Plastic Jungle

By: Sebastian Iturralde

Plastic Jungle

Little Tomas smiled while carefully placing some of his toys inside a colorful backpack. His room had the peculiar scent of manna-scented vacuum. The morning chill crept in through the slightly opened window.

The other members of the family were sleeping when Tomas closed his backpack, and very carefully walked out of his room. He didn’t make a sound to pass unnoticed. Imagining the adventure he was about to enjoy. Surely this would be the day that his dreams came true.

When he got to the kitchen, Tomas took a couple of fruits and left his house. The cold was bearable, especially for a boy who knew what to expect on his adventure.

Tomas stopped a few steps towards the garden of his house. He was able to see the immense forest of the national park. It was a matter of minutes until he reached hostile terrain. The place he liked to travel to when he needed treasures.

“You have to be brave,” Tomas said, placing his toys on the ground around him. “We are looking for a story to share. I cannot promise that we will not fail again. The light animals have been too fast for us to catch—I ask that you follow my lead and trust your senses.”

The small toys came to life: slowly standing upright.

“We have to share their secrets with the world,” Tomas said.

The lights of the three toys came on, and they raised their arms before transforming into small all-terrain vehicles.

“Be careful,” Tomas said, “I’m not losing any of you.”

The toys began to run in circles.

Tomas crossed the garden and entered the forest. Immediately, he was covered in darkness and a dense fog rendered him. It became almost impossible to look into the distance: the flashing red lights of his companions helped him navigate through the shadows.

Just a trace of the elusive creatures he’s been searching for was enough. Tomas raised his plastic pistol and continued into the unknown.

Before long he heard a peculiar sound. Different from the constant chirping of birds. Other hunters, perhaps. Tomas had never met others like him on his expeditions.

He clearly heard the distinctive raking of a weapon. “We have one…”

As he got closer, Tomas noticed that the hunters captured one of the creatures alive. Its bright colors flashed. Its fur moved as if the animal were underwater—it was impossible.

“Who’s there?” said one of the hunters, noticing the presence of an intruder.

Tomas raised his hands and approached them.

“What are you doing here?” asked the second of two hunters.

“Looking for animals of light,” Tomas said, lowering his weapon.

One of the hunters lowered his backpack and took out a small black cube. He placed it on the ground, its structure changed, growing into a large safe.

The hunter holding the light animal began to turn the knob to find the safe’s combination. “We have seen you hunting these lands.”

Tomas frowned.

“You will no longer be able to take away the secrets of the forest,” said the hunter, as he opened the safe. “This little animal will go with us.”

Tomas watched the hunters place the brightly colored animal inside the box, then they closed it. The box began to get small and Tomas worried about the creature’s safety. “What are you going to do with it?”

“That’s not your problem,” said the hunter who had an eye patch. “You will have to find another place to get ideas.”

Tomas’s hunt only led him to find traces of the light animals. This was the first time he had seen one of the creatures in danger and he decided to face the hunters.

The metal-armed hunter took the small black square off the ground to put it in his backpack.

Tomas raised the pistol and fired.

The ammunition destroyed one of the hunter’s metal arms. The small black cube fell to the ground.

“You can never get him out of there in time,” said the eyepatch hunter and fired his weapon.

One of Tomas’s robots transformed and leapt to catch the cube before it hit the ground. Then the robot began to study cubes to find its secrets.

Tomas threw himself to the ground, avoiding being shot, and fired.

The hunters hid behind trees. “You’ll never get away with this,” said one of them.

The robots teamed up behind Tomas to find a way to rescue the trapped little light animal.

“Give back what doesn’t belong to you,” said the metal-armed hunter, as his arm became a bazooka.

“Hurry, open that box,” Tomas said, and shot the hunters.

Eventually the box returned to its natural size, one of the robots began to manipulate the lock, while the others cut the metal with lasers.

“Give back our trophies and no one will get hurt,” said the metal-armed hunter before firing.

The energy ball slammed into a tree, knocking it over with the explosion. Tomas felt the nearby heat and the characteristic smell of burnt wood.

“Hurry up,” said Tomas, “we have to get out of here.”

The robots managed to open the safe and the light animal jumped out. Tomas couldn’t believe the beauty of the creature. The colors changed with the movement of its fur.

The animal jumped on Tomas’s shoulder, and he felt the energy of the forest within him; ideas and information came faster than he could have imagined.

Tomas got up…somehow, his plastic pistol became an assault rifle. He turned his head to look at the animal on his shoulder and fired. The bullet glowed brightly, leaving a trail of light.

The hunters began to flee after the first explosion of light.

Tomas paused and noticed that the creature was still on his shoulder. “Do you want to be my friend?”

The light animal looked confused and tilted its head to the side. Then it jumped into the forest and disappeared.

Tomas returned home with new stories to share with his friends.

SEBASTIAN ITURRALDE

Fiction blogger—citizen of this beautiful planet, eternal lover of artistic creation and literature. Certain that the creative energy comes from nature.

Jesse Parent

Poet, Entertainer, Author yet his skills go beyond these labels. Explore the mindset of an amazing presence.

How long have you been performing poetry?

Jesse: I remember seeing a group called “Floetry” on HBO Def Poetry back in
2004 or 2005 and realizing I could probably use that overall structure
of poetry and music to developed an improvised theater format. In
2005, I work shopped a form I called “The Hook,” where a single poet
would go up and improvise a poem while a group of actress behind them
improvised a beat, melody, and chorus, which would then inform
improvised scene work. After touring this around the United States and
earning an Artistic Associate nod from the Chicago Improv Festival for
our work, I decided to try and see what I could do next with the
format by going to actual poetry slams. I went to my first local slam
in Salt Lake City in the winter of 2006 and made their team in 2007 in
time to attend my first National Poetry Slam in Austin. We came in
second to last (take that, Kalamazoo).

What are the titles of any books or chat books you have put out and
how can people find them?


