The Business of Being Ananda Leeke – Part 2: The Power of an All-Girls School in My Life


Happy Tuesday!

Today I thought I would post Part 2 of The Business of Being Ananda Leeke.  Being Ananda Leeke is rooted in the experiences I had while attending an all-girls school in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  What a powerful time in my life!  

This morning I listened to a recording of WCPN 90.3 FM’s The Sound of Ideas show. The theme was “Lessons from Girls’ Schools.”  Click here to listen to the podcast:  It made me think about St. Elizabeth Seton High School (, the all-girls Catholic school that I attended in Bladensburg, Maryland .  My mother Theresa is the reason I went to Seton.  She gave me the same gift of support her mother Dorothy gave her when she decided to attend St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Indianapolis, Indiana during the 1950s. 

Seton gave me the opportunity to find my own voice, dream big dreams, develop and share my own opinions, and speak my truth.  I learned to be who I wanted to be without concern for what boys might think.  My academic experience gave me confidence, promoted my creativity, and established my courage to take risks.  Seton also taught me how to manage my time, be independent, serve my community, and actively pursue learning as a passion.  The Sisters of Charity and lay teachers challenged me to be the best and achieve at very high levels.  They did not accept mediocrity.  They reinforced the lessons my mother taught me:  own your own abilities and shine your higher self at all times.  That’s why I decided to become a lawyer at 16.  That’s why I learned how to be a public speaker and entrepreneur through Junior Achievement in my junior and senior years.  That’s why I was a student leader, member of the Gospel Choir, and budding artist and writer.   

How did your high school years influence you?

Peace and Creativity,


Celebrating New Surgeon General – Dr. Regina Benjamin and Sharing Poem About Obama Women


Dr. Regina Benjamin


Happy Monday! 

I am so excited about President Obama’s selecting Dr. Regina Benjamin, a fabulous and fierce African American woman, as the new Surgeon General.  What a way to start a Monday!  Click here to read the article from the Associated Press:

Dr. Benjamin is founder and CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama.  Her clinic is making a difference in the lives of the underserved poor in a small fishing village with approximately 2,500 people. She is a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans (B.A. in Chemistry), University of Alabama at Birmingham (M.D.), and Tulane University (MBA). Dr. Benjamin  was named by Time Magazine as one of the “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under. ” She was featured in a New York Times article, “Angel in a White Coat, ” and was chosen “Person of the Week” by ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, “Woman of the Year” by CBS This Morning, and “Woman of the Year” by People Magazine.  Click here to learn more about Dr. Benjamin and her Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic:

President Obama’s administration has a cadre of powerful African American women affectionately known as  the “Obama women.”   They inspire me to live a full life, do my best, and serve my community and country by sharing my gifts.  I celebrate the “Obama women” in my new book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery(Summer 2009 – iUniverse, Inc.).  See the poem below.  Let me know what you think.

What do you think about Dr. Regina Benjamin?

Who are your favorite Obama women? 

My favorites are First Lady Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Desiree Rogers, Susan Rice, Lisa Jackson, and Dr. Regina Benjamin.

Enjoy your day and week!

Peace, Creativity, and Power to the Obama Women,



First Lady Michelle Obama


Desiree Rogers (standing) and Valerie Jarrett (sitting)


Sista7: The Obama Women

Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke


When I checked my email this morning, I had a message from my father, a 24/7/365 supporter of President Barack H. Obama.

Daddy’s email greeted me with positive news.

It was a Washington Post article about the brilliant, bold, and beautiful Black women in the Obama administration.

What a way to start a Wednesday in March during Women’s History Month!

The article profiled the Sista7.

Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison.

Desiree Rogers, White House Social Secretary.

Susan Rice, United Nations Ambassador.

Cassandra Butts, deputy White House counsel.

Mona Sutphen, the first Black woman to serve as deputy chief of staff.

Lisa Jackson, the first Black person to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Melody Barnes, the first Black woman to run the Domestic Policy Council.

They represent something new in Washington: the largest contingent of high-ranking Black women to work for a president.

Trailblazers is the word that captures it all for me.

These phenomenal women have emerged from the margins of American society to the position of gatekeeper in one of the greatest countries in the world.

Each one is a household name in my life.

Tracking their efforts on the Internet is one of my favorite things to do.

Watching them in action inspires me.

They have become an affirmation of what’s possible for Black women in America.

That’s why I claim them as my sheros.

That’s why I continuously celebrate their presence, passion, and power.

May we all do the same.

