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Public reading for Oakland-Word writing workshops:

May 4, 2010
6p.m. to 8p.m., at Cesar Chavez Branch Library in Oakland, CA


Public reading for Oakland-Word writing workshops:

March 13, 2010
3p.m. to 5p.m., at Cesar Chavez Branch Library in Oakland, CA

Author - Storytelling

A character-centered author; in all my fiction, the characters drive the stories. Black and white, adolescent and elderly, rural urban or suburban, male or female, gay or straight, they all are given voice.



…your sleek legs flying, your lanky muscles stretching tight the stripes around your shorts, around the hems of your red silk, real tight basketball shorts…
Her jump shots were so smooth she could have been diving up through water, and watching her make them put me in the shivers, as though she were sliding, silkenly, all along the most secret of my places. She’d bounce and flick that ball around a helpless tangle of legs and arms that hopelessly tried to stop her.

“Smooth black is hard to attack” was Cleo’s motto for her playing style, but it applied as well to all her other ways, on all her other days, in all the other places.

“Cleo’s Back,” said the front of her favorite black sweatshirt, in bright pink letters. “Cleo’s Gone,” said the other side. “Slick” was the word she’d use to describe herself, because like every true Player, Cleo had two sides: street side and court side.

--excerpt from Cleo’s Gone, a novella, in Does Your Mama Know?
An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories Lisa C. Moore, editor

Do you know me?

…I am Madame Divinia. Everybody in East Oakland knows of Madame Divinia, like they know of Walter, Edwin, and Lynette of The Hawkins Family (our own gospel royalty); or Chuck Jackson, “Mayor of East Oakland” and once-owner of Soul Beat TV; or assassinated crack kingpin Felix Mitchell; or Beeda Weeda, Keak da Sneak and Yukmouth, famous rappers all, or so I’m told. All are from here; all are known and talked about here, all the way up and down Foothill Bancroft MacArthur and International Boulevards, all up and down these numbered avenues, and all the tree-named side streets (Apricot, Peach, Holly, Birch); and even all the lettered ones (A through D), that are deep “in the cuts,” in the heart, of Far East Oakland. Everybody knows of me—especially those who claim most certainly not to.

I am the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, born with a caul, child apprentice to Big Mama, the original seventh. Though I’m known and spoken of, like all the other neighborhood celebrities, am I known to worldly fame? Not at all. I am the queen of rumor control. Nobody knows any more about me than they need to...than I want them to. In fact, no people in my Divine life have known me beyond the smoke screen of rumor, clouding and cushioning me, that I have had my legion to perpetrate.

--from “Dog’s dogs,” in I am the 8-Ball, forthcoming.

That was the year…

…it all came up for grabs: all the motels, all the lunch counters, all the rest rooms, all the busses and the waiting rooms—all the schools! Even Elvis’ singing career seemed subject to anything, in 1966. The movies he made, the songs he recorded, were getting worse and worse, more and more ridiculous, the farther away he got from us in Memphis. That summer, the only thing that made sense to me was me. That summer right before I turned 15, I could’ve wanted girls or boys, and I knew and understood that.

Now that everything was up for grabs, it seemed the simple easy integration of Booker T. and the Memphis Group—two white men and two black men, all playing tightly together—hadn’t ever been as simple as it sounded; that it was, in fact, a sign of something in the making that was anything but simple. Time was getting mighty tight, in 1966.

--from “1966” in I Am the 8-Ball (in Harrington Lesbian Fiction Qtrly)

It’s been a week now…

…that I’ve been out of prison, and still my chin and fingers ache where I got cut.

--Beth, in Your Loving Arms 2001; Alice Street Editions; Haworth Press

Well, school is out, thank God…

…for that, my students almost had me crazy by last week, and it’s summer for real by now: Hot, and dry again, like it was last year, and I’m sitting up here on my Daddy’s porch and looking at a yardful of packed red dirt and scrubbly brown grass. Down beside the porch steps, Mama’s flowers were each so bright, but so dry, when I poured a canful of water over them that they could have been burning, instead of dying. Naturally everyone’s worried and anxious for their crops. And it’s been so hot and till now, for days, that nobody will even say the word “tornado.” Sitting up here on my parents’ porch, with nothing much changed on the outside, with everything looking so much the same in and outside the house, and even in the drying, dusty fields around the house, I can almost convince myself I’m sitting and waiting, like I used to, for Mama to come home.

--Tammy, in Your Loving Arms

“Now Raymond,”

…my wife Della has to tell me, every Saturday evening when the sun begins to sink. I hate to see that evening sun go down, come every Saturday evening; it makes me think of my young-blood life that’s over, done and gone. It makes me think of all the Saturday-evening things I used to do. There are things I use to love to do, but now most of them--I won’t do those things no mo’. “Now Raymond,” Della has to say to me, “Sanctified is not the same as suffocated.” Every Saturday evening, that’s when my blues side tries to come alive.

“Sanctified,” she says, “Means set-aside. It means you’ve set yourself aside from worldliness.” My blues side, she says, is my strictly worldly side. But is Della always right? She ain’t. I have always thought of my blues as other-worldly.

Well, I know that I am saved, and I know that I am safe--but sanctified, that is one step I won’t yet take. Jesus has saved me from the razor, from cheap shine and dirty dope, from jealous love and back-door love and riding the rails, and jails, and lean-time eating: all my past young blues life. I have set myself aside from that sharp young blues man, Junior Ray, a/k/a Sonny Ray, sometimes also known as Sugarbabe: I am Deacon Raymond now. I done changed my name.

--from “Dr. Drums,” in I am the 8-Ball

In Curtisville Junior High…

…a consolidated seventh-through-tenth grade school, Ken Rafferty was the coolest of the cool among us. Ken had a stereo, and his electric guitar, and tons of records to play along with. Ken had the beginnings of a real mustache, and shoulder-long rust-brown hair, and clear blue eyes. He wore jeans just about every school-day, usually with a jeans jacket and some rock and roll band’s t-shirt: Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, The Who. Ken Rafferty got to sit in front, and he got a lot of attention from Ms. Love, our newest teacher of everybody’s least-favorite subject.

As Ken Rafferty, I am the most precious student any teacher ever had. I am a “real gem,” I overheard one of my teachers calling me. Teachers spent a lot of time trying to get rid of me, all through junior high--all of them, except for one. But in high school, they all ganged up on me, and got me to drop out. My parents acted like I’d done it on purpose, cut class and goofed around, but I only did what the teachers wanted me to do. Which was drop out. But those teachers all remembered me, long after they‘d gotten rid of me. My younger brothers say that they got shit from my old teachers, because of me. Well you know what? Nobody was as bad as I was--they couldn’t be like me, even if they wanted to. I am Ken Rafferty, the crazy eight of diamonds: the real gem..

--from “Problems in Boyhood Math” in I am the 8-Ball

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