Jesse: I have four chapbooks for sale in eBook format at
http://www.jesseparent.com titled Hit After Hit, To the Baby in My
Belly (You Were Delicious), Flattened Braille, and Ink on Paper. I had
a full length book through Sargent Press called The Noise That Is Not
You but I stopped selling it after the 5th printing.

What is your favorite poem to do on the mic?


Jesse: I have a poem called Coulrophobia which is a persona poem done from
the perspective of a creepy clown that has no idea how creepy he is. I
usually crowd walk at the end of the poem and try to find someone who
is either having fun or is terrified. This usually isn’t difficult
because folks seem to have very strong opinions one way or the other
about clowns.

What was your reaction when you first did a live taping?


Jesse: I remember trying to do a taping for the guy who had produced
SlamNation when I was in Austin at the 2007 National Poetry Slam. My
mouth was super dry and I had a hard time just performing for a
camera. It was an odd sensation to not have a crowd to feed off for
energy. I’ve gotten better at this, but performing for a camera with
no audience is still one of my least favorite situations.

How did you react when you did your first blooper on stage?


Jesse: When I first started, I had a very hard time recovering from any
situation where I did not recite the words perfectly. For an
improviser, this was a weird feeling because I figured I should be
able to adapt to any situation. I had to relearn that skill around my
own writing, where I began to take myself less seriously and just make
sure I got the gist of what I needed to communicate out so I could
move on to more memorized portions.

How did you react when you did your first blooper on stage?


Jesse: When I first started, I had a very hard time recovering from any
situation where I did not recite the words perfectly. For an
improviser, this was a weird feeling because I figured I should be
able to adapt to any situation. I had to relearn that skill around my
own writing, where I began to take myself less seriously and just make
sure I got the gist of what I needed to communicate out so I could
move on to more memorized portions.

 What advice do you give to virgins to the mic?


Jesse: Everyone wants you to succeed. It’s true. We get sick of each other
pretty quickly so when we see a new person with something new to say,
we get very excited. Even if you mess up, we are still on your side.
So have fun, try not to be a jerk, and welcome to the party!

How long have you worked with Button Poetry?


Jesse: Button Poetry first filmed my work in 2014, but I knew Dylan Garity
and Sam Cook for a couple of years before that. Sam and I actually
went to Canada to compete in a $10,000 grand prize poetry slam back in
2012, and I had met Dylan back when I made finals stage at the
Individual World Poetry Slam in 2011. So we were all friends before I
went to CUPSI in 2014 and they filmed me doing “To the Boys Who May
One Day Date My Daughter.”

You caught my attention with your piece ” To the Boys who may date
my Daughter”. What motivated you to write that piece?


Jesse: I wanted to do a poem that addressed the trope of the overprotective
father in both the heterosexual and homosexual dating arena, The
entire poem is built around setting up the last two lines. The idea
was if you feel this much love for a child in a relationship, you
should love them no matter who they love. There was also the aspect of
being over the top in a way that was unrealistic, but not everyone got
that this was satirical. But that is on me as the artist to provide
better clarity.

What won’t you perform on stage?


Jesse: I have a lot of early work that was informed by what I thought was
edgy comedy that is just so cringe worthy. I think we all have those.
So I try to just chalk those up to learning moments and put them in a
drawer for destination NEVER. I think that is a great aspect of slam,
because the audience and judges have no problem telling you when they
think you are performing trash. The trick is to listen to them and
either improve a piece or throw it away.

Where would you like to see poetry expand to?


Jesse: I’d love to see more narrative poetry that bridges into prose and
helps storytelling become more concrete and emotional. Poetry has so
many great devices, and multimedia adaptations like animations or
movie shorts can be so powerful when they are based on good poems.

What other ways do you channel your creativity?


Jesse: I have been doing improv comedy since 1992 and still perform locally
from time to time. I also have competed at the world level in public
speaking through Toastmasters International. I like to learn new
things that make me feel stupid or exposed like welding, sewing, or
blacksmiths. I think there is a whole world available and it’s
important to be uncomfortable in order to achieve real growth.

What’s one question you would want people to ask you and what
would your answer be?


Jesse: What is the one thing you miss about living in New England? My answer
is always the food. There are things I just can’t find out here in
Utah such as stuffed quahogs, chourico, and fried clams with bellies.
When I go back home I always eat too much because I miss everything
and want it in my body!

 Open Mic!!!
My daughter tells me she is non-binary
and I tell her… huh?
And we both sit in the silence.
In the music of language, this is an uncomfortable rest.
And after the dead air clears
my daughter holds up both hands.
10 fingers in total.

When we count to ten
we are just counting in base-10, decimal.
Humans like to count on their fingers
then round the loop to do it again.

When we count in binary, base-2, we still count to 10.
We just have fewer fingers.
1 – 10 – 11 – 100
We run out of room so quickly when we lack options.

And my daughter tells me
look at all these options
how the light mixes into new colors

In order to convert binary to decimal
You add powers of two based on the position of the one
Programmers will always tell you start with zero
2 to the zeroth power is 1
2 to the first power is 2
That means binary 11 is 3
It’s a little weird at first.
But you realize even in this limitation
there were always options

It isn’t that I can’t use she,
there was always a singular they
Even Shakespeare had a singular they.
It’s not that I don’t have a daughter,
I have a middle child
the 18 year old
the freshman
the former future veterinarian and current sign language interpreter
just like the former daughter is now my second spawn
See how the 3rd option was always there like 11

And my child holds their hands up like a magic trick
says watch my gender disappear
like a rainbow when you get too close

And I stand holding my two dumb thumbs
and I learn something new
how to convert my gendered language
I come up with my own tricks
imagine a mouse in my child’s pocket
so I always remember to refer to them as “they”
I cover my child’s gender
with a handkerchief in every conversation
never sparking the reveal
I saw my language in half and in then in half again
until my tongue folds into Zeno’s paradox

Sometimes the trick doesn’t always work,
and I stumble with the execution
back to just these clumsy thumbs
but my daughter
… my child
smiles,
corrects me,
and I try again
because they are magic
and gender was always just a sleight of hand, anyway

Erica (Eri) Chambers

Consultant/Theater and more…..

