“Steel Wool on a Stick”- book review by: Kirk Verner

Kirk Verner Writes about Steel Wool on a Stick – Photo Courtesy of Livejournal.com

Image result for Steel Wool on a stick by Jeff Block

By Kirk Verner

Copious amounts of marijuana, fistfuls of Prozac, sleeping in cars, and a pedal bike; you’d think this was a story of a down-and-out Tour de France hopeful, but the case could not be further from reality. Nor is it a story of a self-pity blown degenerate waiting for life’s hand-outs to come within grasping distance. This is a story of one man’s quest to find out what he wants to be when he grows up; a task often more difficult than one thinks, and Jeff Block ‘s testimony is sure to lay claim to this statement.

“Son, you get one chance in life to be born into wealth and you blew it!” –Dad

This single quote, which commences the book, sets the reader up for what is expected to be an off-the-wall, witty reflection of a journey to the soup line; but, that is not what is contained in this 191-page paperback. Instead, Jeff Block takes his readers on a path of hardship, failure, and disappointment. There is nothing humourous about suicidal thoughts, and this is just one of the hardships faced by a man with a university degree, a daughter, and a heap of debt the size of a year’s harvest of roses pilled and burnt in Times Square.

From a floor trader in Chicago’s financial district to driving a limousine, to menial desk jobs, all the way to whirling seemingly pointless cocktail napkin roses in bars, Jeff Block can honestly say he has been there and done that. Searching, seeking, scouring for that perfect job is not a course that comes equipped with a user manual, but with the author’s “I refuse to work for anyone again,” attitude and a bounty of ambition the perfect job came to him, turning out to be a hobby he claims to have put on steroids.

“Steel Wool on a Stick” is a loose handbook for self-starters, entrepreneurs, or anyone dying to have a career where they can honestly say, “I love my job.” Unlike many, Jeff Block has found his calling, his niche, his “dream job”.

JUSTPAPERROSES.COM is his company and also the premise of the book. An Internet-based company created by a passion, Jeff Block is now making a healthy living, working from home, doing what he loves. His attitude, “If I can do it, you can do it,” is not original, and the contents of these pages are not a step-by-step instruction booklet on how to become rich and famous; it is a story of persistence, dedication to one’s passions, and the will to never give up.

“Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” This true-life quote closes the book and opens the eyes of anyone who reads it. Do you one day want a Corvette in your garage?

Kirk Verner
March 29, 2010


A Beacon of Hope Indeed Hopeful (Originally Published on http://nsemia.com)

At the beginning of this story, the old is questioned by new ways of thought and living life. For this book by Jaspher Rori, who used to be a high school teacher and currently is working on another book, the old represents the ways of Manga, Kenya. Manga, Kenya is a village where drinking home-brewed beer, smoking tobacco and having children so they look after your cattle is the spiritual way of life. Enter the ways of the new – white missionaries.

Carrying the Bible in one hand and a gun in the other, the white missionaries preach the glory of Jesus Christ absolving all of their sins and their brand of education is the solution to a prosperous life.

Indeed, the message was enticing. But the Gusii had known encore, their god, as the source of life, all knowing, all present and powerful. He and only he directed their lives and knew even where the wind slept. He lived high beyond the sky from where he watched over them and directed their lives. He was a god of mercy and plenty, and when not pleased with the people, he rained disaster as a lesson. Therefore, they knew how to please him through regular sacrifices and rituals (Rori, 2011, pg. 2-3).

The white missionaries insisted while holding their guns, that Jesus Christ was more powerful. Thus, schools were built in the village, not just in Manga, and the Gusii lost their offspring to classrooms and their money to missionary schools, rather than tending to their farms.

In villages outside Manga, there were Kenyans who were achieving high levels of success, defined by the white missionaries’ promises. Government officials, doctors, and lawyers they were becoming. Until Musa, who was the first from Manga to go to university, the village of Manga was losing hope. Musa is the beacon of hope and the light of Musa flickers as the embers creep through the wood for a campfire in the rain.

When Musa leaves his village of Manga to go to university, he meets Judith. Judy is a woman of promise, for a future with Musa, as well as for her own future. Once they graduate, developing a friendship and a spiritual bond of love, they promise to keep in touch – as what happens with so many young lovers, the promise is not kept.

