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With the wavering of exceptional poetry venues in the country it is a privilege to host at one of the country’s staples, heavily traveled by national touring Spoken Word artists and musicians.
The Apache Café has been my home venue going on five years. Comparable to the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York, the Greenmill in Chicago-the birthplace of Poetry Slam or The Lounge in L.A. where Def Poetry procured their idea to spotlight poetry on the largest stage in the world, cable television.
Every 4th Sunday, around 7P a line begins forming in front of the Apache Café doors. Veteran go-ers know that by 7:30P you’re likely to be holding up the bar with your back if you haven’t grabbed a seat. Late arrivers, self-imposed rock stars and those that think they have some pull with host, trickle in around 10-10:30 find themselves pushing past sideline gawkers that have huddled close to the stage and…missing the sign-up list.
Soon enough, the floor, stage and anything that looks sturdy is occupied with anticipating audience members, waiting for two things to happen: the writing workshop and the show.
The coveted 30 slots to rock your best poem, sing your best cover, deliver your original tune you’ve been practicing in the privacy of your bathroom with a hair brush and a Misty Mirror, are gone as quickly as the chairs.
As of four years ago we began incorporating a workshop as a requirement for the featured poet(s) to teach to receive their stipend. The featured poets are responsible for creating and conducting an hour long Word-Shop coupled with their quick 3 poem-feature-punch to the chest. I learned this proportion while touring in Amsterdam where I was required to do a 4 hour workshop and only a 10 minute performance. If done well both audiences will remember you forever.
As the list fills, poets pumped with pride and anticipation pace the small square footage to find a spot to post up, I grab the lone mic and with a minor introduction encourage those milling about to join us on the platform in between the main room and the outdoor patio for the hour long writing workshop that will take flight in a matter of seconds.
Depending on the approaching holiday season and the amount of time I have to prepare I have been known to bring in pumpkins for carving, eggs for coloring, snowflakes for cutting and flags for burning (just joking ;-) to give those not participating in the workshop something to get them in the mood for an artsy evening. Not only does it distract them from escaping into a bottle; it only takes a minor amount of instruction and a smile and people are hooked.
Nothing comes without sacrifice. $7 a person, even with a packed house of 200+ couldn’t spread thin enough to cover the cost of an internationally recognized, award winning poet/host, one of the best Djs in the country, the venue for opening their doors and turning their lights on and a National Touring Featured Poet to boot. Not happening. That is where organizations like Poets & Writers swoops in to lend relief to the daunting task of fundraising.
I learned about the Poets & Writers subsidy when I received a portion of a grant to do a show at the Apache Café over four years ago. The stipend was small in totally but the New York P&W rep happened to be in town and took a few minutes after the show to talk to me about how her office could help fund some of the shows I was doing in Atlanta and around the country.
You still have to put in the work, the time in the community; you still have to create “it” so “they” will come. McDonald’s is still running adds and Michael Jackson never stopped creating new dance moves.
We are not just oral spin-doctors; regurgitating headlines you’ve already scanned for scandal on your Google Earth home screen; we are Poets AND Writers. Sunday February 26th we’re proud to feature: E the Poet Emcee from B’More!
Her reply on Twitter was, “That’s nice.” I smirked. She has 200 +/- followers that MAY have been on Twitter but that probably were doing something better with their lives than following her self-edifying Tweets.
She texted me “Hello woman” on Friday, the next night. I reply. Silence on her end. She was supposed to be telling me about a party. I text back and inquire about the address. She gives me a vague description of the location. Red flag #3. I wouldn’t do that to someone I wanted to be somewhere. So I decided no need in being around even one person I have anxieties about. Running comes before partying anyway and I was running in the morning.
I reply to her text, “Never mind.” She immediately sends back “Ok.”
Exactly, I thought. Exactly.
Not-My-Friend starts calling my name from the table I just left, “Sheba…SHE-ba…” I turn glaring. “Aren’t you a substitute teacher?” I knew where she was going and it took everything in me not to unhook one of those damn laptops and throw it at her head.
