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Kareemah El-Amin (USA)

Kareemah El-Amin

Kareemah is an acclaimed filmmaker, playwright, director, producer, poet, and singer. She has been published internationally in the anthology "Generation X: In Our Own Words," and was invited in 2006 to represent the United States as a poet Laureate by Art for Humanity in Durban, South Africa (an international advocacy organization using the arts to promote social change). The project "Women Artists and Poets Advocate Children's Rights" continues to tour internationally exhibiting billboards, posters and a limited edition catalogue.

She was named in "Women Of the Year" in 2006 for her body of work in the arts.   In January 2005, Kareemah wrote, produced, and directed the play "Lock Down Legacy," her response to the damaging effects of incarceration for black families. The South Bend Tribune Review described the play as "powerful... words succeed in evoking strong emotion." (January 15, 2005). In 2008, an expanded version of "Lockdown Legacy" including multi-media was brought to the stage and received rave reviews.  

As a filmmaker Kareemah's work has received much attention and praise. Her films articulate the distinctive voices of real people, not superficial stereotypes. Kareemah's film "The Thin I'm In" looks at weight discrimination, and her film Black Barbie Beauty deals with recognizing ethnic beauty in a Eurocentric society. Her films are an in-depth look at the individual and societal effects of distorted and negative depictions of women. 

The first film, "The Thin I'm In," was invited to 13 film festivals including The Hollywood Black Film Festival (considered the Black Sundance) and also won Directors' Pick at The Bare Bones International Film Festival.  Kareemah went onto write and direct the provocative docudrama, "The White Girl Thang,"  also a four minute short film on self-image "Black Barbie Beauty," and she completed her first feature length documentary, "The Catalyst Trip: A Journey of Transformation" commissioned by St. Mary's College Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership.  Kareemah has most recently finished directing the documentary film "Your Friends & Neighbors: Living with Aids in South Bend, IN" commissioned by the Indiana Arts Commission.  

Kareemah's commitment to the Arts includes writing, directing, and producing two children's plays:  "If King Were Alive Today, What Would He Say" and "Rhyme Tyme," which provide opportunities for urban youth to participate in the Arts.

 

URBAN THOUGHT ARTS ENSEMBLE was founded by Kareemah were today she works as Executive and Artistic Director.  UTAE is a multi-ethnic, theatrical, literary, multi-media and music performing arts company. We create, produce, and perform works that evolve from critical thought on issues that are relevant and timely, yet marginalized in today's society. VISION A community where every artistic voice is acknowledged, developed and presented to its full potential.  MISSION To discover, develop and produce artists and artistic works in under served communities where indigenous voices go unheard.

 

(**all visual poetry is copyright Kareemah El-Amin)


"Beautiful Mosiac" by Derrick Little (visual poet, U.S.A.) and Kareemah El-Amin (visual poet, U.S.A.)

 

BEAUTIFUL MOSAIC

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

Beautiful mosaic

Bright with the woven tapestry of story

Vivid molecules

Multiplying to a fevered dance of subtraction

One plus one

Plus one plus

One

Minus…………….one thousand

 

You congregate in matter

A legion of lesions

Dry cough

Persistent

Shrinking elasticity

Unable to feast on the multitude of life

Though famine was never your entreaty

 

So tired, so very tired

What is this day?

What is my name?

Who among you shall I blame? 

Why did this happening, happen to me?

I just want to be………left alone

Though I yearn, desire, fear

Being lonely

 

Abstract vicissitudes

Fake platitudes

Unabashed attitude

 

I WANT TO BE FREE

 

No more H.I.V.

Though in my mind

 I can clearly see

 

H.appiness

I.noculates

V.iral load

 

The headline reads

Giving humanity to an acronym of deficiency

Exposing the shame of secrecy

Now dignity, family and community

Is returned to me

Once stolen for the miserable price of my sanity

 

Touch me

Kiss me

Love me

Why didn’t I protect me?

What should have been, is miserable company

Undeserved guilt is killing me softly

 

So, here I stand

Naked with humility

Vulnerable with need

 I ask these simple things

 

When I smile

Smile back at me

When I laugh

Laugh with me

When I cry

Shed no tears for me

When I die…..as we all will one day

Please remember who I am

Not the disease that has taken me

 


 

HE DOESN’T SMOKE

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

Picture us

You and me

Softly lifting my marble head

Glistening with the orgasm you had last night

 

I bathe in the ocean

Next to the 7 eleven on 3rd St

Pigeons are a very intelligent bird

 

Underneath the viaduct I relinquish my apprenticeship

As a punching bag

You tell me I’m most beautiful in color

 

Rainbows I meant

 

We reminisce about the good ole days

I have a hard time remembering which one

 

You smile and toss me a hook

I start to remember

“Thanks,” I say

“Much obliged,” while you tip your hat

 

And go get a pack of cigarettes

 


 

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

Home of the free, land of the dead

Are you really surprised by the images I’ve placed in your head?

