i am

My photo
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, December 25, 2006

Rally For Sean Bell: Justice or Just Us?

This past Thursday afternoon, December 21, 2006, I attended a rally for Sean Bell, the 23 year-old African-descended male who was brutally murdered by the NYPD in his Queens hometown in late November of this year. Bell was engaged to be married & his fiancee is carrying his child, a child who'll never experience the love of his father. Two of his best friends were also shot & subsequently hospitalized that fateful day, as the men were coming from a nightclub the police were apparently staking out.

The rally, one of several this month, was strategically held in front of the Chase Building in the Wall Street area of New York City. At a press conference, attorney Roger Wareham laid out for us all the role JP Morgan Chase has played in the enslavement of African people since their inception. In fact, an African-descended female attorney in Washington, DC is suing a number of corporations - chief among them JP Morgan Chase - for reparations, as they've capitalized on the dehumanization, exploitation & unpaid labor of African people.

I arrived early & spotted some other folks who were looking for the designated gathering place. When we saw the huge red, green & black flag defiantly being waved in the area, we knew we were in the right place. A small, yet diverse trickle of folks carrying banners, holding placards & waving signs assembled peacefully. There was a plethora of media people emerging. I was struck by the large contingent of new york's finest: cops were everywhere; someone mentioned snipers were seen on the roof of an adjacent building. I looked up & saw helicopters swirling around, yet I was excited to be among my people. I felt a sense of belonging. I was at the right place for the right reason. We wanted justice for our fallen brotha.

Sean Bell was shot 50 times. One of the cops shot him 31 times & reloaded (!) his gun in the process. I'd like to know what purpose did 50 shots serve? My understanding of the law states three shots are sufficient when trying to apprehend a suspected criminal. But neither Bell nor his two buddies are criminals & they had no drugs, guns or weapons in their possession. It was later reported the alcohol level of Bell was twice above the legal drinking limit for a driver. Also, the officers, who claim they identified themselves before shooting, something both of Bell's friends categorically deny, had two alcoholic drinks as well, which the law allows for, even in the course of duty.

Historically, the relationship between young, Black men & the NYPD is corrupted by anxiety, fear, mistrust, rage & violence. When we think of Bell, immediately the names of Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Peter Desmond & Timothy Griffith come to mind. White police officers in NYC do not get indicted or prosecuted for the shooting and/or killing of young, African-descended men. Some of them have actually received promotions for their work in the new age of terrorism. One need not take a bar exam to conclude our lives are not valued in this society.

The prevailing attitudes of the NYPD has enraged our community. Yet, despite the extra police in the subway or on the street, many of us don't feel safe in our own neighborhoods. Our sense, or lack thereof, of outrage leaves much to be desired. Hundreds of folks showed up for the two hour, thirty minute rally. Our goal was to shut Wall Street down. Why? NYC is the money capital of the world: money talks & bullshit walks. As abolitionist/freedom frighter Frederick Douglass noted, "power never conceded anything without a demand...it never has & it never will." Again, we demand justice, the indictment & prosecution of the officers who shot the three men, as well as the firing of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly & his Deputy Manager.

Interestingly enough, at a press conference during the night of the deadly shooting, Mayor Michael Bloomberg admitted the officers' behavior was "excessive," though he later tried to recant his candor by saying "we have to wait until all of the facts are in." When public officials are at odds in the media, especially when race is involved, the tension raises the ire of an already traumatized community. In the interim, the NYPD unsuccessfully tried to justify their killing by seeking a "fourth party witness." There was no fourth man. Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron fiery stated at the rally's press conference, "we are sick & tired of our young men being killed...so don't blame me when our people don't act non-violent anymore."

I met a spirited 62 year-old African-descended man who told me he's been "marching in the streets since the days of Selma & trust me, I've seen it all." He proudly shared a few stories with me throughout the day. I listened intently, because I was raised, unlike many in the current generation, to respect my elders. People from all walks of life participated, though the rally was primarily made up of African-descended people. Another rally is being planned for the afternoon of Monday, January 29, 2007 in front of the United Nations Building. I intend to be there. What happenned to Sean Bell could happen to me. As one of my childhood heroes Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., prophetically once said, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This Writer's Block: Real or Imagined?

Its been nearly two months (sigh) since I've written in my blog. There have been a number of interesting & provocative subjects to ponder, yet my ongoing depression got me shook, much like Mobb Deep - who are down with the 50 Cent/G-Unit crew - though not for the same reason. I feel guilty for not doing that which brings me great joy. I'm still very passionate about the written word. I just don't have the energy to write about anything.

