Saturday, 24 August 2019

Remembering Toni Morrison

Image Source: naacp.org (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
Toni Morrison passed away on 5th August. I started to write this post on 12th August but felt somewhat reluctant; it seemed too early to write something. I felt numb, stuck for words ... the right words that is. There were no tears, just a sense of loss.

A week later, after watching and re-watching many You Tube videos of Toni Morrison, I felt more prepared to express my thoughts and feelings. 

Toni Morrison was an African American writer whose outstanding literary work significantly influenced the development of my literary journey; be it reading and/or writing. 

I've always admired Toni Morrison's literature. It was Toni Morrison who set this amazing legacy, a landscape that is universally vast and yet meets the needs of many black and brown people, especially the black women I know.

Toni Morrison's writing is imaginatively crafted and artistically excellent and yet representation and meaning is at its core. It didn't matter that her imagination and novels focused mostly on the African American historical experience. I could relate, especially as Toni Morrison spent her entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of her books.

Image Source: theguardian.com
Also, in the light of Toni Morrison's passing, I remembered my blog post dated 15/10/12 'Blog Action Day - Toni Morrison - A Writer's Influence.' The theme for that year's Blog Action Day was the Power of We. It was a no-brainer choosing Toni Morrison and the focus of writing within a 'community'. 

The Bluest Eye

Here's an excerpt from that blog post where I discuss Toni Morrison's debut novel The Bluest Eye (published 1970) still my favourite:

"...The novel focuses on Pecola Breedlove, a lonely, young black girl living in Ohio in the late 1940s. Through Pecola, Morrison exposes the power and cruelty of white, middle-class American definitions of beauty.  Pecola is driven mad by her consuming obsession for white skin and blonde hair – and not just blue eyes, but the bluest ones. A victim of popular white culture and its pervasive advertising, Pecola believes that people would value her more if she weren't black. If she were white, blonde, and very blue-eyed, she would be loved. Pecola is abused by almost everyone in the novel ... my focus here is with the way that Pecola, a little black girl in the 1940s, still resides in a few black girls and women around the globe now, in our modern 21st century."

I look forward to the time when I can pass on my copy of The Bluest Eye to my granddaughter (now aged 12), when she reaches the age of 15, 16, or 17. It's not that I think my granddaughter couldn't take on the reading; it's that I think a few more years and she'll be even more adept at appreciating and working at, and understanding those multilayered musings.
  
Beloved

My admiration of Toni Morrison deepened when I facilitated a two-hour session as part of a Creative Writing course for African-Caribbean women during Black History Month 2004 in Wellingborough, Northamptonsire. In that session we focused on passages of Beloved (published 1984), which became one of my most favourite and memorable teachings.

Given the eternal life of the written word, and Toni Morrison's presence on the Internet, we will continue to be enlightened as we read and tune in to gain yet more insight into the magnitude of her literary legacy as she goes down in history as one of the world's greatest writers.
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How did you feel when you heard Toni Morrison passed away?
What did she mean to you? 
Let me know in the Comments section below.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Need to let go of your books? Try WeBuyBooks

Sell books, CDs, DVDs and games for cash!

Between 6th March and 1st April this year, my minimalism journey led me to let go of the majority of my book collection.  

It was clear to me that I wasn't going to re-read my books and so that was enough justification for me to let them go. 

Once I saw my books as paper clutter, it was just a matter of how to get rid of them.

In the past, I remember lugging heavy boxes of unwanted books to a local library. So to make letting go of my books as painless as possible, I searched for a solution on the Internet and discovered WeBuyBooks.

Who are WeBuyBooks?

WeBuyBooks are the UK's specialist book buyers - offering instant online valuations, next-day payments and an award winning service. 

How It Works

With the minimum of fuss, I soon got on with downloading the WeBuyBooks app on my tablet and started scanning my books' barcodes! Scanning really was exciting as most of my books received a tick (Yes) and only a few received a cross (No).

The Item Condition Guidelines were particularly helpful and I was pleasantly surprised that books with pencil and even highlighter marks were accepted within reason. 

There was only one of my books that didn't make the grade because of its worn and slightly damaged spine. I was then given the option to have it returned and pay the postage costs or choose to let WeBuyBooks recycle/pulp the book, which is what I opted for.

I made five trades of 113 items (mostly books, with a few CDs and DVDs), which amounted to a total of £125.82. The few books that didn't make it to WeBuyBooks ended up being donated to my local British Heart Foundation Charity Shop.

