Sunday, January 25, 2009

10 Reasons Why I Don't Support Hamas or, I Ain't Sellin Bean Pies For You No More!!!

1. Throwing a rocket into Israel after agreeing to a truce is not Islamic resistance but what we here in da hood call a punk move;

2. The annihilation of another state is not based on the annihilation of innocent Palestines--your own people--who are caught between your backward thinking and everyday survival;

3. Historically speaking, and contrary to what American Black Muslims teach, Islam does not represent our true religion. In fact, much like Christianity, Islam invaded Africa (and Detroit) replacing our natural lean towards Ifa, Vodun, Santeria and Condomble with the stifling of women, sexuality and creativity;

4. Prior to 9/11, Arab bodega merchants would dis Blacks but still take their money, and because of post-slavery psychosis we tolerated it;

5. After 9/11, realizing that racist Whites considered y'all The New Nigger (giving us a break for a minute), young Muhammads and Mustafas were shocked and uspet about racial profiling when Deshawn and Tarif in Bed-Stuy were dealing with racism all their lives;

6. Your men generally take the position that Black women are to be defiled, not married;

7. Showing mad love to Muhammad Ali but not to Al Sharpton shows allegiance to Islam, not Black people;

8. When respected journalist, Christina Amanpour recently asked your current rep if Hamas doesn't see how having two sets of foreign policies (yours as closed-fisted and Fatah's as forward-thinking) only makes way for divide and conquer tactics from outsiders, he avoided the question and answered instead with more stuck-in-the-past rhetoric;

9. Your pic reminds me of the Klu Klux Klan (who also were too coward to show their faces) and the Jim Crow days where racist American White parents encouraged their children to watch and clap;

10. Darfur.

Sleeping With Israel

Peace is not occupation...

is not partnership...

Just cos I sleep with you
don't mean I'm with you.

From my second book of poems, Throw.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Black Men Love: The Anthology

Poet/essayist, John Frazier (Callaloo Books) and writer/filmmaker, Robert Penn (Sundance Screenwriters Lab) are collaborating on an anthology called Black Men Love to address the individual experiences, along with the commonalities Black men share. Below is a short piece I sent them. I call it Bang-Bang, I'm Dead!

I am a Black man. I am not allowed to love. I can sex up, dribble a ball, roll dice, and talk smack. But I do not have the luxury of expressing myself in a way that makes me a whole human being. I am merely fragments of myself, longing for emotional rescue from the hands that prevent me from becoming an individual. I do not yet know my name, though there are several words to describe me— buck, stud, mack, nigga; and dog, thug, boy, nigga. Words that limit my voice and movement, and help shape the contours of my masculinity. I am the new version of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, disheveled and exposed for the sole convenience of the media and anglo-centered research whose face is lost in exaggerated stats. I am brilliant only in my swagger but arrogant when I attempt to defy my confinement. I am not even allowed to love my brother. A burden I manage to turn into an art form, if not everyday habit. I am forced, however, to love strangers who keep me chained to their perceptions of me. For my reverence is not necessarily in how I survive my struggles but in the things I never say; things I am not permitted to say. I am hood. I am not hood. I am somewhere between what I think I am and who I long to be. I am everyone’s terror. I am everyone’s sexual objectification. It all depends on how much I tell my mirror when no one is around to judge or stifle me. I am resilient, yes, but not afforded the right to reinvent myself in a manner that reveals my true nature. I do not have a true nature. I do, of course. But it is practically illegal for me to be a man when bombarded with both the sexual obsessions of racist White folk and the buffoonery that comes with confusing street culture for Black pride. These generational attacks infest my natural ability to walk on air, since I am so much more than the caricatures that bind me and far more nurturing than even my sister credits me with. For she loves the possibility of me, but not me. She made that clear when I was but a child, not yet proficient in the language of silence and withdrawing, when she chastised me for crying. She said what everyone tells me, Man up or be ridiculed; sometimes given away. And so I man up, even if it means suppressing my right to simply be; to abide by her standards and unrealistic expectations which in turn helps determine how distant I am with my son whose own tendency to avoid any form of intimacy is a result of my futile attempt to please her, if not reach her. So we both man up to avoid the rejection and total castration, placing video games and gangster mentality over real fatherly connection. The kind of closeness that is expected from all other fathers, except me— the americanized Black man, conditioned to think with his gun and not his heart. Sons do not sit on their fathers’ lap. They do in Cuba. Sons do not kiss their fathers hello. They do in Europe. Sons are not held by their fathers. They are in Africa. And sons do not answer back I love you to their fathers. Not cool. Not manly. Not brolic. Not nigga at all.

