The Plastic Gate: Thoughts About Last Night’s Pacers/Wizards Game, Celebrity Worship & Extreme Poverty

America’s entertainers (professional athletes, musicians, actors/actresses) are a version of British royalty; I’m convinced of this.

After the game, Joe and I went down to the family and friends guest area to slap hands with David West and the other Pacers players. There’s a small, 3 foot high plastic gate there that separates invited guests from the players, it forms something like a receiving line. I never really questioned the gate before, but Joe’s reaction to it made me think about it while waiting for David to exit the locker room. (Joe is extremely observant and analytical, his eye for symbolism is more keen than most.) The gate was grungy and flimsy. Several of us joked about it collapsing under our weight (about 50 people were leaning on it while waiting for the Pacers). But when the players began exiting the locker room, I noticed something different…for the first time since attending David’s away games, I saw the players physically moving the gate aside so that they could really hug and slap hands with their families and friends before boarding the bus. This was rather symbolic, like a rejection of the perceived hierarchy that this grungy, filthy gate imposed. Paul George and Rasual Butler took the time to talk to us at length. (lol Paul promised me again that they would beat the Heat) Rasual asked me to take a picture of he and his brother. Roy appeared happy and jovial while laughing, hugging and joking with friends. Lance made it a point to acknowledge everyone, whether he knew them or not. (Lol he said he remembered me from the Portland game, but I don’t think he really did David spoke highly of me when introducing me to two of his close friends. There was a warmth there that again rejected the notion that they are in fact deserving of some kind of worship, i.e. the gate was pushed aside.

It’s always good to see David, he’s an intelligent, thoughtful and overall great dude outside of being a gifted professional athlete. He and Lesley West make it a point to stay grounded and the two of them give back to their communities in countless ways. I am proud that they are a part of my family.

After some introductions and goodbyes, Joe and I immediately exited the arena and passed 2 homeless men wrapped in tattered blankets. They were both hemmed up against the Verizon Center’s walls, so close yet so painfully far from more wealth than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. So close, yet so disgustingly far from the meager wealth I’ve managed to accumulate in the past few years. We’d stood in the midst of hundreds of millions of dollars and horrific, rock bottom poverty within seconds. What a tragic irony…

For Richard Sherman: A Sermon On Centerfield

I pledge allegiance
to the fans of the
united states of america
and to the hypocrisy
for which we stand,
one scoreboard
under a mob
with trash talk
and concussions for all.

as american as apple pie
football is religion

with its’ opening day kick-off christmas
and superbowl like easter’s resurrection
all praise ye saints of hard hits
and sacred pig skin ritual

communion of cold beers
like lombardi’s blood
may the barbecued wings represent the flesh
of your team’s turnover on the 1 yard line
with 10 seconds to go

lift up the name of sacrifice
to the grid iron gods on high

on this day
let there be wins
as all sins are forgiven

let there be gatorade and fist pumps
let there be pensive glares
let there be chartreuse sewn in the veins of navy blue
let there be unlimited spitting on sidelines
let there be coaching, headsets, grunts
x’s and o’s
let there be limbs bent unholy
let there be prayer
let there be martyrs carried away on carts
let there be thumbs up
let there be monumental cheer
let there be more carnage before the next commercial
let there be billion dollar stadium measured in decibels

(oh thank you grid iron god for the twelfth man)

let there be owners peering through binoculars
in their billionaire boxes
let there be high definition replays of the play
with the sickening crunch
let there be missed tackles face masks sacks for a loss
intentional grounding
let there be trapezius muscles
bruised battered clenched
let there be a numbing from needles

let there be halftime analysis
let there be calls for “aggression believing harder hitting
he better hit him in the mouth too much time in the pocket”

let there be sideline expletives antics
tantrums towels twisting turning pile-ups
fumble
fuck the refs
let there be blown calls
let there be electric electricity
let there be power
fire works
red faced fans in extreme
sleet cold snow rain
let there be 3rd and forever
let there be tip in the end zone interception

but not you.

ye though thou made play of the game
play of thou lifetime

not you

ye may not shout
nor smile
not wince
nor seek glory
not embody confidence
nor jeer
nor pounce
nor commit cocky personal foul
even after the game is over
not celebrate
when asked opinion by interviewer
not release guttural outburst

at this,
your mountaintop
at this your pinnacle
at this your moment inside end zone
as your heart pumps
one thousand beats per second

ye compton
ye archetypical black male threat
ye gladiator
ye passion for bloodsport
ye exception (or not)
ye second in high school class (or not)
ye standford grad (or not)
ye young melanin man

without wrap sheet
without shit. damn. fuck.
without pistol or murderous intention

not you, Richard Sherman.

You
Are
Not
Allowed.

