Monday, August 30, 2010

West Indian Day Pride

So it's that time again. The NYC West Indian Day parade. But will you do us a favor? Rather than spend the day droppin' it like it's hot, wearing revealing clothes that don't flatter you, pushing your crotch onto anyone who answers back, using your flag as a gangsta mouthpiece, showing everybody what you typically do on a dancefloor and encouraging your 5yrld to do the same, how'bout pushing our wonderful colors instead? How'bout celebrating our rich carib culture, food and unfathomable sense of resilience? And if you think pushing your sex is pride, then don't get all twisted when the gay boys do it!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Black Trash/White Trash

At first, I didn't wanna see any of the Katrina hurricane reminders. Too much pain. That entire week of waiting for our government to rescue those survivors and claim the dead
made me feel so ashamed of our country.

I don't know what stood out for y'all. But for me scenes like Black folk on rooftops writing words 'We are Americans', an elderly White man seemingly lost in a sea of abandoned Black people, and celine dion (who usually rattles my nerves) making a televised emotional plea to Louisiana state officials to DO SOMETHING!!!
That feeling of seeing your kind, though much poorer than you, being treated like trash. This is when White guilt and Black rage stare each other down...

I'm not gonna say too much. Still got them chapters to right. But I think it's good for the nation to remember. Gives us a chance to stop a min and see just how fucked up da sht is!

When you read deeper into it, the Heads got a map on some floor where they can point to Black trash and White trash. That's how they decide who gets to live in the most dire counties. The fact that poor Blacks and poor Whites despise each other is just the fallout from race-ism. America's not only the land of plenty. It' also a place where people are categorized and judged by their economic standing. Even if being poor and Black is the worse county to be in, when your White skin can't save you you end up with us. One of these days us and them and them and us are gonna wake up and realize that the enemy isn't each other but a domestic policy that supports division. Because division is distraction-- If the people come together we'll be forced to DO SOMETHING about poverty in this country. So generational divide is a good thing.

I'll put it to you this way. Preventing free health care for everyone tells us how a large segment of our population feels about poor people-- Black trash/White trash, until they're in the same bind.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Sale!!!

Thank you to the Community League of the Heights (as in Washington Heights, NY) and its director, Yvonne Stennett for purchasing 12 copies of my book on urban Black girls. Sisters Uptown Bookstore gave me the news. Much appreciated!...Will stop by to meet the young ladies and even do the photo opp thing with y'all!....peace n gratitude.

Monday, August 23, 2010


If you've seen the Broadway show, Fela! then the space those in the know call Bloom in New York City is like going to see Fela! every time. Difference is instead of sitting down and watching all the colors and Afro-Jazz dancing, you the visitor become part of the show with talismanic figures standing by to paint your face and body if you're moved to indulge in creating your own personal markings. Practically everyone seems to want to express their inner glow as the beat and rhythm of House and tribal music call out the ancestors. And that's just when you walk into the zone!

Some call it a playback to the now gone and forgotten Paradise Garage. The 1970s discotheque that had in it a terrace, a movie theater (where I first saw the film, The Rose), and a clientele that ranged from your average nobody but soon to be somebody to the likes of Prince, Ashford & Simpson and Chaka Khan. Others say it's more like a church without the judgement calls where everyone is welcomed and where the road to God is not up to the minister or priest but you alone, and that the tithes are what you pay to get in. Whatever you want to call Bloom, it's a kind of setting that, much like its name, offers a space for africentric peoples--no matter what their skin shade--to celebrate their shango without the typical euro-American interferences. In this place, a kufi is as normal and appealing as a Panama hat. In this place, Black is good and yes, beautiful. In this place, there are no gender, ethnic and sexual barriers. A utopia, if you will where the one and only language is love. Might sound a bit simplistic; naive, even. But it's something you can't just read off a page. Much less, a blog. You just gotta be there to get it. For Black people, especially, it's one of the few spaces left in the City to get it; where nigga, bitch, dog, ho, faggot, dyke don't make the radar. It's clean air here. Room to breathe and bloom, even if you have to wash your glow off come Monday morning!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dear Prez - Wyclef Jean for President

So after the bulldozers,
what's the plan?

And whatever the plan,
consult with the women.
Always consult with the women...

Dear Prez,

Now that you threw your red handkershief into the mix, I thought it be proper that I offer some advice, along with my sincere respect which went full throttle when you and fellow Fugee members, Praz and Lauryn Hill presented an oversized flag of Haiti at the Grammy Awards for all the world to see. Haitians needed that, especially after we were placed on the high risk list of bad blood. You reminded us to be proud of our collective name. It's not usual for little Black kids to wanna be Black. Much less, Haitian. But that night, something broke. The stigma, no doubt. And that's when we told Sharpton to release Brooklyn Bridge. We made our point, and then all the cars proceeded to move again. So my respect goes back some years, even before LL Cool J was calling you a fake Jamaican (He wouldn't have said that if your Reggae was more Dancehall).

