Category Archives: literature

Make America Great Again? Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That Rhetoric!

Originally printed 8/25/2016 in Between The Lines issue 2434

Waiting in line at a popular restaurant, I overheard another patron (Caucasian male around 70) approach the hostess and say “Where’s the men’s room or should I just use the ladies’ room? That’s what they want, right?”

The hostess blushed, pointed and, with a sheepish smile, said “The men’s room is over there.” Her body language said his comment made her feel uncomfortable but she said nothing. She then turned to us and said “How many” and led us to our table.

As for me well – as my mother would say – if looks could kill, orange would be my new black!! I was beyond pissed and contemplating what action I was going to take when the man rejoined his group which, remarkably, was seated at the next table from us. There are no coincidences in life – IJS!!

My partner had not heard the full comment, so I enlightened her. Trying to talk me down off my “angry activist” ledge, (after moving all the sharp utensils from my reach) she commented that the man was just a dinosaur whose time was running out.

True but those words that tone. Words have power. You say what you mean and, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you mean what you say.

Words, like ashes from a fire, can remain incendiary long after they’ve been uttered with unintended consequences long after the media firestorm has died down.

Those words – that off-handed bathroom remark alluding to transgender bathroom rights – were just a reminder that many have similar feelings about the place of African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, LGBTQ people and others in our society as second class citizens.

I get it, he was/is just a dinosaur, but the rhetoric of the 2016 political season has, for many of these dinosaurs, defined their last stand. Sadly they have found a gladiator willing to wield all the hate-filled rhetoric used historically to divide those of us in the 99% and extend their hold on power just a little longer.

You would think in this age of “Google,” instant fact-checking, and 24/7 media coverage, we would be a smarter electorate.

However, I’ve seen too much injustice, hatred and inequality to find solace in the fact that the days for his ilk are numbered or that change will come merely by our hoping for the best while remaining silent when confronted by bigotry and ignorance.

I’ve also lived enough years to recognize that greatness is a relative term and for the vast majority of Americans the greatness talked about by Trump-ites has never been a reality only, at best, a dream.

It’s not an impossible dream! It is dream held and passed down – regardless of race, class, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or gender expression – through the generations.

It is the dream best articulated by Martin Luther King Jr. and, despite many advancements, still a dream deferred.

The Langston Hughes’ poem “Montage of a Dream Deferred” begs the question of how a people might react if they have a cherished dream for many generations that has failed to come true. It reads:

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore — And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over– like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”

Hughes was writing at a time when African Americans were still suffering the injustice of Jim Crow laws. Fast forward to 2016, and although Jim Crow may be gone, the net of inequality lives on and has been expanded to include not just African Americans but other communities of color, has crossed boundaries of gender, sexual orientation, race and class and includes the many immigrants who answer Lady Liberty’s call to the “tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

So here we stand at this moment in time. On one side there’s a demand for inclusivity, attention to issues of social justice/equity and the beginning of a social revolution. It did not end when Bernie Sanders was not the nominee but was the beginning of conversations, actions and a movement that might ultimately bring about real change.

On the other side, well there’s that call to “make America great again” building upon racist, bigoted, and xenophobic tactics that historically have only diminished the country not made it great – NEVER!

Grace Lee Boggs once said, “We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other.” We are stronger not just in our communities, our country and our world when we work to attain not just the American dream but a global dream of equality, social, environmental and economic justice for all instead of kicking the can down the road on the backs of those less fortunate or different from the status quo.

Any crackpot can make statements in the media that fan the flames of hatred, insecurity and fear. Words have power. Even if retracted, walked back or claimed to be sarcasm, once uttered words take on a life of their own and the results can be divisive, tragic and even fatal.

As Sweet Brown (no relation) said in her infamous You Tube Video “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!!”

Let’s be stronger together, not just at the polls in November, but each and every day. Stand up for what you believe in; push back against hate speech; fight for all our dreams; love who you love boldly, proudly and unapologetically. Claim your space in this expanding, intersectional world and be OUT!! There’s room on our rainbow wave for every one because we ARE stronger together.

