evening autumn jog 11.23.17

sunsetpalm_crimson

the tug felt beneath the shoulder blades
rivulets past the eyes
that sting and told me of the last round of shots
i had the night before
as i clutch the grey fabric at my knees
sunset shows you how the skies can bleed
to give birth to nights where promise, pain and paradise
all share the same dance floor
i jog home
and let the aches go back to singing

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Life at 40.

Artwork by ESPO, Brooklyn Museum September 2017

Forty years old. That will come into fruition for me this coming Saturday.
It’s slowly sinking in as it approaches, and now I find myself in a state of
reflection.

I’m not the least bit sad about this milestone. I know some folks have gone
all to pieces about it, as if it’s a death sentence. But to be frank, being a young
Black person in these United States comes with certain realities and situations
that make reaching this age something to treasure and celebrate. There’s a
few people I know who hadn’t even gotten to be 21, let alone get through
their 30’s. If it’s not the speed traps one encounters in high school, then
there’s dealing with the preconceived notions that systemic racism has
embedded in the fabric of this nation represented in ways both overt and
covert. Add to that personal health situations and family crises. For me,
getting to be 40 means I survived the fucking gauntlet. I got past a couple
of the major level bosses without too much hit point damage. It’s a true
and honest blessing.

There is a tendency in these moments to feel down, like you might not
measure up to others’ achievements. Right now, I’m happy to say that’s
not the space I’m in. It’s partially due to faith, but it is primarily due to
one key point – I cut right through the heart of things and don’t get too
caught up anymore in past hurts and regrets. Even when I find that they
crop back up when I recall situations(they never really go away they just
subside), I basically work to dispel their effects. I start looking at the lives
of other family members who had a hard road to get to where they are.
I see how they get through it. The narratives of others fuel me to push
through those negative clouds. And most importantly, the body of my
own works and how it’s affected people in a good way. I have lived,
LIVED, I tell you. And I plan to do more of it.

So your next question may be, what about the party?

Well, for starters, I had intended on celebrating in another city or even
another country. But other forces within and without kind of guided me
to modify that goal. I was supposed to be in Las Vegas last week, but I
didn’t book because of conflicts with one of my clients and their work
demands. And as we all bore witness to unfortunately, a heinous individual
became a domestic terrorist and took the lives of 58 people who were
just out having a good time at a country music festival. It may be cliche,
but things do happen for a reason. I changed things up and instead made
a resolution to myself to celebrate until next October in different ways.
How so? First thing, I want to volunteer in some form or fashion each
month with different groups and charities. Another aspect is to hit up
at least one artistic event or any event that’s going to further open up
my mind and my worldview. As for the trips, I want to make short jaunts
and work up to longer trips. It doesn’t have to be to places I’ve been
before – I’m actually planning a day trip into upstate New York along
the Hudson River to take in the fall foliage. I want to write more – not
just my creative writing, but more letters and cards to my day ones and
others in my life.

I know that as you move forward in life, you lose things. I know that this
next decade could see me pass through some dark moments. Hell, my 30’s
were a roller coaster which you’ve no doubt gleaned some insight into by
reading this blog. But I clawed my way through and came to grips with a
few things that I needed to and found myself better for it. I want this
milestone of being 40 about honoring what still remains and what was
lost in a golden and timeless way.

I’m content. And dammit, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about? Being
able to embrace and be content with this new stage of life? Especially if
you do it with mimosas?

Thank you for reading, walk good.

laying down our weapons of hurt

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this is for the brothers mostly. and whenever we feel the
need to instantly dub someone “too sensitive” and how i
came to see that as more of a weapon than some realize.

one of the things that i learned to understand, more so over
these past few years as i was beginning the journey of redefining
my life and my purpose, was how those who weaponize their
hurt come to do so. and do so very easily.

it was in that space that i realized that those lessons often
come at the hands of those who claim to love us. mainly ’cause
it is how they have gotten by.

i say this because one of the things that has dogged me at times
is that i can live in the zone of being tabbed as “sensitive” when
there are situations that i find myself in that rub me the wrong
way or worse, and that i had been expected to overlook it. you
know that three word phrase – “get over it”. or get told to pray
about it.

i had to learn that to some degree, those doing that fell into two
categories – those who were going through or had been through
those same tribulations and saw no other way but to keep on
suffering it without relief, or those who hide their struggles in
the manipulation of the former category.

