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.

 

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a line through fire

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drawing a line
is like taking broken bits of your past
and pushing them together
molding like a child does hardscrabble clay
hoping you’ll finally be that vessel
to hold the waters you will need

drawing that line
is like seeing safety
through billow clouds of smoke
feeling fire lick your skin and scrape with pain
as you escape through a window aflame
fueled by combustible anger and regrets like rags in a corner

drawing a line
is like setting that fire
hoping you have enough in you
to leave the flames
and let time snuff things out
leaving what isn’t needed among the ashes

another tragic summer(words for Alton and us)

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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.

 

head rush at 2:45 a.m.

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asking what composes
the music of my post-midnight madness has been
the past week and a half
is akin to attempting to play a trumpet
underwater

i suppose
it’s all the times that i should’ve listened
to my fears in the past
walking back and gripping my shoulders
like relatives who’ve traveled many miles

the blood is sensitive
singing underneath my skin
like altos in Sunday choirs with no fans
and you wonder where sleep is to be found
as minutes drag the sunrise from its bed

asking what anxiety
comes before one sleeps
is to shine a mirror into the corners of your spirit
untouched
hoping that you can meet the gaze

Being A “Love” Poet: Words On Why Before Valentines Day

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We all know that Valentine’s Day is Sunday. I wanted to write
about it, but not in the way that you would possibly expect.

You see, a good chunk of my poetry is love poetry, or has love
at its core. Even when detailing hard facts of reality like police
brutality and mental health. So much so that in some ways, there
are those that reduce me to one solitary dimension as a poet and
as a person. I’ve grown accustomed to that perception. It doesn’t
irritate me (much) anymore because I believe more in love being
the core than anything else. I fought to believe it, in it. Fought to
walk in it and write about it.

I say that because I was, and still am fortunate to have been raised
in an environment of love. Love that meant protection, being
there for each other. Grace when you made mistakes. Love with
the firmness to guide. Love in the owning up to mistakes and
committing to do better, to be better. Growing up as a shy, chubby
Black child who was trying to navigate the world like everyone
else as he grew to be a man, I needed that. There were times
where it was all I had when I felt the sting from those tense moments
in the family. When I went through the losses of relatives and
friends one after the other in the course of two years. When I
went through the razor blade tortures racism presented in minor
and major ways. When I went through a brief bout of being
depressed. Even now, love is the buttress that I have – the light
that my eyes and heart fix upon in dark moments. The hardships
I have endured made me earn my faith and belief in the power
love brings. Do I knock what others need to get by? No. I just
choose this because I’ve found that it is the least draining route
to take even though it can pose the most challenges.

So, how does Valentines Day factor in? Well, as much as some
may disagree we all like to be liked in some form or fashion.
And in these times, social media heightens that element. Folks
and companies create strategies for “likes”. Ponder that. So
when Sunday comes along, there’s money and attention to
be gained. As for me, I’ll joke about it but I’m fortunate to
have a great deal of family and friends who love me. I’ve been
fortunate to have been loved by a few women, fiercely and
gracefully. I don’t use the day to obsess over who’s taking me
to dinner or buying me a gift or who’ll choose me to have intimacy
with. Love is bigger than that.

There’s a few folks I know who are all “boo, hiss” about the
day itself. One or two of them have suffered pain because of it,
and I’m not one to discount that. There is an overt commercialism
that does permeate the day. Instead of being irate over it, I choose
to make it a point to celebrate love every day. I choose to think
about my aunts and uncles and other relatives who enjoyed and
still enjoy lengthy marriages of romance and realism. I choose to
think about the love some of my friends have being parents or
in the process of being parents. I choose to think about the love
and kindness in the eyes of elders I meet along the way. I choose
to think about the love shown by those who volunteer their time
to help others. I choose to think about the love shown by those
fighting for justice and freedom for all, no matter how. And most
importantly, I choose to honor the revolution of loving myself
and all of the steps it took for me to get there.

So, will I always write with love? You’re damn right I will.

Thanks for reading, and as always, walk good.

A New Year’s Write: Ritual As Revolution.

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(photo credit: Iwona Emes)

It’s a new year. And in the wake of all of the greetings, the
flurry of resolutions made and broken, there is still the reality
that the passing of time in this way affects most of us. With
all of that said, I began to think about the practice of leaving
things behind that no longer serve us in the past. Customarily,
I’ve taken to cleaning my home with sage to get all of the debris
that’s spiritual and emotional. I make it a point to get a longer
period of quiet time in on that day, perhaps get in a walk. I’ll
write down what I want to let go of going into the next year, &
destroy the list. We all have our own rituals. And sometimes,
those rituals are needed to keep ourselves grounded in the fact
that they won’t necessarily take away those issues we seek to
rid ourselves of.

