...Relax, have a hot cup of herbal tea with us, and share your thoughts, ideas, poems...

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Black History Month - Day 28 Book Recommendation: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

This is a very powerful and insightful book that exposes the redesign of the racial caste system into the current system with mass incarceration. 

I’m sharing the detailed summary of the book from 

The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its publication in 2010, the book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year; been dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by numerous commentators, including Cornel West; and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers, and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.

As the United States celebrates its “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of black men in major urban areas are under correctional control or saddled with criminal records for life. Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights—including the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. Today, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet as civil-rights-lawyer-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander demonstrates, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once labeled a felon, even for a minor drug crime, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal again. In her words, “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

Alexander shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.” (

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Black History Month - Day 27 Book Recommendation: The Healing Wisdom of Africa by Malidoma Patrice Somé

Somé a shaman from the Dagara people in West Africa illustrates the purpose ritual serves in the lives of African people and the manner & ways that spirit, nature & ritual connect and become a powerful force to nurture and support the life and purpose of the people. He also examines, explains and analyzes the connection between African people and nature, and the negative impact this lack of connection has been to the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual detriment of Blacks in the west. “Through The Healing Wisdom of Africa, readers can come to understand that the life of indigenous and traditional people is a paradigm for an intimate relationship with the natural world that both surrounds us and is within us. The book is the most complete study of the role ritual plays in the lives of African people--and the role it can play for seekers in the West.” ( 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Black History Month - Day 26 Book Recommendation: Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett, Jr

This book provides a detailed history and analysis of Black history in the US.  Bennett “traces black history from its origins in western Africa, through the transatlantic journey that ended in slavery, the Reconstruction period, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in an exploration of the complex realities of African-American life in the 1990s. Here is the most recent scholarship on the geographic, social, ethnic, economic, and cultural journey of "the other Americans, " together with vital portraits of black pioneers and seminal figures in the struggle for freedom. “(

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Black History Month - Day 25 Book Recommendation: The Langston Hughes Reader — The selected Writings of Langston Hughes

As a poet, novelist, fiction writer, and playwright, Langston Hughes is considered the leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He is known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of Black life in America. This comprehensive anthology of his literary works is once again available. “First published in 1958, this compilation of the writings of Langston Hughes is drawn from every category of his prodigious literary achievement. It combines highlights of the novels, stories, plays, poems, songs, and essays that have established his commanding position in world literature.” (Goodreads)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Black History Month - Day 24 Book Recommendation: Hunger by Erica Simone Turnipseed

This novel is the sequel to A Love Noire, and continues to explore experiences, love & relationships across the African diaspora. In “Hunger freethinking Noire and Innocent, her urbane African ex, reunite. Noire and Innocent are both having a thirtysomething crisis. His former identity as a successful investment banker and eligible bachelor has disappeared. A beleaguered graduate student, she's got no money, no man, and no Ph.D., yet. A year of predoctoral research in Haiti leaves Noire drained. And a trip home to Cote d'Ivoire offers Innocent little more than intermittent sexual gratification. In the aftermath of 9/11, Innocent and Noire are back in New York City and find solace in each other's bed. But even that arrangement collapses under the weight of Innocent's revelation that he has unfinished business in Africa. For Innocent and Noire, patching together their unraveling lives becomes an exercise in hope and humility. With Hunger, Turnipseed lives up to the promise of A Love Noire and has matured into a writer who fearlessly explores the intersection of sex, love, identity, and loss in a cross-cultural context.” (Harper Collins)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Black History Month - Day 23 Book Recommendation: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This novel delves into the topic of race in three countries and continents. The story is about two two Nigerians who spend time living abroad in the US & the UK and the realities they face dealing with questions pertaining to race, identity and belonging as Africans living in the diaspora. They also find upon returning home to Nigeria that they have developed westernized ways and perspectives as a result of the influences in their immigrant experience, which separates and sometimes alienates them from their less traveled Nigerian counterparts. Themes focusing on the search for home, connection and identity are explored. Adiche is a phenomenal storyteller and her words vividly describe people, places and events with meticulous attention to detail. NPR describes Americanah as a “knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. . . . A marvel.” (NPR).


Monday, February 22, 2021

Black History Month - Day 22 Book Recommendation: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

This novel takes place in the fall of 1941 and the main character is a young 11 year old Black girl who is dealing with inferiority issues pertaining to her African/Black physical features. She prays for her brown eyes to turn blue so that she will seen as beautiful and attractive like blond, blue-eyed children are seen. From the onset the US has been a race conscious society and European features (White skin, blond, straight hair and blue eyes) have always been held up as the standard of beauty. Simultaneously, African features (dark skin, thick/curly dark hair, brown/black eyes) were viewed as unattractive and ugly. So naturally it is inevitable that “colorisms” would exist & result in feelings of self hate and issues of low self-esteem in some Black children/people. Morrison explores these themes as only she can, with depth & insight into internalized racial inferiority from a child’s mind & perspective! “Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison powerfully examines our obsession with beauty and conformity—and asks questions about race, class, and gender with her characteristic subtly and grace.” (

