i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Recent Self-Disclosure of UMass Basketball Player Derrick Gordon

last week, university of massachusetts basketball player derrick gordon became the first division one male player to publicly self-identify as gay. his story was reported with great sensitivity by cyd zeigler of outsports magazine. in addition to the locker room teasing, zeigler noted, was a photograph of gordon and his boyfriend outside a gay bar in new jersey posted on instagram.

sadly, gordon admitted he considered leaving the sport he loves so passionately. uncomfortable in his own skin, he told his teammates he was straight, hoping their "snickers and snide remarks," would cease. but they didn't. some wouldn't shower with him. the sophomore guard, who averaged 9.4 points last season, avoided parties, stayed up nights crying and isolated - fearful of his sexuality being exposed.

gordon said, "most of the time when you see me on campus, i'm alone. i eat alone a lot. since the school year started in september i haven't been to one party. i'm always working out or lifting in my room. i do the same thing over and over every day. i feel like i can't be who i am or live my life. nobody should ever feel that way."

earlier this month, at his request, umass head coach derek kellogg called a team meeting. kellogg, in the spirit of support, told his team gordon was gay. however, gordon was not alone. he'd met some openly gay athletes and visited philadelphia, where he saw their comfort and happiness. in fact, two of the men were with him in the locker room as he shared his gay identity with his teammates.

as gordon poignantly shared his story of alienation, loneliness and shame, many of the men wept openly. later, one of the gay men said, "it was powerful for these players to see one of their brothers be so vulnerable. these are some inner-city kids, some rough, tough kids who derrick wants to be friends with. they understand who he is a little bit better now."

gordon now benefits from support outside the team. nba veteran and brooklyn nets forward jason collins - whom gordon credited with encouraging him when he came out a year ago - tweeted his praise for gordon. collins wrote, "i'm so proud @flash2gordon. another brave young man who is going to make it easier  for so many others to live an authentic life. #courage.       

the school, in a statement, is supportive. athletic director john mccutcheon said, "umass is proud to have derrick gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete. umass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals."


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

UCONN Men's and Women's Teams Win 2014 National Championship

the university of connecticut men's basketball team on monday defeated the university of kentucky 60-54 to win the national championship. the game was played in front of over 75,000 fans at the at&t stadium in arlington, texas. the huskies are now one of only six schools in ncaa history with four titles - all coming in the last 15 years.

uconn's all-american point guard shabazz napier was named most outstanding player. napier had 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. his teammate, sophomore guard ryan boatright was a defensive standout and scored 14 points. afterwards, napier said, "honestly, i want to get everybody's attention real quick. you're looking at the hungry huskies. ladies and gentleman, this is what happens when you banned us."

a short year ago uconn (32-8) was banned for poor grades. their longtime coach jim calhoun left 18 months ago due to health issues. after 20 years in the big east, the school moved to the american athletic conference. 40 year-old kevin ollie, nba journeyman, former huskies player and calhoun's former assistant coach, led his team to an improbable run in only his second year as head coach.  

the university of connecticut women's basketball team on tuesday dominated notre dame 79-58 to win their record ninth championship. uconn (40-0) coach geno auriemma broke a tie with pat summit of tennessee for most all-time. played in nashville, tennessee, the historic contest pitted two undefeated teams in a title game for the first time in women's college basketball history.

ap player of the year, huskies' sophomore breanna stewart was named most outstanding player. she had 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. stewart also won the award last year. their all-american center, stephanie dolson finished with 17 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks. the 6'5 senior was pulled from the game with a minute left and gave her coach a big hug.

auriemma has never lost in a title game. his nine championships in just 20 years at the helm is unparalleled and unprecedented. his teams have featured star players like rebecca lobo, swin cash, diana taurasi, tina charles and maya moore. but its their hard word, integrity and passion which speaks to his value as one of the most successful coaches in the history of basketball - high school, college or nba.   



Monday, April 07, 2014

Obama to sign executive orders closing wage gaps impacting race and gender

not long after he became the first bi-racial president of the united states, barack obama faced widespread criticism regarding his commitment to the plethora of issues facing black communities. on tuesday, president barack obama will sign two executive orders specifically designed to close wage gaps impacting an individual's race and gender.

one requires contractors doing business with the federal government to include race and gender information when reporting all compensation data. the other prohibits contractors with federal contracts from retaliating against employees who share compensation information. this is important, because in some instances, employees were unaware they were paid less than their peers, which is discriminatory. 

in one of the highest-profile cases involving such discrimination, lilly ledbetter sued the goodyear tire and rubber company for paying her substantially less than male managers in the same role over her career with the company. she worked there over two decades.

