Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Self

When I look at this photo, I can see that my eyes look really tired. I remember this night vividly. Io was only 10 days old and I decided to present her to the world at an art show benefit for a friend who was ill. As my girlfriend and I pulled up to the venue, I could see folks hanging around outside. Some were smoking and others were wearing short dresses and high heels--not exactly a baby-friendly environment. While I really wanted to turn around and go home, I still found myself walking toward the bright lights. People at the door gladly helped me get Io into the space, which lacked an entrance that could accommodate her brand new stroller. After warm greetings and new baby oohs and aahs dissipated, I noticed that the music was pounding and probably too loud for newborn ears. I strolled her into a quiet corner, sipped my wine, looked around and thought, “What I am doing here?”
Photo by: Malakhi Simmons

Looking at this photo I see a mother who doesn’t yet realize how drastically her life is going to change. I thought I was going to be that superhuman mama that travelled the world and worked on exciting, new projects while carrying her baby in a sling. That’s not quite what happened. Since Io’s birth, I’ve held myself to this impossible standard and have lived mostly in disappoint for my lack of Wonder Woman-like powers and limited ability to accomplish multiple tasks with only two regular arms. Today, on my birthday, I give all that mamahood baggage a proper burial. I dig a deep hole and gently lower into it all the expectations I had that never became so. I stand over them, say a prayer, and send them on their way. I put them to rest so that new flowers may grow. I accept the mothering experience that is mine and whole. In its imperfection, it is perfect.

My first instinct to abandon the art show was the right one. In more ways than not, that was no longer my world. I didn’t realize that then. The girl in this picture is still holding on to life up top. She has not yet been initiated into the underground forest, where only women who have gone through a great death are allowed to enter. I have struggled for 4 years now, not wanting to succumb to the death of my life above ground. So today I bury my old self and embrace metamorphosis.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

RIP Papa, Larry Ylagan

Me and my Papa

Monday, September 27, 2010

Io Does the Science Center

Sid the Science Kid was at the Science Center this weekend. I was crazy to think that it would be a fun, manageable event. There were HUNDREDS of parent there. Many were stressed out and so were their kids! I feed off this kind of energy so I had to remember to BREATH. It was mayhem in there. Science Kid staff had to do some serious control crowd, asking that everyone they back away from the life-sized Sid. I had no idea he was even that popular. Io and patience do not go well together. There was no way we were going to be able to stand in line long enough to take a picture with Sid. Io was close to eruption as I began to explain her that there were too many people there and we wouldn't be able to see Sid. Io being unmoving and, I, a stealth photographer, gave Io my camera. We got close to the front of the line and I let her loose. In a flash she ran up to the Science Kid and took a picture then ran back to me. What kind of parent am I?! She got her picture and that was enough for her. Crisis averted....this time.

The ice wall.

Broadcasting live from the Science Center.
Inside the climbing tree
Io's Sid picture.
The crowd!
Tess, the giant test dummy. Io's favorite.

Tiny Wrist, Tiny Watch

 "Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. "
~William Faulkner
Ah, the sadness of a clock. Its constant ticking turns present into past and hurries you into the future. Time to wake up. Time to eat. Time to plan. Time to work. Time to sleep. What a responsibility it is to recognize time! Even as an adult I struggle with my obligations to time and imagine that children must struggle too. This month Io started her 2nd year of pre-K and at four-years-old she too must give recognition to the clock.

Similar to our adult life where we must keep a schedule, in Io's class of four-year-olds there is time to eat, time to line up, time to wash hands, time to play, but mostly time to sit. If you know a 4-year-old, then you know this is a tall order. Now imagine 18 four-year-olds! In my fantasies, there are schools that are compassionate and empathetic. They realize the struggles that each child faces as they are being asked to take on huge responsibilities such as minding the time. They offer children support around the rules and limits they must follow to be successful and safe. They employ strategies that go beyond authoritarianism. Maybe these schools exist, but I'm sure I can't afford them. So Io goes  to a Headstart program where structure is king and flexibility is failure.

