An expert in getting back up again – writer, speaker, teacher

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Why We All Need a Love Army and a Three Step Process to Building and Maintaining One Part 2

I want to believe that I am still 25.

Accepting limitations is hard. Nobody wants to acknowledge that they are not the person they used to be.

By accepting our limitations, we cannot be held back or limited because of them.

This is the second step in building a love army.

Start looking for folks who can do things you can't. We are taught that we should know everything and never ask questions;we should and can do everything splendidly. Let's all accept the reality of being human and of our lives. Nobody does everything well.

As the old saying goes: God doesn't give with two hands. In other words, retire the cap and release the notion that anybody can do everything well.

Part of building a love army is knowing where you shine and where you don't. I have trouble listening to people because much of childhood was mired in discouragement about what was possible.

I trained myself to listen to me.

My wonderful Love Army Captain, Jay, is an incredible listener but an awful cook. When he used to visit me, I would cook and he would listen.

While I can spend time working on my weakness, wouldn't a better use of my time be spent doing what I do well and then bringing in folk who are more suited for skills in other areas ?
Many people have a mentality steeped in the belief that to ask anybody for anything is weak.This type of thinking severely limits what they will allow themselves to achieve.

As a result, they don't achieve much or get very far in life.

My friend Jay often comments on my ability to turn situations around and create value despite any present circumstances or reality.

When we know and accept where we excel(and are aware of and accept where we don't) and allow the same for others, true magic can occur.

Have you figured out where your weaknesses lie and whom you can dispatch to keep you from trying to do it all ?

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Why We all need a Love Army and a Three Step Process to Building and Maintaining One

In Sade's 2010 single, "Soldier of Love", she shares she's doing her best.

As a person who is also committed to doing his best, my devotion to friends and a few family members is how I strive and hold myself responsible for showing up for me. For many years, I was unaware that myself and everyone needs a love army. There are many ways to build them and they are in constant need of revamping and vigilance when things go wrong.

What I love most about my life is that I have one helluva love army.

It is my wish and hope that we all create one of our own. Throughout my life, I have learned that you need three things to create this life sustaining arsenal.

First, the clarity to know where you are weak and in which direction you would like to go.

Secondly, taking stock of who in your camp is already doing their part and who you can assist.

Third, letting go of old one-sided relationships that you have outgrown and are based in guilt, obligation or simple convenience.

When attempting to do more than sit around and wait for the gods to come a calling, a person has to get very clear about what it is they are trying to achieve and why.

Passionate people devoted to things passionately are a great place to start.

Many times you will find yourself in relationship with someone who occupies a very different space in the world than you do. We should welcome perspectives that are different than ours. We should seek out a person who has a different set of baggage and bs than ours.

There have been several occasions when I was attacking a problem with minimal results because my resources were limited. I could only pull from and make a reference from a familiar experience.

By including passionate people (committed to having great relationships, staying sober, getting out of debt and building personal wealth) I always have the opportunity to look at and then do things differently.

When you have folks in your immediate circle committed to winning in their personal lives and assisting those that they love to do the same, you have a powerful combination that is unstoppable.

So what is it that you would like to create and who in your personal circle can help you achieve this ?

Can't think of anyone ? Start thinking about making some changes in who you call friend.

Let's assume you have a wonderful cadre of pals and you have decided you want to go back to school, start a business, get out of debt or set some serious life changing boundaries. Who in your cluster has done any one these things and either succeeded or made a colossal mess.

You can learn from both extremes.

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The day I beat HIV

Apparently, your twenties is the time to make a shitload of mistakes one of which is sleeping with all the wrong people.

If you come of age sexually, smack dab in the middle of a killer virus that scares people and has them dropping like flies with no real explanation as to why, it can get very interesting.

Partnering and dealing with men since the age of seventeen, I have made some gloriously stupid mistakes and done them with much flare, a splash of self deprecating humor and looking fantabulous at the same time.

A close friend once remarked that even when marching through the bowels of hell wearing kerosene draws and having my heart torn asunder, I always looked good. Part of much of the upset of my 20's was dealing with not only HIV/AIDS but also trying to date/love be sexual amidst the dark shadow that this epidemic cast.

By refusing to date and have sexual intercourse with those that were/are infected, I thought this was the way to stay healthy and defeat this most ingenious and nasty of epidemics.

This becomes extremely difficult when the loneliness and anger monster appears and you find yourself having multiple partners knowing that not one but all of these sons of bitches could be lying to you.

Limiting the type of sex you will allow eliminates the need to discuss HIV status.

Amidst all of the shenanigans, I did manage to find some serious, hardcore man love.

At thirty one, it was clear to me that I had finally defeated HIV and was never going to have to deal with this dastardly rascal ever again.

Then we broke up.

After eight years, I would have to consider any and all sexual dealings via the lens of: I could become infected and what does this mean. I was 23 all over again only this time a bit more jaded and a helluva lot wiser.

With 30 % of black makes over 40 being infected, it became clear to me that I would have to look at the discrimination that I had towards those that were infected. I have great men in my life who are infected and it was very obvious to me that I couldn't eliminate an entire section of my community for something so trivial.

