Emerging Analysis, Relationshit and Transformative Love

Two weeks ago Omolara Williams McCallister and I spoke at a regional UU conference at All Soul’s that was centered around Black Lives Mater and racial justice. Also speaking that day was Alonzo Smith who is a professor of Black history. I decided to turn our talks into a podcast but unfortunately have been super busy. So here is the raw audio from that talk and Q&A.

The first 20 minutes is me talking about the emerging analysis of BLM: on White Supremacy, Capitalism, Patriarchy and lovelessness and alienation. The next 20 minutes is Omolara talking about “the Wheel of Relationshit” [not a typo], a TED talk worthy presentation on organizational accountability with the movement. The last 40 minutes are Omo, Alonzo and I answering questions from the audience. Hopefully I will have time to mix and render this into several shorter, smoother podcasts but that might be a while.

 

Enjoy!

Am I A Nigger?

ASK YOURSELF!

Am I A Nigger?

               Am I A Nigger?

                                                      Am I A Nigger?

And if the answer is yes? Don’t be afraid to show it!

Cause it’s the Nigger in you that makes you BLACK!

…Once you learn to hate it…

An acoustic dialogue on respectability politics, the diversity of Black self conception and the mattering of Black Lives.

#ILoveBlackWomen Day Three: LISTEN!

Mom nad April #ILoveBlackWomen

[You can also listen to this podcast on itunes by searching “Well Examined Life” under podcasts]

It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen. I mean really listen and hear, another person. This site was founded on the believe that you can increase your own self awareness through dialogue. That means we can learn more about ourselves through hearing the lived experience of another person. The self referential aspect of this endeavor has always been slightly troubling to me. It’s always seemed problematic. Yet the more I engage in these conversations, the more I grow and the more a realize that there is as much growth in the telling as the hearing.

Similarly, once I embarked on the task of interviewing Black Women, I had to come to terms with the fact that this is my project and anything they express will necessarily be filtered through my lens which is a male lens. It seems inevitable. Unless I ask the interviewees to spend hours editing their own interviews, my editing decisions will shape how their stories are told. This is not ideal, but the alternative was to not hear these stories, to not be able to  work with them and have them challenge and enlighten me and my audience.

So, I will add this disclaimer: Above, you have an interview with my mother, who beyond being my mother and one of the kindest people ever, also has a great deal of wisdom to share. My hope is that her stories and insights will enlighten you and, for those of you not blessed to have Black Women whom you can ask to sit down and hear from, broaden your image of what a Black Women is. Yet, it must be said that no 12 minute interview can encompass the brilliance, the beauty or the complexity of my mother. I would suggest you all check out Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” to better understand why.

So listen, enjoy and share. Hopefully, when I get a new laptop, I will be able to actually edit podcast and get a series going. It was difficult to edit this without my computer crashing so it’s not my best work. Until then, I encourage you to continue celebrating the Black Women in your life. I encourage you all to listen to their stories. To learn from their strength. To be inspired by their beauty.

#BlackLivesMatter Podcast

 

Silence

There is a movement happening in America…

All across America young Black people are articulating the damage, the pain, the fear, the lynchings that come with being one of the backs upon which this white supremacist nation was built. It is important that we all bear witness to this pain. If you are Black, it is essential that you open yourself to the pain you push behind your mask so that you can function in this society. That pain needs to be released. It it needs to be spoken. You will find power in its utterance. In articulating your own humanity, in flaunting it in front of the very society that denies it, you will find a type of individual freedom from which is the raw material for our collective liberation.

If you are not-Black then you need to bear witness to this pain. You need to force yourself to see the humanity of the Black myn and womyn who are mourning their own deaths. You need to force yourself to understand that this pain is not new just because you haven’t heard it before. It will not go away until we as a nation can come to terms with the Blackness of 36 million Americans. It will not go away until the descendants of slaves and sharecroppers no longer have to wonder what their role is in their own nation. It will not go away until we recognize the humanity of all Black people despite class, nation of origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability or criminal records. It will not and cannot go away until you understand that #blacklivesmatter.