How do you describe the type of work that you do?  I get paid to think about it.   Think about what, you ask? 

Erica: Everything from how to improve a process to building a worst case scenario plan. 

What is the your job title and what are you supposed to be doing?

Erica: I am a Senior Strategist and Solution Manager of The Eri Jordan Agency http://www.erijordan.com

What skills would you tell someone they would need to be able to succeed in your field? 

Erica: Assuming this person is a level 3 genius,  a great poker face and an amazing smile is also required.  It is very hard to look at a system or process and tell someone that it is crap.  Depending on the years and tears they have invested, it could come off a little NOT NICE.


How do you think you balance your creativity?

Erica: BALANCE (in my best Soulja Boy voice). Creativity is how I naturally live.  I don’t take time out to prepare an amazing dish.  I cook amazing dishes and plate them beautifully.  I am creative in everything I do.


Your work has you traveling at times, how do you find time to work on other aspects of your life?

Erica:  I have the time to manage anything I want.  For what I do, traveling is equivalent to a daily car commute.  Do I have a hectic schedule? Yes.  But “work” is only 20% of that schedule.  SHHHHHHhhhhh don’t tell anybody.


What drew you to the theater?

Erica: I wanted to be Clara in The Nutcracker when I was 7.  I got the part of the dancing teddy bear.  The teddy bear was suppose to March, but if you know me you know I danced!


What is your fondest moment from being on a stage? 

Erica: Performing at the Nuyorican in NYC.  How we finagled our way onto that stage was hilarious.  Being on that stage was epic.  Hearing the applauds of people feeling my story – PRICELESS

What advice would you give a young black female who is about to embark into the world not knowing what they want to do in their life?

Erica:  Try almost everything.  Research.  Lay out the risks.  Create smile milestones to celebrate the accomplishments. And remember, it is always okay to change your mind.


What do you believe is your purpose in life? 

Erica: To create a happy atmosphere 


You’re into fitness, what motivates you to make time for it?  

Erica: I only eat right because I love the food people eat on diets.  It is just a coincidence.  I am physical active, but these old bones are not fit.  I just cannot sit still.


In the perfect world we could do everything, what do you see for your future? 

Erica: Accepting an Oscar


How do you see your professional career growing as the world keeps changing? 

Erica: I’ve been working like this for over 15 years, remote and in various locations.  This “new” world isn’t new to me.  I do believe the entertainment industry has found a way to adjust, but they will do some hard evolving to survive.


How would you describe your personality? 

Erica: Amazingly Annoying 


What’s one question you wish people would ask you and what would your response be?

  Erica: How much should I deposit into your account?  My answer – Just $385,439.88


Being a Black woman in your field do you think you will or have you dealt with stereotyping or discrimination in the workplace?

Erica:   I’m over 40, born in the 70’s, raised in the 80’s, played in the 90’s and been living ever since.  Last year I watch a man be murdered on TV.  A young lady was shot in her bed.  And the discussion in the workplace, was to create more diversity programs and opportunities.  Why would a workplace environment need to address stereotypes and discrimination in place where it doesn’t exist? (Insert a very sarcastic stare RIGHT HERE)


What’s 3 things people would be surprised to know about you? 

Erica: I was church organist.  I am a huge 80’s game show fanatic.  I like the wilderness life.  

Open Mic!!!!

Erica: I am finally loving “This Pretty Black Skin That I’m In” and Family guy is my favorite show of all time! The End.


Elton McWashington Jr.

Poet, Artist, Father, Husband and so much more. A class act that withstands the test of time.

What motivates you to do art?

Elton: Purpose has always been the key motivation in me doing art, whether it be writing or visual art.  I love being creative in general, but conveying messages and impacting people is always my mission. 

What do you think the biggest learning experience will be after the pandemic is over?

Elton: I am water!  This pandemic hasn’t altered my process of doing art one bit. Creativity has always been so much more to me thank just creating. It’s been therapeutic. It’s been entertaining. It’s been a tool for introspection. My duty with having a gift so powerful, is to continue the flow of it and not become stagnant. 

How do you help Evolving your craft throughout the years?

Elton: I believe the craft, the gift, evolves the more you work with it.  But I also believe our gifts evolve through the knowledge we gain, and personal experiences.  Spirituality plays a part. Sexuality plays a part. Sensitivity. Vision. We stop evolving… the gift stops evolving, when we limit ourselves. 

How do you think the Pandemic has altered your process of doing art?

Elton: I am water!  This pandemic hasn’t altered my process of doing art one bit. Creativity has always been so much more to me thank just creating. It’s been therapeutic. It’s been entertaining. It’s been a tool for introspection. My duty with having a gift so powerful, is to continue the flow of it and not become stagnant. 


Having sons, how do you think they are understanding the Black Lives matter movement? 

Elton: Having sons, the Black Lives Matter movement has led to a lot of education about the Black experience in America. I do not believe racism will ever be completely done away with in the country, a country founded on racism. A country insistent on lying about its foundation and origin.  A country that simply reinvents the wheel as opposed to breaking the wheel. Teaching them about the nature of racism, and the importance of seeing it for what it is, is a never ending mission. 

What advice would you give someone who doesn’t know if college will help them with their future?

Elton: Being a college dropout, I am a firm believer that you can accomplish just as much without a college degree/education as you can with one. It all depends on wise decision making, being well-informed, and knowing what you as a person are willing to do and sacrifice to be successful.  I had a very good college experience. It made me, in many aspects, the artist I am today. But I have learned so much more outside of college, that I question the structure of the system versus the financial impact. 

Has there been any artwork that you’ve done in the past and looked back at it and thought WOW I did that?

Elton: Yes!  I find old poems and artwork from years ago that make say, “Man!  I did that?!?!!”  I believe my older works were much more focused efforts.

