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January 19, 2015












At its very best journalism manifests as a friend, a catalyst for truth, knowledge and change. At its very worst journalism manifests as a foe, a fearmonger that gleefully enjoys inciting panic, anxiety and mass hysteria. Gary Webb, was a reporter that many would have categorized as the first description. Webb sought to uncover the origin of the 1980s crack epidemic and later found US involvement and a larger conspiracy that attributed to the dismantling of Black and Latino urban communities. Webb’s finding enjoyed brief success only to give way to the unraveling of his career and reputation. Those who once supported him denounced his credibility and he later was found dead with 2 gunshot wounds to head, the death declared a suicide and his career shrouded in shame. In late 2014 – ‘Kill the Messenger’, a film released by Focus Features on Gary Webb and his journey to shed light on the CIA’s knowledge and allowance of the smuggling of cocaine into the United States, featuring Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner, Michael K Williams, Ray Liotta and Oliver Platt. With a strong, capable cast, engaging storyline and even support from critics – why don’t you know about this film?

By Moeima Dukuly, AFROPUNK Contributor 

The last few months of 2014 exposed scandal in Hollywood that really only provided proof of what many have known all along – Hollywood’s tendency for callous perceptions. Studio executives and producers like Amy Pascal and Steve Rudin’s “racially insensitive” (cough, disgusting and inflammatory) remarks are a tiny sliver into mindsets behind what gets a movie produced and distributed for your viewing pleasure. Kill the Messenger lacked support from Focus Features (a division of Universal Pictures) in terms of promotion and marketing and despite an amazing cast, critical acclaim and decent buzz when released on October 10 2014. By November 15 it was only was available in 18 theaters nationwide. Considering Hollywood’s lust for making money – why no support for a film that has all the characteristics of a winner? Without looking to foreign countries like North Korea or France, is this not a shining example of what happens when free press poses a “national threat”?

(b&w images: Eugene Richards)

(b&w images: Eugene Richards)

What is a bigger threat to the establishments of America than a generation of potent, knowledgeable people of color? For a moment, witness the occurrences of a promising generation: the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties, the collective fist of the Black Panther Party, the slogan “Black is Beautiful” chanted from coast to coast. Witness the dismemberment: urban neighborhoods swallowed up, giving way to zombie like waves of catastrophe where mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers buckled to the disease that was the crack epidemic of the late seventies to eighties. People who once belonged to themselves and loved ones now belong to a cheaper, highly addictive form of cocaine that swept the nation, inciting violent crime and resulting in a Congressional law (The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986) passed during the Reagan administration that put harsh sentencing into play: 5 grams of crack cocaine mandated the same sentencing for 500 grams of powdered cocaine. A powerful shift that, by the mid nineties, contributed to nearly tripling the correctional population, from what it was in the mid-eighties. Crack fed the demons of death, destruction and imprisonment. Demons that not only destroyed Black and Latino neighborhoods, but caused familial rifts that are still felt by today’s millennial generation.

(mural in this polaroid image is by Keith Haring)

(mural in this polaroid image is by Keith Haring)

That same generation today is inciting change and waking people up to a life of suppression that can no longer be accepted. Arming ourselves with and spreading that truth, is essential so history cannot repeat itself. Support’s petition to re-release this film but at the very least expose and bear witness to acts that helped to sculpt the supposed black ‘experience’ we know today. Let the truth be the light and never stop questioning… everything.









Adichie is one of the 30 artists—photographers, painters, sculptors, writers, filmmakers, and musicians—asked to each create a piece paying tribute to the success of vaccines in changing lives.  The project, called Art of Saving Lives, is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Adichie’s contribution is this short story tiled “Olikoye” about a pregnant woman and her encounter with a man who changed her life.

Lovely story!



How softly the rain fell that Monday morning when my water broke. Because I was used to the raging downpours of Lagos, this quiet patter calmed me, filled me with peace. My husband Omoregie was at work and so our neighbor took me to the hospital, my dress slightly damp, my heart full of expectation. My firstborn child. The nurse on duty was Sister Chioma, a woman with an unsmiling face who liked to crack sharp-tongued jokes. During my last check up, when I complained about the backache brought on by my pregnancy, her retort was, “Did you think about backache when you were enjoying it?”

She checked my cervix and told me it was early. She encouraged me to walk up and down the ward.

“You must be happy that your first is a boy,” she said.

I shrugged. “As long as the baby is healthy.”

“I know you are supposed to wait until he is born to decide on a name but I’m sure you already have something in mind,” she said.

“I will name him Olikoye.”

“Oh.” She paused. “I didn’t know your husband was Yoruba.”

“He’s not. We’re both Bini.”

“But Olikoye is a Yoruba name.”

“Yes it is.”

“Why?” she asked.

My contractions were slow. I told Sister Chioma to sit down and I would tell her the story.


My father’s first child was a girl. He said she was a loud squalling baby who grasped his finger with surprising strength, and he knew it meant she would be tough. But she died at the age of four months. The second, a boy, was not yet four months old before he died. Some people from my father’s family said my mother was a witch, eating her children, trading their innocent hearts in exchange for her own long life. But, at that time, other babies in our village in Edo were dying too. They got sick with watery shit and weak eyes. Some people said the diarrhea was punishment from God. The Christians prayed in church. The Muslims prayed at the mosque. The old people performed sacrifices. Still, babies died, and their tiny still bodies were wrapped in cloth and buried, and it seemed senseless that they had even been born at all. It was 1985. My father was working as a driver at the Ministry of Health. He was in the general pool, a lowly position. One day, he picked up a visiting dignitary from the airport, dropped him at his hotel, and then discovered, lodged in the back seat of the car, a thick envelope of cash that had slid out of the man’s bag. He returned it immediately. The man was so pleased – and surprised – that he told the new Minister of Health about it. Two days later, the new Minister asked for my father. “I want you to be my driver,” The Minister said. “I value honesty.”


The Minister’s name was Dr. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti. He had big sleepy eyes and seemed to come from another time in the past when old-fashioned integrity was easy. His simplicity surprised my father. He was not interested in the usual carousing of the powerful, no late nights and drinking and trysts, and my father did not have to guard any secrets for him. He ate breakfast with his family every morning, and took walks with his wife in the evening, and played tennis with his children on weekends. He listened attentively, those half-closed eyes so intent that my father, at first, felt uncomfortable when they were trained on him.

The Minister asked my father about his family, and my father told him everyone was fine. The Minister asked how many children he had, and my father said none yet, but that his wife was pregnant and due in a few weeks. (My mother was pregnant with me). Then the minister asked a question that startled my father. “How many of your children have died?”

My father stuttered and said ‘two sir, but we are praying that it will not happen again.”

The Minister told him it was good to pray, but there was something else he had to do.

“Our children are dying of simple illnesses and that must stop. I want you to take me to your village. I have started a program in Lagos but I want to start others in different parts of the country. We will go to your village next week.”

It took my heavy-tongued father a while to find his voice and say, “Yes sir.”


In my father’s village, the Minister walked around with his assistants, meeting people and asking them questions and listening to them. He showed women how to mix sugar and salt and clean water to give their children who had diarrhea and he told them about washing their hands with soap and he told them the Universal Primary Health Care center would be open in a month. Once it was open, every baby would receive vaccines. He showed them photographs of bright-eyed babies in Lagos and he told them immunizations were like small precious gifts for babies. They cheered and clapped. In the eyes of the villagers, my father was a star. No minister had ever come to them before. Who even knew that our small village existed? But my father kept telling them that he had done nothing, that it was the minister who insisted on coming. Years later, when my father told me the story, I could still see his eyes full of things I could not name.

“The Minister treated all of us like human beings,” he said. “Like human beings.”


