28 things you either get or you dont this Black History Month

I havent spoken directly to many of you in a while, and I imagine it is time since we have much to talk about….well, not much, but these 28 right here specifically.

1)”Blackness” is not a noun, adjective, concept, frame of mind or falvor of ice cream. It’s just some shit some long ago pretend slam poet came up with to distinguish their supposed deepness from the supposed deepness of others. You are either Black, or you are not. There is no panel or council which gets to decide. You don’t need to defend it in court and there are no unique social criteria by which one can have membership revoked.

2)Our focus on destination weddings is past ridiculous at this point. You have people, typically those who can ill afford it, trying to find the most far-off, cast away location to drag their friends and loved ones to for nuptials. If the day is truly about the love you share, find a church, a dude in a robe and declare it. Stop all this world tripping with bears roraing in the background and mineral springs in your group photos.

3)Richard Sherman was right. Crabtree is a marginally good receiver and he is the best DB in football. Why was Kap stupid enough to throw at him in that situation. Much of middle America is wrong about him too. He is neither a thug, nor a problem child. Even our community has an issue with brothers being emotional in public, and all of our outpouring is viewed as some form of anger (see: danger). As a matter of fact, I defy any of you to appropriately define thug, and then rightly apply it to him, or most any other athlete, for that marrer.

4)If you are doing dumb shit, I’m judging you. So dont bother to say “don’t judge me.” Be thankful that I think enough of you to expect (demand?) better of you. Stop doing that, stop wearing that, stop saying that, stop listening to that, stop being that. I’m just saying.

5)Kendrick Lamar is the best MC on the planet, period. He is better than whoever you are thinking of is the best. Best flows, concepts, topics and delivery. I dont care about sales or influence. He is better. Jay-Z is past his creative prime and is given a pass by the general public at this point. He is no different than Jimmy Buffet singing tropical good times tunes and selling out concerts. The “King of New York” is no different than an MVP award in my mind. It serves as a marker that one is the best. If NYC wants it back, earn it. How we gon produce a dude like Papoose and expect to keep the mantle of power.

6)In reference to the above, rap music generally sucks right now. But so does most pop, jazz, dub-step and chamber music. If you care, find when is beuatiful through all this mess. If not, dont complain.

7)If you bought a ticket to a Tyler Perry film, or fully support someone who did, then you, my child, are a part of the problem.

8)Why do so many of you feel the need to question the sexuality of any brother who is front and center in politics or academics?

9)”The Lord will bless me with a spouse when I’m ready” seems like a very easy way to end up blaming the most high for inactivity and poor personal development on our parts. How do you go about determining your readiness without examining yourself? I mean your actual work. I’ve enver understood people having access to members of the opposite sex (or whoever/wahtever you love most) and not asking questions about their qualities, areas for improvement, storng suits, personal off putting intricacies…grow up and take responsibility for yourself, and while you are it, set reasonable goals and stop putting your Most high on the hook because you are standing still.

10)Have a license, have a passport. Just don’t feel obligated to use the passport for any damn destination weddings.

11)Find some time, daily or weekly, to spend with your dreams. Dreaming in real time can keep you young and emotionally healthy.

12)I feel as strongly as many of you, about the tragedies that have befallen many young men and women in our community due in large part to hatred, intolerance and outright criminality. I, however, don’t see how a march, vigil or demonstration is anything more than a photo op and social networking opportunity.

13)I know less than 20 Black people who can actually ski, but I know approximately 100 who regularly go on ski trips.

14)Valentine’s Day is little more than a creation of the commercial machine, designed to promote a secondary Black Friday for the greeting card and fine dining industries. With all of that being said, fellas, you better not forget them damn flowers and make reservations right now!

15)I look forward to being able to speak with my own people, of all ages, about sexuality in our community, without it devolving into a conversation about sin, a rehashing of “what God said” and outright attacks on an entire segment of people, who are ultimately our family, children and friends.

16)Pam Oliver’s hair is a mess. We all know it. And she does a very good job as an on-field sideline reporter. But let’s be clear, were she exceptional at her job, and held in the highest regard then she would be an in-studio correspondent and would have a personal stylist, hair and make-up whatever whatever. It could be that the networks are sexist, but I ask you, has Pam ever said or done anything to suggest to you that she would contribute much to a desk team? And, her hair is still a mess son.

17)The problem isnt with watching reality television or listening to crap music, or drnking oneself into a stupor or sleeping with married people, or getting deported or streaking naked across frozen streets in Atlanta. No, the problem is doing these things and proudly proclaiming that you have done them. Tweeting or updating your status to reflect that you have done them. Memorializing them in picture or song. And then failing to be ashamed of yourself afterward.

18)You still smoke cigarettes? Seriously? Do you also still watch Harlem Globetrotters games, drink Tang and wear Underoos?

19)Slavery

20)Had a conversation recently with a friend about our nation’s readniess to elect a woman President considering that we have now had a two term Black President. Convo spilled over to when I think a Black woman could be elected. I stated flatly that there are no Black females who are electable at present. This MF tosses out Michelle Obama. WTF? Part of the issue that i have in our community with having a real discussion about the political process is how we shape it with our bias. That dude hasnt been able to stand in his office without us tripping over ourselves to be certain that we fantasize and fabricate scenarios where the first lady is actually involved in every major decision the chief makes. I simply don;t get it, and that is beyond the fact that she isnt actually a politician of note. For the record, I also wouldnt vote for Clobuchar, Boxer, Clinton or any of the other ladies that are close to the ticket podium. I wouldnt vote for Jindal, Biden, Ryan, Cruz, Warner or Booker. At this point, the process has a lot to show me.

21)We still arent doing enough to educate our children about sex and sexuality. Telling them wait, abstain or “dont bring no babies in this house” does nothing to help them manage the pull of their hormones. My son pointed out a “very pretty lady” to me the other do and it honestly scared the shit out of me. Dude is like 6, and I tried to agree with him in a bro code kind of way without moving the conversation along. Hell, this conversation is tough to have, but necessary

22)I see the reaction that young brothers have to us as a community, and I realize that we need to begin talking to them, meeting with them where they are, and stop correcting and talking at them.

23)Where the hell did all of these Black vegans, vegetarians, at home soap and clothing makers, hemp rope jumpers and praise dancers come from? You people are everywhere, and I’m not certain that it is a good thing.

24)Black kids have gotten into trappings of supposed “Nerd” culture, but they arent all wearing it well. If that’s just a costume, then treat your life like it’s a holiday, but don’t start sprting Star Wars and Star Trek gear just because. Some of us had to sacrifice much and suffer long to support our Nerd culture bonafides.

25)Violence aganist women in our community is not discussed enough and is inexcusable. We all know these brothers, and need to sort them out. There should be relationship penalties up to and including shunning. Character assassination of Black men in our community happens to liberally and is inexcusable. Mind how your words become our children;s thoughts and our communities deeds.

26)There is no good reason why, with the plethora of local festivals in every city in this great land, full functioning adults are taking time away from work and family to carry their hapy asses to the Essence festival. You can’t come up with one substantive reason why you should be there. People like you are why Freaknik existed to begin with.

27)Slavery

28)I expect all of you to huga Black person every day this month, photograph it and post it to my page. We are passing love of, and with, Black people on to everyone everywhere.

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Just ranting

A bunch of things I think that I think since I last told you what I think that I think.

1)The discourse on race matters will not move forward as long as all of the invested parties or semi-conscious Black activists, ivory tower intellectuals, poorly groomed hippies and those with cases of “White Guilt” syndrome. The average man and woman has to discuss how they think, feel and experience race without the so-called experts berating them or having their neightbors label them. We need a “blame-free” environment, where folks can feel free to make mistakes, say indelicate things, and display their prejudice without being drowned socially for it. Until that time, we are just talking.