If we as a nation cannot all agree on that simple fact we can never be whole; we can never heal this gaping wound across our nation. This festering sore that is one of America’s foundational sins will continue to grow, to ooze and to infect every institution of our nation. Yet no longer will this infection be contained to Black bodies. No longer will Black people be the ones who bear the weight of their oppression by shucking and jiving on the razor thin edge of white racial sensibilities.  No longer will we let the tonnage of white racism sit on our chests, crushing us slowly while we pretend it isn’t there. If this movement is anything it is a promise that if we can’t breathe, you can’t breathe.

 

Get off the fence. Join the struggle.

Clare: The Stories We Tell Ourselves In Order To Live

IMG_1534

 

 

 

I’ve debated with myself about what the purpose of these interviews is. I’ve been constantly questioning why I do them and, more importantly, what I want my audience to get out of them. I have yet to come up with a coherent answer to the second question but talking to my dear friend and big sister Clare O’Brien Rocha has reminded me of the first. Clare and I share a special history. Our parents met shortly after my parents were married and while her parents were dating in a little post-hippie Baha’i community in 1970’s Colorado. We grew up together, sharing family vacations and alternating Thanksgivings at each other’s houses for over 15 years.

As a kid, her parents were my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Steve, the kooky hippy couple whose life seemed like how married life was supposed to be. Her mother Nancy was both a second mother and, if I’m honest, the archetype for what I thought the perfect wife was supposed to be: beautiful, warm, funny, and passionate. Her father goes harder in everything that he does than any man I’ve ever met. I love both her parents like they are my own. In fact, my dream marriage would be facilitated by her father in swim trunks, Hawaiian shirt and suit jacket.

When her mother passed a few years ago I was devastated. It was a like a part of my world no longer made sense. It seemed like with no Nancy to look forward to every Thanksgiving, with her warm smile and long dark hair, a little bit of the world’s magic left too. I was unaware of Nancy’s mental illness until she passed and I never really talked to Clare about it until this past April when I stayed with her and her own family out on Long Island.

Seeing Clare again after so many years was an amazing and moving experience. Clare has a unique gorgeousness about her. Seeing her not only reminds me of the only teenager who would hang out with “the babies” on family vacations but I also see the same smile and raucous humor of her father and the same warmth, empathy and same clear eyes and long dark hair of her mother. She embodies a spirit of my childhood, the hippie, sing along, wholesomeness mixed with a down to earth realness that I don’t find with many other people. Likewise, one of the first things she said to me was, “I saw you and it like looking at a young Tony!” I realized, sitting on my her couch, taking up the most space possible, with my hands rested on my belly and half my shirt covering my bearded mouth, that I was just that; a young version of my father. She says it with such love and nostalgia that I became much prouder of the idiosyncrasies of my father that I’ve internalized.

So for me, it was clear that I just had to interview Clare. I had to talk to her about our completely interlinked childhood. We talked for hours about how different our views of our respective families and what it was like to be raised Baha’i in Colorado. We talked about how our parents’ friendship became our model for what adult friendships were supposed to be. We talked about how we assumed that your close friends become your family and that while blood will always be thicker than water, sometimes the water can run twice as deep.

So what will you, the listener, get from Clare’s interview? Other than the awesome music that weaves throughout the interview, other than her truly beautiful [if slightly sick] voice, Clare moves the world with more style, swag and intentionality than you’d ever imagine. Clare is a stay at home mother of two, living in the Gatbsy-esque tip of Long Island known as the Hamptons and drives an Audi yet every image of her that just popped into your head from that description is either false or woefully incomplete. Whenever Beyonce comes on [which is quite often]her oldest son, who is quite possible the cutest child in the history of children, looks up and says “that’s my mom’s best friend ‘yonce.” She is a feminist, an artist, a fashionista, a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an amazing cook, a hilarious story teller, role model, a big sister, a trend setter and the first real interview for the Stories We Tell Ourselves In Order To Live!

Through her own rugged determination and restless art filled spirit, Clare has created a narrative of life that is truly wonderful. Hers is, among other things, a narrative of the power of every day choices, of constant growth and endearing love. She cannot be defined or understood in 40 minutes of monologue but I believe that we all have something to learn from her internal beauty. Listen! Share! And increase your self-awareness through dialogue.

