Braid My Hair on the Train

you are not your hair it’s all political

drama, an intricate poking of brush

on canvas, of paint, of ink, black and light

brown—your skin, your blend of ethnicities is shadow,

and cuticle, nail, and bone a harvest

of marrow, tunnel, suction, severing —

dismounting—easy. claiming sides—easier,

but a climb upside down—takes grip. no one

allowed to touch, characteristics will hinge

on back and forth, to claim, to choose, to pick

sides. what other defining features will

you feature to define these edges

will shrink like the slow burn of paper,

and a shifting of colour—I’ll get used to the rippling.

you promised to keep it simple. Remember:

hair is entirely public;

but my background is not they’d say this hair

is a separate entity from the rest of my body.


continuing studies shots of chelylene for brochure

Chelene Knight lives in Vancouver, BC and is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio 2013 in the poetry cohort. Chelene is a Library Assistant at the Vancouver Public Library, and Managing Editor at Room. Previously, she worked as a Manuscript Consultant through SFU, and as a proofreader at Montecristo magazine along with other editor gigs with a poetry focus. She has been published in Amazing Canadian Fashion MagazineSassafras Literary MagazineemergeThe Raven Chronicles Literary Magazine, and in Room 37.4. She just finished her second manuscript, Dear Current Occupant, a collection of sonnets, prose poems, and letters which is forthcoming with BookThug in 2018. Chelene is now dabbling in short short SHORT fiction. Her first book, Braided Skin, was published by Mother Tongue Publishing in Spring 2015. Find out more about Chelene at and @poetchelene.




We are

cross-cultural babies

border straddling youth

intercontinental adults


We are infants formed out of true

sometimes forbidden

love, tours of duty and pleasure travels-

brought back like souvenirs


We are the children that have hidden our cultures and stories

inside diaries and memory boxes

filled with words

that have flown over seas

and traipsed across our minds


We are daughters of fearful mothers

who change our names

to prevent separation

via our fathers and their citizenship in other lands


So we wait patiently until our 18th birthdays

to reclaim our names

before jumping on planes

headed towards our heritage

landing in unfamiliar spaces

met by faces we’ve only seen in pictures and dreams…
I have always been what my best friend’s mother refers to as a fringer. In fact, the majority of my inner circle is comprised of fringers- those of us who occupy peripheral spaces moving in and out of groups, yet never fully fitting into any one. Growing up this term resonated with me as I sought to unpack and frame my untraditional mixed experience- that of an American born daughter, raised by her biological mother, who often identifies more with transnational adoptees than other American born biracial/multiethnic individuals. Throughout the following entries I highlight some of the things that have marked and shaped my transnational mixed experience.

Part I.

“Reclaiming my Name”

I would assume—unless given a name that caused you to be bullied throughout school— that most people don’t give much thought to their name outside of asking the meaning and how it was chosen and/or considering changing it when getting married. I dwelled on it. As far back as elementary school, I can recall it being a point of contention between my mother and me.

My mother’s family−a blend of German, Irish, Scottish and Welsh –came to the U.S. a few generations ago. To the best of my knowledge they all identified and presented as white. My father is Turkish and was the only one in his family who decided to live in the United States. I am not sure how far back our family ties to Turkiye or that region of Asia go and with family members displaying a variety of phenotypes (my dad is often mistaken in the U.S. for Mexican, Native American, Asian Pacific Islander) our racial and ethnic ancestry is anyone’s guess.

My mother met my father through an international pen-pal group. He was often in and out of the U.S. as a young adult so much so that he eventually became a dual citizen. My mother would come to find out many things about my father that informed her decision to raise me on her own and to give me an alias last name. Like many American women who had children with recent immigrants, my mother lived with the nagging fear that once their relationship was no longer amicable there was the very real possibility that her only child could disappear into a country and culture she hardly knew and in which she had no rights.

