LCFC Journal #19: A Rose in Ghana – The Summary

21 Jan

IMG_5585Last summer, I had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Takoradi, Ghana as a teaching fellow for a program called Limited Resources Teacher Training or LRTT for short. During this program, myself and 19 other teachers from various parts of the U.S. led professional development conferences for in-country teachers. The objective was to provide an equitable exchange of ideas through effective teaching practices and strategies that would allow teachers to provide their students with various opportunities to exhibit growth and progress. The other part of this exchange was for fellows to also grow and develop skills in leadership while bringing confidence and a reinvigorated sense of passion back into the classroom for the following school year. Well, let’s just say I got a little bit of everything in between and more out of the experience.

 

I’ll never forget my first night in Ghana as I flew into the city of Accra and met my team leaders that would guide me and the other fellows throughout our three-week journey. The name of the hotel we stayed at was the Pink Hostel. And after being given my room key and winding down for bed, I heard a rooster crow for the first time in my life at 3AM. Wow, you’ve come a long way from New York City was all I could tell myself. After waking up the following morning and meeting the rest of my cohort, we spent an additional night in Accra before clamoring our luggage and selves into a bus and driving four hours south to Takoradi, the city and district where we would be working in various schools.

 

From that point onward, I fell in love. I immediately felt right at home and took in the sights. Dirt roads, cattle, chickens, roosters, goats, wild dogs, and children waving at us and expressing elation in seeing foreigners in their town. I’ll never forget telling myself to soak in all of the experience and live within the moment. Once we arrived at our next accommodation spot in Takoradi, I remember whipping out a camera that a close friend let me borrow and started snapping away at everything I saw. Never in my life had I experienced true authentic culture of that magnitude and it truly did something to my heart, mind, body, and soul.

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After getting settled, I promised that I would go out and find some roads or trails for me to run on (a summer routine I developed over the past few years in which I run three miles per week). Once I familiarized myself with the trails surrounding the guest house, (which were often dirt paths and hills) I savored every moment taking in the sights and appreciating nature at its finest. On my nightly runs there was a song by Kanye West and Kid Cudi called “Kids See Ghosts” that I played religiously. And sometimes by coincidence and sometimes by choice the track would blare through my headphones on one of my trails as I took in the scenery of the village from a high altitude. Personally, I felt as if the song was the soundtrack to life in Ghana and the continent of Africa as a whole. Especially, during a refrain in which the featured guest artist, Mos Def says, “Civilization, without society/Power and wealth with nobility/Stability, without stasis/Places and spaces”. The first few times I ran and heard the song, it felt good just listening to the tribal rhythm of the song. But it wasn’t until my third or fourth listening to it on one of my daily runs in which I realized that the song was a vivid reflection of everything that I had been internalizing on that hill and throughout the trip in general. I think the idea of civilization existing without society is a beautiful thing. Or in my perspective, a community that exists in which there isn’t pressure to be politically correct or forced to adhere to the expectations of a society. Seeing Ghanaians in their natural environment allowed me to see people that co-existed peacefully no matter the religion they followed (Christianity or Islam) or sizes of their body. I saw civilians that were just that. Civil in how they sold, marketed and distributed their own goods. Picked their own crops. Built their own houses. Cut their own weeds. All without direct control, pestering or surveillance of the government. It was certainly refreshing to see and made me realize how simple living can be. If only this could ring true in certain parts of the western hemisphere.

Lastly, having the opportunity to visit a few schools to work, collaborate, observe, question and engage teachers was an experience I’ll never forget. From the structure of a daily school day, to the recesses in which students were free to run without a care in the world truly made me evaluate the education system in America and what we could do to be as structured, focused, on-task and engaged with school. I’m not saying that Ghana has a perfect education system, far from it. What I’m saying is that it’s a shame that a country considered to be third-world holds such an immense value and appreciation for education. From the headmasters/mistresses, teachers, all the way down to the students themselves. It leads me to wonder the many flaws in U.S. Education as well as how we as a people interact with students as parents and faculty. Do I have an answer to this dilemma? Of course not, as it is without a doubt a systemic issue that we as a country have to bring to light and discuss openly. Nonetheless, if Ghana with its limited resources can get this done then I’m sure that in America we can begin taking the right steps to get this done as well.

 

Appreciation. That is the word I feel most connected to when I think about my time spent in Ghana working with teachers, students, and observing civilization there in general. I’ll never forget that I saw two boys on my last conference day holding hands walking on school grounds as the day ended. I’ll never forget that I saw a classroom of students be in awe as they gathered in a computer lab that had only two computers and revel in its appearance and functions. Lastly, I’ll never forget how kind the people of Ghana treated me. From the teachers, the cities I visited (Takoradi, Accra, Cape Coast) and the fact that I got a chance to return to the site in which my ancestors were captured more than four centuries ago. I remember running into a group of young men down in the Cape Coast and one of them at a party on a Friday evening told me, “Welcome back brother Kevin. America is where you live and were forced as your people were displaced but this is your home. Welcome home.” And with that being said, I couldn’t have agreed with a much better statement and personal lesson. I was home. A moment in time that I’ll never forget.

