11 Days

11 Days

by Randy Ludlum

Simon admits defeat to the overwhelming decision carrying with it the unfathomable cost, and sacrifice to come. A blanket of darkness began to dissolves the world away from him, breaking down buildings, cars, and people into a greying mist. The last remnants swirl across Simon’s body as if a gentle breeze, while the absent abyss was there to welcome him. Simon, weak and trembling in a nearly violent manner reached for his pocket. He pulls a small oval shaped controller, and presses its blue button.

“I’m done. Just … no more. I tried everything to find a way”, Simon said rubbing his forehead in frustration. This genocide had become too normal, and his emotions were dulled. Beckoned by an invisible voice, Simon enters the dull silver elevator. The elevator jerks as it leaves the seemingly endless room. Simon had spent many years experiencing the horror of Earth’s constant destruction. Sometimes by those in North America, if not more from the rest of the world. Like all the other people taken, Simon was given a choice to see if humanity could evolve.

“Did you make decision?”, said a voice next to him. The most Simon could muster was a nod to acknowledge them. “Did you receive the visual species identification test?”, said the voice.

“Yes, Secsun”, Simon said attempting to settle himself. There were more questions the needed to be answered.

“Simon”, said the voice in an oddly compassionate tone. “How about the basic planetary legislation and regulation procedures, and language longevity injection?” Secsun began moving around Simon, causing him to whip around quickly. Secsun seemed amused with Simon’s reaction letting out a unique laugh, but apologizing all the same.

“Yes, but honestly, I… I don’t understand what … what I mean is, what we were deciding?” Simon’s face struggled not to show the overwhelming feeling of anxiety from the long isolation. “Can I go home now?” Simon now searching for Secsun.

The elevator continued down towards an uncertainty Simon almost dare to ask. Simon eyes still wandered around the elevator until he noticed the levels passing by. Each presented what appeared as different locations, and some in the middle of destruction. People shifting the world around them as they walked or moved through it, but one thing was clear they were almost done. Simon wondered if that was what Secsun experienced when they peered into his small part of the world. In another, Simon realized his insignificance next to the Alliance’s abilities.

“Simon Fletcher, as many years you have been here. You will go home, and you will deliver the results.” Secsun moved around Simon once again. “Are you ready to see what I look like now? You were more curious than most.”

Simon did not hesitate, “Yes, all these year together without the slightest idea of what you look like. Wait. Are you male or female?” Simon’s curiosity soared, bombarding him with questions. The shimmering figure begins phasing into view. Simon was shocked at the female humanoid appearing in front of him, and realized in the database she was a Tetrocot (similar to werewolves). Secsun did appear to have metallic blue fur, and a highlighted fluffy tail, but stood slightly taller than Simon. Her face and body were close to a human’s, except for a few distinct features like her nose, and ears. Secsun’s legs were more like a wolves than a human’s, but her appearance was appealing to Simon; a relief.

“I do not frighten you, do I? Secsun’s face now in full view to Simon, but he showed no fear. In fact, he went right up to her, and properly introduced himself. Secretly, he always wanted to meet a wolf girl, maybe from too many cartoons.

“Let’s do this properly. My name is Simon Fletcher. It is nice to meet you.” Simon said as his hand reached towards Secsun. “No Secsun, I actually like grey wolves.” He said as Secsun and Simon exchanged handshakes. “Why did I have to experience all those choices. I couldn’t find any way that humanity wouldn’t kill themselves, or others with your technology.” Simon lowered his head as he answered letting out a sigh.

“We only needed to allow you to see it yourselves. Other species do not allow themselves to see their flaws. The reasons for their actions in hurting their own species, instead of moving one’s species forward.” Secsun’s face stressed the weight of her next words. “Now that enough of you have decided we move to the next stage. You will gather with the others, and will be given time to decide your words for your people. Simon…” Secsun turns her face away. “Simon, you must tell them they have 11 days before we have to purge the Earth.”

“PURGE!” reacted Simon.

“Yes” said Secsun in a remorseful voice.

“NO!… What, no! How could you do this?” Simon turns cold as the blood drains in waves from his head. His legs go numb as his knees hit the dull metallic floor.

“At the rate of change your planet will be unable to sustain life in the next 1000 years. Your species will kill the planet, and then themselves.” Secsun hesitated on her last words, but had to continue even though she had grown fond of Simon. “The Aou’dtroc Alliance of species was created to ensure life in the universe.”

