Who Are You? Part #2

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Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 8.48.19 PM.png(Photo Courtesy of Damon Mackin)

Thoughts from a white male. No introduction need because his thoughts were well received.

“Let me preface this with two things…thanks for valuing my opinion enough to even ask me this question and I am approaching this with black men in mind….I have no idea what it means to be a woman in this country, much less a black woman, so I’ll stick to the gender I am familiar with, my own.

I think I can sum the question up in one word…Pressure. And the Pressure is all encompassing. Every responsible adult has a certain amount of pressure upon them, especially if they have children. There’s the pressure to be responsible etc, but that’s all very normal. The Pressure that comes with race however is over and above what’s normal.
To be black in America means to know that a certain segment of society will see race first rather than the human being and in that instant, the first impression is one of race rather than human. A black child grows up with the ability to think, to learn, to love, to hate, to care, to sympathize, to empathize, just as any child does. But at some point in childhood the Pressure starts in. And what I mean by that is despite the individuals ability to think as a stand alone human being, that very thinking is beginning to be judged not just by whites, but by fellow blacks as well. Both races will now judge the individuals thinking based on their own worldview. If a black man thinks he needs to kneel during the national anthem, he’s judged as unpatriotic by whites because he’s suddenly thinking on his own, not following the whites transcript of American life. However if a black man stands up and says I disagree with kneeling during the anthem, it’s disrespectful of the flag, he’s also branded by his own race and being some sort of traitor to the race (Cam Newton took a lot of grief for not fully coming out in support of this very thing).
A black (man) in this country is expected to think a certain way by his racial peers (Pressure). It’s been stated that the black community is not a monolithic one, and that should certainly be true. But to think outside that “norm” gets that same black person derision and labels from a by gone era that in turn create more Pressure on the young, growing, maturing black person. That growing person doesn’t want that same derision from his/her peers because they do not participate in this massive “groupthink”. Some don’t care and forge their own path not necessarily in line with the prevailing patterns of racial thought.
Others however, buy into the “groupthink” without ever exercising their own individual ideas as to what life is about and how they want to conduct themselves as not black individuals, but rather HUMAN individuals. Some honestly believe in it and that’s fine, but my point is some are pressured into it rather than moving in that direction through any individual initiative of their own. The definition of peer pressure, only this time it’s based on race. And then the Pressure comes from the other, white side. They are labeled again, and again with labels perhaps of a by gone era and they are judged just as harshly.”
https://youtu.be/przRFn1eRCI
(I DO NOT OWN THE RIGHTS TO THIS SONG)
Hood Citations:
L. Trott – thoughts
Good Articles to Read:
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Who Are You? Part #1

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We are often plagued with winless fight to true equality because we think we should fight this fight on our own. Dr. King knew we could not win this alone and to this day we must understand we need others by our side; those who sympathize with us, understand what it means to be discriminated upon, those who are willing to risk their comfort to fight alongside the cause.

I have always understood the “fight” is not just ours – it’s about humanity. A friend of mine asked me a question once about ways she could help the plight and I could not give an answer because it’s difficult to ask someone to risk their level of comfortably for the lives of others however, it begged to question what does it mean to be “black.” Not the publicized tv series where rich people walk around with cameras to find those who are willing to give an answer just for the sake of an answer but from one common person to another common person – what does it mean to black to you?

(Photo courtesy of D.Mackin)

Answer from 30+yr old White Woman

“So, I don’t know that this truly answers your original question, but I sat down to write and this is what came out….

I am not black. I don’t know what it’s like to have ancestors who were enslaved by other people. I don’t know what it’s like to teach my children that unless they behave perfectly in interactions with police officers, they might be killed (and that even if they do behave perfectly, they might be killed anyway). I don’t know what it’s like to struggle to find Band-Aids in my skin tone. I don’t know what it’s like to have a museum dedicated to my heritage and culture finally open on the National Mall — 400 years after the first black people arrived in this nation. I don’t know what it’s like to be called exotic, or thug, or the n-word. There is a lot that I don’t know. There is a lot that I can’t know.

I am not black, but I am a human being. And being black in America is something I observe, if not experience, every day. I absolutely know that I cannot speak for black America — and I also know that there may be no such thing as one single black America, simply due to the incredible diversity within a community that’s often painted with one broad stroke of the brush. But I saw Dae’Anna Reynolds comfort her mother as Philando Castile bled out in the passenger seat. I saw a murderer successfully defend himself after shooting a black teenager carrying nothing but Skittles. Just today, I saw a black female doctor recount a story of being ignored on an airplane when the flight attendants called for medical assistance and she volunteered. I see the anguish and exhaustion of black Americans who have simply had enough — and yet it keeps on coming.

But lest you think that, like Donald Trump, I only see being black in America as something to be remedied — to be pitied — I also see joy, and community, and power. I saw Black Lives Matter come together and make its voice heard when its members were too frustrated and angry to continue living in silence. I saw #oscarssowhite become a trend when black Americans and their allies grew tired of black invisibility in film culture, and I saw Hamilton rocket to the top of the cultural zeitgeist for its portrayal of our founding fathers as black and Latino men. I see joy in the face of Zoe, the two-year-old black girl who became Internet famous when her mother posted her first-day-of-school picture on Twitter, her eyes alight and her tongue poking out of her mouth in a goofy grin.

I can’t experience it myself, so I can only see being black in America through these glimpses, and thousands and thousands of other glimpses like them, into other people’s lives. I know that my countrymen are struggling, and that I could be doing more to help. I don’t ask that they educate me in what I could be doing; I know that’s my responsibility to discover on my own. But I also know that black America has its successes and triumphs and happinesses, and I refuse to discount those. For now, I can continue to pay attention to the people and the culture around me — to Zoe, to the cultural significance of dreadlocks, to that female doctor on the airplane, to the black/white wage gap, to Philando Castile, to Michelle Obama, to the black man who panhandles on my street corner — to so much and so many who help make up the rich fabric of the world in which I live. And I can pay attention to, and learn from, the millions of Americans whose struggles and joys I cannot begin to truly understand, but with whom I nonetheless share the most important trait of all — humanity.”

-A.L.D 2016

Our Dream

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Throughout the years there have been the brave, the bold, the many; each willing to risk their lives for the African/Black American Community.  They fought for unity, they fought for respect; they fought to live, they fought for life – they fought for us.

From the dawn of Africans enslaved to now, we pay/should pay respect to those who have paved the way to make it possible for “equality.”  From Elizabeth Freeman, the first former slave to win a freedom suit; Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist, writer, activist; Harriett Tubman, a humanitarian and activist; Edgar Nixon, Montgomery Bus Boycott Organizer and activist; Bayard Rustin, civil rights, socialism and gay rights; Rosa Parks an activist and inspiration to Montgomery Bus Boycott; Malcolm X an activist; and W.E.D. DuBois founder of the NAACP.

Today, we pay our respects to a man who sacrificed his life for the plight of our community, for America, for the dream.  Today we pay respect to man who gave us hope that one day we could be equal.  We pay respect to a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the former President of the SCLC.  We pay respect to a man who had a huge impact on the Civil and Voting Right Acts being passed.  We know him for his iconic, “I Have a Dream” speech.  This man brought all creeds, color, religions, and backgrounds together.  We pay respects to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

(Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com)

Over 13 years, he was the leader/face of the “American Civil Rights Movement.”  African Americans achieved more progress towards racial equality in America than the previous 350 years.  “Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s prominent advocate of non violence and one of the greatest non violent leaders in world history (The King Center).”  Drawing inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi he found alternative ways to protect/fight without violence.

  • E.D Nixon head of the local NAACP chapter met with Dr. King to plan a city wide bus boycott lasting 382 days (walking and carpooling to get to their destination) that led to the Supreme Court ruling to integrated public transportation in Montgomery.
  • He stood behind the college students who used non violent “sit – in’s” at segregated restaurants – leading  to a successful ending of segregation at lunch counters in 27 southern cities by August 1960.
  • Due to his increasing national notoriety he became a target for unjust harassment from “authority,” but that did not stop him giving up on us; it did not stop his dream.  “On August 20, 1963, the historic March on Washington drew more than 200,000 people in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial (bio.com),” when he gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • 1965, after the infamous “Bloody Sunday” and various obstacles placed in their way, he, once again led his follower cross the Pettis Bridge, kneeled to pray, then turned back with the support of President Johnson. The march from Selma to the capitol in Montgomery (over 250,000) – we shall overcome.  From this, President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “He wanted to broaden his base by forming a multi race coalition to address economic and unemployment problems of all disadvantaged people. (bio.com)”

Dr. King’s life was ended too soon but his dream never faded.  He was that spark of hope for equality and justice for all.  Because of him, many have stepped up to fill his shoes; become another beacon of hope.  The gauntlet has been proverbially passed down.  While we are “equal,” we still have more to accomplish.  While we celebrate his day, his birthday, let’s also look to ourselves to ensure we think about others, share sympathy, find our path – whether it be standing up for someone you see being wronged to finding ways to provide knowledge/substance to the community.  Let’s channel our inner King.

Hood Citations:
https://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086
http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king
Transcript – I Have a Dream Speech  courtesy of archives – https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf
Audio – I Have a Dream Speech courtesy of npr.com -https://www.npr.org/2010/01/18/122701268/i-have-a-dream-speech-in-its-entirety

Roller Coaster

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It was the mid 90’s, driving to school; moms bumping 95.9. Anita Baker, Sade, Temptations, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, and countless other R&B and Soul artist fills the void with the art of story telling. My first tapes, Salt n Peppa and Tevin Campbell, for my parents anniversary- Tony Toni Tone “Anniversary” played on the record player while they entered the house and were greeted with dinner under “candle light.” My first crush; we connected on Musiq Soulchild and Carl Thomas. The Chevelle and Ludacris would feed my emotions when driving on the road. Floetry would later confirm what I already knew to be true. Sadly, Keri Hilton would give me subtle hints that I was heading in the right direction. H.E.R and Alina Baraz would give hope that life’s greatest goal could possibly land in my lap. So, what am I saying? Am I talking about music and the journey it can take you through? Am I talking about affection? Or, am I speaking about both? My mom did always say I was living in a fairytale (Anita Baker).

Each of the artist specifically mentioned resonate most with me because of life’s events and the story behind them. Good and bad. But, that’s what is good about storytelling – music can do it if done right. It can make your life a melody. I mean, that is what songs are, “keys to life,” right? Something personal happened to someone, they sang about it, we related, and now, our instances are forevermore connected. “Poppa was a a rolling stone,” “Mr. Messed Up,” “Lie to Me,” “Make You Feel.”

There are a lot of things that happen that make you question life, friendships, real luv. An associate of mine said, “Don’t fall in luv with the face and body. Fall in luv with the spirit, heart, and character.” In reality when you meet someone for the first time, you fall in lust with their face and body (booty work, buddy, push it). You meet their representative. It’s not until a few “sessions” In do you get a glimpse of the their true identity (secret: catch them at an off moment, when they’re sick, had a bad day, you go out and they lose at a game you guys mutually chose to play (Outkast-Take off your cool) to see who they are) and hopefully their guard will come down, become “vulnerable” to the idea of a beautiful relationship (friends or maybe more), become vulnerable to the idea of luv. My motto, “Keep it real from the beginning. No pretenses.”

Oops I did it again. How did I get on the topic Loveeee, Love and Affection? I thought I was talking about music… “makes you lose control (Missy).” Ah! I was. They are synonymous so, it’s only right that I got confused and in turn confused you. Since we are here, Riddle me this: When did you first fall in luv… with music?

1-Luv

D

P.S. I hope during the time you read this, not only did you sing a long with some of my references but, also took a journey down your past, assess the music and life’s events that happened- good or bad and enjoyed my vague attempt of giving you a shimmer of my personal.

Becoming Cultured

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As a society, we can sometimes become wrapped up in what is acceptable actions, religion, music, activities, etc according to our nationality. Not realizing, what makes us different and what another culture does can sometimes unify the different races. Over the last few weekends, the togetherness I have seen amongst those I have encountered at Comicon and Renaissance Festival have been a reassuring sign that there is still awesomeness amongst us.

Fantasy Does Exist!!!

I went to Comicon and immediately became overwhelmed by the hero’s, the cosplay, the artist who cater to our need to escape reality. I met legends, saw Vader (I wanted him to say ‘Luke, I am your father.’ but jumbled my words and could only say ‘LUKE!’), purchased pieces of art that expressed me. I was amongst my people – not “black people” but, my people, those who enjoy comics and movies and fantasy. The cool thing was, there was no shaming, no judgment of the color of your skin; it was meant to be fun and fun was had.

Then, I had my first experience at the Renaissance Festival. It was full of pirates, wenches, nymphs, fairies, and pride and guess what?!?! Again, the crowd was diverse. We came to enjoy the artist and be entertained. Again, I was amongst those who luved fantasy, the era of the Renaissance, amongst culture; I was amongst my people.

Look at Me Becoming Cultured!!!

So, what does this mean? Experience is what drives perspective, gives new outlooks on life. Being cultured is not just about learning the history of your race but also, being willing to learn things from other cultures. We don’t have to stick with only “black culture” because that’s the only thing we know or that’s the color our skin. As a society, you can’t grow that way and have a full understanding of what life is through just one set of eyes. Accepting differences, interacting with other communities is what makes the human race great. And for the first time, I finally understand it completely.

My challenge to anyone who reads this: just as you would go to the museums to experience pieces of history, read the required books while in school – don’t stop there. Find local festivals to attend, don’t be afraid to try something different because it’s not apart of your comfort zone, if your children speak to you about religion or other cultures, don’t dismiss them; rather encourage their inquisitive nature. You never know, you too may find something fascinating – I know I have.

Next stop…New York Comicon

Tryna Get Chose

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From movies, to songs, to our parents pressuring us to settle down, someone to spend the rest of our life with; it has been engrained in us to find luv. We often try to find luv in a hopeless place, attempt to complete a puzzle with missing pieces and when it doesn’t work, we curse luv, ask the Lord why He chooses to have luv elude us, sink in to a depressive state because of one failed relationship after another, we begin down the road of jealously of those who are in luv, all the while not understanding the real reason behind why relationships didn’t work…we never fell in luv with our lesson.

Finding Luv in a Hopeless Place

I met this dude who I thought was the yin to my yang. We would have conversations for hours about poetry, music, movies, “loose” philosophy, fiction to non fiction – I found my match. Every morning I would wake up to words of affection, during the day words of encouragement, and at night poetry to bed. I was in luv with the idea of being in luv; the idea of having met my soulmate or kindred spirit (whichever one you subscribe to) even though, in the back of my mind or should I say in the front of my mind, my intuition was telling me to let it go *sings in Frozen.* I tried to find alternative facts to provide answers to the questions I already knew the answers to.

Missing Puzzle Pieces

You reconnect with a guy from your past, you pick up right where you left off, the two of you still take interest in the same passions – you motivate each other to pursue their dreams. You talk about marriage and a future but, there’s a piece missing. You can’t put your finger on it but, you can feel its presence as if it was a dense fog holding the weather hostage or, maybe you didn’t notice it because you were wrapped up in euphoria of being with the familiar. Until one day, the missing puzzle piece is found; only this puzzle piece is missing a connector and as small as it may be, that missing puzzle piece does not make the puzzle complete.

