Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mother Tongue Monologues 2014!

I'm excited to join Black Women's Blueprint for Mother Tongue Monologues 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum. Check out the link and join us!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Make time for it ...

When I get a chance to shake it off and sweat it out, I take it ... More please.

Holding My Mind Together, Loosely.

It's Saturday. The house is quiet. My daughters are sleeping, but they push me into questions, even while they sleep.  In my circle of friends, I had my daughters earliest. I became a mother for the first time at 22 years old.  The second daughter was born just before I turned 25.  So, now, at 40 years old, I have one daughter in her first year of college and another in her tenth grade year of high school.

Our apartment is more art studio and storage space than home.  The youngest daughter's keyboard sits in a corner of the living room; music compositions line the window sill and clutter the floor, no matter how many times I order them into neat piles. Her cello sits in its case in the middle of the floor on its side. The oldest daughter's bike rivals the cello's odd placement in the center of the floor, waiting to be used. Book cases filled with books line the walls. Homework assignments clutter the would-be empty spaces. I've given up trying to determine what belongs and what could go into the trash. Dishes are piled in the sink, though they were washed just yesterday. Someone is always consuming food, it seems. I spend about $200 a week in groceries. So, there's proof in perpetually empty pockets and dishes. I am not imagining these monster appetites. It's all very real.

The girls' bedroom is an abyss. Clothes carpet the floor and spill out of the closet. Everything is in danger of being eaten by their bedroom. So, I try not to allow anything of mine to enter,  including my own body. 

At the front door of the apartment, the oldest daughter's visual art portfolio hangs from a coat closet's door knob. It is bright cherry red. And shoes, often without their matches, line the floorboards in no particular order. Dissonance rules here.

The cat rests on top stacks of student papers in my room, giving me one more reason not to grade them. And my desk is a riot of books, my own writing, and random objects - hair moisturizer, a small statue of Obatala, an amber ring, a broken pot bearing mostly burned white sage, a small tower of CDs and DVDs, a hole puncher,  two elephant earrings with turquoise inside their tummies, a straw hat, a basket full of photos. This all makes an obstacle course I avoid deciphering daily.

One family turtle stares at me from his aquatic home next to my desk; he looks bored. The other family turtle is doing her morning stretches on top her small coral mountain beside the keyboard in the living room; I know this because I just checked. Believe me.

But the questions my daughters make in my mind find their way through all the mess and mayhem, screaming at me through this Saturday morning silence:

I would list the questions, but that is too much for me right now.  Wouldn't it be too much for you too? I'm a playwright in the Bronx, and a mother of two, their sole adult care giver for miles and miles. I am an adjunct professor, hustling knowledge by the hour with a MFA, not a PhD. I am a Program Coordinator for a women's center on a college campus. That's recent. So, now I work 40 hours a week in Brooklyn, an hour amd 20 minutes worth of time on the iron horse twice a week day. I have so many due dates looming, I've become immobilized by the weight of When and How. I am working on my first draft of a book, and there are two new plays vying for my attention. But all the stuff in my apartment drowns out inspiration, mocking me with the questions my daughters' lives make. So many questions.  The questions are about more space, more money, more and more and more. And I am a playwright. Laugh now.  I will ... if the laughter can find me in all this stuff.

In the last three months I have managed to:

1.  Rehearse for Crank & Groove: A GoGo Love Story and perform in it down in DC in the midst of the opening of my semester with my students
2. Go through a pre production process for a lab for one of my plays (meetings, photo shoots, budget crunching, phone calls, emails, more meetings, door hunting ...)
3. Lab the play that's held my attention for the past three years ... There were grand challenges. We did it, though. I am still reeling and making sense of what comes next.
4. Take my daughter to weekly private piano lessons & craft a friendship with the eldest (She is a young woman in college still living at home ... We must be friends. No space for less.)
5.  Come to class prepared to teach and teach (I have)
6.  Dance
7.  Drink too many Jack and Cokes ONE night ... only ONE night ... not every night, not one night a week. Just ONE night.
8.  Take a new job, making my total "official" jobs two ... They're "official" because a paycheck comes. Writing is a third job. The paycheck? Ummmmm ... Some say being a mother is a fourth job ... The pay is love, even if it comes in the form of a side eye and scowl.
9. Fight for love
10. Be in love
11. Make love
12. Hold my mind together loosely.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Crank & Groove: A GoGo Love Story

DC born, home grown. I didn't leave 'til I was 34 years old and a mother of two rebelliously beautiful daughters.  7 years have passed since I moved, and even though I'm living in NYC now, I keep myself grounded in both my memory of home and its present self, a mix between the nostalgia I call "Chocolate City Jonesin'" and an expansion of the 4 quadrants of the city into what we have grown to accept ... The DMV.  What has remained the same? Mambo Sauce. Rock Creek Park (when the gov'ment ain't shut down). The Big Chair. Florida Avenue Grill. The route of the 70 bus, and Horace & Dickies on that good fried fish dinner. Gimme some.  And, of course, our beloved, funky heart beat ... GOGO music.  On Sept 13th & 14th, at The Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street N.E., I joined an ensemble cast of griots, The Originalz, and Be'la Dona, DC's number 1 all women GOGO band, for Crank & Groove: A GoGo Love Story,  two nights of get up and get right, crankin' good vibes ... so good the audience was dancing in the aisles and up on stage!  I'm looking forward to what grows from this experience. Take me out to the GoGo for life!

