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Tuesday, December 1, 2015


At this time I am happily and very, very busy working on two important
projects, a poetry collection and a collection of stories.

As much as I would like to, I am realizing that I cannot do

Because of this, and after much soul searching, I have decided to place
This Blog on hiatus.

Thanks for understanding and stop back later for updates.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

No Visitors Beyond This Point

Excerpts From My MacDowell Journal

August 19
Exhausted from traveling, I tried taking a nap but instead of sleeping I started thinking, not about Mother Mouth Blues (poetry, my proposal and plan for MacDowell), but on that collection of stories I’ve been struggling with for the past 15 years (previously titled 6 No). Suddenly, the voices are strong, confident and resolved. I’m writing with knowing and confidence. The experience is amazing. The going down into my soul writer happened here.

August 21
A no visitors sign is posted where the road narrows and trees bend toward each other, canopy-like. Note from the previous artist that occupied my studio, Phi Beta: For the next resident, may your days be long, happy and well-fed. Enjoy this magic place. 

Alice Walker said something about her not being able to write The Color Purple where she was living, so she moved to another location and the characters began to speak. I think that’s what happened to my characters in Pittsburgh. The environment was contrary to their development. They are growing here, prospering. The mosquitoes like me very much.

Outside my studio, the deer make their daily trek. 

August 22
The project is a series of vignettes.…Vignette: a brief but clear verbal description, esp. of a person.…So I am expanding on the definition. It is descriptions, remembrances, character analyses, short stories, concise ramblings, poems, prose, theater, memoir, song, biography. 

Quotation: …if we cannot name our own we are cut off at the root…Dorothy Allison, Two or Three Things I Know For Sure, p. 12

August 27
Song, insanity and the blues. Connections between women and mental illness. Respect the notion of time and space. Good work requires structure and stimulation…I shall carry with me always the liberation of submitting my days, time and space to my work.

A beautiful tree

September 8
Induction and Atonement. Put them together as a dream sequence. Not sure if it’s a real dream, but it’s the way Mae is writing it. Use the page, paint with form, so that the prose undulates down the page. Take out those straight forward things—he said she said, etc. 

Quotation: …vulgarity, that gift most needed to transform intelligence into art. Joseph Caldwell, The Pig Did It.

September 4
Bought a real microphone…experimenting with voice, nuance and texture. The songs let me know more about the characters. Added benefit. So much work to do and still the nagging question, who will publish? Have bouts of euphoria and in those moments I am the most confident writer in the world. After the emotion, doubt enters, but thank God the presence and power of doubt have diminished. I recognize its entrance, an old crotchety friend come to call. Sit down, I say, watch me work.
Every afternoon, a lunch basket is delivered to studios.

No Date
The Beautiful Section knows where it’s going. Now, every word, line dash space, everything on the page must earn its place. I’m asking: are you necessary? What do you bring to the party? If you are not productive, or if the line, phrase, paragraph, story can do without you, DELETE.

September 16
Home. I press on, otherwise I dishonor the gift of MacDowell. I am learning from The First Beautiful. She knows her song because the song is included in her muscle, hearing, language, memories. She doesn’t waste time looking for puzzle pieces. She awakens from her push back and moves forward. This is how I must proceed. This story is included in my muscle, hearing, language, memory.

Memories of MacDowell.

See also:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Summer Reading & Listening - Truth Is On Its Way: A Celebration of Literature

When I was a girl, the Carnegie Library in my neighborhood adhered to a strict code of separating child and adult literature. If you were underage, the check-out librarian would not allow you to borrow books the library deemed not suited for your age and maturity. Also, the children's librarian knew all of the titles in her room, and kept a close eye on those of us who where known for sneaking upstairs. I was often successful in my quest to read what adults were reading.

This post began as a continuation of A Celebration of Children's Books, but since I am remembering the absurdity of strict lines, this post is for anyone interested in good books.

I am rereading Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Be sure to purchase the edition that includes Margaret Washington's introduction and annotations. Washington introduces the life and times of Sojourner through historical reference to legacy, northern slavery, the African-Dutch perspective, spirituality, womanhood and sexuality.

From the introduction:
"Sojourner recruited colored troops for a Michigan regiment. . .met with Harriet Tubman, who had been on the front lines with black soldiers in South Carolina [and desegregated] the Washington, D.C. streetcars. The conductor's refusal to allow her to ride led to a successful lawsuit. It was a victory which cost Sojourner a dislocated shoulder. . ."

Shadowshaper by D.J. Older is the story of Sierra, an inquisitive, intelligent, and artistic young woman interested in understanding her spiritual DNA and her family's connection to magic. Older's books remind me of movies, his prose is expansive, visual and accessible. The story is set in Brooklyn and magic happens all over New York, including Coney Island.

Harriet A. Jacobs was born in 1813 and is one of America's most obscured heroes. For seven years, she lay on her belly in the crawlspace of her grandmother's roof. Jacobs was hiding from Dr. James Norcom, the man who owned her.

Jacobs first published her story in 1857 under the name Linda Brent. Jacobs lived with shame because of what she had been forced to endure sexually. 

In my opinion, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl should be included in mandatory reading lists alongside other profound, historical accounts such as The Diary of Anne Frank.

From Jacobs' introduction:
I have my dear friend - striven faithfully to give a true and just account of my own life in Slavery. . .not to tell you what I have heard but what I have seen. . .and if there is any sympathy to give let it be given to the thousands of slave mothers still in bondage. . .let it plead for their helpless children.
I have the edition edited by Jean Fagan Yellin that also includes Jacob's Introduction, illustrations (including the floor plan of Jacob's hiding place) correspondence and notes.

