Monday, November 09, 2015

This Week's Bio: Dusty - An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend

Too many people don't know that you can check books out of the New York Public Library electronically for up to 21 days and read them on a special app they provide -- or Kindle!

I've just begun this week's read -- Dusty, a biography on the British blue-eyed soul singer Dusty Springfield by Karen Bartlett.  Already, it's starting to freak me out -- probably because her self-loathing is so all-consuming, it's almost tangible.  She was this chubby redheaded sexually repressed/lesbian Irish Catholic girl named Mary who was obsessed with all things America especially Black music. She desperately wanted to be black so it shouldn't have been a surprise that one day she woke up and decided to be someone else.

Clearly, this will not end well.

I can remember hating myself a lot. That hate lived in me much longer than it should have.  Thank God I found my way to a great big wide world of inner peace and love or I would have hated myself too much to allow any real happiness or accomplish much of anything.

It's nice that the world got re-introduced to this song because of Pulp Fiction's soundtrack.

Billy Ray was a preacher's son
And when his daddy would visit he'd come along
When they gathered around and started talkin'
That's when Billy would take me walkin'
Out through the back yard we'd go walkin'
Then he'd look into my eyes
Lord knows, to my surprise

The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Yes he was, he was, ooh, yes he was

Bein' good isn't always easy
No matter how hard I try
When he started sweet-talkin' to me
He'd come'n tell me "Everything is all right"
He'd kiss and tell me "Everything is all right"
Can I get away again tonight?

The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Yes he was, he was, ooh, yes he was (yes he was)

How well I remember
The look that was in his eyes
Stealin' kisses from me on the sly
Takin' time to make time
Tellin' me that he's all mine
Learnin' from each other's knowin'
Lookin' to see how much we've grown and

The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Yes he was, he was, oh yes he was
He was the sweet-talkin' son of a preacher man
(The only boy who could ever teach me)
Was the son of a preacher man
(The only one who could ever reach me)
Was the sweet-talkin' son of a preacher man

Thursday, November 05, 2015

White Fragility 101 -- The Basics

Whilst traipsing through Black Tumblr, I found a phrase that encompassed much of what I've been experiencing all too often lately: white fragility.  A conversation about race begins and everything is fine until I say something that makes the white person uncomfortable. (And believe me, it doesn't take much.) That's when they become defensive or go into attack mode or they shut down and walk off.

As a professor of critical multicultural and social justice education, Dr. Robin DiAngelo -- the one who coined the phrase a few years ago -- is doing God's work.  Her book What Does It Mean To Be White? is on my short list. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from her must-read article White Fragility: Why It's So Hard To Talk To White People About Racism.

And yeah, it's virtually impossible to talk to white people about racism -- which is why white people who are woke should do the heavy lifting on this issue. It's more likely that other white people will listen to them.

The following are examples of the kinds of challenges that trigger racial stress for white people:
  • Suggesting that a white person’s viewpoint comes from a racialized frame of reference (challenge to objectivity);
  • People of color talking directly about their own racial perspectives (challenge to white taboos on talking openly about race);
  • People of color choosing not to protect the racial feelings of white people in regards to race (challenge to white racial expectations and need/entitlement to racial comfort);
  • People of color not being willing to tell their stories or answer questions about their racial experiences (challenge to the expectation that people of color will serve us);
  • A fellow white not providing agreement with one’s racial perspective (challenge to white solidarity);
  • Receiving feedback that one’s behavior had a racist impact (challenge to white racial innocence);
  • Suggesting that group membership is significant (challenge to individualism);
  • An acknowledgment that access is unequal between racial groups (challenge to meritocracy);
  • Being presented with a person of color in a position of leadership (challenge to white authority);
  • Being presented with information about other racial groups through, for example, movies in which people of color drive the action but are not in stereotypical roles, or multicultural education (challenge to white centrality).
Not often encountering these challenges, we withdraw, defend, cry, argue, minimize, ignore, and in other ways push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium. I term that pushback white fragility.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

NEXT: Mouth Wide Open - Open Mic at Jimmy's No 43, 11/9!

I've been telling stories before I ever knew how storytelling was supposed to work.  Somewhere in there, a protagonist, an antagonist, a boy loses a girl and an apex comes and goes and comes again.  I fell in love with the idea of unraveling a story from the inside out, of seeing things from someone else's perspective, of getting lost in the possibilities. I couldn't help but wonder: what would happen if things went this way or she made this choice or those people didn't follow his rules.  I can let my imagination wander in any direction, in every direction, and I can shift things however I want.

It's high time I do something with all of the things I've written, so I'm applying for workshops, readings and grants for 2016.  When a friend invited me to participate in this reading at Jimmy's No 43 on November 9th, I figured, why not. Anything to get the ball rolling.

I know, I know -- they'll probably be expecting music, songs.  Either way, I'm a storyteller.  Writing is just another way to spin a yarn.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Random thoughts...

November 2015

There's no theme for this month's NaBloPoMo -- which means its probably going to be a long month. I'll be wrapping it up for the end of the year. It's a bad reflex but I can't help it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm working hard already to figure out what happened over the past 12 months.  Did I make any progress or not? 

I'm off to assemble this month's mailing. Until I plaster it all over social media, here's a few random thoughts.

  1. Today is my great-grandmother's birthday. I am named after her.  She was a powerful influence on me.
  2. It's also my brother Damon's birthday.
  3. My brother Moniah's birthday is in 8 days. His birthday is etched in my heart because there was a massive countdown in our household to the moment when he was born. Usually when I took care of him, I was pretending that he was mine. Needless to say, I tried very hard to spoil him to death.

    I wouldn't hesitate to bash anyone's head in if they tried to hurt him, then or now. And he's a gigantic tree, at this point. He's ginormous. He's been to Iraq and back -- but that means nothing to the police. Real talk, folks. If some cop hurt him, I would find out where dude lived and I would torpedo his house. I am not lying.
  4. I love love love living out of a suitcase.  I love living in hotels.  I love being on tour. 
  5. I am 40% fluent in German, according to Duolingo. It was kind of a kick, to walk the streets in Berlin and understand any of what was being said around me. It's going to take some work to get conversational but for some strange reason, I"m committed.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

From filmmaker Spike Jonze, handbag designer Olympia Le-Tan and director Simon Cahn comes To Die By Your Side, a beautiful short stop-motion film that happens in the famous Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company.