2)Examine your friends, and if they are all “like you” with regard to politics, religion, education and class, then you are stagnated. If you want to “grow a bigger mind” then you need to challenge that muscle with dialogue, discomfort and debate.

3)After many long conversations with my brother-in-law, i realize that we, as brothers, have turned many of our women sacred cows who sees themselves as victims and don’t see their own complicity in much of their unhappiness. You all probably know a sister who claims to have done everything right but brothers won’t get it together, or she threatens to just give up every other week because there are “no good men”, or she can’t believe how White men keep trying to recruit her, or every other brother is gay or unemployed or not God fearing or…..let me stop before I get myself in trouble with said scared cows.

4)Was at the beach some days back and heard a gentleman describe the shirt he was wearing as “salmon” colored. Now I’m not one that believes that gender rules are completely hard and fast, but Man-Code violations are violations, all the same. Were you describing it as salmon colored before or after it’s a filet homey? We describe things in terms of primary or secondary colors. That is all.

5)Oprah talking about how she was racially profiled in Zurich and then dismissed while looking at a 38,000 dollar bag is absolutely ridiculous. She didn;t deserve to be treated any differently, but honestly what the hell does your first world problem having ass need with a 30,000+ dollar purse? Non-issue, moving on.

6)With that being said, that town in Switzerland which is essentially developing apartheid practices for it;’s residents and immigrants, is quite concerning.

7)Once you have graduated from college, you are no longer an activist. You are a concerned citizen. And you should be adult about your approach to “activism” once you are degreed and conferred. You should have a long term plan, observable, testable goals and include non-zealots and the uninitiated in your circle of influence, so you don’t lose perspective.

8)What do you mean you don’t read? How then do you find anything out? And before using time as an excuse, know that people create time for anything that matters to me, and your mind’s health and development should matter. Make a reading list and get to it. Great thing about books is they never rot or expire, so take as much time as you need.

9)I think that it’s terribly poor form to have your phone out and to be talking to someone in front of you at the same time. The hell could be that important that you can’t set your phone aside and hold a reasonable conversation?

10)Question, what do you think your exes say about you to other people?

11)Music usually helps me center, but there is nothing I particularly find myself amoed to hear right now. I mean, the Weeknd’s project will probably be interesting, but Kendrick Lamar has no new album ready, and everything out of the dubstep genre is blending together. Either I’m bored with all of it, or not properly tuned in.

12)Dudes wearing skinny jeans, technicolor sunglasses, snap back hats and colorful tank tops is our fault. We have abandoned our children. Well, I also blame Pharrell, Dwayne Wade and Russell Westbrook for looking like sex-workers in a Thai red-light district and trying to make it fashionable.

13)Tell somebody near you that they matter today. And mean it.

14)If I’m ever President the following groups are in trouble: 1)American citizens, because I’m immediately making this bitch a galatic empire. 2)Canada, because those bastards have screwed up bacon, beer, the english language and comedy. 3)Anyone who pays triple figures for a concert ticket, because I will tax you the price of each ticket you buy. Why would you pay to hear the music you supposedly love in inferior sound. Concerts are never as good as your digital recording, but you go anyway, so your punishment must be more severe. 4)Boston Red Sox and Patriots fan, because you smug bastards behave as if this recent success has been your birthright forever. I would annex your state, but you are too close ot the Atlantic and then who would I hate? Texans? 5)Lego. Your rat bastard product has led to me losing both my wife and so to addiction, and my feet have been foerver scarred by your wee beedy bricks.
6)Sisters with “natural” hair, because I will be sending all of you wool headed, wannabe soul singing, candle burning earth children to concentration camps, and you will get doses of the creamy crack. Broke ass nappy headed chics.

Done ranting, have a great day and I’ll see you next week

Black male Failure: A DSM-V Diagnosis

While many of those in my field (mental health) eagerly anticipate the arrival of the 5th edition of our diagnostic bible, the DSM, I can’t help but wonder at what point we stop advocating for ourselves and our practice as science that requires this book, and begin advocating for those who we treat/manage/assess and make a better rounded version of this book.

Though I can’t say that I know everything that will be included in this long-in-development tome, I can say with confidence that it will not in any way address the very real socioeconomic and cultural realities that lead to the development of the symptoms we use to identify and classify psychiatric disorders.

Considering that a round table of wealthy, uber-educated, out of touch and influential psychiatrists guide the development of the book, this should come as no surprise to anyone.

If you read the title, and have known me for any period of time, you should know that I’m rarely ever provocative, and this piece is no different. There has been a very real system of racism, prejudice, self hatred, neglect and malice which have created, not just a system, but an emotional state…a condition…a disorder…of failure within the Black male psyche.

And you won’t find any reference made to this in the DSM.

And if the very Bible that we children of Freud use makes no efforts to isolate, diagnose and treat this condition, who will?

If I were developing a case conceptualization around the Black male psyche, my first notes would look something like: Early developmental identity formed around existence as slave and property, followed by periods of racist violence, stripped of any national identity, and family dynamics unlike any other group of males culturally. Specifically, forced into a mindset around survival and without proper attention, education, opportunities and challenges, the Black male has become grown from a child, into a battered, abused, adolescent. Forced to depend on his female counterpart for sustenance, without guidance from his equally damaged forebears and seen as little more than a beast to be managed, caged or controlled in polite society.

Taken as a whole, the Black male psyche displays symptoms consistent with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Major Depression, Borderline Personality and Generalized Anxiety. Lots of names yes, but let’s break this down some.

PTSD develops typically from exposure to, or fear of a single or repeated trauma. Said trauma can occur to the individual or the individual can witness said trauma with another. I’ve always said that today’s racism is the most violent of all traumas perpetuated against Black men. The subtlety of the messages of blame…the vitriol lobbied at any Black male who is atypical and thus “out of line”, the refusal of the privileged to see how institutional racism is used as a weapon to shape the very public image of Black men, the barrage of Black male images of death, threat, imprisonment and laziness. The not so subtle acceptance and promotion on Black men who use their bodies for athletic expression, and the difficulty with which our society manages the images and perceptions of Black men with the audacity to be thoughtful. No surprise that many of these men struggle with avoidance, nightmares, racist flashbacks, irritability and hypervigilance when they feel threatened….oh, and those last few are the criteria for PTSD, in case you were wondering.

Seligman and Maier developed learned helplessness theory as an explanation for pervasive depression. They suggested that what brings about deep depression is the inability of beings to extricate themselves from difficult, hopeless or otherwise challenging situations. These two decided that they would test their theories by putting animals in situations that they couldn’t escape from, repeatedly, to see how each animal would respond. As an example, they placed a dog in a tank with a floor that could be electrified. They then started to shock the dog on an set schedule. Typically the dog would learn the schedule and then know to jump to keep from getting shocked. They then started to vary the shocks so the dog wouldnt know when it was coming. The dog started out jumping, then stopped and eventually laid down and let itself be shocked.

If I examine the Black male psyche and it’s history with this society, what I see is repeated abuse and rejection. Assaults from authority figures, literature, supposed science and spiritual leaders openly espousing the inherent inferiority of the Black male, a rejection of his contributions, his efforts to belong to his family, to the workforce, and to control any part of his own destiny. Every effort toward progress he makes is met with a shock. No surprise that he eventually lays down…and that depression sets in.

I could go on tying the condition of the Black male psyche to symptoms, diagnoses and criteria found in the DSM, but the powers that be aren’t listening, and since we have a Black male President, most of them have come to believe that racism has been cleansed from the American psyche anyway. They somehow miss the language used to decry this President’s place and accomplishments, and how utterly hateful much of it is. They very shortsightedly ignore the reality that this President has absorbed more direct abuse (remember your booing Congressmen?) than any President before him? And you think that a Black male from any inner city has a chance to reach self-actualization when the President takes abuse?

