Category Archives: Guest Writers

Different Walks

Rachelle header2

Different Walks

By Rachelle Mawle

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of public discourse, lately. So much of the conflict seems to center on long-held beliefs. And many of those who most adamantly cling to extreme views on politics, religion, and the social safety net, don’t seem to have experienced much beyond childhood parameters.

I know there are exceptions to the rule. Many young people emerge from their childhood bubbles with curiosity, bursting into the world with an open mind and a desire to learn about other faiths and cultures. But, more and more, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. So, I’m going to speak in generalities here, because right now it’s the other young people I’m most curious about.

Why is it that a child raised in one religion, the faith of their family, clings most tightly not to the sacred texts, but to the belief that their viewpoint is the only right one? And reinforce that belief by assuring themselves that everyone else is wrong or naive? Why is it that a person who (by sheer luck) is born into wealth and privilege can look at those in need of financial assistance and automatically assume that human being is a waste of money? Is it simply a lack of life experience and education, or a merciless cocktail of nature and nurture?

A concerning skin growth recently sent me trekking into Atlanta to visit a dermatologist. Doctor visits are always stressful, but adding the possibility of skin cancer had made me a nervous wreck. I was grateful that my fiancé and son could go with me. The doctor recognized that I was worried about the biopsy. She was kind and reassuring, talking about where she was raised, sharing that she had attended Stanford Medical School.

“How do you like Georgia?” she asked.

“It’s a definite adjustment,” I answered. I told her about my futile attempts to get my son into a decent school, and how I’d never had to worry about my son’s education in Fort Collins.

“I attended some wonderful private schools, growing up,” she said. “There are some good ones nearby.”

I smiled politely. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the income for private schools. It’s looking like we might just have to home school.”

I was baffled by her response.

“What a wonderful opportunity!” she said. “It’s so beneficial to be home schooled! And how lucky your child is to be taught by his parents! Really, more people should do that, I often wonder if I had been home schooled how much more I would have learned.”

Right. Let them eat cake. Oh, how lucky, I thought, that so many children don’t have access to quality education. For parents who aren’t wealthy (like this doctor), there are only two options. Enroll your child in a crappy school, or home school them. Heaven forbid both parents have to work to make a living, or perhaps don’t have the mental or emotional resources to educate their children on their own.

I just smiled again, and said “You’re right, my boy’s lucky.”

The doctor was raised with privilege. She seemed to be a caring person, but really had no idea how people below her demographic lived or what issues they had to face.

I have to wonder if even a Stanford Medical degree is not as beneficial as walking a mile in another physician’s stilettos – or in my case (on this particular day), Target flip-flops.

If an infant was born and grew up inside a box, they would emerge believing the world was a cube. Empathy and compassion develop from a personal effort to continue growth and education beyond what our parents or schools taught us. The reality is we never graduate from the need to continue learning. And we have much to learn from each other, from our different walks.

No one, no matter race, education, or finances, is superior to another.

We are all human beings.

***

Rachelle and Cory 2Rachelle Mawle is a writer, blogger, homeschool teacher, and devoted mother to a ten year old boy and two fur babies who test her on a daily basis. She recently moved to Atlanta, GA, from Fort Collins, CO, to be with her fiancé, and is still in the process of adjusting…maybe forever. Check out her blog at www.anotherdailydisaster.com.

 

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Considering Tears, By Yahya Ghobadi

Writing for Peace welcomes Guest Writer Yahya Ghobadi, director of the animated film, Tears.

The Tears, by Yahya Ghobadi 2

 Considering Tears

By Yahya Ghobadi

 

Tears is a reflection on the crisis of war which continues in Syria, Iraq, and other countries. “Dove Tear” soars above the rooftops, witnessing the annihilation caused by mankind’s power and actions. Only hearts of noble extraction are capable of feeling the full impact of war’s devastation.

