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Tuesday's Chile Guest Contributor
                                "FACE, FRONT, and RESPECT!"                            

When I was growing up in on the Crown Heights/Bed Stuy line in the Brooklyn ‘hood, long ago, we used to answer when asked what we wanted by someone who was getting in our face and getting on our nerves –  "Face, Front & Respect, Brother (Sister!)"  It wasn’t so much an answer as a retort.  It is a retort that has been on my mind quite a bit this past week as we have watched President Obama make sausage and end up with what is now known as America’s Affordable Health Choices Act.

For those who have never heard of either Face, Front & Respect, let me break it down to you.  The demand for "Face" is a demand to let us be recognized.  At the time I was "throwing" it all around on St. John’s, I hadn’t given it much thought.  With grown up hindsight I realize that our demand for "face" (as In "Saving Face") grew out of the human, deeply felt, need for most of us to be able to stand tall, to be proud of who we are, to be perceived as competent as qualified, as ready for the world.  To have a positive "rep".  To be trusted to be able to step up, and step up well.

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"Front" is a complicated idea and of the three terms, has gone through the most change in meaning from what I can see.  These days used more as a pejorative verb than anything else (as in "don’t be frontin’", aka what the youth might refer today as "don’t be fake"), front used to mean something similar, but fundamentally different, back in the day.  Back in the day, the demand that we be given "front" as part of the "face" and "respect" was a demand that those in our lives be honest with us, straight forward, not play us.  The need for "front" I see as arising from the need to be able to be "in charge" of our destiny by knowing what our actual reality WAS where other people are concerned.  Yes, front can also about image to a certain extent – who wants to look bad, after all? -- But image was the secondary consideration.  The primary one was that a demand for front was a demand that we be told which side our bread is buttered on, from allies and enemies alike, so that we did not have to worry about folks making us look bad when it wasn’t necessary or expected.  It was a demand to allow us to have our "rep", even if maybe deep down inside we were insecure, and not too certain about some things but with big dreams.

The most important part of the saying, though, was saved for last:  the demand for "respect".  I’m never quite sure talking in mixed-race/culture audiences if folks realize how fundamental the concept of "respect" is to many of us born and raised in Black culture, whether in the ‘Hood or the South or outside the US entirely.  I remember the very first fight I had with my ex mother in law was over the idea of respect:  in her culture, you started relations with zero respect and had to earn what you could ultimately get; whereas for me, you started out with some quantity of respect just for *being*, and could either raise the quotient or lower it depending on how "correct" you came with someone. "Respect" is one of those ideas that if you ask a million Black folks what it means, you’d get 999,999 answers – but you could nonetheless manage to tie them all together.  Admittedly, misguided notions of what that it really means have in the past 20 years or so led to unfortunate incidents of young folks’ foolishness committed in its name even where clearly the concept was not at issue (i.e. shooting someone over accidentally stepping on your sneakers has NOTHING to do with respect.)  But back in the Day, "respect" meant just that:  a demand for due.  For props.  The acknowledgment that yes, I am Somebody and I have value.

Black professionals have been fighting for "Face, Front and Respect", even if we wouldn’t call it that, on all fronts since day one.  We continue to do so.  Ask any who have had to make it in the workplace, about the micro aggressions which assume we are less than we are, based on absolutely no evidence other than the visuals (we even do it to ourselves).  About the petty criticisms, overreactions, dismissals and the dishonesty where you can’t even tell if folks are happy with you, or unhappy with you, because they won’t be *straight* with you – they won’t give you front, and they themselves are fronting ½ the time.  And don’t even get us started on the lack of respect – 20 years into my profession with published appellate decisions to my name I am still having to hip folks to the fact that no, I’m not an affirmative action hire! Yes, I am a "real lawyer" and most importantly, that I ideas and opinions, valuable ones, to share and want them to be viewed not with agreement, but with respect for the fact that I am smart enough to have them.  I am confident that I am definitely not alone in my feelings on this.


