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POETRY ARCHIVED
 

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POETRY

Diversity Poems

by

Francisco Gomes de Matos

Francisco Gomes de Matos

Peace linguist from Recife,Brazil
Professor Emeritus of Linguistics,Universidade Federal de
Pernambuco.President of the Board,Associação Brasil America (www.abaweb.org)

Francisco Gomes de Matos, a pioneer in Linguistic Rights and Peace Lingu academic background is in Languages, Law, and Linguistics. Dr. Gomes de Matos is Professor Emeritus, Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife. He has taught in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Among his publications are, Nurturing Nonkilling: a Poetic Plantation (published by the Center for Global Nonkilling, Hawaii) 2009, Learning to Communicate Peacefully (available online) Encyclopedia of Peace Education) 2008, and Nonkilling Linguistics (co-author) in Toward a Nonkilling Paradigm (edited by Joám Evans Pim) 2009. Dr. Matos is Co-founder and President of the Board, Associação Brasil América, Recife and Member of the Dom Helder Camara Human Rights Commission, UFPE, Recife, Brazil.

E-mail at:fcgm@hotlink.com.br

1
REdiscovering DIVERSITY

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
makes the world go round
but why doesn´t  global respect abound ?

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
human beings are essentially the same
but why do so many DIFFERENCES like to blame ?

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
the world is in constant change
but why isn`t there more global friendly exchange?

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
through DIVERSITY
we can develop LIBERTY

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
through DIVERSITY
we can design HARMONY

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
through DIVERSITY
we can dignify HUMANITY

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
through DIVERSITY
we can defuse LETHALITY

DIVERSITY,DIVERSITY
through DIVERSITY
we can discover UNITY

2
Diversity Everywhere

DIVERSITY
In NATURE it can be a reflection     
DIVERSITY
In LANGUAGE USE it can be a predilection           
DIVERSITY
In COGNITION it can be an intersection    
DIVERSITY
In SOCIETY it can be a connection  
DIVERSITY
In ARTS it can be a confection          
DIVERSITY
DIVERSITY
In Education, it can be a dignifying direction
In LIBERTY it can be a projection    
DIVERSITY
In NON-LETHALITY it can be a protection           
DIVERSITY
In SPIRITUALITY it can be a quest for PERFECTION     
DIVERSITY
In GANDHIAN UNIVERSALITY it can be a CALL TO GLOBAL affection        

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Poems

by

Frederick D. Harper     

Frederick D. Harper      

Dr. Frederick D. Harper has served as Editor of three refereed journals: the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and, the International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, and The Journal of Negro Education. He has authored or coauthored more than 100 scholarly publications, including 19 books and monographs, and presented 114 conference papers. His accomplishments in poetry include 11 published books with more than 1000 poems. He has presented conference papers in Argentina, France, Greece, India, Ireland, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Dr. Harper is lead co-editor (with Dr. John McFadden) of a major textbook, Culture and Counseling: New Approaches, published by Allyn and Bacon. In addition, he has done year-round postdoctoral study on two occasions and has served as adjunct/visiting professor at eight universities, including the University of the Virgin Islands, Johns Hopkins University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), and George Washington University. Currently, a Professor of Counseling in the School of Education at Howard University, he has taught numerous counseling and education courses and has chaired a NASDTEC educational accreditation committee and proposal reading panels for the U.S. Department of Education. He has served in a variety of positions in university administration and professional leadership and has received a number of awards for research, scholarship, teaching, and leadership. On sabbatical during the winter-spring 2010, Dr. Harper is finishing a major multicultural novel, titled The Durabone Prophecies.

1
OUR HOLIDAY

‘Tis a cultural holiday of celebration;
But it matters not the differences
Of our worlds apart;
For celebrate we must on this
Merry day of glee—our love,
Ourselves;
‘Tis not your holiday,
‘Tis not my holiday,
But our holiday—
‘Tis a special time for special people
To love and celebrate happiness.
Harper, F. D. (1988). Romantica: On peace and romance. Alexandria, VA: Douglass.