Processing #igotthetalk While in Mourning

It has been a rough week. A week that has forced me to think a lot about family, the bonds we build and the comfort we provide each other. It was also a week of tremendous social upheaval in Ferguson, MO. Already the conversations about Ferguson on Facebook and Twitter were giving me anxiety as many people were processing the event as if this was the first time they ever considered police brutality as a real thing which I viscerally read as “oh, I guess you all weren’t making it up after all.” This is the kind of thing that I would sit in my Great Uncle’s room for hours discussing. Those memories increased by anxiety as I felt I had no way to process the two events separately.

 

Over the past couple of days I have had the support of my family, friends and co-workers which I appreciate greatly. Still, I needed an outlet for all the emotions that have been making it hard for me to breathe, focus on work, move forward or even put on a brave face recently. So I turned to my art and tried to process Ferguson and my Uncle’s death through that. Here is a new podcast I just finished which is an exploration of my emotions over the past couple of days.  I hope those of you coming from calm places find it interesting and that those of you dealing with similar feelings might find a bit of validation.

I should also warn people that this piece includes explicit and sometimes jarring descriptions of violence as well as some explicit language.

 

 

 

Acoustic Discourse On Violence

How complicit are you in the project of American Empire ?

How complicit are you in the project of American Empire ?

Here is my latest audio art piece “Acoustic Discourse On Violence.” The piece explores a working logic of non-violent action that is complicated by visceral reactions to fear of the unknown, shame at our moral complicity and responses to aggression. I have been contemplating taking a vow of non-violence and compassion for some time now. I also frequently find myself thinking “why don’t we riot any more?” as the anger–which is a response to the ideologies of dominance that become visceral and integral parts of my lived experience through the assertion of whiteness and capitalism–build up inside me. This is an attempt at exploring those two impulses. As always, please let me know what you think.

Life Before The Revolution

Image For Life Before The Revolution

 

Booing Up When All Your Friends Are Lesbians…& You’re Not

 

 

Here it is…the moment [a few of] you have been waiting for. The debut of my play writing prowess…a comedy of queer proportions…the story my dating life as read by my friends…the hilarity that might could be the DC Queer DIY Punk Scene… one my favorite things I’ve ever created.

This play is a compilation of pieces of my life with the boring taken out, names changed and background slightly rewritten. Most of the dialogue is real. Some of the events happened. All of them could happen…at group house near you. I’m really proud of this play as it represents a lot of personal and artistic growth. Not only is is better writing but it is more honest writing. Some of the truths contained within might surprise people who haven’t talked to me in a while…if that is the case, I encourage you to ask about anything that surprised you.  I will probably write more about this play later and will post the script soon but for now…here is my first ever radio theater comedy podcast!

If you like the music [and really how could you not?] check of Spoonboy and Hot Hyms for more!

 

South Side

Re-posted with the correct link now. To be honest. I’m geeking out a bit. I’ve wanted to set this poem to music since the moment I wrote it. It has taken me 7 years to have to time, energy, software and knowledge to make this and it may be the coolest thing I have ever done. Please comment! Let me know what you think!

South-Side

The days are hot and
the nights cold
and Heaven is a long way away.

I’ve seen the shackled masses.
I’ve peered into the forlorn eyes of government projects,
And through shattered glass
seen shattered dreams deferred.
Dreams can’t run syrupy sweet
if the streets are full of gunfire,
and I’ve seen churches perforated
— Riddled—
with the south side boys choir’s serenade of bullets.

Seething with the rhythms ofyouthful energy
And vying for freedom;
I’ve seen the streets pulse with
Blood red and crack fuelled indignation.
I’ve seen misdirected,
misused,
And poverty abused youth
find family in red bandanas
And Fight the Power with gunfire.

The devil finds work for idle hands and a tech nine fits easily into a backpack.
Rumble young man rumble. Ya Mama goes to work and ya daddy goes to jail. Rumble young man rumble.

Half the city,
half naked,
sweating
and laughing the rolling laughter of youth,
died of starvation
quietly in steel mill.
Mourning;
Warsaw marched north with Dublin
and Freetown was left behind,
praying for a return that will never come.
But the diamonds,
the blood stained powder diamonds,
breathed fire into its black lungs.

For a few dollars
or a few minutes in a dark alley
all your troubles would fade away.
trickling down into the hands of a neighbor’s son
selling to eat and fighting to live.

