Yay! The 60th episode. How surreal. I introduce to you Clinnesha D. Sibley, a writer & playwright with many publications and theatrical productions under her belt. Hear us discuss her process, her advice to writers, & what creative projects she's working on now.
A Love Letter to Ntozake
You played with Barbies and watched as little boys gawked at Cindy Crawford in a Pepsi commercial.
Your teacher suggested The Babysitters Club, “Kristy’s Great Idea” for your book
project because it was heartwarming, not um…controversial… like The Bluest Eye.
You watched The Cosby Show and knew you wanted to be that kind of black.
You were eating grandma’s field peas and okra when you got your period.
Mama was workin. Stayed workin.
Your body changed immediately and grandma gave you a girdle.
Same kind of girdle she gave your mama.
You stayed lookin in the mirror hoping your ass would catch up to your chest and hips.
It never did, not on its own.
Sophomore year, he let you wear his letterman.
It was warm and smelled like November.
He never let anyone but you wear his letterman.
He told you he loved you.
You didn’t know a man could ever do that.
He would take back the number 7 when y’all hated one another.
Back and forth, the jacket began to smell less like autumn and more like alcohol and
You were in the McDonald’s bathroom when you got one line and a faint.
You cried into your chicken nuggets.
You told your best friend and her mama who’s cool.
Then, cool mama told you ’bout Mrs. Poole…
He said he would come, too.
But he brought you somethin to eat afterwards.
You left home after graduation.
Your mama had to work graduation day, and the day you moved away.
Grandma put a rolled up one hundred dollar bill in your hand for gas money and
You got a job on campus.
He needed money and you would take care…he hated that you could do that.
You hated going home, and seeing him reminded you of how much you hated yourself.
So, you changed your look.
You found a college best friend who got you into places you were too young to be in.
She’s better than your old best friend who’s been actin real funny.
You hate her cuz you hate you.
And she hate you cause of that thing with him.
You say she pulls you down every time you get elevated.
But you high more than you elevated.
(High, drunk people don’t keep their scholarships.)
Your school daze become filled with nights you don’t remember.
And now, you goin back home.
At least you tried.
One day, you’re gonna finish.
Friend was like, I told you.
You had white liquor in you that night, and you fought her.
You looked at yourself in the McDonald’s bathroom mirror and didn’t like the
scratches, or your nose, your eyes, what the perm did to your hair, your dark skin, or
the fact that you flunked out of college.
Maybe your mama waz right when she called you a dumb ho; that was before she got
in bed with her best friend’s man.
You hate everything about yourself, and your mama’s probably right about you bein a
dumb ho, so…
You sleep with him again.
He tightens his sweaty palm around your heart.
You remember the baby.
This time, you won’t need Mrs. Poole.
Two healthy babies later, you’ve changed your look again.
People wonder what’s different.
They don’t wonder what your new hurt is. They just know you’ve got babies by him,
and so does your best friend.
But you’re the main one cuz he looks at you just like the boys looked at Cindy
You haven’t seen him since y’all got into it at his mama’s house.
You’ve been texting her cause she helps you understand him more…she cares about
you more than your own mama…more than your best friend, who loves him, too.
You finally talk to your mama about him, and she hugs you. Apologizes and says things
can only get worst.
His mama said he’s becoming like his daddy.
You realize that absent in one place means present in another.
There’s a new woman…
You consider going back to school.
You re-apply and get in.
He sees you trying to move on without him, and it gets really bad really fast, like your
You pray, cause every time your grandma prayed, things got better, and people would
even come back Home.
You didn’t confirm with admissions, but you keep a record of dreams in a spiral
You were working part time at the library when you came across for colored girls who
consider suicide when the rainbow is enuf in the return vault.
You experienced it and realized somebody was missing what you were missing. You
realize that you were born with the capacity to love yourself, and that changes the way
you look at your daughters.
BIO: Clinnesha Sibley, a native of McComb, Mississippi, is a published author, community leader, and educator. She promotes creative-mindedness—believing that visual, performing, and literary arts can change the way we think about some of life’s most important questions. A writer of plays, poetry, prose, essays and creative non-fiction, Clinnesha has received numerous awards including the Holland New Voices Award, the Arkansas Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, and the Mississippi Theatre Association Adult Playwriting Award. Her writing has also appeared in national literary journals, anthologies, and various publications and anthologies including Feels Blind Literary, Quince Magazine, In Full Color, Black Masks Magazine, and Muzzle Magazine.
Clinnesha committed to training exclusively as a playwright while attending Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. As an Interdisciplinary Career Oriented Humanities major, she learned to focus inward—exploring identity, psyche, and the human condition. It was at this historically black college that Clinnesha also learned the connection between social activism and artistic practice. She received her M.F.A. in Theatre (Playwriting) from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville becoming the first African-American to earn such a degree from that institution. Her plays have been called feminist, protest, political, southern, and circular.
After teaching on the college/university level for many years, Clinnesha decided to move into secondary residential education, and is currently the Literary Arts Instructor at Mississippi School of the Arts where she teaches young writers to become socially-engaged artists. Clinnesha is married to her high school sweetheart, Keith Sibley, and they have three children: Kaylee, Karlee, and Keith Jr.