 

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KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

 

 

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LCFC Journal #18: “10 Years Later & The Holidays Matter Again”

23 Dec

KevMom2014aIn the ten years that have passed since my sister, Alexandra Anglade’s death I’ve watched my mother, Jocelyne Marie Joseph undergo a series of metamorphosis in which she went from being depressed and livid with the world to now being at piece through all of the things she’s been through.

Ten years later and I no longer live at home with her but I do know that where she was mentally and emotionally during the holidays in 2007 is not the same woman she is now. During that time frame I remember seeing my mother look worn and defeated. Without question it was definitely the lowest that she had ever been in her life. Both as a mother and a woman, I’m sure. At that time, I felt hopeless watching her suffer and endear the pain she was forced to live with. Being that I was only sixteen at the time, I knew she was going through it but still watched with curiosity.

Looking back, I think I was subconsciously taking notes as I watched my own parent deal with such adversity and pain that she had never experienced before. The circumstance was surreal, without question, but there is something interesting to gain and learn from watching a parent roll with the punches and adapt to an unwelcomed predicament.

Included below, is the final excerpt from last year’s Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 which details my personal account of watching my mom battle and wrestle with the fact of having to push forward in life without her first born…

 

This final piece, although brief, entails what exactly my mother has been dealing with since 2007. Throughout this entire section you’ve come across the burdens and heartaches that I’ve been challenged with in generally a short amount of time, but the person I applaud in terms of getting through these countless ordeals constantly is my mother. Without her, I really don’t know where my sister, Samantha and I would be.

My mother, Jocelyne Marie Joseph, has always been a kind and thoughtful person. In fact, everyone who I have come across in my short existence thus far, appreciates and loves her as an individual. Sometimes people wonder what she’s thinking internally because she rarely spoke her mind unless there was something of grand importance to say.

I remember not long after the passing of my sister Alexandra, my mom had become severely depressed. I honest to God didn’t think much about how the situation affected her but it wasn’t until I spoke to my grandmother about it, that I finally began to understand the issues my mother was dealing with. I remember sitting down with my grandmother one time in the kitchen and she said,

“Kevin, let me tell you something. A mother should never have to bury her own child. Just imagine, you take care of the child, you feed her, clothe her, take her to school, and discipline her. Do you know how hard it is to lose that? Especially the very first one?”

After hearing what my grandmother had to say on the matter, I couldn’t help but understand what she was getting at. After all, she had lost one of her very own daughter’s named Jeanette just when I was born.

Listening to my grandmother speak upon the dilemma, although I couldn’t personally relate, I nonetheless did my best to empathize and feel what my mother felt from a parental perspective. A parent is supposed to have a child bury them, not the other way around. And from that point forward, I watched my mother become a bitter individual right before my very own eyes. Often more times than not, I thought she would never be cheerful again.

I remember the year following my sister’s death, my mother was still a little depressed but I thought that she was finally overcoming the loss. I can recall my younger sister and I saying,

“Hey mom, Thanksgiving is coming, what are we doing this year?”

The answer we received was definitely one that we hadn’t been expecting, as our mom looked at us with a blank stare on her face and replied,

“From now on, I don’t care about Thanksgiving. I don’t care about Christmas. I don’t care about anything!”

Even my Dad who was lingering around when we had asked her the question remained silent. At the time, we all tried to stay positive, but just when we thought we had conquered one hurdle, was when we were once again, always facing another.

My father’s demise was the one that really set my mother over the top. In an instant, she went from being the second source of income (behind my father) to the sole bread winner.

At times, my mother wasn’t sure how she would deal with all of the bills as well as the mortgage that was due every month. And it was at that point in time, my mom had desperately wanted me to get a job but I constantly duck and dodged her. Although I was sure that she was struggling, I knew that getting a job would mess up my studies at school. I knew that I wouldn’t have thrived if I would have attempted to balance the two. It wasn’t until later that my mom came to realize I was so busy trying to figure out my own way, that I knew once I began to prosper and excel within whatever it was that I had a passion for, I would become a stable force that would aid in supporting the family.

 

Ten years later and I must say, it is certainly a pleasure to look back at what my family has been through, especially my mother and still be able to exhale. The fact that we’re still standing and living our truth is a blessing. If someone would have told me then that there would be better days ahead, I wouldn’t have believed them because there’s something about dealing with turmoil within the moment that makes you feel as if the experience is infinite.

But on December 23rd, 2017, there are two things I put into perspective:

1.) The first thing being that my mother once again celebrates the holidays and has found a way to regain her happiness and tranquility.

2.) The other thing is that this day marks her 60th birthday and I’m happy that it is one where she can rejoice and look forward to what’s ahead with the two kids she still has, because at the end of the day, that is all that really matters. Not the presents, not the bright lights nor decorative ornaments, but the six decades of life God has granted her while living present within the moment. That is all.

Man, I am eternally grateful that she never gave up and kept fighting. Because of her bravery and courageous strength, we’re still here.

I love you mama. Keep the family close.

