About Maya Angelou

Just last year I bought her latest book Mom & Me & Mom. I put it away in my library telling myself that at some point I will read it. January of this year I went through my growing number of books yet to read and saw this book and decided to read. It was simple, beautiful yet deep; it touched me as it made me to stop and pause ever so often to reflect on my relationship with my own fractious mother. In fact, if I’m honest, I found it shaming as it showed how Maya, over time, learnt to understand and forgive the shortcomings of her mother, Vivian Baxter. It made me realize  I have a lot of work to do and that as I get older, I must make sure I tie up all those loose ends. I believe Maya successfully did this.

images I was introduced to Maya not through her books, but I was somehow coerced to listen to her, each time she spoke. She had this incredible facility to speak, so much so it stopped me dead in my tracks when she spoke. When I lived in London, I would see her on TV programs such as The Michael Parkinson Show or on Channel 4 News when she was interviewed by the presenter Jon Snow, and countless other shows I saw her in. She was profound, and had this warm, compelling, charm about her. Not only did she possess wisdom but had control over the English language – she could use it to say precisely what she wanted it to say. In my mind, she was a sort of alternative Margaret Thatcher where in place of the cold politics was a spirituality; and just like Thatcher, Maya’s sentences would flow without the intrusion of hmm’s or aah’s, her beliefs would be stated in not too many breaths; and with her naturally deep voice, she spoke with a quiet authority giving the impression that despite talking to the audience, she was speaking to you, directly. This is a weird thing to say, but I always felt she sounded as though she was speaking on behalf of God, that she was the chosen one, sent on a mission or an assignment to complete. There was no one like her.

I’d like to think that God feels she has successfully completed this assignment and she is now in His warm embrace. I ask God to rest her gentle soul and give her family the strength and support they will need in this time.

there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you Maya Angelou

 

 

2014!! What will you bring Us?

Hi 2014!
Hi 2014!

Well, in the next 5 hours it will be finally over. I cannot believe how this year has travelled so quickly. I’ve not done all that I wanted but as my teachers used to say, I could have done better. There have been key moments as I’m reminded by my diary and journal – being more and more spiritually connected; reading books by Debbie Ford, Dr. Eben Alexander, Jerry and Esther Hicks (Ask and it is Given) have had a profound effect me that I know there is no turning back. There is seems to be an urgency to write more, especially about how I feel and what I want.

Resolutions I’ve not always stuck to but –

  • I look forward to reading a lot more spiritual books
  • to learn about Physics;
  • to most definitely lose weight;
  • determined to make progress with my family, with friends, with everything!

And that all in all, that the New Year will simply be great. Likewise to every one of you out there, I wish you a peaceful, prosperous New Year!

Take care!

The Great Mandela is now at peace

Mr Mandela, sadly, you have now left us. I want to thank you for all you have done for your people; for avoiding a civil war and allowing peace to reign. But I also know that if it were not for you, I would not have been allowed, as a black woman, to emigrate to South Africa in 1994. I had the pleasure of living in your beautiful country for two years, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

You will be missed and you will never be forgotten. Go and enjoy your well deserved rest and may the Almighty Father bless your wonderful soul.

Thank you Dr. King: Free at Last

50 years ago I was two years old. Other than the stories my parents told me, I was a playful, boisterous, forthright child and generally, quite happy.  I had no idea of what my parents suffered on a day to day basis, or would have absolutely no idea of what our relatives in Flat Bush, New York experienced.  It was as I got older, there was a clear understanding that we were different; I was forced to realise that our skin colour made us different. It was the reason why we would run (or sometimes stand and fight!) when we were confronted by skinheads or when the careers teacher at school laughed in your face after telling him you wanted to go to University.

Having just finished watching Martin Luther King and the March on Washington (BBC2) it reminded me of when my parents told me of the time they listened to this speech on the radio. They were moved and inspired; it gave them hope and in particular the strength to be hopeful for their children. I’m grateful for this but I’m also grateful to Dr. King and the other leaders that contributed in breaking the back of the injustices of those times, and those, who still today continue to fight those problems which are still present. Some people would argue that racism is rife and there is still a lot of work to be done, but for myself, my parents and their generation made it possible for me to achieve more, experience more and ultimately to continue, to dream more. Thank you Dr. King.

Congrats Bonnie!

Just wanted to offer my congrats to Bonnie Greer on being appointed as Chancellor at Kingston University. I’ve not read any of her works  but do remember taking up her offering creative writing courses at the Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham.

I came across this information by accident of Ms Greer by accident. My son was thinking of applying to Kingston to do a degree and as I was browsing through the prospectus, there was Greer’s smiling face after a few pages.

I wish her all the best!

