You Hella Pretty

 

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She was hella pretty so I told her. I wasn’t trying to harass her or make her feel less than what she is. I didn’t want her phone number and I didn’t want to send her pictures of me aroused in her DM’s. I didn’t want to marry her or one day take her home to my mother either. My statement was not a declaration of the ability of my gaze to validate her beauty because she would have been beautiful whether I told her or not. I was just a black man telling a black woman that she was pretty. I felt like she needed to hear it from me. I felt like I needed to tell her that and she needed to know that I was being sincere. I don’t think she felt that way. I think her day would have gone much better if I would have kept my comment to myself. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye as she walked in the opposite direction and said nothing, and what she said to me is exactly how she made me feel. Somehow I wanted to express to her in a three word ebonical phrase that I had suffered right alongside her and I still faced just as much resistance as she did and yet somehow we both were shinning and she was shining even brighter than me and that I acknowledged this fact, I appreciated her, I honored her, and I never gave up on her. But it didn’t go down that way.

 

Curse my arrogance for thinking that a complete stranger was obligated to respond to my compliment. Curse my sensitivity for being hurt when she didn’t. Curse my brooding ways for thinking that this non-exchange sums up the greatest problem facing black people in America right now, and that is the tragic hostility that drives the black man and the black woman to hate each other. I love that woman but I fear that all she saw in me was a man that had the power to hurt her. Or maybe she saw a man that was beneath her, or maybe…maybe nothing. Maybe I’m just thinking too hard but I doubt it.

-YB

The Casualties of Masculinity

Of all the things that my masculinity has forced me to suppress I can never get used to losing things. I can’t normalize losing relationships, losing time, and losing what’s pure. I have spent the better part of my adulthood nurturing a little bird and now it’s ready to fly away. It seems too soon but I suppose I would have never been ready. And now that this bird has discovered her own wings I must watch her flutter with great anxiety, trying to motivate her to go higher only with my words. And it all makes me feel very helpless.

I don’t go to Rolling Hills Cemetery anymore. I try not to look at it from the freeway either. There is too much death in that place. There is too much loss for me. If I were to go there and give everyone their due respect then I wouldn’t have enough for me. Some died violently, some of natural causes surrounded by the rest of the family on their death bed but not by me. I wasn’t there. I can’t take the loss of precious things, I never could.

Then there are the ones that float around me like ghosts, clearly out of their minds. They used to be sharp. They used to be hilarious in the cap session and now teenagers point at them and laugh. Indeed, if they could see what they are now when they were 16 then they would laugh too. Some of them speak to me while others don’t. But we used to talk for hours. We used to get turned down by beautiful girls together and fail the same classes and then talk about how it was all a conspiracy. And now, somehow, I am evil. My spirit has been tainted and I no longer know their language. I no longer see what they can see. I’m not down anymore. Not only am I gone but I have to stay gone. We will never be on the same level again. They live on the streets, oblivious to all judgement and free from all of the rules that confine me. When I try to say more than hello to them it sounds fake. For there is nothing to talk about. There are no more connections and I know that but I am a drug addict strung out on nostalgia.

I remember being hurt as a young boy and not having anyone to talk to about it because in my subconscious mind I felt like a man should never allow himself to be hurt and though I wasn’t a man yet I wanted to be one so badly. And then I remember seeing him at school and him listening, like really listening with his eyes and his arms crossed and he—having a far superior physique than mine, though we debated about it all the time—looking down on me with empathy and telling me not to trip and that he had been hurt in the same way. This made me feel like a man. My problems all of a sudden seemed worthy and my emotions had been validated. Then the conversation transitioned into far less pressing topics like an episode of Martin, or a cute girl, or football practice. I never said thank you. I could always come to him and he would never make me feel weak. I never thanked him for it though. Now I lost him. He speaks to himself but he won’t speak to me. Sometimes I try to break into his world with a smile or a question and try to disregard his condition but he never lets me in. Then I stay taking large doses of nostalgia like so many Xanax and like so much lean in my cup, I always drink too much. When I’m high I see that kid who I lost. He was so hopeful and pure. So talented, loving, and incapable of hurting anyone. And then I realize that the day that I lost him was the day that I lost myself. I will never be pure again.

