Last night, after my last excruciating 10 hour workday at the hotel, I changed from my cashmere suit into a pair of black shorts, a black & white polo, and a pair of low top CR’s to match. I removed all things corporate, let the character wall I build as a hotel manager crumble to dust. The 6:41pm LIRR train pulls up, and I board with a few exclusive SoSoon tracks in my earbuds, messenger bag in tow. On the train, I unzip, and read a few more pages from the editing copy of Howard Treadwell‘s Dreams of Loisaida. I curse audibly because as I notice that I left the digital camera at home. No pictures with Ms. jessica Care moore. Now I will have to make a point of catching up with her again before she leaves for Detroit, or head out to Motown.
7:20pm, I exit the LIRR on Nostrand to the sounds of the Black Star album. Mos and Kweli go for gusto on reDEFinition as I walk up New York Ave. When I turn on Marcy Ave, my Blueprint 3 playlist starts. My mind shifts from the sounds of D.O.A., History, Brooklyn We Go Hard, and Jockin’ Jay-Z to my desire to move away from L.I. That’s a story for another day. Memories begin to take root in the forefront of my thoughts as I pass brownstones. In my last post about jessica, I mentioned the East Harlem Tutorial Program benefit where we first met for a few minutes, with the immortal sentence she matter-of-factly uttered: “be a poet, not a spoken word artist.” How much have I strived for the former and not the latter? As a character trait, I always self-evaluate. While doing so, I begin to realize how long it has been since I read her second book, The Alphabet Versus the Ghetto. That very book was the one I sought to have signed that day, but was too broke to buy.
Von King Park is vibrant with a beautiful contrasting cross section of blackness. After walking past a little league game in the park, I notice a group of brothers playing soccer. The lilt in their elevated voices gives away their Caribbean nationalities. Some Black Americans walk by fresh from the basketball court. Little girls on the other side of the amphitheater assemble to practice twirling yellow flags. Color guard. I suppose. They mouth every word to the Michael Jackson songs that play from the stage after the band finishes their sound check. The couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, and I’m sitting in sheer awe. I run into Rasheed Abiaka, who notices me sitting in the 3rd row. We talk about what brought us to the show. He had heard a little about jessica, but didn’t know that much. I spoke like the fan that I am, went over her accomplishments, and discussed how she impacted my work. He remembered some of this vaguely from my last blog about her.
As the last song plays, the band takes the stage. As a representative of the City Parks Foundation is introducing jessica and her show, Kahlil Almustafa sits next to me and says “whaddup Pro.” He wants to stay, and then realizes he’s at the wrong event. We promise to build soon as jessica walks from the stroller holding her 2.5 year old son, King, on upstage right. Her silver flapper-inspired dress (fashionistas, correct me with the proper term please) dances as she walks to the mic, blue fabric train tied to her waist flowing above her red zip-up knee high boots. She is as much of a goddess as I remembered. It becomes difficult to fathom the e-mails and Facebook messages that we have been exchanging for months. My copy of her 2nd book is still sitting on the top of my messenger bag. My thoughts shift from my grandfather in the hospital recovering from an operation and the quick prayer said silently for him to the beauty of the moment.
Her multi-media show, God is Not an American, brings the words of her book by the same name to life. It is her story. Apparently, she and I have some similar views on religion, family, and life. As she speaks about each topic in her poetry, some of my recent work resounds. I wonder how and when I can share my poems with her. Then, I smile, and turn the businessman off, and enjoy the sounds of the Native American singer and instrumentalist, the soulful vocalist, the guitarist, the bassist, and the trumpet player lay a sonic canvass for jessica to spray her words across. To quote legendary journalist dream hampton, “she breathes and bleeds for her poems, and we are all made anew by her sacrifice.” Many of her poems hit home. Standouts are “sunflowers: an opening prayer flower”, “WAR”, “so, what are you going to call him?”, “black/south/africa.” So many. So many. Power. As Osageyfo would say, “word sound power”.
After the show, Rasheed and I parted ways, and I approached the stage to have her sign The Alphabet Versus the Ghetto. We shook hands, and I introduced myself as Timothy. She looked up again, and said “Prolific Jones? No you get a hug!” Her signature graced the inside of my book, and she told me to stick around to get my pre-ordered copy of God is Not an American (which you should buy from mooreblackpress.com or HueMan bookstore).
Since my idiot self didn’t have a camera, there are no pictures of me and my hero together. Her energy still resonates in my spirit, and I awoke calmer and more vibrant that I have in a long time. So much is on my mind.
The more that I think about it, the more that I realize that I am reflecting on yet another defining moment in my life, and in my artistry. I pray that I have the wisdom and the courage to keep up with jessica in the ways that I did not with Amiri Baraka and Cornell West when I was in my early 20s. I was young, hated myself, and let the possibilities of those relationships fade because I felt I was unworthy. Thank God I’ve changed. The incomprehensible, beautiful, creative force that we call God is real. He is not an American. She is not an Arab. It is not a Renaissance portrait, or hidden behind some lofty crowd. The Most High is all pervasive, and lives in us as much as in nature. Sometimes, you can find Her in a smile, a handshake, an autograph, and a book of poems written by one of the biggest inspirations in your life.
jessica, I see the God in you. Thank you for last night. You were brilliant, courageous, warm, real, unapologetic, vulnerable, and beautiful. My mother is also a Scorpion woman, and although you claim that Scorpios are not gentle, I know for a fact that they are giving. King is blessed to have you for a mother. What a man he will grow to become! To the future. Thank you for paving the way for so many of us.
“Love is not the Enemy” – jessica Care moore