Awaken

April 2, 2013 006

this morning. i wanted you to know. how your words.

carried me to sleep. last night.

your voice. kissed my pain away.

a lover. you never thought you could be.

the world. was gone. or maybe it was too busy listening

to your steady stream of endless proverbs.

-awaken

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The Temple for Lovers

in the secret of their alone-ness
she cradles him gently in the bed of her words
her smile tickles/comforts the soul of her beloved
undressing the most hidden parts
parting from past pain
she intoxicate upon conversation the way his touch invokes speculation
she yearns the slightest look of seduction/eruption/explosion/
her gaze/his glance/ they peruse each other’s hearts and moves closer and closer
the world grins and covers their giggles out of jealousy
as their yearning to gather close incites an arousal of sensual intimacy
day-time eclipses into night/
the echoing sounds of breathing hisses/
an intense rush of more increases with every grasp of air/ of breath/
to live/ to simply love
they wrap each other’s body across each other/
a jungle they have made of themselves/intensity/
a riveting intensity parades itself through every surge of more and more/they welcome each other to this temple of love/
where only lovers are welcomed and welcomed are they…the lovers of love

A Praise Dance for Two

Her heart raced with beads of sweat swaying seductively
silently worshiping/burying fingers into skin/a rush unrestrained
A riveting tide of emotions/emotions overdosed in ecstasy
two hearts meeting/met under the night’s sky/ covered in the bliss of passion
her majnun/his layla
the world was their’s /overtaking the night-time/a praise-dance for two

The Abuelos (Grandparents) I Never Knew

Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),

One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is knowing that I never really knew my abuelos(grandparents). When I was younger, I could remember my friends and other students talking about their grandparents and the great food that their grandmother would prepare for family dinners. However, I never had a close relationship with my grandparents growing up. I was very young when they had died, excluding my grandfather on my mother’s side of the family. So, whenever I listen to this poem by Mayda del Valle, I sit quietly, listening to the many questions that she has for her abuela (grandmother). And by listening to this piece, I always think about the questions I have for my grandparents, but unfortunately, I would never be able to get those answers.

When I was much younger, I could remember being dropped off at my grandmother’s home on the paternal-side of my family. Years later, she had died from breast-cancer. Sadly, I could remember my great-great grandmother dying as my father, brother, and I was on the way to see her coming from McDonald’s to pick her up some french-fries. She loved McDonald’s french-fries. So, as we were excited to go and visit her, we found ourselves mourning her death. At the facility she was at, we were greeted with the announcement of her death. It was extremely sad and even upsetting to my father. I was never close to her, but something about her death moved me to tears. I felt hurt. And I didn’t know why or even how come, but I was hurt. Tears flowed from my eyes without hesitation.

It was at that very moment that I realized how fragile life is. We are only given one life. This life only happens once. So, I listen to this poem to think about the life that my grandparents had lived before my time. I wonder so much about the traditions they were raised with, and the things they were taught growing up. I never had that conversation with any of my grandparents. I can’t even recall eating a good home-made prepared dish by any of my grandparents. In many ways, I mourn their death and their non-existence in my life. It hurts a lot to know that they never knew me and I never knew them. We are and were just strangers.

As I travel through life, I have come to realize that things happen. And the only thing you can do is to just accept that things happen. I accepted a long time ago that I would never have a story to tell about my grandparents. I wouldn’t. I would never be able to sit down with my own children and tell them about their grandparents. And as much as it hurts, I just pray that I am able to be in the lives of my grand-children. The truth hurts and it shouldn’t, but it does. I love deeply my grandparents. I love them as if I knew them. I love them as if I had sat across from them being scolded for something trivial. I feel attached to them, even though they are gone. There is something about them, their untold stories, their untold experiences that excites me. There is something about their untold legacy that makes me long to know them. There is something quite beautiful about them because they hold knowledge that I don’t know and may never know. However, I know that they are worthy of my love and my admiration because they are a part of me.

Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),

So, I thought I would attend the Friday-prayer( Salatul Jumu’ah) with another Muslim-woman that lives around the corner from me. In being indoors for the last few days, I invited my dear friend to attend the khutba(lecture) with me. She accepted my invitation. So, we departed from our apartments, got into the car and was on our way. We were definitely excited about this. In going to the mosque, we found ourselves in a long line of cars awaiting for a chance at a parking-spot. In our short wait, we giggled and chatted about trivial matters. Once we were able to get a parking-spot, we quickly jumped out the car and headed towards the women’s entrance. We finally made it removed our shoes.