On Monday, October 28th, The American Theatre of Harlem's GRIND Lab will present my play, GYPSY & THE BULLY DOOR at Dumbo Sky, located at 10 Jay Street, Suite 903 in Dumbo-Brooklyn, NY.  Take the F train to York Street and walk down to the river. Cocktails at 7pm. Show starts at 8pm.  Join us for a provocative night of story telling, live music and dance!

Check out an excerpt of my play, GYPSY & THE BULLY DOOR, in The Killens Review of Arts & Letters!

Purchase a copy of The Killens Review at  There's an excerpted scene from my play, GYPSY & THE BULLY DOOR in this issue, along with writing by Tony Medina, Sean Anderson, Keisha Gaye-Anderson and many others!

Spiritual Bath Recipes for the People

I believe that we exist in a world of energy waves.  In my mind, it’s as if life is a vast ocean.  Sometimes the waters are tranquil.  Sometimes they are not.  When the energy waves of life become chaotic, and we find ourselves being carried too far in one direction or another, we can respond to those often debilitating shifts on an elemental level.  We can acknowledge the shift and work the waters so that we can navigate better. Awareness is a start.  That’s our life preserver.  Once we have awareness of the energy shift, taking enough time to stop and assess the texture, tone and flavor of where we are, we can respond in an appropriate fashion.

Awareness & Ritual Cleansing Baths

I first started making spiritual baths out of desperation.  I was a couple of years into my walk as an aleyo in the Yoruba religion, and I’d been told that I needed to receive Olokun immediately, the orisha of the mysterious depths of the ocean, because I needed to be able to spiritually clean my home, children and self with Olokun's waters.  Apparently, I had become, or had always been, much like a sponge in the world, picking up more energetic chaos than was rightfully mine, not to mention all the messiness I’d cultivated on my own.  The trouble in this reality check was that I didn’t have the money to pay for the necessary ceremony to receive the orisha.  And there began my own intuitive process of creating baths from what I could find.

It’s been about five years since then.  I’ve received Olokun.  I’ve been initiated as a priest in Palo Mayombe.  I’ve met many practitioners who swear by the hands of priests who can make the most phenomenal baths.  But my initiation has only furthered my own belief that whether initiated into a particular system or not, we all have the right and ability to cleanse ourselves spiritually. It is not about what religion we choose to practice but about holistic wellness, a centered being that only comes with a solitary walk, and the courageous choice to put on your own boots, dig your own hands into the earth (or the fresh herb and plant section at your favorite market), and love self through it all. It’s knowledge that comes intuitively.  It’s knowledge whispered by our ancestors.  This knowledge is more simple than it is complex, and definitely the necessary tool for a practice that could be broadened if we cease specializing the knowledge, creating a profession out of a cleansing ritual that should be no less common than brushing our teeth or washing our hair.

When I consult with folks in need of spiritual work, I gravitate toward teaching them how to make their own baths.  I believe that every one of us has our own spirit guides who will help us to conjure the healing we need most.  And if you don’t believe in spirit guides, consider it that internal voice talking inside your head, your committee, your very own genius.  It doesn’t matter so much what you call that voice but how you interact with it.  And in the process of getting well, it’s that voice you most need to honor.

This doesn’t mean that there is no role for priests to play in any individual’s healing process but that in the long run it is more healthy for us all to become more proactive and independent in our process of personal rebirth.  Experience is always the best teacher.  And besides, over time, it is likely that folk who develop their own style of creating spiritual cleansing rituals will do so in ways that work best for them. And when folk do come for readings or spiritual consultations, they will be more clear and able to hear the information being passed on.

Each of the baths listed below has a particular purpose.  Each bath counters a particular type of energy wave, and helps us respond to it more efficiently.  In turn, energy will respond to us. I have listed six baths for a solid start.  There are many others. These baths may not work for everyone.  And they definitely won’t work if you don’t believe in the purpose and make them with the necessary intention.  They are not meant to replace other strategies for wellness.  They are a start to pro-active spiritual health (the root of all and everything).

Note:  Each bath recipe calls for “holy water.”  Some people believe that you must go to a Catholic Church to retrieve “holy water.”  If you want, you can do that.  It’s simple.  It’s free.  Just enter the church with an empty container, walk to the front, and get the water!  If you don’t want to do that, pour cold water into a container, light a candle, and pray over it.  You can bless the water yourself … And there you have it!  ALSO … I do not use measurements.  Making a bath is about soul … your own sacred signature.  So, use your intuition when determining how much of anything you will use in your bath.  Your spirit knows how much you need.  AND if it’s noted that you take a cold bath, do it.  Cold temperatures break energy immediately for a definite shift in the clutch.  Warm baths are usually sweet (sometimes sweet baths can be cold, though).  Regardless, the temperature of a bath has an impact on the work it will do.  So, pay attention to notes about temperature.

