College Days…Swiftly Pass

I came to Bethune Cookman University with a few goals in mind, some superficial and some pretty useful. I knew I was gonna come down here and “stunt on these niggas and pull some of these hoes” though.download  I got down here, bright eyed, bushy tailed and really ready for whatever. I was convinced this was going to be the best 4 years of my life and nothing was going to stop me from reaching my potential. The fact that I was attending an HBCU, one founded by a woman with $1.50 and dream, was something to be proud of. I fell in love with scenery, I fell in love with the history, I met some of best friends here and shared some of greatest laughs. Im not going to say that my time here has been all smiles and sunshine, shit I spent some days contemplating dropping out and selling dope. There were days when I thought I’d make a better pimp and womanizer than radio DJ, there were also days where I swore college was the last thing I should be doing when people were making millions on social media. I had to grow out of the perception that college was solely for academic endeavors and decided to use my time here as way to network and make connections. I really just decided to have fun because I can get these years back. School has always been relatively easy to me, I never really stressed about it but college opened my eyes to what the “real world” might be like. College taught me that everything based on how well you do in you classes or how high you score on final exams. College was an indicator that your strengths and weakness define way more than your GPA. College  let me know that nobody really gives a fuck where you come from or what you have going on, people have their own issues and hangups and don’t care whether or not you have something going on. College has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and Im thankful for every moment Ive spent here at Bethune Cookman

Advertisements

Thankful

People will say Thanksgiving is greatest holiday of the year, but everybody won’t have the same reason. Some people will cite family, friends and good spirits. Others like it because its one time of the year you can eat like you have no sense and nobody will judge you. there will argue that Thanksgiving is nothing more that the celebration of the the Pilgrims eradicating a whole demographic of people and using stolen land as their own but thats another conversation for another day. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it brings a sense or warmth and community our society seems to be missing. With everything going on in the world today, with all of the uncertainties and unparalleled stresses, its nice to still be able to gather amongst those you love and eat good while doing so.

Thanksgiving is the “Ham vs. Turkey” debate, its the family football game in the backyard before dinner, it’s the time where all you relatives cant ask you “How’s college” 100x without contributing anything to your bank account. It’s the time of year where you find why grandma has been “dreaming about fish and which cousin is bring somebody new home…again. It’s the reason why college students are stocking up on aluminum foil and to-go plates, it’s the reason why your pants don’t fit ass well as they did on Halloween. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for who and what you have. It’s a time to rejoice and be proud of your family ties, it’s a time to argue that your momma makes the best macaroni on the block and anybody who disagrees can meet you outside. Black families get together and share stories of happiness, sadness, trials, tribulations and triumph. It’s a true testament to community and fellowship, the source of some of the greatest stories that have ever come from your family. Thanksgiving is the reason for the season before the season really even starts. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday solely because it give me purpose, it makes me feel like I have somewhere I belong. I hope your Thanksgiving is a blessing because this world needs blessings.

Trump Card

So I decided to give it a week before I spoke on the election. After watching just about every news station my TV would allow and talking to just about anybody with a pulse, I finally have enough ammo to some of these thoughts on paper. It’s pretty obvious that the entire country has lost what little piece of mind they have and nobody seems to be safe from the type of stupidity that has been running rampant. I said months ago that if Donald Trump was elected, he would unlock and unleash the first in people. His campaign opened Pandora’s Box in terms of visceral and overt racism, sexism and xenophobia. His supporters demonstrate the worst in America, displaying the type of hatred and intolerance naive people will tell you died in the 60’s. As a black male, in is almost imperative that I speak my mind as it pertains to how I REALLY feel. I honestly feel like ONCE again, this country has robbed people of the right to feel safe and secure in their skin, I HONESTLY believe that no mater how you shape it, the lack of respect this country has for minorities and people of color. The sheer fact this country would rather have an inexperienced idiot in the Oval Office over a woman with 30+ years of political experience is baffling to me. Your political party affiliation isn’t any of my business because I feel like common sense “trumps” color and party allegiance. Whether or not you think Hillary Clinton is a crook pales in comparison to supporting a vocal and outspoken xenophobe and anybody who disagrees is somebody I probably wouldn’t be seen talking to in public anyway. You can make yourself feel better by blaming black people for not voting, young people for not voting, young people for wasting their vote with frivolous write ins or whatever scapegoat you feel will serve your mental health the best. The bottom line is, the election was indicative of EVERYTHING black folks and other minors have been saying forever: “This country wasn’t built for us”

