The “Yo Daddy n ‘nem” call for “The Privilege of Presence” is a call to address the existence and/or absence of a father figure in the life of Black writers. Wusgood is excited to publish these stories for the development of community, dialogue, self care, and love.
I’m standing in a mirror at a pop-up shop for Saint Harridan
crying because the suit jacket fits without tailoring. it smooths
into a snug neckline and cuffs my tiny wrist. my mother’s laugh
lifts the clouds and she opens her arms so I can heal in two
off-the-rack pieces. and I am no longer girl or weird or too
small for my father’s Sunday suits I could never wear because
only men wear pants in black Southern Baptist sanctuaries
and he has no son yet to feel all the blazer fabrics at Men’s
Wearhouse. just this daughter fingering the inch of new growth
under a black beanie who can’t tell him she died but still
goes by the name he gave but does not know the meaning of.
can’t say that I still wanna be like my daddy.
even now that I know what that means.
even now that I know he won’t understand what that means.
my mother doesn’t know but still stands behind me
to take pictures of my rebirths with a laugh and a smile and
under mine, I decide that when my father dies I will reclaim
the love I deserve and wear a matching suit in his honor
to say this is the way I want to be my father’s boi.
Princess McDowell is a poet, writer and journalist from Dallas, Texas. a black bipolar queer lesbian boi with a girly name who prefers purple over pink.
she’s a dapper book nerd introvert who uses multiple writing forms to process pain, trauma and legacy. she began writing her own journey in social commentary and poems, releasing her first album of poetry entitled Not A Storybook <3. She also self-published two chapbooks, faith move muscle and black boi: a bio.
she’s an active member of the national poetry community, competing and volunteering at Women of the World Poetry Slam, and co-facilitating the youth poetry organization Dallas Youth Poets. in 2016, she was selected as a Pink Door literary fellow. she tours regularly and publishes work online with Rebellious Magazine for Women, a feminist magazine out of Chicago, and other outlets such as Autostraddle, shades magazine, Black Girl Nerds. she’s currently writing her first novel, a young adult science fiction story birthed from a picture she found on tumblr.
At City Slickers
Breauna L. Roach
These men strolling out of store
over steaming downtown sewers
smog illuminating them like spotlights
Looks don’t make the man
My mother tells me. But I have
known my father to stride
those same curbs before. He and I would enter,
noses frozen stiff and my hands hidden
in his full length wool pea-coat pockets.
His hands gripped by tight leather gloves each
finger in a separate tomb of wonder. I would try
to fit them. But being 7 and a girl would not allow
me to do as my father did so I did the best I could
to imitate him. I was his only girl. Each year
he would let me pick his winter hat,
find the feather that matched the
sparkle in his voice. I would marvel at
the majesty of his felt, leather, suede
Fedora, water and weather proof, he was invincible, like
Osiris, and I, ever faithful and amazed.
Fix this here feather to the left side so my
girl can see if it matches he would tell Henry the Hatter.
We were an ethereal pair as he escorted me to the car with
his new handkerchief and feather, synchronized
colors in paternal harmony as were we. I still can’t fit my father’s gloves
but he continues to dress up for me each Christmas when I come
home to visit. He still holds my hand when we
cross the open exhaling mouths in downtown streets.
Hands ever smooth now, weary worn suede palms
never callous at the bitter breeze
sometimes life blows. But my daddy always showed me
how to cup my hands to my lips
and bite the frost back.
My name is Breauna L. Roach, I am a poet born and raised in Detroit, MI. I am the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Association’s Poetry Prize, and my work has appeared in Callaloo, Vinyl, Little Patuxent Review and various other publications. I am a proud Alumna of Florida A&M University,and has received fellowships from Callaloo and Cave Canem. I am currently a Graduate Writing Instructor and MFA candidate at Emerson College.
4 Haiku’s on Being a Parent
my one year old’s laugh
sits in her soul
waiting to brighten, the dark days
when your daughter asks
just point to a picture of mommy
first game of hide and seek
my son chases his shadow
into the shade
grabs my shoes
tries to wear them
already following in my footsteps
Joseph Harris has been writing & performing poetry for over 10 years. Ann Arbor was his first poetry venue and from there he has spread his particular type of logic far and wide. He has been published in MingleWood, Off the Mic, A2 Brute’and Anthrax is Safer than Poetry. He was on the Ann Arbor Slam Team from 2003-2007. He was the Rustbelt Individual Slam champion in 2005, He was the National Head to Head Haiku Deathmatch Champion in 2006. In 2007 He founded the Spitfire Poetry Slam in East Lansing, Mi. In 2008 he was part of Scott Woods national 24 hour poetry reading. In 2010 he hosted the Midwest regional Rustbelt Poetry Slam. He is currently a 5th year Ph.D. student in the Teacher Education Department at Michigan State University where he teaches among other subjects “Reading, Writing & Teaching Poetry”.
