I AM…

 

(for Billie, who insisted that I boldly say, “I AM,” and for Nevaina (nih-von-yah)—one of many actors who were once under Billie’s direction—who reminded me to say it even louder)

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 am Thomas and Syble’s daughter.

I am the granddaughter of Lorena and George and Minnie and Will.

I am a historian.

I am an intellectual.

I am a dramaturge and patron of theatre and the arts.

I am a Jazz fan.

I am a Johnny Mathis fanatic.

I am eloquent.

I am also a great procrastinator.

I am one who is often impatient.

I am one who does not like braggarts or pretenders.

I am a good and loyal friend.

I am also one who, some times, does not listen.

I am a woman who will drop you like a bad habit if you lack empathy or fidelity.

I am an environmentalist.

I am a lover of animals and nature.

I am a lover of children.

I am a Black Nationalist because it makes sense to take care of your home and your people first.

I am a woman that does not deal easily with shallow people.

I am a woman that prefers simplicity.

I am a woman who is fond of the exotic.

I am a woman who has learned how to say, “No” the hard way.

I am a woman who does not like playing small.

I am a woman who never discounts what other people have to go through to do whatever it is that they need or have to do…which is why I am deeply offended when other people discount what I go through.

I am a woman that dislikes men and women who try to prove their worth with things rather than demonstrate who they are by what they believe in and what they put into practice.

I am a woman who would prefer the company of a poet over that of a stockbroker or the company of a musician over that of an accountant or the company of a college professor over that of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company…

I am my mother and father’s daughter.

— Leslye Joy Allen 

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

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Guide My Feet…

by Leslye Joy Allen

“Guide My Feet”
(Traditional Negro Spiritual)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

I am grateful that my late Mama and Daddy taught me our old African tradition of ancestor worship.   That worship was as much a part of my childhood as was the old Western Judeo-Christian tradition…Now, for those who know me well, you know that I can be the most severe critic of ministers and organized religion(s) that too often fail to act in the best interests of the flocks they claim to serve, lead and protect.  Yet, that is another blog.  Save your breath.  I am only responding to the message(s) sent to me…

I occasionally re-read the poem that my friend actor-poet-writer Charles Reese wrote immediately following the death of my nearly 92-year-old mother in early 2013.  In homage to her, he referred to my Mama as “a Queen,” but he also referred to her as “our newest ancestor.” — Nothing in “Syble’s Poem” struck me as much as that line about her becoming an ancestor.  For people who know my late Mama, they know that certain songs remained in her repertoire right up to the very end of her days here on earth.

I do not need to recount the tragedies that have happened to Black folk in the last few weeks or even over the last year.  Yet, for the last couple of days I have been unable to get the old Negro Spiritual “Guide My Feet” out of my head.  Composed and sung in the caldron of American chattel slavery and passed down from generation-to-generation by my people, I have been singing it and humming it off-and-on for the last couple of months.  At first, I thought I was going crazy.  I must confess that I had a similar experience with “You Gotta to Move,” a Gospel/Blues song composed by Mississippi Fred McDowell.  A few months earlier in the year, I was singing “You Gotta Move” in an impromptu singing session that followed a gathering of my Sistahs that was a combination of good coffee, prayer, testimony, and truth-talking with each other at Dream Café…A few days after that meeting, I ran into a brother in a wheelchair who was singing the same song on a corner in downtown Atlanta.  That had to mean something, I thought…

When I went to my cousin Dexter’s graduation from Morehouse College this past May 2015, the class Valedictorian and Summa Cum Laude graduate Jerek Sharrod Brown burst into “Guide My Feet” before he began his inspirational and spellbinding Valedictory address.   His voice in song was an unexpected, but welcome and perfectly poetic pleasure.  I felt something inside of me shift and move when Brown sang and when he spoke.  I felt something shift again when my cousin Dexter’s name was called as a new graduate of Morehouse College. After all, I remembered when I first held him in my arms when he was still an infant…

Today I decided to see whether the lyrics to “Guide My Feet” would come up in a general search on Google.  It did.  Now, usually when something comes up in an internet search, I typically download it and then email it to myself just to make sure that I have a couple of copies of my research findings in two different places.  Yet, something strange and beautiful happened after I performed my usual ritual…

