Keep The Bullshit!

This past weekend a friend of mine blessed me with tickets to Chris Rock’s Total Blackout Tour. (I have some amazing people in my life!) It was a pretty dope show, although I’m probably a little biased because Chris Rock is one of my favorite comedians. Jeff Ross roasted a bunch of people — two of which looked like a brother & sister couple from Children Of The Corn — Yvonne Orji’s jokes were hittin’ (wit her ol’ fine, Nigerian self), and Rock was his vintage, story-telling best.

One of my favorite parts (and there were many because his set was about 2 hours long) was when Rock talked about raising his children and how he ensures his daughters know that when they leave the house no one outside their humble abode gives a fuck about them. (He also stated that the level of fucks given by people in the house may be in question at times.) It’s a notion worth instilling, especially given the constant disregard society shows for Black and Brown lives. But racial context aside, it’s a sentiment that EVERYONE needs to be reminded of from time to time.

Like the middle-aged, white guy who felt compelled to tell me how the retailer I work for used to carry “really cool shit” like “leather jackets” and “thick ties” and other fashion trends that died in the late 1980s. And how “it’s a real shame” that the company I work for has begun catering to “Millennials” and their obscenely “tight clothes.” And how selling stuff crafted outside the US is Un-America. And how society needs to stop being so sensitive and politically correct. And how white people are under attack for exercising free speech, and other dumb-ass, privileged shit a middle-aged white man might say to a (not-that-young) black man.

It’s commentary that I could’ve done without, mainly because it wasn’t useful in helping me locate the XL polo shirt he requested. Also, I genuinely didn’t give a fuck. I perpetually don’t give a fuck. Because despite whatever disclaimers people use to preface their offensive bullshit, I already know it’s just their way of expressing just how much they don’t care about everyone who isn’t just like them.

Whether it’s celebrities like Tyrese who stay stuffing their foot in their mouths about what’s acceptable for women in terms of dress, sexuality, and beauty choices. Or overzealous parents like LaVar Ball who feel the need to call out folks’ deceased mothers for not being present in their child’s life. Or journalists, who feel it’s necessary to tell us that a Japanese racer winning the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend hurt their fucking feelings. (Because, Murica, y’all!) People can’t wait to tell you the many ways their limited viewpoint is just so right. Hell, I got cousins and ‘nem who stay tryna Chefboyardee some bullshit under the thin veil of “truth” or “transparency”. STOP IT! I’m not here for it.

I don’t care that everyone is entitled to their uninformed (or misinformed) opinions. I’m not obliged to listen. (Unless I’m at work because a nigga got bills and child support to pay.) Engaging with nonsense won’t help either of us. You’re not going change your opinion. And I’m not going to be suddenly enlightened by what you’re telling me. The world would be a better place if some of you spare us your false prophesies. And your dumb ass advice. And your judgmental thoughts. And your short-sided ideals. We want that shit about as much as 45 wants to be President right now. Not. At. All.

Just live your life, b. And if one day the zombie apocalypse finally comes and somehow the universe reveals your opinion to be the most supreme and righteous in all the land, then good for you. But at that point, it won’t matter. Because dead motherfuckers will be trying to eat you. You’d be better served beefing up your cardio and stocking your shelves with Bush’s Baked Beans than giving us your thoughts. Your breaths are limited. Save them for yourself.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Kid Cudi Has Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

This story was originally posted on REVOLT TV.

Tuesday evening Kid Cudi announced via Facebook that he has admitted himself into rehab for depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. In a lengthy post on his social media account, and in the midst of a promotional tour to highlight his fifth studio album, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, Scott Mescudi cited a litany of reasons for checking himself into a healthcare facility. He stated that he wasn’t at peace. He classified himself as a damaged human being. He acknowledged that there is a violent rage that exists within him and the crippling control anxiety and depression have taken over his life. It was a stark, heartbreaking jolt of reality.

But it wasn’t just Cudi’s announcement that hit me. It was his overly apologetic tone. At the center of his acceptance and willingness to get help, Cudi said that he was afraid that he was disappointing those around him. He stated that he was sorry for letting others down, ashamed of allowing the situation to reach its current level. Well here’s a message to you, Kid Cudi: Don’t be ashamed, because you’re not letting anyone down. If anything, Cudi’s commitment to saving himself should be viewed as an act of courage and hope.

You see, depression is an issue that I’ve become all too familiar within the last couple of years. Not too long ago, I was sitting in my 2012 Ford Focus, heavily inebriated as a result of downing a six-pack of Cayman Jack and a fifth of Grand Marnier. I was entrenched in a steady state of decay, rapidly losing my grip on reality, and unable to cope with my seemingly endless list of failures. To make matters worse, the more I tried to reconcile my issues, the more I sank into despair.

Never mind the fact that I was a father of two with an enviable job and an impressive sneaker collection. I was filled with worry, sadness, and anguish. At the time, I believed the only viable solution to escape my sorrows was death. On this particular night, the urges to meet my maker had never been stronger. If it weren’t for a few fortuitous events that evening, followed by a healthy barrage of counseling, I’m not sure I would be alive to write this. And thanks to Kid Cudi’s melancholy lyrics and infectious, syncopated rhythms, I found solace in his music.

Which is why I identify with Kid Cudi’s struggle. I am not a celebrity. Nor am I a rapper, singer, producer, or actor. I’m just a writer. And most of the time, I’m not even that. I’m the guy who tutors your kid so he or she can get into college so you can justify the second mortgage you took out on your house. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an inkling as to what he’s going through.

You see, during my bout with depression, I found solace in Cudi’s musings. I lived in it. If Cudi’s work served as his catharsis, it was also my sanctuary. Some days (most days) it was all I’d listen to. Mescudi’s soulful, off-kilter voice provided refuge; a much-needed distraction from the crumbling chaos that was my existence. Man on the Moon II and Indicud are as much responsible for recovery as therapy.

“Mojo So Dope” became my daily soundtrack. Cudi’s verse on “Brothers” became my mantra for living life.

No sweatin the ho shit, too in tune with the family
I do got the ones that do know Scott
They give me the love that a nigga need
If its a place to stay or a dime sack of weed

-Kid Cudi, “Brothers”

The raw emotion permeating from Kid Cudi’s introspective lyrics resonated with my soul. And the more raw, unadulterated, and emotional the Cleveland rapper became the greater my confidence grew with respect to defeating my own malignant spirits.

While the treatment and diagnosis for depression has increased exponentially with the advancements in modern medicine, the illness is still considered taboo in many cultures. The African-American community is among these, as depression is commonly misdiagnosed as merely being sad. We frequently oppose therapy out of a misguided obligation to keep our issues hidden, or worse, for fear of appearing weak. Sitting on somebody’s couch talking about our trivial worries isn’t going to solve our problems, or so we think. For black males especially, the maintenance of false bravado and masculinity prevents us from acknowledging our thoughts and seeking the proper care that we need.

In the case of celebrities dealing with personal demons, we tend to brush it off as isolated issues of overindulgence and lack of accountability. We define their struggles as being mere fabrications of the environment and lifestyle they have chosen to adopt. We rarely empathize with their illnesses because we don’t acknowledge them as such. We trivialize their pain by saying things like, “They’re rich and famous, what could possibly be wrong with them? Maybe if they didn’t use so many drugs, they’d be fine.” But pain and struggle are relative. One cannot begin to fathom the hell people endure. Celebrities are people too. And while fame, money and social media present an opaque facade that distracts us from underlying issues, the absence of trouble within the public eye doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Which makes Kid Cudi’s decision to seek help so remarkable and necessary, not just for his well-being, but for others as well. Too many times we don’t know of black celebrities’ struggles until it’s too late. I remember when actor Lee Thompson Young, who played the main character on Disney’s The Famous Jett Jackson, committed suicide at 29. We were shocked. Many of us couldn’t comprehend what drove him to end his life so young with so much promise. After all, Young possessed a multitude of desirable traits such as good looks, charm, and charisma, and his acting career seemed to find new life as he was starring in more television roles. But little did we know, he was struggling far greater than anyone could have imagined.

