Monday, November 28, 2011

After Gary Speed - Young Men, Suicide and Feminism

"Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 35 in the UK, and seventy five percent of all suicides in the UK are male."
Not saying this for shock value, but I knew 4 men under the age of 40 who took their lives this year. One of whom was a very very close friend.  And since the sports man Gary Speed passed last week, there has been a outpouring addressing the state of minds of men who suffer from depression. An article came to my attention from the CALM campaign - Campaign Against Living Miserably.
click to enlarge
The reason I was drawn to this article is because of its reference to roles men and women have to endure, imposed upon them by "society", whatever that is these days. But whatever it is, it is taking lives as more and more men find it hard to be the square jawed, strong silent types that are apparently what they are (still)?!) expected to be.

Jane Powell, Chief Exec of CALM,  raises the issue of the role of feminism and male depression in a very condensed and  simplistic way but enough to rouse your interest in in the CALM website, the campaign and enough  to make me want to unpack why a global patriarchal system is failing its subjects, aside from propagating much unrest all over the planet that is  linked to profit driven and uber-individualistic idioms. Or maybe the three are closely connected: as men are expected to still bring home proverbial bacon and other  miscellaneous shiny things, they become a tad resentful of women and their "constant noise" (not my words) for equality, and women still expect men to open doors for them.

In the meantime, we all suffer traumas and distressing experiences that we need to talk about, that we need advice on how to cope with.  Then with expansion of  urbanisation and globalisation, the intensity of technology and the  white noise of the information age leave us with  little or next to no time  for introspective, reflective  thought, as the demand for our attention is constant and persistent. Some find ourselves in a habit of filling a need to be awake 24/7 in case we miss the next hot topic or an opportunity to buy the upgrade of a 'shiny thing'.  When we do stand still a moment, the noise can be deafening. Find something - a ritual, an addiction, SOMETHING - to squash it: alcohol, drugs, sex, partying... how many of us have been appalled by the behaviour of the young people we see on the BBC's "The Worlds Most Strictest Parent?"

The turbulence caused by conflicting emotions when maintaining an 'I can handle it'  exterior,  means the  burden of silence builds and compresses within hearts and minds. It shadows the spirit, undermines the psyche and the wounds  seep and begin to manifest themselves as misery, lethargy, pessimism, an anger that you cannot put your finger on and finally,  for some, a hopeless desperation that appears to leave no other option except ending the torment by taking steps to stop the beating of the ailing heart. I can only come to wonder where we are headed in the  ever raging gender equality dispute. Janet Powell says:
"We should indeed take a long, hard look at society and question some assumptions. Women now have full permission to be just who they want to be.  We can be a stay at home mum or a city banker, with or without a family...."

"If you flip that picture, and ask if men can do all of those things – in the way that women can – then the answer is no...."

And when the pressures get too much: "To lose control mentally and emotionally can/must/should only be done in a proper manly way."  

What is that?  - "a proper manly way"?
Ultimately, the whole globe is in transition as we come to a zenith in the need for  self-awareness, or else get swallowed up in the myriad of  identities forced up on us by mainstream media and intrusive bolshie ad campaigns telling you will never be happy unless... and when you don't meet that unobtainable  standard of femininity or masculinity - designed to be unattainable so you keep buying - you are left with guilt, inadequacy and a struggling self-esteem.
It is the peak of the 500 year capitalist campaign and there is only one way it can go from here.

For one day, one WHOLE day, I challenge you ,while you go about you everyday business, to consciously look around and see how and what types of images of masculinity and femininity are pushed in our faces at every corner, bus stop, tv ad, sitcom, in our language and even in your own home.
And while there are plenty who die at the hands of profit-driven-gotta-have-it greed in the guise of a"democracy" hailing liberal personal freedom and individualism through wars abroad, at home there are many who silently suffer from isolation caused by the pressure of insidiously forced gender roles.  In the age of the metro-sexual male and predatory Cougars, we can no longer push aside how gender socialization and sexual colonization, as crazy as it may sound, is  killing people.


Click the link and check out CALM and what Jane Powell has to say about "Suicide, an Issue for Feminists". http://www.thecalmzone.net/2011/04/a-call-to-feminists/

Here is another article from 2008 where Jane is quoted before the creation of the CALM campaign. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7219232.stm

Help Lines worth checking out:

Depression and Suicide in Men
Support Line
MIND
http://www.mind.org.uk/help/people_groups_and_communities/mens_mental_health

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

FEMFEST - a Festival of Women Playwrights – an interview with Hope McIntyre of Sarasvati Productions


I interviewed Hope McIntyre, the Artistic Director of Sarasvati Productions and the driving force behind Femfest. Where other festivals with women at their focus have died out in Canada, the drive and determination of Sarasvati and all its volunteers, has  Femfest striding in its ninth year.


