Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Here I am, sitting at my computer being disturbed by my neighbors' loud music. Today is pretty tame in terms of time it is being played…..it is about 1 in the afternoon. Normally they reserve that kinda loud music for between the hours of 12 midnight to 4a.m. Call the who? The poe-leece??? No, dear we are not in the suburbs. We in the ghetto. Well technically in the ghetto. We're in the part of the ghetto that just has individual houses instead of tenement apartments….Y'all know what I am talking about ……in the ghetto but just a step from where all the real grimy action goes on…..Don't worry - you can hear a coupla gunshots in the distance though… Anyway, ain't no police coming for noise in the ghetto. Doesn't happen. They come after the gunshots, if at all. I often tell my Mom that when I grow up I want to move out to an apartment on the hills with rich, white people and no noise. And I think that is the crux of my identity problem (or just complexity whichever way you want to look at it)…

You see, even though I live in the ghetto, with all the pre-requisite characteristics….the neighborhood weed man, the mini-mart in somebody's house selling soft drinks (soda to you Americans), the chicken and fries on a Friday night, the loud rap and dancehall music………I was different. I went to a prestigious school of mostly middle to upper class kids. I was the kid who didn't play outside. I was NOT allowed to have a boyfriend till I was 18 and left high school while there are people in my neighborhood who were moms at 14 and 15. While teens were playing R&B and dancehall, I was appreciating classical music and I LIVED in the library. In short I lived an existence considered by most of the denizens of my neighborhood as well, bougie.

As adult however, once I leave my home, I am really more or less in middle to upper class world. My close friends and acquaintances are mostly people with degrees, some of them multiple. Those that don't have, like me, are in the process of earning one. I remember one night, myself and a friend who attends university with me travelling home on public transportation and discussing some coursework we were doing and thinking, I wonder what the driver must be thinking? Of course, the driver was an obvious ghetto denizen. And of late, even though I don't want to because I am basically proud of where I come from and will defend it to the eyeteeth if anybody dares to say something negative about it in my presence, I find myself more and more irritated by what Chris Rock would call "niggas." I am wondering if three years in this university environment has gotten me too accustomed to what he calls "black folk" instead. And even as I feel irritated at the "niggas" who are playing loud, inane music right now, there are definitely things about ghetto life to be enjoyed. The realness and the simplicity can't be beat (and the Friday night fries are tha bomb! Better than KFC any day).

Despite cries for all black people to unite, there is difference in upper to middle and lower class blacks. I have felt it keenly at times as I switch fairly fluidly from world to the next. And despite being upwardly mobile, there is still that humble chick inside of me waiting to come out at moment's notice (especially when I see upper to middle class conspicuous consumption. I'm too cheap for that crap.) So I think I will coin a new phrase to describe a girl that is too ghetto to be completely bougie but too bougie to be completely ghetto – BOUGHETTO anyone?

Monday, August 3, 2009


There are writers all over the world. From those who write poems in their notebooks…..odes to love lost, love, desired, anguish and pain………..to those who slave away in front of the computer screen every day. There are columnists, novelists, poets, playwrights, humorists, satirists, journalist, bloggers, screenwriters, pulp fiction authors, professional authors and amateur hacks. There are those who stand the test of time and are called classics – Shakespeare, Dickens, Machiavelli, Aristotle and the modern classics….Toni Morrison, V.S. Naipaul, James Baldwin to name a few. There are the New York Times Bestsellers with hundreds of thousands, even millions of readers and those who labour in obscurity and just wish for a single reader. But essentially wiring is the written expression of what is in the human psyche and soul about the human experience. Thus I'd like to boldly venture that there are certain elements that form part of the soul of all writers.

This is my bold and forward listing of the elements of soul of a writer.