For those of us who have thought of taking our own lives, suicide is not a cry for help. It is not an over-dramatization or an act of selfishness. It’s not just a failure to cope or find solutions to our problems. For us, suicide is the answer. It’s a means to end the sorrow that has become our existence. It’s flawed, misguided, and heart-wrenching. And without the proper guidance, support, and counseling, it will kill us.

With Cudi’s admission into a treatment facility, at least this time, we aren’t catching wind of his struggles after the fact. I don’t know what has occurred in Kid Cudi’s life for him to reach this point, and frankly, it’s none of my business. But I’m elated that he’s seeking a way to improve his mental state for himself, his daughter, the people around him, and his fans. Maybe this act provides a glimmer of hope for someone else to follow. Personally, I’m happy an artist that I admire, and whose music provided comfort during my darkest time, is committed to this journey called life just a little longer. Stay strong, Kid Cudi. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

The Shining of OBJ

By now the world has become aware of the Darth Becky fuckshit that occurred last week courtesy of Faux Femme Fatale, Lena Dunham, and her dull, cream-colored, average-comic friend, Amy Schumer. If Taylor Swift is the Darth Vader of the Evil White Girl Empire, Dunham is most certainly its Jaba The Hutt. This has nothing to do with her being fat, or chubby, or a little thick. Personally, I love women with curves. (Shout out to GabiFresh, Ashley Graham, and the lovely Jill Scott. Y’all make my heart melt.) It’s more about her being utterly inept, talentless, and non-threatening, yet somehow commanding power and drawing a following from fellow Abigail Fishers and misguided feminists who are only feminist when it comes to white women.

Anywho, if you haven’t heard by now, Ms. Dunham vomited her insecurities and imprudent sense of humor when reflecting on her interaction with New York Giant’s ramen noodle haired receiver Odell Beckham Jr. at this year’s Met Gala. Lena said Odell didn’t interact with her much, choosing instead to be consumed by his phone, because he deemed her an inadequate sexual object. Basically, he was guilty of eliciting White fragility for not sexually objectifying a pasty, white girl in a tuxedo, because he has a misogynistic mindset about attractiveness.

Note, this is all coming from Lena’s ‘I think I’m important but not really’ privileged mind since, you know, Odell never said this shit. As if our country doesn’t have enough of a shameful history regarding the over-sexualization and vilification of Black males courtesy of fabricated stories from the moronic brains of devious, unvictimized, White women. (See Emmett Till, The Destruction of Black Wall Street, and the Rosewood Massacre for reference.) Hence, as you would expect, Lena was appropriately dragged by the social guardian that is Black Twitter.

Since then, Dunham has issued a (somewhat decent) apology, and Girls is still canceled, so all is right in the world. However, one key piece of this story is missing: what exactly was Odell thinking that night? Did he really ignore her because she was “a marshmallow” dressed in a tuxedo? Or was he sliding in someone’s DMs and needed to remain focused on the ‘gram? Up until now, it has been a mystery. As I said before, Odell NEVER said any of this shit. Also, since news of Dunham’s slow-witted debacle broke to the masses, he has responded to requests from reporters with a sterile, “I Have to Learn More About the Situation” and “I’m focused on the Cowboys.” (Note: The Cowboys fucking suck!)

But we’re in luck. If Key & Peele’s comedic gospel taught us anything, we know that Black men have the ability to communicate with each other telepathically through a process know as Shining. Thus, because I’m a Black man, I can use my Magical Negro powers to Shine the official transcript of Odell’s thought process that fateful night. Alas, I give you, the Negro Shining of Odell.

OBJ: Hey, Wiz, you good fam? I heard you fell down the stairs.

Wiz: Nah, gotdammit, that wasn’t me, bruh. I’m good. That was Jason Derulo. (It wasn’t Jason Derulo either.)

OBJ: Bet. Just checkin’ bruh. Where do I sit? And they better have some fire-ass food. I’m hongry den a bih.

Michael B. Jordan: You gotta plant where they want you. Ain’t no choosing yo’ own seat up in here, fam.

OBJ: Why? That don’t make no damn sense.

MBJ: Ain’t that many of us here. They gotta spread out the melanin.

OBJ: Gotcha. We gotta represent Team No Socks.

MBJ: Yeah, Team No Socks in the building.

Common: Y’all know Calvin Klein wanted y’all to wear socks, right? That shit ain’t cool. Follow the program niggas.

Nas: Chill, Common. They just youngins. Let ’em live.

Melo: Yeezy, is that you? Are you at the wrong party? You dressed like it’s Halloween.

Yeezy: It’s fashion nigga. It’s avant-garde muhfucka.

Melo: That shit corny nigga. You look like a ghetto-ass Walker Texas Ranger. You mus’ be da Southside edition.

Barack Obama: Yeezy, we talked about this. You can’t just be out in these streets looking like a Chicago Vampire. You can’t pop off like that. Feel me?

OBJ: Got ’em!!!!!

Kanye: Man, fuck y’all. That’s why I’m running for President in 2020.

Obama: Naw, fam.

OBJ: Aye, y’all see Beyonce’s fine-ass out here? I’m ’bout to get a pic for the ‘gram.

Jay-Z: Look, nigga, don’t get too close to my woman. I may not be there but, I’m still there. ALWAYS. It’s the Roc.

OBJ: My bad Hov.

Future: I got tha Keys, tha keys, tha k-

OBJ: Ayo, Future, Russell says what’s up?

Future: Man, fuck you, Odell!

Russell Wilson: What’s up, Future?!

Future: Fuck you, Russ!

MBJ: Hey dawg, we gotta focus. We about to be seated. Time to be proper, non-threatening negroes.

OBJ: Bet. Oh shit, I’m sitting next to that chick that was grinding all over you Mike.

MBJ: Really, dawg? I thought she was convulsing or something. That’s why I didn’t move. I didn’t know what to do so I just smiled.

OBJ: Is she drunk? She keeps looking at me for some reason.

MBJ: Man, I dunno. Looking at you how?

OBJ: Like, she just staring at me, giving me this weird-ass grin, bro. It’s creeping me the fuck out. Who is she anyway?

MBJ: Just don’t make eye contact. That’s how she ended up twerking on me like Miley Cyrus.

OBJ: Alright. But who is she?

Nas: I think she works here at the museum, b. She’s probably a curator or something like that.

OBJ: A curator? What the fuck is that?

Common: She’s the one that sets up all the art n’ shit.

OBJ: Oh, word?!

MBJ: Naw, she’s an actress. A writer too, I think. I just know that Judd put her on at HBO.

Donald Glover: Yeah, I was in her show, fam. She digs Black dudes.

OBJ: Who are you?

DG: Donald Glover.

OBJ: Who?

DG: Damn, bruh. It’s Childish Gambino. Remember me? We partied when I did a show at LSU.

OBJ: Oh, y’all the same person. Damn, that’s deep, son.

DG: Nigga, I told you this.

OBJ: Ayo Mike, she still looking at me. What do I do?

MBJ: Just smile, bro.

OBJ: I’m trying. It’s not working. What else you got?

MBJ: Damn, I dunno. Somebody, help em’ out.

Kobe: Mamba at your service. What you’re go-

Melo: NOT YOU KOBE! You not the one. Take that Mamba shit somewhere else.

OBJ: Quick, hurry nigga. She is undressing me with her eyes.

Idris Elba: Calm down young fella. We got you.

OBJ: Idris, is that you?

IE: Yes. I’m looking dead at you. Just stay calm.

MBJ: Ayo, I’m still mad you told the producers to kill me off The Wire. That was fucked up? But it’s all good.

Wood Harris: That was like 15 sum’ years ago. Stop being a lil bitch about it. We basically MADE you, nigga.

MBJ: Whatever, dawg.

OBJ: NIGGA!!!! Help me!!!!!

IE: Hit’em, Denzel.

Denzel Washington: Alright, okay. I assure you brotha, that if you listen to my voice, you well make it out of this unscathed. I guarantee it. Alright?

OBJ: Okay, what do I do?

DW: Just look straight forward.

OBJ: Okay, I’m looking forward.

DW: Who do you see?

OBJ: Zoe Kravitz. Dayum, she fine too.

DW: Focus.

OBJ: Okay, okay, what do I do now?

