Listening vs. Hearing: Frank Ocean’s Pyramids

Hear ye Hear ye.

Let it be forever known and forever remembered that Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids” is a vital contribution to music, society, philosophy and our culture.

As one of the founding members of the Left Side Poets, I humbly request that my fellow brothers and sisters embrace Frank Ocean after careful consideration of his latest song. As defenders of discourse, soldiers of self expression and fighters for free speech, the LSP understand the importance of releasing material that has a lasting impact. After listening to Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids”, I realized that he is more than just a good musician. He is a great artist, story teller and poet.

“Pyramids” is the modern day re-creation of Nas’ “Black Girl Lost”. Both songs  allow us to hear the artist’s view of the modern day Black woman with feelings of sorrow and disgust. While “BGL” will always be a classic, “Pyramids” is far superior in content, delivery, imagery and production. I will admit that I was blown away by subtle references that would only be understood by those who know their history and their biblical teachings. The jury (my brain) is still trying to figure out if Frank Ocean actually comprehends what he created with this song. Some of the historical references don’t match, but the story is amazing nonetheless. Let us examine the beauty of this song as well as my interpretation. Continue reading

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Who Am I?: The Creative Writer’s Burning Question

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Sometimes I don’t know what I want to do with this poetry thing. I have moments where I could see it as a career. I could see myself traveling the country with the likes of Rudy Francisco, Joshua Bennett, Lyrical the Lyricist, Black Ice and Sunni Patterson. I could see myself gracing the stages of colleges near and far with poetry features filled with pieces I wrote in college and ones I thought of five minutes ago. I could see it. But then I think of just how much time these poets put into their crafts. The stories I hear about how Rudy studies spoken word artists, consumes any news he can find in order to fuel his subject matter and how much time he actually spends penning and memorizing his pieces. Those are the moments when I realize that I’m doing this for fun. I’m doing this because it’s something I enjoy doing but not something that drives me to put my all into it.

When people ask me what do I do I say three things: screenwriter, poet and journalist, in that order. My degree is in journalism and I spent seven years in the game and I still do a lot of it. I’m a published award-winning poet who can also perform a little. But screenwriting is where my heart is. It’s what I see myself doing.

But guess what? They all seem to find their ways into the others somehow. My best script? Poetry cypher scenes throughout including pieces from my fellow Left Side Poets. My poetry? Nothing but narrative pieces derived from my natural ability to tell a story. My journalism? I’m at my strongest with my word choice and ability to get to the heart of a subject, the poet in me coming out all the way.

So what do I do with this info? I do what I’m doing now. When I’m asked to perform, I bring my all. I spend the time it takes to get my pieces together and leave the stage knowing that I left the audience with a memory. I continue to admire those whom I respect while still recognizing that maybe I can get there one day if I tried.

Or maybe, just maybe, I can carve my own lane. I always tell people that I’m not a spoken word artist or a performance poet. I’m a poet who happens to perform. I’ve tried to sit down and purposely write a ‘spoken word’ piece but it just doesn’t come out right. So I stick to what I know. I write a piece as I would like to see it on paper then I learn how to recite it out loud. Sometimes they sound right, sometimes they don’t, but I know I didn’t compromise my poetry for the sake of making sure it would sound right spoken aloud. Because of this, I’m working on my first spoken word EP to drop this summer. And maybe my content isn’t as strong, or my delivery as captivating, or my wordplay as deceiving, but I promise you one thing and one thing only – it won’t be like anything you’ve ever heard before. Because I’m not like any other poet. I see things in three different ways, making for an eclectic journey through the eyes of one person, one poet, one artist.

Terry always tells me that I’m carving out my own lane, but maybe it’s more like a freeway. Three lanes with the ability to switch at the click of a turn signal, while still getting to where I need to go…

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Game of Watch the Thrones

Oh you haven’t seen this yet? Well, you’re welcome.

 

 

I love when people are creative. This is too dope.

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Memoirs of a Real Girl: Dreams

Hey Sweet Pea,

I imagine you have dreams. Dreams that, if you are anything like me, you spend more time thinking about than reality. I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t spend the majority of my day lost in my fantasies. Some of my dreams actually have become a part of my everyday reality. Others have remained wishful hopes and desires. That is fine. I am here to tell you that every dream is not meant to be a reality and every fantasy is not meant to come to fruition. Apply that last sentence to your love life as well. Trust me; it will save you a few headaches and heart breaks.

I want to share with you a dream that I’ve always had. If I could go back and live life again, I would not omit my burning desire to be an Olympic gymnast. You could never tell by the way I look, or the way I talk but I have wanted to be a gymnast for as long as I could remember. A figure skater was a close second for a few years but it could never hold a candle to my one true love. I remember watching the Olympics in apartment 14D in 2007 Surf Ave in Coney Island. We used to live in the projects, but at the time I didn’t know any different. Nor did I care. Coney Island was where my family called home. It was all I knew at the time. Somehow we began watching the women’s gymnastic competition. I was hooked ever since. I loved how their bodies moved through the air. How was it possible? Could I do the same thing? I would soon learn that I could at the expense of my head hitting our concrete floor extremely hard.

That didn’t stop me though. In my spare time hidden away from public view I would practice jumping and tumbling whenever I could. I would hang from the rod in the closet of the room that your uncle and I shared. I would hang there for what seemed to be hours and flip my body through my arms. It didn’t stop there. My bed was a spring-board and a trampoline combined. Ready… set… GO! I ran from the hallway, picked up speed, placed my arms out and used my mattress to pounce me into the air… usually right into the wall. I may have hurt myself here or there, but none of this mattered. NONE! Why? In my mind, I was an Olympic gymnast destined for a gold medal. I may have not known how to spell the word leotard or balance beam, but I knew that I needed one to be a gymnast.

The summer before I entered the second grade, we moved to south Queens in a town called Rosedale. This is where my life changed. I made new friends, started a new school and was labeled as gifted and talented by every teacher that met me. Though everything around me was changing, my love for gymnastics never did. In fact, it grew stronger. I finally had someone to look up to! Her name was Domnique Dawes and in my head I WAS HER. I loved her. Everything about her was amazing! Maybe that’s part of the reason I loved and hated your Auntie Maia so much. She was a gymnast when we were younger and she always reminded me of Dominque Dawes. She was on her way to being everything I ever wanted to be. While Maia actually trained at a gym, I was used chalk to draw a 4inch balance beam on my bedroom floor, grass, concrete or anything else I could practice on. While Maia was swinging from uneven bars, I was swinging from monkey bars at my school up the street. I may have been envious but I always loved to watch Maia perform. She was just so graceful and strong. It was because of her that I taught myself a back walkover and trained myself how to stand in a handstand. These were skills that I added to my “self taught techniques” which included a wolf jump, my dismount stance and how to wave to the crowd. I spent hours each day practicing how to stretch, flip and even perfected a one handed cartwheel. I just knew I was going to be great one day. Haha.

I bet you are wondering why I never became a gymnast. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know who to blame or if there is anyone to blame at all. At some point your grandmother knew I was interested, so she placed me in a gymnastic dance class. Not exactly what I wanted, but close enough. I guess I can blame myself because I was never truly vocal about my love for the sport. I was always a chubby kid and I knew that I surpassed the weight requirements for a gymnast long ago. So I kept my obsession private. I am sure if I would have made it more known, my mother would have done everything in her power to try to help my dream come true. She has always been amazing at being a supporter. I just think she did not know how to help me and that is fine. She helped me enough by getting me out of the projects and into an environment that I was able to blossom academically and socially. Alas, here I am today with the same dream still running through my head. I know my love has not died down because I still watch every gymnastic event, television show, movie or documentary that I can. I even considered forcing you into gymnastic but I decided to let you make your own choices. You deserve that.

If you take nothing else from this story, I want you to know that I promise to do everything in my power to help you live whatever dream you have. I just ask that you open your mouth and release your voice to let me know what is on your heart. Don’t ever be afraid of what I may say or how I may react. Sure I would love to see you become the next President of the United States, but if traveling the world digging up artifacts makes you happy, let me know so I can buy your first shovel and bury my old toys in the back yard for you to find. Making sure you have every opportunity in the world is what I am here for. I want you to be great and I always will.

