Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Here's What The F*ck I Think (featuring Darnell Lamont Walker)

A few weeks back, I held an event called Colored Boy and Friends: Mental Health Awareness Edition at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Washington Heights. Yes, those Heights. The featured guests (or "Friends," because I'm so clever) at my literary showcase and conversation series situation were multimedia journalist Bené Viera, playwright and filmmaker Donja R. Love, and audio producer and founder of Bondfire Radio Keisha Dutes. I talked to each of them about their wonderful work, their mental health journeys, and how that journey has influenced their work (and vice versa). And I shared a cautionary tale about the good and terrible encounters with macaroni and cheese here in New York, which you can read over at Very Smart Brothas.

Mucho merriment y cackling and lots of feelings and such.

But as my objective was to center and amplify conversations around our mental and emotional wellness in an entertaining, approachable, engaging way, it was important to purge and cleanse my spirit, for self-care purposes of course.

And so I called on filmmaker, world traveler, and wild person Darnell Lamont Walker, pictured above, to join me for a cathartic ran moment called "Here's What The Fuck I Think" so that I could cuss and talk shit and ramble a bit. We went back and forth, taking turns getting shit off our chest. It went like this:

Alex: One. Fruit Punch is Stupid.

Darnell: Two. Plies is the greatest rapper alive.

Alex: Three. Dear person who sees me standing in front of an illuminated elevator button and comes up and pushes the button again:

I need you to understand than your finger is not more powerful than mine. Not even white privilege can make the elevator come faster. Please die. Thank you very much. 

Darnell: Four. The second slut gaming became a thing, being a hooker and stripped became just as honorable as being a philosopher.

Alex: Five. Not enough people in this world understand that where macaroni and cheese is concerned, cheese is NOT a seasoning. More on this later

Darnell: Six. I've started seriously speaking to kids about drugs. I learned they usually have better connections. 

Me, saying, with my eyes, "You really just said that." Darnell, responding with a smile: "Yup."
Alex: Seven. Fact: Chance The Rapper's Coloring Book is 81 million hundred dozen times more enjoyable than Kanye's The Life of Pablo in every imaginable way. 

Darnell: Eight. I don't know how to feel about the fact that I cried harder when thomas jay on my girl died than I did for my favorite uncle. 

Alex: Nine. Dear Rachel The Racial Stowaway,
You can wear box braids or have a mulatto chile named Langston,
you can wear raggedy Marley twists or throw black power fists, 
you'll never be more than a wankster. 

You can have Ashy knees or a scalp to grease with your obnoxious white woman steelo on fleek; 
You can throw rap hands and Harlem Shake and twerk, stop harassing my soul, I beseech. 
Your blackness is as authentic as mofongo made by Rachel Ray. 
Fuck off. 

Darnell: Ten. At this point, any man with colored contacts and/or an s-curl is a pedophile.

[applause and panties rained from the sky]

And then Bené Viera jumped out her seat and felt compelled reflect on her and Darnell Lamont Moore's journey as working creative folk. Great times.

Hopefully, I can make the next Colored Boy & Friends happen in September sometime.

Check out Darnell Lamont Walker's work:
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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mental Health Reading List #2

Reading "Dancing Granny" and "Amazing Grace" to this awesome group of well behaved chirren was an act of self-care.

