- mark j. tuggle
- 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. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
My initial reaction, upon learning of the homosexual relationship between two white cowboys, was to dismiss the film as another so-called gay Hollywood romance w/ no particular resonance to me as an SGL man of African descent. Earlier that afternoon, I spoke w/ a couple of SGL brothers who praised the film & insisted I'd experience something different from what I expected or imagined. They were right.
Set in 1963, amidst the backdrop of snow-capped mountains in Wyoming, I was immediately captivated by the beautiful cinematography. From the opening scene, it was clear the environment would play a major role in narrating the story, written & directed by independent filmmaker Ang Lee. The film's two protagonists, sensitively portrayed by Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhall, are 'roadies' whose strong work ethic bonds them on a practical level: they need each other to survive.
These two men are connected by rituals requiring them to cook, handle sheep, secure shelter & weather the brutal winter conditions. Alone. Isolated. They have a job to do & nothing else matters. As such, I was fascinated by the simple use of dialogue between these two men, along w/ the empty spaces filled w/ a breathtaking musical score.
I also appreciated their struggle to relate to each other, as men, as human beings, as workers, which evolved slowly as the film progressed. Traditionally, men in this setting are socialized to mask emotions others may perceive as feminine, soft, or weak. Men are not supposed to acknowledge pain, vulnerability, or terror. Yet, on "Brokeback Mountain," they discovered a longing unfamiliar to them. These two men were attracted to each other & they had an awkward time expressing this unexpected energy.
The morning after the men arise from a noticeably physical encounter of anal intercourse, absolute silence descends upon them. While cooking the, now, familiar can of beans, one of the men says to the guy he fucked, "I'm not queer." Without missing a beat, the other guy deadpans, "neither am I." This was the only time a sexual identity was discussed between the two. Up until around 1968, homosexuality was diagnosed as a mental illness in America, so I understood why the men were not, as many men are almost 40 years later, fighting for gay rights.
Contrary to mainstream media outlets, "Brokeback Mountain," is not a gay film. This film chronicles the lives of two men struggling to find meaning in the way they feel for each other. They argue, fight, hug, kiss, laugh & scream at each other over a period of time. As Chris Rock said in one of his HBO specials, "relationships are easy to get into, difficult to maintain." I doubt if the bright, young comedian had this type of relationship in mind, because our society is obsessed w/ gay identity politics.
Because they needed to work, both men had to sacrifice their feelings for each other for months. They made a commitment to stay connected, not sure of where this union would lead, considering the time frame & their need to establish manhood as it was already defined. One of the men married a woman w/ low self-esteen & had two kids in a trailer home. The other married a successful business women & had one kid, though communication problems between the two were apparent from the outset.
Each year the men would plan a 'fishing trip' in order to secretly see each other. I loved witnessing the excitement evident in their body language as they recieved each other's postcards, anticipating another few days, or week, to spend time together - in sin. There was a poignant scene early in the film in which the men engage each other arounf their religous beliefs. Small talk about Methodist & Protestant ethics ensued, which provided a backdrop for their infidelity.
The film took a tragic ending which I won't divulge here. Suffice it to say, the chemistry between these two men transcended class, gender, identity, orientation & skin privilege. The unsung manner in which they related to their families, wives & children demonstrated the complexities inherent in navigating unfamiliar sexual & social terrain. I'd highly recommend this film to my progressive friends & open-mnded family members. I intend to watch it again.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Initially, the MTA offered transit workers a paltry six percent raise over a three year period. Yet, less than one mayoral election ago, the MTA publicly announced they'd 'discovered' a billion dollar surplus: show me the money! Additionally, it was reported the MTA - whose board members are mostly appointed by Governor Pataki - keeps two separate accounting books. Why? In the words of power-driven Gordon Gekko of 'Wall Street' fame, a role which garnered actor Michael Douglas an Oscar, "greed is good." Or, as controversial boxing promoter Don King once poignantly remarked, "only in America."
TWU 100 summarily rejected the MTA's offer, which was later amended to a nine percent raise over a three year period. NYC transit workers gross roughly $55,000 yearly, which, on the surface, is a welcome salary by most standards. However, considering the rising cost of living in NYC, the lack of adequate health care, as well as the higher wages of Long Island Rail Road (L.I.R.R.) & Metro North workers, it was clear the MTA was in for a dog fight.
As the principled Toussaint made clear from his brilliant leadership, the strike was more than a quarrel over money. What did Aretha ask for? R-E-S-P-E-C-T. In addition to the ongoing threat of job security due to more technology & less people in the last decade, transit workers are subjected to deplorable working conditions each day: asbestos, inadequate bathroom facilities, poor audio equipment, rats, substance users, etc. Also, the emotional & physical stress of working long hours in a tiny booth is more than enough to make a sane person go crazy.
When the MTA made their final contract offer - a 10.5 percent raise over three years - the TWU 100 overwhelmingly decided enough was enough. The union sought a 24 percent raise over three years, as well as changes in disciplinary action, improved benefits & pension plan revision, all to no avail. The first to strike were bus drivers in Queens as of 12:01 a.m., Sunday, December 18, followed by bus & subway workers from the metropolitan area as of 12:01 a.m., Tuesday, December 20. Yeah, it was on.
Upon viewing the media coverage of the contract negotiations, I noticed a certain tone ascribed to TWU 100 President Roger Toussaint, a proud native of Trinidad & Tobago. His integrity was attacked by local journalists, newspaper columnists & Mayor Bloomberg, who referred to him as "thuggish." Before his recent election, Bloomberg embraced resolution amongst unions involving firemen, policemen, sanitation workers & teachers. Never, in his term as Mayor, has he referred to a union president as a "thug."
Move over 50 Cent, there's a new sheriff in town...
The Mayor's racist remarks drew the ire of many Black male leaders, most notably Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron. Barron, a regular guest on Gary Byrd's 'GBE' weekly early morning radio program (WLIB/1190 AM), told Byrd he basically called Toussaint a nigger. Bloomberg, as well as Pataki, shaped the media's coverage of the strike by calling transit workers "selfish & shameful" for breaking the "Taylor Law," a tool used to justify denying the bargaining leverage of a prospective union.
Toussaint, evoking the spirit of Haitian President Toussaint L'Overture, astutely noted the Civil Rights Movement was fueled by illegal activity: the laws of this country were built on the oppression of African people centuries ago. When the late Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man in the Jim Crow south, she successfully spearheaded a 381 day boycott of the Montgomery Bus Company. The TWU 100 leader also remarked Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., who won a Nobel Peace Prize award for his humanitarian efforts, was "begrudgingly" given a national holiday on his earth day - January 15.
Even Stevie Wonder can see how Black men are not valued in this society. The blatant level of disrespect accorded Toussaint is consistent w/ the mistreatment of Black men who hold powerful positions in today's society. Unlike other union leaders who value expediency over empowerment, Toussaint remained true to the will of his constituency, 70 percent of whom rely on public transportation. Furthermore, Toussaint disclosed contingency plans which baffled media & political pundits alike. He made me proud.
On the first day of the strike, a Black male Supreme Court Judge - handpicked to handle this case - levied the TWU 100 w/ a million dollar a day fine for breaking the Taylor Law, thereby giving new meaning to 'Black on Black crime.' Additionally, transit workers were fined $25,000 a day for their actions. Later, as negotiations stalled, it was discovered, before the strike was called, the MTA sought to punish transit workers by deducting six percent of their annual salary towards their pension benefits.
As of this writing, transit workers are back to work. For a couple of days, though, I noticed an eerie quiet in the village of Harlem, where I tend to do a lot of walking through anyway. I appreciated the tranquility & wondered how folks were coping. I called a few friends & learned the majority of them empathized w/ the transit workers. They expressed rage towards the supremacist remarks of Bloomberg & Pataki, who didn't intervene at the bargaining table, but instead, viciously attacked the character of Toussaint, a man trying to do his job to the best of his ability, just like the rest of us in this cold ass city.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Williams was found guilty by a 'jury of his peers': a lily-white jury. Despite his right to due process, all prospective Black jurors were removed from the selection pool. Historically, Blacks are wary of serving on death penalty cases. Later, in the sentencing phase of his trial, Williams appeared before the court in shackles - evoking the enslavement of our ancestors - a practice the U.S. Supreme Court has since ruled unconstitutional. Who says racism is dead?
In 1971, Williams co-founded the notorious street gang the Crips. The Crips, along w/ their rival gang, the Bloods, ruled South Central street life for decades. Ironically, the fate of this brother lies in the hands of an actor turned Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a European immigrant who made millions of dollars in films celebrating violence as a male rites of passage. America, then, is a nation obsessed w/ violence: the hate that hate produced.