Hope is herself a playwright, hence her passion and is at present developing a new theatre piece called "Jail Baby".  Hope Kindly sent the opening monologue:

Spotlight on Jasmine, about 8 months pregnant. 
As she speaks she changes into Remand Centre issue clothes.

JASMINE:      They say you can’t remember that far back – back to being born. Maybe I don’t remember, but if I close my eyes, I can feel the concrete against my slippery little body. I feel metal. I have nightmares of sliding out into a world of bars and cold and noise and suffocation. It’s like something I can’t escape. Born to be in prison. Born a prisoner. Sounds like a bad country song. Even worse, I became known as the toilet bowl baby. Now there’s a good song title. If only someone had taught me to play guitar, I could be traveling the world telling my sorry tale. I’d record an album in Memphis and they’d make a movie about me. (now fully dressed in prison garb, she looks down at herself) I’m just fulfilling my destiny. This is what my mom was wearing when I was born. I’m my mom 18 years later.


I asked Hope what were her future plans for Jail Baby:
"In terms of the plans, we are doing rewrites this year and working towards a full production and publication in May 2013. Our goal is to produce it for the general public but then also take it on

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Edens Serpent - A poem

Edens Serpent 

this ‘S’ on my chest
is a molten lava river
flowing down to power source my vulva

this ‘S’, a serpent
gripping its tail in its mouth
swallowing the knowledge of itself
till it is sated

singing infinite circle songs
signing itself onto its own scales
to the tone of the kundalini ohm
a note recognisable in us all
if we only listened

a note that supersedes the noise of misogyny
of war rape and the cost
of living  the nip tuck
dictated by ticked boxes and barbie stencils


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WHEN THE 33'S SPIN - Music, Race & a Little Girl - Pt. 1

When The 33's Spin - A poem

Eleven and home alone
with the turntable 
and the shiny liquorice  platter
playing a set
for memories to be made treasures and cuckoo stories
of broken hearts, of lost things found,
of courage liberated
the triumphant fist of blues
the spectrum of emotion played  in those grooves
onyx plates of Soul Food 

Bobby Womack's gravel molasses tones
riffs stretching notes  beyond the elasticity of time
Funkadelic dooloops scoop me on my roller skates:
ripped carpets, broken door handles 

Let's Get It On - big peoples music, it felt new
Marvin understood the expanse of a night for lovers hue 

and why did Anne watch and listen to the rain 
if it made her feel so blue?
I would come to understand, as woman, later
but I know something in my new soul moved
as they crooned...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Extract of Travelling Light in Winnipeg, Canada for FemFest

So in the theatre of the University of Winnipeg, Canada, I asked Steve, the lovely stagemanager, to film me doing a quick warm up of the introduction for Travelling Light. 
It was a dramatized reading of the show that help me understand how far along the show is in it development.

Here is a taste 10 mins before curtain up.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Travelling Light Goes to Canada


At present  I am sitting in a hotel room in downtown Winnipeg unable to sleep because of jet lag. Its 2.16am Canada time, 8.16am London time.
I am here because of FEMFEST – a festival of women playwrights and performers who battle hard to get their work produced because it is a very  masculine dominated industry. Dare I say it, but a bit shameful?
Later, I intend to interview Hope McIntyre who set about making this possibility, for this festival to have life of 9 years when others have folded. I am privileged to be here because Hope took a risk. She saw some of my work on YouTube, Like the Travelling Light blog had a short conversation with me on the phone and spent her hard won funding money to get me on a plane to be artist in residence for the festival. I’m honoured. More to come…

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Demise of Guys - a Response


So what do you think? Is the internet  birthing and programming a generation of boys to men to be emotional dunces? Is this why we wonder where all the "good" men are. But it's not about good men though is it really? It's about fully rounded men, functioning at their optimum as men. Those who have been integrated with all parts of themselves, that have been nurtured by a less flat screened world. It's not just about the hard edges of HD, but about the soft line of analogue, the slight straining of the eyes to try and make things out by filling in the gaps with the imagination. No, what the 'arousal addictive' world of the internet provides them with is shoot 'em up fully waxed and shaved, full frontal, in out flesh fests that have nothing to do with contacting the intimate part within that reaches out to connect and vibe with intimate realms and nuances of others. No wonder our young boys don't have the articulation to be 'nice' to girls.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maya Angelou's "On Womanhood"

If it's been a while since you checked out Maya, have a quick browse through her website  -  

mayaangelou.com/

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...

enough money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own,
even if she never wants to or needs to...  
A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
something perfect to wear if the employer,
or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
a youth she's content to leave behind....


A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to
retelling it in her old age....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BEYONCE - A CRITICAL DEBATE

 Beyonce? Am i bovvered? Seriously?