In the late1960's Nikki Giovanni performed her collection of poems, Truth Is On Its Way, live on PBS. She was accompanied by the New York Community Choir. This performance was a groundbreaking event, and was my introduction to political, self-love poems. I leave you with the poem Nikki Rosa. The choir is singing It Is Well, written by Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss, first published in 1876.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Do Not Think Of Me As Charity

There are misconceptions. One is that purchasing art helps artists…
Detail, Oba's Crown, © CRB
but helps artists do what?

When ancient civilizations are excavated, the heart of that culture is revealed through the transforming power of that society’s artists manipulation of paints, dyes, clay, thread, fabric, words, glass, and so on, for the creation of pottery, clothes, quilts, sacred beaded objects, poetry and song, to name a few. After the invention of the first wheel, for example,
The Ancestor Table, Inspired by Haitan Drapo

carriages, wagons, cars and other modes of transportation became anecdotal to the extraordinary finds left from the minds and hearts of indigenous artists.

Artists (ancient and contemporary) narrate culture so that sacred revelations are made clear for future generations. Professional artists do not wish to join ranks with some ancient artists who are simply known as anonymous. Instead, professional artists actively seek culturally conscious individuals and philanthropic organizations that wish to participate in legacies of cultures they respect, and even hold dear.

In other words, artists need curators, caretakers committed to the
From the French. . .a Child's Jacket, © CRB
preservation of that artist’s work, who will then bequeath those objects to other interested parties, narrative of meaning and function intact. Factory-made reproductions are then exposed as copies and unworthy of study and documentation.

A modern day example of this unworthiness can be found in the actions of the Smithsonian, a great institution charged with the maintenance and preservation of American culture.

Wise Women Brewing, © CRB
American quilts and quilting, invented by free, enslaved and indentured men, women, and children, is a phenomenon of technical commingling—resources and skill—that created quilt patterns such as Drunkard’s Path, Crazy, Wedding Ring, and Bear Claw, to name a few. The Smithsonian sold these patterns to China

In turn, American consumers now purchase mass produced quilts for $400, instead of a professional artist made quilt for considerably more, depending on style, technique, size and function. One of the quilts, “…the Bible quilt, a symbol-laden 1886 work by Harriet Powers, a freed slave from Georgia [was] pictured in the Spiegel catalogue. Pillow shams and small hooked rugs to match are offered as well.”

If so-called keepers of our culture can sell our birthright to foreign
lands, is it any wonder the average American has no understanding of legacy, or how this legacy is made manifest through the appreciation of artists who narrate it.

Beaded Gourd, Aganju, © CRB

Recently, I spoke with my granddaughters, Renae Green and Timmee Gaines, and great granddaughter, Dakota Livsey, about my Yorùbá, Lùkùmí beadwork and quilts. They understand the magnitude of their responsibility as future curators and caretakers so that no stranger will ever need write scholarly papers, for example, or off-putting, speculative theories based on that writer’s ignorance concerning my intent.

At the next opportunity to speak with professional artists about
Abebe, Yemonja, © CRB
potential commissions and purchases, separate the artist from the work. Remember, we are not charity cases. Remember, we will continue to create, not based (like factories) on potential sales. We create our work because of divine inspiration and directive.

When I purchase art from professional artists, I am participating in the legacy of that artist’s culture.

Ileke, Omolu
If no one ever purchases my work, I will continue because I am a living, active participant in the legacy of my culture. I narrate the heart, beat and soul of people who may not even realize they have hearts and beats and soul. I stimulate the threads of faith in something greater than trinkets massed produced in the United States or abroad. Each piece I create is born of its own transformative power.

Drag Doll Bebe
I am not a charity case. I am not anonymous. I am Cathleen Margaret Richardson Bailey (Ala Ofun):
  • mother of Monica Dorothy Lynn, Kamilah Christine, Lela Margaret and Jasmine Christina
  • daughter of James and Christine Richardson
  • granddaughter of Cathleen and Joseph Shefton, and Boyce and Lela Mae Richardson 
  • great granddaughter of Margaret Maynard, and Bob and Ellen Richardson
  • great great granddaughter of Margaret the Blacksmith and Ben the Bone Thrower, and Lucinda Pickinpack. 

When you purchase my work, you hold authenticity, the heart and beat of my culture. Be prepared to curate.

If you would like to share this post or any of its images, please credit me and include my web address. Thank you.

Signatures of Gods and Men, © CRB 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Imagine The Night

After a long hiatus, I am back in the studio. There was a time when a strict work schedule meant writing in the morning, nap and sewing or beading in the evening. Or sometimes it meant sewing and beading in the morning, nap, and then writing in the evening. In between those work segments, there was eating and some kind of exercise: walking, stretching, yoga, light weights.

Then something happened. After publishing two poetry collections and teaching myself various beading techniques and producing that work, I needed rest. 

For about five months, I rested. Mind you, there was much guilt involved because I kept scolding myself about being lazy, reprimanding myself about my lack of energy: what are you doing? shouldn't you be working?

Then a couple of weeks ago, something happened, something awakened within me. I began cleaning and re-organizing my studio.

After a few days of this re-organization, my creative juices began to flow again. My fingers were itching and the next thing I knew, I was drawing, or my version of drawing, which is doodling. I love sharpie on watercolor paper. 

The end result of that re-introduction to my studio is something I'm calling Imagine the Night. So, of course I made a video of some of the processes that went into its creation.

I like this piece because it allowed me to use some of my favorite techniques: doodling, quilting and painting.

Imagine the Night

Imagine the Night

See information about purchasing Imagine the Night here

What I learned from my hiatus is that the creative mind needs rest. All of those books I read, and movies I watched, and popcorn I popped the old fashioned way on top of the stove, needed to be read and watched and eaten. The mind is a terrible thing to overwork. 

Treat it nicely and it will reward you with many poems, quilts and whatever else you need. Imagine that!