Share It — Your Gifts, Your Talents, You

“How you going to be dope and keep it to yourself?” he asked earnestly, flashing his winning smile, which devolved quickly to a pressed lip smirk, coupled with eyes that were visors, throwing all the shade. The seemingly odd combination somehow perfectly accented and punctuated his statement question. For over three hours, my cousin and I sat, ate (sidenote: we had some delicious oxtails, rice and plantains, which was pronounced exactly as it is spelt by our white waitress, which sounded foreign to our Caribbean-bred ears, never hearing it pronounced that way except by white folk in NYC who have recently Columbused our beloved ripe banana), drank (quite a bit of rum, bourbon and whiskey), and conversed. The topics ranged from trashy, binge-worthy television shows to family gossip to podcasts to personal stories.

My cousin, like me, is a writer and he is gifted to be able to put his words to melodies, creating music that makes you feel, dance and sing, often all at the same damn time. Towards the end of the night, he shared that he struggles with his writing process because he overly criticizes his work, concerned with what others will think about his music, which then delays and often torpedoes the whole creative adventure. As a response, I shared two brief stories, one from Debbie Allen and one from Jerry Seinfeld. Debbie Allen, who is amazing and you need to google her if you do not know who she is, shared a question that her Pulitzer prize nominated momma, Vivian Allen, asked her and her sister, Phylicia Rashad, who you also need to google if you do not know who she is; in fact, lose yourself in a wikipedia vortex of the Allens (sidenote: Stop. Take a moment. Clap for all that #blackgirlmagic in that household). She would ask her daughters, “What have you done today that helped you get closer to your dream?” Action. Getting closer to one’s dream requires it. Similarly, Jerry Seinfeld, I would say google him but I have a sneaky suspicion that y’all already know this white male comedian (sidenote: I’m sucking/kissing my teeth right now cause race and gender), shared a seemingly simple practice with an up and coming comedian to help them improve their craft so they could hopefully become successful (such a loaded word — I would argue that the younger comedian is already successful because they are actively pursuing their passion, yet American society would say otherwise because they’re not rich and famous). Seinfeld told them to buy a calendar and every day, whether they felt like it or not, to write a joke; it did not have to be a complete joke or even a particularly long joke, but it had to be written done. Action. And, afterwards, they should draw a big [insert your favorite color] X over the day and watch, with growing pride at its increasing length, their X-snake (phallic much?). He mentioned that he would sometimes write what he knew was a crappy joke just to keep his streak going. He also warned that if the comedian missed a day, it would make it easier to miss the next day and so on, creating a blank calendar snake that would also be challenging to break.

I shared those two stories with my cousin and we both came to the conclusion that dream-realizing requires action, daily. So here is my first X as I get back in the habit of closing the canyon sized gap between my thoughts and my writing. And whenever my cousin wakes up from his full belly, alcohol infused sleep, in his inbox will be a link to this post, a reminder that he now has to actively do something so that he too can start his own X-chain.

The last ones to leave the restaurant, sans the workers, who were busy with their closing time routines well before we paid our bill, I told my cousin gushingly that he was awesome. He retorted, “I already know that…but, thank you.” I playfully countered, “So, you have to share it!”

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Random Questions and Hella Links

Please feel free to answer any of the following questions in the comments section. Happy Friday!

  • Could Drake be a bigger star if he made better music videos? Remember when Kanye sabotaged directed Drake’s first career hit, “Best I Ever Had
  • If Lebron and Kobe finally face each other (seems more likely after this trade for my seven foot namesake), will Nike bring back those lovable puppets? Those commercials were dope.
  • Do New York middle school English students still comply their weekly vocabulary lists from listening to Clyde Frazier’s auspicious commentary for the New York Knicks like I once did? “Winning and grinning.” <— That link made me laugh.
  • How can one argue that racism and stereotypes are dead when NBC aired this commercial after Gabby Douglas, an African American woman, won the gold medal in gymnastics? Somebody needs to be fired for this egregious mistake act.
  • What do Jamaicans find their men to have them dominate these short sprints?
  • Who would win a street fighter styled, NCAA tournament bracket-esque battle between N’Sync, The Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, and New Edition while their greatest hits played in the background? Crown your champion in the comments section.
  • When will Justin Timberlake make new music? We I’m waiting like a cracked out crack addict for that crack, JT!
  • What’s the best HBO series ever? Before I would have said Entourage, but The Wire is doper. After I finish the series, I’ll start the Sopranos? Leave your thoughts in the comments section. Sidenote: I fully recognize that not everyone has the privilege of cable television and movie channels.
  • Why aren’t all museums free? The one in the Bronx is!
  • What inspires you?