Throughout my childhood I was enamored with the idea of having the power to choose the way in which others identified me. In elementary school I dreamt of altering my name—likely more a result of trivial reasons such as the first letter of my last name (*Adams) being at the beginning of the alphabet, which always meant going first for presentations.  However, at some point I came to understand that I did not share my father’s last nameand though I knew of him more than I knew him, I wanted what I perceived to be my “real” last name−The name that tied me to my father’s side of the family and my heritage−even if that connection was more symbolic than lived.

The first chance to change my name presented itself when my mother married my stepfather. She asked if I wanted to take his last name as she would and I refused. I was about six or seven and didn’t particularly like the idea of sharing my mommy with someone else. Always a stubborn and independent child I decided that keeping my name was the only power I had to assert my individuality so I was going to preserve it at all costs. My mother respected my wishes and I came to love and respect my stepfather very much, yet I never wavered on my decision not to change my name.

On my sixteenth birthday my mom took me to get my driver’s license. When we got to the window at the DMV I went from excited to livid. My mother had always told me that she’d purposely not given me a middle name so that I could choose it when I turned eighteen (as well as change my last name to my father’s if I chose to do so). It was her way of attempting to pay homage to my father’s culture after she’d heard that middle names were uncommon in Turkiye. Whether or not middle names are used within my father’s family I still have no idea. Upon reviewing my identifying documents and starting the process for my driver’s license the woman at the DMV informed us of some news-I did have a middle name…*Shane. In that moment my mom learned that her idea of putting down multiple last names on my birth certificate had resulted in somewhat of a fiasco. Legally my middle name was a variation of the German name her family had used upon immigrating to America. So now I not only had an alias last name (*Adams), but an Americanized variation of my mother’s German maiden name as my middle name. I was *Leah Shane Adams or as my license stated *Leah S. Adams. Walking out with my driver’s license I simultaneously felt elated and angry. For the next two years I would now have to carry around an ID, which declared to its viewers a name I felt not only less connected to, but was actually agitated by.

In the months leading up to my eighteenth birthday, I was consumed not with planning an extravagant party, but rather with my trip to the courthouse. I spent months researching necessary name change documents and poring over name books and websites to help me choose my middle name. I finally decided on one that I not only liked the sound of, but had a meaning that felt rightfelt like me. Being a poet I even decided to change the spelling of my first name and add a prefix to make it “flow” off the tongue with my new middle and last name. When the day finally came, I went by myself to the courthouse and stood before the judge, who asked a couple of questionsbefore signing off on the paperwork. It was much less ceremonious than I had anticipated (though I’m not sure what I expected). I received multiple copies of the embossed paperwork affirming my new name to the world. That day I went from *Leah (weary, tired) Shane (Americanized version of Schoen) Adams (alias) to Naliyah (to ascend, uplift) Kamaria (moonlight, bright like the moon) Kaya (rock). In that moment, I knew that I had reclaimed a part of my identity that could have easily slipped away and I was proud.


nazar boncuğu talisman; painting by my dad

Over the years I came to realize that the alias name was part of a mother’s love. For my mother that name was my protection—something meant to invoke questions about our relationship should my father have succeeded in his desire to take me to live with my grandparents. It was her antidote to the nightmare and anguish Sally Field’s character experienced in Not without my Daughter, an amulet (nazar boncuğu ) she placed around my entire being. For me it was a daily reminder to fight to preserve my heritage—to refuse to assimilate—to reject the melting pot ideology. As someone who can pass for white, some did not understand why I chose to change my name− “exposing” my West Asian/Middle Eastern heritage after 9/11—why I would willingly make myself a target when I could cloak myself within whiteness or at least phenotypic ambiguity. I think somehow I’ve always innately known that seeking to preserve self is often the same way we compromise and lose it—we lose our capacity to exist wholly, authentically and unapologetically. For me that was never an option.


*Indicates pseudonyms were used

bio elmsNaliyah Kaya is the Coordinator for Multiracial & Multicultural Student Involvement & Community Advocacy at the University of Maryland College Park where she works closely with Multiracial/Multiethnic and Native American Indian/Indigenous student groups, serving as an advocate for the needs of these communities. She currently teaches TOTUS Spoken Word Experience and Leadership & Intersecting Identities: Stories of the MULTI racial/ethnic/cultural Experience.