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Black History Month - Day 21 Book Recommendation: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

This is an important book that gives an in-depth look at the background, influences, aspirations, vision, strength, struggles, and life of Malcolm X. He was a Black man, husband, father of 6 daughters, fearless Muslim leader, astute learner, brilliant orator who was wise beyond his years. He was committed to the freedom, justice and liberation of Black people throughout the world. His mission had become more wide spread when he was viciously gunned down at 39 years young on February 21, 1965 — 56 years ago to the date! This book should be required reading for all high school students. It illustrates the serious & vicious trauma Black folks have endured that left cyclical effects & the power of transformation that exists when Black people learn of our true history. He will always be our Black Shining Prince.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Black History Month - Day 20 Book Recommendation: The Warmth Of Other Suns - The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

This is a  magnificent masterpiece written by Wilkerson who previously won a Pulitzer Prize for her work as a journalist. This book chronicles the path millions of Blacks took from southern cities to the north in the largest migration of people in the history of our country.  With striking details, she follows the lives of 3 separate individuals who left the segregated & dangerous south looking for better opportunities in the north. I am currently reading this book at this time and it is so interesting, informative and affirming. I am the “family genealogist” and I am making so many connections to my family who lived in the south for generations & were part of that migration leaving Virginia in 1925 for Englewood, NJ.

“Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic. (

Friday, February 19, 2021

Black History Month - Day 19 Book Recommendation The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is a love story that highlights the emotional ramifications of slavery. The novel focuses on Young Hiram Walker who was born into bondage and escaped through a mysterious power. When his mother was sold away  Hiram was a young boy and he lost all memory of her. Yet, he was gifted with a water-driven power called Conduction, which enabled him to travel great distances. Years later,  Hiram almost drowns in a river and this power saves his life. This life or death facing moment fuels him with an urgent desire to escape & venture into the unknown. Along his journey from Virginian plantations to the north via the Underground Railroad, he meets legendary people such as William Still and Harriet Tubman. 

In this historical fiction Coates expresses the pain, hurt and scars caused by slavery and the tremendous toll it took on families - psychologically, mentally and physically. “This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.” (

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Black History Month - Day 18 Book Recommendation: Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

This story takes place on Willow Springs, one of the sea islands off the coast of Georgia,  located between Georgia and South Carolina yet doesn’t belong to either state. On this small island Black folks have lived since enslavement. The main character is a woman named Mama Day, a deeply spiritual healer who can command lightening and foresee things in her dreams. Her powers are continually “tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island's darker forces.” (Vintage Contemporaries). Naylor’s novel is a Black story, yet it expresses in plain language varying complexities, challenges & mysteries people face or identify with in general, across the human spectrum. Mama Day is a powerful novel that spans generations, bridges southern traditions with NYC ways and incorporates faith & belief in healing rituals & traditional medicine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Black History Month - Day 17 Book Recommendation: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This novel is about identical twin sisters from a small southern town who were inseparable as children. They ran away at 16 years old and then parted from one another & lived very different lives, in completely separate worlds, with different racial identities. One sister lives in a Black community and the other sister passes for White and immerses herself into a White world, family and life. The book follows the sisters from the 1950’s to the 1990’s through multiple strands and generations from the south to the west coast. The book explores issues of race, identity, class, family, belonging, and the historical legacy of “passing “ in the US. 

“Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.” (

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Black History Month - Day 16 Book Recommendation: Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

This book begins at Cape Coast slave castle/dungeon in Ghana - one of the many places where the treacherous Middle Passage began for millions of Africans.  More than forty of these fortresses were erected by Europeans on the West coast of Africa, formerly referred to as the Gold Coast. Homegoing follows two half sisters Effia & Esi who are from the Fante and Asante tribes, born in 18th Century Ghana, into different villages, without knowledge of one other.  One sister is married off to an Englishman and leads a life of luxury and comfort on the upper level of Cape Coast Castle/Dungeon. The other sister is captured when her village is raided, enslaved in the very same castle/dungeon, and sold into slavery in the US. The book follows the lives of these sisters and their descendants over a 300 year span and through eight generations, from the west coast of Africa to the southern plantations in Mississippi and the city life in Harlem. This book delves into many of the untold aspects, stories and ramifications of slavery. It reveals the generational impact and scars that this strange institution had on both the captives and captors and their families and the life altering changes that forever altered the countries & the mentality of people impacted by the Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

I read this book in preparation for my trip to Ghana in 2018 and it gave me insight about the history & background. Although the book is a novel, it is steeped in historical facts & generational references. When we actually arrived and toured Cape Coast & Elmina castle dungeons it was a tremendously painful and heart-wrenching experience for me. I had a profound life-altering moment in the female slave dungeon as the spiritual energy of my ancestors was very present, strong & powerful!  I immediately began a travel blog  when I returned home to share my journey.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Black History Month - Day 15 Book Recommendation: It's Not All Downhill from Here by Terry McMillan

I have Read all of Terry’s books beginning back in the day with “Mama.” I like her style of writing and her books have been my company to unwind with for a relaxing weekend or so. Her books are sassy, spirited, light-hearted, funny & down to earth. She's the author of many books, including classics: Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. All her books are about Black women and several have been made into movies. It's Not All Downhill From Here, is the latest novel from Terry McMillan. This novel deals with issues of aging, loss, health problems, romance and relationships. Her characters are lively older women living their best lives.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Black History Month - Day 14 Book Recommendation: A Love Noire by Erica Simone Turnipseed

 Happy Valentine's Day! - A Love Story for you...