The devil finds work for idle hands and a kilo fits easily into a backpack.
Rumble young man rumble. Ya Mama goes to work and ya daddy goes to jail. Rumble young man rumble.

These hands. These hands that built a city. These hands that tended the land and beat the steel. These hands that raised and lifted a nation are wasted: lying fallow, sterile with salt sowed into their wounds. Raw and bloodied they beat in vain on the bullet proof “windows of opportunity.” Tear streaked hands—wet from comforting the invisible abrasions of oppression in the invisible children of the invisible ghetto—that are strong but too tired to lift themselves up. Dejected , they find their only solace in shaking the condemned hands of Ida B. Wells.

The Devil finds work for idle hands and a life fits easily into a backpack.
Tremble old hands tremble. Ya daughter goes to work and ya son goes to jail. Tremble old hands tremble.

The streets cry, alone at night, after the city shuts down. The trampled streets whimper to themselves: the only ears that hear them. In their silence lie volumes spoken loudly but never heard.

“Where is the voice of that so called down-trodden mass” they ask.
“It is calling, always calling to you. Stop. Listen. Hear Me! I’m dying” they answer.
then Silence

The devil finds work for the darkest hands and half a city fits easily into a backpack. Rumble south-side rumble. Ya sisters go to work and ya brothers go the jail. Rumble south-side rumble.

The days are hot and
the nights cold
and Heaven is a long way away.

Their Culture Is Capital

As my art and writing has expanded in recent months I’ve gotten really into recording my poetry and setting it music I created on acid pro.  This is my first attempt at it with original words and original music. Though, the chorus is written by Pete Singer from his song “Little Boxes” as song in this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mJSSHu3ocA .

 

They complained about the cold with a rare Chicagoan honesty. When the wind hits their faces and seeps through every orifice and pore to settle slowly into their bones they are broad shouldered and husky folk poets. So proud to be clear eyed and laughing. So proud to live where the freight-handlers daughter used to live. They walk slowly down Michigan avenue as one as if the hawk forces their crowd comfort into ubiquity. The city of big shoulders. The Big City that thinks it’s a small town as all the girls sing

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same.

They walk from Hancock to the Bean like the children of tortured writers conceived on benzodine trips whose parents told them not to do drugs after they filled their riddlen scripts. They step over the high homeless not recognizing that faraway look in their father’s eye’s because they may have been concieved in Vegas but daddy found God before they were born. They traded in riddlin for tea and found themselves unable to ask for a raise.  Being addicted to self-improvement means they have to exaggerate their flaws with cornucopias of neurosis and fat girls lose weight to come to terms with their arrogance.

The streets grin under their footsteps. You gave them your tired, weak and huddled masses yearning to be free and the streets melted them together. Michigan is asleep at 10 and by midnight it murmurs

There’s a green one and a pink one

And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

Past the Bean the steel and glass condos ooze the stench of potential ripening into through desperation and bar crawls until you wake up, hungover in parenthood. Young college students whitewash the mandarin they don’t understand with sheer bravado as the New Negroes wait for the train to get past Garfield where their city begins. The temporal anomaly that forces the races to avoid sitting next to each other rights itself after the loud mouth Uchicago students step off onto the platform humming:

And the people in the houses

All went to the university,

Where they were put in boxes

And they came out all the same,

And there’s doctors and lawyers,

And business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

The Southsiders lounge in the box cars like coal miners coming home from work. Like those coal miners they take cold showers to wash off the soot and cool themselves down in their tenements without central air. Yet after the showers they are still brown and black as the night and so they rub their paychecks on their skin hoping they change color. They pelt their children with cell phones and nike’s hoping that they bruise white enough to go to college.

And they all play on the golf course

And drink their martinis dry

And they all have pretty children

And the children go to school

And the children go to summer camp

And then to the university

Where they are put in boxes

And they come out all the same

After the train stops the city continues for miles. Bottles of broken dreams litter every street even as the smoke from crack in Englewood becomes the exhausts from Cadillacs in Beverly. This is the New Nation that the newspapers call Chiraq but from Hyde Park to Chatham former Irishmen sell suits to formers slaves. These former slaves, blind from malnutrition, sing work songs in their food desserts infused with the new culture of capital.

And the boys go into business

And marry and raise a family

In boxes made of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same

There’s a pink one and a green one

And a blue one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same