© 2014, B. Sharise Moore

Miguel & The Mosh Pit Of Rapey R&B

I’ve been a sucker for a good falsetto since El Debarge. There’s something about the heavy treble and melodic keys in “Oooh, I Like It”, “Time Will Reveal”, and “Love Me In A Special Way” that always manages to trigger an 80s nostalgia like nothing else can. Thusly, I became somewhat of a casual fan of Miguel after the release of his sumptuously smooth mega-hit, “Adorn.” I sang it in the shower, blasted it through the speakers of my Toyota, and jammed to it while doing laundry. “Adorn” was just THAT good.

 

And then the record skipped, scratched, and teetered dangerously on the precipice of hell.

 

Being the casual fan that I was, I never purchased “Adorn” or the Art Dealer Chic, Volume 1 EP on which it was featured. I sang along then paused in shock as he precariously leapt into the mosh pit of screaming fans on Sunday’s Billboard awards. But until recently, I was truly oblivious to the existence of “How Many Drinks”, the rapey companion piece, the anti-“Adorn”.

 

Miguel begins “How Many Drinks” with the lyrics:

 

Frustration, watching you dance

Invitation, to get in them pants

Come closer baby, so I can touch

One question, am I movin’ too fast?

 

Umm…creepy.

 

A few questions/observations if I may:

 

1. Why is Miguel experiencing frustration while watching this woman dance? Does he feel entitled to her? Is it merely lust?

 

a. Seems this lyric singlehandedly reinforces the caveman meme which implies that men are nothing more than inherent sexual beasts who don’t have the ability to control their erections/desires, even in the confines of public nightclubs, lounges, bars, parties, and/or meet and greets.

 

2. Who exactly is inviting Miguel to “get in them pants”? The woman? Miguel, himself? (see entitlement above)

 

3. Is the dialogue between Miguel and this woman real or imagined?

 

a. At this point, we have yet to hear a single yes, no, or maybe from the woman in question; her thoughts are unknown.

 

*Sexual Harassment is any unwelcomed or unwanted sexual behavior or pressure which embarrasses, humiliates, or intimidates an individual. Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, and even nonverbal and visual (such as staring or gestures that are suggestive or sexual).

 

 

 

Miguel continues:

 

Cause I ain’t leavin alone, feel like I could be honest, babe

We both know that we’re grown

That’s why I wanna know

How many drinks would it take you to leave with me?

 

 

Once Miguel asserts that under no circumstances will he leave alone, the song dissolves into a predatory quagmire. He uses the words “honest” and “grown” to infer that their supposed maturity green lights his right to intimacy. And if the manipulation weren’t transparent enough, he asks how many drinks it would take for him to convince this woman to leave with him. The lyrics identify alcohol as the primary tool/weapon of choice for coercion. It can also be inferred that were alcohol NOT involved, the woman may not consider leaving with him at all. This woman is never given any agency. She has no voice, no say in the matter. She is only permitted/expected to dance, accept as many drinks as it takes, leave with Miguel, and have sex with him.

 

*Drug Facilitated Rape typically involves the use of the “date rape drug” (Flunitraepam, Rohypnol, GHB (Liquid E or Liquid G) and/ or alcohol.

*According to recent studies, alcohol is the #1 drug used to facilitate a sexual assault. For rape which takes place on campuses, alcohol is being used in 90% of cases.

 

He croons further:

Yeah, you look good and I got money

But I don’t wanna waste my time

Back of my mind I’m hopin you say two or three

You look good, we came to party

But I don’t wanna waste my time

 

 

Miguel’s declaration that he has money infers that he believes this woman, and possibly women in general, are commodities that can be bought, used, and discarded. There is also an implication here that women are ready and willing to have sex with men because they have money and thusly, he is entitled. His ducks are in a row; all that’s needed is a bit of persuading.

*In a research poll for the American magazine, Ms, one in every twelve men interviewed admitted to having forced a woman to have intercourse or tried to force a woman to have intercourse through physical force or coercion; that is, they admitted to raping or attempting to rape a woman. However, hardly any of these men identified themselves as rapists.

 

And finally, he coos:

Temptation, is calling your name

Sweet persuasion, baby this is a game

Come closer, baby, if you like what you hear

Impression, is what I’m makin you feel

No, no, no

I ain’t judgin

If you do decide that you might be fuckin’ tonight, what?

More power to you if you do decide that you might be fuckin’ tonight

 

 

It is unsettling that Miguel compares his advances to sport, a game to be lost or won. He repeats endlessly that his time is of the essence and fucking is the endgame. Alarmingly the word “persuasion” is used explicitly. Persuasion is premeditated, and in this case, predatory. Miguel muddies these crude advances with phrases like “If you do decide” and “I ain’t judgin” to make it appear as though this woman has been given a choice. However, the initial harassment, incessant coercion, and introduction of alcohol make her ability to truly consent impossible.

“How Many Drinks” isn’t just a slippery slope, it’s a dangerous tumble into the gaping mouth and jagged teeth of rape culture.

