Tuesday, July 19, 2022

MECHANICS INSTITUTE FEATURED MEMBER

Mechanics Institute Library of San Francisco

MI Quarterly  July-September 2022

Member Profile

Sheryl Bize-Boutte


"Libraries have been a part of Sheryl Bize-Boutte’s life since childhood,

when she would frequently visit her elementary school’s library.

She has been writing since she was twelve years old, prompting her

parents to gift her a Smith-Corona typewriter for her stories.

Since retiring, Sheryl has been focusing more and more on

her writing, embarking on a second career as a writer. She has

published multiple poems, short stories, and one long-form novel

titled Betrayal on the Bayou. Her poetry collection, No Poetry No

Peace, is the namesake of the Institute’s new biannual poetry event,

inaugurated in April of 2021. She lets her story ideas – and whether

they are written as poetry, short stories, or long-form novels – flow

naturally from her muse. 


Sheryl appreciates the Institute for its history and commitment to

welcoming all to the stacks, at events, and in classes. She credits

the Mechanics’ Institute with being a boon to her throughout the

pandemic. The Institute's quick pivot from in-person to virtual events

helped Sheryl enhance her art, storytelling, and teaching practices.

Her work with Mechanics' Institute has caught the attention of

other institutions who have begun requesting her presence as a

speaker and storyteller. Sheryl has taught and presented lectures

on the craft of writing at the San Francisco Writers Conference, the

American Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference,

and Toastmasters. She is currently working on her second novel

and is a well-regarded teacher of writing who has received much

positive feedback from individuals who have attended her classes

at Mechanics' Institute.

Look for upcoming writing classes at the Institute taught by Sheryl

Bize-Boutte. We appreciate her commitment to the art and craft

of writing, and are working to continue building a community of

writers whose work, like Sheryl's, makes great impact on the Bay

Area and beyond!"


Read the entire July-August Mechanics Institute Quarterly at:

https://www.milibrary.org/sites/default/files/publications/1657641728/MI-Quarterly-July-Sept%202022.pdf

Books and more information at:

www.amazon.com/author/sheryljbizeboutte

www.sheryljbize-boutte.com

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

POETRY OF THE SENSES: A CREATIVE WRITING SERIES

Come on over and join us for

 The Poetry of the Senses, 

a series of six creative writing sessions

 at Montclair Branch Library, Oakland

WITH

GRACE MARIE GRAFTON

RAFAEL JESUS GONZALES

SHERYL J. BIZE-BOUTTE

EVERY OTHER TUESDAY FROM JULY 12, 2022 TO SEPTEMBER 20, 2022 (SEE COMPLETE SCHEDULE BELOW)

OAKLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY-MONTCLAIR BRANCH

1687 Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611

Phone: (510) 482-7810

To kick off the writing sessions, a well received poetry reading was held at the Montclair Branch on June 28 at 6 PM, featuring series lead Grace Marie Grafton, along with Rafael Jesus Gonzalez and Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte as well as two other local poets, John Rowe and Mary Mackey. Writing/poetry sessions will be led by Grace Grafton. Grace is a published poet, longtime teacher with CA Poets in the Schools, author of LENS (Poems to CA Art) and six earlier books of poems. Presenters will also include Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, first Poet Laureate for City of Berkeley, and Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte, an Oakland multidisciplinary writer and co-author of No Poetry No Peace. Each session will focus on finding inspiration from one of the senses, such as by viewing touching and tasting a blackberry, examining and smelling a lavender flower, looking at a painting, or visiting the library’s garden under the blue sky in the wind. Sessions will consist of inspiration time (model poem, narrative, discussion, sense experience), writing time, and sharing time.  

The upcoming sessions and instructors/presenters are:

Poetry of the Senses: A Creative Writing Series (Grace Marie Grafton)

When: Tuesday, July 12, 2022 (6:00 PM - 7:30 PM) AND Tuesday, July 26, 2022 (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)

Poetry of the Senses: A Creative Writing Series (Rafael Jesus Gonzales)

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)

Poetry of the Senses: A Creative Writing Series (Grace Marie Grafton)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)

Poetry of the Senses: A Creative Writing Series (Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte)

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)

Poetry of the Senses: A Creative Writing Series (Grace Marie Grafton)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 (6:00 PM – 7:30 PM)


For more information go here:

https://oaklandlibrary.bibliocommons.com/events/62bb3a0884c73e69b308a7bd

Saturday, July 2, 2022

FUN WITH FLASH FICTION

I AM PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT I WILL BE WORKING 

WITH  

GINI GROSSENBACHER

 ELK GROVE WRITERS AND ARTISTS 

FOR FUN WITH FLASH FICTION

JOIN US FOR FLASH FICTION WRITING CLASSES BEGINNING JULY 19, 2022

    ENROLL HEREginis.writers1@gmail.com

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