DW: Slowly reach into your pocket, and grab your phone.

OBJ: Okay. I got it. What now?

DW: Now just watch some Dave Chappelle skits until this is all over.

OBJ: Really?!

DW: Yes. You just gotta hang in there for a little while longer. She’ll be outta your hair quicker than dandruff.

OBJ: Whew! Thanks, OG. ‘Preciate it. Shout out to Head & Shoulders!

Jordan Peele: Hey, y’all do know this ain’t real, right?

OBJ: Wait, what?

Keagan Michael Key: He said this isn’t real. Because it isn’t. We made this shit up because the execs at Comedy Central were on some fuckshit. We needed to scare their asses.

MBJ: Fo’real?!

JP: Fo’real.

OBJ: Dayum, dawg.

KMK: Noise.

So there you have it, folks. Looks like Odell was just trying to avoid Lena Dunham’s awkward flirting and wandering eyes. Or maybe he was concerned about his personal safety having witnessed the rhythmless, debauchery she unleashed on Michael B. Jordan earlier that evening. Hell, it’s like counting the licks to the middle of a Tootsie Roll Pop. We may never know. Either way, this account is much more believable than anything rambling in Lena Dunham’s simple mind. Because we all know, White women are still prone to lying on niggas. Just ask Kanye.

 

 

 

 

 

This “I’m Right, You’re Wrong” Nonsense Has To Stop

College football kicked off last night. Well, kind of. Technically speaking, the chase for the 2016 College Football Championship started last week in Sydney, Australia when California mollywhopped Hawaii in what can only be described as an utter disregard for team defense. Nevertheless, this weekend, football stans across the country will finally be able to mirth at the violence and rage they’ve been hankering for, even if it exploits young adult men for massive profit. Personally, I’m only looking forward to football because I desperately need to watch something other than baseball. Tim Kirkjian’s voice is about to drive me up a stone wall.

The Olympics was cool and all, but it was only a few weeks, even less when you consider that, competitively speaking, there wasn’t much worth watching. The sheer domination courtesy of the US Women’s gymnastics, basketball, and 4×100 relay teams, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, was an enjoyable spectacle, but it’s fascinating watching equally matched competitors. Unless of course, you’re Canadian Diving specialist, Jennifer Abel. I certainly wouldn’t mind watching more of her, just because. Lawd, have mercy. I’m digressing.

Anywho, because of college football, we’re privy to more paid talking heads spewing their seemingly endless, dumb-ass, ‘I really want to say something provocative’ takes like fertilizer. One of the best shit-talking provocateurs is none other than Paul Finebaum, a man who’s cul de sac hairline and thick Browline glasses suggests he knows more about binary code and econometrics than zone blocking schemes and coverage shells.

Paul Finebaum - May 23, 2013

Since Colin Kaepernick’s decision to peacefully protest the oppression of brown people in America by defiantly refusing to stand during the national anthem, there has been no shortage of viewpoints. Most of them have been misguided, choosing to focus solely on Kaepernick’s antics and perceived lack of American pride rather than the issues he’s protesting. Others have been deeply rooted in nonsense, with claims that Kaepernick is too privileged to understand oppression given his upbringing, high-paying profession, post-game attire, and overall lack of Blackness. (He’s a Kappa. So, that’s Black enough!!!) There was also the typical, faux outcry as to why Kaepernick isn’t protesting “Black on Black” crime too. It’s amazing how people can be amazingly shortsighted in their opinion of things.

One of the most fatuous takes came from the aforementioned Finebaum, who questioned Kaepernick’s motives altogether, insinuating that the oppression of Black people doesn’t exist. Of course, this is the most absurd. Black people have been, and continue to be, oppressed by America’s pro-White culture. We’re still being hunted, face disadvantages, and are regarded as cattle, mainly due to prejudice. I could provide a myriad of statistics as proof of this thesis. I can even point out the obvious fact that White men (and White people, in general) are the least qualified to determine other people’s level of oppression, given their historically archetypal role as the oppressor.

Instead, what concerns me about Finebaum’s, and other’s, response to Kaepernick’s actions is the tone; the notion that if a person’s thoughts or beliefs vary from our own, they must not only be wrong, but inherently deficient. It’s a dangerous conviction, one that is regularly perpetuated and has precipitated the racial, religious, and moral tension within our society.

We must stop regarding alternative perspectives as a point of contention and judgment. Instead, we must perceive our differences as a means of improving ourselves and our society.

During my time in college, I befriended an Agnostic, Republican. I know, the mere existence of this individual is unbelievable. (It’s like befriending a fucking unicorn. But I assure you, he exists.) I identify as a Christian and Democrat. Add in that he is White, comes from money, attended Florida State, and is a vegan. I, on the other hand, am Black, with middle-class roots, have an FAMU diploma, and avoid anything green by eating as many animals as possible because they’re delicious as fuck.

At first glance, this relationship shouldn’t exist. Conventionally thinking, it definitely shouldn’t have cultivated respect and admiration. But it did. In fact, it’s one of the most fruitful relationships I’ve had during my short lifetime.

You see, while we are gravely opposite, we were open to understanding each other. We asked questions without being judgmental. We attempted to inform one another without being preachy. We challenged each other’s doctrines by seeking clarity rather than just proof.

And I became better for it. It forced me to dig within myself and cultivate an acceptance for others. In the process, I became motivated to take a course on religion, grow my understanding and relationship with Christ, and gain some perspective on Republicans. (Contrary to my Pop’s sentiments, they’re not all racist, rich & White. Some of them have some gotdamn sense and progressive ideas. Which makes this election so disheartening.)

Too many times, we’re taught that “birds of the same feather flock together” as a reason to surround ourselves with well-meaning, like-minded people to obtain success. There’s some truth to this. One should avoid destructive individuals who desire nothing for others, or themselves. Also, fuckboys who indulge in fuckshit should be averted at all costs. (Note: I love being around Black people who love being Black because it’s comfortable and invigorating.)

But that doesn’t mean we should suffocate our growth by sterilizing ourselves from variegation. (Note: I also love being around a diverse group of nonjudgmental people who love being human. It’s an awakening experience.)

If Obama’s Presidency has taught me anything, other than that a Black President is a sure fire way to bring the racist out of folks, it’s that we are becoming increasingly disinterested with accepting one another. We have adopted this mantra of converting as many people to our respective causes as possible. And should they reject, we shall condemn them for their “unpleasant” ideas. Simply put, we are putting too much in the value of being right.

Colin Kaepernick’s actions were not about condemning or dishonoring his country. His message was about igniting focus towards an issue that has plagued our nation for far too long. Disagreeing with his actions is okay. Not everything everyone does will jive with what we believe. But there’s a way to be disagreeable without sullying someone’s character.

More importantly, we must focus on the issues aroused from this revolt and be willing to have frank, uncomfortable, unbiased discussions to elicit solutions. Otherwise, we’ll just polarize ourselves further apart, with growing factions of people who are unequivocally convinced they are right while everyone else is wrong. That’s not an America that I wish to live in, nor the one any us of deserve. The of multiformity of thought, religion, ideology, and freedom of expression is the underpinning of our democracy. As a preacher once told me, “It’s not about being right, it’s about being effective.”

Sometimes Older People Just Want To Talk, And That’s Okay Because Being Older Is Hard

“His name is Wolf. No really, that’s his real name.” This is what Nadine said to me this morning. At the time of writing this, it occurred nearly an hour ago. The comment caught me completely off guard. I was patiently waiting in line at Panera, eager to purchase a spinach, mushroom, and sofrito soufflé and get on with my day. I have a lot of shit to do today, like write, read, study, apply for jobs, look up Madden ’17 ratings, buy shoe cleaner, etc. It’s going to be a busy day.

golden-tate-madden-16

It wasn’t until I looked towards the cashier that I realized she was addressing me. She gazed at me with a sweet smile (the kind that looked as if she just baked a dozen chocolate chip cookies from scratch), anticipating my response. “Excuse me, ma’am?”, I replied.

