A while back, my brothers Brandon & Donja (of The Each-Other Project) invited me to be a part of their roundtable series featuring colorful conversations about the lives of queer and trans folks of color, Communitea. I joined Brandon Lee, Carlton Bell, Gavin Simmons, and Christopher “Chip” Almanzar for a broad discussion on whether size matters, how our cultural backgrounds influenced our sexual identities, mental and sexual health, and the future of HIV.
Over on Very Smart Brothas, Alex wrote about his first job as the dude in the Chuck E. Cheese costume. Taddow:
"When I had enough of asking Mom and Dad for money to buy Taco Bell combos, CDs from Sam Goode and extra night-and-weekend minutes, I knew it was time to get a damn job. Sure, they’d have to accompany me, unlicensed and autonomy-seeking, to make these purchases. But upon arrival, who’d be pulling hard-earned dollar dollar bills out of their first wallet that didn’t have a cartoon character and/or Velcro, newly copped at TJ Maxx?
Plus, my friends who had entered the land of 16 before me were all working and flourishing and getting their ears pierced at Claire’s in Coliseum Mall with their disposable income. So when my time came, I eagerly joined the workforce with a pretty sweet setup: climb inside a giant costume and become a cheer-spreading rodent, learn some choreography, enchant and terrorize toddlers for a bit, do a song and dance each hour and be rewarded with a personal pizza with toppings of my choosing, thank you very much. As long as I could buy Cinnabons—then a food group unto themselves—at will, minimum wage was fine with me."
I first read this situation at Wine & Words, my first official event for GetSomeJoy, my multimedia initiative promoting mental and emotional wellness and sharing vital life-saving resources among Black and brown folks, the historically marginalized and underserved. We brought folks together for an intimate mixer situation exploring mental and emotional wellness through guided group writing, candid conversation, merriment, and readings:
Most of 2017 has been one grand Iggy Azalea a capella concert-level struggle.
Some days, my primary goal is to make it back home without backflipping in front of a train. Other days, I feel like wading through a pool, trying to keep a beach ball in the air, each completed work task, moment of joy, or act of self-care or self-love sending the ball up again for a few seconds of reprieve. I’m thankful to be alive—with moisturized elbows, ankles, and knuckles in the face of hateful frigid weather—and here tonight surrounded by so much love, awesomeness, and graceful aging. But each and every day is a fight for survival, a tireless battle against self-loathing, coleslaw, and my inner hater constantly asking, “What’s the fucking point?”
A sisterfriend recently told me, I'd been heavy on her spirit and that she'd been waiting to get that call, and while I respected her candor, it sucked to hear. Her fears weren’t unfounded though. I do think about death and dying regularly. I do struggle with motivation, building myself up, and seeing all the good that other people see. As morbid as it sounds, dying does sometimes feel like a source of relief for deep pain. I have considered methods and who’ll be responsible for wiping my browser history, disposing of my jockstraps, and making sure my collection of Janet tour books and memorabilia gets a good home.
For 2.3 seconds during that conversation, I considered asking her, just in case, to be in charge of my burial wardrobe because I can't let people's last memory of me be a boxy sports coat I'd never wear. But didn't want to scare her.
Being in survival mode for two-and-a-half years and scraping it together just enough each day to not project the struggle, to not look like the train wreck you feel yourself becoming wears down your body and your spirit. Being hypervigilant and unable to relax is not fun. Feeling like stability and peace of mind are juuuuust beyond my reach has been maddening. And I hate that it's often easier to bring joy to others than it is to bring joy to myself. Woosah.
A few weeks ago, I began a “Reasons to Live” section in my journal, for days when I need a reminder or feel like I’m circling the drain. I don’t want my parents to get “that call.” I still want to have a squad of bilingual, rice-loving enthusiastic dish washers with boundless creativity and wonderful eyelashes. And I’ve yet to interview Janet, so I ain’t going nowhere no time soon. But at the top of that list is GetSomeJoy.
