Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Feelin Irie!

There's a term we Haitians use called Lavalas. It's the washing away of the old and making way for the new. And feelin irie about it means knowing you're in the right place, at the right time, for the right purpose...

The Sea...

The sea is a moving testimony of how one's natural beauty...

...is still more appealing than synthetic cascades...

...deeper than appearance-sake and surface conversation...

The sound of hurried waves is not the sound of avoidance and denial...

...but the music the ocean makes when it comes forth, recedes and comes back again...

...with your truth.

*From my next book of poems, Throw.


The fog you're looking at isn't from the threat of rain but from tree burning (In Haiti you burn wood if you want your food cooked. Those who got cash use Wesson oil)...

But once your eyes can see clearly again, you find reasons to explore or remember...

Think of it as a club med kinda thing, where the locals don't own it and can't use it cos it's privately owned. That means jobs for servers and tram drivers. It's Haiti and it's not Haiti. Like you got Disneyworld? I got somebody else's getaway...

While we're still pulling dead bodies out from under buildings and homes in Port-au-Prince, Labadee serves as a reminder of how colonialism is still a reality for many under-developed countries that are independent only in title...

Boat bar

...yet it's the same 'private owner' who put in a water pipe for the nearby towns...

...since the Haitian government wouldn't do it.

Stop the Sag!

New York Senator, Eric Adams wants to make it illegal for Black boys to wear their pants so low that we see their underwear in full view. It's called The Sag. That is, showing your ass. Literally! White boys do it to fit in, while studying for their SAT's. Immigrant boys do it cos from middle to high school, you gotta be Black American before being considered American. And a/g lesbians do it cos they think that's what being 'male' is about.

Grown ass Black men do it cos we think street culture is Black culture.

It's gonna be interesting to see how the Community reacts to this. We weren't outraged when our sons beat up and murdered a Queens Chinese delivery boy. We haven't boycotted video bunnies and minstrel shows. And the nigga word is still yesterday's colored. Some like being niggaz. Some prefer colored. But it's still all Black; even post-slavery fallout. There's a kind of powerlessness that Black parents feel when it comes to our boys. So many forces work against them, generation after generation; system to system. From warehousing schools to record companies who want to control the image of young Black males. They're practically numb, at this point. We're practically numb.

I think it's got to do with the unemployment rate for young Black males being so high, to begin with; the miseducation, and the negative element in our hoods (Black trash) that keep us in fear and victim mode. To get a kid to pull his pants up is a very delicate matter. Because your dumb ass will be told off--if not, shot--if you pick the wrong one at the wrong time! I've been fortunate. The couple of times I've told a young bruh to please pull his pants up some, I've always gotten a certain amount of respect. I don't do anything necessarily different or innovative. I think it's cos I start from a place of no judgment and they sense it, so right away the guns are down. Like most adults, I don't like the whole sagging thing, though I get the part about not giving a fuck. Because that's your way of showing your disappointment and frustration with your parents and Black teachers. You resent them for not having any power. Even after all these decades of Dr. King this and Malcolm X that, Black folks still don't have any power. So you're like, fuk it. It ain't like the other way gets me respect! I get that.

Senator Adams is also introducing a billboard campaign to put the visual to it. I hope it helps. Maybe start the dialogue. And maybe even take a look at how the grown-ups themselves helped create the problem. Richard Pryor had to go to Africa before announcing he would never again use the N word. But most Black folks can't afford traveling to Africa. I don't know where you have to travel to exactly to stop walking like a toddler all over again cos your pants are so low. But thank you, Brotha Eric. Thank you for taking a stand and making a difference!


I told y'all I'd do more interviews of students who I find exceptional. Not necessarily for their high gpa's or how well they follow social etiquette but for what they stand for, how they represent the Community, what their challenges and aspirations are, and what they can teach us. This time around I'm introducing Naj McCarthy. A bonafied thug turned scholar. Now, before any of you start putting images of gangsters and dopeboys in your heads, consider Tupac's definition of a thug: "Someone who is going through sht, has gone through sht, and continues to live day by day dodging sht! That person is a thug. And the life they're living is called the thug life." This pretty much describes the Black American experience-- we go through sht, have gone through sht, and continue to dodge sht on a daily basis. When you think about the skills it takes to overcome or tolerate marginalization, you're living the thug life!

