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Bamboozled No More! First Grade Memories


I love September. September is to me, what January is to other folk. A fresh start to a new year. I always associate the newness and excitement of the year with the start of school.

I was one of those kids who just loved school. I attribute my excitement about school to my mom’s descriptions of elementary school life

Mom: Don’t you like to draw?

Me: Yes.

Mom: Don’t you like to play?

Me: Yes.

Mom: Don’t you like to read?

Me: Yes (actually I don’t think I was reading yet but I liked being read to or making up stories).

Mom: Well that’s what you do at school.

The result of these ‘talks’… I was ready to start!

When I found out I was going to start first grade in the local public school I was elated. I mean, I was the happiest kid in the world. I was school obsessed. To tell the truth, I didn’t know what to expect which made it an adventure for me.

My older sister just couldn’t understand my excitement. She had friends and fun in school, but for her it was “just school.” I thought of entering ‘first grade as some great rite of passage. For me, school translated into parent approved journeys to the other side of the neighborhood.

When I arrived, I was instantly enamored by the building. Bricks, hallways, stairs leading to more rooms. Classrooms filled with desks that were made for little kids. Prior to my arrival into first grade, I believed desks only existed in the adult world. The idea of having a desk, well that was just over the top. A kid with a desk! Incredible!

And then there was the girls’ bathroom. Words were written in each stall, on walls, at all heights. I didn’t understand the messages and really didn’t care. I was just mystified by the colors, lettering, and the stories those walls told. My parents anticipated my fascination with the bathroom graffiti.

I remember my father’s instructions. “You are going to see words in the bathroom you may not understand. DO NOT ask anyone at school what the words mean. You can (will) ask us and we will explain.” I should mention I was one of those “literal” kids and often took my parents to task on their promises.

I recall we were standing under the tree in front of our house, getting ready to go for a ride in the car. Something in the air stirred my memory. As I climbed into the back seat, I casually asked about a word I saw scribbled on the wall. “What does fook, Fouke mean?”

I recall feeling a push into the backseat, where I sat, starring at the back of their heads. It was silent; perhaps they sighed, or in hindsight laughed or in panic, wondered if I asked my teacher or an older kid about the word.

I never saw their faces, and never got an answer. But I remember it was a very pleasant ride passing by trees and people.

Let me end with this image. It’s a photo of me returning from school. I am standing on the lawn in a dress, with a plaid tote bag that came with an umbrella. I loved that bag to death and wore it with everything, which drove my mom crazy. Any way in the photo I have 2 braids, am wearing a dress and knee socks: one sock was up and the other one was down. Weary from another breathtaking day at school.


Janet Cormier is a painter, writes prose and poetry, and performs comedy. JC prefers different and original over pretty. She loves collecting stuff, but cleaning not so much. Janet also talks to strangers… a lot. Her column appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.


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3TV Presents: D. Ruff



Besides Being Black


Do you know what I’m doing besides being black? HOMEWORK!!!
Hours and Hours of homework.
Don’t sleep, Homework… Don’t eat, Homework…
But not jus the type of homework to expand intellectual minds
The type of homework you can’t afford to make the
same mistake twice
Ducking and dodging bullets because I’m trying to survive
Trying to put in green contacts and have young ladies ask me, “Are those your real eyes?”
Or have my tongue ring in my mouth play with it just a little and have queens
question me like, “So what are you doing with that?”

You want to know what I was doing before being placed on this planet?
See, while some people were talking to galaxies and
I was chit chatting with stars, playing hot potato with the sun and talking to Him. I’ve seen my brothers
walking with the angels, talking to the angels, and flying with the angels…

Na not me,
    I tried to sweet talk almost all the beautiful angels. When Moses parted the Red
    Sea, who you think was up in the clouds trying to impress them talking like, “I
    taught him that!”
    When Jesus had the last supper, who do you think was there with a box of fried
    chicken, ‘Jagacida’, mashed potatoes, ‘Mac’ and cheese, Roti, Curry, cornbread,
    and enough warm KFC biscuits, mmm mmm, for the table. If you look closely, you
    can see me smiling in the back, with the box.

    Now I’m here, trying to be black
    And not by association, because being Cape Verdean, and Trinidadian just
    doesn’t matter
    I don’t get the typical, ‘Do I know you?’
    I get the,
    “Oh you Cabo Verde? And from Fogo? Aw, man we cousins!”
    Yet still, I try to write…
    Not to just unlock emotions in the heart
    I’m talking stories and real-life traumas
    I scribe the Devil’s letter of retreat, and God’s acceptance speech.
    I’ve written the love letters Adam wrote to Eve, and
    Eve’s sincere heartfelt apology.
    These aren’t words on a paper with a pencil.
    I draw visuals that paint perfect pictures of the stars and the clouds
    I construct scripts to life and a script, that if read would be “lost” in translation.
“Lost” in wants, “lost” in needs of the next man’s greed, who while other children in
other countries starve, its his wallet’s hunger he needs to feed.
“Lost” in dreams that travel the world aimlessly, and get kidnapped which causes
your common sense to lose its sanity like Denzel in “John Q” and “Man on Fire”
And those children will be made stereotypes,

Updated version of the pica ninny with du-rags, Fitted
Caps, and Tim Boots…
Ok Payless ‘Tim’s’ but with the tag on the side you can’t tell the difference.
Baggy jeans that hang past the crack, sitting on a stoop trying to holler at the next
girl with the line, “Excuse me shorty, is you from Tennessee? Because you the only
ten I see.”
Yet people want be this color… WAIT! You’re not hearing



Not literally, but figuratively. The want style, confidence, and talents.
But not just any talents, they want those big baller basketball, Rap star talents.
That kiss a “her” or “him” to leave them desiring for
the rest of the night talents.
That ‘Party going on I already got my gear’ talent
That story about Pookie and Mumu, And what Mumu did to Pookie
And how Ray Ray, who was in jail two weeks earlier
    Got rearrested for not having Lexus’ child support money talents
    That, ‘ l’ma write a poem for my booboo and we’ll be
    together forever,
    Grow and have a house with a white picket fence, two cars in the driveway.’
    Then you’ll break up, talking like,
    ‘I hate you!
    Well I hate you!
    I never liked you!
    Well I’ve always despised you!
    You were terrible in bed
    Well I was tired after caaalliiiing tyyrooone’
    Yet you’ll get back together and continue to draw hearts writing little equations
    ‘Two love plus ‘two’gether equals ‘Four’ever’ talents.
    They want to be black, yet they don’t want the responsibilities of being black
    The pain the torment, the constant finger pointing of
    false descriptions
    Being arrest, trialed and convicted, thrown in a cell and killed by cell mates just
    because you ‘fit the description’

    The unfairness, bills, and debt? Wait why am I in debt?
    This country owes me 40 acres and a mule as collateral that could be my financial aid.
    Till then you want to know what I’ll doing besides being black?
Looking at this country waiting for it to realize that being this skin color still
shouldn’t matter.


D. Ruff is co-host of the, “if you can Feel it, you can Speak it” and author of Staying on 94: Tales from a Misguided Soul. He’s been writing for over 15 years and performing for over 10 years. Most of his poems stem from events he’s experienced, ranging from love and heartbreak to inequality and culture. D.Ruff performs with a unspeakable passion in hopes that different societies will realize the flaws within certain institutions, find bravery to collectively speak and start to demand real change for our children’s future.