When I clicked the email button to send my Google search findings to myself, the email did not pull up my personal email address.  Instead, it opened my late Mama’s email address which was and remains a secondary email account affiliated with my own primary account…Sometimes the Creator knows that you need a little help.  Sometimes the ancestors are talking to you…

There are moments when no matter how bad things are or may seem, you simply do not worry and you no longer expend energy on people who do not work in your and your own people’s best interests.   I have reached that moment. More than we know or acknowledge, the ancestors speak to us in small but important ways if WE only listen, if WE only listen…So, Thank You Mama and Daddy and all the known and unknown ancestors and saints…Thank You Goddess…Thank You God…Peace and Blessings.  Àṣé…

Guide my Feet,

while I run this race.

Guide my Feet,

while I run this race.

Guide my feet,

while I run this race,

For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Leslye Joy Allen. 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 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. All Rights Reserved.

 

Artistic and Intellectual Dangers: Two Scenarios

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

Copyright © 2013 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

Scenario One:

Although it now seems ages ago, I remember one of my former classmates told me something quite revelatory shortly before my graduation from Agnes Scott College.  She told me that when my classes were over, and I had turned in that last paper, I was going to make a discovery:  I would discover my reading and analysis addiction.  I laughed.  After all, I thought, we both were older when we returned to school to complete our college degrees.  Were we not naturally immune to the kind of excesses that affected much younger women?  Agnes Scott’s student body was and still is well over a fourth non-traditional age students, meaning students over the age of 25.

The benefit of attending school with students of various ages was that we all learned something from each other.  I was a History major and every semester I was usually assigned anywhere from 18 to 22 books to read in semesters that were usually no longer than 15 or 16 weeks.  When my classmate (who graduated before me) told me that after graduation she would get up at 6:00 AM just to go out to fetch the morning newspaper to read, I was certain she was telling one of her funny stories.  I was wrong!

After I turned in my final paper for the Senior History Colloquium, I lounged around for a couple of days and then it started: the hunt for reading material.  Now, I already owned over a thousand books.  I suddenly found myself opening books and re-reading chapters of books I had read years ago; then magazines, scholarly journals, and the TV guide.  I read a couple of stage plays, including the stage directions.  Was it possible for me to just stop reading and just let my brain relax for a moment?  Was it possible for me to pause and not do what I was trained to do?  Yet, if I did read something, could I read it just for pleasure?

Like most “Scotties,” my classmate gave me some good advice.  She said we all know that most people need to read more.  We tell our children to read books; and there is a genuine crisis in how little some people read.  Yet, she said, anything you cannot turn off for a while is controlling you, not the other way around.  Reading is absolutely necessary and essential to any good education.  Yet, when you have to struggle to allow yourself to take a break, there is a problem.  Reading and deep analysis must always be self-directed.  Deep analysis can become ineffective once it becomes an involuntary reflex.

Scenario Two:

On a few occasions, I have attended stage plays with actors.  Most of these actors I love to death.  We have sat in the audience making small talk before the show began and then WHAM!  Less than two minutes into the production, the same actors that I love were analyzing every thing:  “I wonder why the set designer placed that chair over there?”  “How did the stylist get that woman’s hair to look like that?”  After the play was over, the analysis really kicked into high gear:  “I thought that this character should have entered from the left instead of the right.”  “It was a great play, but I would have placed the intermission in a different place.”  “Why was that odd sculpture on the table in the corner?”  Soon I was thinking to myself, “Why, oh why, did I not just come to see this play by myself?”

Now, to be fair, all actors, playwrights, directors, and etcetera have to analyze plays like this.  If they do not do this, they risk overlooking important details that might compromise the integrity of their future performances and productions.  It is an exercise in understanding what works on a stage and what does not work on a stage.  They cannot take anything for granted: the lighting, the set, costumes, particular moments in the script that they believe need to grab the audience’s attention.  Yet, there is a problem when the criticisms and evaluations seem to run on automatic pilot.  There is also a problem in not being able to simply sit in an audience and just enjoy the show.