But no matter what I have to complain about, I know that nobody has had to cope with a lack of Face, Front and Respect more than President Obama in the past 15 months.  NOBODY.  This past week with the passage of HCR, it is clear to me that folks no longer see fit to even pretend that they are willing to give this administration the Face, Front or Respect that it is due.  Certain elements has also shown that pretty much that also applies to Black politicians across the board.  (Spitting on a sitting US congressman? Oh, hell no.)

The irony is that there are and always have been plenty of folks’ hollering about President Obama’s "lack of respect" – lack of respect for his "base", lack of respect for the flag (anyone else remember the whinging about him having his hands to the side once when he stood for the Pledge of Allegiance to whether his refusal to wear a tie all the time and that ridiculous flag pin?), lack of respect even because of him hoisting his Size 12’s (or whatever size he wears; I don’t know) resting upon the President’s desk (you know, HIS desk) are ‘disrespectful’ to the office.

Too many of those very same folks seem simply incapable of giving President Obama his own props.  His own Face, Front and Respect.  Too few feel uncomfortable about that, in my opinion.  They certainly don’t examine it, mostly.  You have to read folks of color for the most part to hear it stated plain.  Unfortunately, much is lost in the translation.

What is it going to take for the majority of folks in this country to finally give this President his Face, Front and Respect? What is it going to take? He certainly has earned it, not just from his fans (and some are sycophants, which I don’t personally dig), but also from his detractors.  The man ran one of the most brilliant political campaigns ever devised, and became our first Black president.  I am not one of those deluded enough to believe that the nation suddenly had a collective Kumbaya moment and decided "now is the time."  I don’t believe his election symbolized anything about racism those of us who actually have to live with it didn’t already know (since of course President Obama did not win the majority of white votes in America.)  We elected him because he ran the better campaign, and at least on paper had the better platform.  Since he’s been in office, he’s been largely quiet and cerebral (much to the chagrin of some of us who wanted more.) But when it was time to get done what had to be done on his signature legislation? Bam! He stepped it up in high gear, and in the past two weeks before the vote was a juggernaut.  Say what you want about the flaws in the bill (there are many, and I have made plain I believe it could have been and should have been better) but I am convinced we would not have even health insurance reform today (I don’t call it health care reform because it simply isn’t), Nancy Pelosi or no Nancy Pelosi, without his direct involvement.

And in succeeding, President Obama truly saved face, given the pundits and the predictions that he would go down in flames over health insurance reform.  The bounce in the polls is evident, as is the reality to those who actually pay attention to it that other than Tea Baggers the single largest group of folks want him to do *more*, not less.  I take that back.  He didn’t save face – he again showed why he is *entitled* to face, as a master politician of our time.  As our President who in the end, got done despite all its flaws what no President had been able to get done in recent memory:  move the ball forward in terms of what folks could count on in terms of a social safety net.  Flawed as it is.


All he managed to get was a bunch of fronting.  Folks are still talking smack – about his weakness, about his having missed the mark, not done enough.  He didn’t even get the satisfaction of his fair weather friends on our side of the political aisle congratulating *him* - it became all about Nancy Pelosi and how much *she* deserved respect and admiration for "making it happen."  Now don’t get me wrong – I am happy that Nancy Pelosi was able to whip the House when time came.  But she couldn’t have done it without the President’s back.  Without his willingness to wheel and deal, to make sausage, the whole 9 yards.  Now, I am one of those that believes he didn’t do enough.  But I’ve been straight about that from the get-go.  But I am also a believer in giving him his front.  His face.  And definitely his respect.  He’s earned it, with health insurance reform.  Say what you want, but eventually 30 million more folks – folks in my old ‘hood, and my new one who never had this hope before – might actually be able to see a doctor and not either have waited too long for economic reasons or go bankrupt doing it.

