Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Snapshots of My Mother's Hands

Enlarge poem

Elegant but marked with the corns on her fingers that spoke of curling irons and straightening combs from hours and hours and years and years of “doing hair” in her beauty shop
Hands that were wrinkled and red and swollen sometimes from being in dish water too long without the soothing balm of Vaseline
Hands that coaxed the Creators voice to surround us as she played the piano and made us hear the swish of angels wings when she got on her organ
Hands in the door way of my room when she whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me Charlotte..why didn’t you just tell me?”
Hands that held the switch (that I had usually had to cut off the tree myself) as she reluctantly, it seemed, whipped some sense into my hard head
Hands that kept my hair neat and braided or curled and made sure that my kitchens were always pressed out and shining
Hands that very seldom burnt me even with all my ducking and dodging that hot comb sizzle
Hands that put sticky mustard plasters on my chest and Vicks vapor rub up my nose and rubbed my high temperatures down with alcohol while she soothed my fevered brow over and over with her gentle love touch
Hands that kept our clothes ironed and starched and in brand new Easter duds every year while SHE wore the same elegant red cape and suit year in and year out
Hands that tearfully picked the chitterlings off the ceiling after the pressure cooker exploded its contents one Sunday morning and hung wriggling surrealistically off her newly painted white ceiling that had the pretty gold flakes mixed in it
Hands that teased us with left over exotic food like fried grasshoppers and chocolate covered ants and phallic looking cows tongues, bought home from the rich white folks parties she would waitress at every summer with my aunts to help make ends meet at home
Hands that whipped the batter over and over and over and over to make sure that the cakes that she sold were as light as the luscious dinner rolls she was so proud of and that we were always so eager to devour
Hands that taught me to arch my eyebrows and to fold my clothes and which fork was which to use when
Hands that made the inexpensive dress she had found for me to wear to the installation ceremony feel like a million dollars by simply pinning one of her brooches on it
Hands that lay limp and pale but elegant still as she took her last breath and settled her face into a smile
My Mother’s hands… elegant, knurled, smooth, cracked, rough, moist, strong, limp, soothing, creative, at rest… my Mother’s hands… hands full of love!

Mama C

Featured Poem:

Kanga

Enlarge poem

And this is for those mamas who wear kanga over the armor of their lives
to soften the blows of lives filled with woe
that is brightened by the kanga cloth
that fills the holes
of those who left them… of those who never came
to help them carry the babies riding on their backs in wrinkled
damp
faded
kanga slings

And she remembers those that never came back to wipe away
hot tears of fear and shame
that fall in vain
from the eyes of those mamas
who wring life’s dirty water out of kanga cloth
again and again and again

I’m talking ’bout the old ones
those kanga cloths that serve as recycled nappy wear
Those once new
NOW unraveling kanga cloths
whose softness helps soothe cries of babies dear
who valiantly resist †brush and comb through †tangled matted hair
that was quickly dried by sweet smelling kanga cloth
that had been freely blowing in the wind
fascinating the gaze of the child left alone
while mama is forced to earn a few shillings here and there
slinging short kanga mini skirts in hot foamy vomit smelling beer
that’s been sloshed on the bar floor by men who grin
and rip at the old kanga cloth that she wears

It’s that same kanga that she used to wipe the uji
from the face of her baby boy just the morning before
It’s that same kanga that she’ll use to fill up the cracks
†at the bottom of her termite bitten door
It’s that same kanga she’ll use to rock
her now full bellied baby to sleep
that same kanga whose faded colors
†drain hope from her sometimes sunken
dried out checks
BUT…
is that the SAME…
that same kanga that I now see fluttering lightly
in the afternoon breeze?
is that possibly that same kanga that she now clings to
that helps lift her up
from bruised and scratched up knees?
is that the same kanga cloth hanging from her shoulders
that her neighbors now wrap tightly round her,
as they assure her that
they got her back
†as if she was their own son or their own grown up daughter?
is that the same kanga cloth whose faded colors look suddenly bright and new
with almost delirious hope
with full blown courage
with unity
and with community love now fully renewed?
is that the same old worn out kanga cloth that previously was full of pitiful holes
somehow NOW tightly woven with tears dried and peeled off
like new mottled skin of a life feeling fulfilled and bold!
is that the same old kanga cloth that she used to wear before
that now wipes up those gurgles of joy that drip from the laughing face of her full bellied boy!
is that the same kanga cloth that mama now wraps round her head
as she †lifts up her smiling face to the sun
NOW
with pride
as she strides with new found courage ahead
into new opportunities
no more skinned kneesÖno more pitiful woe!
A NEW WOMAN!
A NEW MAMA!
with her dreams and her hopes wrapped in a bright kanga rainbow!

