Racism has been an albatross around the necks of Americans for centuries now! Imagine that something as heinous as the pain and suffering that comes as a result of skin color hatred is still occurring in the 21st century! Baffling? Yep. And, because it is an age-old collective disorder we suffer with, there has been much written on the subject. There have been plays, movies, TV series, books, spoken word performances, poems, even pantomimes on the subject of racism and the incredible damage it causes the human spirit. Yes, everyone is affected by the ugliness caused by generational hatred.

One of the most fascinating spoken word artist, the spoken word “OG” and guru to many rappers, was the eloquent, dynamic, straight shooter, Gil Scott-Heron. Gil is the godfather of rap, conscious rap! Below, you’ll find the words to one of his best known spoken word pieces, “Winter In America”. No further description is necessary, because, believe me, it speaks for itself. After listening to this video, read up on this awesome, courageous wordsmith. And, know that his courage did not come without a price. For me, and many of my generation, in spite of his addictions, Gil Scott Heron was a hero. Hey, it’s even a part of  his name…

WINTER IN AMERICA words by Gil Scott Heron & music by Brian Jackson

From the Indians who welcomed the pilgrims
And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains
Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds
Looking for the rain
Looking for the rain

Just like the cities staggered on the coastline
Living in a nation that just can’t stand much more
Like the forest buried beneath the highway
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter
Winter in America
Yes and all of the healers have been killed
Or sent away, yeah
But the people know, the people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your soul, Lord knows
From Winter in America

The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner (Unemployed)
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it’s hoping
Hoping for some rain

And I see the robins
Perched in barren treetops
Watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor
But just like the peace sign that vanished in our dreams
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or been betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It’s winter, Lord knows
It’s winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America

And now it’s winter
Winter in America
And all of the healers done been killed or sent away
Yeah, and the people know, people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows, nobody knows
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save


When 16 year-old, Amy Myers decided to run for class president, she had no idea that she would receive an incredible amount of badgering from boys who felt that women rights and women in politics both equaled “stupid”. The big joke told by boys in her school was “womens rights”.

Amy had no idea that boys would be so hard on her, just because she was taking a political stance and she was doing it as a girl. We all have heard that “driving while Black” can be grounds for racial profiling. How many of us knew that “running for powerful political offices while a girl”, even in high school, would cause such a sexist raucous? Fueled by the sexist boys and later by the sexism in politics, lil Amy has become quite the force to be reckoned with. The boys’ reactions and the media coverage on women in politics didn’t discourage her from her vision, only magnified it and gave her the impetus to look into the behavior and commentaries of women currently in the media limelight.

Amy Myers attends high school in New Jersey and is very civic-minded. Thus, she takes time to study her subjects and listens intently to various candidates, especially women candidates, like Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn). It was actually through Amy Myer’s dad that caused her to focus on Rep. Bachmann. He heard her incorrectly state that two Revolutionary battles were fought in Connecticut when they weren’t at all. Amy found out that Rep. Bachmann regularly misstates historic facts without correcting them. While Representative Bachmann does not represent the state where Amy lives and Amy’s too young to vote for her either way, facts are facts, and Amy’s point is that Rep. Bachmann should not make statements that are not historically correct. After all, she is representing women everywhere and if she’s going to reference the Constitution or any historic or civic facts, Rep. Bachmann should state accurate facts. Amy sends her point home with a challenge to the U.S. Representative to public forum debate or fact test. That takes both courage and confidence. Here’s her letter:

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REHAB OF LOVEI went to the rehab of love so I could recover from all that pain I had been going through.

It all felt like it was an addiction that I was stuck to.

When I enter the rehab  of love the first question the lady asked me was “what bought me here?”

I told her I didn’t know how to get away from love. She told me, “I think I can help you with that.

Love was the only struggle I couldn’t get away from. I told her about the addiction and she said “oh” many people have this.

I could not help but drop a tear after she was telling me all these sad stories about love that I had been through already.

I was sent to a room to write a poem about how I felt so I begin to write it:

I never thought love was nothing until I met this boy and he started saying he feltlove didn’t know what it meant

so I kept it to myself for a while then he started telling me how love can give you a good connection

since I was liking him so much I just told him because I didn’t know what else to do with it.

He told me how it was “okay” to love family and friends but I should love him a lot more not thinking of what I should do I just jump rite into it.

He once told me that since I loved him so much I should have sex with him I said I’m not sure if that’s the type of love I have for you. Started telling sweet things and I went along with it.

Wasnt thinking before I did it that when me and him was left alone for a min he started putting so much on me that he started touching on me had me feeling like a queen. I went alone with it like it was the best time ever. Kept telling me how much he loved me and would never leave me for nobody else. I had the biggest smile on my face.

After he had got all that he was saying “dang” you didn’t even know what you were doing and I loved you

I must of being crazy for talking to you and everything.

After all that had taken place he left me alone wonder what to do what love.

I would go in the room and just cry my eyes saying what was I doing ever letting him get to me what the word love.

After I was done with this poem I took it back to the lady and she read it she said this is very good I said thank you.