Despite his ordeal, or, perhaps, in his response to it, Williams has spent the last 20 years intervening in gang disputes. Along w/ author Barbara Becnel, he's co-written a children's book series, "Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence." One of his books won national honors. Last year he helped broker peace agreements between Bloods & Crips in California & New Jersey. More than 70,000 people have sent e-mails to www.SaveTookie.org. Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx sensitively portrayed Williams in the cable TV film, "Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story."
His supporters, among them Jim Brown, Snoop Dogg, Danny Glover & Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have nominated Williams for the Nobel Peace Prize. Recently, Governor Schwarzenegger told reporters he is "dreading" the decision to end or extend the life of the atoned brother, who currently survives in a six by ten foot cell. The San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial calling on the Governor to grant him clemency. Todd Chretien of the 'Campaign to End the Death Penalty,' says, "there is no reason on earth to kill him & every reason to keep him alive."
I've never believed in the death penalty. As the descendant of enslaved Africans, the emotional & psychological residue of post traumatic slave syndrome haunts my wounded psyche. As a Black man in America, I suffer the oppression of white supremacy daily. As a same gender-loving brother, I've been rejected by community, family, religion & society. As a recovering drug addict living w/ AIDS, I know isolation on an intimate level: we are imprisoned by our own minds & condemned by our own guilt.
Life has a way of somehow getting your undivided attention, whether you like it or not. My 97-year old great grandmother used to tell me when I was little, "nobody gets through this world unscathed." My mother once told me, "God don't make mistakes." In one of his books, Williams poignantly writes, "don't join a gang. You won't find what you're looking for. All you will find is trouble, pain & sadness. I know. I did." In my 45 years or so on the planet, I've learned, as has Williams, to heal: healing is the natural tendency to restore balance when it is lost. Am I my brother's keeper? Yes. Let Tookie live.
Friday, November 25, 2005
I was concerned about the transition from cartoon to cable, but McGruder has a capable team working on his behalf, including Reginald Hudlin, who serves as Executive Producer. The beautiful, hard-working, smart & talented actress Regina King is the unlikely voice of Huey & Riley. Some folks might recognize actor & comedian John Witherspoon as the voice of Grandad. McGruder said the first season will primarily feature these three characters, as others will be introduced slowly over a period of time.
One of the things which struck me while watching the show was the raucous language. The debut used the 'n' word an inordinate amount. Webster's Dictionary decided to take the word out of the dictionary, due to pressure from community-based & civil rights groups who've voiced their rage towards the word's historical degradation of Black people. I was alarmed to hear the kids using the word, though not necessarily offended.
What I particularly appreciate about McGruder, however, is his willingness to challenge pop culture & other socio-economic issues from a cultural context, which serves to educate, inform & affirm the Black community. Huey, Riley & Grandad have been critical of the Bush administration, including Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice & Dick Cheney. They've also taken on the likes of Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Kobe Bryant & Michael Jackson. The show basically leaves no stones unturned.
The Cartoon Network has a new (at least to me) level of programming, known as 'Adult Swim,' which features a variety of cartoons offering viewers ethnic diversity in a historically lily-white field. I've yet to view any other of their shows - I'm just not interested in cartoons or sci-fi shows. I'm 45 years old, you know? In speaking to others, I find their level of intrigue varies from wonder to why.
Lately, the cartoon strip has focused on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the 'Bird Flu' & 50 Cent's new semi-autobio film, "Get Rich or Die Tryin." I love the irreverence of Huey & Riley, as well as their Grandad's seemingly oblivion to how these conflicting forces compete for our attention, money & soul. I get a chuckle every day. My intentions are to support "The Boondocks" each week. Its clear McGruder is a man of integrity who loves Black people enough to speak truth to power. I hope his audience will write the station to let them know how we feel about the show: good, bad or indifferent.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Bloomberg is a billionaire businessman. Money talks. He paid for his campaign using his own money. I ain't mad at him. My quarrel rests w/ the so-called democratic process, which, in a capitalistic society, champions wealth, elevates class & ignores race. Ferrer didn't have a chance, because he didn't take care of his side of the street. As a result, we've seen four successive Republican victors on Election Day.
Ferrer has over 20 years of public service, a record even Bloomberg can't pay for. Latino New Yorkers outnumbered Black New Yorkers in the last U.S. Census, 29 to 26 percent. So much for the old 'minority' myth. Ferrer had an opportunity to seize the moment by developing a grass-roots coalition, but was unable to establish a clear political message that resonated w/ regular, working-class folk.
A number of issues unique to the Black & Latino community - high infant mortality rates, HIV/AIDS prevalence, illiteracy, mental health & unemployment - were ignored. Ferrer's Democratic primary opponents seemed to support him, as well as the Democratic Party, by default. At the eleventh hour, we'd see C. Virginia Fields, Gifford Miller & Anthony Wiener by his side. He would also get a nod from former NYC Mayor David Dinkins, former President Bill Clinton & former Presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton. Yet, these efforts never registered w/ the people.
I'm not sure what Ferrer's marketing strategy entailed, or if he had one. He certainly could've spiced things up a bit (no Big Pun intended), using his ethnicity to mobilize Latinos, who seem to be captivated by economic opportunities offered by Republican Party candidates. Personality politics often sway voters' minds, so you'd think Ferrer would've taken to the streets of 'El Barrio' for community-based guidance & direction, right? I was expecting him to speak a little Spanish, but...
...all he could talk about was "we need affordable housing in this city." He sounded like a bootleg CD.
Ferrer didn't mobilize folks around the Hurricane Katrina disaster, as it related to the disenfranchised, low-income & working poor citizens of Alabama, Louisiana & Mississippi. He didn't offer support for the historic Millions More Movement. He was eerily silent around the recent Iraq War rally outside of the White House. Hell, he didn't even let us know what he thought about All-Pro wide receiver Terrel Owens' ongoing feud w/ the Philadelphia Eagles. Frankly, I've seen more fire from a crack pipe.
Meanwhile Bloomberg, a savvy politician, aligned himself w/ the Black Church. In fact, he doubled his share of the Black vote from four years ago, persuading 46 percent of Black folks to pull his lever. I think by running on three different parties his visibility was enhanced. Bloomberg was supported by several major unions. He's made numerous deals w/ real estate developers, resulting in Harlem's gentrification makeover. Most importantly, weeks before the election, he orchestrated winning contracts w/ firemen, police officers, sanitation workers & teachers. And, he got bank.
A number of community analyzers suggested part of the problem w/ Black & Latino voting communities has to do w/ our narrow-minded approach. For many of us, historically, elections are basically a one-shot deal. We neither plan well, nor hold our officials accountable before, during & after the process. Nearly six out of ten folks in NYC are Black & Brown, yet we are not united as a people. Marcus Garvey said, "people who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." When P. Diddy got involved in the last Presidential election w/ his 'Vote Or Die', celebrity-charged effort, some of our youth answered the call.
Today, the current line to our political & economic salvation is either broken, disconnected, or on hold.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
McMillan admitted (on the show) she met Jonathan Plummer, a Jamaican native 20 years her junior, while vacationing in Jamaica. She caught him gazing at her while having breakfast one morning. At some point, a conversation developed, she fell in lust & asked him to have sex w/ her. Does this sound like a novel?
The critically acclaimed author of love & relationship books like "Disapperaring Acts", "Mama", & "Waiting To Exhale", McMillan's 1996 novel, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back", captured the fancy of Black women everywhere. The book later hit the silver screen - to mixed reviews - w/ Academy Award nominated actress Angela Bassett in the starring role.
Most folks assumed the book & the film articulated McMillan's real life, because she eventually married Plummer (three years later). McMillan said the book was written before they were married, in order to "give herself permission to have an affair w/ a younger man." The two were married for six and a half years. They both agreed the first four years were full of good times. McMillan found Plummer a capable & satisfying lover, surprised any (!) man had his particular skills. But during the last two years of their union, Plummer 'awakened' to his same sex desire, which, apparently, led to a bitter & nasty divorce.
Before Plummer joined the two women on camera, Oprah asked McMillan, who seemed anxiety-riddled throughout the whole show, did she "see any signs of him being gay." McMillan said, "he's not the most masculine man in the world...he spends more time in the mirror than I do...he's narcissistic." Still, his desire to love another man was NEVER affirmed. Why? From the start, Plummer's character was framed by having or hiding a gay identity. And we all know how Oprah loves gay men...
McMillan suspected Plummer had been having sex w/ other man while they were married, so she took an HIV test, which produced a negative result. The primarily female studio audience clapped thunderously when she admitted this fact. Oprah neither challenged nor questioned her motives. McMillan's fears, whiich are prevalent in today's families, churches & social arenas, feed the media hype which suggests homosexuality is a leading co-factor to HIV.
