paranoia that poisons on purpose(how to survive being de-friended while Black)

Photo Jul 02, 10 27 00 PM

(photo credit: Esquire Magazine)


if you received a notification about a new post here, looking
for some poetry…I have to confess that I’m not in a space to
share that here. not yet.

it’s not that I’m not writing poems, or think that they should
not be given a focus in these times. that river still runs, rages.
but right now, I want to write about what these times can do
to your mental space in terms of trust. in terms of the internal
gymnastics that take place.

with the murders by police in the past couple of weeks of four
Black men, four Latino men, the anniversary of the murders of
Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Eric Garner as well as the shooting of
Charles Kinsey, an unarmed Black physical therapist helping
his autistic patient in the street, to say that I’ve been on edge
more than usual is an understatement. I do not cite these tragedies
lightly – I am fully aware that I could be on that list. and that
leaves me in a state sometimes that becomes a certain kind of
paranoia. a paranoia that I realize is one of the unspoken gifts
that American racism has left for me, like Santa only not as
surreptitious. this is the month where the mental health of people
of color is closely examined and discussed, and I don’t find it
coincidental given the tragedies we’ve borne witness to.

it becomes draining. in my brushes with it, you realize that what
Toni Morrison said about the business of racism stealing time
and keeping you off-balance is true. it’s more pronounced in this
era of expanded social media, and sharing. you aren’t closed off
from what others truly think, and if your circle is vast you may
find that those who you thought you were cool with, that it’s not
the case where these matters are concerned. take Black Lives Matter
or other social justice groups. I now fully understand the breadth
of what those before me dealt with in the 1960’s in terms of the
vicious lies and anger directed at those who stand up for themselves
and others when they side with BLM and other groups. I’ve seen
the army of trolls spewing venom. I’ve seen people try to play “Law
& Order” semantics and then want to come back to you about rap
lyrics as if you’re to forget who you are and who they revealed
themselves to be. I’ve seen friends hurt online. I’ve reached out to
friends in the wake of the Sterling and Castile murders and the
shootings in Dallas. I haven’t(thankfully)dealt with too many trolls,
but I do know that I have one or two folks in the social media fold
who think like that and/or have expressed bigotry through memes
or under the guise of “libertarian” and “progressive” politics.

the other unfortunate aspect of it is, there are a few who I’ve had
to concede that I’ll never build with or kick it with in the same way
because they side with this maladjusted crowd.doing so because
they feel that’s how to get along because “God told them to”(guess
they never heard of revolutionary liberation theology) or because
it could threaten their hint of promotion at work or other bullshit.
that is the part of the paranoia just now being broached in discussion
– look at the shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. look at who
committed them. two Black men, former military veterans. both
who felt extremely alienated to the point where they felt right in
committing these acts. and in that way, tying a neat bow onto a gift
of more strife and anguish that clouds the real reasons behind the
madness in the first place. even when both claimed they weren’t
affiliated with any group, I’ve seen the need to tie them in anyway.
the fear and desperation from certain forces lead to manipulation.
I’ve had to hear one or two people basically deride the social justice
movements out of their own timidity- cowardice if we’re being frank –
yet these same people will ask “well, where are our leaders” and wind
up only sharing bitter cups because they want to be heard. or the
folks who are active in seeking justice but letting their ego and personal
BS get in the way and damage bonds for the sake of being prominent.
like there’s a “woke” Olympics or something.
it’s made me perfect my side-eye these days.

to protect my mental space, my spirit, I’ve found that armoring
oneself with the truth and the strength and love of loved ones
is what has kept me fairly composed. in the past weeks, I’ve gotten
a few timely reminders of that. a postcard from a dear friend. a text
or two. a phone call. another friend sending me a picture of my
godchildren just because. to them I say, “thank you” again. and so
it’s with that love and strength that I realize that one has to be fierce
and firm in their own way to protect themselves if they are of color
and content. it’s the one way we have to beat back the paranoia
that poisons on purpose. and I’m fully content with someone
de-friending me on social media if I don’t subscribe to “respectability
politics”. or don’t talk to them over racist memes they’ve shared.
or screaming “all lives matter” in response to me reiterating my
value as a human being WHEN I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO IN THE
FIRST PLACE. or if I’m not incessantly posting social justice info
or unwilling to be a Bagger Vance-styled caddy of civil rights information
to coddle someone out of doing their own internal work. nah, I’m
good. you can head over there. it will help me focus more on those
who have earned their place in my life, who value me. all of me. if
you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing the same thing to protect
yourself and your space.