What we see is a system of failure which has been designed for this particular group of boys and men through effort, will and sometimes happenstance. Jordan, Lebron, Jay-Z, Will Smith…for all of their individual talent and greatness don’t mean very much in the grand scheme. They entertain us, but none are finding a cure for cancer. They aren’t proposing and writing laws, they aren’t teaching, growing, developing or significantly impacting the power structure in this, or any society. They merely distract us from real life for a time, and distract us all from the reality that they have grown in stature because they may represent precisely what our society wants Black men to be. Off of the top of your head, you tell me, who is the next Obama cooking in the political hopper? Reality is our system has done little to foster a steady stream of world changers of his ilk.

We have dropped him into a supposed meritocracy, and then told him that very little that he thinks, feels, does or says has any merit. We have tried to convince him that White male privilege is a myth. We have asked him to be less delusional, less schizophrenic about the things that ail him, control him, motivate him…and about those that hate him.

The Black male knows explicity how others feel about him, and he has grown to often feel that hatred for himself, which explains why he destroys himself and others like him so readily. His depression is often so deep as to be debilitating. His thinking often moves to “No one believes in me, so why try?” He has come to rely on his body over his mind, and we, have all, promoted this version of events as his accepted reality.

The failure pervades because the Black male’s problems are too many, his resources too few, and the task too great for any of us to take on. We would rather point him to a supposed myriad of examples of those who have overcome and use them to batter his esteem for not succeeding.

We rather not take the time to decide how he best learns, to tease out how he best loves, to prioritize his harried existence over our own concerns. It would take too much work…and those Black boys who will become men realize all too well how much of a burden they are.

And he/they/we still manage to somehow still be here, where so many others would contemplate suicide…

The DSM-V is not simply a tool for diagnosis. It is also a manual meant to guide practice and approaches toward healing. I first want to help understand the depth of the issues facing the Black male psyche, the way in which failure has been forcefully mapped on his psyche, and then develop a process for curing, or at least better understanding, this mental illness….

If you made it this far, I thank you and ask that you return for next week as we build on how we heal this damaged psyche.

We need to dialogue with the greater society and community of thinkers. I think a TED TALK is in order, which of you is going to nominate me for one? I’d nominate myself but I’m not adding marcissism to our list. And I’m not kidding either. It’s that time.

Basic Instructions (Manlaws) for Superbowl Etiquette…Get your game up

I hope you didn’t come in expecting typical fare this week, because I wont be riffing on changing yourself for the better, loving others, teaching people or generally being a better person.

Hell with all of that. It’s Superbowl time, and as such we need to discuss proper Superbowl viewing etiquette, as some of what I am seeing and reading about preparations for the game supports Esquire magazine’s assertions that attacks on manhood and masculinity are real.

Think of the following not just as instructions. They are unwritten rules. Gentlemen’s agreements. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Taken together, they are law. You just print these out and keep them handy for the poorly informed in your merry band of Superbowl viewers.

1)There are rules for food at Superbowl parties. First, if it can’t be picked up and eaten by hand, then it has no business at your get-together. Forks and spoons are only used to scoop something onto something that you will then eat by hand. Chicken can be buffaloed or fried, but never should it be anything else. Your buddy tells you he heard about this “great Guy Fieri recipe” for chicken, you should be hanging up the phone and keeping a sniper on watch for his arrival. Food is the 3rd most important ingredient for a proper Superbowl fete, so be vigilant. Next, drinks must be alcoholic, juiced or carbonated. Water is tolerated only before or after the game. The Superbowl is no time for proper hydration. Suck it up! Nothing French or from the Middle East is permitted at any Superbowl party. It is considered classless, boorish and Un-American. We will come back to the food bit later. We have much ground to cover.

2)Appropriate timeout or commercial conversation may only consist of the following: the commercials themselves, cars, other sports, past Superbowls, chics, sports or sports. You should be certain to relay this to any and all who will be attending the gathering at your place. Male or female, these rules should be enforced. If some woman there tries to slip in a comment about how much she “loves Kaepernick” or has “always liked Ray Lewis” then you walk her out at gunpoint. She is creating a hostile viewing environment. Talk of the new careerbuilder commercial or the Hockey game should never spill over into the SB coming back on. At least one chic should be mentioned per half and never should you spend more than 30 seconds talking about how good the food is. Again, be vigilant.

3)Be careful about how you mix company. Typically, men and women watch sporting events differently. It is a must that all of your genuine women sports fans be invited over, for balance of course. Be mindful of inviting any that root for teams based on uniform colors, or who openly comment about how attractive any of the palyers are. These will be running themes and will ruin the evening for a full 3rd of your guests. Weed this type out early. Backup plan is to have a separate room with a TV for the hardcore denizens of your football community to watch the game in. Leave the others to perish.

4)Be careful of inviting your “wine an cheese” buddies from work. If anyone shows up with a bottle of wine for the Superbowl party…wait, do I really need to explain what is wrong with this? Moving on

5)You are not permitted to wear your team’s colors if they aren’t playing in the game. Your team has been vanquished, so you are required to be a part of the screaming mob if your team isn’t in the tournament anymore. You are however, allowed ot make reference to how great your team is, and harass fans of other teams who may be present. You look ridiculous in that five year old tema jersey anyway.

6)You shall not watch the halftime show. Seriously, you enjoyed the Black Eyed Peas? Paul McCartney? Madonna? Just walk out of the room and come back in about 10 minutes or so. Halftime is not for you. It’s for beer runs. Getting your voice back. Texting your post-game jump-off, heating up wings and talking with your boys about that time in Cabo.

7)Avoid all “alternative” Superbowl parties. I have in recent days seen reports of Superbowl parties hosted by expecting mothers and their spouses, Superbowl parties where the guests will focus on discussing the commericals only and an all vegan Superbowl gathering. What the french Toast? These aren’t Superbowl get-togethers…they bastardize the very notion of this great American pasttime. I weeped to think of how those monsters have sucked the joy out of this sacred event with their lies and treachery. The commericals are designed to let you get a beer and take a piss break. Meat is a necessity at any Superbowl gathering and if you put yourself through the indignity of watching 60 minutes of football with a gaggle of expecting moms and their poor slob mates, screaming like lunatics and breeding nipple confusion into your victimized unborn child, then you deserve what you get. Firebomb any “party” which violates these core tenets.

8)Back to mixed company. Be careful about mixing knowledgeable die-hard football fans with barely interested novices. Safer this way, for everyone. The worst thing that can happen is some snob vacationing from being cultured coming over to your party and half way into the 1st quarter saying, “I just don’t get football”, or “I see why I prefer soccer” or “Why do they have 4 downs?” It’s just embarrasing, and several people there will want to tase them. With women, it can get a bit complicated. Seat the die-hards away from the blouse and high heel set. You want to prevent any unnecessary discomfort, and you don’t want to have the inevitable “talk” later. Keep your casual fan quota below 20 percent of all attendees and you should be good.

9)If you are headed over to someone’s party, you need to be mindful of what you bring with you. Bringing cups, plates and/or napkins is unacceptable. If you are bringing soda, you should bring at least 3…different kinds. If you are bringing nachos, then you naturally have to bring the salsa with it. If you bring anything with more than two names (I saw this great Tequila Lime Chicken!), then you should ban yourself from any Superbowl parties…for life.

10)Ultimately enjoy yourself and stick to the rules, for everyone’s benefit. Always have meat. Beer, soda and juice…permissible. Talk about chics, but never about dudes that aren’t playing a sport. carefully select your company. Keep what you bring simple, but make it appropriate. Lastly, have fun. Oh, and I’m leaning now toward the Niners by a touchdown.

Be well, all

35 Things for 35

It’s almost odd for me to think that in one week I will have hit my 35th birthday, but that supposedly round number is coming, and I must say that I’m interested to see if it feels any different than say, 30 did a few years ago.