These were some of my sales:
  • The Arvon Book of Life Writing: Writing Biography, autobiography and memoir by Sally Cline, Carole Angier £4.20
  • Black British Feminism: A Reader (Warwick Studies in European) by Heidi Safia Mirza £6.00
  • Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler £3.58
  • Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity 3rd Edition/Expanded by Ray D Bradbury £3.00
  • Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides, Mamie Harmon (Editor) £4.00
  • Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon £4.00
  • Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present (International Library of Visual Culture) by Eddie Chambers £2.70

As soon as I'd completed each trade, an email was sent confirming the details, with a label to download and print off and arrangements were made for a Hermes collection the next day.

Once the books had been received by WeBuyBooks, I was informed by email and payment was prompt. I selected to be paid by PayPal, but there was the option to be paid by BACs transfer. I chose PayPal because I was curious about how that process worked and all went well.

Do I Have Any Books Left?

Yes, my books now measure about 1 foot 6 inches wide and include copies of my published poetry plus books which were gifts that included personal inscriptions. 

These are the books that are left.
I did keep one DVD - Marley (2012) a documentary biographical film about the legendary Bob Marley directed by Kevin Macdonald and I definitely had to keep a copy of Fruit of the Lemon (2000) by the late Andrea Levy, which sits close to my 50th Anniversary edition of To Kill a Mocking Bird (2010) by Harper Lee.

What Does WeBuyBooks do with Your Books?

WeBuyBooks sell the books that they buy on Amazon and as an Amazon seller, I knew it would take forever for me to sell my books so I'm glad I traded them in this way.

Conclusion:

If you want to reduce your book collection or let go of all of it, I'd definitely recommend WeBuyBooks. I found the whole experience went very well, from initially scanning the books' barcode, to packing up the books and sending them on their way. 

* * *
Are you deliberating about decluttering your book collection? Let me know in the Comments section whether you love books far too much to let them go or are considering perhaps sending them on their way? 

Feel free to share and don't forget to 
follow me by email so you don't miss a post.

Friday, 12 April 2019

How to Let Go of Your Old Journals

 My old journals spanning 24 years.

My first ever journal was a small notebook, started in 1995. In those early days, I felt restricted by that size and leapt to A4 size notebooks. Later, I settled with A5 size ones. You can read more about my reasons for starting here.

So why some 24 years later, have I shred most (not all) of those 30+ journals? It has alot to do with my journey towards a minimalist lifestyle, which started at the beginning of March this year. I've never been one for keeping a lot of clutter but I soon realised that minimalism is a lovely way to actually sniff out all those hidden places where clutter resides.

My journals had been packed away in a box after moving house a few years ago and it now seemed crazy to keep them. So when I opened that box, it was with an intention to let go of paper clutter. I certainly didn't want to read them and I definitely didn't want to leave them as some kind of legacy ... that would've been a burden for anyone inheriting them. 


One of the numerous bags of shredded
journals now headed for recycling.

How did I feel whilst shredding my old journals?

I must admit I did spend a minute or two scanning the opening pages, which transported me right back to the past for a while, but I wanted to stay focused on the task of shredding. Letting go of the past felt like a great move in the right direction, the deal being I was working towards my newfound minimalist lifestyle. This has been an amazing journey and I love where it has taken me. I feel light in mind, body and spirit and have released more positive energy and more clarity than I could've dreamed of. 

Did the journals have any sentimental value?

Surprisingly no, the journals had no sentimental value attributed to them, therefore no relevance in keeping them.

I would've liked to burn those 30+ journals as that may have been more of a symbolic, ceremonious way to let them go, but then I thought that wouldn't of been something easy to do. So I decided on a system of shredding the pages of three journals a day over a period of a few weeks. The final journal was shred on 3rd April.

Did I keep any journals? 

Yes, I did keep a few only because there was still enough empty pages when I'd shred the full ones. I won't use them for journaling but for making notes when the need arises.

Have I completely given up on journaling?


My new Bullet Journal

No, but I keep only a few current ones. The most interesting one is my new Bullet Journal, a rather new development started on 30th March. 

A bullet journal is an analog system created by Ryder Carroll, a designer based in New York. In his words, the Bullet Journal is meant "to help you track the recent past, organise the present, and plan for the future." 