Love Always,

Mom

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My First Wordless Wednesday

This gallery contains 14 photos.

-key @lovelyiskey

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Poem in progress….*preview*

we’re apart tonight,
and I miss you,
but you probably don’t notice I’m not where you are.
because I don’t make your night
the way you make mine.
the way clocks make time.
because without clocks,
24 hours don’t exist.
it’s about where the sun rises
and when it will sit.
we are apart tonight,
and I miss you,
but you aren’t mine to miss.

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I’m still writing more now, but I thought that was a good stopping point to share with all of you since I haven’t been on the blog lately. Feedback welcome.

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Memoirs of a Real Girl – Shallow Strength

Baby Girl,

I have always been one to think that I was more mature and stronger than my peers. I often viewed those around me as cry babies. In reality, I am probably the weakest of them all. I allow my loneliness to shatter every ounce of strength that I once had. It only takes one event or mishap to make you realize how vulnerable and damaged you really are. I can deny it all I want but at the end of the day I am not the warrior I’ve shown the world. I am just a girl. A broken, bruised, internally black & blue little girl within an adult body.

It was a regular day in the Mid-West. I would describe the weather to you but I don’t remember. I do remember being miserable as usual. I hated being in Illinois. Every day I woke up in my bed trying to figure out which tree or intersection I could drive my car into. The only thing that stopped me was knowing that your grandmother and grandfather are co-signers to some of my student loans. Debt runs my world and I couldn’t leave this planet knowing that I am leaving my parents with an extra bill to pay. With this in mind, I woke up every morning and continued on with my day. Attended class, hung out with some friends, fought with my roommates and tried to muster enough strength to repeat the process the next morning.

Today was different. Today I was meeting up with this guy that I’ve had a crush on for a while. We spent enough time flirting through the phone and I knew sooner or later he was going to ask to come over. Sure enough during the late hours of the night he calls. “Can I come over?”  Yes. Yes, please do. Before long I heard him walking up the steps to my front door and then down the steps to my bedroom. I would soon learn that ignoring his intoxication level was the least of my worries. In my mind this was the first step to something casual and something consistent. If you learn nothing from this story, please understand this: What you have in your mind is not always reality. The sooner you understand that, you will be able to navigate social and romantic interactions with the opposite sex… or the same sex. Whatever you decide.

After a forced conversation we got to business. Immediately I realized that I wanted out. I wanted him off of me and back at his own home. The whole situation was pointless and I wanted to just stop. Why did I tell him to come over? Did I really need to be around a man THAT bad? I obviously didn’t like him as much as I thought I did. It was a fantasy. A sold dream… to myself. The idea of a successful Black man wanting me was what I desired. Not him. Not this way. Thoughts of regret and pleas to halt ran through my head. Continued thrusts reminded me that I was not being vocal. I decided to take a stand. I asked him to stop. I demanded him to stop. I began to cry. He never stopped and never saw my tears.  The only light was that of the moon barely peaking through the blinds. It was pointless. I never yelled or hit him. I tried to push his body off of mine but he was too strong. He just applied more pressure. I just closed my eyes and gave up. After all it was my fault that he was there.

When everything was done, he was sleep under the covers as though we just made the most passionate love ever. As I stared at the ceiling, I tried to figure out if I was a victim or an active participant? Did I allow this to happen or did I want this to happen? I said stop and that should have been enough.  To the world and his friends, he is a great guy, but to me he is the guy that ignored my pleas.  I spent the next afternoon in front of a campus coffee shop with tears burning my cheeks as I replayed the scenario to my friend. He said everything that someone is supposed to say. As a growing woman you will be told that you have all the rights in the world. You will be told that “no” means “no”. You will be told that you can get out of any situation at any time. You will be told that it is ok to share these stories and that it is ok to report it. I just want you to know that while this is all true, what they neglect to tell you is that it only takes a moment create a scar that a lifetime of rights can’t fix. I allowed my loneliness to say yes. I allowed my confusion about myself to paralyze me and most importantly I subconsciously accepted how weak I really was.  At some point you have to accept responsibility. This is me trying to accept mine.