Let's start with what you and I have been debating over recently, and that's your getting an A in Chinese but don't think it's a big deal. You said I was under-estimating your generation. You even made a point of putting one of my office chairs back in its place after using it, and said you shouldn't get an A for doing what's expected. But I don't know any other young bruhs who would purposely pick Chinese as their chosen foreign language requirement, tolerate a room full of Asians who already questioned your very presence, to start with, and then come out of it with an A! Showing manners is one thing, but accomplishing a mission, that doesn't happen often. So break it down for me. How am I underestimating the mid-20s generation, if this isn't the norm?

It's just a different reality. I chose to learn Chinese because Spanish was too common/expected and I don't make it a habit to be/do what is "expected". I feel that there exists a strong connection between Asians and Africans yet we're not very friendly with each other. I chose the class because, in theory, it would not only be a challenge but a tool that could be used to my advantage as I develop. The Asian students that I would be/am forced to interact with didn't concern me as much as I thought they would. I used the tactic that I'm most comfortable using with any unknown-- allow them to reveal themselves and act accordingly.

What's your major?

Liberal Arts. I couldn't decide on a major. In fact, I'm still not sure what major would actually suit me. I like History, Sociology....Psychology wouldn't be bad. I'll probrably become whatever it is you become when you're here to enlighten people. There're bills to pay, though. I might become a professor.

How do you go from hood to professor?

My street life never affected my academic life. In fact, it was my academic abilities that pushed me towards street life.

What'you mean?

I found at an early age that I mastered the concepts taught to me with relatively little effort...

The art of the hustle.

Right. I was also bored. Idle children are usually the ones who'll gravitate towards street life. For me, though, it provided an opportunity to acquire what my father always said I lacked-- common Sense, or "street smarts". I don't remember much of him, but what I do remember is definitely valuable because it helped shape the person I am and maybe will be. My relationship with my father is pretty good. We speak often and I can usually ask him for his opinion on anything. I don't know if I can say I raised myself. But most of my survival skills come from my him. For the most part, I patterned myself after him from junior high up to a few months before I started college.

Learning street smarts had more to do with my interpretation of what was being said to me. I would think back to my dad and his position on "street smarts", common sense, etc. and, at the time, take it to mean that "book sense" was overly hyped and not as important. My lifestyle at the time kind of reflected my dad's earlier years as a legend. There's the violence part of it, but you learn to defend yourself. All I knew was that books weren't the end all be all. Hustling the next guy was the true way of life. It wasn't even cos I was seeking my father's affection. To me it was more of a competition. Like Kobe and Jordan. Kobe may idolize Jordan and even play like him, but ultimately the goal is to get SEVEN rings!

What made you get out of--like you put it--common sense?

I stepped away from that lifestyle cos even though I was pretty good at it, I knew that it wasn't for me. It cost me quite a bit and I'm still paying for it. The most significant reason I left it alone is because of the hypocrisy of it all. My firm belief in the No snitching policy cost me to accept punishment for a "friend". That friend is currently no where to be found and I'm here alone with his baggage.

You did his bid.

Yeah. But even something like that can make you a man. I see all around me young Black people feeling hopeless. It's all about survival.

Do you think our No Snitching policy prevents us from making any advancement?

It controls the Black community in the same way the "Blue wall of silence" controls cops.

So how's the semester going?

I'm pulling through. My goal is to score another perfect 4.0 to counter the 3.3 I got my first semester. I'm taking six classes this semester. And the problem isn't that my classes are hard, but that I'm realizing I'm gonna need to improve my time management skills.

My Philosophy !00 class is a challenge, in the sense that the teacher only pushes Ancient Greek thinking. I don't mind talking about Socrates, but let's talk about philosophers from other empires too.

How do you teach the teacher?

You start with analyzing their personality, look at how "American" they are and whether or not they'll be receptive once they get past the "He's so smart" phase. I wait to see if they'll allow me to speak my mind and provide the dissenting voice, or overlook me or worse, mistake me for some ignorant conformist. I look for how well their teaching method works and how enthusiastic they are about the subject.

You already know how I feel about most professors and the material they teach. If the class is moving too slow, I don't mind stepping in and raising the bar. If that doesn't work, I approach them after class and pick their brain.

