“I Can’t Breathe”

Life is an eleven-lined death poem

Entitled “I Can’t Breathe”

That ends in an unlawful death.

Lived in a systemic chokehold

That squeezes as hard as it so pleases

Until there is nothing but the body of a breathless black man left.

It is black fathers, black sons, black brothers, black lungs.

It is the white cop reaching out

With a sorry in the same hand on the same arm

That took from six children and one wife,

One eleven-lined life.

Eric-Garner-being-choked

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Homemade Lemonade.

When you realise
you’ve been found out
by your shallow secrets
who sit wide-eyed
in the final hour
of a winter Sunday
waiting for you to rain
and end this cloudy spell
that has been cast
over your thinking
a darkness that has seen you
drinking white men
like homemade lemonade
that tastes sweet
but it will rot your teeth
you will run like a hot tap
who cannot tell the difference
between his tears and tapwater
you will come up
from the downstairs bathroom
that reeks of the stench of
another weekend of
(man)slaughter
after you look into the looking glass
to see the face of shame
staring back with wet eyes black
as night roads covered in rain
because they know what you know
they have always known
the thing you tried to hide
that has always shown itself
in the wideness of your lies.

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TC.

IMG_5581Have you ever fallen in love for a night!
Met an insignificant other who does not put up a significant fight.
Found love that fits like a lost glove!

Love that is just enough for you to lose your powers

If only for a few selfish hours.

That happened to me on Wednesday. He was walking his dog and I was walking it off. No sex, just context. I laid in the arms of someone who made me forget that I had ever been troubled, let down or lost. I laid there and listened to flamenco lullabies. I laid there and listened to the love of my night cry, think and run my fingers through his wiry hair while I watched him sink into me and then as quickly as it rose, the love went down and I left his life to return to my prose.

He made me no promises. He made me promise him that I would always smile, but I’ve already let him down.

The loneliness is worth the bliss, if only for nights like this.

(15. Nov.2013)

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Assassins & Advocates.

Photo by Alex Winn Photography | alexwinn.comWhen you find a good friend hold on to him or her. Good friends are hard to find and very easy to lose.

For the past few months I’ve found myself pretty isolated. Surrounded by nothing but space and, at various intervals, I’ve struggled to feel anything for myself other than disdain, partly because in the past three years, since I walked out of the closet so many people have used it as an excuse to walk out of my life, partly because I have got myself into some stuff it has become increasingly difficult to escape from and partly because I have made some mistakes that I have since been paying a copious price for.

I’m not innocent. I have been defensive. I have been guarded and on many occasions these things have manifested themselves with disastrous consequences but in spite of it all, I am still here.

The more things fall apart is the more things fall into place and the more I move away from those who no longer matter (or they move away from me) is the more I realize I was right to do so (and so too were they). Our alliances had become unproductive, displeasing, inefficient and unhealthy and had affected the fluidity of our friendship. Now there is only silence I can hear that still small voice telling me everything that has happened to me and everything that has happened because of me will be the makings of me. Though it is difficult to accept, I understand that I deserve more and I deserve to desire a better life for myself and I deserve to be surrounded by advocates rather than assassins.

Assassins! You know those people. The ones who listen to others but refuse to hear you out; the ones who make up their minds before asking what you were thinking or even if you were thinking; the ones who judge you when they promised they would always love you and then leave you even after insisting they would be there until the end (of your friendship, not your life). They all have one thing in common – they are people and though their greatest success in life may seem to be pointing out the failings of others, they are not wrong; they are completely within their rights to dismiss you and denounce your efforts because, in spite of the years you have accumulated, they do not owe you anything, but you owe yourself peace and it is that you should be doing everything in your unfathomable power to uphold, not people and their opinions.

The peace that surpasses all misunderstanding.

I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for two decades. When I was younger I would often make the mistake of thinking people I worked with would work with me through my dilemmas and my dramas but I was wrong and so are you if you think people are obligated to love you because they love what you do.

Then there were the family members, the people who shared blood who find it so difficult to share love.

Like I said, I am not innocent.

I have been treated exactly as I expected to be and while it burns in places, for the most part there has been nothing more liberating than being freed of people who attach themselves to you out of some distorted sense of duty rather than a desire to be there through the shit and the shame that comes in the struggle towards self-actualization.