I needed to get back to blogging and my coming birthday seemed like a good time to get a few thoughts out of my head, and to say a bit more about myself. I’m borrowing this from my partner, Greg Lewin, who is quite honestly, one of the more interesting people I have been blessed to know. He gave 34 items about himself for his 34th birthday, and I will be giving you 35 for my 35th.

Some of these you may already know, others will most certainly be news to you as with most of my personal life, I am a private, brooding sort. But today is sharing time. I hope you make it through all of them, and the ones you focus on most heavily should tewll you all manner of interesting things about your psyche….not really, but away…we…go…

1)I spend a bit of time every day praying that I don’t become my father. I see my resemblance to him, and some of our similar mood traits, and I truly don’t want to destroy myself in the way that he did. If I learned anything from him, it is that I never wanted to be the kind of man/person/father he became and that he himself grew to resent.

2)Somewhere along the line (maybe episode 1 or 2?) I became a very big Star Wars fan. It’s not so much that I think the films are great per se, but the philosophy and human struggles are timeless. In some ways I relate to Vader, but not really Anakin. I may or may not touch on what i mean by that later.

3)I went back and forth about whether or not, I would share this one when I was outlining these, but I love and trust most of you, so I will take the plunge and violate my own personal privacy settings. I am a father to a child with aspergers. It’s nowhere near as bad as the name suggests, but being that it is a mild form of autism, parts of this journey have been somewhat challenging for me. I have had moments where I didn’t talk to the most high, where I went into rages and experienced resentment, which I always strive to keep at bay. Ultimately, my little boy just presents as a really strange 5 year old with a Mohawk who likes to take off his pants if he feels comfortable in your house. Yes, you read that correctly. I accept that he may never be President (which is odd because a full third of those asshats are diagnosable), but I am actively pushing him to either direct movies, build weapons or be a brilliant British detective, all areas which draw Aspies like moths to flame.

4)The Bronx is home, and I will always love it, Atlanta grew me into a man and my passion for ATL rarely wanes, but my heart will always go to Auburn, Alabama. The people, environment, curiosity, quiet and ease with which my family grew into that city started and grew my love affair with it. And, before I forget…WAR EAGLE!

5)Were I not a Psychologist, I am fairly certain that I would be a novelist, film critic or poet, in that order. I enjoy writing endlessly, but I just don’t have enough respect for most poets I meet. I don’t respect their supposed “voices” or work ethic.

6)There are times, though few, where I envy my closest brothers/friends who graduated from Morehouse in 2001. That school, it’s students and Atlanta became my home. I have some small regrets that something as “trivial” as finances forced me to finish school elsewhere, because that place has a certain magic about it. Alas, I was born to broke parents, and such is life. I feel a bit of that ache whenever one of the brothers asks whether or not I’mn heading to homecoming. I’ve still not learned how to respond to that.

7)If I had the time and opportunity, I would watch a movie everyday. I love films, of all kinds, and will debate the merits of some over others, ceaselessly and joyfully. If you can think of any I might enjoy, pass them on to me and I will add them to my viewing list. Unless 1)they are in any way associated with Tyler Perry or anyone who cites him as influence 2)The film is available only in Kingston or on Nostrand Avenue 3)It’s a non-action film nominated for an “Oscar” 4)It’s a rom-com or chick flick.

8)I don’t admire very many people, but I know many personally who I admire, but would probably never tell. Near the top of that list is my wife, Deidra. Mostly we compete to see who is doper so we can tell the other in our partnership that they are lucky, or “stealing.” Ultimately, she is an exceptional woman with a curious mind and the ability to see and meet everyone where they are with an interesting kind of love and regard. I pray her insecurities never bring her low, and I will kill any that threaten to do so.

9)I have written an entire set of poetry that no one has ever seen. I’ve let different people see much of my work, and I even published a set, but I have a full 60 pages of work that have only been graced by my eyes. I haven’t shared them with others because they are all about heartbreak, and I shared too many details of pain, loss and some were too descriptive. Shoot, I’m friends with some of my former flames, and I don’t need that headache. I am reluctant to ever submit these pieces for publication, because I can imagine some young dude relating to them and crying in his room listening to Naji on repeat while wearing a turtle neck after a breakup. I cant live with that on my conscience.

10)My only real addiction, sad to say, is sour cream and onion chips. Herr’s are best, and I have literally contemplated having Herr’s ship a crate of them direct to my house, since they aren’t sold in my are. Don’t judge me.

11)I was “removed” from my first high school, Brooklyn Technical High School. I have rarely ever discussed what led to my dismissal, maybe because I am uncomfortable with all of the details surrounding it, but here goes. I followed and then physically assaulted another student on a staircase, due to what my childish mind thought was a slight. I did this in front of one of his friends, and got so out of hand that this young man needed to seek medical attention. It is one of the few things in my life I am most ashamed of ever having done to someone else. Knowing what I know of the long standing effects of trauma, I don’t know if I will ever be sorry enough for that.

12)When no one is around to hear, I listen to a bit of trance, country, old Sinatra and trip-hop. You are now welcome to join me some time.

13)My father, now deceased, was an alcoholic. Some of you know that already, now you all know. Becoming a man, and having a family of my own, somehow has led to him making more sense to me as a person. I regret that i won’t get to know him better as my own son grows.

14)I have done a number of speaking engagements and I am rarely ever nervous, a certain calm just comes over me. Putting together cabinets, shelves, beds, electronics and such…now that makes me terribly anxious. It takes me forever because I spend so much time trying to settle myself down. I have no answer for this

15)Also near the top of the list of people I admire is Christopher Emdin. If you guys only knew what I knew?…Man, watching this brother reminds me that our paths have been so similar and the lord protected us from ourselves and gave us the opportunity to chase greatness from up close. That brother is ambition, is determination, is belief, and I am grateful to know him. I love that dude.

16)Some of you know that my middle name is Dax. What you don’t know is that the three letters (D…A…X) stand for individual names. Diogenese Alejandros Xienos. No, you may not call me Dax, or any of the individual component names, either. Only my mama still calls me Dax, and that.s only because she carried me for 9 months.

17)I took ballet part-time for a couple of years while in elementary school. That is why even as a big man, I am light on my feet.

18)I am a terrible basketball player. I can admit that I have only a marginally good relationship with my body so making it do what I envision on a basketball court is always sketchy. Being an awful ball-player while being Black and growing up in New York City almost led to a deep depression.

19)I’ve never really discussed it, but part of what led me to leave NYC and head to Atlanta for school was feeling almost like a man without a country. Like many other Black Americans in recent years, I began to look South as NYC didn’t feel as much like home anymore. I felt that is was expected that I/we live as almost psuedo-Carribeans in the U.S., and for a long while it troubled me. If I can ever find some decent soul-food in the Bronx, I may consider moving back, we shall see. And no, I’m no going to any parties where I’m listening to reggae all night damnit! matter of fact, I’m not heading to any parties where they aren’t playing 2Chainz on repeat.

20)Big tail > Nice, round butt…Natural Hair > Long, straight…Bright and Gracious > Smart and spirited…Lovely smile > Lovely eyes

21)My nickname is Don. Always has been. If you know where it started and comes from then you should feel free to use it.

22)I only support New York sports franchises. If you are from the greatest city on Eart, why would you root for teams from anyplace else?

23)I admire Reverend George Windley. It still hits me sometime that my closest friend and comrade is a Baptist minister, but maybe the Lord knew I needed someone keeping an eye on me all these years. I can’t think of a better person. To be so humble with his unique collection of qualities still amazes me.

24)I am a Mason. Specifically, I am a Prince Hall Mason. That is all you need to know about that.