A bullet journal is an amazing system that keeps a record of whatever you want. It's entirely up to you how you design your page spreads. I have been in my element setting up my bullet journal with layouts that include the following:

  • Year at a glance
  • Goals 2019
  • New Month spread (here you can design an image or doodle)
  • Monthly spread (yes, more designs and doodles)
  • Weekly spread
  • Future Log
  • Mind Dump (rather than Brain dump)
  • Quarterly Editorial Planner (for my blog posts)
  • Minimalism Lifestyle Goals
  • Mood & Habit Trackers (very revealing)
  • Meditation Weekly Schedule
  • Books/Articles to Read

My list of page spreads along with everyone's bullet journal spreads are unique. I'd definitely recommend keeping a bullet journal. I have found mine to be very inspiring and the experience has definitely improved my way of organising. 

For all those diehard journal junkies out there, I totally get that you may want to keep your journals that date back some years.

I'd love to hear from you if you've been able to let your journals go. What was the catalyst that sent you, like me, to shred them all?

5 Tips for Letting Go of Old Journals:

  • If your journals have been in a box for a year, then it's time to let them go.
  • Keeping journals 'just in case', is a waste of time (and space). If you suddenly need one of them, will you remember where that particular journal is?
  • Recycle them by shredding them.
  • Don't try to shred them all at once. There's no need to rush this process, after all it took you long enough to create them. But don't give up ... it's best to shred a few each day, but keep going until you've let go of all of them.
  • If letting go of all your journals feels too much, you could scan a few of them and create a photobook of specific pages.

For more on letting go of your journals:

Burning Your Diaries: First Person - The New York Times by Dominique Browning

For more on Bullet Journaling:

How My Bullet Journal Saved My Life - Article by Sarah Maber

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Ntozake Shange Memorial Event


Ntozake Shange, who passed on 27th October 2018, aged 70, was an American playwright and prolific multi-award winning poet. As a Black feminist, she addressed issues relating to race and Black power in much of her work. She is best known for the canonical Obie Award-winning choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1976), a play about Black women struggling to assert themselves while dealing with the everday problems of life. 

Carol Leeming
When Carol Leeming – multi-award winning poet, playwright, director, performer, musician, and tutor – rang me and told me she was co-hosting a memorial event to celebrate and honour Ntozake Shange's life and work, with Dr Leighan Renaud (University of Leicester) and asked if I would like to participate at the Attenborough Arts Centre, University of Leicester, on 21st December 2018, I didn't hesitate to say."Yes!"

Me Reading at Ntozake Shange Memorial Event
 I also knew exactly what I would be reading, an article entitled 'Ntozake Knows the Name of the Game' in The Voice Newspaper, May 23rd 1995.  The writer of the piece was not cited.  

I had kept this now yellowing article since studying Black Women's Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London, and was excited that it was now going to be aired at such a poignant celebration of Ntozake Shange's life and literary legacy. 

The Voice article
The following is an excerpt of the article:

"What's in a name? Not a lot, according to the 46-year-old writer and poet. Paulette Williams changed her moniker into an African one a quarter of a century ago in 1970, and to her it is no big deal. Not in Africa anyway.


Ntozake means "she who comes with her own things" and Shange translates into "who walks like a lion". It seems appropriate.

Zaki, as she is known by her friends, is  not sarcastic, as her abbreviated name might suggest.

But when I suggest that to change your name like this is a sign of a bold person she roars like a lion. "Ntozake is like Barbara to Africans. It's not bold at all."

Reading the article to a dynamic audience generated a thought-provoking and interactive discussion. In particular, despite the unknown source of the writing, most audience members believed it to be male, as there was biased reporting of Ntozake Shange, for example, "Despite being dressed casually, her nails are long and a glowing red. They look well manicured, as if someone has spent quality time on them." When the reason for the article was that Ntozake Shange was in the UK after publication of her third novel, Lilane, there was little mention of this until the end of the article.

The Memorial event was celebrated with African Libation, other personal contributions from leading poets and academics, as well as Poetry readings based on  Ntozake Shange's choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf,

Participants also included:

Leighan Renaud who works at the University of Leicester. She recently completed her PhD in Contemporary Caribbean Literature.

Sandra Pollock, a multi-award winning director, community leader, and founder of the East Midlands Women's Awards.

Michelle 'Mother' Hubbard, a poet, performer, story-weaver, writer, African drummer and founding member of Blackdrop spoken word/open mic event Nottingham.

Michelle Vacciana who has produced small-scale theatre shows, both independently and by commission.

Michaela Spencer, The Plentiful Poet, graduated with a Foundation Degree in Performing Arts. Michaela studied Ntozake Shange while at University. Ntozake had a huge impact on her degree.

