Monday, August 03, 2009

I'm still here y'all

Hey blogopia...just wanted to check in real quick. I'm still around, doing my thang and such. Life is just giving me a LOT right now, so I gotta just keep moving and making things happen. I'll be back in the game once I get myself together and back on a more balanced path. Don't trip tho! Most of what's going on is very POSITIVE, I just have to figure out how I'm going to deal with what's coming to me. Stay posted, and THRIVE!

Jammie.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My Brother's Keeper



***WARNING: LONG POST AHEAD. What can I say, I have a story to tell!***

As many of you know, life in the "ivory tower" of academia can be quite a challenge for people of color, especially young black men. As much as I'd like to say that racism, classism, and stereotyping have no place among "enlightened" folks, that shit just isn't true. I can guarantee that ANY black man that has traveled the yard of a 'mainstream' institution of higher learning has encountered what I call that "that bullshit". Calls from security when too many of us congregate, the look of shock and awe when you say something profound in class, the look of WOW! when you acknowledge your doctoral studies, "can I touch your afro?", "is the myth about black men true?", getting followed in the bookstore, you know...that bullshit. I've seen some of it, experienced even more, and have heard ALL about it. It's sad, but after 9 years of higher education I'm quite numb to the foolishness. However, when I see other young brothers go through it, it kills me inside.

Yesterday, after getting inspired by attending my school's track meet with my dad (booyyy lemme tell you...cakes and thighs, CAKES AND THIGHS!!! Whooo!), I push it on to the campus gym for a late afternoon workout. After seeing how damn CROWDED it was and kicking myself for not going earlier, I get my gear on and go through the motions. As I'm doing my thang, I peep this Young Brotha I haven't seen around before getting his swole on. Young (about 20 I guessed), dark-skinned, very athletic, bald head, good looking brotha (ok he was sexy as hell but that's not the point LOL). I checked out his demeanor...seemed quite jovial and spirited; had great gym etiquette, was conscious of others' space, and was working hard. We acknowledge each other with a smile and a nod as I move to another room.

As I finish my knee rehab exercises (good LAWD when will this be OVER?!) and head back to the main room to hit the weights, I hear a commotion. I see Young Brotha squared up with 2 white guys, both dudes all up in his face in anger. Young Brotha has his hands up in a "hey I don't want any trouble" pose but is clearly not backing down from the other dudes. A gym attendant comes to break up the squabble, the two white guys following the attendant back to the front desk. Young Brotha shakes his head like "what the hell just happened?", shrugs, and goes back to his business. He heads outside to the outdoor gym area ands starts working on some martial arts moves and conditioning.

I head out to same area to finish my half assed workout, and I peep Young Brotha. He clearly looks pissed, but is moving on with his exercises. As I get through set 1 of the Circuit from Hell, here comes campus security. A white male officer approaches Young Brotha. Asks for his ID, questions him, you know...that bullshit. At this point, I decide to pay more attention to the scene playing before me than acting like I'm a 300 Spartan :). Young Brotha is trying to be polite and calm, but I can tell that nigga switch was itching to be pushed. From what I hear, Young Brotha asked repeatedly "What did I do wrong?" and "Man, I just want to workout!" while he's talking to the cops. A female cop joins her partner and the inquistion continues. By this time, a handful of looky-loos are watching from inside the main room, including one of the dudes that was in the squabble. Young Brotha respectfully holds his ground, the cops record something from his ID, and leave. Young Brotha looks up to the sky, curses something, and starts pacing. Shit.

Soon enough, his eyes meet mine and he gives me the "look". That look of "did that shit just happen to me? Did you see that?". That was my cue. I nod, head over to where he is, and take a seat close by. I take this young man in, and I see it all. The anger of being the presumed suspect, the embarrassment of having this all unfold publicly, the confusion over why he was the only one approached by police...it was written all over his face, but I FELT IT. Young Brotha is sitting next to me, eyes hard and focused forward, chest heaving, arms pumped, ready to go OFF. I exhale, put my hand on his shoulder, and say "Breathe." He looks me straight in the eye, eyes blazing, ready to strike out. I speak again: "Brotha you don't have to say a word...I know. Take a breath." He sizes me up, nods, takes a few deep breaths, and I feel a bit of the tension release.