Review of The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland

I’ve just finished reading The Gospel according to Cane by Courttia Newland. A heartrending story about a woman, called Beverley Cottrell of West Indian parentage who has her son taken from her some twenty years ago. She is educated, previously married and taught English in a prestigious private school, a woman who seemed to have everything but as a result of this tragic action, the experience leaves her damaged, single and withdrawn. We meet her presently living in a house alone, teaching kids at an after school club and attending therapy sessions until one day, a young man comes knocking at her door claiming to be her son. She receives this son named Wills gladly but does it repair the damage done to her, to Wills?  The Gospel According to Cane

The prose is mature and juxtaposes nicely with the street slang spoken by her son, and the children she teaches. The characters whether it is the protagonist or secondary characters, are nicely drawn. In fact one of the characters, Ida jumps to my mind. She is so real. A woman of a certain age who probably was born after the second world war; she is happy to entertain Beverley in her home, happy to bake her a cake but is still ambivalent about the black ‘youth’ and black people and  when there is a kerfuffle on the landing between Beverley, Wills her sister Jackie and her husband Frank, she remains hidden behind the ‘blankness’ of her front door and retreats into her reserve. Then there is Frank. We don’t see him too much but when he appears with his dominant and bitter wife, Jackie, you like that he is there, acting as a go-between between the two sisters, attempting to play down the tension which exists between them. Also Newland subtly establishes the fact there are segments of the black community that are middle class i.e, they are aware of Arnica and they shop at up market supermarkets and are concerned about speaking English, properly. This is shown through Beverley, who finds badly spoken English irritating.

Newland deftly handles writing of woman in a very convincing way; it simply shows how sensitive and how understanding he is of women. The book has no chapters but initially it is interspersed by descriptions of pain although from the middle of the book to the end you see no more of these descriptions. Throughout the story, these small explanations on pain make us realize that it is, almost a facet of life. We can experience sometimes, all sorts and levels of pain and realize how time can be a proper anesthetic. In the main character Beverley, this is clearly shown. She journals regularly, as a way of expelling the pain and in return, she achieves some cathartic moments. It’s funny. Prior to me buying this book, my husband purchased the  book Singularity is here by Ray Kurzweil. It is about how our intelligence will one day become ‘trillions’ more intelligent and increasingly non-biological. On top of that, time, whether the past, the present, the future, will become one. Singular. Then reading Newland’s book I come across this paragraph, thoughts of  Beverley :-

People say time is relative, a point with which I agree. …the nature of time as experienced by human beings is the amazing ability to occur simultaneously in the past, present and future. Everything on the planet, from the tiniest amoeba to humankind, has been is being and is also becoming. That we exist cocooned within an unseen element shifting faster than we can comprehend, that no sooner than we enter the present it is already the past and we are always, without pause, speeding full throttle towards the future. Ponder this, if I lift my finger and touch the end of my nose, I am touching my nose in the present, have touched my nose in the past and about to lower my finger from my nose in the future. All exist at once.

I don’t know if Courttia was/is conscious of this concept whilst writing his novel but it is profound and in keeping with all things to do with Singularity.  Overall, this was an interesting read: I loved the beautiful prose, the descriptions of the characters but if I have to make one criticism it would be the ending. However, Newland is definitely a chronicler of the Black British experience; I believe this is the fourth book I’ve read by this author and trust that he can write our experiences honestly, with maturity and with sensitivity. I can’t wait to read his next book.

Things that Black people do

I had an interesting conversation the other day.  A Nigerian friend of mine was proudly telling me he’d been invited to lunch by his English neighbour. In fact he was part of a selected few that this neighbour had invited; and this friend whom I shall call Ade, felt honoured to be included. The reason for the lunch was so that the neighbour could say good bye to these chosen few who all lived in the same road, and also he was celebrating his move out of Chingford into Essex.  According to Ade, the discussion was dominated by the neighbour’s reasons for moving out. ‘Too much of the wrong sort coming into the area’ and ‘Chingford has changed for the worse’, were some of the comments Ade said the man had made.  I asked Ade how could he stay to listen to such nonsense. He gave me a look as if I’d missed the point and said he agreed there was too much of the wrong sort in the area. ‘Wrong sort? I said. I didn’t understand. ‘When you say ‘wrong sort’, do you mean people like us?’ He laughed.  But I didn’t. He continued. ‘Well you know what I mean.  When I moved here I was one of the first blacks to be living in this street. Now, there are so many. Wanting to play loud music, having parties going on all night – whether they’re Africans like me or West Indians, it’s too much.  We don’t know how to behave.’  Wow, I thought, I was speechless. I should have had a quick ready answer but the strange thing was my silence prevented me from making further comments as he was probably the umpteenth Black person I’d met who held this viewpoint. 

 

As someone born and bred in Tottenham but have lived in places like Manchester, Scotland and Croydon, I drive through areas like Winchmore Hill and Mill Hill in North London and realise that the Black people you see walking around actually live in these areas.   Nothing wrong with that. We have been here long enough to expect that will happen.  But in Tottenham, where once the community was very connected: everybody knew everyone whether one was a Jamaican or Guyanese, there was some degree of unity.  When I went to a talk given by Professor Paul Gilroy (promoting his new book Black Britain) a month ago, he said that unfortunately Black Britons had made little progress in the last thirty years (which he went on to elaborate that it wasn’t our fault) but when I walk around the area these days, maybe there is some truth in what he says as the community has become like a shadow of what it once was.  There are new communities which I must welcome but it seems as if we have become dislodged and weakened as a result. 

 

Those of us, who used to live in places like Tottenham, have moved out into unwelcome territories not realising that perhaps the reason White people are moving out, is simply because they want to have a neighbour who looks them and shares a culture they can identify with. They want their own space and are determined to live as they want. Again, nothing wrong with that, especially as their ‘protest’ has been non-confrontational. But there we go, chasing them wherever they go to, hoping that what? It will finally make us feel accepted or that we have achieved something?  We are better off staying in ‘our’ areas, and working to improve and strengthen our community.  We cannot have any effect or impact by living in places like Essex.