As the most strong-minded and beautiful business woman and Artist of 
colour in mainstream media (after Oprah),who makes highly consumable 
music and is rockinga blond weave, why should we care? Breaking down 
the Girls Run the World vid,we'll examine why the love/hate debate rages on.


HOSTED BY THE OCTAVIA FOUNDATION

On Tuesday, July 19, Zena Edwards, a renown spoken word artist, singer, playwright and actress invites you to take part in a critical discussion surrounding Beyonce's 'Run the World' video. This session will take a deep look at the themes, issues and controversy that has been surrounding Beyonce's video since its release.

Topics/issues covered in this session will include:
*Beyonce - a voice for strong women? 
*How do women of all ages connect with Sis B?
*Images of the men in the video
*Sexuality and empowerment
*Popular culture and role models
*Mainstream media representations vs the individuals reality
*and much more......


Saturday, July 9, 2011

TRAVELLING LIGHT WORKSHOPS BEGIN

 THE UNPACKING SESSIONS 1 & 2
Erykah told me my bags were too heavy
how did she know?
i never told her
but the cap fit too well
so i started to unpack
to unburden my shoulders
so i could stand upright
i wanted to turn the clock back
or to do the next best thing
i wanted to remember
what it was like
wanted to know what it felt like
to be travelling light...

WHAT?

An exploration of Womanhood and empowerment in the 
21st century and how it manifests in your own lives.

HOW?

Over 2 days of exciting discussion and debate, journal writing,
photography, drawing and scrap-boarding, we will unpack the
baggage around our sex that we carry around consciously and
subconsciously since we were girl toddlers.

WHY?

Why not? So we can ask questions "how much does your
gender really hold you back?"

**********************************************************
THE SESSIONS DATES:  SUNDAY 24TH JULY & SATURDAY 30TH JULY
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Session 1 - UNPACKING  

Monday, June 27, 2011

GOOD HAIR

After the advent of Chris Rocks  movie “Good Hair” this poem kept the debate going in the UK.
The politics of hair affect all women around the globe. We are under constant pressure to be beautiful and to manipulate our outer appearance taking our focus away from engaging and empowering our inner world. The first place we can attack is our hair because it’s accessible and so malleable. But the world is fickle and making those changes will only put demands on us to reach a next level of perfection that will always be unattainable. Distracted again.
The trials for Black women though, is  weighted in our historical confidence in our colour,  as well as  to our physical attributes and  "failings". Our beauty is tied up in a hierarchy of concepts that start with how we value our African features at the foundation.
But how do we get to hating and obsessing about our hair so much? Let me give you a scenario. After a meal with a friend, he was picking his teeth telling me the one thing he cannot stand about black women (he dates white ones), is a busted up weave.  I conspiratorially giggled a  bit and let it slide because I didn't want to get in to the whole weave debate after such a nice meal.  A few minutes later, I started commented on my own natural hair and pointed out "See that bit there? Just there?" He replied, "What, where its all picky picky?" He said it as if I just spit in his mouth. And there it was, out in the open - his disdain for my natural hair, dred on top, short at the the sides, with neat little 'pepper corn' curls,  relegated to a cuss, to "picky picky" by a brother with the same textured hair as me.
Now, I'm not going to go on a 'he just hates himself and his mother',  I want to deal with how he was a blatant example of contributing to the decreased confidence in self image for naturall ynappy headed women of colour, because it would not matter what I had on my head HE would've found fault. Part of his brain is imprisoned into

Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE CONSCIOUS MEN APOLOGY - "DEAR WOMAN?" - ARE THEY BRAVE OR STUPID MEN?

These guys must have known they'd be putting themselves in the firing line for some serious ribbing but went for it anyway. I kinda respect that.

The "Dear Woman" youtube video made by a group of men who call themselves 'conscious men' has gone viral and is a collage of "conscious men" reading a  manifesto of "consciousness" built around their belief of the sacredness and power of the Feminine. Since its upload, the responses that hate it go beyond passionate! Their youtube comments ability - disabled. 
Some of the men who have blogged/vlogged in response think that their male counterparts in the vid are 'pussy begging' and trying to curry favour with women.  Some responses to the 'dear woman' vid are ill-thought out justifying some of the aggresion that is meted out on women globally as , 'women made  men this way!'
Are these riled guys are projecting what they know of themselves on to their 'conscious' brethren and are making wolf calls for 'real-man' masculinity who would chew up  these "conscious men", all in the name of natural selection and getting a mate. But so what if a couple of guys want to speak out against the supression of women and fore Feminine  acknowledgement and empowerment? And, if they don't like it, write your own manifesto, make your own video.


