You Know We Kneed To Have This Conversation, Yes?

My attempting to ‘talk sports’ will be tantamount to Trump ‘speaking presidentially’. We should both shut up.

But, indulge me as I lend my two-cents (and I say, lend because I do want your/my two-cents back on this topic) on this debate/issue/situation that has been unfolding and trending all weekend – #takeaknee or #taketheknee. By now everyone must be aware of it (I mean… if I am, there is little chance in hell anyone missed it!); but just in case let me give the back-story.

In 2016 NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, in his attempt to bring awareness to and denounce racism and inequality, knelt (on one knee) during the playing of the National Anthem before a game. Since then, he has been black-listed and shunned. If I am correct, I do believe he is team-less at the moment (but don’t quote me on this fact). His position, both literal and ethical has sparked solidarity across the NFL league(s) and its reach has now extended to the NBA and outside of the sports arena.

That fucking idiot Trump has now made THIS his newest focus! Not only has he denounced (which is his right) their position (no pun intended), but in his very eloquent way, he has made what should be one man’s right to exercise his right to speech, a pissing contest. Before I go on let me say this: president or not, a “pissing contest” requires the ability to whip out one’s dick, aim and see who’s arc extends the furthest. Two of the key components in winning are a big dick and skill. Guess who will lose?! This particular idiot has taken a legitimate cause and a legitimate reaction and further disrespected both! Amongst the other derogatory things he has said, he has also referred to those that choose to exercise their rights, “sons of bitches”.

Listen; this is what we kneed to do. We kneed to continue to know our rights and insist on them. We kneed to continue to educate ourselves and our young so that when we speak or when we take a stand, we do so with knowledge, confidence and eloquence. We kneed to stop our participation in the degradation of our own race, thereby insisting others do the same. We kneed to break the cycles of self-loathing, self-effacing and selfishness that perpetuate a cycle of mediocrity. We kneed to stand (or kneel) in solidarity with those who are brave enough to speak for us when we have yet to find our own voices.

The conversations sparked by Kaepernick’s position are important and necessary ones. Jack-ass president aside, dialogues now include our rights under the constitution, the text of the Declaration of Independence and how it should be interpreted, racism, inequality and alright… the jack-ass president! This could only be a good thing. Change happens when spotlights are shone on those situations others depend on us to keep hidden. When voices are raised in ire, disgust, outrage… and solidarity, injustices are no longer a secret and must be confronted and dealt with.

We live in a country where protesting the killing of an animal to save a child is accepted, expected and encouraged. The (black) mother is blamed for negligence. The animal is martyred. We however also live in a country where speaking up for your rights, as a minority, is rejected, ridiculed and punishable. We live in a country where white supremacists can run amok, terrorize and kill. We however also live in a country where the current president cites, “blame on both sides”. We live in a country where it is acceptable our black men trade running the fields to pick cotton for running the fields and courts to entertain, as long as they never forget… they’re still running the damned fields! Where our women should be honored to become the focus of the white man who seeks to fulfill some misguided sense of duty by elevating her from picking his cotton to picking up his cotton underwear!

DO NOT GET ME STARTED!

Okay. I support anyone who not only recognizes his worth and value but insists others do the same. I appreciate the visibility of Kaepernick; trusting that through his celebrity and that of the other highly-visible faces and voices, something meaningful and necessary will come from this. We refuse to be counted less than fucking animals and certainly a flag cannot garner more respect than we do! (Oh, and by the way… if Kaepernick was team-less before all this hullabaloo, I see a job in his future. Thank you, Trump!).

My friends, this is what we kneed to do…

Stopping. To Smell The Causes.

My uncle passed away last week. His name is Frederick. He is my father’s brother. My father (along with some of his other siblings) was to have travelled to Trinidad on Tuesday for the funeral that took place yesterday. My father missed his flight. Then, because of a combination of frustration, shame, anger and tiredness, refused to explore any other alternatives (albeit, expensive) that may have gotten him there on time. Yesterday, the day of the funeral, I went to sit with him.