Case in point? I wanted to instill an even better space for me
to further strengthen my writing and the spirit that feeds it.
What I had to realize, is that some of the angst I wanted to
exclude is what feeds it. It is part of the fuel that is a result of
dealing with troubles and conducting the inner alchemy to
turn it from negative to positive. I had set out to try to remove
it. And in the process, I found myself beaten down by moods
that were brought about by internalizing people’s comments
and actions no matter how slight. Being overly sensitive and
then analyzing heavily in order to get past that feeling quicker.
In the process, I find myself turning these things over and then
adding more onto it. Making it heavier than it is. I know that
this is a by-product of past doubts and self-inflicted pain. Things
I dealt with more head-on since 2011. Five years later, I can
say confidently that I handle these situations somewhat better.
And as a result, the words flow better. I move lighter. A fresh
conversation with one of my best friends brought up this gem:
(and I’m paraphrasing here) “we have to know how to navigate
our survival in relation to the people we know and how they
know us.” So far, this year has shown me that I have to further
refine the ways I can create healthy space not just for myself,
but my writing. Giving that to myself and having others see &
value it. That goes for family, friends, acquaintances. Doing so
by creating new rituals. Rituals that revive, and are a revolution
unto themselves.

If you’ve made it this far, I want to say to you – hold onto those
things that have helped you get to where you are. If they need to
be changed a bit or no longer serve you, recognize that and do
the work. Most of all, DO THE WORK. Talking about it isn’t the
same. Proclaiming it in the language of meme and other social
media isn’t the same. We are a body of rituals, a temple of soul
that should bring meaning every minute. Mostly to ourselves.
This is the truth that has to ring through for anyone, not just
those who are creatives and artistically minded. Whatever you
choose to do, however you choose to do it…may you make this
new year a year where ritual becomes the revolution you need.

As always, thanks for reading…walk good.

Reclaiming What It Is to Be Carefree And Black. For Me.

Photo Nov 26, 3 17 52 PMHello all you happy people…

It’s been a minute since the last posting here…that’s mainly due to the
fact that I needed to detox and recharge a bit. Given that there are only
24 days left in this year, it’s a prime time for me to do so. I wanted to
take some time to offer up a few words on what I’ve taken time to work
on.

You’re probably wondering about the picture above. That was taken this
past Thanksgiving, as I was on the beach with an old friend and a mentor in writing & spirituality while vacationing with family in Atlantic City.
To give you a quick backstory, my family decided that instead of dealing with trying to figure out who’s cooking and who’s bringing what to a dinner, it would be easier for us to all get away. I welcomed the idea – for
me, Atlantic City is more than just a gambling spot. And since it was supposed to be warm, that was a plus. So off we went, beating a mad rush
of traffic on the highway to hit AC as the sun set. My friend and I made plans to meet up on that Thursday to celebrate my birthday finally(since
we hadn’t been able to meet in October). I got up early that morning, showered and dressed all before 9:30 and went downstairs.

The casino floor is different in the morning. Scattered about were those
just getting in from all points across the country, stragglers from the bouts of late night revelry complete with the accessories of sunglasses and shoes in their hand and those old-time gamblers. From that point on, as I
sipped my coffee I knew it would be a good day ahead. The relative calm was soothing. Time didn’t stop, but it slowed down enough to give me a chance to actually soak up all of the surroundings.

The highlight of course, was the beach. The weather turned out to be better than I expected – 62 degrees. My friend and I walked out onto the
velvet-like sand, and in another bit of luck, made use of one of her jackets
(like me, she had slightly overdressed thinking it would be cold out) as a
blanket to sit on. From that point on, we talked. We laughed. We prayed
for healing, not only for ourselves but for our loved ones and friends and
our community as well as the world. It wasn’t only the sun washing over
us that afternoon, it was a feeling of serenity. Unfiltered, unbridled. Now
I know that to one or two of you, this may come off as something New Age-y and corny. Which would prompt you to crack a joke. But before you
do, let me ask you this: when was the last time YOU felt like that? Or allowed yourself to feel like that? Because that day, the idea of what the holiday is supposed to be grew dramatically. It wasn’t about food. It wasn’t about having a day off from work, or getting bent and watching sports. Looking out at the ocean and the constant music of the waves coming in, reminded me that underneath all of the rush that is created by the way life is being conducted that the life that is within us can be stifled.
Underappreciated. In the name of almost anything except our own freedom. I felt carefree. And that energy has stuck with me since then.

It is powerful, revolutionary to be a person of color and have a carefree
element to your spirit. Being Black in America almost demands that you
lay your carefree air on the altar to be sacrificed just so you can do what you have to do unfettered for a time. Or so the powers that be want you to think. I mean, look at the common phrase that comes to mind: “they can’t let us have NOTHIN’.” This is why I don’t mind folks, my folks, expressing
themselves. That celebration of those moments we can be carefree is so
damn necessary. Even more so now. That’s what I gave thanks for – I had
finally gotten to that place again. It had been returning in pieces, stripped away from bad work experiences, rocky relationships, frayed bonds. But this moment in the sun, was a blessing.

Being carefree as a Black man, to me, doesn’t mean being irresponsible or not accountable. In fact, it’s taking pride in knowing that I’m doing what I need to do that bolsters it. It means doing right by people. It means holding up my own personal code of honor that is good intention but most importantly, better action. It means not beating myself up if I stumble, and knowing that I can stumble but that I can also get back up and move forward. It means less overthinking, and more acceptance of self. And the richness that brings. This will be different for each and every one of us. But it’s important to reclaim that.

If you’ve read this far, I hope that the remaining part of this year sees that
you are reclaiming that carefree part of your spirit. I hope that you are making it a point to sit in the serenity you’ve earned to this point and be thankful for it. I hope that you take the time to be thankful every day for what has gotten to you, in small breaths and loud statements.

Until the next time, thanks for reading and walk good.