This was her first notable achievement, the one in which she would build up her confidence, allow her to take risks and opened the pathway to opportunity, the gateway of happiness.
Now she cooks, drives fast cars, directs movies & takes meetings.
But one of the early WoW moments in her life was pedaling. Transitioning from a tricycle to a two-wheeled bike! A sweet accomplishment that opened the road toward other achievements, her success & freedom.
In 2020 I didn’t get to attend not one holiday party. For me, that’s the one thing I really like about working and about having job. It’s literally the only time when bosses and my co-workers loosen up, when we can all be our authentic selves. The “Holidaze” with its bonuses, cocktails & laughter.
Like everyone else, I’m so over ‘Rona and this never-ending pandemic. And even though I don’t like needles (who does?) I’m looking forward to getting the vaccine. Because it means a change up, slowing down the numbers and perhaps may lead to closure, so whatever it takes to end this madness, right? Right. Because I for one, don’t want to lose another Christmas, ever again.
I’d prefer to complain about having had Christmas, about how it’s become too commercialized and how I’ve spent too much money, than to not have a Christmas at all. Because I like to sing and laugh.
So 2021 is going to be better, I can feel it.
Next year we’ll look back on the 2020 holiday that almost wasn’t. We’ll respectfully toast the lives that COVID-19 took and we’ll share in gratitude of those lives that were saved by front liners, our heroes.
And eventually this pandemic will end.
“Hello World!” And once again, we’ll be able to go places and travel. Oh how nice it’ll be to meet people! I’m going to smile at everybody, because for too long my smile was hidden under a mask.
And I’m going to be super kind to people, strangers and my family. Because I’ve yelled a lot, my anger and frustration has been displaced, it’s had that impact. But change is coming and I’m going to look & see more deeply than just eyes.
I’m excited to be a part of the Great Society ReBoot, after ‘Rona leaves and we get together again. Until then, stay safe & stay optimistic,
“Holidaze” at the Sugar Shack in downtown Boston, where my Uncle Erskine performed.
When I was little, he’d bring me along on Saturday afternoons to watch him perform his set. I’d sit at the bar and sip soda, while he and the band rehearsed. From where I sat, I couldn’t wait to grow up. Smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and get high.
I’d watch them dance and slide across that small stage, in the dim lights, until the manager came. He’d point his cigar at the Exit sign & tell my uncle that kids weren’t allowed in the bar.
I hated that sign, as if it was the only reason that I had to go 😂
We can’t know for certain, but chances are that a little girl is watching.
She’s watching her perform. Watching her actions, her mannerisms, her gestures and the company she keeps.
Listening carefully to what she says. Listening for inflections and tone. Is she using her business voice? Or the relaxed voice that she uses when she’s home, safe, among family and friends? A little girl is taking notes.
What will the woman do when opportunity knocks? Will she be prepared? Will the woman wedge the door wide open, so other women might follow her path. Or will she only be able to slip a small stone in the door jam, hoping it’ll be enough for others to follow?
Once inside, will she break the proverbial glass ceiling? Will she smile bravely and create good jobs and career opportunities for other women?
If so, she’ll have to do it while wearing heels, with her grandmother’s pearls and her mother’s regrets. She might even have some regrets of her own. She might not know it, but somewhere a little girl is watching and studying her performance.
And oh, say can you see, she’s going to make it look easy, so that little girls in America & everywhere might see her and think that they too can become her, a possibility… A Success!
A dear friend of mine called me on the telephone & asked if I was busy. I replied, “I’m painting.” We agreed that we’d talk later, because nothing was up, just the usual chit-chat phone call. So we cordially said our goodbyes and hung up.
Later, my dear friend called me back and again said nothing’s going on, just called to make small talk. So I replied, “I’m painting, can I call you back?” I added that last question, because who better to know when I would have a moment, than I?
And my dear friend asked, “You’re not done painting yet?”
It took me a minute to find my indoor voice. “I’ll call you back when I’m done painting,” I said into the telephone receiver & we cordially said our goodbyes and hung up.
Remembering my nephew as he would toss his daughter up into the air and catch her. Remembering the infectious sound of her giggles.
I’d watch them play Peek-A-Boo and Hide-N-Seek. He’d chase her around the living room and into the kitchen. He’d make big loud growling noises and she’d squeal in delight.
He’d pounce towards her, just missing her by the toes, and he’d gently grab her arm. All the while she’d squirm and twist and contort her little body every which way, to get loose. And all the while, my nephew is boding her, instructing her and encouraging her on ways to not get caught. To instill in her the need to run faster.
But of course, he could catch her, but that’s not the point, so he won’t. Instead he’s encouraging her to keep her head up, telling her that she mustn’t squeeze her eyes closed, that she must look and keep her eyes opened.