I am a Black man. An enigma of sorts, basking on the stage of an elaborate play and all the while not knowing for sure where to stand and how to stand it. I can recite lines from an incorrigible Rapper and fulfill the prophecies of the deadbeat father, but I am discouraged from seeing my life beyond the hype. New terminologies give way to new dichotomies— a baldie, a fade, a shape up, locks; and waves, cornrow, caesar, locks. Words that typically define barbershop conversation yet offer no solutions to community denials. To some, I am still the sleeping giant. To others, I am merely in the way; and I pretend to know the difference. If I come to resolving my disposition; if I am given the right to reveal then settle it as I see fit, then I would feel safe enough to say that I, too, love and that I cherish the hands that do not exploit me but, rather, provide me with the kind of hold that fully celebrates me. For I am the focal point of discussion at every state of our union and still, my Family refuses to see me. I am divided. I am divided between fleeing to the arms of outsiders who are willing to help me discover my true identity and fulfilling the illusions of the very people who named me. I am a Black man. I am not allowed to love. Just trucks and saddle, and bang bang, I’m dead!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Put a Dent in It

I don't like to using the term 'my White friend' when Jason is much more than a color or political tag. But in this case I'm merely trying to make a point...

We go way back to when our kids were old enough to walk on their own, so when Jason's son (who's now a college freshman away from home) decided to stay by me because of a plane layover before continuing up to Maine by bus I was thrilled, because it gave me a chance to play the good uncle.

The next morning I took my buddy's son to Port Authorities and helped him purchase his bus ticket. As I stood by him, I noticed a White police officer giving me a menacing look. I paid him no mind because as a Black man in America that's just one of those everyday hassles we have to put up with, like not being able to get a cab or Scarlet O'Haras clutching their purses when they see you coming. So we just went on about our bizness, talking about his holiday course assignments, how he enjoys the dorm life, sports, J-Lo (he's in love with Jennifer Lopez), and the fun he plans on having once he reaches home, all the while looking for his gate. Just when we found it, that same police officer yelled a loud "Yo!!!" causing everyone and his mother to look our way! He made it so obvious that it was me he was talking to that I turned to him and calmly asked, "What's the problem?" to which he answered, "Well, you look like a hustler!"...(a person who employs fraudulent or unscrupulous methods to obtain money; a swindler-- Random House unabridged dictionary 2006)..."As a matter fact," he added, "you look like one of our regulars." I could tell the mixed crowd was prepared for a Rodney King scene just by the worried look on their faces, so after a few seconds of staring at po-po as he stared back at me--a dance full of unpleasant memories from either side--I simply turned around and went back to talking to my play nephew, noticing his own worried look, no doubt intimidated by the intrusion. I expected another Yo! and got ready for the get-down but then suddenly the officer disappeared, just as the Boston/Maine bus pulled up.

As embarassing as it was to have to be called out like that from a blue, I knew it was important that I kept my head high in front of an audience who already were used to seeing Black men murdered by NYPD over less uneventful situations, especially those bystanders of darker complexions who've succombed to powerlessness or business as usual. Plus, Jason's wife expected her son to come home safely and I felt I owed it to her, both as a parent myself and longtime friend, to not allow my ego to cause her to hear about blood and handcuffs, whether I deserved it or not. So rather than send her son off with hate and immobility, I chose instead to encourage him to take what he just witnessed as education outside of the classroom, the kind of lesson plans most teachers avoid out of an uneasiness to discuss the obvious. He felt bad, of course, having turned into an adult in a matter of minutes. Had his skin color been darker, I would've given him the same lecture James Baldwin gave his nephew in The Fire Next Time. But his pale skin makes him a beneficiary of a privileged race, so the lesson for him was not coping skills and how to not internalize racism, but the acknowledgement that the term post-racial means that racism and racial profiling is only dead in principal; that had Al Sharpton ran for President we would've been celebrating Hillary Clinton's inauguration instead, maybe even Mcain's.

Consequently, his parents had decided that their son needed to witness the unfair treatment of a Black man for the sake of his character as both an American and a citizen of the world, especially since wearing timbs, baggy jeans, a bomber jacket and ski hat is apparently a hustler's uniform, according to a biased cop who neglected to pay attention to body language. Had he been less ignorant, less-focused on finding reason to bully me with his badge, he would've noticed that the interaction between me and the youth was intimate and not tense. But he must've found it strange to see a White college kid being so familiar with a Black man, even in New York City.