Once the lecture started, we sat quietly in anticipation for an enlightening afternoon. However, this quickly changed. The lecturer began with a narration by the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stating that:

“A Muslim community will stop being on the straight path once the: youth go astray, rebellious women appear, and men stop going out to perform jihad”

So, my dear friend and I sat flabbergasted and in awe. This particular lecturer went on and on about ‘astray youth, rebellious women, and men going out to perform jihad’. However, he failed in refusing to discuss the causes of the youth going astray or the reason(s) behind rebellious women appearin. I’m still not sure what ‘rebellious’ women are. Also, jihad in the context he spoke of was inappropriate. Jihad is Arabic for struggling for the sake of Allah (God). The biggest struggle we can undergo in battling is our own individual selves, our desires. We struggle everyday in being upright people. We struggle everyday in giving everyone their due rights. This is true jihad. This is more of an appropriate form of jihad that should’ve been dealt with, instead of talking about going out to fight.

I’m sorry, but some of these lecturers need to get themselves together because American Muslims are living in a different culture that is distinct from other places. The problems that an American Muslim will face will probably be different than an Afghani or Pakistani Muslim and vice versa. It is this constant rhetoric from these lecturers that throws me and others for a loop. Why don’t these men understand that second, third, and fourth-generation American Muslims do not hold the same cultural-baggage as recent immigrants. The happenings of now should be attended to. There must be a new look at how Islam is practiced in America. We cannot continuously bring along cultural-baggage to a country that is different than ‘back home’. So, many American Muslims continuously sit through countless lectures hearing things that they can’t relate to due to this cultural-barrier. The youth isn’t going to listen to some random person that is ranting about things they can’t relate to in their daily lives.

Also, we must turn away from this obsession over obedience. Submission belongs to God and God alone. A fruitful and well-grounded relationship is rooted deeply in mutual partnership. If a relationship is built upon tyranny, obedience, and a power-struggle then it may not last long. There should be equality between the two individuals. If not, then you may have someone within the relationship rebel against the other. It is rather absurd to believe that someone rebels for no reason. No, there is a reason behind this. Instead of ranting on and on about rebellious women, why not talk about why a person would want to rebel in the first place. Let’s talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff that occurs. I’ve heard some dynamic lectures from some great imams discussing: domestic violence, sexual assault, women’s rights, marital love, and etc. However, there aren’t enough of these lectures happening. Unfortunately, there are many communities that are firmly rooted in compliance. Compliance doesn’t cut it for me. It isn’t about blindly obeying or submitting to anything or anyone. One must ask questions and seek for those answers in order to be at one with themselves. If an answer isn’t satisfactory then you continue on in your search. You don’t just sit back and accept something. Oh no, never that. The first word that was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was ‘iqra’. Iqra means to read in Arabic. So, we must move away from this blind-following of individuals, no matter what their title may be. In Islam, one turns to the Qur’an and the example of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Islam, there isn’t a central authority. The Qur’an legislates for one to use their reasoning, their logic, the example of the prophet Muhammad and the ayats(evidences) from the Qur’an to live a satisfying life. Islam doesn’t restrict one from being an active learner or from asking questions. No, you are told to bring your questions. You are told to reflect and to ponder. You shouldn’t just sit back and listen. You must not be like heedless cattle in a herd. No, you use what God has given you- your intellect. So, I am saying right now that we have to move away from simply complying to lectures that aren’t applicable to right now.

As an American Muslim, my experience(s) are centered on my daily life in America. It isn’t dependent upon anything else other than my experience(s) as a Black Muslim American woman. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept someone’s cultural-baggage from elsewhere as being my baggage. This can’t be the case for me. I just hope that some of these imams and lecturers will begin to understand that the American Muslim experience is different from a Muslim’s experience(s) in another country. American Muslims have their own problems and qualms to deal with on a daily basis. It is time to allow for American Muslims to create their own narrative. There’s nothing wrong with being an American-Muslim. It is just problematic when American Muslims are being told as a collective body to abide by cultural-norms that aren’t applicable to right now. This is America and American Muslims are trying to find their way. The last thing we need to hear is how things are ‘back home’. I’m sorry, but your cultural-baggage doesn’t cut it here. So, don’t try to spin Islam to make your cultural-baggage legitimate. Islam doesn’t oppress. Islam liberates. So, take that crap you think is Islam and throw it in the trash.