What made this question diminishing is just 15 minutes before all of this she was just raving to another stranger in the store about how I am “The best Spoken Word artist” in the world, singing my praises as an artist…as a person. Now, her attempt to reduce me to a substitute teacher was her way to justify my anger. As if to say that the teacher part of me was what was brewing up all this social political righteous behavior not the human, woman, I’m kinda-a-lesbian when my voice is necessary, black, mother. Maybe it is but not the way she was trying to excuse her behavior with slight hand to my informal training as an educator.
Make up your mind. Am I the excellent educator you were just ranting about or “just” a substitute teacher with new fire in my throat? ‘Cause that’s what her statement was trying to imply. “Oh, she’s a teacher-that’s WHY she’s acting like that.”
Ugh-I was thinking and didn’t say to her “No bitch. Don’t act like an idiot and get fired in this economy while people are starving and crying for a job ANY job. AND you’re a woman CLAIMING to ‘love’ other women. THIS is NOT how one would act IF they did.”
I didn’t say any of this to her. I couldn’t without crying. I cry when I’m frustrated and I don’t want it mistaken. And a third thing I don’t do is cry.
Idiot. Young. Stupid.
Oh I could see me in her 15 years ago. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.
I said a genuine, polite good-bye after the tech updated me on what was wrong with my Macbook Pro. The older gentlemen, Not-My-Friend was singing my praises to and I walked out together. He bought me coffee while we chopped up industry marketing ideas for independent artists.
I Tweeted Not-My-Friend about it later just to show the hard feelings were on those specific actions and not her as a whole entire person. Because, I hate when people do that to me.
I ran into her in Charlotte a little over a month ago at an event. No issues. I thought “Ok, we may be able to hang-out. She could show me some girl clubs/parties, etc. Get to know the scene a little, here. Not too much ‘cause I’m not Gay.” LOL…joke to myself. ;-)
Last week I was having a tattoo blitz at my condo where a friend of mine drives up with his stuff once every other month or so and does tattoos at the crib for 48 hours then heads back to Columbia, SC where he has his shop. She came by for two tattoos.
First tattoo-she blatantly and admitted to biting one of mine but decided to turn the word into Spanish. I was asleep during her first visit. Exhausted from catching up on MFA work. ;-) And the tattoo artist tells me this AND that she spelled it wrong. Idiot. I knew this rekindled relationship-not even close to a friendship was going to go all the way wrong.
She had to come back to get the word fixed-luckily it was an easy task. She gets a second tattoo. Whatever. I was awake and around for this visit. It was overwhelming. She talked the entire time about how many women and who and how to fuck them. Too much.
I found the same for men and for women; if you’re talking that much about it, well, we all know the rest…
Either way, she tells me she works at the Apple store and to help me with my laptop and iPhone 4 issues to make an appointment and come in the next day.
During my trip, she and with a complete stranger, a white young woman, that she was kinda-sorta-helping and I were leaning on a laptop table waiting. We were all waiting for different things to happen but just waiting. A fourth woman, her co-worker comes by, says a few words, about work I don’t remember and/or blocked out ‘cause it had nothing to do with me, and walks away toward another customer in need.
My not-friend says out-loud not really to me or the young white-woman she’s supposed to be helping but just out-loud, “I love watching her walk away,” the white woman giggles and says something embarrassed but affirming and I immediately begin to boil.
I lean into her, finger and all, about how it’s not appropriate…you’re at work…do what you want on your own time…SAY what you want on your own time…You have the Apple shirt and badge on….this woman next to you is a complete stranger…it’s rude… It’s sexual harassment…it’s not cool…IT’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT! She tries to interject with the “We play like that all the time” crap and I told her even if you do it’s not appropriate for the workplace and the co-worker is no longer standing her to defend herself and/or affirm that.
Another thing I never admit to is my age. However, I even pulled the “From someone that is 15-years-older than you (which I calculated later was only 14 years but, eh.), it’s NOT appropriate behavior for a woman, I’m getting upset…” “I can see,” she buts in and I turn on my heels and beeline back to my original seat while waiting on my laptop to come back from diagnostics.
30 seconds later I can hear murmuring. The white woman has asked something to Not-My-Friend under her breath. I kept one ear cocked like my Great Dane when she’s trying to find the command in long conversations to her. I could tell it was about me...
February 12, 2012
I wanted to get an early start so I work on some poems and do some reading, today. I have that sonnet to straighten out and I want to memorize the poem about my Sun’s grandmother. I think it deserves to be read aloud to the world.