Come to think of it, what if I were the one perceived as being swindled? What if this younger White male who also had on winter gear was trying to hustle me? Did that possibility ever occur to this policeman? Or did his disgust for something so unusually normal kidnap his brain cells the moment he saw us?

The sidebar is that I made a point of reporting the incident to the Port Authority heads, even though it took three hours for them to finally give me a form that I completed in three minutes! They tried all kinds of ploys to discourage me from making the report, from saying I could've been arrested for trespassing since I was standing right at the bus gate with no passenger ticket to making me use the top of a trash can as a counter since they wouldn't allow me to use theirs. Still, I stayed determined and centered since I knew that their only weapon would be my reacting. Because once you react, my friends, they get to switch the table on you, as in Get the Black Guy 101! Must be part ot their training or something. Like when European immigrants had to pass through Ellis Island for inoculation and indoctrination (...And stay away from this one!). Even Governor Patterson's portrait placed high on one of the walls wasn't enough to encourage me to keep in mind that the badge of honor is meant to protect me, since often times blue supercedes Black much like the king piece in chess-- Looks presidential, but very limited moves.

And then there was this terrorist hall of fame poster of Arab faces and names placed outside the unit's doors, and I wondered why Timothy McVeigh wasn't on it. The White guy who bombed Oaklahoma City six years prior to 9/11, along with the culprits who ignored the 1,900 pleas for help after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It showed us just how significant Black people are in this country, compared to the quick response folks all the way in Asia received after Tsunami. I mean, if you gotta wave an American flag to prove to your own government that you're worth rescuing too, it pretty much says it all.

The other sidebar is the recent murder of yet another innocent bruh, Oscar Grant from Oakland, CA. The good news is that his murderer, ex-transit officer Johannes Mehserle was arrested and convicted after an outstanding show of civil disobedience from not only us but Whites as well, with the help of a passenger's cell phone video. I considered Sean Bell's case over on this side and how very few Whites showed support. Was it because there was no video to confirm the killing, so they chose instead to simply lower their heads out of fear of 5.0? Guilt maybe? Yet in Oscar's case one bullet was enough to inspire crowds of White folks to protest, while fifty bullets for Sean apparently wasn't enough to get the right number of White people involved. Count that. Fifty shots! See it. Fifty bullet wounds!!! No Stop, Police! and the standard shot in the leg to cause the alleged offender to cut short his running. 50 bullet wounds!!! Now, that's not Stop or we'll shoot. That's Die nigger! Die!!!!

I coulnd't help thinking about Sean when that over-zealous cop rolled up on me the way he did. It's part of the American Black male experience. The same post traumatic slave syndrome Dr. Joy DeGruy talks about. You know, worrying about not having the right ID on you for fear of being beaten and locked up. Worrying about dogs chasing you for having the wrong skin color. Worrying about being lynched because you're in the wrong hood. Those annoying little disturbances that White folks never have to deal with. Imagine that. To get up in the morning and not even think about your skin color, and how it will affect your day...

But I remembered my father's teachings and showed the fool who I am, as opposed to what he was expecting me to act like.

So I put a dent in it. I rejected the temptation to generalize all police officers and also remembered my White allies. Those who've proven their friendships to me during our years of learning one another and having each other's backs. For as much as I wanted to tell po-po, in return, that he looked like an asshole, one of OUR regulars, as a matter of fact, I knew de-socialization was more powerful than blood and handcuffs. I knew there was a possibility that this New York City crowd may not have been as dedicated to justice as folks in Cali were. I knew I'd have my say later when the officer's files included my complaint, along with recommendations to both him and his trainers. I knew all I had to do was chill, bite the bullet, as it may, then check on-line for the civilian complaint revue board to make sure my complaint was taken seriously. I also sent a copy of it to Governor Paterson to give him a chance to have a chat with the blues about hustler profiling.

I put a dent in it, reminding myself what I had initially planned on doing right after making sure my friends' son was on the right bus home, which was to take pictures of the first snow. It doesn't prevent a next time to happen to me, and it doesn't mean there won't be another Sean or Oscar. But it does mean the ability to remember who you are, even when less dignified people think less of you. To rise up and keep going, and to let karma be the bitch she's supposed to be!

