Toni Asante Lightfoot

Toni Asante Lightfoot: Tenth Anniversary Issue

Tenth Anniversary Issue: A Tribute to Guest Editors
Volume 11:1, Winter 2010

Guest Editor, “It’s Your Mug 15th Anniversary Issue,” Summer 2009


Toni writes:
“Wow! Getting people together that you haven’t seen all in one place for almost 15 years is more than just a notion.

When Kim came to me and asked if I’d like to edit an issue I thought ‘Wow! this would be a great opportunity to get the old gang from It’s Your Mug together.’ It’s Your Mug poetry reading started 15 years ago and I thought it’s be great synchronicity with the Beltway issue. I then set about emailing everyone I still kept in contact with from Its Your Mug. I started asking for submissions in July of 2008. By November, I only had about four submissions. I went into labor and had a baby but not enough submissions for an issue. So while I was learning at least forty ways to apologize to my mother for all I put her through after she gave birth to me and did all kinds of stuff to keep me alive til now, I was also begging people to submit. Finally, I became adept at Facebook and found some more people there.

However, finding them and getting them to submit were two different things. I put a call into Van Jordan who never fails to acknowledge the Tuesday night readings as the first place he read his poetry. He was one of the first ones to get his poetry in to me. My girl Dehejia Maat got her work in and then stayed up a few nights after my baby and her young son was asleep to work on editing her submissions. I then called upon those who visited the Mug. Thomas Sayers Ellis, even though he was only a the Mug a couple of times, represented the beginning of a philosophical shift in many of the poets minds and was one the reasons there were so many collectives that came out of the Mug.

Solliciting people, trying to organize the order (which ended up being alphabetical for fairness sake), being a new mom and going back to work made me an awful editor for Kim. I was like the teenager that doesn’t understand the hard work that goes into making their home a livable place. So thank God my birthday twin Holly Bass is so full of compassion for both Kim and me that she knew for this issue to some out she’d have to step in. Her introduction was well researched and did what I always loved about the Mug. It showed that as a community of poets if we do what we can do and help each other when we see someone struggling wondrous things can happen.

So the final tally was something 19 of the near 300 documented readers that came through It’s Your Mug from February 1, 1994 to August 20, 1996.

Thanks to everyone who submitted to the issue and read at the Busboys and Poets events in July and September. Kim you heard kittens better than anyone else. You’ve built a beautiful home for poets, artists, photographers and anyone with a connection to DC.”

From the Editor:
Toni Asante Lightfoot was first published in Beltway Poetry in its second year, in an issue guest edited by Brian Gilmore. I have long admired her commitment to building community among poets, and her history founding the It’s Your Mug Reading Series (the first spoken word venue in DC) has been followed by other types of leadership: co-founding the Modern Urban Griots, working as Artistic Director for the Blackout Arts Collective in Boston, and directing the T.E.A.C.H. program at Young Chicago Authors in Chicago. Toni is known for her amazing ability to build a sense of belonging, and to challenge writers to grow. Because of her, Washington is known as one of the most vibrant spoken word cities in the US. Her guest-edited issue, published in Summer 2009, documents the beginning of the spoken word movement in DC, and its continuing importance to the literary community.



Blue haze floats and grows over the roof of the Capital
Center. This place is new, shiny, unprepared.
There are a dozen Black folk on stage dressed

Flue must be clogged, smoke unable to rise out
tumbles down. My sister is bellbottoms, braids,
and anticipation. Me? 10 year old cock blocking
machine revved with starsky & hutch lunchbox.

Flee my mind and shwuzzle into the seat. World
conjugates every word as they primpoon around me.
Who needs a dictionary when more precise conjectures
are unfolding with each drum-horn progression.

Fled my home tonight. Any night away is a dream.
Who knows when the next flurry of meaness will fly
from brother to brother,sister to mother.
When fathers escapethose left standing crumble.

Sled down the flurries of funk fritters dolking in my chest.
Then I noticed the stage flit-flut with the most delic dancing bird
ever feathered. No cage holds her. She chooses who will stroke her.
Behold Goddess! Smite any bars on which she beats her wing.