in 2007, the supreme court ruled ledbetter missed the window for suing in the case because she hadn't filed her suit within 180 days of receiving her first paycheck. however, she didn't learn her male colleagues earned substantially more than she did until many years after the fact - which made it impossible for her to have adhered to such requirements.

the supreme court ruling against ledbetter would eventually lead to the passage of the lilly ledbetter fair pay act of 2009, the first bill obama signed into law after taking office. an amendment to the civil rights act, the statute resets the clock regarding fair-pay lawsuits. as a result, future plaintiffs aren't limited to the 180-day window.

many employers discourage and often prohibit employees from discussing their salaries and wages with one another. ledbetter worked for a private company: their personnel will not be directly affected by the executive orders. still, this action is a much needed step in amending historical wrongs among hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying folks.

    

 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kentucky State House Rejects Senate's Restrictions on Voting Rights Bill

the kentucky state house on wednesday rejected the senate's changes to a voting rights bill reducing the number of people eligible for voting rights restoration by half. the original bill, hb 70, would give voters the opportunity to approve a constitutional amendment enacting automatic rights restoration for most individuals with felony convictions.

in previous years, similar bills which passed in the democratic-controlled house always failed in the republican-controlled senate. last month, the senate approved the voting rights bill for the first time, but only after adding several restrictions, including a five-year waiting period and exclusions for individuals with multiple prior offenses.

according to an analysis by the league of women voters in kentucky, the senate's restrictive version of hb 70 would delay or deny the restoration of voting rights for over 55% of the 180,000 people in kentucky currently banned from voting due to felony disenfranchisement policies.

earlier this month, a 50th anniversary reenactment of a civil rights march on frankfurt became a rally for voting rights. thousands gathered near the state capitol to hear speakers urge support for the original hb 70. later that day, house legislators rejected the senate's changes to the bill. if the senate doesn't drop its changes, hb 70 goes to a conference committee to hopefully reach a compromise.   

carl wicklund, executive director of the american probation and parole association, wrote an op-ed in the lexington herald leader a few weeks ago, urging the state legislature to pass hb 70 in its original form, without the senate's restrictive changes. he feels successful parole and probation systems prevent future crime by helping individuals reintegrate into their communities - rather than continuing to punish them after serving time.  

wicklund believes voting rights are an important part of effectively becoming a productive member of society. he says, "civic participation strengthens the ties between...individuals and their fellow citizens.  when people vote, they are making an investment in their community." 

last month, the herald-dispatch published an editorial in support of hb 70, lauding the state for moving forward on voting rights. the piece affirmed current probation and parole systems already provide a reasonable waiting period. still, the authors conclude, even the senate's restrictive version of the bill would "be a step forward for kentucky that we hope voters would approve."  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Obama Has Ordered A Review Of His Administrations' Deportation Policies

early in his first term, president barack obama had a plan, in theory, for comprehensive immigration reform. the administration's strategy was to increase border security and deportations of immigrants who entered the country illegally.

even some republicans conceded obama's approach was helpful in generating broad support for comprehensive reform in the senate. but in the gop-lead house, it didn't matter. they've been unwilling to accept concessions as part of a bipartisan compromise.

on thursday afternoon obama met with hispanic lawmakers in the oval office. the president said deportations of immigrants who enter the country illegally should be more humane. according to a white house statement, he told them he had "deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system."

afterwards, representative luis v. gutierrez (d-ill) said it was "clear that the pleas from the community got through to the president." last night, the white house issued a statement saying obama "has asked secretary of homeland security jeh johnson to do am inventory of the department's current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law."

the senate approved a bill designed to boost economic growth and lower the deficit. the bill is supported by business leaders, immigrant advocates, labor unions and people of various faiths. but republican leaders won't allow a vote. hopefully, the administration's inventory review will inspire congress to extend compassion to people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. 
     

