Missing her

In my 32 years on this planet I’ve probably lost more than the average person. But prior to February of this year I had only lost things that I myself had attained. For example; my friends, girlfriends, jobs, etc. but now I know what it feels like to lose something I was born with. I no longer have a grandmother.

I have to keep telling myself that in hopes that one-day I will actually stop running and deal with it the way that it needs to be dealt with. I have to keep telling myself that because I’ve become a master at evading my own emotions. She’s dead. And with her so many stories and so much history and such a huge part of everything that I am has perished. I’m not sure how I can continue to grow as an artist when my roots have been severed.

Yesterday I wanted to drive across the bridge to Bayview-Hunters Point to see her. I wanted to sleep over her house with all of my cousins and wait for her to give us all quarters so we could go swimming at Martin Luther King swimming pool. I wanted to hear her gravely yet affectionate voice. I wanted to see all of the pictures of her 12 children on the wall—including my mother—and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I wanted to chop it up with my grandmother. I wanted to make her cackle and I wanted her to make me giggle. I wanted so desperately to be around the woman that brought my mother into the world. I wanted to tell her things that I had never told her before and not care that the entire family would know all of my business by sundown. I just wanted to talk to her.

At this point all I know is strength at the expense of my humanity.

I miss her ridiculously, and I still love her but she’s gon

A Reinterpretation of Tears

Two Porters

I learned shortly after my daughter’s mother and I separated that by continuing to be in my daughter’s life I was committing a highly subversive act. It felt as though my ex-girlfriend wasn’t prepared to deal with my continued presence, my picking our daughter up on weekends, my asking for her on holidays. It felt as though I wasn’t following the script and she, as well as her family, couldn’t understand why I didn’t just leave. After all as a black man wasn’t that what I was supposed to do?

My parent’s marriage disintegrated not long after I came into the world. I have absolutely no recollection of them being together but my older brother and sister insist that this was indeed the case for several years. I rarely if ever saw my father. And when I did he was always very serious, even when he smiled. And every time I saw him he was always in a suit and tie. Occasionally he would pick us up on a Saturday afternoon and take us out to eat. Then we would often times go several weeks at a time without seeing him.

Shortly after I turned 7-years-old my father came over to our house one evening and called my two older siblings and I into the living room. Like always he was wearing a collared shirt and a tie, and like always he was very prideful. He told us that he would be moving back to his home state of Tennessee with his new wife to be the pastor of his own church. We didn’t believe him. We made him place his hand on the holy bible and say it again; after he obliged we knew it was true. He only stayed for a few minutes then he left. We smiled and waved goodbye to our father through the window never fully realizing what was taking place.

After that night sometimes we would see him once a year, other years we wouldn’t see him at all. In the beginning he would call but then the calls began to come in a lot less frequent. I never called him. As a matter of fact by the time I was a teenager I became a lot more comfortable with his absence than I was with his presence. In the public schools that I attended not having a father was trendy. It made you normal.

In junior high school whenever I was hanging out with my friends in the hallway or in the gym and the subject of our father came up we all chimed in with different reasons as to why we hated our dads. Why dude was a coward. At least one of us declared that he would beat his father to the ground for what he did to his mother—if he ever saw him again. There could have been a whole room full of black boys and you wouldn’t find one of them that wanted to be like his father. No one ever tried to understand his father. We all depended solely on our mothers, or in some cases grandmothers, for our daily representation of what a man was supposed to be. And we were able to infer from these women’s stories that a “real man” was everything that our fathers were not.

At the age of 19 I fell in love with a woman. Three years later she gave birth to my child. About six months after that she broke up with me. She confronted me one evening and said that she could tell that I was unhappy with the relationship. I couldn’t find the words to disagree with her. Two days later she moved out of my house and took my baby girl with her. It was at that point that I realized I had no idea what being a father meant. I also realized that I needed to find out in a hurry but I had no idea where to look.

My mother’s father was shot in the face the day that she was born and died in the hospital a few days later. The only thing I know about my paternal grandfather is that he and my father didn’t get along. He died before I was born and I have never so much as seen a photograph of him. My mother once said that he was the overbearing type but I’ve never been able to confirm this with my father. My father has never brought him up.

