Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Fundraising A-Go-Go

Tonight I’m doing something I have a hard, hard time doing: asking for help … specifically, asking for money. I am beyond happy at being accepted into the graphic novel workshop for this summer’s VONA Voices. The cost of the workshop, room, board, and travel are a bit stiff for me this year, however, so I’ve turned to Indiegogo.

For the next six weeks, I’ll be trying to raise the cost of this workshop and trip. And you can help! If you can donate, that will be so very much appreciated. If you can’t, please consider sending the link for my campaign out to your networks: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram … and all the cooler, newer social media hot spots I have yet to discover.

Here’s the link to my fundraiser!

I’ll be working on Adventures in Racism in this workshop, getting a better handle on how to move forward with the comic, how to most effectively use comics to tell the stories I want to tell. AIR has potential, but I need a lot of work, and I need the kind of help VONA can give me.

__________

But tonight’s post isn’t just about me with my hand out.  It’s also about poetry.  And knee surgery.  I continue to work on my Aruns this month, and tonight’s is in honor of the fact that today makes exactly one year since I had my knee replacement surgery!  I can’t believe it’s already a full year.

One
year. One
long, short, hard,
easy year. One
knee — seems a simple
thing.
But not
simple, not
snap-of-fingers.
Not.  This year is gone.
Gone
quickly.
Gone easy.
Gone.  A new knee –
year in the making.

natpoetrymonth1

 

SOL image 2014

 

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Magnolia Air

Tonight, Mopsy was kind enough to invite me to join her at her cousin’s seder.  It’s many, many years since my last seder, and I was really happy to celebrate Passover with such a great group.  My first seder as a vegetarian … wasn’t exactly tempted to eat meat, but at the same time it was hard not to taste some of the things I like regardless of their meat content. There were other vegetarians at the table, however, so there was plenty to eat, even if I had to pass up the gefilte fish.

Spending almost the whole evening out has meant no time for digging through records to find family info tonight.   When Mopsy dropped me off after dinner, I stopped on the corner for a minute.  While I was away last week, some of the trees around my block blossomed, and the air was ripe with that.  And so, tonight’s Arun veers away from family hsitory.

If I Were Easy

Sweet,
scented
breeze across
my face, my skin – 
magnolia air.
Soft,
honeyed
whisper of
“Finally spring!”
If I were easy,
I’d
give in –
let that song
dance through me. Let
its dreams fill my heart.

natpoetrymonth1

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Opening New Doors

On Friday I discovered a connection between my family tree and the tree of some families I’ve never heard of.  The note on the tree said that it had last been updated a few days ago, so I figured writing to the tree’s owner might get me a response relatively quickly.  Yesterday I sent my note.  Today I got an email.

I keep saying it, but it keeps being true: this is all very strange for me.  And so strange to look at how enormous those other family groups are.  So many people on every branch.  I always think of our family as being super tiny, and we are, but that’s really only my nuclear family and my parents’ birth families.  I’ve always known that my grandparents came from quite large families.  My maternal grandmother was one of 14 children, for perfect example.  And in the last few days I’ve discovered two additional siblings of my paternal grandmother’s that I’d never heard of.  And looking at the extensive tree this maybe-not-so-distant relative of mine has put together, I see that my family is quite huge.  Stranger and stranger.

And I start to wonder what it will all mean, what it will all mean, if it will mean anything at all.

Leaves,
branches –
this tree grows
out and still out
live oak of family
here –
where I
thought were shrubs.
Where are the links?
Will this door open,
lead
through dim
light to sun?
What’s real in this?
What flowers will bloom?

natpoetrymonth1

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Numbers

There was another moment at the Freedom Center.  Another moment I wasn’t prepared for, but which I’m glad the librarian was.  This came right after the weirdness of her asking me if I liked to cook.  We found Samuel in a census from 1870, and he was 21, which means he was born in 1849, possibly 1848 depending on when his birthday was in relationship to the census.  I already knew he’d been born a slave. Although my mother probably told me, his name hadn’t stayed in my memory, but his existence as a slave stayed.  One of the only things I’ve ever known about him was that he remembered emancipation, remembered the announcement that he’d been made free.  So in 1870, he’s a free man on the census, counted just like all the white people he was living with and working for.

But that’s where the path into the past turns cold.   As I looked at the 1870 listing for Samuel, the librarian turned toward me, and I could feel something in her change.  I didn’t know what she was about to say, but I knew it wouldn’t be something silly like asking me about cooking.  I looked at her and waited.

“We won’t be able to use census records to find out anything about his parents or find out who his siblings were,” she said.  When I didn’t respond, she gave a small smile and continued.  “You know he was a slave, so we can’t look for him on the census.  They didn’t record slaves’ names.  They would be listed with a number along with their owner.”

Of course.  Of course, but somehow I wasn’t prepared for that, hadn’t thought long enough about what I would be looking for and finding if I went into that room to be prepared for that.  It’s not shocking.  It’s not news.  It’s just a reality I wasn’t prepared to be focused on.