There is plenty of legitimate room to criticize our President, and indeed, we wouldn’t be showing him either face, front or respect if we did not do so.  However, HOW we do so is just as important as whether we do so.  We have to do so in a way that allows him to keep his face, without fronting and always always ALWAYS with respect for what he is and what he has done.  Even when we don’t agree about the details.  A lot of the dust-ups I’ve seen are because, I think, folks outside the Black community don’t see the ideas of face, front or respect the same way we do – as things we need to survive and thrive in a still institutionally-racist world, that is quite willing to see us as incapable, inferior and not up to snuff the nanosecond we stumble or "fall down" at the task.  Too many feel they are just entitled to say anything however they want, with whatever words come to mind.  They do not recognize how vital it is that at no time we ever leave the impression that *this* President is entitled to the world’s respect.  Perhaps it is because they themselves don’t live in a world where they are constantly undermined in this fashion, always sent the message that you have to be twice as good to get ½ as far.  And to know that you live on the edge of the abyss, the potentiality of everything going up in smoke, if you "fail."

But not just for one’s self – for the Diaspora.  Because we are not yet at the place where a Black public figure, and certainly not a Black politician, can fail on his own without it reinforcing the country’s foundational racism and disbelieve in our collective abilities.

That’s why it is important to me that we acknowledge that, without regard to who likes it, and even for those of us who could go back and forth with him for days about why his policies are wrong, President Obama has proven that he is entitled to his face as one of the best Presidents we’ve had in a long time.  He deserves our front, our being straight with him about what we like, and don’t like (I am not a believer in pretending that folks are doing right just because they are who they are, as too many often do where this president is concerned.) But most importantly, he deserves *respect*.  For all its flaws, the health care bill is historic.  And it is President Obama, ultimately, who brought it home just when it really mattered (with an able assist from Nancy Pelosi, to be sure, I’m not trying to take away from the woman) as nobody else could have.

By doing so, President Obama certainly saved face, ultimately proving wrong those who contended that health care would be his Waterloo.  He – and a few other Black lawmakers too -- certainly found out about frontin’, given some of the racist bullshit they had to put up with.  (This is when I throw much love to John Lewis and report that the nation should be glad that we are dealing with the John Lewis of 2010 and not 1960 – the one that wanted to shatter the south into 1,000 pieces.)  And he certainly has earned respect as the master politician he continues to prove that he is.  Even when you can’t stand the particular policy at issue – give the man his props.  He’s earned them.

Which is why it’s a deeply refreshing thing to finally see the President *I* voted for stand up and demand his Respect, once again.  In this week’s recess appointments, his insistence on pressing forward with his agenda, no matter who says what.  He has again shown that the respect I have always had for him is deserved, even as I think at least ½ the time, on ½ the issues, he’s wrong.  To see him finally rhetorically say, without saying "Fuck y’all motherfuckers", to those in the Republican party who were gumming up the works not because they had any legitimate motives, but simply because they can’t bring themselves to let him have his due as President, was a joy.  I think we need to see more of it.  More moving the agenda forward without regard to the obstructionist whining.  Less triangulation – a game that didn’t work for the Clintons and doesn’t work for him, either.  And yes, more feet on his own desk, if he pleases.  Because he’s the President.  


Todays News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor


LA Times: New Harlem Runners: Rodney Capel and Basil Smikle.

For the last 50 years, almost every powerful black politician from New York has come out of Harlem. Considered the black elite, these men -- from David Dinkins to David Paterson -- were well-connected and uninterested in sharing power with anyone outside their black boys club. But as the old guard begins to crumple under the weight of its own hubris, a new generation, including Rodney Capel  and Basil Smikle, is emerging and challlenging old notions of what it means to be politicaly connected.

The collapse of the black political dynasty is creating opportunities for a new generation, but running for office isn't part of the plan.

In the span of a few months, the ground seemed to open up and swallow New York's first black governor, its black powerhouse in Congress and a beloved elder statesman, all products of the Harlem machine that for decades forced whites in New York and leaders across America to accept blacks as full-fledged partners.