Watch Your Step

Trayvon Martin was a touchy subject from the beginning. The age old standoff between young black males and “authority” figures was brought to light, along with a media circus intent on demonizing another black “thug”. I took the case personally because I know the feeling of being in standoff with authority all too well. It was disheartening that even in this day and age, black males have to toe the line and tread lightly in order not to be considered a threat. It was ridiculous that articles of clothing like hoodies and jeans served as a barrier between living and dying. It was even more ludicrous that adults were actually telling us that we were wrong for dressing the way we wanted to dress because it scared people. Being told that I was “asking for trouble” for wearing a hoodies told me all I needed to know about most of the adults I was around. To me, being told I couldn’t wear a hoodies sounded a lot like: “Let’s not deal with the actual issue of black men being hunted down like dogs in the street. No, instead let’s take a bunch of young black males to a seminar about pulling up their pants and not wearing Nike hoodies on Saturday evening. That’ll teach white folks that we mean business.” In all honesty, it doesn’t matter what we wear, how we talk or what it is we want to do in life; people who REALLY hate black males will treat us like trash regardless of external appearance. The arguments about dressing like thugs became old and redundant, mostly because people weren’t thinking logically. How can you sit in my face and tell me I’m asking to get profiled for wearing baggy gym shorts to the store when people in the Civil Rights Movement were beaten to a pulp while wearing their Sunday’s best? It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing sweats or a three piece suit, they’ll treat you like a nigga if they see fit.

“You Scare People Ant”

As black male in this country, your word is probably more important than what’s in your bank account or what type of shoes you wear on your feet. No matter how trivial the betrayal is, going back on your word as black male can be seen as a death sentence. You have to be on top of your game at all times, giving the enemy no opportunity to use your transgressions against you. You have to have balance, you have to understand that while everybody is not out to get you, you’re still a target. Because of this, I had to shift gears, shying away from street nonsense and using my melanin to broaden my horizons.

Being a black male means I have to work harder, wake up earlier and pay close attention to my surroundings in order to be ahead of the game. Being a black male means that nothing is given to me and everything comes with a price. Being a black male means that I can’t limit myself, no matter what the rest of the world thinks. I had to shy away from thinking that all I would ever be is a rapper, entertainer or professional athlete. Even though I played sports as a child, I had no desire to take my talents any further than middle school. I had bigger plans, plans that would allow me to exert my blackness the best way I knew how: using my mouth. I’ve always been told I had the gift of gab and if you compound that with my ability to turn any and every conversation into a diatribe about the rules, regulations and conditions of being a black male in America, I was well on my way to being the next voice of my people. I dabbled in everything from school television to YouTube to radio, even though certain platforms weren’t an appropriate breeding ground for my ideas. My image as a conscious black man and my role as a student of the public school system often clashed, usually leaving me trying to explain myself out of an administrative referral.

I was never really a trouble maker in school; I just had a lot to say. When a topic I was familiar with presented itself, I wasted no time voicing my opinion. I spent a lot time getting put out of classes for voicing my controversial opinions on social issues. I had a problem with having to be politically correct, especially if the topic was race related. I didn’t understand how we could live in a free country but have our vocal creativity stifled. I would complain that the school system was designed to see black males fail and those who decided to rise up against the unfairness would be punished. It didn’t make sense that people were always complimenting my intelligence and then telling me I was wrong when I used that intelligence to say what it was I wanted to say. I got tired of people telling me what it meant to be a black male when it came down to not getting in trouble. There was always some rule I had to follow, I was always being told what I could and couldn’t say and I was always being told to watch my tone. My Mother used to tell me that people feared an intelligent black man and while I understood that, I wasn’t okay with NOT being able to demonstrate my intelligence just because other people couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t going to sell myself short and shy away from what I was passionate about just because people who look didn’t like me wanted me to be quiet. There were far too many martyrs and black folks who died for me to be able to express myself as a black man for me to sit up here and pretend like I have nothing to say.

“Nigga” Problems

As black males, calling one another nigga is seen as a term of endearment, something we take pride in. “If you my nigga, you my nigga then”.  We strayed far away from the angry euphemisms of yesteryear, dropping the “-er” ending and adding the “a” with hopes that it might soften the blows of racism. Older and wiser black folks will tell us that using that word, regardless of its ending, is still detrimental to our progression as a people. Having niggas comes from a deep seated common interest, usually women, drugs or music. Yes, there is a direct correlation between my usage of the word nigga and what niggas who use the word like to do.

Unfortunately, the same niggas who you would call your niggas will turn on you, causing you to question their loyalty.  A nigga can’t trust another nigga as far as he can throw him. It’s ironic how you can hold your contemporary to such a high standard and expect so much from him, even though you don’t trust him.  I’ve become way too accustomed to letting my “niggas” become familiar with certain personal aspects of my life, only for them to use it against me. There was an unspoken code I had to understand and most of the rules didn’t make sense outside of my circle of friends, but I still had no choice but to abide by them.

