Monday, May 16, 2016

The Extraordinary Negroes, ep 1: "Beyoncé is Bacon" (ft. Damon Young & Panama Jackson from VerySmartBrothas.com


In the debut episode of The Extraordinary Negroes (a podcast extravaganza), my co-host Jay Connor and I talk to the founders of VerySmartBrothas.com about the past and future of the VSB brand, mental health, and, of course, the hierarchy of breakfast foods. Grab some biscuits and gather 'round the speaker, chile.

Episode 1: "Beyoncé is Bacon" (feat. Damon Young and Panama Jackson from VerySmartBrothas.com)

Listen: Soundcloud | iTunes (coming soon)

Listen, subscribe, comment, share, and all that jazz.

Follow The Extaordinary Negroes on social media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Join me Friday, May 20 in New York for Colored Boy and Friends: Mental Health Edition.


For more tickets and more información, click here.


With love and a hookup on baby Jordans,

alex.

Let's keep the party going: The Colored Boy Store | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mental Health Reading List #1

cheese grits: the foundation of my self-care. (photo: food.com)

As we're now thigh-deep in Mental Health Awareness Month, it warms my rice-loving heart to see so much openness and helpful information around such an important topic. I love that public conversations around struggles, healing, trauma, recovery, therapy, self-care, and joy are becoming increasingly common, and that folks are using the internet and social media to finding potentially life-saving support and fellowship. Being candid about my highs and lows has been both freeing and therapeutic, and I plan to continue doing my part to help normalize and amplify this stuff, because silence and shame, when mental illness is involved, can kill. And while it's awesome to see so much content and dialog this month, especially from Black folks, staying on top of your mental and emotional well-being is a year-round adventure. Here is some soul food to help you on your journey.
I had to unlearn the lie, subtlety taught to me throughout my adolescence, that things like depression and anxiety are a “white” thing (or, since I’m from Ghana, are a “Western” thing). According to Black Women’s Health, black people make up around 25% of the mental health needs in the United States (the majority being women). No one is “less black” because they are mentally ill.
  • Who's The Keeper of Your Mother's Memories When She Can't Remember Them? [The Root]
My mother is still here with us, but her mind left us long ago. Dementia has robbed her of her memories and personality, leaving behind a woman who looks exactly like my mother and sounds exactly like my mother but is no longer my mother.
  • Actress Lisa Nicole Carson: "I Thought I Had It All Together" [BlackDoctor.org]
Upon being discharged, I returned to Los Angeles and went back to work on Ally McBeal feeling more in control. Everybody on the show was wonderful to me, but my contract wasn’t renewed for the final season. Nobody gave me an explanation, but I assumed it had to do with what had happened. I was devastated.
Sometimes the novel is not ready to be written because you haven’t met the inspiration for your main character yet. Sometimes you need two more years of life experience before you can make your masterpiece into something that will feel real and true and raw to other people. Sometimes you’re not falling in love because whatever you need to know about yourself is only knowable through solitude. Sometimes you haven’t met your next collaborator. Sometimes your sadness encircles you because, one day, it will be the opus upon which you build your life.
  • How It Feels When The Person You Love Has Depression [Vice]
You cannot be the best support system for someone else if your own mental health is impacted from their depression. For me, taking a 12-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course pulled me back from the really deep water. It helped me deal with the severe and crippling anxiety that had crept up on me trying to manage my ex-boyfriend's depression.
  • How I dragged myself out of the abyss that is depression without an Rx [Medium]
3. Pay attention to “the shift” — This was tricky. It’s so subtle, one could keep going as if the depressed state is as intense as ever, but really it’s the stain of depression. I suspect that this requires quite a bit of self awareness. I had to recognize the almost imperceptible difference between “I can’t” and “I just don’t feel like it.”
  • How Police Violence Broke My Boyfriend And Ruined Our Relationship [The Root]
No matter how often we discuss police brutality, we sometimes forget to factor in the depth of the psychological impact it has. We often don’t discuss the possibility that those who experienced police brutality could suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. But given how often police brutality in the black community occurs, it should be explored.
  • Rappers Talk About Their Depression [Vice]
 My whole disappointment with my musical career bled over into my personal life. I had friends who told me, "You don't seem the same, you're not as outgoing." At the time, I just felt like being alone.
  • I Started Therapy So I Could Take Better Care Of Myself [Buzzfeed]
He’s a wonderful doctor. I never hesitate to call him, even at the slightest headache. This past summer, however, my symptoms were different: anxiety in the mornings, jealousy in the evenings, and a chronic loneliness that came and went as it pleased. I told myself to not worry about these persistent knots in my chest. Barring a stroke or a heart attack, I didn’t plan on asking for help from my doctor. Or from anyone. 
I self-diagnosed this as “just stress.”
I deal with suicidal, unipolar depression and I take medication daily to treat it. Over the past seven years, I’ve had two episodes that were severe and during which I thought almost exclusively of suicide. I did not eat much and lost weight during these episodes. I couldn’t sleep at all, didn’t even think about sex, and had constant diarrhea. The first thing I did each morning was vomit.
  • 'MayBeWell': Shining A Spotlight On Mental Health In The Black Community [The Root]
I learned about how many mental-health professionals lack the cultural competence to treat us, and how commonly we’re misdiagnosed. Ultimately, I found out about how little we talk about mental health, regardless of how often it is challenged in our homes and lives. It’s the elephant in the room, strangling us with its trunk.
A roundtable on mental health hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, featuring Atrice Williams, Dr. Monica Coleman, Stacia L. Brown, Mychal Denzel Smith, Traci Campbell, and Sabrina Jackson.
More to come.

