Saturday, June 30, 2007

In the beginning there was the word...

WOW! I guess I finally got the balls and did it, I created my own blog. Not to say that I have any immediate plans of actually telling anyone I have a blog, but just knowing I have a space to write it out is LIBERATING none the less. I just pressed the create button for this thing and I already feel as if a huge weight just came off of me.

Not at all sure what this first post should be about,

A. What got me to the point where I finally just said fuck it and created it
B. Who I am and what to expect from this blog
C. The return of the infamous “Question of the day” series
D. A day in the life
E. The story of all story topics to bring upon endless discussion and disagreements
F. All of the above.
OK I think I’ll just go with F

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine Ayinde Howell; who by the way is staring in James Spooner of “Afropunk” fames new film “White Lies, Black sheep”, which I think but forgot to ask was a play off of Frantz Fanon’s AMAZING book “Black skin, White mask”. Check out the trailer and their MySpace page for the film Ayinde called to invite me to a screening of the film at the 3rd annual Afropunk festival going on at BAM this weekend spurred by the HUGE success of the film of the same title (Which BTW is a film that truly spoke to “The hidden parts of my soul”. I’ve decided to take the film on tour in my own way by playing it for every person who ever tried to get me and just couldn’t figure it out. I REALLY like watching it with them as they have those epiphany moments where they look over at me and I finally make sense). I live in a life of “Coincidences” I’d call it something else, but I might end up in a padded room, not to say that it probably won’t happen anyway, but not trying to rush the inevitable. The reason I say “Coincidence” is at the exact moment Ayinde called me I was on the Afropunk website ( looking at the itinerary of the festival and trying to find the time for the screening to attend it myself without any personal invitation.

I just realized that before we go on there are a few things you should know going into this so you get use to them from now, so they won’t irk you later and if they do you already know I warned you.

1. I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now; I have the attention span of a Nat. i suffer from Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD and all the other acronyms black kids get labeled with when they refuse to just sit-down, shut up, and listen “I GOT!”, so you will notice that I tend to go off topic a lot as things come to me sometimes not always really getting back on topic, but it’s the way my brain works and I like it (sometimes). HANG ON FOR THE RIDE; IT TENDS TO BE A FUN ONE.

2. You will notice that when I truly love something not only will I try and get you all the info about it that’s available to make you know and love it as much as I do, I will say that it “Speaks to the hidden parts of my soul” that’s because I think that’s what art in all its forms and all the other things we love should do, get deep within you and give you a sensation that can’t be verbalized just felt and desired. So pay attention when I say it because you will not be let down with my referrals. TRUST

3. Another thing you might have noticed is that I LOVE ( ) they’re the greatest thing in my writing it’s as if I can pause the screen for a director’s cut with the voice of the flyest, most eloquent, witty, sarcastic, humorous, deep voiced narrator coming from out of nowhere into your head and making it all make sense.

4. Fourth thing you might notice is me using the phrases “making sense” and “common sense” A LOT, that’s because in a lot of ways this is probably what this blog is about me just trying to “make sense” of things and not understanding why other things aren’t “Common sense” to everyone else, although my favorite quote of all time was from Voltaire that read "common sense is not so common”

5. Fifth (give me five, five, five) you will notice that I use A LOT of quotes, that’s just because there are a lot of people out there who are much smarter than me who’ve said some amazing things that I’ve used over the years to try and be the man I want to be or to use another quote by an unknown author but credit to my good friend Timothy Grae for saying it well enough to always leave a lasting impression “Always strive to be better than you were yesterday”

6. You will also notice me use the phrase “another post for another day”, because if I were to go off as much as I truly wanted about all the topics, anecdotes, analyst, and rants that pop into my head as I write we would never have a finished post and I damn sure would never get back on topic.

7. You will definitely read about my cousin Steph and her insights into my life and her effect on my decisions, because she’s the only one who really sees into and understands those “Hidden parts of my soul”. She knows me better than I know myself even though I’d never give her that much ammo. But she’s my sister, my confidant, and the chick that can ALWAYS see around my corner to help me understand all the shit I just don’t.

So now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way let’s get back to our previously scheduled programming. I was telling you that Ayinde called to invite me a screening to see him play the lead in the film “White lies, Black sheep ”. Which is a film (notice I use the word film not movie, there is a BIG difference) anyway the film is about a black guy who exist in a “white world” (Don’t we all). Where he’s heavy into the rock scene and all the things that come along with that (Yes, the white girls too) and dealing with what it means to be “Black” in that scene and this city we call NYC.