My father is eighty-three years old. As we sat together yesterday and explored some new and most regurgitated family stories, issues and opinions, one phrase in particular uttered by daddy still is bouncing its way around my head. “This world and especially this country, is not made for the old”. This statement was in part a response into my query as to why he has missed his flight. He delved into a minute-by-minute account of what happened from the moment he awoke till he made it to the Jet Blue counter. He explained his frustrations at not being able to move quickly enough, stay focused for too long… his frustration at being alive at eighty-three… “For what?!”

Initially my response was as to be expected; I railed against his willingness to “leave” me, his giving up, his being ungrateful to God, blah blah blah. Then, as I quieted myself, my spirit and my feelings of anticipated abandonment, I looked at him. I truly looked at him and saw his tiredness. I saw his frustrations at still being around… “For what?!” He considers his life well-lived, well-loved and well-learned. His children are healthy, happy and off living their lives. His grandchildren are trying out their wings; some are flying. And, “This world and especially this country, is not made for the old”.

I heard him with feeling frail; thus vulnerable. I heard him with having sapped energy. I heard him with people’s frustrations because he cannot hear them… too well. And since then, I have been looking at the environments around me and placing my father and others like him – our matriarchs and patriarchs – in them. I have watched my own strides as I made it to work and tried to envision them walking with me, or even what they may feel seeing me striding toward them and how threatening that could be. I measured my own impatience when I encounter any who slows my purpose as I meander through my day and I try to place my elders in the scenario. I look at my life, I actualize its pace and I conclude making room for my father will be quite the adjustment. Not because of love. Never that. But because of pace.

Yet I question his question, “For what?!”

I shed tears at the mere thought of his not being here, even as I move through my days never slowing down enough to celebrate his being here.

This morning as I made my way into the city to do my life yet again, I took the time to look at and connect with how many of our elders are amongst us. I forced myself to slow my pace and allow them the peace deserved in this new world they inhabit. I watched their eyes and their tremors; and for the first time I realized those tremors may not be physically-related, but emotionally-related. I realized I/we could be the cause of why they tremble. That our pace and neglect for their care, can be/must be terrifying! I acknowledged the sadness in their eyes may or may not be from their past lives, as well as it may or may not be as a result of their present lives. The one that is foreign. The one that is lonely. The one that resides in a pool of abandonment because we are too busy. Too fast. Too negligent. Too intent on chasing away our own impending eighty-three

I sat with daddy yesterday, hoping to help get him through the loss of a brother and the guilt and shame of not having made it to say, “Goodbye”. Today I sit with myself with the fullness of an understanding that part of what makes this world terrifying and unfriendly for those we should honor, is our disregard for what it must feel like accepting that those around us have taken all there was to give… and we are no longer useful. I sit knowing that my father’s willingness to ‘go home’ rests in part in my being too busy to come home. His feelings of uselessness are in part born of my reality of busy-ness. How is it I can say with absolute certainty how I would feel when he ‘leaves’, but I cannot say when next I will stop… And go see him?

I sat with daddy yesterday and as I looked around, I took note of all the pictures he has, literally on every surface in his living room. There is beautiful African art hanging on the walls; but on tables, desks and counters, there are family pictures. Pictures of my sisters and me from a million years ago. Pictures of my sisters and me ‘doing’ life and having those moments captured. Pictures that tell the stories of a lifetime and that possibly stand in our stead now.

Pictures that freeze us in their moments in time and allow him finally, to catch up with us.

 

 

Here’s My Number And A Dime. Call Me Anytime.

It has been almost two months since I deactivated my FB account; and, I must say, it has been quite interesting to observe both myself and others, because of this decision, navigate this process. Because, a “process” it has been.