“Then, why did you come to our planet?” Simon questions seemed normal to have asked; Why make people decide? Why kill humanity?

“We seek out dangerous species that are then given a chance to change. If they are unwilling, they are culled to a reasonable number, and then transplanted on another planet to learn about the universe. We bring them back when their planet has healed itself, and developed a system to ensure historical aspects of humanity. There will be pillars, guardians, and enough people for a large colony to continue your species safely.”

“Dangerous? Culled? Transplanted? Wait, wait, I decided that? You said there were other people deciding this? We must wait for the Earth to heal? Wait…” Simon upon finishing his words, vomits on the cold metal floor losing consciousness. The last thing he see is Secsun’s worried face as she rushes towards him.

Simon slowly opens his eyes hoping all of this was a dream he could forget. The blinding light made it hard to focus. As his body shifted, he realized this wasn’t home. He began sobbing uncontrollably, and wailed over the choice he had made. His body clinched into a ball, while his hands covered his face. This was no ordinary decision, this was death to everyone he knew. To even those he knew nothing about. This was the worst possible outcome in meeting those among stars, one based on logic. Secsun was there the whole time attempting to console Simon, but he was unaware until her hand reached for him. Shocked by this Simon sprang from the curved silver bench, and fell to the floor.

“Simon. Simon. Are you alright? Do you need some water?” Secsun face weighed heavily on Simon. Showing the fear, he felt and the inability to stop the inevitable death of billions. “You are not the only one to have to make this decision. Look around. There are more than a thousand other humans out of their simulations. They had to make the same choice, and they all decided the same as you.” she said in a more tender, compassionate voice.

“I’m not the only one?” Simon said in a cracked voice. “They all decided the same.” Simon stood slowly, and scanned the room. He saw dozens of people alongside multiple other species. Simon knew some of them from the identification tests, and most appeared friendly. This spun his thoughts more.

“You are not the only one to share the burden. You could go and speak with the other humans if you want, or need to.” Secsun says with a tender gesture towards Simon touching his shoulder. As if, she could smell his fear, and anxiety over his new reality.

“I think I would rather stay close to you. If I can Secsun.” Simon says as he moves closer to her reconfirming the attempt to console him. Simon’s thoughts went to the horror he was to unleash. The cities that would burn, the people that would be brutally massacred across the world. Simon’s mind shifted to his town, his friends, and his family. His hands covered his face as the guilt flooded in.

“Yes, I will be with you through this whole process. We give our lives to the protection of planets, and species.” Secsun says reassuringly to a bewildered Simon. “I will be with you for the rest of your life. You will need to pick three of the already willing volunteers to guard you. We will accompany you when deliver the results.” Secsun paused hoping Simon demeanor would change, but he still had the smell of fear.

“Guards, I guess I would need them. Who wouldn’t want to kill me. To decide so much for so many. Who wouldn’t want to stop me.” Simon said trying to hold back the tears. “I will just die with everyone else. That should at least seem fair to them. I die with them.” Simon says aloud as if speaking just to himself. As if it would justify this grotesque fate. That this would provide Simon a way to appease the shame he now felt.

“What do you mean Simon? Die?” Secsun said in a strange tone, almost laughing. “You are a pillar. Ever since you got the injection.” Simon falls face-first onto the floor as Secsun finishes her sentence.

When Simon awoke; it was a week later, and the other pillars had already devised a plan. Secsun informed Simon of a way he could deliver the message to the people of the United States, while relieve some suffering. Using the medical tool that the Aou’dtroc alliance provided, gave Simon the ability to heal any wound, disease, or affliction any human could ever have. It replaced the need for medicines, and Simon would be the only one able to use it. Children would be the sole reason, but Simon was to heal anyone who asked to ensure the kids were cured. The plan was simple; to move all the people in the hospital out, then Simon and the other pillars would enter the building. The Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts was the location the Aou’dtroc Alliance picked for Simon’s message, and their introduction.

The next day Simon, the pillars, and the Aou’dtroc Alliance set forth to Earth to inform humanity of their new fate. Boston Children’s Hospital is cleared of everyone but the patients, and the Pillars were sent in. All the pillars had medical devices, and invisible guard escorts to ensure the success of the plan. Simon was sent to the Children’s Cancer ward, and walked to the first child he saw, Sarah Erikison, age 7, diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.