Last week I was inspired to write a poem about the death of Michael Sandy, a Black, gay male interior designer who was hit by a car, in addition to being robbed & assaulted in Brooklyn by four white teenagers in the midst of a homosexual encounter gone astray. I was duly inspired by the New York Mets & the New York Yankees, who tied for the best record in the majors this summer, yet didn't advance to the current World Series, tied at a game apiece between two Midwestern ballclubs, the Detroit Tigers & the St. Louis Cardinals.

When the media reported that enigmatic Dallas Cowboys wide reciever Terrell Owens attempted suicide by overdosing on painkillers, I wanted to express my empathy for him & outrage towards the racist press who sought to further demonize a rich, successful Black male athlete - clearly troubled - without exploring and/or trying to understand the exact nature of how his depression, mistrust of others & valued privacy affects his decision making.

I thought about critiquing the powerful independent thriller, Shadowboxer, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Helen Mirren. The film was directed by Lee Daniels, a Black, gay male who won critical acclaim after Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win an Oscar for best actress in Monster's Ball, his directorial debut. I wanted to write about the shocking revelations of former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Pat Tillman's death, at the unsuspecting, albeit innocent, hands of his army peers, though Tillman has been decorated in the media as a hero for serving his country.

Last week I received a letter informing me of a recent New York State audit of city use of AIDS enhanced housing rental assistance funds. As a result of this audit, there will be an increase in the amount of money clients pay toward rent & a decrease in the amount of money clients are allowed to keep. Apparently, the goal is to bring HASA benefits in line with New York State standards for public assistance. What's the 411? If you currently receive SSI, SSD, Veteran's Benefits or are employed, you can ONLY retain $330.00 per month for food, clothing, transportation & other items. How do I feel? These muhfuhs are crazy!

Anyway, I feel better making an attempt, feeble though it may be, to get the creative juices flowing once again. Truth is, I feel stagnant professionally. I was offered a unique opportunity to write an article in the November edition of ESSENCE, but the fashion editor changed her mind & did it herself. I hate her. My current editor at POZ Magazine keeps giving me the run around about supporting a new column from me. I hate him. Saving money is not happening in this lifetime. My periodic dates with men are nothing to write home about. I will never see the age of 45. One of my nieces is seven months pregnant (for the first time in her life) & I've yet to call & see how she's handling this responsibility at the tender age of 19. In fact, today is her earth day. Perhaps I will call her before the day is over.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An Ode To Dana Rose

Last week I received word from a former co-worker about the recent transition of Rev. Dana Rose. Rev. Rose, or 'miss Dana' if you're nasty, was one of the most compassionate hue-man beings I've ever known. He was Black, male & homosexual, giving service wth a smile (sometimes shade) wherever he went. I'd see him periodically walking alone in various parts of NYC & woud stop to chat for a moment. I hadn't talked to him in years, but was aware he was suffering from diabetes, as he was losing sight in one of his eyes. I understand some members of ADODI & GMAD are planning a homecoming for him, one I intend to be present to.

I met Dana at a bereavement group in the fall of '96. He served as facilitator, though worked in many counseling capacities at the, then, Lesbian & Gay Center on West 13th Street in the village. The name has been changed to access bisexuals & transgenders, as well as engendering power to women, thus the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Services Center. But I digress.

On April 12, 1996, my longtime partrner of nearly 18 years, Bernard Brown, died of the disease of addiction in Chicago, my hometown. I was much too distraught to attend the funeral. In fact, I was rather numb for months. My therapist suggested I seek group counseling to heal. When it comes to dealing with pain, apathy & denial are part of my history. I finally decided to go because the pain of not going was uncomfortable.

Initially there were 15 folks in the eight-week group. After a few weeks, as usually is the case with support groups of any kind, the number dwindled down to a core group of eight or nine. Folks were grieving the loss of their parents, friends & animals. We bonded quickly, primarily because of Dana, whose love, respect & sensitivity centered us. He utilized spiritual principles in a non-traditional setting, as well as art, dance, gospel music & poetry. Dana affirmed our loss when we shared our pain, imparting wisdom I've never forgotten, "healing can only take place in community, it can never take place in isolation."

The universe is a better place because of the spirit of Rev. Dana Rose.

Rev. Rose is a beloved member of ADODI, a group celebrating 20 years (this summer) of serving African descended men who experience same sex desire. He's worked with various community-based & nonprofit organizations in NYC, NJ, Philadelphia & Washington, DC such as CHOICES, GMAD, Harlem United, POCC, SAGE & Us Helping Us. Rev. Rose was everywhere anyone needed him. His humility, integrity & kindness are rare qualities in a society obsessed with looking good than feeling good. I am a better hue-man being as a result of our evolving relationship, one that transcended the profession to the person.

