Tuesday, October 7, 2014

100 word me

Check out my homework for this amazing project I'm helping to facilitate called Clarkston Roving Listener (a program initiated by De Amon Harges of Indianapolis).  It will train children ages 12-18 to gather the stories and talents of neighbors in their community as an effort of asset-based community development.  Tomorrow we have to present 100 word stories of ourselves.  Of course mine rhymes...

I am a Black Filipino Native American Mestizo
Yale law graduate social justice activist
Revolutionary poet and community development strategist
I have seen the valley of tragedy
Watched my parents die of cancer
I have seen the sunrise of life
Caught my children with these hands bruh
And all I got is questions
And if I ever find the answer
I will pen a book, spit a poem, or sing a song
To increase human understanding
And even though I chose
Making change over money
There is not a soul on this earth

that can take a thing from me

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

100 Posts Deep

In honor of my 100th post (it only took 5 years), here is audio of my third of four straight write club victories.  Still undefeated son!  I listened to this one and actually felt certain of it's worth, which is rare.

The Write Club battle:  Shallow vs. Deep.
My topic:  Shallow

I suggest you listen to both stories as Myke Johns opening piece is a lovely take on love.  If you are short on time, my story starts at 8:37... Enjoy and share!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Glad Jack Wasn't Black

Just learned from this Huff Po article that John Mellencamp's classic rock song 'Jack and Diane' was originally about an interracial relationship.

Here's the video for your frame of reference:

Besides Mr. Mellencamp's hilarious Kunta Kente touche at the end of the Huff Po interview, there really was nothing of note here.  Back in 1982, studio execs thought he shouldn't make the song about an interracial relationship.  Stop the presses.

But as always I went to the real action in the comment section.  And there I found this useless pimple of a thought from one of those provincial provocateurs from the pro-racial slur bloc of the Generally Obtuse Party:
and this waste of eye-use from one of those people who know random, useless facts and make conversations miserable by adding said useless facts like a fart adds to ambiance:

Thanks Matt.  Thanks Lisa.  Maybe you two should hook up in the back seat of a car and prove that stupidity knows no race.  But if either of you had made a salient point, I would disagree with you both.

I am glad that Jack wasn't Black and that 'Jack and Diane' were faceless, even if they were ultimately white in the video and in most people's consciousness.  If you listen to this song, it could be as true for a couple in Lower 9th Ward New Orleans as for a couple in Orange County or a couple on the Jersey Shore.

Art should let the listener imagine and create meaning for themselves.  Now I charge a spoken-word poet to reframe the song into a piece about an interracial couple or about two girls (Jack short for Jackie) or two boys (one of whom calls himself Diane).

And oh yeah, life goes on long after the Lisas and Matts of the world take the fun out of everything.

Mazel Tov.

Friday, September 5, 2014


WonderRoot is the first organization that welcomed me to Atlanta.  This non-profit offers space and access to all kinds of hard- skill training as well as use of essential resources for any sort of creative artist.  WonderRoot features a Digital Media Lab full of the most up to date Macs with the most up to date software from Final Cut Pro to Animator to ProTools to Photoshop and on and on.  It sports a full recording studio with a huge sound board and massive live recording space with mics for days.  There is ample wall space for exhibiting visual art, a dark room, a FREE performance space in the basement, a silkscreen machine and a ceramics kiln for freaks sake.   And get this, all of this is FREE for youth under 18 and $60 a year (yes a year!) for adult members.  WHAT?!!!

I've run youth programs and 24 hour lock-in art-making experiences at WonderRoot, held  popular education workshops and presented performances, edited films, shot films, and attended countless and deeply inspiring artistic experiences at this easily accessible and welcoming Atlanta treasure.  This place is the truth.  And best of all, WonderRoot is the most diverse space I have been to in what can be a very segregated artist community in Atlanta.  When I say diverse, I every mean age, race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and political perspective present at the same time talking, collaborating, and encouraging each other to make meaningful, excellent art.