She begins telling me how I should love god, family and friends because these are the things you are able to depend on when you have nothing.

She taught me how to not fall for someone so easy i took notes and went over them so they would be stuck in my head like never before.

After I had to be in the rehab for so long I learned so much about love and it meant a lot to me.

(c) Ariel Hughes

"Colored Girls"

Well, the Emery Bookclub Playhouse is ON! We’ve five excited performers who will step up to the bookclub stage in a couple of weeks to reveal their talent and share the poem they chose from the ever-popular book and movie, “For Colored Girls who considered Suicide when the Rainbow was Enuf”.  We decided it would better suit the class to perform the poems instead of just reading the book and discussing it. This brings more life to the reading and adds a level of excitement to our experience together!

Why did we choose to perform the poems instead of reading each one separately? Well, don’t worry, the club members can always choose to read the entire book and some already have done so! I think the young ladies reading “For Colored Girls…” should answer that question. Performing brings a different part of the self to the forefront. It’s a way of deepening our connection to the characters. By performing some of the poems, we become those very characters, feeling their emotions and understanding why they feel so deeply and how they can resolve those feelings if and when they keep moving through them. We get to deepen our thoughts and feelings as we get closer to the characters. It’s almost like they give us permission to actually feel our own emotions about something we’ve kept repressed, fearing how to overcome it.

You don’t have to memorize the poems, just read them enough times, with enough compassion, passion and reasoning that you become one with the character. Make it real! Join us…

For the next two Wednesdays, our reading members will have their poems ready to perform. Each of the ladies represented in Ms. Shange’s book, was ascribed a color, i.e., “lady in red”. So, each of our young ladies is asked to  bring some item, be it clothing, jewelry, a hat or cap, whatever the item it is to reflect the color ascribed their character.

And, just to get things popping, I’m posting Ariel Hughes’ poem in the next blog post just for your reading pleasure. The wonderful thing about poetry is that its up for interpretation,  especially since most of us won’t get the opportunity to discuss the writer’s work with the writer. That’s why discussions can be so juicy; if we don’t have much to go on, we can just imagine from our own experiences what the writer actually meant. We’re lucky because we can always ask Ariel questions that arise when we read her poem.

Thanks, Ariel, for sharing your personal poetry with us!


We meet today at 2:15pm! SEE YOU THERE!!

Book Club Member, Ariel Hughes reading "For Colored Girls.." photo by Ms. Kuficha

Greetings, Emery Book Club Members!

In the month of May, we are challenging our book club members to attend EVERY meeting and bring their enthusiasm into the reading of poems we will perform from our famous new book, “For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf”.

In this fascinating book of poetry, our author, Ntozake Shange, began with a series of seven poems exploring the realities in the lives of seven different women. From there, any poetry or choreopoetry Ms. Shange created and developed was put in her collection, “For Colored Girls…” Eventually, the collection became a best-selling book and a well-received off-Broadway play.

I first saw “For Colored Girls…” when I moved back to California sometime in the late 1970’s . Instead of attending the play with my husband at the time, I attended it with girlfriends who would be more available to the emotional aspects of the play. We found the play to be one of the most profound pieces of work we’d ever experienced, mostly because of the subject matter. Ntozake spoke the language of our hearts. She reminded us of our heartbreaks and sorrows but we didn’t feel defeated as we watched the actresses perform her choreopoetry.

By the end of the play, after shedding tears and squelching anger, we, the audience, rose triumphantly embracing the actresses with our thunderous applause! We chanted, “I found God in myself and I loved her!” Were there any more powerful words a woman could say when life had seemed defeating? This was the gift I found in Ms. Shange’s work! We affirmed that life’s hard tricks could not defeat us as we walked out of that theater. There was so much excitement in the crowd as we walked into the sunlight of an early summer evening. Conversations buzzed around ours as we all had so much to say about which part of the play’s choreopoetry most affected us. We couldn’t just return to our homes; we needed to sit together, break bread and continue to share our findings, that which opened within us due to the depths the play caused us to explore.

Let’s perform “For Colored Girls…”, each of us taking a poem that resonates with us and provokes us to thought, laughter or one that we just find interesting…

I have described for you my experience with “For Colored Girls…”, and I now will challenge you, our book club members who now have received this book, to find the poem of your liking, one that speaks to your soul or spirit. The poem you choose, you will read to the club members. We will each “perform” our poems to each other much in the spirit of Ms. Shange’s play. While you do not have to learn your chosen poem by heart, you must learn it well enough that when we hear it, we hear the voice of the poem NOT the  person reading the poem. Take time to read and reread and reread the poem you choose until its words roll out of your mouth, each word with meaning and innerstanding. A performance means that you put your talent, your enthusiasm, your sassiness into that poem! Make it YOUR poem!

This is how we will read this book. Each student chooses her poem and learns it to the point of deep connection. When it’s your turn to perform your poem, bring a prop or wear a color that best suits your poem. For example, Ariel has chosen to perform the poem, “lady in yellow”. She will bring something yellow when she reads her poem to the book club. Remember: THIS IS FUN! Step up with enthusiasm and recognize that these poems may represent something special that only you can connect with. We will choose our poems and start practicing on Wednesday.

