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

Tumani Onabiyi: Photographer


Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Tumani: Yes, Oakland, California from the age of 6 months.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Tumani: Started as a child learning how to make things and they were good enough to sell at age 7.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Tumani: Then black consciousness movement was the beginning of the photographic path that then extended into video. Then Festac 77 and the motherland consciousness brought us into the folkloric arts and the drums. The AfroCentric movement in the 1980’s put the academic and philosophic foundation to another level where upon we began to use folkloric traditions for contemporary purpose in our community. This became healing. And so it goes on and is everywhere.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Tumani: James Brown Live At the Apollo, Vol 2, ..2 record set LP.

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

Tumani:  “Learning is the light that leads to everything lovely.”


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.

Rocky Seker: Owner of Black Cinema At Large

Rocky1st Fridays by Tuffgyal808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Rocky: This is yes and no. I’ve lived in the Bay off and on since I was six, (born in D.C. while my father went to Howard) and grew up in Oakland. But I was shipped off back East every summer to relatives from June to September in NJ/NY, and lived in New York for 5 years, so I identify with both coasts.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Rocky: I’ve been a film lover ever since I can remember…also an activist. Both can be directly attributed to my father, who took me to a zillion movies since maybe 3 years old, and had to deal with massive amounts of racism in the 70’s (even getting his life threatened several times), because he was the boss of many that didn’t want to work for a Black man. Most of the films that I like to screen deal with social justice issues.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Rocky: Everything that has to do with the senses, I think. Film, of course; just one film can change the course of your whole life if it resonates with you. Fashion, architecture, photography, fine art, music, even food. Love. The art component is a little surprising–I have gotten deeply into the art aspect since coming back to Oakland…we have such amazing artists here it is unreal; it’s time for it to be recognized on a national and global level. I am also deeply inspired by people who fight injustice, but transcend anger and do it from a loving, objective, intelligent, and spiritual understanding; that is a very, very hard thing to do. Even the people who do this with just everyday living and regular life issues are so inspiring to me.

I also get inspired by reading the I-Ching every day and my children, but definitely in a more indirect way–I get ideas out of heart and spirit from that. Being grounded from there is helping me to evolve into making films of my own.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Rocky: Ummmm…purchased for someone else, Earth, Wind, and Fire. Given to me was The Police’s “Roxanne” (my born name). Purchased for myself, whatever that Luther Vandross album was that had “Never Too Much” on it. Oddly, I never liked anything he made after that! Lol After that it was Prince all day every day; I would buy without even listening to it first.
When I was a kid my parents were very social and had lots of parties. I just thought about this…I’d really forgotten. Every time they would have a party they would just buy whatever was on Jet magazine’s top 20 list–old, old school! After the party they would give all the 45’s to me and my sister. And we would play them to death.

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? Rocky: Please supportive of everyone in Oakland in the arts and culture if they are genuinely passionate about what they do. There is a renaissance here of sorts, and it can be parallel to the Harlem Renaissance, if we let it. In my opinion, it’s imperative we let it/support it…I don’t want the Oakland that I know/love/grew up in get watered down through changes that we are not a part of. We must make the big picture bigger than small agendas and small thoughts.


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

Mini Interview with DJ Santero

SANTERO “Luka Lounge” by Tuffgyal808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Erick: No. I traveled a lot before I settled here. I’ve lived in Bay Area for 17+ years now.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Erick: My father was a musician. I’ve been surrounded by music all my life. I don’t remember a time where music wasn’t a central part of my existence.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Erick: I find inspiration everywhere. Sometimes the smallest, simplest things affect me profoundly. I feel like my music is more channelled than created. There are larger forces at work. I’m just playing my part as best I can.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Erick: Bad Brains. Rock for Light. I still have it.

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? Erick: “All spiritualists who have really sounded the depths of spiritualism have realized that there is no better means of attracting the spirits from their plane of freedom to the outer plane than by music.” -Hazrat Inayat Khan