So each week I would approach my ex-girlfriend’s house to pick up my daughter I would be completely confused. I wanted to be in my daughter’s life so she could know what it was like to have a father; however, I didn’t know how to do it. I had nothing to draw on. My rides to her apartment complex were painful, my walks to her front door were swift, my knocks were violent, and we always exchanged the baby in a visceral silence.

My daughter felt the negative energy. Before I could buckle her down in her car seat for the nearly one hour drive she would break out screaming and crying until she lost her breath. After I strapped her in and turned onto Main Street heading toward the freeway the crying would persist. I would look at my baby through the rearview mirror; she’d make eye contact with me and scream louder. One day I became unraveled.

I demanded that she stop crying, and told her how much I sacrificed for her. That I had gotten a college degree so I could provide for her. That I was being degraded on a daily basis at a job that I couldn’t stand just so I could have enough money to come get her, and she had the nerve to disrespect me. Cut it out! I told her. Stop it! But she continued to cry. This little brown skinned girl with light brown eyes like mine, and full eyebrows like mine, was in her car seat openly expressing all of the sacred things that I had learned to forget.

I never liked to get my haircut as a child just like I never liked to take baths. About once every few months my father would take my brother and I to the barbershop for a haircut. By this time I would have a small unkempt Afro with patches of tiny naps on the back of my neck. In preparation for my trip to the barbershop my mother would gently comb my hair with a little plastic comb. She would spray water on the tougher spots so the comb would go through nice and easy and so I wouldn’t squirm as much because I was severely tenderheaded. But I still squirmed and all of my mother’s careful strokes and tedious labor was irrelevant by the time I got to the barber’s chair because the water had dried up making my hair harder and nappier than ever.

The barber was my father’s friend. He was an old guy with thick glasses named Will. He never showed me any mercy. My father was always first to get a haircut and it always amazed me how he used the barber chair like a pulpit. He carefully directed the general conversation of the shop to topics that interested him. Somehow he was able to redirect all conversations about sports—which he has always abhorred—to the need for black people to support black businesses. Conversations about women somehow ended up being about Christianity. My father, although small in stature, was the unofficial maestro of the Barbershop. And he never once had to raise his voice.

My brother would go next. A man-child six years my senior he was always tall compared to everyone else in our family, and he was confident, and charismatic. At eleven years old he had a head full of waves and since he was very concerned about his image, he would take trips to the barbershop either by himself or with my older cousins. He never let his hair get as long and kinky as mine. His hair was so soft and thick the barber almost thanked him for letting him touch it.

Then it was my turn to go. While my father continued to direct conversation and my brother sat in his seat glowing with all of the adulation he had just received, Will the barber ripped through my hair with a torturing device known as “a natural comb.” A natural comb is a long black comb with metal teeth designed specifically for taming the most savage, unruly, naps. As he ran the comb through my hair with so much force that it snapped my head back and I could literally hear the naps popping, I tried so hard to keep it together but I could feel the tears coming. I knew that he had to comb my hair so that it wouldn’t damage his clippers but I couldn’t understand why he had to be so brutal. Why didn’t he ask me if I was tenderheaded? If he did then maybe he would be able to comb my hair gently like my mother did. Why didn’t it bother him that he was hurting me? I could no longer stop the water from trickling down my cheek. I looked at my father, the great composer of conversation through blurred eyes as I cried. And I remember him finally looking up at me. He did not say anything. He was ashamed.

And now this little being was in my backseat screaming so loud and for so long that she lost her breath. I hadn’t made it to the freeway before I cracked. She broke me down. I pulled the car into the nearest parking lot unbuckled her and held her close to my chest. I let her cry and she did for several minutes. I rocked her and shushed her gently while telling her over and over again that everything was going to be OK. I kissed her tears away until no more fell, until she went to sleep in my arms.

That was the day I learned how to transcend my manhood in order to be a good father. I learned how to listen to her cries in order to interpret exactly what she needed. Sometimes it was a bottle, sometimes it was reassurance, and sometimes it was a hug, while other times it was a song. Indeed my daughter was the first female I learned how to effectively communicate with. She became my entire weekend, she was my focus, and she became my identity.