Celebrating My Grandmother Dorothy Mae Johnson Gartin’s 97th Birthday with Poetry

nananPhoto of my grandparents Dorothy Mae Johnson Gartin and Robert Warren Gartin, Sr. of Indianapolis, IN


Happy 97th Birthday to my feisty grandmother Dorothy Mae Johnson Gartin affectionately known as “Nanan.”  Nanan is my mother’s mother.  She was born on July 10, 1912 in North Vernon, Indiana to Ione Goins Johnson King and John Johnson. Nanan currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I wrote a poem about her and featured it in my new book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (Summer 2009 – iUniverse, Inc.).  See below. Enjoy!

What are your favorite grandmother memories?

Nanan used to make this mad crazy delicious peach cobbler when I visited her in the summers.  Yummy! 

Peace and Creativity,




My Grandmother Dorothy Mae Johnson Gartin (born in 1912)

 Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke


She is a woman with a 97 year old history.

Some of which I know.

Other parts remain hidden.

I believe that those parts may remain hidden for eternity. 

They are parts of her soul.

Everyone should savor parts of themselves in silence.
A woman with glazed donut skin and winter white and gray hair.
Nanan is taller than I could ever imagine being.
Her personality is fierce.
Her conversation is sweet and sharp.
She don’t take no shit from anyone and will handle her business and yours too.

She is a woman who walks the earth with many titles.

Domestic worker.
Community volunteer.

My greatest memories of her are wrapped in summertime spent
eating her homemade peach cobbler, golden fried chicken, and potato salad.

Nanan’s soul food left me feeling rich, full, and loved.


Ananda Discusses Environmental Justice Art with Fine Artist Milton Bowens on Go Green Sangha Radio’s July 12th Episode

first union

The First Union by Fine Artist Milton Bowens



Fine Artist Milton Bowens –



Happy Friday!

I am getting ready for a juicy conversation on environmental justice art with my dear brothalove friend Milton Bowens, an Artist-in-Residency at the Richmond Health Center (Richmond, CA), on Go Green Sangha Radio’s July 12th episode at 7:00pm EST (4pm PAC).   Milton will talk about the work he is doing with students at the Richmond Health Center and his new collection of artwork, “Welcome To My Global Hood.”  Click here to listen to the show:

To learn more about Milton and his amazing artwork (yes I am a fan!), visit  Also, watch Milton’s YouTube video about his artwork:

One more thing … Check out Milton’s artist statement for his new body of work, “Welcome to My Global Hood.”  See below.  It’s incredible!  I love how Milton uses the word “eye” instead of “I.”  

Enjoy your day and weekend!

Peace and Creativity,




“Welcome To My Global Hood” – What is Environmental Justice? by Milton Bowens, Arts Change – Artist in Residency 2009, Richmond, CA

What is environmental justice? What is fine Art? How do these two things work together to empower, youth, community and the world abroad? Eye believe fine art is a singular construct made because it must be made, not just to fill a need in any particular market. Eye also, believe environmental justice is not just a slogan or metaphor but a right to ensure that the next generation inherits a healthy planet.
In response to the rapidly changing global crises, eye thought it was long overdue to address some of the more urgent issues from a fine artistic urban perspective. After posing the question “What threatens your environment”, to a group of more than fifteen inner-city children of varied backgrounds, ages and cultures from Richmond, CA and surrounding communities, eye received the same answer. Violence!
Not at all shocked by the response, eye understood that if eye started to talk about global warming and the dangers it presents, and how art could help change the way we see it, eye would be talking at and not with this young audience. So instead eye listened, with the goal of mapping out a visual story line that would ultimately become a blueprint for urban environmental artist activism.

Before these youth could truly become motivated and excited about creating Art and being a part of a global movement towards environmental change, like starvation and disease in Africa or protecting the Rain Forest, Polar Bears and Ice caps, we must first deal with the issues they face at home. I used Art as the tool to not only spark creativity and conversation but to help the Individual making the Art deal with his or her own individual fears. Art Heals.

Art and Social Change is a funny thing….once you’ve done it you can’t take it back. By reflecting on when you started, how you thought, how you felt and then the process of just how much you can grow and evolve in a short span of time, does something to the Artistic creator. It gives that Individual a sense of value that plays an important role in building ones self-esteem. It gives a voice.

When my students saw firsthand, that gang violence in Richmond, CA is no different than the violence in the Middle East or poor drinking water in the Bay isn’t any different than that abroad, or how the severity of today’s natural disasters are not unique to just this country, the light came on. Once that happens in a young person’s mind, it’s hard, if at all possible to turn it off.