When he walked into the room, we would just look at each other & crack up. Dana has that old school soul, but every now & then he'd cut up on somebody in a light, non-malicious way. I remember working at the old GMAD office on West 14th Street during a Friday Night Forum, when he whispered into my ear after someone came in late, "who that bitch think she he is?" I knew he intended no harm, but my stomach was in knots because it was a line you'd usually hear from an aunt or grandmother. He'd make me laugh & not feel guilty about it. I loved that about him.

Dana embraced his masculine & feminine energy in a non-pretentious, refreshing way. He wasn't bound by racist, Western social constructs as many folks are today. He was a Yoruba priest, immersed in West African customs & traditions. He became the first openly gay - a term I don't like - Archdiocese of New Jersey at a church whose name I don't recall because I got CRS (can't remember shit, that's my story & I'm sticking to it, ok?). But he was not one to impose his will on others. He was comfortable in his/her skin, though some makeup would've truly sufficed, chile.

I loved me some Dana Rose. He affirmed my sexuality, inspired my creativity & nurtured my inner child, especially when the little boy would start acting out. Dana would say, "don't start none, won't be none." Whenever I'd get short with him, he'd go Jill Scott on me, pretending to take off his earrings, put down his purse & pour on the vaseline - as only a Black woman from the 'hood would do. We would start swinging in the air at each other, channeling the little girls inside of us & folks would be like, what is wrong with these two? But that's how free he made me feel. Free to be all of me, not my representative.

Deepak Chopra once said, "healing is the natural tendency to restore balance when it is lost." Though I recently turned 46 years old, I'm still healing old wounds. I'm eternally grateful to the God of my understanding for placing miss Dana in my path. We were, indeed, kindred spirits. We understood each other. He had the courage to care. I respect him for caring. His heart was illuminating. His intelligence was stimulating. His trust was breathtaking. The energy of Rev. Dana Rose is divinely inspired. He was fierce!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Is There Intimacy On The Internet?

A wise woman once said, "God speaks to us in whispers." After careful consideration & spiritual reflection, I've decided to delete my profile on www.Adam4Adam.com. I joined in late January of this year for professional reasons, though my innate curiosity & desire to co-habitate got the best of me. I was facilitating a gathering in Harlem around men on the 'DL,' yet didn't know where or how to attract men who would be honest enough to share their emotions & experiences, let alone get them to understand it was a safe place.

The response was amazing, yet the number of booty calls got me shook. Was I flattered? Yeah, however my intention was to remain focused on work & not play. Most of the guys who responded never showed up, still, we had an interesting evening of stimulating dialogue among other SGL & gay-identified brothas. For example, the notion of being on the 'DL' was expanded in that many brothas are not open about their sexuality with family members, co-workers, neighbors, etc. But I digress.

I started to notice a disturbing trend with folks' profiles. When listing their likes & preferences, it seemed they had conditions, not invitations. I began to wonder: is there intimacy on the Internet? If God wakes me up, I'll be 46 this coming Sunday. I've met some interesting brothas online, as well as a few who need Jesus (smile). Typing words on a computer in the wee hours of the morning - or the middle of the day, for that matter - without the emotional investment and/or spiritual authenticity has become an exercise in futility. Alas, the time has come to surrender.

Let me be clear. I'm neither angry nor resentful. I feel optimistic, in fact. I've learned that when I get out of my own way, God's will becomes so apparent all I have to do is just be still & listen. My obsession (read: addiction) was disturbing to say the least. I've had enough of the empty promises, clever messages & unfulfilled fantasies. It finally reached a head a cople of days ago when a guy from DC told me he "would love me...if I just let him." Chile, cheese. I had to laugh at the delusion of it all.

God knows the desires of my heart. He knows my heart desires affection, friendship & intimacy. I got so caught up trying to "hook up' that I forgot where my real source of strength & courage lies. Do I want a man in my bed to cuddle me, hold me, kiss me & passionately make love to me? Hell yeah! I also want that brotha to stay with me & learn who I am. For real. My heart is open for a commitment, nothing less will suffice anymore. I don't want another empty, anonymous sexual encounter. Ever. Does that mean it won't happen? No, it just means that I'm clearer about my intentions & cannot afford to be wishy-washy in my decision making.