Then he’s growling again, menacingly this time, so now she must listen, using all of her senses to stay alert, to be aware, to watch out for her daddy and the signs of his playful danger. It’s coming.
Every now and then he’ll stop to give her a kiss. One of those deep raspberry belly blows, that make her little legs kick into the air. And then he relaxes too, a moment to enjoy fatherhood. Because as quiet as it’s kept, he’s giddy with delight too. He relishes these moments.
But from where I stand, I can see his fear, it’s there, in his eyes. What if they come after him and catch him, then go after her? What if…
His daughter pushes off him and lickety-split she’s gone. She’s a fast learner. She’s giggling again, pulling him back into her world, where it’s safe. For now.
He switches back to playful dad mode, back into the hunt for raspberry belly blows. He crawls after her, lovingly reminding her to not let him catch her.
Me standing there, watching and holding her doll baby. It’s the other game that she likes to play, the gender related and domesticated role of motherhood. But it’ll wait. Right now she has her dad, this little black girl, being taught life skills, she’ll become an expert in both, in order to survive.
And then, like a lioness in the jungle, she’ll nurture and protect her cubs and further the myth of the black super woman.
Acrylic on canvas. “Her America” is part of the America 2 Me series of paintings using a premise of caution. The original flyer used in the #BlackLivesMatter protests held in Los Angeles and Boston during the summer of 2020.
My daughter, Deanna Marshall is an activist who gifted me flyers from the September 9, 2020 protest in Boston, MA. I’ve stained some flyers and incorporated them into pieces of my art. Hopefully to extend the message, “until racism ends in America,” from generation to generation, in a cautionary tale.
Sometimes art brings out the best in artists. Through emotions Those of you who know me, know that I do not handle rejection well.
A feeling of silence comes over me, like when I was a kid and a lump would form in my throat. Rejection paralyzes me and so, I stopped painting for three days. Now, that might not seem like a lot to you, but in my world it was 3 days spent fuming.
And here’s another little bit of trivia about me… success is my revenge.
So, through hard work & determination I intend to do it all- museums, galleries, movies, tv & whatever else I dream up.
And when I’m done, I’ll submit my work again and this time, they’ll welcome me with open arms and what do you think I should say?
I just finished this #BLM 💕series & instead of celebrating, I’m sharing & starting the next. In the infamous words of my mum: “I’m so god damn mad right now” 🙏
Over the years I’ve tried to express my creativeness in ways that were conducive to my position in life. So, as a mother and wife, I decided to set aside my paper and pen, to raise my daughters.
No one told me not to write. How do you formulate those words? But it was self-imposed, I knew that I couldn’t commit to being both a good mother and a good writer.
Because writing is such a solitary task, selfish in nature, which requires that one be immersed in the moment. And as the mind pens the next group of words, there’s little patience for a little girl who’s broken her favorite crayon.
That’s how it was for me, because I had lost a son earlier in my life, so having two healthy daughters was a blessing not lost in me. Still, Virginia Woolf’s “Room Of One’s Own” had a special meaning for me, like her I didn’t have a space for myself, but rather than quibble about it, I just packed away my word processor and put on my “Mommy Hat”.
Do I have regrets? I’m sure. But these don’t outweigh the real joys I’ve experienced. But there’s one wish I do have now, it’s too late for me, but might help another mother and that is, I wish someone had told me that kids grow up and don’t need their mother’s anymore.
That’s an important piece of intel for a career woman to know, so that she can make knowledge-based decisions. I’ve no doubt that I would have made a few select choices about my writing career earlier, had I been armed with the fact that all women will eventually have free time, when their children are grown. But because I didn’t know this, I did sacrifice my dream. Imagine my surprise when Poof! My daughters had grown up & were gone!
I’m not complaining, it is after all what we raised them to do. I just didn’t know how competent they would be, that is we did a really good job, because they’re flourishing and I suddenly have time to do all the things I wanted to, except… and here’s the hard part, after so many years of being the support for others, encouraging their dreams, that I’d forgotten how to support my own dreams.
Suddenly I have the proverbial room with a view, albeit painted in pink, with Power Puff Girl blankets and silly knick-knacks, with no other purpose than to collect dust. Something for me to sneeze at, as I replaced my old word processor with a new used laptop & sat down to write.
Isn’t it funny, how life has a way of not coming together as we planned. And my words, which had always been my friends, words that once gathered together, my nouns predicating verbs, which aligned neatly with dangling modifiers in a perfect paragraph, now seemed elusive. Lost were the sentences full of meaning, absent was my emotional prose, all seemed to fail me now that I had time to write.
And it wasn’t writer’s block, that foe of so many playwrights, but instead the words didn’t come to attention because that story no longer needed telling. That is, the daydreams of my youth had passed and now, only the blank pages stared back at me.
