A New Definition of Brother…

Copyright © 2016 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait” by Copyright © 2015 Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait” by Copyright © 2015 Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

I had to learn the hard way not to rely solely on

American-born brothers who

talk plenty smack and talk plenty righteousness about

how we Black folk have work to do, but at the same time demand

that I keep my mouth shut about the mess that affects me as a woman and all 

that infects us/we as a people…

I had to learn the hard way that many of my brothers did not

arrive speaking with American accents, but

some had/have foreign accents so thick that I

need(ed) someone to decipher what they were saying, but

what they said mattered less than what they did…

I learned that plenty Josés and Juans and Ahmads and Maliks and

Etiennes and Lúcios and Willies and Sams

 of my world

and my hemisphere

weighed in on matters that affected my life as a Black woman when

so many other so-called brothers assumed that my problems as a Black female

would be handled by someone else or

handled by me by myself…

I had to learn the hard way that my definition of “brother” needed to remain

outside of my typical geographic boundaries of what I/We call the USA

and we either grab hold of each other as kith and kin

or we drown in the waters waiting for

some definition that none of us could live with anyway.

                                  – Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.   Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.  Postings or blogs placed here by other writers should clearly reference those writers.  All Rights Reserved.

 

…HAPPY

By Leslye Joy Allen                                                                                                     Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Ph.D. Candidate

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2014.  All Rights Reserved.  Self-Portrait.

Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2014. All Rights Reserved. Self-Portrait.

Walking in the cold in downtown Atlanta today I had a pleasant conversation with a nice, young brother.  We struck up our conversation in the typical way that native Atlantans (and most southerners) do when we make eye contact.  “Good morning,” we said in unison.  Then we both laughed and said, “It is COLD out here!”

The young brother told me he was currently living in a shelter.  He also enrolled in an education and work program designed to help him get back on his feet.  He said, “No Ma’am,” and “Yes, Ma’am,” which is always a sign of good manners.  He was extremely positive and smiling.

“I am grateful for a place to lay my head,” he said.  Almost as if I was his mother—for I am certainly old enough—he assured me that he was going to use this momentary set back in his life as a stepping stone toward a better future.  I told him to keep the faith, keep working and moving.  He said, “Thank you and have a blessed day.”  “You too,” I answered, and we headed in different directions as the wind blew through downtown Atlanta.

Then as I neared the MARTA train station, I heard the infectious melody and rhythms of Pharrell Williams’ Oscar-nominated song “HAPPY” playing from some radio.  So, two elderly Black women decided that it was as good of a time as any to dance to the music, so they cut a few steps on the sidewalk, and all of the folks near the train station stopped to watch, smiling and yelling, “Go ‘head” and “Get Down!”  Count your blessings. Àṣé!

 

Leslye Joy Allen is a perpetual and proud supporter of the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.
Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly and visibly stated as the author.

12 Lessons…

…I Learned from My Parents and a Few Great Teachers (Some old advice worth repeating)

by Leslye “Joy” Allen                                                                                                            Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Doctoral Student

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

  1. BE PREPARED TO BURN THE MIDNIGHT OIL.  If you rush and get something done in ten minutes, there are probably ten errors in it.  Take your time and do it right the first time.
  2. DO NOT BE AN ADULT WHO IS ALSO A SPOILED BRAT.  Temper tantrums and crazy demands are bad enough in children, but completely intolerable in adults.  In fact, tantrums and crazy demands will not likely be tolerated by anyone other than an idiot who is a glutton for punishment.  No one owes you anything.  Get over the idea that because you are sad, financially broke, angry, or frustrated that the world must accommodate your bad mood or your rudeness.  Go somewhere alone and be quiet and think about how you got to this point.
  3. DO NOT EXPECT YOUR FAMILY (or SPOUSE) TO CHANGE.  Enough said.
  4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BAD STUFF.  Remember that there are some memories of bad or traumatic events that will bother you from time to time.  Call a good friend who will let you vent, or seek counseling.  If necessary, shed a few tears.  Yet, do not cry over five minutes.  Get back to your work.  Do not get into the habit of believing that because you have big problems that you bare no responsibility for your life.
  5. BE DEPENDABLE.  No one needs a friend that barely returns a phone call and no employer needs an employee that is chronically late or who does lousy work.
  6. BE INDEPENDENT and take responsibility for your personal and financial life—You are not an adult until you do.  Avoid people that do not encourage your independence. People who support your dreams are not supposed to continuously pay your way, but they should be encouraging you to do so.
  7. CHOOSE  YOUR ASSOCIATES AND FRIENDS AND MATES, CAREFULLY.  Suppose your associates or friends or mates can be defined as any of the following: unreliable, lazy, bigoted, racist, narrow-minded, sexist, uncouth, ill-mannered, elitist, promiscuous, untrustworthy, and/or just plain dumb (you can add your own negatives, if you like).  All you need to ask yourself is whether you would want your son or daughter to acquire about half of these characteristics.  If your answer is no, then you have no business hanging out with, dating, marrying or mating with any of these folks.
  8. DEAL WITH WHAT IS REAL.  Avoiding reality will never change reality.  Daydreaming and talking about what you want to do has its limitations.  Dream big, but stop daydreaming and get to work.
  9. FINISH WHAT YOU START.  So what if what you are working on is going to take five years or more to complete?  Work toward that goal with concrete and practical steps everyday, and avoid taking detours.  It is not what you say you want to do, but what you actually do that matters.
  10. PARTICIPATE IN THE ARTS (music, theatre, paintings, sculpture, dance, writing) in some capacity.  The arts help you remain creative whether you have any artistic talent or not.  Creativity, put to good use, will help you solve problems.  Occasionally, it will help you forget about your problems when necessary.
  11. This is an old adage, but NEVER STOP LEARNING.  Make education a lifelong journey.  Always be ready to discover something new.
  12. MAKE SMILING A HABIT.  Frowning always turns people off.  Smiling helps your appearance and your attitude.