That was the day I promised I would never leave her.

-YB

Yuri Kochiyama Never Went Hollywood

Hollywood distorts just about everything. When wealthy people get together and decide to green light a movie they do so because they believe it will make them money, not because a particular version of the truth needs to be told. With money as the motivating factor often times beautiful people with minimal talent are casted in leading roles, scripts are seriously altered in an attempt to make events more melodramatic, and sometimes very righteous people are completely removed from history.

 

It wasn’t until my first year of graduate school during a class discussion that I learned that the lady who cradled the head of Malcolm X while he lay dying was not his wife Betty Shabazz but rather it was Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama. Kochiyama remained a fixture on the Bay Area civil rights scene well past her 90th year. As a matter of fact I saw her at the world premiere of a documentary on the life of Richard Aoki at The Grand Lake Theater in 2009. Yuri Kochiyama died in Berkeley on June 1, 2014 in Berkeley, CA.

 

I think about how a more realistic depiction of the death of Malcolm X would have changed the black and white perception of The Civil Rights Movement. What if Lucy Liu would have been the lady weeping over Denzel Washington’s body instead of Angela Bassett? Would that have been too difficult for the American public to digest? Is reality too complicated to understand? Americans love looking at the real world as if it were a comic book—Black vs. white and good vs. evil—which always ends in an overly simplistic view of society.

African-Americans should realize that the Rodney King Riots in 1992 probably would have been suppressed within a day if it were not for the general empathy and participation of the Spanish-speaking citizens of Los Angeles. Similarly Mexican-Americans should understand that the United Farm Workers of America would not have been nearly as powerful were it not for the involvement of Filipino farm workers who also suffered under the same wretched conditions as day laborers in California and who had also had enough of it.

 

So Spike Lee made an executive decision to insert a sobbing Angela Bassett into a death scene instead of writing an Asian-American actor into the script. That doesn’t minimize the accomplishments of Yuri Kochiyama, however, it does reduce the potency of her legacy. After all Americans learn their history from the movies not from books. It’s rather pathetic that a woman can be down for the cause until the age of 93 and most conscious people don’t even know who she is. The power of Hollywood is immeasurable

 

RIP Yuri Kochiyama

1921-2014

-YB

Donald Sterling is gone but has anything changed?

The racist shenanigans of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling appear to be coming to a close with ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offering to pay $2 Billion for the beleaguered franchise. After all of the public criticism, the celebrity tongue lashings from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Little Wayne, the quasi-fascist chanting of “We Are One” by tens of thousands of fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the threats of a players strike if Sterling was not ousted from the league led by LeBron James, the Clipper players turning their warm ups inside out as a united display of shame for the action of their boss before a playoff game, the hopes of the team being purchased by Oprah Winfrey or Floyd Mayweather, after all of that hype and hoopla not only does the team go from being owned by one rich white man to being owned by another even wealthier one but Donald Sterling makes out like a fat rat, earning way more money than the team was actually worth. The next closest bid was $1.6 Billion. So how should the American public feel about this? Are we any closer to achieving Martin Luther King’s dream of equality now? Was any progress made whatsoever?

 

The American consumer is being led to believe that Donald Sterling was an aberration, a prejudiced anomaly in a sea of progressive, good-hearted, liberal, franchise owners who coincidentally are all white males. It’s also completely unexplainable why 80% of NBA players are black but there is only one African-American majority owner (and that one black owner happens to be the greatest basketball player of all time). Have we as a society been so blinded by idea of cultural sensitivity that we have forgotten that institutionalized racism thrives in every facet of American business? Have we misconstrued the original intent of integration so much that we honestly believe that white people allowing blacks to work for them without calling them niggers is what the civil rights movement was about? Do we think that as long as blacks are treated with dignity as they dedicate their whole lives to building corporations that will never belong to them then we are headed down the right track? It seems as though we have allowed the term black owner to become an oxymoron in American lexicon. And as long as we can physically see black people dunking, scoring, and hoisting trophies at the end of every season on our television screens then we don’t care.

