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!”

Thoughts about Jason Collins and his historical moment

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Congratulations to Jason Collins for being comfortable and brave to admit his sexual orientation in a public manner. The thirty-four old NBA center made history yesterday when his personal essay for Sports Illustrated leaked to the press and other media outlets, marking him as the first openly gay professional team sport athlete. Here are my thoughts and concerns as this story makes its way through our media’s digestive track.

  • As this Ted Talk illustrates the key to a movement is actually the second person. Who will follow Collins’ courageous first step and announce their sexual orientation? Once that happens, I hope the flood gates will open and America can begin to openly discuss and accept (not tolerate…I strongly dislike that word when we discuss differences…I can tolerate playing basketball on a sprained ankle, whereas I can accept one’s humanity) gay athletes.
  • Bill Clinton wrote yesterday, “It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities,” in praise of Jason Collins’ admission. While I agree with him, I am weary of the use of “good man.” I worry that while Clinton in trying to challenge the way we think of gay athletes, unfortunately reinforces the idea of gay as “bad.” His statement would have still been as powerful with the omission of “good man” because regardless of Collins’ sexuality he is a good person; the two, goodness and sexuality, should not be linked.
  • Collins coming out has a “where were you when…” feel to it. I was in my car, listening to ESPN talk radio when I first heard the news. The announcer stressed that he was not gay, but supported Jason Collins. It struck me as odd that he felt the need to confirm his heterosexuality as he supported an openly gay athlete. Pay attention to that throughout the subsequent commentary.
  • Lastly, while I disagree with those who for various reasons (i.e. bigotry, religion, etc) condemn homosexuality, I do believe that in the spirit of diversity they should be able to share their thoughts and opinions. While it pains me to write that sentence because I worry about the hatred that they may spew, it is within their rights to voice their opinions. Likewise, it is in my rights to disagree with them.

In the words of the famous philosopher from Brooklyn, Jay-Z, “What you eat, don’t make me shhh…Where’s the love?”

I am thankful that Jason Collins found the inner strength to share such a private matter in such a public manner to help push the conversation about homosexuality, sports, masculinity, and the various interconnected threads forward. Who he decides to sleep with does not affect me anymore than it affected it yesterday; likewise, who I decide to sleep with does not affect him. I appreciate his decision to live authentically and hope that others, regardless of sexual orientation, can learn from his example: Be who you are and love who you are because you deserve it!

Looking Out the Window

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I looked out the window of the pristinely kept, heavily sanitized hospital room. On the field, unaware of my eyes watching them, the women’s rugby team threw and tackled each other. Seemingly having fun, they ran around the field, completing various drills.

Meanwhile, within my short sight, my grandfather rested in the bed, positioned at an acute angle to add comfort. His grayed head hung to one side, while my mother held his hand. She asked him if he was in pain, and his eyes feebly looked upward towards her. His mouth, empty of his dentures, moved slightly. Barely audible sound escaped. She griped his hand tighter. Witnessing this intimate moment between father and child, I averted my attention to the window and watched the women for a few moments.

She brushed past me, as she made her way to one of the cata-cornered chairs by the window. After taking off her jacket, she pulled the chair closer to his bed. His grayed eyes met mine. “How you doing, Charlie,” I asked. His head briefly perked up upon hearing the family nickname that the dementia has not stripped from his memory. Yet, his eyes sparkled gray, letting me know that he was there, present and fighting. Fight on, Charlie, I thought to myself. My mother’s voice interrupted our fleeting moment together, as my grandfather seemingly strained to turn his head to where this new sound came. Holding her phone, she began to read a bible verse from Psalms, her favorite book. After two or three verses, she did not like the psalm she had chosen. My grandfather agreed, with an audible grunt that conveyed he wanted her to stop. She grasped his hand again, and this time, without looking at her phone, recited psalm 23 effortlessly, while looking in his eyes. There is no grunt this time. In fact, his head relaxed into the pillow and he began to close his eyes. Once again, with the verses penned about faith in the midst of anxiety as my background noise, my gaze returned to the world outside of the window.

Breaking Up with My Son

Before the socially ingrained, borderline expected storyline of a deadbeat Black father dominates your thoughts, let me clarify the title.

When my son returned home, after spending a magnificent, adventure-filled summer in NYC, life has felt completely different for me. While I purposely avoid using the word, depression, I definitely slumped emotionally: his absent voice and laughter echo in my mind; I avoid going places that we’ve gone together; food tastes different; visiting my mom’s house feels void of that special something; I see parks or hear of new things that I could do with him and wish; constantly answering questions like, “How is he doing?” stings; I can’t stop reliving the fun we had; in a eye’s blink, I would tell anyone about him because his name alone makes my heart smile that big goofy kind of smile that one should be embarrassed about because all of your teeth and gums are showing but you simply love because those smiles are amazingly amazing and you cherish them…in between visits, talking on the phone and occasional Skype dates with him are my only reprieve. Yet, those moments undoubtedly leave me wanting more. Unfilled. I want to feel his body plump on top of mine when he gets tired; I want to carry his motionless, sleeping self from the car to the bed, wrestling off his clothes in order to wrestle on his pajamas; I want to combine taco and movie night to make him feel special; I want to play with toys on the floor; I want to listen to him read me a story; I want to help him with his math and writing skills; I want to remind him to wash his face after he brushes his teeth; I want to see him smile those heart smiles; I want to answer his persistent call of “Daddy.”

I woke up this morning, missing him as usual and thought to myself, I haven’t pined for someone like this since my last break up a few years ago. Hence, the title was born in that moment.