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (4)
  • Optimism (1)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (2)
  • Reflection (2)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (4)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (3)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (3)
  • Jubilation (1)

Comments

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Charlotte Hill O’Neal aka Mama C is an internationally known visual artist, musician and poet with more than two decades of experience. She was born in Kansas City, KS in 1951 and has lived in Africa with her husband Pete O’Neal since 1970. She is the mother of two children, Malcolm and AnnWood “Stormy”. She is co-director of the United African Alliance Community Center UAACC located outside of Arusha, Tanzania. www.uaacc.habari.co.tz
Mama C was greatly influenced in her early years by the jazz, blues and gospel that Kansas City is famous for and integrates elements of that experience in both her music and the rhythm of her poetry along with the African beats and hip hop vibe of her spirit. She explores the reality of her life as a Diaspora born African who has lived most of her years in Tanzania in many of her poems, one of the most famous being I Almost Lost Myself.

“As a member of the Black Panther Party I was taught the importance of building international solidarity among all people while honoring my Ancestral roots. That philosophy has never changed and many of my poems and songs reflect this burning desire and mission to spread peace, love and unity through my art”, Mama C reflects. “The spontaneous release of love that comes from poetry and music and art, in general… that thing that binds us all together and builds solidarity and understanding among all people no matter where they are from or what language they speak, is like magic!”

Her song writing and performing talents have been showcased on stage, television and radio in many cities in Africa and in America during the annual UAACC Heal the Community Tour. She launched her book of poetry, Warrior Woman of Peace in 2008 and plans to launch her second book of poetry titled Life Slices – a Taste of My Heaven, in 2013. Mama C debuted several of her newest poems during the Poetry Africa Tour 2010 to Cape Town – South Africa, Harare – Zimbabwe and Blantyre – Malawi and the 14th Annual Poetry Africa Festival in Durban, all sponsored by the Creative Arts Center at University of KwaZulu Natal.

Mama C is co-director along with George Kyomushula, of the newly established Arusha Poetry Club in Arusha, Tanzania which serves as a platform for East African poets and artists around the planet.
She recently completed her 4th music/spoken word album produced at Peace Power Productions studio at UAACC and she has directed and appeared in several music videos featuring East African artists, YouTube channel: mamacharlotteuaacc

Mama C and Pete O’Neal are the subjects of two award winning documentaries about their lives and activism including American Exile narrated by Hollywood actress Alfre Woodard and the PBS documentary, A Panther in Africa by Aaron Matthews and she is one of the featured artists along with M1 of Deadprez in a newly released documentary on art and activism by Michael Wanguhu titled Ni Wakati, http://www.pbs.org/itvs/globalvoices/pantherinafrica.html, http://www.niwakatithefilm.com/

Mama C has learned to play the Obokano, an ancient African eight string lyre that originates in the Gusii community in western Kenya. Even though the instrument was considered taboo for women to play, one of the recognized masters of obokano, Dennis “Grandmaster Masese” Mosiere, felt that things should change and taught Mama C. She is the first woman to play professionally and finds that, “mixing obokano with poetry and song brings me so much pleasure and adds to the scope of my creativity!”

She is presently working with several artists to establish an indigenous music school and archive/museum at UAACC. They have already begun building instruments like the kiteníge from the Maasai community; umakhweyane from the Zulu community; obokano from the Gusii community; the marimba and the kalimba thumb piano that is played in nearly every country in sub Saharan Africa,Youtube channel: Wakunga zamani

Mama C: Urban Warrior in the African Bush is a new documentary about Mama C’s life as an artist activist by film maker, Dr. Joanne Hershfield who is a professor of Womens Studies and Department Head, at North Carolina State University Chapel Hill.
A trailer and more information about the film can be found at www.mamacurbanwarriorfilm.com

Mama C

Biography

Charlotte Hill O’Neal aka Mama C is an internationally known visual artist, musician and poet with more than two decades of experience. She was born in Kansas City, KS in 1951 and has lived in Africa with her husband Pete O’Neal since 1970. She is the mother of two children, Malcolm and AnnWood “Stormy”. She is co-director of the United African Alliance Community Center UAACC located outside of Arusha, Tanzania. www.uaacc.habari.co.tz
Mama C was greatly influenced in her early years by the jazz, blues and gospel that Kansas City is famous for and integrates elements of that experience in both her music and the rhythm of her poetry along with the African beats and hip hop vibe of her spirit. She explores the reality of her life as a Diaspora born African who has lived most of her years in Tanzania in many of her poems, one of the most famous being I Almost Lost Myself.

“As a member of the Black Panther Party I was taught the importance of building international solidarity among all people while honoring my Ancestral roots. That philosophy has never changed and many of my poems and songs reflect this burning desire and mission to spread peace, love and unity through my art”, Mama C reflects. “The spontaneous release of love that comes from poetry and music and art, in general… that thing that binds us all together and builds solidarity and understanding among all people no matter where they are from or what language they speak, is like magic!”

