When It Matters

vin

So the above image has slowly been making its rounds across the internet and as a friend of mine duly noted last night —  “Being male isn’t entirely a matter of birth, but.. yeah“.

As I have seen that quote in a couple of places this year, lately as a tagline for a men’s fashion blog on Instagram, I decided to do a little digging and found the following:

Being a male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of choice.

This is credited mostly as a “Coleism” by Edward “Ed” Cole founder of the Christian Men’s Network. Cole is nearly as infamous in christian circles for his quotes and witticisms, as the late, great Yogi Berra was infamous in baseball for his. However, Cole and in various places online credits the italicized quote above to evangelist Ben Kinchlow of the 700 Club, another christian organization for those not familiar with it. This explains the initial thinking behind the first line. Though to be fair, acknowledgement, respect and acceptance of a person’s chosen gender identity when it differs from the birth identity is still something relatively new to modern society and the original quote certainly predates our glacially gradual acceptance of such.

Therefore the pictured quote, if it is indeed a statement from Vin Diesel, I conclude is more than likely his unknowingly paraphrasing the original. Or possibly, a fan of Diesel’s saw the quote floating about online and attributed it to him via creating this photo quote.

All of which, in Life’s funny little way of doing things, brings me to this morning…

A regular Tuesday morning rush commute. A young guy on train, legal drinking age – maybe is humming along with his music relatively quietly until he suddenly decides the song on his iPhone was something to be listened to by all of us, whether all of us wanted to hear it or not.  Understandably, there several objections to this and most emphatically let him know. Embarrassed or emboldened by the public chastisement, he does what any man-child brought to task sometimes do. He starts singing a different song, when it was obvious that the first song had not finished. But this one was clearly meant as a bird flip to us all as it contained explicit language. With his head, back eyes closed and head phones he had effectively tuned us out. Unfortunately, two seats down from him was a tyke who, as most youngsters that age are prone to do, managed to echo every other dirty word and phrase the young man uttered from the song.  The little boy’s mother was into her own music and oblivious to her child until a woman sitting next to her, brought it to her attention. She gently chastised her son for saying bad words (again), but understood where the real blame lay. She reached over the woman next to her and tapped the young man on the leg.

“Hi. I get you want to enjoy your music, but must you sing out loud with it? There are children on the train who don’t need to be hearing all that. ”

An older woman standing next to me grunted her opinion, clearly not a fan of his behavior as well. He rolled his eyes at both women claiming he’s a grown and can do what he wants.

Sometimes, I think I have a mild form of Tourette syndrome that’s activated by abject stupidity as a snort of disbelief came forth. In for a penny… as they say so I continued. “Just because you’re  a male who has reached legal adulthood does not make you a grown man.”

“You saying I ain’t a man?”

“I’m saying being a male is a matter of identity, being a man is a matter of reaching an age where you know you can do what you want, but being grown gentleman is a matter of choice in knowing when it sometimes matters not to. ”

It did not magically resolve the situation on the train, but who knows as the young man exited at the next stop with much attitude, but without another word or song.  I mentally smiled realizing what I just said was a take on the Diesel conversation last night. So now I guess I am the first to quote my friend by paraphrasing them all  Glenn, Diesel, Cole and Kinchlow.

Timing is everything.

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Let’s see how other’s are slicing up their day —

Slice of Life – Two Writing Teachers

Slice of Life - Two Writing Teachers

 

The Power of Speech

At six I didn’t sleep for over a week
Fear of being damned for a kiss on the cheek
Words my pastor were constant to preach
Ah yes, the power of speech

Working for my degree made my nerves fry
Kept hearing the words “It never fails to try”
Encouragement is a subject not required to teach
Ah yes, the power of speech

Her beauty takes my breath away
“Nice boobs” was all I thought to say
Her slap corrected that social breach
Ah yes, the power of speech

Two years later I have a different surprise
The diamond of intent bringing tears to her eyes
“Yes” brings in a star once out of my reach
Ah yes, the power of speech

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dVerse ~ Poets Pub | Open Link Night : Week 153

Two Black Suns

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In light of the weekend’s Micheal Dunn verdict in Florida, I feel the need to bring this post to the forefront again.