Plummer, a tall, handsome brother casually dressed in white shirt & jeans, was, at times, playful w/ his ex-wife. He struggled, though, when talking about his oppressive upbringing. Plummer shared the anti-homosexual bias prominent in most Carribean nations, stating, "people look down on you, they think its wrong & nobody wants to be gay." Neither Oprah, nor Dr. Smith affirmed Plummer as he shared his pain. Seemingly frustrated, Oprah - who is not a behavioral scientist, counselor, social worker or therapist - asked, "how can you be 20 years old & not know you are gay?" Did she ask Ellen the same?
Western society assigns, expects & imposes gay identities & politics on homosexual men, regardless of their unique cultural, familial or spiritual background. Plummer shared how (known or perceived) homosexuals in Jamaica are regularly tortured & sometimes killed. Admittedly "confused about my sexuality", his trauma was, again, not affirmed. Initially Oprah conceded to Plummer the challenges inherent in "coming out." Later, she said she knew men who "knew they were gay when they were four", but couldn't understand why Plummer couldn't "just tell the truth."
Oprah's ignorance, insensitivity & internalized racism pissed me off.
Over the years, Oprah has interviewed a number of high-profile gay-identified white men, including singers Boy George, Elton John & George Michael, as well as Olympic Gold Medal diving champion Greg Louganis. Never did she equate their same sex desire w/ negative character traits like dishonesty, greed, infideltiy & mistrust. Though he tried to redeem himself, Plummer's media-induced perception will undoubtedly haunt him, as will the lingering affect on homosexual Black men across the globe.
McMillan, who offered she has "no problems w/ gay men", shared her angry feelings of betrayal & deception. She asserted his unwillingness to identify as gay is "similar to alcoholics who deny they can't handle a few drinks." The couple separated soon after Plummer admitted he was gay. Along the way, she left a number of profanely rageful telephone messages, some of which were heard on the show, fueling a climate of 'gay-o-phobia' in the audience. I suspect they could both benefit from therapy.
Plummer later sued McMillian for an undisclosed amount of money. Both parties shared their stories w/ the press - who profit from Black pain. After Plummer's appearance on 'Good Morning America', his ex-wife went on Tavis Smiley's PBS show the same night, stating, "he's a liar & a sociopath & he's trying to get my money, but he will not get it." Tavis looked dumbfounded, but the audience, watching a clip of her on Oprah, roared w/ approval. Perhaps they empathized w/ her sense of "being victimized by a man who cheats." Even if he's gay.
McMillan publicly accused Plummer of marrying her (primarily) to receive his U.S. citizenship, which he has categorically denied. The immigration laws are inherently racist, yet the issue was never challenged by Oprah, or Dr. Smith. Historically, European immigrants are able to navigate the complex legal & social barriers w/ less drama than their Carribean counterparts. Black & brown immigrants have class issues that ignore race: another social construct Oprah is uncomfortable addressing.
Dr. Smith asked McMillan if she still loved Plummer, who replied, "I love the man I married." Dr. Smith suggested McMillan was somehow "swept away by the fantsay of what a man is." Again, the implication here: a homosexual is not a man - but, a gay man. McMillan reluctantly said though she's "not big on forgiveness, I accept him as he is. I forgive him for being gay, but don't like the way this happenned."
Towards the very end of the show, Oprah, w/ the help of McMillan & the audience, got Plummer to admit he was on the 'DL.' Before she asked him about it, it was clear Plummer - aware of society's assumptions around homosexual activity - didn't want that particuar label attached to him by default. Oprah joked 'it' would be better left for another show, as she looked to the audience to define what 'DL' means. After talking to J.L. King, Oprah has become the world's formeost authority on the 'DL' phenomenon, thereby rendering Dr. Smith's contribution neutral.
Finally, Oprah revealed the titile of McMillan's new book, "The Interruption of Everything." She quickly added, "I loved it so much I bought the movie rights to it & we are now in pre-production." Doesn't that sound like a conflict of interest? Her motives for interviewing the unlikely duo were already suspect. Did this remind anyone of the Clarence Thomas/ Anita Hill spectacle? Clearly, we need honest, open dialogue in the Black community around issues of sexuality. Oprah, despite your best intentions: you got punk'd.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The unemployment rate for Black men in NYC is around 60 percent. HIV transmission rates among Black men who engage in homosexual activity are near 50 percent for that population. Black and Latino men - many of whom are illiterate - comprise nearly 96 percent of the prison population in NYC. Additionally, hepatitis rates outnumber HIV transmission 15 to 1 in NYC prisons. But did you hear Bloomberg, or his Democratic candidate Fernando Ferrer address these issues? Hell no!
Historically, talking about issues involving race and homosexuality incite controversy. When you add HIV you've got a volatile mix. Most politicians, by default, like to keep things safe. Both candidates rant about the need for affordable housing, but how can you pay the rent w/ out a job? I live in Harlem, where the current reality is gentrification, though some folks like to call it 'diversity.' Columbia University students are shacking up four to a room - rents for a one-bedroom apartment are as much as $1,500 a month.
Bloomberg is a millionaire white businessman who wants to run the city like a corporation; a Republican in a widely Democratic city is not unusual. Yet, he's running on both the Independent Party & Liberal Party. Lenora Fulani, a capable & impassioned Black woman who once ran for Mayor as an independent candidate, suggests Black people should vote for Bloomberg - as an independent! But independent from what? He's rich, white, male & heterosexual.
The late Harlem historian & Pan Africanist Dr. John Henrick Clarke, when asked what his thoughts were about white, male politicians on the Liberal Party, answered, "liberated from what?" I agree. When you live w/ white male skin privilege, what are you being liberated from? As I stepped into the voting booth today, I exercised my right & my responsibility to be accountable. As my 97-year old great grandmother used to tell me as a young boy, "let your conscience be your guide."
Ferrer is still hurting from the wounds he's endured for embracing 'New York's finest' when they were acquitted of shooting Ghanaian immigrant Amadou Diallo 41 times. Many people in the Black & Latino community feel betrayed by his NYPD alignment. Though he's been in public service for a number of decades, most recently as Bronx Borough President, Ferrer lacks the courage, passion & vision to deal w/ the varied complexities of NYC daily life.
So often Black people are expected & encpuraged to vote for 'the lesser of two evils.' Why vote for evil in the first place? I hope folks turnout this fall. Last week, NY1 was issuing polls showing Bloomberg ahead by a two to one margin. I hate when the media does that. We live in tough times & folks are ambivalent about politics to begin w/, but when you temper their concerns w/ polls from 700 or so voters, the message becomes diluted & people stay home to watch television.
Which reminds me, if I hurry, I can catch the next episode of MTV's "The Real World."
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Additionally, ESPN 2 has a relatively new sports/talk show - "Cold Pizza" - which comes on way too early (8:00 am) for my taste. This past Thursday, Swoopes was interviewed by their seemingly indifferent female journalist. At one point, the woman said, "there's a perception that most of the women in the WNBA are lesbian, what do you think your coming out will do for other gay or lesbian athletes out there, who might be thinking about coming out?"
Swoopes, dressed in a sleeveless, black turtleneck accentuated by a sparkling silver cross, said, "well, the reason I'm doing this is so I can be free...the stereotypes about female athletes are not true, there are just as many straight female athletes in the WNBA as there are straight men in the NBA." Swoopes went on to say, "I had to sacrifice my happiness for awhile...if people don't want to come out, that's fine, but I want people to know who I am, who I care about, who I show my affection for...I'm tired of pretending."
I was particularly proud of the humilty Swoopes displayed in her interview. She was calm, polite, warm & unapologetic. She admitted it was difficult hiding her authentic self because she knows as an athlete, mother & public figure, "it's (referring to homosexuality) not accepted in our society, but I'm okay w/ that because I'm still the same person, still the same mom & still the same Sheryl." Though not surprised by her courageous revelation, my male supremacy didn't consider being lesbian as her possible reality.
We live in a society which teaches us heterosexuality is the standard way of being, living & loving. Most of the time our attitudes around sexuality are heavily influenced by religious dogma. Like rapper Nas once said, "we fear what we don't understand & hate what we can't conquer." Aware of my same sex desire as a small child, I quickly learned to avoid (male) eye contact, deny my true feelings, lie about my social calendar, monitor my walk, smile when angry & try to please others so they wouldn't hurt me.
None of those damn strategies were effective...
When I shared Swoopes' lesbianism w/ a caring & sensitive hetero male friend, he suggested, "well, its easier for her because she's established." I didn't bother to tell him pain is on both sides of the dollar bill, no matter who you are in this world. Not surprisingly, he assumed being honest about her sexuality would be easier for Swoopes because she got bank. Wrong. Yet, his perspective is fairly common in today's fast paced, I'm busy, we'll talk later society.
