Ntozake Shange

FullSizeRender (7)Ms. Shange,

1991.  I had the transformational opportunity to perform in your work

spell#7: geechee jibara quik magic trance manual for technologically stressed third world people

at Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN.

this was my first professional production.

what a rite of passage, to take on your words, the dance of them, the physicality of them,

and to perform them, conjure the work with a distinguished group of black creative folx.

to don the minstrel mask, legacy through picking cotton, lindy-hopping and grooving till we arrived into the 70’s, where the spell unfolds through our impassioned voices.

to transport ourselves into that bar/club, that part of NYC, to embody those ‘actor’ characters as they shared, poeticized, strutted, expressed dimensions of blackness that both awakened and mystified my own blackness.

I sang a song that was not meant for me

played a guitar that was never more than plucking strings

kissed a woman deeply with all of my queer breath held tightly

and stumbled to break open my creative universe

i’m still stumbling… with the spell of your work still nurturing/resting in my soul

thank you.


I say you name

give offering to sweeten your palate

soften your pathway to foreverness

pull back into the words of the spells you have crafted

and bask


I call your name acknowledging you amongst the creative ancestors who profoundly shaped/changed the way we/I expressed and experience theatre/performance

for us

by us.


sssssssssssssssspelllllll number SEVEN!



dis body.

my father’s body
has found its way into my own
the forehead expands, the hair recedes
extends into my stomach…keeps extending
seeping into leg bones degeneratively.
mom’s here too
fully in thighs widened
a rounded high end
drifting up
towards heart’s inner sanctum inner strength
to mind’s brewing bipolarity
permeable mental precarity
present whether i try to hide it or not.
like family
i’m sometimes ashamed
don’t always pay attention
struggle with yet embrace
evolving pains, woes, fissures, the growths…
all needs tending
tenacious softening
a responsive love
this cultured body

this dance is black.

a black man.
a disabled black man.
two recent killings
that we know of
with more to come…

& i
in the midst of this –
bridge bodies shoulders with another brotha
arms cross arms
bending necks
this dance emerges
dropping to knees
falling towards the ground
face down
shaken into
holds that rock us
onto our backs
thighs cradle head
side to side
side by side
to momentary stillness.

pressed against each other
we roll up
our breaths are deep
with hands extended
ready to carry ourselves.

black men
disabled black men
we be.
we keep movin.

#thisdanceisBlack  #theseFolkwecarry #whathebodyknows

these moments. in the act of art.

the art making doesn’t stop. in the midst of campaigning for what the body knows, an opportunity to collaborate is embraced.  basking from the beauty of the act of art, in the art of experimentation with brilliant artists Nikki Patin and Mikel Patrick Avery in politics  of space , curated by Demecina Beehn as the culmination to 2016 Chicago Home Theater Festival at Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative’s studio in the neighborhood of  Greater Grand Crossing.

truly thankful for these moments:

this moment in the act of art. we three be. within community. making the unknown known.



this moment in the act of art. we find each other. tenderly. “who’s the table”. revealing truths.



the moment post performing. still savoring the act of art. candidly, we three creative folk be.


from left to right: Nikki Patin, Mikel Patrick Avery and me.



sometimes we are offered support. many times we need it. no shame.

Barak supported by Jerron

thankful for the support of my dance partner  Jerron Herman – in this above moment photographed by Nikki Bruce – and the folk who have supported  what the body knows campaign thus far!

this choreographic project will premiere at Stony Island Arts Bank with FREE performances on October 28th and 29th.

the final phase needs more support. please join in the conversation surrounding the intersection of race and disability…embodied through what the body knows.

we keep movin.

May 3rd Performance-52

Black. and Disabled. and Dancing. We keep moving. together. through Art. in Community.

Nearly 1 in 5 folks in America have a disability. Intersect that recent statistic with  the racializing that impacts us all, and we are in for a profound convergence.  A powerful moment to recognize the strength within these communities through thoughtful discussions socially and creatively. 

