i am

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Friendship, Religion & Sexuality

I recently ended a nine-year friendship with a heterosexual brotha of Haitian descent, ten years my junior. I was unclear how to handle the situation & ignored his calls for months; in fact, when we talked I was cold, distant & indifferent. Loyalty is important to me & he's a decent hue-man being who supported me in different areas of my life. The experience was painful & I shed many tears, yet I was able to stand on integrity. Our emerging conflict centered around my homosexuality & his interpretation of the Bible, which also led us to address issues of cultural beliefs, family values, gender roles, manhood anxiety & spirituality.

We met at the New York City Parks & Recreation gym on a weekday afternoon at their Asser Levy location in Gramercy Park. The two of us established a respectful vibe, later exchanged numbers & agreed to meet up again at the gym. Through diligent communication, I learned we were both Afrocentric, culturally astute, politically savvy, sports-minded Leos not the least bit gun shy about speaking our mind on a wide variety of social issues. Interestingly enough, what bonded us, from my perspective, were the resentments we harbored towards our fathers: we felt misunderstood, neglected & rejected as kids.

I'm not sure at what point in our friendship I disclosed my sexuality to him, though I believe it was less than six months after we first met. At that point in my life, I was struggling with career aspirations, financial unmanageability, health issues, poor self-concept & spiritual decay. Maya Angelou says, "when you know better, you do better." I didn't have a firm grasp on my purpose in life. I lacked confidence, discipline & vision. Fear & failure had become familiar emotional relatives despite my personality. My insides didn't match my outsides.

When I told him over the phone about my same sex desire, he paused & said, "why should I judge you because that's no reason for me to treat you differently." He later shared how he was raised in Haiti to hate homosexuals - by default, not conscious choice or critical thinking - though our evolving friendship has opened his eyes & helped him see things clearer. I was pleasantly surprised & greatly relieved because I feared rejection & become anxiety-riddled when I know I have to take off the mask of invulnerability.

Through the course of time we've socialized at basketball games, cultural events, dinner & movies, as well as spending quality time at each other's apartment. As our lives changed we spent less time in person than we did on the phone. Unlike me who's on the computer everyday, he could take it or leave it so e-mail was not a regular source of dialogue. He has since become a husband & father: the model of social acceptability in our Judeo-Christian based, Western heterosexual framework. But I'm not bitter...

A couple of years ago he became immersed in organized religion, as a Pentecostal, following in the footsteps of his father, ironically enough, as they've slowly mended their ways & found common ground. I was happy for his newfound calling, yet grew angry & resentful with him constantly quoting scriptures & telling me his God was the only God because the Bible is the word & this is the only way to live, etc. As men, particularly Black men, I felt like we were competing for the cross.

One day he came over to talk to me about what he perceived was my "situation." When, in his mind, did my love for another man become a situation? After telling me yet another Biblical story I didn't want to hear, he gently placed a white cotton handkerchief on my table & told me I could use it whenever I felt like I needed God, or, in his case, Jesus Christ, his Lord & Savior, to forgive me for my sins. Perhaps he believed he was doing his Christian duty, but I was pissed! I felt manipulated, yet wore the mask of passive-aggressiveness because I've always feared confrontation, especially with someone I care about. I was deeply conflicted & didn't know what to do about our troubled friendship.

He knows how I feel about religion & spirituality, yet I don't believe he respects how I feel. I don't believe in Communion, Sin, Satan, the Devil, Heaven, Hell or Judgment Day, among other traditionally held religious beliefs. I don't attend churches, mosques, synagogues or temples for instruction, nor do I read the Bible, Koran or Torah. I have an eclectic approach to spirituality: regular prayer, meditation & yoga work for me, as well as occasionally frequenting faith-based, non-denominational institutions I find affirming to my hue-manity, sexuality & soul, in addition to reading books from people with diverse spiritual thought.

My friend was studying to become a pastor. In my experience, pastors feel threatened by folks who embody cultural, intellectual & spiritual assets historically reserved for their place at the pulpit of power. I kept thinking, your blood is red, your heart is love & your shit stinks just like mine does. But how can we resolve these conflicts? Heterosexual men are expected & encouraged to believe marriage & children are inherently sacred to the prosperity of life & the family unit, yet in today's society, there are different ways of being, living & loving. Does my lack of marriage & children lessen my masculinity, or my useful to the community in which I was birthed?
Is manhood defined by one's gender, sexual identity and/or truth?

Admittedly, I didn't handle the issues of our friendship in a mature manner. This was a very new experience for me. I had absolutely no reference point for this situation. The thought of losing my friend was tearing me apart. I worried about being closed-minded, defiant & selfish. Was I accusing him of doing to me what I was doing to him? I was hurting, in pain & no amount of spiritual awareness could take my pain away.
Still, I needed to make a decision about how to express my love for my friend - as well as my self - without compromising my integrity, losing my dignity & shunning my spiritual foundation.

After engaging in daily prayer & speaking with a few trusted friends, the consensus was if he was unable or unwilling to accept all of who I am, I needed to follow my heart, move on & surrender to the God of my understanding, trusting in God to help me form new relationships with people whose values I share. Nonetheless, like a coward, I ignored his phone calls for several months, which did nothing to ease my guilty conscience, until one evening I received a call on my cell from someone who didn't leave a message. The number looked familiar yet I couldn't place the caller in my head. I was curious & dialed the number.

The number belonged to my friend.

He was hurt, among other reasons, that I only called to see who the number belonged to, as opposed to calling to let him - his friend - know I was okay because he's been concerned about my non-responsiveness to his ongoing calls to me over the last few months. The conversation was awkwardly uncomfortable, sort of like a first date, when you have that pregnant pause & don't know what to say, yet are expected to know exactly what to say: like an adult. I had to swallow my false pride & promptly admit I was wrong for neglecting him in this manner, instead of telling him the truth as I experience it in my heart. I felt like such an idiot.