“Wolf, my husband, that’s his real name. It’s not a nickname,” she said, gesturing towards the older gentlemen standing beside her. “Our grandkids always say, ‘Hey Grandma Wolf’ and I always tell them, I’m not the Wolf, your Papa is the Wolf,” she said with a cute snicker. I could tell she frequently enjoys a few humorous anecdotes from herself. I can appreciate that. I crack myself up a lot these days.

Unsure of what to say, I responded with a sterile, “Gotcha! That’s funny.” It wasn’t my intention to return with a short antiphon. It’s just that I’m a bit of an introvert and extremely awkward when speaking to strangers, especially in the morning (having just woke up less than an hour ago) and before I’ve consumed food (did I mention I woke up less than an hour ago?).

She smiled again, calmly turned to her husband, and finished placing her order. I faintly sneered as she looked away, and approached the counter to purchase the egg pastry that I intended to gormandize less than 5 minutes upon receiving it.

I collected my food and drink from the nearby pick-up trestle and turned in search of an area to cocoon myself for the next 5 hours. As I began walking towards the general seating area, I locked eyes with Nadine once again. Disappointed with my response during our prior encounter, I attempted to be as warming as possible with my facial expression. I flashed an inviting grin, then looked to continue my search for a place of solace.

“Are you gonna eat that? You must be hungry,” Nadine said chuckling. She was cracking herself up again. I can dig it.

“Yes ma’am, I am,” I replied.

“Well, would you like to sit with us? We certainly don’t mind,” she said, sliding her tray aside to clear room for my arrival.

Under any other circumstances, I would have declined the invitation. After all, I have a ton of shit to do today, remember? People need to know why I think Frank Ocean’s new album is palatable mediocrity. I need to know Golden Tate’s overall Madden rating given Megatron’s departure. And I still need to clean a few sneakers that I wore just once a few weeks ago. Dammit, there’s never enough time to do anything.

“Are you sure?” I replied.

“Of course. Wolf and I could use some company.”

I glanced at Wolf, seeking his approval. He hadn’t said anything since his wife began speaking to me. I wanted to be sure his wife wasn’t writing checks that his humility had no intention of cashing.

Picking up on my subtle social hints, Wolf smiled and said, “Yeah, c’mon young man. Have a seat.”

I set my belongings down and eased my way into the vacant chair next to Nadine. She was overly enthused with my decision to dine with her and her husband. I’m not sure I have ever seen a White woman over the age of seventy excited at the prospect of eating with a 30-year-old Black man. From my brief existence on this planet, shit like this doesn’t happen often, not even in movies. Unless, of course, you’re Hillary Clinton looking to score votes. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw Diane Keaton opposite a young, Black male on the silver screen? I’ll wait.

635922737502744801-fox

“So, what’s your name?” asked Nadine.

“Morgan,” I replied.

“Morgan? Oh, that’s our granddaughter’s name. That’s such a lovely name,” she said.

It’s a response I have become quite familiar with. Other than Morgan Freeman, the fictional character on The Walking Dead, and a guy I once interviewed for a management position at Nike, I have never met or known another Black man with the first name Morgan. Occasionally, I would come across a Black chick named Morgan. But it’s exceedingly rare. I’ve long accepted that my name is now synonymous with, “White Girl.” There’s a movie coming out this fall about an “exceptionally gifted” white girl aptly titled, Morgan, which I’m sure will only exacerbate my conundrum. Oh, joy!

the-walking-dead-season-4-episode-4

Nadine and I had a long, spirited conversation (it wasn’t much of a conversation, just her talking to me really) about a wide range of topics. She told me more about her grandchildren – eight total, three girls and five boys – their ages, and the various activities they’re involved in. As it turns out, Morgan is a phenomenal athlete. I guess we have a few things in common.

She described the first accident she endured and how her father nearly had a heart attack when he found out.

She told a few tales about growing up in the 1950s; about her dream of becoming a professional baker, but instead relishing the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom, her love affair for Mission: Impossible (she had a huge celebrity crush for Peter Graves), and the sadness she felt upon reading about Steven Hill’s death this morning. She expressed frustrations with technology, namely the new oven her daughter bought her, and why she is convinced her baked goods don’t taste as good as they did when she used her antique Maytag (the character of an appliance provides flavor in her opinion). She talked about the friendships she built over the years, but how many of her closest acquaintances had now passed on.

Wolf chimed in a few times, mostly with anecdotes about how much society has changed and how he didn’t understand it, but he was virtually quiet during the conversation. He might have been on some Clint Eastwood shit, who knows. But he was content with letting his wife do most of the talking. I surmise it’s a resolution he came to years ago.

About halfway through the conversation, I came to the stark realization that Nadine just wanted to converse with someone, anyone, other than Wolf. It’s not that she’s grown tired of her husband (she is very much still in love with Wolf and told a beautifully romantic story about when they met, and how he needed permission from her father to take her out to a local diner and grab malts). It’s that she needed to interact with someone different. I just happened to be the complicit stranger she was seeking. Or maybe I was the “Magic Negro” that would suddenly give their lives purpose, I honestly can’t tell.

I can’t say I didn’t come away from this experience with some substantive jawns of my own. A few advantages of spending time with old folks is obtaining delicious hard candies and life gems. According to my dentist, I can do without the former. The latter included timely advice about the importance of chasing your dreams and pursuing happiness, which is always appreciated.

Recently, my mother has continuously asked me if I would put her in a nursing home when she reaches the age of eighty. It’s a topic I wish to avoid, as the thought of my mother aging saddens me. But it’s a legitimate question that concerns her, one fueled by the fear of being forgotten.

We all have stories; life is an incredible matrix of complex and compelling tales and experiences. And we all want our existence to mean something, to have purpose. In a society where technology has afforded us the ability to interact with one another from afar, it’s easy to forget the importance of intimate human connection. I suppose Nadine, in the winter of her life, sought to espouse this affection. I was privileged to have been a witness to her abridged biography.

The older we get, the harder life becomes. Yesterday, I was concerned if I would have enough money to see Europe again within the next five years. Ten years ago I was worried about whether I had enough money to get lit at Night Kap. (It was a Kappa party. What the fuck was I thinking?) Twenty years ago I was coming to terms with rejection from my elementary school crush. ({Insert name of unnamed woman here} broke my heart because she wouldn’t wouldn’t go with me. The nerve of her!)

Life is short. But it’s shorter for older people. So if a card-carrying, AARP member attempts to spark up a conversation with you, and you have time to indulge, do it. Oblige gotdammit. Lord willing, that will be you in 50 years, and you’ll expect the same.

 

 

 

 

All Hail King S. Dot

Today is August 6. It is Sean Lowe’s birthday. I imagine this day beginning with Sean’s 1-year-old son (a supreme bundle of cuteness) waking him up in the most inadvertent toddler way possible. Maybe it would be a smack in the face. Or a sippy cup to the nose. Or deafening wailing to signal hunger, or a soiled diaper. Either way, he would have enjoyed it. All of it. Even the diaper.

I envision Sean glancing over at the boy’s beautiful mother, grinning with a playful smirk. She’d then say something cute and loving, which would prompt a quippy retort, and they’d embrace in some picturesque, beautiful black family way.

IMG_2601

He’d then post evidence of his model family via social media, equipped with a witty, thought-provoking quote on the joys of turning thirty. He loved to do that. He’d respond to an onslaught of texts, calls, and other messages as diligently as possible. The sheer volume would be a challenge. He’d speak to the strong woman who raised him, thanking her for the endearing love and support she’s showered him with over the past three decades. He’d then share laughs with his younger brother, who adored and exalted him.

He would later jubilantly celebrate into the night, an event that would be a privilege to attend. He’d trade funny barbs as he reminisced about the times he shared with those lucky enough to call him a friend. All of which would fade in comparison to the tall tales in his best friend’s arsenal. He is a comedic nut.

It should be a joyous day. It would have been. But it’s not. These thoughts only exist in my mind. They will never come to fruition. Because Sean is not here and neither is his son.

I’ve tried many times to make sense of the events that took place on February 10, the fateful night that claimed the lives of two exceptional souls. I frequently replay the events before and after, looking for nuances that could have altered the tragic outcome. It’s a painfully futile habit.