This is an interesting, soulful and "juicy" Black love story that takes place in NYC with trips to Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. Themes of Black pride, identity,  color, culture, class, intellectualism and privilege are explored in moving prose. This book speaks to the intricacies and complexities of the experiences, motivations and aspirations of Africans in the diaspora.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Black History Month - Day 13 Book Recommendation: God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man: A Saltwater Geechee Talks About Life on Sapelo Island, Georgia By Cornelia Walker Bailey

This book is both a historical cultural narrative and memoir, written by Cornelia Bailey, who was a lifelong resident of the island. The book tells the stories of the history & lives of the people of Sapelo Island and the enduring beliefs of Geechee and Gullah people. It’s an interesting read, and shows the transformation and continuation of African traditions in the US during & after enslavement. 

Black History Month - Day 12 Book Recommendation: Now Is The Time To Open Your Heart by Alice Walker

I am a huge fan of Alice Walker & have read about all of her works. This book delves into a seasoned & adventurous woman’s spiritual quest & search to find her true self.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Black History Month - Day 11 Book Recommendation: Beloved by Toni Morrison

This book won Morrison the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and exposes the unthinkable horrors of slavery in a comprehensible, moving literary form. The book focuses on a woman, her family and the spirit of her nameless child. It is painful, heart-wrenching, magnificent & powerful. The language is beautifully written & the stories are poignantly expressed.  It will move you, push your thinking & expand your understanding of what a mother or a people can do and survive under inhuman conditions. This book should be on every “classic” book list and should be required reading in High School or Freshman college English courses. It is a profound story that solidified Toni Morrison’s place as one of the greatest novelists of  all times.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Black History Month - Day 10 Book Recommendation: Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash

This book is the sequel to her award winning movie by the same name. The movie is one of my favorites & I’ve seen it over 20 times. She delves into African traditions that were brought to the US and kept alive during and after our enslavement. I was also blessed to take a Master class with Julie Dash. This book explores and extends the story of strong, proud, independent Black women. Julie is a master storyteller & she captures all the nuances & cultural traditions of African people and the power of those traditions to be transferred throughout generations.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Black History Month - Day 9 Book Recommendation: Fifty Words For Rain by Asha Lemmie

This is an amazing epic that spans many decades, cultures, continents & traditions. It explores the impact of war on relationships, family dynamics and the challenges facing biracial children in monocultural, traditional societies. This book evoked all types of emotions and made me closely identify and empathize with the main character, Noriko, a child of a married Japanese aristocrat and a Black GI lover. This was one book I couldn’t put down & was sad when it ended... I wanted more and hope there will be a sequel. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Black History Month - Day 8 Book Recommendation: Lie Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper

This story follows two families and their faith, determination & perseverance under challenging circumstances. She is a masterful storyteller who weaves all the details & nuances of small towns & every-day folks into moving & vivid stories.  I love all of J. California Cooper’s books & they transport me back in time & evoke every emotion in me, because of her descriptive and flowing writing style. She has also published novels & short stories. Every one of her books is a gem.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Black History Month - Day 7 Book Recommendation: The Seasons of Beento Blackbird by Akousa Busia

This novel explores the intricacies & depth of life, love, relationships, personal interests & needs throughout the African diaspora.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Black History Month - Day 6 Book Recommendation: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Alice wrote this book in 1982 & received the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction.  This book was very controversial especially in the Black community., because it explored many themes folks didn’t want to talk about (rape, incest, abuse, male domination, sexual orientation, blended families, etc). However, it also showed the strength, power & resilience of the Black woman. Since then I have bought all & read most of Alice Walker’s works! I love her energy, spirit & voice!  

Friday, February 5, 2021

Black History Month - Day 5 Book Recommendation: Gordon Parks: Voices in the Mirror - An Autobiography.

This book details his life from very humble beginnings to a fascinating career as a photographer whose works have been exhibited around the world. He also wrote 12 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, including The Learning Tree. As a visual learner myself I recognize the power of a visual image. Gordon Parks captured images of Black life in America for over 5 decades!

Black History Month- Day 4 Book Recommendation: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This book is such an amazing love story between Janey & Tea Cake!  It also shows the strength, independence, fearlessness & pride of the main character Janey. Rarely do you read stories about genuine love among Black folks during that time period - so it was heartwarming to read about the love they had for each other!  The book is written in Black dialect & folk speech, which was initially difficult for me to read. I put the book down several times back in the 80’s out of frustration with the language - then finally I read it out loud until I got the hang of understanding the spelling & speech patterns & I absolutely loved it! I have read it many times since! 