It took mere moments. A baby’s small open mouth and a drop of liquid. A baby’s warm arm and a small injection. It took that to save the lives of the babies born that year in my village, and in the villages around us and those far from us, in Calabar and Enugu and Kaduna. It took that to save my life. I was born in 1986. I often tried to imagine myself being immunized, in my mother’s arms, in the new clinic the minister built. Women filled the passages. The treatment was free. At the other end was the family planning unit where nurse was talking to a roomful of women, sometimes making jokes that made them laugh. My mother joined them. Years later, she told me that the reason I did not die was that small injection in my arm, but the reason I was able to go to school was family planning. My sister was born two years after me, and my brother two years after her, and my mother remembered the words of the family planning nurse who told her to ‘have the number of children that you can train well. Otherwise you will not be able to train even one of them well.”


Because of the Minister, my father came to know Nigeria well. The Minister went to other interior villages and towns, and my father drove him through the flat roads of the North and the undulating roads of the south. He followed the Minister to the clinics, watched him speaking, gesticulating, explaining, cutting ribbons to open health centers. Everywhere they went, people followed the Minister. Some just wanted to touch him, to shake his hands. Others brought gifts. “No, no,” the minister said to my father, when he saw the yams and plantains and chickens. “Give it back to them. Tell them that they should keep it for me.”


I first met the Minister when I was six years old. I was in Primary one, and my father told him I came first in class and the minister asked him to bring me to his house. I expected to wait in the kitchen, and felt awkward to be asked into the living room, into the sinking softness of the carpet and the smell of clean and new things. He appeared with his wife, both of them smiling. They gave me a book. A Childs Illustrated Book About The Body.

“Thank you sir, thank you ma,” I said, holding the book tighter than I had ever held anything in my young life.


Sister Chioma was squeezing my hand.

“So you knew him personally,” she said. “I finished nursing school the year he was appointed Minister.”

Her tone was different, less flat, more emotional. It was then I noticed that Sister Chioma, unsmiling, hard Sister Chioma, had tears in her eyes.

“It was because of Olikoye Ransome-Kuti that so many people in Nigeria did not die,” she said quietly, and I knew she had her own story about the minister. Perhaps she would tell me the story later, or perhaps she would not, but it pleased me that we had a story in common.

“He was the best health minister this country has ever had,” she said, standing up and hastily wiping her eyes. My contractions were now shorter and sharper. Sister Chioma said it was perhaps time to push, and she got up to call the doctor.

Outside the rain continued to fall gently until Olikoye was born.






First Americans

First Americans were

Black Aborigines

Who were the first Americans? Where did they come from? When did they first arrive here? This BBC documentary answers those questions. Scientist were stunned to find evidence of civilization in Brazil dating to around 50,000 years ago. Evidence of fire usage, rock art paintings, and some of the oldest skeletal remains ever found in the America’s have established a new timeline for the arrival of modern humans in the America’s. Analysis on skulls found show that they are more similar to the bone structure of Africans and Australian Aborigines.








photo by Alex Lear

photo by Alex Lear









         Blood didn’t know why he wanted to kiss her private lips. Didn’t know why the sharp energy of her smell made the large muscles on the inside of his thigh twitch.  Didn’t smell like sex. Didn’t even smell human.  Undomesticated, wild, maybe a pine-needle bed where a deer had rested.  A fragrance born by the wind from whence only the wind knows where.  Didn’t know why, but he liked the memory of his slow kiss-rub-lick-suck of the cleaved dark of her.  And he liked that she liked it.

         Theodore sucked the caramel colored coke through a straw, drawing out gurgling sounds as the last of the liquid, mixed with air, cascaded upward through the crushed ice.  He shook the cup once, tore the plastic top off with the straw still in it and threw it into the litter receptacle; swirled the cup, tilted it upward shaking shards of ice into his mouth, sucked on the ice and thought of her moan as he nodded hello to a co-worker on his way back to his desk from his ten minute break.




         I close my eyes.  I am crazy.  I open my eyes.  I am crazy.  I do my work and when I finish working, every time, I am crazy. Obsession.  The need for every day to be night.  I tape the evening news using the timer on my VCR and later look at her over and over.  Her eyes.  I know looks that the tv camera never sees.  Sometimes I watch with the sound turned down.  Read her body language.  The motion of her jaw as she talks.  Count how many times I see her tongue on screen.  How often they show her hands.  The feel of her nails on my neck.  The rhythm of her voice reciting my three syllables: “The-o-dore” except she enunciates “Thee-I-ADORE.”  “That’s the news.  This is Ann Turner.  See you tomorrow.”  SEE YOU TONIGHT.  BABY. TONIGHT!




         The bronze point of her breast cutting a curvature in his consciousness.  Why continue, he thought as he continued.  A man shouldn’t be consumed by desire.  His imagination saw the inside of her thigh flash quick as the picture of the contents of a darkened room momentarily lit by five milliseconds of lightening flashing during a summer night storm when you are standing near the window sipping something mildly intoxicating and a “Quiet Storm” format radio station unfurls aural ribbons.

         He drank her features even when only his computer was in front of his eyes.  Drank and drank, and was never quenched.

         One day he refused to call her.  The whole day. Concentrated on not calling her.



         She doesn’t own my fingers.  My feet are my feet.  I have business.  I wear a suit and tie.  I drive a car — red, sleek. Here is my off-ramp. I like the feel of taking it at 40mph, leaning into the curve. It’s like when I ease into her. I’m gripping the wheel firmly but lightly like I do her breasts, and I brake a little, back off the clutch, let the engine slow us down, and hit the accelerator slightly at the top of the curve, pushing through faster now. Through the steering wheel I can feel the car’s power surging and responsive to my every expert move, like Ann.

         I smoke cigarettes.  I urinate at break time and wish, in the middle of the men’s room, Joey to the right of me, Harold on my left, Amos at the sink talking shit about what he made his bitches do, I urinate and as I shake myself, wish it were her fingers shaking me.  I will not call.  The boys see me zipping my pants.  They don’t sense her.  I look into the mirror at my reflection, scratch my jaw, dry my hands, and, leaning forward, balancing my weight between the sink ledge and the balls of my feet, careful to pretend I am examining my razor bumps, I search deep into my eyes: her profile.

         “The roses are very nice.”

         Thirty-eight dollars is more than very nice.  Forty-one dollars, forty-two cents.

         “But, I can’t accept them.”

         I’ve bought corsages for proms.  I’ve bought flowers on mother’s day.  I’ve even given my aunt a plant for her anniversary.  This is the first time, the first time I’ve ever bought roses.  And they are only “very nice.”     

         What about when you kissed me?  What about that great dinner we cooked together in your kitchen trading culinary tips, and ate in the after glow; I fed you desert.  A fruit salad first from my fork, then the grapes from my hand, and that last strawberry we shared lip to lip as I kissed you with the succulent deep red meat poised between my teeth and letting it fall into your mouth as you sucked my lips and you slipped your fingers into the bowl and one by one inserted your fingers into my mouth and l sucked the juice off, cleaned each finger with the sweep of my tongue.  And the night we spent the night drinking coffee in the French Quarter, walking around waiting on the sun, delirious, delicious and crazy in each other’s eyes?  The first time.  The second time.  That Saturday evening in the thunder storm with all the lights out and a very good bottle of moderately expensive wine.  My comforter on the carpeted floor, the sound of rain on the pane accompanied our rhythms.  The third, fourth.  Damn it, last Monday, two days ago.  “My legs are wide open,” you said.  I almost cried in your arms I felt so happy.  I pick you up just about every day from work — every day you allow me to.  We even sometimes make groceries together.  That linen jacket, the pink one.  The surprise manicure and facial treatment certificate.  The health spa six month membership.  “My legs are wide open.”  That’s more than nice.




         “I said, I can’t accept them. I… No, don’t come in.  Please.”




