I love myself more
than yesterday, yet not as
much as tomorrow.
Who am I, you might ask, to make such a bold proclamation?
I am a word warrior. I poet you. I serenade you. I act for you. I speak for me. I am at once invisible and on full view. I am seven-year-old Little Girl Blue - one of the 17 characters I portray in my one-woman multi-media show about a Black woman’s painful, yet victorious journey across the urban American frontier. I am Pheralyn Dove. I am a word warrior, a conjurer, a healer, a virtual dream –maker. I explore broken, disconnected, circumstances and conditions. I am a word warrior, a soldier in the war of injustice, fighting on the battlefields of racism, sexism, classism, disease, poverty and lack. I am a word warrior.
On the battlefield of political violence. On the battlefield of violence against women, violence against children, violence against men, violence against the environment. I am a vessel. Pouring forth emotions that range from sad to happy, from rage to pity. From the horrific to the sublime, from tears of sorrow to explosive laughter. From desperate to hopeful, from hopeful to triumphant. I bring my pain and my healing to you, my beloved voyeur. I stand naked before you. Held up for your scrutiny are my words on paper, my words from the stage, my words from broadcast and film mediums. I am a word warrior. I am a peace warrior.
I survey the battlefields of my beloved Philadelphia. During my sojourn across the Serengeti that is Illadelph, I happen upon a sidewalk memorial for a gunned-down teenaged Black male, candles still burning, pouring shadows and sacred light over photos of tender moments from an abbreviated life. I stop. Pay my respects. And write down this Haiku that is summoned from the ethos, an offering from the universe:
Somebody’s heart is
wrenched. Killed boy’s blood flows no more.
Yet his light still shines.
Back in the early 1990’s, I produced some of my first multi-media shows at the now defunct Jazz Loft at Mill Creek, which was in West Philadelphia. I have been the artist in residence, teaching artist and writer for public schools, recreation centers, churches, the Clef Club, Freedom Theater, Philadanco, & John Coltrane Society. The cultural community is my village. Through the years, thousands of people have blessed me with their presence at my performances in such places as the Kimmel Center in my native Philadelphia, the juried International Fringe Theater Festival, and the Vision Festival (both in New York City), as well as Jazz a la Villette in Paris. I am humbled and awed to say that Max Roach, the legendary drummer, wrote the foreword to my volume of poetry, “Color in Motion.” As a cultural worker, I am a healer. My perseverance and activism, especially my 15 years of service teaching continuing education to adults in the Pan African Studies Community Education Program at Temple University, has helped transform and improve the lives of hundreds of students, their families and immediate communities.
Emotional healing, cultural affirmation, building confidence, serving up inspiration and promoting self-esteem are inherent themes in all of my work, across audiences, genres and platforms. “Education for Life,” and “Let your life do the singing” are words that still ring in my head, as I cling to the often repeated mottos I learned at Hampton, my beloved alma mater, which is an historically Black college in Virginia.
Yes. I am Pheralyn Dove: Lover. Loner. Spectator. World traveler. I am the author of the fictional “Little Girl Blue.” But I am also the all too grown up mother, daughter, sister, friend, warrior, healer, conjurer. Yes, I am Little Girl Blue. Yet I am also the true life seven year old Pheralyn, on my way home from my piano lesson at Strawberry Mansion Center. Savoring my walk up 33rd Street. Picking up leaves and sticks along the way. Fairmount Park is my playground. Past the tennis courts, I climb the hill and look through the chained link fence over to the reservoir. I roll down the hill one last time, stand myself up, gather up my precious music book and decide against carrying my collection of rocks, sticks and leaves any further. Now I’m on the sidewalk. I look both ways and zoom across the gigantic street.
I round the corner. Finally, I am on Clifford Street. Running. Running. Running. Determined to catch up with my two older brothers, who – by now – are way ahead of me. Running. Running. Running. It is a cold, windy day. My double-breasted tan wool coat with its dark chocolate velvet collar and matching cuffs is draped over my shoulders like a cape. The arms of the coat flap, flap, flap in air like they are my wings. In my mind I am a bird in the sky. Because truly - in my heart - I believe I can fly.
Asante Sana. Peace & Blessings Always