NY Daily News: NYPD Allegedly Assault Staten Island Family – Killed Parakeet

I am the mother of two suns.
Two black suns.
Two black suns in this country, this United States of America.

My late-husband and I together did our best to navigate them through the minefields.

In their Sesame Street days, they are taught – this is the land of opportunity. They learn, that the color of your skin shouldn’t matter. And we said shouldn’t matter because even at that young age of theirs, neither of us as black parents could get past the ugly truth lodged in our throats and say that it ‘doesn’t matter’.

In their grade school days, they are taught – this land of the free. They learn that some of us have to work twice as hard most times to afford it. When in stores, they learn do not touch anything unless you have the money to buy it. We do not yet teach them that they are not being watched because someone might think they will break it, but because someone might think they will steal it, but they learn.

In middle and high school – they are taught this home of the brave. They learn as long as they are brave within the accepted boundaries, and those boundaries are fluid. They learn that the police officer who was their friend in day care and grade school, may not be so now that their voices have dropped and their awareness of the world at large has risen. They learn this even when sometimes that officer is an officer of color.

I am the mother of two suns.
Two black suns.
Two black suns in this country, this United States of America.

Our parents and my generation learn for the all the Martin Luther Kings and Malcom X’s there were the Emmitt Tills. That for the Rosa Parks there were the Eleanor Bumpers, for the Jesse Jacksons there were the Michael Stewarts, Yusef Hawkins and right around the corner from where my parents used to live when my sons were still children, Anthony Baez.

And as my sons made their way to manhood they learn that there are too many Rodney Kings, Amadou Diallos, Patrick Dorismonds, Abner Louimas, James Byrds, Sean Bells and now Jordan Davis.

In between what they are taught in school they are taught manners and respect and pride and faith, yes because it is the right thing to do. But they learn it may also keep them alive.

Yes, we were strict. Yes, we had rules. They learn to think of others as well as of and for themselves. They are taught responsibility and, like all children/teens/young adults, begrudgingly learn it.

They eventually learn curfews are not because I did not trust them to go out into the world, but because I did not trust the world to give them back to us. With one son sometimes too nice for his own good and the other sometimes too hot-tempered for his, if they are in the house, I am not worrying at 1am, at 2am, at 3am. I am not worrying if this will be the night, the night that the nightmare comes true and we get the call. The call that is the nightmare of every parent that must raise black boys to black men.

The nightmare that became the unfortunate reality for Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin – because like Stewart, Hawkins, Baez, King, Diallo, Louima, Dorismond, Byrd, Bell and Davis we know there are far, far, far too many Trayvon Martins out there never heard about in the news.

I am the mother of two suns.
Two black suns.
Two black suns in this country, this United States of America.

They were taught that red of our flag is for the valor in fighting for the right to live free; the white for the purity and innocence of our thought and purpose and the blue for the justice to protect those rights. Though as black men those inalienable rights wouldn’t be put to paper for them for another 100 years, and to some form of actuality for another 100 years hence. They learn it can also be the red of their blood on a baton, the bullet from a gun, the edge of a blade or a fist from the white-hot rage of someone having his or her worst day that encountered them having one of the worst of theirs and the blue of their body growing cold in the morgue from the result of that confrontation long before I get the call.

They learn that their All American names will get the door to open. Then they learn that their not so all American looks will sometimes have those same doors close in their faces.

They are taught that though it is certainly better than it has ever been, they learn that there is still quite some ways to go.

My suns are now adults, living their lives as men. My late-husband and I did the best we could with what we had. We got them through the minefield to black adulthood relatively unscathed. I no longer have nightmares of the call. I go to sleep at night trusting we will all safely see the morning unharmed. However, I am guessing, so did did Evelyn Lugo when chaos crashed through her door.