Peace.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.

A Little Girl and “The Nativity”

by Leslye “Joy” Allen                                                                                                        Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Doctoral Student

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

For the record, I am a historian and contrary to popular belief, historians are not social scientists.  History belongs in the category of the Humanities, as in the phrase “Arts and Humanities.”  Art and artists tell stories and so do historians.  We just do it in different ways.

Historians analyze and interpret the past.  We ask “why” something happened and we ask “how” something happened.

There are as many different angles and answers to those “how” and “why” questions as there are historians.  Performance art also does this because no two performances are ever the same; and audience members often see and interpret the same story or song in a hundred different ways.

Yet, I digress.

What I really want to share is a particular story, a story about a little girl who sat in an audience and gave me the best lesson about what the arts, particularly theatre, does for an audience.

I have always been fond of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity. Many theatre companies in Atlanta have performed this holiday classic over many decades.

I recall seeing many performances of it by Jomandi Productions and many other local Black theatre companies. In recent years, many directors and playwrights have produced their own version of the “Nativity.”

There was yet another re-imagining of this annual story conceived, written, and choreographed by Patdro Harris as part of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company’s annual Christmas offering that played in December of 2011 at the beautiful Southwest Arts Center.

Yet, a couple of years ago, I witnessed Black Nativity for perhaps the eighth or ninth time.  This time, however, I sat behind a little girl who could not have been any older than five or six years old.  I watched her and nostalgically recalled that my first theatre experience occurred on a visit to New York when I was four and a half years old—I saw Sammy Davis, Jr. in Golden Boy.  However, the little girl watching Black Nativity did more than bring up fond childhood memories for me.

Sitting in the dark at the Southwest Arts Center, preparing myself for True Colors Theatre Company’s version of Black Nativity, I watched this child’s face break out in a wide—missing-tooth—grin as the music, dance, and dialogue began.

She watched the show with wonder, that kind of childhood wonder where everything is brand new.  After the show was over, while I chatted with some folks in the lobby, I watched and heard this child make a dozen comments and ask nearly as many questions:

“Mama, I sure did have a good time.”

“Mama, was the baby Jesus a real baby or was it a doll?”

“Mama what do actors do to make themselves look old?”  “

What does “nativity” mean?

How can the same person pretend to be two different people?

The questions and comments from this child kept coming.  Yet that is what the arts do—art always triggers the imagination.  So I often wonder why some legislators do not realize that part of the reason why schools have difficulty raising students’ Math and Science scores is partially due to the fact that there has been a systematic de-emphasis and de-funding of the Arts and the Humanities.

Being able to memorize and regurgitate information is not a clear example of scholastic aptitude; being able to creatively think one’s way through or out of a problem is an explicit illustration of genuine intelligence.  If you think Albert Einstein created his theory of relativity based only on what his science and math teachers taught him, you are dead wrong.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination,” Einstein said.

If you think George Washington Carver did not understand the importance of creativity, think again.  Carver emphasized that, “Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible.”  It is not likely Einstein or Carver would have become the geniuses that they were without a genuine respect for the arts.

That little girl I listened to asking questions in the lobby of the Southwest Arts Center would never have asked the kind of questions she asked her mother had her mother decided not to take her to see a play or a musical.

Black Nativity had stoked her young imagination.  When you stoke children’s imaginations, they ask intelligent questions; and when this kind of inquisitiveness is encouraged, they tend to grow up to be adults who ask intelligent questions.  When you have adults who know the right questions to ask, you tend to get a community that will demand and possibly get better public policy on everything from city services to health care to education.

So, do your community, yourself, and your children one favor.  Take yourself, your children or a child to see a play, a Jazz concert, a ballet, and/or an art exhibit.  Now there is no guarantee that you or any child that you expose to the arts will become the next Einstein or Carver, or even a great performance artist.  Yet, why not give them a shot at being any or all of the above.

Peace.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.