Zora has written many books that portrayed racial struggles in the early-1900s in the southern US. She also traveled extensively and conducted research on praise singers in the southern US & African spirituality in the Caribbean and wrote books about those experiences!  I also love Zora, she was a free-spirited, independent Renaissance woman, who was an author, folklorist, anthropologist, filmmaker & sister!! Zora became my literary heroine & one of my role models and has been a major influence in my life as a woman, writer & educator. I have deep admiration for her life & work and I proudly have all of her books in my library.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Black History Month - Day 3 Recommendation: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl — Written by herself. By Harriet A. Jacobs.


This book is such a profound story of perseverance & strength. Harriet was born enslaved in 1813 & became a “fugitive” in the 1830’s & she recorded her story in this book which was published pseudonymously in 1861. In about 1986-88 I was asked to be a book reviewer for a small Black newspaper supplement, thanks to the late Juanita Townes (RIP). This book was the first book they gave me to review. I read it from cover to cover in record time and eagerly wrote my review. When I submitted it, the editor surprisingly asked, “You read the book?” I replied “Of course, how else could I do a review?” She informed that for for the amount of money she was paying me I could simply read the front & back jacket & skim through the book & do the review based on that. I let her know I LOVE reading, especially about Black history & culture & I looked forward to reviewing many more. The bonus for me was I got paid to read books written by & about Black people AND she gave me the book to keep after I completed each review. Needless to say I read & reviewed so many books for them. This book is one you don’t want to miss. 

Black History Month - Day 2 Book Recommendation: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This is the first book in Maya's memoir series. I read this book in high school in 1969 (the year it was published) and it touched me profoundly. I was already an avid reader and this was the first novel I read by and about a Black woman and her life. It let me know "everyday" stories are important and that every story has meaning and matters. This book opened my eyes to the world of Black literature and subsequently diverse literature. 

Black History - Day 1 Recommendation: The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson

For Black History month 2021, I am posting a picture a day of a book by a Black author that significantly touched my life. I  begin today with a book by Carter G. Woodson, a historian, scholar, author, journalist and the Father of Negro History Week, which later evolved into Black History Month. He was also the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

My Evolutionary Journey...

The Journey
By Helen Hampton 

My beloved Bigmomie - my grandmother named "Helen" whose name I proudly carry painted the above & below pictures. She began painting at the age of 65 through arts and crafts classes at a senior citizen center in New Mexico, AFTER she retired from doing a lifetime of domestic work. My grandmother didn't name any of her paintings, but I have named her pieces myself. Her paintings evolved over the next 20+ years and although she primarily painted southwestern landscapes, she also painted several portraits of a few family members, including my daughter, niece and cousins. I often think that if my grandmother had never enrolled in these classes, she may have never tapped into this talent. I also wonder how many of us have gifts we haven't yet discovered.  So, whatever your interests, wonderings, inclinations have been - go for it, explore, stretch out, try something new- because your greatest gift might just be waiting to be uncovered.

by Helen Hampton

These past 3 years have been a journey indeed - a massive juggling act. As a full time educator working in a demanding position, with a lengthy commute - I also managed to complete all the coursework for my doctoral program, and begin the research and writing for my dissertation - which I am steadily working on. That in itself was no easy feat - but I was blessed to achieve a final average of a 3.88 average. My family (both real and virtual) have been very encouraging and supportive and I also know my ancestors have been guiding me along the way.  I am closer to the light at the end of the tunnel - in this particular journey - which is the acquisition of my Doctorate in Educational Leadership. I intend to graduate in 2016.  However, during this process I am still discovering more of who I am and my purpose in this journey called life...

I have devoted my professional life to the field of education - and for many many years I believed that is who I am - "the educator" and that is what I was put on this earth to do. I am eternally grateful for the experiences, the opportunity to serve many children, touch many lives and work with many families - and I truly cherish those memories. I am blessed to have touched countless lives! I have been fortunate enough to reconnect with hundreds of my former students and they tell me the impact I made on their lives - and I am grateful beyond measure. I love every student I have ever taught and retain fond memories of all the experiences, activities and families! I also don't forget my former student's faces (nor names) - no matter how many years go by. 

Yet, a dear friend - a personal "muse" helped me to see deeper into myself, and the full essence of my gifts and existence. Although I work in the field of education, I am a literary and visual ARTIST! I see the world through colorful lenses, express my thoughts through lyrical phrases, and capture the images in my mind through story collages.  My spirit resonates with art and literature! I am in heaven in libraries, museums, art galleries, book stores, stationery stores, and art supply stores. Even as a child I spent hours in libraries reading, and in stationery stores reading every card.   I dream vivid, colorful dreams of unseen places, and engage in wonderful adventures with unknown people - in places I hope to one day go to.

Words flow freely out of me when surrounded by nature and I capture those thoughts, reflections, ideas and wonderings in poetic phrases and short stories. 

I get lost in the zone when finding, sorting and arranging images to paste on a story collage.

Yet, my day to day "grind" is still centered around work, commute and school - and I can truly feel the burden of that on the artist trying to fly freely. I recall many years ago going to a "Discover Your Life Workshop" and receiving confirmation of what I am here to do...(healing work - through multiple modalities). Yet, I still remained tied to a "JOB" but I felt good about it because it is in education, and I feel I have been making a difference. In 2015 - God, spirit and the ancestors are pushing me to fly... to step out on faith and reclaim my creative spirit 100% of the time...It is a process, and I am not one to make a rash decision...but the time for me to embrace all that I am and all the gifts, talents and insights that I have been blessed to have is forthcoming...  My spirit is STILL Rising... 

Taking time to smell the flowers... AND

Embrace life with a positive attitude and a smile...

I am open to divine intervention and letting spirit and the ancestors guide me - with the Creator ordering my steps...  My spirit is energy is flowing and my third eye is open! My journey is unfolding right before my very eyes, and I am excitedly and eagerly embracing this next phase of my life... I have more places to go, people to meet, books to write, art to create and creativity retreats to plan - stay tuned... with the Creator on my side, it's going to be an incredible ride...

As always, your sister in the spirit
I remain...Helen

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ramblings on a sunny, summer Sunday...

Ramblings on a sunny, summer Sunday...

Hugging an ancient tree in Santa Fe, New Mexico
I am a lover of reading and books, physical books - not a Nook or a Kindle (although I have a kindle on my iPad - and actually have books on it that I have never read)!! I love books, the sight of them, the feel of them, the smell of them - my favorite places other than the ocean (anywhere in the world) - are Libraries and Book Stores!!! I like small, independent and out-of-the-way book stores; but I must admit, I am a frequent Barnes & Noble shopper too. (I gave one of my grands my "Barnes" Teddy Bear- lol). 

I fell in love with books as a little girl. My Mom was an avid reader, and she always had lots of books, and also encouraged us to go to the Library. Well the Children's Room Librarian at the Englewood Public Library certainly knew me. I checked lots of books out, and couldn't wait to get home and read them. I wrote book reports (for extra credit - lol) and even made up book reports for books (that didn't exist, that I imagined in my mind). Little did I know that I was already an author without putting the words in print. I slept with stacks of the little books by Beatrix Potter under my pillow. (I still have the little version of Peter Rabbit and books about his friends on my writing desk to this day - my little childhood inspiration).

I always wanted to be a Librarian, until I was introduced in Junior High School to the Dewey Decimal System - which seemed to me as a young girl the most foolish way to categorize books. I wanted to categorize them by how they looked, by genre (even then as a child), and of course only some by author - such as my favorite childhood authors: Beatrix Potter, Beverly Clearly, Carolyn Keene (author of Nancy Drew mysteries).

There is nothing better to me than to curl up anywhere comfortable with a cool drink and a good book - I get lost in books!!! I can't curl up with my iPad, it doesn't give me that sensory experience. For me, with a really good book, the world opens up to me and transforms and transports me! When my children were little, I read all the Danielle Steel books, and I would be transported to some foreign city and I became the rich heroine, living the glamorous life, with some intercontinental dilemma - until my children would say, "Mommy, I'm hungry" and reality would set in. I don't read those books anymore, but they certainly were a joy to me at that stage in my life.

I love biographies, history, narratives/fiction (literature :-), self-help and once in a while ...light-hearted, (slightly) home-girl type fiction!! I am not into the real urban street type novels - not my thing, but more power to those who chose that type of writing and reading. I don't think I ever saw or read a book by a Black person until high school, when my beloved English teacher, Mr. Dexter Bennett introduced me to Maya Angelou, via "I Know Why the Caged Girl Sings." That was a life-changing moment for me. That was my introduction to the world of Black literature. Thank you Mr. Bennett!!! He also introduced us to Pierri Thomas's memoir: Down These Mean Streets (about a Puerto Rican boy coming of age in NYC). I was hooked, I became a lover of literature, and multi-cultural stories.

Helen Tinsley & her Story Collages Art Exhibit at Englewood Public Library,  February, 2014.

Anyway, for the last two years I have been on the school grind non-stop ...working towards this doctorate, and needless to say - my pleasurable reading has diminished to almost nada/nothing. It is a tremendous sacrifice. As an artist, it is stifling to not have "free-time" to create, but it is a known sacrifice I chose, and I am coming down the home stretch. HoweverI give thanks that I was able to host my first art exhibit showcasing my Story Collages in February, 2014 at the Englewood Public Library. 

But as far as reading goes, I have only been able to squeeze in about 4-5 books each year while in school; and I like to read a book every week or two. So, I continue to buy the books I would normally read, as they come out, or as I learn about them. I have probably acquired 50-60 books or so in the past year - that I can't wait to relaxingly curl up with!!

In-sha-Allah (if it be the will of Allah/God),  I am looking at the next few years - when I finish school and retire from my present JOB. My heart is in education and helping others - so I intend to continue providing training, facilitating professional development sessions and conducting diversity workshops. That is truly my calling and I am thankful to know and embrace God's  purpose for my life!!  I have many other dreams as well...

