I love to write; you probably know that by now. I love to READ just as much. Now you can hear me do both at the same time. Didn’t think I could do that, did you?
Here you go, friends! One more reason why I love America!
I am not a wise, old woman yet, but I play one on TV. The bottom line is: I know a heck of a lot more today than I did when I was 12. I look forward to learning even more, considering I will live to be 123.
In my country, we have a saying: Si m te konnen toujou dèyè. Rough translation: If I knew then what I know now. Imagine the magic you would create, if you could press a button on the remote and watch future decades of your life unfold–minute by minute. It would be like the World Cup all over again. You could cheer yourself here and chide yourself there. You would be your most loyal fan. The future would be yours; you could say Been there. Done that and actually mean it. You’d know the people and places to avoid; you’d be a real know-it-all. Imagine being able to reach through the years to tell your teen self about the future-tense you! What would you say?
This amazing woman, E. Kristin Anderson, invites authors to write letters to their know-it-all teen selves. She publishes these letters on her site, dearteenme.com. I was honored and eager to participate. I grabbed paper and pen (computer), and let Teen Me have it. It was
NOT pretty. Here’s a peek. For the full letter, click on this.
Dear Teen Me,
You hate surprises, I know; but this one cannot wait. Sit or lean on something sturdy for support. Are you ready? Good. Read these lines carefully: You will not die at the age of twenty-three. You will make it. The year is 2014, and you are still alive. I am living proof of that. That’s the surprise. You see, I am you—your new and improved self—the future tense YOU, the Now-you. We made it. Intact. And that’s not half of it.
Sitting in trigonometry class, you frown because the exam is too easy. The teacher senses that you’re bored. He gives you a second worksheet. You finish it too soon. The teacher is impressed with your advanced math skills, and credits your hunger for learning to your foreignness. He nods approvingly, but your mind is busy trying to solve a greater problem: You have 8 years to live, and you want to make each one memorable . . . (continue reading)
THE LAST OF OUR PRIDE ~ by Jason Harris was first published on
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is 95 years old, resting, dream-walking the path that separates the ancestors from our world. Walter Sisulu, Chief Albert Lithuli, Govan Mbeki and countless others on the other side occasionally brush his spirit and say, “Brother, you have done everything and more on that side. What keeps you?”
Madiba, no doubt, makes a wry comment about the machines that his physical form is currently connected to, and promises that he will join the ancestors sooner than later. There is no question that wherever the Lion of Azania travels, there is a crowd waiting for him. From the perspective of a child of the diaspora, the image of Nelson and Winnie Mandela holding hands raised over their head as a sea of ANC supporters shout ‘Amandla’, or the black and white photos of Mandela nattily dressed as a young barrister are iconic touchstones that speak to something within us that strives for and seeks out the best. There can be no disagreement with the idea that Nelson Mandela embodies our best.
Yet there is a disquieting void in this moment, as Mandela has been in and out of the hospital in the last year. There seems to be less joy in celebrating a life of supreme achievement and more of a sense of dread. White South Africans- the Boers (and the British) are worried that the hardliners in the ANC will exert their influence upon South Africa in Mandela’s absence and carry out measures akin to what Robert Mugabe has enacted in Zimbabwe. Black South Africans (a redundant term in my opinion) are worried that white South Africans will revert to their more overt measures of oppression in the absence of a moral executor such as Mandela. Mandela’s children are entrenched in a battle to properly bury their Father. World leaders such as Obama are hastily making plans to descend upon South Africa to pay their respects and gauge in what manner Mandela’s possible transition affects sub-saharan Africa as a whole.
Desmond Tutu, Ahmed Kathrada, Thabo Mbeki are still with us. Even former UN head Kofi Annan is with us; but none can be compared to Madiba. In retrospect, Mandela is the last of the Lions- Martin, Malcolm, Medgar, Steve (Biko), Walter (Rodney), Kwame (Nkrumrah); these are Mandela’s peers. These are men who fathered movements and stepped in harm’s way. Mandela was able to reach his particular mountaintop – ending apartheid and bringing South Africa into a multiracial society. Nelson Mandela tasted victory in a way no athlete or executive could ever approach. While there are mountains yet to be climbed, those journeys are for others. What forms do our lives take as a race without the “one” whom we can look to for inspiration and model ourselves after?
