Whenever I got lonely, or needed some advice, he gave me his shoulder, his words were very nice…

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I picks my friends, like I picks my fruit,
and granny told me that when I was only a youth,
I, don’t walk around trynna be what I’m not,
I don’t waste my time trynna get what you got.
I work at pleasing me, cause I can’t please you,
and that’s why, I do what I do,
My soul flies free like a willow tree…

Fruit…

He brought so much excitement to my day.  Spending hours in my cypher, he began to write poems, inspired by the way my mind floated.  He remained untainted by false profits, and listened to the elders.  He meant what he said.  He said, he’d see me through my healing.  He was strong.  He needed me, just as I needed him, sustained by my unpredictable existence, he levitated in the walls that I cultivated- orange and red hues, with yellow overtones.  My creations empower.   I am the water bearer, the loyal one.  Blossoming spirit, they desire, but I chose  him.  I swallowed his insecurities, and I deciphered his anger.  He gave to me purely, without expectations.

I am Shila Iris, life-sustaining…

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Kwanzaa After Dark: Days 1-3 Umoja – Kujichagulia – Ujima

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Although Kwanzaa is a holiday that is practiced across the world in a myriad of communities, I realize that many people aren’t yet accustomed to it, and that is OK. We can change this. It is an uplifting event, that transcends materialism, pacification, domination, oppression, isms, schisms, and negative vibrations. I am proud that I am learning Kwanzaa and using it to empower myself. It may take some time to get into the swing of it, but if you missed the mark, feel free to choose any week of the year to practice. There is nothing wrong with a summer Kwanzaa.

My first Kwanzaa occurred 5 years ago. It was with a group of 6 people. We committed to it, and it ended well. Soon after, I realized that what it represented is a part of me and I needed more of it, so it became one of my rituals. I printed out the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa and made them easily accessible to me on any given day.

To a beginner, Kwanzaa may seem like a lot because it is indeed a 7-day celebration, and it requires time and dedication. I suggest starting to prepare for Kwanzaa in November of each year, but definitely by December 19, you should have all your supplies. If you wait until the last minute, it may seem overwhelming and your plans may fall through. However, it helps to observe Kwanzaa year round. It’s distinctive principles are mantras and are affirming. Waking up to the Nguzo Saba is great for me, and it can be great for you too.

So, today is December 28, 2016, the third day of Kwanzaa, and I am excited to light the first green candle for Ujima. On day one, my partner and I talked about having Unity in the family first. Lots, of times we go out into the world and try to form bonds and partnerships, and our homes aren’t in order. So, we committed to Unifying the HOME, because once that is in order, we can truly go out into the community and plant some righteous seeds of love.

Kujichagulia, was yesterday. I can’t help but to think of the song K.O.S. by Black Star when observing this day. The lyrics reflect the principle of self-determination:

“That life without knowledge is, death in disguise?
That’s why, Knowledge of Self is like life after death
Apply it, to your life, let destiny manifest”

I lit the red candle and spoke to my ancestors. I thanked them for forming an unbreakable realm of protection around me. I have been through some things, but here I am, standing. I am even more determined to rise and become who I am meant to be.

I’ve done a few things to prepare for Kwanzaa. At work, I created a Kwanzaa Book Display, in efforts of informing the community about the holiday, and at home, this is my altar for this year…

Posters in display from Created by Crosby.

I hear people often asking, why Kwanzaa? My answer to that is “why not Kwanzaa?” There is such greatness in this celebration. Completing the week is definitely an achievement because it means that you stuck to a plan, and followed through on a commitment. Be proud of that! Please do some research of your own and tailor the decorations and meaning to fit you. It is truly a joy to celebrate You, your roots, your ancestral lineage. What about it?

Peace and blessings manifest with every lesson learned.

Shila Iris

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WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH- I AM EVERY WOMAN, THAT INCLUDES YOU

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In speaking to a group of men last week, it was not surprising that they had never heard of WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH. They asked me if this was something new. I told them that it had been a national celebration for quite some time now. The worldwide celebration of women started in the early 1900s but it evolved into a month-long celebration in the U.S. in 1987. It was started as a way to promote equality among sexes in the classroom. This is of great importance around the world even today as women are still denied many rights in countries around the world! Sadly, I do not come across many women who know about Women’s History Month or are ready to talk about the importance of women in our culture. This is a good time to learn!

I feel the necessity for the celebration from two personal standpoints: being WOMAN and being BLACK. Although the month is not just about women gaining the right to vote, women’s suffrage is one of the defining elements. Women wanted to be treated like thinking & feeling human beings and did not want to be disenfranchised on the basis of sex. This is what led to the struggle for women’s rights known as the feminist movements.

DEFINITION

Feminism (n): the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

In America, women’s suffrage movements and Black freedom movements were parallel but indeed separate. I am deeply affected by both. America is still in the recovery years from slavery and oppression. THE DATES:

March 30, 1870, the 15 Amendment was adopted allowing Black men the right to vote. Few actually ever voted because of other oppressive laws that were set up to counter their votes. Blacks were still being lynched and treated like animals well into the 1960s. So, almost 90 years after the initial ratification, there were still too many parameters set up to deter Blacks from voting.  

Women’s right to vote came in 1920 after the 19 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits any United States citizen to be denied the right to vote based on sex.

Were Black women voting at this point? Not too many. Black people did not FULLY exercise the right to vote until the 1960s after protesting Jim Crow laws that were pretty much scare tactics to keep Blacks from voting. This is why many people believe that women actually received the right to vote before Blacks.

Not until the Voting Rights of 1965 did African Americans start to vote, without fear of being beat, lynched, spat on, turned away, etc. It eliminated literacy tests, poll tax, and other subjective voter tests that kept Blacks from voting.

Technically, all WOMEN did not get the right to vote, free of discrimination until 1965. This meant that any person regardless of race or sex could vote. Every diasporic groups voting rights were strengthened during the Civil Rights Movement.

In the celebration of the history of the woman, I would like to acknowledge the 1920 amendment as well as the Voting Rights Act which was the beginning of the right for every woman to vote free of discrimination.  I am you, and you are me and we must celebrate every woman the same.

QUEEN DUAFE FOR AFRICAN ESSENCE