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My husband and I sent our two children to Nigeria to start their formal education

and to learn his native language, Ibo. Although I could write some words and

phrases, I never actually learned the conversational language.



What's Up Detroit?

By Liberty R. O. Daniels



What is up?

How many times have you heard "if you want to live in America, learn the language"?  Okay, but what is the language?  Are you saying that I should learn England's native English or shall I study Americanese?  Contrary to what we have believed up until now, we do not speak the King's English but variations thereof with a little bit of this and a little bit of that thrown in. 

Even in elementary school, I wanted to be bilingual or have an accent like the people on the "I Remember Mama" show.  More than anything, I wanted to learn how to speak French. 

Growing up in Flint, a hop, skip, and a jump from the border, I figured the chance of me going to parts of Canada where French was spoken was a real possibility.  Three languages were offered at my junior high school, French, Spanish, and Latin.  I took French in junior and senior high school, and college, and learned how to conjugate verbs and write in French really well. Had I known I was going to spend fifteen years of my adult life in Texas, I might have made a different choice.


Not only would have knowing a little bit of Spanish helped me in my communications but I would have been a more marketable commodity in the search for career advancement.  By the time I left Texas, the majority of the people who were bilingual were being promoted much faster than the rest of us.

I married a man with an accent who spoke three languages including French.  By the time I met him however, my conversational French had dwindled down to "bonjour," "comment allez-vous," "parlez-vous Français," "merci beaucoup," "au revoir," "oui," and "non." My husband and I sent our two children to Nigeria to start their formal education and to learn his native language, Ibo. Although I could write some words and phrases, I never actually learned the conversational language. (I may not have understood what my husband or his friends and family were saying, but eventually I could have my children interpret for me.  Ha-ha.)

Whatever happened to Denise Childers?  When I joined the Latino Poets Association in 1999, she was the only one of us fluently speaking, writing, and reciting poems in three languages besides English.

Fieri-Metro Detroit sponsors a language program each month.  They want their members to learn and speak Italian and promote it every chance possible, even inviting outsiders to come learn and speak.

In the olden days when people came to America from their old countries, they quickly discarded their old ways, old traditions, old languages, and accents to fit into the new melting pot they called home.  Now we have so many different countries within this country and each wants to retain a piece of home.  People proudly speak their native languages and insist we all accept their differences; no longer shortening or changing their ethnic surnames; no longer wanting to blend in and become Americanized (whatever that means).

Lately I have been doing a lot of Internet research concerning religious holidays.  A colleague of mine once told me that of the Jewish holidays celebrated, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which are always on the calendar) were not the highest.  That started me thinking.  If you have
ever seen a Catholic calendar, you will notice that it too is full of holidays, most of which are not listed on the standard calendars.

I have always been interested to discover how Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday are determined.  I thought it had something to do with the moons and it does - but not the new moons and full moons we know about, love, and sometimes determine our lives by.  Ash Wednesday happens in February or March and subsequently Easter Sunday happens in March or April approximately 46 days after Ash Wednesday. It falls on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after the day of the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring or approximately March 21) and never occurs before March 22 or after April 25. 

The Islamic holiday Ramadan has been a primary focus of many people.  I just got used to celebrating Kwanzaa and now I find people I have known for years have been celebrating Ramadan and recognizing its fasts (even those who are not really affiliated with a particular religion), calling it their spirituality.  And just like the Chinese New Year, the Islamic Year "is based on the lunar cycle, consisting of twelve months of 29 or 30 days each, totaling 353 or 354 days. Each new month begins at the sighting of a new moon. Actual dates may differ by a day or two from the above dates. In many places, the moon sighting is often determined in advance by astronomical calculations." 

Since the date of the Chinese New Year is also determined by the lunar calendar, "festivities begin with the new cycle of the moon that falls between January 21 and February 19. Each year is named for one of twelve symbolic animals in their sequential order: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon,
serpent, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar."