2
IDENTITY


We cannot reject
People for what they are;
We should not reject
People for what they perceive
Themselves to be.
We cannot reject
People for whom they are;
We should not reject
People for whom they perceive
Themselves to be.
We cannot reject God’s creation
Destined to be, because we are all
Worthy human beings in the
Eyes of Divine love;
Are we not all members of the same
Race—the human race?

Harper, F. D. (2005).
Spiritual teacher speaks. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.

POETRY BY FREDERICK DOUGLAS HARPER

Harper, F. D. (2009). Time and timing. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Harper, F. D. (2008). Beyond fear. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Harper, F. D. (2007). The light within us. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Harper, F. D. (2007). Transitions in life and to death. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.

Harper, F. D. (2006). Poetica erotica. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Harper, F. D. (2005). Spiritual teacher speaks. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.

Harper, F. D. (2004). Poems for young people. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Harper, F. D. (2003). God’s gifts: Spiritual writings. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Harper, F. D. (2003). Love poems of Frederick Douglas Harper. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Harper, F. D. (1988). Romantica: On peace and romance. Alexandria, VA: Douglass.
Harper, F. D. (1985, 2004). Poems on love and life (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse. (Original work published 1985)

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Poems

by

E. Ethelbert Miller

E. Ethelbert Miller

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist. He is board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). The author of several collections of poems, his last collection HOW WE SLEEP ON THE NIGHTS WE DON'T MAKE LOVE (Curbstone Press) was an Independent Publisher Award Finalist. In 2003 his memoir FATHERING WORDS: THE MAKING OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN WRITER (St. Martin's Press) was selected by the DC WE Read for its one book, one city program. His second memoir, THE 5TH INNING was published last year by Busboys and Poets. Mr. Miller is often heard on National Public Radio (NPR).

Website: http://www.eethelbertmiller.com/

Also, listen to E. ETHELBERT MILLER on NPR:        
http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2010/black-and-universal/

1
Rosa Parks dreams

Rosa Parks dreams about
a bus in Jerusalem.  A headless
woman sits in her seat.  There is no
driver today.  The top of the bus
is missing.  On the road a line
of bodies segregated from the living.
They sleep against a twisted metal
frame.  Wild flowers stare from
a field.

From How We Sleep on the Nights We Don't Make Love (2004)

2
Faith: My Brother Richard Returns Home From The Monastery

i was not home
my mother, sister and i
had gone to the store
only my father was home

how happy he must have been
to open the door and see
his first born

to give your son
up to the lord is one thing
to receive him back is another

i would not have been surprised
if my father had lived the
rest of his life on his knees
i knew how grateful he was

faith is the meaning of love
between men

From First Light (1994)

3
Buddha Weeping in Winter

snow falling on prayers
covering the path
made by your
footprints

I wait for spring
and the return of love

how endless
is this whiteness
like letters without
envelopes

From Buddha Weeping in Winter (2001)

Ethelbert Miller’s books include:
How We Sleep On The Nights We Don’t Make
(Received an Independent Publisher Book Awards 2005 for being a finalist in poetry)
The 5th Inning 
Fathering Words
In Search of Color
Whispers, Secrets And Promises
Where Are The Love Poems For Dictators
First Light
Buddha Weeping In Winter
Beyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century

*******************

Poems by Anita Nahal, whose writings focus on such diverse themes as relationships, gender, race, color,age and so forth.

 

Could There Even Be a Title To This Poem?