 

*California Penal Code clearly states that having sex with a person who is intoxicated is illegal and may be punishable with a prison sentence.

*Legally, an individual cannot consent to sex if they are drunk; having sex without consent is RAPE/sexual assault.

 

*Alcohol impairs the victim’s ability to recognize a potentially dangerous situation. When drinking, one may not notice someone’s persistent attempts to get them to an isolated location or to get them to consume more alcohol. Intoxication also makes it much more difficult to successfully resist a sexual assault – alcohol produces a slow and ineffective response to an attack.

 

*In a study of students who had been victims of some type of sexual aggression while in college—from intimidation and illegal restraint to rape—the women surveyed reported that 68 percent of their male assailants had been drinking at the time of the attack.

 

For further reading on the topic:

http://www.cwfefc.org/svfacts.html#svtstats

http://www.fullerton.edu/alcohol_drug_info/drunksex.html

www.survive.org.uk

 

Interview With Slam Champion and Poet: B. Sharise Moore

Yesterday, Slam champion and poet, B. Sharise Moore and I discussed her career as a poet and her thoughts on poetry, slam, and rap. Here is the transcription of that interaction.

Owl: Who is B. Sharise Moore?
B. Sharise: First and foremost, I am a Black Woman. I am a product of New Jersey. I’m a dreamer, an educator, a writer, and a thinker.

Owl: What is poetry?
B. Sharise: Poetry is subjective. To some it is sunrise, to others, a sunset. I hope my poems are thoughtful, searching, gritty, and fresh.

Owl: How did you get started in poetry and spoken word poetry?
B. Sharise: I started writing poetry when I was 13. I was inspired by Countee Cullen’s poem “Yet Do I Marvel” and never looked back.I wasn’t REALLY inspired to do performance poetry until I was a Junior at Rutgers University. Twice a year, there was an event on campus called Poethic. It was an open mic in the Paul Robeson Cultural Center. Each event had an amazing feature. In 1998, Jessica Caremoor was the feature. I was amazed. She inspired me to perform my poetry. From there, I started competing in slams throughout the state of NJ and in NYC.

Owl: What is the difference between poetry and spoken word?
B. Sharise: Poetry & spokenword can be interchangeable. Poems meant for the page CAN be performed. Spokenword oftentimes doesn’t read well. This is why I tend to refer to myself as a performance poet. I am a poet who performs.

Owl: What is the difference between poetry and rap?
B. Sharise: Rap is an offshoot or byproduct of poetry, but it is influenced by oratory. Rap is also much more confined than poetry. Rap is dependent upon cadence, rhythm, and rhyme. Poetry can employ these devices, but it isn’t dependent upon them.

Owl: You have a poem in your new Chapbook, “How To Love”, can you discuss the impetus for writing that?
B. Sharise: My poem “How to Love” is a persona poem in the voice of Mamie Till Mobley, the mother of Emmitt Till. In the poem, she gives Lil Wayne a history lesson on her pain as a result of having to bury her murdered & disfigured son. I wrote it bc it was the only way I could accurately respond to Wayne’s deplorable lyrics comparing sex w/ Till’s lynching. Those lyrics really made me pause…they made me sick, they embarrassed me, and alarmed me. I wrote it in Ms. Mobley’s voice as I would have imagined her reaction if she were alive.

Owl: What do you see as your purpose for your poetry?
B. Sharise: This may sound strange, but it has always been very difficult for me to take ownership of my poetry. It doesn’t come from me. Not really anyway…I don’t write a lot of “positive” or “uplifting” poetry because I don’t see the world through that lens. I have seen and experienced injustice and that is what I write about. I try to write poetry that makes readers uncomfortable. If I’m not making my readers/listeners uncomfortable, I’m not doing my job as a poet. My poetry is very political. I question the system. I question my own choices. I question our collective reactions to oppression/adversity & I ask my readers to think. I hope my poems are vehicles for thought. We need to think about the ugly things and the magic we need to make them beautiful.

Owl: How has social media advanced your brand?
B. Sharise: Social Media has enhanced my brand by making me more accessible to networking with other like minds. I’ve booked shows, sold product, and discovered alternate avenues to publishing through social media. I’m grateful for it.

Owl: What is your advice to those that have not yet done what you have but would like to follow or emulate?
B. Sharise: I always tell writers to read. Great writers, read a lot. I also have a list of poets and books I can give them to research. If they are interested in performing, I’d say practice and observe. Look up different performance poets. Observe their styles. There are so many performance poets and no 2 are alike. Develop your style. Study your craft and start performing!

Owl: and what is the new chapbook about and how can people access it?
B. Sharise: The new chapbook is called “A Haunted House In Summer”. It can be purchased on B. Sharise Moore’s Haunted [Website].

Video: Miss Little Lunch Lady(Do You Know What Your Children Ate For School Lunch Today?)

