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NEW POEM: Being a Poet During Black History Month

To the college student who asked me if my poetry was gonna educate her on Black History...

Should she rearrange her schedule to see me speak/ Would my quotes be black studies term-paper quality/ I mean, I am performing in February/ What else could I be speaking about?/ I didn't mean to confuse you/ I know my videos on youtube aren't exactly Black Panther friendly/ You're right someone could mistake me for ignoring my ancestors' history/ I haven't complained about educational inequality/ I didn't explain why 60% of the prison population has Africa in their veins/ Haven't re-accounted the 2010 news story where the Texas Board of Ed state that textbooks should be changed to say "Africans were brought here to HELP American society," without mentioning that they were enslaved/ I guess this is when the/ statistic should come to mind/ that Blacks receive longer sentences and spend more jail time/ than Whites with similar backgrounds who committed the same crimes/ I guess my poetry lines and rhymes aren't "melanated" just right/ I made the mistake of thinking that telling tales as a Black woman in America/ meant I was telling the Black history of my life./ Because this month isn't just about slavery/ We're still fighting for equality and for the right to tell our stories today/ See maybe, you assumed I'd educate you in the traditional way/ Teach facts and stats that you'll misquote or forget once you receive your final grade/ Like classical musicians versus Hip Hoppers/ you've made the fatal mistake/ of thinking a new generation's experience isn't worth as much as the ones of those people in graves/ I don't incorporate everything I know about my people's past/ Maybe that should change./ Maybe you're right...

I just remember the time when one late night/ on a college radio station phone line/ I was told "You niggers need to get off-air, cause no one wants to hear that jungle music."/ This was in 2005./ Remember hearing my shadowed, deep deep chocolate cousin complimented with the words "You're pretty...for a dark skinned girl."/ Grew up in an educated home/ went to a high school where the kids my skin tone called me Oreo for using words like ecstatic and sarcastic/ Hung with girls who thought poppin like they do in rap videos meant they were grown/ I've only known a handful of Black families where both a mommy and daddy lived in one home/ including my own/ Rode the train with boys who wear their pants like their self-esteem/ Really really low/ Who don't know that trend came from prisoners who weren't allowed to wear belts/ I'm the product of whippings from rolls of wallpaper and "licks" from belts/ cause to my mom, "Timeouts were for White kids"/ I watch friends around me struggle with the idea that they could better them self/ Who stay in abusive relationships cause they don't know anything else/ Scared to leave the hood because they've never seen anywhere else/ Condemned for not trying harder when they've never received sincere help/ America hands minorities their destiny like snotty tissues/ You wonder why my people have issues/ If you don't see how your race effects you on a day-to-day/ you must exist on a different plane/ because to quote Martin Luther King's saying, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"/ so you must be ignoring the pain/ You must not have heard about Oscar Grant, Kathryn Johnston, and a host of other untold names/ You must not have known anyone stopped by cops and told their expensive car couldn't be theres even though the title bears their name/ You must never have seen skin lightening creme sold in the ethnic section in a Duane Reade/ Or Black woman who's scared for anyone to see her without her hazel contacts or long, straight hair weave/ Met any kids who believe that the only way to get rich as a Black man is to play sports, rap, or sell weed./ Obama is just one person to them/ how do you teach them better when the majority of minorities around them are in poverty?/ Heard folk say, "Just play your cards right, and you'll make it" even though it's shady as hell the way the cards are dealt/ Even still my skin affects me./ Recently an A&R from a major label said "Shanelle is awesome, but she's not industry-beauty."/ I've watched girls with less talent than me get put on instantly for their mixed ethnicity/ genetical ambiguity/ tall, light eyed, near White-skin and skinny/ a lot less curvy than me/ They call it "marketability"/ Don't play the Jennifer Hudson & Beyonce card/ Look at the ads and commercials and count the brown skinned girls who look like me/ Count the Grammy and Academy award winners/ Count the number of blacks on TV/ Shoot, count the amount of black performers that get booked on the average college campus other than in February/ I'm grateful for the opportunity/ but I don't need anyone telling me that it's my job to give a rundown on being a descendant of slavery/ to be the token negro displaying my reality TV/ Get off Facebook and look around/ We're in an age of technology and diversity/ I speak stories that affect my audience universally/ Don't you think it's deplorable that you'll only support me if I can teach you what it means to be Black?/ No one taught me how to be this ethnicity/ I just am/ and I'm blessed to be able to be on a stage in front of you because 30 years ago, if you asked a Black Woman to speak at the average non-Colored venue/ they'd say "Thanks, but I can't."/ This month celebrates the African American past, present, and what's to be./ I like to think that I show others our similarities/ I hope that through my performance you'll see/ a human being with unique experiences that relate to her race, gender, and geography/ more than just a skin tone/ if that's not enough for you/ then maybe you should just stay home.


5 Reasons Why Avila University is Fly:  

1) There are underground tunnels to get from building to building.

2) When they need space, they take space. When they needed more rooms for students, several kitchens got converted into to dorm rooms.

3) The all-girls floor is called the "Nunery."

4) P & L is the P-L-ace to be. The Power & Light District is a dope hang out area downtown with a bunch of bars and restaurants. Highly recommended on a weekend.

5) Avila is 6 blocks from the state line between Missouri and Kansas. So on my way to the school from my hotel, I visited TWO states. 