Things like this happen and a mother’s worry does crop up again on such occasions – after all…

I am the mother of two suns.
Two black suns.
Two black suns living their lives as black men in this country, this United States of America.

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Write, Share, Give: Slice of Life | Two Writing Teachers



Slice of Life - Two Writing Teachers

30/30 – 30 | BOO!

My sons rolled their eyes at me as they always did when Halloween comes around.  Luckily, by their viewing at least, I do not go all out transforming the house into a holiday appropriate wonderland as I do for Christmas.  Still, every now and then I get into the I want to carve a pumpkin mood. This was one of those Halloweens were I was in a pumpkin carving, tons of chocolate and other goodies to give away, witches hat wearing mood. Now well into their teens, and knowing they are going to be dragged into it anyway shake their heads as they begrudgingly get into the spirit with me.

Thanks to such cinema sweethearts as Freddy Cruger (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Michael Myers (Halloween) faux bloody masks were de rigueur.  My youngest gets an idea and asks to borrow his father’s full length leather trench coat. Both of us being well aware of his imagination, my eldest and I look at each other part warily, partly with anticipation to see where this is going to go.

My youngest dons the coat and mask, pulls up the hood to the hoodie, grabs the big bowl of candy and when the coast is clear steps outside to stand perfectly still in a corner of the front porch closest to the front door.  He was already six feet tall by this point, thus he cut an imposing figure in the leather and bloody mask.  If any trick-or-treaters want candy, they are going to have to come to the statue to get it.

“Oh this is going to be good!” My eldest grins as we stand by the living room window to watch the scene unfold.  It takes a few minutes, but soon enough there are five or six children standing by the front gate trying to determine whether it is safe to come get the candy just sitting there in the bowl for the taking.  As always with such a group, some poor soul is goaded into being the brave one to investigate.

The little boy opens the gate takes a step in and stops. My youngest does not move a muscle. I cannot see him breathe; nor blink. He is a perfect Halloween statue. The little boy takes a few tentative steps more up the path, but still no movement from the statue. He looks back at his friends who goad him on. He makes his way up the short path to the first step and stops again, trying to gauge the situation. It is taking everything my eldest and I have not to laugh aloud as we watch this unfold.

“Hey, it’s just a statue holding a bowl of candy come up and get some!” The boy yells back to his friends bravely climbing the remaining steps as the friends come running up the pathway.  The boy raises his hand to get candy and the moment his fingers touch…

“RAWRAAAAARGGHHH!”  

The “statue” comes roaring to life and scares the living heck out of the poor child and his friends.  They are screaming, running down the steps and halfway down the pathway, before the combined laughter of my sons and I make them realize they have just been had. My youngest stops laughing long enough to call the boy back and convince them all it is okay to have candy. He gives the other kids a few candies each, but lets the little boy take as much candy as he wants for being the brave one.

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Slice of Life Story Challenge

Slice of Life Story Challenge

It seemed only fair since tomorrow is Halloween, that I have at least one such story for it.
And with this, the only non-fiction story of the set 30/30 set, I miraculously conclude the 30 Stories in 30 Days Challenge on time.  It has been an interesting romp stretching my imaginative path, I hope you’ve enjoyed the stretch. I now return to my irregularly scheduled blogging.

Time Drawing Near

‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ no longer hold a charm
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ have lost their sway
The sound of glass breaking, holds not the same alarm
When I could conceive a multitude of frights just yesterday

Macaroni and glitter artwork, stuff that used to be bane
Along with a medal made of paper, in the scrapbook
A box with a bundle of model trains and cars and planes
Memories past, that bellow for a just another look

Emphasizing the second syllable of the word every
The volcano project that was quite a bit unstable
The melted chocolate cookie smile used to distract me
From the crumbly mess left on the kitchen table

The children who couldn’t fib, looking me in my eyes
The kids I couldn’t trust not to burn the toast
The brats who threw a party and told straight-faced lies
When confronted with evidence of their being such gallant hosts

The con-men who know ‘Please mother?’ from ‘Mommy PUH-LEEZE??’
The house slaves with laundry finished and dinner cooked, ready to serve
The hooligans who greet me at the door when I take too long fumbling with my keys
The young men who offer the aspirin, sensing I’ve had a day that tested my nerves

These days I find myself staring a little longer at their faces
And the tones of their voices, to my memory, I try hard to adhere
Some mother’s instinct I suppose, preparing for empty spaces
That once remote chance of their leaving, now drawing near
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dVerse ~ Poets Pub | OpenLinkNight Week 65

Tar Beach

First weekend of summer, threw a backyard BBQ
And new friends pulled me from my chaise
As we tour the house they see an old pix or two
And that brought me back to my younger days

Music blasting on the box with a deafening boom
Ghetto burgers sizzling fast on the charcoal grill
The flowerpots bursting of color in full bloom
That darn Junie spiking punch with Papa’s specil swill

And standing over the fire is Aunt Nanette
Basting meats with her ‘secret’ glaze
The drifting scent alone breaks you out in a sweat
Wafting in the summer sun’s blaze

The older women chit-chat and gossip
With the old mens province being dominoes
All pretending their hooch is ‘justa sip’
Knowing they’re tanked from their head to their toes

Yeah, I remember back to the rooftop era days,
When ‘Right On!” was a normal part of speech
The poor folk’s version of Riviera ways,
Straight up the stairs, through the door to Tar Beach

Little boys trying too fast and hard to be men
Adamant in voicing their first mistake
At little girls trying too fast and hard to be women
‘Must be jelly girl ‘cause jam don’t shake’

And comes Nana Gains with a voice of stone
”You modern kids just like kids was way back when.
Just mind your manners, ‘cause you ain’t grown
And when you is, you best ta mind ‘em then!”

And wouldn’t think Nana could move so fast
‘Cause she look slower than a herd of snails
But ‘fore you know it the boys get bopped on their heads
And the girls get switches to their tails

Yeah, I remember the rooftop era days,
When kids learned what the old folk’s had to teach
The poor folk’s version of Riviera ways,
Straight up the stairs, through the door to Tar Beach

When the cool evening comes, the kids sent to bed
Breezes blow sails made of sheets hanging on the line
Slow music starts to wail, beneath the stars ahead
Bringing a certain calmness to the night so fine

Men and women start dancing real close together
Hooded eyes and silk-veiled words begin
The new heat having nothing to do with weather
With fingers sneaking touches of bare skin

Us older kids hanging just out of sight
Of our parents line of view
Many first kisses happened on such a night
And a few other things happened too

Yeah, I remember back to the rooftop era days,
Before locked doors kept them out of reach
The poor folk’s version of Riviera ways,
Straight up the stairs, through the door to Tar Beach

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dVerse Poets Pub | OpenLinkNight Week – Anniversary Week

Easy Does It

Easy does it! How time has slipped away…
Both sons now call other places home
Each making his own mark in this world
And soon another state may claim one as son
Easy does it! How time has slipped away…

Easy does it! How time has slipped away…
My heart feels that it was just what? Last week?
I kissed a boo-boo and made it all well
Or, explained why a girl may act like that
Easy does it! How time has slipped away…

Easy does it! How time has slipped away…
The nest for has emptied for quite some time
And I mark the times when I now see their faces.
For the times between seem ever longer
Easy does it! How time has slipped away…

Easy does it! How time has slipped away…
The pictures in my heart still feel brand new
And yet marks the years that have gone by
Fresh lines upon my face tell equal truths
Easy does it! How time has slipped away…

Easy does it! How time has slipped away…
Did I not just give birth unto these men?
Who wince when I call them my babies
But my babies, just aren’t babies anymore
Easy does it! How time has slipped away…

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It’s been an interesting few days of marking time for me. I’m still working it out.

In the interim I’ll visit the rest of today’s Slices of Life over at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012 

 


One Score and a Decade Ago

One score and a decade ago today, I held this little squirming bundle in my arms. This chubby little bundle had magically transformed me from wild child to mother.  The enormity of such, boggled me then and in all seriousness the amazement has not left me. Seeing him earlier week reminded me of that initial, love, joy and yes, panic. I may not have always gotten it right, but I always tried to do my best. All things considered, I didn’t do half bad, if I do say so myself. 😉

Happy 30th Birthday Son #1

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Visit the rest of today’s Slices of Life over at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012

 

Embarass versus Humiliate – How Much Is Too Much?

My then twelve-year old I think three or four friends over and they were in his room playing video games. I’m in the kitchen when he comes in for –I don’t remember what now– and says something outlandish but just barely within the guidelines of acceptable to me. Again, I don’t remember exactly what was said, but it was just annoying enough for me to react. I happen to be filling a pot with a four-quart pot with water to put on the stove at the time.  I jokingly held the over his head reminding him to watch his mouth and don’t think because he’s getting bigger he can get crazy. He looked at the pot over his head, folded his arms across his chest and just stared at me as if to say I dare you.  Because I really was just semi-chastising him and really did not want to clean up a lot of water, I carefully tilted the pot so only a small trickle landed on his head.  Mr. Man, Jr. then puffed out all of his mighty twelve year old frame, rolled his eyes and with an arrogance worthy of his father (those that know my late-husband can appreciate that), and declared.

“I THOUGHT so!” That was a bad move on his part; a BAD move.

Without a second thought, I turned the entire contents of the pot over on his head. I not so nicely, reminded him that he was a twelve-year-old child and he was to never, NEVER think he that he predict what I would or would not do to him as his mother. I then ordered him to go to his change clothes, come back, and clean up the water so I could continue cooking dinner.

It was only after I went to change clothes, as I had also spilled water on myself in the process, that I remembered he had company. I have no idea what he said to his friends, when he entered his room-dripping wet, but I have to imagine it was not pleasant for my child to have to face his friends like that.  I only learned several years later when the subject somehow came up, on how embarrassed, he was by that and that “I still haven’t forgiven you”.

All parents understand that some unforgiving moments go with parenthood. I never ask after the fact, because I didn’t care.  He needed a reminder, right then and there, on who Mama was before he got out of hand and that was that.

I mention the above to serve as a precursor to the following.

So, there’s this video that has run a small circuit.   Please note, while the video linked to in and of itself is not necessarily offensive, the site it comes from can be very much so, thus those at work, don’t be surprised if your company’s filters block it from showing.

http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/videos/video.php?v=wshhBtdQvDJLQy55M05q&set_size=1

Here’s the Cliff Notes version: A young black male (twelve to fourteen years of age) was seen “acting hard” in his Facebook statuses etc. The youth’s uncle, who took considerable objection to his nephew’s online persona, somehow saw the entries.  What was the uncle’s response? To force the boy to use his webcam to live stream a video of him (the uncle) “whipping his ass” with a belt while he explains that their family does not come from such (the gangs and rap culture). He makes the boy renounce not only his behavior online, but that all rap and gangs are “fake” and “bullshit”.  You really need to view the video to understand it all.

Now I love that the uncle is obviously involved in this young man’s life. He obviously commands the respect of his nephew; how the nephew represents himself, and by reflection, his family outside of the home, including online.

What I question is it necessary to take a belt to the boy in this situation?  I’m NOT saying there should never be a belt in raising a child, for that is a parent by parent decision, I’m just asking was its use necessary for the lesson here.  Was the humiliation of live streaming it necessary to the lesson.

As I said before, all parents inherently understand there are going to be lesson taught in which the method of teaching that will not be forgiven. These unforgiving moments are usually something that involved humiliation. It is a tough call to choose to teach a lesson that way, but sometimes it is the only way to deliver a message that may not otherwise be heard. Still, there is huge difference in embarrassing your child (which I fully own up to with mine at that moment), humiliating a child (the same scenario with the uncle, but only in front of the uncle’s peers) and complete humiliation of your child, which is what I think was done here.

