Sunday, June 19, 2022

FOR JUNETEENTH 2022-MAMA DUNN RETURNS

FOR JUNETEENTH 2022-MAMA DUNN RETURNS


First shared in 2021, the story of Mama Dunn is a combination of the history of Black people in America, a young man's coming of age, and Juneteenth legacies shared.  Certainly, we know from history, both written and spoken, the year 1865 and the years preceding it were not all about the celebrations we engage in today. As always, other things were in play even back then.  The story I present to you today is a true depiction of those times, passed down by my husband and his family.  

Mama Dunn, is about the other stuff going on at the time and how a young teenager’s picture tells a story that continues to inform, rile, resonate, anger, and inspire today, in so many, many ways.




MAMA DUNN


Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Copyright © 2021 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte


As teenagers in the 1970’s, my then future husband and I often spent time with each other’s families. We thrived on bar-b-que’s with live music, extended family birthday celebrations, wonderful holiday dinners, car trips, and plenty of impromptu visits that turned into full-blown parties. It was during one of his family’s epic card playing parties that I first saw the photograph.

A bit grainy and slightly creased, the sepia toned image was still clear enough to see the two people standing in the foreground of a lush grassy pasture somewhere in Louisiana. Although the exact year and place had long been lost to family memory, the images seemed to jump off the yellowed scalloped edged 3X5 photo paper of the day.

On the left of the picture stood a thin, brown-skinned girl who looked to be about thirteen or fourteen. Her hair was styled into two loosely braided shoulder length pigtails, her arms pinned uncomfortably at her sides as she focused on the camera lens. The stare she gave was drained of affect, hauntingly unreadable. Although it was not possible to discern what her feelings may have been at that moment, the lack of expression on her young smooth face revealed that she had already been through the unimaginable. Even more than a century later, the forces inside her core being traversed the faux tranquility of that photograph to send the lasting message to anyone who would ever see it, that until that point in her life, or one very close to it, she was, or had been, a slave.


Standing on the right side of the photograph was a very tall, achingly thin bearded White man.  His body was slightly turned toward her, and his left hand was outstretched as he posed while in the process of handing something to her. In the photograph, one could barely still make out the faded sunlight glinting off the of the shiny object he held.  It turned out to be a twenty-dollar gold piece. A reward or acknowledgement of some sort from him to this young Black girl.  Even through the haze and creases of the old photograph, he was immediately recognizable.


The young, brown-skinned girl in the photo would become my husband’s great-grandmother and would be known to him as Mama Dunn. 


The thin White man in the photograph was Abraham Lincoln, then President of the United States.


But how did this photo and unlikely meeting come to pass? It may have been that Abraham Lincoln was doing public relations and photo ops in between the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and his tragic assassination in 1865.  With the freeing of the slaves, the institution of slavery and its forced labor was shattered.  By the end of the Civil War in 1865, 620,000 soldiers had perished and much of the Southern U.S. was in shambles.  Damage estimates of physical destruction alone hovered around $1.5 billion.  With almost 2% of the U.S. population killed in the Civil War, more than any other war in U.S. history, there was a dire need for workers to meet the challenges of Reconstruction and to maintain the U.S. economy.  There may have been many reasons for this type of visit by the President, but I suspect that it had to do less with freeing the slaves, and more with efforts to end the war while motivating former slaves to stay, join the Union Army to increase the Union’s forces, and help rebuild the country.  

Although most slaves were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which specifically excluded most slave-holding states, Mama Dunn may have been living in one of the Louisiana parishes that were included. In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation states in part,

“Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.” /1

 It was not until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 that all slaves were freed.  So in between all of that, with the country still at war, in economic peril, and the unfathomable human loss, Lincoln knew he had work to do.

My suspicions about the Lincoln “photo op” are further buoyed by the rest of the story from that picture day.  After the photo was taken, and there may have been others, Lincoln did indeed hand the young Mama Dunn the gold piece. But as soon as the photo session ended, he asked her to give the coin back.  As family lore tells it, someone in the crowd that day shouted, “Let the little gal keep it!” and an embarrassed Lincoln did just that.

Mama Dunn held on to that twenty-dollar gold piece, and the story of her meeting with Lincoln became a major part of family history with the valuable artifact serving as demonstration of fact. By the time my husband came into this world, Mama Dunn had reached 100 years of age and was living with extended family in Oakland.  