Join us in the deepening of this conversation.  Please support this new work intersecting race and disability.  A suite of solos and a duet illuminating how we move and are moved by others.

what the body knows campaign is LIVE.   


*image of Jerron Herman and Barak by EyeAmNikkiB







Mr. Hughes, your roots flow infinite

your roots flow infinite

angels still sing your name

and here on earth

we carry your words in our hearts:

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln 
     went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy 
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Langston Hughes
Happy B-day James Mercer Langston Hughes


#BlackIsBold #Roots #TheNegroSpeaksOfRivers #ForMrLangstonHughes

Water/Ocean parallel

Happenstance and parallel

Across the divide

Water, country, ocean, age

United by race

They share:

Late great aunt Christine –

We came from the water. And to the water We shall return.”

Canadian scholar & writer, Rinaldo Walcott –

I am indigenous to the oceans. My relationship is oceanic.

Living and passed

Both move the soul.

#BlackIsBold #Roots #WaterMovesTheSoul

if this day | MLK

if this day
you find me
absent-mindedly humming a freedom song or spiritual
lotion-ing my ash in broad daylight
arriving late to see Selma again
wanting to shout every time i see a woman like my motha get struck down
re-tweeting MLK images, quotes and march events non-stop
wondering out-loud if i am brave enough
randomly calling on people to discuss what’s next
creatively and
in the movement


let. me. be.

‪#‎ReclaimMLKDay‬ ‪#‎BlackIsBold‬ #MLKDay2015

“the poetics of Empire”: a series of tweets

“the poetics of Empire” +

f#‎Tarajihenson‬ expressing her love of faggots in ‪#‎Empire‬

#Tarajihenson claiming James Brown lineage in #Empire

#‎Terrencehoward‬ cappin instead of rappin in #Empire

Dark shades and shady matters in #Empire

Something’s going down in #Empire

Monsters and geniuses, princes of America and gays in #Empire

Even a building is a B$tch in #Empire

#Tarajihenson calling people sissies in #Empire

#Tarajihenson advising against selling donuts and cookies in #Empire

Sons trying to be good enough in #Empire

No one’s safe from being called a B$tch in #Empire

Everybody is a rap song, r&b singer or medley in #Empire

#Tarajihenson knows thangs in #Empire

#Tarajihenson offering words of wisdom on white girls/women in #Empire

#Tarajihenson tipping and gun slinging in #Empire

Pill popping and butt slapping in #Empire

Oh ‪#‎Sidibe‬ faking preop in #Empire.

‪#‎notsopc‬ in #Empire

#Terrencehoward telling his queer son to take that “bass” out of his voice in #Empire

#Terrencehoward telling his queer son that it’s a choice in #Empire

Chains chains and bigger gold chains in #Empire

#Tarajihenson called a B by her “son” and oh, psychotic in #Empire

#Gaboureysidibe platinum blond and sassy in #Empire

#Tarajihenson feet hurting asking for #chicken in #Empire

#Tarajihenson sweated out her hair for this role. #Empire

#queerlove and #Kente in #Empire.

#Terrencehoward who did your hair? #Empire

Just peeped #KehindeWiley painting in the house of #Empire

#LeeDaniels I hope you “find your soul” in #Empire

Empire "family" from left to right: Trai Byers, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Gray
Empire “family”
Trai Byers, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Gray


+{these are select tweets. in my original tweets, “kente” refers to mud cloth. i incorrectly spell the names of the actors Taraji P Henson , Gabourey Sidibe & Terrence Howard. they are corrected for the purposes of this blog}

Expressive Roots. Expressing Roots.

Expressive Roots

Expressing Roots.

Zora Neale Hurston, writer, artist.


alvin ailey
Zora Neale Hurston, writer, artist.


For Zora. For Alvin. for those who took hold of their roots, dug deep

#BlackIsBold #Roots #ZoraNealeHurston #AlvinAiley

Three of Three For the New Year: #Roots

‪#‎Roots‬ deeper depths, expansive growth.