Then there are women blogging/vlogging who don't want to be patronised by some random self-appointed 'conscious' guy telling them how they honour their 'nurturing nature' and their innate ability to commune with 'Mother Earth.  Oooo.... they really touched a nerve there.
 The haters, male and female , are taking offense  by

Saturday, June 18, 2011

SLUT WALK LONDON 12th June 2011






Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

These images are from Slut Walk London that walked th elength of Piccadilly and convened on Trafalgar's Square (under nelsons phallic column) on a fresh sunny day in London. As I stood with camera and hand held recoder in hand, I wondered what I had come. Was I wanting to be inspired, pumping my fists in the air every 20 seconds? Did I want to document a feminine utopian event that hopefully marked the new beginning of women of all class and cultures, standing up and speaking out against violence against women?  Was I expecting a tirade of man-bashing speeches that was a call to arms? 
What I got was common sense on a humanist level and wasn't disappointed as such, just hoping for even minor incendiary provokation. Not a bra burning but a  something that made my heart beat a little faster. Not Beyonce's Girls Run The World war on Man but was some kind of Kali or Nzinga defiance

Saturday, June 4, 2011

RESPONSE TO NATASHA THOMAS-JACKSON: THE 'UGLY' SIDE OF FEMINISM

Wow... Beyonce's new vid is rousing some interesting debate and I find myself writing about it again.

Natasha Thomas-Jackson's article in the award winning Alternet Online magazine revealed to me another layer to unpacking the complexities around contemporary feminism.
Natasha is an MC, spoken-word artist, wife, mother, and Executive Director of RAISE IT UP! and she uses a vlog by 9teen% - a dynamic 24 year old woman, outspoken professional youtuber - to back up her sentiments and frustrations on what she calls the 'ugly' side of feminism.

There are a couple of things about Natasha's critique of 9teen%'s youtube post that colour it as an emotional response to a bad experience she had at a feminist conference.
1)  Why is it that Natasha automatically assumes that the women who looked at her with ridicule and disdain, because of of her dress choice, were either 'jealous' of her or that they could not help themselves because of an 'unconscious act of internalized sexism?
2) And why is it  that the STYLE with which 9teen% opted to deliver valuable information is 'thought of as 'snarky, confrontational, biting, sarcastic, and ugly'? Harsh words. An alternative perspective would be 9teen% is passionate, wanting to stamp impact with character (snappy editing cuts and quirky gesturing).

What if  the women at the conference had  been just plain angry with how she was dressed, as they may have held the view of 'you're either with us or against us'. What ever way Natasha was dressed  that day may have roused a frustration in those women that manifested itself in a fashion that made Natasha feel uncomfortable (angry?).  Was she was on the receiving end of 'ANGER AND HURT IN PROCESS'? We know women ALSO have a lot to answer for in perpetuating elements of the patriarchal status quo, for example, over sexualized attire,  anorexic looking fashion models, facilitating forced arranged marriages, female genital mutilation etc. Is her article over reactionary?

Natasha's response is on point in many areas, however, its intention appears rooted in a

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SO TWO GIRLS WALK INTO A VEGGIE SHOP...

I'm in perhaps the best veggie buffet in North London, chapel market - the popular Indian Veg Bhelpoori House  - Chapel Market N1. I'm really hungry because  all day I had been working with no breakfast or lunch. Its 6.30ish, so i come here,  my regular north London oasis of healthy food.

Two girls walk in. They're tall, fashionable, young, fresh faced and skeletal. Now I don't mean skinny. I mean bones in Top Shop attire. It was almost like they weren't there. Only they were.  They were like whispers, like unanticipated breezes on your neck in a still place.
I'm just finishing eating paneer and green pea curry, mixed veg curry, parathas, a couple of bahji's and salad.  I went back for seconds. My plate is waxed.  I sip my spiced masala tea, fiddle about on facebook on my phone for about 10 minutes relishing the full bellied afterglow of all-u-can-eat.

Meanwhile, the wraith-like girls have been up to the buffet bar to get food and I try not to stare because I began to feel empathetic pangs of hunger, light headed, a little nauseous. This look could not be right. Bones strained through their skinny jeans and tight cropped tops. This look was manufactured.
The pre-domninant thought that came to mind is 'anorexia'. But they're in an all you can eat buffet?! They get seconds, chit chat and giggle quietly, like every other girl should  and I get over it.
Its when  I go to the ladies toilet that I see the remnant trails of vomit over the seat of one of the toilets....