 

 

Bridget(B. Sharise Moore{ @BshariseMoore follow her on Twitter} wrote a piece some years back that resonates with many of the conversations surrounding education, public schooling specifically, and the layered connections of poverty, prison sentences, and publicly provided education, as well as the food industry. The audio production was done by David (DWest) West of the Indiana Pacers and Zeke, and I provided the visuals. The poem is rich with discussion worthy lines, and I do expect that you will leave a comment.

 

 




 

 

This poem, (as well as B. Sharise Moore’s “Violins & Bullies”), is featured on B. Sharise Moore’s “Peacocks Feathers & Ruby Slippered Souls” which can be purchased via Paypal by clicking the image above.

And I Wasn’t Even Going To Go: Another Asylum Slam Piece

“I kinda see everyone as competition. I’m a very competitive person. But I think that’s good. Competition is great. And as long as it’s friendly and not a malicious thing, then I think it’s cool.” – Janet Jackson

 

“Competition is a sin.” – John D. Rockefeller

 

I would not say that I am adverse to competition. I am possibly more incline to a friendly test of skills where the judges and score keepers are held by objective rules. I am possibly more inclined to a sportsman like public comparison of skills that yield rewards of a tangible nature than just a stroking of my id. Unfortunately, I do not always find my Self with the skill set of the athlete or martial artist, so much of the arenas I have as options are limited to highly subjective criteria for assessing talent. Also, the pot is not typically worth my efforts.

 

Given this understanding, when my fiancee(B. Sharise Moore for those new to the Asylum or just slow), began discussing yet another slam competition she had decided to compete in, my “Oh, lawd, here we go again” meter went from the low stress polarity to the “the bullshyt can only last so long” anxiety side. Being a fairly level minded chap, I did not express this reading in any overly emotional manner; no, instead I whipped out my now fairly robust argument in favor of Bri not entering spoken word poetry competitions. Of course, no matter how robust my logical prowess, her enthused response was to show me the email of the guidelines to the competition and to state,”this one is different” in that really irresistible way she states these sorts of things. And, sure, I am the supportive mate from Hannibal’s Carthage — if she wants to walk elephants through the Pyrenees and the Alps to get her point across, somebody tell Barbar, we going to Rome. However, that support comes with my awesome power of decisive split emotional resource allocation–that is, yeah, of course, I’m down, but I’m going kicking and screaming.

 

However, Bridget was absolutely right, it was a very interesting twist on a concept that has probably grown small malignant cystic lesions in my belly. Roy Lichtenstein, a highly renown graphic artist most known for his style of pop art with its profuse use of halftone and spatial hashing most reminiscent of comic books and strips, has a retrospective at the National Gallery of Art. In cohesion, Bus Boys & Poets event coordinators organized a slam in which each of the contestants would be given one of Lichenstein’s works to write to. The first round would be full length pieces inspired by his visual art. The second round would be a best out of three head-to-head haiku battle. And the last round would be the finalists’ choice.

 

So, Bri wrote, and revised, and wrote some more, and revised, while I played coach, quality control, and counselor.

 

Beyond the anxiety of convincing your Self to push somebody to do something you are developing strong angst about, is still the wonderful experience of watching a master in the process of craftswomanship. In college, I trained in visual arts, media communication, and web technology. Yet, even with all that writing, and all the writing I’ve done in building my own catalog, never presented me with such a tutelage in the process of written art as being loved by this woman. Her sheer passion and appreciation of the craft of poetry is inspiration. I have watched great rap artists in the studio forge fantastically creative and witty works, but none have delved into the depths of a topic like this woman I have decided to share my life with. The poring over of works, the research, and the dedication to line by line being a work of art in and of them Selves has intimidated and aroused(yeah, of course, in more than one way) my own obligations to the written word. And sure, I will always have my doubts about slam, about poetry, about even the effectiveness of having a digital platform as my main medium of expression. Yet, it truly has been my joy to have been able to say I’ve associated intimately with those of these contemporary times that have such a command of the word.

 

The day of the contest began pretty early. Bri woke up hours before her usual time, and started her exercise of memorizing the poem. She spent over two hours reciting the poem and tweaking presentational elements. She rehearsed it in front of me before heading out. While my day was spent designing and developing web sites and literally shaking my head at the banter that is Twitter, Bri was losing her voice. While I packed up from my day’s work, began my process of grooming for the social encounter that is the outside world, she was getting her voice was becoming hoarse. Her walking in the door slightly reserved, but sending those signals only an observant and attentive inamorata has the communication faculties to receive that translate to: “something is wrong”.

 

“I’m not doing this…”

 

It is always interesting to listen to the robust argument talented people give for not performing. And, as a person that is becoming more and more proficient at sharing a mind with another, I simply listened, nodded, nudged, and helped to pick out shoes. I was, however, aware of her voice. That was no excuse, it was logistical concern. The time was a factor, and me not having a ticket was a factor. But, as a person that has overcome his own set of life altering obstacles, I simply nodded, nudged, and told her she looked great in her outfit. I think it helps to be able recognize an anxiety in an extroverted personality, because I’ve seen most people respond too seriously and in effect, negate greatness. The most salient act one can perform when others are verbally doubting them Selves is to simply listen…and make sure they pick out the right pair of earrings.