         Then I forced myself past the three-quarters-opened door. I didn’t mean to knock her down when I pushed my way inside. But she fell. And then something happened. Looking down at her I saw the shock on her face. “You see it doesn’t feel good getting pushed around, does it?” is what I thought to myself. “Now you know how I feel sometimes the way you treat me,” I continued thinking while silently observing her. The beginnings of a smirk unconsciously edging itself onto my face. It was as if I rose up above myself and was outside of my body watching myself stand there.  I could see everything.  I knew everything.  I knew she was surprised by how hard I shoved the door. Even so, I could see she wasn’t hurt sprawled there on the floor. Embarrassed but not hurt. And afterwards when I left I knew when I slammed the door shut hard behind me, I knew the sound cut the silence.  She didn’t know I had it in me. I knew.  The way she looked up at me.




         As she fell backward, slammed into the way and fell, he closed the door quickly. And then, as though she had misunderstood him the first time, he held out the roses to her again.  She had one knee slightly up. Her straight, woolen, beige skirt with the deep split in the front had ridden up high on her legs, falling away from above her knees.

         Anger and the beginnings of fear overpowered her perfume. She didn’t smell pleasant anymore.

         The red, red roses swinging before her face.


         “I am more than nice,” he thought to himself.

         The phone rang.

         She covered her face with both hands. Then lowered one hand to the floor. Began pushing up, to stand.  Theodore stepped forward and planted himself, blocking what would have been her path of ascendancy.  She stopped.  He saw that she knew she would never make the phone.  Let her machine answer the intruding call. Four rings and the noisy interruption stopped.

         After the chirp of the phone stopped, he bent slightly and pushed the roses at her again.

         She batted them away. She does not want to be distracted. He pushed them forward again.

         Her hand moved slowly.  She pushed gently, tried to move the flowers out of her face.  Why was he insisting?  Why were the flowers thrust at her like a gun?


         He had unbuttoned his trousers. They slid down at his feet.  He stepped out of them. “My legs are wide open,” she had said just two days ago. The goodness of his dick hadn’t changed any in the time between the last time and now.  She wanted it then.  She gave it up then.  Now was then.  In his mind.  He eased his jockey briefs off.  Now, he still had his shirt and tie on. And his jacket.  And the roses in his hand.


         That was her only real reaction.  What?

         Sometimes shit be happening to you and it be so far out the box you can’t believe it be happening. 

         Theodore was standing there with his penis erect.  His jacket on the floor now behind his trousers.  He knelt slowly. Placed the flowers down beside him.  Pushed her skirt up.  She closed her eyes.  Her flesh was cool beneath the nylon of the panty hose.  Then she moved, slightly.  Her head shook slowly from side to side.  She covered his hand with her left hand.  A momentary halt.

         She tried reasoning with an unreasonable man, “Are you going to use something?  I’m ovulating now.”

         Theodore ignored her.  She saw him ignore her.  Theodore began pulling at her panty hose.

         “I’m not going to let you do this.” 

         She started to struggle silently.  She surprised him with her strength as she tussled with him. The thrust of her arms rocked him backward. He admired that she didn’t hit like a girl. Now she was on one knee. He pushed her again.  Harder.  She sprawled backward. Her shoe slipped and her legs flew from beneath her. As she lay disheveled on the floor trying to decide whether to kick him or to try and run from him, he pushed the roses aside and knelt resolutely in front of her. He looked between her legs which were awkwardly gapped open.  What was it “there” that had him crazed on the floor.  The reddest rose.  The petals of her vagina flower.  The thorns of her refusal to receive him. 

         Then suddenly she pushed him harder than he had pushed her.  He fell back on the flowers.  The thorns bit deeply into the palm of his left hand.

         He picked the flowers up and threw them at her.  Hurled them into her face.  Hard.  A thorn cut her cheek.  She felt a faint sting.  When her hand came down from her jaw, a long bloody smear had creased the light hand side like a crimson life line burnt into her palm.

         He expected her to cry. But she made no sound. Did not even whimper. But stared at him with an undisguised hatred. The force of her stare stunned him. He stood up. She bolted up without hesitation. Balled her fist and stood rigidly upright, silently daring him to touch her again. He backed off slowly. Retrieved his clothing. Dressed. Every time he glanced at her she was still glaring unblinking at him. Her blouse rose and fell as she took deep, soundless breathes. He turned and walked briskly out of the door, slamming it behind him. She stepped over the flowers and quickly locked the door behind him.




         They were in a movie and he cheered when the hero smacked the actress portraying the wife.  Ann froze, intuitively knew for sure that Theodore Roosevelt Stevens, III was wrong for her.  All the little signs she had ignored because she was tired of searching for someone with whom to share her life and had settled for someone with whom to have a little fun.  After applauding the hero’s response to his wife’s cinematic betrayal with a short clap — actually Theodore was celebrating the hero’s refusal to be suckered more than applauding the guy for hitting the woman, it’s much harder to see through how a woman is using you than it is to smack her once you figure out that you’ve been used, and Theodore admired anyone with insight into the feminine species — his right hand had pawed the air seeking Ann’s hand to hold again, but her arms were folded.

         “What’s wrong?”

         “What’s right?”

         “What you mean?”

         He caught the tone, the cut, the coldness.  The sharp point contained within all her soft curves.  Theodore knew this was fire he could not walk through with his bare feet.


         She bit her bottom lip but not to keep from talking, the biting was just a habit of preparation when she had to fight a battle which she did not choose, but which she would wage without quarter.

         Walking up the aisle after the movie’s over, “Let’s go for a drink; we need to talk.”

         “Sure.  Where?”

         “Anywhere.”  Clipped tone.  The claws were still showing.

         Anywhere was near by, but the silence riding over was long.  “What’s up?”

         “This is the last, I mean I don’t think…”  She swung her head quickly.  They were at a stop light.  Right before the turn onto Causeway Blvd.  He looked over during the pause for the light.  Her unblinking eyes focused directly on him.  She read him the news — that’s how it felt, all the emotion was calculated although unforced and rendered in well modulated tones, “I thought about your question about us living together, and the answer is no.  And I think we ought to break this off.”

         The light was green.  Theodore pulled through the moment.  Said nothing.  While moving through the traffic.  He said nothing.  Circled onto the expressway.  She hates games. He heard her.  Into the expressway traffic.  Then he pulled over to the side.  Slowed.  Emergency lights flashing.  He looked over at her as the car coasted to an easy stop.  He turned the tape deck off.  He turned the key.  The engine stopped.  The stick shift loose in neutral, rocked back and forth beneath the easy side to side push of his hand.  Then he pulled the emergency brake handle.  She has not stopped looking at him.  This was Tuesday.

         Wednesday morning into the third mile her breathing is even and her stride is smooth.  She will kick the fourth mile.  She is ready.  Suddenly she stops.  A crow caws, breaking the silence of the morning cool.  Two cars pass along the generally deserted stretch of road.  The light is soft.  Her face is soft.  Her eyes are hard.  She begins walking and in a few seconds builds up to a trot and then is running again. 

         Thursday he will bring roses and apologize.




         Everybody thinks it’s easy to be me.  To be the model of charm and poise on the weekday evening news.  A face recognized.  Gwendolyn Ann Turner.  Actually, Gwendolyn Ann Turner is me, and most of the world — I shouldn’t exaggerate, most of the city — knows: “This is Ann Turner, your evening anchor, sharing the news of New Orleans with you.”  Most of the world knows so small a part of my real persona and yet people think because they see a small part of me so frequently, they think they know “me.”