After watching Swoopes on "Cold Pizza", I was pumped to go to the newsstand. I want to hear the whole story - not the less than eight-minute piece she offered on cable. I've yet to pick up the ESPN Magazine w/ her in it, though. I will, eventually. For real. You see, my mind is telling me yes but my body is telling me no. Okay, so I'm lazy. But I'd love to interview Sheryl Swoopes one day. Like Bobby & Whitney, we got something in common because I can identify w/ her on an emotional level. Besides, sometimes all people want is the feeling of being listened to, which didn't happen on tv. No wonder I hate cold pizza.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
This year's White Sox are an interesting group, led by their fearless manager, 41 year-old Ozzie Guillen - a shoo-in for AL Manager of the Year. Guillen, a former rookie of the year & all-star, gold glove winning shortstop, keeps his players ready because of his character, energy & spirit. Former players are often most respected by their managers. He made it clear from day one of the spring season to the team's owners: "get me some new horses in here."
What Guillen was referring to was the White Sox woeful staring pitching. Everyone agrees pitching & defense wins championships in baseball. This year, for example, the White Sox staff was at the top of the ERA list. They have six legitimate starters, four of whom won 14 or more games, which rivals the St. Louis Cardinals' often heralded pitching staff.
Jon Garland, Mark Buerhle, Jose Contreras & Freddie Garcia have dominated this year's post season. In fact, coming into the World Series, they were a combined 4-1, w/ an ERA below 2 runs per game. They shut down the Los Angeles Angels, in particlar last year's AL MYP Vladimir Guerrero, who had just one single in over 20 at bats in the AL division series.
Though I remain a Cubs fan at heart, I feel a certain kinship to the Chicago White Sox because I was born in the Windy City. The fierce rivalry between both teams is parallel to other major league franchises boasting two teams in the same sport, such as we have here in New York. In 2000, for example, when NYC hosted what came to be known as the 'Subway Series', emotions ran high from borough to borough.
In last night's game, all of the Astros' hopes were on the shoulder of their Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt, who sported a 3-0 record in the post season. He owned the first four innings, mixing his 97 mile an hour fastball w/ a wicked curve & slider. However, in the fifth inning, the White Sox began to melt Oswalt's heat, as he surrendered five runs on six hits, beginning w/ third baseman Joe Crede's opposite field solo homer.
What I like about the White Sox is they have no superstars, which is refreshing in today's climate of over-priced egos whose individual statistics don't lead to playoff berths or World Series rings. Each player in their lineupis capable of winning the game. What other teams have a man batting in the ninth spot who has 15 HR's and 71 RBI's? Shortstop Jose Uribe - whose agressive bat reminds me of former Pittsburgh Pirate catcher Manny Sanguillen - is an overlooked talent who can only get better w/ experience.
The Astros had numerous opportunities to win the game, especially in the ninth inning, when they had a runner on third base w/ one out. ESPN announcer Harold Reynolds - a man after my own heart - said the ninth inning was the key to the Astros demise. Eventually, the bases were loaded, the results of walks (one intentionally to the dangerous Lance Berkman) from White Sox relievers.
Guillen masterfully used his brilliant bullpen in this game. Orlando Hernandez, a former Yankee star & one of the most versatile pitchers in the league, came in & shut down the next two Astros hitters. He was stellar in one of the White Sox' division series wins over last year's champion Boston Red Sox. 'El Duke' pitched three shutout innings of relief in a game (I forget which one) the Red Sox could've blown open w/ one more hit.
Prior to Hernandez' appearance in the ninth inning, lefty Mark Potts came in to face left-handed hitting Mark Lamb. Potts, whose regular season ERA was 1.87, walked Lamb on five pitches. In game one, the exact matchup was used, but in that game, Potts struck out Lamb to diffuse a potental rally. Also, in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Astros tied the game at five, as Whit Sox reliever Hermanson gave up a double to Jason Lane.
Game four will be played tonight in Houston. Their was some mild controversy yesterday because the Astros have the benefit of openinf or closing their domed stadium as weather dictates. NBC announcers Jack Buck & Tim McCarver pointed out the Astros - who had the best record at home in the majors this year - have a much better record when the dome is closed, than when the dome is open. Seems the powers that be wanted the dome open because the temperature was in the 60's. When asked about the decision to keep the dome open, White Sox manager Guillen simply said, "I don't care."
Last night, I got an e-mail from my youngest sister Tracy, who has caught the White Sox fever along w/ her beautiful young daughter, DaShae. She admits she was not a White Sox fan, but now, she says, she is "hooked." Tracy works for the company who makes the ads & message boards for most Chicago sports teams. As such, she gets free tickets to the games, even the World Series. I guess Glenda, the Good Witch was right, as she handed Dorothy her red slippers reminding her: "there's no place like home."
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
We arrived in New Carrolton, Maryland somewhere around 7:00 am: anxious, excited, hungry, proud, weary. Upon exiting the bus, I began to reflect on my experience at the Million Man March 10 years ago. The first thing I noticed was the level of security deployed - prompted, no doubt, by post 9-11 fear & so-called Bush anti-terrorist activity. As we journeyed toward the U.S. Capitol, we were warmly greeted by the Fruit Of Islam (FOI). Their acknowledgment set the tone for a long & exciting day ahead.
Perhaps because 10 years ago it was a day of atonement, an event specifically focused towards the unity of Black men, the sense, or feeling, of urgency was missing. I was pleased by a large youth turnout. At the outset of his surprisingly short 75 minute presentation, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan noted about 50% of the crowd were young people. In fact, there was a distinct family atmosphere present - several generations - yet the picnic-like crowd was rather subdued, until hip hop artist Wyclef Jean took the stage & proceeded to rock the house, adding much needed energy to the event.
I vividly remember the Million Man March being held on a weekday. I eagerly attended w/ 15 Black & Latino men ranging in age from 25 to 75; activists, educators, volunteers, working class folk; bisexual, heterosexual, same gender-loving; most HIV-positive; some in recovery; Baptist, Christian, Muslim & spiritual brothers joined together through grace. When we reached the mall shortly before 8:00 am, it was announced almost one million men were already accounted for. Brothers from various parts of the world were greeting, hugging & smiling to each other: the love & intimacy was almost surreal.
The next day's Washington Post read: "400, 000 African-American Men March in DC."
Earlier in the week, we were dutifully informed BMX would be included as part of the "tapesty of unity" section of the rally. The MMM intended to showcase our cultural, political & social diversity. Included were various representatives from the Congressional Black Caucus, Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement, NAACP, National Bar Association, National Council of Negro Women, National Urbal League, New Black Panther Party & Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
As Cleo Manago graced the podium - joined by two members of AMASSI, Inc., the California-based, Cultural, Health & Wellness Center he serves as CEO & Founder - we cheered loudly, w/ pride. I listened intently as Cleo graciously thanked Farrakhan for his "seriousness about inclusion amongst all members of the Black family", offering his "perspective as a Black man, a same gender-loving Black man." Again, this was the first time a same gender-loving man of African descent presented at a national Black event.
Manago, dressed in dashiki & jeans, was brilliant, as he spoke to the need for "cultural affirmation courses, mental health & restoration intervention for Black people, because many of us need it." He went on to suggest we need "healing opportunities explicitly acknowledging our diversity, which would include same gender-loving sisters & brothers, non-religious folks, powerul women, people who are differently-abled physically, & others loyal to Black unity, life & success."
As Cleo continued, somebody in the group asked if Keith Boykin is going to speak. Earlier this week, I recieved an e-mail, in the form of a press release, stating a meeting took place between members of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the civil rights organization for LGBT people Boykin heads, along w/ Farrakhan, Willie Wilson, MMM National Director & other MMM organizers. According to the release, Farrakhan - his first time ever meeting w/ openly (!) gay & lesbian Blacks - after the tense 75 minute session, invited Boykin to speak.
Prior to this alleged meeting, an October 6 article in the Houston Voice - reprinted in the Washington Blade - entitled, "Farrakhan said to approve gay speaker for march. Millions More leaders may prefer 'separatist' representative. The article described BMX as a "controversial, all-male New York group that disputes the existence of Black gays." Ray Daniels, an NBJC spokesperson, said BMX was a separatist group that has denounced organizations like NBJC as stooges for the "white power structure."
In fact, just days before the rally, the NBJC offered to the MMM organizers a list of 10 openly gay & lesbian speakers to present, among them Angela Davis, E. Lynn Harris, Me'Shell N'Degeocello & Alice Walker. Ironically, Boykin was not on the list, yet a Washington Blade article reports Wilson blocked Boykin from speaking the day of the rally. Wilson empahatically denies the charge, saying Boykin was never told he'd speak at the rally. Did Boykin try to coerce the MMM into honoring his own agenda?