i had to learn that because, i had to unlearn the idea that being
too sensitive equated to not being manly. when you come up as
a young Black male, there is this push and pull effect that occurs.
for me, it was couched in the fact that i also grew up with three
older sisters and a mother whose love is fierce, and protective
to a high degree. with that, there would be those moments in
my early years that brought with it the usual growing pains. but
as i got older, i realized that value of inner sensitivity allowed me
to understand others. it allowed me to connect, empathize on a
deeper level. to listen more. the final step was to apply all of that
to myself.

i’ve written here before about how one period of time in 2009
led me to basically say ‘fuck it’ and do a reset. since then, and
not without a lot of pain and a lot of reaching out – and mainly
reaching IN – i had to admit that the push and pull took a bigger
toll than i could realize. it had left jagged cuts in my emotional
self. my health had silently gotten bad. with time, honesty and
a hell of a lot of work, i’m here to tell you that it has gotten better.
i’m here to say that it will continue to be better. i learned to
begin to dismantle my own weapons of hurt. weapons crafted
due to needing to fulfill some warped idea of patriarchal order.
weapons crafted so i wouldn’t appear “soft”. weapons crafted
to defend against a world outside that wants to effectively
cannibalize me for parts because it has done so for hundreds of
years. weapons to hide my insecurities that i didn’t want to
even have see daylight, much less work on. weapons to use on
others to make them feel worse than i did.

you sometimes have to sit and look at the record of every foul
thing you’ve done up to this point and ask why you went there.

and choose to fall back.

i noticed that when i started this process, the ones i cared about
the most, those who i didn’t think would hear me or would be
too busy – they stopped what they were doing ’cause they realized
what i was dealing with. my homeboys, my brothers – to hear
them encourage me, to see them shift ’cause they FELT i was in
pain…i count myself damn lucky because if you’re reading this
now, how many do you know that got lost out there? that found
themselves with no other recourse but to petrify to the point of
not ever being at home with themselves? how many of them do
you know that still do this? it’s been eye-opening to have these
moments with my own father, where he can open up gradually
in his later years. realizing that he didn’t fully have an atmosphere
of opening up like this, emigrating here with his family from
Jamaica, having to go into the army at a young age then off to
Canada to study medicine in a time that was in a word, unkind
to Black people. i’ve only begun to get bits and pieces of what
that must’ve been like.

i write these words as a reminder to myself, and a spur for other
brothers who may be dealing with life with this push and pull
doing harm inside of them. as we are in the midst of the confusion
and chaos that’s elevated more than usual in the age of Trump,
it is more vital than ever that we learn to dismantle these weapons
of hurt we find ourselves in possession of whether we realize it
or not. they might’ve been handed down to us by any means.
but we have the means to remove them. for our own good. for
the good of those who love us. for our greater good. i see this
happening more and more for my brothers, and my sisters who
are leading a path for others. let it continue. and if you feel that
you need to be on this path, i hope this helps you.

as always, thanks for reading. walk good.

 

resolve in the face of chaos.

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2016 is almost at an end.

typing those words, would seem for many to be associated with a
sigh of relief. this year has been an absolute roller-coaster. tragedy
and shock and bigotry and loss reverberated throughout the year
and seemed unceasing. i had heard about how leap years bring about
more catastrophe and turmoil. never really put stock into it until
this year.

on a personal level, i went through a series of moments where
that rang true. a period where stress and anxiety caused a bad health
flare-up. dealing with racism in a subversive sense and overtly
due to a poem on this blog. inconsistent work flow. dealing with
people who i thought were cool but turned out to be only out for
themselves. family members going through it.

but that cloud lifted. and the remainder of this year turned out to
be tremendous. i got to leave one trying work situation and enter
into working relationships with awesome publications and sites.
i pitched a lot more, and got good feedback and encouragement.
i got to bear witness to the National Museum of African American
History and Culture. i got to see one of my sisters honored for her
work in the community. i got to volunteer over Thanksgiving. and
connect with great souls.

with that said, if you’re thinking that this post is going to be all
about New Year’s resolutions, you’re only partially correct.

i’m writing about resolve. in its main definitions whether used
as a noun or verb, it is meant to be a decisive course of action. a
firm state of mind. and as we exit this tumultuous year and go into
a year of uncertainty, it is what is needed to go into the year to
be bolder than before. to be more aggressive in holding onto what
has been fought for, to maintain what is needed for our lives and
those of others and those after us. resolve.

