Voicing my Strength

 

I realize now that the primary reason for my being a writer is because I am insecure. I grew up believing that my voice was insignificant so I almost always refrained from using it. I developed a disdain for giving any kind of speech or public presentation. I never ran for student government, or participated in the traffic squad, or performed at the Martin Luther King oratory contest as a child. It was so bad that even when I heard my voice being played back on someone’s answering machine it made me cringe. In essence I hated my voice but I felt like I had something to say. So I wrote stories, and poems, and plays. I always kept a journal and I always read books to study the masters of my craft. This helped me in the sense that I found my passion but it hurt me in the sense that I have grown to be completely nonverbal when it comes to my emotional state which has fallen right in line with my ideas of masculinity, however, this had led to a series of highly dysfunctional personal relationships.

 

It’s almost impossible for me to say to a person that has pissed me off: “When you did that it hurt my feelings.” This kind of exchange is so lame to me for so many different reasons. This is why I grew up writing, playing football, and cracking jokes about everything. It was an unconscious attempt to never have to express my emotions to another human being. And this is for two major reasons 1.) I didn’t think anyone would care 2.) I, like most young men, never wanted to be considered weak. I was bred to believe that only women or very effeminate men allow their feelings to be hurt. At some point I came to internalize the notion that if I suppressed my emotions well enough then they would go away and this erasure of emotions would be symbolic of my achieving manhood.

 

I was wrong.

 

Real men die alone. Real men cheat on their wives. Real men get divorced. Real men kill other men. Real men go to prison. Real men lose their minds because they cannot verbalize their real pain. I don’t want anything to do with any of that. So I have been engaging in a social experiment as of late in which I have been doing more speaking than writing in regards to my feelings. A crazy thing happened to me a few weeks ago. A friend of mine did something that bothered me and instead of “unfriending” her as if I was on Facebook I told her what she did bothered me and to please don’t do it again and that shit worked. It was very shocking. Not only did she care that she hurt my feelings but after the incident I didn’t feel weak at all. I actually felt very strong. For one of the first times in my life I felt like my voice mattered. It was kind of addicting.

 

I still plan to write but I no longer want to completely rely on my writing as my only mode of expression. I want to use my voice to express my innermost trauma and insecurity. Because I don’t just want to be a man I want to be a healthy man that confronts his issues and can express his love and will not die alone.

-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

Viewing happiness through my own lens

At some point you’re guaranteed to feel like a fool when you’re searching for something that may not even exist. Too many of us look outward for love instead of staring at our souls and preparing ourselves for whatever life may make of us. Just because you’re by yourself does not mean you have to feel lonely. And of course the inverse of this fact is also true, as my life has proven.

 

I’ve been in very large rooms full of people with alcohol flowing and music vibrating the walls and all I wanted to do was leave. I just wanted to be as alone as I felt. I’ve lain beside women that I find to be repulsive only because I didn’t want to sleep alone. And as they took up space in my room and marred my faith, I only wished that they would leave. Or better yet that I would have had the strength to never have invited them.

 

I have just recently begun asking myself if instead of looking for a life-partner I should be searching for spiritual contentment. Perhaps this contentment will include a wife and more offspring but then maybe it won’t. There are many forms of happiness just like there are many forms of misery. The question that resonates in my mind as I compose this piece is “If joy should come into my life in completely untraditional garb would I be able to recognize it?”

 

I need to care even less about what people say and how I may look. I need to be able to see positivity through my own lens and completely disregard how that may appear to someone else.

-YB