Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 by jonubian

This morning I’m thumbing through James Baldwin’s Collected Essays and thinking of Michael.  In 1985, Baldwin wrote an article for Playboy called Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood where he essentially warned poor Michael and the nation of how the pressure of our perceptions of Black manhood would be Michael’s demise.  Its a very alarming essay in that it is almost, well it is, prophetic. Enjoy this excerpt:

The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael.

All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth; the blacks, especially males, in America; and the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair–to all of which may now be added the bitter need to find a head on which to place the crown of Miss America.

Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated–in the main, abominably–because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.

Rest in power Michael and Jimmy. Thank you both for daring to BE.

Surviving the Letting Go (a short story)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2010 by jonubian

They both stood at the door full of pride and bitterness and confusion and passion and hurt feelings.  The past weaved around them like those spider webs she hated cleaning. The tiny intricate webs, like that moment, meant that too much idle time had passed.  She had loved him in a way that made the Sun envious and work diligently towards re-entering her good graces.  They were a catastrophe, all beautiful and tucked in hues of blue and shame.  All she imagined is that it had all been a lie, but in that admittance also lay blame for her.  She willfully allowed him to mistreat her, assault her with the harshness of his indifference- that is until the folds of her Divinity lay in front of him. He would certainly oblige her in those moments. The others times, not so much.  Lora had committed to Adam though. She had been loyal in loving both of the pieces that created his Gemini Sun.  Regardless of the relentless changes from winter to summer and back to winter again, that often left her defenseless and ill prepared for the climate changes, she really had built her heart around him.

What had began as a goodbye quickly turned into a rekindling. There was a magnetism that even he, in his stubborn defiance of what was the nature of them, could not deny.  The spirit could not be contained, muffled or explained away.  Desire sat between them like a serpent slithering, full of venom and prepared to strike.   That day it began with a mere holding of hands. That trivial touch was plenty enough, and more than criminal. The wine made it a bit easier to forget, or maybe to remember, Lora hadn’t decided which one yet.  “Can I kiss you?” asked Adam. Her higher chakras knew that the answer should always be no, always, but her heart and sacral chakras were drowning out those energies of reason. She remembered how that last kiss had almost ruined her and starved her like summer droughts and bollweevils. But how could she really say no when it was in her essence to say yes?  Adam had journeyed precisely that deeply into her and had left his life force there, uncontained.  Kisses are often filled with inductions of amnesia, actually they always are, whether forgetting the bad deed of one’s current lover or a lover from one’s past.  There is something about the joining of lips, and possibly tongues, that means forgiveness and resurrection.

Of course Adam could not be satisfied by the gentle mixing of mouths, panting, and longing.  He had to have more of her, not because he wanted her, but because he needed her.  She was something to behold, her in all her beauty, wisdom and regalness.  She made him feel as a man should, alpha, Malcolm in debate, Coltrane after recording  A Love Supreme.  He abhorred her just for that. How dare she be a vice that he could not leave, a habit he could not quit.  Adam was above such notions, and meant not to change his mind on the thing. Today would be goodbye, regardless of how much her warm full body begged to be re-discovered.  He knew all of her passion and sacred spaces innately. Though he recognized that things were definitely over between them, he couldn’t help but wonder if her waters still flowed like the Nile.  Adam was a bit apprehensive. He was aware that he had played a large part in making her life almost unbearable for some time, and had made peace with it. Well the sort of peace that comes from releasing someone when you know all that you are capable of giving is not enough to satisfy. He had searched himself and knew that he didn’t love Lora, although he had told her so countless times.  He still could not quite prescribe what he felt; lust maybe and certainly respect for her beauty and brilliance, but not love.  He was being, in that moment, the asshole she continuously reminded him that he was, selfish, stubborn, and trying to do the right thing in an instance where there were no right things.  He would remember to reiterate that point after he had enjoyed her lips, hips, and all things womanly in between and beyond.

All Lora remembered was the entanglement.  What started out as a kiss proceeded to become her legs resting on his shoulders as first his mouth and then his manhood explored her.  Lora had tried desperately not to allow her pants and next her panties to be peeled away.  She had already been naked in front of this man in every way imaginable, and today she fell short of the courage she would need to pick herself up from the ground after he left.  She was a bit too familiar with him leaving and had become good at rationalizing the whys.  There’s nothing worse on the Goddess’s green earth than making excuses for the people who hurt you. It was a place of victimhood and she had pitied its citizens, that is before she moved there with thoughts of Adam in tow. Through him a certain amount of understanding came.  Things that she had never imagined enduring now hung from her bushels like overripe fruit.