As a poetic public sociologist, Naliyah utilizes poetry as a medium for teaching and social change. She encourages students to engage in artistic expression as they examine their own identities, beliefs and values and as a form of activism in promoting social justice. It is her hope that through this process of self-exploration students will embrace cultural pluralism, find commonalities across differences and engage in research and dialogues that seek to benefit the greater good of society through positive social action.

A native of Washington State, Naliyah grew up just outside of Seattle. She earned an A.A.S. from Shoreline Community College, a B.A. in Sociology from Hampton University, and received her M.A. & Ph.D. in Sociology at George Mason University. Her poetry has been published in Hampton University’s literary magazine The Saracen, George Mason University’s VolitionVoices of the Future Presented by Etan Thomas and Spindrift Art & Literary Journal.

Learn more about Naliyah and her work on her website.

The Baker Within Us

I’m a slice of marble bread

surrounded by white loaves,

captive in a Baker’s rack,

waiting to be displayed

in the storefront counter.

“Whiteness” in the appetite of man eludes and, at times, overwhelms me. Embedded in every conceivable medium, archived for posterity, true or not. Its myths secure,

legends immortalized,

legacies glorified.

What about the rye and pumpernickel among us? Does not our past, our presence, deserve a place at the banquet table?

By omission, we have gone missing.

Null and void.

Abandoned to maintain

a color coded status-quo.

What is to be gained and lost

in willful exclusion?

All people work and play,

give and take,

rejoice and weep,

sacrifice and endure.

All people are resolute

in their beliefs and fall victim

to an assortment of weakness.

All people,

beautiful and plain,


Empathy, not indifference

defines our humanity.

Why intentionally

remove and render moot

the embodiment and deeds of others?

Unless one fears truth of message, assimilation of cultures–Or, moreover, the fear of a new reality, that of a changing demographic, of equal footing and competition for land, home, position, influence and power.

Within the contiguous U.S. borders

and pallid

empowered culture,

we don’t exist.

We’re invisible, expendable.

Our story,

Our family history

hasn’t been told,


As people of color,

we’re marginalized, mere footnotes

in the American storyline,

bereft of accomplishment,

alien, irrelevant and insignificant,

reduced to contrived,

“other than white” census boxes.

My story is much like yours, only differentOur narratives simultaneously coexist under dissimilar conditions. Our lives are both analogous and divergent, but interchangeable without invalidating the other.

The duality of American life;

confounding, yet discernible.

The irony, of course,

is that we’re just breads

of different colors,

braided and rolled together.

More palatable

if baked

into dense textures,

flavors enriched

when served warmly.

Man, like bread, takes time
- to rise to the occasion,
in need of a leavening agent to ascend.

Bakers know how to
make yeast grow and dough to expand. When exposed to extreme temperature, the yeast will die, the dough will never rise.

Man, too, needs no less

an agent for change;

an accepting social temperature

and environment

to grow and fully develop.

Personally, I like all kinds of bread:

light rye, dark rye, pumpernickel,

marble, flat-breads, sourdough,

even plain old “white bread.”

The make of bread borne of the oven

is not in question,

– the Baker is,

and bears a name.

It’s you. And it’s me.

It’s plainly evident

by the powdered residue

on our hands.

How about we share some space

in the kitchen

and while we’re at it,

a little history?

Manipulation of the past is an amplified device. It serves a purposeful conveyance–to increase the volume and channel voice in one direction; to sanction or moderate people and events.

It deliberately lacks

honest perspective and clarity;

and is much too often

uncharitable to the deserving.

If we choose to, we can change all of that.

All it takes is a slightly modified mixture of flours, some yeast and water, tender but thorough kneading,

a hospitable temperature, and most importantly– consciousness–to provide all of us with the truth

and the sustenance of worthiness.