You're still gonna have to raise money to push your candidacy and find your picket sign. Face to Face is a decent start. But focusing on the youth is where the prize is. You already got pull. You just better know how to use your pull. We see what appeasing did to Obama's street credibility. Haitians don't wait for cable news to tell us how we feel. We just notice one mis-step and reach for the machete! So you know the food already. You know how we do. Best to keep reading your wisdom books and praying your shangos, if we're really gonna do this. I read what you said in Time Mag. Very clever to remind the haters that before governer there was the terminator. That's gonna come in handy at press conferences. But your constuency won't be limited to a state or districts. It'll be more about an effort to push back against decades of corrupt leadership and blatant civil rights violations that have become a way of life on the island. Your job won't be to perfect your role in the usual elaborate formalities, but to keep in mind that 60% of your nation is under 21. This means giving them something to do that's productive and rewarding. Otherwise, the crime lords will become their new daddies. Women will expect you to not think with your dik, so you should already be thinking which female in Port-au-Prince right now is commanding respect and make her your vp. The grown-ups will be suspicious and may even spy on you. Maybe hire a teen to get to your funding or a chickenhead to start a scandal. That's what you call generational slave mentality. Being so used to depending on someone else to govern you that you begin to justify your enslavement. Malcolm would translate that to, What's wrong, massa'? Is we sick?

Keep in mind, too, that your uncle who's also the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph is still considering entering the race. If he throws in a blue handkerchief, he may actually get the votes of the more established Haitians who tend to prefer the suit and tie approach. Corporate mindsets who rely on francophone traditions and don't care much for the RaRa (ask somebody). And then there're those whose fathers only taught them to be good, safe negroes. They don't want change. Because change, to them, means no more exploitation of children and women. Not that your unc would turn on his own people. But he's already been groomed to fit in Washington, though I gotta say I gave him mad props for reminding a racist senator that without Haiti there wouldn't be a South. Still, his votes may come from those who at least perceive that he won't let the youth set the tone. Cos if that happens, it would mean having a President with vision, and most grown-ups lack vision.

The easy part will most likely be winning the election, unless it turns out you work for Al-Queda! The day after when you're in your hotel--I imagine the Palais won't be ready 'til someone finally gives up where all the aid money went--as you let your wide eyes peruse the scene of an aftershock, you might want to make a list of To Dos, beginning with bulldozers, as in Where' they at? One no-frill Caterpillar costs $40,000. You put a Haitian kid on that thing and he'll make you a road and carry heavy sht to the dumping grounds, and even pick up your groceries for you! That's 40K out of the millions of dollars the current Haitian administration is keeping in pre-distribution. You know the food already. You know how we do.

The shaky part is the fact that the United States, along with other imperialist countries have historically kept Haiti in dependence mode so as to prevent another slave revolt. So Obama's administration, in particular, is caught between seeing the rebirth of the first free Black nation on this side of the globe and bowing to racist conservatives who just want Haitians to keep making baseballs while paying their elected officials to continue playing ghost.

There's also talk about you not being fit to run a country. And it's coming from people who love you, not just the haters. Because they see you more as a youth ambassador who can flex his muscle wider than a President; cos Prez means having to be a politician and say sht you don't mean, do sht you despise, all for the sake of national and international stance. So one of your top fives will be to convince them that you won't turn out to be a joke. You know the food already. You know how we do.

So after the bulldozers, what's the plan? And whatever the plan, consult with the women. Always consult with the women.

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- The Miami Herald sat down with Wyclef Jean late Thursday, a few hours after he registered to run for president of Haiti in the Nov. 28 elections. Excerpts of the interview:

What inspired you to run for president?
What inspires me is the youth of Haiti. Over 50 percent of the population is a youth population. I always say I'm being drafted by the youth for this job. I feel that I've done everything I could for this country I've known, from carrying the flag to all the way to the World Cup to speaking on behalf of my country in Congress and getting them to pass certain bills, one of them being a Hope bill for the textile companies. I feel that the only thing I could do right now is to be of service for my country for the next five years.

How would you describe Fas a Fas (Face to Face), which appears to be an emerging youth movement in Haiti and why is it important right now?
Fas a Fas is Face to Face, meaning versus running the other way. Let's deal with the problem, and don't hide what it is. Cause if we know what it is and we have a straight dialogue we can help fix it, and that's what the youth want. They don't want lies no more. Just why are we not educated? No, really, Wyclef, for over 200 years, what happened? Why is it no one wanted really to give us education? Why did we go from an export in sugar to more than half of the world to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? Why? So Fas a Fas is saying, well, give us the aid that doesn't cripple us but aid that helps aid ourselves, and that's job creation and education.

