“Newtown Angels” is a gorgeous poem written by Olivia Ayanruoh in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school.  Please read it.



What is Twirling?


Twirling is

Me (Meres-Sia) twirling at three. My mom painted this image inspired by a photograph of me spinning. I wrote the poem beneath it when I was ten.

The Poem
under the rainbow
there is a pot of gold
i am told
but you have to be
ten years old

so take a trip
through your mind
you will find
is a pot of gold

Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought

Masquerades for the ancestors are known as egungun, “powers concealed.” In this type of masquerade called Onidan, “owners of miracles,” an Onidan egungun whirls and transforms from one appearance to another through the inversion of its cloth. At the completion of the miracle, its appearance is tranformed as the cloth has reversed inside out.

(my mother sketched this)

The Whirling Ladies of Brazil                                  

Haitian Dancers Twirl

Whirling Dervishes

West African Dancers jump and twirl

Chakras spin

Twirling can also be…

the beginning
of fall
in love


(I believe this piece is called “Young Love”
if you are the artist, please tell us more about your piece)

Osani circle game

Efé children of the Ituri Forest in Zaire (Rep. of Congo, central Africa) begin the Osani game by sitting in a circle, feet touching, all connected. Each child in turn names a round object like the sun (oi), the moon (tiba), a star (bibi) an eye (ue) and then goes on to name a figurative expression of “round” like the circle of the family, togetherness, a baby in the womb, or the cycle of the moon. As players fail to come up with a term that is “circular” they are eliminated from the game. Eventually, only one remains. Tradition has it that this player will live a long and prosperous life. (from Connecting Dotz website)

Twirling is “manginga.” There is lots of spinning, twirling and unleashing of one’s hidden power (egungun?) in capoeira rodas (“circles.”) Circles inside of circles.

Twirling is circular.

Twirling in the smoke is dealing with life.



Early morning Sadhana with my daughter, Isandla, when she was three.

May I release
the illusion
of perfection
my perfect
And be
as beautiful
as I choose
to be



I wrote this affirmation or prayer to my higher Self recently, but this photo was taken ten years ago.  Sadhana inspired the poem “The Biggest Step,” which I renamed and included in  I Twirl in the Smoke.  I forget what the new title is and my book is not in front of me.  But you will recognize the poem in the second half of the book that begins…

The biggest step 
I ever made
was the one 
that brought me 
closer to You

Hmm… the original title is quite lovely and appropriate (but then again so it the new one.)

Holding Up the Sky

(Here’s the way I remember this story)

There once was a benevolent king who ruled over a village.  One day a messenger came bursting through the palace gates.
The messenger’s face was all flush. 
“What is it?” asked the king. 
“Sir!  you must leave the village at once.  The sky is falling!”
 The king jumped from his throne and commanded all his subjects to leave.
“Leave the village!  The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!” 
Everyone ran around madly, shouting, “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!” 
They clamored to leave the palace.  The king ran through the streets and urged everyone to leave.
“The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!”
He shouted and  all the villagers scattered about.  Then, as he was almost to the exit of the village, the king looked down.  He noticed a tiny flea lying on his back with his legs up.
 “Get up!”  urged the king. 
The flea looked up at him. 
“Get up little flea.  Don’t you know the sky is falling!” 
The flea smiled. 
“I know,” the flea said.
“Well, what are you doing?  If you know the sky is falling, why don’t you leave?”
The flea answered calmly, “I am doing my part to hold up the sky.”

Poetic Words

I think If and When are very poetic words, especially at the beginning of sentences, and especially when spoken or sung.  If triggers the imagination, inviting the listener to think differently than in that present moment.  If is the precurser to a fantasy, releasing limitations and thinking outside the box.  When implies a voyage of the heart, mind, time, space from here to there, to anywhere.

Consider when in Sweet Honey’s “Sometime”:

When shackles fall from my heart
When the rocks seem to roll from my way

When I find myself open to love
You are my when, you are my when, you are my when.
To me, “You are my when” sounds like you are that indescribable moment in time when I released all of my limitations and moved from here to there (two more celestial words), from the known to the unknown and my world opened wider.  When opens minds to enter worlds.

Now consider my use of if at the end of this stanza (in this incomplete poem):

work until I die
that’s the myth
unbecome hypnotized
ask “what if?”


I Twirl in the Smoke poster

Now available at the following book stores and outlets in Oakland, California:

  • Marcus Books Store Oakland, 3900 Martin Luther King Junior Way, Oakland, CA 94609
  • Marcus Book Store San Francisco, 1712 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115
  • Laurel Book Store, 4100 Mac Arthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619
  • Oakollectiv, 1427 Broadway, Oakland, CA
  • Palm Oil Press  (see “purchase” page for more details and purchasing options)

San Francisco Bay View (print)

Inspirasoul Blog Talk Radio-“A Writer’s Journey” ITunes (audio, released 6/11/11)

Check out http://www.ITwirlintheSmoke.com for more information on the TWIRL! movement.


My father’s thoughts on I Twirl in the Smoke

I interview my father, Emory Douglas.  In the book, I interview my mother so that her voice can be heard in response to the perspectives I share as a child.  Her voice represents not only herself, but a generation of women and mothers who have  raised children without a manual, doing the best that they knew how.  She also represents the voice of any mother whose child has published a book of her/his childhood experiences.  I also wanted to know what my father thought of the book as a man and as my father.  Emory Douglas is the former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party.  This is a very short introductory conversation between us.

Meres-Sia: I Twirl in the Smoke is a book that honors women’s experiences.  Yet, many men also find their own reflection in it. What value do you think men get from this book, dad?

Dad: I think the value men can get from reading the book is to always make the effort to be mindful, loving and supportive of a child’s concerns, questions, thoughts and feelings because at a child’s very young age life’s journey can begin to formulate many emotional challenges, some pleasant and others unpleasant.

Meres-Sia: What do you think about me writing the book?

Dad: It was good because it helped you to transcend what went on in your life and its a documentation of some of your life journey. It was very good.

Meres-Sia: I don’t talk about any of my experiences as a panther cub in this book, but do you see any relationship between me writing this book and my upbringing in the Black Panther Party?

Dad: The Black Panther School motto was not to teach what to think, but how to think. So in that sense, I can see that you are very thoughtful, analytical and have your own reference point.

Meres-Sia:  Thank you.

Here’s what others have said about I Twirl in the Smoke:

“What a very refreshing journey from cover to cover. The Anthropologist in me loves the unique travel in such a smooth and linguistic way. Moving through wonderful and candid life stages while sharing authentic, timely and intimate relationships, opens a series of well kept secrets. Poems become stories, and stories become refreshing points connecting threads of humanity so infrequently expressed. Thank you for such an honest exploration of a welcoming and meaningful rite of passage. Outstandingly transparent and embracing.” -Dr. Afriye Quamina, Executive Director, The Equity Institute of California

“Vulnerable and inspiring. This work is medicine.” -Nwenna Kai, author of The Goddess of Raw Foods

“Meres-Sia has such a poetic voice. The world deserves to experience her writing!”-Karen English, author of Nikki and Deja

“Amazing. I will cherish this” -dad

“Beautiful!” -mom

I would love to hear what you have to say!