A typical school day involves rushing the children through each activity they must complete to meet the school's cirriculum guidelines. The need to control and restrict appears to have more weight than what is actually being taught. Most of the teachers' energies are focused on getting the children to line up and then sit down and then sit down and line up. I realize that this is the way most schools work. And I know most people will agree that the teachers are doing the right thing by preparing them for kindergarten, first grade, and essentially the "real world." I don't write here hoping to change anyone's mind about their parenting approach, but I can say that being supportive as opposed to punitive just feels right. I realize that there is very little I can do to change the school system, but I can support my daughter  by helping her deal with the harsh reality that we can't do what we want whenever we want to. Don't I have a hard time coping with going to work everyday? Don't I have a hard time having to pay the bills? Don't I have a hard time keeping it all together sometimes? 

Io showing off her watch
How do you explain to a 4 year old that it's a tough world out there and when you're big you're going to need to pay rent and get a job? I could stand over my kid and say, "You have to do what your teacher says!" I could punish her by not letting her watch Spongebob until she can follow directions at school. But when I think about the difficulties I face in keeping the schedule I must to survive, I think about how hard it must be for her, a 4-year-old whose brain is still developing, to accept the incredibly heavy responsibility of life. All I can do is empathize with her and tell her that I know it must be so hard and give her some tools to help her along the way.

So to support her in understanding her schedule at school her Dad and I took her to buy her first watch. She picked out a pink Timex equipped with Indiglo, her favorite feature. The salesman said Io was his youngest customer. I was surprised that they even made watches that small. Io was extremely proud, showing her watch off to strangers in the mall. I stood back and looked at her tiny wrist. Although the watch was small, it looked huge and heavy to me. I was saddened to see her wear the weight of time. Such an enormous responsibility for such a little person.

Last week she wore the watch to school and her teachers were very pleased to find that it worked! They were able to explain to her the activities she needed to do and what time she needed to do them. Not only did she understand better what she needed to, but she then even tried to help her friends understand that it was time to clean up and sit. I'm ecstatic that I was able to come up with a solution that didn't involve coerician, punishment, or fear.  I am, however, sad to see her shedding the innocence of her childhood and really feeling her struggle to get by in the world.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


inhale. exhale.
hello all. i have resurfaced here again to take in some air and let you know that i'm alive and well. for those of you that are close to me, you know the depths of my travels. for those just visiting, i can only reveal that i'm on a journey to change my life story. although it's impossible to change what  is already written, i do have the power to start a new chapter.
here i am with open eyes. severed hands begin to grow back.
i know nothing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Miss Io Jade

I can say with great certainty that what she does not lack is personality.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"My Father's Love Letters" by Yusef Komunyakaa

My dad and Io.
My dad and me. 1981.

While searching for the perfect song, picture, or greeting card appropriate for father's day I happened upon this beautiful poem by Yusef Komunyakaa. Violence in all its forms continues to seep into our families. It is up to us to break the cycle and heal together. This poem speaks to my feelings for my father who has faulted and is flawed, but for whom I still have great compassion for.

"My Father's Love Letters" by Yusef Komunyakaa

On Fridays he'd open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
and ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, and sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams' "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"
Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter's apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side and extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters and pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences . . .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
and held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign
His name, but he'd look at blueprints
and say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses and hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed and fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.

Listen to Yusef Komunyakaa recite his poem at my tumblr, The River Underground.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meditating on Prosperity!

The one year anniversary of Orbiting Io also coincides with the beginning of summer and that means I have my baby girl with me 24 hours a day. Which also means I have even less time to devote to this blog, but I'm not going to let that stop me! During these summer months, I have to keep Orbiting Io short and sweet. I will be sharing with you the little things that inspire me and keep me moving towards progress. 

For starters, I am currently part of an amazing meditation circle called Rhythm and Breath. Led by Luz Cañas, who is was certified in  Los Angeles at Golden Bridge by the Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) in Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, Rhythm and Breath offers a cyber-meditation experience. Luz leads the group via the internet and guides her participants through 40 day meditation cycles. We are currently doing a prosperity meditation. This is my second meditation cycle and it has helped me tremendously to act on my vision, listen to my intuition, and rise up to my higher self.

Please check out Luz Cañes and her Rhythm and Breath blog. If you decide to join in her meditation, please contact her directly. Doing the meditation is an intense process which requires guidance and  it should not be done on your own. Link to the blog here.

Luz demonstates the prosperity pose.

In accordance with the meditation, I'm focusing much of my creative energy on building a website for our family business, which is our construction contracting company, and also developing a  word-of -mouth marketing campaign. Prosperity comes in many forms, but MONEY is needed to sustain this operation and put food on the table! This our is our blog for the construction company, JOCC.(Click link.) By summer's end,  I hope to have a full website together. If you or someone you know needs some work done in Los Angeles, please do contact us!