Ironically, I've been listening to sexy crooners like D'Angelo, Joe, Maxwell & Usher for the last couple of days. I feel good about my decision. I feel lighter about my decision. I feel relieved about my decision because my heart is precious to me. As fate would have it, I met a beautiful brotha walking down 14th Street Sunday evening. We acknowldged each other gracefully. He turned around, introduced himself & gave me a hug. All I could say was, "you are beautiful." I asked him what his plans were for the rest of the evening & said he was on his way to meet some friends at the SONY Virgin Record Music Store.

Undaunted, I gave him my business card & asked him to call me. He smiled & said, "I'll call you." I've yet to hear from him. One of my shortcomings is impatience. When I don't get what I want when I want it, I feel frustrated. I used to take everything personally; as if it were a sign of personal failure or rejection, but not today. How empty of me to be so full of you? My mother taught me love is patient & love is kind. I love myself today & desire to share my love with one man. Where is he? He is here with me, in my heart, at all times. As long as I remember the only relationship you'll ever have is the one you have with yourself, all is well in my world, whether I'm online or off tha hook.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Miami Heat Wins 2006 NBA Finals

In what was arguably the most competitive & exciting NBA Finals series since the Boston-LA era of the 80's, the Miami Heat emerged victorious over the Dallas Mavericks in game six, 95-92, to win their first, ever championship. Ironically, the Mavericks, led by Coach of the Year, Avery Johnson, had never lost four games in a row this year. Coach Pat Riley, the team's general manager who took over from Stan Van Gundy early in the season, said it best after the team's momentous triumph, "it was our time."

The MVP of the NBA Finals was Heat guard Dwayne Wade, who emerged as a bonafide superstar. Wade averaged over 34 points during the series, third best among players in their first NBA final, behind Rick Barry & Allen Iverson, but ahead of hall of famers Michael Jordan & Jerry West. In his usual humble manner, upon receiving the trophy, he dedicated it to his coaches, teammates & family. Wade, in just his third year with the Heat, was encouraged by another young superstar, LeBron James, after Dallas won the first two games in Dallas rather convincingly. What advice did King James impart? He simply said, "be aggressive, drive to the basket, get to the line & play your game."

Heat center Shaquille O'Neal, who came to Miami in a trade involving several players, was the first to pull the 24 year-old Chi-town native, take him under his wing & set the stage for what has become a changing of the guard between a seasoned veteran & mature youngster. O'Neal has three rings from his three-peat success in LA. He told Wade he expected nothing less than another championship ring or two from the tandem. When O'Neal was not in foul trouble, he was effective. But it was their supporting cast & bench who carried them through adversity.

Starters Udonis Haslem, Antoine Walker & Jayson Williams were steady throughout the series. Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton & James Posey were magnificent off the bench, particularly in the final game, when they rallied from 13 down in the second quarter to take a 49-48 lead into the locker room at halftime in a hostile Dallas environment. In the late 80's, the bad boys of Detroit taught us defense wins championhips. Zoe finished with five blocks & six rebounds, Posey's defense of MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki was outstanding & Payton matched the Dallas guards' intensity when he was on the court.

Riley, affectionately known by his players as 'Riles' spoke highly of "the 15 strong on this team." In fact, in a move which paralelled his '88 title defense as LA head coach, on June 8 he told his team they'd be victorious on June 20: the date they clinched the title. No one expected Miami to get past 2004 NBA Champions & last year's finalist Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference series. But as Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich poignantly remarked after his team - defeating a, then, young Shaq's Orlando Magic squad - repeated in 1995, "never underestimate the heart of a champion."

I enjoyed every game of the finals series. Dallas, severely hampered in game five due to a controversial suspension of Jerry Stackhouse when he gave a hard foul to Shaq in game four, played the opening quarter of game six the way they did the first two games. They passed efficiently, ran when they had an edge, spaced the floor & tore the roof off with their blistering shooting pace. Nowitzki & Terry were big in the first quarter, hitting from all parts of the court, giving Miami little time to set up their excellent team defensive strategies.

As Payton, Posey & Zoe entered the game in the second quarter, those easy shots became harder to fall because the Mavericks' players were looking at fresh feet, long arms & outsretched hands. One of the themes of the series was the many times both teams would go on runs of ten, or twelve unanswered points, only to have a time out stop their flow. Both coaches made adjustments as the game resembled a chess match of athletic ability & tenacious teamwork. In the end, it was the resillience of the Heat, whose uncanny combination of fiery youngsters & mature veterans hit clutch free throws, forced turnovers & induced Nowitzki to a woeful fourth quarter shooting percentage.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Summer Fast and Spiritual Fuel

The time has come for my summer fast, a ritual I began about eight years ago. Though I didn't know what to expect or how I would do it, I believed I could be successful, provided I became willing to make certain sacrifices. As a native Chi-town brotha raised on grease, sugar, pork & chocolate, the idea of going without certain foods for an extended peiord of time initially created anxiety & worry. Still, I was determined to enhance the quality of my emotional, physical & spiritual well-being by simply trying something different.