-YB

Chris Brown Vs Soulja Boy May be the Most Important Fight of the 21st Century

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The fight between Chris Brown and Soulja Boy which is scheduled for March 2017 is very important from a cultural, economic, and revolutionary standpoint. I’m very excited about this fight and I’m actually contemplating flying to Las Vegas to watch it all go down live in person. And no I am not a 19-year-old woman with a crush on either one of the combatants nor am I a 19-year-old aspiring rapper with a mixtape to sell. I am, however, a witness to the transformative properties of boxing. Here are three reasons why Chris Brown Vs Soulja Boy could be the most important match of the 21st century.

 

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The murder rate in predominately African-American communities is disproportionately high. Chicago alone recorded 762 murders in 2016. That’s over two murders a day! It seems as though every dispute—no matter how petty—is settled behind the trigger. Sometimes innocent women and children are caught in the crossfire. This is why we need young men in the ghetto who are full of anger and testosterone to put their guns down, get their hands up and fight. Chris Brown and Soulja Boy had a beef which, according to Soulja Boy, began because Chris Brown found out Soulja Boy had gotten too close to a few of Chris Brown’s ex-girlfriends. And then thanks to Instagram and other forms of social, it got ugly. They went back and forth and Soulja even posted a picture of Chris Brown’s daughter which of course infuriated the R&B singer.

In present day Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Houston this is more than enough to justify murder. At the very least Chris and Soulja have enough influence to control any young goon in America to do their bidding. But they have chosen not to engage in a proxy war which would probably bring some form of tragedy to several Hollywood and Atlanta after parties, instead they have chosen to fight one another the old-fashioned way—with their gloved fists. That is admirable. It takes tremendous heart to get inside the ring and fight for three rounds. It does not take any heart to gun a man down or disrespect him on social media.

 

Boxing ain’t easy

 

The general public needs to know that just because you won a fight during lunch recess in the 6th grade, or you used to routinely beat the hell out of your little brother, or you knocked out some loud-mouthed drunkard at the club last week does NOT mean that you can actually fight. The craft of boxing demands skill and not rage. At the novice level an amateur boxing match is three, two minute rounds. Now I want everyone who is reading this to think about every fight that you have ever had. Then think about how long it actually lasted. If you have never participated in boxing, then your longest fight was probably no longer than 30 seconds. My point is that it takes tremendous mental fortitude to go toe to toe with another trained fighter who is trying to put you to sleep for two minutes straight. It will be interesting to see how Chris and Soulja respond when they throw their hardest punch and their opponent is still there and still fighting. The truth is that when we fantasize about fighting our bosses, or the dude that cut us off on the freeway, or the racist snobby lady that makes the snarky passive aggressive comment while in line at the grocery store, it always ends in a knock out. As the fantasy goes; you ball up your fist really tight, reach back as far as you can and punch the shit out of that person. Then they fly in the air and when they finally come back down to earth they are completely unconscious. Then you slowly walk away but not before screaming something like; “What bitch!” “You got knocked the fuck out!” “I quit this job mutha fucka!”

 

Of course, when you’re in a boxing ring fighting another trained fighter it doesn’t work that way. If you load up on your punches (that is to rear back before you throw) then your opponent simply slips the shot and counters you. Or if you land the shot then your opponent will more than likely step to you and try to land a hard shot of his own. In our violent fantasies, we all possess brutal one punch knock out power but in real life this is a very rare gift. That’s why boxers are trained to throw combinations and then get out of the way. There’s also the crazy amount of stamina that it takes to fight an amateur bout. You have to do some facet of training every single day of the week. You need to spar, run 6-10 miles a day, shadow box excessively, and give up junk food. It will be interesting to see if two young men who drink alcohol, do drugs, and are adored by millions of women around the globe are willing to do what it takes to be victorious in the ring. They won’t be able to take their crews into the ring with them, they won’t be able to call timeout when they’re tired, and they won’t be able to get their trainers (Floyd Mayweather for Soulja Boy and Mike Tyson for Chris Brown) to fight for them. They’ll have to dig deep within themselves in a way that they probably have never had to do before.

