Teach the Youth: “Goddess Lessons 101″

I didn’t choose to be a single parent but I also didn’t wallow in the perceived sorrow of it. I stood up to the challenge and though everyday is a mini struggle, my daughter and I are fine. She is a goddess in training and I am the guidance that lights her way daily. I became a mother at the end of a relationship. And I have never regretted this decision.

Absent parent: A parent who does not live with their child but has financial responsibility for them. Also known as the non-custodial parent.

I recently finished a 10-month ordeal within the walls of Family Court. Interestingly, I began these proceedings when my daughter was 2yrs old. I opened the case of joint custody and visitation rights at a time when rose-colored glasses were still in. I know, it sounds crazy. On the one hand, I actually went through the effort to do this and on the other hand, he ignored my effort and forgot about us for the next decade.

Breath training is a basic tool with many uses, and children age four and up can learn and use breath effectively. Start by practicing these techniques through exercises yourself. When you’ve experienced the benefits and feel confident, it’s time to teach the children.

Once the actual court proceedings started, deep inside I was hopeful that in his absence he actually grew up and wanted to be a part of her life. I was elated and surprisingly, relieved. I was running out of excuses for him as my child aged and her questions became harder to answer. Unfortunately, on the first day of court I realized that he had not grown and was in fact trying to teach me a lesson by dragging us through embarrassing legal motions that I could never directly answer because of how he set it up.

Keeping children safe is a powerful primal urge. Our concern tinges every parting, just as our gratitude infuses every reunion. Fear’s presence is subtle but constant: the pause at their bedroom door to hear gentle breathing, the quick inventory of new friends’ homes for hazards.

Over the last year, I’ve watched him get overnight visits and then lose these privileges. I’ve watched him argue custody, citing that I’ve been blocking and then him not able to define blocking since that implies being present in our lives. I’ve watched him show up in court wearing brown suits with different women on his arm and then follow this up by contesting child support payments wearing old sweats and a backpack. All the while, I’ve listened to him regurgitate the same story from our daughter’s toddler days, not acknowledging the blooming woman who stood before him.

Take a walk after the rain and splash in puddles. Find a running gutter or tiny stream and float leaves or twigs out to sea. Water to clean and Water to feed.

Our last day in court found me on the stand articulating truth that only a parent who has been present the entire time could. With no hate, no ulterior motive, only the health of my daughter foremost in my brain. And when judgment fell in my favor, it felt like an enormous weight lifted off my back. All these months of confusion, depression, increased blood pressure, evaporated.  But even as I left, his shame couldn’t stop his hateful tongue to lash out at me. He shared no blessings to the one human that has poured unconditional love around his child. No apology. No head bowed.  No thank you escaped from his lips.

No ritual can do as much to teach children to love nature as a friendship with a real tree. Nature teaches a wonderful lesson about the mystery of life: that everything changes and everything stays the same.

I share this to help in the healing process of many single parents. It is not acceptable to be Missing In Action. It is not okay to be a deadbeat.  If your ‘adult’ decision is that you will not step up to the plate, then step off. It doesn’t make it easier on the tribe to have you reappear when you think you’re ready. That reasoning is not only selfish but a disservice to your child.

I am thankful that the men that I’ve chosen to surround her with have earned her respect. Words are powerful and I believe in their mana. I also believe that action speaks louder than words and that our children are always watching…

“Coit Tower” by TuffGyal 808

Sydney Cain: Visual Artist

                            SAGE   This is Sage by Tuffgyal808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Sage: Yes, San Francisco born and raised.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Sage: I’ve always enjoyed drawing & painting. I knew for sure in high school anything I do in life art would be involved.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Sage: Unseen realities. Myths. Bass. Silence. Copperpeople. Things that are someway familiar and help us remember our origins.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Sage: First vinyl was Bobbi Humphrey and more like free stuff on the corner.

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote?

Sage: There are no secrets.


smells of sweetness lead me to my past

as powerful music enters my soul

it helps   almost pushes   kindly forces me to create

movement and gesture combined with perfect faith

full moon pushed along passion

as a Brown Woman in red soaks in china rain at midnight

she presses play on a random tape   3 or 4 shades of Mingus roll off her breath

and i too am looking for the flowers that bloom

empowerment wrapped in that sheet of music

while the Black butterflies emerge taking flight on the Underground Railroad

we all need time.   we all need truth.

funk. soul. jazz. love.   it’s all relative.

it turned out not to be a session of free form improvisation

but set pieces perfectly performed

a lyrical interlude transformed by passion

leads me to my knowledge of self

you can see forever when you reap what you sow

there’s a profound eroticism in such a freedom

it brings divine suppleness and strength

i am when all is fierce

rebirth of incense and gardenias

i gather the stories of the sacred circle

and they tell me to turn around and go home to the waking of your soul

once there i find that the land is still giving birth in the silences

images float by on a dragonfly

forcing me to embrace the power of language and it is deep

like the moving sea between shores remind me

that nothing is worth more than today.