This nine minute movie includes a collection of World War I footage showing the use of chemical weapons and their affects on humans, the ongoing environmental damage from those weapons, and the reality that there are still countries using these weapons of mass destruction today. Parents will risk their lives to protect their children, but they are helpless against weapons of mass destruction such as the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

Rather than focus on any specific country, the story is told predominantly from a child’s perspective. It is the girl’s birthday and her family is celebrating. She loves the stuffed bear her parents have given her, and is completely unaware of the war that is taking place. The young girl leaves her parents, excited to show her friends the doll, but meets terrible tragedy. Too many children lose their parents in war tragedies like this. Children drown in their dreams and lose everything to pure cruelty; air strikes kill innocent families – just for power.

There are a few movies that had a profound affect on me as a young man – movies that I will never forget. One of those was Schindler’s List; it inspired me to make movies about Human Rights and Justice. It was difficult working on my own, and it took a long time to finish Tears with no financial support, but it was a film I was passionate about, and I’m proud of what I have achieved. The majority of what I’ve depicted in the film is real, but there is truth in the surreal, as well. I’m grateful for the recognition Tears has received, including winner of the best animation reward from the STEPS International Rights Film Festival jury in 2013.

In the storyline, the whole city is targeted, and bombs are dropped on civilians. The little girl miraculously survives to witness her city, home, and family destroyed. Days pass, and white doves fly into the sky, symbolizing the spirits of those innocent people who lost their lives. Eventually, the little girl finds her grandmother alive, though mournful and traumatized, because I agonize over these questions: Who will look after these children who are orphaned by war? And will they ever recover from the mental and emotional trauma?

In the end, the word “Justice” is what spiritual people are looking for and understand well. My film exposes the repeated unjust history of innocent people losing their lives for others’ greed, and I, as a Kurdish director from Iran, have created this film to show the people of the world these inequities.

I wish for peace and justice in the world.

About Yahya Ghobani, Guest Writer

Yahya GhobadiYahya Ghobani lives in Kermanshah, a city in West Iran. He began learning animation on his own through free study and experimentation when he worked at a local television, and collaborated on several animated children’s serials. He created the award winning short film, Tears, without any financial backing. His interest in further developing this art form led him to enroll in the university where he now studies in the field of film and imaging.

Watch the film (and other important links):

View the trailer for Tears here and watch the film here in its entirety (Use password 25252525YG.) Follow Yahya Ghobadi on Facebook here. View Yahya Ghobani’s International awards here. View a short video about the making of The Tears here.

 

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Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserMedical Students To Hold Nationwide ‘Die-In’: #BlackLivesMatter

Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers was one of the demonstrators arrested in this case. Stay abreast of Climate Change, Net Neutrality, and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

Plus 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Plus 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd

Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd

Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Support Writing for Peace

Our administration is board operated and volunteer based, so your contributions go directly towards publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to our contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We hope you will join the generous contributors who make Writing for Peace possible. Writing for Peace is  a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

VENDOR, By Maxfield Harding

New York City

VENDOR

(an excerpt)

CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir

By Maxfield Harding

 

I laughed at my cleverness at escaping life. It was a cold late afternoon in early December on my corner at Fifty-Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. I stood behind my small vendor’s cart of dried fruits and shelled nuts. I had been standing at the cart since nine o’clock that morning. Blanched cashew nuts had been the hot item with the few people that came up to my cart that day.

I could look up through the tall windows in the fortress of a building to my left to see well-dressed men seated in large cushioned chairs, smoking their cigars and reading their newspapers and talking about their business deals, I imagined. I laughed loudly and pulled my black knit cap over my eyes, effectively shutting out the world around me and completely convinced now that no one could any longer see me either. I stood there smiling in what I hoped was oblivion. I was very tired.

Soon it was six o’clock in the evening. The rush hour had passed. Office workers had become pedestrians and then commuters and the street had emptied quickly. I began pushing my cart of dried fruits and nuts toward the west of midtown. A half hour later I was almost at the cart owner’s garage in a section of the city called Hell’s Kitchen. I had found three twenty dollar bills in the street about a hundred yards from the garage gate and was so elated I became slightly giddy. I hadn’t made much money that day.