We then start to talk. Young Brotha is 18, a freshmen, born and raised locally in South Central LA, and on academic scholarship. He's a former wrestler, black belt in Karate, and training as an MMA fighter (soo THAT explains that BODY, lol). He's been on campus since September, and he's fed up. Turns out this hasn't been his first run in with the bullshit...from the dorms, to the classroom, to hanging out with friends he has dealt with harassment and disrespect. I let the brother vent a little bit, and his stories are like deja vu to me. 10 years ago I was right where he was...an intelligent, amiable, young black man trying to play and be nice in an foreign environment that clearly doesn't think you belong there.

Right in the middle of us talking, a gym attendant approaches and hands him his identification. This guy offers a half-assed explanation for why the security was called and tries to assure Young Brotha that he was "just doing his job". Young Brotha snatches his stuff back, offers a tight lipped "Thank You" and returns to our conversation. The gym attendant interrupts again by saying "So umm, you should know that the gym closes in like 15 minutes, so like umm...yeah". We both turn and give him the "FUCK OFF!" look so he takes off. Now why do people come with that foolishness when grown folks are talking? DAMN! Anywho...

Being the good Black kid and turning the other cheek was getting tired for him. He felt that one of the only safe spaces he had on campus, the gym, had now been compromised. He wanted to kick some ass, literally. But he already knew that behavior would not only get him arrested or even shot, but would confirm those perceptions of Black Men as hostile troublemakers who needed to be kept on a short leash. Brotha was going through it right in front of me. That ish hurt my spirit. Then that single tear fell from his right eye. Shit. This beautiful young man...strong, proud, and full of life, was getting beat down emotionally in an environment that SHOULD be welcoming and full of promise.

His questions kept ringing through my head "What did I do?" "Why can I just workout in peace?". After he was done with his vent, I gave him some words. Let him know that no environment is immune to "the bullshit"; it comes with the territory of being a black man on campus. Told him that he didn't have to "do" anything, his sheer presence (a physically imposing young Black Man) is enough to make him a suspect, no matter how much he smiles or tries to be the good guy. I let him know that even though that may be the case, that's THEIR burden to bear, not YOURS. Do NOT embrace that bullshit as your own, it has nothing to do with you. I told him the challenge of dealing with this madness is to conduct yourself with poise and respect, but at the same time call people out on their shit and make them take a look at themselves in the mirror. If there is a burden to bear, it's the task of having to constantly show AND tell people how you demand to be treated without resorting to having "a nigga moment" when someone pushes the line just a bit too far. Being proactive instead of reactive is a burden. Anticipating the bullshit and dispatching it accordingly instead of internalizing it is a burden. I tried my best to impart my insights on this young man, who I feared might lash out our grow a serious chip on his shoulder if he didn't find a way to thrive in the midst of this drama.

After we finished talking, he pulled me into a brothaman hug, took a breath, and thanked me for talking to him. I told him he didn't need to thank me, i was doing my job as another brotha, but I'd gracious accept his thanks. We parted ways, and I said a prayer for this young man.

Am I my brother's keeper? Yes I am. Somebody's got to be.

J.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Back to Basics

It's been a minute since I've last contributed to blogopia...how y'all been?! I've had my share of triumphs and challenges over the past four months (damn, has been that long?), but here I stand!

I've been thinking long and hard about how I'm living my life, and I keep coming to the conclusion that...I make things TOO DIFFICULT. Yes, I'll admit to being ambitious, stubborn, maybe even a bit Type-A, but I've always felt it was necessary for success. I'm now starting to see that life is always going to be complex (at least for me), but it damn sure doesn't have to be complicated. I've made shit too damn hard for far too long.

Sooo, I've decided to go back to basics. Fall back on the few principles I've used sporadically throughout my life that have always served me well. I haven't got it all figured out yet, but this is what I've got:

1. Work hard, then PLAY hard: Sure I've had the work hard on lock, but PLAYing??? Not so much. I definitely know how to let loose and act a damn fool, but I see that I don't allow myself that often enough. I need it at least once a week, and I have to work strategically during the week to make sure I get it. So yes, leave the Facebook alone at work, handle my business, and shut it DOWN at least one night of the week.

2. Work it out! This applies to getting my fitness back on point. All day every day I preach health and wellness, but I don't feel I look the part....and I sure as hell don't FEEL the part. So you know what that means....get my ass up at 5 and get my gym time in! Get back on the wagon with this knee rehab so I can finally get my ass up in a dance class. Start cooking every weekday and stop giving the cafeteria at work so much of my damn (non-existent) money.

3. Laugh and laugh often. Life for me isn't complete unless I get a gut busting laugh on a daily basis, and I haven't been getting my daily fixes. Even if it's laughing at my own foolishness, I gotta find more chuckles out of life.


Okay, that's enough for now. More to come soon! It's good to be back!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

An Official Apple Whore!