thank you for reading, and walk good.

another tragic summer(words for Alton and us)

Alton Sterling. 

i’m really just pouring everything out here, so i hope that you
read on with that in mind.

it has become all too common, if you are Black and Brown and
in between, to wake up weary. to wake up with a dread in your
stomach that is both repelling and familiar. i had already been
on my way to what i hoped was sleep last night when i spotted
the news about Alton Sterling’s murder in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
i saw the video, and wished i hadn’t. the next few minutes on
Twitter were numbness, anguish and a cold fury. another brother
trying to do something to just make it. just to live. selling CD’s.
again, CD’s. and he was targeted, taken down and ruthlessly
snuffed out by two officers of the law. the pat rollers of old turned
new. and so this morning, i went out in a semi-daze to go pick
up Pops from the train. the entire way, i thought about Alton
Sterling. and couldn’t help but think about Eric Garner. i thought
about Garner and couldn’t help but think about Sandra Bland.
and so on, and so on and realizing that once again, the cannibalistic
cancer of racism that has been fed by the system is in place. i
thought about my boy Levar’s brother Kyle, who was brutalized up
in East Harlem while on his job by NYPD officers. mainly, i kept
thinking about brother Alton and his family. his children, and
what they have to be feeling right now.

i saw the hashtags. i saw the tweets, the status updates on Facebook.
i’ve seen the range of emotions and viewpoints from deep sadness
to anger. i had to sit, let things simmer within me. when i met Pops,
i had to give him the rundown. here is where i hope you allow me a
quick sidebar. my father has been on this blue marble we call Earth
80+ years. from Jamaica to the States to Canada back to the States
again. telling him about Sterling set his face into a grim mask, one
that wound up displaying what he felt in his brushes with this uniquely
American cancer. “they must think this is a sport.” he said as we
got onto the Long Island Railroad to head back home.

a sport, indeed.

one cannot sit there and feel it is a coincidence that Alton had his life
taken a day after the nation celebrated 240 years of existence, a holiday
that is difficult for those excluded from the original documents of
declaration. it’s not a coincidence that in eleven days from now, we
are two years removed from the murder of Eric Garner out on Staten
Island. both men’s deaths were caught on video, and seen the world
over to the point where it became like watching a sporting event. in
a way, such has been these instances of stolen lives being caught on
camera. the near pornographic gluttony exercised through voyeurism.
the retweets of the video clip. the re-posting on Facebook. the news
networks now playing it in full. only took them 8 hours. put this hand
in hand with the barrage on social media and it is overwhelming for
anyone. i got caught up and retweeted the clip myself in a daze and later
deleted that tweet. because violence and murder that’s state sanctioned
like this doesn’t need that extra validation and normalization to prove
its existence. simply put, the apparatus in place does not give one
solitary fuck. this IS sport to them. think about how many police departments
have been exposed in the past year alone for racist chatter and emails.
it’s a sick game to those who you may know as well. your co-worker.
your partner’s family members. neighbors. they might be creating and
passing around horrid memes about Alton Sterling right now on forums like
Reddit and posting it on FB for shits and giggles. Even on LinkedIn.
or going after people on any social media platform with disparaging
words about Alton Sterling to dehumanize him further. bringing up
other past events in an attempt to silence, to oppress.

yeah, i’m weary.

weary. weary of another long hot summer where a city will burn under
the exposure of the pus-filled and vile underbelly that the cancer of
racism is.

i also am dismayed because i see that there is also a disturbing undercurrent
of those who you would believe would be helping to organize the bolder
and stronger resistance in-fighting. or taking the moment to get into
“respectability politics” mode which is as bad as the “All Lives Matter”
crowd who tend to pop up like raw external hemorrhoids when a murder
like this happens. hashtag activists who will shit on those doing the actual
inglorious work of documenting what social justice work is taking place to
combat the system, shit on those providing safe space and help towards
self-care and mental health because it doesn’t fit some heroic “fight the
Man” elemental fantasy that they believe revolution is. or even those who
will hop into hashtags and social media posts just to get a rep or be noticed.
and the ever-faithful cynics. to quote from John Oliver Killens’ “The Coalition”,
“they are not the revolution.”