What I find troubling are recent weblogs of both Boykin & Jasmyne Connick, another NBJC member, who've resorted to 'outing' Black ministers they deem homophobic. A number of entries ask: "Is T.D. Jakes Gay?", "Is Eddie Long Gay?", "Is Willie Wilson Gay?" They're asking for the help of any gay & lesbian folk who have information about the alleged 'gayness' of these ministers.
How will the answer to these questions benefit Black people? And, who cares?
The NBJC is funded by white dollars & no (common) sense. As such, I question the autonomy of the NBJC, whose primary focus is on gay marriage, a class issue which doesn't resonate w/ the average Black homosexual, male or female. Furthermore, the gay white media, like their straight white counterparts, is invested in the destruction of the Black community, regardless of our sexual politics. The whole scenario smells holier than thou from over here - y'all know God don't like ugly.
Additional press reports are suggesting BMX, as an organization, was complicit in the so-called snub of Boykin, in an attempt to polarize the LGBT community. Nothing could be further from the truth. BMX has a solid, 20 -year relationship w/ the Nation of Islam (NOI) as a Black affirming entity. BMX made no demands on the MMM. BMX asked to be included, not as a condition, but as an opportunity to share a perspective in a rational manner amongst the entire Black family in a cultural context. BMX is invested in the transformation of Black life & was committed to attending the event whether or not Cleo Manago- who requested a SGL woman be present - spoke or not.
Are we controversial because we don't allow white people & their gay-identity policis to dictate our agenda? Are we controversial because we're not afraid to speak truth to power? Are we controversial because we are pro-Black, which is media manipulated as anti-white? Had Boykin spoken at the rally, we would've been the first to congratulate him: our mission employs diversity. Seems the MMM was not feeling him.
Finally, the MMM was not about Farrakhan, the NOI, or simply, another march. The MMM is about the liberation, mobilization, transformation & unification of Black people. Why? Black people are suffering all over the world. The disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina exposed a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal system designed to exploit Black people wherever we exist. We need to assume responsibility for the health & wellness of our people. We need to take care of our people. We need to heal. Now.
Frederick Douglass said, "power never conceded anything w/ out a demand, it never has & it never will." Marcus Garvey said, "people who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." James Baldwin said, "your crown has been bought & paid for, all you must do is wear it." I trust this experience serves as (another) wake-up call for the homoseuxal Black community, as well as the community at-large. We need to get our shit together - cause it stinks!
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
The Millions More Movement organizers were under controversy from the start when women shared their displeasure at being left out a decade ago. Since then, there have been similar marches for women, the youth & the family. Julianne Malveaux, a noted Black female economist & integral part of this year's efforts, stated, "how can you expect to fight a war when half of your army is at home with the children?"
The theme of the movement is: "Black is Back." In the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina to poor people in Alabama, Louisiana & Mississippi, organizers are calling upon the best & brightest of Black minds to engineer plans for the liberation, mobilization, transformation & unification of Black people. It is clear George Bush doesn't care for us, a sentiment recently echoed by Grammy-award winning hip hop artist Kanye West.
Cleo Manago is CEO & founder of AMASSI, Inc., a cultural, health & wellness center in Inglewood, California. He is a social architect, deeply invested in Black people affirming themselves. He is widely known for stating, "loving ourselves in our image is its own reward." Many folks are unaware Manago was scheduled to speak at the first March, however due to possible over-booking & time constraints, he didn't make it to the podium. He will make history this weekend, becoming the first Black "sexual minority" representative at a national Black event.
BMX is a Black men's empowement organization, based in Harlem & led by same gender-loving men (SGL) of African descent. Though west coast in origin, BMX has offices in Los Angeles, New York, Oakland/Bay Area, and Johannesburg, South Africa. An important component of the work at BMX includes critical thinking, which involves acknowledging & unlearning anti-Black & anti-homosexual thinking, two primary symptoms of poor self-concept.
The popular weekly gatherings in Harlem draw up to 50 participants. We dialogue, not just w/ SGL men, but also w/ SGL women, our heterosexual brothers & our heterosexual sisters. BMX believes in "putting Black love into practice." Each week we discuss issues relevant to the group, review community concerns & seek solutions to problems which compromise our emotional, physical & spiritual well-being.
This past, Friday, for example, our guest facilitator was Bob Law, New York State Chair of the Millions More Movement (MMM) Planning Committee. Mr. Law, a former radio talk show host ("Night Talk") & longtime community activist, was pleased to announce Manago as the choice of Farrakhan for the historic event. Noting BMX's consistent involvement w/ the MMM, Law captivated our members w/ his passionate dicourse around the need for a "sustained, conscious movement among progressive Black people." He further acknowledged the MMM organizers were "comfortable" w/ our organization.
In addition to Mr. Law, present that evening were a handful of heterosexual male allies who shared their concerns around unity in the Black community. One gentlemen in particular mentioned he was less concerned about whether folks are SGL, then whether they were willing to make a commitment to make the world a better place for Black people. Law, a devout Christian, admitted he personally doesn't approve of homosexuality, but stressed - as did the other heterosexual male - it was more important for Black people to unite in a common fight: white supremacy.
Let us be clear: at BMX we are well aware of the impressions w/ in the Black community suggesting homosexuality is an aberration, an abomination & a scourge. Yet, we know intimately there are diverse ways of being, living & loving: a prime reason we choose to be self-determining. BMX is making history this weekend. We will represent NYC strong at this event & encourage all members of the Black family to join us. Get on the bus!
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Do human beings really care about each other?
Initially, the news media gave us disparate images of helicopters rescuing folks from roof tops, National Guardsmen patrolling the streets, truckers dropping off food, clothing & medical supplies, as well as images of survicors looking defeated, torn & weary, as their property was swept away by torrential winds exceeding 100 miles an hour. Watching the horror unfold on television, one is quickly reminded of the World Trade Center collapsing on September 11, 2001, just four short years ago, the result of terrorist planes crashing into New York City's largest money buildings.
Trying to gather the news is a job in & of itself. There was a time when all we had was ABC, CBS & NBC. America has since made great technological advances, yet we still seem to be unable, or unwilling, to feed the hungry, house the homeless & employ the poor. What really angers me is the blatant disregard for Black life, particularly among the marginalized communities in Alabama, Louisiana & Mississippi.
Five days went by w/ out any assistance for the people in the Gulf. Imagine being permanently dislocated by a natural disater - subsequently going w/ out food, water, medical supplies, soap, toiletries, electricity or adequate shelter. The Superdome became an emergency shelter where safety & sanity were not on the list of priorities. Reports of lootings, rapings & shootings intensified the growing mass hysteria. People who sought to evacuate were asked to remain. Dead bodies & dead animals were everywhere.
When natural disaster strikes, the last thing people want to talk about is race. I contend there is only one race - the human race, but that analogy would simplify a complex problem, a problem most Americans are unwilling to acknowledge as a painful reality. Kanye West was recently quoted as saying, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." I don't think Bush cares much about white folks either, but the fact remains that the images of Black & whites were reflected striking differently as the story unfolded.
Some reporters referred to the survivors of Katrina as 'refugees.' In doing so, their status as American citizens is no longer credible. An article in the Con-stitution specifically states negroes are 3/5 of a human being. But I digress. Black people in the Gulf are portrayed as dangerous, ignorant or useless, while whites were seen as charitable, gracious & powerful. Still, we are expected to come together as one: one nation, under water, indefensible, w/ libel & injustice for all.
I've been attending weekly community forums sponsored by the New York City Chapter of the Millions More Movement. The forums are free, open to the public & held at Abyssinian Baptist Church on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, which was held in Washington DC, October 16, 1995. As a proud participant of that historical event, I'm deeply invested in the lives of Black people.
The Millions More Movement is dedicated to the liberation of Black people. The people in the Gulf States are our family. We are demanding accountabilty from the government, as well as from organizations like the American Red Cross & Salvation Army, who've recieved up to one billion dollars of disaster funds - generally by default - which will probably never make it into the hands of poor Black people traumatized by Katrina. In the spirit of Umoja, Ujima & Ujamma, we will care for our own.
We meet each Tuesday to exchange information, raise awareness & strategize for the upcoming event. I find the meetings transforming, in that we learn the truth about what happens to our people. We share the truth you will never hear on CNN, read in the New York Times or view on the Internet. The Millions More Movement recently loaded up several trucks in downtown Brooklyn w/ food, clothing & medical supplies. Though not covered by the local media, I was delighted by the community's response: three full blocks were lined up w/ goods & services headed to the people.