After making love, after preparing it like one’s favorite meal, Adam again began to discuss how his leaving was good for her, him, and the other woman that he had chosen- his manhood still damp from being inside her.  Lora had been strong in her acceptance of the fate of their relationship up until that point.  Now she just wanted him to leave.  She felt ill. She had regrets. She couldn’t understand how she had allowed him to again ensnare her and couldn’t fathom why he would want to. This moment was just like the others, tumultuous at the expense of Lora’s fragile soul.  Yet there they were. Lora’s hands rested on her ample hips with a certain meanness that Adam had never seen before, she had flung the door open and demanded his exit.

He refused to leave, not necessarily because he did not want to go, he would give anything to escape her in that moment, but because he felt guilt in the matter.  Adam’s eyes were summer rain misty as Lora finally broke apart. “What more do you want from me?”, Lora inquired, wetfaced, disoriented and utterly confused. Adam couldn’t answer. He just stared.   Even then, somehow, she was modelesque, and he contemplated whether he was really ready to let her go.  He didn’t find the bed he had made to be pleasing at all to his pallet, especially since he knew some part of him still desired her in it.  After all, it was undeniable that there were feelings. He had expressed them often and she understood them even when they went unpronounced.  Feelings were never their issue. What lay at the center of the story of them had always been betrayal, and unfortunately nothing would grow from that barren soil.

It was all push and pull, him telling her he did not want her yet needing to hold her and relieve some of her pain.  She wondered in that moment if the Universe had sent him to destroy her, certainly he would not be satisfied until he had.  Sorrow had started to weigh down the limbs that were supposed to push him away.  The culmination of her bitterness from their first parting of ways almost a year ago up until that point, however, continued the fight.  She couldn’t stand to look at him mirroring all of the pieces of her broken heart.  He would have to leave without her eyes watching the door close.  She would not be abandoned still freshly open from him penetrating her, physically, mentally and spiritually.  Lora turned away from him and the love that she had grown to fancy, but also away from the ache that she had been wearing like a second skin.  She told herself after his fifth and final attempt to leave that she would accept the goodbye as it stood, and it did stand there in an almost human variety- refusing to be ignored.

Goodbyes are mostly filled with tinge. Lora’s tears cemented this truth.  All in all, she was a bit relieved though. Now, she could go on loving- even if only herself, which she certainly had at least partially stopped doing in an effort to endure loving him.  She felt like freedom and Chantilly laces as she prepared to bathe him away.  These are the rituals of womanhood, surviving the letting go.

Cry Freedom- National Black Writer’s Conference, NYC.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2010 by jonubian

I enjoyed, very much, reading my poem at the National Black Writer’s Conference Poetry Cafe in Brooklyn New York.  I hope you also enjoy it…

Jo Nubian on the mic…word?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2010 by jonubian

Still a bit in awe that I was invited to read my poetry at the National Black Writer’s Conference Poetry Cafe. (Thank you Joi! (@4freepeople on twitter) )

I will share the mic with the immensely talented Staceyann Chin and Willie Perdomo among other great poets/spoken word artists.

I’m really excited and humbled…

If you’re in Brooklyn on Thursday 3/25/2010 come check out the event and say hello!

Thursday 3/25/2010 4 to 6 pm.

Brooklyn Public Library
Central Library
10 Grand Army Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Ifa’s Explanation of Odu and Womanhood

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2010 by jonubian
(me and my Iya @ last year’s Caravan to the Ancestors)
My good friend La Rue posted this on Facebook and I have to repost it here and everywhere. The Divine has given women a special purpose. I am vibrating from these words in this moment. Ase ~ Jo
Ringing bells arrive from the vaults of Heaven. Ifa was consulted for Odu on the day Odu was making the journey from Heaven to Earth in the company of Ogun and Obarisa. Odu was the only woman among them. She asked Olodumare what would happen when they arrived in the world? Olodumare said the world would be good. He said everything they will want to accomplish would be done because he will give them the power. It will be good.