Seed of wild fruit sows into my pituitary producing fragrant funkmoans.
Skunky sunshine slips under my eyelids. When closed
groove monsters morph into cartoons no network is genius enough
to play. Daffy is sunday school. Dr. Funkenstien is Church

sending you on a sweet chariot ride. The worshifters flimmer
the surface of space and at its edge the crowd drimmkels
with gyroscope song. Where do these images orgynate?
What Malcolm prophecy revealed this? Let me rise and

fend off the man who’s now sitting next to my ward.
The warden will want details and I’ve already lost
too many memories to sleep. I wake up 13 times on 13 different
planets. My sister and me whisping free on all of them.

Fund alien artistians is on the picket sign I don in front
of the Black House. George Clinton sits on the steps
with some weed and crème brulee. Informing us he
gave up and joined the clan. We break the barriers.

Funk strikes and burns the masquerade off my parents.
All crispy they beg my forgiveness. I blessticate them
with funk’s power, the glory. The mothership
comes. I dream my sister remembers all of this.


Kathy Keler, "Encounter," 2009, acrylic and alkyd on canvas, 20" x 30"

Kathy Keler, “Encounter,” 2009, acrylic and alkyd on canvas, 20″ x 30″



I wouldn’t play Mississippi because they weren’t ready
hunh, they still ain’t ready
—Moms Mabley, 1974

You were 14, never be more than 14. That night
didn’t nobody cry out, We are humans.
We don’t beat death into chirren.

I guess somebody coulda but screams
of righteousness get drowned by the
whispers of demons. Oh Emmett!

We ain’t human to them kind. We just leaves
made to dangle from branches of trees. Them Rebs
all too proud of these shameful American Hitlers.

I weep a mother’s tears over Mamie never straightening
your tie at your graduation or telling a woman
to go back to you after you or she done acted the fool.

I weep rainbows gray. Sisters at church tremble
your final picture. You laying monster faced,
Mamie grabbing her heart, colors everything I see.

What will turns a mother cut short from mothering
into a maker of change? Yeah, things changing but
I been told I still have to do a show tonight.

With each stitch I put in the audience’s side
I wonder if my boy made it home
without a cop or crazed mob, killing him.

Folks come for me to douse their wounds with rage
fermented sweet like Southern Comfort. Tonight, I tip
a bottle to the microphone for us who ain’t here.

I’m gonna give all I know
‘cause tonight, I’m the one who needs
to laugh all my tears away.



This is not for gay boys.
This is for anyone who wants
To use every tool to turn hard times
Into time controlled by their own hands.

I could be a bus driver or
I could own a bus company.
The difference is talking someone
Into believing in what I
tell them to believe.

Papa, we read Luis Rodriguez.
He documented creatively
the story of Miguel a tomato picker
tracked to his death by immigration in California.
Anyone- Black, White, Yellow, Red, Brown – who read it
would never see a tomato and not think of Miguel.

I want to tell more
of our stories
and feed the people
who want to trick us
what I want them to eat.

You moved me from a town where my tongue
was not a trashed delicacy
to the world of fast talkers
and now I want to speak without my tongue
tied behind our history.
Let me write well, speak well,
Prove that this learning thing is good
Satellite my words, our wisdom
to New York
and then the world.

If I learn to be real good at this poetry
No woman will resist
Turning to me knowing I could be
Something good with her.

Come on, Papi, let me have the same chance
To change the world as Cesar Chavez,
Win a Nobel like Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz.
Or be a MacArthur Genius like our sister
Sandra Cisneros.
Let me turn my words
Into something we all can use.



Toni Asante Lightfoot is a native of Washington, DC. There she fell in love with poetry, artists, science and scientists. Lightfoot started hosting poetry readings in 1993 and has continued to host readings in Boston, Trinidad & Tobago, and Chicago. She has published several chapbooks. In 2005, she won the Guild Complex's Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards and has hosted the GBOMA every year since. Lightfoot was the Director of Writing Programs at Young Chicago Authors. She has developed curricula that teaches creative writing through the lens of science and science through the lens of creative writing. Her work has been published in Torch, Muzzle, and Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, and she was guest editor of Beltway Poetry's It's Your Mug 15th Anniversary Issue. Lightfoot is currently working on her Masters of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine at Pacific College and lives in Chicago, IL. To read more by this author: Toni Asante Lightfoot: Fall 2001 Toni Asante Lightfoot: Guest Editor, It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Summer 2009