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.

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

Stephanie Powell: Ballerina, Professor


Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Stephanie: I am a native of Bakersfield, California. I grew up there and moved to Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland when I attended UC Berkeley and danced professionally with Oakland Ballet.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Stephanie: I began my creative path at the age of 3 with my dance instructor of over 3 decades, Cindy Trueblood at Civic Dance Center.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Stephanie: I found my inspiration when my parents took me to the then Shubert Theater to see musicals, learning variations from Cindy and simply the feeling of being on stage. I knew it was what I was destined to do.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Stephanie: My first piece of vinyl I ever purchased and still own, was Planet Rock!

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? Stephanie: Dance is why I wake up in the morning. Outside of a remarkable career with Oakland Ballet, SF Opera, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Donald Byrd the Group, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater and the Disney musical Lion King, I have transitioned into loving to coach and teach on the university level. While I still perform and reconstruct the choreography of legendary Donald McKayle, I have found a new passion in passing the wealth of information that I have gained to the students of the next generation.

Mini Interview with DJ Leydis


photo by Tuffgyal808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Leydis: No. Originally from Cuba but I have lived in the Bay since 2006…  it feels like home.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Leydis: I grew up with a record player in my house… That was the favorite sound system of my mother to listen to music and we were listening to all types of music. I was in my first Hip Hop dance group when I was 10 years old and after that I kept it for all my life ” I Love Music”

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Leydis: Like I said first, from my mom in many different ways… Growing up with a strong Black Woman, hardworking/willing to support me in all my dreams, she never stopped me and always said “yes you can.” After her I can say that I’m inspired every day and from so many people!

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Leydis: 🙂  one of my favorites as a child was “Menudo” but we did not have many options to purchase records in Cuba as here in the US but when I moved and got taken to “Rasputin” in Berkeley, that was the trip .

Q#5: Anything else you’d like to share? a joke/quote? Leydis: There’s something I would love to share you…

“A Message To my Sista ”
At this time I’d like to say a few words especially to my sisters: SISTERS. BLACK PEOPLE WILL NEVER BE FREE UNLESS BLACK WOMEN PARTICIPATE
IN EVERY ASPECT OF OUR STRUGGLE, ON EVERY LEVEL OF OUR STRUGGLE.I think that Black women, more than anybody on the face of the earth, recognize the urgency of our situation. Because it is We who come face to face daily with the institutions of our oppression. And because it is We who have borne the major responsibility of raising our children. And it is We who have to deal with the welfare systems that do not care about the welfare of our children. And it is We who have to deal with the school systems that do not educate our children. It is We who have to deal with the racist teachers who teach our children to hate themselves. It is We who have seen the terrible effects of racism on our children. I JUST WANT TO TAKE A MOMENT OUT TO EXPRESS MY LOVE TO ALL OF YOU WHO RISK YOUR LIVES DAILY STRUGGLING OUT HERE ON THE FRONT LINES. We who have watched our young grow too old, too soon. We who have watched our children come home angry and frustrated and seen them grow more bitter, more disillusioned with the passing of each day. And We who have seen the sick, trapped look on the faces of our children when they come to fully realize what it means to be Black in Amerikkka. And we know what deprivation is. How many times have We run out of bus fare, rent money, food money and how many times have our children gone to school in hand-me-down clothes, with holes in their shoes. We know what a hell-hole Amerikkka is. We’re afraid to let our children go out and play. We’re afraid to walk the streets at night. We sisters, We have seen our young, the babies that We brought into this world with such great hopes for, We have seen their bodies bloated and aching from drugs, scarred and deformed by bullet holes. We know what oppression is. We have been abused in every way imaginable. We have been abused economically, politically. We have been abused physically, and We have been abused sexually. And sisters, We have a long and glorious history of struggle on this land/planet. Afrikan women were strong and courageous warriors long before We came to this country in chains. And here in Amerikkka, our sisters have been on the front lines. Sister Harriet Tubman led the underground railroad. And sisters like Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hammer, Sandra Pratt and our Queen Mother Moore have carried it on. Sisters, We have been the backbone of our communities, and We have got to be the backbone of our nation. We have got to build strong family units, based on love and struggle. We don’t have no time to play around.