I raise my right hand to pledge the constitution

With your left hand you disguise all reference to my ancestral contribution

To your so-called American revolution

 

A pretty sad existence to lead

Denying all factual events, occurrences, and circumstances

With unrestrained eagerness to believe

That your lily birthright made you the most logical to receive

Every and all abundance this life can conceive

 

You planted the seed of discourse

Tilled the soil of deception

But you can’t stop the resurrection

 

Still I rise

with heavy burdens to carry

Still I rise

from poverty, HIV and thirteen year old swollen bellies

 

Oh quite the contrary

My existence extinguishes your favorite position

That the genocide of my culture is an inherent condition

Disallowing your verve to bask in false admonition

Where lies and hatreds the only rendition

 

Though you’ve won a few battles the war is far from over

Your misguided truth no longer goes unrecognized

With renewed vigor we’ve changed the direction

And you can’t stop the resurrection.

 


 

Speak to Me

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

I have come to the invariable conclusion

That we live in an illusion

Of false pride and superior inclinations

Casting down verdicts without the slightest hesitation

In the name of God……….hallelujah, thank you Jesus, amen

 

With our tongue we cast aside our friends and enemies

By any means

But is it necessary?

To condemn our fellow man

Becoming judge, jury and handing out the sentence

Without understanding, empathy or belief in redemption

 

Our world is strife with hypes,

Hypocrites, unrepentant miscreants

Liars, thieves, and un-belief

Yet, is that all we see?

Am I my brother’s keeper?

Or his hangman’s grim reaper

 

We cast a net of shame and recrimination

Breast feeding propaganda of our genocidal indoctrination

With the food of negativity, innuendo and vernacular limitation

 

Who are we to judge?

Who am I to speak

Are we part of the solution?

Or just another parrot of the ills of the less holier than thou of which we speak

 

We only see that which we are

We only believe that which we can conceive

We have given birth to abnormality

The incubation and gestation of no humanity

Has taken form as the high priest of society

A conspiracy of the deadliest kind

 

But I digress

As I speak these words I too have formed an oratory attack

So even in my belief of shedding light I will cause pain

Am I to blame if I cut my fellow man?

My passion drives me to take a stand…….but how do you stand on a foundation made of sand?

 

The content of this verse leaves me perplexed

I am vexed that me

One who holds myself righteously

Is unable to truly articulate my pain

Do we live in vain?

Unable to confront the transgressors that bring us shame

I ponder these questions and I am charged with an epiphanous thought

Is it not for me to speak?

Should my life reflect my vision of utopia

So my words not grow weak

 

For those without sin, were the only coveted the basket of stones

Not those of selective transgressions covering faults that remain untold

If I point a finger at you, who will shield me from the arrow of judgment?

Will the construct of my life deflect, or will the arrow pierce the flesh of my monument ….of hypocrisy?

 

My heart grows heavy with grief

Though un-belief weakens me

It is the tongue of my fellow man that has destroyed me

 


 

Family Tree

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

Hush little baby what you crying for?

Yo’ mamma didn’t want to leave you on that bathroom floor

She 16 and I think you number foe

After the garbage man leave, we ain’t seen them no moe

Yo’ daddy, granddaddy, they all the same

Since everyone a girl child, sooner or later there be pain

Don’t blame her none, she know what best

Her daddy, her granddaddy

She just cleanin up the mess

 


 

Epidemic Invisible

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

Scream

They can’t hear you

How can they, when their ears are closed?

 

Show yourself

They can’t see you

How can they, when their eyes are open?

 

Speak your mind

They won’t listen

How can they, when they know what you’re saying?

 

Die

They won’t mourn you

How can they, when you don’t exist

 


 

Plenty of Horn

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

You planted your seed like a sharecropper

Who doesn’t like harvest time

 

Grunting

 

I feel so full

Belly impregnated with regret

Feet swollen with shame

Back aching

 

A little bit of man, better than no man at all

 

Hmmp, who want to live without a man?

 

Not me

 

I’m most beautiful with child

Never mind, he daddy to me

 

Besides

 

It’s harvest time

My garden needs a little towing

 


 

Free Will Offering

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

Manifestations of  nothingness

The grand ballroom of anarchy

Ego swollen guru’s offering sustenance

 

to the idle fortunate

 

thinly veiled hypocrites

re-educating the mass minimums

 

Are you really that blind?