 

 

Note: A majority of this post was previously published in the poetry collection, Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 via Flowered Concrete

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

 

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #17: “Vehicle To Truth Pt. II”

17 Nov

20171101_080151This year marks the 10th anniversary of my late sister, Alexandra Anglade’s passing. And although so much time has elapsed since then, I still find it hard to believe that she’s no longer living on this earth. What is more is that I find it hard to believe that ten years have flown by in a blink of an eye. At the time of her sudden demise, I was a sixteen-year-old kid living within the means of my existence. By that, I mean doing teenage stuff such as playing basketball, talking/singing to girls (by trying to emulate Chris Brown & Mario) figuring out high school and trying to regulate a bad acne problem I had at the time. Again, being a kid with no care in the world.

And so, when Alexandra passed, it struck a chord with me and hit my family hard. None of us had been expecting it as she was only twenty-six at the time (the same age I am now, how ironic) and filled with life. I think knowing that fact in itself has made this ten year anniversary a special one for me. I’ve been able to use the time in between to step back, think, reflect, and grow. If anyone would have told me that I’d survive that experience and live to tell the tale I would have never believed them but somehow someway I managed to persevere. Below, you will read an excerpt from my poetry collection/memoir, Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 that chronicles the day that changed my life forever and forced me to grow up and look at life differently. This is undoubtedly the window into my spirit.

“Pecan Honey”

 

   To start off my family dedications, it wouldn’t be right if I opened this section without focusing on the person who partially helped place me here. The next poem you will read is titled “Aquemini” and it is symbolic of both myself and my late sister, Alexandra’s zodiac signs.

When writing this poem, I remember writing it because I truly missed my sister’s presence. In fact, to this day, my younger sister and I still talk about her as if she still exists. Alexandra was pretty much like a friend to me as well. I can even go as far to say that she also played a motherly role within my life in a lot of ways.

She taught me a lot about respecting women and how guys should go about talking to girls. As I write this I can recall one time that she was taking me and my little sister Samantha to the movies when I opened the building’s door and mindlessly let it slam right in her face. Man, when I tell you she let me have it, boy she let me have it that day!

“Boy what the hell is wrong with you? When you see a girl coming towards a door, you hold it for her, end of story,” she said angrily.

Look, when I tell you I felt like crap, I felt like crap. At the time, I was either ten or eleven-years-old and really didn’t understand what she was saying but now as I look back upon that moment, I do. What she did helped transform me into becoming the young man that I am today.

Due to the fact that my parents, being Haitian were never really into the American customs of fashion and appearance, Alexandra would often go out of her way to buy Samantha and I the latest gear in clothing apparel and sneakers. Although I was only a kid at the time, I definitely appreciated all of the things she would do for us. Now that I am a young man, I feel like if there is anyone who owes her so much it’s definitely me. I mean, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be writing this book of poetry as we speak. I’m sure of it.

I am saying this because when Alexandra was about eight or nine, she told my mom that she wanted a sibling. And so, one day she made my mom accompany her to the grocery store to purchase candy.

When she left the store, she saw my mom talking to the man who later came to be my father. You see, my parents had been together in the seventies before my sister was born but they broke up once my mom decided to leave Haiti in order to travel the world. Therefore, I find it funny that they reconvened outside of a little grocery store in Brooklyn. To me, it only proves that I have a purpose and that I’m supposed to be here.

Now all of this changed in the year 2007. It was the year I turned sixteen. At the time I was a junior in high school, had very good grades, and most of all, I was just being a young, care-free, fun loving teenager. That summer, my parents, little sister and I went on a relaxing vacation to Montreal, Canada but by the time we got back, things quickly began to unravel.

By the end of August, Alexandra would stop by the house often and complain to my mom of some red blots that covered her arms. She complained of itching and how much it was bothering her. After my mom had done her best to help and noticed that it had gotten worse, she then urged her to go to the hospital.

Furthermore, one thing led to another and before we knew it, my sister was in and out of the hospital like clockwork until she finally went into a coma. I remember my Dad going to see her in ICU as often as he could because my mother just couldn’t bare it. On one specific visit, the doctors informed him that Alexandra was suffering from a bad case of meningitis. I remember him taking a picture of her on his cell phone and the person I witnessed lying upon the hospital bed was totally unrecognizable and a completely different person. My sister was a heavy set young woman but had ballooned twice her size in a matter of a month. As much as I wanted to visit her, my father refused to let us go because he said that no one under the age of eighteen was allowed in the room.

A few weeks after, I got a taste of life’s harsh realities for the first time on Saturday, November 17th, 2007. I remember leaving church that afternoon as Samantha and I had just finished choir rehearsal and were headed home. The church, which is relatively two blocks away from my house wasn’t far off as we walked. Upon arrival, my Dad told Samantha and I that he wanted to talk to us. As he sat us in the living room, I wasn’t prepared for what he was about to say next.

“Kids, I’m sorry to tell you this, but Alexandra passed away at ten o’clock this morning,” he said calmly.

To this day, I remember how everything just felt extremely surreal as he said it. Immediately my world began to plunge into an abyss. Samantha, wasted no time as she immediately began to bawl like a baby on the couch. After a few seconds of digesting the shock myself, I remember that I had joined her.

“Mwe konen ti moun, mwe konen,” said my Dad in Haitian Kreyol. His voice cracked as he held us both.

After a moment of consoling us, he went into the kitchen to check on my mother. It was then I remember telling Samantha while in the midst of my tears:

“You know, you hear about or see these things on the news all the time but you never think that it could happen to you,” I sobbed in between tears.

