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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.


What becomes of the broken hearted

The one who cares the most wins.

When I was eight years old, a Love Boat episode made me cry.

While none of my family will address the reasons that I was moved to tears (a young kid was arguing with his parents because of a pending divorce and my parents were divorcing around the same time), they all had a great time making fun of me and teasing me.

Many years later, I would be moved by the sight of Jamie Foxx courting Debbie Morgan(on the sitcom Roc).

Foxx's character, although mentally challenged, knew and wanted love and tenderly went about obtaining it.

In a world that rewards unrepentant stupidity and the belief that thinking is uncool and a waste of time, it is very wise to remember that it's ok to give a shit and actually care about anything.

As a person committed to his own and the world's growth and maturation, I often remind myself that change and reordering society always comes about because someone was moved by something that altered the way they saw themselves and the world.

Anybody who takes on social change in any capacity has had their version of the "love boat" emotional response.

Over the years, I have learned that it is not a bad thing to be moved my outside forces and then to take action based on some very deliberate facts and objectives.

Much of my younger years we spent in tears.

When people see little black boys crying, they become angry, confused and agitated.

I am aware that any outward showing of emotion (by a person of color) makes everyone uncomfortable.

The belief is that we are always stoic and emotionless unless we are angry.

With a passionate response to anything, we run the risk of being misunderstood and scaring a whole lot of folk.

We, as black men and men in general are not "supposed " to be moved or charged about anything.

We can work ourselves into a frenzy before and during the playoffs or the Superbowl and yet are unable to love our gay sons.

We are morbidly afraid of being broken-hearted and since so much of our cultural baggage comes for being broken-hearted and aggressively disappointed, we choose to disengage as an effort to prevent upset and the realization that so much is beyond our control.

Culturally, black men and women have a nomadic history filled with unpredictabilty regarding their relationships, housing, etc. When loving or caring too much becomes a possibility, we often choose the immediate relief of shutting down emotionally.

While this option often leads to predictable and limited results, it does nothing to promote emotional growth or healing.

We are all a part of the broken-hearted club and yet we are rewarded with pretending.

Pretending things don't hurt like hell when they do.

Pretending that we are not offended by racist and intellectual slights.

Pretending that we neither crave nor deserve true love.

All of this psychological hiding causes some serious mental health issues. There is no way to effectively build a life that can withstand disappointment, anger and resentment if we are unwilling to admit our bruised hearts and minds could use some care.

Many of our broken-hearted are leading countries, deciding who dies if and when wars are started and stopped and what we get to experience, know and see in the world.

These individuals who have limited what either themselves or those around them get to achieve are steeped in jealousy.

This lends itself to the thinking that no one should get too grand or want too much.

As Nathaniel Branden stated "to be miserable is to belong".

Many of our broken-hearted spend their lives in a state of wanting something that will never happen.

My family will never understand whey things move me so. My family will instead tease me about a perceived character flaw. My family will instead remind me of ways that my version of maleness is lacking.

As a passionate individual who creates art and desperately wants to see the world and its inhabitants think and behave better, it it crucial that I continue to cry and be happy regarding things that move and excite me.

My decision has been based on the great Roseanne and the quote she gives from the Art of War : The One Who Cares the Most Wins.

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Meeting My First Black Gay Mentor : Essex Hemphill

When I came out, it was black men and being with them emotionally and physically that gave me such hope and excitement regarding my future.


Mythic Power and recovering from lies Part 3

Many of us also lie about our greatness and flat out refuse to accept our gifts and the ways we can uniquely contribute to the world.

When growing up we are often encouraged to step away from greatness to not risk failure or community shaming by being too much.

By drawing attention to ourselves by being our naturally brilliant selves we are setting up a life filled with the big fat what if's of life and instead are told to opt for a life that is listless and uneventful.

For years, I held parental resentment because while my parents supported the Arts (going to great movies and quoting lines, listening to incredible artists on the radio and taking my sisters and I to great plays) I was constantly reminded that this world was not for me.

This was another lie that we all agreed on.

Although I was repeatedly reminded that this was not for me, I was constantly drawn to it.

During the course of middle school as well as high school and college, I was always involved with theater and the arts.

The truth always wins out.

I was and am a great and gifted artist.

What if we told our young people and those in our lives the truth about their talents and then encouraged them to consistently and effectively use them to stake a claim in the world ?

If we took a break from the lies that say "I/We " are not enough, what type of miracles could we create ?

My suspicion is that we are beyond frightened and confused regarding genius of any kind so we try and crush it early and often. This helps no one and leaves people angry, resentful and limits the capacity to which we can grow as individuals and as a community.

Why not tell children the truth : you have gifts and let's explore them and there will be haters let's talk about how to deal with that.

This is a far better way to communicate and gear folk up for dealing with life and how to manage it.

Know any young people you can tell the truth to ?

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