My friend went on to tell me he didn't know, realize or understand why I felt I was being disrespected, imposed upon & judged. He felt slighted & suggested I was being judgmental because I'm unable or unwilling (!) to accept his newfound religious beliefs. I've stated all along, I respect your beliefs, yet I don't share them. He said he was not going to censor or edit our conversations because by doing so he would not be true to the God of His understanding, which I completely understand. We both stood firm in our hearts & beliefs, unwilling to yield.

Finally, after listening attentively to everything he said, in the spirit of unconditional love, I was ready to surrender quietly & let the God of my understanding take care of me. He offered to be available for me whenever I needed him. He said all I had to do was call & he would be there for me. I cried & cried & cried as he shared his spirit. I cried because I knew I was doing the right thing for the right reason, even though it didn't feel good. A trusted friend recently taught me there are no bad feelings only life lessons. And so it is.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Day With The Dentist

This afternoon I visited my dentist's office to get my teeth cleaned, though you would've thought I was on my to Iraq with my negative attitude. I hate dentists: not the people, just the profession. There must be a different way to deal with teeth. In fact, I'll do a google search to validate my point. A dental appointment is never a pleasant experience, so why am I expected to be polite & smile my way through the entire session? I wanna slap the person who came up with these societal non-virtues. But I digress.

What's really bothering me is the neglect I've had for the care of my teeth since childhood. I was a chronic bedwetter, traumatized to the point of poor hygiene habits. I felt such shame about my body I wouldn't take care of myself before going to school. Of course, I blamed my brothas & sistahs for their mistreatment, yet I was unable and/or unwilling to look at the part I played in the situation. Seems the victim role was my calling as an infant, though I have no Oscar to show for it. Whatever.

Part of my early confusion came with certain family members & folks in my hood saying I have a great smile. As an adult someone once remarked about my smile, "its infectious." But when people constantly abuse you with anti-homosexual epithets you feel neither attractive nor valued. Additionally, the prevailing anti-Black images & perspectives in Western society had me feeling my full mouth - now considered "exotic" in the racist fashion industry - was damaged goods. I remember taking a picture in the seventh grade with a female teacher & purposely closing my mouth to make my lips appear thin. Let's just say I had some serious esteem issues from the jump-off.

I don't recall regular dental visits as a child or teenager. Then again, I smoked a lot of weed so my memory is as reliable as Ronald Reagan's. Oh shit, he be dead. Remember when he testified before Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings & when asked about his role in the war he said "I don't remember" about 150 times? You don't remember? I do. The shit I remember after smoking all that weed...sigh, those were the good ole' days...until crack came along & wiped out our community (not to mention the little room I lived in; my room was so small I had to step outside to sneeze).

Ok, so what does all of this back story have to do with today's dental appointment? Deepak Chopra says, "as long as you are a prisoner of your past, you cannot tell yourself a new story." He be deep. Anyway, understanding the way I react to my current reality helps me accept my struggles & appreciate my successes. As much as I like dislike going to the dentist, I can only benefit from a sane perspective. I pray before I go & meditate while sitting in the chair, which, to me, feels like sitting in a torture chamber, though I've never been in a torture chamber but you get the picture, right? Right?

I've been a reluctant, yet consistent patient at the NYU School of Dentistry on & off for well over a year now. I was impressed by the diversity of their staff. Their student-interns are attentive, courteous & prompt. I like that. If I have to wait for more than an hour I'm ready to bounce. If I have to wait for more than 45 minutes I'm ready to bounce. If I have to wait for more than 30 minutes I'm ready to bounce. Okay, I'm impatient. Damn. I don't like making admissions because they trigger my culturally-induced suspicions. As Dave Chapelle told Oprah, "what's a Black man without his paranoia?"

Dave Chapelle has my vote for President of the United States...

My dentist is a pleasant woman of Indian descent. I like her & feel comforted by her gentle disposition. However, she has an annoying habit of asking me if I'm okay - while in the midst of prodding all sides of my mouth with sharp objects that have me feeling like she's doing arthroscopic surgery. For example, I need major cleaning on all quadrants (its a new word I learned & it makes me feel smart), which requires consistent attendance & diligent aftercare. After she numbed my mouth before injecting me with a shot of lidocaine, she said to me, "are you in pain?" I wanted to say, bitch, do you see a smile on my face? But, unlike Don Imus or Isiah Thomas, I'm not down with misogyny.

The session took nearly 90 minutes in total. A couple of times her supervisor came through to give her guidance & point out shortcomings. Its been several hours later & I still feel sore. I did wait a couple of hours, as she suggested, before eating. I went to the Chinese food joint across the street & ordered some sesame tofu, brown rice & broccoli. I have to go back for ongoing treatment (sigh) in 10 days. I hope I show up. Real talk.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Barry Bonds Becomes All-Time Home Run King

Barry Bonds hit home run number 756 on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park in San Francisco, surpassing Hall-of-Famer slugger Hank Aaron to become the all-time leader. Bonds' incredible miletstone was captured in front of his hometown fans, his family, his friends, godfather Willie Mays, along with a couple of representatives from major league baseball's front office, most notably Vice President of Operations Frank Robinson.

After he stepped on homeplate, Bonds was greeted by one of his sons, a Giant ballboy, as he kissed the sky & looked upward to thank his father, the late Giant superstar Bobby Bonds. The troubled relationship between Bonds & his father - the first player to hit 30 home runs & steal 30 stolen bases in the same season - matured as the latter eventually lost his battle with cancer at age 57. Bonds' beautiful wife, along with his two other kids came out of the stands to later greet him.