 

Boxing picks up where the negro leagues left off

With all the contributions that African-Americans have made to football, basketball, and baseball the fact remains that of those three major American sport that embody about 100 franchises there is only one team that is owned by a black person. We see African-Americans running, dribbling, dunking, and posturing on television. And we also see them in suits that costs thousands of dollars while fielding questions at press conferences. We know how many millions of dollars they make and we think they are rich, however, one should point out that they make nothing compared to the rich white guy who writes their checks. For all of their fame and endorsement deals they don’t own anything and African-Americans haven’t owned the franchises that they play in since Major League Baseball forced the Negro Leagues to disband.

 

Boxing, however, is different. As notorious as Don King is he ushered in a wave of black ownership that is needed not only in sports but in black communities as a whole. Most African-Americans live in neighborhoods that are economically underserved and the few businesses that we do have are owned by Arabs, Koreans, or Pakistanis. One could debate the reasons for this but one cannot debate the fact that it is true. What Don King was able to do was to put on completely black events from top to bottom: from the back of the house to the front of the house. That is to say from the athletes to the executive, which in Don King’s case was always him. By accomplishing this task King cut a hole in the ceiling, a hole which Al Haymon was able to walk right through.

Al Haymon is the manager (but more like a business partner) to Floyd Mayweather and a host of other very talented fighters in the sport of boxing. Like Don King he is from the Cleveland, Ohio but unlike Don King he does not exploit his fighters. He gives his fighters a larger cut of the profits than any other manager/promoter ever has. So much so that Floyd Mayweather once said; “If I would have had Al Haymon from the beginning [of my career] I probably would be a billionaire by now.” Al Haymon promoted the richest fight in boxing history: Mayweather Vs. Pacquiao. And Al Haymon is a black man. It would be impossible for one to imagine a black person or company producing the World Series, the Super Bowl, or even the NBA All Star game. Not only that, Al Haymond refused to allow Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum, who is white, to get any percentage of the revenue from the fight. That would never happen in any other sport.

 

Chris Brown Vs. Soulja Boy will be brought to you entirely by Floyd Mayweather’s The Money Team/Mayweather Promotions so in essence to support this fight is to support black business. Black people spend an estimated 1.2 trillion a year on cars, jewelry, hotels, restaurants, and tickets to support sports franchises that do not belong to us. This fight is a rare exception.

 

As a fan of boxing and as a progressive African-American man that is tired of my culture clinging to the very bottom of American-Society. I’m tired of homicide and black male behavior being synonymous, I’m tired of the high rate of obesity among our children, and I’m tired of other people of color setting up shop in the black community selling us alcohol and inferior goods. Perhaps what I am most bothered by is how so many African-Americans take a natural attitude towards our own self-hatred and oppression. If Chris Brown and Soulja Boy have an intense exciting fight and then hug and show respect to one another after their fight is over, then maybe they will start a trend that will bring together the eight trays and rolling sixties of South Central Los Angeles and the black disciples and gangster disciples of the Southside of Chicago. Maybe young men will learn how to lose with honor instead of coming back to the block with a pistol and shooting at everything moving. If the winner of the fight can have pride and the loser remain dignified, then maybe young black men will choose life instead of death and seek freedom instead of incarceration. Maybe.

At any rate whether on pay per view or at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas I will definitely be watching.

 

 

Writing in bed

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As I lay here between these sheets using these letters as a pianist uses the keys of a piano to express himself through sound, I write for clarity and not necessarily for the final product. I just want to make my ordeal visible. Whatever kind of joy or yearning that I am experiencing I don’t want it to fester inside of me. I need to be able to dissect it. And I need to know that I will not be judged for my humanity. That no one will talk wreckless to me for not healing fast enough or for being petty. I need a place where I can be in my feelings without someone telling me that I’m in my feelings. I need to be able to take that mask off that Dunbar was talking about and be me, while I still know who I am. I write in my bed before I brush my teeth or use the bathroom or return that phone call or put my Pop Tarts in the microwave so I can know what I’m up against internally. So that I can know how I feel and deal with it accordingly. I write to remind myself that I am a human-being.

