Invisible Child

She called her living arrangement “the house,” even after her family was moved into one cramped room. She choreographed her own privacy, taking turns with her siblings to undress while the others looked away. They maneuvered around the shelter’s rules as well. Residents were banned from bringing in bleach, yet the janitors refused to clean the bathrooms. So the children swiped the janitors’ bleach and scrubbed the floors themselves. On the outside, Dasani seemed steady. She kept a poker face when the staff scolded her thirty-three-year-old mother as if Chanel were a cheeky adolescent. Yet these episodes left their mark. “Sometimes it feels like, ‘Why you guys messin’ with my mom?'” To mess with Chanel was to mess with Dasani. There was no separating mother from daughter. They felt the same anger, the same humiliation. Feelings passed between them like oxygen.

Still, Channel tried to shield Dasani from the worst things… Smaller degradations were part of daily life.

—  Andrea Elliott, Invisible Child Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City (Random House, October 5, 2021)


One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by New York Times Book Review: “Dasani Showed Us What It’s Like to Grow Up Homeless. She’s Still Struggling.”

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

You tell people up here that you’re from the South, and nine times out of ten, they say the same old thing: “I’m sure you miss the sunshine.” Rhonda and I both miss taking sunshine and easy morning commutes for granted. But what we really miss are the laughter and embrace of our mothers and grandmothers and aunties, kin and not kin. We miss the big oak tables in their dining rooms where, as kids in the seventies and eighties, we ate bowl after bowl of their banana pudding as they talked to each other about how much weight you’d gained, like you weren’t even there. We miss helping them snap green beans and shell peas sitting at their kitchen tables watching The Young and the Restless on the TV perched on the pass-through. We miss how they loved Victor Newman, hated Jill Foster, and envied Miss Chancellor and how she dripped diamonds and chandeliers.

We miss their bare brown arms reaching to hang clothes on the line with wooden pins. We miss their sun tea brewed all day in big jars on the picnic table in the backyard, then later loaded with sugar and sipped over plates of their fried chicken in the early evening. We miss lying next to them at night in their four-poster beds with too-soft mattresses covered by ironed sheets and three-generation-old blankets. We miss their housecoats, perfumed with Absorbine Jr. liniment and hints of the White Shoulders they’d spritzed on from an atomizer that morning before church. We miss tracing the soft folds in their skin when we held hands and watched our favorite TV shows in their beds. Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, and Falcon Crest.

We miss how they laughed and were easy with each other. How their friendships lasted lifetimes, outlasting wayward husbands and ungrateful children. Outlasted that time Alma caught Joe cheating and she whacked him on the top of the head with the sword he’d brought back from the war, but he told the people at the hospital he didn’t know who did it. Outlasted having to hide your medicine bottles in your shoes because, otherwise, seven of your nine children were liable to steal them. We miss how they seemed to judge everyone but themselves. Or maybe that judgment was in the “nerve” pills they procured from the Chinese doctor on Bay St. who didn’t ask questions. We miss their furtive cups of brown liquor on Friday and unabashed cries for Jesus come Sunday.

We miss their one gold tooth that made us wonder who they had been as young women. We miss their blue crabs, the shells boiled to a blood red in wash tubs atop bricks over makeshift fires built in the yard. The wash tubs reminded us of cauldrons, full of rock salt– and cayenne-drenched water bubbling and rolling, mesh bags of seasonings and halved onions and peppers floating on top, along with potatoes and ears of corn. We miss how they stood over those cauldrons like witches, stirring a potion. With sweat beading on the tips of their noses and smoke swirling around their hands and wrists, they wielded long-handled spoons to press the frantic, flailing crabs toward their deaths.

We miss how they made our Easter dresses and pound cakes and a way out of no way.

Deesha Philyaw, from “Snowfall” in “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” (West Virginia Press, September, 2020)


Notes:

  • Let’s rate this book as: “Wow.” And Highly Recommended.  Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. Winner of the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award, and so deserving.
  • Kirkus Book Review: “Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.”
  • Los Angeles Review of Books:  “Her characters create intimacy and have hope, not despite their ugly odds but because of them.”

MLK Day: Championing Black Beauty

“London-based photography and film duo The Masons create images that spell out new perspectives on representation and beauty; their work reveals the multidimensionality of black existence and the power of vulnerability. Their images are intimate and timeless, and their style is bold and dramatic. Partners in life and business, Maruska and Donna-Marie Mason are known for their exquisite photography and for their unapologetic engagement with dark skin. The duo’s imagery is defined by a relaxed sensitivity, and stands out for its exploration of diversity, equality, and creativity. Through their advertising, editorial, fashion, and portraiture photography, The Masons tell compelling tales of black existence, capturing not only the physical beauty of their subjects, but also their aura, the personalities of the models, and their stories.”  Don’t miss more photos and their website here: The Masons’ or @ ignant.com here: The Masons’ Photographs Champion Black Beauty.

This way. This way.

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I follow the sound
past a black window
where a bird sits
like a blacker question,
To where? To where? To where?

~ Li-Young Lee, from “Furious Versions,” in The City in Which I Love You


Credits: Poem Source: metaphorformetaphor. Image: Nini Poppins

I wear black.

yohji yamamoto, color black, psychology,introvert


Yōji Yamamoto (山本 耀司, born 1943, is a Japanese fashion designer based in Tokyo and Paris. He is among the master tailors whose work is thought to be of genius and has been described as probably the only designer you could name who has 60-year-olds who think he’s incredible and 17-year-olds who think he’s way cool.  His more prestigious awards for his contributions to fashion include the Japanese Medal of Honor, the Ordre national du Mérite, the Royal Designer for Industry and the Master of Design award by Fashion Group International.” (Source: Wiki)


Image Source: middlenameconfused

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