My sister thoroughly agreed and nodded her head as she continued to cry.

A few days later after everything had come to pass, my sister was buried at All Saints Church in Great Neck, Long Island. I remember watching her casket being lowered into the pit thinking, “Wow, she’s really gone, she’s never coming back and I’m never going to see her again.”

I remember as people began to leave the gravesite, I walked back to the family car thinking to myself, “It’s up to you now Kev. No more being a little kid. You’re going to become something great in this life. You’re going to make sure that your family is well taken care of, and that they can all live peacefully and happily. Nothing is going to stop you. You’ve got to do it and will do it. No more games. It’s all up to you because you have to become somebody. You have no choice.”

I truly believe that since that day, I matured far beyond than what I ever could have envisioned for myself. I deeply wanted to become something in life. And not because my parents were pushing and influencing me, but more so because I needed to… I wanted to…

I realized then that life wasn’t a game and I was going to take matters into my own hands and succeed at all costs. I mean, besides being my half-sister, Alexandra (or Sandra as we called her around the house) was my friend, supporter and a powerful motherly figure. If she never lived, neither would I have. Without question, I know I owe her everything that comes my way.

    A poet/social worker friend of mine named Felicia Henry has a wonderful blog that I advise you all to check out and for one blog post in particular, she wrote about how her car which was originally her father’s became her vehicle of truth. The post resonated with me deeply because like her father (who passed a few years back) Alexandra’s car, a 2005 Hyundai Elantra has become my vehicle of truth as I have started driving it this year.

Within the car she has an Aaliyah postcard (late R&B songstress) that hangs from the visor mirror and every time I see it, it reminds me of Alex. Every time I drive I feel as if her spirit is always with me and I couldn’t imagine a day in which I would not be able to see it dangling from its cord. For me, it represents everything that Alex was. Cool, funny, fierce, charismatic, caring and beautiful. And I write all of this to say that ten years later I wouldn’t have it any other way. Through both her vehicle and my heart, her spirit and truth lives on forever.

Note: A majority of this post was previously published as an excerpt from Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 via Flowered Concrete

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

 

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #16: “The Fall of A King”

17 Oct

 

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7 years without my father but the journey continues…

I wrote this post on my father’s birthday (10/10). Instead of thinking heavily about his unfortunate demise seven years ago (which coincidentally falls in a month in which he also perished) I’ve somehow come to think about it as a revival of sorts that cements the beautiful memories I have of him. There aren’t many people that I’ve spoken with or reached out to that know the facts of what time period in between my father’s fate was like.

Therefore, one year later I’d like to share with you all a section from my first and a half edition of Life Comes From Concrete that details what really happened seven years ago as I witnessed my dad waste away. Please feel free to read and share if time permits.

 

“Fallen King”

 

First off, let me start by saying that this was the last poem I wrote for this section. It’s also the third poem I’ve written for my father and the only one I feel was potent enough to make it into this book. Man, my Dad…Georges Anglade…Where do I start exactly? That’s how much of an impact that man has had on my life. He was simply THAT incredible! THAT awesome!

Now for any of you reading this, before you read the following poem, I would like for you to know that if it wasn’t for that man I wouldn’t be here. Neither would this book. Unlike many other young black men that I’ve come across, I have been blessed and fortunate enough to once have had a father within my life.

In addition to that, I was lucky that I didn’t have to endure growing up within a broken home, something in which many young urban people of color often identify with.

As much as I’m expressing love for my Dad, I don’t want any of you to think he was an easygoing guy. Although he was a very nice man, he was also the strictest adult that I have and will ever come across in my lifetime. Although a militant, no-nonsense, and hard-pressing individual, my father did the things expected of a man when taking care of his family.

My parents moved to Queens with me in 1992 when I was still a baby. Around that time, my father was laid off from a factory job and began to work at Otto Hermann Inc. (a retail store that sold paint, hardware and electrical home appliances) in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens. Every morning my Dad would wake up at 4:30am to go to work. He’d be out the door by five and I wouldn’t see him until five in the evening. The reason why I’m writing all of this is to show you what kind of a hard worker my Dad was. In the seventeen to eighteen years he worked at the job, not once did he ever receive a promotion. It’s something that truly bothers me because the man worked extremely hard to take care of us and was extremely professional to boot. The fact that they never promoted him for his great work and professionalism is a travesty.

My earliest memories of my father were ones of constant fear. As I’ve mentioned before, he had a no-nonsense attitude and an aura about him that undeniably commanded respect. Without question, he was most certainly a marvelous man, someone who never hesitated to help when others were in need, someone who would warm up to just about any person he came across. However, make no mistake, if you ever stepped on his toes, especially if you were his kids, he’d, “kick your ass,” as I often remember him saying.

 

Although I never really had a traditional father-son relationship with my Dad, I just can’t begin to tell you how influential he was in terms of shaping me into a young man. My father was a Haitian man from the Caribbean and with that being said, he tremendously valued education.

There are so many phrases I can recall him saying to me in a lifetime but some of my favorites are, “Did you do your homework?” “Where’s your report card?” “Use your brain”, “I’m not playing games with you Kevin!” “Did you say sorry to your mother?” “What’s up young man?” just to mention a few and he would often say all of these with a thick Haitian accent that he never was able to completely rid himself of even as he lived in America for almost thirty plus years.