         I was so fat as a child, so “Gwenie.”  Overweight, intelligent, gifted with a lean, hard mind — too hard.  Up to the middle of college I was always the “brain,” never the beauty and even when my birthright beauty began to exert itself in college — it’s like it’s hard to judge just how beautiful the flower will be when all you see is the beginning bud.  I had to run in P.E. and found myself liking the loneliness and the challenge of the long runs, figuring out how to run without wearing myself out, how to swing my arms, how to set my pace, how to breath, how to use my body, yes, how to use “my body” and I pushed it and enjoyed pushing it. The more I ran, the more the physical side of me came out, but it was all because I enjoyed the meditation part of running. At the same time I was trying to figure out how to meet the physical challenges rather than because I wanted to become “fine” or “thin” or something, but the more I ran and enjoyed running, the more I found beauty came within my reach and required just a little work to enhance it.  But the thorn on the flower was that becoming attractive just made being me more difficult, more demanding.  I split in two.  It became so easy to be pretty, to be wined and dined because my body shape was what it had become, or more accurately was what I had made it become, my skin color was what it was, my voice, my hair, my eyes, my slender fingers, my beige bottom firm, round and protruding.




         The thought stopped her: “I hated being fat and I’ll never be fat again.”  She stopped at the road side, put her hands atop her head, fingers interlaced, breathed deeply, looked up into the dawning sky and summoned strength — she was beginning to resent the deference given to her for all the wrong reasons.  Well not so much “wrong reasons,” for all the “Ann Turner reasons” and none of the Gwendolyn Ann Turner reasons.




         Here I am 28 years old, sexually active, so far away from any kind of serious relationship that it doesn’t even hurt anymore. I’m never alone unless I want to be and I’ve never met anyone with whom I always want to be. Being so popular as a media personality just makes being alone as a private person inevitable.




         Ann took a deep breath.  She had volunteered the decision to drop “Gwendolyn” because Ann is so much easier to articulate cleanly into a lapel microphone or an overhead boom, no consonant blend obstacles to negotiate.




         If I hate being beautiful, why do I run everyday, stick to my diet, groom myself immaculately?  Wear complementary colors. Procures pedicures.  Manicures.  Facials.  Ann runs everyday and Gwen waits. Waits for what?





         Gwen waits in a desk drawer, in a diary, in five completed stories, 79 completed poems, and 34 incomplete sketches, outlines and ideas for stories.  And in the drawing pad.  The monthly self portraits drawn with soft lead pencil while looking into the dressing table mirror.  That had started in college. During the first week of every month Gwen sketched Ann, and afterwards Ann would stare at the drawing, looking for Gwen. Gwendolyn had gone to college certain that writing was her destiny but the motion of circumstances had sidetracked her. The path from Gwen to Ann had started not from her own volition but rather began because of her physical presence and personality; the transfiguration wasn’t the result of will, but rather it was physiological and sociological chance. 

         As the new Gwen started to blossom, Gwen “hated” the attention even though some small part of her loved it, fed off it and grew more confident, stronger week after week.  That’s how she had eased into broadcasting.  In college journalism even those who only wanted to write were “counseled” into taking at least two broadcast courses “in order to be well rounded,” and, of course, even though she never sought the behind the mike position, of course once she was there, once people saw how effective she was (even if she was a little overweight), then her instructors steered her that way: “the camera loves you / your voice soothes and exudes sincerity / I know you want to write but I think it’s apparent your future is in announcing.” Meanwhile, Gwen the writer patiently waited for release.  Now, years later, a professional broadcasting career confidently established, writing as a career option is not possible, not to mention being economically unfeasible.  Gwen rarely spoke but when she did…

         “Ann you do television because it’s easy for you.  There’s no challenge staying in shape.  Reading news copy is so easy. We always liked to read.  Ann, you like to read, and I have to read; that’s one of the only ways I can even exist.  All other times I’m shoved deep into the background.”




         These two people in me.  Gwen wants to be a writer, a deep thinker, and Ann, well, Ann pays all the bills and acquires all the frills.  Or something.  What does Ann want?  Ann is not a want, Ann is a thing, a procurer.  Ann’s ultimate job really ought to be to create a space for Gwen.





         She begins walking and in a few seconds builds up to a trot and then is running again.




         I was already in the shower.  Theodore was behind me at the toilet, urinating and the “morning deep yellow” of his streaming urine refracting early daylight made it easy for me to see the splashes flying out of the bowl.  I hate it.  I hate the sloppiness of the way men piss.  I hate it.  I step out of the shower.






         He swung his head, tremendously pleased with himself. Happy about his manliness.  His sexiness and skill as a lover.  His good fortune: he was fucking Ann Turner and she was liking it. Everything was in order.  At the office his commissions were bounding upward.  When a client saw him, they were impressed by the smooth, articulate, fastidiously groomed, intelligent, business savvy, young Black man fashionably attired in tastefully muted burgundy suspenders over ice blue crisply starched dress shirt with a white collar — these days Theodore was always impressive, so impressive that clients flocked to him the way those chickens used to do at his grandmother’s farm in the summertimes when he was sent to spend a few weeks and would wake early, jump out of bed, get dress quickly and run into the back yard with a cap full of feed, throwing the kernels on the ground and calling out in his young baritone (he remembered that even as a teen-ager he had a heavy voice): “cluck-cluck cluckity-cluck, come here chickens, yall in luck, cluck-cluck cluckity cluck.”  Because he was looking at himself, his external eyes focused on the stream of piss, the splash of water, the diffuse light from the skylight as well as the rainbow shimmering in the toilet bowl cast there by the prismed light of the cut glass mobile hanging from the skylight latch, in his head the beauty of her big round booty moved beneath the knead of his firm hands, because of all of that he neither saw the seriousness in her eyes nor heard the coldness in her voice as he perfunctorily answered, “What?”

         “I realize this might sound a bit strange to you but I’ve got a thing about hygiene.  When you use the toilet, please sit.”


         “Put the seat down and sit.  Urinate sitting down.  When you stand, your urine splashes, and it’s unhygenic.”




         Much head as she gives, she’s worried about a little urine on the toilet seat.  She swallows.  She loves it.  She licks me clean.  And she’s worried about me standing up pissing.




         Theodore stood there, naked, his member held nimbly in his left hand.  He was just about to shake the drops off the tip with a vigorous motion.  How would he shake it if he were sitting on the toilet seat?  This was a trip.




         I knew he wouldn’t understand.




         Theodore didn’t understand what was going on.

         Ann turned back into the shower, almost regretting that she had brought it up.  Almost.  Gwen had decided long ago that Theodore was just a momentary thing, even before he overestimated himself and made the major faux pas of popping the question about living together.

         Ann was slower to decide.  There was a lot she liked about Theodore.  The lovemaking for one.  And, well, the lovemaking for two.  His humor, he was sort of witty.  No, really he was convenient.  Although right for a fling, he definitely was not living together material.  And unhygenic and far too possessive.

         “Theodore, I don’t need you to pick me up after work. Yes, I know it’s late when I get off, and I know I could save the cab fare, but it’s easier.  I have two cab drivers who are regulars.  I call when I’m close to ready and they’re outside the door waiting for me.  I get in, we come straight here, they wait until I’m inside and everything is safe.  Theo, I know you don’t mind but you don’t have to wait around for me.

         “I’m staying late.  …  No.  I’m not sure exactly what time I’ll be finished.  …  I’ll just catch a cab.  No, Theo, I won’t call you.  I’ll catch a cab, and I’ll talk to you in the morning.  … You’ll be sleeping when I get in.  I’ll call you in the morning.   … Theodore don’t call me at one a.m.  …  What do you mean where will I be?  …  What do you mean what do I mean?  I mean I can take care of myself.  …  Obviously, you don’t know it.

         Gwen had peeped all of that weeks ago.  The shower door opened.  Theodore stepped in.

         “You mean when I urinate, you want me to sit down like when I uh, defecate?”




         “When I saw you bleeding, I knew I had messed up real bad.  I don’t know what got into me.  I mean you know me, I’m not really like that.  I mean, I was crazy or something.  Ann?  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  You want me to beg?  You want me to crawl? What?  I’ve sent you letters, I’ve called every day.  This hurts me too.  I don’t know what else to say.  I mean I know I did something really, really wrong.  And I know it will be hard for you to ever trust me again, but I love you.  I really love you.  I mean I’m serious.  You make me feel like a man…”




         Ann didn’t even listen to the whole tape.  He talked to her machine for twenty, sometimes thirty minutes or more, sometimes.  Sometimes he just said, “I’m gon keep calling until you talk to me.”  This went on for over two weeks.

