I Was Taught By Warriors (valuable lessons pt. 1)

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40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

I want to take a moment and thank the amazing advocates, activists, and survivors that have educated me, allowed me to be an ally, challenged me, inspired me, and modeled the strength, vision, and compassion it takes to do anti-violence work.

Durham has been a special place for me because of these freedom fighters, these women. I carry them with me when I move and I try to hold their lessons dearly. I owe a lot to the NCSU Women’s Center and the Duke Women’s Center for their leadership and support in the work I got to do. I thank Bryan Proffitt for being the brother and spark that changed my politics, understanding, and sense of purpose. Thank you to the men who joined Bryan and I in pushing to be better and worked to help other men be better.

Men Against Rape Culture (MARC) was one of the most transformative things I was ever a part of. We talked with lots of men about ending violence, particularly domestic violence and sexual assault. Helping to start it at NCSU and moving it from that campus into the community with Bryan was work that wasn’t just needed, it was what I needed. The 6 years working with the state coalitions against domestic violence and sexual assault taught me so much. The work with various organizations and institutions was eye opening. I cried, shook, panicked, grew, learned, shared, and fought.

As I became more rooted in the arts community, my activism became part of my artistry and my role as an arts educator and mentor. I wasn’t able to continue my work with MARC as actively as before. I have not forgotten what it stood for or why it was necessary. I have not forgotten the fighters we aligned with and supported and how they shaped us.

I am so thankful because all of the work I was apart of and supported was done with thought and care. There were missteps, disagreements, and challenges. Still, there was a vision. A vision that included a multi-pronged approach to fighting, healing, and sustainability. A vision that made room for various voices and experiences and fought identity politics. We saw the way women leaders worked and followed suit.

I was able to be involved in helping secondary survivors like myself. I was able to create resources for survivor support. I was on campus at Duke last year and noticed they were still using resources created by Ubuntu and MARC. I got teary eyed.

I know my work is not done including my work with myself. Everyday brings new challenges and new insights. I am honored to have stood beside the folks I have stood beside and everything they have imparted on me. You have no idea how much I owe you.

In Love. In Solidarity. In Peace.

Topps (An Anaphora)

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40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

You owe
There is no family
There is no team
There is no association
There is no thought of fans
There is no room
You owe
There is no tomorrow
There is no understanding
There is no blue collar headband to wear
There is only one option
You owe
There is no assistance
There is no need
There is only you
There is no ripple effect
There is no collateral damage
There is only now
You owe
There is no precedence
There is precedence, but no room for updates
There is no real memory of how
There is a false sense of yesterday
There is no tomorrow
There is now
You owe
There is no uniform
There is no sock black enough
There is no care for what you offer
There is no thought to who you inspire
There is only one way
There is only one goal
There is only angst to answer to
There is only pomp and circumstance, no plan
You owe
You owe
There is a price
There is no concrete answer to how much
There is no possibility of getting one
There is only a belief that
You owe

Dementia (thoughts from the sideline)

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40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

They want a statement
Not justice
Not peace
They want nostalgia
Resurrected remnants of foregone militancy
They won’t look in the mirror
They want to believe they still in beret and black gloves
They want radicalism
They want to watch radicalism
Cheer it from the sideline
Applaud it through TV sets
They have forgotten who owns the view
They have early onset dementia
Forgotten words like plan, strategy, mobilization
Red jerseys are not communist flags
Mao doesn’t have a crossover, vertical leap, or 3 point range

They want more
Frustration boils over in them
Burns away work ethic
Soils collectivity
Spills over into their rational thinking
They want someone else to clean it up
Cleaning crew sho look black to me
So your labor practices seem more fair
Because you call them kin?
At least they get paid well where they work now
You ain’t gone pay them no mind later
Until they run, jump, and dunk free from monster’s clutches
At least he called them valuable when they show up
You want to throw them away for showing up
You have early onset dementia
Have forgotten words like solidarity, community

You talk of Acronyms
NBA, NAACP
Confuse C’s with K’s
Write the later in triplicate
Call themselves clever
You have early onset dementia
Have forgotten terms like call to action
Protracted struggle
You want now
But oppressors love ticking clocks with black faces
It’s ticking time bombs they fear
Like ongoing media scrutiny
Like loss revenue
Black clocks run out of battery soon
Either disappointment or distraction