As Samantha and I got older, my father loosened the reigns on us a bit. Maybe it was because he noticed that we were maturing, but it wasn’t until my late teens that he and I started to talk more and built a relationship. And so, just when I had completed high school and finished my first year of college, that’s when I began to lose him…

The summer of 2010, following my freshman year in college was a great one. I had good grades, I had just gotten my driver’s license (under the tutelage of my father) and I had a hot Hispanic girlfriend to boot. I remember my Dad looking at me on many occasions and his face showed the same pride each and every time. There was no doubt that he was proud. I think for the first time; he saw his own son becoming a man in every sense of the word.

Nevertheless, as the new school season rolled in and I was set to begin my sophomore year, my Dad started to get extremely sick. I remember there was one Monday morning in September when my Dad didn’t feel well and he asked my mother to call an ambulance. After the EMTs and paramedics arrived they checked his blood pressure as well as his vital signs before taking him away.

At the time, I didn’t really think much of it, because my father was a very strong man. I had seen him do and conquer so much that I knew he’d bounce back, or so, I thought. A few hours turned into a day, a day had turned into a week and before I knew it, my Dad was in a coma just how Alexandra had been after a seven-day period.

By the time I went to go visit him, the doctors told my mother that he might not make it. This caused great panic within my family as everyone was in and out of the hospital hoping that he’d recover. I even remember visiting on one occasion and recall him looking around the room with IV’s attached to his body. My heart was so heavy seeing him in that state and what made it worse was that he briefly had forgotten who he was after getting out of the coma.

A few days later, I can remember visiting him as he seemed to be back to his normal self.

He was speaking and interacting with me as if nothing had ever happened. I was glad that he seemed okay. The doctors had even told him that he would be discharged the following day.

The next day he came home to what felt like a parade. Many family members came over to celebrate his return. There was food, drinks, and everyone was happy. My Dad had chronic Hepatitis B which caused him to develop cirrhosis of the liver. Anyone who knew him knew that he loved to drink alcohol which certainly took a toll on his health. However, as he returned, he vowed to never drink again knowing he had almost lost his life because of it.

On Sunday, October 10th, my father celebrated his 59th birthday. After wishing him a happy birthday and giving him a gift, (a glass monument) he thanked me for the well wishes and said that if it hadn’t been for God, he wouldn’t have been alive. The irony of that moment was that nine days after commemorating his day of birth, he was called home by the heavenly father. I remember that 19th day of October as if it were yesterday. I was in English class when my cellphone started to vibrate from within my pocket. When I had gotten the chance to step out and look at the caller I.D., I saw that I had been left a voicemail to go along with a missed call. I then stepped out of class and quickly dialed my voicemail when I heard his voice,

“Hi, Kevoo[i], it’s Daddy, I went back to the hospital. Come visit me when you get out of school,” he said.

Are you serious? I thought as I went back into class.

Later that day, I nervously fumbled with the car door of my Dad’s Chrysler as I opened it and ignited the ignition. After getting onto the highway, I speedily made my way to Jamaica Hospital. Upon arrival, I was informed that he was in a holding room. By the time I had found it, a doctor had pulled back some curtains and there he was, lying on a stationary bed.

 

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Not too good,” he replied in a weak voice.

“I tried calling you once I left school but I couldn’t reach you. Where’s your phone?”

“At home,” he said.

“Why don’t you have it?”

“I don’t need it anymore,” he replied.

“What do you mean?” I asked nervously.

It was the first time after frequent visits that I ever recalled being truly scared.

“Look,” he said, “Go home, okay? Go home, and make sure you do all of your homework.”

I laughed a little, internally, when he had said that. Even within a very tense situation that teetered in between the matter of life and death, here he was worrying about homework.

“Alright, well mommy is coming to see you soon,” I responded.

“Okay,” he replied as he gave me his wallet and driver’s license.

After examining them carefully, I noticed specs of shiny red blots. It seemed as if he had been coughing up blood prior to my arrival.

Little did I know that same Tuesday evening, that I would never have another conversation with him again as he passed away later that night. My mother had gone to see him at the hospital when my sister came into my room a bit after midnight and started wailing.

“Kevin, Daddy died!” she screeched in the midst of frantic tears.

I immediately wasted no time as I began to cry hysterically.

“NO!” I bellowed continuously until the word grew tired of pouring out of my mouth.

   It just couldn’t be. Not the man who constantly reprimanded me if I did anything wrong. Not the man who taught me the value of education. Not the man who worked his ass off, daily, in order to support his family. It couldn’t have been real. At the time, I thought it was just a dream.

Over the next week and a half, everyone and anyone who meant something to me or my father would offer their words of encouragement.

“Stay strong,” I heard. “Everything will be okay.” “You’re the man of the house now.”

I remember the night of my father’s wake, my uncle Joseph through marriage on my mother’s side told me to write down his eulogy as I was scheduled to give it the following morning at his funeral service.

“Whatever you are going to say, make sure that you write it down tonight,” he said.

But how could I possibly write anything down?” I thought.

The man had been an inspiration not only to me, but to a plethora of others as well.

