Nikky Finney, the 61st National Book of Poetry Award Winner "Honoree," Taught me how to "Honor" when she "Honored" Toni


I want to join the chorus of the many in honoring Nikky Finney for being awarded the National Book Award for Poetry. Her written words and the recounting of her words in her own voice are amazing. And, I use the term amazing not in the typical ways in which we use it to objectify some thing or someone, but amazing in the flesh and blood sense of the word. I must say I had the privilege to know of her as a student at Spelman College. I use the phrasing “to know of her” because it allows me to say I know her without transgressing the intimate boundaries of knowing her as sister-friend on the couch knowing or as cousin twice-removed knowing. Yes, I know of her.

Many years ago at Spelman College I was privy to be within earshot of her words. Privy, not privileged not blessed, but privy denoting the sharing of some secret knowledge to describe my somewhat commanded and providential attendance at Spelman’s Annual Toni Cade Bambara Writers Activist Collective Conference where Nikky Finny with the care of a well-seasoned mid wife delivered words in honor of Toni. Toni? Toni? At the time I did not know who Toni was beyond the 1990s R&B songstress. I knew only that the future old woman of my heart commanded (as she so often does to this day) my attendance and so I sat next to her (i.e. old woman of my heart) completely impervious to what was about to unfold. Yes, unfold like removing sheets from the dryer only to find tucked within the fitted sheet the sock you thought was lost.

Follow Up to Chapter’s EBT Video: Why Single Black Women Have Babies


As a follow-up to The Viral Video, EBT: We Have Failed You Chapter…An Open Letter, I want to talk about a comment that I received frequently about Chapter’s character in the EBT video. Many people have emailed me saying that they agree with my blog, but that they also know black women who do those things. Those things . . . as if those things that they do are so vile that the actual act must not be named for fear of its appearance. Those things. What types of those things? Getting pregnant in order to qualify for general assistance?

It has been my experience as a mentor that when a young woman tells me she wants to have a baby it is because she wants someone—the baby or her boyfriend—to love her, and, of course, this rationale comes with its own set of consequences. But, my young mentee’s rationale is not far removed from why some single privileged or married privileged women decide to have babies. They too seek love or at least commitment from the men in their lives. The difference between my mentee and the privileged women is that their class privilege absolves them of blame.

I say all this to say that perhaps the reason why young women decide to have babies is not to “swindle” the government, but to secure that which all women are taught to desire in this society, what bell hooks refer to as the “male gaze.” And, the male gaze includes having the man’s baby or performing your feminine gender of being a mother. So, perhaps, the larger issue is not about “those things” single black girls do, but more about who they are doing those things for.

From Arizona to South Africa: Is there Hope in the World?


Revolution begins with the self, in the self.
Toni Cade Bambara

Given the last six months world events—massive earthquake in Haiti, flooding in Nashville, killings in Palestine and Thailand, corrective rapes of lesbians in South Africa, Arizona legalized racial profiling law, oil spill that will forever effect the Gulf Coast, the lies about governmental accountability from Toyota to the Banking system, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan Tea Party embodied in Rand Paul—one wonders is there hope in the world. Is there ever a time when justice, fairness, and love reigns supreme?

I ask this because right now I feel overwhelmed by all the injustices in the world. My heart weeps. I desperately need to know that change can happen. Not the type of change that jingles in your pocket or the type of change President Obama promised, but I am talking about the type of change that Gandhi and other spiritual leaders speak of . . . a world of peace . . . a world of hope . . . a world that cherish differences . . . a world that does not colonize and enslave with market ideas . . . a world free of oppression. I like trees who need soil to grow need to know that the world can change and that there is hope . . . hope in this godforsaken world of ours.