Anyways, I will go back to the hadith that he selected for the lecture. If he really wanted to do something beneficial, he should’ve elaborated on this issue of youth going astray, women becoming rebellious and men going out for jihad. In too many lectures, I hear about problems, but I rarely hear about solutions. Or I hear about consequences of actions, but never the causes. We shouldn’t dance around issues, but we should have a well-rounded talk about them. Instead of constantly complaining about this, that and the other, we need to just cut to the chase. We need to develop better ways of handling issues instead of giving things a cultural-slant. Why can’t we just focus on being good people? Islam is a full way of life, but someone too many lecturers focus on these trivial things. And too many times, people walk out of mosques not learning anything because the lecturer was so far from the reality of the people. Let’s get things in check the next time we want to go to the minbar to speak about something. Let’s have a real conversation that talks about causes and effects. Let’s discuss how we can help alleviate these problems and how this is apart of Islam. Islam is about being a mercy to the people. Islam shouldn’t be a burden. Islam should never be burden or else we’re doing something wrong.

So, our Friday-prayer experience was interesting. It was only one experience out of several, but hopefully from this one experience someone can think about the importance of connecting to their audience before speaking to them. It is very important to understand the reality of your audience before delivering a message. I mean…what good is a message if you’re not conveying it and your audience is unable to connect to it? So, let’s look at Islam as a way to alleviate burdens instead of being a burden. Islam is a way of life that is beautiful, but when a man/woman takes it upon him/herself to educate a group he/she should think twice about the message he/she intends to deliver.

In between the two
her heart races
burns like fire
for something is wrong
the way her heart
skip beats, unmoved
constricted
will she ever smile the way she did
will the thought of tight hugs, intimate conversations and language be enough
is she a criminal of love
is she a liar among all liars
how does a heart settle in the midst of chaos and falsehood?
does her thoughts of laughter and intellectual stimulation
forever a sign of something more?
why must she hide from what is most true, most real?
why must our secrets forever keep us prisoners?
she longs to be truthful
to allow her heart to be set on fire in love

The Start of My Story

I am ideas dancing off of the insides of my skull
Prayers bleeding through my tears being offered up to
the Creator above the heavens
Love standing naked alongside their lust
A tongue in movement of you to keep you in remembrance
while my heart skip beats for you
whoever you may be
Ears rushing to hear the brushing of leaves against the ground in autumn
with a nose yearning to make love to hot, fresh brewed coffee in the midst of winter
Eyes racing across the inside of my eyelids as I remember the vision of us being revolutionaries

Sometimes it seems like I die on the daily
To only resurrect in my tomorrows
revealing the fragile parts of me
Hard on the outside like bark on trees
soft on the inside like cotton

and I wonder if the world know
that I have fallen in love with life
with ideas and words
love and the endless possibilities of my
today and tomorrow and future

but i am scared
sometimes lonely
making these tears
my prayers
my litanies

Finding Room for African/Black-ness in Eurocentric Educational-Systems

In looking at the whole human-experience, particularly the African-American-experience, I wanted to analyze how Esperanza Spalding’s song, “Black Gold” highlights the importance of self-awareness. In many of the classes I have taken throughout childhood and while in college, I can honestly say that African/African-American history has never really settled within the textbooks I have read. Many of the textbooks that I read from are Eurocentric and Western, thus lacking the experiences of the ‘other’. In having to grasp with this reality, I am very much concerned about the education of those that will come after me. Recently, I was quizzed by a friend over Africa and I was stunned that I couldn’t give much information about this continent. However, if I was quizzed over Europe I would’ve found myself spurting out knowledge left and right. So, why am I ignorant about Africa? Yes, mother Africa. Why am I ignorant about my beginnings? My family’s beginnings? It’s been deeply engrained within me from a young-age that Blacks were enslaved individuals coming from Africa that had to contend with the colonialization of Europeans. However, what about pre-colonial Africa? Why are the lectures we so commonly hear about dealing with post-colonial Africa and the enslavement of Africans in the 19th and 20th century? I am quite upset that I have relied so heavily on the education-system to teach me about me when it is very much Eurocentric in nature.