 

That said…

 

Bri eventually was able to get in contact with the event coordinator; the event was running late and she would be alright coming more tardy than scheduled. I drove(hell hath no fury like drivers on the BW(Baltimore/Washington) Parkway on a Friday night) while she practiced her poem and joked about the raspy quality of her voice. While I saturated the roads with my brand of road rage, Bri vocalized various poems she could use if(I used the word,”when”) she made it to the third round.

 

Bus Boys and Poets has become on of my favorite locations. If you are in the DC/DMV area and are not familiar, or visiting, I highly recommend it. The bookstore is phenomenal, the food is quality, and the atmosphere is comfortable while professional. The host of the WHAAM Slam was Sonya Renee, National Slam winner, international poet, and a performer on TvOne’s Verses & Flow. She introduced the various rules of the Slam and also played the part of the sack goat. The sack goat is the test run spoken word artists that tunes the judges in the audience. The judges are randomly selected(I hate randomly selected judges), and after her piece, they all held their small whiteboards up with a score between 0 and 10 written with a black marker on it. The audience is primed to give low scores “boo’s” and high scores “cheers”.

 

The artists in the first round were Andrew, Droopy, Big Homey, Tahani, Chris August, Anthony, Pages, Twain, Clint Smith, and of course, B. Sharise Moore. As stated, they all had to prepare a piece inspired by a particular one of Lichtenstein’s works. The first poets to be eliminated were Andrew, Big Homey, Twain, and Droopy. The second round would pit Bri against Pages, Clint against Anthony, and Tahani against Chris. Bri would win her head to head haiku rounds and move on to the third round. The third round began with Chris performing as calibrator. Clint went first in the actually final round for the pot. Tahani would go second. And Bri performed her phenomenal piece, D-Day.

 

Tahani would come in third with a score of 27.1. Clint would take second place with a score of 28.1. And Bri would walk away with the money packet after earning receiving a cumulative score of 28.7. Suffice it to say, when in doubt, just keep grinding.

Violins And Bullies By B Sharise Moore

Brie(B. Sharise Moore) crafted this for Tyler Clementi and others that faced oppressive bullying. The piece is one selection of many from her cd, Peacock Feathers & Ruby Slippered Souls(you can purchase here).

 

Violins And Bullies

 

 

 

the boy was born a violin.
cheeks like rosewood hills
overlooking staggered breaths
of symphony
pudgy legs were
wish bones wrapped
in 6/8 time
21 inches of whole note.
arms like expertly strung bows
and a tiny chest cavity alive
with the thumping of
finely tuned heartstrings.
an orchestra of synapse and spine.

but somewhere between boyhood
adolescence and sheet music
began the bullying.
made him
rubber tongued
and tired.
swollen with a shrunken esteem
free only when he climbed
inside himself.

the bullied
are the homeless, the hitchhikers
the easy to ignore
they are hemophiliacs left to bleed
through their book bags
while waiting on the support
we never give them
so they continue the long walk
backward through life.

but beyond the shit and urine stench
of humiliation streamed live
on computer screens
I’m sure our silence had to hurt more
burned like the sizzling brand on a slave’s hand
twisted like a finger nearly dislodged
in a rust-hinged door.
for their suffering
we give them our nothings…
our outdated adages of
sticks and stones breaking

bones but names never
hurting. treating 2010
as if it were 1970.
we give him Brady Bunch advice:
“He has to learn to ignore them. He’ll live…”

But what then when he doesn’t
what then when he chooses ash
over orchestra. suicide over symphony.
when he chooses an old leather belt
a pistol or a suspension bridge
to confide in. perhaps there is a warmth
in the butt of the gun, the belt, the bridge.
maybe they provide the promise
that the homophobic jeers will end infinitely.

since we offer no such solutions
we are handcuffed and
hands off helpless
reactionary and unreasonable
when martyrdom has no viable cause
we weep over what ifs and inaction
but who will stand?

Who will stand and say:
you will not distort his image within glass
offer him to carnival freak shows
and funhouses. you will not make him
frivolous entertainment.

