Diddley - How the Ancestors Give
Steps one through five on one version of creativity:
The following shows how Steps 1 -5 can be translate into actual production:
1. Initial inspiration.
One day I searched goodreads.com for something to read and found a book titled All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, edited by Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, The Feminist Press, 1982.
2. My feeble attempt to create something.
The title, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, inspired me to write a poem about how I think black women are, and are not, seen in the media, particularly television and movies. It was an OK poem.
3. The actual inspiration.
One day, as I was looking for an image online, instead of the image I was searching for, the ancestors gave me the following image:
The image shows a little girl. She is no older than 10. She and the other children are slaves. While the mothers of the babies are working the field, the older child watches the children. She is the babysitter.
4. Listening ears
A tiny, soft voice began talking to me. She spoke in a tiny, soft voice, but as a rebel, with clear, concise, emotionless directions. She woke me up. I reached for my notebook just in time to catch her initial thoughts: "Of all the dandelions, it’s me, I am the most beautiful.”
5. Free-flow writing
I said, “Yes Berthenia. You are the most beautiful. I sat at the computer. She continued to speak and I transcribed her words. She even sent me back to retrieve the initial OK poem I had written inspired by the book title, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave.
It was an easy fix. Berthenia showed me my mistakes, and how to re-imagine the poem so that it could take its rightful place in her story.
The name, Berthenia Belle, entered the session in the midst of Berthenia's narration.
Berthenia is an artist: songwriter, musician, craftswoman. She gave me the lyrics to one of her songs, and she created her own Diddley Bow.
Back in 2016, I was beginning to teach myself how to play guitar because some of my poems wanted to be songs. In researching early musicians, especially Blues musicians, I wondered what they played before the guitar, as we know the guitar today. One of the instruments they played was the Diddley Bow.
The following pictures show my Diddley Bow. It is nailed to a door frame in my kitchen. The door frame surrounds my Ilé `Ọrun (my family ancestor shrine or altar).
As was the custom, Berthenia's Diddley Bow is nailed to the front porch post of the cabin where she lived with the babies.
Berthenia Belle, the most beautiful flower. Thank you for your life, your power, your struggle, your creativity.
I thank God for Berthenia Belle, this brave child, this wondrous woman baby girl.
Some of the ancestors are children.
Berthenia Belle spoke her story to me as one long, book length poem.
Find Berthenia Belle, a poem, here.
This is how we listen. This is how we create.
Read more about the Diddley Bow
Hear Mr. One String Sam, below singing My Baby Don't
Mr. Moses Williams playing Diddley Bow, 1984
Photo Credit: Graham, Andrea, Collector. Moses Williams playing the diddley bow - Orlando, Florida. 1984. Color slide. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 28 Jun. 2017.<https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/121981>.
Children Creating Music on Didley Bow
This morning at 6 a.m., I was awakened by the sounds of screaming. I looked out of the window and saw nothing. Then I noticed what I thought was a white garbage bag lying in the street. But suddenly, the bag moved and I heard the awful, in-pain screaming again. The white garbage bag was a woman lying in a fetal position in the street, not the sidewalk, in the street. Oh God. Her intermittent moans and screams. A woman alone and in distress. Then I heard the man's ugly voice, "Get out!" and remembered, not lying in the street moaning, rather, in my bedroom on the floor. At least I had the privacy of brick and mortar. But it wasn't privacy, it was the luck of the draw. I called 911.
I wrote on my calendar, on the June 21 block, “go back to work today.” I figured, first day of summer, refreshed by the newness of life. In this blog, I have written about artists needing to feed their creative wells because, well, ideas get used up. I was feeling used up and took a long stretch of time off, decided to do some reading. I consulted goodreads. But what does reading have to do with quilting? With layers, texture, background, character, plotting (thinking), color, surface design, interior grace, letting go of ego, letting in of Spirit, and it was so beautiful yesterday. Perfect. Sun. Gentle breeze. A trip to the library and Gwendolyn Brooks’ first and only novel titled Maud Martha. “Copyright, 1953, by Gwendolyn Brooks Blakely. Copyright, 1951 by The Curtis Publishing Company.”
There is a description of Maud Martha added to the inside, glued onto one of the book’s front pages, typed with a manual typewriter:
BROOKS, GWENDOLYN. MAUD MARTHA.
The story of Maud Martha Brown, a colored woman - daughter,
wife, and mother - who lives in Bronzeville, a neighborhood of
Chicago, told with the intimate understanding of a woman who
has made a life-long study of negroes.
The book is so old, and I think, valuable, that it is housed in the third floor restricted section. Someone has to go back there and get it for you. I look at the book’s old fashioned reddish brown hard back cover, the back in the day check out card stuck on the inside pocket documenting that the last time someone checked out Maud Martha was September 13, 1972, when fines were “One cent a day on juvenile cards and two cents a day on adult cards for each book kept overtime.”
In Maud Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks opens with:
“What she liked was candy buttons, and books, and painted music (deep blue, or delicate silver) and the west sky, so altering, viewed from the steps of the back porch; and dandelions.”
In Maud Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks ends with:
"But the sun was shining, and some of the people in the world had been left alive, and it was doubtful whether the ridiculousness of man would ever completely succeed in destroying the world—or, in fact, the basic equanimity of the least and commonest flower: for would its kind not come up again in the spring? Come up, if necessary, among, between, or out of—beastly inconvenient!—the smashed corpses lying in strict composure, in that hush infallible and sincere."
I go into my sewing room, look at the Redwork in Blue quilt hanging lonely on the design wall.
I finger my hand embroidery, remember my numb fingers as I told myself, just 20 minutes more, then you can take a break. I try to remember where the quilt wanted to go and why I had stopped driving it there. “Hmm,” I say aloud to no one. Or maybe I am apologizing…to the quilt for her loneliness, that fact that she is unfinished.
Next, I am reading Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton, BOA Editions, Ltd, 2000. In Blessing the Boats, I am reminded of honesty, the integrity and fearlessness needed to create. You just gotta put it out there. Say, “Here, this is what I made.”
From Blessing the Boats:
How painful is insecurity. In not knowing. In our intermittent moans. I pick up my guitar. Her name is Ice and she talked to me, said, “So what you just decided to learn me last year. If you listen, really hear me, I will sing to you and you can mimic me.” And so I became accepting, like a child, and thankful that I stopped listening to insecurity, just in time. Insecurity woulda ran me over again, its booted foot kicking me in my ribs, leaving me on my bedroom floor in a fetal position, muddy footprints all over my soul.
From Blessing the Boats, Gwendolyn Brooks writes in “study the masters,”
So maybe I'm misinformed. Maybe this isn’t a blog about quilting, only.
I decided to listen to the masters, Gwendolyn Brooks and Lucille Clifton. This is a blog about us and our internal Maud Marthas and Aunt Timmies. A blog about how to iron, perk up our own dried edges, how to dream, how to remember and decipher, how to think in multiple languages, how to hope and ritual chant so we can better recognize our hot irons need to strike.
This is how we make things.
See and read information about the completed Redwork in Blue Variation here.
This is a blog about how we make things.