I try to justify Sean’s absence, attempting to convince myself that it’s part of God’s plan. There must be some reason for ending the life of a remarkable young man, right? There must be. It’s a notion that remains unanswered. The only logical conclusion that I can surmise is sometimes terrible things happen to good people because it’s the nature of our existence. There is exceptional cruelty in the randomness of death. We can only celebrate the life that was.

Sean Ameer Lowe is perhaps the most extraordinary man that I’ve ever known. I do not use this superlative lightly. This is not intended to be hyperbole. He was a phenomenally unique person.

IMG_2607

I remember when we first met. I was a part of a newly minted retail management team tasked with opening an outlet store and we were conducting interviews for associates. Having interviewed approximately 200 candidates over the course of three days, the exercise had become a banausic undertaking, to say the least. There are only so many introductions, fake smiles, and unimpressive statements a person can endure before voices become muted trombone cries.

I recall walking in Hampton Inn & Suites on day 4, with my backpack in tow, thinking just how exhausted I was. I grabbed a cup of coffee, settled into the familiar confines of the hotel’s boardroom and greeted everyone with a pseudo-enthusiastic “good morning”. After discussing our criteria and objectives for the upcoming applicants, I retreated to the hallway to receive our latest candidate.

Against the wall stood a thin Black man with a goatee. His attire was oddly formal, especially given the setting. Interviews predictably warrant business casual attire, but we were hiring for an athletic company and expected some informality. I certainly didn’t anticipate seeing someone draped in dress shoes, black slacks, a red Oxford shirt, and an argyle sweater vest. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he’d be attending a Kappa convention rather than a Nike interview.

As I approached the gentleman, he flashed a cunning smile, extended his hand for a customary handshake and said, “Hey, I’m Sean Lowe.”

“Morgan,” I replied. We shared a few more pleasantries, entered the room and prepared for yet another interview.

I fully expected to recommend this candidate for hire, as others  within the company revered him. He exhibited a cordial first impression and a friendly personality. But I was tired and didn’t forecast a memorable interaction.

Within 5 minutes this man from Jamaica Queens, New York obliterated my expectations. There was a calm confidence in him as he spoke with unrelenting zeal about his belief in the power of sport. He shared tales of his days as a track athlete for the University of Maryland, his failed journey to become an Olympic athlete, and his deep passion for helping others reach their full potential. And he did so with a genuinely warm smile. It was the kind of smile that gave others a comforting resolve The entire room held onto his every word.

uovfaqifeozhlyf-20160219172614

Nearly 30 minutes, and a heap of superb anecdotes later, the interview concluded. My boss recited a few procedural instructions, some salutations, and Sean began to depart. “Thank you so much for the opportunity guys, and girls,” he said, thoughtfully acknowledging everyone’s gender. Sean always wanted those he spoke with to feel respected. “It was a pleasure. This was a lot of fun.”

As he disappeared beyond the laminate door, I turned to my supervisor and said, “Wow. He needs to be on my team. Period.”

Over the years Sean and I developed a remarkable relationship. We seamlessly bounced ideas off each other. Though we disagreed often, there was profound respect in our contention. We used the contrarian nature of our bond as fuel to become better leaders. It didn’t matter that I was his superior. We were equals, a formidable team, capable of doing remarkable work convivially.

It wasn’t long before our rapport extended beyond a professional accord. We reveled in our shared presence. We habitually reenacted Key & Peele skits, spoke to each other in Pootie Tang, and discussed the beautiful complexities of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.

We debated the Stay Puft Marshmallowness of Aubrey Drake Graham, the comedic repertoire of Eddie Murphy versus Kevin Hart, the terrible luckiness of Eli Manning, and the frustrating process of purchasing Jordan’s.

giphy

But more than anything, we cared about each other. We appreciated each other’s struggles as fellow Black men and fathers.

One instance, in particular, was a few weeks before his tragic departure. I was overwhelmed with the vast amount of pitfalls I’d been experiencing both professionally and personally. I was catching more Ls than Meek Mill and having trouble coping with them. As I sat in the communal office we shared, dejected and uninterested in doing anything, Sean walked in, displayed his signature smile and said, “You look stressed. There’s no reason to be stressed. Just find your happy place and focus on what you can control: You. We gon’ be alright. We goin’ straight to the top.”

It was a simple pick me up. But the sincerity in Sean’s voice was incredibly striking. He believed in me, even when I doubted myself the most.

IMG_2610

 

I miss Sean every day. I miss him when Kendrick Lamar does something Kendrick Lamarish, like release an album out of the blue, or give jaw-breaking award show performances, or catch passes from his label mate during an NFL training camp. I miss him when my son reaches a milestone (like saying new words or imitating a video), and I need to unload my joy onto a fellow dad. I miss him when the Maryland basketball team creates annoyingly viral dancing videos. I miss him when Michigan State does frustratingly idiotic things, like losing in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, and I know I’ll be the victim of unrelenting shit talking.

I miss him because we never experienced these things due to a person’s dreadfully irresponsible judgment. I miss him because his family wasn’t allowed to share moments that meant so much more than my own.

I recently read that Monty Williams, an associate coach for the OKC Thunder, still texts his late wife at times. She too was killed in an automobile accident. It’s a habit I’ve also adopted. I know Sean’s will never reply. I know we’ll never exchange memes of corny dog jokes again. But there’s solace behind the action.

IMG_2602

I regularly view Sean’s social media accounts. I also keep his obituary on my person whenever I travel. It’s my way of ensuring that I never forget him. Even without the benefit of technology, I’m not sure that I could. Despite our brief time together, Sean had a profound impact on my life. It was an honor to know him, for which I am incredibly grateful.

I haven’t spoken to Sean’s family much since his death. With each passing day, I feel guilty for my lack of communication. It’s convenient to become swarmed within the perils of my life. But I mostly refrain because I don’t know what to say. It’s ironic, given that I dub myself a writer (and a crafter of words). I just don’t know what I could express that would undo the excruciating pain and sorrow they’ve endured. I don’t believe there’s any amount words I could construct that would resonate enough to console their heartache.

I suppose the only thing I can do is attempt to live my life as a testament to his. Sean was everything I aspired to be. He embodied the noblest traits a man could possess. He cared deeply for those around him and had an everlasting desire uplift those within his circle (he called it his Happy Place). He was an incredible father, and found joy in life’s minutia, rarely taking moments for granted.

IMG_2606

He should be here gently scolding me for scarfing unhealthy food too fast. Or working too much. Or getting upset about insignificant things I cannot control. We should be raising glasses of Grand Marnier, celebrating thirty years as Black men on this planet, looking forward to 100 more. We should be formulating the many ways our sons will one day take over the world. I should be telling him how he was the greatest Olympic athlete that never was, as we share our observations from this year’s Games in Rio.

But for now, all I can do is write. I pray that it’s enough, though I doubt that it is. This one’s for you Sean. You in there dog, until we meet again. All hail King S. Dot.

If you would like to donate to Sean’s family please do so here. Every little bit helps.

 

The Necessity of Pointlessness

As a black male, there is no shortage of reasons to attend a HBCU. Some are beneficial, like becoming more woke, finding ways to appreciate your Blackness and educating yourself in the presence of forward-thinking people who strive for Black excellence. Others are purely social, like being outnumbered by fine-ass Beyoncé wannabes 20-to-1, getting turnt for epic Homecomings or indulging in the spoils of Greek life (if you’re into that).

h151_gallery-image_54254

One of the greatest takeaways from my time at FAMU is the high volume of caring professors I encountered during my nearly decade-long excursion in the highest of seven hills. (I don’t have a graduate degree, it just took me long as fuck to receive my Bachelor’s because I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do.) I was privileged to acquire knowledge from educators who not only genuinely cared about my professional preparedness, but also my personal well-being. To this day, there are a few professors that I occasionally reach out to for counseling, mentorship, and even, shit-talking (whenever my Lions beat the Packers, there is bragging to be had).

The most influential professor during my time in Tallahassee was Dr. X. He’s a distinguished gentleman, who boasts an impressive resumé and a delightful bowtie collection. (He’s worked for the CIA, the State Department, and a bunch of other cool-ass organizations. Out of respect, I’ve changed his name for this piece.) He sermonized the importance of efficiency and maximizing opportunity; fitting given he is an economics professor.