Each student is required to subscribe to the blog! You will see a box on the right of the page: “EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION”. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section at the bottom of the blog. Your comments are appreciated and posted after I read them. Thank you all!

Our next meeting is THIS WEDNESDAY, 4 May 2011, IMMEDIATELY after school in Ms. Rasmussen’s class, room 15. Looking forward to seeing you there! BRING YOUR BOOKS & JOURNALS! (those who have received them)

"Colored Girls" are the Rainbow: Black, Red, Brown, Yellow & White! We all be Colored Girls! So, LOVE & RESPECT Yourselves!"

Mariatu Kamara

Mariatu Kamara (Photo care of Buffalo for Africa)

I was recently introduced to information about this beautiful young woman. A revolution captured her and here is part of her story. When we read about young girls like Winter Santiaga whose life was based on the value of material goods, not people, and we meet Mariatu Kamara whose grave experiences gave her the strength and courage to reach out to help others.

“Mariatu Kamara is an inspirational young woman who exemplifies the best of humanity. She speaks softly and is always concerned about the well being of others.

When Mariatu first arrived in Canada, she had to deal with extraordinary obstacles – physical disability (her hands had been amputated by rebels during the Sierra Leone civil war), lack of formal education (she had never had the opportunity to attend school) and the inability to communicate in English.

Despite these barriers, she has integrated well into Canadian society and is a positive role model for other young people. She shares her heartbreaking story of rape, torture, the death of her child and having to beg on the streets, with courage and grace. Her story stands as a source of inspiration to others; they too can overcome their worst fears, find their talents, seek a purpose and live life to the fullest.

Despite the huge physical and emotional barriers, Mariatu manages to face each day optimistically. Nothing could hold her back from achieving her dream of graduating from high school in 1997, and now post-secondary studies at George Brown College in the Assaulted Women and Children’s Counsellor/Advocate Program. Her memoir, The Bite of the Mango, co-written with her nominator Susan McClelland, tells the story of her life in Sierra Leone, her capture by rebel soldiers and how she came to live in Canada.

Mariatu is eager to speak to groups about her experiences and to educate the public about the impact of war on children. She hopes to be able to share her experiences with people of all ages. Mariatu has spoken publicly about the impact of war on children for Free the Children. She is now a UNICEF Canada special representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

Her life goals include working for the United Nations and counselling abused women and children. She has also set up a foundation to help provide housing for victims of war in Sierra Leone.”

The information regarding this remarkable young woman was sent to me on Facebook. From there, I felt compelled to learn more about this remarkable woman, her arduous journey, and the path she has made to help others from her county who have suffered as she has. The unconscionable of violence is never without consequence. And, if anyone can speak on it, Mariatu Kamara can. http://www.mariatufoundation.com/

Winter Tragedy

A beautiful rose freezes in the snow.

I finished Sister Souljah’s book, “The Coldest Winter Ever” in the wee hours of the morning two days after I started it. It was a hard read for me. It was hard for me to handle the sexually explicit language as well as the callous manner in which the teenagers engaged in sex, and I’ve been an adult for a pretty long time.  However what  really rocked my boat was that there were no adults who modeled moral values, concern for education, compassionate behavior and who were available in the lives of most of the characters of Sister Souljah’s book.

1) What was your reaction to the sexual behavior of Winter and Sista Soujah’s sister, Lauren? While she had her sister as a role model for wise behavior in dealing with both business and personal affairs. How was she different from or similar to Winter? Use concrete examples for your answer.

During our discussions, all of you thought Winter’s character was chillingly cold, selfish, spoiled and out of touch. Jamonica described her as “ghetto classy”, that is, “she looked good on the outside but her inside didn’t match”. Winter wasn’t forced to be that way. Was she? She was given many opportunities to change, even to educate herself, but at all costs, she stole and connived people out of their money. That seemed to be her only focus. She seemed to be her only focus. Ariel discussed how important it was for Winter to earn her way. Being given so much just caused her to think she should have everything she wanted.  Especially because Santiaga was her Daddy, Winter had an inflated sense of herself. Yet, as good as her parents were to her, Winter abandoned them both. She even abandoned her sisters.

2) What turned Winter against her parents? What was her reasoning for “playing them death” in her life? Do you feel the way she was raised by them had any bearing on how she treated them in the end? Use examples from the book to support your answer.

Simone, Winter’s “homey” was a booster. Pregnancy only heightened her desire to steal. It brought more money and she was saving her money for her unborn child. Once Winter was placed in the Success House, she was also placed on lock down.

3)How did  engage Simone in her enterprising new business? What type of friend did Winter prove to be? What was the pattern of her behavior regarding friendships with “females” and relationships with the “males” in her life?

Please answer ALL the questions listed here online. Remember to subscribe to the blog so you can know when a new blog is posted. Thank you. See you after school on Wednesday!