I did my first poetry reading!

hello lovely human. I’ve truly missed this space. I’m genuinely proud to share something that I did recently (just last weekend) – my first poetry reading. at the most intimate, cozy, independent, feminist bookstore. bookstores are magical places anyway but Bluestockings Bookstore here in NYC felt like such a warm place. in the days leading up to my reading, I was extremely nervous…because hello shyness and social anxiety and introversion, all melded into me. so I did my best to prepare. I decided on two poems to read, poems that are personal, beautiful, and vulnerable. I’m proud of what they have to say and how they allow me to open myself in incredibly new ways.

Sunday arrived faster than I could process. I decided to not do any last minute worrying because what good could that do? so I took a walk around the park and treated myself to frozen yogurt. any excuse to justify fro yo ūüôā

something happened within me between the time I sat in the audience as a listener and the time I got on stage to read. a confidence and determination I didn’t know I had sprung up and I was able to deliver my poems without tripping over my words, blanking out, or doing a complete disservice to my pieces. I’m proud of the outcome and glad to share it with you.

¬†¬†¬†¬†the audience was so receptive and warm and loving. not to mention that the other readers before and after me were phenomenal. wow, the amount of pure talent and heart I witnessed that night continues to inspire me. women have so many stories buried within us and when we start to unravel and reveal them, they make for sweet, purposeful poetry. I’m extremely grateful for the Grow Fierce online writing course I took in January, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for women who are ready and willing to dig deep and really go there and uncover the depths of their souls.

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my roomie recorded my reading, enjoy the video below and let me know if you have any thoughts. be blessed loves ‚̧

oh and if the idea of a volunteer-run collective feminist radical bookstore sounds as amazing to you as it does to me [there are only about 15 in the U.S.], consider donating less than $10 to keep it going. help by buying one or more of these pretty buttons:

$2 each, $8 for all 4
$2 each, $8 for all 4
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growing up in the diaspora: podcast interview

in the spirit of not being afraid of my voice [both literally and figuratively], I participated in a podcast conversation about my identity as a diaspora Ethiopian. I discussed what it was like to grow up in the Ethiopian/African/immigrant concentrated D.C. area and my current relationships to my country of origin + my current home [the U.S.]. my talk with the two lovely hosts from Black Women Be Like was framed by a piece I wrote in November, monday morning blues. enjoy below or on SoundCloud.

monday morning blues.

there’s a level of dissonance that comes from sitting in a new york city office desk, glancing over at a framed photograph of the poor, unlucky women I come from. in the usually creepy way of pictures, the gaze of my mother, two aunties, grandmother and cousin are fixed upon me. they’re watching me, from their distant vantage point. in this particular moment, which envelopes the past and the present all in one, we occupy worlds that could be no more different. them, sitting in front their humble home in debre sina. or maybe it’s on the grounds of the local abiye high school. I wouldn’t know for sure, I haven’t set foot in my mother’s birthtown since I was five or so.

meanwhile, I sit in a swivel chair staring out at a cold and rainy city gripped by blinding fog and myself overcome by monday morning blues. they look anchored, welcoming the camera into their world for this rare occasion of sitting for a photograph. it was probably my uncle behind that lens. and if not him then a camera person or service he arranged for his family, the exemplary one who made it out but still looked back to tend to the needs of his mother and sisters. he’s not in the frame and my grandfather had probably died by then. or maybe this was the period where he and my grandmother were no longer husband and wife, though he came back to her later toward the end of his life as he transitioned into his deathbed. she and her daughters nurtured the husband and father that left them long ago, without grudge or resentment.

from where they’re sitting, close and huddled like that, they seem to be saying to me ‘we look to you, the girl who came from us and has gone farther than any one of us could ever imagine. we’re waiting for you to become. make us proud, although you’ve already surpassed all of our wildest visions for you. this is where we belong, we are destined to this land, this house, these circumstances.

but you. you’ve already gone far, so far away from this small place. it’s almost as if you exist on a different plane. so, we’re waiting for your big news. for the names and legacies you will create for yourself, and thus for us. we were born and raised unlucky. God hasn’t blessed us with long age, wealth, or even a large many of us to keep one another company. we are a small people, in size and magnitude.

but we place in you our desires, hopes, and dreams. we labored for you, cared for you. now we are waiting. our lot in this short, predictable life has already been settled. but you, my dear, your lot is only just beginning. we can’t wait to smile down on you from heaven, and make our pride known.’