“No,” I said to myself.

   Anything said about my Dad will be done the right way. All from the heart… I thought.

The day of his service, I don’t know what got into me, but the only thing I do know was that it wasn’t me. God had penetrated my body and blessed me with the words to give my father a great farewell. I stood at the pulpit as I provided the speech but by the time I was done I received a standing ovation. I saw that my words had resonated with everyone who ever knew him and in that moment, although I didn’t show it, I was proud to be an Anglade, as well as proud to be his son.

Not too long after, I came to the conclusion that there was a reason for my father summoning me to the hospital that day. It was almost as if he was passing down the torch from one generation to the next. He was certain of what I was capable of and knew that his family would be in the best of hands. He didn’t have to say it with words but the fact that I was the last family member to see him alive says everything.

My father had been a man of purpose and that encounter was definitely planned. I’m certain that Georges Anglade is one of, if not, the strongest man that I will ever come across in my lifetime. In his passing, I came to realize that my father had been more than just a father, he was my hero. In other words, he saved me from me before I even got a chance to indulge within the crime riddled environment in which I grew up in and for that I am truly thankful.

 

Reference

[i] A nickname I had during childhood that my father gave me.

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Note: A majority of this post was previously published as an excerpt from Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 via Flowered Concrete

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

 

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

 

 

LCFC Journal #15 “Summer School at Gratz” (North Philly)

22 Aug

 

Resized_20170713_191321This past summer I spent my time working as a high school ELA teacher in Philly at Simon Gratz High School. My brief tenure there was possible because I had been selected a few months back as a newly minted 2017 Teach For America Corps Member. And to say that my time there was amazing would most certainly be an understatement.

The very first day I was scheduled to meet my students was on Wednesday, July 5th. That day was a very nerve wracking one as I, and my co-teacher, Matt Lowe, anxiously found ourselves getting amped as we awaited their arrival. And so, as the bell rung we stood outside our classroom door at 8:30AM when the students started to slowly but surely make their way onto the third floor.

The special moment  we had envisioned in welcoming new students into our classroom was short lived as students spoke out in turn, questioned our purpose and asked us whether we truly enjoyed teaching and wanted to be there with them.

Moreover, some of the kids even mentioned how rough their school was and that sometimes the behavioral climate was out of control. Although I wasn’t surprised by what was being told to us, my co-teacher Matt Lowe found it to be shocking as he’s never come across or worked with students of color within an inner city school.

Because of this and the fact that I myself had grown up and attended all failing public schools throughout my childhood I thought it was truly important and best that I helped Matt adjust and become acclimated with what he’d experience throughout our month of sharing the classroom together. Our main task during the summer program was working with the kids to help them navigate the texts we would go on to cover over the next four weeks.

Some of the pieces we covered were speeches from former Senator and 2016 Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton about violence and oppression that occurred amongst women of all colors and creeds in 1995 as well as a speech by Elie Wiesel, the famous holocaust survivor who wrote the memoir Night which famously detailed his experience in the Nazi Germany concentration camp in the 1940’s. And although the pieces were dense, the students found the thematic elements we covered to be of great importance which led to many discussions and important conversations about sexism, violence, and discrimination against women.

For Matt and I, we noticed that the students had no problem interacting with the text, annotating them or contextualizing them through what they had experienced within their own lives, instead, we noticed that the real problem lied in the literacy skills of our children as many of them were writing on a fourth or fifth grade reading level.

This in itself was tough because I often had to ask myself: “How do I go about grading and assessing the performance of these children when their true skills doesn’t lie in their ability to write but in their ability to think and share vocally and critically about whatever we were discussing in class at the time?” However, I found this question to be a complicated one since the school itself was judging student progress on their ability to write and perform on paper at a decent level in which they would consider to be worthy of passing.

Yet, there were still more pressing urgent matters that often troubled me more than the students ability to attend, participate, and learn in class. For a lot of my kids many of them were dealing with personal issues and traumas that many teachers including myself would not be able to fully digest or understand.

I remember one of my students named Shemar Caraway had decided to answer a question from a day’s Do-Now about conflict and intervention as he said: “I’ve never intervened on any issue before in my life but I remember I had a friend who died over a situation he was in by gunshot. He was murdered and sometimes I think about how it could have been me.” I found this response from Shemar to be bone-chilling as I personally have never dealt with losing friends in such a gruesome way nor have I ever witnessed someone being hurt, maimed or murdered in cold blood.

Furthermore, many of my students had doodled and written on folders that we distributed to them for the summer. And a lot of the folders I came across had the words and hashtags #RIPBLACK #RIPSTUNNA and #FREETAY. In all honesty, these markings scared me because it made me wonder about the kind of environment my students were living in and how their setting affected the way they thought, spoke, and lived among each other. The actuality of their circumstance really left a mark on me and made me think a lot about their futures and how much care they should take going forward to ensure a full chance at life. Chances that were robbed and taken away from some of their most dearest friends.

As summer school ended I remember having a moment of reflection on the last day with my Teach For America summer advisor named Julianne and the other teachers in our teaching group that taught ELA at Gratz. And as I was given a chance to reflect and say what I was thankful for I remember having to step out because I broke down in tears. The reason for this was the fear I felt for my students as I questioned their safety. Overall, I had grown to love them and their imperfections and after hearing what a lot of them had gone through I found it to be of great importance that they not only continued to get their education but found more than one applicable way in being safe within their community.