Last but not least he is the father to 3 wonderful children and was husband to a beautiful wife all of whom provide him with endless inspiration… whether they like it or not.
How we ate
Great Great Great Grandpa
cut out his master’s
tongue and used it as a spoon
to cook up words so he wouldn’t starve
Then he fed it to all of us
and we learned the language
with a dash of grandpa’s seasoning
so we would blend in
perfectly like salt in hot sweat
but never forget where
we came from.
the universe balances its scales
as if to say
Silly little girl
fathers are for other people
did you think that you could have a daddy
who is present and loves you
for more than a spell?
Awws honey, that’s sweet
but don’t you know I just can’t allow it?
It would be too much
and all the other kids would get jealous
you know that just won’t do
Ashlee Haze is one of Atlanta’s premier word artists. Earning the nickname “Big 30″ because of her consistency in getting a perfect score, she is one of the most auspicious poets in the sport of slam. She is a 5-time member of Java Monkey Slam Team and the current Slam Mistress. She appears in “3-Minute Activists: The Soul of Slam” a feature-length documentary that examines the lives and work of some of Atlanta’s Spoken Word Artists.
The Seed Examines an Excerpt from Fatherless Boy’s Backwards Bible
(-Chapter 1: 32-1)
32 Weeks before he’d expel Himself from the garden my progenitor highlights the gospel of Matthew, 31 and teaches what first I know of God and there is always a torture stake involved looming high enough to touch the sun if you’re a child standing at just the right vantage underneath. 30 forsaken, without a genealogy sufficient to render any dream a foretelling.
29 Just a boy whose body is the perfect kindling for a sacrificing pit out back 28 in a barren yard that’s never had a ball tossed in or whose name is already washed clean of the legacy that never sends for him. 27 It’s either irony or purpose defeating itself
26 I am the second descendant of a distant patriarch with a blue cord on the fringed edges of a Sunday only suit that belongs to shoulders that rumor has it, I’ll grow into.
25 All I need is a holy name inscribed on my forehead. 24 If I could glean the father given in overflow to the rest of the congregation, 23 I would make of my flesh a tithe to compliment my blood sweat dry heaving prayer.
22 Instead all I am shown is a column of foreshadowing sermon and a cup
21 carved into the stone table next to my family’s proudest king James that won’t be removed.
20 It’s here .
19 That I’m Breaking my legs over a tree trunk reaching for a parable that might make my Dad burning bush, 18 or 17 voice on high passing down stone words I would break. 16 Or welcome me into His love without a scripture to comprehend at all.
15 But really neither. Renounce me of every parent I’ve been denied while this water spills in the place blood should have been. 14 A prophecy finally comes loose from cool tide of a the baptizing. 13 Somethings descending from the rafters of the only house I know would have me. It’s either a dove, Or a baseball that he’s never shown me how to catch 12 A voice I imagine, a face, magnificent in fire and earthquake and unfamiliar as the lineage I belong to 11 How could He disappear Himself right before armageddon?
10 Big mama told me about the point at the conclusion of the word where the world is on fire 9 The great dragon hurled down 8 His father cutting away that which started from Himself 7 I’m returning to the dust and being cast to the vicinity not sure which seed I am
6 If read backwards the Bible is the reassurance of every fatherless boy.
5 The world saved by the son coming to life
4 A mob retracting curses to their tongues,
3 a preceptor acknowledges his apostle three times, 2 a child unorphaned by heaven where home welcomes a prodigal father that would either take back all he’s created Or say it was good. 1 And stay
Mathias has been on both teams that he’s slammed for with The Writers Block slam team in 2015 and The Writing Wrongs slam team in 2016. In addition to poetry Mathias has Hosted several events including “Italian Food and poetry Night” an annual event he co-created in Columbus Oh since 2013, “The Writer’s Block” poetry night twice, and serves as the official reserve MC for the Ness Open Mic Experience. He is currently doing work with The Harmony Project as the sole poet on a full stage performance alongside the Columbus Arts Choir which will be housed at both the Lincoln Theater as well the Ohio theater.
Faith and preservation of identity play a large role in Mathias’s work. He’s the middle child of a single parent household that was always the awkward nerd of the group. These concepts are weaved into his pieces and play a large part in his stage identity as well. The most import things to his art are God and family and how each play a pivotal role in keep the person grounded.
Essay on Black Fatherhood
My father’s name. His father’s name. My name.
