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Charles Bradley isn’t dead!

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As more professional athletes begin to ‘take a knee’ for racial equality and the right to peaceful protest permitted by the American constitution, it seems almost fitting that we are forced to recognize the immortal words of the Screaming Eagle of Soul. For even in passing Charles Bradley arrests the skies with powerful volume:

This world
Is going up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame
Don’t tell me
How to live my life
When you
Never felt the pain

I can’t turn my head away
Seeing all these things
The world
Is burning up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame

These lyrics belong to the song ‘The World (Is Going Up In Flames)’ and indeed for much of America’s black community, this soulful lamentation may well go beyond melody. An acknowledgment of even the most recent history forces a confrontation of what is, arguably, racial inequality that has cruelly rendered many black men and women residents of the heavens or overrepresented in prisons. Black athletes, activists, lawyers, educators, politicians, artists and their allies are employing diverse gestures to confront the same struggle as those who precede them. A hard earned equality as of yet unknown. This, often to the detriment of their future employability.

One cannot escape the irony of the cancerous systems crippling the African-American community and the timing of President Trump’s most recent controversial statement delivered a day before Bradley’s passing from cancer. However, one cannot ignore the capacity of the choir conducted by the creators of today’s protest songs. The ones that record a vocal account of the pain people of color have been subjected to, and the necessary quest for accountability, remedy and justice.

This week in particular, a resurrection of celebrated images of Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Peter Norman and Muhammad Ali are being widely shared beside those of Colin Kaepernick, Steph Curry and Bruce Maxwell—to name a few. Additionally, a large number of NFL players on Sunday knelt in peaceful opposition to the divisive words of their president; provoking the expansion of picture frames by claiming a seat among proponents of freedom. In the immortal words of Bradley, they are in fact refusing to turn their heads away. There is real triumph in unity—in accepting responsibility for your fellow human beings’ welfare because it is the right thing to do even when you are granted an alternative existence.

Bradley may no longer grace the musical stage with his physical presence but I like to think he is demonstrating still in his own way. By virtue of this alone, he continues to live boldly.

My soul is bleeding.

Here’s to an American Eagle! My how you soar.

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Isn’t she radiant!

I don’t love this world at all but there are aspects of it that just sing melodies of love and light. Pictures on the walls of an unsettling monotony with smiling faces that become the very stars from which I source my comfort. Vika, my beautiful friend has been through the a lot this year and yet she still radiates a hope and greatness many of us will never own. She is still such a source of comfort even in her wear. I am so proud of her independence and all that she has accomplished thus far on this earth. Here’s to the love, friendship and support we share— the happiest of birthday’s to my gorgeous one!

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I Made Savory Love to Plastic

“If you consider a woman less pure after you’ve touched her, maybe you should take a look at your hands.” – Kaija Sabbah

The day started with me calling the eldest of my sister’s to let her know my vagina was about to meet a foreigner.

“Good luck, dude.” She responded.

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I was scheduled to have a physical exam and prior to this doctor’s visit I had not disclosed any details about my sexual activity or lack thereof to the nurses and techs on duty. Once blood tests, blood pressure checks, an ACG exam, weight and height measurements were behind me, a straight-faced lady called my name and beckoned me to follow her into a room at the end of the hall. She shut the door behind me and asked if I’d ever had a pap smear before. I smiled timidly and shook my head, identifying a spot for my handbag while I moved to occupy the space next to her.

“Oh no.” She exhaled, evidently disappointed.

I panicked. “Um, is that bad? I’ve never had penetrative sex, so I guess my gynaecologist has never brought it up.”

“You haven’t had sexual intercourse?”

“No.”

“Then we can’t do this.”

“Why not? I thought it was part of the physical?”

“It won’t work if you haven’t had sex.”

“How come?”

She stood up and pulled out a packaged plastic speculum from a supply pocket and showed it to me. “This is what I will have to insert inside you. If you haven’t had sex you’ll be in a lot of pain.”

I glanced at the instrument and diverted my eyes back to her.

“I’ve tried with virgins that have insisted on getting it done and they can never go through with it because of the pain.”

“You just have to stick it in to see?”

