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When my friend Toni Blackman said in her most dramatic way: “Call your power back! Call It! Call it all back!” I said, “what’s the number?”

This is not a trick question but a serious one. It’s a question one might ask when life has had its way, and they look through glazed eyes to see a person they no longer recognize. That person slowly shrank from view after being bullied, unjustly fired from a job, disgraced by a mate, swallowed one rejection too many, perceived their life as a failure because a dream became stalled, an idea fell flat, or their business unravels after giving it one more try, and they struggle to bounce back from a hurt so profound their insides are curled into a self-protective ball.

I have witnessed life’s long game in people I grew up with who I thought had the “world in a jug.” These folks voted most popular, best dressed, most intelligent, most likely to succeed and any other high school moniker given after counting sheets of torn paper forget what others saw in them because life’s fire bubbled their skin. No one told them these labels would be tested not one time but many times until they believed their own narrative. Now, what they chose to believe is evidenced by where they decided to stop. Some became paralegals instead of the next Shirley Chisolm their girl self-envisioned. Some became civil servants instead of serving as the next black anchor on nightly news. Some decided to work in a bakery instead of own one; drive a bus instead of

traveling the world, become a stripper instead of a teacher or throw away their paints, easels, canvases, and brushes to secure and guard unimaginative, bare green hospital halls.

In search for an answer, my daughter told me it is a matter of not confusing “a resource with the source.” Resource is what one uses to assist in their productivity; however, the “source” is God who works and serves as one’s reminder of their purpose and their power. One cannot depend on people to be a resource to keep them buoyed in hope and faith. That is inner work.

Being in power is a constant walk; it’s not wishy washy. It’s a practice just like prayer. It means one will have to remember, and revisit that 20-year-old self who believed in their promise and possibility. It is a return to that “hell no! You got me twisted self” who will not allow others to tell them who “they” believe they are or ought to be. It means giving grace to well-traveled feet with the ability to recreate the self and to rework or to reimagine a new dream. To be in power means to call on it when life delivers its hardest hit and to understand and know a wobble does not mean a fall.

I woke up this morning with poetry on mind. This being poetry month a time when we make ceremony to bow to the power of words, I decided to share to give space and praise to Toni Morrison one of the most dynamic word smiths I have ever had the pleasure to read and to meet. What writer or writers will your pen sing praise for this month? Here’s my salute:


In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Baby Suggs without practiced hymnal or choir. Sermons, praise dancers leaping from weeping trees, crimson streamers in hand, casting spells lifted off tongues of world weathered, naked belly women, sliding around life on flattened slipper backs or no shoes at all, chewing, always chewing, gnashing on wisdom wet tales, tilting bodies into lean, posting up at Furnaces hot with memory. A Paradise lost. Browning blue-eyed wishes dyed in communal longing, worrying, worrying, worrying about the edges of their hair; their kookleberries kneeling in perms, worshiping love weary Black men: Everybody want the life of a black man. Everybody... And black women, they want your whole self. Can’t she criticize whom she loves? It is about love. Songs sobbing, soughing into brisk winds, stinging creased skins. Our survival needing Seven Days to right it. Flight being an acceptable option, homemade papier mache, super-man cloak wings ascending claw foot spirits, ancestral myths wrapping damp, drooping dreams for departure homeward bound.

Toni was just cool. ‘Round mid-night, words to a Monk melody- Cool. Talkin, walkin’ NY streets down a soul-train line bumpin’ afros with Angela Davis- Cool. Smooth talking Guitar cool: You think because he doesn’t love you that you are worthless … that he’s correct…You can’t lose what you don’t own? Sula cool. Sitting there with that yellow ribbon in her hair getting chumped by love cuz she forgot it can snuggle, pinch, move on without clamps, wrenches or screws keepin’ it in place. Shadrack said “Always” bow legged, walking madness, treading water enough to quench thirst, too much to avoid suicide. Always a vigil on present dangers. She was so cool, she didn’t need clay or crayons to make her own self, letting it drop like a plate if it must. She was a signifying shape shifter, loosening operatic high notes, disrupting sound, with love, she reached under America’s skirt to pull up her umber hem.

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