“Please calm down. My name is Simon. I am here to help.” Simon said holding back tears. Sarah was a beautiful, with short brown hair, and light green eyes. However, she was covered in cables, cords, tubes, and monster devices encompass much of her world view. As if, flashing lights, and beeping machines bring comfort.

“Where is nurse Anna?” Sarah said uneasily.

“She will be right back, but I am here to heal all of you. It will take a few minutes, but you will feel no more pain.” Simon said with a genuine sincerity, and forcing his tears back. “Is that ok? Can I heal you?” Simon’s words steadier than before, now with purpose.

“You can do that?” Sarah said with doubt, and uncertainty. “You mean I could go home, and no more treatments?” said Sarah, now crying as Simon placed the device on her, and the cancer was gone. Simon knew the repercussion were coming, and moved from Sarah’s view as it began. Secsun grabbed Simon before he fell to the floor, and as swift as the pain came, it left just as fast. Simon continued this around the entire ward of children. One by one taking the diseases into his new body to extract them from the children. Not realizing at first the total cost to his body it caused.

“You really need to be careful even with the longevity injection.” Secsun says with a concerned tone.

“I’m fine. I just need to rest a minute.” Simon agonized with varied effects from the Rhabdomyosarcoma, Neuroblastoma, Sickle-Cell Disease, and other cancerous genetic abnormalities. All of them absorbed, corrected, and vanished from the gifts the Alliance gave to Simon’s body. It scares him, to be this powerful now. It made him realize what the Alliance were afraid of with humanity.

“Here. Look here. This should make you understand why you are here.” Secsun says attempting to divert his attention from the pain. This was the reason the Alliance picked this place and Simon for this task. The patient’s name is Rachel Dickens, 8, and dying from Brain and spinal cord tumors.

“Secsun, why is this important? I just healed her a few minutes ago,” Simon said in agony.

“You remember when you asked about your family a few years back?” said Secsun.

“Ya, you guys told me that my parents, and sister had died, but that I had a niece.” Simon said, almost curious to Secsun’s reasoning. “But, my niece should be around her mid 20’s. Not a child in this hospital…” Simon stopped, and froze.

“That little human female is your great-niece. You saved her life today.” said Secsun knowing that Simon’s reaction would need consoling. That was her purpose now, and she accepted it. Simon had become precious to her. He brought out her nurturing instincts.

Doctors, nurses, police and hundreds of others had surrounded Boston Children’s Hospital trying to find some admittance back inside. An impenetrable silver film appeared around the hospital scaring the already frighten people. News organizations, and affiliates from around the world were trapped outside the Children’s hospital. Nearly three hours go by when Simon has all the patients walk out cured of all abnormalities, or diseases. Thirty minutes later Simon emerges from the film encapsulating the hospital. A bubble-like field surrounds him extending as he walks up to the reporters. The military, and police barricade meant nothing, and were pushed aside with ease.

“Who are you exactly?”, asked Gerald Perkins, a frightened local news reporter.

“My name is Simon Fletcher.” Simon said startled somewhat by the camera in his face.

“What were you doing in the hospital with the patients? Said Chi Summers, a syndicated news reporter.

“I was sent to heal all the patients, and anyone else that needs relief from the pain and suffering of disease.” Simon said with a smile that quickly changed.

The sea of reporters swelled with voices of skepticism, and pure disbelief that it was possible for a human to do such things. “How”, “Why”, and other questions followed in drowning out the message of what Simon was attempting. Simon had nothing to gain in curing illness for free. Simon hadn’t forgot these lines of questions from each simulation to the next reporters always angled the gain, as if, the benefit of healthy people was less. This resolved Simon because it was always the simulation, and not reality. Now before him were real people on the real earth, and they still were just concerned about who was to gain.

“I have nothing to gain from this. I am here to heal people. Is that ok?” Simon said with an annoyed, and slightly frustrated tone. Simon didn’t wait for a response and continued, “I have to declare to you all. I have been involved with a decision-making process to confirm if humanity could live peacefully with other species.” Simon paused before his next words. “To see if we would kill ourselves, or other species with the technology that the Aou’dtroc Alliance would provide to humanity. Ultimately, they value the species over disputes of varied causes, costs, scales, or reasons. Logic to ensure the longevity of their species. The Aou’dtroc Alliance traveled here for one reason. The earth is screaming. So, loud in fact. It woke the stars and they replied. No more.” upon Simon’s last words the Aou’dtroc Alliance reacted.