         Fortunately, the erase mechanism was fast.




         This is about a year and a half later.  Theodore is married (yes, he sent Ann an invitation—she didn’t go; he wasn’t surprised).

         When Ann got the invitation she felt sad for Theodore’s intended. He had wanted a wife but he wasn’t prepared to deal with a woman.  She left the invitation in the hallway, on the table, the table that held the telephone / answering machine, beneath the mirror.  The invitation pushed half way back into the envelope.  Ann did not even wonder why it had been sent.  Gwen didn’t care.  A casual toss and the invitation landed with a slight rustle atop a small stack of junk mail.  Ann didn’t mean Theodore’s invitation was junk mail, but she knew she wasn’t going.

         Later that day she sat sketching herself. Clarity.  In the mirror was Gwendolyn Ann Turner, a thirty-year old, unmarried Black woman.  Ann didn’t frown.  Ann didn’t cry.  She knew, she knew she would never marry.  And she could live with that, was content to live with that. But Gwen smiled, she smiled because she appreciated that Ann Turner was becoming increasingly less interested in Ann Turner and more interested in developing Gwendolyn Ann Turner.

         Never marry.  God, what a thought.  But not really.  Even though she had been raised to marry. Even though it seemed like the whole world was wondering when she would marry. And have children. In a flash both Ann and Gwen realized — neither one of them had every really wanted to be married–not once they were mature enough to honestly face themselves.  Ann just didn’t want to be alone.  Although sharing board was just about out of the question, Ann could and would always find someone with whom to share bed.  Ann accepted the cost.  She could pay the bills.  No problem.  An inconvenience sometimes, but no problem.  And Gwen.  Gwen was happy, she gave thanks to be alive and thriving. And writing — her new novel was almost finished.

         A spray of roses sat elangantly arranged in a bright black vase. “Our vase” — Gwen had found it while wondering through the French Quarter. She was drawn to the pear-shaped container without even knowing why or how she would use it. As she walked along with the trendy shopping bag which held the vase swaddled in newspaper, she passed a florist. Roses were on sale: $9.99 a dozen, and thus began the floral addition to the sketching ritual. The fragrance of the flowers would radiate through the room while the young woman deftly drew her monthly self portrait. And as was usually the case within the last few months, Gwen would be smiling a generous smile. To her beautiful self. Clearer than she had ever been and glad that she understood the necessity of thorns on roses–everything beautiful must protect itself.


—kalamu ya salaam













The 20 Best Videos

By African Artists

(and Those Inspired

By Africa) of 2014



Blitz the Ambassador

Blitz the Ambassador

African artists have released some amazing visual work these past 12 months. Some videos gave us a powerful introduction to new artists, powerful enough to etch them in our memories and encouraging us to keep an eye on them in the New Year. Others cemented the popularity of already established artists. Some musicians opted to produce more filmic, iconic music videos. As is customary at this time of year, we have sifted through the huge library of musical releases to find the best visual accompaniments to those releases. We have compiled a list of those, in no particular order, for your viewing pleasure.

Okmalumkoolkat – Holy Oxygen
Director: Wim Steytler

Holy Oxygen is the title track off Okmalumkoolkat’s EP released on Affine Records. Quite like the song itself, the video for Holy Oxygen explores rejection, neglect and redemption. A group of people are cast out of society for a perceived physical or social illness. Rapper Okmalumkoolkat is part of this group of outcasts who are carried off into the boondocks wrapped in thick layers of plastic because presumably whatever malady they suffer from is contagious. However, out in the acrid boondocks and led by the rapper, a new society is born where everyone is treated equally. It is very interesting that this video came out when the world was gripped with fear about the growing Ebola epidemic.

Yugen Blakrok – House of Ravens
Director: Nic Hester

Goofiness and mysticism meet in one of the more imaginative videos to come out this year (and quite possibly the most overlooked). House of Ravens is by rapper Yugen Blakrok and it is off her 2013 joint Return of the Astro-Goth. In the video, her being is absorbed by a mystical, flying car, which she ends up driving through the streets of the city and eventually outer space. She is joined on her trip by some her Iapetus Records label-mates and a polar bear.

Asa – Dead Again
Director: Mélanie Brun & Olivier Bassuet

Dead Again is the searing but seemingly cathartic first single from Asa’s recent album Bed of Stone. She sings about a traitor who “stabbed [her] in the back and then twisted it in” and “left [her] for dead again”. It remains the only single for which she has released a video and she is currently preparing for a tour in 2015. The video was choreographed by Marion Motin and shot in all-black room with a halo light in the background.

Fantasma featuring Moonchild
– Eye of the Sun

Director: Travys Owen

Fantasma, a foursome that combines the talents of Spoek Mathambo, Andre Geldenhuys, DJ Spoko, Bhekisenzo Cele and Mike Buchanan, crystallises the sounds of hip-hop, Bacardi house, punk, funk, shangaan electro and psych-rock. The feverish title track of their EP Eye of The Sunis a good illustration of how these sounds come together. Moonchild is also on the song. The video, which was shot in the Karoo, feels like it was inspired by a vision quest by either one or all of the band members.

Blitz the Ambassador featuring
Seun Kuti – Make You No Forget

Director: Blitz the Ambassador

At the beginning of the year, Blitz the Ambassador took a trip to his mother country to shoot the video for Rumble (Champion Sound)the first single off his forthcoming EP Diasporadical. The video was shot in Bukom, a coastal town 25 minutes away from Ghanaian capital Accra known for producing many of Africa’s champion boxers such as Joshua Clottey, Alfred Kotey, Azumah Nelson, and Ike Quarty. During this trip the rapper took some time out to visit Jamestown, the site of the annual Chale Wote Street Art festival, to shoot another video but this time for his collaborative single with Seun Kuti, Make You Forget. The single mixes afrobeat horns, highlife guitars and a hip hop beat and it is off his album Afropolitan Dreams. Blitz also received some help for his friends at Accra Dot Alt, the crew behind Chale Wote, including Mantse Aryeequaye and Abass Ismail who did the photography while he directed the video. Make You No Forgetopens with some and continues use boxing footage and cuts those with scenes of Jamestown but its focus is the bicycle crew the Flat Land Boys, who perform some wonderful stunts in front of the camera.

Seinabo Sey – Pistols At Dawn
Director: Christian Larson

Seinabo Sey’s solemn soul music and her unforgettable brassy timbre that many have said belies her age – she is 24 – distinguishes her from many of her pop chart counterparts. She has also released some of the year’s most stunning visual work. In the lead up to the release of her EPFor Madeleine, which is dedicated to her mother, she released the videos for Hard Time and some visually stimulating lyric videos. However, it was the video for Pistols at Dawn that captured our hearts (and imagination). Pistols at Dawn is about love duel where Sey defiantly stands up for herself. In the video, she and friend draped in stark red robes, are chased through a barren forest by an assassin that resembles a storm trooper.

K.O. ft Kid X – Caracara

Director: Pilot Films

When K.O sat down with co-producer Lunatik to create his solo effort Skhanda Republic, it seems neither one of them anticipated how popular, Caracara, the second song off the 11 track album would be. Caracara, an ode to the VW Caravelleis probably one of the most successful songs to come out of South Africa in 2014 (before the Christmas rush) and its video was equally successful. An oft-repeated fact is that the trés cool video received over a million views on YouTube. Through his efforts, K.O, who describes himself as “a rapper with a kwaito attitude” and with his distinctive flow, arguably brought ‘skanda rap to prominence. Another important development came of K.O’s rise prominence – Phaa Toonz based a few episodes of their animated mini-web series Kronikles of Hip Hop on him.

