Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Book Release: Message to a Youngblood

That's the problem with formula. Experts end up talking to one another and around the young person the book is supposed to be for. Looks nice on paper or even up on a popular bookstore shelf, but if the youth ain't feelin it then you can't say you're an expert. But that's just my take on it. Everybody got their take. Here's mine...

I'll share reading dates later.

Friday, September 9, 2011

From Ground Zero With Love

It's proper to send light to the families, partners and friends who lost their loved ones on 9/11. And it's even more proper to take a min to honor the innocent who didn't leave world trade center in time. But let's also keep in mind that 9/11 also means remembering how White America unleashed her hatred for 'different' right after the twins fell. We had a mayor, already famous for his racist jargon and policies, who used the unfortunate event to spew his political agenda and a President who encouraged division. When Bush told America "you're either with us or against us", it gave racist Whites permission to take their misguided rage on innocent muslim americans and anyone perceived as not being 'american' enough. I was just moving back to nyc from nc where trigger happy southern Whites were putting U.S. flags on their cars and trucks, on their porches and wife-beaters. I remember the language of hate that was taking over the magnolia air and one of my neighbors, an African American muslim woman who was forced to move out of her house cos she refused to stop wearing her abaya. and I remember the term 'terrorist' being thrown around by even some american Blacks who had somehow forgotten how the united states came to be, in the first place.

By the time I reached the gw bridge, NYC was in a total depression and Tribeca was the last neighborhood anyone wanted to live in, what with the fallout from all the debris and scattered body parts. This wasn't another sequel to Die Hard. This was real. And you could tell that White America, especially, was experiencing shock from a loud global wake up call. But most European Americans tend to be in denial about reality checks, either from miseducation or a plain unwillingness to admit that they benefit from racism. So rather than consider historical karma, the majority of them got caught up in the blame game except some like Scottish-American author, Jason Trask (I'm still learning to stop using colors to describe persons without sounding like a research scientist). I guess you can call my buddy a liberal, if we're looking for a box to fit him in. Some people need boxes and categories when choosing their music. But I'd rather call Jason a socially conscious citizen of the world, besides my best friend. He didn't get jumped or called names, or was forced to move his wife and kids to a safe zone. But he had to endure ignorant, paranoid neighbors and co-workers who called him a communist for refusing to put up a U.S. flag at his own doorstep. He was even called in by his supervisor to explain his unusual 'foreign' behavior. I grew up in Montreal, so I know about White on White isms. In Quebec, the beef was over language, not skin color. So I wasn't surprised at all that his own tribe was getting ready to light that torch on his ass! But for whatever reason, they let him live. That's if, of course, calling someone a crazy liberal is letting them live.

While Jason was standing up for his american rights, my mother was being harassed by her White neighbor for not putting up her U.S. flag. If you know anything about haitian immigrants from the Duvalier/Papa Doc days, you already understand why my mother allowed the woman to stick a flag on her window as proof of her loyalty to the good U.S. of A. And if you know me well enough by now, you're absolutely correct in assuming I ripped that damn thing off my mama's window and told the old bat what she can do with her pride! Cos for most African Americans, the American flag is a symbol of contradictions. Like an uncle who molested you when you were a child but is now paying for your college tuition.
Come 9/12, we'll all go back to our everyday lives. We'll forget all the speeches made my the politicians, all the recited names of those gone, all the hype about being as one and resume to being the fragmented society we really are; fragmented by skin shade, income status, languages, gender, sexuality, religion, voting ballots and move on to Halloween candies and masks. Mattofact, Columbus Day's coming around soon, and no one will stop to ask why we gave the original terrorist his own holiday? or more immediate, why homeland security isn't profiling men who look like timothy mcveigh since he's the one who bombed us six years prior to 9/11? Why po-po still focuses on me and anyone else who looks like me? but we'll move on, ignoring such questions and pretend we all get along; that we all are glad that president obama finally said the bad words-- "The unemployment rate for African American youth is the highest". But if there's a slightest part of you that rejects the pomp and circumstance and is willing to gain a more inclusive definition of what it is to be an american, checkout Jason's book, I'm Not Muhammad. It's a story about not only what went down in downtown NYC in 2001, but also about what brings all of us together, as opposed to apart.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Show Our Colors, Not Your Ass!!!

