder
the gun
the bullets
the holes
the blood
the rhythm
the breath 
the beat
the silence
the light
the stream
the ladder
the clouds
the heavens


the Rhythm

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club hosts GIRL RISING Screening for International Day of the Girl

Here's the second event for the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club! I love the idea of a U.N. sanctioned International Day of the Girl (October 11th).  This brings to light all the atrocities that girls are facing around the world. I saw Girl Rising (10x10 Action Campaign) a few months ago and was moved to tears by each of the girls' stories, especially the one from Haiti, of course. Check out the trailer, a short feature with Edwidge Danticat, one of the narrators, and a flyer for the event!








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Monday, September 16, 2013

huffington post's mom of the month

Mom of the month?! Okay. I'll take that. Though this was part of the mater mea feature. I do feel special, however. No impostor syndrome here. I deserve all accolades. I used to type while nursing. That involves some serious skills.

Read the interview here on the Huffington Post.



Monday, September 9, 2013

matermea.com feature

My children and I were featured on this wonderful site highlighting mothers of color. I worked with a fantastic team of journalists, editors, and photographers. Very impressive. So honored to have had the opportunity to share my mothering story. I remember wanted to know all the details in the lives of other mothers. How in the world was it possible to do it all. My youngest is now 6. I did it. I survived. We all survived, in fact. Unfortunately, my husband Joseph was not featured here. Understandable. But there does need to be a pater mea.

You can get a glimpse into my home life (they took photos of knickknacks!) and my beautiful children and read all about how I manage (or mismanage) it all here on matermea.com.








Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club w/ Rita Williams-Garcia



Rita Williams-Garcia's sequel to the award-winning One Crazy Summer takes place in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the early 1970s. So I absolutely had to have this event at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza, one block from where Delphine, the 12 year-old main character, lives with her grandmother, father, and two sisters. 

The event will feature a double-dutch contest, a reading and signing by Ms. Williams-Garcia, a 1970s fashion showcase by vintage boutique owner and friend Helen Williams Nurse, and girlie goodies by Soultanicals founder Ayo Ogun-McCants and her KiddieTanicals line. AND Greenlight Bookstore will be in there selling books that I personally hand selected!

This was a bit of a dream come true. I don't know why I love to do this, but it was absolutely fun planning and organizing this. I even took my daughters with me along Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy handing out flyers to any little girl we came across. 



 
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