Tree Roots image by Paul Cannon
Tree Roots image by Paul Cannon

Excavating my roots: this is the core of why i began creating work through D UNDERBELLY.  i sought to understand culturally who i was. my blackness, my queerness. my ability. i recognize that these “roots” are rich and fertile. they are also massive and weighted. with tenderness, i will cultivate them. allow each one of them to grow deeper into the earth.  through time, effort and sustenance  –  like the tree roots vividly captured by photographer Paul Cannon – they will intertwine, reach out, and form a  strong foundation. in union with others, they will ascend and thrive.

#BlackIsBold  #ThreeWordChallenge

Two of Three For the New Year: #Bold

#Bold – more than just a hashtag, an action.

i started using the hashtag #BlackIsBold in 2014. it was just that, a hashtag. this year it’s a call to act. for me. for others. reminded of Urban Bush Women’s concept of the “warrior in your back pocket”, i found this image:

Ahosi or Mino (Dahomey Amazons)Ahosi or Mino Dahomey Amazons

“The Dahomey Amazons or Mino were an all-female military regiment of the Fon people of the Kingdom of Dahomey in the present-day Republic of Benin. They existed from the 17th century to the end of the 19th century. While European narratives refer to the women soldiers as “Amazons,” because of their similarity to the semi-mythical Amazons of ancient Anatolia, they called themselves Ahosi (king’s wives) or Mino (our mothers) in the Fon language. 

European encroachment into West Africa gained pace during the latter half of the 19th century. In 1890, King Behanzin used his Mino fighters alongside the male soldiers to battle the French forces during the First Franco-Dahomean War. The French army lost several battles to them because of the female warriors’ skill in battle.” [From Atlanta Black Star]

bold is not necessarily brash. it can be regal. it is feminine. and it is “armed and ready”. these warrior queens are just that. poised. beautiful. and not afraid. alongside others, they show their formidable skills. they inspire me to be bold.

#BlackIsBold #ThreeWordChallenge

Seeing / the hands that touch

circa 1990’s

Great aunt Mare
ready to walk with the ancestors
shrouded beneath the bed sheets she is still able to reach out to me
holds onto my arm
whispers to me how easy it is to float on out of this life
her gaze far yet specific

i ask her anxiously
what she sees
Brown Bear Brown Bear / the name passed onto me since my father’s passing
Brown Brown Bear
what i got to see for
all around me hands that touch
guide my spirit along
i just listen for the bells
hear my native tongue
i’ll be speaking it soon

now close that mouth,
no worrying about me think through
this life you live even now all that you do
no need to see,
just let the hands of the creator touch deeply
guide your spirit along,
and sweetly listen for your family’s native tongue.


Share your colors. #BlackIsBold

subtle acts of kinship

These subtle acts of kinship
A nod of the head with a slight tilt
A smooth Whatsup with a dap
A glide to the side to let you pass by

The kindness exemplified
through fuller acknowledgements
disavowing any notion of Invisibility
A calling of name with respect
Even if you have only met once
Even if you have only met inside a brief pedestrian moment

The neighborly relate–
I see you
See you passing by
You just keep on going
I see you with all that you carry
With your situation
I see you smiling
It makes me think about how I move through this world
My own situation
And how I can do the same.

These subtle acts of kinship
Are acts of rejuvenation.




share your colors. #BlackIsBold

called out.

being “called out”
it’s still in fashion.
especially within the media circus.
ask actors
Erika Alexander 
or most recently Samuel Jackson 
displaying their flair
in ways that may incite
or re-ignite our racial senses

laugh it off
shake it down
but don’t be mislead

for it is so nice to read
but perhaps for some
they are better off
“being read”

Share your colors #BlackIsBold


A lineage sprouting wings. Michael Sam, this is for you.

Michael Sam.