 

Looking back at this whole affair it is easy to see how things worked out great for Donald Sterling—at least from a financial perspective. It is also quite simple to see how the conclusion of this ordeal worked out really well for the NBA owners as they are able to wipe the sweat from their collective brow and exhale at the thought of knowing that they will be able to continue to make billions of dollars while dolling out mere millions to big black athletic men that they would be deathly afraid of if they ever encountered them without an NBA jersey on their backs. It is, however, impossible to see how the handling of the Donald Sterling scandal has made the NBA a less racist place. Diehard basketball fans can rejoice as they root for either the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. They are thrilled because the introduction of Steve Ballmer symbolizes the removal of the last hurdle in the Sterling saga and now, thank god, we are back to business as usual. But as citizens of a country built by innovators, dreamers, revolutionaries, and freedom fighters we must ask ourselves do we really want business as usual or do we want change?

-YB

 

 

Turn down for what? Here are 30 reasons why you should

Turn down for what

1.)  Because you’re 43.

2.)  Because you can’t afford to buy another drink.

3.)  Because no matter how many drinks you buy her she still won’t invite you to her place.

4.)  Because you can’t afford another baby’s mama.

5.)  Because you don’t want herpes.

6.)  Because someone in this club has a gun and you don’t know who it is.

7.)  Because you don’t want to get shot in the face for doing something that you won’t even be able to remember.

8.)  Because you have work in the morning.

9.)  Because whenever you drink too much alcohol it makes you poop a lot the next day.

10.) Because no matter how old you get you still can’t handle your alcohol.

11.) Because when you dance too much it makes your forehead sweat thus

drawing attention to your receding hairline.

12.) Because you have asthma.

13.) Because the last time your son got suspended from school you told him that

he “be doing too much.” Now look at you.

14.) Because “Molly” is just another white girl that’s bound to get you caught up (see Rosewood, Emmett Till, The Scottsboro Boys, and The Central Park 5).

15.) Because you don’t want to violate your probation.

16.) Because if you come home high again your girlfriend is going to leave you.

17.) Because if your girlfriend leaves you then you won’t be able to afford your own place.

18.) Because the woman who you’re dancing with will never call you back once she finds out how much money you really make.

19.) Because when the club ends she’s going to go home to her man and you’re going to be so drunk that you’re girlfriend won’t let you in the house.

20.) Because when you get drunk you think you can fight but you really can’t.

21.) Because the bouncers haven’t been drinking at all and they’re much bigger than you and they know the exact location on your chin to punch you in to put you to sleep.

22.) Because when you get knocked out the girl who you were trying to impress will scream “Daaaaaaaaaamn!” And cover her mouth and laugh at you. Then she’ll slip the bouncer who knocked you out her cell number and friend him on Facebook while she tweets “This drunk dude just got KTFO! Trying not to laugh #ILUVD-BO”

23.) Because it’s not cool to be out of control.

24.) Because you only get high because you’re insecure.

25.) Because your roommates will vote you and your girlfriend out of the house if you throw up on the bathroom floor again.

26.) Because when you get too drunk you start crying for no reason and you blow everyone else’s high.

27.) Because you have to drive home.

28.) Because you don’t ever want to go back to jail.

29.) Because DUI is a felony.

30.) BECAUSE YOU HAVE A FUCKING PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!

 

-YB

Am I A Real Man Now?

.....On Muses

I feel as though my roots have been severed. My voice has been lost. For the most part I feel like I don’t know how I feel. I hide behind my work like a coward, like a sociopath, like a man. My grandmother died in the first part of February and I haven’t cried about it yet.

I’ve put in a lot of hours at my job. I’ve continued to take care of my child. I went to the play at her after school program and I cheered her on at all of her basketball games but no tears for mama.

My sister called me when I was at work to tell me that “Mama was dying.” Silence. “Are y’all at the hospital?” I asked. Then she said yeah and waited for me to say that I was on my way but I never said that. I didn’t leave my job until very late that night. Then I drove slowly, very slowly to my house. I got on Facebook and discovered that mama was dead.

