Jambalaya in my soul: A tribute to Pat Parker

by Malaika Kambon

For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend

Famed percussionist (steel drum and djembe) Val Serrant – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Famed percussionist (steel drum and djembe) Val Serrant – Photo: Malaika Kambon

The first thing you do is to forget that i’m black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m black.
 
You should be able to dig Aretha,
but don’t play her every time i come over.
And if you decide to play Beethoven – don’t tell
me his life story. They make us take music
appreciation too.
 
Eat soul food if you like it, but don’t expect me
to locate your restaurants
or cook it for you.
 
And if some Black person insults you,
mugs you, rapes your sister, rapes you,
rips your house or is just being an ass –
please, do not apologize to me
for wanting to do them bodily harm.
It makes me wonder if you’re foolish.
 
And even if you really believe Blacks are better
lovers than Whites – don’t tell me. I start thinking
of charging stud fees.
 
In other words, if you really want to be my
friend – don’t make a labor of it. I’m lazy.
Remember.

– Pat Parker

People need to listen to true Afrikan artists. They are a drumbeat, the drum being the heartbeat of the Afrikan community.

Annually, one of the greatest human beings on the planet, Avotcja Jiltonilro, organizes and/or participates in a tribute to the legendary warrior poet, Pat Parker.

Singer-musician-songwriter Blackberri performs at the Jan. 25 tribute to Pat Parker. All the photos were taken at that event. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Singer-musician-songwriter Blackberri performs at the Jan. 25 tribute to Pat Parker. All the photos were taken at that event. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Avotcja doesn’t wait until Black History Month, because our Afrikan story is a world story, and a story of the world and its formation cannot be confined to 28 days.

And anyway, rumor has it (via PaRaDise) that the Nu Black History Month, beginning in 2015, “is a natural, practical, inspired and destined progression from Carter G. Woodson’s Black History Week, started in 1926, and the original Black History Month, founded in 1976; and The Nu Black History Month will be a time of transformation and a time for Black Mecca Consciousness.”

A part of our story – chronicling not only the much too early transitioning into Ancestor Warrior Womanhood of Pat Parker – is that her story not become static and fade but that it continue to grow. And it can only do that if we keep it alive, verbally, musically, importantly; for, like the drumbeat, like the importance of our beating hearts, Black Lives Matter, and in every instance of our telling, We. Must. Live.

A Tribute to Pat Parker
Blues Hall of Famer Augusta Lee Collins – Photo: Malaika Kambon

So as usual to those of us who listen with an ear to the ground to hear, an A list of Bay Area and international legends – Judy Grahn, poet; Blackberri, singer, musician, songwriter; Blues Hall of Famer Augusta Lee Collins; Chelle & Friends, New Orleans soul; Jewelle Gomez, poet, novelist, playwright; Elana Dykewomon, poet,  activist; Dan Brady, poet, Sacred Grounds; Leslie Simon, poet, educator; Odilia Galvan Rodriguez, poeta Xicana; Maurisa Thompson, poet, activist; Kujichagulia, poet, musician, dancer, educator; Jack and Adelle Foley, poets, playwrights; The Troublemaker’s Union, percussionists, poetas, singers; Mar Stevens, percussionist; Mwamba Blakwomyn, percussionist, piano; Bill Vartaw, poet laureate emeritus in Sonoma; Aimee Suzara, poet, perfomance artist; Kaylah Marin and Tasha Kame, Bluesy Rock Band (and members of Avotcja and Modupue), Avotcja, poet; Sandi Poindexter, violin; and Val Serrant, steel drum and djembe – gathered together on Jan. 25, 2015, to celebrate and pay tribute to warrior and ancestor Pat Parker.

Some could not come in person but were with us in spirit.

Parker was an activist poet, born in Houston, Texas on Jan. 20, 1944, nearly two years before the end of the tragedy that was Europeans attacking the globe while fighting themselves, World War II. A comrade sistah of Audre Lorde and contemporary of Amiri Baraka and Adrienne Rich, she wrote about Afrikan, women’s and lesbian issues and was known for her incisive wit, biting and frank social critiques, narrative call-and-response poetry from working class and Afrikan oral traditions; and powerfully spoken, in-your-face truths that often people didn’t want to hear but did anyway from her as in:

Violinist Sandi Poindexter – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Violinist Sandi Poindexter – Photo: Malaika Kambon

“Maybe I Should’ve Been a Teacher” “maybe / the next person / who asks / ‘Have you / written anything new?’ / just might get hit,” and

“For Willyce” (when she describes making love to a woman) “and your sounds drift down / oh god! / oh jesus! / and I think / here it is, some dude’s / getting credit for what / a woman / has done / again,” and from her anthology, “Movement in Black”:

“If I could take all my parts with me when I go somewhere / and not have to say to one of them, ‘No, you stay home tonight, you won’t be welcome’/ because I’m going to an all-white party where I can be gay but not Black / Or I’m going to a Black poetry reading, and half the poets are anti-homosexual / or thousands of situations where something of what I am cannot come with me / The day all the different parts of me can come along / we would have what I would call / a revolution” and excerpts from

New Orleans soul singer and artistic director for Chelle and Friends Michelle Jacques – Photo: Malaika Kambon
New Orleans soul singer and artistic director for Chelle and Friends Michelle Jacques – Photo: Malaika Kambon

“Womanslaughter,” written in 2011 for her elder sister, slain by an abusive husband: “Her things were his / including her life / what was his crime / he only killed his wife … / men cannot kill their wives / they passion them to death / it has been 3 years / I am again strong / I have gained many sisters / and if one is beaten or raped or killed / I will not come in mourning black / I will come with my many sisters / and decorate the streets with the innards / of those brothers / in women slaughter / I will come to my sisters / not dutiful / I will come strong”

Pat Parker brought this crime to the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women held in Brussels on March 4-8, 1976.

Coming to Oakland in the ‘70s, she was a powerhouse of activism for the people, becoming medical coordinator of the Oakland Feminist Women’s Health Center which she grew from one single clinic to six at separate locations; becoming involved with the Black Panther Party, founding the Black Women’s Revolutionary Council; contributing to the formation of the Women’s Press Collective; and becoming locally and nationally known as an activist on civil rights, anti-Vietnam, gay and lesbian, and women’s health issues, especially those issues involving domestic and sexual violence.

Poet-musician-author Avotcja Jiltonilro – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Poet-musician-author Avotcja Jiltonilro – Photo: Malaika Kambon

She began her celebrated poetry readings in 1963 while still married to playwright Ed Bullins and, in 1968, she began coordinated readings with poet Judy Grahn at festivals and coffee houses, from bookstores to bars, in recordings set to music and published in books, continuing in the finest traditions of Afrikan radical poetry.

This reporter remembers the time well – and that the Oakland Feminist Women’s Health Center was fabulous for its sensitivities to women’s health needs.

Author of five published collections, including “Womanslaughter,” “Movement in Black,” and “Jonestown and Other Madness,” Pat Parker transitioned on June 17, 1989, 25 years ago, while battling breast cancer.

Pat Parker confronted the world in the precarious position of being non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual in a racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperial oxymoronically named melting pot of culture.

And she blew the lid off the mess with truth.

Proceeds from this event went to Pat Parker’s daughter, Anastasia Dunham-Parker Brady.

Malaika H Kambon is a freelance, multi-award winning photojournalist and owner of People’s Eye Photography. She is also an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) state and national champion in Tae Kwon Do from 2007-2012. She can be reached at kambonrb@pacbell.net.