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13Sep/160

F*** You HIV and The Fear You Continue Bringing Our Community

Some years back, I wrote a piece to the infectious and still omnipresent HIV disease.

There is no logical reason for anyone to become infected.

We are not dealing with logic. We are dealing with people.

We are dealing with human beings whose only concern is : who will love me? Am I worthy of love ?

If what we're confronted with is either unprotected sex and possibly being alone or literally diving in and hoping for the best, we often take the leap and hope for the best.

Anybody who has ever been sexually active has had interactions wherein the strategy was one of hoping for the best.

Hoping that you are both monogamous or at least if you aren't you are the only one that this person is having unprotected sex with.

I blame the shame and our collective refusal to address our sexual concerns and what it is we really require.

I am sex positive.

I understand many people choose abstinence which is avoidance at its most extreme.

People who only have this one option are limited when situations present themselves that require more than saying "no".

Another option us old timers (myself and anybody who was around during the first and most devastating round of fear mongering and stupidity that was 1983)like to indoctrinate younger folks into is the condom/protected sex for every encounter with someone unless you know their sexual history.

We must create a new set of tools to deal with the concept of staying uninfected and strategies to cope with new infections should they occur.

I am shocked and pissed off when the only strategy is one that is mired in drama and upset instead of real world solutions to real world problems.

The most devastating thing that HIV/AIDS has done is not death, sickness or even suffering and prolonged misery among those infected.

HIV's most riveting and far reaching devastation has to deal with the amount of fear and shame it created and the stigmatization of those infected.

Those of us who have who have remained uninfected feel vindicated.

As an out black gay man who has lost boyfriends, professors etc to this disease, it was my ignorant assumption that at a certain point (middle age) I would no longer have to think about or navigate HIV and its presence in my life.

Some of my friends have taken drugs(for two decades) that vary in their effectiveness regarding the ability to manage their illness .

In Long Beach, California , a large portion of our community has been infected and everyone continues to scratch their heads in lieu of having real conversations and coming up with real action to make some serious changes.

What prevents us from reinventing the real type of sex we are having and not the kind we are taught to like and or the type we are telling our friends we are engaging in?

Many of us live in and interact from a place of shame when we have to admit our love for the dick, getting fucked, our sexual partners nuttage or the joy and pleasure that comes from distributing a good pounding to a willing ass.

If I can't admit and own my desire how in the hell can I adjust and rethink my personal type of pleasure?

My own personal way to give the finger to HIV is to date and fuck and love those who have been infected.

I have not always felt this way nor interacted in the most humanistic and loving way when someone has shared a positive status with me.

Part of my willingness to participate in making the infected "the others" was an awful experience I had more than two decades ago with a few select assholes who made their sexual appetites more important than being honest.

I willingly chose to stigmatize others and feign shock when I met folks who were determined to remain sexually active.

I assumed that HIV infected people should give up sex.

When people shared with me that they were not only being sexually active but were also not apologetic about it, I got pissed off.

My assumption was that they were lying to someone somewhere and that they were undoubtedly putting all of us "good, follow the rules" people at risk.

This thinking was challenged at age 40.

Meeting and talking with so many infected individuals changed my heart and my mind.

HIV and AIDS is not the problem.

Lies, a refusal to be honest and an overriding commitment to being right and stupid at all costs, these are the real issues and barriers to ripping HIV Stigmatization from our collective conscience.

What are you willing to let go of to claim more of your humanity ?

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4Sep/160

Get Rid of Unsatisfying Relationships Once and For All

A family member suggested that my Nephew could not stay with me and my white partner because he liked to "stick with his own".

I was mortified.

Putting racist,nonthinking aside, it was clear to me that people get hurt and miss out when interactions are either not made or are not deepened.

Most of us like to construct our relationships with people who look and think like us.

For many people, this is an easy existence and one that requires little to no effort.

In world that is rife with two minute meals and the need to be connected to everyone all the time, it is little wonder that we are uninterested in building relationships.