Banner image for our construction company blog.

Also, for your daily fix, you can find me at my tumblr,  the river underground.

My tumblr site, the river underground.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Orbiting Io is 1 year old!!!!!

I began this blog at a time when I was starving to create. The first two years of motherhood were joyous, intense, exhausting, melancholic, and beautiful. To my surprise, motherhood found me isolated from the rest of world- alone in the house with a baby while the world seemingly moved on and moved forward. Those first two years I longed to create, to share, and to interact with the rest of world. That's when I got the idea to start Orbiting Io. 

Thanks to everyone for reading and continuing to look for my blog everyday. Thanks to my closest friends who put up with my rants, bouts of hyperactivity, and my tendency to get increasingly louder as I get more excited. Thanks to the handful of you who have followed my blog since the very beginning. When I feel myself stray from the true intention of this blog, I think of you.

Orbiting Io is my tiny contribution to the world. A place to bare my soul. I talked before about how we, as mothers, need to develop concrete methodologies to hold ourselves accountable to our creative progress. This blog is my method and my catalyst, not the final product, but the drawing board for all my creative endeavors.

My inspiration....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

eye-o: the world according to io.

All photos and direction by io jade

Congratulations Io on your first year of school!

West Blvd. Mid-City. Class 02. Teacher Maria and Teacher Vivian
(I should get an award for getting these kids to sit down for this pic!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Aiyana Jones and the City of Detroit

Little Aiyana Jones was laid to rest yesterday and I am still trying to make sense of all this. I was talking with a close friend the other day and she asked me, “These killings happen all the time in America, why do you think this particular case is so important?” First as a mother of a precious little girl, Aiyana’s case hits really close to home. This could have been my daughter. This could have been anyone’s daughter. But besides my own personal feeling, Aiyana Jones is more than just a girl who was killed brutally by police, she represents what is fundamentally wrong with this country economically and racially.

At one time, Detroit was America’s crown jewel. Detroit had the first paved streets and the first freeway system. They had an extensive railcar system that served the population well.
A busy city. Woodward Ave, Detroit, early 1900s.
Amidst racism, the auto industry provided jobs for black folks. People were able to get around, buy the things they needed, and maintain a livelihood. By 1954, Detroit was producing 80 percent of American automobiles. Detroit became so invested in the automobile, that they abandoned the public transportation system in 1956 and focused solely on the development of freeways as a means of transportation.
 The Davidson Freeway. The building of the city's oldest 
freeway was pivotal in keeping Detroit segregated.
 Meanwhile, the strength of the black workers in the United Auto Workers union (UAW), gave motivation to factory owners to move their operations out of Detroit. Well-developed freeways facilitated this shift and those who had the means to follow did. Those that did not were stranded with no way to get around and with no work. It is no accident that those left behind were the black community. With dwindling resources, communities began to atrophy. On July 23, 1967 massive riots broke out. Lasting 5 days, frustrated, unemployed poor and black folks revolted and destroyed what little there was left of their city, giving white people all the more reason to leave. Today Detroit remains one of the most segregated cities in the country. We all know where the story goes from here.

Detroit under siege during the riots in 1967.
So here we are today. A little 7-year-old girl is dead, an innocent victim of unfortunate circumstances. It is important that we pay attention to Detroit and to Aiyana Jones. Detroit reminds us of the greatness we can achieve as a country. There was a time when Detroit was the benchmark for infrastructural development around the world. Today the city is plagued by blight and abandonment. Aiyana's death represents our most fundamental failings as a country. Her death reveals what happens when a government fails to provide jobs, fails to provide public transportation, fails to provide adequate schooling, fails to integrate, and most importantly, what happens when a government fails to respect life. If we are to learn anything from the death of Aiyana Jones, it is that our government needs to start investing in its people. We need infrastructure. We need jobs. We need local industry. We need healthcare. We need to live with dignity. And we, as a people, need to demand it.

Read my piece Aiyana Jones: Killed in Warfare
Read There is No Justice for Aiyana by Adrienne Maree
Read Birmingham, 1963 to Detroit, 2010- The tragedy of bombed and brutalized black girls by Jo Nubian

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bambu-The Queen is Dead-Video

Congratulats to Bam, Cicharon Adventure, and Oishi Media!
(Peep my cameo at 1:32!)