  1. Love of language, in particular the written word. No matter what language, the writer writes in or how he does it, he must love language. For it is his tool and his craft at the same time to convey what he desires to be heard.
  2. Passion about his subject matter. The true writer feels deeply about his subject matter and uses language to craft his ideology about it to display in his work to the world. Without it, a writer cannot endure to create words and images out of seeming nothingness.
  3. The universal horror of tow things……the blank page and writer's block. Unfortunately the two are not mutually exclusive. A blank page is the canvas for a writer's art to flourish…however, a blank page that stay there too long is a sign of that horror of horror, dread of dread and fear of fears –WRITER'S BLOCK. When there is nothing so awful as when the writer desires to create and there is nothing that comes to mind to create. Writer's block is made especially worse when one is under a tight deadline…..
  4. Experience. A writer must draw on some element of his own and other's experiences to create his material. A writer with NO experience whatsoever is one that is not human.
  5. A desire to chronicle something of what he has seen, heard, felt or dreamt. Basically something to say.
  6. A desire to have his work read, even if it is just by himself.
  7. A love-hate relationship with editing. Whether he self-edits or somebody else does it for him, no writer is exactly thrilled to be edited. For a writer's creation is part of his soul and editing means somehow, squeezing, molding, cutting or chopping off a bit of it. However, a writer will appreciate and submit to good editing if the final product is better than he intended.
  8. And finally, a simultaneous capacity for solitude and yet the need to be among people. Writing is done best in relative solitude…..but unfortunately(or fortunately depending on the mood said writer is in) , one needs other people to write……to edit his material, to read it, to give feedback, to draw on for experiences, to have something to say about..

So folks, there you have it so far. If my writer friends have anymore to add….feel free. This writer is done.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I found this prayer online and I decided to pay it forward by sending it to my e-mail friends. Today, I found mysef looking feverishly for it because I needed it myself.........Here it is


O my God,
I know that you love me.
And I know that you want me to be happy, safe and secure,
But sometimes it's so hard to find you in all my troubles.
I know that there are many people worse off than me,
But please help me with my problems.
I'm so worried, God.
Please help me find the support I need.
Please help me not to worry too much.
Please help me to be humble enough to accept help from others.
Please help me to stay away from the "what ifs" and the "if onlys."
Please help me to remember to help others, even when I still need help.
And please help me to trust in your loving kindness, your care and your grace.
Because I know that you love me, and you know that I love you.
And if all you want to give me right now is your love,
Please let that be enough for me.

James Martin, SJ

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


As someone who has been through a LOT of negative things, I have been on a seemingly never ending quest to find healing and wholeness. One message that I have heard before but that the universe has been screaming of late is to love yourself, to respect yourself and other will respect you. This seems to especially apply in everyone's manuals about how to find that special someone. Love, yourself, have morals, standards, etc. Play by the rules and everything will go okay. You will attract what you are so be good to yourself and you will attract that.

My question then: Is simply this? What is the process of loving on oneself? How do you love yourself? is there a golden rule book or play book that says, do x, y and z and you will love yourself? Where are the step-by-step directions or the accounts of their inner journeys?

It is not that I don't agree, it is that I am genuinely asking for the people like me who have been hurt and abused so much at times that it is hard to even conceptualise it. For with every effort you do make you have to contend first off with yourself...with the voices saying in your head who do you think you are, the fear of what the other person will think of you, if and when you set boundaries, the fear of being alone.Then you have to contend with others as well..

It is something that is easy to say but long and arduous to do. If you have grown up in a great childhood and a decent adolescence then great, you have a foundation. What about those of us who haven't had it so great? What is a frame of reference to begin?And when do you know that you have arrived?

If all those people who advocate loving yourself or better yet if someone who has had a less than perfect start has completed the journey, can you give the rest of us a holler and some steps to follow instead of just saying to love yourself and looking down on us poor mortals who are struggling? Some tips anyone? And please...... no cliches......

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MJ – King of Excellence in Creativity

We have for the past few weeks been awash in the media storm surrounding the death of Michael Jackson. Whether it is looking at (or not looking) at the latest controversial bit of news or indulging ourselves in a bit of Michael nostalgia by watching his videos, there is no doubt about the impact of the news of his death. However, after the first retrospective of the videos, we kind of got focused on the controversy. We stopped examining his art. For me, watching Michael's videos and seeing him talk about his creative process has been a revelation for me as a creative person who loves music, dance, art and writing.