I remember the first time I tried to fast. My, then, therapist, a spiritual heterosexual woman I respected immensely, suggested fasting for three days. I took her suggestion & proceeded to drink only water, apple juice, orange juice, tomato juice, vegetable juice & lemonade. I ate no solid foods at all, but I snacked on apples, bananas, oranghes & raisins. I experienced headaches, disorientation, fatigue & nausea. After the third day was complete, in a mad rush to reward myself, I went straight to Popeye's Chicken & ordered some chicken, fries & biscuits.

What the hell was I thinking? I immediately threw up the food & had diarrhea. I was in the bathroom, on the floor, calling Ralph, again. Not a pretty picture. Clearly, this was not part of the plan, but I've always been a self-motivated, prideful brotha given to extremes. Looking back, I can only laugh at my mistakes, but I've since learned to do quality research, talk to experienced folks & get help for my personal dietary concerns, goals & needs.

One particular summer I was shopping in my favorite market on 110th & Broadway - which has moved to the upper west side - for cantaloupe. Spirit instructed me to ask the woman in front of me for some guidance. Seems she was also fasting. God is everywhere! She talked to me about preparing for the fast at least one to two weeks in advance, as well as breaking the fast slowly, ideally with salads & steamed vegetables. This patient & pleasant woman was definitely an angel.

As I learned to strive for progress, not perfection, I began to fast for three days, seven days, ten days & even (just once) 14 days. It was suggested not to tak about the fast (with everyone I know), but did I take heed? No. I have a magnanimous ego & wanted everybody to know what I was doing. Sometimes my image is more important than my integrity. Fasting is essentially about caring, discipline, humility, love & self-respect. My body is a temple. I have the personal responsibility of treating my body with compassion.

But how often should I fast? What time of the year would be prudent? What are the real, tangible benefits of fasting? I talked with a friend who says she fasts four times a year. I'm competitive & felt compelled to do what she was doing. However, in order to keep things simple, I ultimately decided to fast twice a year, once in the summer & the other time during the Kwanzaa season, which affirms me culturally.

This summer was no exception - today is day five - but I've developed a nasty cough & sore throat along the way. I went to the health food store in my neighborhood & consulted the clerk, a young Mexican guy, who has been useful to me before. I told him I was snacking (don't ask why) on organic popcorn & he suggested my cough could be traced to the oil in the popcorn. He said I probably have something stuck in my throat, which I experienced with much discomfort yesterday afternoon (!). God is awesome. I bought some organic cough syrup, along with organic cough drops, in addition to a bag of dates, which I've never tried, but he told me about a customer who successfully fasts for ten days on juice & dates.

When I get sick, I'm not a pleasant person. I tend to be irritable, rebellious & sarcastic. Also, I hate the sound of the phone ringing because I resent people who insist on trying to engage me in conversation, or go on & on with their psycho-drama, after I tell them I'm not feeling well. Why do people do that? My mother rasied me to be kind, polite & courteous, so I also tend to let people go on a bit. I've learned to look the world in the eye with neither aggressiveness nor fear. I can still get my spiritual needs met, no matter how I'm feeling or what is going in my life.

I was concerned about eating chicken noodle soup in the middle of my fast, worried I'd throw up again like I did with the Popeye's Chicken many years ago. The attentive young clerk suggested not to eat the soup. Spirit said, get a second opinion. And I did. I called the nurse at my hospital & she said it was ok. I felt relief simply by asking for help. She also suggested drinking some broth, which I already have. I know God is with me while I'm challenged at this moment. I will persevere.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dance With My Surgeon

I awakened to good spirits amidst a beautiful sun on Saturday, April 15. Though not a New York Mets fan, I had two free tickets to their afternoon game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was early, around 10:30 or so in the morning, as I dressed to get ready for the game. While putting on my black & white addidas shoes, I felt an excrutiatingly familiar pain underneath my right knee. No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to straighten out my leg & feared being immobilized - again.

Five years ago the same injury occurred.

When the doorbell rang, I was too embarrassed to hop to the door in order to open it. I suspected it was Greg, the young man I've been mentoring for four years, because I was taking him to the Mets game & asked him to come by at 11:00 am. Still, I didn't want him to see me in pain. Sometimes my image is more important than my integrity. I don't like being vulnerable.