It is quite possible that I am simply over-exaggerating on these points, but I’m not quite sure if education-systems are getting better at implementing Africa into curriculums. America is still very much racialized. There is still this sense of ‘otherness’ from those that aren’t European or Anglo-Saxon. In this ‘otherness’, we find ourselves and educators romanticizing these ‘other’ countries that aren’t Western. One place in particular that I can think of when we discuss romanticism is India. India is a country that is continuously romanticized by many educators, writers, and intellectuals. However, this romanticism can prevent the neccessary dialogue that we need to break down this caste-system in which it has created. In many of own experiences, I have felt compelled to ask my professors aloud why we aren’t learning about non-Western countries. However, I felt that my question would impose a discord that would incite debate about the West vs. the East. In speaking with one of my professors within the English-department at my university about the implementation of African literary-works, she told me that African literary-works belong within the Foreign-Language department. I was quite stunned because African-history is very much American-history, if we were honest. We cannot isolate the cultural-context(s) of groups from a larger context. Africans came from various countries prior to their enslavement and in order for us to truly talk about Africans, we need to have prior knowledge of their way(s) of life. However, the discussions that we see nowadays is very much limited. We always find ourselves debating and arguing about the right-ness and the wrong-ness of slavery, but we never bring into the picture the lifestyle(s) of these enslaved Africans. Also, this is quite troubling for many African-American youths as well. As far as I can remember, I have always learnt about the enslavement of Africans and their progression in becoming apart of the American-framework. I learnt about the stereotypes and struggles of Africans becoming apart of the social/economical/cultural climate of America. However, where is the social/economical/cultural context of Africans prior to their enslavement? Why is this often left out of the conversation in most classes that aren’t centered in a Black/African-Studies’ deparment? As long as we only look at the second-half of an individual’s plight for success/inclusion/accomplishments then you’ll never quite understand their whole experience without looking at everything.

Recently, I stumbled upon a new type of criticism called “Africana Critical Theory” and it centers on looking at the experiences of Africans and Blacks from a critical standpoint in their social/economical/cultural context while applying new rules of engagement that will look at the circumstances of Blacks/Africans in their cultural context(s). In addition, the experiences of Blacks/Africans will no longer be told from a Eurocentric-standpoint that strips away Blacks/Africans from their actual contexts and realities. In being in a Literary-Criticism class, I have found myself becoming more analytical in my readings and not just taking what I read at face-value. However, if you’re just reading something as a leisurely activity….then fine. However, I am seeking to become critical of the different ideologies and agendas that are commonly placed within the books/articles/journals/magazines that we expose ourselves too. In being able to critically-examine the things you take in you will become aware of the subliminal messages you unconsciously taking in. This is really important when we think about the media and the things that younger children are exposed to throughout their daily lives. So, I am seeking to push the boundaries and find a new center in how we talk about the history of Blacks and Africans.

In looking at the different singers, musicians, authors, writers and intellectuals-past and present, I hope to immerse myself within the richness of Black/African-ness. For a good part of my life, I have found myself drowned in Eurocentrism and have found myself very distant from my own heritage(s) and this is disturbing to me. In addition, identity is extremely important and if a person doesn’t know themselves than how can they ever experience true peace. What do a young kid do when they look in the mirror and can’t recognize themselves because the only thing they find is shattered pieces of him/herself that isn’t really he/she? In many ways, we are socialized into our being from a young age, but it comes to a point in which we have to be okay with who we have become. So, in seeking to get to that point of accepting my identity I am striving to learn about me. I am wanting to know about me before colonialism and even after colonialism, if there is such thing. I haven’t decided if its possible to be post-colonial, but we will see. I have much research to do and many years of learning to catch up on due to my own inadequacies in learning about myself.

Nonetheless, I had ran across a song called “Gold Black” by Esperanza Spalding that is fantastic. I just love this song because of the message that it sends out identity and self-awareness. I personally find this song as being one of the most empowering currently in the music-industry. Yes, the song is geared towards African-American males, but it can be applied for males and females. I do not have a problem with applying or finding richness in what is being said.

Enjoy!