25)Arguing the greatest MC of all time is like arguing the greatest boxer or basketball player of all time. Opinions should vary, but only certain names should be in the convo, and a short body of work should eliminate certain names. Sales shouldn’t be a criteria, either. With that said, nothing from Nas after his second album keeps him in the running, Eminem is naturally gifted but loses points because of his awful choruses and I’m not quite certain that Jay-Z ever fulfilled his ultimate potential. 2Pac was horrible lyrically, though his content was often sound, Biggie had too short a run and Andre 3000 suffers from being one half of a group that started it’s career pandering to the Southern market. Ultimately, I don’t know who it would be…

26)I do well with fibonacci sequences, logic questions and I am peerless with case conceptualization. I can do a fair job at explaining relativity, physics and I made a classroom of disinterested people sit up and have a spirited conversation about Maslow’s principles and concepts. With all of that aformentioned brain power and reasoning, women still make no sense to me.

27)I admire Moises Rodriguez. Dude came to NYC as a graduate student and effectively ran the place. He was the in-house support system that got me through and expanded my own worldview. He is a bright star wherever he finds himself and one hell of a hustler in this life.

28)I once won an award for the “Fire Rap” from Mayor David Dinkins in New York City. My fellow MC’s on the fire safety classic tune were Maurice and Marcus Smith, Ronald Roberts, Charles Mills and Kendah. Don’t remember Kendah’s last name, but he banged out the beats on the table for us. We actually performed it for the Bronx Borough president at that time, Fernando Ferrer. I remember thinking we could probably rap for a living. And yes, I remember it word for word.

29)There are days when I hope I make all of you proud, and for different reasons.

30)I write a great deal, but I delete far too much of it. I am a bit of a perfectionist as a writer, and some of you have had to witness my rages and madness when I am composing pieces, editing chapters or writing an outline for a speaking engagement. All told, I have probably deleted a total of 5 nearly finished books.

31)I have set some life goals and they have changed over time, some as recently as the past few months. I want to be the best father I can for the child who has been blessed to me as my responsibility. Not necessarily the best father by any and all standards, but the father he uniquely needs.

32)I believe that men and women can be friends as long as both parties are honest about how the genders function. Women need understand that dudes who are your friends fall into two categories 1)He felt you out, saw that he wasn’t getting any and has allowed you to move him into a role as a friend. He would likely still have sex with you if there were an opening. 2)He finds you interesting, friendly and enjoys your company, but is not terribly attracted to you. He would still, likely have sex with you if given the opportunity.

33)I have been to a number of places in my short time her eon Earth, but I need to see a few more without having business or wedding obligations. Over the next year or two I need to see Venice, South Africa and Spain.

34)I have been stabbed, sliced open and had a bottle broken on my face. I have never been shot, for which I am fortunate. That would just be crazy.

35)I’ve spent the past severla years worried about bipolar disorder, as my brother was diagnosed with it, and my father showed all of the symptoms, though he was never diagnosed. I’ve meditated, prayed and hoped and eventually I just stopped stressing it. I have come to realize through reflection that I have a whole different brand of crazy happening, and if you are reading this, so do you. It may sound cliche to say I “Let go and Let God”, but that just about sums it up. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I’ve discovered that everything that ails the Black Community is Atlanta

I know what you’re thinking, “doesn’t he mean is IN Atlanta?” No, you read the title correctly and exactly as I meant it. Atlanta is singularly the downfall of the entire community both locally and from a distance. And, I know, some of you are reading this and assuming that it is a reactionary blog now that Atlanta has a version of “Love and Hip-Hop”, but you would be mistaken. I’ve wondered about the brain rot that ATL has been causing our people for some time, Love and Hip-Hop was just the pin being pulled from the grenade.

Let me begin by saying that Atlanta has made some wondrous contributions to our community. Morehouse is unquestionably the best HBCU in the country and that chic school next door is cool beans too. Atlanta has one of the highest rates of Black home and small business ownership in the nation. There are plenty of bad honies out there and Miami, San Juan, New York and Rio all have hub connections through Hartsfield airport. Even with all that good, Atlanta is singlehandedly setting us back as a community.

If I stop and stare, the signs are not encouraging. Soul Plane set us back 10 years. Tyler Perry’s empire of films and stage plays set us back 8 years. Stomp the Yard, Drumline and sundry other dance/music films set us back 5 years in total. Dennis Rodman, Alan Keyes, Gucci Mane, the Miami Zombiewolf, New Orleans rap labels, Sherri Shepard, Allen Iverson and Drake’s genre of “crying game rap” set us back a combined 15 years. If you’re adding at home that’s a total of 38 years. Our community is living in 1974! So those “bamas” with rims on their cars are right on time! Uncle Luke is ahead of his time! Futuristic! But I digress….

At issue here is the damage that Atlanta continues to do, unapologetically to the emotional landscape of our people. And i don’t speak as some ignorant outsider. I both lived and matriculated in ATL for several years. I was married there, and it remains a second home. But facts are facts. Every ill of afflicting Black folks is magnified and glorified in ATL to excess. In ATL it’s expected that you will work a 60,000 dollar job and drive an 80,000 dollar car. Just park it in Buckhead and keep your shades on. Neighborhoods are always popping up in ATL as the it spot. Not really because they are emerging, newr broke people in ATL just like to nickname shit and say off hand things. “Yeah Southwest is like the new Buckhead. I heard Bankhead is making a comeback.” WTH?

Black folks live, unfortunately, beyond their means everywhere, but ATL has forced the idea that this is fashionable. Gold diggers live and breathe everywhere, but Atlanta teaches this to it’s daughters as early as grade school that superficial skill as a religion. Every other brother is supposed ot be hustling something in Atlanta. I’m not sure why, it’s simply what you do. Go figure.

What has happened is that Atlanta has espoused how fashionable and chic the foibles of it’s Black classes are that the community from around the country has started fantasizing about what it would look like to live there, to bathe in this very same excess. Problem is, that these issues have made Atlanta a caricature of a great city. Folks are so busy trying to “be something” that you get the sense that few, if any people, are just plain normal human beings living normal lives with normal concerns.

Folks are anticipating that they will find love and fortune, because well….everyone in ATL is semi-rich and beautiful right? And these fallacies are largely of the making of ATL natives themselves. The community has started to pay the city attention as more transplants moved in from other places, and ATL insiders have proceeded to behave like a child asked to dance for the cameras, for the past two decades, not seeing how pitiful some of the behavior has become.

The community elsewhere has started to judge how alike/dissimilar it is from ATL. Folks can’t wait to get there, others can’t wait to see their town surpass it. All for things that just aren’t terribly real. Outside of clubbing, drinking and seeing a few pretty faces, what do you actually hope to gain from Atlanta?….exactly, and that is an awful shame because the place has a lot to offer if it would simply stop clowning so much and convinving us all that we should as well.

Love and Hip-Hop ATL is just the latest in a long line of force-fed Atlanta-isms that need to be adjusted for sound. You don’t need to spend all of your money on excess. Having a housewives program with all Black woman who arent actually wives is not keeping up with the Joneses, you don’t need to have those shoes, that car, you can admit that the music hurts your head and strip club culture should exist wherever a few women in heels are….wait, completely disregard that last part. ATL is genuis for that.

I may be unfair to put all of our baseless grandstanding on this one city, but reality is the shoe kinds fits here. If we held the mirror up we would see our worst behaving family family running wild, and we have to stop longing to join in.

S*%T I would tell my son he can’t do, that women most definitely can

Greetings good people. Forgive me for missing last week’s post as I’ve 1)resumed heading to the gym semi-regularly and haven’t been up to editing these when I get home and 2)My thoughts have ventured more toward the books I’ve been working on lately, so I’ve been a touch distracted.

Either way, i was speaking with one of my closest friends the other day about ish we wouldn’t dream of doing/saying/thinking of that women can/do and the dreaded “double standard” came up in a whisper. It was shared in hushed tones as if actually saying that women have privileges we don’t have would be picked up by satellite and a female hit squad would black bag us on site. It got me thinking though. We have been conditioned to think of double standrards as only positively impacting men’s lives and have neglected to fully teach our sons the S*#T that only women can do and get away with.