There is a game built on wins and losses
Owners who buy high to win now
Are criticized
Those who work smart towards a better future
Are applauded
Why would those who call for rebellion
Be held to a different standard
They have early onset dementia
They have forgotten words like
Us
We
Together

Conversation with The Sky (in rhythm)

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40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

I been hoping for a lil sunshine in my life now
That blue sky where my dreams fly
And I’m focused 
Praying for a vision asking God to make it clear
So I can pen it down let it be my opus

A ballerina plied and I just smiled
No audience to clap cuz this was just practice
Left ink on stage it’s was oh so beautiful 
This is what it is when my pen gets active
It’s a demonstration watch for the signs
A theme comes I pick it and just put it in lines
I’m paper clipping images
Showing you my penmanship
Enveloping metaphors
Addressed in these rhymes
I’m at the fresh market and I’m picking out fruit
My labor to the paper is just speaking the truth
Painting pictures with my wordplay
Doing what the verbs say
Lyrics are photographic when I step in the booth 

I asked a star why does he shine there
He said you purpose is your own and mine is right here
Teach me what you know
So then He replied
If your pen is the light then you beam bright there
I hit em with the dueces 
Lost my excuses
No time Iike the present for me to just shine here
Inspiring our sons
Some claiming a set
I want em to rise
Eyes on the prize there
Forget the dark there’s a new day to come
That’s why I’m serving lyrics laid over these drums
Turn the volume up
Look up at the night sky
And let the star tell me that’s a job well done
And I’ll reply back as I’m playing the next track
Stay on the lookout there’ll be more to come
Cuz I ain’t done beaming
My pen still beasting
So imma keep spitting while theirs breath in my lungs

Panic is a Ridah!

40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

I am not a fan of panicked behavior. I understand that people get worried, concerned, and frustrated. I know the desire for things to be handled a certain way. Still, panic is not the answer. I remember being a freshman at NC A&T SU and hearing Steve Cokely talk. He made a statement about power that has always stayed with me. He said that you can tell the person in power. It’s the person who is calm. The person yelling is trying to reclaim a sense of power, trying to establish power. The idea of maintaining composure is an important one. But oh my does it take self control.

I have been involved in a lot of events, a lot of shows, festivals, workshops, parties, etc. I have helped in a number of different ways from set up and clean up to organizing. I have always tried to help maintain things in a way that caused no one to panic. I’m always eh person to step in with, “What do you need?” When I see that anxiety or tension building. You can see it on a person’s face. Whether I’m hosting or performing, when I show up to the venue and see the organizer running frantic I offer my assistance. I can anticipate the panic.

The reason I don’t like it is because panic likes to set trip on rational and clear thinking. It be looking at logic and sense with the mean mug like, “what you want cuz? You lil mark. You lil buster. Check yo’sef fool!” Then panic does something crazy with his hands, dies a lil dance…you get the picture. It clouds your mind and pushes you into a paranoid reactionary state. Too often you make things worse before you make them better.

It’s taken lots of work to maintain my cool in some situations. Inside it’s a Frank Miller graphic novel. Outside it’s the scene from Lion King when Simba gets held up for all to see. But I don’t like to not be in my rational mind. I want to be able to analyze and develop an adequate way to handle things. I want to take into account contingencies. I want to allow room for folks to help move things along towards a suitable outcome. I even want some room to change directions if necessary.

I don’t know when it sunk in for me. I just realized in he midst of a chaotic situation that my mindset had changed and my approach was different. It’s like Neo suddenly seeing the code in the Matrix. Things were moving so slow I could actually dodge the bullet (clever). Then before long I could control and stop the bullets in flight.

I must say this. Many if the folks who panic aren’t those who are faltering under pressure. They are folks who live and work with great passion for what they do. They are wired for high voltage. But sometimes that energy goes haywire. But we often need someone to show us what that energy looks like.

Then there are the folks who remind you that pressure busts pipes. We hug them and give them things to go do why we fix stuff. Lol.