The collapse of this dynasty has pained Harlem, and there are no rising stars to carry on. The new political elite is less interested in getting elected than in having influence in a broader sphere of the community. With their Ivy League educations, button-down shirts, blazers and jeans, the next generation represents a victory of sorts for the previous one, because the younger men occupy a place in society that the old guard could not have imagined.

They're busy as consultants to black and white politicians and as lobbyists. They teach at majority-white universities and are regulars on political talk shows. They're connected to an array of ministers, educational reformers, community leaders, politicians and entrepreneurs across the city, not just to a handful of men from central Harlem.

RIP Paul Devrouax Washington Post: D.C. architect Paul Devrouax led the way for black firms.

When Paul Devrouax was in the Army in 1968, he was sent from his post at Fort Meade into downtown Washington to quell the rioting after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He patrolled the intersection of 14th and U streets NW, near the heated center of the unrest.

Almost 20 years later, Mr. Devrouax (pronounced DEV-uh-roh) returned to the same corner, only without his helmet and rifle. By then, he was a principal in Devrouax & Purnell, one of Washington's largest black-owned architecture firms. He and his partner, Marshall Purnell, designed the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, the first major building to rise on U Street in decades. It was at the vanguard of an entire neighborhood's revival.

"I watched the city burn down," Mr. Devrouax told The Washington Post in 1989, "and I find it ironic that later I would be involved in building it back up again."

For more than 30 years, Paul S. Devrouax Jr. helped weave the urban fabric of Washington. He and his firm worked on some of the region's largest and most significant buildings, including the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Pepco building, what is now Verizon Center and the Freddie Mac headquarters in McLean. Along with HOK Sport of Kansas City, Devrouax & Purnell designed Washington's Nationals Park, which opened in 2008.

Erykah Badu bared all in her latest video. Is this progress? The Root: Freeing the Black Woman’s Body

My husband was excited about his latest find for our kitchen: A pulpy poster of an old ad for Campbell's "gumbo," stirred by a plump, black woman in an apron and Aunt Jemima-style bandana. Me? Not so much.

The woman could have been one of my grandmothers, who were both descended from slaves and both worked as domestics. I am proud of them and their sacrifice. But did I really want to be reminded of their limited life prospects every time I went into my kitchen?

When we look at images of the black woman, we never see them as individuals. It's always how said black woman fits into the larger historical procession. The feminist writer and educator Anna Julia Cooper famously wrote: "Only the BLACK WOMEN can say 'when and where I enter ... the whole Negro race enters with me.' " She was talking about civil rights, but for better or worse, today that quote is just as relevant when it comes to media images.

This mostly explains the all-out love affair black women are having with Michelle Obama, who is setting us forward centuries with every public appearance. It also explains groans and bourgie conniption fits when Mo'Nique announced plans to do a biopic on Hattie McDaniel. And more recently why, when Erykah Badu debuted her new video, "Window Seat," in which she stripped down to nothing--it immediately drew some comparisons to the Venus Hottentot.


Race Talk: The last white people in America, part II.

In early 2009, groups composed of the most tattered refugees from John McCain’s 2008 Presidential election defeat gathered in various places around the country. Those of us who were willing to admit the truth,  knew all along the Teabaggers, as these groups came to be called, were not protesting wasteful government spending that would lead to higher taxes, increases in the national debt, or unnecessary growth of government. We knew the President’s race was the issue.

A few of them might share with others a genuine ideological opposition to the health reform bill that was recently signed into law. But ideological differences were not the reason for their protest. If so why did hecklers hurl the N-word and spit on African American members of Congress at the end of the health reform debate?

In 2009, a sign at a Teabagger rally read:  "I want my country back." President Obama and African American members of Congress had not taken their country. Obama had taken the illusion that America is, or ever was, a white country. And with the stripping away of that illusion, it is natural for those who held the illusion to feel that life itself was coming apart.