Controversry has surrounded Bonds for several years as he's been accused by various media personnel, current & former ballplayers, as well as prominent sportswriters of using peformance-enhancing drugs to augment his game. One of the poignant moments of the evening came minutes after Bonds' homer when the Giants' screen showed Hank Aaron offering his personal congratulations for Bonds' remarkable achievement, legitimizing his struggle for dignity & self-respect with a possibly polarized public. In a recent interview with HBO's Bob Costas, Aaron stated emphatically Bonds has not been "proven guilty of any wrongdoing."

A few years ago, Senator George Mitchell, with the support of Commissioner Bud Selig, led an arduous congressional investigation into illegal steroid use among baseball players. Moreover, former Oakland A's star Jose Canseco - the first player to hit 40 home runs & steal 40 bases in the same season - wrote a scathing best-selling book naming Mark McGuire, Rafael Palmeiro & Sammy Sosa, among many others, along with Bonds as a culprit in what some have labeled his asterisk record.

During the press conference, a relaxed & smiling Bonds was asked if he thought his home run record "was tainted." Bonds responded with frustration, "where did that conversation come from? No, my record is not tainted." In fact, Selig called Bonds after the game to congratulate Bonds, which Bonds publicly acknowledged as a welcome gesture of respect. Selig has been non-commital when asked if he thinks Bonds has broken the law, yet later admitted he hoped there'd be some "resolution after all of the investigation works its way through."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Roger & Venus Make 2007 Wimbledon Championship History

Roger Federer & Venus Williams both entered the record books with their respective 2007 Wimbledon singles titles. World #1 Federer defeated Spain's Rafael Nadal 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-2 to capture his fifth consecutive singles title, tying Bjorn Borg, who won five in a row from 1976-1980. Borg was present at the historic match. Williams, the lowest seeded player to win at Wimbledon, defeated France's Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1 to win her fourth title on the grass, joining Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova & Steffi Graf as the only women with four championships in the open era.

Federer's monumental effort gave him 11 grand slam singles titles, tying him with Borg & Rod Laver for 3rd most, behind Roy Emerson's 12 titles & Pete Sampras' 14 titles (seven at Wimbledon). The win was especially significant because it represented the first time in five years Federer was extended to five sets at the All-England Club. Ironically, Nadal was also chasing history trying to become the only player since Borg to win the French Open & Wimbledon in the same year. Borg achieved the dubious distinction of triumphing from red clay to green grass in three consecutive years, from 1978-1980.

For the second year in a row, Federer & Nadal would go head-to-head for the coveted Wimbledon crown, a rivalry worthy of Borg-McEnroe comparisons from the late 70's & early 80's. Nadal, the 22 year-old three time French Open champion, has improved considerably on grass by beefing up his serve, shortening his service return swing & volleying with the precision of a surgeon. After winning the third set in a tiebreak, Federer seemed poised to win in four sets like he did last year, but the tenacious Nadal broke Federer convincingly in games one & three.

Nadal asked for a trainer after the fifth game, leading four games to one, to tape his left leg. The crowd worried about Nadal's ability to continue effectively when he served game six. Undaunted, Nadal would take the game & the set, 6-2, extending the visibly frustrated Swiss to a fifth set. The entire match was a joy to behold with both players hitting winners from the baseline & the net repeatedly. Federer saved four break points with four aces in his first two service games, before breaking Nadal in game six to take a commanding 4-2 lead. Federer finished with 24 aces en route to his incredible victory.

Venus Williams' father predicted she'd win the tournament at the outset. Though having a sub-par year, this was her sixth final in eight years, an amazing feat rivaled only by the Chicago Bulls' six NBA titles between 1991-1998. In fact, the only woman ever to beat Venus on Wimbledon's famed Centre Court is her sister Serena, who has eight grand slam singles titles in her career. Venus soundly defeated two Russian grand slam singles champions - Maria Sharapova & Svetlana Kuznetsova - before defeating 19 year-old Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in the semifinals.

The surprise French finalist, Bartoli beat #3 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in the quarterfinals & #1 seed Justine Henin to reach her first grand slam final. Despite early understandable jitters, Bartoli played well, using her two-handed groundstrokes to run Venus from side to side. As a kid, Bartoli watched in awe on television as Monica Seles defeated Steffi Graf at Wimbledon & decided she wanted to play professional tennis. Ultimately, she was no match for Venus, who is most comfortable on grass, a long way from the bullet-riddled, drug-infested, hard courts of Compton, California she grew up on as a teenager.

Williams was seeded #23, noticeably three spots lower than #20 Bartoli, breaking her own record set during her 2005 victory over Lindsay Davenport when she was seeded #14. Williams played the entire championship in shorts - the source of some controversy at this traditional, Victorian setting - due to a mixup with her dress sizes. Venus saved two match points in her first round win & was down five games to three in the third set of her third round win. She never lost a set afterwards, making steady progress in each successive round, showing the world what champions are truly made of.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Spurs Sweep Cavs To Win 2007 NBA Title

The San Antonio Spurs swept the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers in impressive fashion to win their fourth NBA title in the last nine years, becoming only the fourth NBA franchise (Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls) to win four championships. The Spurs, an experienced bunch primarily lauded for their incredible defensive prowess, were led by their steadily improving guard, Tony Parker, who was named MVP of the series. In their previous title runs, All-Star center Tim Duncan, who struggled at times during the series, was awarded the MVP trophy.

Before the season began, most experts predicted the Dallas Mavericks, led by Coach of the Year Avery Johnson (who was a former Mavs/Spurs player & assistant of Spurs' coach Greg Popovich) would win their first NBA title, as they closed the season with a franchise record 66 wins. Halfway through the season, it looked as though Dallas had a chance at joining the '96 Chicago Bulls as the second team in NBA history to win 70 games. When Dallas lost in the first round to the spirited Golden State Warriors, the entire playoff series was now ready for the taking.