We are encouraged to consume and rely on stereotypes to develop and then discard our friendships.

Men who want to do things differently are often confused about how this will look and most definitely how it should begin and continue in ways that rely on true heart to heart connections.

Using my "secret" attraction" to you or the belief that I will save you via my infinite pool of wisdom and insight means I have already dehumanized you and in the process myself.

Men should enter relationships with a collaborative aim.

What can we do together to care and nurture one another?

I often struggle with explaining to men that I love the depth of love and concern I have for them even though we are not sexually intimate.

Homophobia knows no bounds and touches all of our lives.

While I can be extremely thoughtful, kind and considerate with other gay males regardless of the extent of our relationship, my straight male allies are often met with harsher tones.

My fears of being bullied or made fun of often keep me in defense mode which often leads to name calling and ribbing as our initial interaction.

Building healthy, non exploitative relationships and interaction takes a great deal of time and commitment.

When men decide they want a better world for everyone, there are few things more productive than building alliances across differences.

I am often amused by folks who say they are not racist yet have no black or brown friends or they have interaction with dark folks that is based in servitude and entertainment.

When white males are pressed about their lack of friends of color much silence and bumbling explanations occur.

The same thing takes place when black folks are put in the same position.

In the great movie Lorenzo's Oil, community is formed based on improving and saving the lives of children.

Several people band together (despite race, class and socioeconomic differences) to ensure that children are not suffering.

While it was a typical Hollywood movie in most parts, the idea of people bonding and building using only their internal resources struck me as radical and innovative.

My very good friend Carlos and I struck up an interesting friendship almost ten years ago.

As my immediate supervisor, it was his job to keep all of us on task and deliver results for the corporation that employed us both.

We developed a rapport that quickly became a solid friendship with us advising one another on everything from relationship problems to ways to eat healthier and invest money.

When there was a misunderstanding that caused us to not speak for weeks, we restructured our relationship when he told me that I was one of few people he trusted with taking care of his new, then unborn first child.

This statement meant the world to me and changed the nature of our interaction in ways that still provide close connection even though he lives in Brooklyn and I live in Los Angeles.

On a daily basis, we are all provided with tons of opportunities to change our minds and the ways we interact.

Men who are interested in transforming the world don't deny their fear nor allow it to paralyze them.

Men who want to change the world change themselves first.

Men who are secure and choose to fight for the inclusion of all ensure that they find, create and nurture connections in ways and places that may not be obvious.

Men who are secure understand that attraction, homogeneous alliances and safety are not reasons to connect or dismiss another.

I know several people who have decades long interaction with people they don't like or respect and then wonder why they feel so unfulfilled in their personal lives.

Gay men it is time that we recreate our relationships with other gay men and let go of this ridiculous, teenage way of building relationships based on another's "hotness".

Gay men it is time we let go of the straight male seduction fantasy.

Straight men it is time to let go of the idea of being so irresistible that all queens can't wait to drop to their knees and will risk all manner of good sense and self respect to bed you.

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6Aug/160

Our Fears Make Stories Real

A guest post by C. Hope Clark

I’ve recently become familiar with Anthony Carter, his voice, his refreshing outlook. So when he asked me to guest post for him, I found myself in a quandary. Here I am trying to blog about my latest mystery release, on a blog that digs deep into how to live a better life. So I read several of Anthony’s posts. Took me a while to connect his blog and my mysteries . . . then it hit me.

Mysteries are wrought with fear. Sensing it, fighting it, deciding whether to succumb to it. Not only in terms of fighting the bad guy, but in terms of fighting self, because nobody can brush against death and emerge unscathed.

That’s what I want my readers to feel in a character navigating a treacherous journey. The good guy, the antagonist, even the sensitive side-kick or the humorous secondary should not be in the book unless their lives change from the fear they experience in the pages. Change for the better? Maybe. Change for the worse? Depends. Change from what they were in the beginning of the book? Absolutely.