It is convenient to believe the Teabaggers do not represent the vast majority of those who voted for John McCain in the 2008 election, but now John McCain has said he will no longer work with the Obama administration on any issue, and a Harris Poll released this week found that among Republicans:

•           67 percent believe that Obama is a socialist.

•           57 percent believe that Obama is a Muslim

•           45 percent believe that Obama was not born in the United States

•           38 percent equate many of Obama’s actions to those of Hitler

•           24 percent say Obama "may be the Antichrist."

What happens when your 1 of 34 Democrats to vote against health reform but you come from a district that voted 2 to 1 for Obama? Tuscaloosa News: Davis faces reaction to health-care vote.

An already heated race for the Democratic nomination for governor got even hotter last week when U.S. Rep. Artur Davis joined 33 other Democrats in the House of Representatives in voting against federal health-care reform.

Davis is in a two-man race with Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks for the Democratic nomination for governor in the June 1 primary. Davis was also the only defector from the 43-member Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the bill pushed by President Barack Obama.

Davis served as Obama’s state campaign director in 2008.

"I talked with the president six months ago, and he knew that while I support health-care reform, I just could not vote for a bill that will add $1 trillion to our debt, and I think there is some virtue in consistency," Davis said Tuesday during a campaign stop in Tuscaloosa. "But that argument is now over, and it’s time to look ahead.

"I will say that unlike some, I will do everything in my power to make sure the new health-care law is strictly enforced in Alabama when I amgovernor," he said. "There are many good things in the bill that will make health care better for all citizens of Alabama."

But many black leaders were frustrated by Davis’ vote, and black radio talk shows have been inundated with calls criticizing Davis.

The Grio: Black joblessness is Obama's next big challenge.

President Obama earned well-deserved accolades for his dogged fight to make a much needed, and long overdue comprehensive health care reform a reality. The president can and should savor the victory and feat. But there's another equally hard battle that desperately needs to be fought, and that's the fight to dent the massive and chronic joblessness of young blacks. The crisis is inching close to epidemic proportions. The National Urban League has urged  the Obama administration to spend billions more to train and to put young blacks to work. The money is desperately needed and needed now.

The one out of three young blacks out of work matches the figure for joblessness at the peak of the 1930s Great Depression. The jobless figure for young blacks, especially young black males, is not much different than what it was even before the economic meltdown. During the Clinton era economic boom, the unemployment rate for young black males was double--and in some parts of the country--triple that of white males.

Three years ago, when the job crisis among young blacks was marginally less severe than the present, a stunned Congressional Black Caucus and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reflexively blamed President George Bush. They claimed that his fiscal and economic policies have resulted in the loss of millions of jobs during his years in office. They demanded that he radically increase funding for job training programs and provide more tax incentives for the working poor. Bush did none of these things. Neither did Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus. They did not vigorously push for a crisis job training and creation program for young black males. The crisis continued to mount.

African immigrants don’t see the plight of Latinos and others as their struggle? The Root: Why So Few Blacks Join Immigration Rallies.

At last week's immigration march on Washington, tens of thousands of immigrants and activists rallied around the Capitol Building, calling for legislation that would afford legal status to the millions of illegal immigrants living and working within the United States. While official crowd estimates for such events are notoriously unreliable, the New York Times noted that "the demonstrators filled five lengthy blocks of the Washington Mall."

Many, if not most, of the rally attendees wielded protest signs--both homemade and professionally manufactured--or wore T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Change takes courage" and "Illegals are humans." Still others carried flags--American, Mexican, Brazilian, French, and almost everything in between. And while it seemed as if practically everyone had a unique way of showing their support for reform, they also had one very notable similarity: The crowd was overwhelmingly Latino, with chants of "Libertad ahora!" filling the air as frequently as "Freedom now!"

