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

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Minor Literature #2: Feminist Theory from Margin to Center by: bell hooks

This is a far-fetch for me in categorizing feminism with Minor-Literature, but I will go forth in proving how this particular book could be defined as Minor-Literature.

I was exposed to feminism in high-school and found it empowering, but only to an extent. I was taught that feminism was a fight for women’s rights and for equality. It was a move to end sexism. However, the packaging of feminism at this point was geared towards White, upper-class women that were seeking to move outside of the home into the work-place. Unfortunately, this first-wave form of feminism didn’t speak or relate to all women. In putting this into perspective, bell hooks stated in “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” that Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” “ignored the existence of all non-white women and poor White women. She did not tell readers whether it was more fulfilling to be a maid, a babysitter, a factory worker, a clerk, or a prostitute, than to be a leisure class housewife” (2). Additionally, hooks stated that “she made her plight and the plight of white women like herself synonymous with a condition affecting all American women. In so doing, she deflected attention away from her classism, her racism, her sexist attitudes towards the masses of American women” (2).

Additionally, hooks further breaks down the issue that many Americans have with in defining feminism. Hooks stated that “most people in the United States think of feminism or the more commonly used term “women’s lib” as a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men. This broad definition, popularized by the media and mainstream segments of the movement, raises problematic questions. Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to? Do women share a common vision of what equality means? Implicit in this simplistic definition of women’s liberation is a dismissal of race and class as factors that, in conjunction with sexism, determine the extent to which an individual will be discriminated against, exploited, or oppressed. Bourgeois white women interested in women’s rights issues have been satisfied with simple definitions for obvious reasons. Rhetorically placing themselves in the same social category as oppressed women, they were not anxious to call attention to race and class privilege” (18).

bell hooks described feminism as “the struggle to end sexist oppression. Its aim is not to benefit solely any specific group of women, any particular race or class of women. It does not privilege women over men. It has the power to transform in a meaningful way all of our lives. Most importantly, feminism is neither a lifestyle nor a ready-made identity or role one can step into” (26).

In reading this text, I was being told that my experience(s) as a Black American woman was just as relevant as a White woman’s experience(s). In high-school, I was only being taught about first-wave feminism that benefited upper-class White women. Unfortunately, my Women Studies’ teacher would seek to apply this one form of feminism to various cultures all across the world. She would have us watch documentaries over women-suffrage (which excluded women of color), women from the Middle East, and the roles of women throughout history. However, the class was purely centered around this Western, White upper-class form of feminism which excluded women of color and poor White-women.

Fortunately, I was exposed to Black feminist and writer, Dr. bell hooks. In a way, bell hooks is my favorite feminist of all times. She connects the dots and doesn’t just say that feminism is about sexism. No, she looks at feminism through various lenses in order for individuals to grasp the inter-connectedness of: racism, sexism, patriarchy, and imperialism. She looks at how all of these factors affects the topic of feminism and the way we think about it. It is not just about women/men fighting against sexism. It is much deeper. It is about seeing how various classes and various racial-groups are struggling/dealing with capitalism/colonialism/racism/sexism. So, bell hooks stated very bluntly that “we have to constantly critique imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture because it is normalized by mass media and rendered unproblematic.”

She is unwrapping feminism in a way that it can no longer be packaged up with upper-class White women in mind. She is reconstructing feminism and forcing people to see the intersectionality of: race, sex, power, and money. For many people, feminism is simply about fighting sexism. However, bell hooks would argue that this isn’t good enough because every women will not have the same struggles. The upper-class White American woman will not have the same experiences as poor women living in rural Brazil. This is and will not be the case because there are factors affecting the experiences of these women’s lives.

So, the thing about bell hooks that I love is her complexity. She breaks down the way we view things and how mass-media influences us. Furthermore, she makes this complexity so easy to understand that you could quickly see how all of the dots connect to one another. I remember going to the Women Studies’ Department at my university and asking about Black feminism and being told that I should contact the Black Studies’ Department for information about this particular form of feminism. This really stirred something up in me. I didn’t understand why the Women Studies’ Department didn’t have various views/perspectives of feminism present within their department. They ARE responsible for educating women and men on women’s rights. However, there is still this one form of feminism that they insist on being most important. I guess the plight of women of color aren’t as important as a White woman’s plight towards equality. I still believe that Black feminism is marginalized and “to be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body”. So, I learned from that experience that there is still racism happening in feminism. I will not be okay with this nor tolerate it, so watch out because women of color are wanting their voices to be heard. Let me back up for a bit! When I was directed to go to the Black Studies’ department, I was in utter dismay. This was the one place that women on campus would totally believe could serve them. However, this institutionalize marginalization of women of color experiences is just ridiculous. I wanted to scream. I couldn’t believe my ears when I was told that a department that focuses on women didn’t have the resources available to help all women. As the title of hooks’ book reads “From Margin to Center,” she is truly trying to take the experiences of women of color and place it in the center. It isn’t about being marginalized anymore. No, it is about acknowledgement. It is about being heard.

In short, bell hooks is definitely a feminist that everyone should read on, see in person, and study. Her works will blow you away! It will definitely open your eyes up to feminism in a new and fresh way. You will not be disappointed!

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.

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