Yes, it's official...with the recent purchase of my amazingly GROWN AND SEXY iPhone I am now a boneified APPLE WHORE. Some would call it an addiction, but then again who's absolutely in love with their addiction? Naw, I'm a big ol' Apple HO :)

I don't know about y'all, but I can't get over how cute, flashy, and functional this little piece of love is! Of course my Apple cherry was popped some time ago (thanks Darian and MacBook!), but acquiring this iPhone feels like my first technological orgasm (lol the iPhone hit my T-spot!). I know it sounds extreme, but this device is BAD!

Does anybody want to share in my whoredom? Calling all fellow Apple whores...lend me your knowledge! Does any know of any must have apps to download? Special iPhone tricks? Let a brotha know!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Having a moment right now...

Yeah...as the title suggests I'm kinda going through it right now. Maybe it's the season...cold days and nights...plenty of time to invade my thoughts...plenty of space to self-reflect. Or maybe it's the amazing (but potent) Mexican coffee I just made for myself (if you don't know about it, get into it here) Whatever the case may be, I'm feeling some kinda way. I wouldn't say I feel romantically empty, but I'm definitely yearning...

So many things are going right in my life right now...I'm in no position to complain really. However, there is one area that has alluded me for the longest time...men. So many people around me are happily attached and boo'd up...folks getting married, solidifying their commitments, having babies, co-habitating, etc. I'm yearning for a man. Not a fly by night one night stand or a fuck buddy, but somebody I can invest time and energy towards. Somebody I can court, or who will court me. Sex would be great, but it's deeper than that. Sex is easy, and always accessible. I yearn for the touch...physically, spirtually, and emotionally. I've never felt it before...and I want it. I want to hold...and be held. I want to laugh hysterically while curled up on the couch watching Tyler Perry plays or Wanda Sykes (how u doin? love her!). I want to SEX DOWN somebody, but do it sensually at first...and have that effort reciprocated. I want to cook a meal alongside somebody...or have him waiting on the couch sippin on some riesling and waiting for his culinary delights. I want to flirt mercilessly and wake up in the morning wrapped in strong arms and spooned up against a firm backside.

I yearn for...intimacy. The kind you can't find on BGC or AdamForAdam (i've never been one for those sites, no shade :)). Like I said...I'm kinda going through it right now. It will pass, right?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I was not expecting this....

Ok, so let me just say that I am thoroughly ENJOYING not being in school right now! I have officially been granted temporary freedom from my indentured servitude at the academic plantation and am having a FABULOUS time reconnecting with new and old friends and doing the things REGULAR people do. Vacations are an amazing creation, and for those workaholics out there who don't believe in them...stop playing and GET INTO IT! Work hard, play harder is what I say...

Anywho, while out gallivanting with my boy WalkYourOwnPath last night, I had the bright idea for us to get real hood and hit up the notorious Jewel's Catch One to continue our evening of exploration and foolery. The Catch is not my fave when it comes to nightspots (I think Westwood is making me a bit bougie :)), but since WalkinYourOwnPath is new to LA, I figured what the hell? He needs to experience ALL of the gaydom LA has to offer :)

So we roll up, grab our libations, and hit the dance room. As expected, the lesbuns were OUT(!), the crowd leaned toward raw and thuggish, and the music was respectable but not exceptional. Meh. After downing 2 of the Catch concoctions, my homie and I were feeling pretty good so we decided to soak up the vibe and just roll with it. The go-go dancers were giving us life and the DJ got real smart and graced us with some reggae, so we were primed to get it crackin :)

REWIND JUST A BIT..about 15 minutes into us entering a club I crossed paths with a young lady that I SWORE i've met before...She noticed me as well, but we couldn't put the pieces together in time so we missed the connection. FAST FORWARD...Now after about 20 minutes of dancehall/reggae madness, I feel a tap on my shoulder...I turn around and it's her. Here's the dialogue:

Her: I KNOW you from somewhere....
Me: Yes, you do look familiar
Her: Did you go to high school at Washington?
Me: Nope....(lightbulb goes off)!!! WAIT?! Did u go to undergrad at UC Davis?!
Her: YES! I remember now!!!

Then it all rushes back to me...I knew this girl very well once. I met her my 2nd year, in dance class. African Carribean Dance and Culture class. The first "real" dance class I ever took. The dance class taught by one of my greatest creative mentors, Ms. Bobbie Bolden. The class that turned me inside out and sparked a love for dance that has pulled me through shyness, insecurity, depression, and loneliness. The love that now is capable of causing me sadness and pain (I WILL be back to 100%...and soon!). I was not expecting to experience this....at the Catch of all places!