I would hope not!

 

Hope is for the next to nothings cluttering your existence

Backstabbing your employment

Permeating your air

 

Do you smell something foul?

Only if you walking downwind

 


 

Don’t Kill The Messenger

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

Am I a hypocrite in words and deeds?

When I accept you, am I rejecting him……his laws as they were written?

Or is the interpretation the answer that I seek?

And who allows credence to the interpreter?

 

In my heart I feel your plight of need

 In the depths of my soul, I feel a connection

Thought without desire to manifest

Is that not too human nature?

 

I am ashamed

Ashamed of that double man love,

 

Why…….

 

Because I am supposed to be

 

I am ashamed

Ashamed of that double woman love

 

Why……..

 

Because my environment dictates it to be

 

And because it was written

Depending on who’s the interpreter

 


"Black, Beauty, Barbie" by Kareemah El-Amin (visual poet, U.S.A.)

 

IT IS NOT MINE

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

 

It is not mine

I have taken for granted that which is not mine

For too long,

I believed that somehow the gift was eternally embedded

What has always been, will always be

How could I have been so wrong?

I pick up pen and paper and the vibrations do not flow

I conjure images of motivation

But the light that once shined so effortlessly does not glow

How can this be, am I cursed for my superior belief

Rendered immobile in my lofty elevation

Of self grandization and poignant epiphanies

I have stolen the heart of brilliance

Darkness envelopes the light

The prism of my creative color is no longer incandescent

The hue of my voice no longer takes flight

I will not forgo my riches

I will not look the gift horse in the mouth and spit

Venom

Anarchy

Disbelief

Fear

Apathy

Arrogance

I will cherish that which has been bestowed on me

Forever

I will honor the you in me         

Eternal

I will forgive the sins in me

Through gratitude

I will amend the error of my ways

I will create………………..again

 


 

"LOCKDOWN LEGACY" by Kareemah El-Amin

(**Kareemah is seeking assistance to take this play on a national tour in the U.S.A.)

LOCKDOWN LEGACY

(copyright Kareemah El-Amin)

**Part of the script for the play...

 

(Inmate)

I feel sick

My stomach clenches

Man child, tried as a man

The plan is evident

My existence is irrelevant

Toxic waste

Easily erased

Hidden between the annals of bureaucratic red tape

My fate

Determined by those unwilling to acknowledge I exist

Except for a carefully calculated list

30 year old black male

No health risk

Can lift 50lbs

3 children, 2 males

Both with criminal records

Rest assured the carnivores of capitalism have an ultimate strategy

Just lock them all up and throw away the key

Market share analyzed prison slavery

Passing down the profitable

Lockdown legacy

 

I’m doin time

Locked way way down

How do you get up?”

When your life’s been put down

Death to your existence

Death to your freedom

Death to your soul laid down and beaten

 

(Son)

I feel sick

My stomach clenches with fear, heartache, loneliness, misery, anger, resentment, shame

Pity, love, hate, despair, hope

 

I read every line of the letter you wrote

Savoring every word as if it was a gift from GOD

 

I know you love me daddy

I know you gonna make it up to me

I don’t believe what they say about you

I don’t see what they see

 

I’m proud of you daddy

I’m proud to be your son

I know the world let you down

It let me down too

 I dreamt that we’d play catch together

Go sailing on a boat

You took me rollin with the homies

While I pretended not to notice you sold dope

 

Everybody bangin

It’s the only way to survive

Gotta keep my head up

Your reputation is what keeps me alive

 

Out on these streets

I’m startin to get my own rep

“Chip off the old block they say”

Gonna me better that the best

Daddy I play by your rules

Gonna stack my money

Ain’t got time for school

Hell, what has school ever done for anybody I know?

That shit’s for them punks who believe they can get out of the ghetto

This is my home, the only place I want to be

Learn the game, play the lames and count my money

I get tired of hearing how education is the key

I know at least 50 educated niggas and all of them are in the cemetery or the penitentiary

Before my daddy got locked down he made sure everything was tight

Now he’s gone, the rent’s due and momma don’t even come home most nights

I ain’t down on momma though she got to do what she got to do

I got 5 little brothers and sisters and they all need new shoes

But my hustle is getting better and I’m expanding the territory

They all know my daddy so they giving me my propers, they remember pops glory

But I ain’t one to live off no other niggas fame

Yeah he my daddy, but he taught me to earned my stripes and make the rules for my own game

