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, 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.