“Well, I have to insert this and then squeeze on these ends to open you up so I can get to your cervix. Look, if you think you can get it in we can do it. But you’ll have to insert it yourself because I don’t want to hurt you.”

I paused to contemplate her suggestion.

“You think you can get this in?”

I looked at the apparatus again. “I can try.”

She ushered me over to the bed and asked me to strip off from the waist down while she lubricated the speculum. I got into the lithotomy position (lying on my back with my legs raised), admittedly unsure of where to rest my feet- resulting in my ridiculous search for stowed away stirrups on the sides of the bed.

“Ready?”

“Uh. Hmm? Yes!” I wasn’t. She knew it. I knew it.

“Your feet need to be together.”

“What?” How am I supposed to reach my vagina with my legs together?

“Your feet need to be together and then you spread your knees like this.” She made her instructions clearer as she pushed my knees apart.

“Right.” I tried to sound confident in my new position.

“Here you go.” She placed the speculum in my hands. “Let me know when you have it in. I’ll wait behind the curtain.”

I nodded obediently.

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“unknown.pleasures.” by Ludo

You can do this. The chanting had begun in my head. I was uncomfortable laying the way she’d left me and I thought to ask her if I could stand up and try to insert it like I would a tampon with an applicator. Wait, let’s think this through. No that wouldn’t work. Unless? No, there’s no way she’d agree to try look up at my cervix from the ground. Would she? No. No.

“Is it in yet?” She called out, brining me back to reality.

“Can we lubricate the tip? I don’t think it’s slippery enough. It won’t go in.”

“I already did. A lot is on there.”

“Lemme try again.” The room was silent for a few more seconds. “Wait I think I’ve- ouch!” To say I felt like a rotisserie chicken trying to figure out where my stuffing goes does well to describe how oxymoronic the whole ordeal seemed at the time.

“Anything?”

“How much of it needs to go in?”

“You need to feel like you’ve hit a wall, that’s your cervix, that’s what I need to see. Push till that.”

I took a deep breath, tried to relax my muscles and pushed till I felt the foreign object creep up my vaginal canal. I called out to the lady in attendance to offer a progress report.

“How did you manage to get it in if you don’t have sex?” She sounded sceptical.

“I don’t know? I wear tampons. I did ballet for a long time. I tried to relax. I mean- Could be any number of activities. I think.” Apparently I’d employed rambling as a defence mechanism, trying to substantiate my departure from what was supposed to be an impossible feat for virgins. Before I could enquire as to what she was insinuating, she’d pushed the curtain back and started to direct my fingertips to the ends of the speculum.

“Squeeze at your own pace and I’ll tell you when I’m able to see.”

“Okay.”

It was excruciating. I had barely pinched the ends when shocks of pain raced through the lower half of my body. It felt like needles clawing through my abdomen and legs. I tried to maintain a somewhat calm demeanor before finally conceding defeat.

“I can’t do it. It’s too painful.”

“You’ve done well to get it in. Hold on, let me try now.”

I boldly resigned the task to her, laying back in effort to focus my thoughts elsewhere.

“Nope! Can’t do it. Pull it out, please.”

So, why did I go through all of this? Penetrative sex is not the only way to catch STD’s/STI’s. Some are spread through oral sex, handgenital sexual contact (e.g HPV) and even kissing. While this may not be a novice realization, it is something I want to take more seriously. I don’t want to be careless with my body or make the kinds of mistakes that could lead to irreparable damage, or psychological pain. We’re living in times when love and sexual activity are seemingly interchangeable, and while everyone is entitled to govern themselves sexually, I think it’s dangerous to assume everyone is being as vigilant and careful with their own physical beings, as you might be with yours.

Russell Brand said something in an interview once that has stuck with me: Be careful with your soul, be careful with yourself.

I didn’t do this for the PSA on unprotected sexual activity. I did it because I am a woman. In a world where women’s vaginas and uteri have been regulated by state law; subjected to public ridicule; and reduced to sport umpired by men, I feel women have no choice but to demonstrate the respect our bodies warrant. At the very least to appreciate the power of our sexuality complemented by the delicate nature of our mortality.

Someone loves you.

Platonically. Romantically.

Take care.

P.S. Props to all the women out there keeping their cervixes clean. You’re my heroines today!