I was recently honored to be interviewed by their Interactive/Integrated Media Manager Floyd Hall about my creative journey.  This is a man with vision and he's in the right place for sure.  Special thanks to him for the opportunity and shout out to Chris Appleton, the ED who is a real leader in Atlanta arts and activism work.  You can check out the interview at:


If you are ever in Atlanta this is your first stop if you want to experience the burgeoning cultural explosion happening in this, the crossroads of the South.  Until it's big move across the street into a 54,000 square foot, 8 Acre campus to turn a shuttered school into the WonderRoot center for Arts and Social Change, Wonderroot is located at 982 Memorial Drive, Atlanta GA 30316.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Check out this review of the performances at the NEXT showcase... comes from Urban Lux Magazine.  The review for my performance of an excerpt from Mass Transit Muse is in the last few paragraphs.  Highlights?  "intelligently animated and soulful skit...  left an impact that resonated across the room...  Melodic scenes expressed heart felt and heart wrenching stories... took the audience on an audio/visual journey"

Orbiting a space with brilliant colorful stars, an electric glow from cerulean blues and regal magenta’s to the sensual warmth of hinted cadmium yellow hues flickering from one primary place. This is my metaphor for the setting of the National Black Arts Festival’s Salon, a NEXT event at the Hammonds House Museum in the Historic Westside of Atlanta, August 1, 2014. I felt elevated and inspired by all of the richly diverse forms of African-American art being presented. The stars of the night were visual artist Fahamu Pecou, poet Jon Goode, playwright Michael Molina and vocalist/guitarist Brenda Nicole Moorer.
Sitting on a comfortable sofa next to Pecou and Goode, in the front room of the Hammonds House Museum, I witnessed the number of people entering increase exponentially and the sounds of conversations grow louder. Meanwhile, high quality, lively videos with edited final-cuts rapidly jumping from one scene to the next projected prominently on the wall above our heads, all from Fahamu Pecou’s series “All that glitters ain’t gold.” A recent body of work that he describes as “a project that was designed around engaging with youth culture and their attraction to all the shiny things, the things we see on t.v., the glittery shiny things that appear as though they are measures or markers of success. I am challenging those ideas by saying, all that glitters ain’t gold. There’s a catch to all of it.” The video series, which targets younger audiences, are also a part of a group of paintings that cleverly speak to the subject. The effort and goal of the series, he says “hopefully will entice the youth to do further research and find the artwork and really engage critically the ideas that [are] being put forth.” (fahamupecouart.com)
Sitting to the right of Pecou, poet Jon Goode, in the true nature of a poet, powerfully addresses how his work engages youth. “When I write [my] poems, I tell you the story of me, hopefully if they’re written right, it also tells you the story of you, and in telling you our collective story I hopefully raise some questions. So often I try to provide an answer, but together through dialogue, sparked by the work, we can come to some form of solution. That is the goal, to evoke thought, to start a conversation and together move forward for a solution to our collective problems.” (jongoode.webs.com)
Our stars are in constant motion, so it was an honor for me to get close enough to talk with vocalist/guitarist extraordinaire Brenda Nicole Moorer about her unique new music and her advice to other aspiring artist. “My favorite [song] is called Bloom, it’s a very weird song; it’s a mix of everything. Its soul, it’s folk, its rock, and it’s jazz all in one. It [has] a very intricate melody that’s not very typical.” Moorer continues by sharing how she approaches her work and what advice she gives to other artist in or outside of the industry. “All of my music is about exploring yourself, discovering from mistakes, learning, growing. Bloom is also about blooming and discovering, don’t give up on your dreams and keep trying.”
As an independent artist pursuing a dream as a singer, Moorer advises, “learn the business side because there’s so much else that goes into being an artist besides just writing good songs, you have to be able to connect with people and get [your work] into hands and ears that need it, so I would definitely say, be a business savvy artist and stay true to what you believe in. When you’re singing, performing and writing, try to always have a message that you would want someone like your kids to hear in the future.” (brendanicolemoorer.com)
The intelligently animated and soulful skit by attorney, author, cultural organizer, arts advocate, and performer Michael Molina was captivating. This star merged elements of video projections, acting, singing, and rapping all in one delivery.
Molina and his two supporting actors left an impact that resonated across the room. Melodic scenes expressed heart felt and heart wrenching stories from Molina’s native home of New Orleans that took the audience on an audio/visual journey into his world. (momolina.com)
This was an evening of art, history, expression and unprecedented talent curated by NEXT co-founder and Executive Director of NEXT Faith Carmichael and team.
Learn more about NEXT and the quarterly salons and a documentary series showcasing the hottest and brightest stars of the city by visiting: next-atlanta.com
photos:  Janssen Robinson

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This Time

Performed as a part of Van Jones' ArtStrike digital media art action (Click link to read CNN Story) that garnered 11 million individual internet impressions in one day, this piece was highly appreciated by Van's good friend Prince (yes that Prince!).  The piece was intended to highlight the working man's struggle in the face of shrinking economic opportunity in America and was composed after a very real run in with a neighbor who stole a MacBook I worked extremely hard to purchase out of my home.  Real life performance... Enjoy. 