Assata Shakur~

Mama Ayanna: Activist, Healer


“Mama” by TuffGyal 808

Q#1: Are you a Bay Area Native? and if not, how long have you lived in the Bay? Mama Ayanna: No i’m not a Bay Area Native although i had a spiritual affinity with the Bay Area and i knew i was going to live here since i was a child. i have lived here in the Bay Area for most of my life, for over 40 years. My family has lived in the Bay Area since about 1860 or before.

Q#2: When did you start on the creative path you are currently on? Mama Ayanna: My current creative path began as long as I can remember. As a child i would talk and walk with the Ancestars. i was also able to talk to animals and considered myself their protector, going around destroying traps and leaving food for animals in the wild.

i and my sistars used to play in the woods, by the streams and ponds where I grew up, so i developed a relationship with the natural world at an early age as well. i was raised in a family with organic gardeners and farmers and grew up a an ecologist.

i began writing poetry when I was nine years old, but didn’t step out with the spoken word until I was about 23 or 24. i entered my life as an activist at the age of 18 and joined the Pan African Student Union when I attended San Francisco State. I became a member of the National Black Human Rights Coalition shortly afterward and was a founding member of Black August in 1979. I began producing at KPFA in 1985. i was also a founding member of the Oakland Chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in 1993. i have worked with and formed several women’s organizations including New Afrikan Women for Self Determination and the Conscious New Afrikan Women’s Healing Collective which created the Black Women’s Retreats and the Black Women’s Health and Healing Conferences. i find no separation between the political and the spiritual life. It is all life. As a mother of 7 children (6 sons and 1 daughter) it was important to me to work for the betterment of my community in to try to leave the world a better place for them and for the generations to come.

My level of spiritual leadership began to evolve when i (along with Rashidah Tutashinda) put the call out for a sistar’s healing circle and our first circle brought together about 60 women. i have been leading spiritual ceremony and participating in healing and talking circles since then. It was also during that time period that I began my spiritual study starting with Babalawo Fagbemi Ogundele and other spiritual teachers. Shortly after that I began to practice as a medicine woman. I was initiated into leading the “Sweat Lodge” or what I the “Purification Lodge/Ceremony” was part of my spiritual path.

My path really intensified when i (and Shaka At-Thinnin) opened our business “The Flowing Gourd”. It was one of Oakland’s first “green” businesses. i began practicing herbalism and aromatherapy. From that point on, my practice evolved as my knowledge evolved and Ayanna’s Magic Garden evolved from “The Flowing Gourd”. i received my Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2007. i am currently natural and Holistic Health Practitioner, Herbalist, Aromatherapist, Nutritionist, Massage and Tui Na Therapist, Doula and Spiritual Life Path Consultant.

Q#3: Where do you find your inspiration? Mama Ayanna: i find my inspiration in nature, especially from the ocean, the Bay, the rivers and mountains of California. i also get my inspiration through daily meditation, from the love of my man, the love of my family, and from my wonderful community.

i am especially inspired by how much creativity and genius i see and experience among the young people in the Bay Area.

Q#4: What was the first piece of vinyl you ever purchased? Mama Ayanna: i believe my first 45 was Dionne Warwick’s ”Walk On By” (i still think i can sing like Dionne Warwick, lol). My first 33 was Wes Montgomery “Bumpin On Sunset”, such a nice piece.

I’ve been listening to Jazz and Blues since i was a child. i remember singing Billie Holliday’s “Motherless Child” when I was 4 or 5 years old.

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

Mama Ayanna: “i believe in living.
i believe in the spectrum
of Beta days and Gamma people.
i believe in sunshine.
In windmills and waterfalls,
tricycles and rocking chairs;
And i believe that seeds grow into sprouts.
And sprouts grow into trees.
i believe in the magic of the hands.
And in the wisdom of the eyes.
i believe in rain and tears.
And in the blood of infinity…

i believe in living
i believe in birth.
i believe in the sweat of love
and in the fire of truth.”

– Assata Shakur
From her poem “i believe”