Thanks Frank for the Courage to do This

I have been inspired by a high school student and more recently Frank Ocean to share the following with you all:

I never told my mom, but she has to know. If I told her, I cannot imagine her treating me any differently because she loves me unconditionally. And this seemingly fits the definition of a ‘condition.’ Hence, her love would not change. Yet, for some reason, I have not told her; it’s never come up in conversation between us (Editor’s note: That’s a poor excuse). Maybe deep down I am concerned about her reaction; her opinion of me is valuable to me and I would be devastated if it ever changed. It’s hard to live the Buddhist ideology of not listening to either praise or criticism because they are different sides of the same coin, judgement. It’s even more difficult when the person holding the coin is a loved one.

On the other hand, I have told a couple of my closest friends and they all, thankfully, supported me. Not surprisingly, I was nervous about it; before I told them, I kept telling myself that I would not care about their reaction because this moment was about me. If they did not want to be my friend anymore because of this then so be it. I did not need friends like that; instead, I needed friends who would ride with me, love me unconditionally. But, I lie to myself often. I knew I would be heartbroken if they did not accept me even though I was the same person. I did not preface it with any long drawn out backstory of when I realized I was me, nor did I begin with gaging their love for me with fishing questions like “You love, right?” One of closest male friends, upon hearing my announcement, responded, after about two seconds of dead air, which felt much longer as I anxiously waited for his reaction, “So?” Another second or two passed, then he added, “I’m proud of you.”

Late last year, while at a conference, I shared, among a large group of people I did not know, my identity. Admittedly, that experience was both terrifying and easy at the same damn time. I was sharing publicly, but the large crowd also added some semblance of anonymity; I did not know these folks and hence did not really care about their judgements. More importantly, I was not alone; there were others who identified with me. The sheer power of numbers comforted me. Not sure where they were on their individual journeys, and truthfully it did not matter.

I am a heterosexual.

While I understand that my sexual orientation is privileged, I want to challenge the expectation that those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or those who do not wish to label their love with whom they love, must ‘come out’ and share their sexuality. Sharing, though it often seems like a public confession, neatly packs them into those tightly constrictive boxes in which society desperately wants to place everyone, as if our sexuality is the only part of our person. For example, Frank Ocean is dangerously being mislabeled, misidentified by many news pundits as gay and bisexual. Read the letter; he shares that he loved a man and never once used those terms that we, as a society, are so quick and ready to assign.

Additionally, I hope this letter challenges all of us to think about: the dilemma and difficulty of being oneself when ‘you’ are culturally devalued, the freedom and challenges that one experiences when one is openly ‘you,’ the inevitable damage caused with privileging others, the ridiculousness of defining one’s sexuality for others, the dilemma of sharing one’s sexuality, a private identity, publicly, the should-be-unnecessary and real fear of the consequences such an announcement produces.

I could identify with Frank Ocean’s strong feelings of being in love. He painfully, yet romantically, writes about his ‘missed love connection’ though he still experienced love. He then thanks the man who awakened those amazing feelings within him. A blind person can easily tell from the letter that Frank was in love. Filled with short staccato like sentences interspersed with longer ones, Frank Ocean builds to the climax, when he nonchalantly states, “I feel like a free man.” Unfortunately, such freedom, for many (and thus for all of us), is unfortunately not free.

Lessons Learned from Sebastian [Cruel Intentions]

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The other day I bragged about my love for “Coming to America.” This morning, at 6am, I decided to watch a movie to start my day. As always, I was tempted to watch Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem search for his “Queen to be,” but decided against it. I started to fumble through my dvd collection, bored with some of the possible options. Then I saw “Cruel Intentions” nestled between “Saw” and “House Party” (Don’t judge me…yes, my DVDs are unorganized.)

“Cruel Intentions” is a great dark romantic comedy about Upper East Side high school students, released in 1999 (although I did not see it until its DVD release) with an amazing and beautiful cast, starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, and the token black guy, who has one of the funniest scenes centered on race and class Sean Patrick Thomas (editor’s note:whatever happened to him…really all of them? Didn’t two of them get married or have babies or something…sorry, I digress.).

While the sun rose, I watched Sebastian, our conflicted protagonist, battle his inner demons, damaging relationships along the way. Eventually, his issues lead to his unfortunate death (editor’s note: not at all pleased that our lovable black character is responsible for his violent death…but that’s just me and the lenses through which I look at things). Here are some observations and thoughts (as always, in no particular order):

-Everyone has personal issues, which are further complicated because we interact with others and their personal issues…just a personal issue orgy.
-Sebastian’s Jaguar XK roadster is beyond dope
-Sexual conquests eventually become boring (Word!)
-Women and friendships = oil and water gross generalization, but I don’t apologize because it is what I observed in the movie
-When faced with love, like Sebastian, many sabotage it consciously or unconsciously because we do not recognize that we deserve to be happy.
-There is only one black man (no black women, no Latinos or Asians) in all of Upper East Side, Manhattan
-Cocaine is a hell of a drug *Dave Chappelle voice*
-Many “hide” addictions, fears, etc. behind religion
-When one tries to turn his/her life around is when the enemy attacks the hardest
-Sebastian is a dope ass name
-Saying “I love you” while dying is possibly the best way to die; I want to die like that…not really, but kinda…ok, too morbid
-Lucy Liu is still gorgeous (she was not in the movie, remember no Asians were…but I saw her in commercial as I was typing this list).

I Love and Appreciate You

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Tell someone that you love that you love them.

Tell someone that you appreciate that you appreciate them.

Give them the love and appreciation while you can.

Life is too short, and tomorrow is not promised.

Special shout out to my homeboy and his mother, who last month was diagnosed with breast cancer. I pray for you and your family everyday.