After winning the first two games at home by more than 20 points each time, many people assumed the young Cavs, in the title game for the first time in their history, would succumb to the magnitude of the moment & simply fold. Cleveland's gifted, young superstar, LeBron James, was determined to prove his team belonged on the world stage, despite their glaring inexperience. In fact, the only player on their team who was in an NBA final was Eric Snow, a veteran guard who came off the bench for defensive measures & leadership skills. Snow was an important starter on the 2000 Philadelphia 76ers squad who lost to the Lakers in their first of three consecutive rings.

Game three was tight from the start. Cleveland led early, yet were unable to sustain the lead as the Spurs mounted a charge in the final few minutes of the second quarter. No matter how energetic the crowd became, San Antonio's deep bench sabotaged the Cavs' supreme efforts at winning game three. Cavalier rookie guard Daniel Gipson came off the bench to score 31 points - including a team record seven field goals from three-point land - however, it was not enough as they lost by three points, largely due to poor free throw shooting. The Cavs' young coach, Mike Brown, who was a former assistant to Spurs coach Greg Popovich, spoke highly of his team in the press conference.

No NBA team has ever come from behind to win a series after losing the first three games. As such, it was a matter of time before the Spurs collected yet another ring. Game four was a highly contested battle. Clevaland's pride was on the line & no team wants to get swept in the championship finals. I was impressed with the poise of the Cavaliers in the final quarter as they rallied from a double digit lead midway through the quarter to tie the game in the final minutes. The Spurs, led by their fiercely unstoppable all-pro guard Parker, held on to become the deserving world champs.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

12 Years of Freedom

on wednesday, may 23, god blessed me with 12 years of freedom from active addiction in the spiritual program known worldwide as narcotics anonymous. the festive celebration took place at my home group - men supporting men - a closed men's meeting which meets at the red door of st. mary's church in harlem, from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm. i was showered with books, cards, flowers, gifts & money. the feeling of unconditional loving acceptance nurtured my spirit as i listened to folks share their experience, strength & hope. i must admit i was uncomfortable receiving high praises fom my friends in the fellowship, yet i'm grateful to na for giving me a new way to live.

it came to my attention slowly over a period of time i owe na a spiritual debt. in fact, on page 212 in 'it works how & why,' our 12th tradition says, "a spiritual experience cannot be bought or sold; it can only be given away." what's the lesson? i can never fully repay na for the life i live today: the fellowship taught me how to get in service...god teaches me how to be of service. i will be in service until god calls me home. as such, i try to serve with a loving & selfless attitude, fully aware of the fallibility of my hue-man condition.

na is a program of prayer & action. we are a fellowship or society of men & women for whom drugs had become a major problem. our program is a set of principles written so simply we can follow them in our daily lives. na is not a drug progam, we are a program of recovery for drug addicts. what makes us addicts is not the drugs, or behavior - we are not morally deficient - what makes us addicts is the disease of addiction. we make meetings regularly to help each other stay clean. recovery is what happens in our meetings. our meetings are a process of hope, identification & sharing.

i attended my very first na meeting june 16, 1994. my life had become unmanageable because i was powerless over my addiction. i was living on public assistance, unemployed & sleeping on the floor of a friend, in denial of my homelessness, after all, he was a friend & i had a key. denial is not just a river in egypt: (d)idn't (e)ven (n)otice (i) (a)m (l)ying. i saw a familiar commercial which resonated with me deeply at that moment earlier in the day. the black & white commercial was shot in the morning in the kitchen as we saw someone turn on a stove & crack a couple of eggs before they put them in a dark skillet. as the person put the eggs in the skillet, the narrator says, "this is drugs...this is your brain on drugs...any questions."

there was an 1-800-cocaine number at the bottom of the screen. though completely engrossed in the grips of my addiction, i had a moment of clarity. a moment of clarity is a moment of sanity. a moment of sanity is a moment with god. i called the number, asked for help & they referred me to the na helpline. i was directed to a meeting in my neighborhood. i arrived alone, scared, not knowing what to expect & was warmly greeted by a young lady who is still my friend today. it was a thursday evening. the meeting is called the convent group, named because of their location on covent avenue in harlem. thru grace & mercy, that meeting later moved to the location where i celebrated 12 years clean!

at the sparsely attended meeting, i was able to identify with the speaker, a man who continues to stay clean, make meetings & is also someone with a special place in my heart. when i sat down, i looked around the room for a familiar face, despite being riddled with embrarassment, shame & terror. i didn't know this was the first day of the rest of my life. they had slogans on the wall that said 'easy does it,' 'keep coming back,' 'let go & let god.' i thought they were crazy. when they passed the basket around i thought they were going to use the money to get high, primarily because the meeting was in a basement, a place where i'd gotten high many different times with many different folks in many different places.

the only reason i raised my hand, said my name & acknowledged i was an addict was because i feared they'd kick me out of the meeting if i didn't do what other people did. i learned fear is a motivator. i was shaking in my seat. while folks were sharing, i dared not make too much eye contact. i didn't trust anyone. most of all i didn't trust myself. i felt ashamed, yet relieved as well, which only heightened my overwhelming confusion. at the end of the 90-minute meeting they gathered in a circle & said the serenity prayer, which was unfamiliar, yet somewhat comforting because we were locked arm in arm. i couldn't remember the last time somebody hugged me. i felt safe.

that was almost 13 years ago. i remember my first na meeting like it was yesterday. it was yesterday. they told me to keep coming back. why? more will be revealed. they said don't leave before the miracle happens. what is the miracle? when the obsession to use drugs is lifted. another member took me to a couple more meetings that night. i told him i'd go only if he bought me a pack of cigarettes. i learned my love & friendship were always conditional. not today. i haven't had a cigarette since 8/15/95. the program works & we do recover! na is a just for today program helping thousands of addicts all over the world find a new way to live. i'm happy, joyous & free.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fasting As a Way of Life

I recently completed a six-day fast. My fast consisted of no solid food. At all. Each day I drank organic juices & water, while snacking on organic nuts & fruits every other day. I've added ten minutes of daily meditation to my daily prayer rituals, which has given me confidence, insight & strength. In the interim I lost 15 pounds, which though not a goal, is a welcome benefit because I've been feeling rather bloated, fatigued & lethargic the last couple of months. I'm so proud of myself!

