This weekend, I went to see an exhibit featuring the work of Elizabeth Catlett at the Mexican Cultural Institute on 16th Street in northwest DC. Click here to learn more about the Catlett exhibit. It closes on May 29. If you are in DC, consider attending Professor David Driscoll’s lecture about Catlett’s work on March 27 at 3:00 p.m. at the Mexican Cultural Institute. It’s free!
Catlett is one of my favorite artists. She was born in DC in 1915 and is a graduate of Howard University (like me!). Click here to learn more about Catlett.
I have given the world my songs by Elizabeth Catlett
Today is really special for me. International Women’s Day always reminds me of my trip to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women held in September 1995 in Beijing, China. My trip to Beijing was one of the most powerful experiences in my life. This morning, I discussed my trip during my author talk on BlogTalkRadio. I also shared woman-centered poetry including two poems I wrote while attending the conference in China. Click on the link to listen to a recording of my show (12 minutes): www.blogtalkradio.com/anandaleeke/2010/03/08/author-chat-with-ananda-leeke.
Who are your favorite women poets?
How are you celebrating International Women’s Day?
Enjoy your day and week!
Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for women’s power, passion, and progress,
Greetings All! Happy March! Happy National Women’s History Month!
The 2010 theme of National Women’s History Month is “Writing Women Back into History. Click here to learn more: www.nwhp.org/whm/index.php.
Who are your sheroes?
Desiree Rogers & Valerie Jarrett
Today, I am celebrating my sheroes called the “Obama” women. They are the African American women serving in President Barack H. Obama’s Administration. Last year, I wrote a poem about the “Obama” women and included it in my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self Discovery (available on Amazon.com – http://tiny.cc/7uFsg). See the poem below.
Today I am celebrating poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller, the “godfather of poetry” in D.C. I met Ethelbert in the early 90s at Howard University’s Afro-American Studies Resource Center. Ethelbert has been the Director of the Center since its inception in 1974. During our first meeting, Ethelbert became my literary mentor and brothalove friend. Since then, Ethelbert has played a major role in my literary work. That’s why I had to write a poem about him for my new book That Which Awakens Me (available on Amazon.com – http://tiny.cc/7uFsg). See the poem below. By the way, I call Ethelbert “E-bert.”
FYI – Yesterday, Ethelbert sent me a Twitter message about his February 11th interview on NPR’s Speaking of Faith. The show’s theme is “Black and Universal.” It is rich and juicy! I think the interview will give you an opportunity to really learn about Ethelbert is as a person and how he thinks. Click here to listen to the interview: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2010/black-and-universal.
Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for E-bert’s Passion for Poetry and Black folks,
Excerpt from That Which Awakens Me
Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke
Inspired by E. Ethelbert Miller’s City as Memory: Lyrical City
Writing Workshop held at Busboys and Poets on May 3, 2009.
Toni told me I had to go and meet Ethelbert if I wanted to
take my poetry to the next level.
Every couple of weeks, she reiterated her recommendation.
Before I made the call, I walked to Vertigo Books on Dupont
Circle and read some of Ethelbert’s poetry.
His words felt like jazz improvisation that could easily be
featured on one of WPFW’s radio shows.
It teased me to the point of curiosity.
So I took the plunge and called Ethelbert.
The first thing I noticed when he answered the phone was a
genuine kindness in his voice.
My ears heard the welcoming tone of a long lost friend.
Hints of New York City appeared in the middle of his soft
The rhythm of his conversation opened my heart and invited
My first visit with Ethelbert happened on a sunny day.
I think it was springtime in 1994.
I had just published my second chap book of poetry and was
We met in his office located in Founders Library on the campus
of Howard University.
His desk was filled with paper and books.
I think we might have even had some tea.
Our conversation was just that … a conversation.
It included shared interests, questions, stories, laughter, pauses,
and comfortable silences.
It traveled down Georgia Avenue, waved at the Wonder Bread
Factory, found itself on 4th Street, got dizzy going around
Anna J. Cooper Circle, and came all the way back up to
Georgia Avenue before parking itself in front of the School of
Before I left, I mustered the courage to ask him to review my
His smile offered a generous grin as he extended his hand to
receive a copy of my lavender chap book of poetry.
We hugged and agreed to meet again.
That afternoon as I walked across Howard’s campus to Soul
Vegetarian Café, I realized I had just received my first taste of
Ethelbert’s mind and humor.
And it was delicious.
Ethelbert left me a message on my answering machine.
It was the kind you wanted to keep forever.
It started with one of his trademark phrases, at least the ones
he used with me.
“Hey Love. This is Ethelbert. I read your work and would like to
talk with you about it.”
I quickly called him back and scheduled an appointment.