The sky crackled and creaked when vast ships broke the clouds apart upon shifting the horizon. Sonic concussions could be felt among the crowd on the ground as glass breaks falling below. An enormous emerald ship with phasing sections creating the image waves almost matching, but different from another smaller ruby, and black ship. It had a similar phasing effect, but electrical discharge spiraling over its bow instead. Reporters interviewing Simon became silent momentarily before the nervous chattered followed. Almost missing the numerous creatures, and other foreign species that began appearing around Simon. The forcefield apparently keeping everyone for approaching Simon from behind hid the overwhelming alien presence. Reporters, military, police, and the public backed away as if a frightened animal. Quietly as if they never made a sound in their lives, until Simon spoke again.

“Did you NEVER think the day would come that a species from the stars would find us. That they wouldn’t have something to say?” Simon words seemed to push some reporter’s better judgement to run, and question the events. “Or, that a thousand species would come at one time to correct this world. I mean, I was ignorant also.”

“Mr. Fletcher… What is happening?” Suzanna McNeil, a reporter form NTN news said in a wavering voice.

“Our world has many wonderful things, and a capacity to conquer extraordinary challenges. However, we have oppressed, enslaved, raped, contaminated, destroyed, and monetarily driven the society to disregard, and disrespect life. That said, humanity now has 11 days until the purge begins.” Simon’s words echoed upon a now silent crowd. “More information will be released later today, but only a portion of the population will survive.” Simon then gestures to Secsun that he wanted to leave. So, the pillars, Aou’dtroc Alliance, and Simon start phasing until they fade away. Leaving only the massive presence of the ships above the planet we called earth. The later atrocities are something better left unpenned, because we failed in the end.

Randy Ludlum is a transfer student from Durham Tech Community College
majoring at NCCU in English Composition. He has worked with the
student publication at DTCC, and volunteers at WNCU 90.7 as a
production assistant. He is a avid fan of Science-Fiction, and Fantasy
literature, and has been inspired by authors such as; J.M. Barrie, J.
R. R. Tolkien, and Octavia Butler. Randy is motivated to complete a
PhD in Composition and Rhetorical Studies when he leaves NCCU.


Re: Bus

Re: Bus

by Felicia Stratton


Don’t bee L8

She said 2 me.

Don’t bee such a

Bzzzy body,

I no where 2 go.

Bus Stp on the corner 6am,

I won’t bee L8, yule C.

12 come and gone.

When U liv N a tr3

It’s hard 2 C,

The ded Bs lyin

On Ur feet.


Felicia Stratton has lived in Durham since 1993 and loves her city very much. She is a senior at NCCU.

Year 17

Year 17

by Deon Taylor


I take the magic supplements as if It’s a snack

My body

My brain slows

Nothing feels real

I drop into a state that no one has seen

The light shines

Shines brighter as I walk towards it

There’s shaking, the world comes back to me

Is this life or death?

I look up

There she is standing over me

Her face looks like a worried mother’s

She tells me I wasn’t moving

Fear ran over her

I laughed it off as I realized

These supplements aren’t for me

To see the look on her face

Could I have died?

That light too intense

For my eyes surrounded by an eternal darkness

I bring the rest from the hiding place

No more

I empty the rest from the bag

I turn my back away

Forever I will keep my mind and body


The feeling of darkness takes back over my body

The darkness surrounding me with its blackened wings

Forever I will stay with thee

In the world

Of eternal darkness


Deon Taylor is a criminal justice and psychology major at NCCU. He enjoys writing whenever he has the chance. Deon started to get into poetry in the 7th grade where his poetry was modeled after his favorite poet, Edgar Allen Poe. Deon, after being inspired by his two favorite authors, James Patterson and J.K. Rowling, started to work on a book based in the fiction genre. He is currently rewriting his first book and already has started on his second one. He has an idea to create a series of nine books total.

15 Minute Implosion

15 Minute Implosion

by Joshua Gay


If I ran for president I’d FREE all of my homies from the man

I’m talking bout, No worries, No problems, and god help us no Uncle Sam.

I was born on a Monday,


Born a boy with a plan, so much respect on my brand, That my brain should be banned.

They tried to Sink ship “Yes We Can”

while they ship my soul out to Iran…..