To be sure, knowing the statistics--76 percent of America's illegal immigrants are Hispanic, according to the Pew Hispanic Center--a majority Latino presence was to be expected. And according to the Population Reference Bureau, in 2005, there were only 2,815,000 foreign-born blacks in America (compared to nearly 18 million foreign-born Hispanics). But in Washington, D.C., estimated to be the home of more than 150,000 Ethiopian immigrants and their descendants, the lack of black protesters was downright odd. Ultimately, it raised an important question to consider in the days leading up to the Obama administration's grapple with America's immigration problems: Why don't black immigrants have an affinity for the reform movement?

One thing we do know is that, despite their relatively small presence, black immigrants are often the most upwardly mobile ethnic group functioning in the United States today, even more than foreign-born white Americans. For instance, as journalist Clarence Page noted in 2007's "Black immigrants: an invisible model minority," in 2000 "43.8 percent of African immigrants had achieved a college degree, compared to 42.5 of Asian Americans, 28.9 percent for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population as a whole." In 2005, a fifth of Caribbean or Latin American-born blacks in America had degrees. And according to a 2006 study by sociologists at Princeton and University of Pennsylvania, of the black students attending Ivy League colleges, 41 percent were either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants.


Caribbean Net News: Haitian rummaker rebuilds business after quake.

At Haiti’s famous Barbancourt rum factory [1], patches of grass and shrubs around the warehouses are burned black from where the aging golden liquor spilled from oak casks split by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Hundreds of liters (gallons) of premier rum, some aged up to 15 years, seeped into the parched soil from the toppled casks, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential export revenue for the Caribbean country’s oldest manufacturer evaporated into the humid tropical air.

"We never expected an earthquake," said Thierry Gardere, Director General of the Societe du Rhum Barbancourt, which produces what it probably Haiti’s best-known export.

"We’d thought about floods, hurricanes, but nothing of this magnitude," added Gardere, who estimated his total losses from the catastrophic quake, between damaged equipment and lost rum stocks, at $4 million (£2.6 million).

Now Gardere, the fourth generation of Haiti’s rum making family, is painstakingly trying to rebuild his export business back to its previous pre-quake level.

Thandi, South Africa's first majority black-owned wine company, brings its wares to Montreal trade show. The Gazette: Raise a glass to black empowerment.

Whites own the land and run the farms, blacks and mixed-race labourers work the fields and pick the grapes, and whites make and sell the wine.

For more than 350 years, that's the way it has been at vineyards in South Africa, where wine is still overwhelmingly the wealthy white minority's domain.

Vernon Henn is trying to change that.

The 41-year-old university graduate runs Thandi, a wine company that's majority owned by blacks.

As if that's not unusual enough in a land where apartheid once reigned, the enterprise is a collective that plows its profits back into the community. Two hundred and fifty black families from three towns provide the labour and, by owning shares, have a stake in the firm.

That business model made Thandi the first wine company in the world to be certified fair-trade, in 2003. Distributed in Quebec and Ontario through private import (but not yet available in SAQ or LCBO stores), its wines are as much about ethics as bouquet and taste.

LA Sentinel: Britain’s brainiest family is Black and has nine-year-old high school bound twins.

Paula and Peter Imafidon are just like any other 9-year-olds. They love laughing, playing on the computer and fighting with each other. What sets these twins apart from their peers, though, is that they are, hands down, prodigies who are about to enter high school and make British history as the youngest to do so.

These precocious London-based tykes, known as the "Wonder Twins," floored academics a year ago when they aced University of Cambridge's advanced mathematics exam. They are the youngest students to ever pass the test.

The future little scholars' father, Chris, and mother, Ann, immigrated to Britain from Nigeria more than 30 years ago and have actually been down this prodigy route before with their three older children, who are also overachievers.

The couple's oldest daughter, Anne-Marie, is now 20, but at age 13, she won a British government scholarship to take undergraduate courses at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Christiana, 17, their other daughter, is the youngest student ever to study at the undergraduate level in any British University at the age of 11. Youngest daughter, Samantha, now 12, passed two rigorous high school-level mathematics and statistics exams at the age of 6. She mentored the twins to pass their own math secondary school test when they were also 6.