So why are these two scenarios a bit dangerous?  After all, there is every reason to complain about the lack of intellectual and artistic stimulation in society as a whole.  Most of us with any degree of brains knows that putting a book in a child’s hands or taking them to see a play or to a concert is far better than giving them $200 sneakers and video games.  Most of us have witnessed the performance that pandered to the audience for cheap laughs or sank into a ridiculous melodrama designed to do nothing more than make people weep.  We have all read the book or essay that seemed written purely for titillation.  We do not need any of that.  Yet…

The danger in never being able to simply watch a performance just for sheer enjoyment is dangerously close to losing the joy of viewing performance art altogether.  The danger in not being able to momentarily, put the book down or not being able to stop analyzing everything is also very close to becoming entirely disconnected from the very people you wish to reach and teach.  When you watch what they watch or read what they read, do you do so through their eyes and ears?  How can you know what the people expect or need to know or want to know or want to experience or need to experience unless you occasionally JOIN THEM?

So, take a moment and just chill.  Every once and awhile, when you read, simply drink in whatever you are reading, and leave your criticisms, questions, and analysis for some later time.  If you are watching a play or listening to a piece of music, just watch, just listen, just enjoy.  Pause and try to recall when everything that you know now (or think you know now) was once perfectly fresh and new to you.  Take that occasional moment to deliberately NOT review, but to renew.  Then, get back to work!

Peace.

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 © 2013 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 stated as the author.

9+ Goals for Black Folks for the Next Four Years and Beyond

by Leslye Joy Allen

Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Doctoral Student

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

1.  Do not spend one dime at anything owned or managed by Donald Trump.  Trump is within his rights to dislike President Obama; he is within his rights to criticize President Obama’s policies.  He should not be allowed, however, to disrespect the office of the president simply because the person who occupies that office is a person of African descent.  He can call his behavior whatever he wants to call it, but if you are Black, you know exactly what Trump’s problem is.  Do not spend your money with him or with any person or organization that does business with him.  Here’s an extra history lesson on Donald Trump for you:  When Trump filed for bankruptcy over a decade ago because his casinos lost money, he tried to blame federal and state laws that have little control over Native American casinos.  Because Native American Nations are technically sovereign nations within the United States, states and the federal government have not exercised a high degree of regulation on these casinos when they are operated on lands owned by Native American Reservations.  Trump voiced opposition to some states and the federal government’s lack of interference and regulation of Native American casinos because he wanted to monopolize the casino industry.  What kind of a person would deny Native Americans—arguably the most oppressed group in the United States—a means of self-determination?

2.  Boycott Florida.  Keep your Black behinds off its beaches and out of its hotels.  Stay out of Disneyland.  Do not even buy Florida oranges and orange juice.  Here’s another history lesson: In 1990 White Cubans in Miami and other Florida cities designated South African leader Nelson Mandela persona non grata because he dared praise Fidel Castro for supporting him when Mandela was fighting against an apartheid system that demoralized and murdered hundreds of thousands of South African Blacks.  Do not misunderstand—White Cubans have the right to hate Fidel Castro.  He stripped many of them and their ancestors of their property in the early days of the Cuban Revolution.  Other individuals were imprisoned and brutalized.  To diminish or disregard Castro’s persecution of them is not fair.  However, many of these same White Cubans also persecuted and routinely discriminated against Black Cubans.   Moreover, when any group of people suffer persecution—particularly as long and as virulently as Black South Africans—you would think that Mandela, a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years, would receive some level of understanding and empathy from other persecuted individuals.  Mandela did not receive that kind of consideration in Florida.

Florida has also had a lot of trouble with voting procedures.  Remember the state  needed federal and Supreme Court intervention to settle the 2000 presidential election.  Florida is also the same state that spent much of 2012 trying to disenfranchise voters to the point where it angered so many voters that they came out in record numbers to vote in the presidential election.  That number included entire communities of Latinos, African Americans, Jews, women, and etcetera.  It also took the state three days to finish counting the votes.

This is also the state where in February 2012 Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black boy, was killed walking home from a store, unarmed.  We can grant George Zimmerman, his killer, the right to call the police and say that Martin looked suspicious.  Yet, until he actually saw Martin do something, Zimmerman should have stayed in his car as the 911 Operator told him to do.  Do you need me to keep going?  Do not give Florida your money; and demand this boycott of Florida from all Black organizations, performance artists, politicians, clergy, you name it.  We have earned the right to protect our interests.