In a world of trouble... Be Encouraged

Monday, July 21, 2014

Going to be a part of NEXT Atlanta at National Black Arts Festival w/ Fahamu Pecou, John Goode and more

On Thursday, July 31st at 7pm I'll be doing a very potent excerpt from my play Mass Transit Muse as a part of NEXT Atlanta.  The event also features world renowned artist Fahamu Pecou, HBO Def Poetry Jam's John Goode and more.  Here's the four featured artists:  http://www.next-atlanta.com/2014-summer-artists/... Here's the flyer...

and for the news folk here is the NEXT PRESS RELEASE


Saturday, July 19, 2014


Went 4-0 in Write Club tonight!  Nick Tecosky and Myke Johns have taken to calling me "The Murderer."  I'll take that.  Tonight's Topic:  Wound.  

by Michael Otieno Molina

So I have these two perfect little bloody pot holes on the knuckles of my your fault, fuck you fingers.  They are working to become scabs now, but at first they were that beautiful, deep watercolor red, like right before you spread it on a canvas, or in my case wipe it on a sandy shirt.  Ouch.  But you have to let it breathe. 

When you slap a band-aid on it it gets all mushy and pink and white and gross like fat hanging off raw chicken.  You have to let it breathe.  But it’s damn painful to walk around with open wounds.

So how did I get these two perfect little bloody pot holes on the knuckles of my your fault and fuck you fingers?  I am in the Dominican Republic vacationing with this asinine fine, brilliant butter WILF (hey my love) and our two gorgeous, good kids.  I’m feeling myself. 

So I’m high up on the surface of about twelve feet of clean-air-clear water with my child’s snorkeling goggles when I spot a bone white piece of coral ready to be plucked and brought through customs to add character to our little garden back home.

I plunge and immediately this tiny snorkeling mask floods with salt water, burning like piss in my eyes.  But I’m under about 6 feet now and half way, I’m not going to stop.  I kick hard to go deeper and reach the rock.   It won’t budge. 

I got some breath left so I dig my figners around the thing and turn toward the surface ripping up as hard as I can.  I feel the tearing of my skin, but am more concerned that the bastard rock hasn’t moved and I look down as I float to the surface and realize that this little bump of dead coral, the shape, size, and look of a human brain is actually part of a huge mammoth of living rock.  It’s a little dead scar that the coral wasn’t clinging to.  And that’s the danger of scars.

Scars are zombie skin, dead and done healing.  They are cave drawings of battles won and lost, the tattoos of childhood.  We hide scars as much as we celebrate them, their etchings egos in themselves.  And one day we will all be scars, mounds of dead flesh, capped with a concrete slab carved with a name, yet another scar of a society come and done.

Scars are dead, only useful when plucked from an ocean of experience and plunked in a yard of tired stories I can tell a million times about the time I ripped my fingers open trying to pick up an entire coral reef.

Scars are the story without the milieu of contextual details – like the fact I wore my child’s goggles because I was too cheap to buy my own (I mean I’m really not made of pesos) – scars are trophies, they never feel as good as winning, never feel as bad as third place.   

But wounds, wouns are the victory lap that hurts so good.  Wounds are for the living.  Only the living feel.  The pain of a wound is proof that there still a will to live screaming “Something’s aint right!”  The pain lets you know your body works.  If you go numb, worry.

I remember coming in here to Kavarna during some serious personal challenges and, after not seeing her for a while, I ran into Sirkka.    Sirkka who while I was in Kavarna studying for the bar exam burned for me a Girl Talk mix c.d. that I bumped hard when I found out I passed.  Sirkka who will proudly play Too Short’s Freaky Tales up in here, while hipsters and graduate students squirm to my quiet horror and delight.   Sirrka who caught me bringing outside food in and chastised me with a gentle, firm “come on, man.” Sirkka, who had showed me the magic pouches she made of plastic bags and told me of the miracle she had made of a sudden and horrifying illness.  I ran into Sirka and found that she had been having challenges and complications with that illness.   That a wound hadn’t completely healed.  I remember Sirkka saying “I’m just glad to be able at work again.”  What a beautiful and simple expression of the will to live.

