“Broken System” – Spoken Word Poem by Guyanese Poet Renata Burnette


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Victim of domestic violence with her mother – Guyana


My Poetry Corner July 2018 features the spoken word poem, “Broken System,” by young Guyanese poet Renata Burnette. Residing in the capital, Georgetown, she is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Guyana, pursuing a degree in Communications.

Renata’s poetry calls attention to the daily struggles and issues of young Guyanese, especially those in their late teens and twenties. She gained national attention in August 2016 with her poem, “Dear Mr. President,” expressing her challenges in finding a job as an undergraduate.

In “Broken System,” published on Guyana’s Independence Day, May 26, 2018, the poet portrays a system that offers little to no protection to the country’s vulnerable youth.

We have 15-year-old girls being gang raped; boys being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just children running away from their homes because the ones that are supposed to be protecting them, they’re now physically and sexually abusing them… These children, they have no faith in us because we have failed them…

Renata observes that the justice system fails these abused children by either condemning them to the juvenile penitentiary or returning them to their abusers. Further on, she raises the issue of drug dealing and the difficulty of finding work, even for someone with higher education.

So how do we fix the system, the same system that’s putting away our young men for selling or smoking weed, but we’re yet to curb the increase of lung cancer disease that’s mainly caused by tobacco smoking, also known as cigarette smoking. So what do we do? We put a warning label on the pack and just hope that it stops… And even when I graduate from one of the highest institutions in the land, they cannot guarantee me a job…with or without this degree. And you want to know why our young people are out here selling weed. Food for thought. Stay woke. See, plugs make more money than teachers make on their government salaries.

Without a pause, Renata addresses sexual harassment. No subject is taboo for our young poet.

And if you’re a woman in today’s society then sexual harassment is something that you’re almost guaranteed. It’s like a rite of passage, so be careful. Don’t wear anything loose, don’t appear to be too revealing, because when the man across the street shouts for you, calling you every single thing except your name, you better look… But really and truly all our tongues burn to say is just stay away from me. But we’re too scared because our system is broken; it’s backwards…

The system also fails victims of domestic violence. The police, the poet notes, not only show up until after the attack, but there’s also no justice for the woman.

And even though she’s the victim, there would be no justice for he [the abuser] knows people in high positions. You know, that can make a police report disappear regardless of how he acts. Those kind-a people in authority that have a knack for sweeping every single thing under the mat…

Like a maestro conducting an orchestra, the young poet controls the rising and falling rhythm with expressive hands. Without a script. Giving voice to the voiceless.

On America’s Independence Day, I offer these closing words of insight from our young Guyanese spoken word poet (emphasis mine):

If history has proven anything, it’s that the truth would always survive and, if needs be, it would bleed through crooked lines.

You can watch Renata Burnette’s performance on YouTube. For my complete transcript of “Broken System” and to learn more about the poet, go to my Poetry Corner July 2018.

Victim of domestic violence with her mother, Guyana
In 2013, Natasha Houston’s husband killed their two children, slashed her arm and hand, then killed himself.
Photo Credit: WGVU News

Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships Edited by Dr. K E Garland


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Book Cover - Daddy Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships Edited by Dr K E Garland


So much noise scrambling my thoughts as I read Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships edited by Dr. K E Garland. On arrival at our southern border with Mexico, refugee children – referred to as illegal migrants – are separated from their parents. A two-year-old girl screams while a U.S. Border Patrol agent questions her mother. Where is her father, I wonder?

Back to my reading of Daddy.

In her account, “Abandoned at Breakfast,” BB – a writer, wife, and mother whose parents had divorced when she was a kid – recalls her emptiness when her father didn’t show up for her baby shower.

“Behind the makeup and flashing cameras, I was still the little girl who longed for her father’s embrace,” BB recalls. “I wanted [my father] to accept me and tell me that I was beautiful, even fifty pounds heavier.” Continue reading

Happy National Caribbean American Heritage Month



Celebrate National Caribbean American Heritage Month


June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month – a time for celebrating the legacy of Caribbean immigrants and their descendants in American history and culture. Given the silence in the mainstream media, no one seems to care.

In her June 7th article, “It’s a Month to Celebrate Caribbean Immigrants but Who Really Cares?” Felicia J. Persaud – a New York-based, Guyana-born journalist and media entrepreneur – observes that the silence on NCAHM goes beyond media outlets. Not a word, she says, from the many Caribbean-American federal and state officials from across the country. Not even from celebrities like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Jason Derulo, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Shaggy, and others. Persaud’s list goes on.