Nelson Mandela has lived the lives of multiple men in one soul stirring timeline- Prince and son of a Chief, founder of the first Black law firm in Johannesburg, political activist stepping forward to speak for his people, revolutionary moving about underground to avoid arrest, political prisoner, unifying messianic force of change, President, and now in his retirement, an avatar for morality, dignity and leadership. His close friend, Ahmed Kathrada, said it best:
“From childhood, when he was brought up as a chief, Mandela was groomed to be a leader. Added to that were his political experience, foresight, courage and dynamism. Throughout the period that he operated underground, and during the Rivonia Trial, he displayed the undeniable qualities of leadership, culminating with his address from the dock. Our lawyers, the media, the outside world and all of the accused….accepted him as the leader…”
Consider the vile reality of apartheid, where a pencil was pushed into ones hair, and depending on whether the pencil held fast or fell out determined the racial category one was officially classified under. Being classified as an African meant losing one’s property, curfew, restricted movements withIN the country, as well as general subservience to the white minority. Mandela’s journey was littered with the likes of State sponsored terrorists such as Theuns ‘Rooi Rus’ Swanepoel, the policeman who ordered the Soweto massacre in 1976 and Piet Badenhorst, a sadistic warden whose iron fisted rule of the Robben Island prison that housed Mandela featured prison guards burying inmates up to their neck and urinating on them. In spite of the dehumanizing tactics of the apartheid regime, Mandela and his fellow inmates transformed Robben Island into a think tank that laid the ground work for the end of South Africa’s version of Jim Crow. The 27 years of imprisonment honed his prodigious gifts as a leader until he emerged from jail as a force whose proper place was nothing less than the world stage.
He patiently waited, shaping and honing his weapon of choice, his ideas, ever alert to opportunities to make them sharper, more efficient, more accessible. Madiba could have fallen to bullets, bombs, bombshells, money or promises. He didn’t; he walked out of the boxes they placed him in to crush his mind, body and spirit, ready and willing to live up to what he was expected to be. His emergence and his powerful example as a man of intelligence and morality inspired the entire world.
At the end of Spike Lee’s film ‘Malcolm X’, we see the children standing up and saying ‘I am Nelson Mandela.’ The image was beautifully conceived and brought to mind the ANC slogan of ‘when one in front falls, another is there to catch the spear and continue the fight’. Almost 50 years later, the last words of Madiba’s famous speech during the 1964 Rivonia trial that would send him to prison for nearly three decades serves as perfect encapsulation as to why children would be so inspired:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve; but if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Madiba’s charisma, intellect and discipline in the face of apartheid was singular- what we will find out in a world where the enemy has shifted its tactics, is not only who will carry on the Lion’s fight, but whether or not they are a lion at all. Viva Madiba! Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika!
“We stand here today to salute the United Nations Organization and its Member States, both singly and collectively, for joining forces with the masses of our people in a common struggle that has brought about our emancipation and pushed back the frontiers of racism.”
South African President Nelson Mandela
Address to UN General Assembly
3 October 1994
Jason Harris is a Baltimore based multimedia artist whose primary medium is speculative literature. He is the editor and publisher of ‘Redlines: Baltimore 2028′ a speculative fiction anthology that focuses on near future scenarios in Baltimore, Maryland. His upcoming novella, ‘Fly, Girl’ will be released at his event, Mind Trip 2.0, in September 2013. More information about Jason and his work can be found on his website,www.newfuturism.com.
Hello again! How have you been? What does summer look like for you this year? Are you having a little fun? Are you planning to travel a little–if possible? Where will you go? I want to see you. I’ve missed you.
I’ve been a little busy. I’ve got something to tell you. We’ve got some catching up to do. Where have you been? Where have I been? I can’t wait to fill you in.
I wrote a book. Really, I did. Akashic books published it. I’m excited about it. The book’s title is DRIFTING. It’s a collection of stories about my favorite subject: People. And Haiti. I’ll tell you more later. Now, take a look at what people have been saying about DRIFTING.
“An arresting account of the contemporary Haitian-American experience.”
“Ulysse displaces and redeems her characters with formidable skill, while her precise cuts through all preconceptions . . . . Intense and necessary.”
“Humanity is lost and found in these stories . . . Ulysse has created a fascinating world of class and cultural distinctions; her stories are engaging.”
“Drifting is a remarkable debut by a phenomenal writer. Much like Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, this sublime and powerful book allows us to experience the joys and tragedies of ordinary and extraordinary lives, in small neighborhoods and big cities, in the present and the past. Katia D. Ulysse’s talent soars higher and higher to expand both our hearts and our universe.”
—Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light
“We already know that the Haitian-American community can produce some of our very finest fiction writers. With Drifting, Katia D. Ulysse proves that point once again, evoking the immigrant experience with delicacy, gravity, and pathos. Refreshing and arresting on the first read, this book will be remembered for a long time to come.”
—Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Color of Night
“In Drifting, Katia D. Ulysse delves into the complex lives of girls and young women. With boldness and clarity she shows us what she finds: the fears, cruelties, and humiliations of their childhood; disturbing feelings of longing, jealousy, and grief; an intense struggle to make sense of the unfathomable world of adults; and above all a determination to survive. In clear prose, Katia Ulysse tells the tangled truth of life and brings a sensitive eye to bear on complicated, flawed characters in circumstances at once everyday and extraordinary. These themes of displacement, struggle, renewal, and redemption are tough, piercing, and true, and they bear the mark of a gifted writer.”
—Michèle Voltaire Marcelin