View my mental health-related writing and work here.



Join me Friday, May 20 in New York for Colored Boy and Friends: Mental Health Edition.
For more tickets and more información, click here.

Let's keep the party going: The Colored Boy Store | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Subscribe to The Colored Boy Report, Alexander Hardy's personal newsletter, and receive updates and exclusive content via email.


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Thursday, May 12, 2016

I shared my story with Mashable.com for World Lupus Day

My lifesaving journal, locs lost from chemo, and hospital bracelets

This week, to commemorate World Lupus Day, I spoke to SaVonne Anderson, a writer in the Social Good section over at Mashable, about my experience with lupus. I shared a bit about some of the hardest parts of living with lupus, my diagnosis, and a little about treatment.

This past April 25 makes 11 years since the day I was diagnosed at 20. Each year since then, I tend to get increasingly emotional, pensive, and newly grateful as the date approaches. As I get further from that wild ass time, I know that the saga is no less important in my life, but it is noticeably less vivid. Much of those first days and weeks are murky, as I spent about two weeks in in a coma shortly after being diagnosed, which was big fun. But I do know that the whole ordeal left me with both a powerful gratitude for my life, my mobility, my sanity, and my family and friends.

After I awoke from the coma, I spent the summer progressing from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, meeting with a physical therapist for a while to regain my balance and leg strength. I dealt with side effects from a handful of "necessary" medications. I completed eight months of chemotherapy. It was all fucking terrible. BUT I can't imagine who I would be had I not faced this stuff. I don't know that I would have this fiery curiosity, or this insatiable hunger to do, learn, and contribute more. After bouncing back, everything became urgent. Dreams were no longer deferred. Priorities, alliances, and friendships shifted and vanished. There was no time for meandering through life on the path to nowhere. "I might not have five years!" I'd say often.

I moved to New York the following year because I convinced myself that I "might not have five years" to scrape together the nerve to make the leap. That urgency has been both motivating and maddening: I sometimes have to remind myself that, no matter how much I try, I can't do, be, excel at, know, or have everything. It took me a while to be able to be inspired by this transformative experience rather than terrified into action by and chained to it. And while I do know that letting life happen to you is a sure way to invite regret and resentment, it took me a while to accept that life is not a race, and that balance amidst the ambition is an essential component for survival. Still working on being kind to and patient myself. Still learning to temper that self-imposed pressure to be faultless and infinitely capable. And to slow the hell down, breathe, and be okay with where I am and what I'm feeling. And that slowing the hell down or taking a step back when necessary does not equate to failure. Baby steps. Woosah

Anyhow, have a gander:
Lupus is not a fatal disease on its own, but the effects it has on one's body can be life-threatening.

"Lupus attacked my lungs, kidneys, heart, and brain," Hardy says. "I went from diagnosis to coma in two days, with no readily identifiable symptoms beyond flu-like ones."
 Have a gander: 8 facts you need to know about lupus and how you can help.

And I wrote about my lupus diagnosis two years ago: Nine years alive

Join me Friday, May 20 in New York City for Colored Boy and Friends, a conversation series and literary showcase for mental health awareness.

Let's keep the party going: The Colored Boy Store | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Subscribe to The Colored Boy Report, Alexander Hardy's personal newsletter, and receive updates and exclusive content via email.


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Friday, May 6, 2016

Join me in NYC at Colored Boy and Friends - Mental Health Awareness Edition!

Greetings.

After heaps o' delays, paralyzing indecision, and mounds of systemic hateration in the dancerie/dance soiree, my event, Colored Boy and Friends is happening on Friday, May 20th. Shaketh thine groove thang! Here's what you need to know:






Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, I'm bringing my conversation series and literary showcase, Colored Boy and Friends, to the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in New York City on Friday, May 20. This time around, I will be joined by multimedia journalist Bené VieraKeisha Dutes, audio producer, founder of Bondfire Radio and host of TK in the AM; and playwright and filmmaker Donja R. Love, co-founder of The Each-Other Project.

In an attempt to broaden and normalize conversations around emotional and mental well being, in this fourth edition of Colored Boy and Friends, mental health and wellness shall be the theme of the night. I invited these three winners because I adore their work and simply want more people to be aware of their awesomeness. My guests and I will talk candidly about, among other things, their careers, their motivations, their tragedies and triumphs, and their mental health journeys. And maybe even their favorite chicken dishes or grits recipes. You never know. The sky is the limit.  I will be sharing new written work and having a tag team rant moment with a special guest. 

WHY?

Mental illness affects each one of us, whether we know it or not. In fact, nearly one in five adults in the United States will experience some mental health issue or disorder each year. Since I began writing, speaking, and tweeting about my struggles with anxiety and depression, I have seen firsthand how cathartic opening up about the valleys and unpretty parts of life can be. As more of my homies (and readers) shared their struggles with me, it became clear that there are far more of us struggling and suffering privately, silently, than I ever imagined. There was no common thread in terms of gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, or economic status. Struggle is indeed universal. 

Discussions on mental and emotional issues are too often avoided, derailed, or discouraged due to misinformation and dangerous stigmas, while fear and lack of resources keeps those in need from seeking or realizing a need for help. For Black folks, gaps in access to affordable, quality health care, a tendency to discount the seriousness of mental health, a dependence on/deference to religion ("You'll be fine. Just pray about it!"), and a host of other issues keep us from getting the life-saving support we need. As evidenced by the fact that, on average, 117 people end their own lives each daynot talking plainly and openly about this stuff is literally killing us. 

I'm looking forward to using this platform to bring an important issue into the spotlight. Join me for a night of fellowship, literary nerdery, and conversations on mental health, healing, and writing. And, host and liquor wizard Bruce "Blue" Rivera (aka The Urban Mixologist), seen on SpikeTV's Bar Rescue, will be making magic at the bar. Shazzam.