Every year round this time, Carib folk from and around Brooklyn, NY take over Eastern Parkway to celebrate the annual West Indian Day Parade. I used to go as a child when the Parade was a gigantic/awesome gathering with floats showcasing each Caribbean flag/music along the sidewalks filled with food vendors who, in turn, showcased the matching flavors. I stopped attending when the event became more of a dangerous place to be caught in, what with gangsta wannabe's turning it into an excuse to shoot at one another other. It became something both residents and visitors tolerated, until NYPD decided to curb the ra-ra. Now the floats pass through Crown Heights and down to the plaza circle without the usual threat of violence in the air. Folk can relax. Barricades are no longer weapons of terrorism but symbols of order. And yet I still haven't been back to at least try some jerk chicken. Because the focus seems to be more about showing our asses instead of our colors.

Maybe I'm just getting older and less tolerant of nigga mess. But I want more from us as a people, if not a race. Too much self-debasing and compromising of what cultural pride looks like. I know. What's wrong with just having a good time? Nothing, if you consider a good time bending your back forward to let another dry fuk you for all to see, or cheering a 5yrld girl for gyrating her privates in front of grandma. Or better yet, a group of males bumrushing a female to show what they do when the lights are out, while the female grins at the mere spectacle of it all. If we're okay with teaching our sons and daughters that showing your ass is showing our pride, then let's not act surprised when non-Family members don't take us seriously. Let's not act dumb when our young men use their flags as gangsta' face masks to emulate gang mentality which have nothing whatsoever to do with Caribbean plight and forward movement, but everything to do with misguidance and identity crisis.

Remember the Puerto Rican Day Parade some years back when the women were terrorized by grimies? Remember just last year when po-po had to interrupt the Dominican Day Parade cos some of the participants mistook mob mindset for ethnic pride? And remember how this year, Dominican ra-ra was forced to shutdown due to rain and how both the grown-ups and NYPD privately thanked God for it? I'm bringing this up cos I'm wondering if we're at a crossroads of defining who we are, where you have those who see a parade as an opportunity to display flags and colors, and those who see it as an opportunity to wile'out. Kinda' reminds me of a similar on-going debate between 'gays' who see pride as exhibitionism and those who'd rather push with their clothes on.

Look, I'm not trying to force my values on anyone here. Go do you! But as for me, I'd rather celebrate West Indian pride by remembering our Maroon and Rastafarian heritages, how Ayiti gave each island the blueprint for independence and how our rich African traditions still show in our costumes like the one here representing the Devil. In modern times, Devil Man is called upon by painting the body either blue, red or black; sometimes mud, but the one color is smeared from head to toe and the horns add to the drama. This is all part of the Jab Jab, an offshoot of the Parade that actually occurs before sunrise. The idea is that the Devil walks through town warning people about not paying for their wickedness. It's all mythology, of course. And then the myth got hyjacked by some parade marchers who sexualized the character (FYI-- The island of Grenade is currently considering banning the sexually provocative 'devil man', while parade supporters are siding with freedom of expression). But a quick lesson in American colonial history will teach you that the full coloring of bodies or tarring actually began as a form of collective protesting when male slaves smeared themselves with tar, mud, paint or molasses so their masters wouldn't recognize them. As in, I'm stealing the very molasses I'm forced to cultivate for my keeper. Hence, the French term-- Jab Molassie. Just one of the thousands of daily rituals we used to do collectively (and still do) to compensate for the chains around our necks, both literally and figuratively. The blowing into the conch shell is a symbol of Haiti's determination to withstand the tides of imperialism and global economic punishment for having the audacity to stand for something; for believing, still, in her pearls even if crime lords and egotrippin' government officals in Port-au-Prince are blocking progress. Think about that while you're out there enjoying all the fun. Think about what it took for you to even be able to show your ass! And maybe then you'll understand why I want more.

Note: A few hours before posting this note, a young man at the parade was shot in the leg.

In the Meantime...

Now that the creative part of the business of writing is done comes the printing process, having the right look for the book so it catches the eye and holds the attention. After that is a matter of finding someone who'll listen...In the meantime, I'm putting together some of my newer prose in my second book of poems, Throw...

She wears sea shells on her ankles.
The sound of her footsteps and goes back to a time
When Black women ruled sub-sahara.
Her robe smiles the color of sassafras
And captures the wind's most delicate secrets.
If you're at a crossroads,
Her gift for seeing the unseen will resolve your angst.
If it's a timeline you need
For a blessing that's divinely yours,
She can pull it out of her hair.
She can do these things like you know your name.
But she can't call a friend to see how he's doing.

Friday, September 2, 2011


parts the air
like Shango knows
your truth.
and majestic.
He speaks
from intuition
with his eyes
Didn't know his swag
until it shaped
his footsteps,
the way wisdom
a man's
But dig his