After reading a book entitled, "Rational Fasting," during the Kwanzza season last year, my perspective on fasting has transformed my existence: the revolution will not be televised, but it can be written. Holla! I've also incorporated some specific strategies to establish, develop & maintain a healthy life. I'm currently working with a holistic health counselor to affirm my ongoing commitment to healing. We'll talk twice a month for an hour, meet monthly for an hour, she's given me some recipes to try out in the kitchen, as well as provided other resources for my body, mind & spirit.

A couple of days ago I created a six month plan for healthy foods. I assessed the foods I eat at home, the places I eat out & the willingness to modify my unhealthy patterns. My doctor recently shared I'm at risk for diabetes & hypertension. Initially I shrugged it off with my false male pride, however the reality began to sink in when my body was wearing down this spring. At 46 & counting, among other illnesses, I live with a compromised immune system. As such, I need to care for my temple with the grace of a mother's touch. In short: I got work to do.

Working out three times a week at a local gym for an hour gives me energy, keeps the blood circulating & alievates the isolation I sometimes experience as a single Black male. Walking in & around the city from time to time gives me an opportunity to see the big apple with my spiritual eye. On some days its nice to just sit in the park, observe nature & watch children play. Playing tennis periodically has been joyful, yet I seem to get exhausted quicker than I prefer. I told my doctor about it, complaining about allergic asthma, but she quickly said I was out of shape.


Eating healthy is fun for me now: something I enjoy rather than endure. Folks impulsively say its expensive to eat healthy, yet they never talk about the price their body pays for incurring preventable illnesses. Besides, it costs money to see a doctor. I've learned to eat small portions as I've matured. My body is never as hungry as I think it is. As much as I devoured fried and/or greasy foods (buffalo wings, french fries, gyros, lamb, polish sausages, i.e.), in the past, I welcome organic & vegetarian dishes just the same. Some of the spiritual principles I practice in order to achieve my goals include courage, discipline, faith, patience & tolerance. I'm grateful for these unexpected lessons of self-love.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Golden State Shocks Dallas in NBA Playoffs' First Round

In one of the most shocking upsets in NBA playoff history, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks, four games to two, in the opening round of the Western Conference series. Dallas was the #1 seed, heralded all year as heirs to the throne amidst their franchise best 67 game win season. At the All-Star break, experts gave them an outside chance of winning 70 games, a feat held only by the 1997 Chicago Bulls, who finished 72-10 en route to their memorable championship year. The Warriors, by comparison, had to win their final regular season game to make the playoffs.

During the regular season, Golden State won all three games in convincing fashion against Dallas, although in their last victory many Maverick starters were benched in order to rest for the first round. I was thrilled to watch each game. Most of the Warriors starters are young, gifted & black. Vice President Chris Mullin brought in Don Nelson to coach this year. He also traded for Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson & Al Harrington over the last two years to solidify an athletic squad that needed toughness to match their confidence. From the tip off the opening game, it was on.

Golden State played with a fearlessnesss I found fascinating. They ran up & down the court like the Phoenix Suns, a team Nelson played against when his Boston Celtics defeated them in a legendary '76 NBA Finals matchup. The Warriors solid team defense against Dirk Nowtitzki - whom many believe will cop his first NBA MVP trophy this year - was masterful. Their outside shooting was incredible, as Jason Richardson, Matt Barnes & Stephen Jackson drained threes with impunity.

Throughout the six game series, it just seemed like Golden State wanted to win, whereas Dallas expected to win. The Warriors were clearly hungry, playing as if they had something to prove: diving for loose balls, helping out on defense, taking charges in the lane; the Mavericks were always a step slower. After losing the first game at home by a lopsided margin, Dallas coach Avery Johnson changed the starting lineup, a point not lost on Hall-of-Famer & current TNT analyst Charles Barkley who openly criticized Johnson for changing a lineup that led them to a season high 67 wins.

We've learned through the bad boy example of the Detroit Pistons during their '89 & '90 title runs that defense wins championships. Also, the playoffs are about making adjustments. Dallas was unable to slow down & stop the torrid pace of the Warriors during the series. Each time the Mavericks went on a run, the Warriors matched their intensity. Many people will blame Nowitzki's lack of leadership & poor shooting for his team's untimely departure. As Barkely said, "when you're a star, if you when, you get all the credit, if you lose, you get all the blame, it's not right or wrong, that's just the way it is."

During the press conference following their game six loss on the road, a disappointed coach Johnson said his team became "jump shot happy," yet he humbly credited the Warriors organization for playing better team ball. Johnson spoke highly of Warriors guard Baron Davis, who was visibly injured in game six, yet showed courage, determination & heart in leading his team to their most important win in a quarter of a century. Golden State will play the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals. Can they repeat their success in the first round? We shall see.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Florida Gators Win Back-to-Back NCAA Titles

Behind arguably the best starting five in college hoops since Duke in '92, the Florida Gators made history by capturing back-to-back NCAA titles with a thrilling 84-75 victory over the resillient Ohio State Buckeyes. The Most Oustanding Player (MOP) of the tournament was Florida's guard/forward Corey Brewer, the most versatile player the league has seen in quite some time. Other standouts were center Al Horford, forward Joakim Noah & three-point shooting sensation, senior guard Lee Humphrey.