A town hall meeting is taking place this evening in Queens. A number of people, including NYC Chair Bob Law, will highlight growing news disparities, in addition to letting folks know how they can get involved through grass-roots organizations. Another event will be held Saturday afternoon - also in Queens - a tribute to ABC journalist Gil Noble, a lone beacon on the airwaves for 35 years, to shed light on the darkness surrounding our brothers & sisters.
I serve Black Men's Xchange New York (BMX NY), a Harlem-based, same gender-loving, Black men's empowerment organization. BMX NY is chartering a bus for folks to travel to the event. Round trip tickets are $40. Also, BMX NY is lobbying for Cleo Manago, the social architect & CEO of BMX NY, to speak at the event. Manago was slated to speak at the Million Man March, but due to time constraints & party politics, no doubt, was left off the dais. While we clearly value our voice being heard at this historic event, his presence, unlike that of some gay-identified folks, is not a condition of our investment.
The honorable (Nation of Islam leader) Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated, "the time has come for us to address the social conditions of our people. We cannot wait for others to do for us what we must do for ourselves. Our people are suffering & we need to heal or we will soon perish." Perhaps the wrath of Hurricane Katrina will serve as a wake up call. At the community meeting this week, Bob Law said, "the righteous must stand up against wickedness."
Often in times of great need, people feel overwhelmed, fully burdened w/ the day to day stressors of life on its own terms. Others spring quickly into action, ready, willing & able to do whatever it takes to help by any means necessary. Some people, disconnected from humanity, don't view the tragedy in the Gulf States as 'their problem.' Helping others is one of the greatest aspirations of the human heart. I wonder: do we really care about each other? We all can't do everything, but we all can do something.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
My doctor is a 50-something Latina: progressive, warm & caring. She affirms my pro-active holistic approach to health care. I appreciate her attentiveness. She is an active listener. We communicate well, primarily because there is a level of mutual respect. She knows I'm lazy, yet open-minded to change, even when I (immediately) resist her suggestions.
For example, this afternoon we talked about healthy eating habits. I've gained 20 pounds in the last two months. I've noticed I've been breathing harder, more often the last couple of weeks. While I have asthma & bronchitis, this is something new for me. She asserted a number of conflicting factors may be at play: allergies, anxiety, humidity & my recent weight gain. I was both comforted & relieved by her insight.
She respects my affinity for fried foods - a killer in the Black community - particularly french fries. I got a love jones for french fries & barbecuse sauce! Though I've developed a solid regimen for organic and/or vegetarian dishes, I eat Popeye's Chicken at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. And, there's the occasional trip to the Chinese food joint for gizzards. She suggested I practice harm reduction by peeling off the skin & ordering red beans & rice as a side dish.
She got issues...
You see, the idea was not appealing to me, yet I realize the benefits are practical. Also, she wants me to STOP eating french fries. Forever. Forever? Forever, ever? I need to meditate on that one. How can I eat a turkey burger or veggie burger w/ out my vice? I'm innately rebellious, sometimes to the detriment of my own health it seems. Perhaps I should, once again, re-examine the tumultous relationship between food & my aging body.
I resent having to consider changing my habits. Like a spoiled child, or reality show contestant, I want my cake & prize money too. For a brother who was raised on grease, sugar, pork & chocolate, this is too much work for my brain to register. There must be some common ground here...still, I trust my doctor's experience & integrity. I know she has my best interest at heart.
Maybe a few changes here & there aren't that bad. Change is good for the soul. According to my doctor, I could breathe easier, feel better & save money. This is my health we're talking about, right? Besides, what don't kill you will make you stronger.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
When MTV premiered "The Real World", a show about seven (twenty-something) strangers who would live together for four months - rent free (!) - in a New York City loft, they couldn't have envisioned the ensuing success, or raging obsession, which would follow. The gullible American public would later be introduced to shows like "Survivor", "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy", "College Hill", "The Apprentice", & "The Surreal Life."
Lately, it seems that every run of the mill celebrity is on television. Why? Because nobody wants to deal w/ their OWN reality, that's why! After 9-11, our society has become consumed w/ fear & terror. Perhaps our anxieites are lessened & we feel a little secure when we grab the remote control. Bobby Brown, Gene Simmons & Danny Bonaduce - yes, Danny Bonaduce - are the latest to grace the boob tube w/ half-hour episodes eerily reminiscent of situation-comedies w/ out the laugh tracks. They follow a path led by Nick & Jessica, who inspired Britany & Kevin, which gave us Venus & Serena.
The idea of following these folks around while they shop, eat, drive & sleep is neither interesting nor original, yet some people actually feel 'closer' to their idols when they discover they share the same toiletries. Whatever. I, for one, have had enough. I don't care what they do behind closed doors. This seems like an excuse to invade folks' privacy. I'm sick of reality shows. I'd rather watch Bewitched. But...
Has anybody seen Peaches & Herb?
Friday, August 12, 2005
Already this summer I've seen Regina Belle, Peabo Bryson, Lalah Hathaway, Patti LaBelle, Blue Magic, The Manhattans, The O'Jays - and I'm not done yet. The legendary Chaka Khan & the soulful Brothers Johnson will perform at Wingate Field in Brooklyn on August 15. Bluesman Olu Dara (Nas' father) will be at Marcus Garvey Park on August 18. The Mighty Sparrow & Shaggy headline Caribbean night at Wingate Field on August 22. Motown's own Marvelletes will grace Marcus Garvey Park on August 25.
Usually folks arrive up to 90 minutes early to get good seats, unless you bring your own chair, which I do. Having your own chair handy allows you free access to roam around until someobody tells you to sit down, as only a New Yorker can. Some of the concerts are family-oriented, though adults tend to leave their kids at home, which I appreciate, because some kids don't know how to be still & often forget they are not at home to do as they please.
One of the annoying side effects are the number of local politicains & other elected officials who send their reperesentatives to bombard you with brochures, flyers, palm cards & other literatue begging you to vote for their prospective candidate. I politelty decline to read anout anyone's platform - I come to party & will not be bothered by charts, fundraisers, graphs and/or statistics: its business, not personal.
The New York City Parks & Recreation Department has information detailing free concerts at various parks in each borough. Visit www.cityparksfoundation.org for dates, places and times. Unlike other rowdy events, the atmosphere is generally quite festive - in fact, I've never observed a violent incident. I don't envy the clean up crew, though; people these days are apparently oblivious to the need to preseve the environment. How much energy does it really take to throw garbage in a basket?
We've had a serious heatwave this summer. Even when its 90 or 95 degrees outside, it often feels like its 100 or 105 degrees outside. As such, the weather can be a factor in deciding to catch your favorite artist. Still, I don't let anyone or anything stop me from a free concert - my attitude: if its free, you'll see me. I've had a great time clapping, dancing & singing along to music that touches my heart. I genuinely enjoy watching people, particularly other adults, relax & have a good time w/ each other. The energy is live. The memories are priceless. The songs are timeless. And, the concerts are free.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Anyway, I'm blessed & grateful to be alive. How about that? I've recieved several phone calls & e-mails from family & friends. The love is overflowing, yet their is a trace of sadness when I reflect. Last year at this time, my (then) partner, Miguel & I were waking up to breakfast in bed - my bed - as he showered me w/ cards, flowers, gifts & kisses. He treated me the way the Lion King deserves to be treated. Learn it!
We stopped at a neighborhood shop (in Harlem) & shared a gourmet wrap sandwich. We sat right in the window as he fed me from his hands. Later, we went shopping at Century 21. The weather was warm, I was in love & my heart was overjoyed. Finally, we got dressed in casual chic & he took me downtown to dinner at a classy restaurant. The joint was quiet, candle lit, light music in the background, our seats were reserved: I felt like Cinderella.
But I digress. A year later & no boyfriend in sight. Am I bitter? No. However, my heart still desires the affection, friendship & intimacy of another brother. I continue to live & enjoy life one day at a time. In fact, I feel stronger as an individual. I am quite resillient, if I must say so myself. My relationship w/ God flourishes each day. He is the one providing unconditional loving acceptance, no matter what. Through grace & mercy, I'm happy, joyous & free
Saturday, July 30, 2005
I tend to be introspective. I can be found on any given day deep in thought. I'm aloof, indifferent or standoffish at times - as a coping strategy - however, I'm very passionate about life. Ive always been hard, perhaps too hard, on myself. My standards are important to me, if no one else. As a child I strived for excellence, but when I was punished, I internalized anger, betrayal, resentment & shame. I tried to compensate by becoming a perfectionist: an unattainable goal. The lesson learned was self-forgiveness.
Giving myself a break has not been easy. I expect the best of myself. When I fall short, make mistakes or wander off course, I tend to react emotionally. Today, I'm learning to respond to life: my attitude, my choices, my feelings, my patterns, my responsibilities, etc. My mother tried to impress the significance of patience on me as a yung man. Did I listen? No. I pray for patience, despite my daily worries.
