A Rose Is Still A Rose: Adeke Rose Shares Her Poetic/Political Roots

Leroy - Posted on 30 April 2013

Leroy Moore/Adeke Rose

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Krip-Hop Nation (KHN): Adeke Rose, tell us your history writing poetry and how do you connect your poetry to your identities?

Adeke Rose: I wrote my first poem in the 4th grade. My mother read poetry to us as far back as I can remember.  I read poetry so often I could recite it verbatim, especially Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Wasn't Enough. My mother would have me perform poetry for friends, relatives, anyone who came to visit.  I traveled extensively since my father was military. Poetry became my best friend, my confidant,  my lifeboat, my promise of survival.  By the time I started college, performance poetry consumed me.  I chose Adeke as my new identity to reflect my sense of freedom, my connection to my African roots and my desire to write honestly without censoring myself or hurting my family.  I grew as a poet as I rose out of my despair as a result of trauma and healed through my writing. To this day I move back and forth through my multiple identities.

KHN:  I know when I was younger and in school I hated poetry until my parents shared poetry that wasn’t taught in the classrooms back then hint hint.  Did you have that same experience in school but if not how did you find poetry that look and spoke to you?

Adeke Rose: I was very fortunate that my mother had a love for all types of poetry, including poets like Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni and Amiri Baraka.  As a result I developed a strong love very early. My father turned me onto Gil Scott Heron in high school. I was sort of a chameleon; traditional poetry by day, black poetry at home.  My teacher found me "a little militant" but I was so soft spoken they did not try to dissuade me.

KHN:  Give us some subjects you touched on in your poetry.

Adeke Rose: Homelessness, federal budget, depression, love and relationships, military, sexual assault, disability, self image, domestic violence, suicide, treatment of males in the criminal justice system, poverty, spirituality are some of the topics in my writing. My writing is pretty diverse.  A lot of it is motivational like the poems "success" and "The Solution".  My goal is to enlighten, inspire, and aid in healing.  Even my humorous pieces have a message.

KHN:  Tell us about  all of your books, your first poetry CD, "Autobiography of a Rose”
 and what are you writing about these days?

Adeke Rose:  I have one bound book and three chapbooks, all with a specific themes.  Autobiography of a Rose was written when I developed my progressive illness so my family and friends would have something to remember me. My condition stabilized so  I later selected poems from it for the CD. It is my autobiography in poetic form.

My second chapbook is She Walks In Faith.  It is special as it is my "coming out" as a poet with a disability putting myself on the cover with my crutches. It has a spiritual focus though it is not "preachy".

My bound book Wounded Kings and Warrior Women is a book of poems on love, culture and community.  It includes poems on social issues, black men, self image etc.  This book is special to me as the cover art is amazing.  It was done by my daughter who is a professional artist.

My final Chapbook Football and Desire has some of my best work.  It is a book of love poems; romantic and familial.

 Currently I'm finishing the Wounded Kings CD, a video and my first Novel called The Morning After.  My next project will be a new CD with a strong Social Cultural focus.  It will show the activist part of me in a strong way, tempered with raw, honest introspection.

KHN:  You are also a therapist for people dealing with trauma please explain and how that connects to your cultural work:

Adeke Rose: I became a therapist while I was working at Juvenile Services, with teens charged with a crime. I was concerned with the lack of therapists willing and competent to work with them, especially those that were poor and Black. The disproportional representation of African American males in my opinion stems in part from a general bias that white males need counseling while black males need incarceration; and a resistance toward mental heath services in our communities despite high levels of trauma in some high risk areas. It is my mission to provide services to those who need it in a flexible, ethical, competent yet culturally sensitive fashion.

KHN:  As a Black disabled poet and in my 40’s I’m seeing more and more Black disabled poets on the scene today.  What do you  say to young Black disabled poets who don’t see themselves in societal mirrors?

Adeke Rose: "Mirrors Lie". (Comes from one of my poems).  I strongly encourage young disabled poets to claim their space on the stage and that doing things in a different manner is okay.  We often feel that we have to be the same to be good at what we do. If I need a stool so be it.   If I can't get on the stage, I perform in front of it.  It is also vital to take care of yourself.

Finally connect with other poets with disabilities.  That networking can be life enriching.  I remember once I was in Houston performing and I was really down.   I called my friend 13 of Nazareth who also has a disability and I felt so validated. He knew exactly what I was going through and gave me great suggestions on how to take care of myself on the road.

KHN:  I love music and you have a poem about music.  There is this deep relationship between music and poetry from Blues to Hip-Hop.  Can you share you thoughts about this relationship?