“Never let a nigga get too close to your woman, never confide in your nigga about your dealings with your woman, never let you nigga know when you and your woman are unhappy and never ever leave your nigga alone with your woman. Period.” All these codes, seen as some unwritten code of conduct between niggas, have been broken and or violated by one of my niggas in recent memory. I can count on both hands the number of times my relationship was compromised because one of my niggas overstepped his boundaries. In retrospect, the fact that I let myself get so out character over a female is absolutely ridiculous. My father always told me to never lose myself over somebody who was replaceable, but pride and the desire to look cool in front of my friends once again, overpowered my father’s teachings. One night, my friends and I decided to throw a function and invite a few people, one of those people being the girl I was involved with at the time.  After a night of drinking, my intoxicated rage left me dealing with myself in a manner to which I was not accustomed. This new feeling left me outside beating up street lights while the girl I was dealing with was in the house surrounded by “my niggas”. Now, one would like to believe that if a nigga was really his nigga, he would not even DARE step to your female. In a perfect world, you would think that the unseen nigga-to-nigga’s-girlfriend barrier would be respected.  The code of conduct would be used wisely, but not in my favor.

I would soon become aware that while I was outside, dealing with demons of the liquid variety, my “niggas” were inside, each attempting to make passes at my girl. Need I not remind you that these were the same niggas who talked my ear off with that “She’s good to you Bruh, don’t lose her”. I allowed these niggas to get me off my game and allowed them to get comfortable enough to get close to my woman. Now, as I sit here writing this essay, I remind myself of all the times I could have EASILY crossed one my niggas for a small piece of vagina. Really, the number of times I could’ve spent time between the legs of some poor, unsuspecting nigga’s girlfriend is staggering. But I guess everybody aint built like me. 

Black Men “vs.” Womanhood

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Womanhood as “the distinguishing character or qualities of a woman” Womanhood can also be construed as the “state or condition of being a woman.” In the biblical sense, women are seen as the equalizer, the true of fruits man’s spiritual labor, a blessing only bestowed upon those deemed worthy enough to bask in ambiance of the fairer sex. Proverbs 19:14 tells us “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the lord.” The woman is the creator and curator of life, the culmination of all things beautiful in this world. Her aura is the summation of things ordered by the Lord himself, an earthly testament to his grace and benevolence. The woman is the spiritual guide, always ready to soothe the inhibitions of men too prideful or too “powerful” to humble themselves. The woman is to be revered and respected, loved and protected. Her vanity and physical appearance do not and should not overshadows her loving spirit and nurturing temperament. Is an entity whose presence is necessary in this world; one who’s aura brings out nothing but the best in those lucky enough to be blessed with its presence.

As a young black male, growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, seeing a beautiful black woman was second nature to me. The swirls of melanin that flow so freely through the streets of Atlanta lull a sense of security, one that can only be matched by the soothing tone of a black woman’s voice. I grew up surrounded by the pinnacle of black womanhood, some who reveled in the ability to excel in all endeavors, despite staunch and sometimes spiteful opposition. My mother and later maternal grandmother, both Spelmanites, instilled the worth of the black woman in me at an early age. “Be the man a woman wants to need, be a man that wants to lead.” was something my mother frequently infused into her motherly tidbits of world wisdom. She made it imperative that I understood that being black man, there was target on my back and the only ally I truly had was the black woman, so I owed it to her to preserve her best interest at all times. My grandmother, a retired school teacher and avid churchgoer was the exemplification of a spiritual woman, taking all things to the lord in prayer or song.

However, history and popular culture have shown us that the black woman is not always held in the light she honestly deserves to shine in. As black men, we need to be held accountable for the treatment of our women. We’ve been led astray and corrupted by the various powers that be. Be it racism, classism, sexism, the hip-hop industry or just generational miscommunication, we’ve lost our way when it comes to guiding and nurturing our women. We’ve become complacent with the idea that women will put up with us, no matter how poorly we treat the ones we claim to care for. We’ve let the images we see in the media warp and distort our perception of reality, rendering us to broken images of what it means to be a man in the eyes of a woman. It is our responsibility to ensure that women, black women especially, are respected and safeguarded in our communities. We must raise our sons to honor his feminine companion, shielding her heart and mental health like it were his own. We have to cease and desist the objectification of our women. The over-sexualized, hyper-masculine, pseudo-womanizing is why our women don’t see themselves as valuable to us.  We have to stop raping our women, bastardizing our children and setting poor examples for the generations to come. We owe it to the black woman to be the pillar of the black nuclear family.