-YB

In the theater by my god damn self!

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I walk slowly to my seat in the back row with some form of chocolate candy in my hand or maybe an ice cream bar. I sit down with a sense of anticipation that is slightly more than subtle. The lights turn down and I am ready to be liberated for about two hours more or less. I am ready to be overwhelmed by art. The screen is gigantic, the sound is excessively loud and I am in my comfort zone. For I am, once again, in the movie theater by myself.

 

I see movies by myself so often at this point that it almost feels weird to see a movie with someone else. When I do there’s always that awkward moment afterwards when I have to talk to the person about what I’ve seen as opposed to just thinking about it for hours and hours. And even way before I get to that point I usually have to explain why it is that I like what I like. Why I’m never into Hollywood Blockbusters. Why I like independent movies, foreign movies, documentaries and musicals. Why I want to see Lala Land instead of the new Will Smith movie. Why do I want to see Fences in the theater again especially since I’ve seen the play twice and read it as well. Why do I enjoy seeing movies in Foreign languages that I will never know how to speak. Over the past 30 plus years I have realized that I am very weird. And ever since I graduated from college I have stopped trying to play my weirdness down in order to fit in with other people. Fuck other people. I do things by myself because I love myself and I deserve it. If strange things bring me joy, then so be it. I don’t need anyone to use their mockery or fake interest in an effort to tag along with me. Let me sit down in the very back row gorging on a Toblerone with my feet up all by my god damn self. Let me have my space: please! I promise I’ll be a more sociable person as soon as the end credits roll up.

And then there is the price. In terms of dating if I have to pay $12.00 to get into a movie I really don’t want to pay someone else’s way. Especially not a date. As far as I’m concerned United Artists killed chivalry when they raised the price of a movie ticket to over $8.00. Then once you add the exorbitant price of popcorn and a drink, I’m cool. As a matter of fact, I’m hella cool. I’m not treating you. No disrespect but I would rather sit in my dark lit up place concerned only with the development of plot and an actor’s ability to pull off an accent, not with my finances.

 

So, when you’re with your crew or your boo and you see me in the back of the theater by myself with my beanie cap down low, don’t feel sorry for me—just understand that I am taking care of myself and self-care is a must.

-YB

The First Time

 

black-couple-happy-in-bed-s-300x180The first time she feels comfortable enough to poot in your presence and you realize how difficult it must have been for her to suppress her humanity for all of those months. And then she looks at you with surprise but no hint of shame and the both of you begin to laugh hysterically. For you realize that she can never unbreak that wind and she will never again attempt to live up to society’s impossible expectations of what a woman should and should not do while being courted. From this moment forward you will regard her not merely as a love interest but as a human-being. As your potna. As your homie. You lean over and kiss her softly on her giggling cheek then breath in hard through your nose and you are almost overwhelmed because you know that if real love had a smell then this would undoubtedly be it.

Seeking Readmittance

 

I write through my struggle. I make sacrifices so that my urge to create can come back to me. It shouldn’t take a bullet in the brain of my childhood friend for me to write. It shouldn’t take depression or any other extreme circumstance. There should be a normalcy to when I create, if not an obsession. This should not be painful. This should not be like a bullet in the head. It should be like a meaningful kiss with your eyes open, it should be about waking up feeling secure in what you are, it should be like pulling over to talk to that cute girl and knowing that she’s feeling you before you even ask for the number, or like a sideshow on 106th and Macarthur. Like joy in the place of poverty, you feel me?

 

I’m not losing my voice. Two 19 year olds were murdered in the streets of North Oakland this past Monday and now is the time to Lift Every Voice. Perhaps I have become complacent in my position outside of the trap. I work, I take care of my daughter, I sleep, I workout. I’ve allowed myself to become numb. I’ve allowed myself to believe that murder, or the threat of murder doesn’t effect me the same way it did when I was trying to find my place in the world. I’ve allowed myself to believe that I have found my place in the world. How could I be secure in a place that is not creative?

 

I’ve been dead and now I seek readmittance into the world. I am ready to be possessed. I am the mule that Zora spoke of.

 

-YB