"Its kinda hard to pee now." I thought. I did the math and anorexic bulimia flitted about in my head like a fat annoying slow flying blue bottle.
 I felt half inclined to tell the proprietor of this restaurant, who in good faith is feeding people for £4.50 all they can eat, and there are two people in here taking the piss. Harsh I know. I know anorexia and bulimia  are illnesses, but part of me can't help but be angry with those girls for their self-centredness. Addiction loves company and they were their validating each others affliction.
I was angry with their families for not paying enough attention to them, for letting this get out of hand. But addiction is sly, underhand, quick mouthed, brutally

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A POUND OF WOMAN

... and he puts his hands all over her..
And he puts his hands all over her sketched and written by Zena Edwards

there are days when being a woman is tide up
in the weight of her 'knowledge' of the 'way it is'
The status quo must be kept
so keep you body right and you mouth in check
be ready to be the object I select
from this day until the next
don't complain

Her man is poisoned against her
Just because he walks down the high road
without the blinkers
and she, bombarded with kilos and pounds
of sweet and salt constraints dressed up as
good-for-your-love-life home remedies
when the visual complexities wind their way though
her subtleties and feast on her insecurity

and she will grow fat
chained to counting the calories of her
compliant voice cramming itself
back down her throat to keep the peace
chaining her to a present, glutinous
with tricky accusations of her inadequacies
as the goal post of perfection shift again
while the 'rest' of the world grunts on

she will not fail you in bearing the future
but can she give birth to herself?
perpetually pregnant, bloated with doubt

you make her wait, you make her listen
to your loaded words
as you lay your hands all over her
with spikey adoration, careful now!
don't burst her

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

As Property Protests - A Poem to the Voice of Shifting Unrest

 image by A.Rafaele Ciriello
They thrashed her within an inch of her life
Told her it would make her a wise woman, a better wife
For this Life was never about her skin that bled woman in the dust
She’d have to wait for the next

There were no floodgates; no bastion could hold her tongue
It sat ripe, ripe for bursting
Marinating in the velvet, thorny seat of her will

Fatima had to snare her trembling agitation
With prayers and bitten lips
She herself, had to hobble her insurgent instinct to express, break it  at the knees
Forcing her Self to kneel at every clock tick,
In every sunbeam
And every crack of light she could find

She’d pray
And she’d pray and pray
The tremor were felt all over the house

The neighbours complained of pictures jumping like lemmings off the walls
And china plates edging themselves off shelves when Fatima prayed
But no one saw it coming

Summoned, the air rushed to where she knelt
The windows got sucked out
The furniture, that clock and the kitchen pots
Flew around the room
How the cheap chandeliers and wall lamps clung
The force of this wind fingered the nails from the floorboards and flung them
Plaster from the walls stripped in great clumps
And the hinges on all the doors strained, creaked then broke

The noise was a thunder of bewildered wildebeest hoof
The roaring crash of water on rock from a 500-foot drop
The sonic boom of silence mercilessly inverted

And the acrid smell of gas and fresh ash woke in her nostril (oesophagus)
The scream incubating all her 21 years

Fatima had seen enough to know that
If her jaw dropped and lower
If her throat opened any wider
If her lungs drew the breath that would complete their involuntary mission
She knew her reflex
Would be Revolution.

As Property Protests
Inspired by an image of a woman in Afganistan
©Zena Edwards

Monday, February 21, 2011

THIRTY-SOMETHING WOMEN HAVE CATS BECAUSE...

Giovanni. My Familiar -  Born Spring 1993. Died August 29th 2010

1. because independence is written in the skies of their eyes   

2. because switching when you don’t want to be touched there 
makes sense. A paw swipe with claws in is a warning. 
Don’t complain the next time when they’re out.

3. because it’s the tail that gives it away. 
Attention must be paid to your own subtitles.

His own paw print. His own identity.
4. to remind them to enchant themselves 
with their own intelligence.

5. because they are beautiful creatures - 
long haired or short, sleek or stumpy, 
tabby or ginger, pure bred or mixed.

6. to remind them that catching rats and 
bringing them home is generally a bad idea

7. to inform them that as they get older, 
they don’t have to stick around. They might out of habit 
but there is choice. It’s ok to move on and feel no way.

Make chilling a habit...  wherever..

8. because dozing in a sun beam together is not wasting time. 
It’s called regrouping.

9. to recognise that walking in bare feet 
is way more sexy. High heels were not designed 
for a natural slink and booty sway

10. to eat full fat cream based pastries with.   

Held himself with a poise i often envied... RiP Lovely Cat

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND ANY WOMAN...

... you must first ask about her mother and listen carefully. 
The more a daughter knows the details of her mother's life 
- without flinching or whining - 
the stronger the daughter. "
The Red Tent, Anita Diamante.
Taken on the trip looking for Mum's Mum, August 2009 - Cottles Church, Nevis.

Mum the photographer. She discovered a rampant creative streak when she retired. Nevis 2009.