Although, once I start performing it I’ll have to stop calling it “The Poem About My Sun’s Grandmother”, people and their damn cell phones that are Smart-er than they are PLUS-YouTube, you know… Although it may garner 2billion hits and me a nice pay-check for the soon-to-be-a-hit poem; it won’t be worth the embarrassing explanation to my Sun. Not about the girlfriend part-about the grandmother part.
I’ve never admitted I was gay nor do I ever deny it. It’s one of those boxing in things I can’t stand. I discuss women and that when I do ever have a female lover, openly but I’ll never say “I’m gay!” or have a rainbow party, nor will I ever say I’m not and I’ll surely come to any rallies where my voice is necessary but I just don’t believe in it. I’ve tried to stay away from labels, forever. Doesn’t really work. People say and think what they want. And if you don’t confirm it for them, they just make things up.
I’m weird like that I guess. I find that when you confirm or deny something, anything…that people automatically shift into that type of conversation or they start gearing their actions or gifts toward what you think you want. Like I’ll pass on the entire collection of the L Word, or the Real L Word…thanks. UNLESS someone casually says it was a good series and I’d enjoy it but let’s steer away from direct lesbian conversations or imposing invites over to my house just because I said I have to get home and make my girlfriend/wife dinner. I would say the same thing if I was dating a man and you wouldn’t be welcome there, either!
Tangent. I’m back.
Anyway-about my Sun. He’s aware but I don’t go rubbing things in his face, however the poem is appropriate and directly related to some things he has said to me as a result of the brainwashing from his father’s side of the family-which, I tend to ignore, mostly. I’m human and things can hurt although I’ve found my ice-cold button and have left it on.
I also expect the same respect, actually more from women if they are dating women. I am really passionate about women treating each other better than the expected heterosexual relationship. I have not always been the best example of this. However, one thing that makes my skin crawl, one thing that really puts an iron to my arm is Sexual Harassment from one woman to another; personal or in the work –place; it just drives me crooked! Ugh. I can’t stand it! I’m like WHY?! WHY WOULD YOU?! Ugh. It disgusts me, actually.
Real life-This past Thursday, February 9, 2012 I went to an Apple store that someone I know works at. This “someone-I-know” and I are NOT friends. I want to make this clear before going in to the rest of the story. We casually know each other from being out and about mixing within the poetry, music and fashion worlds. I’ve always felt “some-kind-of-way” about her. She’s loud, obnoxious and always talking. Won’t stop. Just constant rambling to the point that she isn’t even listening to what she’s saying or making sense.
Now-I realize that I have said before and my mamma told me that the things you don’t like about someone else are really the things you don’t like about yourself.
Who did y'all go for Patriots or Saints? PATRIOTS!!
I have huge respect for how their city supports them. What is this with not supporting the Giants? I missed that drama.
I'm sitting here in my peezy bathrobe, desk facing out over the parking lot and drive up to our rented condo go figure) laundry is chiming the finished bell in the background, an empty glass with ice holding on to the remains of Coca-Cola, a fork licked clean of tuna and crackers and my once OCD'd desk for school and sewing has already started becoming a key and mail drop-off next to my lap top and two vintage lamps with soft lights at either end.
I commit every day to being "On Top" of things. I was supposed to take the day "off" yester-DAY and to-DAY to clean the entire condo while my roommate is gigging on the road. Hasn't happened but I've committed to staying up late tonight to do it.
Although I'm going to a super bowl party, I don't drink and substituting middle school has it's advantages, I don't have to be there until 9:15. It's supposed to be 8:30 but I don't know why the hell they want me sitting around for :45 before first block. Since I get paid the same, I'm using the morning hours to organize my day, thanks. Ha.
Ran 10 miles this morning. The last 2 miles were in the mud. Check out the picture below. Ugh.
I'm getting a new tattoo tomorrow-it's gonna say PATRIOT... SIKE! LOL... It's gonna be a huge replication of the African continent to cover up this bar code on my left ankle with some bad energy numbers. I'll probably get the bar code re-done on my neck. I'm a thug. #notreally
This week was cool. Got some books in the mail, including Love Poems by Pablo Neruda and Native Guard by our own ATL Emory Phd Natasha Trethaway and a friend from Black on Black Rhyme gave me an adult comic book series called The Bomb Queen. She is crazy! Battle social stereotypes with her body image and bombing buildings; I love it!