i say all that to say this:

if you are committed to not being silent about Alton Sterling’s murder, and
all of those who have become stolen lives all over this  land, truly
committed…it means that you must amplify your voice. show solidarity to
those who protest. donate to social justice groups you know that will put that
work in. have the talks with those who may not be as willing to be that
involved. don’t shame others who have to step away from constant mention
of the tragedy because its triggering. it IS triggering for a great deal of people.
also, take the time to decompress and get your self-care if you need to.
try to avoid trolls and those back and forths on social media with craven
supporters both conscious and subconscious of the system. avoid any and
all opportunists. parents, godparents…if you have children that ask you the
hard questions, i pray you have the strength to answer them as best you
can with love and protection and wisdom. artists, write your poems, paint
your canvasses, sing with a million tears in your voice. check in with your
people, see how they’re keeping when you can. it may not seem like much,
but it is all vital and important. keep your peace, but channel
your rage into effective means to prepare for this war that has been waged
upon our bodies for centuries before there was a Louisiana or America. be
on guard even more so now, because summer in America has always been a
season of carnage that has been inflicted on black and brown people. this
just didn’t begin with Mike Brown and Ferguson. hell, Alton Sterling was
killed while selling CD’s. angry whites destroyed Tulsa’s Black Wall Street.
these wanton killings are to appease the cancer of racism that’s fed by a fear
that “their way of life will be extinct.” a fear that “we’ll take over.” that the
days of white mediocrity as standard are dwindling. that the prisms used to
cause the illusions are rapidly splintering apart. and to those friends, allies
and even family members through marriage who are white – practice the
method brought forth by sister Kayla Reed of OBS St.Louis:
A-always center the impacted
L-listen and learn from those who live in the oppression
L-leverage your privilege
Y-yield the floor

yes,we are all weary.
we are human, arguably more so than the wolves who commit
these acts “in the name of _________”.

we are Black, magical and real. and and we’ve proven we won’t go quietly into the night before. we’re not going anywhere.

it is another river to cross in another long, hot summer that some want to choke
us out of being. but we will cross it. we will do it for Alton, who was just a brother
trying to live out here as we all are as well as all the other sisters and brothers
young and old that have been taken from us like this.

thank you for reading and being present. walk good.


declaring independence on your own level


been a while, dear readers.

I can basically give you a quick update – so far, things have been
good, and I’ve managed to keep steady with different things. the
health has been good, and the anxiety has lessened dramatically.
I had enough time this evening before the Fourth to kind of just
throw some words together to articulate a feeling I’ve had on and
off for the past couple of days.

so, tomorrow is the day many celebrate in honor of the independence
from Great Britain 240 years ago. for a lot of us, there may be
nothing to compel us to fully engage in these celebrations due
to how we came to be in this nation. you will have your uber-patriots,
those who respect the contributions of all people to make this
nation what it is, those who are cynical, those who don’t care
either way and all those in between. that said, I feel the best
way to celebrate this day is…to declare an independence from
something you’ve been clinging to all this time that has held you

for me, I’ve found that to a degree, we all need to break free of
certain things. certain habits that just don’t fly anymore. certain
moods we tend to fall into. one example? I tend to avoid saying
“getting older” even though that is what’s happening. I’m not
so blind as to not notice my goatee streaked with grey hairs.  but
I have begun to say “getting more refined.” because I want to
age with dignity, style and with as less fear as possible. I know it’ll
be hard. but I wanted to free myself from the extra anguish we
tend to get lulled into thinking we need to add as the years fly by.
there’s going to be enough of that as it is, it’s life. little things
like that make more of a difference than you realize.

declare an independence in a small way from things, feelings,
people and situations that hurt you or hinder you and watch how
things flow that much better. of course, this is to go hand in hand
with actual practice and work. but make that promise, in between
your second and third trips to the grill or cooler tomorrow. declare
independence from the bullshit. you’ll thank yourself for it.

as always, thanks for reading. enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend
and walk good.