What’s your favorite part of the process of doing what you do?

Elton: My favorite part of doing what I do probably the final stage…the finished piece. I have a very active imagination, and it easy to get bored, so actually seeing a piece through to the end is a big deal for me

What’s one thing that you miss about Houston but also one thing that you Love about where you live now?

Elton: The thing I miss about Houston is that it’s HOME. I accomplished a great deal and made many considerable milestones.  There’s nothing like the place where you earned your stripes. I met and worked with so many awesome people there. I also love the Sacramento poetry community for embracing me. 

Besides family, what is important to you that you would consider your motto for life?

Elton: Since I started doing poetry, my motto has always been “Life is Deep. Don’t get caught up in the Currents.”

How do people reach you to get access to your work?

Elton: People who want to reach me to gain access to my work can visit me on IG @thedeepblu3see or @studio_trid3lpha  On Twitter look me up @deepblu3see

Reflecting back on 9/11

Photo by Fabiola Ulate on Pexels.com

I know everyone has had some type of emotion throughout this day. This day for the most part has had a major impact in our way of life and our fears of the unknown and the fear of others behavior. So to say it’s a sensitive subject is a understatement. I just wonder and this is just my thoughts, but when are we going to stop celebrating death?

And it’s not really the death its how they died. I say this as someone who lost someone that day. I remember his laughter and his charm. I remember his voice as he would flirt till he hit my ever lasting last nerve but I remember his heart. And knowing that I know in my heart what was going through his mind and knowing he was helping people instead of running towards a safer area.I want to remember that about him NOT how he died. We know how everyone died. It was televised so it’s on film for reflection. It’s been 20 years and for the families that live daily with the lost this day of reflection is not of the loss but of the intent that was placed in our history books. We have been able to get small glimpse of humans being decent beings and helping in the midst of tragedy but yet we still lost so much and still do. after 20 years we still give majority of the focus on the act and just give names of the lost souls.

I personally couldn’t take it today. The first time in 20 years of losing my friend. I didn’t cry but I couldn’t take the magnitude of the lost with it still not being reported in a balanced format. I guess it’s the writer in me but yes that was a tragic day but it was more than terrorist attacking us. That was father’s, mother’s, aunt’s, uncle’s and friends living their daily life and in minutes was altered by becoming hero’s, survivors and victims. We still don’t talk about them. Just those who did it and how. Why? My friend was from Africa. He came to New York with his brother to build a better life to bring the rest of his family to the states. He loved to workout and to show off his charm. He was a delivery guy. He loved to make peoples day brighter and always made it his goal to leave people with a smile unless you got him mad. He was one of too many people we lost on this day and yet in the 20 years we barely know the names of who we lost and still not enough of who they were. There were artist, chefs, debaters, poets, politicians, activist, writers and so much more. They are so much more than this day. I personally remember him not of this day. I dread this day not for the fact that its the day he passed but its the day he is continued to be pushed aside in remembrance as of the other fallen victims. I’m sure this post will offend or upset but I also hope it will help make this day more understandable of why it is so tragic. I’m sure in some way the loved ones might feel or understand my thought process of this day because the reality is no matter which way you look at today, it is tragic and it is of loss. A loss that is too great to understand why it was able to happen and still impact people 20 years later.

Cherish life. its temporary but it’s filled with love. more so with impact. Try to figure out why the impacts if you can, learn from them. Grow from them and most of all live through them the best you can.I think they would want us to grow from their loss. Not just reflect.

Peace.

Courtney Smith

A writer/Poet shares one of his short stories.

The hairs on Jabari Prince’s arms were nearly petrified as sterile currents of frozen air grazed them. A few
slight movements of his feet informed him his sneakers and socks were not covering his feet. He slowly moved
his right arm to feel stabbing pain shooting through it like lightening. He knew his jeans were missing after
shifting his legs, slightly. A paper-thin, white gown was the only barrier separating him from sheer nudity. A
gust of freezing air rushed between his legs and conveyed his current state of vulnerability. I don’t even want to
open my eyes, right now!
Jabari’s brown irises would be visible if enough light made them noticeable; however, pure darkness
swallowed sight of anything. It was 11:00 am when I went to convenience store. Why would it be night this
soon? How do I even know it is night? He contracted his arms before realizing something cold and hard bound
them to whatever was beneath him. How did I end up being here after going to a convenience store? If I had
known I would go through all this for a Snickers™, I would have just gotten a peppermint! Should I even attempt
to speak in this place, wherever this is? His mind became numb as his body shook and throbbed as though he
were being electrocuted. His lungs drew in breath as though they tried to absorb the whole atmosphere.
Several bright lights blinded him before his pupils adjusted to the unexpected brilliance. He blinked before his
eyes partially made out the environment surrounding him.
Jabari saw his arms and legs were bound to a steel table with fetters and shackles. Several wires dangled
from his body like tinsel from a Christmas tree. He turned his head in partial intervals to see he was surrounded
by a circular, steel wall with partially tinted windows. He could make out several figures with white, lab coats
and goggles reflecting the impartial light illuminating the room. My mother and brothers are never going to see
me, again!
Sango Yamaguchi trembled as the vibrating seat of the bus reacted to every movement it made. The sting of
tears overwhelmed her eyes because the stench of urine and feces from the man next to her was almost
unbearable. I never thought I would be happy to throw up! She glanced at both of her sides before stroking the
screen of smart phone. Her glasses reflected several black Tahoe sub utility vehicles with flashing red-and-blue
lights and screaming sirens rushing past the automobile outside of the window. Sango shrugged her shoulders as
the vehicles moved out of sight. She saw her stop approaching twenty minutes later before clutching her
backpack’s left strap as she stood. She emerged from the bus to see the same black vehicles that passed her
earlier parked around her house. Sango began walking toward her home before rethinking this course of action.
I do not know who they are or what they want. I do not see any law enforcement emblems on the side of the
vehicles verifying their legitimacy. She swiped her pleated, uniform skirt before slowly turning around walking
away from the residence. She reached the end of the street before she heard several engines behind her.
Sango glanced over her shoulder to see the black vehicles trailing her. She attempted one more step before
several men dressed in armor with automatic rifles tackled her to the ground. Her nose was flattened before
several hands pulled her up by her arms. She opened her mouth before a spray inundated her face. Then, her
consciousness slipped away.
Keisha “Peaches” Price sauntered past several pews in her iridescent, floral dress. Several men’s heads
followed her sashaying hips as she walked down the aisle in her father’s church. She looked to her left to see
the men and boys eyes following every swing of her hips, and she glanced to her right to see the snide
expressions of women cutting their eyes at her before turning their heads. She drew in a deep breath before
she reached the path’s end. Keisha handed the neatly folded paper to a six-foot-four man with wide shoulders
covered by a black robe. He smiled at her before she returned the expression as walked to her seat. She
reclaimed her spot between her best friend Trinette Parker and her cousin Keke Pratt. I am guessing this is
going to be the same routine as every other day.
“Hi, Trinette,” greeted Peaches.
“Hey girl,” responded Trinette, happily.
“Hello Keke,” said Peaches.

