Beats, Rhymes …. and Percocets

…drugs are a symptom of an underlying issue. You see it in hip-hop…. These kids come from nothing. Young black men experience a lot of trauma. They’ve lost people, seen violence, been humiliated by society. So they turn to alcohol, molly … lean.”-Vic Mensa

90s – Ten Crack Commandments

Drugs are not new to hip hop. In the 90s, hip hop was inundated with drug dealers turned rappers and their reality based rap, labeled “gangsta rap” to conservatives, that told their real stories slinging everything from weed, crack, and heroine, always strapped, and kicking in the door.The lyrics and beats were raw, with samples were from urban records that were played while their parents had card parties and drank Cisco and Olde E in the basement with blue lights.

Jay-Z
Biggie
Snoop
Ice Cube
Ice-T
Jeezy
50cent
Eazy E
T.I.
Members of Wu Tang
The Clipse
Master P
Game

… have all rapped about life as drug dealers. It’s a very common phenomenon. In the 90s on the urban streets of LA, the South, or New York, hip hop culture was taking over and the crack epidemic was live and in living color… so it’s no surprise the world’s collided. So common, Master P made a song with a recipe to “make crack like this” and Biggie gave us the Ten Crack Commandments, rules of the game. While UGK gave us the process of drug selling from connect, to seller, to addict in Pocket Full of Stones. Many of the first rap conglomerates were funded with the proceeds of drug sales. Rap was a way out of that life for most of these rappers. The music industry gave these dudes a legit way to make money and a legal opportunity to flex their stellar business skills.

I used to move snowflakes by the O-Z/I guess even back then you can call me/CEO of the R-O-C.” -Jay-Z

2000- Sipping on Some Sizzurp

Old school guys talked of smoking weed by the pound, but “never [got] high on [their] own supply”, so stories of partaking of heavy drugs laced the lyrics until….

Enter… lean.

Lean … a concoction made of some combination of codeine cough syrup, candy, and pop (soda for the non Michigan folks)… also known as sizzurp, a popular Texas drug cocktail, gained popularity after Texas rappers Three6Mafia and UGK made the song Sipping on some Syrup in 2000. It was a concoction famous in Houston since the 60s, when it was made with Robitussin and fruit juice . We all know a little Tussin could cure everything from a cold to an ingrown toenail… or at least dull the pain. After it’s formula was changed, prescription codeine cough syrup was substituted and often taken in combination with other drugs and alcohol for a deadly combination. Popular Houston musician DJ Screw, famous for his chopped and screwed songs died of an overdose of lean in 2000.

Lean induced a mouthfeel (that’s what I have read cuz ain’t no way I’m drinking this gasoline) that slurred speech and slowed the motor coordination of the tongue. It’s also said to cause feelings of floating. Such was the music. You can hear the influence of the drugs on chopped and screwed songs … the slowed down and sort of disorganized and slurred beats. Listen to Still Tippin Chopped and Screwed by Mike Jones…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_pTxh4HXv0&feature=share

It spread in popularity in the South as young rappers from New Orleans, Florida, and Atlanta could be seen with a styrofoam cups they sipped from in videos, interviews, and concerts. The potent mix was said to cause everything from liver and respiratory failure to seizures and ultimately could cause death. Many professional rappers and athletes have admitted to being users and suffering health complications as a result.

Yeah, I’m on that gas and yeah, I’m on that lean. We mix it all together and we call it gasolean -2Chainz

2007- I Feel Like Dying

In 2007, Lil Wayne was experiencing his opus. He was literally and figuratively flying high after releasing The Carter II , several popular mixtapes, and appearing on every hot feature and remix. He was also wildly popular, especially among young Black and White kids in the skater and emo culture.

Wayne’s I Feel Like Dying, leaked from his sessions making The Carter 3. This song was the oddly romantic love song to weed, lean, and Xanax that basically describes withdrawal as “dying”, as compared to feeling of being high. It ushered in emo-rap, rap about emotions, depression, suicide, and drug use that was usually set to hazy, melodic and slow rock, blues or punk samples. According to the Drug Slang in Hip Hop Project, 2007 was the year words like Xanax, Percocet, and Valium became apart of rap’s lyrics. But lean didn’t love Wayne.

Rappers became users and victims when UGK rapper Pimp C and DJ Screw protege, Big Moe both died of lean induced overdoses in 2007. In 2013, Lil Wayne was hospitalized several times, from drug induced seizures, brought on by complications from consuming lean. While gaining commercial success their personal lives were being robbed by drug use.

I am a prisoner locked up behind Xanax bars.” -Lil Wayne

2017-present – Everyone Dies in their Nightmares

Can’t get a wink ‘less I’m leaning off of syrup/Dreaming of my past like a nightmare so I wake up-Danny Brown

Last Sunday , 21 year old rapper, Jarad “Juice WRLD” Higgins, died in a suspected drug overdose after a seizure at Chicago’s Midway airport. Federal officials were searching his luggage for drugs and weapons at the time and found 41 “vacuum-sealed” bags of marijuana totaling 70 pounds and six bottles of prescription codeine cough syrup during the search. He’s one of many young rappers to die from drug overdose in the last few years, including Lil Peep, Mac Miller, and XXXTentacion.

What’s the 27 club? We ain’t making it past 21.“- Juice WRLD

Many high profile celebrities died at the age of 27 including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse, many by drug or alcohol related causes. But it’s not uncommon today to hear these young rappers dying at 21. Juice, Lil Peep, and XXXTentacion were all 21 years old at the time of their deaths. And while the latter was murdered in a robbery, all three were known in the rap game for their drug use and lyrics.

By 2017, 33% of hip hop on the Billboard charts mentioned drugs. Future’s Mask Off basically said fuck it, with its chorus “Percocets, Molly, Percocets” set to Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song’s” slow and bluesy melody, typical of emo-rap. The song outwardly spoke of blatant prescription drug use. It was “I Feel Like Dying” overdosing. And that’s just what was happening. Several rappers who had not only suffered from addiction but also depression, commonly co-dependent diseases, had lyrics laced with drug use.

Eminem
Lil Uzi Vert
Kid Cudi
Logic
Vic Mensa
Travis Scott
Lil Xa
Mac Miller , died 2017 overdose
XXXTentacion , died 2018 robber
Lil Peep , died 2017 overdose

These rappers talked of recurrent thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety, and mania like rappers in the past talked about cars and women. Yet this new crop of largely millennial generation rappers were diving deep into their mental health challenges and dulled their pain with the surely large supplies of prescription drugs available to them. Once known mainly as a problem in suburban and more affluent areas, the influence of rap into mainstream and pop culture brought into it those same reciprocal influences. So drugs commonly prescribed as physical pain killers were being used to dull the senses. Yet these drugs taken together and without close monitoring by a physician was far too commonly leading to overdose. From seller to user. From gangsta to victim. From women, cars, and guns to Molly and Percocets.

Young or Lil. Chiefin or getting wet. Lean in the cup or xanys in the pockets. Art imitates life. Just like the East Coast v West Coast shit caused us to lose two of the greatest in the culture, Molly & Percocets are gonna leave us with fewer young talents in the industry as well. And thats just…

“…Self-Destruction, you’re headed for self-destruction.”

One in a Million

I recall wearing my hair down to school, it was long and curled. At the front half I had a ponytail and the back half was loose. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t cute!

I walked into school and one of the teachers, a Black lady, in a Catholic school full of nuns, said to me, hands in her hip…”Your hair is so pretty, but you know you look fast like that.” I was all of ten, and I was certain I wasn’t “fast” and didn’t look a day over ten. So I kept walking to my locker. I have a history of ignoring tomfoolery.

… but it was something I heard more than once. At my friend’s sweet sixteen with my fitted above the knee dress. Once from a friend of my mother’s after her daughter did my hair in a style other than braided ponytails. And in reference to my Black girl friends throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Likewise we were all the subject of far to many grown men’s attention from as low as the age of eight until adulthood. I assure you, the lot of us were very innocent and neither sexually suggestive or sexually active.

Our mere presence is sexualized.

The number of times I heard remarks about how my and my peers looks, bodies, hair, or long legs (they certainly weren’t talking about me because I’m the Corgi of the group) were going to bring attention, boys, and trouble. And we all know trouble was code for anything from attention to pregnancy in Black culture.

Trust, at 10, I was still into Jem and the Holograms. Sex was the last thing I was interested in. But black girls are still fighting Jezebel stereotypes. So there’s that.

My senior year of high school Aaliyah, the singer, and R. Kelly were alleged to have gotten married. I knew she was just two years my junior, and I couldn’t imagine that could be true… until Vibe magazine published the marriage certificate. The next time I saw Aaliyah on tv, on the Soul Train Awards, the crowd boo’ed her, but older Black women yelled and screamed whenever R. Kelly took the stage.

Had she not wore her hair down, over her eye, and crop tops… he would have never bothered her, but she enticed him with her fast ways.

That seemed to be the consensus. This girl was being a teenager, and he was being an adult sexual abuser. Yet she was seen as the problem. So much so, when she was finally separated from him by her family, she suspended her music career for awhile and he kept gaining popularity. He was more popular… WITEF?!??? How does that happen?

Well… Malcolm was correct.

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” -Malcolm X

This sick and twisted bastard was able to continue, as a free man, doing this to countless Black teenage girls. Countless. These girls, some of whom were basically handed over to him in exchange for fame and others of whom snuck to him were victimized well into adulthood. He psychologically wooed them, made them feel special, then groomed them, isolated them, and abused them physically and sexually for years. Abuse is this very complicated mind fuck. It’s not always as easy as walking away…

But the blame rests in adults. Black men and women who helped this man mistreat and sexually abuse these children, their parents, and fans. You cannot separate the man from his artistry… as a creative, I can assure you that all of who I am is poured into my art. Michael wanted to Heal the World. James wanted to get on the scene like a sex machine. Actors talk of becoming the characters they play. Poets speak of being able to feel the words emanate from their fingers. Dancers bodies translate how the music makes them feel. Stop that bullshit excuse. The bottom line is that, Black adults were complicit in his abuse by watching a video of him having sex with a child then supporting him buying his music and concert tickets. Nope. Children are to love, not fuck. Ever! Anyone who does is a criminal and I don’t want shit they are selling.

“We all noticed but no one cared, because we were Black girls.”-Mikka Kendall

Here is the real. Sexual abuse is wrong and damages people for life. He was abused and as a result abused children and women for sport. See how that works. Black girls deserve to be protected. They deserve to maintain their innocence and share their bodies on their terms. They also deserve to be seen first and foremost as young girls, children, despite the way their bodies curve, their hair tumbles from their heads, or the length of their legs. They deserve to explore their existence and sexuality in ways that are healthy and promote their happiness. Most importantly, they deserve to grow into the women they were intended to be, not the one you label them as because they have hips or he robs the innocence from because he has a problem.

So, let’s vow as adults, parents, teachers, mentors to protect and speak life into Black girls, and not diminish them because of our own fears, insecurities, and judgements. Let’s assure her…

She doesn’t have to sit on Uncle Horace’s lap.

She isn’t fast because she’s growing up and exploring her beauty, body, and sexuality.

She should alert an adult immediately if she is touched anywhere that makes her feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

She is worthy of and will receive protection.

She does not ever deserve to be spoken to, touched, or treated in a sexualized manner.

We will crack anyone’s skull who attempts to violate her.

As for R. Kelly, I hope he rots in jail. And we owe Aaliyah , and every little Black girl we dismissed as asking for it or being complicit in their abuse, mistreatment, disrespect, or sexualization, an apology.

Compassionate Capitalism

My friend Jamal Edwards (#demninefoes stand ALL the way up) has a daily live podcast called the Jamalcast, and today he spoke about the juxtaposition of compassion and capitalism in the healthcare field. He spoke of seeking services from providers that seem to lack concern for their patients experience and favor the faster and bigger method to healthcare, to bring in more money in a shorter amount of time. During his video he said (I’m paraphrasing) that while there is nothing inherently wrong with capitalism, that it could be practiced with a greater level of care and compassion. I concur emphatically!

In fact, I offer that this model is applicable across the spectrum.

….

In order to better understand these concepts and how they could meld, let’s start with the more complex of the two.

cap·i·tal·ism /ˈkapədlˌizəm/ noun: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state( from Oxford Dictionary).

Capitalism is the economic system in America. A democratic republic is the political system. The very clean definition of capitalism above doesn’t really delve into its most intimate spaces. Capitalism starts with private ownership, sure. But in the middle parts, it creates a system of haves and have nots that need each other to survive. Capitalism is given this homemade, warm, fuzzy feeling by wrapping it in these three words : The American Dream.

The idea being if you work hard you can be and do anything you can dream of, because opportunity in America is limitless. That is certainly true for some of us. But you know damn well they never meant for a 3/5ths person to be able to have it all! More on that in a bit. But anyway, the fact is that if I’m a private owner, I need workers. Some of my workers will make a living wage. Arguably, some will not, in order for me to make a profit off of my goods and services.

About 40-80% of a companies gross budget goes to salaries. Amazon made 10.1 billion net profit in 2018, and it’s thousands of sales, delivery, customer service, and labor workers are bringing home a little over $16,000, which is poverty level for a family of two. The only way I can profit that much money requires saving money somewhere… and lower and entry level labor focused jobs are likely where. It’s a proven fact that these jobs are disproportionately held by minorities.That is one example of how this divide begins. Big business versus the people.

That’s not compassionate capitalism.

com·pas·sion /kəmˈpaSHən /noun: sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others (from Oxford Dictionary).

I would like to believe I am extremely compassionate towards those who are less fortunate than me. I give of my money and time to charity, charitable organizations, and do my own person and family based giving during the cold Michigan winters. But if I had 10.1 billion, I’d be giving giving. As much as I like Gucci and I don’t like people… and a lot of them I don’t, I am against human suffering, hunger, illness, pain, and trauma. I would be doing all I could to help those who needed it if I had it. I could still be a have and bring some people with me there.

Be clear, I’m not promoting a totally free market, a socialist or communist framework, or any other type of economy. I do, however, believe that the a system based on the creation of wealth via supply and demand (capitalism) versus an exchange of wealth via supply and demand (free market) lends itself to the have and have nots more readily. If the demand of an item creates wealth, those with greater access will control the supply and leave out small entrepreneurs and underpay its labor force. And anytime you have a have not, there is someone suffering financially. Compassion is anti-suffering.

So what does compassionate capitalism look like?

Well I have an idea. Imagine that!

First, I don’t think there is inherently anything wrong with the notion that if you work hard you can take advantage of the wealth of opportunity in America. Compassionate capitalism would ensure that those opportunities are available to those that want them, offered wide enough for every segment of the population to access them (every segment… women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals, the handicapped, etc.), and based on a combination of diversity of thought and merit in light of that open access to ensure you are pulling from a wealth of experiences and backgrounds. Creativity depends upon the latter.

Second, I am a fan of a free market economy that has stop gaps for government intervention when the free market fails. In Hong Kong, likely the freest market in the world, healthcare is seeing its fair share of failures as its supply outweighs the demand of its aging population. In this instance, the government needs to have legislation in place that prevents these types of public health crises. The same would be true for education, housing, civil rights, environment and other areas of concern that could lead to human harm. I don’t see anything wrong with creating wealth, but not over creating humanity.

Third, and ultimately the bottom line, no 2% of any people should hold 50% of accumulated wealth, when 15% of the people cannot afford food, clothes, and shelter. The government should ensure that everyone has food, a place to live, education, and healthcare… even if it is only the simplest of those things. It is, after all, a function of the U. S. Constitution, which sets up the government, to “promote the general welfare” and those should include the economic welfare, social security and justice, and civil rights of the people.

Compassionate Capitalism is ultimately up to us to implement. I know when I’m an ever bigger have, I’ll be grabbing hands and pulling them up instead of grabbing legs and pulling folks down. We can create enough wealth to share and exchange…

Let’s get this money and this love y’all!!!!

Check out the Jamalcast : Opinions About Everything

By the way, I love Kid President. He’s more like a Young Man President now, but he was the bees knees! 😍

Queen me Slim

(Spoilers)

Listen…I saw Queen & Slim last night, and it was first and foremost cinematic excellence.

“Why Black people always have to be excellent? Why can’t we just be ourselves”

Well… sometimes who you are is just fucking excellent, and Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas are that. This movie was black on black, and it spoke on love, brutality on Black bodies, freedom, and protest. It was in so many ways #BlackLivesMatter on film. It was also so much more. I found myself paying attention to things I don’t normally think I would have. It made me feel things I didn’t expect to. Let’s get into it.

1. Black Skin

This movie moved around melanin.

The cinematography highlighted it. The colors that surrounded it seemed to make it look smoother, richer, and more beautiful. The bodies of the title characters intertwined on the side of the road, was like watching chocolate stirring. The scene at the jazz club, appropriately called The Underground, was a sea of Black skin, darkest mahogany to cafe au lait, moving in syncopation with the heavy blues music. Uncle Earl’s “girls” moved about in lace and natural hair, bodies thick to thin, and skin glistening. It was a huepalooza! Everything seems to move around it. Everything.

2. Black Freedom

What starts as a blind date, ends up as a freedom story. The couple moves from Cleveland to Florida, trying to escape to Cuba and avoid certain death for killing a police officer in self-defense. It’s a typical traffic stop turns fatal, but this time the usual victim turns the gun on the clearly racist cop. Somehow in this struggle they find strength and freedom.

As they move through the country, they are celebrated and protected by other Black people along the way. It’s not a celebration of their killing the officer so much as a celebration of their remaining alive. A vindication of sorts for the Black folks they encounter who have grieved for Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Willie McCoy, and countless others. It’s also a celebration of the Black network. The Uncle Earl’s along the way that often help all of us when we are in precarious positions, to find our way out. The various people they meet along the way that cry for them after they perish. I am my brother’s keeper.

Most importantly, they find themselves. The uptight and loner lawyer is able to heal from her past and embrace sharing her most personal and intimate spaces with her cohort.

 “I want a guy to show me myself. I want him to love me so deeply, I’m not afraid to show him how ugly I can be.

They fall in love as she is healed and he is able to be his true self, telling her about his wants, fears, shortcomings.

“I ain’t going to bend the world. As long as my lady remembers me fondly, that’s all I need.

To be able to love and be vulnerable is the greatest freedom. It’s a love story sure, but much more a freedom story.

3. Black Culture

Music

jazz, hip hop, blues, gospel

Clothes

snake skin boots, jogging suits, jewel tones, gold, animal print, Gucci, lace, sexy, all white

A major big up to Shiona Turini as costume designer. That fur Bokeem Woodbine wore to the funeral was some of the dopest shit I’ve seen in a movie in a long time, fashion wise. And that Dapper Dan jogging suit was major. Way to focus on Black fashion!

Ancestry

Langston (as in Hughes) the Black cop who let them go ; The Underground (as in Railroad) club and the bartender like a Southern Harriet Tubman “you’re safe here” and the reverse fugitive slave narrative (North to South); and Assata Shakur’s escape to Cuba after escaping from prison for her part in a shootout that left a white cop dead.

Being Black in America. After shooting a cop in self-defense, they become the criminals simply because they are Black and the cop was White. They are hunted, labeled armed and dangerous when they don’t even have a weapon, and killed, her by a overzealous female cop and him execution style, holding her lifeless body, unarmed, and clearly not dangerous. We don’t ever hear their names until the end… Angela and Ernest. The news clip is the same victim as criminal shit we heard after pictures of Trayvon Martin putting up the middle finger and Michael Brown possibly robbing a party store were used to lessen the severity of their murders. We are assumed criminals by birthright in America. We are born into the bondage of racism.

4. Black women

I watched Angela Johnson go from a judgey, I’m smarter than you stoic figure dressed in all white with her middle parted braids to a flirty, sexy, fun woman in a short dress, short hair, and open and vulnerable disposition. She was every woman. She was me. She was my sistafriends. She was strong and afraid. She was in control and able and willing to relinquish it. When they both knew their lives were over, she looks to him and says “Can I be your legacy” … the ultimate ride or die. And while most of us aren’t willing to pledge death, we will die for what we believe in. And she believed in Ernest. Black women are all these things. We were represented well.

“He is nothing out there, but in here he’s a King!”

A Queen is indeed her King’s legacy!

Queen & Slim was an excellent film. It was a full circle film, where everything made sense. At one point Ernest attempts to assure Angela telling her that they are safe because the person they encountered was Black, and she remarks “that’s not always a good thing” under her breath. The movie, which rides the music in the film in perfect rhythm, reaches a crescendo and her comment rings true when that Goodie Mob meets Hootie Hoo snitch ass negro feigns helping them to turn them in. Ole sucka MC ass! Sorry… he made me feel a way! A testament to good acting. Did I mention that Bokeem Woodbine was awesome…

These characters, these actors, the fimmakers… they are Black excellence. They don’t have to try, they can’t help it, they just are.

Love is a tremendous responsibility

Black love certainly is…

Almost a year ago I was scrolling through Facebook and heard the sweet voice attached to the even sweeter face of Nikki Giovanni talking to the almost melodic and lyrical voice of James Baldwin. They exchanged quips and banter, then went into a painfully deep conversation on the experience of love, relationships, and humanity for Black people living in a state of constant oppression, poverty, and despair. “Love is a tremendous responsibility,” Giovanni says softly at the end of the dialogue. Those words frame the conversation.

It’s not an afterthought but an affirmation. It’s the kind of thing that floats above whatever that is below which could drown it. It persists and moves about the world spreading its truth. Love is indeed a tremendous responsibility… especially for Black men and women. It’s a dance and a battle. A beauty and a beast.

If I love you, I can’t lie to you,” Baldwin says.

Of course, you can lie to me,” Giovanni replies. “Because what the hell do I care about the truth? I care if you’re there.

….

I have loved Black Men. It has been difficult. I’m sure I have been no cake walk. They have been inconsistent and inauthentic. I have been difficult and demanding. They have been selfish and soulless at times. I have been over emotional and overly harsh at others. It’s a dance I constantly turned in my dance card for… but rarely made it to the end without a stepped on toe or otherwise forced to take the lead to get us to the end of the song.

I have yet, until now, had someone who is willing to give of himself in such an emotionally free way that is not dictated by what he can give or not give, buy or not buy, but instead by giving me the one thing I cannot purchase with dollars, credit cards, or extra care bucks.

Himself.

His entire self. His time. His days. His moments. His emotion. His rationalizations. His conversation. His silence. His sleep. His awake. His starving. His full. His all the way up, and his down.

It’s not predicated on what he doesn’t have.

“…especially if I love you… I can’t come with nothing.“-Baldwin

But what he does.

Sometimes you’re not able to clothe your family. Do you then, also, deprive them of your manhood?” -Giovanni

Whether it’s money or power or strength or … whatever it is that he thinks or knows he’s lacking, he does not deprive me of his presence. He uses me as his inspiration and catalyst to dream bigger and better, while being and living beside me as my support. Rarely do I need money or things, but I always, as long as he is willing to be present, need him and his manhood and his presence. And he’s willing… his actions show me and his future talk and preparation assure me.

Love is a tremendous responsibility.

It means giving. Of yourself and to yourself simultaneously. Being aware that what a woman needs most is you, something you first have to value and see the importance of independent from your resources. Sure, we teach men that their job is to provide… but the idea that provision is only financial is steeped in bullshit.

You will work it out. Because you are intelligent enough. You are sensitive enough. You are man enough to work out a new system. … As long as the assumptions are the same, nothing will change. So, we must corner ourselves to make a new assumption.Giovanni

We understand the pressures Black men face. In many ways we are the recipient of that same vitriol with sexism as the root instead of fear. They are afraid of you and convince you that the closer you come to their patriarchal individualistic and capitalistic ideal the more of a man you will be… while simultaneously blocking you from that ideal. They think we lack the ability because we aren’t men first and then because we aren’t white. But they desire us so we don’t have to fight for our womanhood in quite the same way, at least not anymore.

But we will help you change that narrative… because you are men to us. Any woman that predicates Black manhood on financial ability is ignorant of history and our ancestral model. This model of female fragility that many Black women have attempted to adopt is synonymous with the white female ideal. This timid, soft, breakable, weak woman whose only strength is her beauty is a sexist trope that white women in the past and some in the present modeled. But that is not who we are. We aren’t mules, but we aren’t glass. As Sojourner said… “I could work as much and eat as much as a man… but ain’t I a woman?” We are capable of providing and helping to provide. We are a collective, you and me, not just two individuals trying to get over. That’s their way… not ours.

Love is a tremendous responsibility. It is especially true when you have to prove your worth, are told you have to work harder than everyone else to get scraps, and risk your dreams, health, body, time, patience, and goodness to get to these unreachable and unnecessary ideals. But we have to change the narrative together.

If a man comes home, and he’s in a situation he cannot control, it’s got to come out somewhere. They got you by the neck and by the balls, and it has to come out. It comes out with the person you are closest to.” -Baldwin

You grin at him all day long. You come home and I catch hell. Because I love you, I get least of you. I get the very minimum. ” -Giovanni

A man is not void of value because he doesn’t have or because he does have according to the American ideal… he’s valuable because he has and gives of himself. He’s valuable because he gives himself to those that love him, and saves the best parts of himself for them. He can do it, it just takes a change of mindset. That’s the narrative we should push. We have everything we need to excel, and we can do so in this landscape, with these rules, with our own ideals, traditions, and ancestry intact. We first have to love ourselves enough to believe that, then be present and open enough with each other to share ourselves and create a collective partnership. From that, there is nothing we cannot create.

We all we got! Love responsibly!

All they do is this!

People don’t mind their business no more, all they do is this…
When they gave people access to the World Wide Web, they didn’t realize how creative, wild AF, and opinionated folks are. It gave us information at our fingertips, and unleashed the ability for people to espouse their most ridiculous shit publicly. So folks sit around with their meme generators and concoct ways to push their agendas and opinions into folks. And we share it and spread it so far, it seems to be supported as the only way to think. Nope. Nope. And more nope.

Yesterday and today I saw two posts, one about what being single is and the other about what it means to be married. Clearly the vast majority of people agreed with the posts… but regardless of what a legal definition might be, I disliked the premise of the posts. It reminded me of so many other things I see on social media that attempt to a) label people by invoking religion or the law and b) use loaded words in their simplest terms to prove the writers point.

Post #1 Snippet

Until you are married, you are SINGLE.

1.We just got engaged😉😆(Single)

2.I live with my boyfriend😂😂 (Still Single)

3. We have been together for 15years 😢😅(Super Single) ….

(The emojis and qualifiers irritated me the most.)

Post #2 Snippet

Separated = Married

Estranged = Married

Married = Married

Sleeping in separate bedrooms = Married

Divorced = Divorced

Freshly Divorced= Emotionally Unavailable

Legally, sure, a lot of this is true. But let’s keep it 100… very few people when they pick rings, dresses, deejays, cakes and photographers are thinking about the legal protections of marriage. People get married because of financial stability, societal expectations, love, because they don’t want to be alone, to raise a family, etc. Many married folks don’t even know the litany of automatic legal protections available to them. But folks are quick to invoke those protections when nonmarried people speak up about their feelings about marriage and more particularly the fact that it’s not a necessity for them. Some married women get upset by that. How dare you not want in on all this… bliss.

Outside of that legal framework, relationships are emotional, physical, personal, and spiritual bonds that are much deeper than legalese. There are laws that make wearing yellow on the third Sunday of the month illegal. There are laws that says non-free people only count as “three fifths” of a person… (Article 1, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution) yep still there! So let’s just stop with the idea that all laws are good laws.

Beyond that though, the law creates labels. The purpose of the law is to regulate behavior… and one of the most difficult types of behavior to regulate is emotional behavior. And in the spirit of being real, this really isn’t about legal definitions. It’s about judgements and controlling people so other folks are more comfortable. Its about protecting our security, expectations, and boundaries because we aren’t owning our part in how those things were broken down in the first place. It’s easier to control people when you make them fit into boxes, it creates a social expectation, and the typical us versus them dichotomy. I can, without even knowing who made those posts tell you that a married person made the single post and a single person made the married post. I’d be willing to bet money on it. Ultimately those posts become a mechanism to deliver a message to other folks. Other folks who are likely NOT waiting on some Facebook post to tell them how to live.

It’s clear from the posts that these are judgements on the choices people make… “single” people acting married and “married” people acting single. Who defines what any of that really looks like?!?! And why did the writer care so damn much?

Single is legal term for unmarried but it also means free of encumbrances. Many women with children don’t consider themselves “single” as in singular. One may be legally single but not consider themselves single based on the responsibilities and loyalty they have pledged to a partner. One can be more responsible and loyal to their partner than another is to their spouse. Many people forego the automatic legal protections created by legal marriage to set up those same protections for financial, medical, and residential rights to their partner by choice. That is often a reason people chose not to marry or don’t find it a necessity, they want to be free to choose the parameters of their relationship and not have them dictated to them.

And ending a marriage, don’t get me started. First people label you a quitter, that you give up to easily, or as someone not willing to fight for the marriage. Then people tell you what you should or should not do while you are waiting to be allowed to divorce. How ready you are to move on, despite knowing nothing about the particulars of your marriage. Folks say well whatever stage you are in, you are still married… legally true but often as far from the truth emotionally and physically as you can get. If you chose not to involve yourself with someone in those stages, that I fully understand. But that is your choice. How they see the stages of the end of their marriage are based on thing you likely know nothing about.

Who cares how a person living with their mate, with their mate 15 years, estranged from their spouse for five years or in a legal battle for ten defines themselves or their relationship status? Chances are those people don’t label themselves as single or married. Shit, there are actually boxes under Marital Status that say Domestic Partnership or Separated, things other than Single or Married. For YEARS same sex couples who were as “married” as anyone else were denied the right to be married legally. So there’s that! When I was married I could have given two shits about what non married people called themselves or what anyone thought about mine. When I was divorcing, I gave less than two shits about what people thought about my lengthy ordeal. Now that I’m unmarried, the only relationship I have an opinion on is the one I’m in. And no one else’s opinion of it matters outside of the two people in it.

We already know what the law says, but let’s leave people to dictate their own descriptions of their relationships as long as they are being honest if they are involving others. So instead…

Engaged = Engaged

Cohabitating = Cohabitating

Together 15 years = Together 15 years

Separated = Separated

Estranged = Estranged

Divorced = Divorced

Newly Divorced = Newly Divorced

The bottom line is this… the particulars of anyone’s relationship are theirs and theirs alone. Legal definitions, your opinions, and society’s expectations are not in partnership with anyone… and as a result, should stay out of two people’s choices regarding the way they define and experience their relationship. If folks choose marriage, great. I’m a proponent. However, if people choose long term, short term, casual, open, or some other iteration of a relationship, that is their choice to make and trust that people are doing what best benefits them. Mind your relationship.

Just my interpretation of the situation…

Good Negroes

“I’m light skinned but I’m still a dark nigga” -Drake

A. I love that lyric … it’s deeper than rap though.

B. It’s how I feel in my heart, not dark in terms of skin color, but I’m real Black.

C. I’m Black Panther Black, Black Lives Matter Black, Five Percenter in front of Queensbridge reciting today’s mathematics Black, James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni “A Dialogue” Black, Good Times Black Jesus Black…but don’t lie to me.

D. I’m not a good negro. I’m not so thankful for some grace of the White man to allow me education, a home, sound mind and body, a paycheck, a nice car, freedom from slavery, to be a good negro. I’m a good HUMAN but I’m still Nat Turner if need be… I will revolt.

Oh, I don’t really like good negroes.

….

So let’s get some basic definitions out of the way…

A bad negro is… confident, collective minded, and proud of Blackness. The stereotypes of a look… hoodie, sagging jeans, Timbs, scowl, braids, angry demeanor, large body, poor, is just that, a stereotype. But in Trump’s America, one doesn’t have to look a way anymore, one just needs to be a way. A black man in a suit and luxury car is just as much a thug as your White neighbor whose wife brought you muffins and who offers your hubby a beer is a hood wearing KKK Grand Wizard. A bad negro has dreams and aspirations that don’t aspire to Whiteness.

Whiteness is the state of being unfairly privileged because of ethnically/racially centered nationalism and capitalism that favors the individual over the collective.

Now… a good negro.

1. A good negro is interested in securing and ensuring all his/her privileges remain intact. First, we got the educated, well spoken, non threatening, hard working Black privilege (the they aren’t all thugs privilege). Then we have the light skin privilege (the other drops matter privilege). Finally we have the attractive privilege (the “he/she could get it” privilege) . Good negroes try real hard to maintain those bc it feeds their families, buys them big houses, funds their Maldives trips, and gets them a good job which helps maintain a good credit score so they can push a clean whip.

2. A good negro adopts the do you want more attitude instead of the I’m gonna inspire you to see you need more. They buy into the crabs in the bucket mentality, and the fallacy of the American Dream. It’s an individualistic way of looking at growth, inspired by capitalism and democracy, that many of us took on after integration to stay in the White part of town. Our culture and ancestry is collectivist. We do better culturally when we move in groups and pick up and collect members along the way.

3. A good negro cares incessantly about how they are viewed by White people AS a Black person. It’s one thing to be a humanist, care about people, and want to connect with people,m. Yet, when you have to stifle parts of yourself to be accepted, that’s diminishing. That’s it, good negroes diminish parts of who they are… often the urban, Black Southern, extended family, and coded parts of themselves. Most of them eventually forget the code to switch to.

Why is a good negro a problem?

Well, traditionally he is mostly financially successful. But he is simultaneously culturally poor and has become ancestrally ignorant. You can only shed so much of yourself until you lose it all together. For the Black people and youth seeking financial success, they will look to the good negro for schemes of professional, social, and personal validation in a world where gentrification, redistricting, school district financing, colorism, and racism constantly tell them they are unworthy. They will learn from a good negro that we are lacking, instead of seeing oppression for what it is.

Whiteness in America is the hottest commodity going. It’s the central source of money and power. Any system that powerful is always clear that they are powerful only as long as there are powerless. So they push us apart from one another in strategic ways, so we cannot realize our collective power. Gentrification… breaks up urban centers with wealth possibility to keep us poor and separate. Redistricting… breaks us away from each other politically to drown our votes in Whiteness. Colorism… puts one in-group against the other and looks like internal fighting, that is really just a spawn of racism. Racism… the biggest system of racial oppression that forces Black people to fight for crumbs so we starve each other. No one with so much power would do so much work to keep another powerless, unless they knew how much power we actually yield!

We must stop sacrificing ourselves to whatever privileges we are given and attempting to appease White people by being quiet and acting dependent upon their decision to give us something… anyone that giveth can taketh away. You must be aware of where and how you diminish your Blackness and at what cost, so you know when to jump out of the privilege infested waters, take a class in shuckin and jivin, or just allow yourself to drown.

Bad negroes choose to swim, and catch some fish along the way… it’s why we are confident!

Good negroes don’t harness that power… they wait for a life preserver and have to depend on their best behavior to get a treat.

Fuck your treat, I’m going for the meal… and mine has yams.

“The yam is the power that be, you can smell it when I’m walking down the street!” -Kendrick Lamar “King Kunta”

Ever Too Much?

Lutha (Vandross… you know of him) said “a thousand kisses from you was never too much” perhaps depending on who is doing the kissing and the frequency… we talking one after another constantly or over time, wet or dry, tongue or no tongue or a combination?

Cuz yes, a thousand kisses even from that guy could be too much. There can be too much talking, too much silence, too much work, too much chillin, too much taking… but can there be too much giving!?!?

Too much of anything makes you an addict.” -Nice & Smooth “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow”

I’m a big believer in balance. Anytime you get too out of balance there is an effect on health… be it physical, emotional, relational, or otherwise. Choosing to be out of balance is usually tied to some toxic need. Working out eight hours a day, might be linked to a need for control or perfection. Similarly, sleeping all day might be linked to a need to suppress emotions or experiences. Working beyond necessity because you are afraid to fail. Playing and partying to the hilt because you are afraid to win. Over giving to feel worthy of love or to get accolades and over taking due to feelings of grandiosity or narcissism.

Those unbalanced actions and feelings need to be dealt with and healed, otherwise you will either miss your blessing, spoil your opportunity, or push people away. Let’s focus on the give and take, more on the give than the take.

Women have been groomed to be givers. Since the beginning of time, women in the home have been the givers of care, love, and nurture to their spouses, children, and parents when they reach an age of need. Women in the past didn’t work and were not taught and raised to have dreams of their own, other than to be wives and mothers. Social titles that all required being responsible for other people before themselves. Even as women joined the workforce and are matching men in terms of employment hours, responsibilities, titles, and pay, we were still deemed responsible for management of the home. Cooking, cleaning, mothering…

Then add to that being a Black woman. The image that comes to mind is the wet nurse, feeding the white baby at her full breast and her own hungry Black child at the other. No self or bodily autonomy, simply a vehicle for the needs of others. Cook, house maid, hand maid, concubine, incubator, and personal refrigerator. Forced during slavery, and expected even today. Be a public lady, a professional, a private whore, and Wonder Woman all in one. Cooking, cleAning, mothering, all while looking 16 at 36. Too murch.

I’m the only one putting shots up, and like a potluck you need to come wit it.” -Drake “Too Much”

So it’s no surprise that women tend to give of themselves in excess. However, most of that is out of responsibility for the roles we have taken on by choice- wife, mother, care giver…professional or otherwise. What about those of us who put ourselves out there as givers… who want to be seen as givers?

Giving that comes from generosity that expects nothing in return is healthy and normal. But over giving to fulfill a need often comes at a cost to both the giver and the receiver. The over giver often forces or attempts to force their help, opinions, generosity into others, so the person on the receiving end isn’t really a taker by choice. That not only puts a strain on the givers ability to tend to their own personal needs but on the receivers boundaries as well. The receiver may not want or need it.

The over giver usually has a self esteem issue that seeks value and worth outside of themselves. They people please to get compliments and attention to feed their ego because they cannot find that internal boost. It is often seen in people seeking desperately to be liked or to fit into certain spaces. It’s like a square peg attempting to fit into a round hole, and never settling into the open square. When people tire of giving that incessant attention, the over giver will move to another source. But there will never be enough on the outside to quell a lack on the inside. What a tiring and stressful existence.

Too much just ain’t enough to keep her satisfied.” -Green Day “Too Much Too Soon”

The truth is, that despite what history has told us, we will be loved, liked, paid attention to, forgiven for our past transgressions, seen for who we have become not just who we were, if we are good people who value humanity and give of ourselves for the sake of sharing our blessings. It isn’t necessary to try to be known or seen as a giver. It isn’t necessary to give beyond our own financial or personal means. In fact, that’s not genuine and not from a place of kindness but from a place of need. When we give for need, we aren’t really giving but taking away from ourselves and the receiver. Taking from our own reserve and giving the receiver an inauthentic message that we want to help them when really we just want to help ourselves. Heal that shit. It’s unhealthy and will likely lead to the opposite of what you are seeking.

Drinking water is necessary for living, too little and you be dehydrated, but too much water can lead to a sort of internal drowning. Seek balance… anything else is too much!

All worlds a birthday cake, do take a piece but not too much.” -The Beatles “It’s all Too Much”

Respect Me in Equity

Treating different things the same can generate as much inequality as treating the same things different. “-Kimberli Crenshaw

In 2017 in the files of former GM of the Denver Broncos was a memo written by Claude Young, a former NFL running back entitled “Some Observations on the NFL and Negro Players.” It laid out the growing number of Black players in the league, the lack of Black employees in these organizations (non-players), the need for more cultural and social support for these athletes, and the potential issues for players who spoke out on civil rights issues. The letter was sent out to teams by the commissioner. (1) It wasn’t enough to just get the chance White players had been given, but to be seen as Black players with needs distinct and different from the privileged.

Fast forward to 2019, the NFL after blacklisting Colin Kaepernick since 2016 for protesting during the anthem for the lives of Black men, women, and children being taken by police officers, goes into partnership with RocNation, owned by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter to be live music strategist and to promote the culture of the corp of athletic talent in the league through change initiatives. The partnership was seen by many as an Uncle Tom and capitalistic move by Jay, especially since it didn’t demand the hiring or compensation of Kaepernick. Yet others saw the power of Jay taking his seat at this table, putting himself in a position to not only inspire change but represent the culture of the league’s players, primarily urban young Black men.

And on this Saturday, after three years since his last time on the field, Kaepernick will have a league set up workout. It’s not perfect and it’s methods were certainly hasty… but if he wants to play, which he clearly does, this is a mechanism for that.

“Every night we in the end zone, tell the NFL we in stadiums too”

So folks got opinions, good. This is not just an NFL issue, it’s a cultural, social, and civil rights issue. It’s the same issue from 1966. It’s not a new issue. Jay-Z didn’t create this, Trump didn’t create it, and neither did Kaepernick or his kneeling. Let’s talk facts.

In 2017, 70% of the leagues players were Black. In 1966, 25% if the leagues players were Black. If a player in 1966 could predict the exact issue that Kaepernick faced and requested better treatment of these men and integration of their culture and values into the fabric of the league … imagine how important that seat is today.

1960 saw the start of sit-ins for refusal of service of Black patrons. 1963 witnessed March on Washington followed by the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. The third in 11 days since the integration of Alabama schools. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed and three civil rights activists were found dead after a massive FBI investigation. 1965 saw the March in Selma, the assassination of Malcolm X, and passing of the Voting Rights Act. In 1966 the Black Panther Party was formed by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. What a tumultuous time to be Black and alive. The times were definitely a catalyst for that 1966 memo. We demand to be seen.

At a time when we were still treated as less than full humans, someone stood up, but we didn’t have any chairs or any idea where the table was. It’s easy to dismiss someone with no power.

Yet as racism and oppression continued despite our strides, as integration and industrialization changed the American landscape, the radical White supremacists went into hiding. Black people took over sports. We ran for political office. We ran for and eventually won the Presidency. And Colin Kaepernick in 2012-2013 lead the 49ers to two Super Bowl appearances as quarterback in the same league that had teams which never have a Black quarterback until 2007 (New York Giants). But equality doesn’t always lead to equity. In 2016, Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem protesting the police killings of unarmed Black people. He was blacklisted, criticizes, and demonized. But despite the harm to his career, with his fro, tattoos, Castro socks, and unapologetic protest, he demanded to be heard and noticed.

The state of Black America at this point is very different. We are billionaires. We buy chairs, we’ll even bring an extra table. We yield power on our own terms that can’t simply be overlooked. Our needs a different because of our differences and these differences.

“Tell these clowns we ain’t amused.”

….

The truth is this, inclusion changes attitudes by force. Those that move into spaces that are more diverse tend to take on more understanding views of people that differ from them in demographics. That is the value of proximity and knowledge. Learning about another person’s motivations, history, culture, and traditions usually informs those with preconceived racial and cultural bias how more alike we are across racial, social, ethnic, class lines, than we are different. It’s not something you have to even promote in a diverse setting, it tends to happen naturally over time. A forced change in attitude.

In this highly capitalistic society, similarities in socio-economic status, tend to break down racial barriers the fastest. Since designations if race were primarily used to feed racists capitalist system structures in America, you starve those systems when you put two racially different billionaires in the room. They share more than they differ. So enter Jay-Z. A rapper, a former drug dealer, a 50 year old urban hip hop pioneer who is a certified billionaire. He partners with the NFL. The more he talks, the more he promotes, the more these White execs gain access into the minds of these players that were once only employees and bodies, but become people before their eyes. The fro and tattoo are no longer just signs of thug life but of Black cultural identity. Suddenly your protest isn’t just about bad White people but the lives of Black people. Of course it isn’t as easy to come by as it is to write it… but nonetheless there is power in diversity. Those seats are mighty.

Might this workout be a PR stunt, sure. But can we ignore that Jay’s presence CERTAINLY got 70% of the leagues players that seat that Claude Young was asking for over 30 years ago… we shouldn’t if we want to see these same changes in other areas of Black life. We need seats in government, education, technology, business… we need seat builders and seat fillers.

Seats👏🏽seats👏🏽seats👏🏽seats,seats👏🏽👏🏽seats👏🏽!

Put Some Respect and Equity… on my check, my chance, and my chair.

All most of us who have been disrespected and handed inequitable pieces of the pie want is a chance, an opportunity on our merit. An interview, a loan, a spot in a prestigious school, a promotion, a shot at our dream. Kaepernick has that on Saturday. It might not look exactly how we all want it to look… but as a Black person in capitalistic America, it rarely does. We just have to keep demanding to be seen, heard, and noticed.

Shoot your shot Kap!

(1) “Some Observations on the NFL and Negro Players”Paul Lukas The Undefeated. February 1.2018.

My Privacy

Grand opening…” -Jay-Z “Encore”

People tell me I’m super private… it’s true.

I am usually doing a lot that I don’t broadcast on social media or to anyone other than those involved… because people have too many opinions about things that don’t pertain to them. Too many. So to keep from having to bust heads, I just keep things to myself.

But there’s another reason as well.

“… in your mind you have complete privacy… there is no difference between what is and what could be.” -Chuck Palahniuk “Asphixia”

Let’s say you are a painter… when you paint a picture in your studio, no matter how abstract, it is exactly what you say it is. It is precisely your definition of it, because you are making it and how you see it, is the only view of it. You have a gallery showing and suddenly it’s a cactus, a wilted flower, a young Israeli girl contemplating life, or the meaning of life depicted in color and movement. nope. nope. Nope. NOPE! It’s a bowl of cereal, I just like cereal, dammit.

“… privacy is…the freedom to be left alone to experiment, make mistakes, to forget, to start anew, to act according to conscience, and to be free from the oppressive scrutiny and opinions of others.” -unknown

The same is true about your personal life. The decisions you make about your professional life, family life, love life … yikes…are only seen through your eyes until you release it. After that, whether you are personally swayed or not, other people’s opinions about the things you have chosen become real. It is still what it is, but what it could be, before it even reaches that level, is now a paint by numbers affair and anyone can color it with the hue of their choice. Nowhere is this as true as your love life. You and your partner define your relationship and it’s exactly that and has unlimited potential, limited only by your own hopes and dreams. Until… (“do you want more...”)

When you let people into your relationship, suddenly you are met with commentary, questions, and opinions that are often not totally pure at heart… instead people are nosey, envious, jealous, and not simply curious about the happenings in your life. You can tend to tell by those things that attempt to pierce the visible layers and go deeper into parts of your relationship only meant for you. It’s one thing if you invite it, for advice or otherwise. It’s another if you haven’t offered that information, or have made it clear that area is not accessible to guests. Beware of folks minding your business. It often comes from a place of no damn good.

“I want a relationship where they know of us, but nothing about us.” -unknown

Folks can be messy saboteurs in any parts of your life where you are starting to shine. The dark often wants to snuff out the light. It could be about your choices regarding your career and the moves you are making. It could also be about things going on with your family, friends, business dealings, anything going on in your life that involves your personal choices or relationships with others. You don’t have to explain yourself, your choices, and your relationships with other people, those things are yours until you either ask or inform. It’s a thin line between a public, private, and secret. If any other person is involved, it’s never secret no matter how tight lipped you think that other person to be. What is private lies somewhere just beyond secret but not yet public. It is there where you build your strongest bonds and make your best choices, because once you expose yourself to the outside world, what is and what could be become enmeshed in folks’ bullshit. The stronger your bond the stronger your ability handle the world around you!

I need you to remember one thing. I came, I saw, I conquered

The truth is this, success feeds you in private but failure starves you in public. We have to be accountable to ourselves to maintain those things that are most dear to us, most fragile, most combustible, most valuable close to our hearts until they have incubated into full grown experiences ready to take on the world. No one needs access into your inner sanctum… that space is for you and anyone else personally involved in your private matters. Don’t send out public invites to a private party. Decide if you want cake, music, to rent a hall or to have an outdoor picnic. It’s your party after all … do what TF you want to. But don’t post it on Facebook unless you want folks to crash and show up empty handed making song requests and shit.

“… grand closing!”