“Your life should be about purposeful movement. Everything you do must have value,” he frequently said. He seldom discussed sports, music, movies or any other form of entertainment. It was “fruitless frolic” in his opinion. It’s a notion that we debated often. I remember facetiously telling him once, “There is joy in indulging in pointless activities. LeBron’s field goal percentage is of grave importance.” He would always reply in his stoic, monotone voice, “Nonsense.”

But given the state of our society, and the growing presence of the world’s wickedness, it’s a notion that has become increasingly imperative. There is an absolute necessity for indulging in pointless shit for the sake of our sanity. Note: The events of today’s society are in no way new, or more heinous than before. Technology has just made us more aware of the evil that exists.

Last month featured a metric fuck ton of nefarious, gut-wrenching shit. There were two state-sponsored executions of Black men. Then came the cowardly retaliation that killed five civil servants. That’s in addition to the dozens of terrorist attacks that claimed more than 500 lives around the world (including Nigeria, France, Syria, and Iraq). And the four lives lost due to gun violence on Chicago’s Southside during Independence Day weekend. And the grandmother killed via a hit-and-run while tending to a community flower bed.

Not to mention the coronation of America’s most offensive, bigoted and demonizing political candidate disguised as dog vomit fungus, at a convention who’s political party is predicated on White supremacy, privilege, and bitch-ass-ness.

img_8866
Donald Trump, in natural form

This month is already off to a sadistic start. Less than a week into August and we’ve witnessed the state-sponsored execution of one black woman (and the wounding of her five-year-old child) and the grotesque murder of another. It’s a cruel fucking world that we live in.

Thus, to cope with this wickedness, I frequently indulge in some incredibly meaningless shit. Today was no different. I played NBA 2K15. I watched amateur-produced skits via social media. I cleaned barely worn sneakers. I listened to The Internet’s Ego Death. I found creative ways to duck Navient’s harassing collection calls (you’ll get this money when I get it gotdammit). I even researched stats comparing cornrow donning, Denver Nuggets Carmelo to outspoken, annoyed by Jimmy Bulter’s singing, New York Carmelo. Note: MSG Melo may be shooting the ball better from beyond the arc, but I’ll take Mile High Melo all damn day.

FullSizeRender

None of this added any considerable value to my life. In fact, I’ll forget a few of these activities by the time I turn 30 years-old next week. But they all did one vital thing: they provided some escape. They gave me a much-needed distraction to the world around me. They allowed me to smile a little more and strengthen the hold on my dissipating hope for humanity.

For some reason, we’re quick to denounce profitless activities as being childish, or unfit for adult consumption. Everything’s about getting money. Or bitches. Or recognition. Or starting a revolution.

Just last week during a pick-up basketball game with a few older, suit-wearing professionals, the conversation frequently pivoted around the lack of urgency millennials have in regards to growing their fortune, and the fruitless distractions we adopt, namely Pokémon Go. As if working a job we abhor, for a company that considers us disposable, in a sterile cubicle for 30 years is a great alternative. Naw, fuck that. Stop shitting on other people’s rainbows.

Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t adopt progressive behaviors. It’s important to build wealth, stay as woke as possible, and count calories occasionally. But just as managing your bank account is important, so is investing in your happiness. If catching Pikachus, or watching King Bach’s videos, or floating half naked on an inflated donut with a beer in tow puts a smile on your face, then good for you. Do that shit. Everything in moderation.

pokemon-portrait

Not every move needs to be a calculated, profound action in a futile effort to become the greatest human on planet Earth. The beauty of life is finding joy in the little things. So give adulting a break. Eat a whole tub of gelato. Watch some twerk videos. Start a Nerf war. Obliterate your homeboy in Madden. Reread Harry Potter for the third time. Have sex like there’s no tomorrow (wrap it up though). Your inner-self needs it. And our humanity depends on it.

Can You Be Black, Woke and Date A White Person?

Earlier this week a woman asked me out on a date. Since I began my new job more than a month ago, we’ve come in contact on a few occasions and exchanged pleasantries, maybe even flirted a few times here and there. (Note: I don’t know that we’ve flirted. I’m kind of an awkward guy about flirting. I know I’ve said some shit, and she’s laughed at said shit, thus I’ve said more shit for her to laugh at, and she’s told me I’m funny in a flirty type of way. So I guess that’s flirting.) We don’t necessarily work together, but our jobs require us to interact on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. I should tell you that this woman is white, and I am a Black man.

It’s not the first time this has happened in my life. One cannot have had the experiences that I have and not caught the eye of females with fairer skin. After all, my name is Morgan McDaniel, I frequently play golf, enjoy the outdoors, love baseball, and grew up idolizing hockey players (most notably Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky) and listening to The Offspring, Barenaked Ladies, and Hootie & The Blowfish.

Despite growing up in one of the Blackest cities in the America (Detroit, what up doe?!), my mother frequently thrust my twin brother and me into settings that featured us as the token Black kids. Whether it was music camps, Saturday morning art classes, or sleepovers at a friend’s house in Suburban Michigan, I could usually count the number of brown faces on one hand within my surroundings, my brother and I included. Maybe two hands if the overall population of the event we were attending was large enough. But never more than two. NEVER!

Furthermore, my voice sounds like a mashup between Bryant Gumble and Kermit The Frog. I prefer to dress in graphic tees or collared shirts and Levi’s with Nike SB Dunks. I’ve been told by many Black chicks, some who have curbed the shit out of me and others whom I’ve dated, that I “seem like I’d be into white girls,” whatever the fuck that means. My beloved family once predicted that I’d probably be the only descendant of the Williams clan to bring a non-Black woman to a family reunion.

But given the events of last week, and my life for that matter, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Can a woke as fuck Black person date a white person?” Better yet, “Can a woke as fuck Black person date a non-Black person?”

For the record, I’m not a subscriber to the notion that people MUST exclusively date others of the same race. I don’t believe love sees color. Anyone can fall in love with somebody. Some of the most woke people I know, follow or admire either date or are married to non-Black folks. This includes a friend who received a degree in African-American Studies from FAMU, a few former coworkers, and celebrities Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey and Dave Chappelle. This afternoon, via Facebook, I read a touching delineation of a black man’s life and his harsh experiences with racism. According to his profile, he’s in a relationship with a white woman. Thus, it’s possible.

I guess the better question is, “Can I be woke as fuck and date a non-Black woman?” And the answer is, eh maybe. But it’s highly improbable. Damn near impossible. I love ALL women, and I am indeed attracted to a fair share of non-Black females. A few of my celebrity crushes include Zoey Deschanel, Brie Larson, Ashley Graham and the lovely Jennifer Lawrence. The chick that asked me out? I find her quite attractive too, as do most of the guys that work with me.

Plus, she passes my preliminary dating criteria of a White person seeking a relationship with a Black person; She believes that Black Lives Matter and knows that All Lives Matter is thinly veiled racist, bullshit. She appreciates the musical differences between hip-hop artists like The Roots, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, and clowns such as Desiigner, Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan. Lastly, she enjoys the film Malcolm X featuring Denzel Washington, thinks Idris Elba would be a suitable choice to adopt the role of James Bond, and is eagerly looking forward to Donald Glover’s upcoming show “Atlanta.” She may be pandering the fuck out of me to secure a date, much like Hilary Clinton does to secure the Black vote, but I highly fucking doubt it.

Either way, my biggest trepidation isn’t who she is, it’s my thorough appreciation for the strong Black women in my life. Hence, it frames my mindset and desire to be with a strong Black woman.

While my mother purposely put me in Caucasian-centric environments, she also instilled a great sense of Black pride, self-worth, and identity. My childhood home is beautifully decorated with African masks and paraphernalia. At age eleven, I was forced to watch Boyz N The Hood, Rosewood, and Roots. When I showed an interest in art, my mother emphasized that I know Black artists such as Romare Bearden, Gordon Parks, Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, Annie Lee, Alma Thomas and Jean-Michel Basquiat before studying the likes of Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Rembrandt.