Which brought us into a discussion of our own personal relatiability to the theme of the movie, going to white schools, being the black kid, trying to figure where we “fit” in either culture/race, listening to music other than Hip Hop (I’m hip hop to the bone, but just as much as I loved and BUMPED Pete Rock and C.L Smooth, I lived for G n R too, yes I understand they are the same group lead with Axal screaming “niggers get out of my way” isn’t that some funny shit, but that’s another post for another day (probably in the blog post where I tell you about my white childhood best friend, whose older sister and her boyfriend were part of the Neo-Nazi party and he a skin head to boot. How they would buy us ice cream everyday while teasing us because we were going to end up as they put it sitting in a tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G. and no I didn’t know this about them at the time, just one of those things you realize in hind sight while screaming at the top of your lungs “OHH SHIT! THEY WERE NEO FUCKING NAZI SKIN HEADS” just like when a girl invites you to her place to check out her whatever and you turn her down to go do whatever and that moment right after when you realize and scream once again at the top of your lungs “OHH SHIT! SHE WAS TRYING TO GIVE ME SOME!”)

So back on topic once again, it brought us into a conversation about our neighborhoods both currently going through gentrification and all the “comedy” that ensues from that. The name changes; his going from Bedstuy to Stuyvesant Heights and mine going from Flatbush to Prospect Park South even though I still have the same crack head on the corner (Calm down we only had one our whole lives and no he didn’t even come through our windows), oooohhhh and both of us cracking up on the new ones for Harlem SOHA (South of Harlem) NOHA (North of Harlem) and my favorite being The north Westside, that’s just some straight funny shit. You know we both had endless stories to regale each other with from realizing “the man” just be walking all through the hood at night like he got a police escort, two pit-bulls, and a shotgun with “Nigger Killer” inscribed on the bullets. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been as I like to say “fighting a one man war against gentrification and losing” for a while now. I currently live in the neighborhood I grew up in (AND YES I’VE BEEN AND LIVED OTHER PLACES, BUT THIS IS HOME), when I first came here as a toddler this building with the exception of two other families who both had two children themselves, one with two girls that I never really talked to and my next door neighbor with two boys whom I’ve come to see as my older brothers and they’ve played the role well. So I actually saw this area go through gentrification once before and probably shouldn’t be that enraged or surprised that it’s happening again. I know there was someone somewhere around here back then while packing their moving truck with a clinched fist in the air yelling to the heavens “WE’LL BE BACK” SHIT THEM MOTHERFUCKAS KEPT THEIR WORD!

My building is the one being most effected and changed by gentrification which I understand why; we’re the cleanest, most well lit, an awning that once use to extend all the way to the curb, removed when it became 51% black, they said they took it down because as the neighborhood changed it started to look a bit ostentatious (I didn’t agree but I don’t own the building, I think they really just thought black folk don’t deserve nice things, because as soon as white folk came back the awning was re-erected in a shortened version but back none the less), we also have a “Doorman” (more a security guard at this point than a “Doorman” like when I was a kid here that would wear the uniform with all the buttons, hat, would open the door for you every time you came or went, carry your packages upstairs, and all that other good stuff you don’t appreciate until the new guy doesn’t do it, and last but not least the reason they truly seem to think this is their new Mecca is… wait for it… we have A TENNIS COURT IN OUR BACKYARD… Yes, I said tennis court. So you can see why this is THE SPOT. LOL, No, I am not telling you where I live, If they are any vacant apts in my building, Nor, How much they run for.

So to say the least if you haven’t figured it out I have a REAL issue with what’s happening to my neighborhood, but if you weren’t really listening or if you just caught me on a bad day when I was just ranting you might come to the conclusion that I’m just a big ol racist spewing hate and divisionism wherever I go, but to be honest with you for most of my life my closest friends and classmates were white I was “the black kid”. My real issue always had more to do with us and the shit we allow to be done to us than any white person moving anywhere. These people aren’t walking into our neighborhoods with shotguns (the police are right before them, but that’s another post for another day). We’re just walking out on our neighborhoods for pennies to give them the lay of the land. We just aren’t looking at the tell tale signs and the bigger HUGE WIDESCREEN SURROUND SOUND picture they point to. Why were all those investment bankers and developers buying all the properties in Harlem, Bedstuy, Fort Greene and all those other places we call the hood or Ghetto ( for huge amounts above local property values to get US out? Why didn’t we go to those OPEN TO THE PUBLIC city counsel meetings to see what developments were in the works for our neighborhoods? Why did we just take the money and run to have them sit on our properties to make millions upon millions off our land? The same cycle over and over again.