Wounds prove you are alive.  When your skin breaks and you see the pink meat beneath, when the slow red flow well up and leaks from a clean slice, when you can’t help but flick at, rub on, and peel off the little scarab of scab that follows, when a nondescript spot on your body is rebranded and a scar is born, wounds prove you are alive.  So ‘begrudge them not their sloth and scorn, what wound did ever heal but by degrees’ wrote one William Shakespeare.’

And when typing this writing about wounds my your fault and fuck you fingers are in heavy locomotion, bopping up and down with unconscious precision when I realize that my your fault and fuck you fingers have a third story to tell about wounds.  Wounds are the injury themselves (somebody’s fault), the pain the injury causes (Fuck!), and the healing process that both things initiate (peace).  Like one plus one is three, the cause, the effect, and the result. 

And today I walk back in here to muse on wounds with the great wound on human civilization that is the Israeli-Palestine conflict raging with the infection of vengeance and fear, with the wound that is the border between the U.S. and Mexico flaring on both sides with the trauma of drug wars and the war on drugs, tonight I walk in here for Sirkka and remember the blessing it is to be alive to be able to work for the world and write for the world, as painful as it can be, as fruitless as it can seem.   And sometimes it’s nobody’s fault, there’s no one to flip off, and death is the only peace from the pain. 

And sometimes finding somebody or something to blame offers a momentary relief.  And that’s OK.  “It’s your fault ocean for being a habitat for coral and your fault you coral for dying, but holding on to a bit of yourself to tempt me to snorkel down and rip it off for my garden and your fault cheap ass snorkeling goggles for kids for making it hard for me to see what was right in front of me and your fault Obama that the dollar isn’t worth more so that I could buy adult goggles and your fault mama for making me the cheap bastard I am and your fault God for taking my mama from me too young so I couldn’t tell her this story so Fuck you!”

And after blaming your makers and cursing everything under the sun, you find peace.  I don’t know what will come of all this trouble.  But this wound, this pain let’s me know one thing.  I am alive.  And as long as I’m alive I will fight for my life.   Just like Sirkka.

And we might be flesh, but we are also bone, and bones may break and shatter and splinter and fracture, but they don’t scar, they never die.  And under the right conditions, our bones can live to tell our story thousands of years after I’m gone.  And if an archaeologist discovers me in a flash of white and in hasty excitement digs his hands in the dirt and in the process rips a few pot holes in his skin he might just see two fingers saying “your fault, so fuck you.”  Now take this wound, take a break from studying the dead, and live.  Peace.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mike Molina Interviewed by Kali-Ahset of Moving the Center

I was recently interviewed by Kali-Ahset of Moving the Center about my Five Dimensional Storytelling style, Mass Transit Muse as an example of that, my work with youth, and my perspective on New Orleans... take a listen!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Be Encouraged: The Poetry of Progress

As spoken at the First Existentialist Congregation Celebration of Life on Sunday, July 13th 2014.

Be Encouraged:  The Poetry of Progress
By Michael Otieno Molina

I am blessed to be with you fellow sojourners to truth and justice, you who are committed to action in fellowship, you who have built in this stone chalice a congregation, a gumbo of souls co-mingling in commitment to freedom from a gathering house that reminds me of a stop on the underground railroad every time I pass it.  And the light of compassion flashing in your eyes rhymes with the time-tempered rocks that surround us, each one like us, an individually placed witness to the power of people.   

Be Encouraged:  The Poetry of Progress  

And my hope for our time together is in that title.  I am here to encourage us to encourage ourselves to encourage each other to make poetry out of our individual and collective progress.  Be Encouraged.  Progress is poetry.

The didactic, diverse thinker W.K. Pedia calls poetry a form of literature that uses the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language to evoke meanings in addition to ostensible meaning.  In other words, poetry uses the evocative, layered nature of language to suckle meaning from the mundane, to flood the minutia with the meta.  Poetry merges form and function to help us understand what we feel.  Poetry is language evolved.

And language is the first human technology.   In language, humans converted the energy of grunts and moans into words the way computers converted ones and zeros into information.  Language was the Internet before electricity, it is where we searched stories for meaning, for joy, for truth, for understanding.  Language bore the stories that taught fire and taught medicine and taught philosophy.  Language is the driver of human evolution, the all spark, the engine of human understanding and the catalyst of human potential.  Language is the mortar of civilization and war is happens when language fails.