Both Musa and Judy aim to ride the wheels of fortune in Nairobi. Their village ways need to mutate into the glossy white success standards of the city. Judy rides these wheels first, however, falls into a devastating snare of drug trafficking that ruins her career. At this time, Musa rises to finally become the beacon of hope for his village, for himself, and for the failed destiny of Judy.

On a personal note, this book helped me to understand why so many people hold the idea that Africa does not work as a continent. My father would often tell me stories about how wonderful his homeland of Uganda was when the British ruled. He would give examples of milk being delivered to the door. For those of you who remember Idi Amin, the comparison to British rule is maddening. In Jaspher Rori’s book, he does not discuss the often bemoaned “brain drain” of the African educated elite, however, focuses on Musa, who grasps at trying to make his family, his village and his nation of Kenya proud while he searches for work in Nairobi. On a universal level, anyone who has ever struggled to find work anywhere in the world can relate to Musa, trying to be an adult, trying to find a good person to marry, and trying to be “successful” by white missionary standards. Why does Africa not work? Read the book to give you some insight.

Lawrence Hill

Lawrence Hill, Review of BlackBerry, Sweet Juice

Image result for Blackberry, Sweet Juice Lawrence Hill

“The blacker the berry/The sweeter the juice/But if you get too black/It ain’t no use.”

Author Lawrence Hill says his father passed along this saying to him. In his memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice, On Being Black and White in Canada, Hill tells the story of a young black and white man who developed his identity from two racial worlds in Canada. It’s a revealing tale of how his black father and white mother met, married and had three children. More importantly, it’s about how race has played a factor in his life:

Race becomes an issue as a result of environmental factors. The average white kid growing up in a totally white suburb doesn’t have to think of himself or herself as white. For a huge portion of my childhood, I was very much like that white kid. But gradually, as imperceptibly as the movement of the hour hand around the clock, my environment started talking to me and making me aware that I was different, that I could never truly be white. There’s nothing like being called “nigger” to let you know that you’re not white. It didn’t happen often. But it happened enough to awaken me.

Hill writes that growing up racially different in Don Mills wasn’t easy. However, he still was a privileged child who went to good schools, traveled to such places as Africa and dealt with his multicultural and multiracial extended family.

Lawrence Hill faced many difficulties, but his experience doesn’t seem any different from the life of many black people growing up in Canada. I will take myself as an example.

Hill talks about not knowing if you’re black. Until I was 5, I had no idea that I was black. And I thought my mother was white because she wasn’t the same colour as the rest of our family. Being from the Caribbean, she was lighter. My father is a dark-skinned African.

I grew up in a white suburb as Hill. I was privileged enough to learn French like Hill and travel to Africa.

Hill writes about having hair issues – I wrote my master’s thesis on that. If that’s not an indication of having an issue with my hair, I’m not sure what else could be.

Where the paths differ is that in a black and white existence, passing for white becomes an issue, where that has never been an option for me. Although Hill discusses in his book a passion for embracing his blackness and identifying as black, this becomes particularly fascinating for a man who could pass for white under an undiscerning eye.

I believe many black people could identify with Hill. So why are their story not told, and Hill’s is? There are so few black people published in Canada.

I am so grateful though that Hill mentions in his book since he does have the privilege to get published by Harper-Collins, that he recognizes race as a social construct more than a biological one:

“It’s necessary to probe into the social meanings of race. The book is my attempt to examine the issues of race. [The book is for] anyone who’s interested in examining the core of race and how it’s played out. My existence is the fighting against easy definitions of race.”

Hill’s writing style is similar to the way he speaks. It flows and it has a beat. It’s as easy to follow as an Amanda Marshall song. And it’s good that, as in Marshall’s song Everybody Has a Story, Hill tries to include the stories of other black and white people in his book. There are so many voices not heard. And he admits to this.

Perhaps Hill’s voice can become an echo for others. That would be sweet juice indeed.

Where Does Identity, Beauty and Spirituality Fit into Black Feminist Thought?: The Politics of the Black Women Inside and Outside Education

Cover of Garfield Ellis’s Till I’m Laid to Rest – Photo Courtesy of Google Images

It is our roots that give us structure. It is our roots that make us black feminists. It is our roots that give us an identity. It is our roots that give us beauty. It is our roots that give us spirituality. It is our roots that make us black women inside and outside of education.
My father is from Uganda. My mother is from St. Vincent & the Grenadines. I am from Canada. I have always seen these identifying geographical landscapes as placing me where I can find my family roots. These geographical places also help me to form a triad identity of African-Caribbean-Canadian.

My grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side were educators. My father worked as a biology professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a principal of a school in St. Vincent. My mother has worked as an English teacher in Canada to children in Korea by telephone. I, too, teach at Centennial College and tutor various subjects for Community Outreach Canada, as well as being a Ph.D. Student at OISE/University of Toronto.

With my identity being that of African-Caribbean-Canadian, my beauty stemming from my African super curly hair, Ugandan-woman inspired rounded body, and my spirituality embracing God – where does black feminist thought fit in? What is black feminist thought? How do these markers I have used to guide the way of the path to understanding black feminist thought demarcate with varying shades of brown and black colours to indicate identity, beauty, and spirituality within black feminist thought – to me? How can these markers affect a deeper understanding for those black women inside education? And a question for those black women who are outside education; how do these markers of identity, beauty and spirituality colour their lives and add the much-needed water to keeping their roots nourished?

To answer these questions, I will be focusing on issues of identity, beauty, and spirituality as discussed in the winter 2011 Black Feminist Thought class with Professor Erica Neeganagwedgin at OISE/University of Toronto. This is the beginning of embarking on an exploration of relating Black Feminist Thought to black hair politics. First I will discuss identity, followed with a discussion of beauty stemming from one of the course’s presentation texts, and finally, I will discuss spirituality.

Issues Around Identity

“As Black women, we need not spend time abstractly theorizing because our practice informs our theory” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 5). As supported by Theorizing Empowerment: Canadian Perspectives on Black Feminist Thought (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007), I picked up my pen and wrote about how this triad of my African-Caribbean-Canadian identity shapes my life through a connection of identity and beauty, which the latter will be discussed later. Here is an example from my book Spiderwoman (Kakonge, 2007) that also aired on the CBC throughout Canada:

Black Hair
Get a group of Black women together and the conversation usually turns to hair.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a Black woman’s hair story – talked about my own hair – seen people talking about hair in a movie – or read about hair in a book – well, I could buy a lot of hair.

I used to think I was the only one who changed my hair just about every week. But now I know that many other women have permed, straightened, coloured, cut, lengthened and shortened their hair as often as I have.

When I was a child, my first hobby was playing hairdresser to my Barbie dolls. I grew up in the seventies and eighties but I was not much different from Black children in the forties.

Back then, Black children chose White dolls over Black dolls in a landmark study that led to the desegregation of American schools.

It was not that I preferred creamy white skin over chocolate. It just came down to hair. I wanted straight, long, blonde, brunette or red hair – hair that blew in the wind – hair that I could toss over my shoulder.

And when wishing it didn’t make it appear on my head, I used a towel instead.
As I grew older, I spent many years in hair salons turning my head of curly hair dead straight – walking out of the salons with the wind blowing through my hair – and tossing it over my shoulder.

Who says wishes don’t come true – for a price.

Although straightening Black hair is known as perming, there was never anything permanent about it for me. There was a war happening on my head. If my hair represented a people, the curly strands were being ethnically cleansed by straight strands with the use of chemical warfare.

Yet despite the chemicals, I’ve always loved the atmosphere of a salon. In this predominantly white country, Black hair salons create a Black world. During the civil rights movement, North American barber shops and hair salons became town halls for discussions on race relations.

Even now, a hair salon in South Carolina is being used to educate people about AIDS. Places for hair are no strangers to political activity.

And it is in a salon that I found peace with the politics happening in my own head. Hairdressers looking at my natural hair – and not opening up a jar of Bone Strait – made me rejoice in the hair God gave me.

Professor and author Gloria Wade-Gayles once said: “my hair would be a badge, a symbol of my pride, a statement of self-affirmation.”

Well, it has taken me a long time, but I finally agree.