He became aware of her early on.  Even as a toddler, as Mama Dunn sat back in her dark green chenille covered chair, he sat at her feet on the matching ottoman and listened to every word she had to say. He listened to her hum. He kept watch when she dozed off. As he grew older, she talked to him a bit more, but never about slavery or hardship. She talked to him about how to solve the problems of life as well as how to celebrate the pleasures and victories. The Lincoln photograph would sometimes appear along with the chance to hold the treasured twenty-dollar gold piece. She was and remains his earliest and most influential life force. He loved her to the moon and back.

Mama Dunn passed away when my husband was in the third grade.  

She was 108 years old.

Still living in Oakland at the time of her death in the mid-1950’s, she was buried in a local cemetery where a flat square of stone bears her name and relevant dates, but still fails to mark her magical existence.

She is there to this day. 

In what used to be the Black section.


/1 National Archives Transcript of the Proclamation dated January 1, 1863





Monday, June 6, 2022

IN PERSON AT MONTCLAIR LIBRARY JUNE 28!




Montclair Library

Tuesday June 28, 2022

6 -7:30 PM


1687 Mountain Blvd, Oakland

(510) 482-7810


local poets in person 


RAFAEL JESUS GONZALEZ

GRACE MARIE GRAFTON

SHERYL J. BIZE-BOUTTE

JOHN ROWE

MARY MACKEY


free 


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

WROTE IT SOME TIME AGO BUT IT DOESN'T FEEL LIKE IT

 PUBLISHED TODAY

 BY 

SYNCHRONIZED CHAOS INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE


Poetry from Sheryl Bize-Boutte

Posted on 06/01/2022 by Synchronized Chaos


LEFT TO HIS OWN DEVICES


Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Copyright © Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte 2017



The lawnmower, the blender, the VCR,

The radio, the camera, the engine in the car,

A mechanical attention,

Would take him far

Spirited away by the reel-to-reel hum

Introverted they said, crazy said some

Fever passed on from father to son

She lied to him when she said he was the best

And after she never answered his text

The IPOD, the IPAD, the laptop keys

All interest lost in the birds and the bees

The room, the space, the secret stash,

Parents short on love provide plenty of cash

No friends, no prospects, riding the mist

A new world to inhabit became his wish

Real flesh, real life, is just too hard

No benefits discovered

In dropping his guard

With no competition for his number of wins

Fantasy is reality yet again

Screen words declare him the ultimate of all

Inside he can make many more fall

With nothing else to do 

On this side of the frame

They will all find it easy

To remember

His name

Eyes closed

Racked it once

And entered the game


Saturday, April 2, 2022

No Poetry No Peace: A Reading and Celebration of Human Expression and Peace hosted by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

IN CELEBRATION OF NATIONAL POETRY MONTH 2022

THE MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY-SAN FRANCISCO PRESENTS

NO POETRY NO PEACE

HOSTED BY SHERYL J. BIZE-BOUTTE

Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

This event is produced in partnership with the San Francisco Writers Conference


Please register via Eventbrite and the Zoom credentials will be sent to you when you register and a few days prior to the event.

https://www.milibrary.org/events/no-poetry-no-peace-reading-and-celebration-human-expression-and-peace-apr-28-2022#tickets

QUESTIONS? CONTACT TARYN EDWARDS

 tedwards@milibrary.org

MEET THE POETS!

 


Award-winning author and Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as "rich in vivid imagery," "incredible," and "great contributions to literature." Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace, was published in August 2020.  An inaugural Oakland Poet Laureate runner-up, she is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events. Find out more at www.sheryljbize-boutte.com


Mireya S. Vela is a Mexican-American creative non-fiction writer, storyteller, and artist in Los Angeles. In her work, Ms. Vela addresses the needs of immigrant Mexican families and the disparities they face every day. She tackles issues of inequity and how ingrained societal systems support the injustice that contributes to continuing poverty and abuse. Ms. Vela received her Master of Fine Arts from Antioch University in 2018. She is the author of Vestiges of Courage, available through Amazon. Ms. Vela is also a visual artist. Find her on Twitter @mireyasvela; Instagram: mireyasvela; and her Visual Art is here: mireyasvela.com


Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and the novel, The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. He is a regular contributor to Mythaxis, an online journal, where in addition to his fiction and essays, his interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band) have been popular contributions. He also writes a regular monthly column called “Trading Fours” for Jerry Jazz Musician and has recently been named the editor for “American Poetry” in Read Carpet, an international, predominantly Spanish-language journal produced by Maria Del Castillo Sucerquia from Columbia. In addition to the American Fiction Award, he was awarded the Leslie Hunt Memorial prize in poetry, the Editors’ Choice Award for fiction by RiverSedge, and has been nominated three time for a Pushcart and Best of the Net. He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. His website is https://douglastcole.com/.