They began to realize they are a part of a global community. This becomes the opportunity, the bridge that promises insight from a very different perspective, which ultimately leads to a uniquely thought out and timely body of work.
The goal for this body of work is to re-ignite the fire in the activism doldrums, visually doing away with that “we’ve heard it all before” attitude and to refocus artist, art collectors, art patrons and exhibition spaces on the power of art and its ability to spark change! And bring about real tangible action and not just talk, simply by being the visual witness.

Eye, extend a Heart-felt, sincere invitation to all viewers to take a little time and stroll with me through My Global Hood. Eye, welcome you! Then ask yourself the question can you see what Eye see?

Milton 510 Bowens

My Blogging While Brown Conference Update #2


Hi All,

I am still marinating on my 2009 Blogging While Brown Conference (BWB) experience.  It’s hard to believe that it was just held on June 19 and 20 in Chicago. 

Today I watched a fantastic BWB conference wrap up video posted on the BWB web site –  Click here to view the YouTube video (8 minutes,  10 seconds):

Last weekend I hosted the fifth episode of BAP Living Radio’s series on Black women in social media which discussed lessons learned from BWB.  It featured a dynamic panel of Black women bloggers who attended BWB.  Here’s the list of my incredible BWB sistaloves:

-Senam Amegashie –

-Faith Dow –

-Sabrina Miller –

-Telisha Ng –

-Megan Smith –

-Talia Whyte –

Click here to listen to our juicy BWB discussion (1 hour, 43 minutes):

I promise to  post my thoughts about BWB in the coming weeks … definitely before I head back to Chicago to attend the Blogher conference (

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace, Creativity, and Blogging Fun Energy,


Phase 2 of Summer Creativity Adventures – Maxwell’s BLACKsummers’ night CD


Happy Thursday!

Yesterday I began phase two of my 2009 summer creativity adventures with Maxwell’s new CD, BLACKsummers’ night.  Each of the nine tracks has been added to my summer joie de vivre playlist.  So far my favorites are “Pretty WIngs,” “Stop the World,” “Love You,” “Playing Possum,” and “Phoenix Rise.”  

Are you a Maxwell fan?

When did you discover Maxwell?

If yes, what are your favorite Maxwell CDs, songs, and concert moments?

I discovered Maxwell while watching the movie Love Jones (one of my favorite films) in 1997.  All of Maxwell’s CDs are my favorites!  I adore “Til the Cops Come Knockin,” “Sumthin’ Sumthin’: Mellosmoothe,” “This Woman’s Work,” “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder),” and “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever.”  I could listen to them all day and night long.  My favorite Maxwell concert moment was seeing him perform at the 1997 Essence Music Festival Concert held in New Orleans. He was amazing!  Maxwell’s music also kept me company while I wrote my first novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (2007 –   

Enjoy your day!

Peace, Creativity, and Maxwell Music Love,


Ananda in the News – North Dallas Gazette Feature


Happy Wednesday!

Many thanks to blogger Shawn P. Williams of Dallas South blog ( for hipping me to the fact that I was featured in the North Dallas Gazette. Big ups to the North Dallas gazette for giving me a shout out and promoting my new program, The Ananda Leeke Show that aired on June 30.  Click here to read the article:

Enjoy your week!

Peace and Creativity,


Excerpt from Chapter 1 of My New Book – That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery

Happy Monday!

Today I thought I would share an excerpt from my new book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery(Summer 2009 – iUniverse, Inc.).   I decided to post the quotes that introduce Chapter 1 and two poems.  Note that I use six-word memoirs ( as chapter titles.  I fell in love with six-word memoirs last year.  They really helped me climb out of a serious writer’s block.  Author Lori Tharp ( introduced them to me during a memoir writing workshop held at my church, All Souls Church ( in October 2008. 

Let me know what you think about Chapter 1’s six-word memoir title, quotes, and poems.


Peace and Creativity,



Excerpt from That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery(Summer 2009 – iUniverse, Inc.)

Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke

Chapter One: Honoring Ancestors. Family. History. Cultural Legacies.

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors.  All of them are alive in this moment.  Each is present in your body.  You are the continuation of each of these people.”  Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, activist, and author

“I feel like the ancestors brought us here and they expect great things.  They expect us to say what we think and live how we feel and follow the hard paths that bring us near joy.” Drew Dellinger, European American poet, teacher, and activist

“Family represents a collection of individuals who are committed and bound together always and forever to provide love and support to one another.”  John F. Leeke, African American educator, organizational development consultant, and entrepreneur

 “I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion.”  John Hope Franklin, African American historian

 “We are deeply, passionately connected to black women whose sense of aesthetics, whose commitment to ongoing creative work, inspires and sustains. We reclaim their history, call their names, state their particulars, to gather and remember to share our inheritance.” bell hooks, African American author, poet, professor, and cultural critic

“Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them.”  Malcolm Gladwell, British-born Canadian author


Two Poems from Chapter 1


Me praying to the ancestors at Elmina Slave Castle in Cape Coast, Ghana – December 2003


Me praying to my female ancestors who were enslaved in the female slave cell located in Elmina Slave Castle in Cape Coast, Ghana – December 2003


Me standing in front of the Elmina Slave Castle in Cape Coast, Ghana – December 2003



Elmina: Homage to the Ancestors


In the middle of the night Spirit woke me and instructed me to do two things.