Posted in 2016 Elections, Arts & Entertainment, Creating Change, lgbt, literature, Poetry, Pop Culture, Queer, Social Justice Issues, Transgender, World events | Leave a comment

New Poetry: A Prayer for True Colors

A Prayer for True Colors
By Michelle E. Brown 07/2016
 
I pray.
 
God, Goddess, 
Father, Mother
Universe, 
I pray.
I pray not to be that vortex sucking the air out of the room,
The world and others with my self-importance 
And big ideas.
 
Let me be that welcomed breath of fresh air, 
That cosmic breeze filling space 
With hope, love and ideas.
I pray to recognize the stench is not me, 
It’s only the remnants of some dog shit I’ve stepped in.
I can scrape it off, wash it off, 
Change my course.
I pray not to be a sun blinding others with my light.
Let me be one of many stars shining brightly in the heavens 
Illuminating the dark.
I pray to be more than the sum of boxes,
A color code, an insular group alone in my silo.
 
Help me to be brave, to color outside the lines
To laugh loudly, to sing boldly 
To dance with reckless abandon
To live authentically
Loving wildly, deeply, passionately, 
Unconditionally.
 
More than green, gold, orange or blue
Let my aura be a rainbow of all colors
Embracing every person, every voice, 
Every spirit.
 
God, Goddess, 
Father, Mother
Universe, 
 
I pray.
Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Creative Writing, literature, Love, Poetry, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Social Justice Issues | Leave a comment

From the G-List Society: THE BLACK LGBTQ INFLUENCER: Michelle E. Brown

by Waddie G

The G-List Society profiles an individual whose social platform brings empowerment to constituents, peers and fellow leaders in The Black LGBTQ Influencer weekly column. The Black LGBTQ Influencer column is part of my mission for The G-List Society of empowering and celebrating the greatness of Black LGBTQ people.

This week’s Black LGBTQ Influencer is Detroit activist and radio host Michelle E. Brown.  Brown was selected by me because I have noticed her work as writer and activist by name long before we met.  Since meeting her, my personal and online interactions with Ms. Brown has always been warmingly positive.  Brown is one of the few people in the LGBTQ community I can say without hesitation that her platform is authentically selfless to benefit us LGBTQ people of color. I also feel that she truly cares that I keep up the work that I do for the community.

Read the entire article at: http://www.glistsociety.com/2015/11/the-black-lgbtq-influencer-michelle-e-brown/

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Black identity, Black women, Health and Happiness, lgbt, literature, Pop Culture, Queer, Social Media | Leave a comment

My summer of reading included this audio book

A Review: Isabel Miller’s “Patience and Sarah” Audiobook narrated by Janis Ian and Jean Smart

I am a book nerd, a library card carrying, bibliophile.  There is nothing more satisfying to me than curling up with a good book. A real book – hard cover, paper back – not an e-book but a book I can hold in my hands, turn a page and place a book mark.

My experience with audio books has been limited to road trips. The story broken up by conversations and sometimes left incomplete when the trip ended before the final CD. I found audio books entertaining, yes, but wondered if they could truly be engaging like a “real” book.

With no road trip on the horizon I settled down in my comfy chair, put on my head phones and popped in the first cd of Isabel Miller’s “Patience and Sarah” to see if this audio release of the 1971 historical fiction could meet my expectations.

Knowing the tale was narrated by legendary singer, songwriter Janis Ian and Emmy award winning actress/director Jean Smart heightened my expectations. My curiosity was also piqued by the strong lesbian theme of this historical fiction.

The familiarity of Jean Smart’s voice as Patience White immediately drew me into the story, welcoming me like an old friend into her parlor to tell me the story not only of these two incredible women but providing a window into a time when women’s lives were governed by a code defined by class and male privilege.

From the beginning Smart’s voice paints a picture of Patience not just her curiosity and her passion but how her beliefs are strongly influenced by the affluence she is born into. She has education and property which both inspires her possibilities but initially restricts her own belief that she can attain her dreams.

Smart so convincingly portrays Patience’s amusement, flirtation, seduction and manipulation of Sarah Dowling that I was at times infuriated by her games while at the same time titillated by Patience’s expression of love, growing passion and those kisses.