Damn, I thought, I won't be able to take Greg to the game & he'll be disappointed in me: I'm going to let another person down in my life. I felt guilty. useless. As is the case whenever I'm stressed out, I began to worry. I was worried about my part-time job at BMX-NY, the CLIK Magazine publisher who I have to call & subsequently cancel the lead story (my first such writing opportunity) I was working on, the people I asked to do an H&I presentation with on Monday evening on behalf of Narcotics Anonymous, my NA home group which I chair every Wednesday night, my parents, my friends...all this energy flooded my consciousness before I got to the door. I struggled with the fear of the unknown.

Greg was obviously surprised by the look on my face as I opened the door & asked him to dial 911. He obliged as I struggled back to my living room futon to rest my painful leg. They arrived about 20 minutes later, one Black male, one white male, both willing to help me through this ordeal. Unlike many folks in America, I thank God I have adequate health insurance to cover the cost of my ER visit. I was placed in a wheelchair & taken to St. Luke's Hospital on 113th Street east of Amsterdam Avenue. It was difficult for me to accommodate the X-Ray technician, but I did the best I could.

Fortunately, no broken bones were discovered. Through grace, neither was my spirit. I was encouraged to come back for an MRI, given a prescription for Moltrin, two uncomfortable crutches & an orthopedist appointment. I just wanted to go home & lay down. I dreaded all the responsible phone calls & e-mails I needed to make, yet I've learned, as I've gotten older, the world revolves around the sun, not me. In situations like this, what often helps me is a combination of faith & perspective. I continued to pray for God's will as the day wore on, trusting He would see me through, as always.

I've been wanting to write about this ongoing experience for days, but, among other things, I struggle with moderate depression. As such, my energy level & motivation has shifted. Of course, not getting paid at my job or six weeks doesn't help either, but that's another column. When this occurred five years ago, I lacked medical insurance, primarily because I was unwilling to pay the premiums offered by my, then, employer's carrier; also, as the descendant of enslaved Africans, I want reparations. I have a sense of entitlement & feel Medicaid, which was inactive, should pick up the cost, by any means necessary.

Being homebound is no picnic. Every day seemed to drag into the next. I felt miserable & was ashamed to be honest about it with myself, or the many friends who lovingly offered their care & concern each day. I am irritable when dealing with illness. I become aloof, indifferent & sarcastic. I tend to isolate. I don't want to be bothered at all. by nobody. in fact, the sound of the telephone becomes cathedral-like. I'm reminded of the Sammy Davis, Jr. play, "Stop The World I Want To Get Off." Seems I've never outgrown the self-centerdness of the child...

Last Thursday afternoon I returned to St. Luke's Hospital for an MRI. I could've gotten it done the same day as my Tuesday morning orthopedist appointment, but I had to remove my eyebar, which I didn't want to do, because I'm rebellious. What? That's my story & I'm sticking to it, ok? Okay. I tried to take it off with my fingers which didn't work. I tried to cut it off with a pair of scissors which hurt me even more. I was prepared to hop to the tattoo joint on 125th Street near the Apollo Theater, instead, I called my hip lesbian friend Gloria - who has more piercings than Dennis Rodman - asking for the help I knew she could give me. She suggested putting on some rubber gloves to twist the cap off, which worked for me right away. Why didn't I think of that? Whatever.

I had the foresight to ask one of my sponsees to accompany me to the hospital. James was amicable the whole time. I appreciated his willingess to "be there for me." We waited around 30 minutes or so. I was impatient & tense. You hear so many different stories about what does or does not happen. When they called my name, I said the serenity prayer. As I entered the MRI room, heard the various noises & looked at the ominous machine, I began to feel like a visitor to Lost In Space: "danger Will Robinson, danger Will Robinson." Yeah, I watch too much damn tv. been damaged. programmed. traumatized.

I was greeted by a friendly, handsome Latino brotha who smiled brightly at me & assured me everything was going to be alright. Of course, I thought he wanted me, but I think every man does. I got issues, ok? Okay. Anyway, I noticed this thin, rather slinky-looking conveyor belt. I was expected to climb aboard & strap in like a mummy. Oh, hell no! Shaneequa was ready to come out & go ghetto. for real though. But I'm much too spiritual for that these days, so I laid on my back - a familiar position - closed my eyes & prayed to God for His guidance & direction.