I didn’t want to be around all the drama. All the howling and shouting that accompanies the death of a family member. I was in the room when my uncle was dying of AIDS, along with all of my other family members, until I looked at his face twitching and his body convulsing. My Aunt rubbed his forehead and gently gave him permission to let go and said that it was OK. I left. I went into the waiting room until I heard all of the lord have mercies accompanied by the guttural moans. When I came back in he was still and gone. At the age of 14 I didn’t cry. I remember feeling very proud of myself and ashamed for my family for not letting the man die alone. I told myself that if I should perish in a room full of people then I would use my last breath to say, “Get the fuck out.”

It’s strange because most people believe that is the most honorable way to die but not me. I would never want my family to see me weak. Maybe god won’t forgive me for being so prideful, maybe my family won’t respect my wishes when I tell them to leave or perhaps I’ll die very suddenly and it won’t matter.

My grandmother’s death wasn’t sudden at all. It seemed as though she died steadily for about 10-years straight. She slowly lost everything. At some point I could no longer tolerate it so I ran. I ran to the boxing gym, I ran to my job, I ran 10 miles a day. All the while the powerful lady who bore 12 children and never forgot anyone’s birthday began suffering from senility. She saw things that no one else could see and started to tell secrets that only she knew and I heard about all of this through the gossipers because I was gone; away, inside my own head, hiding from memories of me trying to take care of her and her leaving, saying that we were trying to poison her, she’ll never know how much that hurt, I held my grudge, now she’s in the dirt, what does it matter, it doesn’t matter at all because mama is dead.

I work all day. I run around the Lake and I sweat. I bought my daughter a new pair of shoes. I flirt with the women. I talk shit with the fellas. I forgot how to cry. Does that make me a real man now?

Am I a real man?

-YB

Notes on abortion amongst black women in New York

I recently came across a statistic that bothered me more than anything I’ve read in several years and, to be frank, I read a lot of very depressing literature. The statistic is that in New York City there are more abortions than live births for black women (http://blackamericaweb.com/2014/02/27/in-n-y-c-more-abortions-than-live-births-for-black-women/).

 

Now before all of the women that may come across this blog cringe at the thought of another man expressing his feelings on abortion, I would like to say that I fully realize that as a man I will never be pregnant and thus I will never be in a situation where I have to personally consider getting an abortion. Maybe it isn’t my place to speak on what women should and should not do with their bodies but as a black man it behooves me to decry the low cultural self-esteem and internalized racism amongst black people that this study confirms.

 

The study goes on to say that although abortions in New York City were down overall black women comprised 42.4 percent of the abortions performed.

 

When I finished reading the article I was at a loss. What happened to the idea of black folk handing down our dreams to our children no matter how bleak our current circumstances may be? If the whole country is stuck in a recession and a whole generation of young people are coming into adulthood mired in debt that they don’t have the means to pay off due to their inability to obtain employment then how is it that unborn black babies suffer more than any other demographic?

 

Has abortion become completely normalized in the black community?

 

When I was in high school if you got your girlfriend pregnant then you were supposed to “make her get an abortion.” Now as I tread deeper into the murky, unknown waters of manhood I see that a lot of my peers have been unable to shake this mentality. I know a lot of men who hold complete bitterness and hostility toward the very notion of them being a father.

 

“The bitch trapped me.”

 

“I don’t think she’s really pregnant.”

 

“I want a paternity test.”

 

These are all very strong sentiments that undoubtedly have a tremendous impact of the decision-making process of a black woman who all of a sudden finds herself to be in a pregnant condition. It’s hard for me to blame a sista for voluntarily choosing not to bring a child into this world out-of-wedlock knowing that she is going to have to raise the child without the assistance of the child’s father.

 

I do, however, wish that we remembered how much the descendants of Africa have historically cherished life. Be it on a rural plantation in Georgia or post earthquake Haiti blacks have always found hope in keeping our culture going strong. No matter how impossible our situation may appear to outsiders, we have never given up because quitting is probably the most Un-African thing a person can do.

 

It saddens me to know that the majority of black women in New York City have been led to believe that the termination of the spirit growing inside them is the most logical course of action to be taken.

 

-YB