The Anticipation

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40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

You’re waiting for me
Heaven is what I call you
I live again here

I am this theater waiting for the show to start. As I look at the setup I start to think….isn’t that moment of anticipation the greatest feeling for an artist. It’s a mix of anxiety, anxiousness, and adrenaline. You want to touch that stage. You want the people to love what you offer them. You can’t wait to share with them. You can picture it. The excitement. The instant response. The rising energy in the room. That waiting stage is everything hope is. It is untampered possibility. Self Determination never had a better bedfellow than the waiting stage. Revolution is possible there. Freedom is possible there.

Some may call it romanticized. Those people don’t know that love affair. They don’t know the risk. The leap. The courageousness. Of course it’s a romance. Much like a blank page, a waiting instrument, a blank canvas, an empty dance floor, a blaring break beat. It’s a longing hand waiting for your touch.

This is what consistently reminds me of what love can be like. No matter what happens to me in this crazy world of dating or whatever people think they are doing, that waiting stage says, “it’s still possible. Just let me keep you in training for her.” No matter what I face working in the community it shows me the transformative power of purpose. No matter where the hate is coming from it reminds me that the work, the art, the message is more powerful that people’s opinions, perceptions, or sour dispositions.

That anticipation. It keeps my soul alive.

The Adventures of Lil Tavvy (reprise)

40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

So I have an ongoing war of wits and will with a poet and speaker named Tavis Brunson. We have been challenging each other’s creativity, humor, and sarcasm for years. Parody, satire, dozens, and other witty repartee have been our weapons. I usually win. He gives a good effort. Participation awards are still awards right?

One of my clever attacks was the creation of a miniature version of Tavis called Lil Tavvy. I created a series of short anecdotes describing the hijinks of this troubled youth. Below are the first installments of that series. All of them are based on the concept of the pun. I call it capital punishment.

Enjoy!

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #1: I walked in and he was on the living room floor yelling at Easter candy. I asked what he was doing. He said shouting out my peeps.

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #2: lil tavvy and lil cp were excited cuz Unka Bluz was going to take them to get ice cream. Before they left they ran outside and rolled around in the yard. When they came back in Bluz asked what they were doing. Lil tavvy said riding dirty.

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #3: Unka Bluz got a call from the police to come get lil tavvy. He was found rummaging thru the whole foods dumpster. Bluz asked him why. Lil tavvy said that lil cp told him to be a man he had to get some organic funk.

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #4: I walked into the room and saw lil tavvy picking up a baby powder bottle, put it down on another part of the table, then check his pockets. I asked what he was doing. He said he heard you get money moving that white. I took his iPod. No more rap music for him.

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #5: the doctor told lil tavvy he needed fruits and vegetables to grow up strong. So Unka Bluz said no more candy. The next day lil tavvy came home with a bag full of candy. Bluz was mad. Lil tavvy asked why was he mad? It was candy corn, orange slices, and Boston baked beans.

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #6: lil tavvy and lil cp were playing super poets lil cp said “I’m Robert frost and I can control cold. then i freeze people with my ice ray and 19th century eloquence.” Then lil tavvy says “I’m Carlos Robeson. I fashionably draw attention then melodiously lull people into a false sense of security. Then I rob son!” Lil tavvy can’t spell.

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #7: each morning Unka Bluz noticed that when lil tavvy would pour a glass of breakfast drink he would yell “woooo!” Finally one day Bluz asked why. Lil tavvy said he was part of the Wu Tang clan. Then he chopped Bluz in the throat and said “protect ya neck.”

The adventures of lil tavis (tavis) #8: lil tavvy was singing Irish show tunes and popping butterscotch in his mouth when Unka Bluz came in the room. Bluz asked what was he doing. Lil tavvy said drowning my sorrows. Getting white boy wasted.

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #9: every night for 3 days after his bath Unka Bluz would help lil tavvy get dressed for bed. Once lil tavvy put on his underwear he would yell “ding!” And start punching Bluz in the stomach. It was cute at first, but got old and annoying quick. fed up, Bluz asked why. Lil tavvy said “I’m putting on boxer briefs.”

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #10: Mr Q came in the house and saw lil tavvy in the living room wearing green pajamas with green face paint on stepping. Mr Q asked what was he doing? Lil tavvy said practicing. Mr Q asked for what? Lil tavvy said “for when I grow up and pledge gamma radiation and become a hulk. Greeeeen guy! I’m angry!”