Currently researching the politics of black hair at OISE/University of Toronto in a Ph.D. program of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Development, the above shows how much my hair is part of my identity, as well how it inspires me to write and to think. The above also exemplifies the words of Rai Reece’s “Canadian Black Feminist Thought and Scholar-Activist Praxis,” in Theorizing Empowerment (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007). Reece notes that there is a critical need for more black female academics, as well as black female activists in the academy. Reece goes onto her second point that there is no single “axis” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 267) where black feminism needs to be explored. As I discuss in the excerpt from Spiderwoman (Kakonge, 2007), my natural hair was something that made me feel a want to flee from my identity as a black person. My natural hair was something that made me feel a want to perceive myself as ugly. My natural hair was something that made me feel a want to look like the other pretty black women on TV, like Janet Jackson in “Good Times” and Roxy Roper on “The Jeffersons.” My hair became a personal indicator for me of not accepting my roots – not accepting how God made me – not accepting my identity.

Notisha Massaquoi in “An Unsettled Feminist Discourse,” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007), writes about her identity connecting that with her family roots of a Sierra Leonean father and a Trinidadian mother. Massaquoi was once called a “Diasporic Baby” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 75). Massaquoi goes onto to quote Njoki Nathani Wane (2002): “A black feminist theory from a Canadian perspective is truly a construction of embodied knowledge that is grounded in the bodily experience of specific materiality” (Wane 2002) (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 76). The challenges with the natural hair of black women is an embodied knowledge that is played out in images of black women with smooth, straight, controlled hair – hair that resembles whites. I have not ever seen a black woman working in a bank with an afro, whereas I have seen afros among black female professors. I have not ever seen a black woman who was a doctor wearing natural hair, whereas I have seen natural hair on black Canadian singing stars. I have not ever seen a black woman with skin as dark as the reflection of my eyes closed, anchoring the six o’clock news on any television station. Black women have developed an embodied knowledge of their place in society. Black women are viewed, mainly by whites, through visions of their bodily physical appearances and all of the stereotypes and the archetypes embodied in what black women can or cannot do. Our roots to Canada are threatened every time an “other” asks, “Where do you come from?”
With the uprooting of African peoples from the continent, colonization and the diaspora where many of us are born, it can be difficult to answer that question at times: “Where do you come from?” as a black woman in Canada. Although a work of fiction, Till I’m Laid to Rest by Garfield Ellis (2010) also tells a story that is true for many of home displacement for women who mainly conduct themselves outside of education. For the protagonist of Ellis’s story, Shirley Temple Brown, it is Shirley’s beauty, Shirley’s hair, Shirley’s identity, which ultimately embodies her relationship to the men that change her life and create an understanding of black feminist thought that uproots her. Shirley, who settles well in her homeland in Jamaica, makes the choices to aspire to European ideals of success that wind up entrapping her in a web of misery that has her returning to Jamaica in shackles and shame. This results in her disconnection from the strong roots of her Jamaican heritage, which will be explored further through issues of beauty and later in issues of spirituality.

Issues Around Beauty

Shirley Temple Brown in Till I’m Laid to Rest (Ellis, 2010) is viewed as more beautiful than her friend Dawn who is of darker skin and has a coarser hair texture when compared to Shirley’s hair. Shirley is half-Indian on her father’s side and based on her looks, does not identify with being black. An example of Shirley defining her identity with other than black takes place when she is on a date with a younger white man she meets on a Miami beach who claims to be a model agent:

“You know I’ve never dated a black woman before,” he said, as they continued walking.

“I’m not black,” Shirley said.

“I thought you said you were Jamaican.”

“I am.”

“Then you are black.”

“I am half-Indian,” Shirley said.

“Is that like Hispanic or something? Your parents are not Jamaican, uh?

“They are.” She sipped the wine.

“So how do you mean you are not black?”

“Do I look black to you?” Shirley wanted to change the subject. He obviously did not understand.

He paused, unsure. “I guess.”

“It does not matter.” Shirley dropped the subject (Ellis, 2010, pg. 168-169).