Being a creative is special. I’ve always known I was a creative and I’ve always honored that part of myself. Others might be amused at my need for color, that’s okay. Others might misinterpret the creatives’ gentleness for over sensitivity and our need for change as excess. But they’d be wrong to deny that creatives are very necessary to balance in this world. That the creative people help strategize life. Left to our own vices, we creatives can make the most mundane thing seem extremely interesting. We can make a burden lighter, as well as solve problems with intuitive inventiveness.
So, when I couldn’t write, because my words wouldn’t come out to play with me, I got creative. I resorted to build something, as I had done when my girls were little. Back then I built fortresses with couch pillows and fleece blankets, but this time I built a revised re-enactment of a painting. For the next week, our living room became Norman Rockwell’s self-portrait painting.
My creativity carried me out of my comfort zone to see myself as a photographer, capturing a moment of life & making it stand still… forever in a photograph.
It’s official!!! I’ve put on my artist hat and I’m not taking it off. It fits me perfectly!!! I feel free, light & easy. Come, please join me. Namaste 🙏
Domestic Violence doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care what race you are, doesn’t care about your age or your gender. Domestic Violence impacts us all in a myriad of ways.
Recently a woman gazing at one of my ugly paintings, contacted me to say that I should paint the roles in reverse. I didn’t respond. How could I respond & gently say, that either way it would still be domestic violence.
Of course I could physically add paint and brushstrokes anywhere on the canvas, as she said “reverse the painting”, but then it might be less effective. Because society still views women as the lesser sex, a vulnerable damsel in distress, and while I don’t quite agree… for the purposes of this series, I used that motifs to make a point, as a more poignant way to bring attention to the horror called domestic violence.
And it had worked, because in my effort to make an ugly thing visible, here this woman had saw it! And while it wasn’t exactly the response I had hoped for, because her empathy was absent, it still was an emotional response. This woman, who disconnected to protect herself from a bad memory, a reality that she had or hadn’t been able to escape.
So if I paint another series of domestic violence, where the roles are reverse and a woman is depicted punching a man. Would that evoke the empathy I hoped for? Would it make you dig deep into your pocket and donate? As if role reversal were the solution. No matter what I paint, I haven’t painted the ugliness away. But I wish I could.
The statistics are mind boggling, 1 in 3 women are victims. And to the point of role reversal, 1 in 4 men are victims of violence. And during Corona Virus, a global pandemic that has seen us locked inside our homes, many with their abusers, the situation has only gotten worse.
This ugly art that I do, is my way to pay it forward, to bring attention to the numbers & maybe begin the good conversation. Because we can do better than this, we aren’t cave dwellers, we have language and the power to use our words.
My best friend Sheila’s mother was killed by her father, and Sheila was removed from her house and our neighborhood. We didn’t enter third grade together. I didn’t have her to skip with me, to giggle with me or to help me tie my shoes anymore. Poof! Sheila was gone.
So many lives were impacted by that one violent act. And from but from my perspective, where the id and the ego were still in development, all I knew was that my friend was taken away. No one checked or bothered to ask how I felt, it was compounded by the fact that school had let out for Summer break, so there was no classroom support; no teachers who might’ve hugged me & helped me to understood the pain.
The next school year began and I was less giggly. That was the year that I punched my teacher, Mr. Santiago. He was a retired military man, who sometimes wore his uniform to school. Proudly.
I punched him because he said I would have to stay after school for talking. I didn’t want to stay after school because I didn’t have anyone to walk home with me. Had he asked, I would’ve told him that it was dangerous in my neighborhood for a little girl to walk home from school, alone. It was late autumn and dusk seemed to come sooner.
But he didn’t ask and I punched him in the arm. I’m absolutely sure I hadn’t hurt him. Because after I punched him, I bounced and I must’ve lost my footing, because I landed on my rear and went sliding across the floor. He just stood there, while the class laughed, and he turned beet red from embarrassment. My punishment was swift, I was sent to the principal’s office, and I was told that my mother would be called.
And that was something I would’ve giggled about, because we didn’t own a phone. So, after the principal and her secretary realized that the couldn’t reach my mother, I was suspended and sent home. The end result was what I wanted, that was to get out of school, when it was safe for a little girl to walk home alone with her friend Sheila.
Of course, in order for me to return to school, I had to write an apology note to the teacher and I had to read it in front of the whole class. In my apology I thanked him for protecting us and serving our country. That last part got to Mr. Santiago he was nice to me, told me I could take a seat and that I had written a very kind letter.
In hindsight, I was beginning to realize that words do matter. That people could be persuaded to see things differently just by speaking, that words could be used instead of fists. I never used my small balled up fists to hit a teacher again.