Cause I ran in a span of 30 minutes to get away from reality.

Me vs the World, seemed like fly on the wall vs fatality.



Your looking at the New Prophecy of the World Leader.

Im Huey Newton, Gandhi and Langston Hughes rolled all in one together.

My name is already in the books, just being born was all it took.


I stand before you the unsung legend, my life is destined, I’m strong lessoned, a Ferrari Engine.

You let me keep my feet on the gas too long I’ll teach you life lesson.


Be the change you want to see in this world.

But I can’t change it, unless I change myself.


I come before you a man of

god, so Godspeed, I prophesied, that nothing is guaranteed, even if I PLEAD the blood of Jesus, it didn’t stop temptation from getting to Adam….. and EVE.


I’m a writer, Poet, activist and a creator, with a sense of humor I couldn’t measure. So why I don’t run for president?

Nah cause if I did, they’d slap on CHAINS, with my face in the terrain, Because I’m a black individual so I’m obviously,

I’m to BLAME!


I could talk all day about black empowerment, but I will just say…BLACK LIVES MATTER!

But I’m not talking about a hashtag, or a white flag, even a N-E-G-U-S brag, or the fact that the new white hood in America is the police badge.


But there not all bad…

Does that mean I shouldn’t be sad?

Or maybe I should forget it happened, Tweet about it and be GLAD,

that’s it not me….



I’m talking about senseless, unadulterated violence within the black community, and we just want to be FREE…


They say I got CRAZY EYES but, Orange has always been the new black.

The way they lock up my brothers and throw them in the sack I must watch my back.

Cause if I accidentally read a book they might see I’m educating myself, unload the bullet, then SMACK!


So what must I do to get people to remember the seeds that I have planted on these hollow grounds I walk? Do I have to win a nobel peace prize? Spark a Nation? Or talk the talk?


Remember me, not as the man I’m going to be, or even the vision I can already foresee. Remember who I am today,.

The man with the Dream,

With the melanin gleam

The Leader of my team!

With the slight quick flow scheme.


So as I stand before you today

I’m done with this Chosen Notion of Handwoven emotion cause this…

Is my 15-Minute Implosion.




Joshua Gay is a current student at North Carolina Central University. He has worked at an Internship with Odyssey, while also being the President of his club Eagle Creators Society. Joshua is trying his hardest to build up the English department, and to leave his legacy at NCCU.

Baby Girl

Baby Girl

by Gabrielle Harris


Baby girl skin so brown,

Smile that hides an inner frown

Hair on your head, you should wear it like a crown.

Hips so wide, they move from side to side

Your mind is a strong kingdom, in which you should take pride.

You have the world against you!

Nobody to hold your hand, understand, or be there with you.

You can be, you can do, and you can dream!

Life Ain’t been easy for ya girl, but just believe.

You don’t see your worth!

But don’t let me bore you,

I just had to let you know, that I adore you.

You see, I’ve both witnessed and experienced how society loves to beat you down.

White men will say your lips are too big

But then spend millions to make their wives hips, lips, and breast

More round.

Now isn’t that upside down?

Or what about that ungrateful Tyrone, that can’t step up to be man

But will say you don’t know your place as a woman,

And then leave you for Rebecca’s hand.

Truth be told

Even if all the flows in this poem don’t all rhyme

I had to take the time

To help show you, your shine

Oh baby girl,

You’re fine like wine, or maybe the brilliant ideas that cross your mind.

Baby girl! Oh baby girl! It’s your time.


Gabrielle Harris is a rising junior and, Political science major at North Carolina Central University, and is a native of Conway North Carolina.

Boxes and Holes: The Importance of the ‘Black Panther’ (Winner Spring 2016 Ex Umbra Literary Contest!)

Boxes and Holes: The Importance of the ‘Black Panther’

by Aaron Dial

My father lives in a box. He has existed, and as far as I can gather will always exist – both in mind and body – in these cramped and stifling shelters. He is a giant; in the same way I imagine most fathers are. By giant, I am not referring to his stature; for me, ‘giant’ indicates his wealth of experience garnered through a bibliographic sense of control and an archeological understanding of discovery. Simply put, he has lived a life.