Just over half of black Woman attempt it, compared to about three-quarters of whites, Hispanics, CDC says. Health Day: Black Women Least Likely to Breast-Feed in U.S.

Messages about the health-boosting powers of breast-feeding aren't reaching black American women as well as their Hispanic or white counterparts, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests.

The researchers found that while more than 80 percent of Hispanic mothers attempt to breast-feed, and about 74 percent of white moms do, that number falls to 54 percent for black mothers. And one year after delivery, only about 12 percent of black women are still breast-feeding their child as recommended, compared to 24 percent of Hispanic women and more than 21 percent of white women.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that babies be breast-fed exclusively for the first six months of life, and that non-exclusive breast-feeding continue for at least six months thereafter.


Voices and Soul

by Justice Putnam Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile Poetry Contributor


A picture may indeed, be worth a thousand words. If done with
precision though, a poem wouldn't nearly require that much verbiage
for an image to occur. This week's poet, Tracy K. Smith sets the camera focused on a crowded yet expansive vista. She adjusts
the timer on the camera, moves and stands before it. She is determined
as she raises her hands high and wide above her head, a moment before
the time-trapping whirr and click of the shutter:

                        Self Portrait as the Letter Y

I waved a gun last night
In a city like some ancient Los Angeles.
It was dusk. There were two girls
I wanted to make apologize,
But the gun was uselessly heavy.
They looked sideways at each other
And tried to flatter me. I was angry.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to bury the pistol,
But I would've had to walk miles.
I would've had to learn to run.

I have finally become that girl
In the photo you keep among your things,
Steadying myself at the prow of a small boat.
It is always summer here, and I am
Always staring into the lens of your camera,
Which has not yet been stolen. Always
With this same expression. Meaning
I see your eye behind the camera's eye.
Meaning that in the time it takes
For the tiny guillotine
To open and fall shut, I will have decided
I am just about ready to love you.

Sun cuts sharp angles
Across the airshaft adjacent.
They kiss. They kiss again.
Faint clouds pass, disband.
Someone left a mirror
At the foot of the fire escape.
They look down. They kiss.
She will never be free
Because she is afraid. He
Will never be free
Because he has always
Been free.

Was kind of a rebel then.
Took two cars. Took
Bad advice. Watched people's
Asses. Sniffed their heads.
Just left, so it looked
Like those half sad cookouts,
Meats never meant to be
Flayed, meant nothing.
Made promises. Kept going.
Prayed for signs. Stooped
For coins. Needed them.
Had two definitions of family.
Had two families. Snooped.
Forgot easily. Well, didn't
Forget, but knew when it was safe
To remember. Woke some nights
Against a wet pillow, other nights
With the lights on, whispering
The truest things
Into the receiver.

A small dog scuttles past, like a wig
Drawn by an invisible cord. It is spring.
The pirates out selling fakes are finally
Able to draw a crowd. College girls,
Inspired by the possibility of sex,
Show bare skin in good faith. They crouch
Over heaps of bright purses, smiling,
Willing to pay. Their arms
Swing forward as they walk away, balancing
That new weight on naked shoulders.
The pirates smile, too, watching
Pair after pair of thighs carved in shadow
As girl after girl glides into the sun.

You are pure appetite. I am pure
Appetite. You are a phantom
In that far-off city where daylight
Climbs cathedral walls, stone by stolen stone.
I am invisible here, like I like it.
The language you taught me rolls
From your mouth into mine
The way kids will pass smoke
Between them. You feed it to me
Until my heart grows fat. I feed you
Tiny black eggs. I feed you
My very own soft truth. We believe.
We stay up talking all kinds of shit.

               ----Tracy K. Smith


                          Maya Angelou --- "Still I Rise"


             The Front Porch is Now Open!

Originally posted to Black Kos on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM PDT.

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