Riverside Park

Washington Heights intersection

Downtown Manhattan

Battery Park

Battery Park 2

Battery Park 3

Tribeca park

Guava birdhouse

Squirrel posing by tree

Plant in snow

Dancing tree lights

Dancing night lights

Dancing night lights2

Glass building


White flowers

Violent sky

Battery Park too

Snowman on my roof

Friday, January 9, 2009

Babylon Falling

For diehard Rastafarians, the fall of Babylon means the fall of the New Roman Empire, America suggesting that greed, corruption and police state will be forced to make way for simplicity, transparency and spiritual awakening. With our nation's economics going asunder, along with Bush and other white collar criminals having betrayed their own, it should be obvious we've gone so far off from sanity that there's no other choice now but to return to basics. Take this past Christmas, for instance. Shoppers had to wrestle with the decision to either risk getting killed by Black Friday mobs or be more introspective and give, instead, of themselves without the help of materialistic offerings or bling...

And there was the presidential election that not only introduced us to a seemingly larger than life candidate but also allowed the People themselves to have their say, even if the truth is that Whites generally voted against betrayal rather than give allegiance to an astute politician with a darker skin complexion and an exotic upbringing...

But here we are, two weeks before this long-awaited historical inauguration, and we're still trying to decide whether we should continue shopping as we face what some are calling the second Great Depression-- a gift Bush and his cronies left at the White House door for Obama to clean up...

Gary Zukav, spiritual advisor and motivationalist will tell you this is in no way the end of USA but the end of self-serving, narrow-minded thinking; that we're now at a point where we're forced to accept, as Americans, that we don't run the world, contrary to what we've been taught in grade school and in our living rooms...

and in these here times not only are we being challenged politically to think outside of our comfort zone, but our very definitions of what Black, White, marriage, sexuality, man, woman, professional, thug, friend, enemy, ugly, and beautiful are drastically being redefined as we move towards the 21st century...

Even Black Republicans have had to re-evaluate their party membership after seeing how painfully out of touch and exclusive their tribe's image was being portayed (or revealed), as in "Hey, he's not one of us. He's a Muslim!" while Muslim American soldiers are risking their lives overseas to keep us all safe...

And, of course, the Governor of Alaska who reminds me of--sorry, gotta say it but you know I'm right--Britney Spears teaching political science!!! Yea, the woman is sexy. I'll give her that. But Vice President of these united states? And now maybe even President, come 2012? Is it that good ol' White American denial again? The same avoidance of historical facts boys and girls are taught in our public school system? Or is it merely more of the same fluff mentality that we're now being forced to address, whether we like it or not?...

Forward-thinking, less ego-driven pastors, imams and rabbis are more in line with Zukav's ministry because they see more value in the things that make us all similar than on matters that divide us as children of God...

They, too, see the need for us to think outside the box. Just as our President-elect obviously does by making CNN's Sonjay Gupta our new Surgeon General and Leon E. Panetta as new CIA Director. The fuss over Gupta alone is less about capability and more about not fitting in with so-called professional standards. In other words, He ain't one of us!...

And though it's obvious that the Panetta choice is to directly address the whole matter of torturing prisoners of war, he too is getting some heat for not having CIA experience, but wasn't that the whole point? To bring in talent that can help bring about change, not only in the way Americans see themselves and the world around them but in the System itself?...

To do away with the concept of Republican vs. Democrat vs. Independent, even if it's just for the next four to eight years?...

While listening to Black investors, especially, who lost mad loot due this financial crisis, it occured to me that the common denominator is fear. Fear of losing a certain lifestyle, fear of adapting to a new one, fear of having to re-evaluate the purpose of capitalism, fear of what the children will think and do as a result of their parents not being able to keep up with ice videos...

Fear, fear, fear when it should be spirit, love, gratitude...

It's a sign of the times (and our on-going inner-conflict between being American or African) when you react to the obvious and forget to count on the unseen for comfort. The loss of faith, even with the promise of a new leader whose name in Swahili means The Blessed One, somehow negates all hope...

But when I see my dreds selling hand-made items across the street from Macy's, appearing unmoved by the threat of losing what was never theirs, to begin with, particularly since the retail industry never wanted dreds around anyway, not even as security guards (Rastas don't make good snitches)...

I'm reminded that, as a race, we are still resourceful, still self-reliant when we dare to remember what comes most natural to us, and how deceptive this whole notion of wealth and success can be...

And when I hear about young Whites in San Francisco being bullied and arrested for protesting the killing of yet another innocent African American male, it gives me hope that we're at least moving towards that authentic post-racial place where people of all skin colors can come together in the name of ending racism and police brutality...

It's that same sense of hope that allows me to look beyond limitation, beyond White and blue, and sometimes even Black...

to remember to be thankful for what little I may have, rather than be upset over loss or want. For to complain about what we don't have is to waste what we do have. And I'm not sure one needs to be African or Rasta to get that!