 With God's grace, I am claiming the move to the next phase of my life...wherever spirit takes me to live - and I am open to living in many different parts of the world (including my beloved Bahamas). But, for a while, I think it will probably be bi-coastal living between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Virginia Beach area.

I am claiming the opening of a spiritual space called: The Literary Tea Room! This will be a place where writers' express their thoughts, ideas and tidbits, give inspiration and nurturing to each other; and reader's delight in reading and sharing reflections about books!!! 

There will be author events, open mic night, jazz night, poetry sharings, inspirational talks, arts & craft workshops, and delightful blends of herbal teas, with multicultural pastries. Soon come... 

#eyeontheprize      #yougottahavedreamstofulfillthem

Monday, June 16, 2014

Englewood, NJ - Juneteenth Day, 2014 - Keynote Speaker: Helen Tinsley

Englewood, NJ  - Juneteenth Day, 2014
Keynote Speaker:  Written and Presented by Helen Tinsley

I give thanks and praise to God for this precious gift of life; and I give honor and praise to my parents, Junius and Evelyn Tinsley for instilling in me the love and compassion for self and others; and the thirst for education and knowledge.

I would like to acknowledge the late Senator Byron Baer for enacting the legislation in 2004 that designated the 3rd Saturday of June as the statewide Juneteenth Celebration for New Jersey. I would also like to acknowledge the dedicated efforts of the Jabari Society of Bergen County for their steadfast work in taking the lead and making this the 4th annual Juneteenth celebration in Englewood. Finally, I would like to thank Mayor Frank Huttle and the Englewood City Council for their support and participation in this initiative. 

It is an extreme honor to speak to you today, as a former 3rd generation resident of Englewood and a product of the Englewood Public Schools. My grandparents, Junius and Francis Tinsley came to Englewood in the fall of 1925; and Tinsley’s have lived in Englewood and attended its’ public schools every since. However, my great-great grandparents on my paternal side were born into slavery in this country in 1823 & 1845 in Amelia County, Virginia, and their 5 children including my great grandmother, Maude Swann were the first generation in my family born free. So for me, the great-great granddaughter of former enslaved Blacks in this country to stand before you on this day in which we celebrate our liberation from chattel slavery is a true blessing indeed. It is also a privilege because as a product of the Englewood Public Schools, and a former Englewood Public School teacher and a life-long educator – I am proud to come back and share some brief historical information with you on this day.

In order to truly understand the significance of this day, we must take a look back at history. On New Year’s Eve in 1862, Black folks gathered in churches and private homes all over America awaiting the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had actually became law. This was the first Watch Night Service celebrated in America. Blacks have gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve every since to praise God for bringing us through another year. At the stroke of midnight - on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation declared all enslaved Blacks in the confederate states were declared legally free. However, contrary to popular opinion, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all of the enslaved Blacks. It only applied to the Confederate States. Slave holding states within the Union (including: Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia and counties in both Louisiana and Virginia) were NOT included in the Emancipation Proclamation, which left over one million enslaved Blacks in Union territory still in bondage.

In reality, and to give you food for thought: Did the Emancipation Proclamation really free any enslaved Blacks?  The confederate states had seceded from the Union, so the enslaved Blacks in the confederacy were not really under Lincoln’s control or jurisdiction, and the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to states in the Union. So who did the Emancipation Proclamation really free)? The real freedom was provided to those enslaved Blacks within the confederacy who ESCAPED and made it across Union lines. 

In January 1865, the 13th amendment was passed which abolished slavery in the United States and four million Blacks were freed.  The Civil Rights Act of 1866, which declared all persons born in the US were all citizens, without regard to race, color or previous condition, was passed by Congress over the veto of President Andrew Johnson, (who was adamantly in favor of slavery and a slaveholder). Then the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868 granting citizenship, due process and equal protection under the law.

So in reality, the 13th Amendment is the legislation that granted freedom to ALL enslaved Blacks in the United States. These millions of newly freed Blacks began to roam the antebellum countryside – many searching for family members and loved ones who had been sold off to other plantations. These were people with no money, no food, no shelter, no education (thus illiterate) and no “known” way to survive, who were freed after 246 years of chattel slavery – people who were thrust into a capitalistic society without capital. Slavery has existed throughout the world as we know, but the enslavement of Black people (which we know was extremely cruel, inhumane and barbaric) also had a different aspect to it that separated it from all other known slavery. The identity was stolen from Black folks – our names, language, religion, family, and history were taken from us; and when your identity is taken it has cyclical, negative ramifications on each subsequent generation.

So – as we celebrate this awesome day known as Juneteenth – it is truly bittersweet. Yet history is what it is – the past! We must learn our history, understand it, remember it, teach it and pass the knowledge on to our youth and community. Today we are at a critical point in the history of our county. There is widespread poverty across this nation. There are far too many unemployed people throughout the country, countless homeless people on our nation’s streets, too many people scrounging daily for food; too many elderly people who worked all their lives who can’t afford to maintain a decent living; and there are far too many children hungry or not receiving an appropriate education. We may have come to this country on different ships – but we are all in the same boat now! Our survival depends on one another. The late, great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently said, “No one is free until we are all free.” 