Place your hand on my heart, God
It aches from another unrequited love
It’s like a hole that never fills up
Your hand on it will surely calm
The quiet crying of its torn re-threaded lining

Not passion
Nor pangs of romance I seek now
Just peace
Not one that comes with death
One that comes from knowing
That I alone can care best for myself
Like deep waters in the oceans way out

Place your hand on my heart, God
It aches from another unrequited love
I no longer can draw water from the empty well inside
Your hand on it will surely calm
The quiet crying of its dried empty skin

I keep regretting I have lost him
Others remind me I never had him
He was the sweetest most unavailable
Just was not around
And when around just not open
But his eyes, breath, kisses and hug
Brought two souls together
I have lost a soul good to my soul
And as the ship finally sailed
I kept running to and fro on the boardwalk
Hoping he would come on the deck
For one final wave
The ship sailed without his wave

Whose fault, I know not
Too giving, just too nice
The label on my jam jar was not “special”
Men hunt, women pretend to run
Men want sweet on the moon
Not a candle shinning in each room
Love is a game
That I need now to play the same

Place your hand on my heart, God
It aches from another unrequited love
My long sighs come out scratched
Your hand on it will surely calm
The quiet crying of a long bristled passage

 

This poem might have a title that could be: “Numbed, Thinking, Silence and Fresh Start”

It’s over.

The sun’s morning shadow
Hurriedly walked across my bedroom
And it’s a little chilly as the afternoon blues
Hang around my toes like droplets
In a bathtub never fully dried.

I tiptoe over to the other room with my
Pashmina draped over my comatosed heart
And find silence lulling itself to sleep
On my sturdy wooden rocking chair
I nudge it awake, it half mumbles, “what?”
“Nothing, just thinking should I write him?”
Thunder roared outside and hail hit
Against the window pane; again and again and again.

Silence yawned, came and sat next to me
“Give me one good reason?”
“I still have the gift I never gave him
Perhaps telling him to collect and say final bye
Might trick him back so that
I could see his face one more time.”
Silence gave me a knowing look
“That might taste like your
Morning tea reheated in the evening…just sufficing.”

Smiling weakly at Silence, nodding soberly
I walk back to my bedroom; the Pashmina hanging loose now
His pictures neatly wrapped in a silk scarf
I slide to the far end of my dresser; saved but hidden
Like the fragile rose china teacup
I bought in antique twenty years ago.

Thunder and hail begin to sprint away
But light rain still dipped into street puddles
And I think about running out to dance
Letting cool waters embrace
Renewing me…like the taste of mint leaves.

I hear a knock at my door
It was Fresh Start paying me a visit.

 

Promised Land

Still far from the Promised Land
We walk not completely in trust.

In a tight ice mass
Fears and doubts hold the snow
And walking around the curves and twists of the icicled road
We tread like children.

Like the first spring leaf nudges others in renewal
I need you to be proactive
Wait not for me to lead
For the specter of lost loves has numbed my senses.

And even though deep inside I know
You might be different
Still, I stand,
Still
Motionless
Under the shaded tree
In my comfort zone
Looking eagerly
For you to emerge, smiling
From around the unseen curved bend
Waving to my spirit to join you.

 

A Black Woman

I am black
A human too
I am a woman
A being too
Hit me
Cut
Kill me
My spirit lives on
In my restraint
My calm
My resistance
My rebellion
In my eyes open under the grave
On the lips of each tiny wind wave.

 

Behind The Veil

Women stand or sit
Behind a veil
Of womanhood
Being denied,
Of color
Being shunned,
Of woman
Pitched against woman,
Inside alone
Outside a glossy display
Inside seething
Outside muffled
Inside the heart beats
Outside it is silenced
Now open
Now closed
Like a job at will.

 

Cycles

We learn
Fall
Rise
We befriend wrinkles.

Ripples of natural laughter
Or waves of mellowed understanding?
Which do you prefer?

 

Cacophony

What is this noise?
This chaos?
What disharmony did I cause?
Discord did I stir?
Why the cacophony of mixed voices?
Why the murmur of hushed tones?
Over what?
The color of my skin?

Tell me then
Just why do you flirt with tanning yourself?

 

Some Haiku

Unison

You a blue river
I a green leaf on my back
Floating together.

Lap

For you my lap is
The comfort of Shenandoah
Just Rejuvenate.