“Whatever,” responded Keke as she rolled her eyes.
When her eyes get stuck like that, I am going to laugh. She tugged her dress to ensure she was well covered
before directing her attention to her father The Great Pastor Price. The choir made one, uniform shuffle as they
sat in their seats behind the ministers’ chairs. One of the associate pastors walked to the pulpit before
requesting for everyone to bow their heads. They lowered their heads before a reverberating thud echoed
throughout the sanctuary. People jumped to their feet upon hearing the loud noises. The doors flew open with
men dressed in armed apparel carrying automatic weapons. Screams rose from the pews as heads were placed
between legs. Some leapt at the armed men before being struck and shots resonated throughout the sanctuary.
The marched past most of the parishioners as they wore puzzled expressions. The group walked hurriedly past
most of the pews down the aisle. One dark-skinned man in a stocking cap who was 5’9” with many tattoos and
a muscular build stood with his hands raised.
“Look! I know I have warrants! You do not have to hurt anyone here! I will come along, peacefully.”
“Not interested” replied one of the men before shoving him into the seat. They kept walking until they were
in near the pulpit and turned right. The men gathered in front of Keisha Price. They grabbed her arms and
began to walk away before a large man fell upon them. Pastor Price swung his fist before several men pulled
him into their midst. Then, several flashes and thunderous noises rose from within the circle before a lifeless
corpse replaced the lively man who was Jeffrey Armstrong Price. Kiesha struggled before Trinette leapt upon
one of the men before a single shot tore through her forehead. Kiesha shook the men off before dashing
toward and kneeling beside Trinette’s lifeless corpse. She screamed before the men raised her by her arms and
marched toward the doors before leaving with Kiesha. Keke watched her cousin being ushered out of the
church by the armed strangers before shifting her glance toward her deceased uncle in a pool of his own blood.
Then, Keke turned toward Trinette’s body before a slight smile appeared across her face. She quickly changed
her expression before anyone else noticed it.
Mario Alejandro Vasquez felt sweat and dirt accumulating around him with the fluid stinging his eyes as the
clippings of cut grass constantly grazed his face. The soreness from each jostle of his legs did not bother him
nearly as much as the emptiness of his brother and sister’s stomachs without anything to fill them. A few more
lawns and fields would help his father until the following day. The mandarin trail of sunlight slowly left the sky
with a few of its beams indicating the end of a working day. Mario pulled a small cloth from his pocket and
moved it across his face. He heard a muffled scream before he opened his eyes, again.
“Papi!” Mario screamed. Silence was the only response he received.
“Pedro!” Mario yelled. His echo did not produce an answer. He became very quiet and walked slowly
across the freshly cut field near the trees. He walked slowly toward the trees. Mario extended his before he felt
a cloth covering his face with several arms restraining him. So, this is it?! I am going to die in darkness?!

Courtney L. Smith
CEO/Editor and ChiefSpiritscribe Publishing,

LLCwww.spiritscribepublishing.com

Carlos Wallace

Veteran. Author. Philanthropist. Youth Advocate and so much more talks to HPS about his life and mindset that helps him create the things that others love to be apart of.

You have a lot of titles behind your name. Author, Executive Producer, on the Board of Directors, Husband. How do you find the time to give everything you’re passionate about the right amount of passion it deserves?

Carlos: The short answer is I am a Union Organizer by trade. Most of my adult career has been dedicated to literally organizing the lives of people who count on me to work in their best interests and make sure they are afforded fair and equitable treatment as mandated by labor laws and informed by my best judgement. Whether professionally or personally, I apply the skills I’ve learned to help keep people’s lives (and yes that includes my own) in order. Honestly, I have been this way since I was a kid. Some people joke I am borderline OCD! Everything always had to have its place, every activity perfectly planned. I still balance my checkbooks and keep a daily calendar with reminders so I can make every moment of the day count. If it aligns with my principles and my values, I don’t consider it work; it’s part of my life.

When you can manage your time, and block out unnecessary distractions and mute the “noise” that tends to send you into a state of confusion and disarray, you are better able to give the people, work, and activities the enthusiasm they deserve, to make it every moment of the day count, and to dedicate the time and effort each person deserves. This commitment drives me in ways I can’t really explain, but I can say, given my personality (things need to make sense, or I seriously cannot function) if something does not fit these criteria, I do not take it on.  

My toughest but most enjoyable commitment is husband, for a few reasons. I enjoy being a provider, a protector, a friend, and a partner. I love making my wife happy (that is a given) but I derive the greatest satisfaction in being a driving force in her life. Now, she is a huge success in her own right. Smart, ambitious, loving, kind, and an amazing mother. These are some of the other reasons my role of husband is so rewarding. I have met my match (but in a good way). I can be organized, busy, a mentor, executive producer, author, father, mentor, and friend because she is the foundation upon which I can build my life without any fear. Ultimately, she fuels my passion for everything. 