I write two series, the second being The Edisto Island Mysteries. Callie Jean Morgan, a homicide detective in Boston, once rode high and mighty, considered excellent in her field . . . until her excellence gets her husband killed when she takes down a long-pursued criminal element. Fanatically, she taps her skills to snare the killer, only to lose her job in the process. She’s left with a son to raise, her gold-plated career turned to rust, and goes home to her South Carolina Lowcountry family, and a mother she clashed with for as long as she could remember. She drinks, weathers panic attacks, and has completely lost her way. Her father hands her the keys to the family’s cottage on Edisto Beach, telling her to take the summer to get her head on straight, yet the first day she arrives, a murderer kills her childhood mentor next door. And the inexperienced six-man police force has never handled a murder before.

Now we have real fear. Callie’s fear of her inabilities, fear of disappointing her mentor, fear for her son’s safety, and fear that crime has followed her to Edisto, a place where she was supposed to hide away and figure out her screwed up self.

And the reader craves to learn how she’s supposed to carry so much fear and not fall apart.

In Anthony’s piece “Why None of Us Have Earned the Right to Let Fear Rule Our Lives,” he states when fear rears its head, it is clearly a time for self-examination. But in a quality mystery, we don’t want the main character to stop, analyze, and self-correct. In reality, we don’t always self-correct properly when our minds are frantic with worry. Instead, we knee-jerk react, discounting the right choices that our emotions aren’t willing to accept. Or we make decisions with half the facts. Or we wish for all our obstacles to vanish as we stick our heads in sand, pretending things aren’t as bad as they seem.

Those frail, human responses to fear are what make for the best storytelling.

Anthony goes on to state, If the worst has happened, and we’ve collectively survived it what else is there?

In the real world, this simple question can help us re-center. In fiction, this is the time where the author lets the character think this . . . then rains havoc for them letting down their guard. There’s always something worse, which makes for the best plots.

Why? Because as human beings, we want to see the worst of the worst on the screen or in a book’s pages. We want to see the best of people fail. We want to sense that others have it worse than we do. We want to see what it’s like to watch somebody else give up.

But then this seed sprouts inside us. Surely the bad guy can lose and the good guy can pull out all the unthinkable stops and wins.

We want to know there is hope beyond all odds. We just want to watch some other person struggle with it instead of us . . . while we secretly put ourselves in their place.

C.Hope ClarkI heaped one misery after another on Callie Morgan. Death, misunderstanding, loss of family, loss of friends. Enough self-doubt for ten people. Readers felt her pain, stomachs roiling from the fear around every corner. But by the end of the book, they wanted her to seize her compass and point it in the right direction, empowered by her losses, educated by poor decisions, and guided by a need to make life right. (Key in the orchestra swell.)

The latest book in the series is Echoes of Edisto, book three, and it releases August 5. Our heroine has returned to law enforcement, regained her footing, hopeful in the choices she’s made for her future. Yet tragedy happens on her watch, costing her an officer . . . two weeks into her role as Edisto police chief. She suspects premeditation. She allows a split-second of second-guessing allowing naysayers to propel her mentally back to a darker period. But in the meantime, a criminal element eats away at her beloved Edisto Beach. She slowly loses trust in those around her as everyone’s closeted past floats to the surface, and all she knows is not as it seems.

Some people love mysteries for their challenge in tackling conundrums and fear. Others hate them for the same reason. I deem them healthy, allowing readers to dip into their fear, safely experience the scare, and close the book energized from the voyage. And in some small way, I like to think I offer people hope that fear can be overcome, both in fiction and in life.

C.Hope ClarkBIO
C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries, with her latest release being Echoes of Edisto August 5, 2016. Hope is also a national speaker, teaching writers how to embrace their careers and earn a living at that which they love. She lives in her beloved South Carolina on the banks of Lake Murray, when she isn’t walking the sands of Edisto Beach. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

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8Jul/160

Are Your Children Being Taught by Fascists?

Being bullied didn't make me hate learning, it made me hate schools and the rampant and unchecked fascism that dictated everything from what we wore to what we could watch on TV.

All of the policing changed when Roots hit the air.