He only went to the 6th grade but he was a genius in his own way

I know you thinking where he at now and where has that left me

I ain’t ashamed to tell the world this is my life, and it’ my reality

Daddy’s doing to 20 to life in the state penitentiary

He never went to school past elementary

But he my daddy and I love him anyway

 

I’m doin time

Locked way way down

How do you get up”

When your life’s been put down

Death to your existence

Death to your freedom

Death to your soul laid down and beaten

 

(Father)

I feel sick

My stomach clenches with the weight of the world, 400 years of oppression, guilt, shame, resentment, living in a white man’s world, non-repentant, hatred, fear, love deep down, anger full up, disillusionment, weakness, anger, disappointment, guilt, no commitment, anger, hater, anger, shame, anger, guilt, anger

 

I can’t get a job

Life’s been hard….. on me too

Ain’t nobody ever gave me shit

How can I teach him?

What I don’t know myself

How can I help him?

When I can’t help myself

I done better than my father

He did the best he could

There were many times I wanted to be there for him

But shame kept me away

I would watch him from across the street as he played

There are demons in me he can never understand

The long hard road I’ve walked

Searching for the answer on how to become a real man

I can’t take his guilt

I have enough to fight

Hell, I got other kids and they turned out alright

They momma’s handled it

Why the hell he so uptight

Coming up to me like he got a right

 

He got a chip on his shoulder anyway

Pant’s saggin

Braggin

About the money he’s made

Hell of a lot of good it’s done him

Where his ass at now

He done made his bed, and in it he must lay

 

Comin around telling me about the shit I ain’t done

His momma filling his head with that bullshit

But I ain’t hearing none

Yeah, he my son

Ain’t never denied the fact

I tried the best I could

I can’t stand to see him locked up

Don’t know a father that would

Sad eyes accusing me

Like I’m the reason he’s in there

Always looking to blame me for not being around

I know I could have

Should have

Done better

But, I’m as lost as he is and I still ain’t been found

Yeah, I’m as lost as he is and I still ain’t been found

 

I’m doin time

Locked way way down

How do you get up?”

When your life’s been put down

Death to your existence

Death to your freedom

Death to your soul laid down and beaten

 

(Inmate)

I feel sick

My stomach clenches with anger, hatred, anger, failure, anger, resentment, anger, I want my daddy, anger denial, anger, pity, anger, depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, anger, pride, anger, love, anger, loss, anger, misery, anger, grief, anger, hatred, anger, frustration, anger, hatred, anger, guilt anger, shame, anger

 

I can’t believe I got caught up

I was just gonna make one last lick

Stack my money and get out quick

Walk away from the game

Turn my card into the baller’s hall of fame

Had a good woman

She had my back

I was going to settle down

Stop hoein and runnin around

 

Them punk as jealous niggas , set me up

Should have known it was too good to be true

Now I’m in here eating dirt

Diming it for the blue

Shit

I’m fucked

Stuck

Facing mandatory minimums for a few grams of stuff

 

I’m locked down

Chained up

Fucked up

And I feel low down

I gotta keep a frown

Cause a smile can get your cherry as popped into the ground

 

Wake up, eat, sleep

Wake up, eat, sleep

Wake up, eat, sleep

After a few months your ass been institutionalized

Your fucking brains been fried

And you start believing it’s easier on the inside

 

Free meals

Clean laundry

No rent

Cable

Phone calls

Only thing missing is sex

And for some of these punk-ass niggas that ain’t even no problem

But I ain’t goin out like that  

Gotta keep my head up

Stay strong

Take it one day at a time so the days don’t seem so long

I know I’ve done wrong so all I can do is pray

 

Father GOD

Please forgive me for the wrong I’ve done

The times I disrespected my momma

Called my woman out of her name

Neglected my kids

And sold death to my friends

 

I make no excuses heavenly father for you already know the sins I’ve done

The hearts I’ve broken

The wasted life just for fun

Lord I’ve really messed up big

They got me chained like a dog

Bowed down in front of my woman

Please tell me Lord

How am I supposed to be a man?

Father GOD please give me another chance

I’ve hurt so many people

And they’re all doing time with me

Each moment I’m away and they get on their knees and pray

Begging for my mercy and forgiveness

As if they were the ones that were led astray

 

Lord I know I can change, I just need a little help

Take away my false and vain desires

My greed to obtain empty wealth

My momma is sad

My woman is mad

And the white man’s glad

Because of the pain that I’ve caused

Lord it isn’t fair

They’re all doin time with me Lord

Each day

Each hour

Each second

They’re all doing time with me Lord

 

Please release us

 

Amen

 
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