Dear Huckabee, Getting Knocked Up Isn't A Sin (Blog)

I didn't watch the Oscars, but after seeing Black Swan, I knew Natalie Portman was a shoe-in for Best Actress. With her petite frame and expensive gown, I can envision her teeth sparkling and milky skin glowing as she gracefully glided up the stairs to accept the award she killed herself, both figuratively and literally, to earn. She probably thanked her management, the people that saw the movie, and her co-stars. I'd imagine she thought it would be sweet to give a shout out to her unborn  child and his or her father, fiancee Benjamin Millepied. What a touching moment for a new mother, to be standing holding a prize knowing there's a gift to the world growing inside of her.

I won't lie, I'm one of those people who rely on social networks to give me most of my news, especially Twitter. I was curious when Huffington Post tweeted an article on Mike Huckabee "Slamming Natalie Portman for 'Child Out of Wedlock.'" I braced myself for half-truths mixed with a little bit of sexism and a whole lot of racism, and I was right.

"Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care... it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock. You know, right now, 75 percent of black kids in this country are born out of wedlock. 61 percent of Hispanic kids… And the cost of that is simply staggering."

I'm so curious to know if Mr. Huckabee knows any of the single moms I know: lawyers, doctors, and upper/middle class business professionals who make their kids breakfast, lunch, and dinner, pick their kids up from ballet in the evening, and take their kids to church every weekend. Many of the ones I know happen to be Black, several are Latina. Huckabee takes the discussion of a famous unmarried White woman (who's ENGAGED to the father)and turns it into one about minorities who get knocked up and live off the system ALL because their ring finger is empty. To him that situation then causes all the economic problems of the lower class which in his opinion puts a strain on the upper class who are all married (even if it's probably their second or third time around) and are all gainfully employed (although there are many cases of middle class families ending up in the lower class due to layoffs and the employment crisis of the last few years). Imagine, all minorities need to do is get married and the glass ceilings will instantly be broken! How dare these women with their wombs make the decision to STEAL a man's sperm, get pregnant, and use our tax money for government cheese to feed their bastard children! 

There are several problems with Huckabee's "single mom" theory. Funny thing is, "since 1990, births have declined among African-American teens and risen among white teens, who comprise two-thirds of teen mothers." In this day and age, the general definition of the word single is dated. While single is said to mean "not legally married," there is a rise in partners who chose not to put a ring on it and cohabit for many years. With the 88% increase of cohabiting unmarried partners between 1990 and 2007, we also see that 41% of first births by unmarried women are born to cohabiting partners, meaning they aren't exactly in a one-parent home. Someone apparently didn't give him the memo that the whole idea that Blacks and minorities are eating up the welfare system has long been proven as a myth since 61% of the population receiving welfare is identified as White while only 33% is identified as Black. Lastly, due to skewed ratios and ignoring the trends of Blacks and Hispanics who actually do have children within wedlock, we aren't getting the whole picture from these numbers that many ignorant people like Huckabee like to spew.

I come from a rather conservative Christian background which believes you should disfellowship (remove membership) of unwed parents because it shows a lack of morality and proves a case of iniquity. Never mind the text "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" or consider David's talk with God that in Psalm 139:13 that stated, "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb." Yes, having sex with anyone that's not your spouse is Biblically considered a sin. However, the child itself is NOT a sin. How dare we view the gift of life as a curse because of the imperfect nature of how the child comes to be! I've watched friends of mine get married or even get abortions in fear of punishment from conservative leaders who would see if they looked around that many of their peers were raised in homes that either began or ended up becoming single parent situations. 

We live in a world where rates of miscarriages are high and women are taking out loans for in vitro procedures. Yet we shun the women who may or may not have a husband but have given birth to the Oprahs, the Maya Angelous, the Eric Claptons,  the Confucius', the Leonardo da Vincis, all who were born of unwed parents. One can't ignore the sexism that bashes the 'terrible' unwed moms and not the dads that helped create the children and refuses to bash the ones that decided not to stick around. Just because a woman has to bear the stomach doesn't mean she solely bears the blame for the situation. And while they speak ill of these women for getting pregnant, they fight to cut funding and refuse to support institutions and proven programs that work to prevent unplanned pregnancies. (A whole other discussion.)

Theories of morality are personal things which need not be inflicted upon others, especially to turn a joyous occasion into one of condemnation and prejudice. Congratulations to Natalie Portman for winning in both her career and her personal life. And to all the women (and men) who are expecting babies not born into 'traditional' ideas of the ideal, I say cut off or cuss out those who view your blessing as anything but a beautiful miracle. God decided a life needed to come out of your union. I wish nothing but health, love, and many blessings.


5 Reasons Why Francis Marian University is Fly:

1) The University was built on the site of an old plantation. There are slave cabins on campus.

2) Wednesday is Chicken Day in the cafeteria. I don't know what they put in their chicken, but the lines are always out the door on a Wednesday with students and staff alike. People actually have fought for a piece of chicken. 

3) It's considered the least expensive college in the state. At $4,240 for residents and $8,312.50 for non-residents per semester, it seems like a good deal. (Tuition at my alma mater is $28,000 per year.)

4) The college give students a Reading Day to study. Most students use it to get some R& otherwords, they party. lol.

5) Campus cats are known to jump out of trash cans and battle squirrels. Gangsta.


5 Reasons Why Marian University is Fly:  

1) The university owns a collection of 7 cases of stuffed birds. "Word to Big Bird." lol

2) It's said that a nun haunts the fraternity & sorority houses. She's just making sure nothing TOO unholy happens on campus. 

3) While they have cable in the dorms, they do not have BET. I actually spent a few minutes explaining to some students and staff what BET (Black Entertainment Television) is. That's not really that fly...but it's interesting.

4) The chapel is supposed to look like a needle and thread...

5) ...It's named after the Patriot Saint Dorcus who is the Saint for sowing & knitting. This is what it looks like: