Tag Archives: learning

Dirty Window


An hour after I named my blessings
will, determination, and aint gone take but so much shit
I got up, opened my mind and the curtains
and sat with my pen looking out a dirty window
hoping for a muse
who could whisper purpose so eloquently
I saw a playground called
what big momma birthed
where 3 children played
like aint nobody profiling
like aint no sad songs on the tongues of
choirs dressed in shadows
like the sky been the only trusted blue
like the sun been spotlight
like that earth be stage
I saw those babies put on a show
with faces more animated than television
and smiles dancing between check bones
3 hearts, 2 bodies, 1 spirit
2 sets of footprints in the mud
and I knew a blessing was there
present where time ticks too fast
and yesterday can’t remember anyone’s phone numbers
and I prayed
prayed that insincerity would never wash my window clean
or I might lose my understanding of each beautiful smudge
might forget each dusty promise
each speck of why
that lets us know what tomorrow is worth
because this world makes us believe that a wash
is better than transformation but
I know only in the midst of darkness can you understand light
so only covered in dirt can your soul be cleansed
see these 2 young souls were playing free
with a friend teaching them to build with imagination
preparing them for when we tear this all apart
and I was thankful that guardians
come from up above with degrees in
engineering and innocence

I looked out a dirty window
and saw a couple holding hands
tears down his face
because what he held onto
couldn’t hold his heart together any longer
See he was tired
Tired of hoping strength would come tomorrow
Wishing he could shed the weight
of everything gone wrong before
The unwanted goodbyes that found
refuge in his gut feeling that the next
would be like that last
So he decided to workout
the hesitation he had been grappling with
Because faith without works
is a lonely affirmation that the dead of night
aint got no room for saints and sanctuaries,
only lies and lust
So as grace held his heart
and looked him in his eyes
He got down on one knee & asked
for the now and forever he planned 3 days ago
once he hung his worry on the star crossed love
God gave this lonely forgotten son
with only the blessed belief in his spirit
that the rock he moved along her finger
would resurrect the revelation
that happiness exists
As her tears joined his
I thanked the Lord for this miracle of sight because
It’s hard to see love when your blind to yourself
and he seemed to find the answer
in the reflection from the wet
along her cheeks
so cry y’all, cry

I was looking out a dirty window
and saw wings spread
saw the sun smile, the clouds blow kisses
and the wind clear the way
for a flight path to heaven
I saw eyes look towards me
and hands wave goodbye
felt joy deep and full
exhaled I miss you
holding fingertips to window panes
wishing to reach you once again
can’t we just talk for a moment
can’t you tell me what to put on this page
aint it supposed to get easier
aint the weather report supposed to love me
what I am supposed to do with these storms
Don’t just leave with me the words
I want you to read these stories to me
and put my insecurities to rest
so I can reach my dreams
see angels rise with the dawn
God’s arms welcome them
and it’s a wonder
to see his presence
where we need it most
in the midst of hard times,
where peace is waiting,
insight is available, and breakthrough is inevitable
I know it’s true now, tangible and within reach
but would have never been ready
to receive it
If I didn’t sit down
and look through my dirty window

Glass Cases

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We are the children of glass blowers.
Hands clasped together.
Knees touching the earth
That taught them how
To birth things that grow,
beat fruit, and give to others,
until they die.
Glass blowers whose wishes
to the Carpenter
that sits on high
become part and parcel promises,
pieces to glass cases
covering us in grace.

We pieces of wonder,
memories of times past
longing for tomorrow to come.
We be knick knack,
trophy,
admirable qualities draped
on mannequins.
We be fine china,
snapshots of happy and unsure,
things none has had
or that others have had but
no longer want.

We sit on thrones,
in tombs,
on cross wood,
in prisons.
The plate at the bottom
holds the names we are given
bur may or may not have earned.
It sits there until replaced
by numbers, a dash, and
remembrances rewritten
by guilt and could have beens.

When you see me
those are not bruises.
They are smudges
I pray the next caretaker
will Windex clean.
What’s here is priceless
but closed off.
They key is in my eyes.
Too many have fiddled
with my lock of a tongue
to never get close enough
to know the inner me.
Some have tried the smash
and grab,
but my mother has
unwavering faith.
She has prayed and cried
until the vision of me is
shatterproof,
bulletproof,
but doesn’t protect
from the trauma of seeing
the attempts come and go.

When your purpose and destiny,
worth and wisdom,
aptitude and ability,
Is on display.
You learn what gaze
Feels like.
You learn that gawkin
is a seductive
dance.
That sometimes presence
isn’t possibility,
it’s momentary possession.
Without the key
it’s just an exhibition.

You and me,
we know these glass cases.
These cursed gifts
of safe distance and deniability.
We know too many living rooms
we never considered home,
too many bedrooms
we never felt completely comfortable in.
We have felt trapped in hallways
where people seem to eager
to pass our pain by.
Know too well that shrines
can be adored or despised
but still left to dust or decay.

We be held on to
for others to enjoy.
We be window shopping fantasy.
We be one day I’ll be able
to get that.
We be look what I captured.
We be look.
Look at that.
Come here look at this.
Look now.
Look later.
Walk past and never look at all.

We be here.
Help up by divinity,
shielded by hope
for all the world
to see

Speaking for a Cure

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A dawn without the sun
A night without the moon
Is a day without the light
A life gone too soon
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it
With hope in the wind
Tomorrow in the skies
Til the cure is in our grasp
we keep our eyes on the prize
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it

Leaves turn and fall in autumn
We rake the ground clear
and wait for Mother Nature
to begin the process again
To restore the forest in what was there
But what happens when the trees stay bare
When a winter’s cold
Springs into a summer’s heat
When deficiency in your immune system
keeps the cycle from being complete
Each infection or complication
Takes it’s toll
T cell count lowered
until trees weaken
Decaying at the root
When they touch ground
With no one but their loved ones around
How does the pain sound
Is it jarring enough to face the truth
We need a cure
Support for those dedicated to an answer
Awareness raised
Initiatives backed
Stories heard
Until lives can be saved

A dawn without the sun
A night without the moon
Is a day without the light
A life gone too soon
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it
With hope in the wind
Tomorrow in the skies
Til the cure is in our grasp
we keep our eyes on the prize
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it

More than 1 million in the US affected
So many more around the world
Developing nations struggling
for necessary medications
Minority communities here juggling
the rise of new cases
I just see the faces
Heaven made amazing
that will be lost too soon
They are the reason we seek
Optimism held
Berlin, France, Mississipi
It’s the reason to be in these streets
Passion ignited
Courage to persevere and endure
Inspires our search for a cure
Antiretrovirals maintain
Vaccines and topical treatments
being sought to prevent
But those faces
They shed tears for a cure
So we push
we learn
we test
we examine
until we win
restoring the fading light
that make the smiles
on those faces shine bright

A dawn without the sun
A night without the moon
Is a day without the light
A life gone too soon
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it
With hope in the wind
Tomorrow in the skies
Til the cure is in our grasp
we keep our eyes on the prize
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it

Piece submitted for the 2BeatHIV’s Innovation Challenge http://www.2beathiv.org

Video submission

Requiem for Change

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The words don’t always
seem adequate enough
of my tongue

I’m still choking back tears
after all this time
I guess it’s learning
you can never be good guy oblivious
for too long
You can’t be enough royalty
to not need to keep challenging
yourself
Ain’t no ribbons for books read
and chivalry
This here is a long road traveled

The first shared tears came in high school
She was trying to reconcile what happened
I was trying to use balled fists in revenge
She was telling me she didn’t want that
I never realized I was making her
manage him and me
It took too long to recognize her strength
Good guy said you should have stayed with me
Good guy said let me fix it
Good guy still made it about good guy
I guess I felt
I couldn’t make it about her because
I wasn’t good at tears falling

Daddy liked liquor and women
Liked to swing heavy hands
I never asked to know about
anything else
But I know the dangers of that recipe
Good guy wanted to redeem
him by being the first
good decision he ever made
Wasn’t I the one who had to go
pick up his pride
from houses he was no longer
wanted in?
Good guys learn to fix things early

Good guys ask stranger if he
can walk her to her car
Never wonders why she might refuse
Might get mad at the answer
He be good guy
Good guy ask questions for understanding
Never bother to ask if it is ok
to ask questions first
Might take too much time trying to grasp
the reason for the answer
Good guy wears badges like boy scout
earned by completing deeds and tasks
Good guy don’t ask why the shirt
makes some run
Never realized that he didn’t get
the only badges made
That boy scouts also learned to hunt

The best goodbye
I’ve ever been a part of
was packing good guy’s baggage
and sending him on his way
The search for a new tenant
in this man’s understanding of self
was intensive
Thank God for the caretakers
who saw fit to share
with this fractured dreamer
The only lesson that never
settled home
is the freedom in letting
cheeks wet
I’ve never been good
at tears falling

What I did learn is priceless
I was inspired by the number of
times I was betrayed
by good guy instincts
Confided in by partners who
survived
Didn’t need to be saved
Found comfort in the midst of my eyes
I was challenged by fighters who
gave me books and lessons on
accountability
Pushed by men who were willing
to sit with each other in examination
of our own masculinity
Checked by soothsayers who had
seen where ignorance would lead me
Supported by a defiant band of clumsy
who were finding out how to stumble
but not fall
We had been learning to walk a certain
way for so long
The steps were unfamiliar but liberating

Each experience makes my heart full
Sobbing seems like thank you sometimes
I guess I know the reason I feel I’ve never
shown enough gratitude
I’ve just never been good at tears falling

Good guy sends me postcards
and texts saying he wants to come home
I tell him no
I’ve seen too much
I ain’t the same man no more

I remember leaving a workshop
after talking to a group of young men
feeling heavy
I remember telling the community
organizers that brought us
that there was so much work to do
What a crippling feeling it is
to do all that you know how to do
but still worrying
To fear that an angel’s fall at night
could lead to a devilish dawn
I remember stopping on the side
of the road on the way home
because what wasn’t being said
was deafening
I couldn’t get out the car
fast enough
I remember
the comrade
who held me up
The brother who loved me
band-aid enough to make it home
I remember the tears

The years doing workshops with men
The programs developed
The organizations worked with
The activists I have been trained by
The survivors I have stood by
The conversations
The broken
The determined
The death threats
The resilience
The everyday reflection
The camaraderie
The betrayals
The challenges
The dismissals
The reiterations
The struggle

The beauty of healing
The burden of sustainability
The necessity of the work

The realization that silence
means that nobody ever
considers that you can
hear them
see them

I promise
The tears are never too far away

I read a comment online today
I wanted to go numb
I couldn’t
I wanted to break things
but demolition is too familiar of a fancy
I wanted to cry
But I’ve never been good at falling tears

The water has welled in my chest
One day I will see monsoon
Or one day
I will vomit tidal waves

Superheroes

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“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve

My mother always told me I’d be a teacher

I ignored her as many young people do their parents

Set my sights on grander and more lucrative endeavors

So I proceeded to chase an illusion

Someone told me I should have

Spent time lending my talents

To a Tin Man of a system

Only to find myself the victim of heartless disloyalty

But along the way

Me and my pen

Came to terms with the marriage of purpose and blessing

Took a title, then accepted responsibility

And found ourselves in front of a classroom

 

When I called her and told her

I was promoted from artist-in-residence to a professor

My expectation

Was that I’d receive an “I told you so”

She didn’t let me down

Then lifted me up

In prayer

To the God that kept her son from harm’s way

Helped him find his way

Gave him gifts

Taught him how to use them

Then allowed him to teach others

 

I remember the smile I heard through the phone

I carry it with me to campus

Show it off to the students who enter my class

I am shepherd to the extraordinary

Who haven’t been helped to understand

The power they possess

My job is to teach them how to use their talents

Harness their uncanny abilities

And oh my do they have superpowers

 

A young man from southern California

Who had his heart ripped out by betrayal

So he replaced it with burning desire to succeed

Covered in resentment like a suit of armor

And I have to show him that what’s possible

Is in stark contrast to what he’s been told

 

A beautiful young woman in tight ripped jeans

Who only sees the world in shades of grey

Telekenetic, willing objectivity into well crafted essays

With elder siblings who try to murder her self esteem

I tell her that like a phoenix

She will be reborn even stronger

 

I have learned that invisibility

Is the ability to be in a room and be ignored

There is a girl in the back of my classroom

Not unseen

I know that she is there

I let her know

The force field of apathy she puts up

Will not keep me from showing her

That she is fantastic

 

I teach composition and rhetoric

Creative writing

Alchemy

If you believe that learning to work the elements of craft

Can alter what matters

Think and you can write

Listen and you can learn

Read and you can react

Aptitude is a desire

Let me show you how to harness hard work

 

Javonte was trying to claw his way out of the streets

Adamantium mentality said don’t ever be broke

So he stuck to his ways instead of the books

Until he was struck

I keep expecting him to wake up

Because I believe in quick healing factors

 

The freshman cheerleader

Whose desire to fit in

Has her adopting the bad habits

Of the people she comes in contact with

Keeps going rogue from my class

I want to convince her it is her potential

That is untouchable

 

The kid they all call strange that wants to be a doctor

I help hone his eloquence so he can cast spells

On those who might doubt his promise

The football player ashamed of his brilliant analytical mind

Because he is more celebrated for his hulking presence on the field

The NY native who is so absent he’s a ghost

Who randomly straddles desk chair like a motorcycle

Trying to navigate the parallel dimensions

Of the hell at home and the responsibility of school

 

I know people with superpowers

I marvel at the possibilities

Some change into costume before leaving their room

Some can’t mask who they were born to be

Mutants don’t get to have an alter ego

The nerds, cool kids, and jocks

They come to me for answers

I try to help them uncover the secrets

To finding them on their own

I never expected to be here

But I couldn’t imagine not being here

Using my ability to read and influence minds

To school these gifted youngsters

 

I called my mother to tell her I was a professor

My expectation

Was that she would give me an “I Told you so”

She didn’t let me down

Then lifted up my purpose
When she asked “Do you enjoy what you do?”

I replied

Mom, I get to train superheroes

 

Teachable Moment

teachable moments

On Wednesday I had one of my more diligent students stay to speak to me after class. He commented on my use of Pop Culture (Hip Hop, Entertainment, and such). He said he doesn’t really take interest in such things (his words exactly). He asked if I had interest in more international things. He was hoping that I was going to talk about ISIS (you should have seen my face).

See that day I was going over what I consider to be the foundation for an English course with me. This includes critical reading and critical reading approaches, writing strategy, and the steps of the writing process. I told them my job is to push their thinking to enhance their writing. As an activity, I took them through an exercise of analyzing a poster (the message, visual design, etc.). Then I talked about Mark Wahlberg offering advice to Justin Beiber and began comparing and contrasting the two. I knew they would find it amusing and mildly interesting to talk about. I knew they wouldn’t completely grasp the levels of things that were at play. I was just setting the table.

So today, with the request to talk about ISIS still on my mind, I decided to help my students and the class understand what was going on. Next up was for them to grasp that I setting them up for critical inquiry, critical discovery, and critical analysis. I started with the same Pop Culture reference (Mark and Justin) and showed how there were intersections of Patriarchy, Privilege (male, white, class), Capitalism, Race, and Gender present. Then after discussing those terms I proceeded to bounce from US soil across the globe and back briefly analyzing various events, issues, and happenings utilizing those terms. We talked Boku Haram, Marrion Barry, China and employment, perceptions of New Jersey and Detroit, Baltimore and “The Wire,” Arab Spring, Ferguson, and more. They shared what they knew, offered their insights, and I facilitated the journey. Good class, but it started with Mark Wahlberg and Justin Beiber.

I am a scholar who believes in the value of Pop Culture. I also know Pop Culture is global. That’s not my only reason for referencing it. It’s also an accessible way to begin to dissect other conceptually complex things. It’s a great training ground. For me, it helps me push past propaganda when discussing layered world issues. It’s also a way of showing how perception shapes both our understanding of and behavior towards things. If a students gets that, then I can show how propaganda and rhetoric shapes our understanding (especially here in the US) or foreign affairs and global concerns.

Elder Wisdom (from the unlikeliest places)

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40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

Below is an excerpt of a piece I wrote for Tribes Magazine. It was sparked by the debate over some comments that Bill Cosby made at an event. This stuck out to me to share because I still eat at that Bojangles by Saint Augustine’s University Campus. There are still community elders there. On any given day you can be given or overhear some of the most interesting insights you will ever be exposed to. I’ve learned that you may not always understand it initially, but there is value there. I still believe it is in those spaces and at those moments that I find the real gems. Leaders, pundits, and trailblazers have earned the platform they have. But you have to also consider that there are also folks who have lived, worked, and fought each day for a better way that can provide you with just as much wisdom.

Now I am not here to spend more unnecessary time dissecting his speeches. We’ve heard the same comments from our parents, grandparents, and any other important elder in our lives. They all lament the state of young people today considering them a generation lost. I know Mr. Cosby is not alone. There are other “Cosbyists” (as I call them) who share some of the same views. They see our state as a direct result of a lack of parenting, mentoring, community, goals, sense of achievement, motivation, and vision. Many are our privileged black middle and upper class that look at the lower middle and lower class and say “carry your weight.”

Now, I am not writing this to agree or disagree. I’m here to ask what is the big deal? Is it that Bill is one of our favorite icons that we spend so much attention on speeches no different than Sunday dinner conversation at Big Mama’s? Is it because there is a fascination with black culture and our experiences, including our dirty laundry? I am here to say I gain so much more from the people who actually live this reality and have a more practical understanding of our everyday struggles than the results of research or products of philanthropy. The people we meet in grocery stores, at restaurants, at community meetings, demonstrations, college campuses, and at holiday dinners.

Let me give an example. I was sitting in Bojangles having just finished my lunch and was working through some concepts for a new piece. A man sitting at the next table saw me with my journals on the table and asked if I was a student. He began to talk about the value of education and his 4 kids that finished or were in college. He had one chemist, one potential chemist, a med school student, and an aspiring lawyer. He seemed to be a hardworking blue-collar father wearing a “super dad” tee shirt. He proceeded to offer me tidbits of knowledge that he had passed on to his children while pushing them to exceed. These were tidbits that inspired them to get the best grades possible and benefit from the doors that opened for them. This is someone who didn’t have money or academic intellectualism to give his children, just love, advice, and support within the framework of a system he saw for what it was. Below are some of the gems he gave to me.

There are eaters and there are readers. In this world there are too many readers. When faced with knowledge you have to decide to eat. You can’t be a spectator. Try going to a restaurant and just reading the menu. It doesn’t fill you up. By the same token, our leaders have to feed us. We need something substantial and practical.

Your faith is yours. You define what it is and how it manifests in your life. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to be a faithful person. You don’t need anyone to tell you about your relationship with your higher power. If we answer to the same father why does he have to keep telling you what to say to me? I can talk to him myself.

You send your child off to school to get an education but you make them smart at home. This system wasn’t made for us so you have to prepare your kids to overcome the obstacles set in their path. You need to value education, but also understand the system we live in and the challenges it presents to youth of color.

 

Leaders make flunkies out of followers. Look at a pack of birds flying south. They form a V and it seems the bird at the peak of the V is the leader. Not if you look closer. You will notice that when that bird gets tired he falls back and another takes his place (He then added an exclamation point with an “Oh my goodness”).

We are the beacons of light. Your heart is the switch that turns that light on. We have to remember that light and shine it whenever we can. It is a gift from heaven, the key to our happiness and the answer to relating to others. If you meet someone and there is no connection, if the switch isn’t working…leave it alone.

At the end, I left that Bojangles feeling like I learned something. Not just from the words he gave me, but the sincerity in which he spoke. I valued the conversation, not knowing the reason he offered the advice. I do know that he said that we meet people for a reason and to be open to the lesson. That day I learned more from him than I could ever learn from “Mr Huxtable” or any popular conservative. These are the lessons that make us the successes we are while Mr. Cosby just gives out a scholarship or passes accolades to those who listened to the voices closest to them.

God bless each one.