Being the warrior that I am I took on the challenge of dating and getting close with men who carried the virus.

I didn't end dates or flirtations when a guy mentioned that his status was positive.

To love fully regardless of one's status is most revolutionary.

To not allow one decision to overshadow and determine our life choices is damn near brilliant.

How do you defeat this foe ? What are your tools and ways of thinking that disallow HIV/AIDS to determine who gets your love and commitment ?

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Strong Stuff : Surviving Unemployment without losing your mind

Being unemployed sucks and the longer it drags on the worse you feel.

One of the first things to fade away long before the onslaught of dwindling self esteem is the way time misbehaves.

Time and its limits are understood by those with jobs, appointments and meetings.

When there is nothing that needs your immediate attention or response one day might as well be the same as another.

Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday ? Does it really matter ?

At some point, all of the days run together and nothing matters anymore.

The first thirty days post getting sacked can feel like a summer vacation.

One month of this is fun and we can convince ourselves that it will all end soon. When month two , three and four begins , things can start to look very hopeless.

When my third month rolled around and there were no savings, no income and no unemployment insurance rolling in, I began to legitimately panic.

With loads of time on my hands, nothing to do and nowhere to be I made a timely and costly mistake.

I foolishly reentered a relationship that was as hopeless as my bank account.

This relationship would ease as bit of the loneliness (or so I thought) and the uncertainty that accompanies being unemployed.

Why did I do it ?

Fear and an intolerance for uncertainty.

If I'd just trusted myself a bit more and held out a bit longer, things would have turned out very differently.

My impatience led to making some dumb decisions and prevented me from looking at what had gotten me to this point and what I could do to gain a new set of skills and preserve my sanity.


My Straight Dad is coming to My Gay Wedding

My father is flying in from Detroit, Michigan to witness me marry a man.

If we'd had a history of progressive thought and shared action based in liberation and freedom of thought this may not be so shocking.

We have not.

As a young child and into adulthood, I performed a great deal of hiding and deflecting behaviors to make sure that my parents, and in particular my dad, never found out that I was gay and "secretly" desired men.

Many times over the years, I have either introduced who I was currently seeing as a new "friend" or post coming out as a new partner.

With each introduction, delusion and denial became a well honed, highly favored and mutually agreed upon way of dealing with the very real and highly uncomfortable truth that my dad's only son, the heir to his throne, was gay.

Growing up in a homophobic home didn't leave much room for discussions of difference and its acceptance and negotiation.

Very early, the message was clear : gay means wrong.

As a result of this disturbed thinking, I learned to survive by not dreaming of a wonderful mate nor committing to him via a ceremony surrounded by friends and family.

When my very articulate and wise husband offered two very wonderful reasons (laden with sound logical examples) for our marriage, I had to rethink every assumption and muddled viewpoint that I'd created and nurtured for thirty years. Part of the rethinking involved "coming out" again to my parents.

There will be many of my gay and lesbian allies who have to reemerge from the closet now that laws and social structures are changing at such a break neck speed.

Many folk have to be "reminded" of our gayness when we make a step to solidify or deepen an existing relationship.

The rational is based on the assumption that if you are not a part of a "legitimate" state-sanctioned union then you are not an adult and the only connection you are able to create is temporary sexual one.

My marriage says to my family: I am an adult who is in a serious relationship.

Some of the folks I know are unable to handle this declaration and are finding themselves with an uninvite to the ceremony.

My straight dad is coming to my Wedding and it will be a beautiful thing.

It means I held on to myself.

I've won a major battle.


Another Fine Distraction… Paula Deen As an Apology for Trayvon Martin Part 2

More than a year ago, another young black male life was snuffed out.

While there was a great deal of hand wringing,tears and sadness, not a whole lot was done. Laws were not reexamined and destroyed with new ones taking their place. A murderer walked free and we all collectively shook or heads at the shame and brutality of it all.

My frustration level regarding the state of Florida for its stupidity, bigotry and flat out allegiance and complicity with white supremacy and violence continues to engender feelings of impotent rage.

I know that I am not alone in this troubling and haunting upset.

The powerful machine that is domination and oppression is always ready to serve us a "crumb banquet" that keeps us sated, confused and well distracted.

This new distraction in none other than the queen of Southern Cuisine and everyone's favorite, sweeter-than-Tupelo Honey-Grandma, Miss Paula Deen.

By offering Ms. Deen's head on a platter, we (black folk and our allies of all hues who fight for justice and fair treatment world wide) get offered a welcome, nonthreatening distraction.

We are encouraged to believe that a statement uttered thirty years ago is far more important than a young black life being snuffed out.

We are being sent the message that racism and bigotry is unacceptable and we (the white moneyed community) will not tolerate it and will punish one of our own to prove a point.

It has been entertaining though.

The tears and heartfelt apologies look great on morning chat shows and you tube admissions of guilt.

We understand that what is important in this country is money and not black lives. This is the message when we immediately take the focus off a young life and its annihilation and focus on an incident that happened three decades ago.

Paula Deen may or may not be a racist.

