November’s Featured Blogger: Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

It’s my pleasure to introduce Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha  as my featured blogger for November.

She is the creative force behind ‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ and ‘The Art of Beautiful Expressions,’

How did you decide on the name ‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ for your blog?

Choosing ‘a cooking pot and twisted tales,’ is as literal and as mundane as it gets.  Following weeks of coining names for feel and size, I failed to find anything that settled with me. One Saturday afternoon as I prepared lunch with my children, we swapped stories whilst cooking – it’s the way that my mother raised us. She entertained my siblings and me with folk tales or songs, somehow that made the chores lighter, happier and faster – that was when the name came to me, and as it settled in my heart it felt just right.

You write in the about me section of your blog: “If I blog successfully throughout the next year, I would have cultivated the discipline of settling down to write and ramble. I would (hopefully) have finished the drafts of the three novels that I am working on.”

Have you achieved those goals?

I have blogged consistently for two years and I must say that I am glad that I started. From my younger days, I journaled my thoughts in a diary, wrote stories and poems on scraps of paper. I started stories I never finished. I hoped that cultivating the habit of writing daily would give me a disciplined approach to my writing. I’ve written far more than I expected in the past two years. My novels are still in draft form because I am still reluctant to go the route of self-publishing for my novels – not just yet.

In two years, I’ve successfully published two of my poetry books – Out of The Silent Breath and Unbridled and the third poetry book is practically ready to go. I aim to release that in January 2018 because I have another book that sits in my soul and presses for my attention. Surprisingly, it’s a self-help book and inspirational. I have a need to get it out because I know it will help people.

Photograph of blogger Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha holding a copy of her book of poems, 'Unbridled'
My poetry book ‘Unbridled,’

Did you always want to be a writer, or did writing come to you as an adult?

My love for words and expressions led to my participation in school dramas/dance, writing dramas and short stories, and lead speaking at debates.

As a child, I didn’t know a lot of black writers except a few like Buchi Emecheta, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Flora Nwapa and the esteemed late Chinua Achebe who happened to live a stone throw away from my folks at the University of Nigeria Nsukka campus, even then, I simply knew him as Nwando’s daddy – Nwando Achebe was my school mate. Most of the books available to us were written by Westerners and I had no idea that one could become a career writer.

I grew up in a place where a child’s course of study was determined by the parents and my parents thought my flair for the written and spoken word was better channeled into Law as opposed to Mass Communication or Theater Arts, which were my choices. In fairness to my parents, back then our actors and journalists were not well paid and I guess my folks worried about my future. Out of deference, I started out reading Law, then French language and my career has evolved over the years. Now, I am finding my way back to that which always had my name on it – writing and communication – though I must say that I’ve gained more from my diverse career background.

You mention that as a child in Nigeria you loved Nigerian Folklore: do you have a favorite story?

I was raised in a loving, Nigerian family; I was fed the staples of folklore and proverbs. Words of advice from my parents and grandparents were always accentuated with proverbs that puzzled my young mind.  Being that our life was always busy with many chores and farming, to make these duties less cumbersome especially when peeling cassava, shredding the corn heap, making pap, weeding the farm etc, my mother told us stories and most of the tales were underlined with a moral or two.

These tales helped to hand down tradition and customs and I remember that tales of the clever Tortoise and the animal kingdom always made us laugh, while ‘AGABA, the eater of liars,’ firmly planted the moral to tell the truth in my mind.

 

book cover for Out of the silent breath
Out of the silent breath by Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

What other kinds of art shape your writing?

My writing is influenced by a keen observation of things that go on around me daily. I am an avid people watcher and a people’s person. Sometimes, I simply take a seat and as people pass by, I formulate stories in my head about them. I love nature – who doesn’t. The wonders of the world that I see leave me in constant awe and appreciation. I draw from life’s experiences, past and present, from the handiwork of others, painting, photography, conversation with total strangers and music. Music kindles my spirit.

Do you see blogging as an art?

If art is defined as self-expression, then blogging which is a form of self-expression is an art and the blogger becomes part of the art he creates.

I see your blog as a centering influence, has anyone ever said that to you before.

Robert, words like yours keep going. I must tell you that when I started my blog, it was purely born out of the need to make some sense of my life, broken as it was. In real-time, I am attuned to community and society around me and for some reasons unknown to me, I draw others easily to me; I could say that I’ve unwittingly managed to carry this over to my blog.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about success as a blogger?

Blogging success for me is writing stuff and finding that it resonates with others. It still amazes me till tomorrow that people bother to read what I write. I will say that most times I’m tickled pink. If truth be told, I only expected a handful of humans to pity me and read an occasional post. I didn’t anticipate connecting with as many people as I have, and I must say that it humbles me.

Blogging has shown me latent parts of me that I had no idea existed. I knew that I had things to say, but I can’t believe that I have this huge well of untapped resources in me. What I’m learning is that the more I dig, the deeper and richer it gets. That I could take up blogging and stick to it has helped my self-belief, determination, and courage to grow. One thing I will say to anyone having self-doubt in their capabilities as a blogger or writer, ‘work through the doubts; they may never go away, but your can-do attitude will quiet them.’