Who will stand and say:
you will not mince his thoughts
into fright making him perpetual gloom.
you will not butcher his freedom
with cleaver. force him to wear his lungs
like long john’s. chase him into tunnels
where his innards are slaughtered in shadow.
you will not kill him because he is skinny or
awkward or overweight or gay
nor will you drive him to kill himself

I don’t give a damn about the
religion that made you raise a monster
and neither does your God
because whomever that God may be
I’m sure He or She believes in a tolerance and
a mercy and a love that you have yet to understand.

the boy was born a violin

cheeks like rosewood hills
overlooking the staggered breaths
of symphony
but somewhere between boyhood
adolescence and sheet music
began the bullying.
he knew he’d only be free
when he climbed
back inside himself. hoped
to live his next life as a whole note
in an orchestra of synapse and spine
and yes, he will live…

Tyler Clementi, age 18, you will live.
Eric Mohat, age 17, you will live
Justin Aaberg, age 15, you will live
Billy Lucas, age 15, you will live
Asher Brown, age 13, you will live
Seth Walsh, age 13, you will live
Carl Joseph Walker Hoover, age 11, you will live
Jaheem Hererra, age 11, you will live

You will live because
I will stand and make it so…

© 2010, B. Sharise Moore

4 Reasons Why America’s Schools Don’t(and probably won’t ever) Work For Us

This is a piece written by B. Sharise Moore for Our Asylum. It is one of those pieces that tends to draw a lot of attention here, so I would like to ask that you keep your debate cordial as defined by Asylum Staff and Owl. Any debate deemed outside of this prescribed cordiality will by erased and the commenter blocked from commenting in this post, and on probation from commenting in any other posts here.

 

There is no such thing as a “good public school.”
The notion is impossible given the oppressive system that pulls its purse strings.

 

  1. The Preparedness Gap (not to be confused with The Achievement Gap)
  2. The Achievement Gap refers to the disproportionate degree to which students from different ethnic groups perform, on average, on standardized tests. However, The Preparedness Gap, unlike The Achievement gap, takes into consideration outside variables, like poverty and access (or lack thereof), that play a large part in a child’s academic achievement. With that being said, the average child living in a Middle Class household arrives in Kindergarten having been exposed to ten thousand or more words than the average child living in poverty. Vocabulary is THE guiding measuring stick in early childhood education placement tests. A child’s vocabulary is the reference point to how, by whom, and even where a child will be educated. Many of our children are ENTERING school at a disadvantage. By age 6, many are either being pipe-lined to prison or being groomed for abject failure.

  3. Overcrowded Classrooms
  4. During my 9 years as a classroom teacher, my average class size consisted of about 25 students. (Last year I taught a Standard Level 8th grade Language Arts Class with 38 students. The school did not have enough desks to accommodate the number of students in our rooms.) The creation of classes of this size makes several assumptions. It assumes that the teacher delivering the instruction is a good classroom manager. It also assumes that each of the 25 (or more) pupils will enter the classroom with writing utensil and books in hand, quietly, on time, and ready to learn. More often than not, this is not the case. Unprepared teachers and unmotivated students exist. Distractions exist. And it is counterproductive to believe that a healthy, safe, and effective learning environment can be created among 25+ adolescent and/or prepubescent children without a great deal of support from parents, resource teachers, and the school’s administration.

     

    Student to teacher ratio has been a concern for decades. It is directly affected by a school district’s budget as well as the availability of highly qualified teachers. In recent years it’s been no secret that school districts across the country have been the recipients of deep budget cuts. Those cuts have directly affected teacher salaries via furloughs, the disposal of cost of living raises, the retaining of support staff (paraprofessionals, classroom aids, resource teachers), and new hires. With the country still knee deep in a recession, the chances for relief look bleak.

     

  5. Overemphasis on Testing
  6.  

    NCLB (No Child Left Behind) has played a major role in restructuring the American classroom. In the name of accountability, the law has grossly affected the way teachers teach, and I believe, the way students are learning. In short, NCLB uses a state mandated standardized test as a tool for meeting a predetermined group of tiered expectations in the core courses. After the test has been administered, the data is analyzed both wholly (the entire student body) and categorically. Students are grouped by socioeconomic class (Students who receive Free and Reduced Meals), ethnicity, disability (Students who receive services for Special Education), and ESL (English Language Learners). Their test scores are then measured against a predetermined cut score (The percentage of students who need a proficient score on the test is different for each group) that determines whether the child has scored Basic, Proficient, or Advanced in a given tested area. The total findings, which also include school wide attendance, determine whether or not the school has met the requirements for AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress).

     

    The purpose of NCLB was to raise expectations of all children and to hold poorly performing teachers accountable. However, this has not occurred. Budget cuts have not allowed for new hires and have often resulted in cuts in Professional Development. School administrators are inundated with bureaucratic fires that need their constant attention. Classroom observations either rarely occur or do not occur at all. And all curriculum have been tailored to fit neatly inside the framework of the almighty standardized test. Even those who teach electives are required to include elements of the test within their art/music/drama/physical education, etc. subject areas.