After an invigorating hot air balloon ride Mum bought as a gift for my birthday. May 2009.


video

we touch silence  
in awe of the horizons within

         Mum likes to talk. She'll riff and freestyle a story rich with images loaded with a slow burn allegory. Deep within these stories are messages from her subconscious as she does not express  in a direct way her intimate stuff, things that bother her or making her feel bad about herself. I almost have to be psychic with her. She'll ask questions, revealing little of herself. "It's not something we did in our house." she said.  At times it was tough for me, especially around my teens, because I AM a talker. Frequently, it is crucial for me to talk to problem solve.  I guess that's why I write. I have to have some kind of dialogue even if its with my Self on a blank page. But when Mum does choose to speak up around a problem (cos you can't make her), she'll drop a bomb.
     I remember one time we were going somewhere and we had to come out of Charing Cross tube station and cross Trafalgars Square. A neo- nazi march had just finished and there were straggling skin heads walking about. I was 5 or 6. I could sense something in the air and Mum seemed a little... edgy. So we're walking and three skin heads were walking towards us. When they are level with us, one of them shouts right in Mum face, "NIGGAH! NIGGAH! NIGGAH!" I'm freaked. Mum's laughing. Probably a nervous laugh. More than likely a nervous laugh... But I remember looking up at her thinking she was crazy. Why wasn't she scared? With my 6 year old incredulity, I asked "Why are you laughing?!" Mum never even broke her stride and said looking down at me, " That's all you can do with these kind of people, Zeen. You can't  take them seriously." Did she mean don't take them seriously or can't let them see you taking them seriously? Either way she was trying her best to break down racism to a six year old. As young and naive as she was bringing me up on my own, Mum's strength to cope in blizzard times would chime much later with me, as she had gathered techniques for surival everyday, day by day.

     I chose to post this Dianne Reeves track with this blog because resonates in brilliant metaphor, reminding us that the survival techniques we have learned, acquired, adopted from others and adapted for ourselves have come from making the same mistakes over and over and over.... and over... It doesn't matter how old you get, there are still opportunities to learn. The First Five Chapters of my Life speaks well of my Mother and her journey through life, of the many life times she has had in one. Something I also learned. A resilience.

 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Eve said to Adam...

 ...hmmm.... yeah.... right....???
i'll take it from here then, shall i?
Drawing by Zena Edwards Dec 2010©

Friday, January 14, 2011

IF DADDY - A Poem for my Absent Father

Little girls need their Daddies too...

All too often we hear about young boys, particularly ones of African descent,  not having father figures and going off the rails.  We hear about them either ending up as fodder for jail, aimless wanderers with no idea how to behave as men and/or winding up being absent fathers themselves, with no sense of responsibility. Well guess what, sometimes those fatherless men end  up with fatherless daughters because these women  have no idea what it means to have an  entity around the house being a father or a man either. 
If there are no other male role models in their lives - friends, uncles  and such - then the journey to knowing what a 'Man' looks like is distressing.
Men are NOT the same as women purely because of that macho patriarchal socialization, programming and training of what a man is supposed to be.  Posturing Rap stars, magazines like FHM and bolshie arrogant banking city and media types have a lot to answer for.  But even then I think that idea is a confused misnomer. Who knows what manhood looks like these days when men can buy calf, bicep and pec implants, have as many cosmetic products as women  and expect women to pay their way out of spite for all the years they had to. Ok, maybe I'm being harsh there.
What I think is important though, is that there is a human responsibility to the nurturing of the future generations. Boy AND Girl children need good female and male ideals around them. Not perfect cos maybe that's too much to ask sometimes but they need people around them who are seen to  at least be trying to do the right thing. Kids are smart. They can tell the difference when someone cares or not.
Little girls need to feel the vibration of a man's voice that loves them. Then they will know the sound of Love. They need to feel the embrace of a man that respects them. Then they will know the touch of Respect and Love. They need to see the silhouette of a man wishing them sweet dreams.  Then they will know the shape of support for their dreams when they see it, the touch of respect when they feel it and the sound of Love when they hear it. No woman should suffer any form of abuse at the end of the fist or tongue of a man. It is unnecessary let alone wrong.
This poem is the for the father I have never known but who I love still for his absence. Part of my journey to finding out the true meaning of Womanhood has been through an unpredictable  and rocky path to understanding Manhood.
Click, listen, read, immerse, enjoy. Peace. Z



If  Daddy

daddy's gone 
            daddy's gone 
                   daddy's gone 
daddy's gone away
yes daddy's gone to stay gone

Was my existence braided on purpose
in to the journey of your mission bound spermatozoa?
where were they headed for real though?
meant for the long dark red of  my mothers fallopian tube?
to her open womb?

where i unfurled into this life
 a full thing with no name from my fathers side
just a black strike on my birth certificate
my fathers namelessness comes to me in dreams
or in the films of other peoples daddy’s

I’d turn my face ashamed of my dad
yes blindly ashamed and  blissfully proud
I’d be comforted, reassured and strong with my daddy
as he carried my 3 foot high body, my head resting on his shoulder
while he strided like palm trees sway

but I'd also be angry and hateful toward my daddy,
grateful toward my daddy, cuss him out in my pillow,
wish he were dead and call him by his first name for a week,
my jaw stubborn as the karma of my life without him