The Importance of Books

In many ways, I tend to read alot of different things. I really try to refrain from restricting myself. Yes, there are some things in which I will never read. However, I found myself getting into science-fiction after being told to read Olivia Butlers’ Lilith’s Brood (formerly the Xenogenesis trilogy). I didn’t read it all, but the parts that I did read was fascinating to me. I found the different issues surrounding: sexuality, race, post-human, the ‘other’, and the apocalypse as being eye-opening and insightful for many reasons. It was after being told to read this science-fiction literary work that I was opened to this particular genre. Now, I will not say that I read science-fiction on a daily-basis or even on a weekly-basis, but I am open to it. However, in my quest of reading whatever is placed within my lap I have found myself really learning alot about various things. I believe your mind is opened up to different perspectives and realities. So, this need or importance in reading books is really that- a need. Yes, some people will say “stay clear of reading too many of them books,” but I laugh at such a comment. I believe if people actually picked up a book, read the content and analyzed what they were reading than they would probably feel the same as me.

However, if someone prefers to stick to just religious-texts than that’s quite fine too. I think religious-texts serves the same function(s) as other books. Religious-texts serves to look at different stories most times to give individuals different realities and perspectives to learn from and analyze. If we were to look at the Qur’an, we would see how God places stories of those that came before as a means in teaching the people of now about their errors, their obstacles, their accomplishments and their trials. It serves as a foundation for you in guiding you in how to think and how to live. Also, it can function as being a means into helping you in sorting through the problems and encounters that you have in your personal-life. And stories tend to relate more to people and allows for individuals to feel connected on a very interpersonal level. However, religious-texts are sacred and holds a sacred function that secular-texts will not serve.

So, I believe books serve various functions no matter if they are sacred or secular. In many ways, books can humanize us. It allows us to jump within the lives of others and it allows us to see the vices of life.These aren’t the only reasons why books are important, but they can be the foundation of why we may begin reading.

Why We Need Poetry

Last night, I was on the phone with a friend and found myself melting second by second as the conversation got deeper and deeper. The conversation was about poetry, but more specifically-spoken word. Yes, poetry and spoken word are slightly different but they present similarities. So, I found myself quite enthused in being apart of this conversation for several reasons.

1. Literature is my world. It almost seems like a necessity next to breathing, sleeping, eating, and drinking.
2. Poetry saves me from myself. Yes, it really does. I have many adventures in my own personal life, so poetry allows me to write about these adventures in a form that is very much expressive of my inner-being.
3. There aren’t any limits. Poetry is filled with limitlessness. There isn’t a wall or barrier. It’s pure freedom and you’ll able to enjoy this empty playground.
4. It’s political. Yes, I said it. Poetry can indeed be political. I’ve listened and watched many poets in my time and found this to be true. In many ways, political poetry have broken down barriers/boundaries/walls within many cultural contexts. Also, it creates new narratives that weren’t included before. Also, it allows for people from all backgrounds to become apart of a conversation that is open for all to join in.
5. It’s therapeutic. Yes, studies have shown this. I’ve read the studies. I’ve experience this therapeutic reality. Studies have shown that the usage of poetry allows for individuals to let out the inner-emotions that they hold within themselves. It allows individuals to recapture their issues and to work through whatever they are going through. Now, in the case of slam poetry…this is different. Many times, people find slam poetry(performance poetry) as being highly beneficial because there is an audience present and you’re able to sit among people that are there for the same reason. It creates a bond and a family. Also, in this atmosphere there is openness and you’re able to create/re-create/and explore different personas and ways of handling your personal problems. So, I found this as being extremely moving as an individual interested in poetry/literature/the arts.

So, I read today an article that goes along with this theme of ‘why poetry’. The article is called “Why Poetry Is Necessary” by Roger Housden. And a few quotes that I liked were:

“Poetry at its best calls forth our deep being. It dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like the wild geese, as Mary Oliver would say, from an open sky. It is a magical art, and always has been — a making of language spells designed to open our eyes, open our doors and welcome us into a bigger world, one of possibilities we may never have dared to dream of.

This is why poetry can be dangerous as well as necessary. Because we may never be the same again after reading a poem that happens to speak to our own life directly. I know that when I meet my own life in a great poem, I feel opened, clarified, confirmed somehow in what I sensed was true but had no words for. Anything that can do this is surely necessary for the fullness of a human life.

Poetry reaches with its sounds and rhythms down below the realm of the conscious mind to awaken and nourish the imagination. In his poem, “Of Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” WC Williams says:

It is difficult
To get the news from poems
Yet men die miserably every day
For lack
Of what is found there.”

I found these lines very moving for me and extremely inspirational. I can’t say more than that because these lines just tells it all.

Of course, you can get read the full article here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-housden/importance-of-poetry_b_884319.html