I pushed my cart up the ramp and into the holding area where my fellow vendors and I waited to get the tubs of fruit and nuts weighed, and to work out our day’s pay. It was somehow always lower than what we hoped for.

I took out the three twenties and began to slowly shred them and toss the bits to the floor. A young woman near me screamed and told me to stop but I didn’t. The rest of the vendors scrambled to pick up the pieces while I laughed.

The young woman came up to me, her nose almost touching mine and said, “You need to talk to someone, buddy. You’re in a bad way.” I laughed, knowing she was totally wrong.

“You’re the weird one,” the owner said to me in the sing-song way he and his fellow countrymen from India had. “I’m glad that wasn’t my money you destroyed.” He was seated at a desk with a scale on an elevated platform off to the side of the room. “You won’t last long here,” he said.

I laughed again and walked into the back of the garage to use the bathroom. I sat and put my face into the palms of my hands in defeat and waited as long as I possibly could to just before the urge to scream became too much. I walked out of the bathroom and the garage was empty of people save the owner at his desk on the platform. I stood before him. I said nothing. I could not think of the words to speak.

“What are you doing here, Max? Everyone’s already gone for the night,” the owner said to me.

I didn’t respond.

“Go have some dinner, Max. Unless you are filled up already from eating your own profits.”

Again I did not respond. The owner got off his platform and stood in front of me and looked directly into my eyes. “Okay,” he said. “Just this one time.” He walked out the door leaving the lights on and lowered the heavy steel gates that protected his investment and, for this night, me.

It was cold that night, but thank God for us street vendors there was no snow on the ground. There was little heat in the owner’s garage either. I huddled under his desk near the faulty steam radiator and tried as best I could to sleep. I laughed at myself in disbelief and wonderment: in my mind I was losing the sense of feeling “cool” selling dried fruits and roasted nuts on the moneyed streets of New York City. I had chosen this path rather than having what was then called a “straight job,” climbing the corporate ladder, making a lot of money. But I also knew that night that I could have used a few more ten dollar bills in my pocket and wondered why I had shredded those twenties a few hours ago.

Downward mobility had become my attitude of nobility which I had adopted since I graduated from Brown University fifteen years before. Certainly scrambling for a few dollars a day was supposed to be more entertaining and honest to me than sitting behind a desk, or so I had thought. I had made my choice and it seemed there was no turning back now. I was out of the economic mainstream and out of a place to live and sleep and had not much money with which to eat.

Maxfield Harding, Guest WriterAbout Maxfield Harding, Writing for Peace Guest Writer, and Author of “From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A Memoir”

Max Harding arrived at Brown University as an “A” student. His descent began then in rebelliousness and a journey he hoped would bring him a life as an author. Inexplicably, he eventually found himself homeless and mentally ill on the streets of New York City at the age of thirty-five.

Maxfield Harding, Author of From CASUALTY: Crazy and Homeless in New York City – A MemoirMax was unable to fathom what was happening to his brain and the images and sounds of the world all about him. He roamed the city in full psychosis from small homeless shelters and down-and-out residential hotels to the large Camp La Guardia for homeless men north of the city. He was soon removed from that facility and sent back to New York to be put in handcuffs and eventually consigned to Bellevue Mental Hospital, more of a threat to himself than anyone else. He had given up all hope of dealing with the voices and strange powers that brought him to fully expect his execution at the hands of the doctors and nurses at Bellevue.

Casualty, by Maxfield Harding, on Amazon.comFrom the hospital bed from which he awoke the first morning at Bellevue he was eventually able to rise up with psychiatric medication and therapy and the great and generous help of his social worker. He gained entrance into a psychiatric apartment program and then onto work again in mainstream American society. Many of the programs and aid which Max received are no longer available today or are in very short supply. Close to half of the adult victims of over six hundred thousand homeless in America today are mentally ill and have outrageously become our most disposable citizens. Most disturbing are the returning military veterans with more psychic than physical wounds languishing in agony within this substratum of American society. The terrible actions of a few rare mentally afflicted individuals gunning down dozens of innocent people, many of them children, call out for greater and better treatment of the mentally ill in our society.

