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 These poems, essays and stories thus represent my effort to think more clearly,

to work out problems; they constitute "my momentary stay against confusion,"

my effort  to  attend to the interior life

 

 

Homage to My People

Poems and Essays

 

By Rose Ure Mezu  

Introduction

 

Thinking is the activity I love best, and writing is simply thinking through my fingers.

- - Isaac Asimov

Without knowing the force of  words,  it is impossible to know men. 

-- Confucius

For my people ... tied and shackled  and
tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh . . .
For my people standing staring trying to fashion
a better way  from confusion from hypocrisy
and misunderstanding . . .
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born
Let a . . . generation  full of courage issue forth
let a people loving freedom come to growth. . .
Let the dirges disappear.
Let a race of men now  rise and take control!

-- Margaret Walker

This second collection of poems, essays and stories represents a more deliberate attempt at  poetic and esthetic experimentation.  For a long time after Songs of the Hearth (1993), I sincerely believed  that I would not be able to write any more poetry.  I felt that within that first volume is contained every possible range of emotions, desires, prayers and so on. I thought I had written my heart out. At appropriate moments, I would look up the particular poem to suit the need of the present and read it over again.  

It was therefore with great surprise that I found myself  beginning once again to scribble down (sometimes on any available scrap of paper) thoughts, emotions, needs and questions as they would occur to me.  Whenever the inspiring thought flashed through my mind (sometimes even while driving), I would pull up by the roadside and scribble; I would sleep and wake up and scribble feverishly because experience has thought me that if I do not, I would forget the particular inspiration. Thus, I had learnt to trust my intuitions and dreams  that much.  

In essence, I now know that I have to, and must continually write because human beings are not static and neither are their thoughts.  People grow daily in their thoughts, and in the emotions they feel as they go through different life experiences. My earlier feelings on issues, or even my perception of  the same people would in time change. This is the dynamic process of organic growth which is continual. Change is thus the only constant there is.

These poems, essays and stories thus represent my effort to think more clearly, to work out problems; they constitute "my momentary stay against confusion," my effort  to  attend to the interior life, to explore new feelings and to gauge the quality of both old and new experiences.  I accept now what I have always known - that writing for me is a continuing act of survival.  It is as indispensable  as sleep or fresh air.  Without writing, life would become cluttered and dreams would remain hazy. 

Consequently, many of the poems serve as a gauge of the growth of my philosophical, political and spiritual life.  "Thinking through my fingers," I can keep track of the various stages of my growth as a thinking person, the different kinds of challenges that daily confront both me and the people I know and love, and how these challenges are met and overcome.

I mention dreams as a vibrant source of inspiration because I have from experience learnt to decode my dreams sufficiently to recognize a foreshadowing of some probable future events, to listen to an internal alarm system quickening me to intensify prayer as a  means to forestall imminent calamity.  Another source of prescience  perhaps more vital is my intuitive feeling.  For me Intuition  means an inner knowingness that comes from the spiritual depth of me that connects me with the wisdom of God and which I rate higher than the rational mind.  It represents the voice of the spirit ever gently but insistently helping me  in crises, urging me to avoid dangers or to take risks or to renew, stretch and re-invent the Self. 

Susan L. Taylor, Essence editor-in-chief and a kindred spirit sums up intuition as "the synthesis of heart, mind and soul working to expand awareness and understanding." Intuition is an inner knowing that links me to the wisdom of God. A moment in my life when I failed to heed the urging of that inner warning not to travel and nearly perished in an aborted air-crash decided me to pay close attention to this hidden but vibrant part of  Me.  Some of the poems therefore testify to the activities of this inner monitoring agency - my intuition.

As earlier mentioned, this collection contains a deliberate effort to construct thought-concepts  and to experiment with word usage.  The essays are an elaboration in prose of  concepts, themes, beliefs already dealt with  in poetic form.  Conversely, some of the poems synthesize  more tightly thoughts verbalized in prose.  This exercise has afforded me immense pleasure as I see  myself struggling to find just the right words, to turn ideas into just the right phrase, to write and to rewrite, to formulate the more appropriate ideological or philosophical conviction.  The crafting and the search for appropriate words prompt me towards a better appreciation of  T.S. Eliot's concern for the "integrity" of  language -- the pains of its crafting.  In "Four Quartets" for instance, T. S. Eliot paints the agony and the ecstasy involved in crafting just the  right word -- the pain of turning words into just the right phrase or sentence:

Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a whole new start and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the things one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.......
And every phrase
And sentence that is right (every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning
every poem an epitaph         

(Four Quartets in Bergonzi 33).

This search for the integrity ‘magic' of language becomes la force inspiratrice for these poems.