Prayer

Palms joined in prayer
One hand yours, the other mine
Two souls, one prayer.

Monsoon

Monsoon rains come wash
The sins I gave myself or
The ones life gave me

Nothing

Empty vessels echo
Ripples of lost time
Vessels remain same

Warmth

I inhaled your voice
“Hey”, you said, I inhaled deeply
Fresh and cozy green tea

*******************

PRESS RELEASE

Sourdough Bread  by Lady Janét R. Griffin

English/Study Skills Instructor
Center for Academic Reinforcement
School of Education, Howard University, Washington D.C.

Janet Griffin

Poetic Complexities Explored With Culinary Passion

The poetic narrator of Sourdough Bread is baking more than sharp, crusty artisan leaven bread that exclaims, “bon appetit”.  The traditional homemade practice of sour fermented dough used as leaven to make bread is only the beginning of culinary passion in the hands of Lady Janét R. Griffin, whose professional name is Lady Janét.

The reader has an array of discomforting themes circumscribed with some familiar textured crust sandwiched between memories of wartime betrayals, expressed in “no war of roses” or protestations of rare innocence that can only be found in “to find a blank sheet.” And lucid reflections are highlighted in “and silently he comes” dedicated to President Barrack Obama.

Sourdough Bread is dedicated to her colleague and friend and as always her students. Lady Janét ingratiates the reader ever more into deeper personal reflections of more than sweet homemade jam or apple butter. She waxes poetic in “more advice” and says “should you wish/to travel as a queen/ look to SELF/ for/ marriage is a sink/well-equipped for dish pan hands.”  She warns in “reflections ii” that “variety makes life interesting/ but do no get lost/in a sea/ of endless possibilities,” for “fun and frolic” swirl you/like a/merry-go-round-but-inevitability/broken dreams/ and hopes/cloud the moments /with despair.

Gradually, private memories of life chances rise slowly revealing a soft chewy interior and displaying raw courage.  Lady Janét writes about personal pain in “pain and time” where “pain makes us self-centered/ we hide and cringe /in the bosom of our affliction/ and we are too aware of time.”  She is not afraid to talk about her own “prodigal son”, for ”his air was /completely silent/yet watchful/ in the/ early morning sunshine/ he was different.”

Awakening warm succulent truths is never easy.  It requires more than a slice of warm, crusty leaven bread and a light touch of delicious humor. Yet, the reader will see that to make peace with the past or to find reconciliation with the gnawing presence of disenchantment, love, or joy requires more than a prophetic wink and a nod. Lady Janét suggests in “forever after” …. even our illicit love affair/brought inner thoughtful brilliance/ and reminder of primitive /never forgotten allure/.

Lady Janét earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English and Mathematics from the District of Columbia Teachers College and a Master of Arts degree in English from Howard University in Washington, D. C.  Also, she received there Certificates of Advanced Studies in Supervision and Administration and in Women’s Studies.  As a world traveler, a follower of Socrates, and a proud perennial graduate student in Communication, Philosophy, Education, History, and Sociology, Lady Janét is able to live by her personal philosophy: the “unexamined life is not worth living.”   Currently an English and Study Skills instructor at Howard University, she  has been an Adjunct Instructor in numerous universities and community colleges in Washington, D. C., and in the Metropolitan areas.
Lady Janét’s poems have been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Flier, Columbia, Maryland newspaper; the Horizon, Howard University Journal; the American Poetry Anthology; and Sisters, published by the National Council of Negro Women.  An award-winning poet, Lady Janét received letters of commendation from other acclaimed writers, such as Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Frederick Harper, and others.