After thirty-five years of productive work, Max now lives in subsidized housing in Bronx, New York.

Max’s story comes to us through Writing for Peace Adviser, Lorraine Currelley. Lorraine shared this account of their meeting:

Maxfield Harding Group Circle SPARC“I was a 2014 S.P.A.R.C. Seniors Partnering with the Arts Citywide recipient. It was a citywide competition and my proposal for a program won. I taught poetry and creative writing.

“Max joined my workshop and attended twice weekly. Max was an experienced writer, but I don’t believe he was ever published. His short stories and the work he produced in workshop was phenomenal.

Maxfield Harding SPARC 2 I encouraged each student to publish. As an end of workshop project we published a book, On The Write Path. Max informed me he was writing a book and it was near completion. The book CASUALTY and the rest is history. It’s available as an ebook and within a week or two will be available in hard copy.”

You can purchase a copy at Amazon.com here.

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Check Out the Latest Recommended Reading From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserWorld VS Bank: Take Action To Break Wall Street Exploitation Of Global Community

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestCheck out our 2015 Young Writers Contest! Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace; Purchase Our Latest Edition Of DoveTales

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

EVERYDAY PEACE, by Samantha Terrell

Vincent Van GoghEVERYDAY PEACE

by Samantha Terrell

I’m an everyday kind of person.

The youngest of four kids, I grew up in an old farmhouse smack-dab in the middle of a Kansas wheat field where there was dust, and sweat, and homemade bread, and prayer…mostly led by my dad, a progressive Presbyterian minister.

When I was a teenager we moved to the Missouri Ozarks which was a culture shock for a Kansas girl, though I would adjust. I spent my college years all over the (United States) map, both literally and figuratively, as I struggled to find my way—switching majors and schools, dropping out altogether, and working here and there, before ultimately earning my Bachelor’s degree and meeting my husband.

In all things though, I kept striving for the out-stretched hand of a faith to give me peace in my decision-making; it’s a faith that has guided me as an adult, through career changes, marriage, parenting, and many other everyday kinds of things, and it provides a peace that I don’t dare take for granted.

So, these days when my sons occasionally grumble about their “first-world” problems, my husband and I make a point to explain the privileges we have as Americans living in the 21st century. While to some it may seem harsh to push these “grown up” issues on kids, I want them to grow up knowing that as they complain in-between bites of breakfast cereal about going back to school, many children in the world are enduring the hardships of poverty, starvation, and war.

I would consider it not only the ultimate “parenting fail,” but also a “humanity fail,” if I didn’t attempt to instill in my own children the sense of peace that comes from an appreciation of (what we consider) everyday things. It is in this vein that I write.

TAKEN FOR GRANTED

tonight my sons
eat pizza that I pulled
from my electric-oven
with a hot blast in my face
transporting me to our own youth
when oven-heat from
a floor-vented furnace sent
our pink nightgowns billowing up
in clouds of warmth,
as we giggled, and sighed with relief
at the comfort of that heat
in our very own home
which mother-nature has now
simultaneously stolen from each of you,
in your respective struggles,
as I worry over you from a distance
with overdue gratitude for
a family home,
a source of heat, and the
laughter of sisterhood

 

Samantha Terrell, Writing for Peace ContributorAbout Samantha Terrell

Samantha Terrell is a published poet, who has been writing for nearly two decades. Her chapbook ‘Honesty,’ is published six times annually. Her work has been featured in DoveTales, by Writing for Peace; LaBloga Floricanto; and other formats. Samantha resides in Missouri with her husband and two boys.

Samantha’s new book “Vespers,” features her original poetry and offers the reader a weekly prayer journal to assist in finding peace of the ‘everyday’ variety. For more information, or to place an order, go to: poetrybysamantha.weebly.com. A portion of all profits will be donated to charity.