I’d be dutiful daughter and kiss him sweet on the cheek at bedtime
I’d want to smack my own dad in the mouth
disobey his rules / come back 43 minutes after curfew and not apologise
I’d be his sugar dumpling, loyal and smiling,

I’d be full of love  then  I’d curse in front of him  and back chat,
wear make up at thirteen and never bring my boyfriends home to meet him

I’d do all these things and more
just to test to my daddy
fling my arms around his neck and see if he’d forgive me
 just  to make sure,
I’d put my dad through hell
I’d do all these things and more
just to make sure

but where does the fire from all these impetuous tempestuous feelings go
in the of decades space, shoulder deep into an army back pack
smelling of johnny cakes mum made on Sundays and gunpowder
from the war that took him when i  was three weeks old.

my daddy was an army man with black cat claws
and couple of other women’s draws, notched on his rifle butt,
but he loved me enough to write a letter or two....
to do the right thing by his baby mama 

daddy should know his girls feet are strong
her shoulders are broad
that refined things don't pass by her ears and eyes unnoticed
no one can talk to her as if she’s
a fool

Daddy. Dad. Daddy.
How does that word sit on my lips?
a cluster of D’s exploding from my tongue
vibrating the air around me like an ectoplasmic echo

But I ain’t mad, just lonely
to know know what saying “Daddy” would be like
and a voice with bass in it
that recognised mine like keys in locks 
would call back
opening doors to safe and sound security
a full night sleep with my Super Dad snoring loudly down the hall
I ain’t mad

daddy’s gone away
yes daddy's gone to stay

Written by Zena Edwards 2008©

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE RED TENT - FIRST BLOOD

My good Sister friend Marcina Arnold posted a vid on Forum Feminina about Menstruation.




Names for the release of menstrual blood  and for those who are a bit squeamish or easily offended , you have been warned - period, the rag, the code red, on the blob, Aunt Flo, the crimson wave, bloody mary, the curse, the devil's juice (eugh). Some talk about feminine sanitary items as vagina diapers, a blood hammock, a crotch bat, a dracula's tea bag - oh it gets worse!
Marcina's post me thinking about a book  I've read called The Red Tent. I lent it to someone and never got it back but when I read the post, I ordered it off Amazon again (£1.50 used. Gotta love it). Anyhoo, the book is set in the biblical time of Pharaohs and is narrated by Dinah, a young woman of a nomadic tribe,  daughter of Jacob (a daughter is Israel). She is supposedly raped by Shechem, son of Hamor (son of Egypt). The controversy that raged through the pages of this book after this occurance is whether she should be blamed for now being a fallen woman and or whether Dinah and  Shechem were actually in love. There would be too much scandal if they were in love because that kind of inter-racial, inter class (him a prince, she a slave)  activity back then was more than NOT COOL.  Has much changed? The story ensues.... have a read if your interested.
However, THIS post is about monthly bleeding.
In the book, the 'Red Tent' is a physical place where the women of Dinah's family who would 'flow' in time with a new moon, sitting on a rag on some straw till their periods had finished. All their cycles peaked simultaneously and they would bleed together.  They were that finely tuned with each other. and time in the Red Tent was quality time spent bonding with each other and communing with the cycle of the moon. They massaged each other, share "the escapades of their youth", "sagas of child birth", shared  their knowledge and craft skills, their sexual antics and tips on surviving as women in that time. I was moved and intrigued how important a first period was back then.  The focus on what it meant to become a fertile young woman was evolution.

"Rachel bled her first blood, and cried with relief. Adah, Leah Zilpah sang the piercing, throaty song that announces birth, deaths and women's ripening. As the sun set on the new moon when all the women commenced bleeding, they rubbed hennah in Rachel's  fingernails and on the soles of her feet. Her eyelids were painted yellow and they slid every bangle, gem, jewel onto her finger, toes, ankles, wrists.They covered her head with the finest embroidery and led her to the red tent. The sang songs to the Goddesses...
....The women sang all the welcoming songs to her  while Rachel ate dates honey and fine wheat-flour cake, made into the three-cornered shape of her sex. She drank as much sweet wine as she could hold. Adah rubbed her legs her back her abdomen with aromatic oils until she was nearly asleep... Rachel was stupid with the pleasure  and wine."