     

  7. Curriculum/Relevance
  8.  

    The curriculum refers to what teachers teach. It is the framework of the subject matter at hand. It is the nuts and bolts of instruction and the basis for which tests are created. It is also, in most cases, Euro-centric in design, outdated, irrelevant, and disconnected to the holistic learning our children need. Not a single child should graduate from an American high school without knowing how to construct a resume. Not a single child should be able to graduate if he or she cannot balance a check book, understand percentages, or think critically. Something is wrong when nearly 40% of students are required to take remedial classes upon entering this country’s colleges and universities. Something has gone awry when America’s public schools graduate students who are oblivious of multiplication tables, incapable of articulating themselves effectively, or writing a complete sentence.

     

    Where are the life skills? Where are the mathematical to real-life connections between store sales and improper fractions? Where are the multicultural characters in fictitious stories that look like the students we teach? Where is the relevance between schooling and living?

     

    Many of our children aren’t prepared. They are all excessively assessed. Their classrooms are overcrowded. And they are being taught from an outdated curriculum that in many cases, isn’t and won’t ever be, relevant to their lives. We’re failing them. America’s schools are not adequately educating our children and I wonder if they ever have.

     

    *B. Sharise Moore is a published author, performance poet, and certified secondary English teacher in the state of Maryland. She taught classes in English, Language Arts, Drama, Journalism, and French from 2002-2011.

Asylum Rising: Imani

Sometimes you can live so much for others, that you forget to serve the one master that should have been fed first. Don’t think for a second that the repercussion that follows such a grievous act isn’t without a desire to kick, scream, and yell. As I sit next to this space heater in the room of a fairly dilapidated building owned by an associate of my cousin, I wonder where all my damn close friends went. And I suppose the tough guys out there reading this are going to feel the comfort of their homes and laugh; or consider their space and begin to tear it apart for some invidious comparison to hurl my way. Ultimately, I have two hoodies to venture out into a St. Louis snow covered scenery to walk to grab something to eat and a computer to type my story into. Sure, Asylum is still on life support presently, but, I’m at peace.

 

Alas, that peace can be easily disturbed, but given the circumstances, that is a might grand and favorable position for me to be in. Throughout 2011, I had to question the reality of fate. I had never seriously given it much thought, and until I felt the pressures of a world that simply wouldn’t bend to my will, I began asking my Self certain questions. Now, I’m much more hopeful, and much more wiser for the incidents of 2011, yet, I’m only so sure that fate or predestination doesn’t exist. I’m also questioning my attachment to this Black race, or Afkan people, that I find my Self shackled hand and foot with. I understand that many of us have our perceptions of what an expression of Black Love -outside and inside Black romantic love(of course)- should be. And I can hear the rally of fierce warriors banging the beast yet the head never bleeds, at least none of the blood seems to be trickling or flowing near my seat here in the streets. What do you love? What sort of love is it? It must be the blind type because I can’t see it, and let’s be honest, since I’ve been homeless, most Afkans(Afrikan Amerikans) can’t see me. To be fully candid, if it weren’t for my trumpeting through Black Twitter, you would have never noticed this Black media analyst named “Owl”.

 

I don’t know what it feels like to be alienated by the same people you have spent years assisting from the vantage of your body, but from mine it feels like being that lone booger sitting atop the public transit seat’s rail. I accept the story as we are telling it. Sure, let’s all be accountable for our actions that may hurt one another. Unless, big unless…hold on let me break out my typography skills here…UNLESS,(there you go…) you are a guy with millions of dollars that can make songs about big pimping and girls, girls, girls, and you won’t have to stand and face the court of public assholery(coined it first!). If one finds them Self being THAT guy, well, you can wait until you are in your forties and making music to keep you relevant with an ode to your new born daughter(wasn’t American Gangster the “soundtrack” he came up with the last time he was “inspired”?) to decide to realize that,”Hey, women don’t like being called ‘bitches’ do they? Let’s stop that then…”

 

Chagrin.

 

I’m not here to play with anyone’s intelligence. I’m not in the position to play public executioner or holier than thou Black legislator of all things Afkanian(“Afkanian”…hold on, I…like the sound of that…anywho…). I’m a man living way too many lives in one lifespan and taking the abuses that would come with that from Karma if I so chose to believe that such an evil bitch existed. I don’t know if I’m more upset because I probably deserve to be living this lifestyle due to so many unbalanced and inconsiderate decisions made prior; or because of all the extremely balanced and noble deeds that I’ve done that I will possibly die unhonored for. I had to rethink a statement I typed into the Black Twitter box of my Tweetdeck yesterday when responding to Brie…well, you know her as B. Sharise Moore(her name Brie to me). Eldridge Cleaver did more with his time as a person wrestling with the harshest of conscientious demons than I have without them. I should be honored to be compared as a writer, to a brother like that. I still stand by my story regarding being the first Owl, however, sure…but, people will be people. In the world that I live in, I wish there were more brothers like him after his pathologies were controlled floating around. After all the “Uhuru’s” and Kwanzaa decorations begin to fade in the memory of our yesteryear, it was a White man that retired from Elvis impersonations that allowed your Asylum’s captain room and board on St. Louis’ west side. Yeah, tell that to my immaturity as I drug it down a corridor to be executed project’s style.