 

 

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Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers Recommends:

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Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where we can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest Judges

Check out our 2015 Young Writers Cntest! To date, Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTale

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition

The 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

manifesto, by radhiyah ayobami

Writing for Peace Welcomes Guest Writer, Radhiyah Ayobami

 

manifesto

Radhiyah Yemayatoday i heard a story that made me very happy. in fact, it actually made me feel joy. it was a story about a close sista-friend of mine. i have known her for about ten years. we met when our children went to the same cultural school (our friendship has outlived the school as well.)  i was in my early 20’s- she was about 30. i was transitioning into the cultural world, growing locs, and exploring different traditions. she had already been married to a community leader, and she eased me into her circle and her way of life. she introduced me to roots reggae dances and was the first person i met who blessed herb before smoking it. she took me to african spiritual events and explained the protocol; how to cleanse before entering, when to stand and when to kneel, how to give an offering and receive a blessing. wherever we went, folks cracked into wide smiles as soon as she was on the scene, she was forever being waved at across a crowded room, greeting other smiling people, and being enveloped by hugs.
 

as the years progressed, we went through the same initiations, starved through the same fasts and partied at the same events in long skirts and headwraps on a wednesday night and were late getting our kids to school in the morning. we piled our children and some other folks children in a half-working car and drove to all-night drum circles where they fell asleep under trees as we meditated by the fire, we survived on the same small handful of greens in a foreign country when it had rained too much and everybody was hungry, and when the sun came out we all washed up outside in broad daylight, everything jiggling, breasts that had nursed babies, waistbeads, and our locs heavy with water from the sea.
 

and then came the curves of life. we went to city offices and through housing systems, patching together the help we needed to move forward. we created resumes and got jobs that paid on the books and took out taxes. we transitioned out of our small communities and found that wearing extra long skirts and yards of cloth around our shoulders was sometimes not practical when working with small children or in various other settings. she was first to cut her locs and put on pants, and one day she came walking around the corner on fulton street with no headwrap, no multi-colored skirt swishing her ankles and no scent of sacred oil, and i walked right by her. she had a short afro, creased pants, and a folder full of resumes, and something about the outfit reminded me of the colorful birds i saw languishing in cages at the zoo. months later, when my son and i lived in a building that awakened us with five am fire alarms, she wrote me a letter that helped me transition out of that place and into an apartment where my porch was the entire roof and i could sit and watch the sky.

 

and then we went into the next decade of our lives, and i listened to her laugh become a little less loud as she watched friends and family marry and waltz across the dance floor in each other’s arms as she raised her children and drove to the occasional roots dance on her own. we began to talk about the beliefs and traditions that kept us bound to the idea of being honorable women. elders told us that we shouldn’t be out past nine o’clock. imams said we should be in by maghrib. at the drumming ceremonies, we couldn’t uncover our hair (even though it was hot by the fire, and the breeze through our locs would have been the greatest blessing.) in almost every tradition, we were lectured against smoking herb, and told to have husbands instead of lovers, so we wouldn’t damage our spirits. so me and my sista-friend began to have conversations. we began to wonder, under the skirts and scarves and rules and admonishments, where we could find the seed of joy. our communities and traditions had sustained and nurtured us, but now we were in a new cycle of life, and it was time for change. we talked and argued with each other, we fasted and went to steam baths and spiritual events and prayed and sat with our own thoughts. and then, we moved.
 

she broke the no lovers rule first, and invited me over for  tea so we could talk about it, and it was a conversation that lasted all night. it was winter when she broke that rule, and it was summer when i broke it, and i ended up writing a lot of poems. and we discovered some things. we discovered that another human being, particularly a partner, fixing a meal that you like or washing your hair or giving you advice on a complicated problem late at night even though they were tired or rubbing your foot deep enough to ease out the soreness of the day was just as holy as a drum ceremony or lighting an incense stick or the pouring of water- and maybe, even more holy than that. we discovered that the best rules to follow were the ones that brought our spirits balance and joy.
 