Even more personally significant, this search is indeed a quest to rediscover, deepen and renew with "the force" of words what it is I believe in about my family, my culture, my race, my spirituality and my Faith. Faith is of cardinal importance in any spiritual life.  As many before me discovered, Faith is a precious but very fragile gem that must be guarded carefully lest it be lost in a beach of gleaming pebbles. Like a plant, faith has to be watered and  nurtured constantly, nay, minute by minute or one faces  the risk of seeing it ossify and die off.  

The alternative to a life of faith is spiritual and moral if not physical decay and death.  The daily events that happen to us continually confront and test the quality of this faith and at times seem to want to overwhelm and crush it.  I find that faith is about Love or Trust - that has to be affirmed and reaffirmed and treasured. Faith represents the building blocks with which to construct that one edifice of Love that towers above all others. 

The poems on Faith epitomize my struggle to recapture, deepen and hold on to this gift. These poems seek to capture my struggle even when I fall, to not give in to despair but to summon up a cheerful determination to rise above fear, and to take that one step that will re-energize me on the march of life; it is a faith that gently explains courage as being not the absence of fear but right and constant action despite fear; it is a faith that finally urges an absolute trust needed to flow with the tide of life, believing that by God's grace, joy and relief are around the corner. 

It is for these reasons that the short story "The View from Above - Resurrection" holds a particular appeal for in it are subsumed the core principles that have guided my life.  The construction of the story helped to clarify and synthesize themes that run like a thread through many of the poems as well as philosophical concepts that have haunted me for a number of years - such concepts as life and death, God and the After-life,  my Catholic Faith and the place of the human Self in the cosmic scheme of things.  Its writing still excites me because it is a fictional exercise which enabled me to  experiment with plot, dialogue and above all Surprise as a narrative trope. 

Family has always been an indispensable base of operation.  Children, husband, parents, relatives, friends, country and people of the world make up our universe and without these, there is no world, no life. Several poems speak of the pain of separation, homesickness,  unspeakable anguish at the prospect of near-total loss, gratitude to Almighty God for the miracle of survival, a daily invocation of vigilant angel guards for  constant protection. The spiritual poems include also my homage to that holy man of prayers, Pope John Paul II, an inspiring model for all the aged and all sufferers of illnesses as, stooped with years, constantly in pain, he soldiers on for Christ, courageously, despite criticisms, performing his official duties.  

My family home, Akwuosa represents a haven always.  In the essay and poems that speak of this abode of love, Akwuosa assumes a human character because I feel for this hallowed space in which I raised my children as I would feel for a loved and absent family member.  Anyone familiar with the kind of love Russians feel for their native soil will understand my homesickness at being away from Akwuosa.

Politics and the state of the nation both in the United States of America and in Nigeria two countries that are both home to me equally preoccupy my waking thoughts. Problems infesting the world especially these two countries in form of devastating wars, all forms of social injustice, increasing juvenile violence, the importance of the Vote in the democratic process, the threatening extinction of the traditional Family structure as we know it. Also, poverty and global racism receive their share of attention.  Equally important is my love / concern for the African race, for a needed understanding and an  ideological if not geographical rapprochement among peoples of African descent.  

The misconception, the distrust and at times the cultural discrimination  that exist amongst Blacks are explored and it is my hope as we struggle to teach, write, lecture and interact with one another that in time Black people will re-discover what earlier Black nationalists knew and suffered for:  that the fate of all Black peoples is inextricably linked irrespective of geographical location and cultural specificity.  La lutta continua and this verbalized poetic effort to keep peoples of African descent together remains  my individual contribution to the ongoing struggle for an equitable and dignified existence.  This Black Nationalist Ideal also informed the Conferences and the Writers' Forum I founded and organized at Morgan State University known as Writers of African Descent Speak on Black Creativity and the State of the Race (1996 - 99).

In the end, every piece of writing boils down to Character or who we are as persons.  The English novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy believed that character is fate.  Any lover of his novels, be it The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of D'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure or Far From the Madding Crowd, et al, will easily agree to the truth of his assertion that character is fate.  And writing is the one tool that enables us to dig and delve into the deepest recesses of our very being to drag out the reality of who we are, the stuff of which we are made (character). Writing as a thinking activity enables us, to clear the forest of impediments, to resolve confusion and frustrations that cloud our sojourn in this life; writing empowers us to crystallize our personal qualities and show how our character has determined our actions and therefore our fate.   

Some of the poems thus represent the steps of my growth and the nectar and  ambrosia of success at achieving things which I hitherto believed I could not do.  Those are my motivational poems of which the creation reassured me that nothing is ever impossible.  Their composition convinced  me of the truth that one succeeds at anything to the degree that one believes that the specific endeavor is worthwhile and achievable.  As the cliché goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained!"  This belief is woven like a delicate thread through the fabric of  these poems.