Hit a couple poetry readings and a small slam in Charlotte to politic with the staple poets. I had a blast at the Respect the Mic Slam and the venue is BEAUTIFUL! Overlooks downtown ...er...uptown (dumb description, they are not that damn bougie) Charlotte.
I wrote another poem. It is definitely a first draft, needs some smoothing out and editing. I think it's missing a couple key elements, too. I'll also post it for you all to red pen-please don't be polite; I want to be better! I know it's a stretch.
I have another poem "brewing" in me about being a substitute. Looking forward to getting it out (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!) this week.
Have a good week, everyone! GO fans of PATRIOTS!
The last time we left off I had just experienced my first Black Girls Run, run at Atlantic Station.
Five days later was three days before the most famous 10K (6.2 mile) race in the world; the Peachtree Road Race and BGR decided, as a group, to run the route one more time.
I show up with less arrogance and way more enthusiasm for a group of like-minded black women interested in, not only athletics, beating heart disease, diabetes and mental health issues.
Inspired. That’s how I felt. Newly inspired.
Under my quiet influence and power of persuasion, we all met up by Starbucks at Lennox during the beautiful hour of 7AM.
We break into pace groups. We noticed a group of men, trying not to notice us - noticing them, gathering at the top of the hill where we were to start. I immediately thought “We are going to dust them!” We all say polite "Hello"s as we pass them to begin our run.
The first two miles of the famous Peachtree Road Race are down hill. We all took off together starting at a nice easy rhythm. We all had decided some were going to run three miles and some six; I opted for the six. I get really nervous before each race and run the distance of the course over and over just to make sure I have it; kinda’ like memorizing a poem.
Beat it into your memory until you can do that shit backwards and upside down, with the radio blasting and your mother yelling chore responsibilities up the stairs. I’m back.
Three of us broke out in-front of the group in a quick 8 minute a mile pace. A taller thin brown woman on my left and a slightly shorter fit woman with a heavy ass on my right. I thought, “Shit-I might want to ask her how to get some more ass!”
I chuckled out loud. I’m sure my erratic behavior was drowned out by their iPods.
I am careful about when and where I use my headphones; usually only when I’m alone on busy paths that are heavily populated by other runners or cyclers. It’s my way to zone out but when I’m with a group, I enjoy ear hustling and/or joining in the conversations and, of course, taking in the scene. Sometimes, we tend to lose the beauty of the run … of the journey it when we’re trapped in our own heads. Plus , technically, headphones aren’t “allowed” in races although everyone uses them; so I don’t want to be dependent on Ace Hood getting me up a hill.
I kept checking my watch for the 30 minute mark. I knew Peachtree Battle marks 3.5 miles ‘cause Hamzat and I had this thing blue-printed in our grey matter.
None of us said much to each other. Ran in silence. Listening to the pattern of our breathing and the cadence of our steps. They were in tune. It was nice to have strong runners pushing through each mile without fatigue.
Brushing past the overgrown greenery on the route, the homeless man and his faithful patchwork blanket on the bench outside of Caribou Coffee by Piedmont. I wondered if he was really awake listening to the conversation of early morning runners and walkers, determining the validity of his life.
We hit Peachtree Battle right at 27 minutes and I said I was going to run three more minutes and turn around. I knew this would bring us to the top of Cardiac (arrest) Hill.
Right at the valley of the hill we all leaned forward like synchronized swimmers and started up.
We ran past the Atlanta Track Club water station.
This time I tried not to drown myself as I grabbed the cup and threw back the water like the elite athlete I am not. 98% of the water went on my face, up my nose and in my hair. I’m a star.
I noticed I had a little more hill climbing experience; if only because, recently a runner I pair up with on Thursdays at Phidippides Running Store at Ansley Mall, Amy, helped me climb a not-so-steep but annoying long incline just the week prior.
We made it to the top. Ran to the doors of CVS and sucked …
To be continued...
Stay tuned for the dynamic "beginning"!
...at the end of the route they were yelling and cheering and encouraging each other to the finish.