The great peace-maker, theologian, philosopher, and cultural historian Thomas Berry once noted:  “It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story”.  

And I believe we would all agree that we need a new story.

We are in a world of trouble
Where war reigns supreme in the middle east
blood pours down the drains of city streets
immigrant children called aliens on their own planet
by Americans weary with shrinking opportunity
We are in a world of trouble

Where violence runs hot in the hands of teens
Who Post rape videos proudly
And cold in the hearts of people turned commodities of the incarceration industry
Where media monopolies push corporate hegemony into the gears of democracy
We are in a world of trouble

Our earth is swollen with the waste of insatiable consumption
And as we wade through distraction
Bitter in detached connection
Where the world awaits our fingertips
With a mood change at a channel switch
And consequence has come to this
We are desensitized and comfortably numb
While death and destruction run amok among our children
We are in a world of trouble

And we who want the world to progress have to change our story from only powerfully pointing out what we are against and clearly calling out what’s wrong to artfully attracting people to what we are for and building the beautiful on what’s right.  We need our story to become poetry.

But today
I am encouraged
Just look at what we have done
we have filled this world
with a harvest of freedom
each one of us, a dream realized
every moment of our lives
an instance of oppression defied
every breath and utterance
a reflection of the resilience of life
despite being, terrorized
ostracized and denied opportunity to thrive
our ancestors survived
reborn and alive in us
so trust
we must
be encouraged

Poetry is a sublimely designed vehicle, a finely tuned engine, and a master-skilled driver of ideas.  And, personally, I am committed to rhyming poetry because it sounds good, because it is easier to recall, and because it is beautiful, and like most folks, I like to dwell on beauty, to look for beauty in everything from ashes to dust.    And there is another reason many of us drawn rhyme so much.

A little, square woman, Merriam Webster Online’, writes that Rhyme is the correspondence in the terminal sounds of a composition.  The correspondence in the terminal sounds of a composition.  If we take poetic license to deconstruct that definition and reconstruct it outside the realm of poetry or even language, we can draw an analogy that speaks to the power of rhyme, poetry, and language as a core forces for understanding and catalyzing progress.  In other words let’s break this down.

Rhyme is the correspondence in the terminal sounds of a composition. 

A Correspondence is a close similarity, connection, or equivalence… something that one thing shares with another.  Could be a value, an experience, a moment in time.  It is a point of unity between things.  Let’s keep that.  Correspondence is A POINT OF UNITY BETWEEN THINGS.  A POINT OF UNITY BETWEEN THINGS.

And Rhyme is the correspondence in the terminal sounds of a composition.  So lets unpack terminal next.

Terminal, the meticulous Ms. Lady Merriam also tells us, Terminal means forming or situated at an end or extremity of something, such as a transportation route or a station along that route. 

Or alternatively a terminal can be a point of connection for closing an electric circuit.  In other words, terminal refers to an ending that serves as the starting point to something else. Terminal means TRANSITIONAL, let’s keep that.

Rhyme is the correspondence in the terminal sounds of a composition.  So what is a composition? 

Composition is the nature of something's ingredients or constituents; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up.   Or alternatively it a work of music, literature, or art.  So composition is THE MAKE UP OF A CREATION.

AND Rhyme is the correspondence in the terminal sounds of a composition.  So after breaking that down, let’s put it back together.  Rhyme is the A POINT OF UNITY BETWEEN THINGS IN TRANSITION AS THEY MAKE UP A CREATION.  Rhyme is A POINT OF UNITY BETWEEN THINGS IN TRANSITION AS THEY MAKE UP A CREATION. 

The present rhymes in two directions with its past and its future.  Molecules rhyme in the many forms of matter, atoms rhyme in fusion and in fission, cells rhyme in anything that’s living.  The artist rhymes the real and the imagined the way the builder rhymes the blueprint with the edifice.         

I rhyme my father, my mother.  Two teachers who died giving their present lives as a gift to the future.  I rhyme their mentors, and their muses in whatever they learned from them and taught to me.  I rhyme their love to my children.  As if my parents love endlessly in the arms with which I hold my children and in the arms with which they may one day hold their children. 

We all rhyme with some ancient ancestor who wore our faces, spoke our voices, and walked our gait in a day under the same sun, breathing the same oxygen in the breath you took as these words were spoken.   