I understand Persaud’s concern that “if as Caribbean immigrants we show we don’t care about our own month, then no one else will.” Yet, I can appreciate the silence. We are not living in normal times, especially for immigrants from what our President denigrates as “shithole” countries. US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are on the prowl for undocumented immigrants deemed animals, drug dealers, murderers, rapists, and terrorists. When one is targeted for verbal and physical abuse, incarceration, and deportation, one doesn’t go about waving a flag or twerking in a celebratory street carnival.

Our white American brothers and sisters in towns and cities devastated by the flight of American manufacturers are suffering. While the hopeless are killing themselves with opiate use, others are voicing their anger. They know not that we are all victims of a capitalist system that cannibalizes human and non-human life. A system that discards the useless and worthless. They know not how the free flow of capital and production sweeps across our once secure lives, leaving us struggling for footing and air.

In a recent interview with Karl Marlin of Truthout, Henry A. Giroux, an American and Canadian scholar and cultural critic, notes:

When selected elements of history are suppressed and historical consciousness and memory no longer provide insights into the workings of repression, exploitation and resistance, people are easily trapped in forms of historical and social amnesia that limit their sense of perspective, their understanding of how power works and the ways in which the elements of fascism sustain themselves in different practices.

As a Caribbean immigrant and writer in America, I plod forward in building bridges, however narrow or rickety. We all share the same humanity. As a fellow blogger and poet, Miriam Ivarsam, expresses so eloquently in her poem “Per Universum,”

Through universe we flow
and It through us.
Ever increasing harmony.

Happy NCAHM to my fellow Caribbean immigrants and Caribbean-Americans across this land that we love and call home!

“american child” – Poem by normal


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Four-year-old American child learns to us a machine gun

Four-year-old American child – in the age of the National Rifle Association – learns to use a machine gun
Photo Credit: ABC News Video (January 2014)


My Poetry Corner June 2018 features an excerpt from the poem “american child” by normal. Raised in Passaic, New Jersey, normal is a poet and registered nurse now retired and living in Saugerties, New York.

As a young poet in the early 1960s, he began reading his work at the Rafio Café in Greenwich Village, frequented by Beat poets and writers. Among the poets who influenced normal’s sensibilities is the American poet, e.e. cummings (1894-1962), whose use of low-case letters and minimal punctuation he emulates.

The following excerpts come from normal’s chapbooks, Blood on the Floor (1999) and American Child (2001).

His poem “blood on the floor” brings to mind America’s powerlessness to end mass shootings, stealing the future of our children.

don’t slip
there is blood on the floor.

blood of apathy
blood of the dispassionate
the ignoring
blood of those numbed by dumb
blood of those who pretend it
never happens / the cheerfully
humbled who go about it all

Meanwhile, the raindrops are loaded / with the eyes of children.

The featured poem, “american child,” portrays Americans in all our glory and shame. Penned on Labor Day 2000, the poem begins with the plight of the American worker.

i am the child of america
the sierra madres are bleeding
i am america
the mad & the magnate marry
the factory wolf howls
i am america
the mantra rumbles with the kinds & the cripples.

Trappings of American life ring through the verses: dinty moore stew, soup kitchens, porno talkshows, paparazzi, honkytonk queen, sams club, home depot, tickertape parade, flophouse, and more.

Four stanzas speak of “death to” individuals, special groups, historical events, and man-made systems. Among the targets are lewis & clark, manifest destiny, trail of tears & of schemes, and the american dream. The poet also boots the capitalist, communist, anarchist, antichrist, and atheist. (I would like to add racist and misogynist.)

Apart from lewis & clark, normal mentions several other personalities that make up the American character: joe dimaggio, thomas jefferson, geronimo, benedict arnold, einstein, and chief joseph. (No shout out to Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King?)   

In the following stanza, the poet captures the schizoid character of the American child and his impact on the world:

i am beauty
i am invention
i am wonder
i am the united fruit company
i am promontory point pikes peak & mai lie
i am the glory
i am the savior
i am the black tide of the acid sky

(mai lie instead of My Lai reframes the massacre in Vietnam.)


fool / genius // the kind of heaven & hell // the arithmetic eyes of the bureaucrat robot

Yet, for all his flaws, the American child is a fighter and survivor in a crazy world, as normal concludes in his final verses.

i am the feral infant dancing on the freakstage / of the final sunset // i am the child of america.