Here are five things I will be making sure my son (and any other brothers I care about) knows are fully in the double standard favor of women. Away…we…go…

1)Using the word “Crush.”
Women have various crushes, and I have no real damn idea why so don’t ask me. Must be something to do with that vague “women’s perogative” ish. Her music dude crush, her athlete crush, her actor crush, her nerd boy crush, her deliveryman crush. It’s kind of an all purpose word for “I lust after him and I really want all of you to think it’s simply playful, but it’s actually kinda sort for real.” If she uses the word crush, just know that she has had impolite thought about the dude and will talk about him ceaselessly if you ask. So, a)don’t ask, b)don’t offer any insight into what makes this crush unreasonable as crushes by definition abandon reason and c)Never use the word yourself for any woman you find attractive in any way. Where the term sounds almost playful and harmless on the average woman’s lips, it sounds almost stalkerish and unsettling on any man’s lips. Hell, I just sounded weird writing man and lips in the same sentence. In the past week I have heard the terms “young boy crush”, “rap cat crush”, “straight arrow crush”. I would rather you, my son, just eliminate the word from your vocabulary as it has been co-opted for nefarious purposes. Just ignore the names Morris, Idris, Drake and the like as they will become white noise that you hear over and over…

2)Discussing sports in childish ignortant terms
My mom wasn’t a sports fan, but she was a practical lady. She didn’t care much for football, but she had a husband and two sons who all watched sports religiously. If she wanted access to us on Sunday, she had to get on board, and so she did. I knew she didn’t have a dog in the fight, but she would scream like a mad person any time the Giants made a great play. It was epic. During grad school she would check out some of my ESPN the magazine articles and watch Sportscenter with me, but I noticed she was rooting for other teams. What the what? When i got fed up and inquired about this madness she would go on to admit several things 1)She liked certain teams colors 2)She dug the Chiefs because Priest Holmes was a “fine looking man” and 3)Knicks games were tough to watch because both Spike Lee and Patrick Ewing were ugly. A part of me dided that day. Son, there are many ladies out there that will discuss sports only so far as the superficial matters go. You are not afforded this luxury. You must know stats, teams, locations, draft picks and the nunances of any game you watch. You are not allowed to be a Miami Heat “fan” because you like the colors or even because you like hanging out in Miami. Women are allowed to sigh and swoon over athletes and thus root for his team. But you know better. i have raised you to be an upstanding NY sports fan who lives in the South. These colors dont run boy!

3)Hitting a Man
Every living breathing adult male has had a conversation with some women who casually explained how she assaulted and/or hit/punched/kicked/tackled some dude who ticked her off, offended her sensibilities, did her dirty or changed the radio station during her song. She might go so far as to explain that he deserved it. She may extend the violence to his belongings. Remember that “Bust the windows out yo car” song? If a dude made that song he would be prosecuted and shunned. Now you can urinate on a woman, yes, but never strike her. That is a woman’s domain my friend. There are practical reasons for this including strength and aggression. I admit there are some ladies that may push you and you may feel a violent rage developing within you, but there are no circumstances where you should strike a woman that don’t involve mortal peril and the opportunity for you to walk away. A gentleman never wants that indignity on their resume. And if it kills me, you will be a gentleman of the highest order…well, at least a mediocre one working on highest order. Many women assume that any emotional injury they suffer should be met with swift and immediate violence and retribution. I blame Disney for convinving all girls that they are princesses and should be catered to out in this cold, cruel world. Either way, you keep your hands ot yourself. Use your words.

4)Talking about Smutting out a Minor
I remember the days of a teenage Chris Brown, Bow Wow, Lebron James, hell I’m old enough to remember Kriss Kross and the like. I also remember many women, of all ages, talking about fantasies of sexual congress involving those children. Ladies can also gloss over the legal issues there by putting “crush” before any youngesters name, thus beautifying the thoughts/claims to follow. You, my good man, cannot talk about minors in polite company. You don’t have a “crush” mechanism for it and people (ahem, women) will call you impolite names like “chester”. Along these same lines, just plain avoid talking about well know women you find attractive as this is also primarily women’s domain, my friend. Whereas you are simply expected to tolerate the discussion of women’s fantasies, you will get some pushback from ladies. The pushback will come from one of the two camps that most ladies belong to. Camp 1 is the confederate. You or one of the fellas start locker room talking about some chic and she chimes in in total agreement about how pretty and smoking hot the chic is. She goes on to point out how well she dresses, how great her smile is and before long the convo has become inverted girl talk. These ladies are to be treated as the enemy at all times. Camp 2 are the dream killers. They point out the weave, highlights, plastic surgery, push up bras…all shit we care nothing about and that don’t actually effect the finished product. They can be tuned out with careful practice. My advice, don’t give your real thoughts about any women that are two points better than the women you’re talking to. If you are talking to an 7, don’t discuss a 9. Best bet is to discuss a 6, for your own safety.

5)Describing a color in any terms outside of primary or secondary colors.
This one is fairly straight forward. It’s green or it’s not. It aint sea foam or firest. It’s green. The thing over there…it’s either red, or it’s not. It isnt wine or garnet. Burgundy is also an unacceptable term. Women can use any color they want. You are lawfully required to steer clear. You must also avoid descriptors with a color such as “racing” or “money” before green or “baby” or “sky” before blue. This is not up for discussion.

Eight Things I would Tell my Black Son, and any other brother, he absolutely cannot do if he wants to make it out of life alive

I was contemplating my own Murtaugh List (shit I am entirely too old to ever do) and it occurred to me that even more important than what I can no longer do is what I have to instruct my son, and advise any brother I care about, to steer clear of doing if they wish to enjoy any prolonged quality of life. These are in no particular order and they should be followed to the letter…away…we…go

1)Never be clever and/or talkative with police officers
Listen closely, even the current President of the United States still gets a bit anxious when he sees the Po-Po. You are to do exactly as you are told when approached by legal authorities whether they be state or city. I say this because brothers have a tendency to sometimes have violent accidents resulting in death under mysterious circumstances if contact is prolonged with said authorities. You see all that jaw jacking by Nicholas Cage and Sean Penn with cops in movies? You see when the witty protagonist talks his way out of an arrest and a citation? You see those frantic, property destroying car chases that end in laughs or a getaway? You’d be wise to note that none of those people involved looks anything like you. Keep your damn seatbelt on, lay off the speed, and keep your mouth shut. Oh, and only a maximum of two brothers in the car at one time. Studies show that cars with three or more Black males are stopped 3 times more than cars with two or fewer. I’m just saying.

2)You can never behave like, or proclaim yourself to be, a douchebag
Let me be terribly clear here, you will not be socially permitted to live any second of your life as a douchebag. White men, young white men, wealthy white men, unemployed white men, newly paroled white men, talented and good looking white men…can all be douchebags, should they choose. You, on the other hand, will be villified for it, moreso within your own community. You see how Kanye West behaves? Our folks are the only ones calling him on it, and someone should, but our criticisms often turn vitriolic. Being Black and male means you can be something near a d-bag if you are a talented athlete or you make catchy music. Otherwise, you’re just considered arrogant. Considering your parentage, I fear for your prospects as a sports star and I have never met a note i could hold for any more than a half second. Best to just steer clear of d-baggery for you padawan.