And what happens when the teacher refuses to be taught?

Teach'em anyway!

I made the list, though. The China student/faculty trip. My probation officer's allowing me to leave the country for doing so well in school and all.

I'm glad you're getting a chance to see China. It's important for Black people to travel out of the familiar. It broadens our definition of what's Black, what's not and can be. So what's up with this campus newsletter you want to start.

It's like back in the days when young Blacks hung around together to doo-wop. Our hungouts are intellecual. The newsletter idea was/is one that sparked from the reactions I get from just speaking to people about certain things. I've had people join me in conversations, listen deeply, and sometimes even run away from them. I appreciate all three reactions because it tells me that regardless of whether or not my ideas are right or "true", it's the information that matters most. So I figured a newsletter could be a way to mass communicate and draw out those other dissenting voices that can help create more Malcolms, Hueys, Stokelys, Mayas... I guess I'm just tired of the whitewashed mentality. I wanna see a newsletter that addresses topics people want to avoid. I want us to deal with racism. It might offend, but the goal is to enlighten.

Are you concerned that some might label you and your newsletter too racial?

The newsletter will be racial. It will be racial because it's racism we'll be addressing. I'm tired of seeing the way we're cast out for not conforming, being ]white' enough; tired of the way these Black people water down their importance to make White people comfortable. And I use the term 'Black people' loosely because they have no right to be considered Black anymore!...

You sound like Paul Mooney. He calls it the new 'White'...

...They say things like, "I don't see color" to avoid dealing. It's that betrayal of the self that's so disturbing to me. I got ideas that don't usually sit well with most people. They call it the "angry Black male thing", but I'm actually very centered..

Who do you read?

I don't have a favorite writer. But i like reading anything dealing with a struggle of some sort. One book I like a lot is The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

That's the Hamlet for Black males. It's not only a testimony to how a man can go from crime to global icon, but the many transformations a man undergoes when he's open to change. And talking about change, what's your take on Obama?

I don't care for Obama. He doesn't represent me. I think he's the African American's version of a Black president, and I'm Black. Whatever change he may create will only serve to strengthen America, not me. Plus, he can't look like I'm finally getting my reparations. He's gotta do that negro dance and Black folks are fed up with that.

I like the way you differentiate Black from African American, because that's what Nevada state senator, Reid was trying to say when he used the other N word-- Negro, as in non-threatening. So i hear what you're saying. It's interesting, though, how we didn't think he was Black enough until he won South Carolina, or until Bill Clinton gave South Carolina over to him!

When it comes to Rap and Hip Hop, who do you think has the mic right now?

Lupe's still dropping knowledge. But Drake sells more cd's cos he found a way to combine hip hop with Long Island. Rap/Hip Hop is the music that I listen to most, but really just for entertainment. Rappers no longer seem that important to me and so they have no power over me like you might see with other young people. I suppose the messenger is Jay-z or lil Wayne, perhaps both. I like old school and Common. For me to truly admire anyone, they have to be able to give me what I need.

And what do you need?

Knowledge. Wisdom. Truth.

A Black senator started a campaign against boys wearing their pants so low, they end up walking like toddlers. I notice you don't sag. That's what y'all call it, right? Sagging?

Yea, but you're not a man if you feel you gotta look a certain way to avoid a beat down.

It's survival.

I don't call it survival. I call it being a coward, and I don't respect cowards. It's the refusal to conform that gets respect, whether you're dealing with White folks or ignorant Black people. But look, you see pants saggin' and find it offensive. But they see it as a way of expressing their disappointment with their parents. We have no power. After telling us to walk this way, talk like this, shave this off, just to live that "American Dream", Black people still have no power. We bought into the System, yet we got no power. This is the kind of issues I want to bring up in the newsletter,

You said Tyler Perry is exploiting Black people.

He is. Everything he does is based on buffoonery and Black people eat it up.

What if I told you he built the first Black-owned television studio and that he's putting a lot of Black actors to work?

What if I told you we got BET?

Okay, okay. So what's after graduation?

Life. I'll probably teach. My dream is to be free, so whatever I'm passionate about!

Images VIII - Old San Juan, P.R.

Sleeping With Israel

Peace is not occupation...

is not partnership...

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

Images VII - Samana, D.R.