All the white teachers and administrators sanctioned the consumption of this epic without any deep discussions about slavery and its present day ramifications.

Frightful and gutless individuals dictated what young black children could view and ultimately emotionally handle.

To dump something of this magnitude into the laps of young and impressionable students and not offer explanations or provide the space to discuss what we'd seen was evil.

Education at its best involves something more than silence, abject obedience and the ability to regurgitate facts and useless information.

Many black folks mistakenly believe that if someone is taking our money and allowing us into certain places there needn't be questions or any evaluation as to whether we are getting our money's worth.

Having parents who grew up amidst violent and relentless government sanctioned educational segregation, they attempted to rectify their perceived educational shortcomings by sending us to parochial schools.

This grand experiment, like so many in education, failed abysmally.

My parents, like most adults reared in an outdated school system, had no idea what education can provide or the mental landscape it can widen when it's not undergirded by fear and blind obedience.

A recent conversation with my dad highlighted the fact that much of education is not based on what students need (what is best for young people).

We agreed (which rarely occurs) that our current educational system worked when young folks who lived in an agrarian society (which many families did) needed to work in the Summer.

None of the young folks I know need to work in the Summer.

This is true for most young people in this country.

Whether it was the South Bronx, Harlem, or Compton, not one student ever told me they would be tilling the soil in the hot sun all Summer.

Everyone involved with school aged children understands this concept and yet we refuse to demand a restructuring of our educational system.

Our young people look to us for influence and instruction regarding ways of being and navigating the world.

What message gets sent when we allow failing systems to exist?

How can we trot out ridiculous slogans and tired mottos regarding "success" and "never giving up" when we as a nation have given up and consistently taught folks the fine art of learned helplessness?

A few pointed discussions about what our students are learning and why could yield marvelous results.

Post these discussions and a powerful plan that focused on a different rubric (on something that was not standardized) would give students a different focus and a way to personalize and excel in their educational pursuits.

I have worked with many students whose brilliance could not be measured on a test.

I have had students who were incredible problem solvers and natural born diplomats.

There is no way to measure or teach this skill and more testing and Summer School won't change or alter this dilemma. We should value our young charges and what they are learning.

Transforming our educational system is not strictly the job of teachers and administrators.

Teaching and learning can take place at any time in any arena.

Remember,the patrons in our barbershops and the creators of pop music spend a great deal of time instructing our children by default.

Modeling the type of behavior we want to see our children emulate is the single most powerful thing we can do.

If we want our kids to develop problem solving skills, tenacity and perseverance, do we give up (on life and its challenges) when things get uncomfortable, scary or unfamiliar?

Do we yap incessantly about success and big dreams yet keep our life visions and goals thimble sized?

Mentors and adults that dream big, take action and create results offer one type of teaching.

Adults and mentors who sit around with nothing grand to guide or inspire them send another message.

Kids are short, not stupid.

Many times I have had conversations with students about behavior and choices and felt ignored or unheard.

Some time later, I have heard my words repeated when the same student was faced with a similar challenge or wanted to inspire or encourage a friend to rethink a very familiar response.

To value education in this country, we must value people and be courageous when it comes to changing and challenging a system that is only designed for a few.

We must value our students minds and the intangible gifts each one brings to the world.

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3Jul/160

The Shocking Truth About Black Male Health

Lies hurt.

When we speak of improving our health very little attention is paid to the lies we ingest. We are told lies about the importance of our health.

Black Men do not take care of their health and we pay the price via high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and a host of other maladies.

Brothers please take care of your health.

We are all very valuable.

Nobody is at their best when they are primarily responding to pain and physical discomfort.

Our pain and discomfort are often places we are encouraged to deny, overlook and allow to go unattended. I have often put myself in physical danger believing there was something to be proven to those who said they "cared". This nonsense carried over into adulthood and sexual relationships with men wherein I neglected to speak up and chose a lie over what made the most sense.

Culturally sanctioned by the larger community and supported by the smaller and highly oppressed subcultures of which I am a member, the message is clear: our health is not important.

Recently, I had major infections in two of my organs and Jaundice in my eyes.

Several individuals weighed in with their arm-chair-mother-wit diagnosis(it's work related stress) others dismissed my symptoms as cultural in an effort to lessen my concerns regarding my pure exhaustion, night sweats and chills.

Until I made the decision to address what ailed me nothing changed.

When I saw the Doctor, he freaked and immediately ordered me to an urgent care unit.

The larger question still looms: Why did I wait so long?

Why did I believe that it was ok to be sick as I told friends and family (off and on) for two weeks?

How many men do the same stupid shit and end up sicker than I was or worse yet, dead?

What can be done about it?

I will take an almost psychotic approach to maintaining my health.

I will also listen to the world's best and 24 hour available doctor, my body.

I will not allow folk to write off my thoughts and symptoms because they need me to be "ok".

My health and well being is not a burden or something to be gotten around to.

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29Jun/160

Oh My God! He’s Wearing a G-String?! Introducing My Parents to Prince

At the beginning of the eighties, a new force of nature entered my home at a party for my dad, his friends and his soon to be second wife.

Prince Rogers Nelson was in my home dancing in thigh high boots, an open and freely flapping trench coat and yes, horror of horrors, a g-string.

My parents and their libertine friends were horrified.

Was this a man? A transvestite? Was he black? Mixed? On drugs?

God forbid was this creature (lean in for the whisper) gay?

All I knew was that he seemed to be enjoying himself: he let other people wrestle with labeling him and he upset my parents.

As a 13 year old, I was hooked.

I rarely saw my parents get riled up about anything.

Prince got them riled up.

Prince gave me a new definition of black male artistry and masculinity.

If a black man could be this flamboyant and talented then anything was possible.

As a young black kid struggling with identity,oppression and ongoing homophobic assaults, seeing a black male take up space and offer the world the "finger" was needed and welcomed.

Prince let me know that it was ok to be talented and different.

I would need this assurance.

Just around the corner was disease and stigma that would wipe out difference, creativity, passion and talent.

Prince let the world know that through a great hook any subject could be spoken of and to: sex, nuclear war, AIDS, love, obsession, joy.

It is not often that someone this gifted is granted the opportunity to influence the world and pop culture for thirty years.

I can vividly recall where I was and what I was going through when I listen to his catalogue.

Dirty Mind- an eight grader curious and frightened by the world and determined to seek it out anyway.

Purple Rain- I remember my best friend singing "Darling Nikki" during one of our Summer outings and I thought "wow". "Somebody is talking about masturbation on a record ?"

I also remember running to my record player and turning it down when he got to that line.

Purple Rain, the movie, caused major pandemonium when it was released.

Many of my friends bragged about having seen it 10,15 and in some truly bizarre cases, 25 times.

My parents constantly griped about why we needed to see the movie so many times and play his records repeatedly.

That is until they heard a couple of B-sides, namely "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore" and "She's Always in My Hair".

Once they got a load of those ditties, they quit asking why we were so unremittingly under his spell.

In my obsessiveness, nothing the purple one did seemed wrong or a misstep.

What I believed scared and enthralled so many people(regarding his genius) was the ability to not "give a fuck".

Black male musicians were limited to certain forms of expression.

R&B male singers were expected to be smooth, calm, sexy and not too intimidating.

They were expected to be boring and in most cases, predictable.

As an artist who wrote, produced and recorded his own music, Prince provided no predictability.

Having mastered some 40+ instruments, Prince could easily genre hop in ways that no artist has done before or since.

Whether jamming with Chaka Khan until the wee hours of the morning; performing with Miles Davis and Q-Tip from Tribe Called Quest or simply sitting on a stool with a guitar playing an acoustic medley of his and other artists' hits, here was a man that owned his life and determined what it would look like.

As a black male living in this country, musically roaming was another large "no-no" that he ripped through with abandon.

Whether discussing drug addiction, government apathy or violence among our inner city youth, Prince shared with us where we were heading if we didn't make changes.