You have a separate blog, The Art of Beautiful Expressions: how is it different from A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales?

‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ is my first blog baby and the second blog baby ‘The Art of Beautiful Expressions,’ is a self-hosted blog set up to serve as a resource center for bloggers, writers and photography. I focus on the rudiments of blogging, writing and photography.

Please share a short piece of writing, a poem, or perhaps an excerpt from one of your books.

 

Excerpt from my poetry book ‘Unbridled,’

Us 

There are us.

Born at the edge of a void

where there is no beginning;

early memories blurred

by recollections of bouncing on uncle’s laps

where turgid erections caressed our baby butts.

 

There are us.

Sitting alone all night

erasing ourselves and playing cracked records

from torturous nightmares of useless rape

forcefully fucked and threatened with grim death

where safety is far, and we can’t seem to get away.

There are us.

Who have felt emptied

by those who take want they want

leaving us feeling less than whole

plotting their demise in inconceivable ways

where we pray for peace to find us.

 

(c) Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha 

 

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Freedom from Fear

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State. Chief Justice Earl Warren  regarding Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

What I did on my Summer Vacation

  1. I gave myself permission to post only when I wanted to.
  2. I spent time with my partner, loving our love for each
    other.
  3. I studied the Constitution and early 20th Century History.
  4. I gave myself a break from the emotionally laden material I
    wrote in the 1980’s and 90’s.
  5. I accepted that my writing is only for me and that when I die my
    work will die with me. Greatness is not required; an idea beautifully
    affirmed on Sue Vincent’s fine blog.
  6. I accepted the challenge of being present for my niece to the best of
    my ability.  I now understand in some small way, the worries of
    parenting adult children.
  7. I bought a powerful new laptop and so far, I’ve learned four new image-processing programs.
  8. I redesigned Art by Rob Goldstein.
  9. I re-thought and rewrote the ‘about me’ section of Art by Rob Goldstein
  10. I learned the terrible and exceedingly dull mysteries of SEO.
  11. I restructured and simplified the Menu options at the top of the page.
  12. I wrote a posting schedule:I will post on Monday’s, Wednesdays, and Saturdays and will use
    the rest of he week to make content and catch up with the blogs
    I follow.

    The schedule remains subject to whim.

  13. I realized how lucky I am to be alive and creative.
  14. My partner and I celebrated our Silver Anniversary last week.
    Photograph of two men in San Francisco City hall
    25 Years together, October 2017

    25 years and I couldn’t love him more.

Rob Goldstein 2017

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The Spirit of the Times

Animated Gif of President Trump shoving his way through a group of men
Corruption is arrogant.

1.

Corruption is arrogant.

It presumes we are weak.

It presumes our apathy.

Corruption insinuates itself into every day life.

If we do nothing corruption breaks our spirit and makes us slaves.

 

Animated gif of Trump saying Get him the Hell Out of here found on GIPHY
Get him the Hell Out of here

2.

When I speak of the spirit of the times, I speak of the collective vision
of the people.

In this picture, for instance, found at the internet archives:


Freedom of Worship

Norman Rockwell captured the vision of Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.

As I understand the history of World War Two, the average person thought he or she was fighting to keep a way of life based on respect for independent thought, free speech,  tolerance for religious differences, basic economic security, and freedom from war.

In his January 1941 State of the Union Address President Franklin D. Roosevelt enumerated four essential freedoms for which we as a Nation stand and for which we will fight.

“The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings, which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”

In 1941 the United States went to war with the evil called fascism.

The Allies rallied around human rights:

Copy of the announcement of the establishment of Social Security
Before government was demonized the people used it as a tool to improve their lives.

The Fascists focused on fear and global dominance.

Copy of a Nazi Soldiers fighting rat like Jews.
Fascist movements always demonize immigrants and minorities

Many of us would not have been born had the fascists won that war.

3.

What is faith?

In the cynical version of history Roosevelt lied about his four freedoms; cynics point to the racism, and the homophobia of that generation, and they are right.

The people who followed a president into a war to protect essential
human rights were flawed.

But they paid their taxes and voted to spent their money to build a
working democracy.

They had vision and hope.

Hope and a working democracy gave birth to the civil rights Movement, to
the gay rights movement, to feminism and the mid 20th Century explosion of art and ideas that lead to the internet and social media.

What is a working democracy?

A working Democracy is one in which we as a Nation talk to each other and use reason; it is one in which the people and their leaders live by and respect the rule of law.

A working democracy is one in which we have faith in our ability to make
the right choices and faith in our ability to eventually do what is just, what
is right and what is good, regardless of the cost.

Good and evil are the choices we make as a people.

Will we allow a corrupt tyrant to usurp our government and our
freedoms  or will we demand the removal of his puppet and those
who work to protect him.

The choice is ours

(c) Rob Goldstein 2014-2017 All Rights Reserved

 
First written and posted in 2014 as ‘Broken’.

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