I’m moving into a new phase of my life and as is the case with all unknown territory, it is as frightful as it is fascinating. You know that point right! Where you either proceed or perish and if you do proceed you must do so unapologetically, which means having to break bad habits and the baddest habit and the hardest one to break for so many of us is trying to please others; trying to fit great talent into small spaces; trying to follow trends rather than set them and trying to hide your light rather than letting it shine.

Now’s the time to have faith in yourself and in your ability and in the ability of your god or the universe or the love of that one good friend or that devoted family member to help push you into the purpose you went through all that pain for.

Choose life and live it, because in spite of everything you had to lose to find yourself, you still have everything to gain.

Be encouraged. I most certainly am.

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The Streets of Philadelphia

2014-09-25-gaybashingsuspectsharriganknottwilliams940x540.jpgAs long as heteronormativity continues to dominate mainstream thinking, promote sexual oppression and place homosexuality at the amoral end of its sexual hierarchy, acts of sexual terrorism will continue to be committed against homosexuals. As long as gay people are stigmatised and vilified for practices that straight people practice also, there will always be the gay slurring and brutal gay bashing that happened on the streets of Philadelphia on Thursday 11th September 2014, forcing LGBTQ people everywhere to live in constant fear for their lives.

According to their Defense Attorneys, on Thursday 11th September 2014, Phillip Williams (24), Kathryn Knott (24) and Kevin Harrigan (26) did not commit an act of sexual terrorism against two homosexual males, they were involved in a “mutual confrontation”; a simple “fist fight that got out of hand”. According to various news outlets highlighting their ‘surrender’ in reports on Wednesday 24th September this was neither a fist fight nor a confrontation, this was a ‘beating’; a ‘late night encounter’. According to the gay slurs hurled before, during and after their vitriolic attack on two gay men aged 27 and 28 that resulted in both men being hospitalized due to the severity of their injuries, what happened that night on Chancellor street in Philadelphia, PA was a hate crime and should be treated as such, but because Pennsylvania’s current hate crime law does not extend to include those crimes motivated by a person’s perceived sexual orientation, sadly, this is not to be the case.

This means that the best justice both victims can hope for are reduced convictions for aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment of another person. This severely undermines the rights of all LGBTQ people to feel safe and protected by the law of the land they live in and makes the declaration made by District Attorney Seth Williams that ‘an assault on people because of their sexual orientation has no place in Philadelphia’ fraudulent as long as legislature in the state of Pennsylvania continues to protect homophobes from their homophobia and persecute homosexuals for being homosexual.

“Three guys just started pummeling me, and knocked me to the ground. I hit the ground hard and I was out hard.”

There is significant racial bias in the way corporate media reports acts of violence when those acts of violence are committed by whites. The severity of the incident is often reduced by the rhetoric used to report it. The attackers have been called a ‘well dressed crew’ rather than what they actually are – thugs; a gang of up to a dozen adults who beat two males so badly that between them they sustained an orbital fracture, extensive facial injuries and a jaw wired shut, not to mention the emotional impact of such an assault.

I think it’s interesting that the state has enabled this behaviour. I think it’s interesting that the father of Kathryn Knott is a police chief in Philadelphia who has a history of abusing his privilege to protect his daughter from the reality of what she is (a racist, homophobic, binge-drinking menace to society) and himself from what he is (a bad father), just as corporate media has a history of protecting whites from their thuggery while gladly making sure other races are constantly reminded of theirs.

It’s telling that the media have highlighted how the attackers ‘turned themselves in.’ As if the act of ‘surrender’ somehow reduces the impact of their assault or improves the character of any of them when the fact is that due to social media intervention they had simply run out of places to hide despite having done so, willingly and successfully, for thirteen days.

It’s also telling that while the cultural practice of lynching (which is exactly what homophobia is) among white Americans is still so popular and widespread, it is colloquialized and downplayed and not treated with the same alarm as similar acts of hatred in countries such as Uganda or Jamaica where homosexuals being mobbed and beaten in public places is depicted as an act of barbarism and a human rights violation. Well … it’s an act of barbarism and a human rights violation in Middle America too.

The mugshot is the most interesting and telling aspect of all of this. Three young white bigots visibly alarmed that for perhaps the first time in their privileged lives they are being held accountable for their actions.

*

“We’re standing here in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, the birthplace of freedom, where the founding fathers authored the Declaration of Independence, and I don’t recall that glorious document saying anything about all straight men are created equal. I believe it says all men are created equal”

(Ron Nyswaner, Philadelphia, 1993)

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Songs I Don’t Remember.