Knowingly or unknowingly
For black men
young & old
perhaps unable, undesiring or willing to reveal themselves
you put yourself on the line,
bravely sharing that which may never have been proclaimed
so visibly in such an arena.

though not inclined to watching football beyond my loyalty to the local team, your gesture moves me.

hopefully others too.

i must acknowledge
you during this time in our history
for you have shed light
new history.

call it gay, queer, call it romanticizing, this newness defies category.

A lineage sprouting wings.




soul-filled sunday. these sistas from mothaland

soul-filled sunday
these sistas from mothaland
nourish me with their distinctive vibrations
tuned into frequencies
one only hopes to experience in their lifetime

Oumou Sangare

Rokia Traore

Sona Jobarteh
the first female player from a griot family
who only recently graced my home
with her wondrous kora playing.

strong strong women of music & lore carrying more than their legacy,

Share your colors. #BlackIsBold

namely poetic (for Amiri Baraka & kindred peeps)

my name

no not the name i was branded
to remind me of who i wasn’t
(a Welshmen
what i didn’t have
(the pride my mothas mothas mothas mothas mothas… might have carried)
what i will never be
(no one’s slave)
how i refuse to be defined
(my body is not an accessory)
how i got here
(towing the underbelly)
why i don’t belong.


not that one
this ONE
this name
that kisses me when i share it with someone
and basks in sunshine,
it spoke to me
in the way that a devoted parent looks into a child’s eyes
and says “i love you”,
that’s what it said
i love you.
it called me like my ancestors’ do when i am afraid to stand strong,
holds me at night when all seems alone.
and while it may never be mine “original”
it is original.
original as the roots that seep into the souls of all those who are still searching to be found again.

so for those of you who ask me to repeat it
redirect it’s accent to something more familiar
question its realness
find cause to demand its truth,
find stillness instead
and hear me say it to you
the way it wants to be said –
with the undercurrents
of a love supreme

share your colors. #BlackIsBold #28DaysOfBlackHistory

Rose Water Ocean

Wearing rose(s)
Smelling of rose(s)
Carrying rose(s)

All for you
All for you

Papa Legba ouvri bariye
sou mache manman dlo

Petals mixed with tears
Yemaja welcomes them 
Her curves guide their shifts against the ebullient waves

Like honey Erzulie carries the sweetness into the deeper parts of the water

And lured by their scent Oya’s whirlwinds lifts them further into infinity

manman ap mache sou dlo
mache mache li ap mache

–Rose Water Ocean (for Ma linda)

From The Dark Tower: A “recitation” of Countee Cullen’s poetic in honor of his induction into NY Writers’ Hall of Fame

From the Dark Tower

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made to eternally weep. 
The night whose sable breast relieves the stark,
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds. 

Sir Cullen your words remain with me throughout the many years since i first recited them in highschool. Congratulations on being inducted into the NY Writers’ Hall of Fame!

finding peace

6 months this day to my motha’s passing
a shifting in spirit and tone.
brought back ancestral images from NyC
her smiling mother
a beloved aunt
& sacred Ghanaian water captured from slave river Donkor Nsuo
to lay with her
so she would be with “family”.
she’s found home
i’m finding peace.

live the unknown

be not afraid

of the coming day

when springtime rolls up
and shapes the May
it is this time to live
and forgive
what winter brought
leaving u wrought full of listless dreams
so seems
now all is forgotten
and what is revealed
sealed by the kiss of flowers
and redolent awakenings
heals the gaps
undoing map’s impermanence 

be not afraid

of the coming day
when springtime rolls up
and shapes the May
step it up
and thrive
for sublime is the time to recognize
how imaginings come real
when we feel beyond the reaches of space
and face the depths of our be-ing
this mile is like no other
so stop being next
be the new
dive headfirst into the calm 
balm of sanctity’s
and live the unknown

no words exchange

Bending down to grab his bag
He gently grazes left hand to her knee.

A pass not unlike others along a cramped ride.

Long the way back up
Almost nuzzling ear
He takes in her scent. 

Nostrils flare.