Grace Marie Grafton’s most recent book, LENS, from Unsolicited Press, features poems inspired by California artists, 1853-2010. She is the author of six previous collections of poetry. Her themes range from lyrical sonnets to experimental prose poems, with a concentration on response to fine art. Ms. Grafton taught for many years in the California Poets In The Schools program, for which she was awarded twelve California Arts Council grants.  She was named Teacher of the Year by the River Of Words annual student poetry contest co-sponsored by Robert Hass, United States Poet Laureate. Born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley of a Finnish American farming family, she now lives in Oakland with her husband and their extended family. Find her poems here - https://gracegrafton.wixsite.com/poems


Gini Grossenbacher, novelist, poet, certified editor, educator, publisher, founded Elk Grove Writers and Artists and JGKS Press in Sacramento County. She has thirty-six years of experience teaching English/language arts to adolescents and adults. Her debut American Madams series novel, Madam of My Heart, was a silver medalist for historical fiction in the 2018 Independent Publisher awards and received the Kirkus star; Madam in Silk was runner up for historical fiction in the 2020 National Indie Excellence Awards. Her next novel, Madam in Lace, was recently published in December 2021. Glimpses, her first poetry collection, will be released in September 2022. Gini provides developmental, copyediting, and collaborative publishing services to novelists and poets as well as offering weekly virtual fiction and poetry workshops.  A happy grandma, Gini lives in Elk Grove with her husband Karl and faithful dog, Murphy Brown. Please visit her website ginigrossenbacher.com; find her on Facebook, and learn more about JGKS Press https://www.jgkspressmystrikingly.com/


Award-winning and widely published poet, author, journalist, & activist Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross uses poetry as a catalyst for healing.  Her performative narrative pedagogy is centered around themes ranging from personal topics, religion, identity, women's empowerment, and social justice. Her work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, reviews, radio broadcasts, and 15 anthologies. She has published a book and is working on other manuscripts for poetry, memoir, and children’s picture books. Check out her book, Stop Hurting and Dance published by Pochino Press.


REGISTER HERE:

https://www.milibrary.org/events/no-poetry-no-peace-reading-and-celebration-human-expression-and-peace-apr-28-2022#tickets









Monday, March 21, 2022

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH-NO POETRY NO PEACE

JOIN US ON APRIL 28, 2022 

FOR THE

FREE

MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY-SAN FRANCISCO

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH EVENT



hosted by 

Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

"a reading and celebration of human expression and peace"


Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

REGISTER NOW:

https://www.milibrary.org/events/no-poetry-no-peace-reading-and-celebration-human-expression-and-peace-apr-28-2022#tickets

This event is produced in partnership with the San Francisco Writers Conference

Join us and a selection of poets – some local, some far flung - to explore how "poetry provides pathways for creative and cathartic human expression and peace."  The "No Poetry No Peace series happens twice a year and the title comes from a collection written by Sheryl Bize-Boutte and her daughter Dr. Angela Boutte.


About our poets:

Award-winning author and Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as "rich in vivid imagery," "incredible," and "great contributions to literature." Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace, was published in August 2020.  An inaugural Oakland Poet Laureate runner-up, she is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events. Find out more at www.sheryljbize-boutte.com


Mireya S. Vela is a Mexican-American creative non-fiction writer, storyteller, and artist in Los Angeles. In her work, Ms. Vela addresses the needs of immigrant Mexican families and the disparities they face every day. She tackles issues of inequity and how ingrained societal systems support the injustice that contributes to continuing poverty and abuse. Ms. Vela received her Master of Fine Arts from Antioch University in 2018. She is the author of Vestiges of Courage, available through Amazon. Ms. Vela is also a visual artist. Find her on Twitter @mireyasvela; Instagram: mireyasvela; and her Visual Art is here: mireyasvela.com


Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and the novel, The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. He is a regular contributor to Mythaxis, an online journal, where in addition to his fiction and essays, his interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band) have been popular contributions. He also writes a regular monthly column called “Trading Fours” for Jerry Jazz Musician and has recently been named the editor for “American Poetry” in Read Carpet, an international, predominantly Spanish-language journal produced by Maria Del Castillo Sucerquia from Columbia. In addition to the American Fiction Award, he was awarded the Leslie Hunt Memorial prize in poetry, the Editors’ Choice Award for fiction by RiverSedge, and has been nominated three time for a Pushcart and Best of the Net. He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. His website is https://douglastcole.com/.