Frederico WilsonFrederico Wilson is currently the owner and President of an International Fluid Power Procurement and Sourcinwg Company; founder of a non-profit organization (under development); blogger at, focusing on multicultural perspectives and issues. He is a USAF veteran (environmental/missile inspection specialist); and former domestic and international professional in the Airline, Telecommunications, Sales, and Financial Securities industries. Originally from Arizona, he is a lifetime student of cultural anthropology and applied behavioral science. He attended Arizona Western and the University of Arizona and holds numerous military technical, and corporate management certifications and licenses.

He is of mixed Mexican, Indian (Yaqui Tribe), Euro-Iberian, and Cornish Celtic ancestry. He lives, works, and writes in metropolitan Seattle, Washington.

He is best described by a quote attributed to Anthony Bourdain when recounting the preparation of a Burgundy wine-base rooster entrée.

“So, they take this big, tough, nasty-ass rooster, too old to grill, too tough to roast. Marinate and simmer the shit out of it, before it’s tasty.”

Frederico is the author of a new book, Escaping Culture: Finding your place in the world. Find out more on his website:

When the Spirit Says Do

Summer in a Unitarian Universalist (U.U.) Church is a fairly quiet but unique time to visit. It’s pretty informal, with services that are low key or have a strong artistic bent. In the summer, it’s customary that U.U. ministers take a sabbatical; they go to the General Assembly, take classes, go on retreats and recharge. We fill our summer months with mostly “Lay Led” services (services led by the congregants). It’s a great time for folks who have wanted to try leading a service, to do it for the first time, or for us to use more experimental styles of delivering our message.

As member of the Worship Committee at First Parish of Plymouth in Massachusetts, I help coordinate, plan and prep for services on Sundays year round and every summer lead a service or two. While I always hope to inspire in my services, the real challenging services are led by our minister; little did I know when I took responsibility for the July 5th service that I would prepare to challenge us all to look at our ‘white’ privilege, and what that charges us to do, through interracial poetry and music.

Having come to be known for a level of theatricality to my services, I was asked months before if I would organize a service whose central message is delivered through a choral reading of something.

“Something” became “Something for Independence Day”, as I took on the July 5 service. It’s been such a tumultuous year for Liberty and Justice; I knew it should laud the ideals of America, (what is a Sunday service without hope?) but it would have to highlight how we are going wrong; the working title became “An Unfinished Democracy”. I found Langston Hughes’ poetry pretty early in the game, but felt, to be honest, intimidated. I wanted to balance the service, feature songs and poetry that represent the struggles of the Black Community, Women and LBGT Folks. I moved away from Hughes, at least for the time being… then, I woke up on June 18 and saw the news.

As the report of the the mass shooting of 9 Black congregants of The Mother Emanuel Church by a 21 year old White Supremacist sunk in, I understood; intersectionality and inclusiveness was put aside, the Ladies could wait, the LGBT folks would have to as well, and as for Mr. Hughes, he got my full attention. I pulled up all his poetry up on the laptop and started reading; any anxiety about Hughes’ very direct, unapologetic anger evaporated, with the news playing and the ping of social media messages in the background.

I still wondered if it was the right thing to do, not because of the tender feelings of ‘white’ people, but because the choral readers would be chosen from my essentially all ‘white’ church. Would it be ludicrous and inappropriate for possibly 4 ‘white’ people to stand up and read the impassioned words of the Black Experience? Would it be considered appropriation and offensive? But a call to arms came via social media, specifically to ‘white’ friends and family. For me, this came from my high school friend, Fanshen. That was all the greenlight I needed….

The Call to Worship was a reminder that Service is a promise we make every Sunday in our covenant that is spelled out in our 7 Principles; it is not just the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, but to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people, along with justice, equity and democracy. And that We. Have. Work. To. Do.

After we are called to worship, and light our chalice as we intone our covenant, “Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law; this is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in freedom, to speak the truth in love and to help one another.” We then take the offering and take a moment to share any Joys & Sorrows, and the congregants and guests are invited to come up and either light a candle or, as we did in this service, place a stone in a basin of water. A stone was placed for Mother Emanuel and each of the other churches that were victim to Terror.