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Tasting Freedom

Photo Credit: Little Zoker

I’m looking at a tree and it’s waving at the sky. What has been decreed by the wind, so the leaves and branches must obey. They are slaves to something free; attached to limbs, fastened to bark rooted in the earth. If the wind blows one way these leaves must bow without thought as to what they are offering passive acquiescence. This tree has no mind, only movement, and even that is governed by something separate from itself. As human beings we live to become a version of ourselves that can be substantiated by our experiences, our capabilities and perhaps even our dreams. But I believe it is our limitations that shape what we ultimately become. I believe they are the roots that keep me grounded like the tree; my failures, proof of what I am not and reason to continue the search for my independence and identity. When I am hopeless, in my own way I demonstrate my compliance and lose a little bit of myself. But when I have hope, it is more a dance than a bow and in that moment, however long the privilege lasts- I feel free.

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“Infatuation Station!”- Mind your step.

When I was about fourteen, I developed the biggest crush of my life. I became infatuated with this boy- every time I was close enough to hear him speak, laugh, sigh or even cough, it was permanently etched in my mind and stored for a rainy day. And did I see many rainy days. I was a very unhappy teenager. I felt oppressed in high school and emotionally and creatively crippled, for reasons better saved to discuss another hour. So he, this boy, became my escape. He was the safe haven I would retreat to in effort to keep me from self-destructing. I would make him the hero in every scenario I’d created in my mind because even though I knew he was just a teenage boy, somehow he was also so much more than I’m sure his actual persona would have been able to lend any truth to. I would orchestrate romantic lines in a rendition of how I’d heard him speak. When I was inconsolable he would share my pain and every sigh I let out would be an echo of his own disappointment in his failure to protect me from all the ills of the world. What I would do with a cough, I don’t know.

Photo Credit: Gerry Balding

Photo Credit: Gerry Balding

Over the years, I’d forgotten him. As the walls that guard me have thickened and my ambition taken priority, curiosity about the man he might have actually become hasn’t preyed on my mind- until about a year ago. He has begun to enter the odd dream, but even so, this apparition hasn’t grown, and I haven’t grown, and so I know it’s a retreat into my safe haven- a way to shallowly heal septic wounds. My brokenness is finding a way to blame him for everything I have failed to become, as I ponder why he rejected me. My mind is finding a way to mark him as the inception of my low-self esteem and bitterness. He is the knife that has penetrated my back, though I only intended it to scratch a surface level itch. My escape, the alternate reality I needed, has become a way for me to derogate my progress because, once again, he has become an impossible goal. So why has he returned to me? I have a tough few weeks ahead; a lot of hard work I fear may be beyond the scope of my capabilities. I’m not in love, dating, or interested in dating, because at this stage of my life, my career goals take precedence over my personal desires. But life is scary, and I’m beginning to doubt myself and in so doing, regressing to old habits. Indeed he is an old habit. Only now, retreating to my safe haven doesn’t make me feel safe anymore. Just stupid. It makes me feel like a coward and it validates my feelings of inadequacy. All those years, I burdened a stranger who was unaware of the weight he was carrying. I don’t think it’s necessarily that I don’t want to burden him anymore, I think it’s that I want him to become aware of the weight and to be okay with its inconvenience. Of this I am ashamed. How can I still be running? Furthermore, how can I still be running to him?

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To Love Her

I’m in love with the written word. It is the amplifier of my soul and when I walk, it is the principle by which my feet are governed. It is a scrutinized publication of thought and speech; polished armour before the war. It pains me to leave at the discretion of others an interpretation of something so sacred as my words. They are mine and will always belong solely to me.

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To Pity the Birds

Sometimes I wonder if birds got a raw deal. They come closest to heaven but every cloud is a red herring for the real trapdoor into the supernatural. They can take short breaks from humanity’s indiscretions but ultimately they too must be part of the dance. So while they whistle songs of the free, they only move to the tune of the enslaved. The strings that keep them in flight; the Puppeteer in all His glory ensures that they will never fly higher than what was intended. They may spend their days in the skies but their bodies will inevitably rest on the earth. So home is where they nest because even for them, paradise is met with great limitation.

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