However, it does matter. Shirley is denying her blackness or does not realize that she considered black in a country such as America, unlike her more Indian identity in a country such as Jamaica, as Professor Erica Neeganagwedgin has explained in class about identity formation in Jamaica. There is another point in the Ellis (2010) book where Shirley is speaking with her husband Moet and states that she did not know she was black until she came to America. The fact this so-called white model agent was certain she was black at first, then unsure at Shirley’s denial of being black, is a situation that is not resolved since Shirley drops the subject, claiming “it does not matter” (Ellis, 2010, pg. 169). Yet, is there something wrong with being black? Shirley had no problem with the Indian in her family; by stating she is “half-Indian” (Ellis, 2010, pg. 168). When you look at the historical legacy of black people in the Americas, wrenched out in chest-pounding words that spring from the page by poet d’bi young at the beginning of Theorizing Empowerment: Canadian Perspectives on Black Feminist Thought (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007) a thoughtful answer to the question, what is wrong with being black surfaces:

here we have a negro wench
gentlemen and gentlemen
starting at four hundred dollars
strong hands/strong legs/strong spirit
but not stronger than yours (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 2).

Shirley, despite her long, black and silky half-Indian tresses had previously lived the experience using her strong hands, strong legs and strong spirit working for a white family and their children who turned her into a modern-day “negro wench” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 2). Later on, in this scene of Till, I’m Laid to Rest with Shirley Temple Brown as its star, Shirley’s conversation with the so-called model agent turns to violence as he seems to stick to his original thoughts that she is black and he attempts to rape her…remembering that Shirley’s power is not stronger than his (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 2). Shirley acts fast and runs for safety back to her job of looking after a retired model with Alzheimer’s disease. The brutal violence forced on Shirley by the younger white man goes unmentioned in Till I’m Laid to Rest (Ellis, 2010) after, as though Shirley should have expected nothing less. This disregard and lack of the care of Shirley’s body, mind and spirit was all a part of her life in Miami that began when she met Mark, the older rich businessman who worked in the tourism industry and put the idea of coming to Miami into Shirley’s head. The character Mark in the novel seems to remind Shirley of her late father who died in a car accident. The first man to put the idea of “greatness” into Shirley’s head was her father who even named after the movie star Shirley Temple, hence her name being Shirley Temple Brown. With Shirley’s identity and beauty politics tied into colonization, as many of us of colour do have our identity and beauty politics tied into colonization, thoughts of where “greatness” lies are often seen in the west. Thoughts of where “greatness” lie is not in the west of the Caribbean necessarily, however in America, in Europe at times for some…these are the places where dreams await people of colour – the American Dream is a classic one. Shirley went to America to find her dream and instead because she was acutely made aware of her black identity, she realized a shattered dream.

Shirley first met Mark at the Mutual Security Bank where she worked in Kingstown, Jamaica. Mark was bringing in a lot of money and discussed his banking with Shirley many times since she was the junior manager. Shirley could see that Mark was rich and when he asked her out for a date, she agreed. He took her to decadent places, showing her how the wealthy in Jamaica live. This was different for Shirley, having grown up poor. This was different for Shirley, also having grown up without her father who died in a car crash. Shirley and Mark’s first sexual liaison was on a bed of roses with some thorns:

“What are you doing?” She made to turn and stumbled onto the bed. He pushed her onto it and she fought him back. But he was heavy and big, and although he held her lightly his grasp was firm.

“Mind you scrape yourself on the basket,” he said huskily.

“Stop,” she whispered. “Mark, stop a little. We have to discuss this.”

“Mind you head,” he said, as he tried to shove the basket away. “Mind you head.”

She struggled with him for a while but he held her down and managed to slip both her hands through the strings of her dress (Ellis, 2010, pg. 13).

Mark forced himself on Shirley and took away her virginity. Later in this scene of Till, I’m Laid to Rest (Ellis, 2010), Shirley clearly gives in…simply surrendering to a man that had been lavishing her with pricey restaurants and Victoria Secret underwear gifts once he was tired of playing the game of cat and mouse. Shirley clearly gives in…simply surrendering to her status as a working-class woman, from a poor Jamaican background. Mark trapped Shirley. A beautiful young woman such as Shirley who would not have ever given a second glance at Mark on the street if he did not have the economic capital that he possesses – she was bought out. Shirley was tempted to do so because of her poor economic status growing up and her emotional aspirations to realize the dreams that her deceased father had set out for her. Llana James writes about the “Censure and Silence: Sexual Violence and Women of the African Diaspora” in Theorizing Empowerment. James (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007) writes that points of entry of women of the African diaspora into a country are important considerations when you look at sexual violence. When looking at Shirley Temple Brown’s situation in Till I’m Laid to Rest, the sexual violence of Mark is what links her to this man in a way that leads her to Miami. Another turning point is what was mentioned earlier with the sexual violence of the so-called model agent who forces himself on Shirley without success, however successfully leading Shirley to a party that connects her to Moet – the man she later marries and is also the cause of her serving jail time and being deported back to Jamaica.