  1. White Bath (purpose: calming, tranquility, clarity) – goat milk, coconut milk, and/or cow’s milk, white flower petals, holy water, florida water, one egg white, and holy water.  Optional: cascarilla/efun (purchase at a local botanica; efun/cascarilla adds a bit of force to the mix for immediacy so don’t use very much … just a pinch).  Combine all ingredients into a bowl.  Light a candle as you mix each ingredient, petition the energy of tranquility and clarity as you mix the bath.  Be in conversation with that energy.  This bath should be taken cold.  Stand in the shower and pour it over your head with prayer.  After the bath, it is best to get some rest in light colored or white clothing.  Cover your head in light or white fabric as well.  Sometimes, I pour a bit of cool water over myself after the bath so I don’t wake up smelling like sour milk!
  2. Milk n Honey (purpose: sweetening, love, sensuality) – goat milk, coconut milk, and/or cow’s milk, lots and lots of honey, 5 sweet oils, and holy water.  Optional: a pinch of cascarilla/efun.  Combine all ingredients in a pot and place on the stove (keep at a low temperature).  Always keep a candle lit near-by and be sure to put it out before you take the bath!  Call on the energy you need.  Stand in the shower and pour over your head with prayer.  After the bath, get some rest in light or white clothing, cover your head in the same colors.  Don’t forget to pour some warm water over you after the bath!  You may be a little sticky … but you’ll be sweet!
  3. Fresh Basil Bath (purpose: expelling doubt, uncertainty, and negativity; attracting love, strength, and a refreshed head) – buy fresh basil from your local grocery store or botanica (never use dry plants), put the basil in a large bowl or bucket of cold water with stems removed, light a candle and pray or sing as you rub the plants together in the palms of your hands (you are squeezing the juice out of the plant as you do this) … the bath should become vibrantly green and cold. Strain the bath so that the plant matter is no longer part of the bath (only the juice remains). Stand in the shower and pour the bath over your head.  Do not rinse.  *You can also mop the floors of home with this bath.  In fact, most plant baths can be used as floor washes as well. I like to make enough of these mixtures to bathe and clean the house.  When I do this, I clean the house first and then myself.  If you have children or other members of your household, try to get them to clean, too!  If you choose to clean your home with a bath, mop from the back of the house to the front.  If you can, dump the remaining floor wash into the street (but the toilet will suffice).
  4. Three Bitter Plant Bath (purpose: stripping away negativity, doubt and fear) – use fresh aposote, quita maldecion, and espanta muerto purchased from your local Botanica & Three Sweet Plant Bath (purpose: sweetening your energy, welcoming prosperity, abundance, balance) – use rosemary, menta (mint), albaca (basil).  It is best to take both the bitter and sweet baths.  You are first stripping negative energy away, and then replacing that with sweetness. 

Steps for both baths (for you and your home): Dedicate a glass of water and light a candle for the guide who will help you to  make this bath. Spray plants with rum and tobacco to clean them. Strip leaves from stem of plants.  You will need two basins of cold water, one for the bitter and one for the sweet. Start with a little water in each basin and add water as you add plants while mixing together, rubbing all plants between your palms, squeezing the juice from plants out. Spray rum, white wine, and tobacco into baths as you make them.  You can strain the baths after you are done; use left over plant matter after straining as a scrub for your body when you take the bath. Let the baths sit for one night with your white candle and glass of water.

Doing your floor wash & Taking the baths:  Mop floors with bitter bath first from back to front of house.  Throw remaining floor wash into the street.  Always clean your door as well.  You can use some of the remaining plant matter to scrub the door.  Follow the same process with the sweet floor wash.  Always remember to take your spiritual baths AFTER you clean your home.  When you are ready to take clean your aura and body with these baths, put the bath on top of your head in a large bowl, pray and pour over your body.  Repeat the process for the sweet bath after you have completed the bitter one.  You may choose to take 3 bitter baths for 3 straight nights, and then three sweet baths for three nights.  Or you can simply take one bitter bath and one sweet bath in the same time.  It depends on how much cleaning you feel you need to do.  Just be honest with self.  Let your intuition guide you.

5.  Sweet Watermelon On Me (purpose: relaxation, calming, & creativity) – buy a watermelon and scoop all of the meat out.  Place the watermelon meat in a blender until it is liquid, adding a bit of molasses to it as you go.  Pour liquid in large bowl and add ocean water, or water you’ve prayed over.  I prefer water from the ocean, because that’s the energy I am cultivating when I take this bath.  It also gives me a chance to go to the ocean to reflect and pray for awhile before taking my bath.  Add 7 sweet oils or perfumes (your personal favorites).  You can place the bowl on your head in the shower, pray and pour over you, OR (and this is my preference) you can pour the bath into a tub of warm water, light a white and soak.

On candles:  The candles simply add light and a strong energy to intensify your prayers and work.  Use a simple white candle.