Tonight I started looking for slaveholding records, thought I’d try to narrow down a list of possible owners (on my father’s side of the family this will be both easy and difficult: the state is neck deep in two of his families, one from my grandfather’s side, one from my grandmother’s).  I found an 1850 slave schedule on Family Search, one of the sites the librarian recommended.  The schedule is a long document, almost 100 pages.  I wasn’t going to look through all of that.  But I didn’t have to.  There, on page 4, on the 29th of July in 1850, I found my first possible, found my first list:

  • 1 Female 47, Black
  • 1 Female 27, Black
  • 1 Male 29, Black
  • 1 Male 40, Black
  • 1 Female 12, Black
  • 1 Male 5, Black
  • 1 Female 6, Black
  • 1 Male 1, Mulatto

Just give me a minute.

Just give me another.

It’s not shocking.  It’s not news.  It’s just the reality of my family’s life as chattel noted in neat, carefully beautiful penmanship. I continue to be surprised by the level to which all of this is affecting me.  Not because I have come to think of myself as made of stone, or some such.  But this really isn’t news, is really something I’ve known for a long time before now.

One
number.
If I reach
far enough back
I have no more names.
A
number.
A gender.
A noted “M”
only sign of rape.
No
faces.
Suddenly
I am the crowd –
anonymous, blank.

natpoetrymonth1

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Samuel

The surprise of uncovering so much information about my family at the Freedom Center yesterday totally overshadowed the wonderful news that started my day: I was accepted into the graphic novel workshop at VONA!!  I am thrilled and humbled that Adventures in Racism has gotten me into the workshop and can’t wait to get there and get to work.  There’s so very much I need to learn, and the magic that is VONA is just what I need right now.

Another thing I need right now is the money to get myself out to California and pay for the workshop, food and housing.  So tomorrow I’ll be setting up my first Indiegogo campaign and asking all and sundry to help get me to Berkeley.

It’s hard to stay focused on my excitement over my VONA acceptance, however.  My head is still at the Freedom Center.  It’s interesting to see just how thrown off kilter I am by my family tree discoveries.  As I said yesterday, the discoveries are good.  Of course they are.  No matter what I find, the discoveries will be good.  Still I find myself shaken.

I’m
looking
backward, in,
looking behind
doors, folded pages.
Close.
Looking
for myself,
a new image
a new story. There,
here,
somewhere –
are pieces
that were lost, peace
I still need to find.

There was a moment yesterday, a moment I hadn’t had time to prepare myself for, a moment I should have seen coming.  We were looking at census data from 1870, finding my great-grandfather as a young man, as a 21-year-old, as a man who had been free for 5 years.  Just that thought alone was quite the slap in the head.  Seeing him written at the end of the long-ish list of people with whom he lived, all of them white, most of them from the same family.  Samuel, my great-grandfather, listed as “mulatto,” as “cook.” And having the librarian look at it wonderingly, having her say how interesting that he was cooking for all these people, wondering if I like to cook.  And I get that part of her training is probably to help people find a connection with what they’re learning about the past.  I get that.  But when she turned to me and asked if I liked to cook, I wanted to laugh at her and push her away.  Because the fact the I love cooking is really not the point.  It’s 1870 and there’s Samuel living in a house full of people who maybe were his owners five years earlier or maybe were the first people who ever paid him a wage for all the work he did for their family.  It’s 1870 and there is Samuel, a young man who would one day marry a woman named Elizabeth and so on and so on until one day it would be April 10th 2014 and I’d be sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a pretty, wood-paneled room looking at his name written neatly on a scanned census sheet.

I like knowing that his name was Samuel.  I like that his last name came down to my mother, came down to be my brother’s middle name.  That has much more meaning for me than the fact that he worked as a cook.

natpoetrymonth1

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Today I stepped away from the conference for a bit and spent some time in the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. I had no idea this museum existed, and certainly wouldn’t have guessed that it existed here, in Cincinnati.  But here it is.  And it’s quite beautiful.  One of the wonderful things about the Center (and there are many) is that you can do assisted ancestry search in their library. I hadn’t planned to do anything like that, wasn’t even planning to go up to the floor where the library is … but then I pushed that button on the elevator, and there I was, so I went in to talk to a librarian.  And she convinced me to give it a try.

And by the time I left, I had a stack of print-outs of census records of people who are my family, some of whom I’d never heard of before.  The librarian showed me new ways to search data sources, and gave me ideas for how I might be able to find my half-sister, the sibling I’ve never met. And it’s all good. Very good, in fact.  It’s exciting, even.  It’s also really overwhelming.  I wasn’t expecting to feel so slammed by seeing all of the information we were able to find in a relatively short time.

It’s a lot to think about, a lot to process.

Search
for me,
for a past,
a history
connecting through time.
Lives
into
lives, running
west, running north
to my face, my hands.
Lives.
Names, dates,
births and deaths.
Who were these souls
leading down to me?

This is information I want to know, I just wasn’t prepared to have so much of it handed to me today.  The librarian helped me find a resource in downtown Brooklyn where I can continue searching, and my mother and I had a super-brief call about maybe making a brief trip back to Cincinnati to spend more time in the Freedom Center’s library.

natpoetrymonth1

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

It’s that time of year again, time for me to add another link in the daisy chain of love poems I write for my god daughter.  My lovely and amazing niece turns 15 today.  So hard to believe.

Girl
on fire.
Fifteen years –
a brilliant torch
 in the thick darkness.
Her
sharp mind
grasps, rises,
illuminates.
I watch with awe. She
grows –
stronger,
more alive.
Comes gracefully
into her power.

 natpoetrymonth1

__________

An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 407 other followers