Rosa Fernadez is a writer, slam-winning performance poet and freelance editor from Burton-on-Trent. She studied English at Goldsmiths in London. Since returning to the Midlands, she has been warmly embraced by Leicester's cultural scene. 

Carol Leeming Bio:

Carol Leeming, MBE, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, is a multi-award winning poet, playwright, director, performer, musician, and tutor. Carol's plays have been commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and the Centre for New Writing, University of Leicester, and performed in The Curve, Brighton Dome, and Haymarket. Notable works include her two choreopoems 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Diva'; 'Love the Life you Live ... Live the Life you Love' along with the plays Vex and Women in Pain, co-written with Wendy Christian. Carol published her debut poetry chapbook in 2016 entitled The Declamations of Cool Eye. Her poem 'Highfields Fantasia' is used for teaching at the University of Leicester. Her work is referenced by Dr Corinne Fowler, in the Cambridge Companion to British Black & Asian Literature, edited by Deidre Osborne. Carol is working on a new poetry collection and songs for a music album for 2019.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Hair Power Skin Revolution BBC Radio Northampton Interview 5th August 2018



On 5th August, my interview with producer Suki Somal, aired on BBC Radio Northampton's Mark Dean Show, which is a weekly news and events show for Northamptonshire's African and Caribbean community. 

Eight years on since its publication in 2010 and the subject of my anthology Hair Power Skin Revolution is still relevant today.

To find out more, you can listen to the interview, which was aired in two parts at 8.10pm and 9.20pm by visiting the following link:


My interview with BBC Radio Northampton


Part 1 = 18.45 
Part 2 = 1.12.00

There are 27 days left to listen.


Thursday, 7 June 2018

Carers Week Poetry Competition


Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face, and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

The campaign is brought to life by thousands of individuals and organisations who come together to organise activities and events throughout the UK, drawing attention to just how important caring is.

Carers Week runs from 11th to 17th June. This year the theme is 'Keeping Carers Healthy and Connected'. Northamptonshire Carers Centre, based in 123 Midland Road, Wellingborough, are running a range of events, including three competitions, open to everyone, not just carers:
  • Poetry Competition
  • Short Story Competition
  • Art & Photography Competition
I have been given the privilege of judging the *poetry competion. If you are interested in entering any of the above competitions, entries must be at the Carers Centre by Friday 8th June.  

Entries for all the competitions can be submitted via email:

carers@northamptonshire-carers.org

*There are no restrictions on a poetry theme, however, it would be ideal to keep it within an A4 page space for display purposes.

Judging will take place on 15th June. There will be an overall prize for each category. Northamptonshire Carers Centre will be displaying exhibits between 11th-15th June.

For further details contact: 
Joanna Johnson, Young Carers Service Manager:
joannaj@northamptonshire-carers.org

Good luck!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Race Act 40 Exhibition


On Monday, 28th May, I attended the Race Act 40 Exhibition event held at the Wellingborough African Caribbean Association, based in Rock Street.  

Race Act 40 is an oral history project organised by Northamptonshire Rights & Equalities Council, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, exploring historic racism in Wellingborough.  

The two-year project was supported by the excellent contributions of volunteers who were professionally trained to carry out over 40 interviews which will now be archived at the University of Northampton.

The event was formally opened by James Saunders Watson also known as the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire. 


James Saunders Watson, High Sheriff of Northamptonshire.
Suresh Grover, Director of The Monitoring Group, was the Guest Speaker. Suresh Grover has been a Civil Rights Campaigner for over 30 years. He spoke about some of the campaigns beginning in 1976 to the present time.


Suresh Grover, Director of The Monitoring Group.
Seventy nine people attended the event which included displays of Race Act 40's research, and poetry by Tre Ventour, Norma Watson, and Nairobi Thompson. 


Audience Members of RaceAct40 Exhibition.
Here is a link below to my 10 minute radio interview with Suki Somal on BBC Radio Northampton's Mark Dean Show. I come on 12.35 minutes in (approx) although the whole two-hour show is worth listening to. I like the sprinkling of African and Caribbean sounds - reggae, soca and Afro Beats!

My Interview with BBC Radio Northampton

You have 28 days remaining from today to listen, so I urge you to tune in!

I also shared my experience of racism in the workplace at the Race Act 40 event.

Sharing my experience of indirect racism in the workplace and how
I took my case to a Race Relations Act tribunal and won.
Photographs courtesy of Race Act 40.