"Listen, I'd rather have brothers call you queen than bitch/ but if the intent behind it is motivated by sex/ then genuine it's probably not/ so that's why I said the Queen is Dead."
Check out Bambu:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aiyana Jones: Killed in Warfare

I sit down to write tonight with a heavy heart. As a mother of a young girl, the killing of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones infuriates me to the point of tears. I was horrified to learn that not only was the sleeping girl shot in the forehead (not the neck as others have reported), but that she was also set on fire by the use of the controversial "flashbang" grenade. It conjured up an image of Kim Phùc, the young Vietnamese girl who was photographed running towards the camera as napalm burn her naked body during an attack on her village during the Vietnam war- an innocent caught in the middle of warfare. Sadly, today, Aiyana Jones, is that innocent.  However "accidental" the killing may have been, the use of such brutal force and measure reminds us that we are in a state of war.
Kim Phùc. 9-years-old, fleeing napalm attack. Vietman, 1972.
In America, we tend to think that warfare happens in far away jungles or deserts. We often think of Humvees, bombs lighting up the sky, and the sounds of never-ending rounds of ammunition. If that's war then that doesn't happen here in America, or does it?
A flashbang grenade set Aiyana on fire.
While contemplating what to post today, I found myself overwhelmed by all the deaths I could site as an example of police warfare. The endless names and faces of slain children and young men filled my head as I made my morning coffee. The most fresh in my mind: Oscar Grant. Then Deandre Brunston, who caught over 80 bullets, armed with a slipper. Then the unarmed Sean Bell. Then Amadou Diallo, shot 40 times, armed with a wallet. Reaching farther back, Life Africa, a 3-week-old baby, stomped to death while his mother was trying to defend his father from being beaten by police in 1976. But nothing says warfare more to me than the bombing of the MOVE house by Philadelphia police on May 13, 1985. Argue what you might about MOVE and their philosophies, but on that day the police fired over 10,000 rounds of ammunition and dropped a bomb on the house killing 11 people, 5 of them children and destroying 65 homes. If that’s not warfare, I don’t know what is.
MIKE AFRICA JR: the May 13, 1985 bombing of MOVE 

 MOVE house on fire after bombing. 

Let’s look to see what police do next. New reports are now saying that the “The First 48” footage shows that the shot that killed Aiyana may have been fired from the porch outside, not inside as the result of a scuffle with the grandmother.  Another thing to watch for: the burned blanket that Aiyana was sleeping under.  The family reports that it was removed from the scene. There also appears to be one independent witness. Undoubtedly, the cover up will ensue. Stay tuned and stay woke.

Read Adrienne Maree's piece on Aiyana Jones.
Read my piece on  Oscar Grant.

All sources for MOVE:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Closing comments on "Little Single Ladies"

Thank you everyone for reading "Our Little Single Ladies" and thank you for your comments. There are a just a few things that I want to say before putting this to rest. Reading all the trending on this topic on twitter, I find an overwhelming response of tweeters say that they like the performance, but not what they were wearing:

@love8respect those little girls dancing to Single Ladies... omg. I mean, the dance was sick but seriously, what they were wearing was disturbing..
@jillelswick Great dancing but I'm against the proliferation of prostitute culture.
@BigBouncingBob I have nothing against the dance they did for the competition, but the outfits are just over the top.
@GrahamJen These little girls shldnt be wearing this. BUT THEY KILLED SINGLE LADIES!!
@love4jay LOL those little girls dancing to Single Ladies were awesome at dancing XD just the outfits are ... 

Let's put these outfits into context. In the world of children's competitive dance, these outfits are the standards and have been for many years. In fact, one of the components to choosing costumes for these competitions is visibility of the body. 

What the girls were wearing was not outrageous in the dance competition world- neither were the moves. By taking the outrage over the outfits out of the picture, the real issue is revealed: people actually liked it. Try reading the tweets and omitting what was said about the outfits and this is what you get: 

@love8respect those little girls dancing to Single Ladies... omg. I mean, the dance was sick
@jillelswick Great dancing
@BigBouncingBob I have nothing against the dance they did for the competition
@love4jay LOL those little girls dancing to Single Ladies were awesome at dancing