With the slightest inflection of her voice Smart is able to seamlessly portray all the characters in Patience’s world not only as an insider sharing religious beliefs, societal attitudes, and expected behaviors but also as an outsider straining at the bits to escape the boundaries of her lot in life.

As  Patience’s world expands with Sarah, she continues to provide insight to that other world where even women of her background are seen but often not heard and those deemed of a lower class, male or female, are at risk and/or in peril simply because of their station in life.

Ian’s Sarah Dowling paints a picture of a different world – A harsher world of hard work, duty and resignation to place. Was Sarah’s love for women nature or nurture? The harshness of her world made her “a boy.” It’s just the way it was there was no son in the family, she was big and strong so she became the son – dressing, working being treated like the male child.

Ian’s raspy reading of Sarah helped you visualize this tall woman/boy walking the fine line between the masculine and the feminine. In the phrasing and use of words as Sarah, her family and the world through Sarah’s eyes, you saw a clearly different world.

Her gender, gender identity and class were like a chain holding Sarah down, denying her the possibility of hope for freedom let alone happiness. The times dictated “it was a man’s world” but even after mastering all manly affectations, Sarah Dowling still found herself the outsider ever fearful of discovery of her womanhood not only by the world but by her own heart as well. The only escape was to escape to a place where she could be free.

As I listened to Ian’s portrayal of Sarah Dowling I thought of her song “Society’s Child.” Sarah was not the person singing the song but the person being sung about. Sarah was called by so many names – an oddity, a runaway servant, an abomination, not welcome inside of respectable homes in 1816 society. She wasn’t Patience’s kind.

Did Ian feel the empathetic resonance between Sarah Dowling and the unnamed “other” in her song and see this as an opportunity to give voice to the person she had written/sang about in her 1965 hit?

Miller’s fiction took place in a world that was not fair to the uneducated, poor, women and those otherwise oppressed who historically searched for that Promised Land where they could begin again and find freedom.

“Patience and Sarah” is historic fiction but so much more. Through Patience and Sarah’s eyes we are able to see a world that once existed and, in some ways, offers insight into some evils we are still wrestling with today.

It is also a story of transformative love. Both women evolve over the course of the novel finding new strength because of their love. As much as they change they gain a greater understanding of and are able to adapt the very things that had, at one time, held them down to help them navigate the road blocks and achieve their goal of living free.

And yes, it is a love story that is tender, sensual and passionate with all the ups and downs of any relationship. It’s a story of women loving women in all its complexity, beauty and sweet kisses.

Kudos to Janis Ian and Jean Smart. They took Ms. Miller’s novel and, with their remarkable voices alone, brought not only the characters but their world to life.

I still love a good book but the audiobook of Isabel Miller’s “Patience and Sarah,” available September 15th, narrated by Janis Ian and Jean Smart gave me a literary eargasm of epic proportion. Don’t wait for a road trip to indulge yourself.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Creative Writing, literature, Love, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Women | Leave a comment

It’s SPRINGTIME!!!!!

It is SPRING. Embracing the rituals – cleaning, recycling/discarding things I no longer use. Re-imaging my look. Recognizing that great looks never go out of style, they just need new accesories or to get passed on to someone else!!!

Ode to the Skinny Jeans

By Michelle E. Brown

Skinny jeans, I love you

And judging by the way you hug my curves

Accentuate my legs

Smile back at me in the mirror

You still love me too

But skinny jeans, I’ve change

I’ve grown up

I’ve learned to love me

Really love me

With all my curves

All my perfect imperfections

Even those extra few pounds

I’ve picked up along the way.

Skinny jeans I love the look

But you see, I’ve moved on

I no longer need those smiles

Those sighs, those looks

Seeing myself coming and going

In others wearing their skinny jeans

Skinny jeans, I’m loving me

Me in my bright colors

My one of a kind style

Exotic, wild and free

I’m loving my own crazy style

So skinny jeans

Bye-Bye!

Posted in Black women, literature, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Women | Leave a comment