Enter Shirley Temple Brown’s mother…a woman who is so devoted to God that she prays and reads The Bible day and night, night and day. She lives in a one-room shanty house with a wall that threatens to fail her in Sufferer’s Heights, Jamaica. She works cleaning for others at a hospital. She has no criminal record. She has a son who is a police officer in Jamaica. She is always there for her daughter Shirley – this…Shirley can ALWAYS count on until the day Miss Ivey passes. Her roots are in Jamaica and Miss Ivey rests and stays there, despite the poverty in her life. Is Shirley Temple Brown’s mother an example that faith in God, or having a spiritual life is exactly what can keep black women become rooted? Is Shirley Temple Brown’s mother an example that faith in God can keep mind, body and spirit, or identity, beauty, and spirit together?

Issues of Spirituality

For Miss Ivey, the life of glamour with a potentially married white man, the life of an illegal immigrant, the life of a maid to white people, the life of marrying a drug dealer is evidently beyond the life she had imagined for her daughter Shirley Temple Brown. Miss Ivey criticizes her daughter’s lifestyle with each meeting with her. The following is also evidently more in Miss Ivey’s mind of the way she would want her daughter to live: “At some deeper level all living things are interconnected and there is a desire or a determination to live a life characterized by humility, empathy, mindfulness and purpose” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 27). This statement was written by Professor Erica Neeganagwedgin and Professor Njoki Wane at OISE/University of Toronto clearly sets a marker for the way many black women would love to live. Despite Shirley Temple Brown’s problems in Till I’m Laid to Rest (Ellis, 2010), she also indicates that she is searching for the same things that Neegangwedgin and Wane point out in Theorizing Empowerment (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007). Shirley is always in search of living a life of “humility, empathy, mindfulness and purpose” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 27). She leaves her mother for Mark in the search. She leaves Jamaica in a search. She leaves the white family in a search. She leaves Miami to return to Jamaica in a search. Then, despite her searching and because her roots are so damaged, as her relationship with Miss Ivey (her mother) continue to erode and she sees her friends move on with their lives – her search for identity, beauty (and the beautiful life), and spirituality land her in jail. She humbly returns to Jamaica in handcuffs as she is deported after four years of being in jail. She serves jail time because she was helping her drug-dealing husband Moet who she at first married to live in luxury (which coming from poverty was something she did not know), and she later fell in love with him because he was a sincere, but dangerous man.

Wane’s (2007) “Practicing African Spirituality: Insights from Zulu-Latifa, an African Woman Healer” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007), gives tools for the way women such as Shirley Temple Brown can identify and recapture their soul. Many times the spiritual tools that we receive are handed down to us through our mothers. I rebelled against my mother when I was younger – not heeding her wise words. Although I did not end up in the same kind of trouble that Shirley Temple Brown ended up in, this disconnection from her originally connecting me with the Methodist church and the teachings of God was something that I came to understand only through an on-going path to maturity. It is also an on-going path that informs my work as a black female educator.

By exploring issues around identity with my own personal call to pick up the pen and write about the politics of black hair with the support of Theorizing Empowerment (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007), as well as entwining branches with others inside education with a shared “Diasporic Baby” (Massaquoi and Wane, 2007, pg. 75) identity and understanding of how my identity has formed with a lack of representation in Canadian culture and media, I call for more black female academics to pick up their pen and tell their stories, to entwine their branches through words, collectives, and organizing and to push for more representation in Canadian culture and media.
By exploring issues around beauty, I encourage those women outside education who are treated as black to demand just treatment from men and other women – from everyone and everything. Women must understand that their lives also serve to educate others, even if it is through written fiction and through the telling of the truth of their value and beauty – only this way, will their roots be preserved.

By exploring issues around spirituality we must look to our mothers and to the elders of society to guide us on our spiritual paths. As there are many branches on a tree, there are many routes to the creator and we must find one that works best for us to preserve the sanctity of our lives as black women.

