Haiku: Writing to Liberate the Soul!

Haiku Poetry is the basis of much of my work including workshops with youth, training for mentors/teachers and my newest addition has been teaching as part of the Options for Living and Learning Program offered for inmates in the DeKalb County Jail (DeKalb County, GA).   Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry that uses 17 syllables to tell a big story with few words usually configured as 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the second line and 5 on the third line.

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(The above picture depics HHW training with mentors in Georgia)

I named it Healthy Haiku to symbolize the organic flow between health and wellness, poetry and other creative arts.  I started this work with children in 2006 and over time realized that adults can benefit from the same information and process – especially parents, teachers and mentors. Three publications and 11 years later,  I find myself loving the work with the inmates – many of whom are parents and others that want to become parents and mentors.  The time spent with them has me at my creative best, helping them to see the infinite possibilities for their lives created anew! The Healthy Haiku process guides them through lessons about nutrition, self-esteem, forgiveness, creations of vision boards and so much more.   A typical lesson (not that any of them are typical per se!) starts with meditation, power cards, followed by the main lesson which always involves some type of creativity on their parts, and we close with evaluations and Namaste (the Divine in Me – Greets the Divine in You!).

I am there to challenge them to “Step into their Power” to stop being mediocre (which it way overrated anyway) and to be about the business of being on their Divine soul journey. Enough with the distractions and playing small. Marianne Williamson reminded us in her famous poem Our Deepest Fear – that ” Your playing small doesn’t serve the world!” Sometimes they get mad at me and it is during those times that I know that I am pushing some buttons and taking them to the edge – heading to a breakthrough. It is uncomfortable there – and there is nowhere to hide and nowhere to go but up!

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(Random picture of female inmates in class – Not taken at Dekalb Jail)

Recently I asked them read a play that I co-created with my teen theater group (Y.E.S. 4 Health, Inc.) some years ago entitled Drive-Thru Justice.  The play highlights health disparities regarding diabetes in the African-American and Hispanic communities. Some of them didn’t quite get the play which the youth loved. Based on science, facts, very dramatic – filled with humor and excitement.  One woman said it was racist. Not – it was based on facts and was meant to educate primarily African-American and Hispanic audiences about diabetes – how you get it, how it is prevented and one community’s struggle to make a difference in health outcomes in their community by highlighting the negative consequences of fast food consumption. One woman who refused to read any of the characters for two weeks straight, was singing under her breath as we wrapped up the class.  I told her that I forgot that she was a singer and asked if she knew “His Eye is on the Sparrow?” and if she would sing it next week in the funeral scene.  Her face lit up with a smile as she proudly proclaimed that she knew it and would be happy to sing it next week! It’s so on!!!Yes! I accept the challenge of making this work relevant to their lives!

Several classes focused on Powerful Words and Thoughts v. Words and Thoughts that Zap your Power!  The writing and reciting of poetry is the last phase of the exercise that starts with brainstorming about the issues for each class. Both Men and Women’s classes this week produced phenomenal poetry summing up their thoughts. Again, haiku is brief but some of them are so powerful that they can leave you breathless. Here they are.  You be the judge.  I am already biased…(in a good sort of way!)

I am so open

To strive for a better life.

Only I can change!

I have the power 

To Encourage the young Kids

Don’t do what I did!

We will go home soon.

They can’t hold me here forever.

God has forgiven Us.

Life is not my Enemy.

Turn negativity into

Positive Energy!

(Not haiku but great words) 

I am a Spiritual Being.

I control my own destiny in Life.

Love is the Greatest Power of All!

(Not haiku but great words)

I am somebody

Who’s talented and gifted.

There is always Hope!

We can do good work

Help a community [thrive]

And see kids achieve!

I am a Black Queen

Who will prosper and Succeed-

Accomplish and Live!

Worthy on this day

Smiles became joyful women

Survivors old Souls!

Seven children born.

Six boys and 1 girl are mine.

Throughout this life time!

Women of soul gets

Tired, mean, weak sometimes.

But as one we all Survive!