Florida coach Billy Donovan, when asked about his team's amazing season, said, "we have to rank right up there with some of the greatest teams in NCAA history." The last school to win back-to-back titles was Duke in '91 & '92, led by Grant Hill, Christian Laettner & Bobby Hurley, along with their heralded coach Mike Kryzezwski. The legendary John Wooden coached UCLA Bruins teams of Lew Alcindor & Bill Walton in the 60's have also won consecutive titles.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this season began when Brewer, Horford, Noah & guard Taurean Green - each of whom have famous athletic fathers - announced their willingness to return to the University of Florida for another year. Each of them were sophomores, driven by the pressure to go pro, make crazy money & receive lucrative endorsements, yet the group of close friends decided to stay & play for history.

After their crushing opening tournament win over Jackson State, Florida was thoroughly challenged by both Butler & Xavier before defeating last year's runner-up, UCLA, in an exciting overtime game. To reach the final game, Ohio State, led by super freshmans guard Mike Conley, Jr. & center Greg Oden, handily defeated North Carolina in overtime, thwarting Roy Williams' bid to take more than one team (in '88 he coached Kansas, led by Danny Manning, to a championship) to the Finals.

Ironically, at a teary-eyed press conference a couple of days after their monumental achievement, seniors Brewer, Green, Horford & Noah - flanked by coach Donovan - each declared their eligibility for the NBA draft in 2007. Donovan was courted by the University of Kentucky to lead their team to the promised land after Tubby Smith stepped down & signed a seven-year contract to coach the University of Minnesota. Donovan decided to stay on in Florida. In lieu of these events, the upcoming season of college basketball looms interesting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Sean Bell Case: What Color is Murder?

Monday, March 19, 2007, three NYPD officers were indicted in the Sean Bell case, sending outrage to the Black & Latino community, as well as other progressive people in NYC, who are brutally murdered, racially profiled & sexually assaulted by New York's finest. Five NYPD officers shot 50 bullets & killed Sean Bell - an unarmed Black male - outside of a Queens nightclub on November 25, 2006, the eve of his wedding. Bell was attending a bachelor party with his best friends, Joseph Guzman & Timothy Bentfield, both of whom were hospitalized after also being wounded by NYPD bullets. The three men were in a car outside the club at the time of the fatal shooting.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown gave the eight-count indictment charging detectives Michael Oliver, who fired 31 shots - at one point reloading his gun - along with Gerard Isona who fired 11 shots, with first-degree & second-degree manslaughter. Detective Marc Cooper, who fired four shots, faces a misdemeanor endangerment charge. The other two officers, who both fired shots, were not indicted, yet have been placed on desk duty along with their supervisor as the investigation continues.

The charges against Isona & Oliver are classified as violent felonies, with mandated jail time if the men are convicted. The maximum time for manslaughter is 25 years. Oliver was also charged with endangerment in connection with a bullet that went through the window of an occupied vehicle. All three officers were suspended without pay. Rev. Al Sharpton, spearheading the movement for justice with Bell's family, was visibly angered by the outcome of the grand jury. At a news conference, Sharpton said the indictment, "falls short of what we want. Clearly, all five officers should be charged; all officers acted in concert."

Grand jurors refused to indict on the more serious counts of second-degree murder & attempted murder, or the charge of criminally negligent homicide. Police have contended the five officers were involved in an undercover investigation at the nightclub when they overheard something leading them to believe the men were going to their car to retrive a gun. Yet, no weapons were found among Bell, Bentfield or Guzman. Two days before the grand jury convened, an anonymous source suggested he thought he saw a "Black male fire one or two shots," before fleeing the scene. The timing of his questionable testimony suspect, he was nonetheless heard by the grand jury.

In 1971, the brilliant author & historian Hoyt Fuller prophetically stated, "if you don't understand White Supremacy (Racism), how it works & what it does, then everything else you understand will only confuse you." I'm angry all five officers were not indicted. I'm angry Commissioner Ray Kelly still has a job. I'm angry Black public officials are silent on this issue. I have no faith in our criminal justice system, aptly named. The NYPD is not above the law. NYPD officers don't kill young, white boys, they kill young black, latino, asian and/or gay men with impunity. We demand justice for Sean Bell! God is watching.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who initially admitted the officers used "excessive force," though is now saying it was a statement made by "a civilian," acknowledged that some people would be disappointed in the grand jury's decision, which took less than 72 hours to deliberate. Bloomberg said, "we have to respect the result of our justice system...although a trial will decide whether crimes were committed in this case, day in & day out the NYPD does an incredible job under very difficult circumstances." In other words, the Mayor is trying to save his ass & his face & his job at the same time. Chuck D warned us, "don't believe the hype."

Some people are concerned the Bell case might be moved to a different venue - particularly in the wake of a presidential election year - similar to what happenned in the Amadou Diallo case in 1999. Diallo, an unarmed Ghanian immigrant, was murdered by 41 NYPD bullets in front of his apartment building. All four officers indicted were acquitted of any wrongdoing. I attended a rally highlighting the need for civilian justice & police accountability at Union Square yesterday, sponsored by a number of community-based organizations. I was pleased with the number of young people present, yet noticed a lack of media outlets, except Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose contempt for Black people can be found on the front page of the New York Post, also owned by Murdoch. Alas, the saga continues...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Former NBA Star Tim Hardaway Hates Gay People: Why Should We Care?

