2016 Reading Challenge

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I am participating in a reading challenge and you should join me. This appears to be something that a busy part-time writer with a full time 9-to-5 can handle. There are twelve categories which is minimal compared to other reading challenges I’ve heard of. I applaud anyone who reads 25o books in one year. My life is not set up to even think about such a daunting task.

I am not completing them in order. I actually checked off my first box: a book you’ve already read at least once. I finished Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden for the second time. It was even more powerful the second time around. It was like watching my favorite movie again. I picked up on things that I hadn’t the first time. I read it a bit differently this time. I read as a reader and as a writer. I read for research and for entertainment, for enlightenment. My heart raced at the same places though, at the places where Emmett was mentioned. And I literally had to put the book aside because I could not stop crying when they would not let Emmett’s mother see him. I am a mom. I hurt for her. I could not imagine losing my son. This time around I noticed that Ms. McFadden mentioned Philadelphia. I am not sure how I missed that the first time. I love my city and when it is mentioned in prose I am giddy with pride.

I also have additional questions about characters:

Who is Verna? And how did she make out in Philadelphia? (I’m thinking about trying          out some fanfic with this character. I’ll ask Ms. McFadden via Twitter to see if she              would be okay with it.) What happened to Sissy Johnson? What happened to Doll’s              mother and brother? And who was Tass’s father?

I absolutely love love love this book and would recommend it to everyone. You will fall into it and won’t want to come up for air.

The next category I will check off is: a book that you’ve previously abandoned. I will be reading All About Love by bell hooks. I started this book as a part of a Twitter book club (via @afromadu) in December 2014 and only finished the first four chapters. I decided to read this book as a part of the reading challenge and as a guide for my feature blog post, for next month, on Love.

What are you reading?

jo

New York City (01.16.16)

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Every now and then I skim through Eventbrite to see if there are any events that I would be interested in attending. I check out events in Philadelphia and in other cities that I would not mind traveling to alone. I look at events in New York, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Atlanta. Besides Atlanta, these cities are a Megabus trip away. Eventbrite is how I came across the Black Comic Book Festival scheduled for January 16, 2016 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. It was a free event. Free is awesome so I registered via Eventbrite. I found Megabus tickets for $15.50 for round trip to New York from Philly. Not bad.

I was excited… for a couple of reasons. I had not been to the Schomburg in almost 20 years, not since my Black Women Writers course at Temple University with Professor Sonia Sanchez. We took a class trip to the Schomburg and I was in nerd heaven. I would spend hours in the library. We have a pretty awesome main library here in Philadelphia but the Schomburg was legendary and specific. So, I was excited to visit the library itself. (I’m a writer. Why wouldn’t I be excited about spending hours in a library?) I was excited to take part in the Black Comic Book Festival. And, I was excited to travel to New York, alone.

I still had more preparation to do for the trip. I had to make sure I had proper winter attire. I had to map out my route to and from the event. I had to make sure that I had money to travel and had to check out places in walking distance where I could eat. I bought a coat from Eddie Bauer, wore layers, and packed extra socks with in my travel toiletry bag. I decided I would catch public transportation from Manhattan to Harlem and back.

On that Saturday morning, I woke up about 5:45am, took a leisurely shower, dressed and packed my backpack. My bus was due to leave at 7:30am. I had more than enough time to get there before 7:30am so why was I running to the bus at 7:28am? I made it though.

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Me. Black Girls Are Magic t-shirt via @thepbg

And my adventure began…

The bus ride seemed quicker than driving. It was awesome. I just sat back with my earbuds in and looked out of the window.. and wrote in my travel journal.. and slept. Awesome! I drive all of the time so this was a welcomed break.