I have a big heart.

Anything can be Wonderful!

Always positive!

I am very gifted ~

Blessed by the one who strengthens

With love and giving!

I’m my obstacle.

I’ll rise like dirty birds.

Keep your faith alive!

Stepped up and took control.

No one else will ever know

The road I took here. 

I’m just somebody

Who will let everybody

see I’m no Victim

of my circumstances

in the world!

(Not haiku but great words)

I can do anything

Through God who strengthens me.

A woman I am proud to be,

Gifted and talented, 

No limit on my Destiny!

(Not haiku but great words)

Grew up in Brooklyn

Had to fight my wrongs.

Loved money, women and cars.

Then my eyes opened to the universe

My God and the stars!

(Not haiku but great words)

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Dr. Imani Ma’at is a Health Educator and Behavioral Scientist, Author and Speaker with 22 years of service at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Her education includes a Master in Education from Harvard and a Doctorate in Health Education from Teacher’s College of Columbia University. Her most recent book in the Healthy Haiku Series is Healthy Haiku 3: How to Fight Childhood Obesity One Poem at a Time. This book is a great resource for teachers, parents, mentors and others. It includes science, fun and creative strategies to address  nutrition and lifestyle to prevent obesity in youth and all family members. For more information and to book her for speaking engagements and workshops please fill out the information below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberating Incarcerated Minds with Healthy Haiku

When I first approached the County Jail system it was a good will gesture to offer to conduct one Healthy Haiku workshop for women in lock up. As a result of our first meeting they quickly learned the value of my workshops and officials offered me the opportunity to participate in a new program for inmates by conducting two workshops a week for 8 weeks at a time.  Upon learning  approximately 83% of the women in lock up at this facility were there pre-hearing and pre-sentencing because they did not have the money to make bail, I was even more motivated to share these empowering workshops with the women.  Hence the poverty connection to who sits in jail and who does not.  Most, but not all are young and African American. They have children and families. They have dreams and ambitions – many of which have been subdued and subjugated to another space and time “maybe in my next life.” My mission – and I do choose to accept it – is to wake up those dreams – re-ignite their passions and goals and reasons for being! Encouraging them to be the best that they can be! No easy task for this population. Haiku – an ancient 17th Century Japanese form of poetry that uses 17 syllables to tell a huge story with few words – becomes the gateway for giving them everything I’ve got for building self-esteem, self-love, trust, radical forgiveness, creativity and the return of their voices. Healthy Haiku workshops, originally created for children – I soon learned that parents in general, and women in particular needed to learn this information as they are the primary nurturers – builders or destroyers of self-esteem and the ones that shop for the household (more often than not!)

I waited until after the second set of workshops before sharing on this Blog.  My waiting pales in comparison with the waiting of these women. Most are very young – waiting: waiting in jail for their hearings,  waiting to be united with their children, husbands, other family and friends. Some are awaiting sentencing.   My goal is to help to build them up – mind, body and spirit – to help them to find their voices through discussions and poetry writing about health and wellness. Imagine women who can’t wait to start taking wheat-grass juice and alkaline water on a regular basis!  Just eating healthy food on a daily basis is something to look forward to upon their release.  I  remind them that this “station” in life is temporary and that better life, better days filled by better mindsets, self-esteem and passion for making their lives better – is in their future!

During the workshops we do individual and group exercises, brainstorming and writing. Each participant presents her original poetry to the group, once encouraged to stand straight, speak up, articulate and clearly enunciate.  Communication skills are key to  their effectiveness in negotiating a system that has very low expectations of them based on past interactions. Fueling their new skills and attitudes are Dr. Marianne Williamson’s “Our Deepest Fear (is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure!”) and other positive words and works.

I write this blog because they asked and because it becomes a link between them and the outside world. It is a way to share their words and their hearts. I feel breakthroughs!  Some tears -which I remind them is part of the releasing and healing process – and lots of laughter.  I celebrate their little steps.  When they recite their poetry with the group, I introduce them as ” the Fabulous (and their name). I want for this Blog to be about them – not about me. Their poetry speaks volumes of who they are and of their potential!