A couple of weeks ago, former NBA all-pro guard Tim Hardaway, in a Dallas radio interview with a trusted writer, admitted he "hates gay people...don't trust them...wouldn't feel comfortable with them in the locker room and would ask for them to be traded." His comments angered, shocked & troubled many people, gay or otherwise, yet some said his brutal honesty was in alignment with the deepest sentiments of the average American. But why should we care?

Ironically, Hardaway's comments came just days after former NBA journeyman John Ameichi disclosed his gay identity with an ESPN reporter. Ameichi, the new author of a book detailing his basketball career & his struggles with self-acceptance, has since become the media spokesperson for everything good, bad or indifferent in the gay community. When asked how he felt about Hardaway's statements, he said, "thousands of people will be adversely affected." But why should we care?

The gay movement in America is younger than my aunt in Chicago. In the early 50's, a few white, male homosexuals sought to cultivate a sense of identity, pride & unity with their sexual politics. The word gay was adopted, yet the burgeoning economic, political & social power of the hugely successful movement becomes evident when a person says something deemed offensive - or commits a hate crime - toward anyone who identifies as gay, or sometimes, though not with as much tenacity, lesbian, most notably when you are white, or jewish.

Quite often, when an individual makes a statement, such as the ones echoed by Hardaway, they are immediately labeled as "homophobic." From my perspective, assigning the homophobic label to people is a function of white supremacy, in that the genesis of the gay identity is a Western social construct which does not benefit African-descended people who experience same sex desire. In fact, the term homophobia was created by a couple of gay, white male psychologists in the 70's to futher strengthen, both legally & socially, the gay movement, as well as punish people who appear, and/or are insensitive to homosexuals.

The root of homophobia is misogyny. Little boys are taught early on how wrong it is to be a little girl, as such, they're attacked by being called a bitch, coward, faggot, punk, sissy and/or weak. This type of humiliation scars boys as they move forward into adulthood because the resulting manhood anxiety is neither addressed nor resolved. I contend emotional abuse, when experienced in this harmful context, is sexual abuse. Some men never recover from their trauma.

Unfortunately, since homosexuality in America has historically been framed from a gay, white male lens - or pair of Dolce & Gabbana shades - the construct is rarely deconstructed in a national forum from a cultural context. American anti-homosexual perspectives are rooted in familial contempt, religious dogma & social stigma. I was born into a large family, yet we never talked about sex: bi, hetero or homo. I have six brothers & sisters...its obvious somebody was fucking, ok? Largely because of the dysfunctional model I was given, I surmised sex was a secret. When I talk to my friends, we generally share the same stories of not talking about sex, with anyone, even the person you have sex with.

Hardaway has since apologized for his unkind remarks. I don't believe a word of it. He said exactly how he felt & now we're supposed to believe, in less than 48 hours, otherwise? I don't think so. Usually folks will play the free speech card when someone goes against the grain. What's important is that we begin to engage each other in honest, open dialogue, especially when the issue is uncomfortable. We should care because his comments, though perhaps unintended, offer an opportunity for people to express themselves freely, even when someone's feelings will be hurt. As a trusted hetero male friend said to me a few weeks ago, "the truth will piss you off before it sets you free."

My mother taught me God don't make mistakes, people do. Hardaway is a hue-man being, subject to the same fears, insecurities & shortcomings many of us have, whether we admit them or not. As the sexy Teddy Pendergrass once sang, "you can't hide from yourself, everywhere you go, there you are." We should care because America, like it or not, offers certain freedoms other countries continue to kill each other for. Mistakes are opportunities for learning. I suggest we extend compassion & forgiveness to Hardaway. And the next time someone says something homophobic, tell 'em , Hardaway told you so.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Super Bowl 41 Has Two Winners This Year

The Indianapolis Colts, led by MVP quarterback Payton Manning, defeated the Chicago Bears, 29-17, to win Super Bowl XLI. In the spirit of African Heritage Month, history was made as Tony Dungy became the first African-descended coach to win the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy. Dungy's counterpart & good friend, Lovie Smith, joined him in the record books as the only African-descended head coaches to vie for the NFL championship. Additionally, Dungy is the only the third athlete to both play & coach on a winning team.

As a Chicago native, my heart was with the Bears, who, under Smith's calm & confident tutelage, have engineered back to back playoff seasons. Before the season started, I boldly predicted both teams would face-off for the big dance. I was well aware of the powerful cultural significance this could represent, though I suspected most of the media, as well as both coaches, would minimize their hue by suggesting, "they just happen to be black." Does Tom Landry, Chuck Noll or Bill Walsh just happen to be white? I don't think so...Malcolm X once said, "Black people are the only people in this country who are expected to lose their identity."

Some folks - not among them Cornel West - lamented how they'd long for the day when race wouldn't matter. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently shared in his historic 'I Have A Dream' speech, "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judge by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Well, my father, born the day before Dr. King, once told me America is a lie. A big lie: my father does not benefit from lying to his son about something so fundamental as our right to self-preservation, the first law of nature.

I love sports. My favorite sporting events to watch include basketball, boxing, soccer, tennis & track & field. Admittedly, football became more interesting as the playoffs rolled around the corner. On many Sundays it was simply an escape from my non-existent social life. Both the Bears & the Colts started the season with nine consecutive wins. In fact, the current Chicago team was being compared to the '86 Super Bowl squad which featured future hall-of-famer, the late, great Walter Payton, a ferocious defense coordinated by Buddy Ryan, their 'spunky qb' Jim McMahon & a fiery coach & current ESPN commentator Mike Ditka, who preceded Dungy as a Super Bowl player/coach victor.

