My Introduction to Nikki Giovanni

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black-history_feb-12_copyright-shila-iris-2017Storytelling has been an African tradition for a very long time. Our ancestors used stories to record history and to communicate important messages through generations. Poetry is the method I use to tell stories, and this is the woman who made me believe that it could be done. Poetry can change minds, change hearts, lead to soul revivals; it has a place on the streets, in politics, in music, up high, down low, poetry is a tool we use to transcend. Back in 2005, I heard Nikki speak in the wonderful Jubilee Hall on the campus of her and my Alma Mater, Fisk University. She was amazing, with her candid interpretations of life, or should I say, thug life! Check out the tattoo on her left forearm. I can’t believe that Nikki Giovanni is 73 years old. Her name sounds like she is fashion designer, but she is indeed a game changer who has tried to help us recover from having our culture stolen. With her pages of accolades, she has been a fighter and a major voice. With her words of wisdom and ability to communicate with people from all walks of life, she has helped us fight against the deeply-rooted injustices targeted at people of African descent. She is more than a writer, she uplifted the Black Experience and taught it to many generations of young minds. My favorite piece from her is an essay named Gemini, in a book also named Gemini. She speaks about her first 25 years as a Black poet, and in this particular essay, she talks about the relationship between Black men and women. Looking back on it, I can see things a bit clearer. I am grateful. Prophetic poetry is a part of our Black history. Thanks Nikki, for paving a way. Peace.

I really adore you,

Shila Iris

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My Introduction to James Baldwin

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black-history_feb-9_copyright-shila-iris-2017As a child, when tough times fell on my family, I became an avid reader. At the age of 8, I was visiting the library, checking out the thickest and heaviest novels I could carry. I would read just about anything, as long as it kept me occupied. Browsing the shelves of the African-American Literature section, I often saw James Baldwin’s name, but for some reason, I avoided his books. I did this for a long time, and didn’t take an interest in his writing until I was in my 30s. I kept hearing his name in the art community, both locally and nationally- it turned out, he inspired many people.

One day, I was visiting my oldest sister and she had a copy of one of his books in her purse. I inquired and she said that he is her favorite writer. I said, well that’s enough. I am going to have to read one of the three Baldwin books I have at home! Yes, I had gone as far as purchasing his books, but still never read them. Giovanni’s Room was my choice. I was pleased. I will read many others. The way he brings the Black experience to life, and the way he isn’t afraid to discuss what conformists think are the “darkest” parts of our existence, is what makes his writing so attractive. He is the voice inside of our heads.
And, that’s all I have to say!

Thank you for coming here,

Shila Iris

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My Introduction to Malcolm X

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Surfacing…

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Working on the “invisible” me so that the “visible” me can be better. 

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Like the Sun, I rise. poetry… coming soon.

Shila Iris

Saul Williams for National Poetry Month @MOCA

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Use poetry to tap into your ROOTs.
Let the true spirit of your ancestors, shine through.

Our people were scattered into the desert, across the sea, over and away from their homeland; and they have forgotten how to recognize themselves.  We will wake up.  -shila

I am an artist with a mission. That mission is to always be about uplifting people of African descent, and to be instrumental in the restoration of our true identity. This is why artists like Saul Williams inspire me:

“I am the streets
The white lines only separate me from me
You hydroplane in false god’s name and still crash into me
Sign and tree; mountainside; guard rail; into the sea
They thought they stole you from my arms then carried you to me
Here’s the key: DNA encoded in a beat
White rocks in a vial, nigga, ain’t got nothin’ on me
Bitch I’m free, ask these editors at MTV
Far as they know, they’re publishing some new school poetry
Let it be
Cause even that will do to turn the key
Doorways into other worlds, the truth shall set you free
You are me, I am you, but also I’m he
Shepherd of a bastard flock that grazes in the streets… ”

– from DNA by S.W.

Every day, I am a poet. I have been writing since I was 7.
Sometimes my words rhyme, but most often I use free verse.
From free verse, came the rise of spoken word poetry.
Many artists have chosen this form as their primary means of communicating.
Try it. It can be quite liberating.

SAUL BOOKS:

If you are in Northeast Ohio, tomorrow, April 15, Saul Williams will be reading at MOCA and then performing at the Grog Shop. If you attend the MOCA event for $12, you can get into the Grog for $10.  Of course advance purchases are better, because you save a few dollars. Check him out. I’ve seen him at least 4 times, in different cities, and I really dig him because each performance is different. He is fully committed and true to his art form and that is admirable.

SAUL CDs and MOVIES

Peace and love.  I am OSiRis RiSinG

Black History Month Library Displays

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Big Books Display

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Queen

Black History Month Library Displays

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Queen