An Essay by Grover D. Easterling
Pops made sure I understood that everything I do represents more than just who I am, but the name that I carry. That our last name isn’t a scar left from slavery but our own because a few generations back our ancestors had refused to keep a slave name. That even though my middle name is the solitary letter “D”, it still stood for something because of the whole that it fits into. That my whole name is a legacy to live by. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that things Pops had taught me throughout my life were exactly what led me to be as unapologetically Black as I am. I understood that Blackness is part of who I am. So before I was old enough to even question why Pops was Black and Moms was white, I knew that I was Black. So when I moved to a racially diverse Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan, I understood that I was still Black. When I moved to the whitest place I know to exist at 10 years old, I was prepared in some ways that taught me to survive with dignity.
In 1997, my family moved from Florida to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. I’m not sure what the racial makeup of the base was, but from what I remember it was quite diverse. I remember starting my school career in classrooms where I couldn’t tell you what race was the most prevalent. I started kindergarten thinking this was how the world looked, that everyone was different – but that’s just how things were. It wasn’t until it was time for Black History month projects that I realized that those differences can define how we navigate life.
Pops is Black. Moms is white. I’m not quite sure when I started thinking critically on this but what I am sure of is that Pops taught me the one drop rule before I was old enough for middle school. One drop of Nigga blood and you’s a Nigga. This wasn’t my father trying to disparage me or anyone else by using that word to make his point, but an acknowledgement of how white society views, positions, and attacks Black people in this country. My father taught me to never question my Blackness.
“One drop of Nigga blood and you’s a Nigga.”
He also made it clear that he was with Moms because he loved her, not because of any disdain toward Black Women. I’ve never once heard him speak down on Black Women or glorify white Women. My Mom is willing to listen and learn when it comes to the things that the Black people in our family go through and I’ve always appreciated that. Neither of my parents ever pushed the narrative we see in the media so often that mixed race families are somehow better.
In 2004 my family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Wyoming, a state with the lowest population in the whole country, yet somehow still with a less than 1% Black population. It was there that I learned how much of my life was shaped by being Black and it was my father who guided me through it. I got called a Nigger for the first time that I remember in 5th grade. It was by who I thought was my best friend. Pops sat me down and told me that I don’t have to accept folks attacking me for being Black. He let me know that there will be times that I’d find out that some non-Black people aren’t really my friends, no matter how tight I think we are. He also let me know that it might not have been the best idea to knock the white boy to the ground and start kicking him, but that he understood.
By the time I was in 7th grade, I was constantly under attack by white kids in the schools I went to. A niggerlipped, nappyheaded, enigma to most of those white kids, I struggled to find friends and those that I thought were my friends were often replicas of the white friend from 5th grade. My friendship to them was a free ongoing show of “What’s the Nigger gon do next?” and whenever I realized that that was the situation, I’d remove myself quickly.
I was put in a position where I had to choose between my dignity and regular human interaction.
I could have friends if I was passive while my status as a human was being questioned. The world around me told me that I should be ashamed of being Black. Only thing that stopped me from feeling that shame was the pride Pops had instilled in me. I trusted in my father more than I trusted in what everyone around me was telling me, so I started doing research. I spent more time reading about revolution than I did spending time with those kids.
That year was the same year that I started walking home from school, which is to say the same year I found myself being stopped by police. On any occasion, while walking the half-mile to middle school, rife with white verbal drivebys, a 12 year old Grover could be stopped by 12. It actually didn’t surprise me the first time. I had been called enough Niggers walking home that it wasn’t hard to believe a police would pull over and remind me that I am one. Some incidents were just a quick reminder. In other incidents, officers made sure they were thorough in exhibiting their power over me.
Incidents with police prompted conversations about surviving with dignity that went deeper than the conversations we had before. We spoke on being true to ourselves while navigating antiBlackness. How I can read about the Black Panthers all I want, but when a police officer starts harassing me, I have to know how to survive the encounter so I can grow old enough to make changes I want to. Speaking concisely and calmly without acting as if the officer is doing me a favor by letting me keep my life. I always kept this in mind and even though I’ve been attacked by police twice, I have to wonder how bad things would have been if I hadn’t followed that advice in those situations.
Living through the gauntlets of white supremacy, I realize now how the legacy my name holds is so connected to my Blackness. How Granddad had migrated from Arkansas to Michigan to work hard and eventually own his own business. That that business gave Pops work experience and a sense of ownership that many Black folk don’t get the chance to feel in their lifetimes. That Pops joined the military because of the opportunities and stability that he knew could come from it. Opportunities and stability that most Black folk don’t find in this society. That Pops endured military life just so that my brothers and I could have those opportunities.
That the sacrifices Pops and Granddad made were displays of Black resilience that I should never take for granted.
That my name holds all that Black sacrifice, Black resilience, and Black Love. That for the rest of my life I will live to honor that.
Grover D Easterling III is a poet and revolutionary currently living in Detroit, Michigan.