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

Advertisements

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

17 Oct

 

DSC_0101

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.

dsc_0078edit

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

8

 

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

Resized_20170525_204002

 

LCFC Journal #12: “To Be Young & Black in Grad School”

23 May

20170517_183328To this day, I still remember my first taste of graduate school. It was August 27th, 2015, summer was rapidly on its way out and I happened to be running behind schedule for my first class of the fall semester.

After leaving work and catching my buses headed towards Queens College, I contemplated on how the first session of my English M.A. program would go. Grad school was something that I had convinced myself I was ready for, especially after having been out of school for 20 months upon finishing my undergraduate degree. However, as the bus neared the school with each stop I couldn’t find it in me to suppress a tiny voice from asking if I was sure that a Master’s degree was something I could complete.

Upon arrival, I remember walking into the designated building in which my class was being held and making my way to the seventh floor.

The classroom itself was a long conference room and to the least of my surprise was filled with students settling into their seats. The professor, (a tall brunette woman) seemed welcoming and handed out the syllabus with worksheets.

As the materials went around one by one, we volunteered and read these sheets as they consisted of stories that we would cover throughout the semester. However, upon reading them, I felt a pang of anxiety as my chest tightened. Suddenly an unwavering sense of doubt drenched my thoughts as I felt as if I had instantly drowned in water. In that instant I honestly said to myself that I wouldn’t be able to complete the work and that grad school wasn’t made for someone like me.

Further along, the more I took the initiative to complete the assignments and do them well, I found out that I wasn’t that bad of a student. I made A’s and A-’s on a majority of my assignments and was very relieved upon receiving these grades as these first few marks certainly boosted my confidence.

However, I still felt conflicted somewhat as I dealt with the large elephant in the room. The elephant being that I was one of few black men or people of color within my courses. I know this sounds absurd especially since undergraduate programs are generally swarmed with white people but for some reason I felt like an outlier in my classes while listening to discussions on literary criticism, English Renaissance in the 17th century and anything Marx and Engels related. To be clear, I of course didn’t connect with my classmates but in regards to my education I also didn’t connect to what I was learning either.

My vision heading into grad school was premature at best. I honestly thought that I would concentrate on African-American literature and would in the process write a Master’s thesis in which I’d hone the skills that I had only begun to sharpen in my undergrad program while simultaneously showing that I had the ability to write, publish, articulate, and discuss on the graduate level. Nonetheless, over the past twenty-two months I’ve managed to do work in sectors unrelated to what I specialize in as I recently submitted my thesis on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” and now stand days away from graduating from the program.

Looking back, however, I still feel conflicted about the whole thing. For one, I consider myself to be a person who loves to experience what he is a part of. But somehow, I never felt as if my time within my graduate program was an experience. To me, it felt more like a task within my journey.

20170517_183402

Surely, one can ask if I took advantage of everything the school or the program itself had to offer and I would say that I did the best I could. I mean, I attended some readings sponsored by the department’s MFA program. From Zadie Smith, Cornelius Eady, Jackie Woodson and Kia Corthron, I extracted knowledge from their readings as well as their sit-down discussions with moderators, but a part of me still felt as if something was missing, as if I was a little guppy that had lost his way swimming in a sea of strong bass fish.

Moreover, I felt as if the entire time I existed within a bubble often finding myself awkwardly alone and staying to myself as others connected. Nothing felt inclusive, as I consciously harbored upon my blackness and whether my peers thought if I belonged or not.

On the days I had class I always felt as if I had something to prove. It was important to me that my classmates saw me as a competent black man who deserved to be within their presence. And so, I took it upon myself to engage and ask questions every single session. Although I felt as if they knew I was smart or capable enough to hold my own, I was never satisfied and always found myself trying to fit in.

During my time in grad school there were no study sessions, no support groups, no trips to local bars for drinks, nothing in which I knew I could be present in. And to be completely honest, this frustrated me. I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to fit into the whole graduate school paradigm and I was frustrated because of the lack of people who looked like me within the program.

Overtime I grew accustomed to being alone and started treating it like an actual job. Get in, get out, read, research, write, repeat. These are the things I told myself. It almost became some sort of an ethics code. Something to live by and not think about as much.  And although I felt out of place, I cannot say that I didn’t grow to enjoy the work. Again, some of it felt pointless to me, but along the way I picked up essential knowledge from professors I admired as well as writing methodologies that will serve a great purpose moving forward as I plan to further my studies over the next few years within a doctoral program.

At the beginning of this spring semester, I found myself releasing tiny sighs of relief as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Additionally, I was elated that I would not only be writing my thesis but would only have one class the entire semester. Being in several classes with people who I wasn’t sure wanted me there put me in a state of depression often. But the mere fact of having one class while focusing on my thesis project with my adviser made me happy because for the first time I worried less about what people thought of me and of my place within the program.

As the months passed, I remember receiving e-mails from my program director inviting all students within the M.A. program undergoing their thesis to participate in writing workshops to strengthen our drafts. Looking at the date of the first workshop, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to go because I was still in the early stages of the paper and up until that point hadn’t even drafted two pages which was the minimum requirement to participate in the workshop. But deep down I knew that I was only making excuses as thesis proposals were deemed acceptable for those wanting to participate.

Personally, I didn’t want to be in the space that made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be judged, I didn’t want to be critiqued and more specifically, I didn’t want people to look at my writing, cringe, and think I was stupid because I was black. And so, I didn’t go. I skipped the workshop and pretended as if I hadn’t seen the e-mail. However, a month later another e-mail came around asking for us to participate in the second workshop. When I looked at it, I initially dismissed it yet again but something told me to give it a shot this time around, especially since I had completed my first draft just before spring break.