After I caught my breath, grabbed a few Luna Bars, banana and water I hung around to check out this group. I finally caught the front of their Ts: “Black Girls Run!”
Ah-makes sense and whoa… whoa … how come I’ve never heard of them before?! I consider myself pretty socially connected … I mean there is Facebook. Ok I’m not the greatest on Facebook.
Standing there I counted six members. Then 10. 15. More than 20+ Black Girl Run members, all shapes sizes and athletic abilities ended up on the corner of Peachtree and 10th street high-fiving each other and cheering loudly like this was a race, like they had accomplished something great.
I made eye-contact with some of the ladies but I didn’t introduce myself.
I had to check them out first.
Find out if they were legit. And talk to my home girl rock singer Res about this play off of her patented ‘Black Girls Rock’ album and signature show.
Later that day I checked out the website. I have the attention span of a nat when it’s some bullshit.
I read the entire website.
Observed their mission statement. I was intrigued but not convinced.
I’m sure they’re all beginners, all sprinters. They probably can’t run long distances; not with any reverence, strength or endurance anyway.
I’ll see then decide if I “approve” of this group. I’m an ass. I’ve said this before.
I joined them the following Tuesday for my first BGR run at Atlantic Station. I was so early I thought I had the wrong place. The run event on Facebook said 6:45PM. I showed up at 6:30 not sure if that meant gather or run at 6:45.
I asked the ladies behind the desk at LAFITNESS if I was in the right place. They didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Even looked it up on the computer. “Nope.” The lady said with conviction. “No Black Girls … what? Run? Running group? Nope. Don’t see it.”
I walked away sure but unsure.
I was nervous, pacing. Questioning my arrogance. “You’re not that great of a runner, Sheba.” Talking to myself. They’re about to kick your ass. Why is this a compeition, Sheba?”
I nervous-ed myself into having to go to the bathroom. Twice.
The second time I finally saw someone that looked like they could be part of the group heading toward the ladies room by the movie theatre.
I tried to stay a few steps behind her so she didn’t think I was purposely following her into the tombs.
Washing my hands I tried to side eye her and get her attention.
I left first. She on my heels I finally turned and nervously asked if she was part of this fictional Black women’s running group. “Yes!” She said proudly with a smile. “Oh, ok – the time said 6:45?” I posed it as a question-statement. You know those. Your mama does it to you. “You’ll take me to the store?”, while nodding her head.
“Oh, yeah,” she started, way too chipper. This was serious! This is running! Athletic ability at it’s best! Everyone can’t run-run! Yeah, they can run-but not run-run! What the hell was she so happy for? Running Sucks. (T-shirt slogan by NIKE)
“We gather at 6:45 and run at 7:00”
I follow her silently.
Between 6:45 and 7:00 about 15-20 woman showed up to run. On time.
One, even offered to lend me her locker for my stuff.
This comradely behavior was … weird. And refreshingly nice.
Tes and Adrianne, the Atlanta liaison leadership led the group around an easy 3 mile route. One hill. Nothing major.
During the first mile Tes encouraged me to go ahead. I couldn’t. I didn’t know where I was going and 2-I’m against running solo in a group. It defeats the purpose. For me.
At the end of the route, we all shook hands, hi-fived one another, exchanged names and stuck around until each runner and walker was safely to the finish.
I am now excited. But still not convinced.
To be continued...
I have a problem with closure. I've always felt like if you close something you can never revisit it again. That's the end of it or you or us.
I will wash the dishes but never put them away. I will wash and dry the clothes but never fold or hang them. I have started a million projects that either a-never saw the light of day or b-have taken forever for me to complete. Including writing.
I have a million concepts. 40 million first lines and it takes a deadline or the threat of losing something more important for me to finish it.
Except for running. (with an amendment)
I start and finish the workout. I will run for miles. Push the limits. Challenge the speed and stare the clock down like a fighter right before we touch gloves.
The amendment? ;-) I hate sit ups and crunches. I will squat and do push-ups for days but ab work is my kryptonite. I know that strong(er) stomach muscles pull your legs up; they kick in when you won't. When you can't. And don't get me started on planks. HATE IT!