Working on this project, considering the possibilities and compiling tools that could help someone who is where I was has made me feel alive for the first time in a very damn long time. I’m thinking about the future, actively planning for next year and beyond. I’m’m thinking about the future and planning for next year and beyond. This is major, because for a while I didn't see me making it to 33, which, as long as I'm not attacked by a pack of rabid Ashanti stans between now and then, is happening in a few weeks.
Teaming up with Mario and Enesha, combining our experience, strengths, and ideas has been an unimaginably enriching experience. I look forward to tinkering with this dream. It makes me feel a bit less spiritually ashy. Some weeks, I rely on a self-care checklist, but refining this vision and applying my brainpower here, talking to and working with other advocates and folks committed to making wellness a thing makes me feel like I’mma be alright. I hate that the need for such a movement to prioritize mental and emotional wellness among Black and brown folks is so great, but I love having a vehicle to spread joy and make the world a bit less terrible.
I know what it is to feel like your world is disintegrating or like you’re running around on fire in search of a hug or bit of calm or some help. Or like you’re dying of starvation and all that’s available is grits with sugar. The horror.
Finding a therapist or support group or treatment program or rehabilitation facility or housing or financial assistance shouldn’t feel like running a barefoot marathon through a field of broken Justin Timberbitch CDs.
Finding inspiring, culturally relevant, informative stories of triumph and healing from people who look or live or love like you shouldn’t be like hunting for the Anusmouthed Swampdonkey-In-Chief’s redeeming qualities, which definitely don’t exist.
So with GetSomeJoy, one aim is to make the search for a helping hand less terrifying. I want to make the realization that you need a helping hand less terrifying.
Writing and speaking about my struggles, connecting with winners like you, and getting out of my room and out of my head remind me that I'm not alone. And though it is a challenge at times, fellowship lifts me up. I say all of that to say, GetSomeJoy is as much for me as it is for the rest of you motherfuckers and I look forward to teaming up with you like Wellness Voltron to help folks get our damn minds right, so we can continue to fight the good fight against mediocrity, misery, ashiness, and coleslaw.
In my latest for Cassius Mag, I profiled three sharp, ambitious young brothers who are using their Black Excellence and brilliance to provide business consulting, support services, and access to funding to Black innovators in Atlanta, Georgia. Donte Miller, Nathan Jones, and Robin McKinnie, co-founders of Village Micro Fund, are uplifting their community one small business at a time, and "are proving that under-resourced communities around the country can self direct the development of their neighborhoods." Check it out right here for $Free.99.
In my latest installment of "Black In The Day" for Saint Heron, I reflected on some of the most memorable on-screen moments from Black academia's past.
As chirren, teachers, staff, parents, and administrators greet new year of adventure down at the schoolhouse, let’s take a look back pon some of the phattest and most memorable moments from Black academia’s past. When report cards and parent-teacher conferences roll around, you might might need some positivity to help keep hope alive.
Let’s start the moonwalk down Memory Lane with Spike Lee’s famous ode to collegiate colorism and intraracial hair hateration in Mission College’s dancerie, “Good and Bad Hair” from 1988’s School Daze. Though the film addresses apartheid, class issues, and misogyny with the help of a stellar cast of hella talented Chocolatey Wonders, it is the spite-filled salon showdown betwixt #teamlightskin and #teamcholocolatey that keeps me coming back to this movie because I love a grand dance scene. Long before she learned how to go to work on Myra’s feet, Tisha Campbell (Jane), She Who Would Become Whitley Gilbert, and the mostly fair-skinned Gamma Rays (the “Wannabe’s”) with “good hair” danced it out against the mahogany, natural haired so-called “Jigaboos,” trading brutal jabs and sickening 8-counts, proving that all skinfolk ain’t your kinfolk. That choreo is popping, though. Shoutout to Otis Sallid.