I have always been fascinated by those holidays that are not predictable (like on the 25th of the month or the second Sunday or third Monday) but change days and months like Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Yom Kippur.  It also tests my limits when I see my most cherished Catholic holy days ignored calendarwise.  For instance, during catechism, I learned that Catholics celebrate several Holy Days of Obligation. They include Solemnity of Mary on January 1, Solemnity of the Ascension on approximately six Thursdays after Easter, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, All Saints on November 1, Immaculate Conception on December 8, and the
Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25. (I need to find my old catechumen.)

Did you know that there is more to reciting the Rosary than crossing yourself and mumbling a bunch of Our Fathers and Hail Marys? Did you know that there are five Joyful, five Sorrowful, and five Glorious Mysteries that must be associated with different weekdays in reciting the Rosary. And do you know what those fifteen mysteries are? If you are not Catholic and/or if you do not say the Rosary, how could you know unless you are a religious scholar?

There are seven holy sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The first three concern Christian initiation, the next two deal with healing, and the last two with unification.  Is that something we readily think about on
our way to service on the Sabbath day?  And what is the Sabbath day?  Is it Saturday or is it Sunday (or some other day)?  How many of us think of marriage as a holy sacrament, as something sacred that should be nurtured and developed, or just as some thing that we jump into with divorce in mind?  Those who sign pre-nuptial agreements do.  Think about it.

This past holiday season began with eight days of Hanukkah on December 19, intercepted by Christmas on December 25, followed by seven days of Kwanzaa on December 26.  Our children, teachers, and members of our school boards were able to celebrate them all.  Whether or not they were celebrated in the spirit in which they were intended is another story. And yes, I recognize and celebrate all three in my Catholic (universal) family. Though in my church, Kwanzaa is usually celebrated on the second Sunday in January as Holy Week is mandated by ritual that is not subject to change.

Organizations that embrace ethnicity like the Igbo Women's Club of Michigan, New Detroit's Cultural Exchange Network, the United Asian American Organization, and other groups are here to preserve and promote cultural awareness and sensitivity as well.

The simple truth is that we are all people of color because no one is all white, all yellow, all red, or all black, but varying shades of brown. (Who started that color scheme anyway?)  And contrary to what we have been told about white being the absence of color, actually white is
a color and clear is the absence of color.  So far, I have never met a clear person.  And what about those colors?  Do we decide to get to know or not know someone based on what color their skin is or how light or dark it is?

If all of us retraced our ancestral roots, some of us would be surprised at what we find nesting in the moors. It has been said that once interracial unions occur in the white community, it takes seven generations to whiten back up (remove all traces of blackness).  So does that mean in the black community, it takes seven generations to blacken back down?  In my family, we know that we have relatives who successfully passed for white.  Often we wonder how they fared in the white world, if they stayed, and if they longed to return home.

Recently we have been putting into print those things that we have always secretly known about our ancestry especially when it comes to the rich and famous, not to embarrass or humiliate anyone but to set the historical record straight.  This world does not belong to only one group
of people and I believe in telling it like it is, not like people want it to be.

In the past, poetry has been used as a means to tell the truth without actually revealing that one is telling the truth.  If someone inquires, "Is that about you?"  Without confirming or denying, we can let people think what they want and flippantly say, "It's a poem."  Some people might take offense at ethnic poems done by one group of people about another group and consider them as racist, especially when some of "those words" are used, but I try never to take anything personally unless my first, middle, and last names are used. One thing is certain: no matter
what language you recite it in, universal poetry will always remain the same accepted entity it always was. We all should do the same in regards to race, religion, color, creed, and culture.  

And that is what is up.

Liberty R. O. Daniels is a Flint native currently residing in the greater Detroit Metropolitan Area. Influenced at a young age by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," she writes epic poems (or short stories that rhyme) and travels the poetry circuit featuring with sultry coos and howls at American and Canadian venues. An advocate, prominent member, and project coordinator of several cultural and writing organizations, Liberty is the founding editor of "P.O.E.T.S. Newsletter," editor of the Southeast Michigan Region of the International Women's Writing Guild newsletter, and editor of the Southeast Michigan Unit of the National Writer's Union newsletter, "SEMantics."

(c) by Liberty R. O. Daniels

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

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The White Masters of the World

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 11 February 2012




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