Tag Archives: community

The Conversation 

Police brutality and the war on black men forces poetry out of my soul. It also forces hard conversations with the people we love.

I had to have

the conversation

with the man I love
I told him to just

Lay

Just lay on the ground

When they come around
As I spoke I felt that rope

Tied around my throat
And it hurt.
I told him to do whatever

they say

I told him to pray

While he lay

As I choked

on tears and pride
Two black men murdered 2 nights in a row in July

There’s no other option

The man I love
Has

Got

To

Survive
I had to have

the conversation
I felt him lose his patience

as fear consumed me

And there was nothing he could do about it
I felt him lose his power

While murderous thoughts devoured

my heart and my soul and my bones
Engulfed in flames

Set ablaze by the videos

On my social media page
I had to have

the conversation
“I’m gonna be alright” he said

And he held me tight

While I kissed his forehead
Then we said goodnight.
Each minute that passed while he drove home felt more like an hour
I lost my patience.
At least we had the conversation
But then I thought about

His dark skin

His boldness

His unyielding power

His smart mouth

His charisma

And his confidence
Yall know how a man is

He

Has

Got

To

Survive
There’s no other option.

 

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Livin’

livin PIC EDIT
He does whatever he wants and carelessly spreads his seeds
Tumbleweed the way he rolls around bed to bed, town to town as he please
But he don’t care, kids here kids there kids everywhere, animalistic breeding is in season
He thinks he’s on TOP, he ain’t gonna ever stop…and think to think he has no reason

Look at him, he’s the man, he got it goin on, he’s that guy with all those women runnin after him…
Givin no real value to the lives he’s bringing in…this world…and he really thinks he livin’

She is content when she gets her ends from the men
The different baby daddies that fathered her different children and
even though she’s left building up the kids’ home all alone
She picks up that phone no matter where the men roam, for the money for the school clothes…for the Air Jordans…for the Nike Foams


Her kids get to floss, she thinks she’s a boss…not giving a damn about the costs of a family spent from being bought
The men are forgiven for the wrongs done on her kids…and as long as she’s spendin’ with the little they givin’…she livin’

He sees his momma struggle and fight to keep the ship tight
but he thinks she’s supposed to do it, ain’t nothin to it, she’ll be alright
She just has herself cuz she don’t need no help
When WIC is their health and food stamps are their wealth

When the tumbleweed’s seed grows a tumbleweed tree
The cycle continues, what a sight it is to see
Oh the plight it is to be the seed falling down beneath
You can’t help but ask yourself…are you livin’ when you breathe?

Survival of the Fittest

There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from. Mobb Deep used these lyrics to describe life on the streets and how only the strong survive when it comes to a life riddled with things like crime and drugs. But I say, you gotta be fit to survive not just in the streets, but virtually everywhere and in every facet of life.

We are in the midst of an HIV epidemic in many major cities across the nation. Although we have come a long way in HIV treatment and those who are positive with the virus have the ability to live long lives – poverty and miseducation in the black community are just a few of the factors contributing to the overrepresentation of the virus in the black community. More and more evidence of police officers abusing their power is surfacing – in the form of violence against black bodies caught on cell phone video. More of us are going to college, but even more of us find ourselves in debt and degreeless. The media tends to focus more on stereotypical welfare queens and men carelessly spreading their seeds – and less on black women PhDs and black fathers who go above and beyond for their children. We live in a world where our youth are using rap lyrics to dictate their lives – aspiring to sling on the corner, cop bodies and pop Mollies – instead of taking music simply as entertainment. Our bodies are more likely to be unhealthy, as diabetes, high blood pressure and other lifestyle-based ailments pervade our families and our communities. And our mental health bears the brunt of all these things and more, as our culture often teaches us to minimize our pain and maximize our physical, mental and emotion loads.

It’s time to do something different, ya’ll. Apparently what we’ve been doing as a collective has NOT been working.

It’s time to seriously arm ourselves for war.

The books are our weapons – let’s use them and use them wisely, because the brain is a terrible thing to waste. Let’s stop the whole if you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book lie we’ve been living. Our families, our communities are our platoons. We are only as strong as our weakest player – with that being said, let’s not let a lack of uplift be our downfall. Our love for ourselves is the best ammunition known to man – our want for better, our interest in education, our investments – not only in our businesses, but also in our health and the health of others. Our elders are our wisest soldiers. Let’s listen to them, because more times than not, many of them have been through the same things we’re struggling with and then some. Let’s let them help us guide our steps.  Our children are our most precious soldiers. We have to protect them and lead them at all costs – with school, with finances, with relationships and everything else under the sun. They’re going to be holding down the front lines in our place in the near future. And finally, our perseverance is our armor – our trauma has trained us for the  trenches and our pain protects us in the line of fire . What hasn’t killed us has only made us stronger – it’s in our blood to stand tall when the going gets tough.

The casualties are adding up. Are you armed for war?

When School Hurts More Than it Helps

segregated classroom edit

Go to school. Get your education. Be better and live better because of it.

But what happens when school is imprisoning instead of empowering?

What happens when your teachers tell you of all the things you can’t do instead of what you can do? What happens when good grades become bad and bad grades become good, all in the name of peer pressure, manhood and being “hard?” And how complicated it becomes when grades are no longer black and white – when they are associated with race, when “acting black” and “acting white” and “acting” other ethnicities blurs positive and negative images, attitudes and ideals – full of gray area. Or when you’re too hungry to concentrate…to make the grades to get out the hood that’s keeping you hungry. Or when the school keeps testing you because you can’t pass the tests – but for your failure, they have no answer. Or when in general, school seems like the strangest, most distant foreign land, because nothing about it resembles who you are or where you’re from.

What happens when these things and more not only exist, but are also exacerbated under the school’s roof? What do you do?

You fight back.

If knowledge is power, you have to be willing to fight for it.

Kids don’t know the fight as well as we adults know it, as many of us have been there before, so essentially, the fight for our kids’ education is in our hands.

We can’t take everything for gospel, simply because a teacher, a principal or another official says it. My parents were told that I may be deaf and/or autistic at a very young age because I started to walk, talk and develop in general at a later age than most children. But then, all of that was debunked. But then I started school. I was tapped for the gifted program in school. Then, I got honor roll, and much later national honor society and other honors and today, I’m an author with an advanced degree from one of the best schools in the nation and God willing – it’s only the beginning. So many people I know have eerily similar stories, and they’ve gone on to accomplish a whole lot.

All kids are capable of greatness. We can’t let naysayers dressed up with fancy titles tell them otherwise.

We have to be willing to sacrifice for education, for if we don’t, we sacrifice our children. If he or she is struggling where you’re at and you’re convinced he or she would fare better in another area, do what you have to do within reason to make that move. Before I was born, my folks were young and struggling, and opted to go without furniture for a year to send my older sisters to a private school in Long Island, because it offered them a safer environment and better opportunities. An uncomfortable year it may have been, but the advantages of that sacrifice will last a lifetime. If we don’t buy into education, they surely won’t. Buy into it, no matter how much it costs. Temporary discomfort beats the permanent setback of the generations that follow us.

 Praise them in school. Many scholars reference the transition from third grade to fourth grade as problematic for kids, particularly African-American boys, as the nurturing from the teacher (the doting, the “babying”) drops significantly during that transition and as a result, grades drop . But technically, it’s not the teacher’s job to nurture our children – it’s up to us. The praise matters. We have to recognize their efforts and reward their accomplishments. We have to be active and interested in their studies. We have to be their backbone and their biggest cheerleader, especially during the younger years. The smallest strides need recognition just like honor roll and graduation. Don’t act like you don’t remember how good you felt as a little boy or a little girl when an adult noticed your good work.

When school hurts more than it helps, the story isn’t over. If we play our cards right, it’s simply a bump in the road. If we play our cards right and put up a good defense, we’ll win the fight.

#theBlackertheHistory — The Work that We Do

source: treehugger.com

source: treehugger.com

In reference to African-American life and struggle, we hear people say things like “we’ve come a long way” and “times have changed.” Both statements are true – enormous strides have been made and great progress has resulted; however, we are still nowhere near where we need to be.

Racial profiling is virulent – in stores, in schools, on the streets and virtually everywhere else. Wealth and education disparities between African-Americans and other racial groups continue to widen, with African-Americans often lagging behind. Within the black community itself, a fair amount of negativity and distraction still chips away at the unity and collectiveness the ones before us fought so hard to create and promote in the first place.

To put it simply, the fight for our betterment is not over.

But this isn’t one of those ‘we’re not doing enough, so I’m going to complain about what we’re missing in the black community’ posts. I want to take this time to acknowledge the work that IS being done.

I live in Richmond, Virginia – statistics label it one of the worst cities in the nation for high crime and poverty rates, among other things. At the same time, Richmond, Virginia is where activists, artists, entrepreneurs, community organizers and other trailblazers who work to better the black community call home.

Yesterday, I had the first meet-up for my newest project called the RVA Black Image Collective. My mission for the Collective is to provide a forum for people to come together and talk about issues concerning Richmond’s black community in hopes that it will inspire and motivate us all in the work we do (or want to do) in the community. This month’s topic was the state of black youth in RVA. The meet-up couldn’t have gone any better. Some people at the meet-up organize yearly school supply and coat drives and others collect clothes for children in need all year around. Others are working in Richmond City schools and are fighting to serve the needs of each and every child in their classes, despite the constraints of the system and its curriculum. And yet, there were others who are working to make a difference using a political approach. And then there were those who choose to make a difference on a smaller, individual scale – from taking a child under their wing with an incarcerated parent to stopping a child in the street walking around in 20 degree weather just to zip his coat up.

The work is being done. We’ve got the ball rolling.

 No matter how big or how small it may be, the work we do to improve our conditions is NEVER in vain. Any and everything matters. And it matters to acknowledge this right now, during the month of February, to further highlight the NEED for our work all year around, not just during 28 days in the winter.

In all honestly, this work commemorates the ones before us more than anything else could. They always did the work. They led. They toiled. They screamed. They whispered. They taught. They organized. They fought. They resisted. They stayed up late. They woke up early. They stayed in their hometown. They traveled the world. They raised their voices. They gave others a voice.

They kept their word. And in the work we do, we’re keeping their word, too.

A Great Day in RVA

In the summer of 1958, 57 distinguished jazz musician assembled in Harlem to take a picture in front of a brownstone in Harlem. The picture is very symbolic and has gone down in history as a major icon in jazz music. In the fall of 2014, a group of entrepreneurs, artists, writers, activists and other community leaders were called to take a photograph in front of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center in Richmond, Virginia to commemorate the original photo taken in Harlem back in 1958. It wasn’t only a call to take a photograph, it was also an ode to the trailblazers before us and affirmation for the folks working in the trenches of Richmond, trying to make the city a better place for us all. I am very humbled that I was invited to take part in this, as it will not only go down in history, but it will also serve as motivation for us all now and for our descendants in the future.

Great Day edit1top: original 1958 photo, bottom: 2014 RVA replication

Great Day edit2my mother and I before the picture was taken