The very first thing I actively noticed is the amount of extra time I have. Seriously; don’t laugh! It is only since not posting that I have come to realize, not so much how often I posted, but just how many times I would ‘refresh’ my feed to keep up with what others had. In the most ordinary of activities do I realize that, in that moment a few weeks ago, I would be checking up on the shenanigans on FB. In the morning, after making my cup of tea, I would turn on the news, get my tablet, settle back on my pillow… and see what I had missed during the night (cause some of yall do not sleep!). When I got to work, I would unpack my corn muffin, pop open my Pepsi and log on… to both post about some foolishness or the other that had transpired during my commute, or to read what happened on yours. And you know once you post, then there is the follow-up to see just who commented, ‘liked’, ‘loved’ or was flinging some shade that day and saying nothing. Yes, since I have been off I have realized the commitment I had made to being both an exhibitionist and a voyeur! Seriously… by only 11:00am, I would have already logged on twice and ‘refreshed’ a multitude!

Foolishness aside however, I have also taken note of the feeling of ‘white out’ I have been experiencing. For instance, this past weekend as the nation watched to see just how much Irma was going to show her ass, I remember with pinpoint accuracy the moment I realized how much of the news reports would have been sifted through, affording me the ‘Readers Digest’ version, had I still been on FB. I remember, with the television on all day for regurgitation and updates, missing FB for its ability to save me the time and drama of having to listen to the newscasters. I also missed seeing yall posts that announced, “It is raining!”

I also realize the knowledge I took for granted – that you were travelling, this one’s baby was born and that one is now single… okay, “it’s complicated” – is missing from my daily reality. I am getting used to the fact that now I know absolutely nothing unless you make a point of telling ME; not all your one thousand, six hundred and thirty-eight ‘friends’. I know, this is strange! My decision to maintain the integrity and privacy of my life has now forced both of us, if we are truly interested, to be active participants in this relationship. Wow! If not, I will be left to wonder… “If someone is eating and posts a picture and someone is not on FB to see it, are they still eating?”

The ‘white out’ has made me recognize two things: (1) how lazy having access to many in one fell swoop has made us become and (2) how much information we were privy to in others’ lives that truly was not meant for us. Think about it… there was a time before social media when, if I were travelling, I would let only the people in my life it either affected or those that I affected, know. Since social media however, we announce travel by taking a picture of our departure gate. Everyone knows. We have truly replaced quality with quantity. Intimacy with immediacy.

I am in a ‘white out’, so I am in the dark as to what you are doing. And, you me. So, with all the time I realize I now have to spare, I’m thinking I could pick up the phone, call one of yall, catch up on the things that matter to you and share my own shenanigans. I’m thinking I could get personal, private… and intimate.

Funda.Mental To Our Health

A few mornings ago as I waited for the train, beyond the private place I inhabit at that time with my coffee and music, I sensed a disturbance. I muted my music (if you’re anything like me, you too cannot ‘see’ while music is pounding in your ears) and looked up in time to see a figure on the outside of the waiting area where I sat, approaching from the platform. I noticed her because all I saw was a head-full of natural hair piled beautifully on top. She was striding purposefully and right behind her was a shorter man trying to keep up. My initial thought was – a couple and he has pissed her the fuck off (yall know how we stride when we’re mad!)! He was keeping stride with her from behind; close enough to suggest intimacy. As the young lady pulled open the door to ‘my’ waiting area, two things happened simultaneously – I noticed how tall and extremely skinny she was and that the skirt she was wearing truly really could not be described as a skirt. It was what my mother back in my hoochie days would call a “belt”! The thing was barely there! The other happening was the woman who now joined the two-some and informed the young lady that the ‘man’ following closely behind her, was walking behind her with his camera taking pictures under her skirt! Yes, you heard me! He was being intimate… but not with her consent! This set off a chain of events that to this moment still disturbs me.