Here is my position, my neighborhood went from being mostly upper middle working class white and Jewish to mostly mid-upper middle working class TWO PARENT HOMES, mine wasn’t one of them but my friends had dads in theirs, LOL, and yes my dad was part of my life, mostly Caribbean homes making good incomes sending their kids to private schools, music programs, summer camps, trips abroad and all those things that come with having a bit of something, my home being one of them. So in a lot of cases we were the first generation of American born or came here so young you might as well have been born at Downstate Hospital. We represent that first generation to grow up twenty some odd years later coming out of prestigious Undergrad, Grad, Law, Med schools, and MBA programs at some top institutions not just community and state colleges as they would like you to believe and this is where the problem for me begins.

I think we could be at the doorstep of a new black renaissance in my neighborhood and many others all over this city just like mine with that many educated, well employed, young black, urban (In the European sense of the word meaning an individual who lives and works in a city, has an appreciation and participates in the local arts, music, and night scenes) family minded, power of your dollar conscious black people. Who were born of this neighborhood, left to pursue our educations and careers, now being at our personal all time highs in our current lives both personally and economically, but the problem is that once we leave we don’t come back because we don’t believe moving back here is enough of a statement of our new success. We choose to move into the trendy white neighborhoods and invest our dollar and the power that comes with it into their communities to only leave our community with all those that weren’t able or just chose not to get out doing all the things they see fit to survive (another post for another day) but if we were to come back to our neighborhoods with all that knowledge, education, experience, and will, I truly with all my heart believe that this neighborhood and others like it would become a black upper middle class suburb once again or for the first time in many cases.

Which BTW isn’t an unproven model, it’s being lived EVERY DAY in the Forte Green section of Brooklyn, walk down DeKalb, S. Felix, S. Portland (Which by the way was voted best block in Brooklyn by the very very prestigious Time out magazine, check it out, Fulton (from about where BAM is down to about Washington then it get a bit touchy or as one of my friends said “That’s where it starts getting shady”, COMEDY!), so you walk down those blocks on any given day and you will see for your own eyes exactly what I mean. Black “Folk” (I use to have a REAL issue with the word folk, Cringing every time I heard Tavis Smiley use it on his news broadcast on BET, while wearing those damn open toe sandals, but it’s a word I’ve come to be rather fond of and now use it to represent those people I just see as good, those people that even if you don’t know them their energy makes you want to be around them) That’s what that area is filled with good hard working intelligent property owning black folk with their families, Yes, BLACK PEOPLE GET MARRIED AND HAVE KIDS TOO (In that order)(once again another post for another day).

Now understand I am not na├»ve it’s still gentrification when these/us BUPs move in (Yes the new generation of yuppies is black, Black Urban Professionals, but with a bit of funk and soul in most cases) (we’ll save the Oreo conversation for another time, you’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again another post for another day). However, I think it’s different when a young black child gets pushed out of his community by a white person. There is a resentment and an affirmation in his belief from years upon years of mental reinforcement in the belief that white people get whatever they want including the only home you’ve known and you are lucky to get the left over scraps that they throw away, I believe and feel free to disagree with me if you like, but I feel if that same black adolescent gets pushed out by another black person there is still the same resentment but with an underlying feeling of hope, the hope comes from the idea that "WOW! This black person is educated, well off, and not a drug dealer, music star, or athlete maybe I can be something other than what TV tells me I am destined to be" (Please see 90% of the stories that relate to people within the inner city on the 10 o’clock news.)

It was the same issue I had and currently still have with “The fresh air fund” this is the description they had on their site “Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend Fresh Air Fund camps.” YOU READY FOR THIS, I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST SAW IT: They had a photo of a black girl with braids and no front teeth hugging a little white girl in pony tails with a gold princess crown on her head (HELL YEA I’M TELLING THE TRUTH, I COULDN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP EVEN IF I TRIED, it wouldn’t let me copy and paste the photo from their site so look for yourself That just totally fucked up my head when I went to their site for the description and saw that shit. WOW, DOES THAT SPEAK TO MY POINT?!?! BOY! Another post for another day). I was going to say before that just threw me off balance that they basically take black kids from the inner city and stick them with an all white family upstate or in an all white camp.