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wisconsin's Racial Impact Statement Bill

wisconsin has the highest rate of black male incarceration in the u.s. state lawmakers are proposing legislation to address this. senator nikiya harris and representative sandy pasch have co-sponsored the minority impact statement bill, which requires a legislative committee to prepare a racial impact statement before codifying a new crime, or modifying the criminal penalty for an existing crime.

under the legislation, if the committee concludes a bill has a disparate impact on racial minorities, the bill's author would be required to make amendments or provide a written explanation for advancing the unchanged bill. if successful, wisconsin would join three other states - connecticut, iowa and oregon - to require minority impact statements on criminal laws.

minnesota's sentencing commission electively conducts this analysis. florida and mississippi lawmakers are considering similar bills. recent reports have shown one in eight working age black men in wisconsin were in state prisons or local jails: almost double the national average. although black men constituted less than five percent of dade county's adult male population, they accounted for over 40% of its prison admissions in 2012.

wisconsin also leads the nation in their incarceration of native american men. 7.6% of working age men (or 1 in 13) were in state prisons and local jails in 2010, compared to 3.1% (or 1 in 32) nationally. by contrast, the state's rate of incarceration of white men is similar to the national average, which is 6.7% (or 1 in 15).

in 2010 the u.s. census bureau conducted its decennial count of wisconsin residents. the ten worst states for incarceration of black men showed wisconsin had the highest rate. the other nine states, in respective order, were oklahoma, iowa, pennsylvania, california, indiana, louisiana, texas, colorado and kansas.      



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Surgery, After Care and other shit...

last Monday i went to mount sinai hospital in harlem for surgery. my appointment was for 10:30 am. they treated me around 2:30 pm. i woke up an hour later, oblivious to the magnitude of my tenuous physical condition. i felt disoriented, fatigued, groggy - and hungry as a muhfuh.

this was my first experience with surgery. as such, i had no blueprint on how to deal (read: not complain) with the unknown. i was instructed to neither eat nor drink after midnight. i complied. also, i was kindly accompanied by a trusted friend, whom helped ease my anxiety, fear and uncertainty. without an escort home i would've had to re-schedule.

about 15 months ago my primary care physician was concerned i might have anal cancer. i was treated by a specialist who did a biopsy, pap smear and tried to remove some of the pre-cancerous cells. he suggested i follow up in six months. i missed that appointment but saw him the first week of january.

he inserted a tube (with a scope) inside my anus to assess the damage, then he applied some alcohol to my anal area while asking me to relax. when he tried to stick me with a needle i screamed like a white girl with a nightmare on elm street. real talk. the pain was unbearable. he seemed (!) frustrated and said i'd have to be put to sleep for the procedure to work...

wateva.

i have anal condyloma. i don't know anyone on the planet with anal condyloma. do you? a google search mentioned embarrassment and psychosocial stress are common symptoms. the surgeon said laser treatment can be effective but is not a cure. he said there may, or may not be, cancerous cells dormant in my anus. i was instructed to follow up in two weeks and be monitored every six months.

i asked him would i need to change my diet after surgery. he said no. i asked him would the surgery affect my bowel movement. he said no. i asked him will i feel any pain during the surgery. he said no. i was given lidocaine ointment, percosets, stool softeners and a cream to ease my pain. he told me i'd be sore for a week. and i am. ten days later.

he was dead ass wrong how surgery affects my bowel movement.

it took more than 24 hours to take a shit. when i did, i felt like i was in labor. i squeezed and squeezed and squeezed and it seemed like a large brick was coming out of me slow as molasses. i was unable to get it all out, as my body contorted like a gymnast in the olympics for half an hour. the pain was unlike anything i've experienced, which is why it's taking me this long to write about it.

i've been in physical pain everyday. everyday. i've been constipated daily. the ointments and percosets gave me temporary relief - but it still hurt to cough, laugh, move or sit. i feared each bowel movement because i knew i'd have to endure more pain. i felt a burning, stinging, throbbing sensation which lasted for hours and hours and hours.

i didn't understand this pain. i had no language for this pain. i wanted this pain to immediately disappear and never come back and it only got worse each breathing moment. sadly, i had a number of disheartening thoughts which included suicide. i know god will never give me anything more than i can handle but i felt like this pain was more than i can handle.

a couple of days ago i called my primary care physician at home. i was desperate for relief and willing to do whatever it takes to heal. she suggested i stop taking percosets because they constipate my anus, which makes bowel movements painful. she told me to take two 800 mg of ibuprofen daily, warm baths with epsom salt, use witch hazel on my anus and lots of lidocaine ointment afterward.  

she also suggested i eat fruit in the morning, salad for lunch and vegetables for dinner. i was grateful for her input because i was still indulging in fried foods and microwaveable dinners. it took me a week to realize my unhealthy diet impacts my bowel movement and because the area is so delicate i need to eat softer foods which can be digested without disturbance.  

its almost 4:10 wednesday morning. i just took a warm bath with epsom salt. i'm listening to bill withers. i'm grateful for the family members, friends and other folks who've prayed for me. i'm grateful for the phone calls, e-mails and texts graced with loving energy. a loving god has angels everywhere. i'm starting to see a light in the midst of this darkness.

thank you god. thank you god. thank you god.