IMG_5369Most nights when I can’t sleep I scour the internet for the reggae riddims my dad used to run during those Sundays we’d spend in the backyard. Days that smelt like fried plantain, carrot juice, snapperfish, kookoomba, tobacco and burnt wax from spinning so much vinyl. I know as much about that music as I do about the man who loved to play it, but I do know that the only thing that ever lifted my father above whatever it was in his history that made him so insufferable for so long were those songs I don’t remember.

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Remembering Diana: The Death of A Princess.

diana_toutIt was a Sunday. Just like today.

That morning at 5am while getting ready for work I switched on the telly box in the dining room, the news ticker crawled across the bottom of the screen with the reluctance of a hearse.

PARIS CAR ACCIDENT: Princess Diana seriously hurt.

According to Stephen Jessel, in a BBC News bulletin, a concussion, a broken arm and lacerations to the thigh were the extent of the injuries the princess sustained in a collision in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris until Nik Gowing interrupted his conjecture with something a little more concrete.

‘The Press Association in Britain, citing unnamed sources has reported that Diana Princess of Wales has died.’

The first thing I noticed was the smell of the iron burning through my disbelief and into my work shirt as the news burned through the screen and into my thinking.

When I left the house that morning the streets were still dark and it was as though God had flicked the mute switch and the world was just one big rotating bubble of no sound. Even the winds made no noise, instead they moved calmly up the street on their way to nowhere. A middle-aged white male in glasses with rims as thin as chickenwire circling ball bearing eyes that rolled around in his head, shuffled towards me as I made my way onto the swell at Sumner Road.

My eyes said Diana. His stopped rolling long enough to for him to say, The weight of the crown, before he flung a bundle onto the ground by the newsstand and hopped back into his panel van. It was the newspaper delivery man. The same man I’d seen every single Sunday for the past 13 months as I made my way up the road to catch the 36 bus to Victoria Station where I worked as a Customer Service Assistant at W H Smith. My first job and still (despite that Sunday) the most favourite one I’ve ever had.

I kept walking. I think we all did.

In the brave new world when a dignitary, celebrity, relative or famous person dies the public feel an overwhelming need to share the news with friends and strangers. We do this, in part because we care and we want others to care also and because we have sustained a genuine connection to an individual that has inspired us and we are now moved to mourn them. We also do this because we could not care less; because their loss is our gain. In this day and age the best thing any human being can be is informed. All of us are striving to be relevant and the more we know the more relevant we are.

This is why Twitter has become the success it has, it adds great value without great effort. So when Alexander McQueen, a leading coutourier, was found hanging by his favourite brown belt on 11 February 2010, many people who had no idea of his talents tweeted, not because they cared for his clothes, but because it was the fashionable thing to do. The trendsetter had become the latest trend. When Whitney Houston, lost her coloratura and then her life on the exact same day two years later in room 434 at The Beverley Hilton Hotel in LA many who had disparaged her for her drug use, deified her in death because for so many of us the greatest love of all is the love of attention.

If they are hip like Peaches Geldof we want to prove that we were in the know. If they belonged to the Golden Age of Hollywood like Lauren Bacall we want to prove that we, like they, are timeless. If they commit suicide like Robin Williams, we want the world to know that behind our smile there is the same intense and aching sadness that drove that brilliant man off the edge of the world into that place where couturiers, coloraturas and comedians, like bad punchlines, go to die. We use the death of our heroes to reveal our humanity, but that Sunday morning in 1997, the death of Princess Diana did what death used to do (if only for a while): it silenced us.

Within days we were pleading with the Palace to speak up. We called the Queen indifferent, ignoring how despondent the death of our own loved ones had once made us. We didn’t care that two young boys had just lost their mother and might want to hide in the curtains, we waited under the windows for them to show and acknowledge the people and because grief really is the height of all narcissism, when Elizabeth finally did show we smiled inside because who is really subject to who if even in death one cannot neglect duty.

I remember there were no newspapers on the shelves in W H Smith. Many of them had been sent back to the printers to be reissued with the news that broke that morning and flooded an entire nation in rivers of grief. I remember being forced to tell people why the papers they wanted to read weren’t available. I remember a white woman screamed at me in disbelief; asked me why I would make such a terrible thing up. I remember wishing I had, made it up that is. I remember a black woman dropped her jaw; another dropped her change; a father almost dropped his child like a bogus charge. Everything was heavy that day. A Sunday. Just like today.

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