What separates you from political predecessors and the other candidates who are running or potentially running?
What separates me is that I'm a neutral candidate, meaning I can sit and talk to any political party. I could even sit and talk to all the candidates. I don't have a problem with anyone. I believe that every political party has a view, and I think that view is worth listening and getting a piece from every view, and helping move the country forward.

The political arena in Haiti can be a little tough and that requires politicians to have a thick skin. What have you done to prepare yourself for politics here?
My DNA is of Haitian descent. I was born on October 17, the day of [Haiti's founding father] Jean-Jacques Dessalines' death. I'm not looking at this like I have to prepare for war but, then again, I'm not going into this being naive. I have watched the political instability. But I feel that there's a lot of eyes on Haiti right now and the way they have run the system they are going to be able to do that again, you know. It's like murder mystery: Someone gets assassinated, no one talks about it, cause there's really intelligence. ... But to know you're going into a tough situation means that you can be part of changing the situation and I am not going into this naive at all.

What would you say to critics who argue that your foundation, Yéle Haiti, has had its financial problems, and wonder what makes you qualified to run the country if you can't keep your expenses in order?
I would think the Haitian government has had their financial problems worse than Yéle Haiti. And I'm talking about over 200 years. Billions of dollars as pledged by donors, and that never, until today, they don't have answers for where the donors have donor fatigues. I would say, with Yéle Haiti, yes, we've had problems but my job is if there's a problem, fix it. As commander in chief, you're going to make mistakes, right? But you have to be able to fix a problem. So if there's an accountant problem, who's the accountant? Get rid of him, bring in that guy. Let's deal with him. Who's the CEO? Okay, bring in another CEO. That's what you call governing. So the idea of mistakes being made will be made. I will tell you, you can't question my leadership, cause when Yéle Haiti was attacked I took all the weight by myself, meaning I stood up and didn't blame it on no president or accountant. I said, well, I will deal with it. That's what a leader does. You deal with the problem straight. You don't pass it off to anybody. I don't have nothing to hide, you understand what I'm saying to you? It's like somebody says, well, Clef has a lien on the IRS, for $2.1 million, that should show you a loan on how much Clef really makes a year. That alone, tells you, you know, and then tell my accountant fix it, get it straight. At the end of the day, I'm a human being. In business everybody makes mistakes, including Donald Trump. You know, but at the end of the day what can't be questioned is my honesty. As a man, I'm honest. Like I said on CNN, I'm going to make millions a day. If I say let me do what I do I'm going to make my millions every week. That's what I do. But at the end of the day I make millions and wear a flag on my head. And I'm saying representing Haiti. What does that mean right now? That means nothing after the earthquake. January 12th, 250 people in the rubble, 1.5 million people living in tents. The only thing I could do right now is to run to be the president of my country right now.

What would be your priorities if elected?
Really, when you look at the situation people are talking about decentralizing Port-au-Prince because they want to make it sound pretty. So the first thing they say to you is we're going to get 1.5 million people out of a tent. And you look and say, that's nice. How you going to do it? The idea is this: Education, job education, security, agriculture, and health. When I tell you job creation, it means if you want to get the people out of the tents you have to start identifying agrarian cities, provide the people with a piece of land and a home and this is how you decentralize.

So versus talking about it right now, you should be building agrarian homes with 20,000 homes here, 30,000 here, 60,000.. . . When they get there you got to make sure they have a piece land so that they are growing something on that land. And you have to make sure there's a school, and that they are going to school even if you can't provide them with a hospital right now there's a clinic. Now think about it? What would it cost to do a agrarian village. Do the math: 1.5 million people. If you provide villages, agrarian cities, 10,000 per people, there's enough money in the government to do that. Why are we not doing that? We are we going toward red tape? That's cause everyone is doing construction, bids and ideas. Why are we doing bureaucracy when people out there are burning up in them tents? That's what I'm saying.

What do you love most about Haiti, if you had to pick a single thing?
My love for Haiti is the people. You know, it's a great thing when you look at someone and you look into their eyes and you basically see you.Sean Penn just said on CNN that he hasn't seen you in Haiti over the past six months.

What do you make of his claim?
I feel that it is irresponsible for him to attack my character like that, without proof of talking to me. Because everything he is saying is pure speculation. Because he is in one little area and for the people he's responsible for he can't let that be judged for 9 million people inside of a country. That's very unprofessional. I look forward to having a fas a fas with him.