When both teams eventually lost their first game of the season, the pressure to go undefeated was released from a white society obsessed with perfection (read: blond hair/blue eyes). The Bears finished the season 14-2, despite the media tormenting of quarterback Rex Grossman, who was publicly lauded by Smith, a loyal man hellbent on riding Grossman as far as the season would take him. Meanwhile, the Colts, led by a potent offense & gritty defense, were constantly being questioned about Manning's place in history because he's never taken them to the promised land.

The game began with Bears all-pro rookie sensation Devin Hester running back the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, a Super Bowl record as no game started in such dynamic fashion. The Colts later responded with a touchdown strike from Manning to all-pro wide receiver Reggie Mayne, no longer in the shadows of his all-pro teammate wide receiver Marvin Harrison. This year, the talented tandem became the first pair of receivers to finish the season with over 1000 receiving yards & 10 touchdowns. Manning was shaky in the first half, but recovered to lead his squad to a satisfying win, as the Bears offense was unable to penetrate the Colts' spirited defense.

I'd like to see a Super Bowl where the opposing quarterback are both African-descended men. A couple of years ago, current Baltimore Ravens shotcaller Steve McNair led the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. Though he gave a valiant effort, he ended a Montana-like drive one yard short of victory. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb would go on to the title game, only lose to Patriots qb Tom Brady, who has three Super Bowl rings in his young, but highly celebrated career. Will it be Vince Young? Byron Leftwich? Charlie Batch? Only time will tell. Alas, I'll be home watching...trusting my ancestors to see me safely home, or, at least, to sleep.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fasting Is A Way of Life

About eight years ago, I became intrigued with the idea of fasting. There is much ignorance & plenty of fear regarding fasting in the west, particularly in a society obsessed with fast foods, microwave ovens & George Foreman grills. Though I knew few people who were proficient & very little about what to expect, I proceeded to fast on my own, without assistance or understanding, for three consecutive days.

My diet consisted of orange juice, vegetable juice, tomato juice, citrus juice, water, grapes, raisins, bananas, granola bars & trail mix. I experienced dizziness, headaches, nausea & other unpleasant sensations throughout the three days. After the three days was complete, I rewarded myself with two pieces of Popeye's Chicken, a biscuit, an order of fries & a sprite. In less than 15 minutes I was in the bathroom, on the floor, calling r-a-l-p-h. I felt horrible. What's the lesson? Live & let live.

I shared this disaster with a couple of people who have some experience fasting & they suggested I re-think my approach. I swallowed my pride, along with feelings of embarrasment, guilt & shame, in order to get the help I needed. Six months later, while pretending to shop for canteloupes at a market in my neighborhood, I summoned the courage to ask a woman for help. My 97 year-old great grandmother used to tell me as a kid, "the lord works in mysterious ways." I was frightened by her convictions, yet as an adult I've come to develop a loving relationship with the God of my understanding; as such, I sense when one of his angels, like this woman, is in my midst.

She was also preparing for a fast. We bonded quickly, exchanging numbers & agreed to talk soon about my next attempt at fasting. I called her & immediately felt comfortable, important, safe: she had my best interest at heart. Usually when someone tells me something I don't know - or, better yet, something I think I should know - I get defensive, feel inadequate & obsess about why I'm lacking the information. Yeah, I got more issues than Jet Magazine. After our thirty minute phone conversation I was ready to make my second attempt at fasting.

One of the most important lessons I learned is how to prepare for the fast, as well as how to break the fast. Of course, I never considered these two essential elements primarily because I wanted to prove I could do something well without anyone's help. Maybe one day (sigh) I will grow up. But I digress. I learned the importance of adequate rest, drinking proper liquids, getting fresh air, not engaging in strenuous labor & socializing with others who respect my goals. As a result, I was able to grow & mature in my practice, which I decided would be twice a year, once in the summer & the other time during the Kwanzaa season.

Over the years, I've increased the length of my fasts from three to seven to 10 to 14 days. I've added a series of colonics to further eliminate the poisons, toxins & wastes I tend to pollute my body with because of my compulsive, gluttonous & self-indulgent habits. Despite my athletic frame, I have a weight problem. I can't wait to eat. I eat when I'm not hungry, I eat when I'm sleepy, I eat when I'm bored, I eat when I'm angry, I eat because you eat, I eat because its free, I eat because its there...well, you get the picture right? Right?

Last week, a trusted friend & yoga instructor loaned me a book entitled, Rational Fasting for Physical, Mental & Spiritual Rejuvenation by Arnold Ehret. I'd shared my struggles & successes over the years with him about fasting, letting him know I was about to begin another ten day fast. He shared the Indian philosophy of fasting as a way of life, along with a mucus-less diet (another book by the same author) & daily meditation. My grateful spirit conjured up the image of Sophia from The Color Purple as she rocked back & forth in her chair at the famous dinner table scene saying, "When I seended you I knew der is a God...der is a God."

This book changed my perspective completely! I had to read it over & over & over again because I wanted to be sure I fully understood the beliefs, concepts & strategies set forth. I was about to undergo yet another transformation. I learned fasting for ten days twice a year is neither practical nor spiritual. I learned I could fast for one or two days with just water, while adding lemonade & a tatse of brown sugar or honey to my light diet. I learned to rise out of bed slowly. I learned it was ok to stay in bed as long as my body deemed apprporiate for rest (not to be confused with laziness). I learned fasting for 3-6 days at a time, on & off throughout the year will benefit the body, mind & spirit.

I learned to take a laxative a few times before bedtime during the fast. I learned I could eat as much as I wanted to after the first meal breaking the fast. I learned to not listen to 99 percent of the people who have opinions & prejudices & theories about fasting. I learned I could end my current ten day fast after six days because it was simply doing the right thing for the reason. I learned the process of fasting is expected to be a generally unpleasant enounter, yet its efficacy offers a sense of joy, serenity & vitality beyond compehension! In the words of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, "I feel good."