Let’s first talk about the author. What books have you written? Do you find yourself going back to read any of them and how often?

Carlos: Of course, quite often.  My books are both bestsellers (Thanks to major support) and have been incorporated into the academic curriculums of schools in several cities including Houston’s Lone Star College. I launched a mentorship project with York College in Queens, New York; a plan that used the message in “Life Is Not Complicated, You Are” as its core to encourage young men to never give up.

My wife and I recently produced an award-winning show based on my second book called, “The Other 99 T.Y.M.E.S: Count Your Blessings.” Streaming on Amazon Prime.  Season three of the program is in the works. We are very proud of this show and the message: Stop focusing on the one-time things go wrong in your life and appreciate the 99 times it works in your favor.

Can you give more info about More Too Life, Inc?

Carlos: More Too Life, Inc. where I sit on the Board of Directors, was established in 2006. It is also an Open Doors Outreach Network Provider offering programs and resources that educate and empower survivors of human trafficking to become champions along with at-risk youth, community and offenders while contributing of the reduction of the demand for human trafficking with innovative prevention methods.  

The More Too Life Foundation has offices in Miami, Sarasota, Hillsborough and St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida in partnership with Glory House of Miami, Children’s Home Network of Tampa, and the Florida Dream Center of St. Petersburg.

My involvement with the organization led me to “VR-Eval”.  The groundbreaking technology that revolutionizes the way victims are identified and cared for so they can effectively rejoin society. The virtual lifeline uses a process idea created by Dr.  Brook Parker-Bello of More Too Life and the perfect software of Doghead Simulations’ rumii app (a social-virtual reality space), which we now will utilize to link victims and their case managers from anywhere in the world through personal avatars. The process tackles the devastating effects of child enslavement or other trauma with a proven high-tech tool and uses information gathered from first-hand accounts to catch predators and identify victims. The initiative came to life thanks to the brilliant partnership that includes myself, Dr. Brook Parker Bello, and Chance Glasco, co-creator of “Call of Duty” video-game franchise and co-founder of Doghead Simulations, the technical and creative assistance from Full Sail University.

Dr. Bello says the technology is the key to finding more effective ways to combat the effects of sex trafficking and other trauma kids face. She adds, “We must mitigate challenges that can be bridged in today’s digital world in order to provide children and young adults with the best care and innovative opportunities to assist them with the profound trauma they’ve experienced.”

How long have you been a contributor to Goodreads and what was it that got you involved in the beginning?

Carlos: I joined Goodreads when I published “Life Is Not Complicated, You Are.” This actually goes back to the question about how I am able to balance the many roles I play in life. As an author I understood the importance of making my work available to the masses if I wanted to get my book notices and my message across. Some authors think you simply have to publish the book, promote it for a while, and tell a few friends to purchase a copy in order for the work to be successful. There are so many pieces to this process, and making my words relevant, impactful, inspirational, and most importantly available and accessible is extremely important. Goodreads helps make that possible. I know this because I receive countless messages from strangers (not necessarily people that read Life) who write to thank me for the encouraging words they discovered on my Goodreads author page; words they say changed the course of their day or improved their life in some way. 

I can’t think of a better example of how valuable this resource it. 

What is something that you feel people often have a misconception about you? And why do you think that is?

Carlos: Most people think I am all business. Many believe I am unapproachable. It’s difficult to form that impression because I do not play about my work. There is a time and place for everything. If we are talking about work, I am all about work. However, I love to have fun. People (who take the time to get to know me) often say they did not know I had a sense of humor, or that I was a jokester. You’d think since I manage comedians and help some of my artists punch up their jokes, this aspect of my personality should come as no surprise. I can say, because I know she won’t mind, that I help my wife (who is also a stand-up comic in addition to her other talents) work out, conceptualize and punch up her jokes all the time. We have the same sense of humor, so that help. But where she is EXCELLENT with words and ideas, I am strong in adding layers and developing concepts. 

Bottom line, I don’t like wasting time, however, when I’m with those closest to me, we always enjoy ourselves.

Now the Poet in me is Dying for you to give readers more info about the Award-Winning PENS Poetic Energy Needed in Society. What was the driving force to bring Houston’s poetry scene to film?

Carlos: The idea extends over several years. I’ve been a huge fan of the poetry community in Houston for some time. My interest was piqued after I attended some local showcases. When I began producing and promoting poetry shows, I was stunned by the incredible talent that would grace the stage monthly. I started paying close attention to the audience’s reaction, and more importantly, the fact people talked about the performances days after the event! I knew then we had something big. After about 4 years of successful spoken word shows at the Houston Improv, I wanted to take the next step…you know, keep up the momentum. For me, filming a show for television was the obvious platform to showcase the Houston poetry scene. After I spoke with Mikell, we determined that while a small screen presentation would be great, it would be too limited in scope and might not pack too much of a punch outside Houston. We put our heads together, and he broached the idea of producing a documentary. It fit. This would be the deep dive, creative, long-form film we needed to tell the story comprehensively. Not to mention, documentaries have a better chance of becoming a historical landmark when poetry is ever discussed years from now. 

Not many people think about poetry and say, “Wow, yes, let’s go see a bunch of men and women spit words that rhyme in a small, dark theater!” It’s not marketed as sexy. At least it had not been for many years. That’s because the beauty, the fire, the skill, the performances, the wordplay, the lyricism was never effectively portrayed to a broad audience. People begin to love spoken word after seeing a show. To get more people to appreciate the art, we must put it on full display. The genre is not new by any stretch. And there have been a few short films made about slam poetry and spoken word over the years. But poetry is still all around us and rarely recognized—especially localized sets. We wanted to help people understand the history, the process, the talent, their motivation, and the relevance poetry holds in society, so eventually, the world can see why the genre is so special. Spoken word speaks to every aspect of the human condition. There is something for everyone. It is like visiting a library, but instead of books, the artist’s voice is the untold story. 