We must love one another, unify with one another and work together – or we will perish together! We must protect our children and show love and concern for our elders. We must conduct ourselves with self-respect and treat one another with love and respect.  We have to teach our youth the truth of our history, because there are far too many significant events that occurred in history that are not taught in our public schools throughout the country.

The Black Churches need to let their parishioners know when they fellowship every New Year’s Eve for Watch Night – that in actually it is in commemoration to their enslaved ancestors, who gathered that cold night on December 31, in 1862 to await news of their freedom.

Children need to know about the Children’s March that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama over four days in May of 1963 when 4,000 children (as young as 4 years old) marched to bring an end to segregation in Birmingham, Alabama – which was considered the most segregated city in America. The Police Chief Bull Connor ordered the fire hoses to be turned on the children and for the police dogs to be set loose on the children. Finally, the children - all 4,000 of them were put in the city jails. These were innocent children who only wanted equality and despite the horrendous treatment they received, they still remained non-violent. 

This event was the catalyst that led President John F. Kennedy to publicly support racial equality in America, and to put forth legislation for a civil rights bill. After Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, the bill was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, known as the Civil Right Act of 1964. This is not Black History – this is American History; yet it is not commonly included in our history books. All children need to know this story, because children regardless of race, language or background need to know that they have power when organized for positive change. They can make a difference. This story is documented in a video entitled: Mighty Times – The Children’s March, along with a companion teacher’s guide.

There are so many other stories that are not taught…such as the origin of many Black colleges and Universities in the country – some which were founded by former slaves, and their descendants; the history of Black Wall Street in Oklahoma, which was one of the wealthiest and most successful Black communities in the United States during the early 20th century until the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. The Tulsa Race Riot was a large-scale, racially motivated conflict in which Whites attacked the Black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma and burned the community – their homes and businesses down.

People need to know about the struggles that occurred in Englewood as well. I can recall numerous incidents of racism and bigotry growing up right here in our beloved Englewood and throughout Bergen County, even to the present day!!! One case in point: My children and I remember in the 90’s during the regionalization law suit, when the state was trying to bring an end to the racial isolation at Dwight Morrow and began having public hearings at the high school in the auditorium (which was historically known as Academic Hall) to discuss regionalization options. In the morning as I would driven my four children to school, we encountered numerous white parents from neighboring towns lining the entryway to Dwight Morrow High School with picket signs saying “We don’t want our kids over here”, “Say no to Englewood kids and down with regionalization,” until a controversial so-called “solution” – the “Academies at Englewood” was established that again perpetuated the doctrine of separate and unequal. This story is told in a documentary I produced, entitled “A Walk in the Valley – A mother’s journey through public education” which is posted on Youtube.

These are just a few of the many untold stories that need to be learned and shared. However, the weight is on us – the adults and the stewards of the youth and the community. I encourage each of us to make a commitment to help someone…work with your child or somebody else’s child…take a stand against inferior education, the school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration. Read, Read and read some more and then share the knowledge. Our beloved late sister, Maya Angelou said, “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865 – Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas carrying news that the war had ended and that all enslaved Blacks were free. This was a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had become official.  That day, June 19th became known as Juneteenth; and starting in Galveston, Texas it became a day for fellowship, celebrating Blacks survival and for gathering remaining family members. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas spearheaded through the efforts of Al Edwards, a Black state senator. Mr. Edwards has worked long and hard to spread the observance of Juneteenth throughout the country.

Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the abolition of slavery, the freedom of blacks in this country and the achievements that have been made. It is also a reminder to all of America of the significant contributions that Blacks have made to American society. Malcolm X told us: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” We each have a role and responsibility to our youth and communities – so, let’s step up to the plate and all do our part to make this world a better place.

In closing, turn to your neighbor and give them a big hug and tell them Happy Juneteenth Day! This day is truly the day for celebrating the Independence of Blacks in this country. Let this day light a spark in each of us to do more, and to do better to support our youth and rebuild our communities!  Finally, in the words of Queen Mother Moore – the late great activist, “Each one reach one, each one teach one.”  Thank you, God bless you & Happy Juneteenth Day!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Umoja -Unity in 2014

Happy Kwanzaa!! Today is the first day of Kwanzaa 2013. Blessings of Umoja/Unity to my family, friends & fb peeps!! Unity is truly about "unifying" or working together for common goals. As we approach another year 2014 - the Universe is calling on each of us to unify with like-minded people - to help care for one another, protect, teach and prepare our children, treat our elders with honor & respect and SAVE our planet. 

We all have unique gifts and different paths in which to make a difference during our short stay in this physical existence!  Our individualism is the beauty of Creation. Some of us are meant to bring new life into the world - while others prepare the physical "shell" during the transition back to spirit. Some are meant to care for the sick, or teach the children, or build the homes. Some use their hands to create structures, tend to crops, or work with wood, metals and tools. Some create the music and sing the songs that move our soul, or write the words in books that transform us, or lyrics in poetry and spoken word that resonate with us -  while others still use the gift of a brushstroke to produce images that engage and stimulate us!  It all shows the beauty of the Creator to bless us with such incredible variety, creativity and talent.