Doors and mingling and such: 7:30 PM
Showtime: 8 PM

Meet my special guests:

BENÉ VIERA, multimedia journalist

Bene Viera, multimedia journalist extraordinaire

Bené Viera is a multimedia journalist and writer who covers everything from pop culture to race to gender to music. In addition to staff writer positions at VH1 and Centric TV, her work has appeared on TeenVogue.com, Billboard, Jezebel, Fusion, ESSENCE, VIBE, theRoot.com and others. Bené wrote the October 2015 ESSENCE cover story "The House That Shonda Built on the indelible Shonda Rhimes. Most recently, she penned three cover stories for ESSENCE's #BlackGirlMagic February 2016 issue. She has spoken at Columbia Law School and appeared on HuffPo Live, "The Michael Baisden Show," and the documntary "I Rise." Bené lives in Brooklyn where she rants about gentrification.


More Bené: Web | Twitter


KEISHA DUTES, audio producer, Founder of Bondfire Radio, co-host of 'TK in the AM'


Keisha Dutes is a graduate of CUNY Brooklyn College with a degree in TV/Radio. While working in college radio stations, she honed her personality as an energetic, opinionated, funny programmer and thorough interviewer. At Ballibay Camp for the Fine and Performing Arts, Dutes taught a successful 10 week radio program for children 7-16 years old which included producing and broadcasting live radio. After her teaching experience, she went on to train with outgoing producers of Rise Up Radio on WBAI in New York City, where she fully embraced the "TastyKeish" moniker and became a leader within the ever changing group of hosts on Rise Up Radio, the only youth produced program on “free speech radio’s” 50+ year old Pacifica Network station WBAI.

Upon TastyKeish’s departure from WBAI, she embarked on the next leg of her radio journey. She partnered with producer, Coole High and a group of creatives to start Bondfire Radio, a full service radio station with live programming to combat the zombification of commercial radio, in 2013. TastyKeish is happiest on the air live every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 10 AM EST on her morning show TK in the AM. Co-hosted and music supervised by long time collaborator Conscious, together they engage listeners live on air via social media and their chatroom. TastyKeish also continues the legacy of teaching by providing mentorship to interns daily.

More Keisha: Web | TK in the AM | Instagram | Twitter | Bondfire Radio


DONJA R. LOVE, Playwright and filmmaker, co-founder of The Each-Other Project 


Donja R. Love is a Philadelphia born and raised playwright and filmmaker. His selected stage-plays include: The Dead N--- Poem, and Sugar In Our Wounds. His film work includes: Modern Day Black Gay (web-series), I Hate New York (web-series), and The Space Between (short film). He’s the Philadelphia Adult Grand Slam Poetry Champion (2011), and Life Media Award for Best New Play runner-up (The Dead N---- Poem, 2010). He’s the co-founder and creator of Ademide Theatre Ensemble, which strives to strengthen the African-American theatre experience through provocative works that highlight the quality of Black theatre; and The Each-Other Project, which strives to build community, through art and activism, for Queer men of diversity, (www.TheEachOtherProject.com). He resides in Brooklyn, NY and teaches playwriting.

More Donja: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube

Previous Colored Boy and Friends guests have been literary rockstars, branding gurus, performers, media makers, and moguls-in-training. Among others, cancer survivor and performer Andre Singleton, Mic.com Senior Correspondent Darnell Moore, choreographer Shernita Anderson joined me at the Winter Edition. Blogger, media personality and author of Don't Waste Your Pretty, Demetria Lucas (seen on Bravo's Blood, Sweat & Heels); world traveler and Founder/CEO of Tastemakers Africa, Cherae Robinson; and pop culture connoisseur, literary superthug and Jezebel staff writer, Clover Hope brightened up the Spring Edition. Abernathy Magazine publisher Willie Jackson and TOMS 2015 Global Giver and word traveler Bayyina Black were featured “Friends” at the Summer Edition, which was broadcast live from the 2015 Bondfire Radio Audio Festival in Brooklyn.

Host Alexander Hardy (that's me) is a Virginia-born writer, foodie, educator, dancer, and mental health advocate. His written work has appeared in EBONY and on CNN.com, Very Smart Brothas, Huffington Post, Gawker, Saint Heron, Eater.com, and Courvoisier.com, among other outlets. These days, he writes most often about race and racism, pop culture, missing Panama, and the glory of Saint Damita Jo Jackson. His writing workshop topics range from creative, academic, and writing to mental health, self-care, and personal essay writing. Alexander, a lupus survivor, does not believe in Delaware or snow.