see, resolutions around this time have been denigrated to cute and
buzz-worthy topic lists or fillers for newscasts or bandied-about
social media topics. bump all of that.

this is a time where you take stock of everything, then re-calibrate
and gain new focus. now more than ever, as the masks have come
off of those in close proximity to us, we need to commit to having
greater resolve. how? have greater resolve in calling out others for
their insensitivity, especially as it scales up to outright racism, sexism
and other isms of hate and ignorance. even if these others are your
neighbors, or family. have greater resolve in valuing those who are
there for you. have greater resolve in checking your own missteps
and don’t prolong beating yourself up over them. have greater
resolve in not just standing by in certain times. have greater resolve
in exerting kindness. have greater resolve in saying no when you
need to, to whoever you need to. have greater resolve in letting go
of people and situations who do not consistently value you or only
seek to take from you without redamancy. have greater resolve to
not position yourself above whatever truth you’re trying to bring
about. have greater resolve to seek joy, and celebrate your joy and
that of those you’re close to. have greater resolve to call out bullshit
even if you feel that clamminess of fear well up in you. even if it is
from your close loved ones. have greater resolve to continue to define
who you are. have greater resolve to fight however you need to in
whatever fashion seems best. have greater resolve not to shame others
for doing what you’re afraid to.

let’s face it, we’re at a moment where every action in the previous
paragraph and others not mentioned is going to be needed. given that
the nation has elected someone who is inherently unfit for the office
of leading this country, given that there’s a rising tide of hateful
bile strewn across the ‘Net and directed at women, people of color,
LGBTQIA and others, it’s imperative that resolve be a highly active
word in your vocabulary. i realize that by stating this i’m one voice.
but one voice, planted in resolve, can do so much. look at all of the
lives that went to the other side this year alone, the famous and the
more impactful close to us that aren’t celebrities. look at what they
did. resolve. it’s powerful. it’s meaningful. it’s necessary.

if you’ve read this far, i do resolve to write more on here. to be that
radical hope and change that’s needed again. and i hope that you
will be too.

thanks for reading. walk good.

youth of thirteen

*note – this was written upon hearing of the murder of
Tyree King, of Columbus, Ohio which took place last night.

 

beer swillers
who invoke the name of football Jesus
tithing with assorted barbecue
and pray to a flat screen

those who cry patriotism
like trivia answers to game show hosts
who can’t hear them
do not give one care to why Black mothers tend to scream

they tell you racism is done
because they can quote your dead leaders to you
wondering why we march
why we speak out loud and yell – what does it mean?

we turn to you
eyes weary from mourning heart weary from evenings
where we bite cop bullets for fitting a description
mirroring systemic evil unseen

and ask:

what use is standing to pointlessly cherish a flag
when you use that flag
to insist we don’t belong – though we do, more than you
to even slaughter a youth of thirteen?

two singles means a lot.

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while out yesterday, I saw this one cat just moving through
the outdoor patio. most gave him a wide berth. I’m on the
phone, but I picked up his walk from like 30 feet away. he
looked at me, I looked at him. could tell he had some hard
times. but I didn’t recoil. he strode over near me, said “what’s
good bruh?” and I nodded, said “everything brother, maintainin’.”
he walks up to me after that, and proceeds to tell me he
just got out of Dannemora about two days ago. I listen, and
I then see the flashes of whatever he saw in there in his
face. knowing what it was, I had my hand in my pocket on
a single or two. as he finished, I said “it’s all good man.” &
gave him the singles. he looked at me briefly in shock and
gave me dap and a hug. “thank you brother, God bless you.
you don’t even know what this means, man” I just nodded
and said “All good bruh, be safe out here.” as he walked off.

two singles may not mean so much to you and me off the
bat but when it’s the razor cut that could sever you from all
you know or whatever ties to what you’re trying to hold to…
yeah.

 

another tragic summer(words for Alton and us)

6-alton-sterling.w529.h529
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 still.fucking.here. 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.

 

walking waist heavy

cargoship_looms

the old vinyl salesman
occupying the milkcrate
sitting low, mindful of the rust within his knees
rubbing a face of mahogany slowly
that’s part of my kinfolk on this journey

all this soul, all of these past prologues
all these moments weighing on me
like vibrato signed by Sonny’s fingers
make travel like a cargo ship stacked high
sailing waist-heavy in muddied ocean channels

i know what i got
i will let go of
i know what i got
i will let go of

and the sailing away will be light
and i’ll wear a gentle evergreen breeze
as a scarf to meet the horizon