Bus shifts then stops they flow.
He eases out of bus
Her sight
On his way.

No words exchanged.
Her scent will linger with him throughout the day.
His touch is still felt.

Of this body: a return to dance, new dance eco-system

dance is finding its way back into the pores of this body. not the other body i sought & fought for or the body longed for. back to the body of the present. rigorously immediate. with this body comes new movement terrain… a new landscape gets to be explored. and embraced.  Just saying “yes” to dancing means a creative horizon is emerging.  a dancing of consciousness and investigation.  a horizon that bridges the talking of dance with the traditions of dance making. the vibrant witnessing of other dance forms. undoing dance forms previously explored. writing about dance.  danceable concepts. just plain dancing.   dance as the universal communal exchange. A new dance eco-system.

Ewe women. regal. divine. beauty by design.

Ewe women of Ghana, Togo, Benin…

At the festival of reunion, home coming celebration of this year Ewe is placed under the sign of “dance, solidarity and reconciliation.” It remains an opportunity for Ewe people of Togo, Benin, Ghana and the Diaspora to rally Notsè considered their historical birthplace. Through the sphere of commemoration of the common life, it is also a way to transcend colonial boundaries for the harmonious development of the Ewe people.
The history of the Ewe people running around the wall of Agbogbo, King Agokoli, migration of the Ewe of from Nigeria stand in southern Togo.
When the Ewe came to Notsè, there was a lot of insecurity in the area, and the king Agokoli began to build a great wall around the city to protect against both enemies and certainly against wild animals. Agbogbo became a place of refuge because he has seen an influx of people fleeing insecurity and who had found shelter in Agbogbo. The population began to increase at the same time there were disputes about the throne, which is one reason of the last exodus of Ewe.

in search of new house…excavating ambient messages

morning dust kicks up

& i am found

excavating the soul of house inspired by the search for new house.

spirit builds it.
land encompasses it.
ambiance surrounds….

unfolding in 3


#1 “Maboko Na Ndouzou .”

(deep house Boddhi Satva Mix)

#2 “your talisman awaits within this pulse.”

(Yoruba Boddhi Satva mix)

#3 “Be like Warriors of Africa mixed with lemon, herbs, spit & sweat.”

(multi ancestral/peeps Boddhi Satva mix)


Maboko Na Ndouzou

we (liv)

sublime is the time to recognize
how imaginings come real
when we feel beyond the reaches of space
and face the depths of our be-ing
this mile is like no other
so stop being next
be the new
dive headfirst into the calm
balm of sanctity’s
and live the unknown

un-finished wo-man’s song

she sings softly


swaying  hips that were never meant to be forgiven

only to be rephrased over and over

and over once again.

the coiling of arms intertwine with scents of her lust and

beneath her tongue’s subtle ebb & flow

a spraying of mist exists


up and down

side to side

out and in

between her lips

all while she’s


no other sounds are realized

except the willfullness of  breath

exposed as she share woes for only those present to absorb

and carry with them this un-finished song long after she’s gone

she gone



Rooted Legacies

Rooted Legacies

(the evolving new thought for  D UNDERBELLY 2011 – )

the body speaks

the voice moves

rooted in legacies sometimes only the soul knows

signifying where we have come from and who we are

Who are we?

For now

We are architects of history

invoking indelible rites of passages

We are builders of spiritual houses reigned supreme by multiple ancestral energies