I remember my grandmother telling me the excruciatingly brutal tales of Emmett Till, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and personal, racially motivated, tragedies she experienced growing up in rural Alabama. My aunt made sure my literary rotation included Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Walter Mosley and Richard Wright. I was raised by a catalog of beautiful God Mothers who taught me the importance of respecting women, even if they are “fast-tailed heffas who lack respect for themselves.”

And every time I experienced the slightest sense of failure, defeat or discrimination – like the time I was disqualified from a golf tournament for displaying “Black, thuggish behavior,” or told that I wouldn’t be Caddy of The Year because my boss preferred to give it to another white kid with close member ties (despite my exceptional performance), or most recently leaving my job and battling depression – they have all been there to stand by me, console me, and scold me, if necessary.

It is because of them that I still exist. It is because of them that I am the man that I am. It is because of them that I am drawn to women who display their traits, most of which are uniquely exclusive to Black women.

I declined the invitation to go on a date with the female I mentioned earlier. I’m sure she’s a swell person, or at least she seems like one. But following my last relationship, I’m in a place where I don’t feel like laboring through the song and dance of getting to know someone’s likes, dislikes, pet peeves, favorite colors, birthdays, or other nuances. I can do without that shit for now. But when I am ready to love again, I want to fall in love with a beautiful Black woman, who’s into the same millennial, outdoorsy, sci-fi, sports-centric, dry humor, Christian, Black power shit that I am.

Because while love doesn’t see color, it’s important that we do. It’s important that my future mate and I see the world through the same lens. It’s imperative that we readily embrace and support each other unconditionally. It’s pivotal that we bask in each other’s auras and share corny-ass inside jokes. It’s crucial that we battle systemic issues and racial biases as one cohesive unit. And while I may find this in a non-Black person, given the level of my unapologetic Blackness, it’s highly unlikely. Black love is beautiful.

I’m Getting Sick of This

When I was younger, my Uncle Howard used to tell me these wondrous stories about his extraordinary life. Some were hilarious yarns about how he’d escaped imminent ass whippings during his childhood courtesy of his quick wit and unsuspecting humor. Others were grim details about his otherwise uneventful service in Vietnam.

One story that stuck with me was a story about the brutal racism black men encountered in the south, specifically the dangers of DWBing (Driving While Black) in Alabama and Mississippi once the sun set.
I can’t recall the exact details, but I remember the angst he displayed when telling me his disturbing account about how colored folks were viciously attacked by law enforcement. His eyes were almost lifeless. His voice was ghastly. It was a depressing story, one that my Aunt Cheryl would always insist shouldn’t be told to teenagers. Howard would resist this assertion, insisting that it was imperative my twin brother and I understood the perils of racism.

He would usually follow up this parable with some “nigga” joke reminiscent of Richard Pryor. His arsenal was full of them. And they were all hilarious.

Since then I’ve had my fair share of unexpected encounters with the police. In high school, as a passenger, I was once stopped and aggressively told to put my hands in plain sight. Myself, along with my brother, and a group of our friends (5 Black males in an SUV), we were headed to see a movie or something in a predominantly white neighborhood before being pulled over for displaying “suspicious behavior.”

In college, I was detained for carrying a golf club in a park during broad daylight, while practicing golf. According to the officer, he had received a call about a “large, suspicious man wielding a dangerous object, possibly destroying property.”

I’ve even been stopped under suspicion of “engaging in legal activity” for driving around in a parking lot. Apparently the lot I pulled into was a cesspool for organized crime, and my red, late model Chevy hatchback was threatening. (Note: This event happened just moments after being the victim of a break-in, while on the phone with my mother.)

But all of this pales in comparison to what I experienced last night. In fact, it was perhaps the most frightening shit that I’ve ever experienced in my life. To put things in perspective, I’m from Detroit and have had a gun pointed in my direction on more than a few occasions. While my parents did a fantastic job of shielding me, and my brother, from the ghettos of the Motor City, given the noxious nature of “The Crib” I was bound to experience some foul shit.

Also, I’m probably one of the least treacherous black people on the face of the Earth. I grew up participating in Boy Scouts and Saturday morning art classes. My summers were filled with family road trips to Mackinaw Island and Niagra Falls. My hobbies include playing golf, reading John Grisham novels, watching HBO (Game of Thrones, The Wire, Silicon Valley and Veep are my shit), collecting Star Wars t-shirts and completing wooden puzzles with my toddler son. I indulge in foodie shit like baking cornbread and finding ways to make cauliflower edible. And I drive a 2012 Ford Focus. I’m as threatening as Wayne Brady, and Carlton Banks, combined.

Nevertheless, none of this mattered at approximately 10:30 pm on May 31st, 2016. I was heading eastbound on I-20, traveling back to Atlanta, GA from Birmingham, AL. Earlier in the day I arrived at my former apartment to finish packing my belongings and complete a walk-through. (I’ma need that security deposit back, and I don’t want no surprises, b!). It had been an exhausting day.

After stopping by Panera Bread to write a quick post (again, I’m sorry, but Harambe had to die) and complete a qualifying sample SAT exam (I’m trying to tutor some youngins out here), I didn’t get on the road until about 9:30 pm. Against the counsel of my theatrical uncle, I frequently traveled through the Alabama darkness on many occasions without incident.

About 30 minutes into my drive, just outside of Lincoln, AL, I was pulled over by an Alabama State Trooper. His justification for ushering my vehicle to the highway’s shoulder was suspicion of intoxication. Apparently, a few miles prior, I was driving too erratic. I probably was, but only slightly. I was fumbling around with my auxiliary cord as I desperately needed some tunes to stay awake. (Preferably Wu-Tang Clan’s, 36 Chambers. It gets my blood flowing.)

The trooper gave the customary instructions (license, registration and proof of insurance), to which I promptly obliged. That’s when a second vehicle pulled up. Another officer alerted to the situation approached my vehicle from the rear passenger side stopping at the back door. While the first officer was busy relaying my credentials to the dispatcher, the second officer began surveying the contents of my vehicle. I don’t have tinted windows (add this to the growing list of being a non-threatening black man), so anyone can easily see what’s inside.

After getting an all-clear from the dispatcher (no warrants, outstanding tickets, unpaid child support, etc.), the first officer then looked towards the second, who from what I could tell, is still standing on the rear passenger side of my vehicle.

Here’s where things escalate quickly. The initial officer then sternly asks, “Do you have anything illegal in the vehicle or any weapons?”

I replied, “Nope.”

Displeased by this response, the officer seeks affirmation to his inquiry. “Are you sure?” he asks. “You have a lot of stuff in there. Nothing illegal?”

Again I replied, “No. I have nothing illegal.” The first officer then looks in the direction of the second, who hasn’t moved from his position since arriving at the scene. I couldn’t see what the second officer gestured towards the first, but whatever it was provided cause enough for him to clutch his firearm and command me to place my hands on the steering wheel.

“Keep your hands where I can see them,” he shouted. Now I’m beginning to freak the fuck out. Another vehicle pulls up.

A third and fourth officer are now at the scene and rush to the front of my car. The first officer shouts, “Slowly turn off your vehicle and place keys and your hands out of the window.”

I moved slower than molasses in December. I didn’t want to become a national spectacle. I didn’t want news crews showering my distraught mother with media requests. I dropped my keys and held my hands in plain sight.

“Now, slowly open the door and step out of the vehicle.” Again, I comply as if my life depends on it, because at this very moment, it does.

Exiting my vehicle, I glanced in the direction of the second officer. His firearm is withdrawn with the barrel pointed at me. Officers Three and Four immediately tackle me from behind and cuff me while Officer One begins to search my vehicle unlawfully. I am then dragged by my arms towards the front of my car, further into the unkempt, grassy shoulder. Officer Three commands me to stay put while Two and Four began assisting One with identifying the contents of my red hatchback.

Face down in the dirt I attempted to look up and witness the commotion. Immediately, Three thrusts his knee into my back, saying, “Don’t you dare fucking move.”

I calmly begin to ask, “Can I at least know…”

“JUST RELAX AND SHUT THE FUCK UP! DO NOT RESIST,” Officer Three screams. It sounds as if he’s saying “Do not resist,” to seek justification in the event he does something further, like shoot me.

Some time goes by – feels like 30 minutes, but could have been less – when One finally says to Two, “I don’t see anything. What did you see?”