Adeke Rose:  My favorite memories from childhood are all related to listening to jazz, blues and soul with my father and poetry with my mother.   In addition poetry and music can release emotion, and soothe the soul. I believe in music and poetry are siblings. Each with their own identity, yet very closely related. I have several pieces with a music theme.  Poetry keeps me sane, but music has always been my escape.

KHN:  You’re an advocate for victims of violence, have you wrote a poem about the violence against people with disabilities?

Adeke Rose: Yes I have a poem called broken pieces that deals with violence and physical disabilities.  I have another poem that deals with harassment and psychological disabilities.

KHN:  What is the role of story tellers in this computer age we live in today?

Adeke Rose: We restore a sense of humanness and connection.  The computer age has us interacting in a forum where we can't see faces, hear tone of voice or otherwise gauge emotion.   Poetry by its very nature elicits emotion.  We tell stories in our writing that grants permission to feel, grow and heal.

KHN:  I love your poem, "Look The Other Way" at Across Words 2 where you speak about homelessness please tell us about that poem and share some lines of the poem.

Adeke Rose:  The poem "Look The Other Way" was performed at Across Words 2.  I wanted people to see the men and women who are homeless as family.    Any of us could be there in a heart beat. I start off the poem addressing stereotypical views in a non confrontational way, then take the reader on a journey ending with a very personal revelation.

"I stopped and stared completely unaware I was defying common convention. When approached by the homeless tradition dictates that we look the other way, don't encourage him to stay, close our eyes, let the unfortunate be invisible..."

Later it states "Why does homeless mean human-less? somebody loved him, how does this fade out from family begin?"

KHN:  You are a mother, did your poetry help rise your child/children?

Adeke Rose:  My children are one of the best parts of my life.  I was so blessed to have them.
I read poetry with them as my mother did with my.   All three write, and my oldest daughter Bren's poetry is amazing. I wrote about my twins premature birth three months early, my son's disabilities, and other issues with my children.  Writing allowed me to contain my emotions and be totally present for my children.   I struggled knowing that my physical issues resulted in their premature birth and my son's dependence on life supporting equipment and nursing at home.

KHN:  From some of your poetry, there is a sense that you’re an activist tell us about your activism and political education and do you think political poetry like The Last Poets, Sonia Sanchez and more is still needed today.  If so how have you build on this tradition and please share one of your political poems.

Adeke Rose:  In college I was mentored by Dr Acklyn Lynch, a professor in the African American studies Department at UMBC.   His classes really broadened my thinking and sparked my activism. My books are dedicated to him as he made me promise I would publish my poetry.

I became very frustrated when I began to understand the inequalities in our society.    In fact I almost got thrown out of school for participating in a sit in to protest financial aid practices during the period. Fifteen student leaders were identified and went through administrative hearings.  Our attorney Billy Murphy Jr was able to resolve the complaints.

Now my focus is on many inequalities: cultural, gender, disability, economic, sexual orientation... The sad part is there is so much to address.  Political poetry will always be necessary.  The issues may change but the need remains.  Here is one of my poems:

Balancing Acts

I wonder
if the reason we aren't frightened
enough to tighten our belts
and take a reflective pause,
is that we don't understand the cause
and benefits of poverty.
If there were no poor there would be no wealthy
Many believe its healthy
to have an imbalance of assets
I don't recall being asked for my consent
over the way tax payers money is spent
I regularly use my vote
Candidates consistently build up my hopes
Only for them to be dashed
as the political factions clash
and progress gets blocked up
My brothers disproportionally locked up
poverty increasingly stocked up
And we are blinded to the reality
that we may be the next casualty
In this war of survival
They say that to succeed you must
"Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps"
But what if you don't have shoes...
or feet?
It's like Marie Antoinette who indicated that "if the poor don't have bread, let them eat cake..."
It is a mistake
to allow the rich
to determine how to help the poor
Most have never been there before
Never made the journey
From poverty to solvency in one generation
And many cannot avoid the temptation
to blame the poor for their condition
Yet the politicians use ammunition
Like wealth tax breaks
Cuts in health care
medicaid, medicare
And Cutbacks and layoffs
to keep them there.
Yes, most of the poor work. 
Budget cuts eliminating jobs affect people
Usually those who need their job the most
And those cutting them don't care
that many more
are falling down the stairs
From success, to struggle for survival
It's tough when our largest rival
are not terrorists from select groups
But our own politicians who create loops
For some to climb through
And for others to fall from.
I've learned in the end
I cannot depend
on the government
To stabilize my present
nor secure my future
They are prone to forget
reject or neglect
programs that help or uplift
And Social security is neither sociable
Nor secure
So I'm building my own safety net
And I encourage you and yours
To do the same.

            Adeke Rose

KHN:  Check out Adeke Rose's website at http://www.adekerose.com/fr_home.cfm


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