I’m sure in my son’s case his friends teased him about it for a while, but it was over with in a few days.  This boy had to go to school the next day, with the knowledge that most of his friends and countless others saw this.  If the comments that followed the video are an indicator, it’s going to be one long hard row to hoe.  How long can this run before the novelty dies? This video is the kind of thing that can, and most likely will, pop up years from now. This level of humiliation on a young soul has the backlash of possibly creating the “hard” person his uncle was attempting to discourage. How much is too much?

I’m hoping that the uncle truly takes his “this is not where we come from” lesson to heart. I do not want some over zealous person to report the uncle and he goes through ridiculous legalities for this, but neither do not I want to see him on BET or  YouTube or wherever grasping his fifteen minutes of family values on his nephew’s back. Even if the initial video isn’t deemed bad enough, certainly this would be too much.

And now what…?

I was putting out my garbage for the morning pickup when I heard all this ruckus going on behind me where my neighbor’s car is parked in a sort of open area between buildings used as  a driveway. It was seven teenaged-boys at least sixteen years of age fighting. Rather, I should say, four were throwing some serious punches; one was counting numbers and laughing at the fighting with another boy.  I was a little familiar with the basic concept of this. The ones doing the beating only had to the count of one hundred to do whatever they wanted to do to the one getting beat and then they had to stop. Depending on how much the one getting beat was disliked it could a semi-fast count or a really slow one.  If anything interrupted the fight, even if the count was already at ninety-nine, the count had to restart from the beginning. If the ones doing the beating had mercy they could choose to reduce the recount to fifty or twenty-five. My first thought was boys (even ones more than big enough to know better) will be boys.

It’s near 6pm in the evening; I didn’t see any one coming or going on my short block, I did not have my cell on me and above all I was out-numbered by males a lot younger than I. In all honesty , I wouldn’t have gotten involved at all except, this was happening on the property of my apartment building and they were too close to my neighbor’s car. There was a school yard a block away, if they wanted to fight over whatever stupidness it was about, take it over there. Then I saw the seventh one who was getting beat.

He was not a teenager; this boy could not have been older than twelve at the most.  The smallest of the teenagers doing the beating had a good six inches and at least twenty pounds on him and there were four of them.  At this point I forgot about my neighbor’s car. I was worried about the child balled up in a near-fetal position against the fence.

“What the hell are you doing? Get away from him!” I yelled. Luckily for the child the count had just reached a hundred and the teenager counting had called for the break before I yelled. My trying to help could have made it worse for him as I only remembered about the recount rule after I was back in my apartment.

“Yo, mind yo business!” The counter sucked his teeth.

“Boy, don’t even try to act all man up now. You and your friends are beating up on one child nearly half your age. You get no cred for that.” I stared him down, “Besides, you’re on my building property; it is my business.”

If he or his friends were going to say or do anything else; it was cut short by a teen-aged girl who appeared and called him stupid and pretty much said what I was saying.  However she said it, it was enough to get him to relent.  Just then, one of my other neighbors came running out brandishing a baseball bat, and stopped short when he saw me.  From the side window of his apartment he saw the four boys beating up on the one and came down for that, but I was in front of the building out of his line of vision,  he never saw me out there. Not that it would have stopped him.  We all gave each other evil stares as the five of the teenage boys and the girl passed, but no one said anything.  The fifth teenager was trying to help the kid, but drew back when the kid yelled to get the fuck off.  He and the sixth teenager stepped to the side as the boy came out. He was limping, and his face was going to be a series of bruises by the morning, but seemed otherwise alright. I started towards him, but he looked at me with such malice, I stepped back just as I felt my neighbor’s hand on my shoulder about to pull me back. We both watched as this boy limped away in the company of the last two teenager.  I’m not one hundred percent sure but, I believe as they passed, I heard one of the teenagers say to the other that the kid had guts and took it well.  Took it well? What the fuck? The beat down was on purpose?

I can’t swear on it, but I believe what I witnessed was something known as being “jumped in”.   This child purposely let himself get wailed on as a gang initiation rite. If this is true, I am even more scared of that child’s future than I was of what I saw.