Much has changed over the past seventeen plus years since normal’s portrayal of the American child. How could he have foreseen Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump? I live in hope that an American child – rising from a bloody school floor; less feral and more inclusive – has now embarked on the path to the presidency.

To read the excerpt from the featured poem and learn more about the work of normal, go to my Poetry Corner June 2018.


Space-time: A Cosmic Perspective of Man’s Entanglement


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Artist conception of curved space-time around Earth - NASA

Artist’s conception of GP-B measuring the curved space-time around Earth
Photo Credit: NASA


Einstein’s theories of relativity
upending the way we view time.
Past – present – future but an illusion.
Time & space woven together
forming a four-dimensional fabric.
Space-time, Einstein called it.

Quantum entanglement defies physics.
Separate entangled photons
& they remain connected
mimicking the behavior of the other
at the same time.
Spooky action at a distance, Einstein called it.

What of Man made from stardust
of atoms & entangled photons
existing in space-time
mindless of his cosmic entanglement
and shared fate?

Misogyny – racism – xenophobia
expand space-time between photons
disrupting their entanglement.
Same but separate
yearning and friction without end.

rising from the detritus of war
splits the atom
unleashing humanity’s Doomsday Machine
in space-time.

citadel of the gods
of Christians – Jews – Muslims
trapped in space-time
where past – present – future are one.

In space-time warped by Man
world peace is impossible.

Man of Earth
how do you undo
what can’t be disentangled?


Space-time Continuum
Quantum Entanglement
The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg (USA 2017)



Extreme Weather and the Climate Crisis: What You Need to Know


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US 2017 Billion-Dollar Disaster Map - NOAA

U.S. 2017 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters
Photo Credit: NOAA


Earlier this month, while the Trump administration quietly cancelled NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), concentrations of carbon dioxide at the Mauna Loa Observatory averaged above 410 parts per million (ppm) throughout April. With such irresponsible action, we-the-people must prepare ourselves for more extreme weather.

Extreme Weather & the Climate Crisis: What You Need to Know, published by the Climate Reality Project (March 2018), helps us to understand the challenges we now face. As the captioned NOAA chart shows, climate-related and other natural disasters are costly. Total damages in 2017 left the U.S. with a bill of $306 billion. Families who were hit are still recovering from their loss. Families in poor communities may never recover.

Here’s what we need to know about our extreme weather and the climate crisis. Bear in mind that weather refers to short-term atmospheric changes in temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind, cloud cover, and visibility. Climate is the average of weather patterns over a longer period of 30 or more years.

Hurricanes – With average global sea surface temperatures becoming warmer, hurricanes can become more powerful. A warmer ocean also means an increase in evaporation, thereby feeding hurricanes with much more water to dump on those of us who live in their path. It gets worse. As melting ice caps and glaciers raise sea levels, storm surges caused by hurricanes will be stronger and carry water farther and farther inland.

Flooding – As air temperatures increase, more water evaporates into the atmosphere. Because warmer air holds more water vapor, some places get more rain and snow than their average annual amounts; other places may experience intense rainstorms. At the same time, rising sea levels are worsening coastal flooding worldwide.

Drought – Soils dry out when evaporation increases over land. When the rain comes, the hard, cracked ground absorbs little water. The run-off carries pollutants in the dry soil into our streams, rivers, and lakes. Drought also worsens forest fires.

Wildfires – Droughts kill plant life. Dried out, dead vegetation can ignite with a spark. Once started, these fires are harder to contain. With warm weather arriving earlier and extending further into the fall, we now face longer fire seasons. To make matters worse, pests like the mountain pine beetle thrive in the warm, dry weather. The dead trees dry out, adding to the fury of our forest fires.

Extreme Heat – Of the 18 hottest years on record, 17 have occurred this century. If we don’t reduce the greenhouse gases heating up our atmosphere, more and more of us will face the deadly threshold of extreme heat on our fragile human bodies.

Extreme Cold – As global temperatures rise and the Arctic continues to warm, the jet stream is slowing and becoming more wavy. This causes bone-chilling Arctic air to linger longer in northern regions and spread much farther south than usual.

While we cannot prevent climate-related natural disasters from occurring, it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent the worst of it. And it certainly could get much worse.

Motherhood: Where is the joy?


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Today on Mother’s Day in America, families are celebrating the day with their mothers and grandmothers. While my sons will mark the day by joining me in activities I enjoy, I see no cause to celebrate motherhood.