Grace Marie Grafton’s most recent book, LENS, from Unsolicited Press, features poems inspired by California artists, 1853-2010. She is the author of six previous collections of poetry. Her themes range from lyrical sonnets to experimental prose poems, with a concentration on response to fine art. Ms. Grafton taught for many years in the California Poets In The Schools program, for which she was awarded twelve California Arts Council grants.  She was named Teacher of the Year by the River Of Words annual student poetry contest co-sponsored by Robert Hass, United States Poet Laureate. Born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley of a Finnish American farming family, she now lives in Oakland with her husband and their extended family. Find her poems here - https://gracegrafton.wixsite.com/poems


Gini Grossenbacher, novelist, poet, certified editor, educator, publisher, founded Elk Grove Writers and Artists and JGKS Press in Sacramento County. She has thirty-six years of experience teaching English/language arts to adolescents and adults. Her debut American Madams series novel, Madam of My Heart, was a silver medalist for historical fiction in the 2018 Independent Publisher awards and received the Kirkus star; Madam in Silk was runner up for historical fiction in the 2020 National Indie Excellence Awards. Her next novel, Madam in Lace, was recently published in December 2021. Glimpses, her first poetry collection, will be released in September 2022. Gini provides developmental, copyediting, and collaborative publishing services to novelists and poets as well as offering weekly virtual fiction and poetry workshops.  A happy grandma, Gini lives in Elk Grove with her husband Karl and faithful dog, Murphy Brown. Please visit her website ginigrossenbacher.com; find her on Facebook, and learn more about JGKS Press https://www.jgkspressmystrikingly.com/


Award-winning and widely published poet, author, journalist, & activist Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross uses poetry as a catalyst for healing.  Her performative narrative pedagogy is centered around themes ranging from personal topics, religion, identity, women's empowerment, and social justice. Her work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, reviews, radio broadcasts, and 15 anthologies. She has published a book and is working on other manuscripts for poetry, memoir, and children’s picture books. Check out her book, Stop Hurting and Dance published by Pochino Press.


Please register via Eventbrite and the Zoom credentials will be sent to you when you register and a few days prior to the event.

https://www.milibrary.org/events/no-poetry-no-peace-reading-and-celebration-human-expression-and-peace-apr-28-2022#tickets

Questions? 

Contact Taryn Edwards, tedwards@milibrary.org




 

Monday, January 31, 2022

SHE'S BACK! FROM STORYBOARD TO NARRATIVE AT MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY ON MARCH 19, 2022

From Storyboard to Narrative 

with 

Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte



Saturday, March 19, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

This event is presented in partnership with the San Francisco Writers Conference.


It will take place via Zoom. Please register via Eventbrite and the Zoom credentials will be sent to you a few days before the class starts.


REGISTER HERE:

https://www.milibrary.org/events/storyboard-narrative-mar-19-2022#tickets

Questions? Contact Taryn Edwards, tedwards@milibrary.org


In this workshop, author Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte will guide you from storyboard creation to story narrative.  You will become familiar with the process of storyboarding, how it helps and guides the writer, how Sheryl uses her own unique storyboarding techniques to create narrative for her writing projects, and a fun storyboarding exercise for class participants.   

Award winning author and Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as "rich in vivid imagery," "incredible," and "great contributions to literature." Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace, was published in August 2020.  She is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events.


"Writing can be solitary, and workshops like this are a treat! Sheryl's creativity encourages writers like me to innovate! One of her exercises in class gave me an idea that I've turned into a short story currently being submitted to contests and for publication. (Fingers crossed!) I liked Sheryl's unique approach, and the positive feedback she shared with each participant. She is a kind and helpful workshop leader." -E. Coyle Divers


For each class, we reserve the right to cancel at any time and issue a full refund. If you are unable to attend your class, please email tedwards@milibrary.org at least 10 days prior to the class to receive a full refund. All fees must be paid at the time of registration.


https://www.milibrary.org/events/storyboard-narrative-mar-19-2022#tickets