Umlilo – Chain Gang
Director: Katey Carson

Chain Gang is the second song off Umlilo’s upcoming Aluta EP. The singer-songwriter and producer explains that, “the song explores [the] perpetual cycle to survive, to live and die with dignity in this modern jungle”. He continues, “We live in a world where people keep getting gunned down every day for all sorts of reasons they cannot control from skin colour, religion, poverty or sexuality” and this contrasts with the youth’s “vacuous pursuit of money and bling”.

The Chain Gang video is an interesting depiction of these themes. It is set in a super glam funeral attended by ‘scene kids’ where tequila serves as the holy water and the dress code is fall/winter. According to the epitaph, the deceased, Rita Vein, “was killed in black and gold” at age 27. Rita’s spirit gets dressed for her own funeral and continues to hang about the church until the funeral ends and her casket is closed. Umlilo, the Kwaai Diva plays the role of Rita Vein, who might be Anita Vein’s sibling or relative and that of Father Karl, the priest who oversees the proceedings. Father Karl was modelled after superstar designer Karl Lagerfeld.

Director Katey Carson explained that she wanted “to imagine what would happen if […] scene kids had to attend a funeral, and express the idea that for the youth very few things carry meaning anymore.” She thus presents “a dark portrayal of a place of worship where deities are replaced with fashion designers, labels, shoes and gold.”

M.anifest featuring Obrafour
– No Shortcut to Heaven

Director: Garth Von Glehn

M.anifest has not released lots of videos this year but the few he has were quite remarkable. Someway Bi and Jigah with HHP are examples. No Shortcut to Heaven, however, stands out as one of the best stories told on film. His song relays the message that one must work hard to reach their version of heaven and this is carried through into video. It depicts the story of an artisanal alluvial miner, played by the rapper, who toils in muddy waters for his own nugget of gold, a nugget of gold that he eventually offers to a love interest as a gift. Even though two are enraptured by their love, they do not ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

Haezer – Minted
Director: Wim Steytler

Another striking visual story to come out this year was the video for Haezer’s Minted. The song is off Haezer’s EP, Gold Plated Frequencies. The video is set in the derelict (often hijacked) buildings of Johannesburg’s inner city. These spaces are often inhabited by foreign migrants who face vicious attacks from some people in the local community who feel threatened by their presence.

The video shows a witch-doctor and his colleague using their super-powers to protect a group of emigrants from a cruel xenophobic attack. Steytler at the time explained that  he was inspired to shoot the story because “xenophobia is still such a huge problem in Johannesburg, especially in these buildings. So I chose to centre the story on the oppression of the Somalian community in South Africa”.

Although the video later won Steytler an award, the City Press was less impressed with his direction. They felt it was exploitative and posed the question, “Should using portrayals of the misery of black people be used for entertainment? Has using “issues” become an instant-add to making something ‘hip’?” Their questions aren’t invalid. If nothing else Steytler’s film starts a conversation about representation that we would not have had otherwise.

Phyno – Alobam
Director: Clarence Peters

Phyno is another rapper who rose to prominence in 2014, even though he has been in music for quite some time now both as rapper and a producer. He had already recorded songs for his album No Guts, No Glory back in 2012, most notably Ghost Mode with Olamide, but the album itself (and some of its bigger hits) were not released until 2014. Alobam, his dedication to close ride or die friends, was Phyno’s roundhouse kick – although, the visual direction of Alobam is not too dissimilar to that of Man of the YearAlobam is gritty, its hood. It shows the rapper playing basketball and riding his bike through the streets of Festac Town in Lagos State, Nigeria. It also features some mind-blowing contortionists.

Stromae - Ta Fête
Director: Lieven Van Baelen

Stromae might easily be disregarded as a sharp or even witty musician because he makes electronic dance pop. However, it would be imprudent to take Stromae’s music (or his videos) at face value. Ta Fête (song and video) from his second album Racine Carrée are an example. In the song he plays around with the words “party” and “festival” to demonstrate how society can kick people around and impose norms and constraints on how they can act and who they can be  – in his own words, “everyone wants to party with you”. He expanded this theme to the video. Stromae, who plays a dictator, looks on as a human football tries to get around on a football pitch which turns into a maze. As he gets around the maze, he has to overcome several obstacles including a judge, his fiancée and his mother. Even after overcoming these obstacles, he finds himself trapped in an even bigger maze.

The most interesting thing however, was that the rather dystopian song was selected to be the theme song of the Belgian soccer team, who were considered to be the dark horses of the 2014 World Cup. He also caricatures Mobutu Sese Seko in the video. Perhaps, he cheekily places these ideas in his songs and videos to mess with people. Perhaps, I am reading too much into this.

Davido – Aye
Director: Clarence Peters

This unexpectedly romantic song by the Nigerian pop musician was conveniently released several days before Valentine’s Day. In the song, Davido professes his love for a woman who loves him for who he is and not what he has. The video follows the love affair between a farm labourer, played by Davido, and a woman close to the Oba who owns the farm where he works. It was one of the most watched in Nigeria (with over 13 million views) and possibly one of most shared of 2014.

Waje featuring Tiwa Savage – Onye
Director: Kemi Adetiba

Kemi Adetiba has built an impressive portfolio of music videos over the last couple of years. Her first music video was for TY Bello’s Ekundayo and since then she has gained acclaim for her visual story-telling. Onye is perhaps a good example of the type of video she makes.Waje and Savage  play two women who are dating (and subsiding the living) of the same man. Eventually the two women confront each other and the outcome of that confrontation is hilariously unexpected.

Riky Rick – Nafukwa
Director: Adriaan Louw

The videos of the artists at Motif Records seem to follow a certain aesthetic. They often used unadorned studio backdrops shot in black and white or in low contrast colours. This is something we noticed in the videos for In Defence of my Art, 2Cups Shakurthe Amantombazane Remixand No Ordinary Being. Of course the Bump The Cheese Up Remix and Zaki Ibrahim’s Draw the Line are some exceptions. The Nafukwa video, while incorporating some of these ‘Motif features’, includes some rather cinematic shots taken in Westbury and aerial shots of industrial Johannesburg. Nafukwa plays out like the opening sequence of an iconic South African movie or TV series. A very exciting shot in the video is a slow motion crane shot of Riky Rick striding across a rooftop.

PS: He and his boyznbucks family appeared in the 3 part mini-doci series Jozi Influenza directed by filmmaker Lebogang Rasethaba and he has been releasing a few iconic videos in this time.

Sauti Sol – Sura Yako
Director Enos Olik

Sauti Sol almost broke the (Kenyan) internet with their video Nishike and for quite a while we thought it would make this list. It was ‘refreshing’ to see the band crooning with their well-toned, well-oiled torsos exposed. However, it is the follow-up to that single, Sura Yako that came with a lyric video, an instructional dance video and eventually a remix with Nigerian musician Iyanya, that makes today’s list. It’s a light-hearted portrayal of a traditional pre-wedding ceremony called ruracio. It is a fun, colourful video.

Ibeyi – River
Director: Ed Morris

In Santeria, Oshun (or Oxum) is one of the most popular orishas (deities). She is the orisha of love, diplomacy and beauty and she resides in the freshwater rivers of the world. As the story goes, Oshun was accused of witchcraft for bearing twins, the Ibeyi (or Ibeji) and she subsequently kicked the Ibeyi out in a panic. The twins were eventually taken in by Oya. Other lineages believe they were taken in by Yemaya. It is believed that the Ibeyi bring happiness, prosperity and good health to those who receive them but they can also take these away when offended.

Sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé name themselves after this set of twins. Lisa plays piano and Naomi plays percussion – the cajon and batas. Their first single River is a spiritual song that is dedicated to Oshun. It is taken from their EP, Oya and it will also appear on their self-titled debut album which will be out in February 2015. The video is a pretty literal interpretation of the song. They sing, “let me baptise my soul with the help your waters” and continue “I will come to your river, wash my soul”. In the video, which is one of the more eerie videos of 2014, the twins are held underwater by what looks like two men, only coming up for air to deliver lines from the song.

MNEK – Wrote a Song About You
Director: Ruffmercy

This video gives us some idea of what musical waves might look like if we could see them. The intro is subdued, with only a few chords, some strings and MNEK’s voice. The video starts off the same way, with only a few gradated shades of red and purple popping up with the strike of a key. The song and thus the video come alive when the bass kicks in. We start to see shapes form and patterns swirl and wriggle around the singer-producer. Some of his lyrics dance even around him. It is a fun display, an explosion of colour.

Zeus – Psych
Directors: Don Juan Bacha and Nick Roux

Taking a leaf out of the book of the Brothers of Peace (B.O.P) and Dr Mageu, Zeus offers up some social commentary through the song Psych. Sometime before the video debuted on TV, the rapper explained that “Psych is a look at our urban aspirations… sometimes misplaced and based on wrong values”. It even uses a sample of O Kae Molao? by BOP and Dr Mageu in its chorus, which also offered scathing commentary of the human condition at its time. The Psychvideo is a psychedelic montage in the true sense of the word. The director took some news and documentary footage, some YouTube videos, a few shots of Zeus and cut them together and created a trippy film.

Buraka Som Sistema -Vuvuzela
Director: João Pedro Moreira

Vuvuzela (Carnaval) was the second release off Buraka Som Sistema’s album, Buraka. Buraka’s kinetic video for Vuvuzela cedes the rooftops of the Lisbon to a few mischievous dancers in white masks at first. The dancers perform some fast-paced, fancy footwork. Later, the Buraka crew join the dancers in the white masks for a party on a truck.





January 16, 2015













With a skipping minimalist beat that sounds like nervous tapping, Austin-based Francine Thirteen’s latest single ‘Queen Mary’ is a lesson in uneasy suspense. An ultra low organ bass is juxtaposed against Francine’s haunting soprano, teasing a release from the tension that never comes. The track builds and contracts; a kick drum heart beat is reflected and refracted. Like the best darkwave, this is a track all about the manipulation of tension and ambiance. “What good is your crown / With your heart on the ground? / Oh Mary…”

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

‘Queen Mary’ is intended as part of an EP focusing on female archetypes in a dystopian empire. Each one, ‘Mother Mary’, ‘Queen Mary’, ‘Sister Mary’, and ‘Lady Mary’ focus on the woman’s power, its intersection with the balance of power between citizen and state. Dystopian sci-fi is always best when it focuses on the conversations our society is having now from a new angle, and so far Francine Thirteen delivers. The full EP comes out this summer.




francine-thirteen 01








able muse

Able Muse Write Prize
(for Poetry & Flash Fiction)
— 2015

(2011 Results HERE| (2012 Results HERE| (2013 Results HERE| (2014 Results HERE)

 $500 prize for the best poem, and $500 prize for the best
short story (flash fiction), plus publication in
Able Muse (the print journal).


Finalists in each category will also be considered for publication.


Entry deadline: February 15, 2015

Final Judge – Poetry:
H.L. Hix - Final Judge
H.L. Hix


Final Judge – Fiction: 
Eugenia Kim - Final Judge
Eugenia Kim



  • Blind Judging by the Final Judges (H.L. Hix for poetry, Eugenia Kim for flash fiction). 
  • Initial screening by the Able Muse Editors. 
  • Entries may not be previously published.
  • Simultaneous submissions accepted as long as we’re immediately notified if your work is accepted elsewhere.
  • Unlimited entries per person for one or both categories
  • For poetry entries, all styles are welcome (metrical or free verse).
  • For poetry entries, each entry may contain 1 to 5 poems maximum, but all the poems combined should not exceed 10 pages per entry.
  • For fiction entries, each entry may contain 1 to two stories maximum (each story should be flash fiction/short-short-short under 1,500 words each, typed double-spaced).
  • We prefer online entries, however, paper/snail mail entry is available for those who insist on the traditional submission method.
  • If you wish to enter in both cateogries or if you enter more than once in one or both categories, then a separate entry fee and submission form must be completed for each entry.
  • If you’re entering by paper/snail mail, the manuscripts cannot be returned so, do not send us your only copies.
  • For paper/snail mail entries, include an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to receive the announcement of the winners.
  • The contests will be judged blind by the final judge, so:
    • Author’s name should only appear on cover page and nowhere else.
    • Initial screening will be done by the editors of Able Muse. 
      1. The final judges will received anonymized manuscripts (five to ten each depending and the number of total entries and their quality).
      2. The final judge will be instructed to disqualify any work that he recognizes. The entry fee the work thus disqualified will be refunded.
    • Include on your cover page ONLY:
      1. the category of your submission— i.e. “poetry contest” or “fiction contest”
      2. the poems/stories titles
      3. the total number of lines for all poems combined / total word count for all stories combined. (For deriving line or word count, do not include, blank lines, the poem or story title, epigraphs in the line/word count.)
      4. the poet’s/writer’s name
      5. address
      6. phone number, and
      7. email address.
    • For paper/snail mail entries, send manuscripts in duplicate.
  • Final Judge (Poetry): H.L. Hix
  • Final Judge (Flash Fiction): Eugenia Kim

Entry Methods:

  1. Preferred method is our online entry form
    1. DO NOT type or copy and paste your entry in the poem/fiction text box. Rather, upload your submission file from the upload field (accepted formats are: Text, RTF, Word, Wordperfect, PDF, HTML). 
    2. Only send one file attachment with 1 to 5 poems or 1 to 2 stories in a single file, with the cover page prepared as described in the blind judging section above (do NOT attach a separate file for each poem or story! And the cover letter can be included in the same file as the poems or stories, but in the introductory page(s).)
    3. There should be no identification in the section of the manuscript pages that contain the poems or stories as described in the blind judging section above.
    4. Enter at online.
  2. Second favorite entry method is via e-mail—
    1. Follow the instructions for the online submission method in (1) above, in addition to the following:
    2. Again, do not type your submission in the body of the email. Rather, attach your submission file to the email (accepted formats are: Text, RTF, Word, Wordperfect, PDF, HTML).
    3. The subject of the email should be: “<Your Name>: Poetry Contest” for poetry entries, or “<Your Name>: Fiction Contest” for fiction entries.
    4. Email your entry to without any identification in the manuscript file itself as described in the blind judging section above.
  3. Least favorite entry method is paper by snail mail—
    1. The manuscript should be without any identification as explained in the blind judging section above.
    2. The cover page should be prepared as explained in the blind judging section above (on a separate sheet of paper, included with the poems or stories submitted).
    3. The manuscript should be in duplicate as explained in the blind judging section above. 
    4. Send your entry to:Able Muse Review
      (Poetry or Flash Fiction) Contest
      467 Saratoga Avenue #602
      San Jose, CA 95129

Entry Fees:

  • $15 for each entry which should contain a minimum of 1 poem, a maximum of 5 poems, but all the poems combined should not exceed 10 pages per entry).
  • $15 for each entry minimum which should contain a minmum of 1 story, a maximum of 2 stories (stories should be flash fiction/short-short-short under 1,500 words each, typed double-spaced).
  • No matter how you choose to enter (online or email or snail mail) you may choose to pay:
    1. Online ( right below!), OR, 
    2. By check: Able Muse Review, and sent to the contest address indicated above.
    3. To enable us to match your payment to your entry, be sure to indicate the name you entered with (i.e. your pen name, etc), if it’s different from the one under which payment was made, and this applies for online as well as check payment by snail mail.