And so, the following day I mustered up the courage to attend and found myself sitting with my former professor and M.A. program director as well as the assistant chair deputy of the department. But unlike what I had pictured in my head there were only two students present: two young women. Instantly, my mood improved as I released nerves that had been built up on my way to the workshop. And by the time it was over, I left feeling much better than I had anticipated. The critiques weren’t as bad as I had thought they would be and it honestly felt great working in such a small group in which I wouldn’t be judged for the color of my skin. It left a great impression on me as I decided then and there on the spot that I would be present at the last workshop which was scheduled to take place in the first week of May.

Two weeks exactly after this final designated workshop, I was scheduled to meet with both my adviser and second reader for my graduate thesis oral exam. I remember being very nervous and thinking that the worst of the program had yet to come. In my head, I imagined them both questioning my every decision and writing technique I had incorporated within my essay. However, it turned out that all they had wanted to do was have a conversation about the work. From the moment, I entered the room, I felt comfortable and at ease. In addition, the fact that they had both complemented me on the writing itself made me feel (for the very first time) that I had belonged within the program. After receiving my grade of A on the exam and looking at the smiles stretched out across both of their faces, I really took the time out to recognize the sincerity of their compliments and their approval of my work.

The faculty had been rooting for me all along and were happy that I had accomplished something significant that I could take out into the real world as an academic scholar. Within that very moment it put everything into perspective for me. It wasn’t the school or the program itself that I had issues with but the fact of me being a young black man in an English graduate program surrounded by people who were possibly unfamiliar with my presence as a person of color. It made me second guess myself and question every move or thought I posed along the way.

Now as I prepare to walk down the commencement aisle over the next few days I’m going to think about my experience and how much it allowed me to grow as a student and person in academia.

People are born into a world in which we control only what it is that we can control. We can’t get too high and we can’t get too low on an array of things. But what we do control is our productivity and our choices. Had I believed my inner voice that very first session and thought my presence wasn’t merited or worth being a part of the institution I honestly would have quit that same day. But to the best of my abilities, I worked hard, persevered, and did my absolute best so that I could see the day in which I would be able to graduate while being one step closer towards my dream of being a college professor. Sometimes when you’re uncertain of yourself and haven’t a clue of where to turn, all you could ever ask for is your best effort. Again, you can’t change the way others think of or about you, but what you do have is the utmost power to control what you (as a sole individual) can control. And to be completely honest, that’s all that really matters in the end.

20170430_121112

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Anglade

 

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

LCFC Journal #11: “Poetry in Motown”

21 Feb

resized_20170114_191048A little over a month ago, I was able to visit Detroit, Michigan for the first time on a poetry tour called #AmINext.

#AmINext is a poetry show created by social worker, poet and social justice advocate, Felicia Henry.

Ms. Henry created the show as well as her non-profit organization, “Behind The Walls, Between The Lines” in 2015 and brought a collection of artists together to build awareness around mass incarceration, gentrification, socioeconomic disenfranchisement, and police brutality.

Because I am truly passionate about the topics of social justice on a grand scale, I was more than excited on the evening of Friday, January 13th when me and the other artists crammed ourselves inside of a sea blue van and made our way to Motown.

Throughout the entire journey, I had a great time socializing with the other artists while getting to know them better. Although I had already done two show dates with many of my tour mates, I learned that people we often encounter through work or business related circumstances have more layers to them that can’t be dissected or figured within a span of a two-hour time crunch when performing on a show.

And so, the following day we arrived in Detroit, sleepy, but happy that we had made it safely and in one piece.

After getting ourselves situated and settled within our hotel rooms, it was then time for rehearsal in one of its conference rooms. We made our way through every single performance piece expected and scheduled for the evening’s show.

Once we were confident in our poems and songs, we all departed towards the van and headed to the venue where we were scheduled to perform at called The Jam Handy.

At the event, many people came from various parts of the city in order to watch us perform. A lot of this stemmed from Ms. Henry having and maintaining connections from graduate school which were instrumental in aiding us secure the performance.

After a successful event, we went to Applebees and celebrated the evening with a group dinner. And so, dinner for me was a truly remarkable moment. Hearing the conversations of other artists and how their creative endeavors intersected their morals, values, and professional work and aspirations seriously made me appreciate the great energy surrounding me .

I say that to say often times people are so invested within the work that they do that they tend to forget there are many people who want/do the same work that they find themselves in. It honestly humbled me to hear my peers talking about what undergraduate schools they attended, what major they studied, future plans of advanced study, teaching pedagogy etc.

As I sat there entranced by everyone’s conversations I proceeded to ask myself: Why aren’t we portrayed more positively?

There are many talented, intelligent, and gifted people within the world doing groundbreaking and admirable work. There should be no reason as to why we aren’t spotlighted, celebrated, and appreciated for our achievements and our all-inclusive goals that plan to better the society.

What I took from that moment of us getting to know each other better is that we all wanted to be there because we understood that the fight we are in is bigger than us. Way bigger. The purpose of that entire weekend was to remind ourselves that social justice is important and by doing work that affects the way people think within the processing of our realities, only then can we go about devising any forward thinking solutions to bring about systemic change.

In parting,  I ended up learning a lot about myself while on the road in Detroit. Because of it, I can only hope that more road trips through poetry performances with “Behind The Wall, Between The Lines”will provide us artists with more solutions  for the betterment of it going forward.

A major thanks goes out to Ife Nira, Leah James, Jherelle Benn, Alia Pierre, Ashley Clarke, Zachary Durham, and Felicia Henry for allowing me to share the moment with them.

Sincerely,

– Kevin Anglade

resized_img_70911

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly Twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. Kevin was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. He is also the author of the recently published debut poetry collection Life Comes From Concrete: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek