Wednesday, March 5, 2014

At the Bean Runner

I'll be reading some of my poems in Peekskill, NY this Thursday at the Bean Runner with up and coming young voices. It's good for the poetic libido to peace with the younger ones. They keep us on our feet and we keep them from forgetting.

 ps-- one of my students, Rajiv Mahadeo did the book cover design

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spirit of a Man

Not sure why exactly some of us despise Ayanla Vanzant to the point where we accuse her of exploiting folk who seek emotional healing. When you ask them to elaborate they can't explain their position, just contortions of the mouth and hands that add up to nothing. Like a person who tells you they don't like so n so, and when you ask them why they just shrug their shoulders/make a lemon face but it adds up to nothing. These are the same Black people who won't accuse Maury povich and Jerry Springer of exploiting yet they call out mothersista. My guess is that these are the ones at the family table who are more afraid of DOING THE WORK than keeping appearances, doing the work than perfecting their masks; more threatened by doing THEIR work than lifting the community.

My other guess is that we've gotten so good at being victims that we don't know how to be victors. It's such a foreign reality to so many of us that we'd rather stay in complain mode rather than actually doing something about our condition. That's why traditional Church is more appealing to them because they get to blame their crashes on the Devil and do away with accountability. Unless your pastor/minister encourages serious introspective/looking at our role in our predicaments, you're just filling space/not using space; existing/not inspiring even your self.

 I was first introduced to Ayanla when a sistafriend suggested I read 'Spirit of a Man'. I was just entering my 30s and still full of rage. Rage towards my parents. Rage towards White people. Rage towards Black people. Just a walking time bomb. Like so many emotionally scarred young men who were told to suppress their feelings/act like you got it all figured out on the outside, I was imploding. What ayanla's book did for me was first explain my rage to me because often times you're too in it to see it. In a period where male bashing was the trend, mothersista honored my manhood and lifted my spirit; gave me specific keys to doors that I needed to open in order for me to rid the rage and find peace in my life. In a way, she helped shape the way I write my own help books.

Look, I'm not trying to tell you who to go to for your drink of water. But let's at least look at why you'd reject fresh clean water over dirty laundry. Our haters hate us for our ability to rise above their insecurities. The hater at the family table hates you because they can't break/can't steal/can't comprehend your amazing connection with the ancestors. When I don't like someone, I'm specific about it-- she brings me drama, his energy's toxic, she confuses women's empowerment with male disempowerment, he thinks Black power is hate power. Tangible things that I can put in my hand and show to you. Maybe even get rid of them with you.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Westchester Interview

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Westchester Living Arts Show host, Jackie Suarez. She interviewed me about my earlier books and how they came about, my current male advice book and youth agencies I'm affiliated with. Enjoy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Thing About Grace

Now that the Nelson Mandela hype is over, your young brain cells most likely forgot all about the significance of both his transition (we don't die, we change form) and his legacy. Your school teacher or college prof might have added him to their lesson plan, what with all the media attention on the 90yrld global icon. The same media who once considered him a terrorist for speaking against the mistreatment of Black South Africans; as in I invade your home, call it mine and implement a system where you need a pass to get to one room to another and back just to keep the house that's no longer yours expendable, and then have you locked up or murdered if you got a problem with that. If you're fortunate enough to be in a classroom that pushes education/inspiration rather than indoctrination/subjugation, a productive discussion on what Apartheid was about and what Mandela's legacy means to people of African descent, to the world at large and to you specifically then you know what it means to be informed/empowered. Because the more you know about your collective and individual self, the closer you are to your purpose.  But with social consciousness comes social responsibility. And what made Baba (father) Mandela so special to all of us is the fact that after being unjustly imprisoned for so many years then released due to tremendous global pressure and consequently the end of Apartheid, the man made the decision to not retaliate; to not signal a go for a major racial war against those who understandably deserved to be punished for their role in the terrorizing of Back people in their own land. While this form of ultimate courage is admirable or simply strategic since the objective was to advance South Africa, in the first place and not drown the country into racial armageddon, die hard superBlacks wanted to see blood if not the total removal of European control as in This is our nation. It was always ours until you stole it from us and therefore all of our resources ought to be controlled by us, not you.
The thing about grace is that it doesn't get the kind of attention a low down reality show/tweet all your friends cos episode 3 is on tonight does. Humility is quiet that way and yet loud if you stop to notice it. Somewhere in the Mandela hype was his ex-wife/assumed 'terrorist 2' Winnie Mandela. Some of us think she went too far with her bull horn. Some of us think Nelson was soft for coming out of prison pushing Can't we all get along? But pushing a racial riot and getting nothing out of it in the end but more bloodshed isn't being hard.  More of the throwing of stones onto burning bullets from children's hands might be an amazing story to re-tell but, at this point of the book, no longer effective. And Winnie staying by her ex-husband's new wife to help her stand as the current sitting wife wasn't being soft nor was it a photo opp to help change the minds of her doubters. Takes a certain amount of class to show grace in the face of your haters; takes spiritual enlightenment to turn a dis into an honor. I know this from watching my own haters become the pedestals to my victory. This is why Winnie can smile today after years of terrorism pushed on her and her children during the earlier days when the shackles of Apartheid showed no signs of letting go. 
Fast forward to today as we take a min to honor the legacy of MLK not only for what he's done for Black folk in America, but for all oppressed peoples. To consider the Civl Rights Movement only a Black thing is to ignore all the good folk from other skin hues and other nationalities who helped make the Movement move, so when we take offense at the latest groups looking to get their movement moving by adding MLK to their feet we forget that the child being neglected by his mother is part of civil rights; the vet who needs a job is civil rights, the homosexual athlete who got pushed off his team is civil rights, the Rasta wanting to be left alone so he can do his thing is civil rights, the elderly man who's being evicted from his home and needs back up he don't have is civil rights, the transgender woman getting harassed on the subway and not being able to find an apartment is civil rights, and our sons who have to tolerate po-po terrorism on a daily basis and waiting to see how the new NYC police commissioner defines professionalism, courtesy and respect is civil rights. 

Bro. Malcolm would say human rights cos each person has the right to basic and decent civility. The new generation might place more attention on cash n flash than on social consciousness, but my generation helped create that by dropping the ball. We got comfortable and caught up with shows like Dynasty and Dallas, and put away our dashikis and fros. Nothing wrong with teaching our children how to make that legal money, but we forgot to tell them to hold on to their culture. We forgot to tell them to hold on to their natural hair. Civil/Human rights can't fix that, but googling the past can.

Not living in the past, but learning from it/honoring those who paved   the way for us to simply be and take it to the next level, not lose the level altogether.

Tomorrow, your teachers won't mention Dr King. Your parents won't continue discussing his role in the on-going holocaust of African peoples. That's if they even brought him up. And your favorite stores will move on to the next hype-- Valentine's Day and like the soda bottle on a factory belt, you'll wait to be told what flavor you should be be/what label to put on while the movement waits for you to move. These are complicated times and having grace is necessary for the conscious to navigate murky waters. Otherwise, there's nothing to teach, nothing to leave behind but she said/he said and stay tuned 
for more nothing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Wind is My Mother

Been off the grid for a long min. Parenting your parent is a curious process.

Part of you resents having to stop

your everyday preoccupations in order to play the responsible adult child. Part of you gladly/affectionately welcomes the new normal. Most caregivers find their position somewhere in the middle of that process, in between the old photographs and cherished memories now lost in a vacuum called dementia. We first noticed it when mom stopped tending to her vegetable garden. Her energy wasn't the same. She lacked the pull it takes to grow beautiful/plentiful tomatoes, egg plants, peppers, mint and basil in her own backyard. Her body became frail. She wasn't eating as much and her thoughts were somewhat irrational which in turn made her actions suspect. She was still mom, or auntie, or grandma, or good neighbor but the smile was fading, the face was changing; not just aging but changing. We could see it in recent photos; that look an Alzheimer's patient has when they're smiling about nothing, their eyes wondering off somewhere past the here and now.

I've bee re-reading The Wind Is My Mother by Bear Heart. Books are great like that, in the sense that you can read them several times and each time discover something new about the message/about yourself. In the beginning chapters, Bear Heart says you don't ask to be a medicine man
; it's just part of your calling/who you are and what you came here to do. It got me thinking about playing the caregiver role. How it first calls you to action with a thousand responsibilities poking at you until it finally becomes part of your everyday life. You don't ask to be Power of Attorney. It's inevitable. The armor simply waits for you to put it on. It doesn't care how exhausted or in control you are or think you are of the situation. This was part of the journey all along, and you either pass the role to another and miss your chance or Represent.

Sometimes the wind isn't my mother but my ancestors, recent and past, guiding me/directing me. They tell me what my mother no longer can say for herself and make ways out of nothings. And sometimes I think the dis-ease is more about having one foot in the next life and the other right here where it all doesn't make sense anymore, and the people no longer recognizable except the songs remembered and the feel of a strong but loving voice you call your son. To be the one person who's able to help mom keep her emotional balance while navigating both realities used to be a burden but now an honor. It takes time, depending on the seeds planted earlier on. Because it's true what folk say-- What you give is what you get back. I never resented my mother; just her disappearing acts. And she never resented me; just my poor choices. We're more alike than not. Something I discovered recently in my handwriting and in the way I enter a room, with poise and purpose. I may have my father's free spirit, but I'm learning that I'm mother's son. And it's an honor.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

K Workshops

Besides writing books for and about hard to reach youth, and the parents and teachers/counselors who are trying to reach them, I also teach general life management skills and urban psychology. For those interested in having me come speak to their students or participants, the following is a list of workshops I've either done or are on-going--

Message to a Youngblood - Life Lessons and Advice for Our Sons
Before You Fly Off - Life Lessons and Advice for Our Daughters
English Can Be Fun -- Helping Students Fight Their Fear of Writing
Educating Urban Youth - When the Curriculum Doesn't Fit
Counseling the African American Male - The Audacity of Not Judging
Trouble Girls - Working With Female Teen Bullies

Single Parenting - Parent Stress/Peer Pressure
The Marginalized Student - From Identifying to Celebrating
Am I in the Right Major? - Learning and Developing
College Skills
Prison Bizness - Why Are So Many Black Men in Jail?
Teaching the Young, Gifted and Incarcerated

You Talkin' to Me? - The 411 on Conflict Resolution
Gay Youth - Counseling Them, Counseling Us
Beyond the Bling - Black Male Self-Awareness

Black Masculinities - Hyper-Masculinity in the Black Community
Love and Happiness - Developing a Relationship With Yourself First!
Creating Your Job and Finding True Purpose

Learning How to Better Manage Your Time
Wholistic Wellness - Creating a Positive Environment For Success
Writing the Autobiography - Leaving Your Written Legacy
The University Male Center - Challenges, Tools, and Leadership
The New Academic Advisor - A Different, More Wholistic Approach

Despierta! - How Culture Can Affect Academic Performance
Toxic People - The Art of Recognizing and Avoiding
Doing It Your Way - How to Self-Publish Your Book

Doing It Another Way - How to Create, Market and Sell Your T-Shirts
No Rage, No Guilt - The Difficult Process of Addressing Race-ism

K Books
Message to a Youngblood - A Conversation with Our Sons
Before You Fly Off - A Father Offers Advice to His Teenage Daughter
Before You Fly Off - Volume Two (Released July, 2009)
The Dredlocks Tree - Prose and Poetry
Throw - Images and Words (tba)

Recent Essays
The pro-FATHERS Project: A Proposal
From Ground Zero With Love
50 Means Reset
The Color Complex
One Drop of Blood
How the Haitian Government System Works or, The Waiting Game
Dear Oprah
If I Interviewed Obama...
The Writing Process: On Writing For and About Young Black Males
When Doves Cry - The 2010 Haiti Earthquake
Dancehall Music is Not Reggae
When Dumb Wasn't Cool
Bang, Bang. I'm Dead!
Youth Participation in Neighborhood and Community Settings
Letter to My Prez - Wyclef Jean for President
The Other Writing Process
How'You Like Her Now?-- The Makings of An Irish Rasta

Youth Interviews
If Life is a Dance, Where's the Music?
Messengers of Lies: A Conversation with a Disillusioned Student
Akasan: Rap and Hip Hop in the Haitian American Community
Generation Entitlement: Where We Went Wrong With Our Youth
What Are You Doing Here? - A Conversation with a Former Inmate

Media Praise
NBC's David Ushery's Debriefing with David Ushery
The Daily News Harlem Week 2012 issue
Manhattan Network TV Show In the Black
Bronx Network TV Show Smiling Through Tears

My current project is on the overall development of young urban males of African descent; how parents can better relate to their troubled sons; their education and spiritual wellness; social identity concerns; hyper-masculinity and buffoonery; and how we can help them define and discover their purpose.

"Most books about us are about teaching us how to fit in. Your book helps us understand our rage and learn how to be ourselves in a world that has a problem with that."‎--22yrld Tariq


For more info on workshops and book orders,
feel free to contact me:

Thank you again for your support!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Next Stop: Life Skills Coaching

I'll be life skills coaching some of our suns next Saturday, Oct. 26 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. If you know of any teens and/or 20soms who need life coaching, please don't hesitate to have them attend this day long workshop on empowering young males and guiding them to productive choices.

When a parent says Thank you for saving my child! You smile a thank you back smile cos you know you're doing exactly what you came here to do!