Most of us might remember  a clumsy sex education lesson, a vague or overly explicit description of what to expect (from those parents or guardians who tried too hard) - the embarrassment at the insertion of a tampon or the thought of  wearing that nappy you had to waddle down the street in. Body Form and Always and the wings thing was a blessing (except when you get the sticky bit burn).  Now we have Moon Cups, Soft Cups and reusable sanitary napkins. The business of having a period has moved forward, but not the evolution into womanhood. That line has been well and truly blurred with the hyper-sexualization of young girls as young as 5 years old.
So what happened to  that song and dance over coming into Womanhood? What happened to the pride over a girl child, your child becoming a vessel full of beauty and the potential of bringing ultimate Femininity to the world? And what happened to having a party that wasn't about getting drunk on your sixteenth? What happened to the blessed Rite Of Passage?  Have  our periods become so much of a bother to us that we've neglect to remember it's relevance to those yet to experience it? Have we forgotten the young girl in us who experienced it and the comfort we needed when  that reddy smudge appeared for the first time in our panties? Could paying unprecedented attention to  a girls first blood re-ignite a forgotten innocence? Could it place a revered importance on preserving that innocence in  a world that sexualizes our girls at ludicrously young ages through music, fashion and advertising? The questions need to keep coming before we get too complacent and this hyper-sexualized state of being crystalises itself as 'normal'.

When Rachel, aged 12-ish, got her first blood she was relieved. She was a woman and most of the joy around her coming of age would have been because now she was fertile and marriage would have followed closely behind her ripening. Now-a-days the pressure of pre-teen marriage  may not be such a pressure but that moment will only happen once and should be celebrated, the transition made less frightening and the welcoming of womanhood noted in the annuls of memory as a joyous occasion. An important sensual rite of passage.
What are your experiences of coming of age, your early experiences with your cycle? Post on the Forum Feminia .

THIS BRIDGE POEM by Donna Kate Rushin


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK

This book entered my life at a point where I thought I was going to implode. As a woman of colour, I felt like there were elements - people and organisation structures -  telling me that I  must be crazy to think that what I dreamed for myself and my talents were possible - they were someone elses,  not even meant for me. They were someone elses dreams. Yes, those dreams were, are  big because I have expectations of my life. The biggest one being that I expect to lie on my death bed and say I have no regrets.
No regrets means imagining to your fullest potential and aiming as high as you please, right? Right.
Well, no actually. I had people telling me that I "was not there yet" or "are you sure you're ready for that yet?"
What I realized was that these voices translated into "who do you think you are?" and "You aren't good enough?" - I call that stomping on the dream before it got off the ground. Bob Marley put it well in his classic, "I Shot The Sheriff" -

 Sheriff John Brown always hated me,
For what, I don't know:
Every time I plant a seed,
He said kill it before it grow - 
He said kill them before they grow.

Not that these people hated me. Not at all. It was more a case of they themselves having low expectations of me, of what I could do and of what I wanted to do/become as an artist. I believe 89% of the time they didn't understand the subtext of their words.
It got me thinking how many times in my life I had heard, or shall we say subliminally felt the oppressive subversion of a teacher's/supervisor's/boss's/agent's utterances that seemed to tell me that I was not quite enough... Paranoid? I could have been. I was running myself ragged around the city, the globe even, trying to make money, make 'progress' in my art form as writer and poet, performing with just enough energy to stand-up and hold a mic. I have broken down on stage. Yes cried  and said  "i want to see my Mum" onstage.   Me one and 250 people in the audience.  In 2010, I felt that I had been moving laterally for about 3 years and no matter what avenue I turned down I felt blocked. Some blocks were overt - "At some point we all have to sell out", I was told once.  Sometimes so subtle. I began to think, "Zee, really, you just ain't trying hard enough, try harder, work harder, try another angle different from the 29 others you've tried cos what you're doing is not enough, IT'S JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"
Wow... as you can imagine. I shocked myself. I had embraced the mantra, made it my own. I had accepted the voice of my oppressors.
 "..it's frightening to acknowledge that I have internalize a racism and classism, where the object of oppression is not only someone outside of my skin, but someone inside my skin." 
- Cherrie Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back.

"THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK" came as a gift from above. I stumbled on it while browsing through Amazon, for what I can't remember now. But it spoke to a voice deep in the back of my wardrobe along with those dusty shoes and that frock that fell off the hanger 5 years ago, a voice tied up in a rough hemp sack, muffling  "Believe what you know for sure. This stomping IS happening and YOU ARE MORE than what you have been told."
So invest in this book if you can. Its price on Amazon ranges from £15 for a used copy  to £70 plus for a new  AND used.  Yeah I know. A bit Pricey. But  that just tells us there's something of value between  the pages of this book that the echelons of western academia  might prefer we didn't know. Or at least its not going to make it easy for us to get our hands on. Try your library.



There are many references to Lesbian community.  For some this might be a "problem". Whatever. More importantly, the writings were originally collated in the early 80's when women were making a stand against  classism  sexism, and the aggressive impact on womanhood during the  economic boom. Independence financially and sexually  was prevelant. Fundamentally this book is about women of colour sharing stories of overt and subtle sexism and racism,  of coming into being and re-affirming each other. This book saved my sanity during a frustrating artistic/business life experience.  It calmed me. Salvation just when it needed it.