1.16.16 8:04am

              “I’m on the Megabus on my way to NYC to the Schomburg Center to attend the Black Comics Festival. I almost missed the bus. I was one of the last ppl on the bus. This morning when I was in the shower I was thinking about the day ahead and realized that I didn’t want to tell ppl what I was going to NY to do for fear of judgement. And to avoid the conversations and name-calling. “You’re weird.” “Why are you going ‘all the way’ to NY by yourself?”  “Books?!” “Comic books?” It shouldn’t be this difficult to be me. It’s not really difficult but rather annoying and disappointing. I don’t want to be caged. Period. I don’t want to be boxed. I’m trying to break free to my level of comfort… 

           I just had a thought. Maybe the people that shoot condensing questions and side eyes at me are actually envious.  I have to remind myself to consider my source. People are living lives that they think they are “supposed to” be living as opposed to living how they want to. I used to do that. But I’m moving away from “supposed to” and toward living happy for me as determined by me…”

 

I followed my Google Maps directions to the 2 train and stood impatiently in line to buy a Metro Card. I noticed that MTA trains are more narrow than SEPTA trains. The train ride was uneventful and I arrived at the Schomburg about quarter after ten. There were vendors set up and some just beginning to set up. There was a registration line that was wrapped around the tiny area. I don’t remember the library being as small as it was. Maybe there have been renovations in the last 20 years? Maybe? There was an exhibit, Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination, on display. It was due to end on December 31, 2015 but was extended specifically for this event. I walked into the exhibit area before checking in.

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I met the creator and writer of the Hafrocentric comic, Jewels Smith (@hafrocentric)

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And a fellow Philadelphian, Guy Sims, writer of the Brotherman comics (@bigcitycorp)

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I tried to view the rest of the library because I had planned to do some writing and research but was stopped by security guards. Apparently, I could not access the full library today. The panel discussion I wanted to attend, Images in Action, was not due to begin until noon and I was really hot in my awesome new coat so I took a short walk around the block and took in Harlem a bit. I think I was gone for about fifteen minutes. When I returned it seemed that the number of people doubled in fifteen minutes. We had to wait in line to get into the auditorium for the panel discussion.

         1.16.16 11:58am

          Finally got a chance to sit.  The Images in Action panel will begin shortly.  I am hungry. And I think I’m a little overwhelmed by all of the people in such a small space.  There are so many different types of people here.  It seems to be too different for me.

 

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The panel discussions was interesting. And the audience was interesting as well. While the artists spoke of using their art to advance social justice issues, the audience went for attention seeking behaviors. Their costumes. Their questions. Their long-winded rants. After the panel discussion, I headed over to the Afrofuturism 2.0 presentation. It was located in a tiny room on the lower level. There were only a few chairs set out so it quickly became standing room only. I took a spot in the far right corner. By the time the presentation started, I was tired and hungry and very overwhelmed by the amount of people in a small space. Fifteen minutes into it, I left. My hunger invaded my ears and I was unable to process the words of the presenter. When I finally made it through the crowd to the outside, there was a line of people wrapped around the front of the building waiting to get into the festival. Once I saw the amount of people trying to get into the already crowded building, I’d made my decision to go home.

I texted my friend, told him I was coming home early. The day did not go as planned and the festival just wasn’t for me. I would take it as a learning experience.

I walked down Malcolm X Boulevard in attempt to find a place to eat. I stopped in Sylvia’s, sat at the counter for ten minutes before someone stopped to say, “I’ll be right with you.” I left. I was becoming grumpy and probably should have packed a Snickers. I checked the train schedule and the Megabus schedule. I could make the 3:20p Megabus and hope that it was not crowded so that I could change my ticket from 8:20p to the earlier bus.

I got off the train in Manhattan and walked down 34th Street toward the Megabus stop. There was a Wendy’s on the way. I stopped in and ordered fries. There was a man there attempting to order but the way his heroin nod was set up… security had to escort him out. My fries were ready and I left just as security approached the man. I didn’t see the actual escort.

I was able to change my ticket. I even sat in my preferred seat, the upstairs window seat on the left in the back row. I was back inside of my house by 6pm.

I always try to find the lesson in every experience, especially the uncomfortable ones. In this, I learned that crowds in small spaces isn’t for me. I have to prepare myself for it. What I prepared for was the freedom of a library. (Did I mention the awesome main branch of the Philadelphia library?) I should have just packed a lunch or made reservations at a restaurant that I’d picked prior to that day. I had snacks but I needed a meal. I learned that I’m only marginally interested in comics. I am not as engulfed as people who attend festivals and Comicons are in the medium. I can appreciate the art and the entertainment but it is not my life.