I urge all artists to step up and be 1/10 the artist he was.

Can you imagine a conversation between Prince and James Baldwin?

While he wasn't for my parents generation, he maintained a relevance and level of productivity that younger generations should wisely adopt.

My parents generation were a group of folks overly concerned with what people thought and most importantly what they said.

My parents were always frightened of any person who brought too much attention to themselves.

Prince teased us with world straddling and caused the older generations much grief.

In my eyes, he was a hero.

Black men were not allowed to rock high heels, be uber talented and not give a shit about what people thought or said about them.

We need black males secure in their manhood who give themselves over to their gifts then self create a sustaining vision of themselves and also rock high heels.

Where are artists and men like Prince Rogers Nelson?

Where are the gutsy, ballsy not giving a fuck artists?

If I see one more nitwit talking about being an artist and then crank out the same shit as everybody else, I will lose it.

As a young closeted queen, I had no black male role models who were as fearless as the Purple One.

I've known black males who either got crushed by White Supremacy (my grandfather) or never got a handle on their genius(my uncle) which means he never fully realized it.

Prince became a symbol of black male genius in its glory- unapologetic, relentless and unrestrained.

Thank god I was introduced to this wonderful bellwether.

I would have never survived high school without his talent and music.

I want the genius with me and I want to believe that this human was more Christ like than any of us will ever know.

When he started rocking the brutally honest and historically troubling word SLAVE across his cheek, I was not yet committed to a life of creativity and the mind.

My naivete allowed me to think that since he was rich and famous and putting out his own music that there weren't people attempting to control him.

As I began producing work and releasing it to the world, his insistence on being free made sense.

Since we now live in a world that encourages us to not take a stand about anything, a man who stood for something was a welcome and invigorating entity.

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20Jun/160

7 Reasons Prince will Always Rock and Rule

In the two months since his death, Prince has become more popular than ever. I have loved and admired this man and his talent for 30 years.

While people worldwide mourn his passing and scramble to find a suitable replacement(impossible), my focus is on honoring the legacy of his music and the bravery and courage he possessed.

In a world that requires your soul in exchange for any bit of recognition or attention, Prince showed us how to get and maintain attention based solely on talent and a dedication to craft.

No artist could combine sexuality, redemption, social commentary and religion like this man.

Here are seven reasons Prince will always Rock and Rule.

1. In "Controversy", he forces us to play with identity and the fluidity of how one can change, straddle worlds and do it with no self-consciousness and to a good beat. Am I black or white; am I straight or gay? Do I believe in God, do I believe in me? Some people want to die so they can be free; People call me rude; I wish we all were nude; I wish there were no black and white; I wish there were no rules.

2. "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" is an eighties plea to eliminate Nuclear weapons before we destroy the planet and one another. Ronnie, Talk to Russia- Don't you blow up my world.

3. Purple Rain- the movie, song and album confronts us with an artist struggling with both self actualization and offering a paramour care with the lyrics- I never wanted to see you cry; I only want to see you dancing in the Purple Rain.

4. On the brilliant and way ahead of its time, Around the World in a Day, Prince serves us Middle Eastern influences while urging us in the title track : Open your heart, open your mind a train is leaving all day. A wonderful trip through our time and laughter is all you pay. The entire album is wonderful romp through, sex, forgiveness, redemption and social uplift. "Pop Life" quickly and disturbingly reminds us that "everybody wants a thrill ". In "America", he states: Little sister making minimum wage living in a one-room jungle-monkey cage. Can't get over; she's almost dead. She may not be in the black but she's happy she ain't in the red.

5. "Parade" returned Prince to our movie theaters with two very different and equally sensual songs. "Kiss" brought us funk and longing with a determination to give in to a full relationship complete with surrender and a nod to building relationships beyond superficiality- "you don't have to be rich to rule my world you don't have to be cool to be my girl." "Sometimes it Snows in April" (my personal favorite) is so haunting that it breaks my heart no matter how many times I hear it. A simple arrangement with absolutely stunning vocals, this track reminds us that things in life don't always go our way and the mystery and joy of life is found in places that leave us raw, vulnerable and transformed.