That said, I got to work, arranging the artists. Mikell scouted locations and conducted interviews. He edited the piece, we had it mastered and engineered, and the rest, as they say, is history.

How does being a Producer in films balance out your creativity when you have other outlets like being an Author?

Carlos: Both challenge my creativity and compel me to think about issues that matter and that will bring about change.

I pursued writing and producing films for several reasons, but mostly because my circumstances demanded I do something to keep me from giving up and becoming complacent. After losing my job for three years and four days (I was eventually reinstated and worked until retirement), I was reminded nothing is promised. You change your way of thinking drastically when you become aware of how fleeting life can be. I wrote my first book because I never wanted my experiences to go to the grave with me. I believed my story could inspire and encourage and motivate. The book was not easy to write, but it is worth it. Life Is Not Complicated is exceeding my greatest expectations and has touched so many lives. The day a young student shared with me that because of my book, they changed their mind about committing suicide, was the moment I finally understood fully why I do what I do. We have a responsibility to leave this world better than we found it. This is my ongoing mission.

Presently, I am extremely excited about my collaborative film, P.E.N.S. (Poetic Energy Needed in Society), which is a documentary of Houston’s spoken word culture. This is an opportunity for Houston and its poets to shine; for the world to discover what I’ve always known-the cultural revolution in our city is well underway and we are winning on all levels!

I have always appreciated what good storytelling can do. For me (a student and big fan of hip-hop), listening to my favorite artists (Jay Z, Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy, NWA, Slim Thug, etc.) was a lesson in life. The lyrics and flow were exceptional in that they were thought-provoking and impactful; a call to action that challenged people to have a voice and call out injustice. I credit this genre for fueling a desire to share truth, information, quality entertainment. If you are not producing work (whatever the work may be) to move the needle, change the narrative, speak about social justice, and race relations, and bring out the best in people, why bother?

Whatever you do in life, make it matter. Along the way, you will discover that not everyone is on your side. Some may clap, but on the low, they are praying you fail. I learned that the journey to any goal is constant, winding, full of obstacles, costs money, time, energy, and sometimes it can cost you friends and family. If you are not ready and willing to invest in yourself, take on risk, ignore critics, experience some isolation and remain positive and dedicated through ALL that, you will fail.

Ultimately, I am my brand. Everything starts and ends with Carlos Wallace. Businesses, books, films, comedy, and poetry shows, my role as father, husband, friend, loved one… are all under one umbrella: my name. As Carlos Wallace evolves, improves, produces, and innovates, everything I come in contact will benefit. At least that is always what I pray happens. Life is unpredictable, but you can at least control how you handle the good and the bad.

What advice would you give someone who’s showing you they have potential in directing?

Carlos: Call Fetti. Lol No seriously, Mikell “Fetti” Limbrick is, bar none, the best director and filmmaker in the industry. The work that Fetti’s “iRise Filmz” did on the award-winning P.E.N.S. documentary is masterful. Fetti also possesses a level of commitment and passion for film work that underscores every project he produces. I appreciate the ability to exchange ideas and talk about relevant issues that affect our society, all while discussing ways to amplify those messages in productive ways. Everyone needs people around who encourage them to take action, think deeply, and support free, original thinking. 

Whether he is editing and producing a major film, music video, original documentary, or a local PSA as part of his dedication to community service, he is all in, 100%. Fetti is being recognized by the industry, finally! The best is yet to come with this Houston native!

 One way you give back is with the Alice Wallace Foundation and Scholarship that you’re the CEO and co-founder of. How did this get started and how can people learn more or contribute?

Carlos: I founded the organization in memory of his beloved mother, a respected teacher. From its inception the AWF has been dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of education, God, community service and family values.  I have never wavered from these principles, and remain committed to furthering the mission that Miss Alice (As she is still affectionately known by everyone) worked tirelessly to advance. 

I’m very proud of our accomplishments so far and sincerely appreciate the support the Alice Wallace Foundation receives. We are however, faced with the reality that despite our best efforts, there are far too many young men and women who are unable to afford a quality education because their families lack the funds to provide for their future. With generous contribution, we can unite to improve so many young lives. A college degree,an opportunity to earn a living and the promise of a meaningful career should be available to all children. We have an amazing opportunity to build the AWF into a powerful resource that fuels the ambition of young budding minds.

For more information please visit http://www.sol-caritas.com

With having your creativity into so many outlets, What do you do to relax?

Carlos: Music is my escape. I love old school hip hop, R&B, and other genres as well. I appreciate the history of the artists I listen to, and I spend a great deal of time watching documentaries about the music business. In fact, that is my other passion: History, documentaries, books, and movies that tell the true story of a person, era, industry, I have an interest in. I learn so I can teach, I learn so I can keep my mind active. I learn so that I can have intelligent relevant conversations. Hard to believe since this sounds so intense, but this is really how I kick back and take it easy! 

What’s one project you sometimes think back on and wish you stayed involved with or wonder what happened to it since then?

Carlos: Honestly, there are no projects that fit that mold. I tend to have very few regrets and everything I have been a part of to date, whether I’ve seen it to its completion, or it is just getting started, had led me to this point of my life. I simply do not waste time and if I don’t have the interest, I won’t bother. I learn from everything and everything I learn helps me grow and evolve. 

I believe God orders our path. It is not my place to question the journey. I am where I need to be at this moment in life because everything that has led me here had to happen. So, short answer, I would not change a thing. 

What advice would you give someone who’s new to the Poetry world but you can see the desire to go to that mic?

Carlos: Follow your heart. Do not be swayed by the negative opinions of others. Know who you are, what you want, what you need to reach your objectives, and plan accordingly. Everything you do must matter. If your thought process, work ethic, ideals, principles, and judgment do not align with your goals, you are wasting time. You are always going to be your greatest brand ambassador. So be the image you want to convey.