Tired. Hungry. Hot (my coat is the truth!). Foiled plans. Home is where I needed to be to reboot and try something else.

This trip was about overcoming my fear and getting to know myself as a free woman. I have been responsible to and for someone else for most of my life. This is the first time period in which I am responsible to and for only myself. It’s new. It’s different. It’s scary. And, so, I take baby steps. This trip was a baby step.

The next solo adventure will be better.

jo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s that time again

Around this time of year I always seem to be more reflective than usual… and I always feel like a hypocrite. Every year, I vowed to never make New Year’s resolutions, never to start something or stop something at the first of the year. But I always find myself reflecting and promising to myself that I will make changes. It’s unconscious, really. I’ve been socialized to believe that this is what I need to do at this time. It has become a habit that is clearly difficult to break.

But I’m working on it.

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Punta Cana, May 2015     Photo credit: J. Owens

I know that new comes with each sun rise, another chance to get this thing called life right. Only, there’s no huge celebration with singing and fireworks. I would like to point out that I also become very reflective and introspective during the days leading up to my birthday (which is the 9th of July if you were wondering). And I should. It is my New Year. Every day, actually, I want to be better than I was the day before (of course there are days I fall short) and my new year is a celebration of those good and bad days. It is a time that I should reflect, celebrate the successful days, evaluate the not-so-successful days, make a plan to do better and execute that plan.

Having laid this out for myself (just now), I can see the lore of the New Year’s resolution thing. But I am not one to move with the crowd, that is once I realize that is what’s going on. I believe that reflection, evaluation, planning and execution of said plan should be an ongoing process. And, yes, there should be a time to celebrate but in your individual time frame. Not one arbitrarily set by whoever started this thing stating that everyone should celebrate on this particular day. We are all on our own paths. I am on my own path. I do not have to be in accord with other people concerning individually perceived successes and failures and the celebration and/or resolution of them.

As I type this, it feels like I’m against celebrations and the general tomfoolery that comes with celebrations of this magnitude. Oh, please believe that I am not against throwing back a few, yelling over loud music, or even an occasional bar top dance number (a la Coyote Ugly).

The bottom line is that I don’t want to be a hypocrite but I do recognize my hypocrisy right now. I am a work in progress…

So, those New Year’s resolutions that I loathe?

Here are mine:

I will save money. In my defense, I planned this a while ago but with two of my favorite people celebrating their 40th birthdays within months of each other (September and December) I kind of broke the bank in attempts to make it great for the both of them. That’s just how I roll. And now I am rolling on E (empty) until January. So, you can see that things just kind of worked out to coincide with the new year, right? Right.

I will take myself on more dates. This, again, is a coincidence because… well… money. (See above explanation). This also is a continuation of what I promised myself during one of my reflective self get-your-life talks. So, I am basically picking up again after taking a break. That’s all.

I will take the steps to see my business through to fruition. There is no excuse for this. Admittedly, there is fear though. And, again, the whole money thing.

I can go on but I won’t. This is about refocusing to improve. I have my life goals, hand-written, posted on my bedroom wall. I read over them from time to time. I know what I have to do for me. I know what works… for me. I have already planned a couple of solo day trips and I am back to using my calendar and reminders for tasks to reach my goals. I have already begun to change… so are these really New Year’s resolutions or just me being me and that coinciding with the particular date of January 1st?

LOL!

Oh, wait, I do have one! I want to blog more in 2016. WordPress emailed me the year in review for my blog- pitiful! I have been writing this year but I have neglected to post here. This is something I will honestly state as a New Year’s resolution: I will blog more often in 2016.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Take care,

Nee

 

 

 

I Am In Love

She makes me want to do better.

She makes me want to be better.

She brings a smile to my face and a deep longing for more of her elixir. I. Love. Her.

I told my husband that I am in love with a woman. He knows my penchant for falling in love. It is who I am. It is what I do. Love is woven into my being, into my hair follicles, into my bones, into my name, into everything which makes me me. Over the past two years, though, that which once came so easily to me has been difficult to reach. I have not been myself. I have been an echo, a shadow, an impostor of my true self. But just recently, I believe that I have fallen madly in love with a woman. I may have truly fallen for her.