The machine moved slower than the local 1 train. I was too afraid to open my eyes, yet being the curious Leo I am, I did & observed most of my body inside the machine & my head outside. I felt trapped, not like R. Kelly, but more like an MTV reality show contestant, if you know what I mean. You don't? Too bad, ok? Okay. A couple of folks, as well as the annoying Black female receptionist (she was popping that gum like it was an instrument) told me the procedure would take 30 minutes or so. Undaunted, I asked papi who said, "no more than 20 minutes, maybe 15, if all goes well."

What did he mean if all goes well?

Anyway, the whole thing took about ten minutes. I was uncomfortable, yet felt eerily safe. Prayer does that for you; well, for me it does. This afternoon I went back for the results & was told I have a miniscus tear, as the orthopedist suggested. I was encouraged to get arthroscopic surgery, which I'm open to. The doctor told me the procedure is painless & takes less than 45 minutes to complete. He said I'd be in & out of the hospital the same day, but I need medical clearance from my primary care physician first. Perhaps all that time spent watching endless episodes of ER will serve me?

What a relief to know what really is happening to me! I'm addicted to certainty. The feeling of uncertainty is not pleasant. To my surprise & delight, I'm not afraid. I've never been hospitalized, or operated on - a source of pride - in my almost 46 years of existence on the planet. My faith in God is stronger than ever before. I have friends who care for me. Though its difficult for me to get around, I'm making swift & steady progress. I'm unable to run for a bus or from my emotions. Instead, I'm going to dance with a surgeon & its all good. You see, the ancestors have taught me well: I will heal, prosper & survive. Ache.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Affirming James

March 10 was the earth day of my younger brother, James. Hard to believe it, though I know we're just two years apart, but he's 43 years old now. Over the past decade, I've made a commitment to recognizing family members' earth days by calling them & communicating with them. Of course, I get frustrated with myself when I forget one person & end up not calling anybody for the whole year. OK. I got issues. And?

I used to be mad at James because he didn't call me. Every time we ended our periodic conversation I'd say, "don't be a stranger." He'd mumble something about making a better effort to call me. Months would go by & no phone call. I felt hurt, neglected, unimportant. Perhaps my expectations are not realistic, given he has a wife & three sons. But I love my younger brother & miss his presence. I haven't seen him since Clinton was in office.

Anyway, since I'm purposely making this a short entry, we had a wonderful conversation. Maybe I'll get a cance to see him before he goes off to South Korea in December. Money is a barrier for me. I invited him to NYC many times,alas, to no avail. I trust we will reunite, as it were, sooner than later. I've always looked to my brother for strength & guidance. His emotional stability is attractive, inspiring & valued.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dave Chapelle on OPRAH: Stress, Success and a Much Needed Rest

An episode of last week's OPRAH was particularly intriguing. Comedian Dave Chappelle - amidst media controversy & speculative rumors suggesting he was smoking crack and/or in a mental institution - sat down w/ Winfrey to set the record straight. This was the first television interview since his self-imposed sabbatical from his award-winning comedy show on the Comedy Network cable channel.

Towards the end of his second season, he was offered a record $50 million contract. But when was the last time a Black male comedian was given THAT kind of money w/ out puppet strings? Malcolm X once suggested a Black man who is not paranoid needs to think again about life in America. As Chappelle aptly noted, "when people give you a lot of money they have a vested interest in controlling you."

Three years ago the Comedy Network toiled in obscurity. Along came a bright, funny, political Black male comic, in the tradition of Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor & Chris Rock, who ultimatelty revived the network in its very first season. The "Chappelle Show," quickly became an underground success. His brash, unapologetic take on class, race & sexuality was embraced across the cultural divide. The ratings for the "Chappelle Show," reached number one amongst all programming on that cable channel.

Chappelle, much like Arsenio Hall, embraced the best of hip hop culture every week. He prominently featured Black affirming artists including Erykah Badu, Common, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, MC Lyte, Outkast, The Roots, Slum Village & Kanye West. Often, when artists would perform on the stage, Chappelle could be seen in the background bopping his head to the funky beats. He offered a sense of community, consciousness & culture that was refreshing.

After the success of the show's first season, a DVD was immediatley released, though producers couldn't have anticipated the type of public support it received. The "Chappelle Show," sold more DVD's than any other show in the history of television, including over one million copies in just eight days! Yeah, I copped the bootleg...but don't hate, appreciate. The network responded with a fat contract which had Chappelle fighting for his sanity & integrity in an industry where the white, power structure expects you to flip like a pancake because you're a Black man geting paid.