3)Never, ever discuss other groups of women with women in your community
Thousands of brothers have been removed from friendslists, have had First Friday dinner invites revoked and been literally assaulted for having the audacity to discuss the pros/cons of other groups/races of women with sisters. Listen to me closely, your life matters to me and I want to see you happy, so keep these thoughts to yourself! Forget evidence, balanced points of view or perspective taking, you will be suffer wrath unlike any you have seen. Dramatic yes, but the sentiment is a real one. You may be a citizen of the world, and me and mom have flown you everywehre we go, but you are to treat the differences you see in women like the proverbial sacred cow. Should you ever forget this, you will be branded a traitor, written off as weak, and be subject to subtle forms of abuse. If the subject comes up, just do what I typically do. “All ladies bring something to the table, but there is something uniquely beautiful about sisters.” Then add in some obscure color reference like sepia,mahogany or some shit to nail your point down.

4)Never admit that you suck in basketball or football
I’ve observed how uncoordinated you are, and I apologize for passing that yoke onto you. With that being said, people inside of and outside of our community are going to assume you are good at sports. Well, more specifically, basketball or football, because, i guess that is all we play? Being a Black man who can’t play either of those sports is akin to being a leper. You can play anything else you want, and I hope you do, but you better have some workable ability in one of those two or the looks of disdain will rain upon you. I recall mentioning to a nurse recently that both me and your mom are Ph.D.’s, she looked at you and said “he’s tall, I think you have a basketball player on your hands.” Really lady? Two Ph.D.s and the kid is going to shoot a ball for a living? Sheesh. Good luck kid.

5)You are never allowed to mime Michael Jackson dance moves in polite company
A time may come where you have too much to drink and someone dares you to mime Thriller or Billie Jean moves. This happens at 1 out of every 3 parties in the U.S., and at 1 out of every 2 Black wedding receptions. If you are in mixed/polite company you must understand that you are a representative. Folks will crowd around your Jackson routine and scream your name like you are the 5 year old nephew dancing in mama’s living room. Thats cool at 5, not so cool at 25. In moments like those, I want you to consider that age old mantra, “What Would Obama do?” Keep your dance steps to a simple two step, some variation of a waltz and jumping in a crowd of people.

6)Never eat fried chicken in mixed/polite company
Off top, everybody loves friend chicken. But our community has long been saddled with the burden of singlehandedly keeping the fried chicken industry afloat with our supposed adoration and addiction of the deep fat yard bird. If a plate of it is out and you are with mixed company, you wait until damn near every other person there has taken a piece and then you look at them with curisoisty. As if to say “What is this fried chicken you are eating. I am not familiar with it. I will have some as a means of better understanding it’s allure.” Those folks will be sneaking glances at you either way to see if you are going to close your eyes in ecstasy after first bite, make joyful noises or drop off into a trance like ealted state. Save yourself the trouble, and protect the race!

7)Do not express “preferences” when it comes to women’s qualities
This can be directly related to number 3, but this conversations are had primarily between brothers. It is assumed that all Black men, regardless of where they are raised, by whom or with what values, are supposed to appreciate a big butt. Even if you are crazy about smiles, brains and a good sense of humor, you had better like a big butt too. In the last five years I’ve personally known a few brothers who have expressed a preference for breasts over behind and you would think they threw a damn grenade in the room or professed to seeing purple aliens driving. It’s perfectly okay to like a little (or a lot) of everything ladies have to offer, and if you don’t dig a big butt, don’t let your boys pressure you into feeling odd about that. Wait…if I’ve raised you right and you don’t like a nice round tail, then i have failed you as a father! I mean, how can you prefer anything over a….oh, never mind.

8)Lastly, don’t ever reduce the totality of your whole person to make others comfortable
Intelligent, hard working, confident brothers are rare, and they are also threatening and not easily palatable for a society that has expressed in interest in our physicial manhood over our intellectual/whole manhood. Your responsibility is to see yourself as an example, as a marker that others can “get used to” and become familiar with. You represent more than just yourself, so take your presentation and your means of engaging other people seriously. Give them your level best, refuse to compromise it and live well.

My top 20 Films, that I’ve seen and that you should see too

I’ve seen a lot of patients in the last week and a half so my brain has been on a bit of autopilot with regard to blog topics. One thing that always gets me going is lists. They are completely subjective, and I love that everyone can contribute.

With that being said, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 20 films of all time, making sure to identify only those that I have actually seen, because I am certain that many who make such lists about films or books havent read half of those they call classics. These aren’t necessarily my favorite 20 (Ghosts of Mars, Let’s Do It Again and Medicine For Melancholy would make that list) but rather films I thought were the 20 Best of all time.

Before I begin the countdown, I want to identify a few of those that just missed the cut:
“The Wizard of Oz” – classic film, well ahead of it’s time, nearly made the cut because of the timeliness of the coming of age story and the Lollipop Guild.
“Godfather II” – I had very little room for sequels, even the best sequel ever made. Yeah, I said it.
“Black Orpheus” – the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice updated for the 20th century in Rio? sounds like a winner.
“Chinatown” – Why do you think jack Nicholson is famous? Wasnt cuz he played the Joker.
“Apocalyse Now” – see it for no other reason that laurence Fishburne was a teen actor holding his own on screen with Sheen
“To Kill A Mockingbird” – The ’62 version makes you feel like you are in the Deep South during segregation. Powerful film.
“The Wiz” – I watch it every time it’s on. Musci is timeless, and a fun take on the Wizard of Oz mythos. You Cant Win!!!
“Taxi Driver” – De Niro plays a delusional sociopath a little too well.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” – I had never seen a “Pulp” adventure before this one. Still the best in the series.

Those were the near misses. On to the top 20, and away…we…go!

20)”Pulp Fiction”
Tarantino knows how to make an entrance. Taking several seemingly disparate threads and weaving them together into one classic. Powerful performances, great story. One of the most unique films of the last two decades.

19)”A Clockwork Orange” – Everything can go wrong when you have a spoiled, indulged British lad existing in a dystopian society. Kubrick brought the Burgess book to life in one of the most bizarre tales of antisocial behavior, ever. McDowell as Alex is an all-time classic performance.

18)”Gladiator” – This film is the reason why 300, Clash of the Titans and Immortals were made. The themese of betrayal, redemption and revenge resonate with audiences of all ages. The stylized violence doesnt hurt either.

17)”The Wild Bunch” – The first western on this list. Full disclosure, i hated westerns until my father made me watch this tale about a bunch of outlaws who go down in a blaze of glory because they wont leave a comrade behind. I was moved by this film. Scenes where almost nothing is said convey huge meaning throughout. I may rent it again this weekend.

16)”The Third Man” – You are dropped into the middle of a confusing whodunit in the middle of Europe by Orson Welles. If you haven’t seen an Orson Welles film, start here.

15)”Star Wars Episode 3″ – I hear all of the moans and groans from you chumps, but the reality is this film actually ties together the transformation of the most important Jedi Knight who ever lived to the greatest villiain of all time – Darth Vader. The all time critical themes of regret, choice, courage, love and arrogance are all here. Kudos to Lucas for making us face the mob like order 66 hit on the Jedi in this one. You know you like the Sith a little bit.

14)”Casablanca” – The French are coming and Casablanca is falling. Bogey in one of his most timeless roles. What makes this film is the dialogue and chemistry between the major players. It seems like everyone practiced their acting chops back then.

13)”North By Northwest” – Hitchcock was the master of disorienting you, making you question people’s motives and one of my first experiences with the Negro quality of yelling at the characters on screen. Is he really not a spy?

12)”The Lord of the Rings – Fellowship of the Ring” – Long title befitting an all time classic. Tolkien would have been proud at the sheer scope and magnificence of the most exciting teqm quest film ever made. And before you snobs start chirping, yes it is more fun than Casablanca, with stirring performances and one of the most culturally important films of the past 10 or so years. FU if you think otherwise.

11)”Citizen Kane” – Considered the best American film ever made by many. I agree it’s a classic, but for me, there were a few points where it lagged, and even ventured into “way too artistic” territory. I still loved it, and by the way, what does Rosebud mean?