So let's face it people. We loved Beyoncè's "Singles Ladies." We liked watching her shake her thang. There are countless tribute videos worldwide, like Filipinos Dance Single Ladies. The hit show, "Glee" did their tribute piece. We've all watched Beyoncè, most likely more than once. Some people have spent their hard earned money buying the album and attending concerts. Why should be we so surprised and upset when our little girls are giving us exactly what we ourselves tell them is valuable and entertaining? Perhaps, we are just so uncomfortable with our sexuality that we can't bear to see our children act out as the sexual beings we are. Maybe it's hard to look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that we like sex. And our little single ladies are just that- a reflection.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Our Little Single Ladies

By now, most of you have seen the latest viral internet sensation that is “Little Girls Going Hard on Single Ladies.” Before being pulled from YouTube today the video of five 7-year-old girls shakin’ what their mamas gave them to Beyoncè’s “Singles Ladies”, garnered over 1 million hits and has sparked discussion ranging from pedophelia to the appropriation of booty poppin’ by little white girls. Between this spectrum of opinion, however, most viewers are upset and even disgusted at the display of pint sized sexuality. Ironically, comments on YouTube don’t seem to be focused on the dance moves, which in my opinion were mild in comparison to other viral hits, like Kids Dance Orgy. Rather, people seemed to be more concerned with what the 7-year-olds were wearing, which wasn’t much. But I’m not here to talk about their outfits or their moves.

Today’s young girls are not just being exposed to adult sexuality, they are being bombarded by it. What has come to be known as the “tween market”, children ages 8 - 12, is a $300 billion dollar industry.  By honing in on young girls at a time when they dream about being Kristen Stewart from Twilight, advertisers have developed specific tactics to influence their decisions and hopefully (and successfully) get them to buy their wares. One of the most appalling of these tactics are those used by marketing research firm, Girls Intelligence Agency (G.I.A.). Training and deploying 40,000 “secret agents”, the G.I.A unleashes its tween agents, young girls who they refer to as “influencers,” into the world of sugar and spice and directly into the bedrooms of little girls. Secret agents host slumber parties stocked with new, never seen before goodies for market testing. Secret agents, who often work for free in exchange for merch and the illusion of importance and independence, report to the G.I.A., telling them exactly what little girls want—to be grown. Waging a war on the minds of little girls, marketing execs give them exactly what they ask for: (see below)
And parents are buying it . Miley Cirus raked in $25 million this year. The Olsen twins: $15 million. Vanessa Hudgens: $3.2 million. Those little single ladies who are dancing their hearts out on that stage are just doing exactly what their society is telling them they should be doing. For them, these are the only images of female empowerment they have access to. They are only embracing the values of pop culture that many of us consume on a daily basis. In this sense, these girls are merely a reflection of our values as a society. If you are offended by these girls, stop for a moment and take a look at yourself. Men, did you enjoy Beyoncè’s “Single Ladies” video? Women, have you ever sexed yourself up for the attention of a man? The answers to these questions are most likely yes. We are all guilty.

Criticizing their parents, who have to do battle against forces that effectively remove them from the picture, doesn’t help either. Today’s parents are trying to keep their jobs and heads above water. Advertisers are banking on this. With less time to spend with their children, many stressed-out parents find themselves buying more things to make up for their lack of presence. I’m willing to bet money that those girls’ mothers are tucking their confused daughters into bed, trying to buff out the dents in their already vulnerable self-esteem, and assuring them that they are not the sluts and kinderwhores that people are calling them, themselves wondering where they went wrong.
There are bigger things at work here. The last thing we should be doing is judging these girls who are clearly talented and driven. What we should be doing is taking a look at ourselves and asking questions about how we as a society have gotten to a place where we are calling our own children whores. When we ask these questions we will find that it’s not these girls or their parents who should be on trial. So people, put your gavels down. Stop hatin’ and give these girls their due props because they killed it.

Do the work. Create media awareness with your kids. Check out:
Media Awareness Network

Read the follow up piece: Closing Comments on "Our Little Single Ladies"

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday Io

power fist
the scream
As we parents always say when it comes to the growth our kids, how time flies! Here are some of our favorite flicks.
See whole set at my flickr.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Twelve-year-old Ian Hamrick on his gruesome death in M.I.A.'s 'Born Free' video

From: LA Times Music Blog

“M.I.A. wanted to show people what an ethnic cleansing looked like,” Hamrick said in a phone interview Thursday. “She wanted to show that it can happen in any country, not just a place like Iraq. Just because this is America doesn’t mean horrible things don’t happen here.”

Read more on HERE.

Saturday, May 8, 2010