One moment that has stuck with me even to this day as I reflect back on my time spent in the classroom is when Shemar showed up early to class one day prior to the start of class. By that point we had a week of summer school left on our schedule. And so, since Shemar was there early, I figured I’d pick his brain and ask him what his plans were for the remainder of summer before the start of the regular school year. Shemar responded by saying that he would lay low and stay cool since it had been a hot summer. In that moment of getting our class set up Matt teased him and said: “You’re going to be writing us letters saying how much you miss us?” To which Shemar replied: “Man, I don’t even write letters to people in jail.” The response itself was very illuminating in regards to the circumstantial conditions that our students dealt with and never ceased to move me in regards to how these kids were growing up in the midst of all the chaos and turmoil.

Going forward, I know that I have to move on and get ready for what is expected of me over the next two years in Connecticut but for some reason I feel as if my heart will be in Philly for a very long time. The students I was fortunate enough to work with this summer helped me grow in more ways than I could have ever imagined. They helped me realize that I have a purpose in doing work as an educator and that I myself will continue to grow the more I open myself to being aware of not only the similarities but the differences I will surely experience between my students and myself over the next two years.

At this point in time, I’m not sure what to expect at whichever school I will soon be teaching at but one thing I’m certain of is that the students I taught for four weeks at Simon Gratz High School forever have a special place within my heart. The one thing I will continue to ponder throughout the many years going forward is that this group I led for a month somehow remembers me, Mr. Anglade as their 10th grade ELA Section 1 summer teacher. If they recognize the impact I strove for with them, they won’t realize it now but possibly one day when they are full-fledged adults. In closing, I would like to say that those kids are special. And not only will they truly be missed, but I will never forget them for as long as I live.

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

 

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #14: What It All Really Means

25 Jul

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A year ago, I published my first poetry collection called Life Comes From Concrete. And as I reflect a year later, I’m noticing how long ago that chapter of my life had ended since I first wrote about it. Since the fall of 2013 I’ve started to come into my own as a young man and more importantly, as an individual. By this I mean, at the age of twenty-six I am fully aware of myself and my surroundings. As I write this I am currently seated on a plane headed back home from a vacation (a well needed one at that) and I’ve never felt more at ease with the choices and decisions I’ve made.

I wouldn’t say writing the collection was a chore or something that I found to be extremely difficult but seeing the progress I’ve made makes me happy and anxious for what is to come. When I think about the meaning of the collection’s title itself I think about journey and one’s path while on it. I say this because the ordeals that I’ve faced and the obstacles I’ve had to overcome not only shaped my way of thinking but deliberately set me onto a path in which I expected nothing other than greatness for myself.

The title of the book is metaphorical in two ways. We can look at the title as being symbolic in terms of a flower or rose rising from the ground to live full lives. Also, to connect the meaning back to the idea of journey, we can look at the concrete being symbolic of human beings walking upon the paths that they create for themselves. Therefore, it is very important that one realizes who they are when embarking upon their paths. For the path you create becomes the guiding light towards your destiny.

Over the past year, I feel as if I’ve eclipsed the meaning of the title by experiencing multiple potential paths that could have lead me in many directions. However, the one that was meant for me came about and showed me its importance when the time was right. Now, do I think that just because I know what I will be doing over the next two years personally or professionally legitimizes me as a person or validates the journey ahead? No, I don’t think so at all. But what I do know is that I wouldn’t have gotten where I am had I not taken the initiative to better my circumstance and somehow make a way for myself.

And so, this journal entry here is all about individual perspective. Life has a way of not only showing what is potentially to come but also is powerful in throwing many curveballs along the way. When I think about the inspiration of this book as well as my career as a poet, none of it would have come about had life not thrown me off course and made me experience losing my older sister Alexandra, my father, and my maternal grandmother, all in a four-year span. I never asked to be placed within those predicaments but was thrusted into them headfirst without warning. In turn, these experiences have catapulted me to become a diligent hardworking person who perseveres despite whatever life may throw his way.

I know that my story may not be of relation or in any shape or form connected to yours, the reader. Nor would I ever expect it to. If anything, I would like for this poetry collection to be viewed as a system that helps one gauge and reassess their progress and expectations thus far on their own specific individual journey. My story is unique to me as a person because it was born out of desperation. Yours may not be as dire nor should you ever think that it has to be in order to create a championed narrative for yourself. Instead, when you see the title, Life Comes From Concrete, I’d like for you to think of it as a second chance in all that you do in life. Which goes without saying that no matter what your situation is there is always room for a fresh start. No matter what ordeals you face there is always a chance to begin life anew.

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly Twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection Life Comes From Concrete: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

 

9

 

LCFC Journal #13: Grateful for Queensborough, Thankful for Gratitude…

20 Jun

 

unnamed (1)I remember what it was like coming back to Queensborough Community College for the first time in what felt like ages. In actuality, it had only been two years and change since I had set foot on campus but going back to work there felt much different. To be quite honest, I never expected to make a return and the fact that I did made me feel as if I had gone through a revolving door. My first day back was on Thursday, November 6th, 2014 and I was scheduled to begin work at 9AM for the Speech Communication & Theatre Arts Department as its college assistant.