and after awhile, my sista-friend stayed in pants. she never went back into daily headwraps and long skirts- although she would wear them occasionally for events or if she felt like it. i stayed in long skirts and wraps because my womanself loved them, but sometimes wore jeans if i wanted to, and we never gave up dancing or late nights or wine or bud. we still prayed and chanted and burned and poured sacred water- but we carried no flags but our own.
 

and then today she called me, ashamed, because she was out on a date with a man that made her heart glow, and they had a little taste of wine and a little smoke, and they went to a roots party, and she ran into folks she knew, and there she was in a short skirt and a wild afro, kinda high, kinda drunk, with a strange and non-cultural man, and all the women were in there with headwraps up to the ceiling and skirts down to the floor. well, i fell out. i laughed and laughed. because at the age and stage that we’re in now, does it really matter? we are far enough into this journey that we know most things are between us and the creator. when i was living in the five am fire alarm place, i was plagued with headaches so bad that i walked around with tylenol tucked into every pocket, every bag, and even under my headwrap for emergencies. and her letter helped me get into a house where the birds would come sing at the windows in the mornings when the sky was still pink, and i didn’t have a bottle of tylenol in that whole house. and some of those women in those skirts would never do that for anyone else- some of them were devils. i know, because i wear long skirts and i’m a devil when i wanna be too.
 

and i wish my sista- friend a hundred dances in a hundred short skirts, if that’s what feeds her soul. and for the rest of us, i wish us permission to be unbound to whatever it is that binds us. sometimes i look at my life- i’m in an expensive grad school but got no money. i’m an older black woman in an mfa program, which is generally made up of students who are young, male and white. i’m fat but i do african dance and yoga and i love it, even when i’m the biggest person in the class, which is often. i moved across the country with a teenager, which everyone says is the worst time to move a child, and now he’s closer to the honor roll than he’s ever been. i’ve made a lot of mistakes, but my son and i have also had some great adventures. life has been our guide, our teacher and our protector. and as shaky as my progress is, i’m continuing on my journey to be fully unbound, fully engaged in the process of life instead of watching it drift by, and fully committed to living with joy.

 

i  give myself permission to:
 

honor my inner guidance

create my own family makeup

not explain or apologize for my choices

not explain, excuse or defend my size, culture or style of dress

treat my body kindly no matter what it looks like

tell my truth even when it’s uncomfortable

tell the stories of my ancestors

pursue all my passions

ask for and accept compensation for my talents

not be afraid or ashamed of mistakes

choose teachers by spirit and not external affiliations

walk away when i need to

humble myself only to the elements; water, sun, trees, land & sky

(& of course the creator)

 

and so it is!

 

radhiyah ayobami: brooklyn born by way of the south, telling stories of black womanhood, motherhood & folks in invisible spaces, believes word has the power to shift consciousness, writes & workshops with pregnant teens, inmates & elders, africana studies graduate of brooklyn college & mfa prose student at mills college in oakland, california, where she is working on a collection of nonfiction essays & the trees give her poems.

 

Writing for Peace News

  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace Our Second edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso
Cassandra Arnold
Maggie Bàra
Henry Braun
Lorraine Caputo
William Cass
Lorraine Currelley
Colin Dodds
John Garmon
Diane Giardi
Mark Goad
Veronica Golos
Sam Hamill
Dawnell Harrison
D. Iasevoli, Ed.D
Allan M. Jalon
Shelley Kahn
Richard Krawiec
Paula Dawn Lietz
Cory Lockhart
Shannon K. Lockhart
Veronica Marshall
Sandra McGarry
Iwona Partyka
Sy Roth
Andrew Sacks
Carol Smallwood
Julia Stein
Samantha Peters Terrell
Bänoo Zan

  • 2015 Young Writers Contest

Our exciting 2015 Young Writers Contest Judges Panel will be announced on September 1st, along with our Contest Guidelines!