This meeting was different from the last one.
I can’t remember what the weather was like, how his office
looked, or whether we had tea.
All I can remember is he talked and I barely listened.
When he opened my chapbook and attempted to review each
poem, I could only focus on the red pen marks that decorated
most of the pages.
Although Ethelbert was kind in his delivery, I was naïve and
unprepared to receive his comments and suggestions as the
D.C. godfather of poetry.
They stung me and left an open wound.
If I had been by myself I probably would have started singing
the blues like Billie Holiday about how my creative heart lost
its virginity before it is was ready.
It took me a minute to digest and accept Ethelbert’s comments
I purposely stayed away from his delicious mind and humor
They were a dangerous combination.
At one point, I felt comfortable calling him to say hello, but
when he asked me what I was working on, I gave him a vague
response because I didn’t want him to know about or review
my work ever again.
One day I found the courage to read Ethelbert’s feedback.
It forced me to unpeel layers of myself and dig a little deeper
to find my own voice.
I was at work early one morning.
From my office window, I could see autumn leaves falling
from trees in Dupont Circle Park.
D.C. traffic was moving at its normal pace.
It kept me company as I logged onto my computer.
My AOL account announced loudly, ”You’ve got mail!”
It was a message from firstname.lastname@example.org.
By this time, Ethelbert had become E-bert in my world.
My eyebrows raised themselves up and past my forehead as I
read his request for a poem that would be included in a poetry
anthology he was editing for Black Classic Press.
As I sipped green tea from my Starbucks cup, I wondered,
“Why did he write me?”
Maybe he made a mistake.
Turns out it was no mistake.
E-bert wanted an original poem by moi.
My creative heart was no longer naïve.
So I sent one I had just written about my grandfather dying
with no expectation of publication.
When E-bert wrote back and said my poem was fine, I couldn’t
believe my eyes.
I called him to make sure he was really serious.
Something happened inside me when I heard him say, “Hey
love, your work is beautiful. Keep writing.”
It took me a few years to figure it out.
It was an act of someone noticing my maturation as a writer
who travels inside herself daily to fi nd her voice in each
It was a gift my creative heart needed to receive.
Check out the video of my creativity coaching session (15 minutes) that aired on Ananda Leeke Live! UStream.tv on February 11: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/4654453. It discusses how to use six-word memoirs to discover who you are in the present moment and creative process. During the show, I give an overview of six-word memoirs. For more information about six-word memoirs and Smith Magazine (folks who created the six-word memoir movement), visit www.smithmag.net/sixwords.
Writing exercises from my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (available on Amazon.com – http://tiny.cc/7uFsg) are included. So get your pen and paper ready! Let me know if they helped you.
Happy Friday! Happy Early Valentine’s Day! Happy Love Day Every Day!
I thought you might like to read a poem about love from my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (available on Amazon.com – http://tiny.cc/7uFsg). See below. I have also included a video of me reading the poem. Let me know what you think of the poem.
What does love mean to you?
Enjoy your day and weekend!
Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for love in all of its beauty,
Excerpt from That Which Awakens Me
Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke.
In the beginning was the word.
And the word was a seed called a thought rooted in Spirit.
In the beginning was the word.
And the word that we were given from Spirit was choice.
In the beginning was the word.
And the words that we choose each moment create energy,
meaning, and power in how we experience ourselves, each
other, and the world around us.
As we think and speak, we become a vessel of spiritual,
emotional, physical, silent, verbal, and written expression.
Our thoughts and words have lives of their own.
They tell our life stories out loud.
They stamp the universe with our vibratory signature.
Our vibration finds its way into the universe and dances to the
beat of beautiful music or noisy disturbance.
If we are mindful and aware, we can choose to allow our
vibration to create love, peace, light, beauty, joy, healing,
happiness, laughter, and abundance.
If we are unconscious or ego-tripping, we run the risk of
making a choice that will add more emotional, spiritual, and
physical violence in the universe.
The question we must ask is: what do we want the beginning
of each moment to look and feel like?
As many of you might know, I am writing my next novel Love’s Troubadours – Symon: Book Two. I am in the midst of a research and reading phase that has me on a bottomless pit search for all things interesting. So far, my adventures have been online and offline. My eyes have traveled through numerous magazines, books, Amazon.com book reviews, Twitter and Facebook conversations, YouTube videos, and web TV shows. All kinds of good stuff is surfacing. It is really juicy!. There’s no real order to my method too. It’s a bit messy! And that’s okay! I am flowing with the FLOW!
I am fascinated … well to be honest infatuated with what it means to be post-black. The seed of my infatuation was planted during a radio show discussion I had with one of my favorite authors Shayne Lee, a Tulane University professor, in November.