Sourdough Bread is Lady Janét R. Griffin’s tenth published poetry collection.  More information is available at: www.shop.ladyjanetgriffin.com   Email her at jgriffin@howard.edu

Two poems by Lady Janét R. Griffin

1
remember when

remember when
mount vesusius erupted
and buried pompeii and heculaneum?
doomsayers chanted
“zeus punished them!”

remember when
medieval compendium of knowledge
was little more than scientific nonsense?
the earth was considered flat.

remember when
morality stories guiding life’s
journey were silly chattering
less suited for the here and now?
only females wore a scarlet letter.

remember when
hatred and bigotry
paralyzed the nation’s soul?
black girls could be
re-classified as white
and
all would be well.

remember when
human ignorance was crystal clear?
miracles were miracles
and
apocalypse was a belief
not human progress.

2
what is existence?

there are no small traumas
little reason to mistake one for another
existential questions
will always heighten eternal mysteries
they stump us all
they fly away
to face the ultimate checkmate
to keep a few boats afloat

what really is existence?    

*******************

Read about Laini Mataka aka Wanda Robinson, Washington DC poetess who writes strongly, philosophically and sensitively about African Americans, and about race, class, gender and relationships.  The range of diversity in her writings is tremendous and leaves one amazed, at times with one’s mouth open in shock, or smiling and nodding in agreement on her plain speaking life truths.

Some of her writings include:

  1. Restoring The Queen
  2. Never As Strangers
  3. Being A Strong Black Woman Can Get U Killed!!

Pasted below is a write up on Laini Mataka that appeared in the Washington City paper.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/33018/i-usta-be-wanda-robinson

ARTSJuly 14, 2006
I Usta Be Wanda Robinson
Among hip-hop heads and electronica kids, Laini Mataka’s former self has a life of her own.

By Sarah Godfrey

Interracial dating, periods, and the quiet dignity of shoeshine men are among the things Laini Mataka has decided to discuss today. She’s giving a poetry reading at the Karibu Books outpost at the Mall at Prince Georges, and the audience is filled with teenagers, many of whom Mataka knows from her work through DC WritersCorps and as an occasional guest speaker at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Of all the subjects that Mataka brings up, the one the students are most intrigued by involves their favored brand of sneaker: “Designer shoes on/Restricted feet/Nike chains/Better than shackles,” Mataka recites. “Can you read that again?” asks one young man, and Mataka does. She then reaches out to pat the knee of a kid wearing Air Force Ones who has slumped down in his seat. “I’m not talking about your Nikes, baby,” she says. Mataka moves on to other topics: health, genocide, black pride. In one of the last poems she reads, she talks about hair. The slight woman, in African dress, discusses the political significance of her own long locks, and how, for many, locking hair has become merely cosmetic.

“Every time conscious people do something to distinguish themselves, others come along and copy it,” she tells the students. “And then we have to find something new.”

Two books of Mataka’s poems are on sale at the Karibu reading, Bein a Strong Black Woman Can Get U Killed!! and Never as Strangers. At the very bottom of the cover of Never as Strangers is a small parenthetical: “(i usta be wanda robinson).”

That was back “when I was young and crazy,” the 56-year-old Columbia Heights resident says. As Robinson, Mataka recorded two spoken-word albums, 1971’s Black Ivory and a 1973 follow-up, Me and a Friend. Both were released by New York label Perception Records, whose roster included Shirley Horn, the Fatback Band, Dizzy Gillespie during his funk period, Astrud Gilberto, and Baha’i saxophonist James Moody. When Black Ivory was released, it made Billboard Black Albums chart, peaking at No. 29.

Robinson was a contemporary of the Last Poets and Maya Angelou, and she seemed poised to follow the same career trajectory. But she virtually disappeared after recording Black Ivory, fed up with show business and no longer willing to offer the world her words for what she calls “less than chump change.” She left the record business, worked at various odd jobs, and continued to write. In 1972, she shaved her head and changed her name to Laini Mataka. A year later, her second album was put out by Perception—but without her involvement.