  • Facebook

Our Facebook page is your go-to source for inspiration about writing, peace, and the intersection of the two. Your likes and shares increase our reach and help spread the word, so come by for a visit, share your ideas and questions. We’d love to hear your thoughts about writing and the many ways you are making a difference!

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

My Mother’s Funeral, A Review by Robert Kostuck

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserMY MOTHER’S FUNERAL

by Adriana Páramo

CavanKerry Press, 2013, 258 pp., $21.00, ISBN 1-933880-39-2

A Review, by Robert Kostuck

In My Mother’s Funeral, Adriana Páramo slips between her mother Carmen’s life before children, her own childhood memories, and the present—wake, funeral, cremation. Woven into these personal experiences is an omnipresent Columbia: the open spaces of Mariquita, the squalid poverty of Medellín and Bogotá, rival drug gangs, politics, Catholicism, the Communist Party revisited.

Objectivity is difficult to achieve in a book-length essay; Ms. Páramo, however, succeeds admirably—she gently and firmly pieces together the tapestry of the mother and daughter relationship; readers will find common themes presented in even-handed and sometimes startling prose. Her writing is educational without being didactic; emotional without being sentimental.

Politics in Colombia were harsh in the 1950s. Her rarely-seen father, ‘Mr. B’, a cachiporro (liberal), seduces the innocent Carmen, and after the wedding rushes her away from her home—a few hours ahead of the godos (conservatives). First night together is spent in a whorehouse; for the remainder of the marriage Mr. B comes and goes as he pleases, impregnating Carmen and then vanishing for months or years at a time. At one point her sister Dalila acquires a partially-decomposed adult male human skeleton—courtesy of a ‘snatcher’, recommended by the nuns—and together sister and mother boil and clean the bones. Assembled, Dalila receives her coveted A+ in anatomy and the unnamed skeleton literally hangs around the house, a possible replacement for the missing Mr. B.

The baby of the family, Adriana curls up with her mother in the kitchen or in bed, listening to the stories of the world filtered through a tabletop radio: sports, agony aunties, soap operas, tangos, boleros; Carmen singing along with the radio, Adriana, watching her mother “morph into a woman”.

“Tal vez mañana puedas comprender / Que siempre fui sincera / Tal vez por alguien llegues a saber / Que todavia te quiero. Maybe later you might understand / That I was always sincere / Perhaps someone will help you see / That I still love you.”

Childhood for Adriana, is a combination of head-long curiosity and goofy naiveté. Carmen, and to a lesser extent, her sisters, guide and guard the young Adriana. Memory is selective; what Adriana shows us is how this mother shapes her daughters: strict, efficient, economical—she maintains a poor but tidy home and life for her children. Lessons by word or example are rarely repeated; they become the very fibers of her daughter’s body and personality. Toward the end of the memoir, Adriana writes,

“Our financial situation started to improve when we moved to Medellín, and Dalila, Amanda, and Ligia got secretarial jobs that required them to wear nylons, high heels, and modest suits. Eventually they began going back to school at night, but they never stopped working, never stopped rescuing Mom and their two younger sisters from the constant panic of uncertainty. I owe everything I am to the women in my family—to my sisters and Mom. Nobody else.”

This is the heart of the memoir: what a daughter learns from her mother: how to be a girl, how to become a woman; and when that mother begins to fade from autumn into winter, how to become her mother. When Carmen, beset by Alzheimer’s, visits Adriana the wife and mother at her new home in Alaska, she relates a story about her pregnancy with Adriana so at odds with the life lessons she’d imparted over the years that her daughter feels an urge to “. . . jump into the lake and sink slowly into its frigid waters.” The fantastic and heartbreaking revelation adds another thin, sharp layer to this complex mother and daughter relationship.