I was at the gym thinking about working out for two & half hours. I laughed at the absurdity. What am I trying to prove? And, for who? I'm no longer obsessed w/ a six pack. I like my body. But what I don't like is feeling as if time is running out on me. I lack energy & motivation more than I care to admit these days. I get tired quicker w/ out doing anything at all! My sex life is null & void. The end seems closer than the beginning.
Nevertheless, I'm determined to try to & enjoy each days as it comes. I remember some time ago a guy saying he lives every days as if it's his last: finally, I understand. You know how you hear something & you want to reject it immediately because it sounds too good to be true? Then you remember somebody saying anything too good to be true, probably IS.
Regardless of how I feel, I'm grateful for each moment God gives me. I have what I need: family, friends, happiness & health. I continue to set goals, but I'm more flexible than my younger years. The urgency is gone. As a result, I can relax a little. I take a mental health day, week or month if I choose to. I do my best & let go of the rest. Besides, so what if I'm lazy? My spiritual condition is most important. As a Black man, I desire to grow old gracefully, like Ossie Davis. So what if I'll never run a marathon? I can still dance my ass off.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
The therapist I saw weekly in Gramercy Park suggested a session w/ a psychiatrist. I dutifully complied, though not happy to talk to, yet another professional about the state of my head. I was given two tests, the answers to which I made up as I went along; I just wanted to go home. After about thirty minutes or so, I was told, in an unemotional tone, I might add, by a man I would never see again (professional test taker?), I have high anxiety & moderate depression. I didn't believe a word he said, in fact, I refused to acknowledge the test results as real.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt...
Mental Illness is stigmatized in the Black community, as well as American society at large, unless you're on Oprah. Though I know plenty of folks thusly wired, in both my personal & professional life, the idea that I, too, might be similarly afflicted terrified me. I remember thinking: why me? Am I being punished by God? What will my parents think about me? How will my friends react? Can I be happy & depressed in the same lifetime? As usual, I have more questions than answers.
I refused to talk to anyone about my dilemma. The annoyingly cheerful psychiatrist quickly suggested a number of medications to "soothe my pain," though she never asked me how I felt about this newfound illness. Empathy my ass. I politely declined, boldly declaring I didn't want to deal w/ the toxic side effects of Western medicine. I can be real self-righteous (read: a bitch) if and/or when the situation calls for it.
Part of my denial was in not understanding my diagnosis as an illness, rather than a personal attack on my character. A sensitive Leo child, I grew up taking everything personally. Even when I smoked weed, folks thought I was paranoid: I defiantly responded, "I'm not paranoid, I'm Black." Whatever. I became closed-minded to new ideas because I didn't trust anyone. I thought depression was a sign of failure. I hate admitting I've been defeated. Being an oppressed Black man in supremacist white America meant competition, not cooperation, which is the African way. Still, I don't like to be wrong.
When depression sets in, I feel a number of conflicting emotions - some of which I'm only now ready to acknowledge & share openly w/ others - emptiness, hopelessness, misery, sadness & unhappiness come quickly to mind, primarily because I'm currently in the midst of my depression: I become anti-social. I don't want to bathe, eat or sleep. I have no sexual appetite. I lack positive energy. I want to escape from reality, but every television show these days IS a reality show! Seems I'm not unique.
James Baldwin said, "we know all there is to know about white people - that is the essential meaning of television." I woke up this morning feeling particularly frustrated, due to my financial unmanageability. I spent $60 on three (long-sleeved) shirts a couple of weeks ago, rationalizing I had to get them since they were on sale. Now I am flat broke, though best selling author Iyanla Vanzant would correct me (!) by saying, " I'm not broke, I'm temporarily out of cash." She got bank, I hate her.
Through grace, I'm not discouraged. I spoke w/ a few people about my feelings & they were all very supportive. Who knew? I'm uncomfortable sharing my pain, regardless of who I'm talking to & what their relationship is w/ me, yet I've learned pain shared is pain lessened. I continue to pray for God's will in my life. I am not alone, no matter how I feel.
The patient therapist - a handsome, young Black heterosexual male - who suggested I see a psychiatrist at the same mental health facility once remarked, "depression is anger w/ out enthusiasm." He told me I needed to explore healthy ways to express my anger, provided I feel safe doing so. As it relates to my emotions, I never felt safe growing up as a child. Just three weeks shy of 45, the time has come to let people know when I'm pissed off! For real.
Watch out New York City, an angry Black man is on the loose! I ain't thugging but I might be bugging.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
You see, I have a weight problem: I can't wait to eat (smile).
I also decided to break the fast by continuing to drink fruit juices & water. I bought some fish cakes, tuna salad & vegetables to eat during the first week. I'm committed to no fast foods for a few weeks (at least for the rest of the month) no matter what (not even Popeye's Chicken). One of the lessons learned when I fast is discipline. I remember blaming my father as an adult for the lack of discipline in my life.
Taking responsibility for my emotional, physical & spiritual well-being is essential to healthy living. I feel good about myself when I act in a loving, kind & compassionate manner towards myself. The road from self-destruction to self-determination has been frought w/ plenty of bumps & bruises. My emerging resilliency is stronger than I thought.
Walking down the aisles of the various health food stores in Harlem this past week, I began to ask myself some questions: why can't I eat like this on a regular basis? why do I eat unhealthy food? what will it take for me to discipline myself more often? why do I make excuses for poor food choices? The answers to these & other such questions will come one day at a time. The journey teaches me to be gentle. I don't have to engage in emotional homicide anymore.
As Deepak Chopra says: "the path to God is through constant self-awareness."
Saturday, July 02, 2005
BET offered a tribute - Journeys In Black - chronciling his incredible musical career, which spanned four decades, through interviews, music videos & soundbites. During the poignant special, I was surprised to find out he was in a local group of Harlem singers who performed at the Apollo Theater when he was just 15 years old. At the time, he met longtime friends, musical director Nat Adderley, Jr., backup singers Lisa Fischer & Fonzi Thornton. In fact, Luther & Fonzi performed on the very first Sesame Street television show in October of 1969.
Luther established a lucrative career singing commercial jingles. He recorded memorable tunes for five years, which allowed him to save enough money to move his mother out of the Lower East Side projects in New York City they were raised in. His father, a brilliant singer in his own right, transitioned when Luther was eight. His last big hit, "Dance With My Father", a moving tribute to their relationship, won a Grammy award for best male vocalist in 2004, his fourth such award.
While a freshman student at Western Michigan University, Luther met one of his idols, Dionne Warwick, backstage at a local concert. He would go on to record a few of her songs, chief among them, "A House Is Not A Home", which still stands today as the landmark ballad of the last half century. Later, Luther would meet Warwick's niece, Whitney Houston, an aspiring model at the time. He wrote her a note which said, "you are going to be one of the world's greatest singers one day." She humbly kept the note...
Questions about Luther's sexuality abound to this day. He never married, has no children, nor was publicly linked to any females. In an industry dominated by hyper-masculine, hyper-sexual vocalists (D'Angelo, Joe, Maxwell, Usher), the pressure to conform to heterosexist standards is problematic for men who experience same sex desire. Luther's sensual, soothing & soulful voice has made many a woman lose her mind, yet the idea he might be singing romantically to another man is one some folks are clearly uncomfortable w/, given our society's moral milieu & religous rigidity.
Another rumor permeated the music industry when the singer lost well over 100 pounds in a relatively short time. Some folks assumed he had AIDS, given the current medical hysteria, as well as his model thin frame. Many people believed his so-called homosexualitu was connected to his medical problems, given he'd lost & gain weight a few times. Still, Luther categorically denied the rumors.
His voice is timeless. I will honor Luther Vandross this weekend by playing his songs in my home.
Friday, July 01, 2005
The first time I fasted was for three days. I started at midnight, though I'd just eaten a pint of Haagen Dazs Macadamia Britlle ice cream. I got issues, ok? The idea was to let go of the four basic food groups I'd been raised on: grease, sugar, pork & chocolate. I ate no solid food, drank plenty of liquids & snacked on bananas, grapes & raisins. I felt generally lighthearted, dizzy, disoriented, weak & got headaches on the second day: it was a religous experience.
To celebrate my monumental accomplishment, oblivous to the changes I put my body through, on the fourth day I went to Popeye's Chicken for lunch: I threw up w/ a quickness. I was on the bathroom calling 'Ralph.' I learned a painful lesson that day: ask for help. Oh. You see, my pride gets the best of me sometimes, well, actually most of the time.