Ready to get you some fun?


View the rest of my mental health-related work here. View my professional portfolio here. Contact me via email [alex at thecoloredboy.com] for press, sponsorship, or general information. You're so pretty.

With love and a hookup on baby Jordans,

alex.

Let's keep the party going: The Colored Boy Store | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Subscribe to The Colored Boy Report, Alexander Hardy's personal newsletter, and receive updates and exclusive content via email.


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Thursday, March 17, 2016

[WORKSHOP] Literary Therapy: Writing (For) Your Life - Richmond, VA


HOLA. Have you had your chicken today? Anyhow, now that Winter begins packing up her shit to take her raggedy ass back to hell, I'm ready to do some more traveling and teaching and eating and return to a sweeter, sleeveless way of life. The first stop on this springtime tour de gluttony is Richmond, Virginia, where I attended Virginia Commonwealth University for .999 semesters many moons ago when I thought I was about that broadcast journalism life. (Long story short: I chose my dance company over school, which was one of the best choices I ever made.)

This time, I'm teaming up with the lovely Shawnda Harper of TheNappyNerd.com to bring my mental health-centered writing workshop series to my home state. BOOM. Here's the run down:

Busting your emotions open upon a blank page often works wonders for the soul. Writing through the rough patches and rolling in the deep, on paper, can be both therapeutic and revelatory. It’s an undertaking sure to bring clarity (and closure?) on life’s problems, patterns and sharp turns.

During Literary Therapy: Writing (For) Your Life, we’ll relax (with snacks) in a secluded, intimate setting as we open those closets and mine our lives for rich, relevant writing material. In a safe, calming and encouraging environment, we will write about our mental health journeys, self-care, self-love, self-hate, and all that wonderful jazz that stands between us and Understanding. You will flex your creative muscle while writing your way through the inspiring, the life-changing and the tragic alongside a dynamic group of similarly openminded, clarity-seeking folks.

We will read published excellence by wonderful people like Roxane Gay and Kiese Laymon and Dave Eggers and discuss what it takes to craft powerful, engaging and relatable written work. Using a (masterfully seasoned) gumbo of writing exercises, group discussions, peer review and instructor feedback, you will produce a collection of raw and revelatory new material while experiencing the cathartic and healing power of writing firsthand. With some good parenting and a heap of perseverance, one of those powerful personal sagas may even grow up to become a book, a blog, or an Ava Duvernay-directed biopic starring David Oyelowo or Viola Davis.

This workshop is intended for beginning and seasoned writers alike who want to strengthen their creative voice and answer difficult personal questions through introspective writing. This workshop is also suitable for mental health professionals, scholars, and administrators seeking new methods of clarifying and exploring personal narratives with clients, patients or students. Previously, I have lead this workshop at Adler University in Chicago for students and administrators in the clinical mental health graduate program, and for a group that included college professors and relationship counselors.


This workshop was made possible by Nappy Nerd: Lifestyle of the Black and Brainy, a lifestyle brand designed to celebrate and showcase Black Excellence. Have a gander at their fine goods, stalk their Instagram, and follow them on Facebook like a nice human.


My essays on mental health:
  • "Dancing The Blues Away: How Ballet Became My Therapy" [Very Smart Brothas]
  • “What A Difference A Year Makes: On Battling and Beating Depression” [Very Smart Brothas]
  • "Hey, Therapy” [Abernathy]
  • “On Depression: to anyone else living in a fog” [Gawker]
View my writing portfolio and my LinkedIn. You're so pretty.

(To discuss hosting a workshop for your school, writing group, organization, etc., hit me on my Motorola two-way pager...or send me an email.)

Let's keep the party going: The Colored Boy Store | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Subscribe to The Colored Boy Report, Alexander Hardy's personal newsletter, and receive updates and exclusive content via email.


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