Note: Turns out Wyclef didn't consider checking electoral rules. So maybe he's not as bright as we thought. But he still got pull and still can make a difference, depending on who becomes the next Haitian President. He says he'll appeal. But I say, if you gotta force the issue it's probably not part of the divine plan!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Other Writing Process

The other writing process is when a young Nigerian illustrator who's part of your latest book project reminds you about some deadlines, so he can get started on the drawings while still studying for his exams. I say exams and day jobs can kill your creativity if you're not careful. And so we're careful balancing fiction from non-fiction; plays from moving pictures as the plot keeps unfolding, twisting at times, but it's never writers' block or blank canvas cos the words and lines have been saved just for us. So we start talking colors or black n white; smiling or Black boys don't smile...

Like I was saying before on the challenges of writing a male counterpart to Before You Fly Off, writing for and about male teens has provoked an unexpected opportunity for me to look at my own boyhood, all that I had and all that I should've had. Fro so high n loud, it served as a kind of alien distraction from the rage in my eyes. I was a complex child; way too serious for my age. I learned early that life and people have their contradictions. That as humbling as they are, those great advances we made in this country both as a collective and as individuals, Black people still have no power. And this is the core of the problem for so many young Black males today. They look around and see the same double standards, the same formulas, same system; and more suppressing, more demonizing, more attacks on Rap music when it should be obvious to the grown-ups that when leaders actually do something about poor living conditions and unemployment, we give Black and Brown boys something good to rap about .

Almost all the males I either advise or talk to in my hood have some form of resentment towards their parents for having bought into the fallacy of the American dream. They see how those who love them unconditionally spent their entire lives chasing letters and titles only to end up disconnected from their children and themselves. They see the price of success and are not impressed. So turned off and frustrated, they've begun to come up with their own version of what it means to be socially appropriate. Just as they've managed to redefine the N word for themselves, no matter what our beliefs. While our generation (and the ones before) saw education, a good job, marriage, the purchasing of a home and then retirement as the ideal blueprint, they want to skip the formalities and fast forward to plain entrepreneurship. And not necessarily a life of crime, but a life of living out loud without fear of repercussions for not conforming. Problem is they don't have the kinds of avenues available to them to move out the box. They can think out the box, but it stops there. Just great ideas. Reality reminds them that education works against them, that employers despise them and that Black leaders aren't leaders but just elaborate puppets. You and I know of several politicians who are doing their best to bring attention to our community struggles. But that's just a teardrop in a bucket to an angry teenager cos he has to tolerate everyday menacing looks and police harassment. He has to somehow create an invisible shield around him to help him keep his head up while the rest of the world marginalizes him. There was a time when fathers and uncles would teach him these things, about surviving racism and dodging prison; what hygiene means from a male perspective and how to control your sex. But with no good men to offer solutions or alternatives, an exhausted, often times bitter mother ends up being the point guard.

So I decided to start the book parent to parent. I might change my mind later, but for now it seems appropriate to begin the discussion of What's wrong with our sons? by looking at what might be possibly wrong with our approach to parenting, leading and modeling. That it's not just about behavior and attitude, but how our thoughts dictate our choices. We don't have to get all psychological about it. Let's leave that to the scientists who are only interested in proving to us what we already know. And let's admit that the help books we see on popular bookshelves speak to the conforming of our sons, but not their deliverance. I'm talking transformation. Take whatever type of wheels or wings that work for you-- religion, therapy, a good cry, an overdue roar. But what we want is clarity and then acceptance. Cos it's only when we're clear about our intentions as parents that we begin to fuflfill our purpose as caregivers. This is what artist, Nchewu Akpoke wants to convey. This is what I want to offer you this next time around.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

K Essays

On Writing For and About Our Sons and Daughters
Remembering Fanon
When Doves Cry - The 2010 Haiti Earthquake
Dancehall Music is Not Reggae
Who' You Callin' a Negro?
My Two Ladies
When Dumb Wasn't Cool
Bang, Bang. I'm Dead!
Racismo-- Let's Talk About It
Letter to President Obama
Slave Auction/White Boy
Put a Dent in It - A Response to Racial Profiling
Why All Community Colleges Need a Male Center?
Black Masculinities
Youth Participation in Neighborhood and Community Settings
Monkey Doo
Letter to My Prez - Wyclef Jean for President
28 Days and A Mule - The Trouble With Black History Month
How'You Like Her Now?-- The Makings of An Irish Rasta

Monday, August 2, 2010

Typical Times 22

Whenever I wear my kufi
I get the 'Oh, my God! It's a terrorist!' look
But if I put on a du-rag
And literally show my ass
Nobody notices.

*From my next book of poems, Throw

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Images X - Maine

Fear is everything, and nothing!