Her song writing and performing talents have been showcased on stage, television and radio in many cities in Africa and in America during the annual UAACC Heal the Community Tour. She launched her book of poetry, Warrior Woman of Peace in 2008 and plans to launch her second book of poetry titled Life Slices – a Taste of My Heaven, in 2013. Mama C debuted several of her newest poems during the Poetry Africa Tour 2010 to Cape Town – South Africa, Harare – Zimbabwe and Blantyre – Malawi and the 14th Annual Poetry Africa Festival in Durban, all sponsored by the Creative Arts Center at University of KwaZulu Natal.

Mama C is co-director along with George Kyomushula, of the newly established Arusha Poetry Club in Arusha, Tanzania which serves as a platform for East African poets and artists around the planet.
She recently completed her 4th music/spoken word album produced at Peace Power Productions studio at UAACC and she has directed and appeared in several music videos featuring East African artists, YouTube channel: mamacharlotteuaacc

Mama C and Pete O’Neal are the subjects of two award winning documentaries about their lives and activism including American Exile narrated by Hollywood actress Alfre Woodard and the PBS documentary, A Panther in Africa by Aaron Matthews and she is one of the featured artists along with M1 of Deadprez in a newly released documentary on art and activism by Michael Wanguhu titled Ni Wakati, http://www.pbs.org/itvs/globalvoices/pantherinafrica.html, http://www.niwakatithefilm.com/

Mama C has learned to play the Obokano, an ancient African eight string lyre that originates in the Gusii community in western Kenya. Even though the instrument was considered taboo for women to play, one of the recognized masters of obokano, Dennis “Grandmaster Masese” Mosiere, felt that things should change and taught Mama C. She is the first woman to play professionally and finds that, “mixing obokano with poetry and song brings me so much pleasure and adds to the scope of my creativity!”

She is presently working with several artists to establish an indigenous music school and archive/museum at UAACC. They have already begun building instruments like the kiteníge from the Maasai community; umakhweyane from the Zulu community; obokano from the Gusii community; the marimba and the kalimba thumb piano that is played in nearly every country in sub Saharan Africa,Youtube channel: Wakunga zamani

Mama C: Urban Warrior in the African Bush is a new documentary about Mama C’s life as an artist activist by film maker, Dr. Joanne Hershfield who is a professor of Womens Studies and Department Head, at North Carolina State University Chapel Hill.
A trailer and more information about the film can be found at www.mamacurbanwarriorfilm.com

Snapshots of My Mother's Hands

Enlarge poem

Elegant but marked with the corns on her fingers that spoke of curling irons and straightening combs from hours and hours and years and years of “doing hair” in her beauty shop
Hands that were wrinkled and red and swollen sometimes from being in dish water too long without the soothing balm of Vaseline
Hands that coaxed the Creators voice to surround us as she played the piano and made us hear the swish of angels wings when she got on her organ
Hands in the door way of my room when she whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me Charlotte..why didn’t you just tell me?”
Hands that held the switch (that I had usually had to cut off the tree myself) as she reluctantly, it seemed, whipped some sense into my hard head
Hands that kept my hair neat and braided or curled and made sure that my kitchens were always pressed out and shining
Hands that very seldom burnt me even with all my ducking and dodging that hot comb sizzle
Hands that put sticky mustard plasters on my chest and Vicks vapor rub up my nose and rubbed my high temperatures down with alcohol while she soothed my fevered brow over and over with her gentle love touch
Hands that kept our clothes ironed and starched and in brand new Easter duds every year while SHE wore the same elegant red cape and suit year in and year out
Hands that tearfully picked the chitterlings off the ceiling after the pressure cooker exploded its contents one Sunday morning and hung wriggling surrealistically off her newly painted white ceiling that had the pretty gold flakes mixed in it
Hands that teased us with left over exotic food like fried grasshoppers and chocolate covered ants and phallic looking cows tongues, bought home from the rich white folks parties she would waitress at every summer with my aunts to help make ends meet at home
Hands that whipped the batter over and over and over and over to make sure that the cakes that she sold were as light as the luscious dinner rolls she was so proud of and that we were always so eager to devour
Hands that taught me to arch my eyebrows and to fold my clothes and which fork was which to use when
Hands that made the inexpensive dress she had found for me to wear to the installation ceremony feel like a million dollars by simply pinning one of her brooches on it
Hands that lay limp and pale but elegant still as she took her last breath and settled her face into a smile
My Mother’s hands… elegant, knurled, smooth, cracked, rough, moist, strong, limp, soothing, creative, at rest… my Mother’s hands… hands full of love!