The young lady stood still while she insisted the ‘man’ go through his phone to show her his pictures. He did. He had pictures of whatever was (or wasn’t) under her skirt. Naturally, she was livid (as I was)! She proceeded to curse at him, reach for his phone to try and destroy it, grab at his shirt to detain him, as he pushed her off of him. She cursed and cursed, calling him a pedophile. Let’s address this… he was presumably in his forties or so; she was very early twenties (I concede however that she may have been even younger and I ‘aged’ her due to the outfit). The entire scene was disturbing and scary! As I struggled to regain myself enough to call the police, the ‘man’ ran off. The young lady removed her sky-high heels, put on flats and took off after him… disregarding her physical safety in an effort to protect her physical rights.

Seated next to me during this entire disturbing encounter was a Transit employee.

A man. In his fifties. A man who could easily have been the father or grandfather of this young lady. A man who works for the entity we were all waiting on. A man who neither stepped in to protect this young lady, nor raised his voice. A man who did nothing, but watch.

This morning as I got on the shuttle to Grand Central, I noticed a young lady seated a ways from where I stood, but close enough to catch my eye. Before I go on, I know you must be saying, “What is up with her and the Transit incidents?!” I concur. Moving on. There was nothing in her appearance that was the reason for my interest; rather it was because she was speaking to herself and gesturing wildly. Now, being a ‘New Yorker’, after all these years I have learned to avoid eye contact with anyone that seems a tad “off”. Wearing a hat this morning I was able to look without being caught. She talked. To herself. The train took a tad too long to pull off so I suspected something. A cop came. He entered from the door furthest from where she sat, looking. She saw him, got up and walked to him with the biggest smile ever. She extended her hand to shake his and introduce herself. He hesitated, then shook it. He asked her a few questions, she spoke. Then, he poked his head further into our car, asked us if she were “bothering” us, to which some said, “no”. He walked away. She walked back to her seat and on the way, informed us all that he was her cousin and they were “super tight”. Then she sat and resumed speaking to herself. She then threw me the ‘peace’ sign. I looked away; but continued to keep one corner of my eye on her the entire short skip to Grand Central.

In one week I was confronted with realities that plague so many – mental health and violation. Both with our very young.

In one instance, one may argue perhaps it could have been avoided – if she had worn a longer skirt, perhaps. Maybe if everything about her did not scream for attention she would not have gotten it. Right? Fucking wrong! The only culprit in that situation was the violator! The ‘man’ with such a sick and disgusting inside that that was the option he chose to exercise at 10:00am! A ‘man’ with the propensity to rape. Yes, I said, “rape’!  See, cause if walking up on a woman and documenting what is under her clothing is a viable option for you, then acting on what you feel as a result of what you see is no stretch! Sickening!

Then today. What emanated from her eyes and lips was disturbing. The ability to switch from socializing with the voices in her head to responding (almost) coherently with the voice of authority was saddening. I listened to her and understood that she understood there was something ‘wrong’ with her. Her immediate recognition that that policeman was there for her, without his having to approach her, said this was not the first time.

There is an epidemic of illness that is plaguing our society; and, it is affecting old and young alike. There can be an argument made that that sickening voyeur is simply just sick. Yes; some will say that he must be. His disgusting behavior aside however, something must be done. And, one of what that is, is my race – Africans, Americans, West Indians, black folk everywhere – must stop ignoring our mental health! We must acknowledge that at times things get too much and sometimes when that happens, we break. We must stop thinking our inability to cope at times is a weakness and all that must happen is for us to ‘toughen up’! We must stop ascribing shame to each other and ourselves. We must recognize our mental the same as we do for our physical… health. And sometimes, we just get unhealthy. And, what may begin as a temporary malaise of the mind, left untreated, may result in a permanent irreversible condition.

All (with the exception of the cop) the ‘players’ (although  none of what I said was a game) in these recountings were black. Including the Transit employee. I am saddened by this. I am saddened at the hopelessness that will and has touched all of us because of these experiences.

A young lady will forever remember the day she was violated and her private self was photographed. Another will again stand up and introduce herself the next time a cop pokes his head into a train car.

 

 

 

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