Our conversation was FABULOUS! I am so glad it was recorded because I am using it as research now. Click here to listen to the show on Talkshoe.com: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/15820 (look for episode 10 that aired on November 9, 2009).
During our conversation, Shayne and I discussed why we both loved reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers and its connection to my new book That Which Awakens Meand debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (available on Amazon.com – http://tinyurl.com/yfxtqyq). Shayne gave a juicy review of Love’s Troubadours. He called the book’smain character Karma Francois a “post-soul woman.” Those three words led me to post-black. They shifted my reality Translation: Shayne’s three words set it off for me. Hey that’s what the brotha does! His analysis and books take you there. I read Shayne’s book T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher last year and am looking forward to reading his new book Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace. I’ll be using Holy Mavericks as research for a character who is the son of an evangelical minister in my next novel. Click here to learn more about Shayne: http://tulane.edu/liberal-arts/sociology/lee-profile.cfm.
So after my reality shifted, I started examining Karma’s world through a post-black lens. The first stop on my post-black research journey was Thelma Golden, executive director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
While Golden worked at the Whitney Museum, she and artist Glenn Ligon coined the phrase “post-black art” in the late 1990s. The phrase was explained in the Studio Museum’s 2001 catalogue for Freestyle, an exhibition of twenty-eight up and coming artists of African American backgrounds.
Post-black artists are “adamant about not being labeled ‘black’ artists, though their work was steeped, in fact deeply interested, in redefining complex notions of blackness.”
“They are both post-Basquiat and post-Biggie. They embrace the dichotomies of high and low, inside and outside, tradition and innovation, with a great ease and facility.”
“Post-black was the new black.”
Post-black is “both a hollow social construction and a reality with an indispensable history.”
What do you think of Golden’s post-black commentary? I am still chewing on it!
FYI: I used Golden’s museum curator career as a template for Karma’s career in New York City. Golden’s curatorial work and willingness to show women and people of color artists that might not have been shown anywhere greatly influenced my discussion of African diaspora art in Love’s Troubadours. She introduced me to Kara Walker, Chris Ofili, and other artists mentioned in my novel.
Yesterday, I discovered author Ytasha Womack’s new book Post Black: How a New Generation Is Redefining African-American Identity (click here to read Womack’s blog and Twitter page). That was a Happy Black History moment! I ordered a copy of the book from Amazon.com today and will be attending Womack’s D.C. book reading on February 16 at Busboys and Poets’ 5th and K Street location (time – 6:30-8pm). I am so excited! Hopefully, Womack’s book reading will give me more food for thought as I explore the post-black world I share with my main character Karma in Love’s Troubadours – Book One and main character Symon Allure in Love’s Troubadours – Book Two.
Any thoughts on what it means to be post-black?
Do you self-identify as post-black?
Do you have any post-black fiction or nonfiction recommendations?
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your day!
Peace, Creativity, Compassion, Gratitude, and Adventures in the land of post-black,
February is one of my favorite months. I am celebrating February by offering online yoga classes, author chats, and creative coaching sessions. See my schedule of online events below. I hope you can join me. Please share them with your network.
If you like or learn anything from these online events, please consider making a donation to support Doctors Without Borders’ work to improve the lives of Haitians impacted by the January 12th earthquake. Click here to learn more and make a donation: www.doctorswithoutborders.org.
1) YOGA FOR WOMEN’S HEART HEALTH AND PEOPLE OF HAITI ON STICKAM.COM
I will be teaching a series of online yoga classes on February 5, 12, 19, and 26 to honor women’s heart health month and the people of Haiti on Stickam.com: www.stickam.com/anandaleeke. Each class will be held from 7:00 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. EST.
I am hosting three author chats on The Ananda Leeke Show, my new BlogTalkRadio program, on February 8, 15, and 22 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. EST: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/anandaleeke. During the author chats, I will read excerpts from my debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One and share reflections that answer the question of the day. See the list of questions of the day below.
1) Who are love’s troubadours? – February 8
2) What does love look like in my main character Karma Francois’ life? – February 15
3) What is love mentalism? – February 22
3) CREATIVITY COACHING SESSIONS ON USTREAM.TV
Join me for two creative coaching sessions on Ananda Leeke Live!, my UStream.tv show, on February 11 and 25 from 9:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. EST. Click here to watch the show: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ananda-leeke-live. Don’t worry if you miss the live recording. A recording will be archived on the web site.
My online coaching sessions will utilize creativity exercises included in my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery. See the list of topics below.
a. How to use six-word memoirs to identify the many parts of yourself – February 11
b. What does creativity look like in your life? – February 25
Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for Love,