This was the case with me just in reverse I was “The black Kid” in an almost all white camp when the talk of “The fresh air fund kids” coming started. Now at the time I didn’t realize how much this conversation straddled the line of what were some straight ol racist shit and proper caution and experience. All the kids and camp counselors who had been their years prior for the arrival or heard tales from friends and family who had witnessed it (as if the fucking circus was coming to town, look as deeply and in between that statement as you like). So you heard the mocking of the way they spoke, the fights that for some reason or another always seemed to be their fault, the “theft” of personal belongings and all the other shit you’ve heard to describe the impending demise of an area that would soon be taken over by “them” yes “They”, “Them”, and "Those people” were all very very common words used in those coming weeks to describe “The fresh air fund kids” as they were entitled in all conversation as if they were branded with the scarlet letter.

Not to say that once they arrived anyone was burning crosses outside their and by association of race my tent or running around screaming at least in public “GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM NIGGERS!!!!” In most cases from BROOKLYN, just… you know… they from the other side of Brooklyn “Where news cameras never come”, but there was a weird feeling in the air once they arrived. A lot of staring on both our parts in a lot of ways just out of pure curiosity and a lack of heart to be the first to speak so you hang with your friends and they hang with theirs the ones they understand, have what they believe are things in common (this leaves me in an interesting dilemma as to where I fit or where should I be, I spent the past month or so really loving my white friends who went to the same prep schools as me even it had a different name it was all the same things, loved the same bands, and we all thought Winnie Cooper from “The Wonder Years” was the hottest girl on EARTH, but I’m black and so are “they” so we should have a lot in common too. Right?) Just didn’t work out like that, got called all types of names by those “fresh air fund kids” (I’ll let you use your imagination to figure out what they were.). The ironic part was that they did try and start a lot of fights with me and finally ended up getting me kicked out of camp when I finally laid one of them out for getting a little white boy who wanted to be down with “The kids from the streets” to throw a huge handful of dirt into my eyes and me refusing to “show remorse for my action” Head camp counselors words not mine (still think it was self defense and bullshit to kick me out)(BTW a week later a camp counselor got fired for lifting that same kid up by his neck and trying to strangle him. I think someone owes me an apology and a refund)

WOW! That’s was a lot of shit about the fresh air fund above. I told you all that to illustrate a point my issue with the fresh air fund is the lack of connection or relatability. You send this child from, to use their words, “disadvantaged communities” to spend a couple of weeks with a whole bunch of rich white people that he/she feels they have nothing in common with. So that child comes back with reinforced views on the fact that white people are better than them ,they have more than them, further perpetuating the “GREAT WHITE HOPE” concept they love to shove down our throats and if you’re lucky one day they might let you eat their left over’s as you do their menial task. Now imagine they send the same “fresh air fund kids” from “disadvantaged communities” to a home of an upper middle class or affluent black family (Not a pack of Oreo’s, Sorry had to stick that in) anyway a well off, well educated, civil and community minded, black family for those two weeks with some type of long term mentoring post program attached to give that child a direct line to someone outside of the pain he/she has to live and walk through every day, it is in my strong opinion that it would have a completely different outcome. That child would see these people and truly see hope in him/her because when you see someone who looks like you doing well it makes you believe you can do well also.

So to go back to my original point from so so so long ago is that my issue with gentrification was never with “Whitey” (Come on, that’s some funny shit. And IF ANYONE ONE OF YA WHITE PEOPLE COME ON HERE AND SAY BLACKEY TO TEST THE HUMOROUS ATTRIBUTES OF THAT WORD I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND…) sorry back on topic my issue was always with the black people who abandoned this and other areas just like it when it needs them the most to become the best it could be. I want to feel that I am getting better produce, working street lights, more police presence, street signs to protect children and pedestrians, and all the other shit that seems to start popping up in newly converting gentrified areas are for me and not my new neighbors Jim and Ally (inside joke). COME BACK HOME WE NEED YOU!

Ok, So you actually made it through my first official long ass blog, I’d like to say that none of the rest of them will be this long but why start this relationship off on a lie, I’ll try my best to make it as short as possible while not losing all the things the makes me need to get it out and I hope you will read it to understand what it was I needed to say. Soon to come the long long long awaited “WATERMELON BLOG”, LOL, look out for that one, OHH BOY NAYA IT’S FINALLY COMING!



You think it would be wrong to set up an intercom system through the whole building in the middle of the night and play The White Stripes “There’s no home for you here” ( on a revolving loop? Maybe I could have it attached to a censor that would play it as the front door was opened if someone didn’t enter the right password. PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR AN EXAMPLE


I was finally able to pull the photo of the "The fresh air fund girl" and "Her great white hope friend" off of The Fresh Air Fund website. Tell me this isn't some bullsh&t.

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