My father grew up during a time where being poor meant working hard. With this type of poor, there was no ‘working smart’; there was simply work. “If you got it; you survived,” he says. “And if you didn’t – well, there was always tough times.” For his mother, being poor was working just hard enough to watch her kids go hungry. For his father, being poor was working just hard enough to know all the things he and his family couldn’t have. These are the boxes, not merely the architectural equivalent to cardboard and everything that comes with it, but rather and more importantly, the existential barriers to contemplation, the cyclical and perpetual struggle which sharpens the crosshairs of thought to only consider the “how” of living. To be poor – for my father and his contemporaries – was the monastic struggle that strengthened families and communities. To be poor was to be proud. Now, being a man of pride, my father wouldn’t describe himself as poor, because today that implies some sort of weakness, some sort of idealized failure of manhood. And my father, Joseph Lawrence Dial, is not now nor has he ever been a weak man.

“There have been tough times, but we made it through,” his words meticulously stroking the blank canvas of his life. “I can only go so far; my father only went so far, so I can only go that much further.” Clutching his words the way “SAMO” and “Trane” gripped the needle, with each syllable uttered, my father attached and attaches his identity to the high of ‘being a man’. “Everything I have ever done is to make sure you have the space I never did. I want you to be god-damned James Brown, just the James Brown of whatever the fuck you wanna be. That’s all I want for you, son, is space.”

One of the oft forgotten penalties of poverty is the acquiescence to the claustrophobic. The painful realization of and resignation to the understanding that one will never have enough space – indicated by the constant shuffling and reshuffling of inches and feet with hopes that one day, magically, “by the grace of God” you will find more space – can be a heavy burden. Now the existential chore of this constricted life, the only way one can attain some semblance of sanity is the many ways one finds to poke holes in the box.

For me, my blackness – another box – is the inescapable, creeping sensation of night in the skin. It isn’t necessarily the understanding that the night is in some way inferior to the day; it is more specifically the consideration that the night can only be truly interpreted through the lens of the day. By this I mean that, if not paired with the light of day, the night is simply darkness. They do not balance each other; this would require them to be the same length of time. The night is merely a resting period; the transitional Sabbath bookended by periods of life and activity – the day. We seize the day and slumber through the night. Blackness and whiteness, night and day, are really mirrors of one another. Blackness is historically, rhetorically, legally, politically, and sociologically seen as a perversion of whiteness. The reason why it is difficult for whites to contemplate the plight of Blacks in this country is because they are asleep. But should we really be surprised when considering the night?

I, like my father, lead a compartmented life. My existence is framed completely inside several other boxes. I only identify as Black; I am severed fully from my ancestral roots. For my white brother and sisters, the systematic and bureaucratic box-checking of identity conflicts totally with identity’s organic and conversational narrative. They get to be Italian or German, French or Polish, or even just plain American; the list is endless. They get to have a homeland; they are afforded with the luxury of ethnicity. My homeland, my ancestral narrative is attached to a place that would see me killed in the street. I too live in a box; though unlike Joseph, my box isn’t ensnared in the ‘how’ of living. No, my box is something more sinister; my box is the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of life and living[1].

If I am allowed a brief digression, it is important to note that when I use the term “box” I am not trying to be intentionally dysphemistic. I see it simply as a statement of description, detailing the where of both my father’s physical and cerebral life. In fact, it seems to me, my father’s cubic life is more an epistemological trait rather than a momentary set of circumstances. My father has always lived in boxes. His father lived in boxes. My great-grandfather lived in a shed – a smaller, poorly made box. His father before him lived in a shack – a poor excuse for a box. And as we slowly continue to creep up the branches of my family tree, the trend continues box after box each one smaller than the last. The climb culminates with our bill of sale; the point when my family’s history crosses over from being unwritten to a matter of accounting.

Back to holes. I am not speaking of holes that puncture the construction of a house; although, my great-uncle did tell me a funny story about him, a Phillip’s head, and a bird. I am talking about the holes for thought and thinking. I will defer to the eloquence of Dubois: these are the holes which allow us to “feel our poverty…to feel the weight of our ignorance…[to feel] the accumulated sloth and shirking and awkwardness of [the] decades and centuries [that have] shackled his hands and feet.” These types of holes – the holes of my father, the holes of me – are the throughways to a life outside, a life beyond claustrophobia, a life where one can stretch their legs and bask in the sun.