Cut my locs and go home to sit, pray, release, and renew on holy ground in the midst and comfort of my ancestors.

So the next morning, I made two phone calls.

One to my hairdresser.

The other to my travel agent.

 By the end of that week, my locs were cut.

My head resembled that of a Tibetan monk who had gone four weeks without a shaving.

My travel itinerary was confirmed for Ghana and a day was planned for a visit to Elmina Castle, the holy ground where my ancestors’ spirits reside.

I was going home.


How can a slave castle built in 1482 by the Portuguese traders as the first European slave trading post in all of sub-Saharan Africa be my holy ground or my home?

How can one of the many slave castles holding horrific memories of the African holocaust called the Maafa, a disaster, a terrible occurrence be sacred space for me?

How can I separate the inhumane acts and suffering of more than 10 million people of African descent who passed through Elmina’s door of no return?

 The answer is two fold – Spirit and Ancestors.

They call me home.


I came seeking renewal and release.

As I walked through the Castle, looked out into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, and prayed in the dungeons, I heard their voices.

They urged me to give them my burdens.

They lovingly assumed my pain.

They reminded me of Sankofa, the Andinkra symbol that represents learning from your past in order to chart your future.

 They are my past. 

I am their future, grateful and humbled to reap and enjoy the benefits of their love, faith, greatness, strength, humility, and wisdom.

 Because of their living.

Because of their suffering.

Because of their dying.

I am free.




They Want Me to Hear Their Songs

Inspired by artist Elizabeth Catlett’s I Have Given the World My Songs (1948, linocut).

Their voices are buried deep in my belly. 

When will I let them out?

They want to sing their songs, but I fear their voices may be too loud for me to hear.

They speak to my spirit and remind me that their songs are my legacy.

Yes I know.

Yes I know.

Yes I know.

But I’m not sure I want to hear what happened to my great-great-grandmother Millie Ann Gartin before she was freed.

The rest of my womanline rises up in my gut and demands that I allow them to sing their stories – the good, not so good, and in between. 

They refuse to leave me alone.

I try to run and hide, but they won’t let me escape.

They surround me and begin telling me about the sacrifices they made so I could be free.

Before they disappear, they say a prayer.

“Beloved one, so much has happened. We don’t mean to frighten you, but our stories must be told.  You must tell them. In telling them, you will access wisdom from the way we lived and what we learned from our elders.  Our voices will become your voice.

You will begin to carry our full legacy. It is our gift to you.  We pray that you accept it.

Ase. Amen.”

Ananda Hosts BAP Living Radio on 7/5@ 7pm EST – Black Women Bloggers Share Lessons Learned at the 2009 Blogging While Brown Conference




PRLog (Press Release) – Jul 03, 2009 – Washington, DC – Author/Artist/Blogger Ananda Leeke will host the fifth episode of BAP Living Radio’s series about Black women in social media on July 5 at 7:00 p.m. The theme is “Lessons Learned from the 2009 Blogging While Brown Conference.” The guest panelists attended the 2009 Blogging While Brown Conference ( on June 19 and 20 in Chicago, Illinois. They include :

-Senam Amegashie

-April Davis

-Faith Dow

-Sabrina Miller

-Telisha Ng

-Megan Smith

-Talia Whyte

Visit to listen to the show.

Leeke will also host the sixth episode of BAP Living Radio’s series about Black women in social media on July 19 at 7:00 p.m. The episode will feature a discussion with attorney mom bloggers Justices Fergie, Jonesie, and Ny about their MamaLaw blog (, MamaLaw Media Group, and Blogalicious(, the first annual conference for women of color bloggers held on October 9 to October 11 in Atlanta, Georgia. Click here to listen to the show:

BAP Living Radio affirms the lives of women of African descent who self-identify as Black American Princesses (BAPs) and educated Black women (EBW). BAP Living Radio features programs about self-love, self-care, spirituality, health, finances, social media, politics, technology, beauty, fashion, art, music, culture, community service, creativity, fitness, travel, and more.

BAP Living Radio supports the following BAP Living social media projects:

-BAP Living social networking site –

-BAP Living Facebook Group –