 Looking at every accomplishment and goals you have set for yourself, What is next on your To-Do list?

Carlos: My wife and I recently relocated back to the Houston area from New York. The pandemic really slowed us down (nearly to a halt). But we survived thank God, and I am grateful for the opportunities so many (too many) people were not afforded. Now it is time to get to work. 

First, I want to safely re-establish Sol-Caritas shows at the Houston, Addison and Arlington Improvs after the long COVID-19 layoff.  Second, assist my wife in establishing her business in the Texas market, ensuring she is as great a powerhouse here as she is New York.  

Lastly, I am amplifying my role with VR-Eval. This activation will require extensive global travel, so I want to prepare my team to be self-sufficient and confident in times I am not directly available. 

With every success there’s a team behind it. Who and WHat was the process behind the selection to each individual purpose for each person?

Carlos: Behind every man is a better woman. I mean that sincerely. It is not a catch phrase or a cliche and meaningless platitude. For me that’s definitely the truth. Liz is relentless in making sure I am always at my best. From preparing to speak in front of an audience or getting ready for an interview she makes sure I am ready. She will settle for nothing less than a polished, rested, articulate, informed, and presentation ready version of myself. I literally have to first pass her inspection before anyone else has the opportunity to critique anything I do. From using a throat coat tea, to doing vocal exercises, to making sure I am hydrated, and my bald head is not shining under hot lights in a studio, she is on me relentlessly! What more can I say? I am a blessed man. 

Beyond her, I avoid mentioning names because I’m destined to forget someone. As a matter of fact, they’re adamant about me keeping them behind the scenes, and I respect that. Let’s just say, they know who they are and are okay with not seeing their names splashed across an interview, and I’d be the same way with them.

Open Mic!!!

    The stage is yours. Please feel free to add or say anything you would like.

Carlos: Choose your battles – small enough to win but big enough to matter.

Being sick during a Pandemic Spike

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

First let me say that the fear is real out in Houston! True the spike in cases have increased so a simple cough will get you more than a look. But add in a common cold with a viral infection will get you blocked from work and let me tell you phone calls have even decreased!?! People actually think the virus can travel through the cell phones.

I would love to say people are over reacting but honestly I don’t blame them. People are not taking this illness as serious as I think they should, even after they see how deadly it is. People are not getting their shots even when you can get paid to take it! If I knew that was gonna happen I would have waited….not really but its sad its come down to paying people to do something that will benefit them in the long run. I’ve always said its like getting the flu shot, If you have it the medicine will help pull it out of you or basically if you do get it make it less severe. But that’s my opinion. I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. I’m just someone who see’s fear in resident’s faces when they are so congestive and they don’t know why.

Some so congestive that they can’t even talk or moan. You can just see it on their face that they feel miserable. Which as of now I understand more than I think they would want someone to relate to them. I sound like a true tenor singer, trying to see how low he can go. I can kinda see why people can’t taste anything. Because there’s so much mucus that it coats your tongue you do lose the ability to taste anything. You literally have to wash out your tongue. Not scrap but WASH it out. Disgusting yes I know. And yes I know I’m talking like I have covid but test say no I don’t.

But living in a world where its better to be safe than sorry, I’m keeping to myself and unfortunately I will be missing out on things that are important to me. I will probably miss the birth of my great niece. Face time will have to do but hey as long as she’s safe and healthy that’s all I want for the kid. This world is going to teach her so much and so will her parents to help her balance out the madness. It just sucks that my chance to hold her will be probably a few months after she’s born because we not taking any chances!!!!

It’s time to go take my next dosage of relief but if this has made any sense to anyone just get your shots so if you do get sick its a common cold and not something that will take you out of the picture…..forever.

Poetry and Art

?

My Voice

They said I wasn’t mainstream enough

with my beatnik mouth and street words.

That my style was gutter

like faded Snicker’s wrappers

and hazy glass on the corner of

Jensen and Caplin Street.

That my poetry made a sound like

the aftermath of a sucker punch.

And so, I went and told them

that before my life was through

I’d prove what the granddaughter

of an almost slave could do.

I dared them to put their

two most divergent roads

against even one of  the byways

I have travelled.

Place their bravest pioneers in

the face of the dangers I have encountered.

Lay every tear they’ve ever wept

while in the valley of unrest

next to mine and let me show them

how a Black girl’s words can concoct thought

from salt water and a sample of existence.

For I am the language of the people.

The real people.

The huddled masses,

the congress of outcasts

living with infinity skin

who, even under the threat of death,

live each day more magical than the last.

I am the chorus

for disembodied voices

left to suffocate beneath the stripes

of the American flag.

I am the vision

sparkling with fractured light

even after police batons

attempt to beat us into darkness.

I am the uniform of a people

and my words are badges

that show what an honor it is

to fight to be heard.

So lay your best line next to mine

and let my words soak it in venom.

My lines will teach you

how to treat threats as decadence.

Hand my pen your schoolboy freedom.

It will show your page

how to set the stars on fire.

Let your page play it safe.

Let it marshal all of your emotions in a line

like strands on a loom.

Mine will gladly unravel,

come completely undone beneath a lover’s touch.

As you count the many ways you love her,

my lover will slip into the cold ether of my words

with no idea of where he will emerge.

My poem will confuse and steal love’s breath.

While your stanzas watch from the ground

my lyrics will remember how to fly.

When your brittle story

slumbers beneath the veil of privilege

like dawn slumbers in the memory of dusk,

my story will fall into chaos,

be scattered into nothingness

rise

and begin again.

Try as you might

to destroy,

to exclude,

to fade it out of existence,

I am the statement of Genesis

and my voice will forever be

in the fabric of your cells.

 The Poem is by me and the art is by both Courtney and me.  

The art is called Creation of the Moon by The Cy’On Collection Sean JohnsonArtistSeanJohnsonArts.NetAll My Heroes Were AssassinatedAttachments area

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