“Must’ve been the golf clubs. I thought it was the barrel of a rifle or something,” he replies. The way my car is set up, my driver and 3-wood were laying across two boxes in my back seat.

“Alright, let him up,” One says to Three. He attempts pull me up, forcefully yanking my arm with his hand partially clutched around my left bicep. It’s a strenuous task (I’m 5’11, 250-pounds and not cooperating) and he asks Four to assist.

As I regain my balance with Three now uncuffing my wrists, One walks towards me and says, “Just had to make sure nothing illegal was in there. You be safe on your way to Atlanta.” Barring this bullshit I was safely on my way to Atlanta. He hands me my credentials and retreats to his vehicle. Two, Three and Four follow suit.

So there I stood in front of my car, clenched fists, dirty as fuck, boiling with anger from the violation that just occurred. I slowly walked towards my vehicle and retrieved my keys from the ground where I dropped them.

I sat in my car for a little while after the officers departed. I cried and screamed as loud is I could. I unleashed my budding rage upon the steering wheel causing the horn to sound sporadically. It was now 1:13 am. I drove another 15 minutes to Oxford, AL before deciding that tonight’s events had been enough to compel me to stay the fuck off the road until daybreak. I checked into a Holiday Inn Express and attempted to get some rest.

Side note: Hotels fill up hella quick in Oxford. Both the Hampton Inn, my preferred choice, and Courtyard Marriott (I earn points with their dubious credit card) were both sold out.

For approximately an hour and a half, four white officers acted as if I was smuggling their daughters across state lines with a sawed-off shotgun with no just cause. And it was seemingly okay.

This event won’t make national headlines. Al Sharpton isn’t going to call me and lend his unwanted support. There won’t be any public demonstrations of solidarity. For all I can tell, there isn’t even an official record of what transpired last night. (I wasn’t given a citation or even a warning.)

But my uneasiness is real. I have an unwavering legitimate fear that my life could one day end at the hands of those who are sworn to protect and serve. (For the record, I don’t think all cops are bad. It’s a dangerous job, and I profoundly respect the men and women who take their oath seriously and carry out their tasks judiciously. But the rest of you racist, bigoted pigs can fucking kick rocks). It exists because of the systemic, perpetuated bullshit that black men, women, and children are dangerous. Especially at night, and certainly in Alabama.

Imagine being too scared to drive, or walk, or fucking exist. Do you know how paralyzing that is? I sat in a Panera Bread this morning tucked away in a booth and didn’t move for 3 fucking hours because I was that shook. (Note: This one was in Oxford. I really like Panera. Their green tea is amazing and they have free wifi. You better get you some mini strawberry-rhubarb cakes and stop playing out here.) It’s bullshit.

Shit like this doesn’t happen to everyone. Just the ones lucky enough to have darker pigment. Or have different religious views. Or possess any threat to the established regime of supremacy. (White, rich and privileged.)

And frankly I’m sick of this shit. BLACK LIVES MATTER. MY LIFE MATTERS. MY SONS’ LIVES MATTERS. And if you think otherwise – that either All Lives Matter, or Gorilla Lives Matter, or any other thinly veiled racist bullshit – then you’re part of the goddamn problem.

 

 

Harambe Had To Die

This past holiday weekend a child somehow found their way into a gorilla enclosure which resulted in the death of a rare, 17-year-old, silverback gorilla.

Since then, there’s been a huge outcry — either from assholes who don’t have kids, don’t give a fuck about other people’s kids, or don’t give a fuck about black kids and are otherwise terrible people — over who’s at fault for the gorilla’s death. Some idiots are placing blame on the zoo. Most of the vilification is directed towards the parents and their lack of “effective parenting.” So much so that I now have a cursory knowledge of a terrorized father’s criminal record (Wait, did he run up on the gorilla with an AK-47?), and a distraught mother is getting death threats. (Because of course that’s logical.)

While I understand what occurred was a terrible ordeal, there shouldn’t be any debate over the end result. The gorilla had to die because safety protocol dictated that it had to die. That is to say; HUMAN LIFE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT OF AN ANIMAL BECAUSE WE ARE HUMANS.

Shit happens. A parent’s greatest fear is that something grave is going to happen to their child. I’m not interested in examining how the boy fell into the fucking moat or the animal’s motives. (How about I throw your dumb ass in that exhibit and let a 400-pound behemoth “protect” you by dragging you around?) As a parent of a beautiful, hardly functional (he poops on himself), fun sized (he’s 20 months old) human being, I understand that it’s hard to keep track of their every move. Even if you’re skilled enough to commit hours of completely unbroken surveillance (which is nearly impossible), there’s still a chance that something undesirable may occur. Kids are extremely unpredictable, as is the world in which we live.

We’d all like to think that we would never let something like this Harambe situation happen to our cherished offspring (or theoretical child), but the fact is we don’t know. The only thing we can do is give a valiant effort and pray that the Holy water our local Pastor placed upon the crown of their head, or the benevolent goodness of the cosmic universe, protects them.

While some of y’all busy condemning this woman as the worst mother known to man, y’all are doing irresponsible shit too. Like letting little Jimmy smack you in the damn face because he demands fruit snacks and an iPad. Or completely forgetting to pick Susie up from daycare. Or leaving your infant to die in a car so you can attend a fucking meeting. Or texting while driving with your kids in the backseat on national fucking television. (Some of y’all do this shit every day. STOP!) Or even letting your child slip into a gorilla exhibit. (Yes, this also happened 20 years ago.)

Fun fact: My dad once lost me in a creepy ass Sears, when I was 3. This was circa 1989 when pedophiles were readily sitting in white vans waiting to snatch kids just for sport. According to my mother, she told my pops five times to hold my hand and keep an eye on me, which he did. Yet, I still got loose. Because I was 3. I was small, quick as hell, and thought it was a fabulous idea to hide for 15 minutes underneath an apparel fixture. This doesn’t make my dad “a derelict piece of shit” or mean that “stupid people breed stupid babies.” (Just a few of the ridiculous comments I have read about this boy and his mother.) It only means that SHIT HAPPENS.

And let’s stop pretending that half you faux animal rights activists care about this gorilla. You don’t. You didn’t even know of his existence let alone that Cincinnati had a zoo. (I’ve been there, and it’s kind of a cool zoo.) If you gave a fuck about this gorilla, you’d protest the senseless killing of animals everywhere. Folks out here still recreationally hunting lions, rhinos, and bears, but you mad about this shit?

Luckily there are safety parameters in place to ensure our well-being should shit go south in a hurry. Whether you’re eating a sandwich at Panera Bread or enjoying a day at the zoo, there exists a protocol for worst-case scenarios. And they all prioritize the safety and well-being of HUMANS. The Cincinnati Zoo promptly followed those procedures to prevent the worst possible outcome, a dead child.

The argument whether tranquilizers should have been used is mute and dumb as shit too. Contrary to the honorary degree you think you earned from the University of Google or knowledge you gained from a pet-detective named Ace Ventura, sleeping agents don’t work instantly. In the time, it would have taken for the tranquilizers to take effect who’s to say the gorilla wouldn’t have smashed this child’s skull as if it were a Tahitian coconut? We don’t. Thus, you don’t leave situations like this to chance.

There’s no doubt in my mind that if this boy were white, the mother and child would have a calendar full of invites to every morning talk show. They’d be sitting there cackling it up with Ellen, as she brought out a little monkey for the toddler to play with. The boy would then talk about the valuable lesson he learned. I should have listened to my mother. Also, gorillas are huge as shit and better viewed from afar. We’d hear stories of the torment and agony both the mother and child endured during those horrific 10 minutes. We’d witness empathy and support as mothers’ rights groups would condemn the zoo for its ineffective of barriers. Hell, people would probably even question the need for gorillas being kept captive in a zoo altogether. These dangerous, menaces to the jungle need to go back where they came from.

I love animals. Love them. I’ve had two dogs and cried (real tears) when they were no longer my loyal companion. But if it ever came down to the safety of my child and the life of my dog, I’d chose my child every time. If it was your child’s life and my dog’s, I’m still killing my dog. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re White, Black, or Blue. We’re human beings. And our safety is always the priority.