Love always,

Mom

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T. Odis performs Raniyah

Spittin for Big Brother/Big Sister during a workshop.
#SPITFOREVER

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Memoirs of a Real Girl – An Introduction

Baby girl,

I am quite honestly the worst person for you to ever consider being your role model. Shocked? Don’t be. At 25, my life has been a drug induced road trip to the land of understanding. As you will see, I have yet to make it there. Hell, I am pretty sure I am still trying to gather the gas money to start the trip. I may not know much about life, but I do know that I might have screwed up mine and this is what has led me to leaving you these notes of love. I want you to know who I am today, so you can be better than me tomorrow.

This is not for the faint of heart. I am not here to feed you half-truths about who your mother is. I want you to look at the paths that I have chosen and why. For years I have always wondered about my own mother. Who was she at my age? She was a mother of two, married and living in Brooklyn… but who was she? Why did she make her choices? What are her regrets? Has she been where I’ve been? If so, why the fuck didn’t she tell me so I could have skipped that whole heartache and pain? Why are parents so terrified of  being honest? We demand pure honesty of everyone else but ourselves. Here is my attempt at being honest with you.

I guess we should start with my amazing skill of being unlucky in love. I, like many other women my age, have super human powers to love those who couldn’t care less about me. However, that is only half of the story. I am also guilty of not being able to like or love guys that are really into me. I talk a good game of wanting to get married and start a nation of football playing scholars. I want the house and the two car garage. I want it all. I just seem to want it all with the guy that wants it all with… her. “Her” is some airhead that is more likely to slash his tires because he forgot to send a good morning text message. “Her” is a big booty stripper look-a-like. “Her” is the girl who happened to swoop in the midst of our “break”. “Her” is a bitch and I hate her because she always finds a way to be lucky in love. May she die a thousand deaths. Hey, I am just being honest.

She is the exact opposite of me. She cheats on him continuously. She is a prude. She LOVES to fight and HATES all of his friends. She doesn’t want to comfort her man. Nor does she want to make sure that he is emotionally, physically and mentally happy so they can grow together. She only thinks about herself. She is selfish while I am selfless. I just want to love and be loved. She just wants a good time. I want to start a nation. She wants to start a joint account. Somehow, she is always more attractive than me. God forbid you are anything like me; she will always be more attractive than you too. She is the devil in a dress to women like me.

I will say this though… I have been very lucky with sex… But that is a topic for another week.

Love always,

Mom

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Greetings from NUSPA Nomination Land!

::peeks into the blog::

Oh hey there… It’s been a while since we spoke, huh? My apologizes. My side job as a ninja fighting the daily battles of Sallie Mae, Chase, AES and Nelnet make it so hard to find time to be a normal human. However, I am back. I am here and ready to draw you back into the world of my brain. There’s so much going on in there and I think I have found the courage to share.

To start, let me take a moment to tell you how truly humbled and honored I am to know that my family has been nominated for a National Underground Spokenword Poetry Award (NUSPA) for poetry book of the year! Whoooo hoooo. For those who do not know, this is pretty much the Grammys for us. So when asked about my feelings towards the nomination, I am filled with so many. To be recognized by a group of peers that you look up is nothing short of amazing. It reminds you that someone is actually listening and reading. Someone, somewhere gets you. It’s a natural high.

When I was told by Ron that we were nominated, I rushed to the website and started spreading the good news. What could be better than this? Well, how about finding out the our brother Karega Bailey was nominated for his own award. Can you smell what Hampton University is cooking??? Karega is doing amazing things right now and you should all take a stroll down his google search page. Show that man some love. He is absolutely one of the nicest, down to earth, most intelligent man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I have never once heard anyone utter a bad word about this man. That says a lot about his character. I wish his nothing but success in all of his endeavors.

I just want to thank those that took the time to read our book and get Strange Fruit nominated for a NUSPA. Also, I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to vote for us! I hope we win. The Left Side Poets may have been a little quiet as of late but we are slowly getting back into our groove. Thank you all for your continued support and we look forward to sharing more of ourselves with you soon.

Love from the Left…

*QuoteKey*

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