Her voice.

Her inflection.

Her word choice.

Her language.

Her accent.

Her fierceness.

Her boldness.

Her courageousness.

Her strength.

Her beauty. That illuminates from the inside out.

Her fearlessness. Her ability to go deep into the places, the depths, the crevices that I can not.

I think I love her… or I am obsessed with her. The two look so similar. I guess it depends on one’s perspective.

She is my age. She is amazing. She is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I am not sure where I have been for that last thirteen or fourteen years but I have finally met the love of my life*. Last year, I was introduced to her via Twitter and decided to purchase her most recent novel, Americanah. So, I have had this book in my possession for close to eighteen months and I have just read the first chapter today (5.27.15). Over the last few months, I began to listen to TEDtalks on YouTube while driving home from work. I would listen to talks about life and finding ones purpose, about education, about love, about sex, about writing, about feminism, and about books to mention a few of the topics that peaked my interest. Last month, I listened to Chimamanda’s TEDtalk entitled, “We should all be feminists.” And that is when she began courting me. Yesterday, I came across a couple of her hour-long interviews about the book. As I listened to the conversation between Chimamanda and Zadie Smith, I could not wait to get home to hold my book, to feel its smooth pages, to dive in and to devour every word. I was so ready for it. Which was odd because, initially I was intimated by it. I looked at the thickness of the book, the physical weight and the weight of the subject matter frightened me. But yesterday, she embraced me with her soul and my fear dissipated.

When I arrived at my house, I raced to find Americanah not even to begin reading it, but just hold it in my arm, nestled close like a baby. But, it was not where I’d thought it to be…. And I tore the house apart searching for the book that I know I purchased. After a few hours, I became desperate and went online to find another copy. I did. I was that upset about not having the book in my possession that I was willing to spend more money to get another copy. I, first, considered going to my favorite Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy but it was after 10pm and the bookstore was closed. So, I put a copy into my online shopping cart along with a copy of White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Before I hit the purchase button, I sat still to calmly think for a moment about where the book could be, in what space did I “put it up?” It came to me in my calm. I knew where it was. Literally, I felt like a light bulb was lit over my head like in the cartoons. I ran upstairs, to the closet in the office/guest room and surely, I found my copy of the book right next to my college degree (TUMF! All my Temple Alum stand up!). I was so elated. And so very much in love again. I carried it around with me for the rest of the evening, slept with it by my side, took it to work with me, and finally cracked it open after work.

I finished the first chapter and started the second. I read with a pencil, as a reader and as a writer, and the first chapter is marked up. Not in a bad way but in a taking notes, ahh haa kind of way. One of my notations on page one is next to the sentence: Philadelphia had the musty scent of history. I’ll take it. I wrote: WE MADE THE FRONT PAGE! LOL!

I told my husband that I am in love with a woman. She sparked something in me. Helped me rekindle my passion for writing again. And I love her for it. I am purposely reading this novel slowly so my review will probably be written in the fall.

I hope I love Americanah as much as I love Chimamanda (or rather my idea of her ’cause I honestly don’t know her personally).

*Okay, the whole love of my life thing… not really… I mean, have you seen my grandboy?

Look at ‘im

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We were on our way to vote on 5.19.15

Love: An Essential Nutrient.

AfroMadu.


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Messages in mass media today give love a bad name. Switching on the radio, you’ll hear songs of either bitterness in regards to love or of heartbreak, which give off the impression that love is a scarring experience as opposed to an essential component for survival, sanity, and growth. Common sentiments about not needing love, primarily in this age, have turned us away from the free-spirited lovers of the 60’s flower child era singing The Beatles’ hit song “All You Need Is Love” (1967) to the jaded individuals who choose success, independence, and capital over love. Could this new impression of love be a reaction to ignorance of the idea’s actual definition? What is love, anyway?

American psychiatrist and notable author, M. Scott Peck, defines love in his 1978 novel The Road Less Traveled, as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s…

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