The slim, well dressed comedian was visibly uncomfortable on the show. Chappelle constantly adjusted his seat, moving around & speaking methodically about his current plight. Oprah was fair, firm & focused in her questioning. She listened intently as Chappelle painfully struggled w/ sharing the complex nature of his internal war. At one point, Chappelle said he didn't "want the Black community to be disappointed in him," leading Oprah to astutely interject, "you mean, you don't want to be disappointed in yourself." Chappelle remarked, "you're right, Oprah."

Chappelle talked about how a "few of his sketches were funny, but socially irresponsible." His sensitivity was both appreciated & noted by Oprah several times, as she affirmed his emotional turmoil. When she asked him did he lose his mind, he said, "no, I went crazy, not in a bad way, but I was incredibly stressed out...I needed a break, so I went to Africa & didn't tell anyone until I got there."

What I found fascinating was Chappelle's insight into the demonization of the Black male. He understood how white supremacy opportunistically infects the media, instilling fear, greed & mistrust around the very people he needed to produce his brilliant show. Chappelle conceded his show was "difficult to do...there's a lot of work that goes into the show...they wanted to change some things & they were wrong 100 percent of the time."

As for the vicious rumors, Chappelle quickly squashed the drug scandal, saying he "wasn't on drugs & hasn't been for years." He was publicly open about his heavy marijuana use. The primarily white, female audience howled when, after Oprah questiond his mental state, he said, "who leaves America to go to Africa for medical attention?" Finally, when asked if he'd come back, he said he wanted total creative control, a healthy work environment, some fun again, along w/ the opportunity to reward those people who supported his DVD's.

Chappelle wanted to give money to the people in Louisiana victimized by governmental neglect in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Oprah interrupted him by saying, "you're on national tv, you just can't say you want to give money away, folks will be lined up at your door." Chappelle said he "wants to do it, but that doesn't mean I'm going to do it." His generosity, spirit & warmth was evident throughout the entire show. My sense is the next season of the "Chappelle Show," will go through the roof.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Adam4Adam: Love, Lust or Lies?

As a proud member of the Black Men's Xchange-New York (BMX-NY), I facilitate some of our weekly gatherings. BMX-NY is a Harlem-based, Black men's empowerment organization. We regularly discuss issues impacting our lives - as Black men - in an affirming, loving & nurturing environment. BMX-NY employs diversity, critical thinking & cultural affirmation. As such, I was seeking a specific 'type' of man for an upcoming gathering.

The topic was "Brothers Who Love Others And Don't Identifty As Gay." I wanted to explore identity politics, racism & self-determination. But where would I find the 'type' of brothers who'd offer meaning & purpose to this provocatibe dialogue? A trusted friend suggested I go online & look for brothers who are either 'not out,' or, 'on the DL.'

He immediately recommended www.Adam4Adam.com. I've heard some brothers reference this particular site a few times, but never thought about using it for professional reasons. Grateful for his marketing savvy, later that pm, I created a profile, uploaded a photo & signed on. I was surprised to find over 1000 men were online, particularly since it was a weekday pm.

However, as I browsed a few profiles, I noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the men who exclusively sought friendships, also wanted anal sex, cam to cam action, group sex, miscellaneous fetishes and oral sex as well. Is it any wonder the relationships of Black male homosexuals are in such disharmony? Folks lie about what they really want, place unrealistic expectations on themselves & others, in addition to posting pictures of men who don't look like them - I saw Nick Cannon, Tyrese Gibson & Usher! One brother said he was "looking for my soulmate." Perhaps therapy is in order...

Nonetheless, I had a job to do. But I was mad distracted. There was dick & ass all up in my face. What us gon' do, miss Celie, what us gon' do? Okay, I'll admit I got a few booty calls. I ain't mad at nobody either, cause it ain't like brothers is kicking my door down these days. Still, I pride myself on integrity. My father taught me to never get emotionally invloved when I'm doing business. Easy for him to say. He's a senior citizen. I'm 45, cute, drug free, independent, single...oh, I forgot, this was supposed to be about BMX-NY.


The first night I received 15 responses from brothers who'd expressed interest in the gathering. Three days later, 35 men stated they'd consider attending. A few offered to bring a friend. I was pumped. Who knew? To my surprise, however, the powers that be deleted my profile after five days online. Something about "solicitation is forbidden." I won't be able to utilize the site again until Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I got sick & was unable to facilitate the gathering last Friday pm. Though a couple of my peers humbly stepped in on short notice, BMX-NY will revisit this topic periodically. I actually spoke to a few brothers on the phone. They seemed pleased to learn an organization was in Harlem geared towards their emotional & spiritual support. We find dialogue to be a useful tool for healing & empowerment. And sometimes we find just what we need in the process.

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