Inspiration

“Read everything written by your favorite writer,” he urges the audience of middle schoolers. He continues, “My favorite writer is John Steinbeck.” Many of the eight graders, the last class to read
Of Mice and Men in the constantly changing sixth grade English curriculum, respond with a half-hearted grunt cheer. Many of them, no doubt, quickly tug and pull on their fading memory of the book when they hear the title. The majority of them want to acknowledge that they too have read something that the invited speaker has read. At the same time, they want to be respectful and attentive, while somehow acknowledging a shared experience with the speaker, who awkwardly hesitates to give time and space for the emerging and halted cheer grunt. After a brief moment, he then lists the many works of Steinbeck. He shares the canonized titles that many literary lovers have heard of or have read. I am most impressed when he discusses the lesser known books and short stories from Steinbeck’s rich and expansive collection, which totals twenty-seven completed books.

“Borrow from your favorite writer,” he shares in his speech about his own rise to become a top blogger and sports writer on WFAN. “Their style will undoubtedly bleed into your own style as you craft your voice.”

My favorite writer, right now, is Rembert Browne. He is a twenty something year old blogger, former staff writer for Dartmouth’s newspaper, who has gained much praise and props for his epic OutKast and Jay Z NCAA inspired song brackets, an attempt to crown their best song. Please click the links, you will not be disappointed. He has recently joined the writing team of Grantland, a conglomerate of talented writers and social analysts assembled by another favorite writer of mine, Bill Simmons. Rembert’s writing style is informal and free flowing. Within this seemingly structure less rambling, he somehow opens himself to a fearless position of vulnerability, honestly sharing his inner thoughts beautifully in an unconventional manner. After each piece I read, I feel like I know Rembert Browne much more. I have read all of his writing, since his graduation from Dartmouth.

Here is a selection from a recent piece he wrote about Kim and Kris:

He Doesn’t Know What Marriage Is
I should preface this by telling you that I don’t really know what marriage is either. But I’m not the one with a wife. I’ve never met anyone less prepared for marriage than Kris. He treats Kim the way I treat my LinkedIn account: I signed up, but now that I have it, I only check in when nagged about it. Also, I can’t figure out why everyone takes it so seriously. If it were socially acceptable, I’d delete it and pretend that it never happened.

In this odd pairing of marriage and professional social site, he mixes a long island iced tea filled with humor, insight, life experience, commentary, honesty, and criticism. Most importantly, he connects with his audience. Even if one does not know what a LinkedIn account is, one can understand how poorly Kris treated Kim in their short marriage and how Rembert feels about it all.

As a part of America’s ageist society, one that looks down on the youth’s lack of experience and consequently assumed lack of knowledge, I mistakenly thought my role models and mentors had to be older than me. I was wrong.

Luckily, I know Rembert in real life. He is my basketball teammate. He is my dance partner at ugly sweater parties. Most importantly, he is my friend.

He encourages me to be a better writer and a better person; he encourages me to be me. He teaches me to relax and enjoy life; he teaches me to find the fun in the moment; he teaches me that random analogies provide some of the most insightful commentary; he teaches me that one does not have to fit other’s expectations, instead only satisfy one’s own.

In Maryann Williamson’s famous “Our Deepest Fear” quote, mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela often, she writes, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Rembert has never sat down and taught me any of the things that I have learned from him. He teaches through his personality, his candidness, and the way he lives his life.

He inspires me.

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