Pay Entry Fee & Enter Contest Now:



After payment, submit your poetry or fiction online at: .
Or, enter by email/snail mail as explained above: 






csu poetry center

2015 Essay Collection Competition




The Cleveland State University Poetry Center welcomes submissions to their Essay Collection Competition; the winner will receive $1,000, publication, and a standard royalty contract. This year’s contest will be judged by Wayne Koestenbaum.

Wayne Koestenbaum has published over a dozen books, on such subjects as hotels, Harpo Marx, humiliation, Jackie Onassis, opera, and Andy Warhol. His latest book of prose is My 1980s & Other Essays (FSG, 2013); his latest book of poetry is Blue Stranger with Mosaic Background (Turtle Point, 2012). His first solo exhibition of paintings took place at White Columns gallery in New York, in Fall 2012. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center.


The CSU Poetry Center, although primarily known for its focus on contemporary poetry, has a small but rich history of publishing other forms (novellas, pamphlets, chapbooks, guidebooks, and the like). This year we would like to expand our mission by inviting submissions to our Essay Collection Competition, the winner of which will have their book published as the first in a series that hopes to serve as a home for innovative, lyric, literary, or experimental nonfiction collections. See Wayne Koestenbaum’s My 1980s and Other Essays, Eula Biss’ Notes From No Man’s Land, Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me, Hilton Als’ White Girls, or Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams as recent collections we’ve loved for their messy structures, exciting subject matter, serious research, and surprising, beautiful language.


1. All essay collections are welcome, regardless of author’s previous publications; manuscripts should be approximately 100-300 pages in length.

2. Intimate friends, relatives, or current and former students of the judge Wayne Koestenbaum are not eligible to submit. Faculty, staff, students, and alumni of Cleveland State University or the Northeast Ohio MFA Program (NEOMFA) are not eligible to submit their work.

3. Translations are not eligible.


1. Include one cover page listing your name, manuscript title, address, phone number, and e-mail address and a second manuscript cover page listing the title only (your name should not appear elsewhere on the manuscript).

2. Clearly indicate “Essay Collection Competition” on the manuscript cover page.

3. Do not include a cover letter or biographical information. You may include an acknowledgments page after the cover page, listing any previously published poems as well as previously published full-length collections.

4. Multiple submissions are welcome and simultaneous submissions are acceptable (please inform us if the manuscript is accepted elsewhere).

5. The CSU Poetry Center reserves the right to consider all entrants for publication; a listing of all winters and finalists will be posted on the Poetry Center website.


1. Upload your manuscript to Submittable (mail submissions are no longer eligible).

2. There is a $28 reading fee, which must be paid through Submittable.

3. Please email with any further questions.









Killens Review of
Arts & Letters
– Currently Accepting
Submissions for

Spring/Summer 2015!

Notice! Currently Accepting Submissions!

Works are to be submitted by February 6, 2015
 The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York publishes the Killens Review of Arts & Letters, a twice-yearly literary journal that provides widely known authors and artists, as well as emerging writers, poets and artists, and educators and students opportunities to create and expand the canon of literature produced by writers of color. Presented at the Tenth National Black Writers Conference, the Killens Review of Arts & Letters is a journal that began with the commitment to support the mission and work of the Chair for the late John Oliver Killens, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, activist, educator, and founder of the National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College.


The Killens Review of Arts & Letters includes essays, fiction, short stories, creative nonfiction, art, poetry, and interviews by an array of writers of the African Diaspora. The journal also aims to feature the works of those Black writers who may have been left out of the Western literary canon. It is important that we continue to provide and remind the general public, students, faculty, and those in the literary and publishing communities about the significance of the broad range of works produced by Black writers.  For submission guidelines see below.

killens review

Call for Papers:

The Spring/Summer 2015 issue of the Killens Review of Arts & Letters seeks submissions, fiction, essays, poetry, and artwork that reflect the impact of activism in contemporary literary works and art.

Works are to be submitted by February 6, 2015.


Killens Review of Arts & Letters, Spring/Summer 2015

The Next Wave 

In 1926, Langston Hughes noted that “We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. …We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”

It’s been nearly 90 years since Hughes offered his credo, and writers across the African diaspora have been and continue to create bold and imaginative narratives in works covering a wide range of genres that have fulfilled his call.

Under the theme of “The Next Wave,” the Spring 2015 issue of the Killens Review of Arts & Lettersseeks submissions of fiction, essays, poetry, and artwork that represent the literature and language that are influenced by current events in the Americas, the Caribbean, and throughout the African diaspora.

The Killens Review of Arts & Letters is a peer-reviewed journal that welcomes Black poets, novelists, short story writers, playwrights, journalists, essayists, scholars, emerging writers, and artists whose literature and art speak to the general public and to an intergenerational range of readers represented throughout the African diaspora.


Submission of Material

The Killens Review of Arts & Letters is published once or twice a year by the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. The Killens Review seeks book reviews, essays, short stories, creative nonfiction, art, poetry, and interviews related to the various cultural, sociopolitical, and historical experiences of writers and artists from the African diaspora. The aim is to provide well-known and lesser-known authors as well as educators and students opportunities to create and expand the canon of literature produced by people of color.

While the Killens Review of Arts & Letters welcomes unsolicited material, we prefer to publish original material, i.e. first-ever publication. Unless otherwise selected by the editors, we cannot run a piece that has previously appeared elsewhere in print or on the Web. Please submit to only one category at a time: essay, fiction, interview, poetry, prose, and art. We aim to respond to your submission within two months.


Essay, Fiction, and Prose

  • Please send one piece at a time. We have no set maximum length or minimum length for prose submissions. (The average word count is about 1,500–2,000 words.) Most submissions, however, are between 2,000 – 4,000 words.
  • Please set up your submission in letter-sized format, with ample margins, double-spaced, using a standard typeface (e.g., Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial) and font size (12 point is best).
  • Include your name, title of the work, and page numbers on your submission.
  • Also include a one- to two-sentence bio about the author. If the submission is an academic essay with references, please include your bibliography at the end.


Please do not submit book manuscripts.

Poetry: Please send up to three poems.

Art and Photography: We welcome all types of image submissions. Please include a short note about the context of the images and title and/or caption information. Please include no more than six hi-res jpegs (at 300 dpi).

Electronic and Postal Submissions

Kindly e-mail material to with “Killens Review” in the subject heading.

Please include a brief introduction of yourself and of the work being submitted.

On the first page of your submission be sure to include:

  • 1. Your name
  • 2. Telephone number
  • 3. e-mail address


Please make sure the pages are numbered.

Or mail material to

Center for Black Literature

Medgar Evers College, CUNY

1650 Bedford Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11225



RE: Killens Review

Material will only be returned if the sender includes a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE).

The  Killens Review of Arts & Letters  is published by The Center for Black Literature (CBL) at Medgar Evers College, of the City University of New York, 1650 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11225; telephone: 718-804-8883

Material in this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the CBL. The Killens Review of Arts & Letters cannot be held responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, or artwork.



The late John Oliver Killens, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, activist, educator, and founder of the National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College, shared these inspiring words with an audience after a public reading for the publication of his landmark book Youngblood. In this spirit, The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College publishes the Killens Review of Arts & Letters, a biannual literary journal aimed to provide established writers and artists, as well as emerging authors, poets, visual artists, and educators and students opportunities to create and expand the canon of literature produced by writers of color. With its inaugural issue, presented at the Tenth National Black Writers Conference, the Killens Review of Arts & Letters began with the commitment to support the mission and work of the John Oliver Killens Chair. The Killens Review of Arts & Letters includes essays, creative nonfiction, short stories, art, poetry, and interviews with authors and artists. Each publication will offer writers and artists, and scholars and students the chance to share their work. The journal will also feature the works of those writers of the African diaspora who may have been left out of the Western literary canon. It is important that we continue to provide and remind the general public, students, faculty, and those in the literary and publishing communities about the significance of the broad range of works produced by Black writers.











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