 

I believe it is too easy for us to say we love Black people from the comforts of couches tilted at an angle that allows that noonday glare to be avoided while watching our favorite football teams on flatscreen televisions. Many of us are too busy attempting to look busy while the work of heroes is being recorded in front of a live Twitter audience. Obviously, no one owes me anything; or they are just not willing to pay. I do ask that those that speak of changes to be made for those like my Self be accurate in their content and respectful in their tone. No, you have never had a nightmare about running away from a place that would scare me. My better days are still a bitter taste. I don’t have a problem with the romantics. I actually applaud the spirit’s ability to exist in an Afkan body given our trajectory. Yet, so many of us fail to remember in our hours of boasting of stripes earned on civil battlefields that most of us weren’t volunteers;most of us were drafted. Such is life.

 

I did a bit of work this week for an elderly Black woman, that stays around over in North city St. Louis. Actually a block up from Mason elementary school(which is a pretty awesome school, well it was when I was taking my ex’s children up there). One of those very insular St. Louis neighborhoods where the teenage babies are left to their own devices, so elderly Black women ought to be concerned about their safety. Enough foreshadowing…so, she asks me to grab some wood from University City for her stove to heat her house since thieves had stolen her copper and aluminum piping and what have you. Of course, I agreed. I saw it as an opportunity for various things, and she was a connect of a connect, you know? Now, mind you, the connect had initially connected us so that I might be able to work around her house and be allowed to use one of her free rooms. It didn’t work out like that, but she still needed someone to work around the house. Faith amongst one another is one of those ethnic things that got lost when the Afkans got born through all those forced sexual engagements and rapes, you know?

 

I rode around with the sister and we collected the wood, enough to overfill the 4 x 4 bed that was used to haul the wood form U City’s recreational department to the elderly woman’s home. Once back, I unloaded the wood, and stacked it in reasonably ordered way. As noted, I only have two hoodies, neither zips up, so, I’m working to get through the process at a certain point. And although the work was less than a chore really for me, it does go back to certain principles. I walked away with less than promised, I felt the ripple of the bridge as the flames began to consume it, and I felt like,”what did I do wrong here?” Nothing. I could make really drastic demands on a woman old enough to be the grandmother I just buried, or I could be me and chalk it up to an opened hand developing arthritis. You know?

 

Now, that was all on the 11th of January. Today, I wake up and roll over, press the plastic sheet used to insulate the window in the room I’ve been afforded up to the window pane, so as to see outside. The echo of the thought must have been heard as I felt the window creak and shake a bit. “No” couldn’t have been screamed louder by an Arab in US military custody. I looked at the snow, and I got up, turned the space heater towards the desk, and began my day of research and uploading content to the various web sites I’m developing. I ventured through Twitter, and around midday, our good friend from the western states, Writer Randolph wrote some interesting commentary. Being a fairly astute student of hoodthropology, I recognized the tone of his salutation as what it was: damn reckless. My first emotional response was laughter. You know? Twitter is an interesting place to talk with a certain bravado. I thought to my Self, “what would anything matter here in this space? I can’t swing at you and you can’t swing at me, yet you are writing in a tone that suggests somewhat differently.” I gave in and told him that I had disagreements with a post of his, and that I had responded via Asylum. He made notions about his dedication to the Black race, his world renown stance of not being a “Tom”, and hurled a few insults about me not being a man for not using his name after he quoted me using his name(read it again and I promise it will make sense in the morning).

 

I didn’t want to hassle with it. I got a little heated, knocked off a few lines of code and ventured across the street to King Omawali and Makeda’s house. I let Makeda spin me about web sites and logo prices, and then I got bored with that. So, now I’m here. 1693 words later I’ve still got to figure out how to get child support payments in the mail, a new coat, legal fees covered, phone bill paid, and a decent haircut(stop laughing, goatees have to be trimmed professionally, too) before I fly out to join Brie(we already did the “you guys call her thing”, right? Cool.) My problems are a little larger than Twitter. I’m a little larger than Twitter. So should you be.

 

Homelessness didn’t break my wherewithal. It didn’t fashion any weakness onto my character. In some ways it made me more willing to allow pawns to become queens for kings that think they can’t be seen. I can’t say what will happen when Writer Randolph and I meet face to face and these words we have shared have to find a rectification. It is a shame that we can’t somehow behave better than 19 year old gang bangers; especially given the violence and pain of both of our histories. But, I’m in a better place now. At the moment I’m extremely happy with now. So, we’ll see about then when we get there.

 

Where Black people choose to go is solely on the guidance and direction of leaders such as my Self and your Self. I’ve never seen a group of people that didn’t have factions and cliques. I’ve reserved within my Self to deal with my portion of influence over Akfans. Come what may…

 

Sure, Asylum is still on life support presently, but, I’m at peace.

 

Hey, Brie…