Returning to Colombia in torn jeans and a gypsy blouse, Adriana arrives at the wake, faces somber and seemingly more mature sisters and a brother. Funerals are holidays for the dead, a time when far-flung family reunite and wonder aloud what went right and what went wrong. Her sisters and brother are emotional but methodical—Adriana feels like the only one with an incomparable loss—the woman who as a child promised her mother that she would always remain her little girl. A few days stretches into a painful eternity, and when the siblings return home to divide Carmen’s possessions, Adriana is nostalgic, then practical:

“I imagine landing in Miami, trying to make it through customs with a fern, a plastic chair, a flyswatter, a river stone, and a broom, and I have to laugh at my childishness. I discard my mental list. Instead I take a pair of earrings that belonged to my grandmother, (. . .) a photo of the six women—my four sisters, Mom, and me—that my brother took the day I left Colombia; the locket with a photo of my daughter that Mom wore around her neck like an amulet. I also seize the printout of Mom’s last EKG, taken two days ago.

“(. . .) I don’t know this yet but in six years I will look at this EKG and realize that the ink is fading away and with it the only existing traces of Mom’s heartbeat. I’ll have it tattooed around my left bicep, much to my family’s dismay, so that her heartbeat and mine will always be together.”

My Mother’s Funeral is the literal translation of that EKG tattoo, spanning decades, continents, and lives; a heartbeat that remains long after we scan the final page and move on into the days to come.

Robert Kostuck, Writing For Peace Guest WriterRobert Kostuck graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Masters in Education. His published work appears in the Kenyon Review, Concho River Review, Zone 3, Tiferet: Literature, Art, and the Creative Spirit, Silk Road, and others.

Writing for Peace News

Onward Into 2014!

Last year brought growth and many exciting firsts for Writing For Peace. Here’s a brief overview of 2013:

In 2013 our Advisers continued to demonstrate a commitment to peace and the power of writing through their work, their inspirational blog posts, brilliant ideas such as Mary Carroll-Hackett’s educational Facebook page for young writers, MCH-What’s Going On? and Pilar Rodriguez Aranda’s efforts to reach Spanish speaking young writers by translating our 2014 contest guidelines. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Sam Hamill‘s new and revised translated collection of Chinese poetry, Crossing the Yellow River is being published by Tiger’s Bark Press. His Selected Poems (not yet titled) will be published by Lost Horse Press in September 2014.
  • Lorraine Currelley was selected as an Artist-in-Residence for the 2014 Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) and as a new member of the Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers. Her Poets Network & Exchange will publish their first poetry anthology in 2014.
  • Veronica Golos is working on a new book, Root Work: The Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown. “Of course John Brown was a great abolitionist and so was his wife, Mary and she also had 13 children. I have Ghost Code poems and Runaway poems also in the book. This is a way to make history live again, to get inside it so to speak.”
  • Richard Krawiec supports a community of writers and activists through education and his ever expanding Jacar Press.
  •  Maija Rhee Devine spoke with young people in South Korea and the United States about her award-winning books, The Voices of Heaven and Long Walks on Short Days, her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War, and her work with Korean Comfort Women.
  • Dr. Margaret Flowers continues her peace and healthcare activism. She currently serves as Secretary of Health on the Green Shadow Cabinet. Her recent article, Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer Than You May Realize — How Do We Finish the Job?, is also co-written with Kevin Zeese, and published on AlterNet.
  • Adriana Paramo‘s new memoir, My Mother’s Funeral, explores the volatile relationship with her mother, and their love that defies cultural forces, Bogotá street violence, and Medellin drug lords.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful work all our advisers do. Please watch our blog for their posts, follow their work, and support the poets and authors whose writings and activism encourage a more thoughtful and peaceful world.

In 2014, we look forward to hearing from Board Member Andrea W. Doray, who recently returned from Nepal, and to continued growth – including the occasional review on our blog! On this first day of the New Year, we welcome guest writer, Robert Kostuck, who reviews Adriana Paramo’s memoir, My Mother’s Funeral.

Happy New Year, Writers for Peace! And thank you for your ongoing support!

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.