Tag Archives: work

Glass Cases

usher box

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

Requiem for Change

Rape-Culture-e1392242243997

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

The Tipping Point…

change-4-1imepyc

I was sitting around a table with scholars, thinkers, and culturalists from all over (the country and the world) as we got introduced to the administrative logistics of our fellowships with the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. I have the honor of being a 2015-2016 Nasir Jones Fellow with the Hip Hop Archive & Research Institute at the Hutchins Center. As we introduced ourselves and our work, I was struck with a feeling. I listened to everyone mention the institutions they taught at. One scholar had just gotten tenure and was very excited (rightfully so). Each of them on sabbatical or leave from their home institution to participate in scholarly activity. I felt a little awkward.

I’m sure they are evaluated on their scholarly activity much like we are at Saint Augustine’s University. There is actually a category on our evaluations that is “Professional Activity.” The definition is below.

Professional Activities – Participating in discipline related conferences, workshops, and artistic presentations, evidence of publication, professional presentations, discipline related research, submission of grant proposals, and obtaining grant funding.

Now this category is new, but the premise isn’t. Before this it was listed as “Research and Scholarly Activity.” I of course would think that being a research fellow at Harvard would qualify. Wouldn’t you?

I was so excited when I got word that I had received the fellowship. I made sure to let my department chair know about the appointment. I slowly started to tell my colleagues. I was encouraged to share with our Office of Marketing and Communications. I did. The piece they put out on it was picked up by HBCU Digest. Our new president was aware and offered congratulations in passing. As the spring semester ended I prepared for what I knew was going to be a great journey and a wonderful opportunity to glean some insight that I could use myself and pass on to my students.

I saw if as a continuation of work I had been doing with colleagues on campus. I had been a part of a grant funded project that allowed myself and other colleagues to develop a writing course based on popular culture. This was in addition to other programming that fostered critical think and writing skills while pushing the exposure of the students to various modes of analysis. As an artist, I enjoyed being able to take this approach. I had already worked with secondary school teachers on the same thing through a relationship with Communities in Schools NC and the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching. This included helping educators integrate pop culture into their classrooms, especially Hip Hop. Through this grant funded project I was able to bring that experience to my institution. I saw this fellowship as a chance to have even more to offer and to expand the impact of the things our project had been able to accomplish.

Before the semester reached its end I notified HR that I wouldn’t be teaching upcoming year (because of the fellowship). This was presented to me as a necessary step to get my class load covered, especially if an adjunct would need to be hired. Makes sense. That hole in coverage would need to be addressed. Justification would be required for additional hiring. Can’t get more justification than the loss of a instructor for a full academic year.

That was it. Our contracts are annual and I am not tenured so a sabbatical wouldn’t apply to me.

I finished my end of semester tasks and prepared for graduation. When graduation ended, I said my goodbyes and gave out a lot of hugs.

In June I got a call from HR. I was told I needed to come to campus to pick up checks. It was explained that I had checks that included my remaining salary (my pay was spread out over 12 months) and a benefits refund. My benefits had been stopped at the end of May. They decided to cash out the remaining salary rather. With the checks was a letter from the president saying that he accepted my resignation. Just like that I was no longer an employee at Saint Augustine’s University. My 9 years of service to the institution were completed.

For me, what hit me when I sat around that table listening to the other scholars was that I didn’t have a “home” institution to return to. I wasn’t on loan to Harvard for the year. I was in a unique space that I don’t quite know how to explain. So many people in congratulating me on this opportunity have asked about me returning to Saint Augustine’s University. Initially I danced around the subject. I didn’t want to get into the details. I didn’t want it to sound bad or malicious and I wasn’t sure it was. I just knew how it felt opening that letter from the president.

Now that I have had a few months to think about. Now that I am here at Harvard amongst this cohort of scholars. Now that I have talked more about what happened with some of my close friend and mentors. I can say that for a moment, I felt that this wonderful thing I was about to accomplish didn’t mean that much to the place I had called “home” for 9 years. A place that was my alma mater. I felt cast away. That it wasn’t important for me to be going to do this on behalf of myself, the arts and Hip Hop community, and my “home” institution. That I will get over.

The reality is that my alma mater is going through changes. We have a new president who is dedicated to restoring the prestige and pride of the institution. That includes restructuring, cuts, shifts, etc. Maybe the challenges of the present outweighed the promise of the future. I don’t know.

For now, I am dedicated to getting the most from this opportunity and I will prepare to think about where to share my experiences and work next later. I will never be too far from my alma mater. I will always keep my ears open for ways to share with my alma mater. I just won’t be returning “home.”

We will see how it all turns out. I hope that tomorrow brings the best for both of us.

Damn this sounds like a post breakup reflection.

It definitely is a tipping point.

I Am Inspired By Warriors (valuable lessons pt 2)

The logo for Men Against Rape Culture (MARC) founded at NCSU.
The logo for Men Against Rape Culture (MARC) founded at NCSU.

40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

Men Against Rape Culture (MARC) was one of the most transformative things I have ever been a part of. Bryan Profitt is the person who got me involved. He was a young activist that I kept running into throughout the community. I was being mentored by elder organizers who were also mentoring him. We had been involved in organizing at NCSU in Raleigh and in organizing young folks to participate in other actions happening in the city. We had worked to start Hip Hop Against Racist War (HHARW) and joined with other young activists to lend our hand to the organizing around a number of issues.

After returning to NCSU for graduate school, Bryan got a job taking over a program at the Health Center that worked in conjunction with the Health Center and the Women’s Center. He came up with an idea of how to restructure the program. He looked at Men Can Stop Rape out of DC and other initiatives across the country. He asked me to help. I started working part time at the center and soon we recruited students on campus to help us build what would become MARC. Not too long after he finished grad school we started working with the statewide coalitions against sexual assault and domestic violence. We got to work with institutions across the state. We got to work with organizations in various communities. We got to work with men around this issue. We also learned how to support survivors and how to communicate and heal as secondary survivors. I learned feminist politics. I grew as a person. I was shaped forever.

There are truths that I hold to because of the experiences I had with MARC. I tell the women that helped me grow so much that I think of them as I do work in the community. I say the same to the men who helped mentor me. The warriors who have struggled, fought, taught, and advocated for change. I can call them friends and allies. I can call on the lessons they gave me when I need them.

Because of them…

I will believe the survivor. I will not defend a perpetrator.

I will not blindly accuse. I will not demonize. My commitment is to the safety, preservation, nurturing, and growth of my community and not the destruction of a person.

I will challenge patriarchy and heterosexism. I will listen to learn.

I will follow. I will work.

I can not enter or remain in a space that is reckless. Reckless is destroying to vindicate. Reckless is ignoring that the numbers say that we rarely know who is a survivor around us. How we hold a space includes having a plan for those who haven’t spoken up. We do not take them along for the ride. Reckless is saying “Oh well” about those caught in the crossfire. Reckless is not having the proper resources in a space.

I can not be part of a process that doesn’t recognize the influence of privilege, class, and race in decision making. Even within feminism there are debates about ideology and focus. Many voices that have expanded the understanding of feminism have been voices of color (especially queer women of color). They have expressed that there are complexities that exist.

I can not be a part of a space that doesn’t establish a way for men to work with men. Or understand the value of proper facilitation of certain conversations. How we hold a space is very important. Allied men don’t always know how to be effective allies. Problematic men don’t always know how not to be problematic. We don’t wait for them to be checked because then responsibility is placed on the wrong person. The men in the community should actively work to grow the capacity of those men.

I can not be a part of a space that does not include love and healing. For sustainability. For preservation. For growth. For so many damn good reasons.

I can not and will not stop working.