I’m in Love with Self

No…I’m not conceited,

Just not going to be Defeated!

 

Now Eye love myself

Before that was a hard task

Where did my love go?

 

If you love your kids

Tell them as much as you can

Let them know you care!

 

Don’t neglect yourself.

Fall in love with who you are.

Fall in love with you!

 

Flying high above the sky

Looking over my life that I’ve deprived

Flopping wings seeking my dreams!

 

Us against the world, My baby

I’ll never abandon you.I’ll always love you

God is within us, Never against us!

 

Happiness you are…

My breath, my life, my shinning star

My dream com true…You~

 

A Grandfather’s Love (my Title) next 3 poems by some person

I loved you when you were here

I missed you now that you’re gone

I wish you could be near to guide me!

 

I have a son that

Needs me more than ever

He’s a ton but I am a proud mother!

I wish he could have met you

So tiny and fragile~

I know you would have loved him too.

I even gave him your middle name, Michael!

 

Whom am I? – Some say I am just a Lady

Some say  I’m a daughter.

And others say I’m a Child of God.

But I tell you I’m all of the above!

Beautiful Black Woman!

 

Why try to hurt me?

That disrespectful tongue of yours.

You would know, or would you?

 

What’s a second chance?

If you’re leaving with no plan?

Time to prove to the man

That we’re worth a second chance!

 

Many  positive comments from the participants:

This class was very pleasant. It made me step out of the negative…if only for a moment!

I always enjoy this class. It lets me realize how much joy is in me!

Love this class!

Lots more to share……next time!  Namaste! The Divine in me Greets the Divine in You! (My greetings as they leave the class!)

(Please check out my most recent book: Healthy Haiku 3: How to Fight Childhood Obesity One Poem at a Time!   a resource for the entire family…On Amazon.)

Haiku for Healthy Children and Teens: Healthy Eating to Prevent Obesity. A Resource for Mentors, Teachers and Parents

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So what do you know about Haiku anyway?  Okay let me remind you: Ancient Japanese form of poetry that uses 17 syllables (or beats) usually configured as 5~7~5 on three lines that makes a big or significant statement with few words. Ah, 3rd grade Language Arts class maybe?  I always thought it was fun and have been creating Haiku and other poetry since being introduced to it in the 3rd grade.  Yes, I know that not everyone learned about Haiku in school, but I wish they had! Haiku for Healthy Children and Teens is the 3rd in a series of books devoted to sharing important health issues with youth and people that care about the physical and emotional development of young people – with the assistance of Haiku and other creative literary forms. For me, the series is the perfect marriage of public health – the world in which I have worked for over 25 years and poetry- my first literary love!

The spotlight on Obesity in children has been shining brightly by our First Lady – Michelle Obama through the National Let’s Move Campaign. Eating healthy is a very important part of that platform that has reached most communities in the U.S. According to the First Lady:

“In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion.

This is  my mission I am determined to work with folks across this country to

change the way a generation of  kids think about food and nutrition.”

We are very much on the same page.  As a Harvard and Columbia University trained Health Scientist and Educator with 22 years of experience at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I have seen entire communities at disproportionate risk for obesity and health complications related to obesity (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and more). The old saying ~ we are what we eat~ is so simple, yet so overlooked. It also becomes environmentally complicated with “food deserts”  the absence of major grocery store chains in low-income communities, as well as health food stores and other providers that offer a rich variety of high quality natural and organic foods and supplements.

As we teach children the importance of healthy eating as well as the meaning of healthy eating – with real examples – and empower the parents to prepare healthier meals, we can in fact prepare to change the obesity profile of many families and communities.  The closer to natural – organic fruits, vegetables and some grains – the healthier the children will be.  Here is an example of a haiku that I wrote relating to fruit and a child’s wonder! Notice that the first line contains 5 syllables, the second line contains 7 syllables and the third line contains 5 syllables.

“Age 4 discovered

Mango’s sweet succulent taste

while in Jamaica!”

I remember little else as vividly about that first trip to the birthplace of my mother and 3 of my grandparent’s  than the taste of a mango and the lime tree which fell victim to my shaking and eating its  fruit until my body broke out in a cleansing frenzy.  Yes, I distinctly remember having little bumps all over me for a couple of hours. Instinctively, my body knew exactly what I needed.  In retrospect I recognize the itching and bumps as being a cleansing reaction – a natural body response to maintain health, protect and balance itself. When I conduct Healthy Haiku workshops with small children and I ask them to name foods that are good from them.  They invariably call out the names of fruits and vegetables. Do you think their little hearts do not know what is good for them instinctively?

“What would life be if

There were no Apples to eat?

My all-time best Treat!”

I am so delighted to continue this important series with this book that will come with training and webinars for mentors, teachers and parents in order to guide them on the use of this and the previous books in the series.  In researching for this manuscript, I discovered and became absorbed into the Haiku works of literary giants such as Richard Wright, author of Native Son, Black Boy and many other rich historical classics.

“As the sun goes down

A green melon splits open

And juice trickles out.”

                                           Richard Wright

Healthy Haiku merges the poetic arts with language literacy and competency. My goal is to contribute to the body of English Language Arts  (ELA) Common Core State Standards with a fun, creative and unique approach that can be used by teachers and families across the country.  This volume will be released initially as an Ebook for easy access at low cost in order for it be affordable for all. Stay tuned for the release in early October.  Please Like our Facebook page for updates: HealthyHaiku and visit our Web site.

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Help us to Bring Healthy Haiku Workshops to Youth Across the U.S.

Help us to Bring Healthy Haiku Workshops to Youth Across hte U.S.

Greetings Friends. GoFundMe funds will be used to bring this amazing workshop to schools, summer camps, mentoring organizations etc. all over the U.S. We are asking our friends and family members to donate just $5 and to share this with all of your contacts to support this campaign. We appreciate you so much and want the best for our children and teens across the U.S. All levels of support selected below will earn points for organizations to earn a free workshop. Thank you for your donation and support.

Building Self-Esteem in Teens

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Every dream followed

By Action takes me closer

To Finding my Way!

(Have the courage to implement your ideas!)

Peer Pressure is as

Powerful as I allow

In my Life’s choices!

(I have the power to say no!)

Find out more about our books, workshops, trainings and speaking engagements.

Also take advantage of our huge 50% off sale of Healthy Haiku Training Manual and Poetry Books!

Look for Healthy Haiku on http://www.amazon.com

Healthy Haiku Blog Talk Radio – Hosts Open Mike Tues 30th 6:30-7:30pm E.S.T. with Special Guest: Ms. Oni Lasana

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We are so excited to announce an Open Mike for Poets, Rappers, Spoken Word Artist who would like to share their work.  The great and talented Ms. Oni Lasana has agreed to open the show for us – sharing her words of wisdom and excerpts from her poetry.  After that – the Mike is Open!  Here are the stipulations (I know you can’t box in an artist!). But, here they are anyway.  You must:

Be ages: 18-30 something;

Speak about something related to health and/or empowerment of young people;

No profanity or you will be muted;

Encourage all of your friends and family members to listen in to the show (Please!):

Let us know that you would like to participate and if you have any questions by contacting us at: About Me

Call in number: 646-915-9853 6:20-6:27 for mike check. It will be first come, first heard so if you call in late you might not be aired. Calls will be accepted from the US and Canada only unless you use Skype – which will make it open to everyone (Show currently airs in English only)

Check out the Healthy Haiku Blog Talk Radio site to listen to previous shows and check out our format.

We will feature as many artists as possible!

This is a great opportunity to promote yourself and your craft.  We are planning to host a Spoken Word Conference about a year from now and we are pre-screening for the best young talent around!

Our motto: “Empowering Youth…Changing the World!”

Text healthyhaiku to 22828 for more information about our programs, services,

books, speaking engagements, Affiliate Program etc.

Healthy Haiku books on 50% discount on Amazon.com