Like me, my father is a reader. However, his thirst for the written word is far more passionate and less discriminate than my particular taste. “I would read anything. Momma only kept two books, her bible – she wouldn’t let me read that, except on Sundays[2] – and the manual for the refrigerator. So that’s what I read. I read that damn book a good hundred times. I had it memorized. I was only eight, but that was the only book.” Generating the image of my eight year-old father absorbed in an appliance manual proves to be a difficult task. I just can’t see it. I can’t see his eight year-old eyes feverishly consuming every word line by line, with pupils bursting out of their sockets like some Tex Avery cartoon. It is important to note that my troubles with comprehension are not limited to my father. For me, the stories of historical figures like Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass are equally problematic. They aren’t problematic in the way of being hard to believe; they are problematic because I literally cannot imagine a true quest for literacy; when my own literacy is merely the haphazard result of a circumstantial existence?

In Hollywood, at the El Capitan Theatre, Marvel Studio’s head Kevin Feige didn’t waste any time. On the stage, Feige exuded the confidence of a man holding onto a secret; a secret that would ignite the collective passion, excitement, and imagination of moviegoers around the world.   On October 28, 2014, Marvel Studios unveiled their cinematic plans for the next five years – a series of nine movies, colloquially dubbed “Phase Three”.   With each film Feige announced, the Marvel cinematic universe expanded; changing how we perceive and receive movies – especially the AAA blockbuster – and the characters and narratives, which make them up. Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” changed the way we watch TV. Tyler Perry’s “Madea” built an empire, turning the city of Atlanta into Hollywood East. Within Marvel’s extensive announcement, there is one film, one character that will again alter the way we think of Black characters and the fiction they reside in. Without a director attached or a script written, I am confident that film and character will be “The Black Panther”.

Not to be confused with the activist group and political party The Black Panther’s, the Black Panther was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby – first appearing in the “Fantastic Four” #52 in 1966. He is the warrior-king of the imagined African nation of Wakanda. In the words of Reginald Hudlin, author of an acclaimed run of Black Panther comics, “There are some places you just don’t mess with. Wakanda is one of them. Since the dawn of time, that African warrior nation has been sending would-be conquerors home in body bags. While the rest of Africa got carved up like a Christmas turkey by the rest of the world, Wakanda’s cultural evolution has gone unchecked for centuries, unfettered by the yoke of colonization. The result: a hi-tech, resource-rich, ecologically-sound paradise that makes the rest of the world seem primitive by comparison. Ruling over all this is the Black Panther. The Black Panther is more than just the embodiment of a warrior cult that’s served as Wakanda’s religious, political and military head since its inception. The Black Panther is the embodiment of the ideals of a people. Anyone who’d dare to make a move on Wakanda must go through him.”

Earlier, when describing my relationship with my origins, the word ‘severed’ was used. Like ‘boxes’, I see my use of the word severed not as mere pejorative ramblings, but rather a pointed statement of fact regarding my history. I live a divided life; on one side there is my American existence which I can date back about one-hundred and eighty years, and on the other is my African heritage – a veiled and abstracted ancestry. With this in mind, the Black Panther functions as the proverbial missing link, not the link to actualities, but rather the link of potentialities. I see the Black Panther as an alternate-reality, a faux blackness, where one can imagine the heights and plateaus of a people, outside of colonial influence.

With lightning quickness, the 24-hour news cycle inundates us with images of black criminality, black immorality, and black savagery. These images are the symptoms of a larger disease: the dehumanized black body. And while the rhetorical written works of African American literature – spanning everything from Douglass to West – is important to curing this sickness. We have seen repeatedly that fiction proves to be the best medicine. From quintessential novels like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, to timeless films like Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and Lee Daniel’s “Precious”, to culture defining television like “The Cosby Show” and “The Bernie Mac Show”, and all the other works my memory has failed to recover, the impact of fiction in shattering the “natural defense of prejudice” cannot be understated. Today, the most salient Black character in fiction is Olivia Pope from the TV show Scandal. However, when it comes to Black males, positive characters are almost nonexistent. In a world where the Black male form is demonized to the point of endangerment it is important for the Black Panther to exist. Clocking in at a little over seven billion dollars, the Marvel cinematic franchise is the highest grossing American film franchise of all-time, and the second highest international franchise. In a universe that hosts a playboy billionaire, a brilliant scientist, an American legend, the Norse God of thunder, and two international spies – all of whom are white – it is important that an African king hailing from the imagined warrior-nation of Wakanda be said universe’s lynchpin.