As men, we must lead by example and follow out of trust. We have to let our women guide emotionally and strengthen us mentally. The woman has healing powers far beyond our comprehension and we owe it to them to allow these powers to take hold. We must train our daughters to love themselves, to strive for the dreams and only submit to men worthy of her presence. The black woman is the backbone, the rib, the finishing piece in the complex puzzle that is black masculinity. She is the Yin to our ever-so-formfitting Yang. She creates balance in a world where equilibrium is not always a luxury. In a time where this country is facing moral and racial divide, the black woman is the familiar and welcome face, the prize you cannot put a price on and one Uncle Sam cannot tax. Her heart for others holds the tone of Martin, her strength and fearlessness in the face of oppression sing the tune of Malcolm. She a warrior on the frontline without ever having to strike a blow out of anger and her graces should be met with dignity. We cannot survive without the support of our women, with that being said, we have to support them.42251fd24ce1af550ab98fcdda94390f

Radio Raheem: Art vs. Life

Black Culture took a direct shot to the heart following the loss of actor Bill Nunn. Nunn was best known for his role as Radio Raheem in the 1989 Spike Lee Film “Do The Right Thing”. For those unfamiliar with the role or the movie as a whole, the film centered around the racial and cultural tensions that plagued the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, most notably the tensions present between NYPD officers and the black community. The movie comes to a breaking point following the death of Radio Raheem at the hands of NYPD, over Raheem’s refusal to turn down his famed boombox inside Sal’s Famous Pizzeria. Raheem was armed only with a boombox, not posing any imminent threat and was simply black at the wrong time in the presence of the wrong officer. Sound familiar?

In a time where tensions between black citizens and the police have reached alarming levels, it brings me to wonder how far we’ve actually come. Do The Right Thing celebrated its 27th anniversary in 2016, the same year where 200+ black people have been killed by the police, with 3 moths still remaining on the calendar. The recent shootings of Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, alongside the shootings of Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and countless others have become far too frequent. The choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD bared an eerie resemblance to the chokehold that sent Radio Raheem to the morgue. Black folks in this country are being terrorized and systematically targeted, even under the eyes of the nation’s first black president. Civil unrest and uprising has taken place in just about every major city in this country, with thousands of black people taking to the streets to protest for their right to live and walk without fear of the police, much like the riot scene in Do The Right Thing. Spike Lee used Radio Raheem to shine light on an issue  America refuses to attack head on, an issue we deal with daily.

The constant narrative of “he should’ve complied” and “the officer feared for his/her life” have become emotionally and physically draining. The daily assertion that black lives are expendable vs. the painfully obvious “Black Lives Matter” slogan being used as a means to spread awareness have taken a toll on the collective psyche of Black America. The dismissive attitude displayed by whites in this country, even 50+ years post the Civil Rights Movement shows how far we haven’t come. Having to explain why “All Lives Matter” is an insulting and incredibly redundant response to “Black Lives Matter” has become tiring. Being denied the unalienable rights that are supposed to be automatic in this country is enough to send any demographic over the edge and black folks have had enough. Being black in this country comes with the constant reminder that you could immediately be executed at the hands of somebody who simply had nothing better to do. Whether or not you believe black folks have a legitimate grievance with the system is irrelevant. Whether or not you believe that we’ve come too far and some stuff we just have to get over is irrelevant. It just amazes me that almost 30 years prior to his fictional death, Radio Raheem is still a shining example of art imitating life. maxresdefaultimages

Gangsta Rap “Made” Me Do It

I always tell people “Anything I didn’t learn from my father, I learned from a rap song.” Most people think I’m kidding and those who don’t shake their heads in disgust, preaching that shit my grandma used to preach.“If you knew your homework like you knew them rap songs you’d have straight A’s.” I always did well in school, but I was pretty well versed on street knowledge. Being black male, especially one growing up in Atlanta, it was considered an honor to be asked your opinion on the new Wayne mixtape or how you felt about the production value of the latest Future tape. Metro vs. Zaytoven? Is Gucci really a clone? Why the fuck does 21 savage have a knife in his face? Anybody who knows me knows I’ll argue anybody down about Bankroll Fresh being better than your favorite rapper. Rap music was always a big part of my life and being able to identify (even though sometimes it wasn’t sincere) with the lyrics coming from one of your favorite rappers seemed to cement you place in Black Male superiority. However, life imitating life was all too real and I had to quickly learn how to separate music from reality. This included learning the difference between being an upstanding black male and being a “nigga,” which really just meant “stop showing out when these white folks around.” My adolescent years were spent fighting with school administration about my choice of conversation, conversation laced with words you’d probably only hear on a street corner or in a trap house kitchen. I got tired of defending myself against a standard I hadn’t asked to set. Why is my blackness only limited to correct grammar and staying on the road less traveled? Why is it an issue when other aspects of my culture are embraced? Whether you like it or not, what rappers put on wax is a reflection of somebody’s reality and chastizing young black males for simply enjoying the fruits of a culture that represents their struggles, be them factual or fiction, is no better than telling their black ass to get to the back of the bus.