We are Love not just its vessel

the calm empty

We are re-imagining life as it is

and as it should be

We are falling and rising

We are deconstructing

the inside pulse of memory

We are possibilities unifying

These are our roots

Go deep

Baraka de Soleil

water moves the soul – RETURN experimental choral rendering for a voice and many bodies

i share this as a beginning of distilling the memories i experienced while being in ghana in 2007…this is its first poetic rendering

water to replenish
a large body of water
breath to cleanse, fired up dry
wind to move, steady gust of wind
21 days. 37 years 3 years ago, 20 decades
how many centuries since one begets a life that amounts to 2 hours of wondering if 37 – 3 years ago would be the last year of existence…..the moment, prior to being grabbed and taken, strength… still feel weakened by the hours, days, months of years of being held against will…. shackled, imprisoned, tortured across the water…a large body …in a small vessel and taken to unknown land; unknown ways, life…
beginning in
Cape Coast Ghana – two and 1/2 hours from Accra Cape Coast
a two hour walk TO
immerse TO take in
the ocean
to Cape Coast TO ancestors…
you come here for redemption’
to El Mina’
can feel ancestral sensations the moment one steps inside the female dungeon…it is a feeling so palpable and strong …it’s like can still see smell the stench shit and blood and piss of those African females held here…on the ground there are markings
dark cavernous area
heaviness in my heart and longing
Assin Manso
the long walk of ancestral Africa to who knows where
Assin Manso
where brought to rest were the slave remains
from Salaga market up north ‘last bath’…
Tamale, WALKING, chained together feet, hands, neck, fall. rise. knees. thirst.
through trees and forest
to sacred waters flow…sacred
the ancestral bodies last cleansing
texture of the trees, the color of water, sounds of river, the quiet …
in Ghana
lookout upon a hill, past frail mango tree
ascend to a healing
of a healing
the pain anguish of the inflicted souls…bow
spirit’ falling
21 – 37 – 20, journey, 21 centuries
RETURNING to the sensations
the morning ‘baptism’
awakening a deeper connection
a feeling
ancestors being here… portrait of what transpired …. standing on hundreds of years old feces, piss, blood, sweat, skin and bones ancestors….thousands of African’s bodies piled ontop of each other as they screamed, sought comfort …fought to survive beyond the holding area –
whole being open and alive now…sensitive to air smells the ocean so close …aware of the opening of the door of no return … fishing kingdom – the Fanti – ocean coast…
guiding seeing walk lifting carrying lift carrying and lifting journey breath lifted onto
the water passage 1 1/2 hours 21 days, journey, 37 years, journey, 20 somethin decades, journey, 21 centuries”
a large body
seized by ancestors coming up from the ocean waves and on board on top cannot open eyes getting heavier and heavier sense more and more ancestral bodies piling on top of bodies tilthe weight is almost unbearable
can barely breathe….
sounds of the waves and the sensation endured journey NOT knowing the end…going on for months in cramped spaces, chained, ensconced in darkness…
a day later, months years ounds voices eyes move….cross water to land….carried
land falls step
land touch water before land, lifted and land on this new site… not able to speak
distance between falling and fallen
a minute an hour a decade a century passes and returns
unfolds /souls moving
walk legacies memories
memory conscious memories of people these memories, the ancestral memories residue, shackles salty ocean water…remember whipping..
re-remembering water
elder says
“We came from the water and to the water we shall return”
elder says
the going in the sacred anointing
water to replenish
a large body of water
breath to cleanse, fired up dry
wind to move, steady gust of wind
earth. make an offering, name it, find it, ask .sense.
elder says
earth. find tree. make an offering:
the meditation, reconciliation releasing old tree elder – coarse and mangled, yet majestic….those trees that seem to have captured the many spirits of those people whom have come in contact with it
a tree that, if it could speak, would be able to tell some of the most horrific and spellbinding tales…a tree that, if it could speak, may choose not to reveal the sacred secrets or hidden encounters it has witnessed seen felt heard
speak elder ancestors speak
Freed Slave Gordon of Louisiana (1863)
Martin Luther King
W.E.B. Dubois
Sojourner Truth
Booker T. Washington
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Harriet Tubman
Benjamin Singleton – “walk and never tire”
Ouladah Equiano
Frederick Douglas
George Ekem Ferguson
Marcus Garvey —
No one knows when the hour of Africa’s redemption cometh. It is in the wind,
It is in the wind
It is inthe wind, it is coming.
One day like a storm, it will be here. When that day comes, all of Africa will stand together.”