The first lesson I learnt as a creative person was watching how Michael danced. We all know what a phenomenal dancer he was. But according to many people, Michael used to drive choreographers crazy at times. This is because he was a very good improv dancer and at times, I suspect, not always technically correct. Michael however, had an excellent sense of what his body can do. And was smart enough to know what his body can't. Michael's lines were always straight, clean and sharp. It seemed revolutionary at the time. He basically however, created the best line and form to suit his ectomorph body type. What was revolutionary for me was that he became the best at doing himself and THAT is what made him innovative. He felt the music and gave his body the form to suit that music. For me, this will always be immortalized in the "Another Part of Me" video when his dancing so mirrored the step-like progression of the rhythms and chord in the music. Michael had a dance studio in his house, where he worked on his craft at home, even when he did not have to. Now that is dedication.

As a music lover, I only had the most respect for Michael. However, it was not just because the music he created was great pop music. It was listening to snippets of interviews of him and others talking about his creative process that made me truly admire him. Michael did not just create music out of his head. He studied music, analyzed sound. I remember seeing a Rodney Jerkins interview where Rodney was saying that Michael encouraged him to go out into the "field" (as Michael called it) and study the sounds in the real world and use that to make music. I saw Michael talk about the process of creating "Billie Jean", saying that he first wanted to write a song with a strong bass line. And then describing how he created the bass line while riding along in the car and then the rest of the song. Michael was a student of music and sound. For me, my craft is writing and in order to shine with lasting excellence in the use of your creative talents, he taught me that you must not only perform constantly but study it analytically.

As for Michael as a songwriter, he is an interesting one to watch. Despite for all his altruistic, save the world lyrics, Michael was not a one dimensional song writer. In fact, some of his subject matter was kind of well, dark. The interesting thing about Michael though is that some of his darker songs were so artfully presented in the videos that unless you really took apart the lyrics, the impact would not hit you. The video for "Blood on the Dance Floor" just seems like an interesting salsa twist to Michael until you hear the lyrics. This is sample of the chorus:

Susie got your number
And Susie ain't your friend
Look who took you under
With seven inches in
Blood is on the dance floor
Blood is on the knife
Susie's got your number
And Susie's edge is right

That is not exactly the most light-filled lyric…..The lyrics to "Leave Me Alone" and "They Don't Really Care About us" shows that Michael is much more than heal-the-world (pardon the pun) and other feelgood type of songs. Here is man who really expressed himself succinctly and with depth in his lyrics. As writer, I have to respect that.

For all that I was a fan of Michael; I guess it is now, in death that I have truly learned about him. Michael, I not only love you as a fan but I respect you as a creative person. Long live not only the King of Pop but the King of Excellence in Creativity.

Friday, March 6, 2009


People seems to think that discrimination against people with disabilities is confined to occupying a handicapped parking spot or saying something uncomplimentary bout a person's disability. But it is more than that. Sometimes the environment can be discriminatory too.

For all of us who are in tertiary institution, we have heard the heroic stories of what we have had to do to get a paper handed in on time. Deadlines are deadlines, no matter what, no excuses, right? And while I agree for the average student who is adequately able to cope and is not ill, this can be so. For a bipolar like me this can be a nightmare. Yes, I have pushed myself and that is university to an extent is, what is pushing yourself to the limit is about. But what if you have to chose between missing that all important deadline or your health because you are not completely well? Seems like a no brainer, right. You ideally should choose your health.

In a university setting though, the no-brainer is that you should choose getting the paper before deadline, even if you are dying. Because if you don't it means that you can't hack it. You may be an excellent learner but you can't hack it in the university environment. I once heard a lecturer say at the beginning of his class when give an assignment that if you get sick before you hand in his assignment, do the paper first and get sick after (needless to say I dropped the course). You are expected as student to be an automaton, a superhero. Another of my lecturers says no matter what life happens, so regardless you still have to complete the paper., Now while I am for respecting people's time and considering deadlines when you can make it, I think it is hard for a student with a disability and well nigh difficult to cope under this pressure. Even if you say Ok, Life is tough and suck it up ; It is still ultimately a choice between your health and meeting certain academic standards that really have nothing to do with the quality of work you produce or how well you learn what is in the course but how well you survive a pressure cooker.