Ogun walked in front. When Ogun walked in front Obarisa followed and behind Obarisa came Odu. She asked Olodumare about the world. She said Ogun has the power to fight. He has his cutlass, he has the weapons necessary for victory. She said Obarisa has power, the power of Obarisa makes anything he wants manifest. She said she is the only woman among them and wanted to know her power.

Olodumare said for all of time you will be called Mother. He said you were the only one who traveled to Earth and returned to Heaven. Only the woman among them returned. He said you will uphold the world; Olodumare will give you that power. Olodumare said it is good……

….Prostrate, prostrate for the women.
Woman has placed you in the World, thus you are humanity.
Woman is the intelligence of the Earth,
prostrate for woman.
Woman has placed you in the World, thus you are humanity.


(Osa Meji)


Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2010 by jonubian

i sit here contemplating the color of audacity


it must be a lovely crimson hue

not the color of pain

mind you

but the color of passion

I am passionate

and fearless

and amazing

these are the words I recite  in front of my mirror


hoping to remove the stain of you

I take strong, determined, giant steps away

moving like Oya

spear in hand, war in mind, victory in heart


victory as heart


i like that better

my mad woman chuckle is not so much mad

as it is a soundtrack for living

a will to live

i will to live

and move


Nikki Remembers Dr. King

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2010 by jonubian

I generally do not add poems to this blog that are not my own, but I feel that the manner in which Nikki Giovanni captures Dr. King- his essence, his sacrifice, his love for us- is so sincere and beautiful that I had to share them.

– Jo

His headstone said “Free at last, Free at last” – But death is a slave’s freedom – We seek the freedom of free men – And the construction of a world – Where Martin Luther King could have lived – and preached non-violence.

Nikki Giovanni, The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is a sacred poem…blood has been shed to consecrate it…
wash your hands…remove your shoes…bow your head
…I…I…I Have a Dream

That was a magical time…Hi Ho Silver Away…
Oh Cisco/Oh Pancho…Here I Come To Save The Day…
I want the World to see what they did to my boy…
No No No I’m not going to move…If we are Wrong…
then the Constitution of the United States is Wrong
…Montgomery…Birmingham…Selma…Four little Girls…
Constant Threats…Constant Harassment…Constant Fear…
SCLC…Ralph and Martin…Father Knows Best…
Leave It To Beaver…ED SULLIVAN…How Long…Not Long

But what…Mr. Thoreau said to Mr. Emerson…are you doing out?

This is a Letter from Birmingham City Jail…
This is a eulogy for Albany…This is a water hose for Anniston…
This is a Thank You to Diane Nash…
This is a flag for James Farmer…
This is a HowCanIMakeItWithoutYou to Ella Baker…
This is for the red clay of Georgia that yielded black men of courage…
black men of vision…black men of hope…
bent over cotton…or sweet potatoes…or pool tables and
baseball diamonds…playing for a chance to live free and
breathe easy and have enough money to take care of
the folks they love…This is Why We Can’t Wait

That swirling Mississippi wind…the Alabama pine…
that Tennessee dust defiling the clothes the women washed…
thosehotwinds…the lemonade couldn’t cool…
that let the women know…we too must overcome…
this is for Fannie Lou Hamer…Jo Ann Robinson…
Septima Clark…Daisy Bates…All the women who said
Baby Baby Baby I know you didn’t mean to lose your job…
I know you didn’t mean to hit me…
I know the Lord is going to make a way…
I know I’m Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

How much pressure…does the Earth exert on carbon…
to make a diamond…How long does the soil push against the flesh…
molding… molding…molding the moan that becomes a cry that
bursts forth crystalline…unbreakable…priceless…incomparable Martin…
I Made My Vow To The Lord That I Never Would Turn Back…
How much pressure do the sins of the world press
against the heart of a man who becomes the voice of his people…
He should have had a tattoo, you know…Freedom Now…
or something like that…should have braided his hair…
carried his pool cue in a mahogany case…
wafted that wonderful laugh over a plate of skillet fried chicken…
drop biscuits…dandelion greens on the side

This is a sacred poem…open your arms…turn your palms up…
feel the Spirit of Greatness…and be redeemed

Nikki Giovanni, In The Spirit of Martin