Phola, center, with the girls of the Amazw’Entombi (Voices of the Girls) Writing Club in South Africa.
To me, writing is soulful. It helps me to throw my emotions into paper. It relieves my pain. It also helps show my happiness and life experiences. How wonderful writing is now ever since I started at writing club. I’m starting to love writing. Just keep my hand moving. Writing keeps me thinking. It challenges me. I did know that I had so much so much in my mind that needed to be put down. Sometimes we need a bit of inspiration to get more encouraged. To me, writing is a drum waiting to roll. —Phola, 17 years old | Gugulethu, South Africa
BY KIMBERLY BURGE | GIRLS ISSUE | SPRING, 2013
From their birth—from the names given them—words matter to girls in Gugulethu.
On the first day of our writing club there, I asked each girl to write, with brightly colored markers, her name and its meaning on a nametag. Most of these girls are Xhosa, the second largest ethnic group in South Africa, which claims Nelson Mandela among its numbers. Xhosa parents give their children names with significance attached. When I met each one, I learned the girl-child’s place in her family, what dreams or healing she brought along when she entered the world, what hopes and expectations lie ahead for her.
BY CLARENCE A. HAYNES | GIRLS ISSUE | SPRING, 2013
Katie Yamasaki, a New York-based muralist and children’s book illustrator, is at the helm of a number of community-based, large-scale murals with teenage girls. One of those projects, Voices Her’d, creates a place for teenage girls to come together, choose an issue affecting their community, and express their ideas through public art. In their murals, the girls address serious issues such as women in the military, the exploitation of inner city youth by military recruiters, women and immigration, and homelessness and health. Yamasaki has also created art projects with children and youth in Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Argentina, and Namibia.
Her work, she says, is about providing “a visual platform where different communities can have a public voice.” She tells us what she’s learned from the girls of Voices Her’d, her experience working with children in Cuba, and her just-released children’s book Fish for Jimmy.
Sabrina Mahfouz performs “No More Page 3,” 2013. (Full text below)
BY GRACE ANEIZA ALI | GIRLS ISSUE | SPRING, 2013
When the London-based poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz came across an online campaign to put an end to a topless model feature in one of England’s biggest selling newspapers, she was reminded of a ghost that troubled her throughout her own girlhood. “It’s difficult as a young girl not to see yourself represented in the magazines,” she says. “It definitely limits what you think you can do.”
The online campaign, “No More Page 3,” is a response to the “Page 3,” feature found in the UK’s Sun that consists of a large photograph of a topless young woman. The Sun has published topless models in its print edition since November 1970 (and in its online version since 1999).
April 1, 2013 · 1 Comment
Far too often the narratives about women and girls in rural communities whether they be in Asia, or Africa, or South America, are centered on an urgent call for them to look past the proverbial courtyard, to aim for a life beyond the confines of the village, to shed the veil. And we tell them that not doing so would render them invisible, marginalized, or trapped. We’re wrong.
BY GRACE ANEIZA ALI | GIRLS ISSUE | SPRING, 2013
There are no paved roads directly to Chaffe Jenetta — a small Muslim coffee farming community nestled in the remote terrains of Harrar in Eastern Ethiopia. Telephone lines and electric wires are rare in these parts. Women are immersed in their day—fetching water, gathering wood and sticks to stoke fires, and cooking for their families. Among their company, lush mountains and endless blue sky, I felt at home.
November 6, 2011 · 15 Comments
By Ingrid Griffith
The place I once escaped, the one I had sworn off for good, became the place I most needed to feel whole again.
My family hadn’t been back to Guyana in a long time, some of us for 30 years, some 20, and some 10. A reunion trip was scheduled during Easter because of the unique Easter Monday celebration.
Eight of us arrived at Cheddi Jagan International Airport early one April morning. It had just rained and the showers had washed the warm air clean. Cane fields still lined the road from the airport. As a child, I remember the scent of boiling sugar that made me dizzy whenever I went past the Diamond Estate sugar factory on the East Bank of the Demerara River.
As we headed for Hadfield Street, I couldn’t take my eyes off the moments of daily life. Youngsters on bicycles used sticks to steer goats and cows off the street and toward the pasture. Bare-chested, brown-skinned men leaned out windows. Women in house dresses and headwraps swept their yards with pointer brooms made from coconut tree branches.
February 9, 2011 · Leave a Comment
By E. Ethelbert Miller
Today there are major developments taking place in the field of African American poetry. Unfortunately there has been a tendency to simply produce and promote and not take time to make serious “probes” into what is going on. Several years ago, while teaching at George Mason University, I directed my students to critically examine the work of African American poets associated with the Dark Room Collective, Cave Canem and the Callaloo publication.
I also continued my own reading and note-taking and reached the conclusion that there are about 35 African American poets (currently living) who will probably play a key role in the advancement of African American literature as well as culture in the 21st century. At any given time in a historical period there are a few writers who emerge because of literary politics, and to some extent talent. Which brings me to the important book, “Into A Light Both Brilliant And Unseen,” edited by Malin Pereira, a professor and chair of the Department of English at the University of North Carolina. Here are conversations, and not simply interviews with eight African American poets. Some took place by email, which should be noted. An email response by a writer can often give that individual an opportunity to “craft” responses as well as undertake the task of reinventing oneself. Personal hyperbole might be a good term for this.
August 23, 2010 · Leave a Comment
August 10, 2010 · Leave a Comment
By E. Ethelbert Miller
In March, poet and literary activist, E. Ethelbert Miller will release his second memoir, The 5th Inning. In an exclusive essay for of note, Miller reflects on the family photo that inspired the cover art for the book. “Years before Michelle and Barack, we were the Millers,” he recalls of that ‘family-next-door’ moment.
But as he unwraps the story behind the photograph – the story of a family and of years passed, he crafts a narrative about the fragments, the spaces, the isolation within our lives. “This is what we do as writers,” he says, “We write about the smiles we can no longer wear and the suffering that we do.”
March 31, 2010 · Leave a Comment
By Grace Aneiza Ali
Originally published on March 31, 2010 for The Defenders Online, a publication of the NAACP LDF
Perhaps it was the sight of Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, Cornel West, Kamau Brathwaite, and Amiri Baraka huddled together around a table at the conference’s awards reception and chatting it up like old pals out on the town for a Saturday night dinner, that was the most memorable. Theirs was a moment of legends.
Or, perhaps it was when Indian author Meena Alexander put the dialogue in the “East Meets West” panel on hold to recite Audre Lorde. Hers was a moment of the beauty of literary encounters and cultural intersections.