Institutions should be about learning and assessing learning that but in truth the underlying thing is really is a test to see who is the fittest so that they can keep up standards.......sad. And at many times, I have chosen my academics over my health to try and be that Superwoman. It resulted in me having to take two leaves of absence of medical grounds. Now that I am in the situation again, I am going to make the right choice for me. I know that it is not that I cannot produce the best work (I got an academic prize for topping a course). It is that I am human. And if the system faults me for that so be it. I'd rather be seen as student who can't quite hack it than be sitting with out without my degree in a mental hospital.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I been gone for a minute. I know. I've been going through a rough time lately. Struggling to settle back down into school and watching my money run low was occupying my mind.Then, things got better and I got a break so I can write for you all.........HELL NAW!!

In fact thing have gotten worse, at least on the outside. Broke up with a lovely man who informed me that he had no future plans/intentions for us. ( Trust me watching The Bachelor was deja vu all over again......especially the part where Melissa tells Jason off and walks off). In addition, a bad crunch time with two assignments within a week of each other has morphed into craziness with FOUR assignments- two papers, a project and a presentation within two weeks of each other.

I did the usual aaaaahh!! - stress out- bitch-and whine thing that I normally do. Wrote some bad sounding status updates on Facebook and generally was a mess. But now I have gotten out all my feelings, I think I am going to handle this crunch time a bit differently. I want to plan out what I am going to do when and try my darnedest to stick to it, to be gentle with myself when I see time passing, to make sure and budget time for laughter, music ; to sleep no matter what (bipolars need their sleep almost as much as they do their medication.......in fact more).

I have carved out at least a couple hours later this week to go to the gym and relieve the physical stress when it gets too much; and will grieve (when I have room) for my lost relationship. And from the depths of my heart rises the last refrain from Smokie Norful's song,"God is Able"..... " He won't fail / He won't fail....."

Monday, January 19, 2009


So here I am, having cut off all my dreadlocks and styling my hair short. I know I am going to provoke a lot of questions as to why I did it. Many people, especially Rastafarian people have deep religious reasons for growing their hair into dreadlocks. I DIDN'T.

For me it was simply a hairstyle choice. I liked my hair was already fairly long so I went to the hairdresser and locked it. But, as it grew, it became a monster. Unfortunately for me I am not the person with the kind of hair that can have neatly maintained dreadlocks with out mucho, mucho input from a hairdresser. As in every week. As I do NOT have time or the money for such an indulgence (being a financially challenged undergrad), I decided to go the DIY route. Big mistake. It ended up looking more untidy and being so. And worse, it began to consume huge amounts of money in the never-ending quest for the perfect product to maintain on my hair at home.

I admit I tried to attach some significance to my dreads. Tried to say to my self "Look, Nikki, have patience". I mean I even subscribed to those natural hair sites that extolled the virutes of locks and said it was a better, more healthy choice than chemically processing your hair. But patience is not cheap and I was beginning not to like what I saw in the mirror. It was beginning to affect my self-image, man. I tried the last ditch effort to find the perfect hairdresser, (cheap and good) where the women there regaled me with horror stories of what happened when they cut off their locks. It was a spiritual thing, they said, You should not cut it because you will lose your power.

Eventually the most spiritual thing for me though, was to CUT THEM OFF. I also chemically processed my hair to be a bit softer. I liked what I saw in the mirror. And more importantly, I had evolved from the girl who started to grow the locks a year ago. So - New Year,
New Me.

However, as I go out in public I know I am going to be faced with shocked looks and the inevitable question of why I did it. Instead of telling them the long sordid, tale; I am going to answer,"Because I wanted to and I can"