That was yesterday. A past life. A slightly different me. Just a day ago...just the process of 'changing my mind' was only hours ago but seems like a lifetime ago. Because it was. It was yesterday. Or last week. Or last month.
This is TODAY. This past Sunday, October 2nd 2011, I finished my second Half Marathon in the Brookhaven (North Atlanta) area of Atlanta. It was amazing and magical. Out of the two that I've completed, Sunday was my best time but not my best performance, if that makes any sense. It wasn't "pretty". I'm learning, I prefer it that way. I've learned I like it difficult, it makes me feel like I've earned it.
I'm sure some of you have had projects where the end result didn't justify the means but you made it through anyway. You smacked adversity right in the face. Plucked the devil off your shoulder. Showed "them."
Show YOUrself. Become immortal. Invincible. End what you begin. Eat what you put on your plate. Run Ugly®. Make faces. Cross the finish. Click below to see pics from Sunday's race. 70+ women from Black Girls Run Atlanta and a visiting runner, Yasmine, from BGR Charlotte: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150409003712868.415331.595307867&type=3
Thank you to BGR ATL member Alicia Hawkins for capturing such an emotional album.
Black Girls Run! No. Really. They do. Part I Not really a new year’s resolution; more like a realization. I decided that being late is no longer cool. An elder told me, some years ago, when I was late for a meeting with her that being late is disrespectful. You don’t know what people have going on after meeting with you,” she said staring dead at me. I ignored her, then. I’ve never seen or spoken to her since. She was an Evangelist at a church I was trying to volunteer at. For some reason her ghost was haunting me at the beginning of this year. I snapped my fingers and decided on a dime that I was no longer going to be late … to anything. Not to say that I haven’t but it’s in the forefront of my whole new scheduling strategy. I don’t double book myself and give buffer room to move from one meeting to the next, or event or whatever. Since given myself travel time and the time we don’t consider to gather our things and actually walking to our cars, get situated, turn on the GPS and then actually get going. I am less stressed and find myself enjoy my travels a lot more. We all fall short, sometimes. 10 days prior to the most famous 10K race in the world – The Atlanta Journal and Constitution Peachtree Road Race which also happens to be the 10K National Championships, I got up at 5AM, ate my oatmeal that I have learned over the last nine months is the easiest on my stomach for a long run, downed my orange juice, put in my running earrings, put on my favorite long run attire, grabbed my Gatorade out of the freezer and headed out of the house. The roads are always clear on Saturday mornings leaving Southwest Atlanta heading up Route 1-66 toward 85N leading into Buckhead, where most of the “good” running groups I knew are. My running partner Hamzat tends to sleep until the last minute and sent me a text (why don’t people just call?) that said he’d love to run the route with me. I detoured only slightly to pick him up in midtown. Hamzat and I had been running the 6.2 mile race route every Wednesday night at 10 to avoid the heat. He is naturally athletic and had decided a couple years back to ditch his car (or so he said) and start riding his road bike everywhere. Because of this positive shift in his daily routine his muscle tone is ridiculous. He doesn’t walk. He bounces on his toes. Seven years my junior prevents me from just grabbing his biceps when we’re standing around talking social politics or sports tips. I get to his door, he saunters out and we’re on our way to meet about 200 other folk at the Brookhaven Big Peach Running Co. store north of Lennox mall. Hamzat and I always joke about the black – white ratio. “There’s another one!” I’d yell between catching my breath while running. Hamzat is in better shape and slightly faster than I am. Ironically, his biking made him a natural runner. Cycling opens up a runners “gate” and tones major muscle groups necessary for speed and conquering hills. Every Wednesday night my goal was to catch him. We start off running the first couple miles together. He naturally pulls me with him, around the curves and steadily up each incline. This last week I almost caught him as we bolted up the .8 increasing grade appropriately named Cardiac Hill by Piedmont hospital. His concerned about our gap lessoning between us was inspiring. I love it. I’m doing 70-something in a 55MPH zone on the service drive off of 85N. Being late is not cool. We’d miss the start of the pace groups and there was going to be a pretty massive party, massage tables and give aways at the end of the route. The police car must have been invisible. There was no where to hide, so I thought, on the service drive right past Piedmont Road. I didn’t see a safe place to pull over so I put on my hazards, through up my peace sign in my review mirror and kept going...