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #11: lil tavvy wanted to be a rapper. So Unka Bluz told him to try remixing a popular song first. A few hours later lil tavvy came back with this…. Put a roof on the cat, that’s a caterpillar/run the cat thru your hair that’s a catacomb/put the cat on the shelf, you got cataracts/write to dos on the cat, that’s a catalyst/put the cat on some wood, that’s a catalogue/put a cat in your award, that’s a catastrophe/put a cat in yo drink, it’s catatonic….cat, cat, cat, cat

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #12: Lil Tavvy liked to go to the park. His favorite thing at the park was the carousel. He would put on two candy necklaces before he got on. Then as he rode he would yell, “I’m riding round and I’m getting it….I’m riding round and I’m gettin it!”

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #13: Unka Bluz heard commotion in the back yard and walked out to see what was going on. Lil Tavvy and Lil CP were chewing bubbly yum and drinking Mr. Bubbles Bubble Bath. Bluz asked them what they were doing. Lil Tavvy said, “Trying to get the bubble guts. Mr Q said he had them and they sound like fun.”

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #14: Unka Bluz came home and Lil Tavvy was sitting on the porch with his head in his hands and a sad look on his face. Unka Bluz asked Lil Tavvy what was wrong. Lil Tavvy said, “Melissa hurt my feelings during recess today.” Bluz asked what happened. Lil Tavvy said, “They were playing music and I went over to Melissa and gave her some silly bandz. But she didn’t dance. The song was wrong and now I’m outta silly bandz.”

The adventures of lil tavvy (tavis) #15: Lil Tavvy hated when his daddy B. Elzabub brought home new girlfriends. One afternoon Daddy left Lil Tavvy with his new girlfriend Chartruese and they were playing a game. Chartruese said to Lil Tavvy, “Lilkidwitabigheadsaywhat?” Lil Tavvy replied, “what?” and Chartruese laughed hysterically. Lil Tavvy, not to be outdone, looked at her and said, “Dumbladywhodon’tknowdaddysleepingwithherbestfriendNuNusaywhat?” Chartruese never played games with Lil Tavvy again.

The Adventures of Lil Tavvy #16: lil tavvy told Unka Bluz he wanted to be a poet when he grew up. Lil tavvy said, “I want to a great poet, with girth and reads. Could I do it?” Unka Bluz looked at him and said, “Mabrey.”

Adventures of Lil Tavvy #17: Mr. Q wondered why Lil CP and Lil Tavvy had been in the bathroom so long. He went to check. He saw Lil CP spraying Deer Antler Spray on Lil Tavvy’s face. He asked what in the hell were they doing. CP said, “This helps healing and the girls told Tavvy his face was hurt up.”

Adventures of Lil Tavvy #18: Ms Mek was walking down the sidewalk when she saw lil tavvy laying face down on 2 big boxes of twinkies on the porch. She asked, “boy what are you doing?” Lil tavvy said, “plankin!” Ms Mek replied, “plank? You the whole fleet! You armadaing.”

Adventures of Lil Tavvy #19: Lil Tavvy always had to wear hand me downs. So things never fit right. He had been given a pair of pants by cuzzin Filmo that stopped just below the calf. Lil CP said, “man, you can’t wear those to school.” Then lil tavvy responded, “These knickers can’t hold me back! Nooooo!”

Adventures of Lil Tavvy #20: The teacher gave lil tavvy detention for not doing his own homework. She asked who helped him. He said Unka Bluz, then asked how she knew. She read, “The movie Djenga is about how blacks were the building blocks of an oppressive south….” She then told tavvy he was better off doing his own work.

The Adventures of Lil Tavvy #21: lil tavvy was known to have the dragon breath so Ms Mek offered him a peppermint. He refused because he felt it would be spicy. He said, “I don’t know why the put pepper on the mint anyway.” Ms Mek smacked him in the back of the head.

The Adventures of Lil Tavvy #22: money was so tight at their house that when lol tavvy asked Unka Bluz for some foamposites, Unka Bluz gave him a bottle of shaving cream and a piggy bank. “Now you can all the foamposites you want.” Lil tavvy was not happy.