Category Archives: Poetic Endeavors

#TBT Poem 2: we be theorizin

I wrote “We Be Theorizin” after reading Barbara Christian’s 1987 “The Race for Theory” essay. I was sitting in Shirley Toland-Dix’s 20th century African American Literature course at The University of South Florida (circa 2009) when I read this work and finally received language for a Black genius I knew, but had yet to understand. “We Be Theorizin”  was first printed in Deboarh G. Plant’s “The Inside Light”: New Criticisms of Zora Neale Hurston (2010, Praeger Press).

We Be Theorizin

They thought we was over there

shuckin & jivin

when all the while we been theorizin

How else you think black folks survivin

They try to keep us down

but we keeps on thrivin

Can’t no oppression keep us from strivin

They try to break our souls

but we keeps on smilin

& through grins & lies

we master guisin

Gotta be a trickster for humanizin

But we’ll wear the mask

cause we be theorizin

 

So right on Zora Neale

Write on

Right on W. DuBois

Write on

Right on Booker T.

Write on

Cause we been watchin God

while they been in the dark

The souls of black folks

produce the purest heart

& our plantin seeds

is just a start

See / we sowin wisdom

with literary arts

& through performances

that’s how we impart

the theory they claim, rename, and bogart

So right on Langston Hughes

Write on

Right on Richard Wright

Write on

Right on James Baldwin

Write on

Cause the Negro speaks of rivers

& the weary blues

He’s the native son, the outsider

if she choose

& if Beale Street could talk

it would share some news

cause we’ve gone a piece of the way

in our travelin shoes

& tho our cuttin the rug might seem our muse

we be theorizin & maskin the clues

So right on Nella Larsen

Write on

Right on Countee Cullen

Write on

Right on Claude McKay

Write on

Cause just as quick as sand

we can change our tune

We speak in vernaculars

they call us a coon

But once they’re out of our way

& have left the room

out comes Harlem wine

& intellectuals bloom

& when the Harlem dancer makes her body croon

that’s our theory that esoterically looms

 

So talk that talk money

& walk that walk

Black feeling & judgment compels them to gawk

It’s our colorful brilliance

that makes them balk at the notion that we be a theory

 

Cause we be theorizin

in our baptizin

In churches & clubs

we signifyin

Gospel jazz / blues got us cryin

Oral traditions keep us from dyin

We flyin on tryin

We hypnotizin

& dance floors are our silver linin’s

Creatin the arts keep us glidin

So we paintin faith & buildin horizons

Keepin hope alive & eyes on prizes

& writin poetry makes us the wisest

We are the ones that we’ve been waitin for

 

We soar . . .

Like . . . birds . . . in . . . the sky . . .

 

So high five

Gwendolyn Brooks & James Weldon Johnson

Nina Simone & Alice Walker

Give me some skin

Malcolm X & Leopold Senghor

Toni Morrison & Martin Luther King

Tell me something good

Jamaica Kincaid & Audre Lorde

Houston Baker & Frantz Fanon

Throw me a shimmy

bell hooks & Lauryn Hill

Angela Davis & Assata Shakur

Pass me the mic

Marcus Garvey & Henry Louis Gates

Aime Cesaire & Cornel West

Bet that up

Mos Def & Wole Soyinka

Huey Newton & Amiri Baraka

All givin life to Barack Obama!

 

See our theorizin

be our salvation

thru the Middle Passage & their plantations

Thru Jim Crow laws & humiliation

cointelpro & subjugation

Our theorizin so bright it’s blazin

We are the light that gives them life

blacker than the blackest night

we’re the blues on the left tryin to be the funk on the right

magical & dynOmite—

we are the world’s good time. . . .

 

Cause we be theorizin

which is our uprisin

No reparations / but we’re enterprisin

Creatin life to keep us from dyin

Singin, dancin, paintin, & writin

We are the titans

& our hue gives the world humanity.

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Since Reading Alice Walker’s “The Cushion in the Road”

I’ve been reading Alice Walker’s latest collection of essays, The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way 2013, and find myself contemplating her musings well after I have put down the text.  Keeping my nose out of Walker’s text proves challenging, and I am already a bit saddened that I am coming to its end.

Nevertheless, while tiresomely driving to Miami yesterday morning, I noticed the sky, the trees, and the Earth around me in a manner–not quite different from other ways I have witnessed the Earth before–but definitely in a manner that considered Walker’s meditation and wandering about Nature and human being’s exploitation and raping of Her.  I thought deeply and purposely about the Earth I was witnessing during my drive–and my thoughts, mingled with Walker’s meditations and wanderings–generated the following poem:

 

6 a.m. Traveling Alligator Alley

 

Riding into periwinkle skies

I marvel at tree tops tilting toward cherry blossomed horizons

outlined in an orange blaze

that foreshadows sun’s morning rising.

 

Heavy machines interrupt quiet beginnings

and intoxicate Earth with their presence:

Torn rubber

Broken medal

Poisonous fumes

are as much a part of the landscape as wired fences

that keep swamps and shrubs from touching asphalt.

 

Suspended between man and Nature

I center myself in gospel music

that carries me all the way home.


Composing for Martin Luther King

This semester I’ve integrated visual arts, poetry, and technology in my composition classroom by way of Creative Composition assignments that require writing students to explicate their understanding of Martin Luther King’s rhetoric and philosophy.  Students are given creative allowance, and therefore, can choose their medium.  Below are some examples of my students’ creative compositions, and here is my own, (A Poem for MLK), which I wrote at the bequest of a male student who has decided to drop out of school to sit by a lake and think.

Mr. Drummond's King Image

Goldwire's Collage

Goldwire's Collage 2


Take Back the Night, University of South Florida, 2010

In 2010, the University of South Florida’s “Take Back the Night” Committee asked that I open its annual “Take Back the Night” Ceremony.  I opened the invitation to “testify” with the following peace:

Take It


Winners of the College Language Association’s Margaret Walker Poetry Prize, 2012

I wrote the following peace in 2007 while my high school students watched a Civil Rights film.  It is a celebration of a woman whose aura woos me.

a poem for YK (because there’s something about her aura)

I wrote “If Jesus Were A Smoker, He’d Be My Daddy” after a conversation I was having with a former partner wherein I described to her my father’s smoking a Kool.   She and I were smoking Djarm Black, and as I pulled the smoke and released it through my nose, I thought of him.

If Jesus Were A Smoker, He’d Be My Daddy

Water is inspiring, as it always is.  I wrote this peace in 2011, obviously while visiting Niagara Falls.

While Visiting Niagara Falls


We Be Theorizin

The following peace is published in “The Inside Light”: New Critical Essays on Zora Neale Hurston. Ed. Dr. Deborah G. Plant. California: Praeger, 2010. 263-265.  Although it serves as the text’s Afterward, I wrote it after reading Barbara Christian’s “A Race for Theory.”

We Be Theorizin