Truth is, Domestic Violence is a vicious cycle, it crosses generations and sometimes does irreparable damage to one’s self-esteem, breaks a family’s bond and interrupts a child’s development.
So where does anger go, when it’s not released? Is it displaced? Do we lash out, because of frustrations? Where does it end?
October is Domestic Awareness Month. I paint ugly art, that you might see it. Compassion is taught, but empathy is natural and when put together the two are empowering. Yes, we can do better.
If someone you know, someone you love or if you are being abused call for help. And if you’re an abuser, there’s help for that too.
Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY 1-800-787-3224
My life has been a series of experiences, bits and pieces that don’t always seem to fit together but collectively they make me who I am. I’ve never talked about the horrible situation of my best friend Sheila and her mother, because it was so tragic. But today, it’s time to share another ugly story, because it’s October and because it’s Domestic Violence Month.
When I was a kid, I had a best friend named Sheila. Our mother’s weren’t really friends, but they would talk because we were such good friends. We always seemed to be skipping ahead of them, laughing and giggling as we went, like little girls do.
By 2nd grade, we had grown up and somehow convinced our mothers to let us walk to school alone. But they would watch us from afar, to protect us from harm, because that’s what parents do.
It was near the end of that school year, when Sheila’s mother began to wear dark sunglasses, even on rainy days. Sheila’s mother was a nurse, but it was always my mother that I overheard tending to her, encouraging her and being kind to her. But one day my mother’s voice sounded determined and stern, like when she planned our escape from my father.
“This can’t keep happening,” she said. But I didn’t know then what needed to stop.
On the last day of the school, our teacher Mrs. Lamars made all the students in the class clean out our desks. I had so many school papers, they kept falling as I tried to scoop them into a pile. Sheila was having a similar problem and it made us all giggly and happy.
But something happened, a knock on the door, or maybe it was an announcement over the PA system. I don’t recall, but I remember we all stopped whatever we were doing and stood still. We waited for instructions as we had been taught to do, like during a fire drill.
But it was a false alarm for us, Sheila was called out of class and we went back to our task. Sheila wasn’t allowed to bring her papers with her. Mrs. Lamars gently placed her hands on Sheila’s shoulders and silently guided her by her out the classroom door, it was odd. Odd because teachers are organized, with a beginning, a middle and an end, but not that day was different because Sheila didn’t finish second grade.
My mother was waiting for me after school. I was my typical chatty self, still excited that I had completed second grade and had been promoted. I couldn’t wait to see Sheila, tomorrow would be the first day of school vacation and we could play all day.
I fumbled with my school papers as we walked. And my mother, who usually got annoyed if I slowed her down, or wasn’t keeping up with her strides, was more patient now. Every now and then, she slowed down and looked at me, lovingly. When we passed Sheila’s street, I saw police cars and slowed a little to see what was going on, but now my mother had quickened her step and I clutched my papers a little tighter and hurried along.
When we got home, my mother told me that Sheila’s father had beat up and killed Sheila’s mother, that he had a gun and had went to the school to kill Sheila too. The police hadn’t captured him yet. And all while my mother was talking, I thought about my missing father. And wondered what if he wanted to kill me too. My mother pulled me close and hugged me and then said,?she wouldn’t let that happen.
I didn’t see Sheila again, someone told us that her aunt had come and they had moved away. And just like that, my best friend was gone. I would have other friends, but I’d never get so close to anyone again, a friendship was over and lives were forever disrupted.
Looking back at it, I had almost forgotten that moment in my life. It’s unpleasant memories had been tucked away, but now that it’s October, I’m reminded about how scared my mother and I were. My mother’s fear had helped us avoid a bad situation, the real and imagined danger of domestic violence.
But sometimes a lack of fear can lead us straight into danger. We become complacent, a little too confident, like when you believe every parachutes will be work, that it is, it will open and save you. But the truth is, some parachutes don’t open. And sometimes taking a chance and being squeezed into a crowded elevator isn’t the right decisions, sometimes patience and being aware of weight restrictions and danger signals is helpful to keep us safe.
Sometimes, we know intuitively that someone is being mistreated and abused. And we should say or do something, even if getting involved is an inconvenience. Because a family with physical signs of abuse might offend our sensibilities, but we mustn’t look away.
So here it is. I’ve painted something so vile & ugly to make it beautiful, that we might look at it. I’ve added pthalo green and technicolor blue. Isn’t it beautiful? Can you see the brutality between the strokes? Isn’t it preventable?
Stop & Look… so we can do something, to keep it from happening.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The number of incidents has increased during COVID-19. Do what you can, please.
#DoMoreGood Genesis Shelter For Beaten and Homeless Mothers