Where is the joy of motherhood, I ask myself, when you live in fear of ICE agents separating you from your American-born children? Where is the joy in motherhood when your hours of labor value little to provide food and shelter for your children? Where is the joy in motherhood when intolerance, bullying, and hate put your children’s lives at risk? Where is the joy in motherhood when you watch your child suffer for lack of medical treatment?

Why, I ask myself, do we bring children into a hostile world that no longer fights for their right to life once they leave our womb? Why do we bring children into a world facing ecological collapse, climate disruption, and threat of nuclear war?

Speak to me not of love. Love protects and defends our young. Love nurtures.

I speak not to parents and grandparents who are doing their best, going beyond the possible. Rather, I speak to those among us who support laws and policies that favor corporations and billionaires and punish the families of our nation.

In an overpopulated world, motherhood has lost its meaning. Our uterus is for “baby-hosting.” Just ask Katy Talento on the White House team.


“Poems for the Men of Our Time” by Brazilian Poet Hilda Hilst


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Entrance to Hilda Hilst Institute - Casa do Sol - Campinas - Sao Paulo - Brazil

Entrance to Hilda Hilst Institute – Casa do Sol – Campinas – São Paulo – Brazil


My Poetry Corner May 2018 features an excerpt from “Poems for the Men of Our Time” (Poemas aos Homens do Nosso Tempo) by Brazilian poet, playwright, and novelist Hilda Hilst (1930-2004), born in Jaú in the interior of São Paulo, Southeast Brazil. Soon after her birth, her mother moved with her to Santos, a coastal city and port. Her father wanted a lover, not a wife. Having a girl child was “bad luck,” he told her mother. Hilda grew up determined to prove him wrong.

Hilda was seven years old when her mother revealed the truth: Her father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Her father’s mental illness and his frequent internment over the years, until his death in 1966, had a profound effect on her poetry and fiction which often drew upon themes of intimacy and insanity with elements of magical realism.

I initiated dialogue a thousand times. It is hopeless.
I prepare and accept myself
Flesh and spirit undone. We could try,
My father, the unequal and tortured poem,
And embrace each other in silence. In secret.
~ Final stanza, “Of the joyful and very unhappy love – 1,” Exercises by Hilda Hilst, 2001.

Though her first love was poetry, like her father, Hilst followed her mother’s advice and studied law at the University of São Paulo (1948-1952). During this period, she published her first two poetry collections (1950 & 1951). After working for a year at an attorney’s office in São Paulo, she abandoned law for the writer’s life. Continue reading

Earth Day 2018: End Plastic Pollution


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Great Pacific Garbage Patch - NOAA

Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Photo Credit: Marine Debris NOAA


Today is Earth Day 2018. The theme this year is End Plastic Pollution in response to the exponential growth of plastic waste that now poses a threat to human survival owing to its un-biodegradable nature. When exposed to water, sun, or other elements, our plastic waste breaks down into tiny particles invisible to the naked eye. These particles – called microplastics – now contaminate our drinking water, seafood, or even the salt we add to our meals.

Earth Day Network (EDN) sums up the scope of this threat with the following 10 facts of plastic in our oceans.

Plastic waste floating in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras

Plastic waste floating in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras
Photo Credit: U.K. Daily Mail


Fact #1 – About 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans every year.

Fact #2 – Five massive patches of plastics are growing in the oceans worldwide. The one between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas.

Fact #3 – Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans.

Fact #4 – The amount of plastic in the ocean is set to increase tenfold by 2020.

Fact #5 – By 2050 plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish.

Fact #6 – Plastic is contaminating remote depths of the ocean.

Fact #7 – Marine organisms and animals are starving to death with undigested plastic in their stomachs.

Fact #8 – Contact with marine plastic increases disease in coral reefs, home to more than 25 percent of marine life.

Fact #9 – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains more plastic than natural prey upon which fish feed.

Fact #10 – Many fish humans consume have ingested plastic microfibers. Continue reading

The Souls of Poor Folk: A National Call for Moral Revival


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Poor Peoples Campaign - A National Call for Moral Revival 2018
Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Photo Credit: Poor People’s Campaign


I’m finding it hard to stay abreast of all the upheaval triggered by our Twitter-in-Chief. His tweets and threats boggle my mind, create instability across our nation, and embolden our rivals and enemies overseas.

While our bombs turn the Middle East into rubble, people at the bottom rungs in America face their own hell. This month, the Institute for Policy Studies has published its empirical study, The Souls of Poor Folk, highlighting the complex issues that entangle our lives: systemic racism, persistent poverty, the war economy and militarism, and ecological devastation. Here are some of their key findings. Continue reading