I wanted to make a first impression (or thought my job required that I looked professional) as I remember wearing a gray dress shirt and tie with black pants and shoes. Little did I know that over time dressing up was useless as my manager, Veronica Manoo had me doing a lot of heavy lifting and cleaning. I was very taken aback by the amount of work that was cut out for me in regards to office maintenance but Veronica was very helpful in getting me acclimated to her system and how she ran the department.

Two months into my gig I was quite content with the job as it was pretty straight forward. It also didn’t hurt at the time that the pay was fair for a recent struggling grad as I was working damn near full-time punching in thirty hour weekly and making almost a thousand dollars every other week. Although the job wasn’t in my field of English I was comfortable enough at the time to stay a while longer while I continued to search for other positions.

However, a speed bump would occur a few months down the road as my weekly hours were reduced to half the amount I had been working from the moment I first started. For me, this was a shock because I naturally thought my pay would hover around the figure I was already making, but later on, I learned that the only reason I was afforded the luxury of working additional hours was because the college assistant before me quit in August of that year which allowed me to use up the hours that he hadn’t used as a result of his departure.

It was in that very moment that I realized the matter where I told myself I needed to get the hell out of there. As a recent college grad, the sudden reduction shocked me beyond capacity and made me take a step back to reevaluate why I had even gone to college.

What made things worse for me personally was that half of my earnings was given to my mother. From the time that I had started working at QCC my mother requested that I contributed four hundred dollars a month to the household as a way for her to buy groceries and aid in monthly expenses. Although I didn’t mind the matter when my check was looking great, later on I found it to be a nuisance as I barely got by.

During the fall and early portion of 2015 I grew to be extremely frustrated with the predicament I was in. At that point I had started a master’s program and had moved up from being a pitiful college grad to being a broke graduate student. And as I had done before I was struggling to stretch every dollar I made.

Months went by as the summer of 2016 arrived. By then I found myself keeping all my money made from the measly earnings of my paychecks to myself. At this point, a full two months went by without me giving my mother any money. And to be honest, I didn’t really care to even address the situation because it literally killed me inside. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and disgusted with what I had become and my pride would not allow me to bring the situation to light. I was able to get away with it for a while until one day my mother sent me a text and asked about the sudden halt in the money she had been receiving.

Later on, I remember us briefly getting into it as she told me that I needed to move on and find a real job with real pay that provided full-time work hours. Although I agreed with her and understood where she was coming from I refused to let her break me down. As a young adult I was doing everything within my power to be one that I was supposed to be doing at the time and her complaints about my job did not phase me in slightest. At the time I literally had one more year of school left on my plate and would not allow her or anyone meddle with what I had planned.

Following this matter, I continued working at my job while going to school. However, I knew that my final year of graduate school had to have something attached to it at the end. It was really important to me that I either found a job in which I could utilize my English undergraduate degree or one in which I could pursue education either through a fellowship or on a higher education level.

Sometime that fall, I found myself landing a position as a corps member for a teaching fellowship program that would have me relocate to New Haven, Connecticut. Once it became official I was certainly relieved to say the least. It felt great to know that I would finally begin to embark upon my career and would get started on defining and creating a future for myself.

However, what I found to be tough in regards to the matter is the fact that everything wasn’t all bad for me working at the school. What I mean by that is I grew and built relationships with some of my colleagues that will certainly last a lifetime. A lot of the professors I worked with helped me grow and mature into a professional future educator by simply having conversations with me. I was fortunate enough to watch them operate as I learned the meaning of responsibility, hard work, and etiquette when it boils down to dealing with students of all magnitudes.

On my last day of work at QCC I found the ending of what was certainly a learning experience to be bittersweet. Of course, I wanted to go and move on more than anything but a part of me felt as if I was leaving something behind. I was leaving a group of people that not only helped raise me on my first real job but cared about me in such a way that impacted my framework and identity as a young man. I’m not too certain why it happened but I can still remember crying my eyes out while talking to Daniel McKleinfeld, the College Lab Technician of my department and thanking him for just existing and being an extraordinary man that taught me so much about life, history, the world, and many things at large. It is because of beautiful souls like him that my spirit enlarged and was very in tune with everything I got to experience while working there.

And so, if someone walked up to me and asked whether I enjoyed working as a college assistant for little pay and work experience right out of college I would not find it within me to tell a lie and would have to say, “no”. But if they asked has the experience itself changed you in any form or fashion then I would have to say “yes”. It changed me because I literally had to learn that sometimes life doesn’t always go as expected. Life doesn’t always hand you what you want right away or sometimes at all. Life and the experiences you get are a test. A test that determines your resilient nature as you make progress into a future that is bright but challenging. A future in which you will find yourself being grateful for everything both big and small that comes your way. It’s this reason alone that makes me thank the institution as I express my deepest gratitude. Not only am I certain that I will prosper but I have also proven to myself that I will win wherever I go. And for that I say: thank you Queensborough Community College, thank you. Because of you, I will go on to do great things. Because of you, I am grateful.

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly Twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection Life Comes From Concrete: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

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