3.  Keep your money in your pocket and in your bank account as much as possible.  Many of President Obama’s enemies think that WE Black folks only take handouts from the government rather than earning a combined $836 billion dollars a year working on a variety of jobs and in a variety of professions.  So many of the President’s enemies do not know or believe that WE Black folks place a minimum of over $500 billion dollars (or more) back into the United States economy every year.  Since so many folks assume WE contribute nothing, let us hold on to our money and spend it wisely and only with those businesses, corporations, and individuals that put something tangible back in our communities.  If you want to know where our money goes, visit: Target Market News and read the best consumer and spending reports on Black Americans on the web.

4.  Face the reality that we need to cut federal spending.  Some social programs need a serious overhaul or elimination.  For example, the Housing Voucher Program (formerly called “Section 8 housing”) demands that the people that qualify for such housing must have an income that is at least 50% less than the average income in the neighborhood where the house of their choice is located.  Rental rates are based on the average rental rates in the neighborhood where the houses are located.  Typically Housing voucher renters pay 30 per cent of that average rental rate, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) paying the remaining 70 percent to the owner of the property.  Occasionally renters’ portion of rents are raised should they begin to earn higher salaries.  However, there is no time limit on how long an individual can remain in this kind of housing.  There is no concrete incentive in this program for participants to seek higher-paying jobs and risk disqualification from participation in the program. Even worse, if property values suddenly go up in a neighborhood where some Housing Voucher renters live, these same renters have another risk: they might be priced out of the houses they currently rent and live in.  Why continue to rent to a Housing Voucher Renter if you can acquire another renter that can afford the higher rents without the assistance of HUD?  It is time to set some limits.

5.  For that percentage of Black Americans who have problems with Latinos and other immigrants, remember that a considerable number of Latinos and other immigrants are also people with African ancestry (whether they admit it or not).  While I have certainly met many folks who would rather die than highlight or admit any African ancestry, I have also met many more who freely acknowledge and embrace their Africanity!  Many of them have lived here in this country for a long time and many others who are recent arrivals are here to stay, so you would do well to build or continue building coalitions with them and find ways to work together.

6.  Do not put up with racism, but do not hyperventilate about it either.  Some White folks are not going to change.  Stop wasting your time, efforts and energy trying to change them.  And those White folks that you know that are always so nice to you, but who always try to look the other way when you or someone else brings up a racist incident; and when they can no longer ignore what happened they try to act like that kind of incident is so unusual—Be courteous to them, but keep them at arms length.  No matter how seemingly innocuous and/or well-meaning and/or kind and/or generous they may be, any person or group of people that attempts to deny the obvious are part of the problem.  It is not your job to teach them or fix them.  No one can fix anything if one refuses to look at it for what it is.

7.  Invest in Africa!  Hell, the Chinese are already heavily invested and building in several developing African countries.  You might as well join the effort.

8.  Global Warming is not a joke; and we as a people contribute as much or more to the problem as anyone.  Read everything you can from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)  (I have been a member for 15 years).  Study the reports on the household and cosmetic products you use at Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Make sure you read their report Pollution in Minority Newborns,” if you want to know how serious this is.  Check out my old blog “Mercy, Mercy Me: Black, Clean and Green!” plugging a younger and progressive Black man who runs a business that offers products that help clean up the environment and save you money in the process.

9.  Talk to people and listen to people who do some kind of work or express ideas that are different from the work you do and from the ideas you express and believe in.  This is how new ideas are born and it is also the best way to find out what is truly going on with people you may someday have to rely on.  I recently met a group of young academics that only socialized with each other.  These same academics also wrote some of the most useless scholarly work I have ever read.  I also have met many younger performance artists (35 and under) who do the same thing—they only interact with one another and still cannot figure out why no one comes to see the show!  If you do not communicate with folks outside your profession and inadvertently imply that those other folks’ contributions are not as important as your own contributions, then you cannot expect them to follow you or support you.  The current Republican Party and Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign provides a good lesson—They lost the election for a variety of reasons.  Yet, they truly lost the bid for the presidency because they only talked to each other and they believed that their opinions were the only ones that mattered; everybody else had to have been wrong.  Do not stay in the same kind of cocoon, that is unless you want to resemble the current Republican Party.

10. This line is for you to add your own personal goal.  You know what you want to do.  You know what you are capable of doing.  Do it!

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.