Rhyme is like that.  Rhyme is, like life, symmetry, balance, and the repletion of repetition.  Life is rhyme.  And any progress in this life must rhyme with the core, timeless needs that all people in all places at all times share:  self-expression, togetherness, purpose.  Progress, as it rhymes what we are with what we could be, progress is rooted in where we are and pulls us forward to where we should be. 

Tell somebody 
Be encouraged

each of us
could have shut up
in the face of injustice
but instead we stepped up
and kept up the mission the elders left us
and the world is so messed up
sometimes we get fed up
about ready to head up out the door
but then we connect up
hear stories that refresh us
and remind us of just what it is we are fighting for

Tell somebody to Be Encouraged

We are fighting for the planet.  And thankfully, thankfully our planet is round.   So if you walk your mind out of these doors and go left, all the way to left, as far left as you can go, you can greet your neighborhood Black Blocker with a warm “Anarchism is order, Government is chaos” in the morning.  Alternatively, if you leave this place and walk your mind right, all the way right, as far right as you can go, you can say “minimum government, maximum freedom” to your friendly neighborhood Libertarian at the end of the day.  And they, being next-door neighbors, can be heard arguing round the clock across the narrow alley of ideology between them.  Thankfully we are on a round planet and the extreme left and extreme right can yell at each other from across that dark alley.  Imagine them rhyming slogans back and forth at each other

Larry Libertarian:  Free Minds will make Free Markets
Arnie Anarchist:  Property is Theft, Eat the Rich
Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom
Political power comes from the barrel of a gun
If your aren’t Libertarian, you aren’t paying attention
The direction, insurrection.  The solution, revolution.

And in all the confusion, there is still rhyme, A POINT OF UNITY BETWEEN THINGS IN TRANSITION AS THEY MAKE UP A CREATION.  And in the rhyme there is a radical center, a radical center where white is a color and man is a myth, where we are all people of color, gender unspecific. Where humans are animals, and the planet is us all.  Where religion listens when science calls.  Where science acknowledges its limits.  There is a radical center.

There is a radical center that holds us together.  It is  radical in the mathematical sense.  Meaning at the root.

And the root is clenched to the earth, balled up in twists like the veins in a fist raised in a mass of freedom fighters who would rather work than wish for Freedom.

Tell somebody Be encouraged

For We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes
And Freedom isnt a buzz word of pop philosophy
Freedom is the difference between a public school and a for profit penitentiary
Freedom aint the choice between coke zero or diet pepsi
Freedom is being healthy enough to enjoy your body
Freedom isnt choosing between comedians Stewart and Colbert or clowns Beck and O’reilly
Freedom is getting information instead of ideology
Freedom learns from it all
from the right to the left
to consider it all then take the best and leave the rest
we can learn a little bit from capitalists about how to catalyze
And we can learn a whole lot from socialists about how to prioritize
We can learn from politicians about how to compromise
We can learn from revolutionaries about how to lock our eyes on the prize
In freedom even perceived enemies
Have something to teach
Every heart and mind
Is within freedom’s reach
Tell somebody Be encouraged

Every point on a circle is a rhyme, A POINT OF UNITY BETWEEN THINGS IN TRANSITION AS THEY MAKE UP A CREATION.  And rhyme is why your children love hip hop and why you loved rock, why so many who love Dr. Suess, also love Dr. Spock.  Rhyme is for dreamers and I ain’t the only one who believes there’s some reason Lennin sounds like Lennon and the cannon wields a cannon and the only way to set the mind free is to hip hop hibby to the hibby to hip hip a hoppa you don’t stop a rockin to the bang bang boogie to up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie to be.   

Yes even when rhymes are forced, they are at least silly.  

But believe it or not, there are those among us who look down on rhyme as childish and simplistic.  The same folks, I suspect, who look down on the insect, the spider perched above in a galaxy of web, spun from it’s own body… the same folks who look down on the lizard whose every skin cell is an individual artist in a symphony of metachrosis, who even look down on the dogs whose love they cherish.  What fools we can be when convinced of our own garish complexity. 

But the most powerful poetry is the simple symbol, especially when it is rhymed with the infinite, divine, purpose of progress.

Every movement for progress has been rooted in simple symbols.  Ghandi in his Khadi at the loom spinning resistance to the British exploitation of an Indian cotton boom.  The South African marching a dance to freedom.  Freedom Riders singing Southern terrorism to submission. 

Progress is poetry, each one of us a syllable, a word in a phrase of days done, of days to come.

Tell somebody Be encouraged
Because there aint no power like the power of the people
And the power of the people don’t stop
And we won’t stop at a black president
Won’t pause for a promotion
Won’t bow down or mumble humbly
We gon cause some commotion
Filing motions to cease and desist against racists
Composing policy and voting
We are in motion and wont stop
Till we rid our cities of crime and killer cops
We won’t stop with non-profits
We will be present in government
And prepared to take to the streets
From Main St to Wall St. to Martin Luther King
You will hear us on your radio and see us on your tv
We resist the inertia of his-story
And its tendency to tame ambitions
Yeah we have come a long way
but not nearly completed our mission
Listen to your breath
That’s the sound of Ms. Moses Tubman in the woods
The sound John Brown plotting
And jim crow rotting like he should
Feel your heart beat
That’s children growing brilliant and strong
That’s women unbound by society
And men dancing down from the their thrones
I wish you could see you
A ménage of hues
With treasures of talents and tools
The truth
Empowered to renew and rejuvenate
who refuse to resuscitate the
Old American ways
that confuse and reduce
A human being
To a gender, class, or race
We’ve come to reject and redefine
Politics as we know it
With is sick, twisted, and nihilistic
Fear-based, hate-laced, adversarial rhetoric
Be encouraged

We are long overdue for a new American anthem, a new story of our highest aspiration.  The Star Spangled Banner was written in 1814 by 37 year old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key who in commemorating a battle put a poem to an English drinking song and thus was born the Star Spangled Banner, a war ode to a nation young and strong. 
“Oh say can you see…”


But there is another American anthem.  A rhyming shadow to the American dream, cooler and wiser as it is shielded from patriotism gleam.  It was written in 1900 by a 35 year old lawyer and poet named James Weldon Johnson in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.  It is an ode to progress from America’s His-Story. 

Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring…

In other words

Now that’s an anthem if I ever heard one.  A quintessential rhyme, A POINT OF UNITY BETWEEN THINGS IN TRANSITION AS THEY MAKE UP A CREATION and it is as American as America gets. 

So you have long had the raw material for a new anthem, and now you have me, a 30 something lawyer and poet from a nation the founding fathers could not foresee, a glimpse of tomorrow’s truth, an African creole Filipino mestizo German Jew with indigenous roots.

Tell somebody to Be encouraged
This is what democracy looks like
We are power to the people
We are the future in the flesh
We are the hands that weave dignity
The minds that command respect
We dream in color
And we’ve come to wake the world up
We reach out and connect like webs
form networks to keep in touch
We destroy the constructs that divide us 
We build bridges of unity
From the country to the city
We are the world community
Tell somebody Be encouraged

I work at Clarkston Community Center, located in Clarkston, Georgia, the most diverse square mile on the planet Earth.  Clarkston, a refugee resettlement town where an 8 year old Iraqi child I know who arrived in April, a refugee of the current crisis, cries as he tries so hard to understand what we are saying.  Where a 14 year old Congolese girl, when asked how she got here  mutters bluntly, “They killed my parents.”  Where a Somali girl’s hijab flutters as she jumps a rope turned on one end by the fifth of nine African American movement children and on the other by a ruddy Asian Burmese muslim. 

These are new Americans.  And they are all here in the place that took them in or has been their home for generations.  They are our future and they are strong and resilient, compassionate and brilliant, giving and living from their hearts. 

Be encouraged
You can feel change in its skin
Wrapped around your hands
Echoed In the world you envision
Moving through this room
In the boom of silent intention
made real by commitment and necessity bred invention
be encouraged

Keep loving in the midst of the struggle
Keep hoping in the twists of trouble
keep singing and playing
Dancing and praying
and whatever brings you joy and defeats your fear
keep exercising your mind
read to feed your ideas 
keep seeking the divine in its glory
And in the little things like us here
We worker bees
hustling for humanity
Be encouraged

The revolution will be rhymed and it is coming right on time

So be you in the streets stomping for justice
or in power writing policy
be you in schools deconstructing ignorance
or as artist creating space for the visionary
whatever you be
be encouraged

If you can speak
Speak poetry
Make your work a poem
If you can walk
Walk a song
Even if you walk alone
If all you do is listen
Listen for the truth
Listen for encouragement
For whatever it is you do
Rhyme the history of progress
With your own resilience
And watch our dream world come true
lift your little bit of this 7.178 billion
and know
that we are building
a world for our children’s, children’s,
children’s children…

Be encouraged