In 2014, tap into your CREATIVE ENERGY (if you haven't already)! Try doing different things, participate in diverse activities, or creative venues/projects. Do you...Do what moves you positively! Pay attention to what you are drawn to - that's the voice of spirit whispering in your ear - if you just still yourself and listen to that little voice...(some call it "first mind"). To me that whisper is the voice of Spirit and my Ancestors guiding me to my destinies...

In the spirit of Umoja/Unity - know that through art we can can be the catalyst and tool that heals the ugliness between people on this planet based on skin color!  Art is transformative! I recognize the power of art as a tool for discourse, political engagement, education, activism, appreciation and transformation. Art is powerful. When we use & connect our creative and artistic gifts to foster unity, educational enlightenment, artistic appreciation and documentation of our stories - we honor and preserve our history. 

How can/will you explore your creative gifts in 2014?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Honoring the victims of AIDS on World AIDS Day

Today December 1, 2013 marks the 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day. We have lived with the reality of AIDS for so long, that there are many people who don't even remember a time without the devastation of AIDS. As a child who came of age in the 60's & 70's – this was the era of experimentation and "anything goes." As a result many, many people experimented with some aspect of the "goodies" of the era. This runs the gamut from both legal mind-altering substances like wine and "hard liquor" to illegal drugs, such as: weed, hash, angel dust, psychedelic drugs - (including mescaline, LSD-25 or acid in all its forms {blotter, black acid, orange sunshine, etc.}, THC, cocaine, and the MONSTER of them all King Heroin! 

Growing up in Englewood, NJ, (in Bergen County), 5 minutes from NYC - presented an exciting opportunity as well as a sad negative reality for my generation. At a young age folks started hanging in NYC - often in Harlem. All of the exciting places and happenings of NYC were readily available to us (only a bus away); but on the negative side so were the drugs. Heroin distribution was targeted in the Black community, so Harlem was a heroin dealer’s playpen. You could easily "cop" a bag of "dope"- (heroin) all over the area; and "shooting galleries" - spots where people got high were plentiful. Additionally, Bergen County was an area targeted for heroin distribution, and this was even mentioned in the film- American Gangster.

So many people of my generation started out experimenting for fun and wound up paying the ultimate price.  It hit home for me and my family at an early stage - when I was 15 years old, my beloved brother Billy Tinsley, a nationally recognized, star basketball player, died tragically from a heroin overdose at the tender age of 17 years old. A video remembering and honoring his legacy by a former basketball coach was created by Sam Lee and can be viewed at: 
Although his death deeply shocked and affected our family and community, and may have deterred some people; others were already to deep into the drug addiction path to stop. Some thought it was still was a "party" and unfortunately, they stayed at the party too long. I am so thankful because there but for the grace of God goes I. In high school I remember reciting the poem/rap King Heroin by James Brown from memory. 
(King Heroin for those unfamiliar with it)

Then along comes AIDS. Whew!!! It devastated our little community - and many of our former classmates and peers died from this deadly "man-made disease" - (which in my humble opinion, I believe without a shadow of a doubt, was man-made from the start). We have lost so many people in my community, throughout our country and throughout the world to this disease. Entire major cities and surrounding suburban towns throughout the US, and countries throughout the world have been devastated, and many countries in Africa have been wiped out. We have lost some of the best, brightest, talented, intelligent, insightful, artistic, funny, good people to this disease! On a national and international level, we have also lost some of the most talented, creative, artistic geniuses to this disease. I have attended many funerals over the last 30 years of people who died from this horrible disease.  I even remember attending funerals before the name "AIDS" was even coined - and folks said the person died from a problem with their immune system. (We barely knew what an immune system was at that time). 

Well, here we are 25 years after World AIDS Day was started. I have been deeply touched by the lives of those who perished in this disease.  I first saw the AIDS Memorial Quilt almost 20 years ago and I was moved to tears. For more info on the AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Names Project: 

Fortunately, people are now "living with AIDS" instead of dying with AIDS. I am thankful for the friends I know and people I have met who are living with the disease and are comfortable sharing their story to enlighten others. As an educator, I have worked with many students over the years that have lost their parents, and some even grandparents to this disease. In many communities, both in NJ and throughout the country, it is unfortunately common for young children to no longer have a mother or father alive. As an educator I was fortunate to serve on a panel several years ago on World AIDS Day at Bank Street Graduate School of Education in NYC (my Alma mater) as an educator who has created curricula material to teach about AIDS. As an educator, when I see a need, I feel a personal responsibility to address it. This was the inspiration and motivation that led me to write: Me and My Grandma – A story for children about AIDS. Copies are available at:

I acknowledge those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives to drug and AIDS. I give the highest honor and respect to those who have carried on the job of raising the children who lost their parents. I also honor those who are HIV positive or have AIDS who have suffered the shame, embarrassment, fear and abandonment of your friends and loved ones (especially in the early days of his disease). What affects one of us, affects all of us! 

 Know your status, make wise choices and always protect yourself!