I met an interesting Black woman at the (since moved) 24 hour West Side Mart one summer evening while shopping for fruit. I was checking out the cantaloupe & asked her how I'd know if it was ripe or not. She shared her experience w/ me, prompting me to let her know about my fasting challenges. After listening to her calm & serene guidance, I knew God was speaking through her.
Since that evening, I've increased my day count from three to seven to ten to fourteen. I fast twice a year, once in the summer, again during the Kwanzaa season. Last year was the first time I fasted for fourteen consecutive days. During my fast, I received a series of three colonics from the beautiful folks at the Geb Hetep Holistic Health Center in Brooklyn. In fact, the woman who treated me - Yokevid - called me at home Wednesday night to send me an informative e-mail about the do's & dont's of fasting. I've yet to receive it though.
Yokevid was adamant about proper diet, meditaion & r
Monday, June 27, 2005
First, I don't have anything to hide, or prove, w/ my sexuality: I KNOW WHO I AM! Secondly, as one who identifies as same gender-loving, it seems to me that many 'gay-identified' activities are deeply rooted in Euro-American pop culture & socialization: bars, beach parties, clubs, dances, fashion show, etc. I've had my share of partying over the years, and I feel comfortable (primarily) at Club Shelter or Langston's - their music & sound system is par excellence. Finally, I don't get a feeling of pride from being involved in Pride Week, which is too commercial and too white for my proud Black ass.
Folks, seemingly caught up in the pageantry, were asking me: Are you going to the parade? Are you going to march? Are you going to be on a float? I sensed their questons were perfunctory & obligatory: I despise feeling obliged to do anything. A newfound friend left a gleeful message on my machine on my voice mail which said: "happy pride." I thought, damn, another one bites the dust, though I can fully appreciate his sentiments, particularly since this is his first pride clean from alcohol & drugs.
Am I bitter? No. Am I frustrated? Yes. I went down to the village Saturday night to 'hang out', which is something I hadn't done in quite some time. The mood was festive, the children were in rare form, yet I noticed a plethora of younger & younger Black 'gay-identified' effeminate guys dressed in the latest gear: solid & striped Izod shirts, diesel jeans, NIke Uptowns. I felt eerily out of place, uncomfortable w/ the realization I might be perceived as an 'older man.'
Trying to make eye contact w/ men who have same sex desire should be an Olympic sport. All night & well into the morning, I saw the desperate looks on their baby faces - eager to see who was out, eager to be seen in their fashonable attire ("...notice me, notice me, notice me, baby") - nary a trace of pride was evident. In fact, the feeling in the air was one of sheer boredom: all dressed up & nowehere (safe) to go. I overheard a conversation amongst a few young folks who were (obviously tired of) waking up & down Christopher Street, frustrated because their was nothing else (expected) for them to do.
Perhaps we need to affirm our same gender-loving brothers & sisters some other way...
Friday, June 17, 2005
In January, 2002, I quietly bid farewell to my four-year stint at Gay Men of African Descent. I was, quite frankly, relieved. The thought of not having to go to work filled my heart w/ joy. I was able to catch up w/ ER, Law & Order, NYPD Blue & Sportscenter. But what did I do? I joined three community-based organizations to volunteer my sweet & precious time. What was I thinking? Chile, I need Jesus. For real.
Granted, I believe in social responsibility. My parents encouraged me to be active, help others, etc. And, I genuinely love being of service. However, I'm a bit of an extremist: either I'm totally responsible, or I'm totally irresponsible. I decided to let go of a few commitments this week. I feel guilty about it, but like Gloria Gaynor, I will survive, ok? Hopefully, I can learn from this unhealthy pattern of doing too much, too often, too soon.
My compromised immune system needs rest & relaxation. I'll be 45 in August. Someone once told me it's ok to not DO stuff. But do I really believe that? We live in a society that values education, employment, social status & the like. NYC is a major hustle. It seems like no one has time to talk anymore because they are so damn busy: doing what, though? Look, I've got a new DVD to break in. I bought a few bootleg movies a few months ago & have yet to watch them. Why?
Because I'm busy!
Monday, June 13, 2005
A large crowd of onlookers & supporters surrounded the courthouse in an eerily quiet calm mood. Over 32 countries & 2000 journalists were represented. Michael Jackson is an international superstar. As such, his case warranted global attention. The jury, which featured NO Black people, heard testimony over a 14 week period. After a little over seven hours of deliberation, the verdict was announced.
Frankly, I was greatly relieved of the verdict, though I believe Michael's behavior is worthy of immediate mental health support. Jackson publicly admitted there was nothing wrong with an adult sleeping in the same bed of a child. Rev. Al Sharpton was interviewed on CNN minutes after the verdict about Jackson's "inappropriate" remarks. Sharpton reiterated Jackson was charged with child molestation, not having a pajama party.
Perhaps Michael's naivete & sheltered upbringing has clouded his judgment. He has endured emotional & psychological trauma, fueled by the abuse of his father as an adolescent. Jackson has spoken openly about his painful childhood. He became a global superstar at an age when most kids were learning how to ride a bike or shoot a basketball. Apparently, all that glitters ain't gold.
I was happy to see most of his family members present, particularly his father. His mother, in fact, was in court every single day. Noticeably abesent today were Jackie & Marlon. Nonetheless, the Jacksons came together as a family, hopefully dispelling prevailing notions of internal dysfunction. Jackson, like most powerful & successful Black men, has been demonized by the supremacist media. Maybe he has second thoughts on whether or not "it don't matter if you're black or white."
Monday, June 06, 2005
I'm disappointed w/ Miami: the game was in their hands. Their playoff inexperience was evident by the bad fouls, missed free throws & rushed shots. Though I dislike watching them play, I respect Detroit. I admire their poise, tenacity & unselfishness as a team. They play as a unit. No egos, flashy players or superstars reign supreme. The Pistons have an opportunity to repeat. But first they have to get pass the San Antonio Spurs, who many feel will war the crown in 2005.
Shaquille O'Neal has given Miami a boost of energy through his charisma, leadership & superior skill level. Though the Heat lost three key players (Caron Butler, Brian Grant & Lamar Odom) to get O'Neal from the Lakers last summer in a blockbuster trade, the city has embraced him like a king. The "Diesel" has responded by taking the Heat to their first NBA finals appearance in eight years.
In L.A., the tension between O'Neal & Kobe Bryant was thicker than Beyonce's thighs. Under the zen guidance of coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers won three straight titles in 2000, 2001 & 2002. Last year, the Pistons gave them a thoroughly whipped ass in the NBA Finals, which fueled an exodus from Jackson, who admittedly found coaching Kobe to be "difficult."
Kobe & Shaq were never friends, but they managed to put their magnanimous egos aside to get the job done. The Lakers had a losing season this year. At times, they resembled a division two college team. I was not surprised by their poor showing. In fact, many folks blame Kobe for their woes, citing his aloof & indifferent personality, in addition to his inability to make his teammates better players.
An NBA junkie, I'll watch the NBA Finals w/ chagrin. Detroit & San Antonio are boring as hell to watch. I don't like half-court basketball. I wanted the phoenix Suns to play Miami for the championship, but the Spurs' tenacious defense was too much for the young guns in Arizona. Steve Nash won the league's MVP. Amare Stoudemire averaged over 35 points in the Western Finals series. Shawn Marion was superb.
And, Jimmy Jackson is fine...but that's not why I watch the game. I'm an athlete who appreciates healthy competition. Despite the players' astronomical salaries, owners' slave like mentality & soaring ticket prices I love NBA basketball. Thank God for cable. Perhaps I will consider getting the league pass next year. I have to learn how to save money before that happens.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Seriously folks, I'm excited about the opportunity to finally (!) create, discover, express, learn, re-learn, struggle & try something new in the ever expanding global community. Who knows where my heart will lead? I'm addictted to certainty; as such, I trust God will bless me in this endeavor. Still, the idea of maintaining this site is overhelming: at the age of 44, I don't want to grow up, I'm a toys r' us kid.
I'm so lazy I don't want to get up to use the bathroom. But don't get it twisted, I don't pee on myself. Not as an adult. As a child I had a serious bed-wetting problem which traumatized me fiercely. I'd wake up in a puddle of piss each morning, probably from drinking milk at three o'clock in the morning (don't ask), only to find myself too ashamed to do something as simple as take a bath or shower.
Is this too much information for an opening post?
Anyway, some of my brothers & sisters, a few of whom shared the same embarassing trait, would laugh at me. A deeply sensitive child, I felt humiliated. We lived across the street from the school we attended as kids, yet I was late for school EVERY DAY. When I got to school, the taunting continued, lowering my tenuous self-esteem. Some years ago, during an Oprah show featuring Iyanla Vanzant - one of my favorite people - she mentioned anger shows up in being late, and, the need to be right.
Damn, damn, damn...