The Curse of Luv

We end up blaming the person we fell in luv with, we curse them for making us feel luv’d and then taking it away from us – they took a piece of our soul, why? We try to analyze those around us who are finding luv – what do they have that we don’t have? How is it, I have made sense of my life and still “don’t deserve” to be in luv? Why do I even want to be in luv, it feels like it is nothing but heartache? Should I lower my standards?

Falling in Luv with Your Lesson

In reality we are the one’s to blame, to an extent. We meet someone, we here the voice/intuition/gut telling us he or she is not the one; we mistake it for our comfort zone being tested. We see all the possibilities, the potential – we plan our future with the person we are with before we allow any substance to be formed, to verify or denounce the little voice/intuition/gut. We never fall in luv with the lesson. Hence why repeat the same mistakes (relationships) over and over again. I can’t say what you are supposed to learn from your life’s lessons, I can only speak for myself. As much as the familiar feels sound or the guys shows signs of being the perfect fit for my life; listening to the inner me, paying attention to the signs, learning to be okay being single, not lessening my standards so I can be “happy,” and not giving up on Luv because it’s hard are signs of me falling in luv with my lessons.

Impression

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We search for acceptance from our friends, family, co workers, children, husband/boyfriends, the person walking down the street, the waiter at a restaurant, not realizing that an impression has already been made.  A person has already looked at you and assessed your actions based on their standards.  It’s not until one decides they want to know you that their initial impression ranges from dislike, content, and/or admiration.  Questions: “So why?,” “Why should you care?” and “What is the fix?”

So Why?

Why do we try to make an impression? Why do we care so much? Why? Why? Why? My five cents…we do it because we were conditioned this way.  Think of when you were a kid; before you left the house your parents would warn you not to “act a fool,”  “your actions are a reflection of this household,” they would say.  What about your first date?  The unwritten rule, “Don’t show him/her who you really are.  “Wait a few dates/months’ or the crazy one “until you are married and he’s trapped.”  You go on a job interview, wear certain clothes, you speak and conduct yourself in a manner that is so uncommon that you have to coach yourself days before the interview; then you get the job and the first few months you are on your best behavior and once you feel comfortable you become a little more relax.  Restaurants – same thing, there are even social etiquette classes on how to conduct yourself in a social setting; as we speak, there is a format on how to engage your audience when blogging – “Social Norms” we call them.

So…why should we care?

I have a coworker who wants a James Jean “Crayon Eater” tattoo, however, is hesitant because of the social stigma that blinds our creativity and individuality.  She’s not sure how she would be perceived.  In speaking with her, this is one of her favorite artist, his work describes perfectly what is in her head.  Why should she care?

My son, a young black boy growing up in a “free”  but racist, discriminant, world.  Why should I care? Especially when, as much as you try to ensure they speak /respect others, peoples hate can sometimes affect how they treat people of color.  Why should I care?

The Fix

If we were meant to be the same, we would all be the same color, height, weight, sex; we would speak a certain way, conduct ourselves as a “Collective.”  My response to my coworkers hesitancy about getting the tattoo, “Tattoos are extensions of art, an extension of you.  If this is something you luv, do it.  When you luv it, you don’t regret it.”  In her situation she should not care what others thinks.

Me, I am 7 of 9.  I was once part of a collective: I had to think, act, and dress a certain way until I realized there was a way to construct my social etiquette without losing sight of who I am.  As I mature, I realize there is a need to “instruct” others on how they conduct themselves.  Every action will have a reaction.  We as individuals choose how our first impressions to others will be and should accept the reactions given.

My son, I should care.  I want him to make an impression, his impression.  So, what do I do?  I explain to him what I have learned, show him what happens when he goes left, or goes right, I teach him to think for himself, I provide him with the good, the bad, the ugly; I explain to him my idea of life and what it’s about, and as he grows/matures I pray that his impression is a positive lasting impression.  I pray whatever path he chooses, he thought about it and accepts the journey he will take.

As long as we are aware of our actions, impressions though needed should be our own.