Featured Poem:

Kanga

Enlarge poem

And this is for those mamas who wear kanga over the armor of their lives
to soften the blows of lives filled with woe
that is brightened by the kanga cloth
that fills the holes
of those who left them… of those who never came
to help them carry the babies riding on their backs in wrinkled
damp
faded
kanga slings

And she remembers those that never came back to wipe away
hot tears of fear and shame
that fall in vain
from the eyes of those mamas
who wring life’s dirty water out of kanga cloth
again and again and again

I’m talking ’bout the old ones
those kanga cloths that serve as recycled nappy wear
Those once new
NOW unraveling kanga cloths
whose softness helps soothe cries of babies dear
who valiantly resist †brush and comb through †tangled matted hair
that was quickly dried by sweet smelling kanga cloth
that had been freely blowing in the wind
fascinating the gaze of the child left alone
while mama is forced to earn a few shillings here and there
slinging short kanga mini skirts in hot foamy vomit smelling beer
that’s been sloshed on the bar floor by men who grin
and rip at the old kanga cloth that she wears

It’s that same kanga that she used to wipe the uji
from the face of her baby boy just the morning before
It’s that same kanga that she’ll use to fill up the cracks
†at the bottom of her termite bitten door
It’s that same kanga she’ll use to rock
her now full bellied baby to sleep
that same kanga whose faded colors
†drain hope from her sometimes sunken
dried out checks
BUT…
is that the SAME…
that same kanga that I now see fluttering lightly
in the afternoon breeze?
is that possibly that same kanga that she now clings to
that helps lift her up
from bruised and scratched up knees?
is that the same kanga cloth hanging from her shoulders
that her neighbors now wrap tightly round her,
as they assure her that
they got her back
†as if she was their own son or their own grown up daughter?
is that the same kanga cloth whose faded colors look suddenly bright and new
with almost delirious hope
with full blown courage
with unity
and with community love now fully renewed?
is that the same old worn out kanga cloth that previously was full of pitiful holes
somehow NOW tightly woven with tears dried and peeled off
like new mottled skin of a life feeling fulfilled and bold!
is that the same old kanga cloth that she used to wear before
that now wipes up those gurgles of joy that drip from the laughing face of her full bellied boy!
is that the same kanga cloth that mama now wraps round her head
as she †lifts up her smiling face to the sun
NOW
with pride
as she strides with new found courage ahead
into new opportunities
no more skinned kneesÖno more pitiful woe!
A NEW WOMAN!
A NEW MAMA!
with her dreams and her hopes wrapped in a bright kanga rainbow!

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (4)
  • Optimism (1)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (2)
  • Reflection (2)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (4)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (3)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (3)
  • Jubilation (1)

Snapshots of My Mother's Hands

Enlarge poem

Elegant but marked with the corns on her fingers that spoke of curling irons and straightening combs from hours and hours and years and years of “doing hair” in her beauty shop
Hands that were wrinkled and red and swollen sometimes from being in dish water too long without the soothing balm of Vaseline
Hands that coaxed the Creators voice to surround us as she played the piano and made us hear the swish of angels wings when she got on her organ
Hands in the door way of my room when she whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me Charlotte..why didn’t you just tell me?”
Hands that held the switch (that I had usually had to cut off the tree myself) as she reluctantly, it seemed, whipped some sense into my hard head
Hands that kept my hair neat and braided or curled and made sure that my kitchens were always pressed out and shining
Hands that very seldom burnt me even with all my ducking and dodging that hot comb sizzle
Hands that put sticky mustard plasters on my chest and Vicks vapor rub up my nose and rubbed my high temperatures down with alcohol while she soothed my fevered brow over and over with her gentle love touch
Hands that kept our clothes ironed and starched and in brand new Easter duds every year while SHE wore the same elegant red cape and suit year in and year out
Hands that tearfully picked the chitterlings off the ceiling after the pressure cooker exploded its contents one Sunday morning and hung wriggling surrealistically off her newly painted white ceiling that had the pretty gold flakes mixed in it
Hands that teased us with left over exotic food like fried grasshoppers and chocolate covered ants and phallic looking cows tongues, bought home from the rich white folks parties she would waitress at every summer with my aunts to help make ends meet at home
Hands that whipped the batter over and over and over and over to make sure that the cakes that she sold were as light as the luscious dinner rolls she was so proud of and that we were always so eager to devour
Hands that taught me to arch my eyebrows and to fold my clothes and which fork was which to use when
Hands that made the inexpensive dress she had found for me to wear to the installation ceremony feel like a million dollars by simply pinning one of her brooches on it
Hands that lay limp and pale but elegant still as she took her last breath and settled her face into a smile
My Mother’s hands… elegant, knurled, smooth, cracked, rough, moist, strong, limp, soothing, creative, at rest… my Mother’s hands… hands full of love!

Comments

Your email address will not be published.