Every once in a while, she’ll catch a snippet of her old work. A Miss Black America contestant recited one of her pieces for the pageant’s talent competition. Electronica and hip-hop artists delve into her recordings for samples. In 2002, a compilation of tracks from both Perception albums came out as The Soul-Jazz Poetry of Wanda Robinson. Last year, the records were re-released individually by Breathless, a reissue label that specializes in such hipster-certified obscurities as acid-folk band Comus and UK Afrobeat group Demon Fuzz.

The poetry has made it all over the world, in ways Mataka never imagined. “It did do what I wanted it to, in terms of reaching people,” she says. She’s just worried about what kind of shape it’s in by the time it gets to them. Poems have been chopped up and repurposed. Details of her life and recordings have been misstated. Most of her current fans probably suspect that she’s dead—or that she disappeared, mysteriously, long ago.

“You know who I hear is buying a lot of my [work]?” she asks. “White boys. I can’t understand why they would be attracted to it.”

As told by music historians and vinyl collectors, Mataka’s history isn’t extensive: It ends right after the release of Me and a Friend. “Just about nothing is known of Wanda other than what she wishes you to know,” writes British soul magazine editor David Cole in the liner notes to Soul-Jazz Poetry. When he’s informed of the current whereabouts of the poet, Cole says that he’s “glad to learn…that she is still alive and writing.”

To be fair, Cole had little to go on other than a Robinson-penned “about me” insert in the Black Ivory LP. “Try feeding the name ‘Wanda Robinson’ into an Internet search engine and you’ll find that her work has got through to some of the hip-hop merchants and even, on occasion, been subject to sampling,” Cole writes in his notes. “Try looking her up under ‘Black Poetry’ and it’s to no avail. Yet Wanda’s writings are every bit as relevant as those of other black activists like Maya Angelou or Nikki Giovanni.”

Cole goes on to discuss his first encounter with Robinson’s music, the tracks “The Final Hour,” and “better still (if ‘better’ can be the operative word for something that plunged me into the depths of depression)…‘The Meeting Place,’ ” a poem about a forlorn pianist that, he says, starts off Black Ivory “like a blow to the guts.” “Everybody has a story to tell/Yet nobody listens,” Robinson reads with authoritative urgency. “So they come every night/Hoping to get what they need/Without having to say that they need it.”

The nonfanboy history of Wanda Robinson is, of course, more detailed. She grew up in Baltimore, one of 10 children, and was raised by her grandmother. Her first paid writing gig was composing letters, at a quarter apiece, for girls whose boyfriends were being sent to Vietnam. She wrote about, she says, “things I knew nothing about”: “It was all about love—‘Oh, he broke my heart!’ ”

As the war progressed and Robinson entered college, her work became more political. After hearing R&B singer Arthur Prysock’s poetry-based 1969 album, This Is My Beloved, she decided to set some of her poems to music. “I heard that and said, ‘I can do that,’ ” Mataka says. She read poems into a tape recorder with a stereo playing in the background, then played the finished product for her classmates at the Community College of Baltimore. A local DJ, Anthony Davis, played some of her work on his show. Soon after, she got a call from Perception, which asked the 20-year-old if she would like to come to New York to cut a record.

When Mataka was picking music for her album, the label opened its entire library to her. “They said to use any music I wanted—they owned the rights to everything,” she remembers. She selected a great deal of material from Black Ivory, a soul trio from Harlem—and then walked into what she describes as a sort of disorganized, never-ending party. She remembers label folks keeping artists working however they could. “Whatever you wanted, they would get it for you,” Mataka says. “They asked me what I liked, and I told them, ‘Nothing.’ ”

After recording Black Ivory and performing doggedly to promote the record—at a beauty pageant, on an episode of Soul Train she never saw—Robinson fled, feeling overworked and underpaid. “I hid,” she says. “I said I’d never give my work to white people again, and I didn’t.”

She went home to Baltimore, where she put in time at the CSX railroad, in libraries, and in a warehouse. (“I was the only woman there—in a dress, lifting boxes,” she recalls.) She didn’t want to deal with labels or producers or agents anymore, but, encouraged by friends, met with a guy who’d worked with Maya Angelou. They took a cab ride, he put his hand on her leg, and she got out and didn’t take any more meetings.