6. "Sign of the Times" is his absolute best. Perfection. Each track on this double slice of heaven was pure magic. Did I mention that like Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" was a double album. There is no way you can listen to this double disc and not hear the prophetic call that would be the 80's and beyond. Released in 1987 with an accompanying concert video, it begins with the title track- In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name. As if this was not enough in the same song he points out that our government can send people to the moon but we can't figure out how to have enough for everyone to eat. He adds a wink to lust and the chance at monogamy when he tells a paramour in "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"- that he may be qualified for a one night affair but he could never take the place of her man. What about his usual blend of sensuality, sexuality and religion- "Adore": If God struck me blind your beauty I'd still see.

7. "He believed young people could change the world." This statement was given by Van Jones the co-founder of the YesWeCode initiative (an organization dedicated to ensuring that 100,000 low income youth learn to write code). Prince began supporting this initiative in an effort to create a generation of self sufficient youth ready to lead and create in the 21st century.

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28May/162

Three Secrets to a Successful Relationship Part 3 (Learning)

Yesterday, my man beat me...Again. In Scrabble.

The final portion of creating a successful relationship is the ability to learn from each other daily.

Many couples meet and silently agree that neither will change no matter the amount of time spent together or the circumstances that would invite and encourage change.

If you want the relationship to breathe and have life then it is imperative that you each learn and teach one another daily.

The lessons needn't be huge, life changing or mind boggling. Small bits of learning can have the same effect over long periods of time as gigantic paradigm shifting insights.

Whenever there is a showdown in my house via the Scrabble board, I learn a better more strategic way of playing and at least two new words.

Many times I have had conversations with friends that resulted in learning something about myself and also gave me a fresh perspective on how I think.

This comes in handy when taken back to the primary love relationship and utilized as a means to bring a richer more insightful you into the fold.

Being mentally and intellectually challenged is a great aphrodisiac and often leads to greater intimacy both sexually and otherwise.

When the brain is stimulated because it is taking in new information and processing it, the body generally follows.

When I incorporate something new, I often get an electric spine-tingling surge of energy.

When I am presented with something new, I often get a psychological gut punch which lets me know something new is happening.

As a young queer, I often longed for the teaching of an older, wiser paramour.

In my 40's, I often stated : no man has anything to teach me; older doesn't mean wiser and I hope when I'm in my 40's and beyond that I have utilized my mind and years well and have something to share.

While arrogance and pure idiocy kept me alive, it didn't do much for my learning curve (books and great films took care of that).

Part of the arrogance was based in the reality that I didn't know to look for this attribute in men and didn't know how to make it a part of my "must have" list.

At 31, a surge leading to a case of happy pants was enough to get the party started.

At 40, it came to me: you love conversation and learning. Find someone who is a sparkling conversationalist and brilliant.

Not a buffoon full of hot air who likes to hear himself speak.

I used this self knowledge to seek an individual interested in both an exchange of ideas and what someone else's viewpoint might entail.

How do you find this very elusive and tantalizing attribute ?

Look for a man who is committed to growth.

If you have the same conversation more than once does he provide a slightly evolved point of view ?

Is he willing to try something that may or may not work ?

Does he welcome ideas and innovative ideas that are not his ?

Does he invite you to disagree ?

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15May/160

Three Secrets to a Successful Relationship Part 2 (Laughter)

Does he still make you laugh ? I haven't seen him naked lately... Dorothy Zbornak, The Golden Girls

More than a year ago, I wrote about my insane need for comedy and laughter and even wrote a formal invitation for the brilliant Margaret Cho to marry me (Cho you missed out; I'm hitched).

After writing this post and continuing with my insane obsession with what makes love work, I stumbled upon a great insight.

Laughter.

I looked at my most fulfilling and uplifting relationships and realized this is one area that consistently presented itself.