Mingus Amungus @Monterey Jazz Festival 95-96
dancers (Malia Connor, Tricia Perkins, Laila Jenkins-Perez) performing a yanvalou, photo by Jaan Jap

Paris King: Musician

ParisLake Merritt by Tuffgyal808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Paris: Yes, I am a native.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Paris: 35 years ago, when I was 3 years old, my parents got a piano and my grandmother got an electric organ. I began formal piano lessons at age 5, in the first grade.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Paris: Scott Joplin first, later Prince, Hendrix, Aretha, Stevie… and then I turned 14. I was into comic books, and Rasputin Used Records was on Telegraph between Comics and Comix and Blondie’s pizza. The first record I got was Lucille by BB King.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Paris: I think it was the first Miami Sound Machine record, I liked “The Conga”. Didn’t yet know what salsa was, but I felt it. I remember Tears For Fears album with Shout on it was hot in 4th grade. I also remember copping Musique Non Stop by Kraftwerk, and the first Fine Young Cannibals record, with “Johnny Come Home” on it. The revelatory life-changer was in 7th grade, when I was gifted a bootleg cassette of Sign Of The Times, which had The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker on it… and came with a concert movie. Plus… I discovered the concept of playing all the instruments and writing yourself. That was it. I was sold.

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? Paris: Once it has rules, it’s no longer art.





James Gayles: Painter

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? James: Not a native. I’m from the East Coast, Newark, NJ, Manhattan, Brooklyn. I’ve been living here half my life – 32 years.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? James: As far back as I can remember, so far I don’t even recall the beginning…..I do know I was jammin in kindergarten.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? James: My inspiration comes from everywhere, from life, from my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual environment, from other artists, other art forms, dance theater music and so on.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? James: Don’t remember. But I do remember my Mom had the greatest Jazz collection I have ever seen. I mean she had everybody Bird, Coltrane, Dizzy, Miles, Cannonball, Ornette, Dolphy, the Duke, the Count, Billie, Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Carmen, Nina, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Jazz Messengers, the Jazz Crusaders……I mean everybody!!! I remember everyday coming home from high school, picking something out, flopping down in my Dad’s easy chair and being transported to another dimension. I know I didn’t really answer your question but those times really let an impression on me, they help shape my artistic temperament.

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? James: This is a tough one. There are countless funny jokes and an unlimited supply of meaningful quotes. But I am one who can’t recall any. But wait there is one that pops into my mind that is both funny and meaningful..or not. “When considering LIFE, look at the doughnut and not the hole.”
Don’t know the origin of that or if it makes any sense but I’ll leave you with that. 🙂



Jern Eye: HipHop MC, 1/3 of Lunar Heights

Jern Eyephoto by Tuffgyal808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Jern: I grew up in L.A., but have lived in Oakland since November 99′. It’s definitely become my home, and I’ve been blessed that folks in the town have accepted me as one of it’s own. I can foresee spending the rest of my life here, less I move to some place cool like Paris or Tokyo.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Jern: I started rapping in 91′ but didn’t take it serious until High School. Then in my senior year in 96′ I met Sizwe, whom I started Lunar Heights with. He was a big reason I made my move to Oakland in 99′. During that time there was a huge creative movement between us, a few painters, poets, and this Hip-Hop band named Mission: who are now known as Crown City Rockers. Making rap songs with real musicians really helped with developing my musicality, and being efficient in the studio.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Jern: Inspiration changes all the time. I’d like to think my music reflects where I am in life, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I haven’t had much output in the last few years since my 09′ release “Vision”, but I’ve been really enjoying doing other things like riding and racing my bicycle, writing short poems, cooking, and hiking. I’ve found the more detached I am from music, the more I have to offer when it comes down to creating it. I’m not too worried about having high output like most artists are, because I’m happy with the quality of songs I’m writing at this time.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Jern: The very first Hip Hop record I purchased on my own was RUN D.M.C. “Raising Hell”. I still have that too. Prior to that there were a few records that were handed down to me from older DJ friends, and eventually started digging on my own.

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? Jern: To everyone who’s supported my music, whether it was Lunar Heights or solo shit, thank you! I’ve met and worked with some amazing people, and have done some pretty cool shit up to this point, so I’m grateful to the Universe for it. I could only strive to be the best me, and hope folks connect with that frequency. Forward ever.


Afele Ulualofaiga Coleman: DJ Activist

photo by Tuffgyal808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Afele: I consider myself a Bay Area Native because I lived most of my Life here.. pretty much since I was a baby, mostly in SF, Bayshore and Geneva all day.. but I was born in Torrance,CA.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Afele: I feel like I was set on this path since birth. As far as really finding my voice and using my words/music/other kinds of art to express myself (and to express my gratitude for the Growth I have found within my Life) I am really just beginning.. with new eyes and a new found fearlessness that only comes from overcoming certain trials and tribulations. Love is the foundation.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Afele: It could be in my baby nieces smile or a quiet conversation with one of my closest aunties; in my Polynesian Roots, nature, struggles or within my Sisters and Brothers; it could be a night out with my cousins, at family gatherings or a spontaneous conversation with a stranger… The Bay Area! Meeting and connecting with people such as yourself is always a Blessing and very inspirational.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Afele: hmmm… wow! Its been a long time since then, dang I can’t even remember and I don’t have too much of a vinyl collection but the first record I ended up scratching the hell out of as a kid, on my regular ass turntables,was my Uncles copy of the “Do The Right Thing” soundtrack. lol!! I used to try my best to cut that thang up and emulate what I heard on the radio.

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? Afele: I Love all of my Family! I Love that God never gave up on me and has set me on a path that I am still getting used to. I am truly grateful for all the wonderful people that I have been meeting and connecting with, and for the opportunities for Growth that come with that. I wasn’t always so unafraid to express myself but I hope that whoever reads this will find their voice and the courage to express themselves from their Heart. My ultimate goal in Life is to buy my Mom a house… yup, not rent. Its time to connect and be a positive influence on each other… encourage each other to grow and progress and let Love and compassion be the foundation. Together, We can! One last thing: I want to share an old Samoan proverb that has become one of my favorites, “We are moved by Love but never driven by intimidation.” OneLove!