In the meantime, Mataka says, Me and a Friend was cobbled together from tracks she’d recorded for Black Ivory. Although she’s never listened to the whole recording, she did once read the lyric sheet. “They didn’t know what I was saying,” she says. “They spelled words wrong.”

Still, the disc has done a lot to maintain her profile among the crate-diggers. DJ Shadow sampled Robinson’s “Nobody in His Right Mind” for his “Shadow’s Legitimate Mix” of an early-’90s track by Zimbabwe Legit, a hip-hop group founded in Harare, Zimbabwe. British electronica duo Pressure Drop used sections of “John Harvey’s Blues” on its 1997 Elusive album. New York house producer Floppy Sounds took a good chunk of “Paranoia” for “Complex,” a track on his 2001 LP, Short Term Memories. Robinson’s unmistakable voice intones, “Talking politics to a friend/We hear strange noises on the phone/And laugh/It won’t be long now.”

And those are just the credited uses. Patrick Adams, who was head of A&R for Perception until 1974, says he’s kept track of who’s used Robinson’s work over the years. When Perception went bankrupt, in the mid-’70s, the catalog was purchased by former Black Ivory manager Lenny Adams. When he died, the Sanctuary Records Group bought rights to the label’s entire output. Even so, Adams thinks that Mataka might be able to regain some ownership of her work.

“I wasn’t privy to the details of her contract with Perception,” Adams says. “I don’t know who owns the sounds copyright and the publishing copyright, but they should have an obligation to pay her as a writer.” Adams, who worked with the likes of Eric B. & Rakim and Salt-N-Pepa post-Perception and has been nominated for induction into the Dance Music Hall of Fame, adds that he’s surprised that the woman who used to be Wanda Robinson is no longer recording—and that he would love to work with her again. “She was a rapper before there were rappers,” he says.

A few years back, Mataka says, she and Adams engaged in a brief correspondence. She remembers that he talked about her work being an important precursor to hip-hop. “He was saying, ‘You have no idea how many rappers have used it.’

“I said, ‘You’re right. I have no idea.’ ”

In the mid-’70s, Mataka met Paul Coates, owner of Baltimore’s Black Classic Press. Once he began the process of starting a publishing house, he told her that if she waited for him, Black Classic would publish everything she ever wrote. Coates made good on his promise. In 1988, the press released Never as Strangers. In 1994, Restoring the Queen. 2000 brought Bein a Strong Black Woman.

“I know that she’s the real deal,” says Coates. “Even 30-plus years ago, her voice was a unique and original voice—and it still is.…Even today, there are many Laini imitators, and they don’t even know they’re imitating her.”
But there’s one book that Black Classic hasn’t published. In the liner notes accompanying the original release of Black Ivory, which haven’t been changed in reissues, there’s a portion that reads, “The poems on this album are excerpts from The Daze of Wine…Without Roses, a book of poetry by Wanda Robinson.” Mataka says the book doesn’t exist—it was never published. “I was thinking about publishing it now,” she says.

She’s also allowing herself to be gradually coaxed back into recording. Last year, a friend paid for her to go into the studio and read over music. “The equipment was so state-of-the-art,” she recalls. “I was almost intimidated. If we’d had that equipment at Perception, it would’ve been a day’s work.” She’d like to release the sessions on CD someday. If that goes well, she’d like to try singing, too.

“When the money is right, I want to take vocal lessons,” Mataka says. “I want to mix it up—start a song, then stop in the middle, like a jazz musician, and run a poem. Then pick up on the other side. I don’t think anyone else has done that—I think I could do very well.”

In the meantime, she’s continuing to work with young writers, constantly composing poems, and trying to finish up a novel about a childhood boyfriend who was killed. That last project, she admits, is giving her some trouble: “It needs a happy ending,” she says. “And I don’t know anyone who’s having one right now.” CP

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