Much like the primary secret of successful relationships (shared values), comedy and the ability to find humor in things as a couple is what is needed. Like values, comedy is individual and personal. What I am referring to here is the ability as a couple to create shared joy via comedic interaction with the environment.

Couples often design their own comedy "bits" based on what they find mutually amusing and downright hysterical.

For years, I stated that my closest allies made me laugh and learn something in every conversation.

With humor as my guide, I began searching for different types of love.

My man needs to be funny as hell. Period.

Living in this country and in this world can be scary, frustrating and at times downright fucked (up). You better have a "ride or die" soldier at your side who can point out things that are ridiculous and comical.

My man does incredible characters and voices (Brooklyn hood rat, British society maven, Irish brogue, Maine and everything in between) there is never a shortage of character driven humor and insight in my home.

By constructing the ability to delight one another, we have made a place to retreat when things occur that leave us frustrated.

Having been in relationships that had no humor taught me that this is not the type of interaction that I either require nor can accept.

As a black man who dates white men and has to deal with classism, racism both internal and external, community upset and social interaction on a daily basis, it is wise to have something that will allow for safe and ongoing navigation.

A shared sense of humor is one thing that will allow for continual victory when facing the aforementioned destructive variables.

So what do you and your man joke about ? Find hysterical and ridiculous ?

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11Apr/160

Three Secrets to a Successful Relationship

Many gay men wrongly assume that sexual attraction means relationship (material).

What is not understood is how to create wonderful relationships.

Often times those of us who have created something wonderful go underground.

We make it difficult to provide tangible, visible proof of what two men who are in love the right way can create. Most of us not only don't know how to date but also bring these simplistic types of interaction to our attempts to design relationships.

When we are limited to less than stellar relationship resources, we can only recreate more of what doesn't work.

Spending damn near three decades and unmentionable failures trying to make love work, there are three things that repeatedly show up when successful relationships are the topic.

Incidentally, these are the same three things that can be utilized in developing incredible friendships.

For a very long time, it was a goal of mine to be in a loving relationship that would assuage all past mishaps.

While I had no idea how to do this, it never was clear until a friend pointed it out, that nothing substantial could be created without a similar /identical set of values.

Like many of my misguided brothers, my assumption was sexual attraction equals relationship (see the wonderful Bethany Marshall for a clearer understanding of the limited thinking this provides). When these colossal flops presented themselves one time too many, my focus became finding a man with similar values.

Often times you can ask a person directly what they find important and although many either don't know or feign ignorance, simply watching a potential paramour will yield some honest and clear indicators.

My brilliant acting coach Colette Duvall always taught us that the subconscious always reads.

Another way to view this philosophy : watch what a person gives their time and attention to.

If your date claims exclusivity but is spending a whole lot of time at the bathhouse, it is time to rethink the relationship if your goal is monogamy.

If you are interested in saving money and the new paramour finds ways to not only refuse to look for work but finds ways to spend the agreed upon mutual savings, he is not interested in honoring you or your finances.

After agreeing to support your decision to attend school, does the "potential" mate find ways to create chaos when you should be preparing for a major exam ?

If so, take a look at your values and determine if this is the man for you.

You can't really get anyone to change their values or necessarily adopt yours.

In the same fashion, you've both shared the desire to protect the relationship and the home you share and as a result neither of you invite psychos into your home for any reason this is also a shared value.

If the term "values" seems to airy fairy or clinical think : what does this person find important and what do I find important ? If there is a match differences can and should be examined and worked through.

Do you know the values of your latest love interest ? Do you have an agreed upon definition of monogamy ? Open relationship ? The way you spend your time ?

Here are few wonderful insights from the aforementioned Dr. Bethany Marshall which should be memorized when we are attempting to fall in love and want to desperately build a lasting successful relationship.

Healthy relationships are founded on mutuality (both of you are equally invested in the relationship), honesty(you never walk away from a conversation feeling confused) and generativity (each conversation generates a new experience, a new understanding and a new way of being with each other).

If these factors are there, then consider falling in love !

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