We gagged in celebration for a minute before she gave me the rundown about how she took off with the dancing (to the chagrin of her parents), graduated under Bobbie's mentorship, and is now pursuing her MFA at Temple and dancing for a major company! My heart swelled with pride as we reminisced about so many things that brought me joy during such a challenging point in my life...taking Bobbie's class...the psycho ballet teacher that hated us because we Black students had asses that stuck out...the challenges of choreography class...Black Repertory Theatre...letting the ENTIRE Black community HAVE IT at Apollo Night 2001...so many memories all involving dance...

But then things took a somber note. After confirming that we were members of the "family", we talked about how hard it was being gay, black, and closeted in college. She was nowhere near being out in college...neither was I. For much the same reasons...fear of rejection, and fear of isolation. We didn't give a damn about the campus at large...our fear was of OUR people, the Black community. Fear of being rejected by a community that we held so dear to our hearts. Fear of a community we made personal sacrifices for to feel included. Fear of losing crucial social capital in an environment not particularly open and accepting of people and practices unmistakenly Black and afrocentric. You see, although us Black folk only held down 2.8% of the student body, the community was strong...and somewhat homogenous. Unfortunately, "gay" wasn't really a part of the equation. Instead of throwing caution to the wind and affirming who we were, we remained silent. And we suffered because of it.

Right there, on the dance floor of the Catch One, we both had an emotional moment. Tears were shed, an embrace shared, and a look between us that spoke "I understand you...and I love you". Then we cracked up at the irony of the situation. We spent damn near three years on the same campus completely oblivious of how MUCH we had in common, and we reconnect dancing our asses off in the gayest club in Los Angeles, virtually in our backyards!

Life is funny like that sometimes...you never know what to expect.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My love affair with LEDISI

I am in love with a WOMAN, and her name is Ledisi...





The love affair started a little over a year ago when a dear friend let me listen to a lovely song titled "Kitchen". After hearing this woman with a BEAST of a voice, my heart percolated a bit...who the HELL was this, and why the hell haven't I heard of her before? From that point on, I knew I needed her in my life :)

After viewing YouTube after YouTube clip of this beautiful woman killing the tracks with her own material, conjuring the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Chaka Khan, Donny Hathaway, and even having the nerve to join up with one of my faves Rahsaan Patterson to kill a Rufus song while just playing around, I was hooked.

Acquiring her sophomore album "Lost and Found" intensified my attraction.



While somewhat disappointed at how produced her sound was on this album, her writing and delivery sold it for me. Baby, when I heard "In the Morning" for the first time, I thought she was reading my thoughts! Man, I wish I had somebody in the morning like that! If you don't have it in your library, do yourself a favor and buy 3 copies...one for you, and two for whomever will beat you silly for not sharing such a wonderful artist with them :)

I didn't publically pronounce my love for Ledisi until December 10, 2008, the night I saw her LIVE and in living color. Ledisi graced my fair city at the El Rey Theatre, a perfectly intimate venue for such a grand event. After waiting for nearly 2 HOURS to get in and connecting with my crew of Ledisi fans for the night, we prepared ourselves. In a standing room only crowd, we were FRONT and CENTER. I don't think I was ready...



She walked up on that stage...and let us HAVE IT....do you hear me?!! KILLED IT. Virtually 90 minutes straight. She gave us old skool Ledisi (before folks knew how off the hook she was). She gave us "Lost and Found". And she even treated us to her new Christmas album "Its Christmas". I just couldn't get over how RIDICULOUS the entire production was...she was off the chain...her band was amazing (and CUTE...damn!), and her backup singers were DEADLY (I'm talking like...ummm where is YOUR record deal?). As she aptly put it she gave us "some of that booty", "let mama tell ya songs", and "gave us church"! And to top it all, she was funny as hell! Crackin' jokes on folks, giving us sage advice, even letting us in the crowd get our sing on! I can't tell you how many times I just had to stop and shake my head like "wow...really? Are you serious? All of this?". Get into a clip:

video

Needless to say since the concert I've been rocking both "Lost and Found" and "Its Christmas", as well as digging up her older material. I'm in love with a WOMAN, and her name is Ledisi! If I weren't a tried and true homo I might of had to stop on by TIffany for a ring! But in all seriousness, Ledisi is an amazing artist and I just had to share my "love affair" with her to blogopia.

If you're into REAL VOCALISTS, get some LEDISI in your life!