10)”M” – Anything with peter Lorre is worth seeing, period. With no real special effects, or technology to support it when it was made, M managed to creep me out. The entire film is a sequence of scenes which lead ot a sense of foreboding, and you follow a truly terrifying, seemingly normal, violent criminal as he goes about his business. I watched this with my boy Moises, and i have to admit it scared the wee beedy shite out of me.

9)”The 40 Year Old Virgin” – I’ll say once again, if you dont like this film, then FU! The funniest film of the past decade, and it’s not even close. Steve Carrell as a hopeless virgin gave new birth to intelligent every man comedies. I find a new laugh every time I watch it.

8)”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” – The friendship and loyalty between these two seminal crooks/cowboys made this film. i didnt think so much about them being criminals as I did about their dedication to one another. The first real bromance film?

7)”The Maltese Falcon” – One of my favorites of all time. The first hard boiled noir detective tale. If you have every seen a black and white seen with a priviate detective in his run-down office, then you are watching a take on the Maltese. Did I mention that Peter Lorre is in this film?

6)”White Heat” – “Your good with faces…maybe a little too good!” Cagney was the king of the gangster one-liners. Seeing an enmeshed psychopath spiral out of control and Cagney at 5 foot 2 intimidating 6 foot 5 inmates was classic. Gangster flicks in the 20th century matter only because of Cagney’s take in White Heat. Top of the World Ma!!!

5)”Malcolm X” – We all know why Spike Lee didnt win the Oscar for this powerful adaptation of Malcolm X’s life, but Denzel Washington not winning best actor was just criminal. I dare you to try and picture Malcolm Little without seeing Denzel with his glasses on and intense stare. Never preachy, straight ahead and arguably Spike’s best film.

4)”The Magnificant Seven” – Okay, so I like westerns, so sue me. Yul Brenner (Pharaoh from ten commandments), Steve McQueen and a young Charles Bronson taking on a band of outlaws determined to bleed a small village dry. You know who you’re rooting for from credits to credits.

3)”Alien” – If you don’t like Alien, then FU. The best science fiction film ever made, and one of the first where you were certain if the supposed good guys were good guys, or if they would beat the supposed bad guys. Depth, plenty of suspense and great performances, even from the “Aliens”

2)”The Seven samurai” – full disclosure – Akira Kurosawa’s seven samurai was remade into the magnificent seven years later, but that shouldnt count as double-dipping here. The stories are not completely the same, and the difference is in Kurosawa’s reverance for samurai culture, bravery and his flawless storytelling. See Yojimbo while your at it.

1)”The Godfather” – the original and still the best. Two generations of the Corleone crime family, and the presence of the Italian mafia in American culture as the backdrop. Powerful performances from just about everyone, you forget after a while that you are relating to criminals. Pretty much every crime film post mid 70’s owes some of it’s success to the Godfather. Best part of the film may be the theme song, if not, definitely Brando with cotton in his mouth.

Sometimes you take the stand, even when you know it may cost you…

My soundtrack today is “Black Radio” by Robert Glasper. It is a brilliant and audacious masterpiece designed to expand jazz, and offend jazz music’s supposed gatekeepers. And…I hope the President has a copy, because he has brilliantly taken a late term stand on a dvisivie issue, against every piece of advice offered by his advisors I’m sure. Man, I’ll take two of whatever the President was sipping when he made the annoucement…

Unless you’ve been under a rock, watching far too much reality television or on a week long bender, then you are well aware that President Obama voiced his support for gay marriage.

He didn’t offer a bill in support of same-sex marriage, he didn’t hold weapons to the head of judges to force them to perform ceremonies and he didnt forcefully point at a camera and say “damnit! Gay marriage is good.” No…No…No…what he did was state unequivocally, that he supports marraige rights for gay men and women.

Now before the shouting begins (from both ends), I want to begin by stating that he was absolutely and completely right in doing so. Now on some level I agree with Granddad from the Bookdocks, “all marriage is wrong”, but it is a man made institution, and I’ve never personally found any good reason why two people who decide to enter into the pact, should be barred from doing so on any legal grounds.

There are some problems people have with same-sex marriage, and we might as well spend time on them since they are the proverbial 800 lb gorillas.

Problem 1: The Bible says it’s wrong.
I understand the spiritual argument as it’s used by many, but it is arguably the most baseless and least developed of all the arguments offered against support of same sex marriage. The Bible also offers that sex before marriage is wrong, being turned to a pillar of salt is a fitting punishment for disobeying a command and at different points has been used the world over to justify slavery, abuse and ethnic cleansing. Though the book is important to me in how I govern my life, I think we can all agree that it has been applied in often hypocritical and damaging ways when it comes to law and policy. I don’t quite see how anyone can justify using scripture to bar two sane, fully functioning adults from marrying. And if you’re a Black person, you do realize that you were once barred from marrying whomever you chose on similar grounds, right? Point for the President for balancing his own faith with his obligations to a segment of the country he governs. It would appear he is practicing some of that love thy neighbor as thyself business many of us so readily forget at times like these.

Problem 2: It continues to make us uncomfortable
We still use terms like “coming out”, “in the closet” and other nefarious and clandestine descriptors for gay men and women prior to them revealing themselves to others. They are effectively living under seige, and that is evidence of our discomfort with their lives. What actually makes us uncomfortable isn’t the thought of love between two people of the same gender. It’s the idea that they express that love physically. All people want the same things in a partner. Love, companionship, respect, edification. What differs is the sex. I don’t concern myself with what you do in your bedroom and I certainly don’t think we should begin governing that because we all might be doing hard time. If you remove the focus on the act of sex between gay men and women, you might reasonably come to a place of understanding why marriage is an ultimate expression of shared love, same as it is for everyone else.

Problem 3: I’m going to go on ahead and say this knowing the backlash may be substantial. The President has not now, nor has he ever, knownhis place. It was fully expected that he would spend four years smiling about being the first Black President, and would seek to accomplish very little before losing a second term bid and riding off into the sunset to write his memoirs. What he has done continually, is address hot button topics that previous administrations have quite fearfully avoided. Health care reform, an economic crisis, troop withdrawal from two wars overseas, women’s health care and same sex marriage. The man has been busy. Point is, he has been courageous enough to burn all of his energy down doing his job where others have coasted (see Bush, George; Clinton, Bill 2nd term;). Whether I agree with his platofrm is less important to me than the fact that he is tackling issues that are of genuine concern to most Americans. If you want a royal figurehead, then by all means move to Great Britian. If you want a leader who will fight, even against the tide of an uncooperative Congress and Senate, then he’s your man.

I say all of that to say, that this perfect storm of events will again make him a critical part of political history, but may also cost him his offce. I suggest again, that he was right to voice his support, but his opposition will use this against him. He has armed the weapon which will fire at his bow.

Does this stand, or any he has taken really, diminish his skill and ability to govern a country?. Considering that he didnt burn the place to the ground after having to fistfight Congress, stimulate an ecomony, tap dance around foreign relations and appease his constituency, I would answer no. Much of the opposition has to do with his race. “Barry” has been Barack for four years and some have taken offense. You don’t think our land is in the throws of racial divide related to this President? Then you explain to me why membership in hate groups increased by close to 300 percent the year after his inauguration.

Moiving on, though I agree with the stand, I wish that other highly ranked politicians, with less to lose, would have made the announcement. The President is our chief officer, and some other private or sergeant in his ranks should take the hit on this one. He should have standard bearers who protect his front, back and flanks on this issue, because he is running for the highest office again, and I fear he may have doomed his candidacy.

I guess the place I’ve come to is that the President was right, but still wrong. He stands above all in his earnest support of gay marriage, but what good is earnestness when the highest ranking advocate of gay marriage loses his office to our hyporcrisy, cowardice and apathy?

Oh, and if you see Cornel West, tell him that the oligarchs and plutocrats are running away from the President like he is on fire after this announcement. Should make him happy.

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