All of these endeavors culminate in the expression of Me as a Woman, as a Black woman and as a black African woman. These different aspects of Me have become a limitless quarry of scriptive materials helping me to achieve  authenticity, subjectivity and transcendence.  Given the historic devaluation of the woman and even more pertinent, the global denigration and marginalization of the Black (African) woman, writing empowers me to courageously and without apology listen inwardly and define my essence as a thinking woman. The ability to wield words emboldens me to brazenly verbalize and give utterance to my thoughts and feelings as possessing  intrinsic beauty and  worth.  Manipulating ideas enlivens me to affirm  the grace and magic of  writing as a boon from a  higher Divinity.  Writing represents the Truth as I see it, no one else's but my own Truth, my own philosophy and my own vision du monde, so to say.

Evidently then, this collection has a lot to do with Words: the construction, the use, the beauty of words. As expressed in the opening lines of the essay "The Power of  the Word (Nommo) and Social Change," words  have a life and a power all of their own, in themselves and over all else.  Words  have infinitely more power than the physical brains that conceive them. Words cause things to become; they give life.  New Testament Christian theologos by declaring that "[i]n  principio erat Verbum, et Verbum est cum Deus, et Verbum est Deus In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" – expands even further the potent force of the "Word [which] became flesh and dwelt among us" (The Gospel according to St. John).  

Similarly,  African traditional folklogos reinforces the New Testament Christian theologos that life can be said to also spring from the thunderous potency of "Words" -- a fact that is made clear in the excerpt of a Wapangwa Creation myth from Tanzania quoted below:

The sky was large, white and very clear.  It was empty; there were no stars and no moon; only a tree stood in the air, and there was no wind.  This tree fed on atmosphere, and ants lived on it. Wind, tree, ants and atmosphere were controlled by the power of the word. But the word was not something that could be seen.  It was a force that enabled one thing to create another. 

Since "the  power of the word . . . was not something that could be seen . . . [but] a force that enabled one thing to create another," to command with words is indeed  to practice "magic" so to say. To practice "word magic"  is literally and figuratively to write poetry.  Who then has more power to change negative realities, to effect social change for the betterment of the world than the writer, the poet who is  griot or wordsmith creating and empowering with words, erecting verbalized edifices of peace and harmony with the building blocks of words, causing change to become with words expressed as ideas which in turn move the hearts of people and transform the world. In the final analysis, writing is all about the authentic Self.  

To the degree that one writes effectively, writing becomes an exercise not only in Self-discovery, but in Self-affirmation, validation and transcendence. 

Tenderly, using words, I pay this homage of love to my people and to all peoples of our universe. And to you, Reader; come and journey with me on this odyssey of search and discovery, renewal and affirmation, validation and final triumph over limitations.  At our journey's end,  may You, I pray, find in this collection, the force and  magic of the written word, discover the authenticity of Self and the joy of Faith recaptured!                  

Dr. Rose Ure Mezu, April 2001

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What is in Time?

Close your eyes
Open your eyes
Behold what was not
Become what is

Dark night gives way to sun rays
Rain clouds yield to rainbows
Dreams for which the heart pined
Become the concrete Present

And so I ask,
What is in Time? 

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Now

Now is the present moment
Now is the time of Becoming
All that we're capable of being.

Yesterday is past, dead and gone
And with it all the ills we've done.
All unfulfilled plans merely seem
Like memories of what could've been.

Tomorrow is pregnant with dreams unborn
The future is a pot of Hopes yet unboiled -
Dim visions only capable of Becoming.

But Now is the Real Moment
To be all that we really can
Building on the failures of Yesterday
Buoyed by dreamed visions of Tomorrow
All capable of becoming because of  Now

For Now is the Only Time we have
To make dreams be concrete action
Now can seize Tomorrow by its horn
Now can arise and make the Moment be:

More than memories of Yesterday
Or dreamed  visions of Tomorrow
Now becomes the Best
This Now can ever Be!

Source: Rose Ure Mezu. Homage to My People. Baltimore: Black Academy Press, Inc., 2004.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011
 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Price of Civilization

Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

The Price of Civilization is a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we have profoundly underestimated globalization’s long-term effects on our country, which create deep and largely unmet challenges with regard to jobs, incomes, poverty, and the environment. America’s single biggest economic failure, Sachs argues, is its inability to come to grips with the new global economic realities. Sachs describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. . . . Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around. He argues persuasively that the problem is not America’s abiding values, which remain generous and pragmatic, but the ease with which political spin and consumerism run circles around those values. He bids the reader to reclaim the virtues of good citizenship and mindfulness toward the economy and one another.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 20 May 2008 

 

 

 

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