Americans have allowed another fine opportunity to discuss race and privilege in this country to go unexamined and instead opted for scapegoating and finger pointing to replace deep discussions and grappling with personal responsibility and race relations.


Another Fine Distraction…Paula Deen As an Apology for Trayvon Martin

While I was amazed by all of the hullabaloo surrounding Ms. Dean's admission of using the "N" word, I am not shocked.

When I began reading her biography seven years ago, there was something that was not being addressed. It was clear that she had a very complicated relationship with the black community and those that were in her service.

Many folks want to punish her.

As a nation, we want to believe that we've come so far and yet when we hear young teenagers, irrespective of their color, refer to each other using Dean "speak" we never stop it nor question it.

Ms. Dean used the term and was fired.

Black kids use it and get record deals by the same conglomerates that own a stake in the Dean empire.

We won't allow an old white lady to say it and feel justified in calling her a racist and yet when we refer to each other using the same handle we(black folks)call it love.

As the great Dr. Angelou stated : words have power and this particular word was created to demean and dehumanize.

Ms. Dean may or may not be a racist (a person can practice certain thinking and behavior, be influenced by certain behavior and still have the option of practicing some serious self awareness that leads to change).

As a culture steeped in white supremacy and privilege, we have missed another opportunity to have a serious look and conduct some serious conversations about racism in this country.

Here is an opportunity to discuss why we (black folk), in the opinion of Dr. Bill Cosby,have moved from : Black is beautiful to n***a please.

For our white allies, this presents the challenge of looking at their racism (courageously)and the ways they gain benefit from it.

When the fear of being labelled a racist is eliminated, a real conversation around race and its effects can take place.

When we allow Ms. Dean to be the poster child for our guilt and gullibility regarding rewards and punishment, we simply allow racism to go unchallenged and thinking to stop.

While everyone jumped on 30 year old remarks, there is no organized, results oriented outrage when our young black males are murdered, records are released peppered with the dreaded "n" word and dark bodies are slaughtered globally.

We should all look at the timing and media frenzy this disclosure allowed.

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When I knew I was a writer

Check out my submission for this great contest : You are a writer; When did you know ?

While I started dreaming of being a writer at age 12, I didn't start referring to myself as one until 30 years later.

There were many obvious signs that I was and am meant to be a wordsmith.

Twenty years ago, I was fired with this closing statement: you write well and this will take you far.

I have had honorable mentions for my writing (a semifinalist award for my short play, Breakfast for Dinner)and been invited to leave NYC to perform in a San Francisco Theater Festival. I jokingly refer to my opportunities to see the world via my writing skills as weird and some type of mishap.

I created a whole gang of reasons as to why I was not a "real" writer: my plays weren't as brilliant as Shakespeare or angst-ridden as Tennessee Williams, I couldn't turn a phrase as cheeky and flippant as David Sedaris; I was not as powerful and prolific as Baldwin nor as courageous and balls out as bell hooks nor as magical as Morrison or Marquez.

Even while I created many wonderful and highly distracting reasons for not claiming my birthright, I continued to write and always found myself drawn to movies and their real power which was storytelling which comes from the "writing".

Even when I thought music was my thing, I obsessed over lyrics.

When I viewed movies and tv shows, I was always most focused on the writers and not the actors.

It always fascinated me that writers could connect the seemingly disconnected.

That with some thought and focused attention worlds could be created with their own sets of rules and governship.

We allow ourselves to be moved by them (worlds created by words) while knowing that they are untrue. We need the artistry that only the written word can provide.

While I resisted the urge to label myself a writer, I was writing and receiving a great deal of attention for my efforts. Many times I found myself creating because I have been passionately moved and felt compelled to respond.

I've always known that I enjoyed writing and yet continued to wait for someone to anoint me with the title: writer.

Waiting backstage for my cue in San Francisco thousands of miles away from NYC where I had written and performed the same show three years earlier, I finally referred to myself as a writer.

What began as an interesting daydream at age twelve took thirty years of waiting, excuse making and self-created distractions before emerging as a right and an honest assessment.

Whatever I take on or decide to put in the world despite its guise (acting, singing, comedy, short stories,photography), it all begins with my love of story.

Story always begins with internally wrestling with what gets told and how.

Story is about unapologetically claiming worlds and thoughts via words.

I no longer need to apologize.

I am a writer.

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Kiss Me,Kill Me: Trayvon Martin, Black Male Bodies and White Supremacy

When I started my stand up comedy career over a decade ago, I often highlighted police brutality and the way things were mishandled during the Amadou Diallo murder case.

While I was a good story teller, highlighting the Diallo case created a couple of very predictable responses : groans (which basically meant don't bring this up !), nervous, tempered giggles (should this be funny and is it ok to laugh ?) or audible gasps (did he really say that ?).

My intention when I began stand up like all of my creative endeavors has been simple.

Challenge and change.

White Supremacy and its offshoots (domination, racism, violence and oppression) want us to believe that people are unable to change their hearts and subsequently their minds.


Ten (pop culture)moments that make Black folks cheer

Racism sucks.


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