It is our roots that give us structure. It is our roots that make us black feminists. It is our roots that give us an identity. It is our roots that give us beauty. It is our roots that give us spirituality. It is our roots that make us black women inside and outside of education.

Ellis, G. (2010). Till I’m Laid to Rest. Nsemia Press, Oakville, Canada.
Kakonge, D. (2007). Spiderwoman. Lulu.com: Self-Published.
Massaquoi, N. and Wane, N. (2007). Theorizing Empowerment: Canadian Perspectives on Black Feminist Thought. Inanna Publications: Toronto.

You Were Destined to Be Together

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

By Tom Arbino

Tom Arbino (born Thomas Anthony Arbino on November 16,  in Cincinnati, Ohio) is an American novelist, playwright, poet, and the founder of Crown Chakra Zen. Tom writes novels and short stories in various genres, which deal with things outside of the mainstream. Tom’s novel Lots Rigged by a Phantom is set in the1800s and deals with the horrors of an insane captain, a wicked sea monster, and an arrogant ghost. Tom’s short story collection, The Alchemist’s Pocket Watch is a collection of his horror stories and features a novella. Tom’s plays are controversial and not afraid to tackle the heated issues of the day. These plays shed light on things that need to be dealt with and not repressed.

Such plays as Talk Show, Crisis Point, Cafe Marseille, Monkey Bars, The Adventures of Bill and Hillary and The Hands of the Father bear this out. Tom listens to Old Time Radio and his favorites are X minus 1, Dimension X, and Jack Benny. Tom says that these shows develop his imagination, creativity, and hone his playwriting skills. (It is best to listen to these shows with your eyes closed since we are so visually oriented these days.) Tom has written a radio play entitled The Last Train to Tombstone. Tom has published a book of poetry entitled Anarchy that contains Beat and anarchy poetry that is reminiscent of the Beat Poetry of the 1960s such as Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. This book also contains sections of Zen poetry and love poetry. Tom is the Arts and Entertainment reporter for the Cincinnati Edition of EXAMINER.COM Tom grew up in a cracker box house neighborhood on the east sided of Cincinnati. Tom’s imagination was sparked early in life by TV shows Lost in Space, Mission impossible, The Invaders, Sea hunt, Batman, Marine Boy, and Flipper. These shows provided him an escape from his abusive mother and an older girl next door who molested him beginning at the age of 10. Tom holds an AAS in Civil Engineering Technology from Cincinnati Technical College and a BA in psychology from the University of Cincinnati. Tom completed 33 hours towards a master’s degree in mental health counseling. Tom studied Jungian Psychology at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary. Tom works as a website designer. He tried his hand at game making and produced one Atari style game called Alley Kong. Tom has read much of Carl Jung’s works and has analyzed over 20,000 dreams using his training in Jungian Psychology. Using Jungian Psychology, Tom has accessed the Self, God within the unconscious. Tom has access the Self, analyzed its archetypes and brought it up into consciousness with the aid of Zen meditation techniques. Tom’s study of Zen was undertaken for spiritual development and his frustration with outwardly oriented mainstream churches that offer little beyond Dogma. The Zen that Tom developed, Crown Chakra Zen, is distinct from Zazen based Zen and is the First American school of Zen. Tom is not a Buddhist.

Coming Up on Donna Magazine

Coming Up on Donna Magazine, there will be reviews from books by Dennis Desrosiers, Mikaya Heart and others. Look out for them soon.

Weekend Sale at Lulu.com

Random Bibliography of Media Books and Internet Resources

We have been having terrific weather lately in Toronto. Just in case the colder weather does come and you find yourself indoors more often – there is nothing better than having a good book by your side.

For this weekend only, Lulu.com, the publisher of many of my books and the distributor of all of all of them, will be have a store-wide sale. You will receive 20 percent off any order, regardless of the number of your orders. All you need to do is to enter the code CABIN when you are checking out. It is that easy.

When using Lulu.com, you do need to register to the site, however, this is completely free. My online store is http://stores.lulu.com/kakonged where you can buy a wide variety of books. Whether you would like the hard copy in your hand, or an ebook download that you can have right away to and also avoid shipping costs – there is something among my 34 books, one CD and two audio downloads that will interest and intrigue you.

What Happened to the Afro