The Black Panther is a hole, rather ‘the’ hole which will penetrate the armor of prejudice and bigotry. The hole isn’t especially large; it is just another in a long line of holes – the latest in almost three centuries worth. When speaking of oppression and repression, Paulo Freire once wrote, “One of the gravest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it and thereby acts to submerge human beings’ consciousness. Functionally, oppression is domesticating.” The problems with boxes is that they are warm. Boxes are the axiological framework of existence; they are the want and need of the human to lead a ‘good and decent’ life. However, the problem is that only a select few get to define goodness and decency, but all of humanity aspire to reach these lofty heights. When asking my father about the Michael Brown grand jury decision he callously said, “Well – that’s the way the cookie crumbles.” The pessimist in me – the voice of my father – says that if the killing of a black teenager in broad daylight with the world watching couldn’t destroy the box, then what makes you think a silly comic book character stands a chance. The optimist in me – I’m not sure if this is wholly my voice – responds, “What if this is the last hole – the one that shatters the whole fucking system?”

If boxes are warm, by default, the other-side of the hole has to be a plane of cold and isolation. It exists outside the realm of our perception. The hole is like introducing Ben Franklin to the internet; it would undoubtedly be the stuff of witchcraft and mysticism. To most it is the demon existence challenging everything we hold dear, but to a select few it is the unforged path striving boldly into what humanity could be. I will close with the words of my father, “I can only go so far; my father only went so far, so I can only go that much further. Everything I have ever done is to make sure you have the space I never did.”

[1] This portion of the piece – the last two paragraphs – were written immediately following the grand jury decision in Ferguson, MO. I have read this section repeatedly; and I realize there is a tonal shift, which to some readers may be confusing. For this, I am sorry. They are the shattered slivers of a fractured psyche and broken heart. I have no delusions of grandeur; I exist humbly as marionette tugging on strings.

[2] I recently learned my grandmother couldn’t read said bible. She kept it more as an undecipherable artifact of her faith.

Aaron Dial graduated magna cum laude in 2015 with a BA English writing concentration. He is currently an English master’s student and writing consultant at the Writing Studio.  He has published numerous Campus Echo articles and co-authored an academic article published in Composition Studies in 2015.  He was an intern during summer 2016 at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity where his responsibilities included technical writing. In 2014, he was a key member of the student editorial team that resurrected NCCU’s literary magazine, Ex Umbra, in digital format.

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Philosophical Breakdown

Philosophic Breakdown

by KeAndre Black


For our current lives,

We live on average of around seventy eight years,

It’s already hard enough to survive,

Life passes us by too quickly to be sad or angry that we are being oppressed,

If not by color then by limitations of freedom in wealth,

Every book has a different story,

So we can’t judge a book by its cover,

Every person has their own type of book,

A different cover on every front cover,

Each waiting to be read,

Each with their own knowledge written,

That is wealth in its own being,

So are we merely objects,

Objects adorned in clothes that ultimately finds refuge in our bedroom floors,

Clothes that determine different aspects of our being,

Lacking the ability to see anything that’s skin deep,

Sounds like a nonsensical heap,

What I’m trying to get at is the path of this algorithm,

Which starts off as a philosophical phenomenon,

Which often involves the way lives are lived,

Where they are lived at,

The things that surround them,

And vice versa

KeAndre Black – A man from a small country-like town. Where he is going in life, he himself doesn’t know, he only follows the paths he see’s ahead of him. Living life like an adventure, following the flow of life.



by Bryson Byrd


Freedom, utter freedom

What it must feel like out there.

Running through the streets without a care.

The open air sweeps across my shoulders

Reminding me of their weightless feel.

Then like a cell,

The walls come rushing back boxing me in.

Surrounding me with shelter with the tease of a glass window.

This gives me the mere sweet taste of

Freedom, utter freedom

What it must feel like out there.

Byrson Byrd – is a senior at North Carolina Central University studying Elementary Education with a concentration in English Writing. Byrd completed high school on the campus at JD Clement Early College and choose to continue her bachelors at North Carolina Central University. Byrd loves writing, she often says she writes not just for joy but also to feed her soul. A soul that loves the feel of freedom. A feeling that she claims is only captured in the sunlight on a horse’s back running across an open field or lost behind the spine of a bound notebook scribbling on the thin lined paper.

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