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the magic of storytelling

I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.

– Janet Mock, Redefining Realness

why my mom(my) doesn’t wear a uniform to work

From what I can remember, my mommy hasn’t worn a¬†uniform¬†to work in¬†the past 10 or so years, not even in the winter months or when she’s¬†running late and it’d require way less thought and coordination to throw¬†on a predetermined outfit. She insists on putting on¬†her ’employee’ hat,¬†literally and figuratively, only when¬†she steps inside the cafe +¬†specialty food market that is her workplace.

This morning, she looked especially fabulous, clad in all black, not¬†as a fashion statement but in memory of the younger sister she lost¬†recently (hi auntie). She styled her hair in a shapely afro that¬†complimented her face and wore a cute pair of earrings we found on¬†sale at Macy’s yesterday. She topped off her black top and trousers¬†with a longish silky scarf, a mid length pea coat beautifully accented¬†with two different textures, and comfortable flats. She could pass for¬†someone headed to work at any number of places other than¬†the one she was headed to.

This might seem somewhat puzzling, why a woman would put so much effort into an ensemble that will only last for the commute to and from a job that calls for a standard uniform. The way I see it, this daily practice is an act of self affirmation, to remind herself and others that she is more than what an 8-4 job and its customers, managers, and employees demand, reduce, and challenge from her. That environment saps her energy, youth, patience, and dignity because it refuses to give her back what she puts in to it, in terms of the monetary value of her labor, as well as respect, peace, and power. Sometimes she comes home drained and discouraged; and all I can do is listen to the stories, hurt and helpless to change her circumstances.

Poverty does something so profound to one’s psyche. It robs one of the¬†ability to dream, to take chances, to demand better. Taking a step in¬†these directions requires a cushion, a safety net to catch one if she¬†fails in her bold quest for a more fuller humanity. Poverty makes one¬†feel alone and unable, unwilling to confront, to leave, to experiment.¬†So if my mommy can’t change the realities of her not much better than minimum wage, 8-hour work day, she¬†sure can control and manipulate how she adorns and presents herself¬†immediately before and after clocking in and out.

And anyway, she has always had a thing for fashion. I love hearing old stories from family about her stylish days. People seem to vividly remember how much pride she took in looking like the beautiful woman she is. She dressed impeccably, with her shapely pencil skirts, colorful blouses, pretty dresses, and audible heels. In a word, she was fly.

what a beautiful sight. I would so wear this dress today if it was still around.
what a beautiful sight. I would so wear this outfit today if it was still around.

So her daily insistence on wearing the clothes she picks out and compiles herself is an active resistance of the uniform that too insists on recognizing her only as a worker, one among many. Dressing as she chooses to, instead of the way prescribed for her by corporate policy, is a means to affirm her femininity and dignity. 

I love recalling a quote by writer Edwidge Danticat in which she talks about her two young daughters and how she hopes that they will understand her once they too grow into womanhood. She said,

“I can’t wait for both my¬†daughters to be old enough to read all my books. I loved it every time¬†I saw my parents acting like more than just my parents. And I’m¬†looking forward to that with my daughters too. I am looking forward to¬†having them discover me as someone completely other than their¬†mother.”

As a woman, I’m ready to dedicate the rest of my time to¬†fully seeing and understanding my mommy as a complex woman with¬†memories, desires, and multiple identities because all my life I’ve only¬†known her as my mother; she is so much more than that role alone.

              I see you, momma bear. You are fierce and glorious. And because of you, I am.

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happy birthday Lovely.