We sang hymns, peppered through the service, about building a just and equitable land, the fire of commitment, and that none are free if some are not. We also sang, “If the Spirit Says Do,” an African American Spiritual, and folk activist song “If I Had A Hammer,” which was the last song of the morning. Let me say this about UU and hymns: there a UU joke along the lines of, we can’t sing our hymns loud and proud because we are always too busy reading ahead to see if we agree with the lyrics… but I have to say, these hymns COOKED!

I then shared an excerpt from the A More Perfect Union Speech by then Presidential Hopeful, Barack Obama,

“In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed, not just with words, but with deeds, by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams…”

The three Langston Hughes poems we recited included, “I Continue to Dream,” “Let America Be America Again” and, my favorite, “Freedom’s Plow” (the one my husband, Chuck, and I cry during our practice readings, one or the others’ voice would break a bit while reading and then would set the other off.) I asked our fantastic musical director, Niles to read with us, as long as he wouldn’t feel like the token POC, and fellow Worship committee and choir member, Linda, to round out our four readers.

At a summer Sunday, services are small, people are on vacations, and what have you. We had 26 congregants and visitors with us on this day, and wonderfully, we had an African American couple just drop in, looking for a progressive church to worship at while visiting the area for the Fourth of July weekend from California (they were a same-sex couple). I didn’t see them right away, being so involved in all the moving parts of the service, but soon I was in the message of the service, in the middle of a reading and I looked up into the congregation and saw them; their eyes were closed, listening deeply, I think I grew three inches taller. When the service ended, we hugged and introduced ourselves; they couldn’t believe that they just happened upon this particular service.

For the benediction the congregation stood and recited in unison from the Declaration,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Then I closed the service with, “In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” ~Marianne Williamson

I am, perhaps, guilty of some ageism; As it’s an older congregation, I wondered if a generation gap would become apparent for people who were a part of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. Perhaps I’d be called out as a whipper-snapper telling them to do more; would certain words and phrases bring out defensiveness in these liberal activists or former activists? After all, this is a church that has a reading group who chose The New Jim Crow as one of their books, and led a local Black Lives Matter march… I want to motivate, inspire, move, not discount nor offend but definitely press

I am proud of my “basically all ‘white’ congregation” for its awareness. Everyone who came up to talk to us after the service told us they were inspired, they cried, they appreciated it’s timeliness, they did not find it hard to speak about White Privilege, or to say the words White Supremacy.

I want this to lead to more, to action; I am joining the Social Action Committee this fall with a couple others, who want to deal with racial issues head on. Our current Social Action committee, do wonderful work, but shy away from controversy. I hope we can shake things up a bit, because we are out of time, people are dying and if what is right is controversial, than that is what we need to be. I think the mindset of our faith community is on track, but we need to create point-by-point actions for those who want to do, but are overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems we are facing. I am at the very beginnings of planning a march from our church (with an invitation out to other places of worship to join us) to the local AME Church, for the fall. Not only to show solidarity but to press our local justice department to address bias. With so much to do, it’s a start.



If I Had a Hammer

When The Spirit Says Do

The Fire of Commitment


Jenn Kanze-Eaton lives by the sea in Plymouth Massachusetts with her husband, incredible teenage daughter’s and three cats, who spent the last 18 years raising her girls, tending her gardens and making old stuff into new stuff. She is an artist, activist,tree hugging dirt worshiper, sci-fi geek and mermaid in disguise.

Aaron Samuels: Yarmulkes & Fitted Caps



Aaron is another performer that we got to meet at the 2012 Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival. His spoken word piece left the audience mesmerized. We are certain that this collection of poetry will have the same powerful impact on you.

From the Amazon website: Aaron Samuels, raised in Providence, Rhode Island by a Jewish mother and a Black father, is a Cave Canem Fellow and a nationally acclaimed performer. In this ground-breaking collection of poems, Samuels examines the beauty and contradictions of his own mixed identity with gut-wrenching narratives, humor, and passionate verve.

Here’s the Amazon link to purchase the book: