19 October 2020

Happy birthday, Peter Tosh!

Peter Tosh (October 19, 1944 – September 11, 1987) was the guitarist in the original Wailing Wailers, a pioneer reggae musician, and a trailblazer for the Rastafari movement. Born Winston Hubert McIntosh, Peter grew up in the Kingston, Jamaica slum of Trenchtown.

His short-fuse temper and unveiled sarcasm usually kept him in trouble, earning him the nickname Stepping Razor after a song written by Joe Higgs, an early mentor. He began to sing and learn guitar at a young age, inspired by the American stations he could pick up on his radio.

After an illustrious career with the Wailers and as a solo musician, his life was cut short when he was brutally murdered at his home. Though robbery was officially said to be the motivation behind Tosh's death, many believe that there were ulterior motives to the killing, citing that nothing was taken from the house.

18 October 2020

Happy birthday, Ntozake!

"Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey to Paul T. Williams (namesake), a surgeon, and Eloise Williams, a psychiatric social worker and educator. The oldest of four children of an upper middle class family.

Moved to a then, racially segregated St. Louis at the age of eight (1956/57). Lived there for five years and enjoyed music, dance, art, literature, and opera. Was even bussed to a German-American school where she suffered blatant racism as a part of the Brown versus Board of Education decision.

As a part of a rich intellectual family, she was an avid reader of great authors to include Jean Genet, Herman Melville, and Langston Hughes. She also came in contact with great musicians and singers like Dizzy Gillespie, Chuck Berry, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Josephine Baker, all friends of her parents. W.E.B. DuBois was also a family visitor.

Returned to New Jersey at age thirteen (1961/62) where she completed high school and became increasingly aware of the inequities of the American society on black females."

Ntozake Shange was born on 18 October 1948. Happy birthday to her.

Ntozake is isiZulu for "her own things," suggesting "she who brings her own things," when it is someone's name. By comparison, in Sesotho, my mother tongue, it is "Nthotsaka," which naturally sounds like its isiZulu counterpart.

with no immediate cause

every 3 minutes a woman is beaten
every five minutes a
woman is raped/every ten minutes
a lil girl is molested
yet i rode the subway today
i sat next to an old man who
may have beaten his old wife
3 minutes ago or 3 days/30 years ago
he might have sodomized his
daughter but i sat there
cuz the young men on the train
might beat some young women
later in the day or tomorrow
i might not shut my door fast
every 3 minutes it happens
some woman’s innocence
rushes to her cheeks/pours from her mouth
like the betsy wetsy dolls have been torn
apart/their mouths
menses red & split/every
three minutes a shoulder
is jammed through plaster and the oven door/
chairs push thru the rib cage/hot water or
boiling sperm decorate her body
i rode the subway today
& bought a paper from a
man who might
have held his old lady onto
a hot pressing iron/i don’t know
maybe he catches lil girls in the
park & rips open their behinds
with steel rods/i can’t decide
what he might have done i only
know every 3 minutes
every 5 minutes every 10 minutes/so
i bought the paper
looking for the announcement
the discovery/of the dismembered
woman’s body/the
victims have not all been
identified/today they are
naked and dead/refuse to
testify/one girl out of 10’s not
coherent/i took the coffee
& spit it up/i found an
announcement/not the woman’s
bloated body in the river/floating
not the child bleeding in the
59th street corridor/not the baby
broken on the floor/
there is some concern
that alleged battered women
might start to murder their
husbands & lovers with no
immediate cause”

i spit up i vomit i am screaming
we all have immediate cause
every 3 minutes
every 5 minutes
every 10 minutes
every day
women’s bodies are found
in alleys & bedrooms/at the top of the stairs
before i ride the subway/buy a paper/drink
coffee/i must know/
have you hurt a woman today
did you beat a woman today
throw a child across a room
are the lil girl’s panties
in yr pocket

did you hurt a woman today
i have to ask these obscene questions
the authorities require me to
immediate cause
every three minutes
every five minutes
every ten minutes
every day.
© Ntozake Shange

22 June 2020

Open letter to Facebook

Dear Facebook,

My name is Rethabile Masilo. I am a poet and a language instructor from Lesotho, although today I live in France, with a prior five-year scholarly stint in the USA, at Maryville College in Tennessee. I have had four poetry books published as well as two poetry anthologies. Poetry came to me when I was but a teen, in the seventies. It took me over when I was in America, in exile, in the early eighties, because of at least two reasons. One, I used it to expunge my experience of political violence in Lesotho, when my family lost a son, at seventeen, and a nephew, at three. The latter during a government attack on our home to kill our father, who could not hold back from criticising a government that was illegitimate and brutal.

After the attack there was only one solution left to us: flee. And we fled. Since Lesotho is landlocked but also surrounded by only one country, the then Apartheid South Africa, we found ourselves in that country. Despite our valid documents, we were one day picked up by South African police over the indecent Pass Laws the country had at that time, and we were jailed. It is not necessary to describe the ordeal in detail. What is important is the fact that we learned and experienced first-hand what real racism tasted like. It is bitter. There was torture and dehumanisation. But we got out, and ended up in Kenya, where we were welcomed generously.

That’s when my sister and I left for America to further our varsity studies. I stayed there for five years and she for four, for she moved to a Canadian school due to her specialty. I moved to Paris for other reasons and have been in France for 33 years today. Poetry has been one of the reasons my sanity has remained intact. It has been a safety valve.

I write poems that speak to me, and me is a person who is unable to bear discrimination, whether it manifests itself in the form of racism, or misogyny, or religious and sexual phobias. I think this is because early on I was unable to understand why someone from our family could be jailed for voicing their opinion or wearing a certain skin colour. I still do not understand racialism and supremacism. My poems, many of them, come from this oppressive atmosphere.

As soon as I started criticising Mr Trump, Facebook started ostracising, not my critical opinions of him on the platform, but anything coming from my poetry weblog. I could no longer post anything from my blog to Facebook. Poems about love, homesickness, and bigotry. And frankly, I do not see homesickness and love as inappropriate. I can however under that some might contact Facebook and “denounce” it in the name of poems on it against bigotry: the misogyny and racialist tones and insults by the president of the USA. I think that someone has indeed told Facebook that the content of Poéfrika was and is inappropriate. Every time I try to share something from my blog, it is met with this message: “Your message couldn't be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.” Other people. Who could report a banal poetry blog as offensive? I think it is a political-thought opponent who is also a friend. I say this because… Poéfrika is but a poetry blog. But the messages I share on Facebook are more than that. I think that Mr Trump is the wrong person to be in such a seat as he finds himself in, and I make no bones about it. How to mess me up? Say that something I hold dear, my poetry blog, and its content, contains inappropriate material. The same way others in the late eighties said my father’s opposition to a dictatorial government was inappropriate. The same way the South African police during Apartheid decided that our bodies contained inappropriate genes.

I’m making this last ditch effort to write to you openly, because any and every communication I have tried to initiate has not only gone unanswered, but has also not incited your platform to investigate. I’m in my sixth week of lockdown and confinement with respect to your platform. I’m tired of writing to bots that do not talk back. I am a poet and what I write is not only for me, but for me and for everybody else, including poetry lovers who utilise your platform.


Rethabile Masilo

Disgruntled Facebook user

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