As summer approaches and folks run themselves ragged in pursuit of that summer body, don't forget to take some time to work on getting/keeping you mind right. Self-care. Reading. Sleeping. Twerking for cardiovascular purposes. Journaling. Drinking water. Avoiding rabid Trump supporters. All of that. There is great power in reading and relating to someone else's journey, so I figured I'd gather some more of the great, moving, informative pieces I've read on mental illness, trauma, struggle, and healing lately. Here is some more soul food to help you on your journey. Pass it on.
  • HBO actor Michael K. Williams says his acting idol's ‘mental illness’ led him to attack Bronx woman, blames health, prison system for no 'proper treatment' [NY Daily News
Williams, 49, said Nash’s woes began at age 22 with the death of his mother, sending him into a schizophrenic spiral that started with his arrest for trying to steal a car while wearing only his boxer shorts.
 Nash returned home in worse shape than when he went in, with several of his teeth knocked out while behind bars on Rikers Island. Nash was eventually arrested 19 times, and was released from prison in July after a nine-year sentence for bribery and drug possession. 
“The addicts belong in drug treatment,” said Williams. “And the mentally ill belong in a hospital, not in jail. (by Larry McShane)
  • The Crisis Text Line Is an Anonymous, 24-hour Counseling Service  [Life Hacker]
The goal of the Crisis Counselor is to move people from a “hot moment” (like wanting to inflict harm onto themselves or others) to a “cool moment,” keeping them safe and healthy. They do so through active listening, empathy, and respect. (by Stephanie Lee)
  • Melissa Harris-Perry: I've Failed, Over and Over Again [Elle]
I am no rookie when it comes to failure, but during the past decade, my failures have been more spectacular because they have been more public. Once I began to pursue part of my professional life firmly within the public realm, I abdicated a luxury I had not even realized I previously enjoyed—private failure. It is not as though I suffer Kardashian-level scrutiny, but I have been on the receiving end of mean-spirited needling and bloodthirsty frenzies after minor stumbles and serious screw-ups. Public failure by women is gourmet fare for trolls. (by Melissa Harris-Perry)
  • Why We Need to Talk About Racism as a Mental-Health Trigger [Mic]
I lay awake many nights envisioning the faces of black people no longer alive and full of questions about what black people need to do to keep from being killed. There were days when I tried to shed tears that could no longer be shed. 
Mentors encouraged me to find a way to calm my rage. They told me to rest. They stressed the need for self care during stressful moments. (by Darnell Moore)
  • My Husband Died by Suicide, but Died From Depression [The Mighty]
Sometimes after trying a new medication or therapy there would be a day or two of a change in his mood or outlook, but eventually he’d quietly break the news to me it wasn’t working.   
Often with tears in his eyes he’d say, “Honey the blackness is back… I’m so sorry” like it was his fault the depression wasn’t lifting.
That’s part of the problem with the disease of depression. For those who are suffering from it, there is always a tinge of self-blame. (by Marlin Collingwood)

A photo posted by The Black Joy Project (@theblackjoyproject) on

  • This brilliant activist is helping Black people find joy — one Instagram photo at a time [Revelist]
It's called #TheBlackJoyProject, conceived by writer and dreamer Kleaver Cruz. The 27-year-old activist started photographing fellow activists, writers, and other dope Black folks about six months ago, asking them one question: How do you define Black joy? (by Evette Dionne)
  •  You feel like shit: An interactive self-care guide [Jace Harr]
This is meant to be an interactive flow chart for people who struggle with self care, executive dysfunction, and/or who have trouble reading internal signals. It's designed to take as much of the weight off of you as possible, so each decision is very easy and doesn't require much judgment.
He figured it would be similar to getting someone to take a look at a knee injury. Ngongang has good insurance through his work as a consultant for NGOs in Washington. So he opened up his insurance company’s website, typed in “psychologists,” and started calling. 
And calling. And calling. (by Olga Khazan)
  • No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork [The Conversation]
Nothing can alleviate the stress of overwork except working less. Like the road signs say, only sleep cures fatigue. We need to be reminded of this because tired long-haul drivers can be deluded into thinking that coffee, a can of Mother or an upbeat bit of music might help them stay awake. For the madly overworked, we need reminding that the only cure for working too much is to stop. It’s as simple as that. (by Zoë Krupka)  
  • Why I had to escape my Ivy League life and disappear [NY Post]
I  found out I was a missing person on May 14.  
I had been ignoring the avalanche of calls and texts from friends and family asking where I was and if I was OK. But that night I caved, turned on my phone and decided to look. (by Nayla Kidd)

Stay tuned for more...

Check out my mental health-related work and writing here.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Extraordinary Negroes, Episode 2: "We Fall Down" (feat. Nickolas Gaines)

On episode two The Extraordinary Negroes, my podcast with el señor Jay Connor, my brilliant, writing-ass full-time Negro co-host, we invited Sir Nickolas Gaines, to the party.

The important stuff:

Nickolas Gaines wants our people-us to heal. And he wants to make sure that it's glorious. Nickolas is a Mental Health Practitioner. He is the Suicide Prevention Program Director for the Department of Defense, serving over 11,000 Soliders across 26 states, their family members, and Department of the Army Civilians. He oversees education/training, program implementation, policy development, and counseling. He also works for PREP Inc. as an Educator who teaches, facilitates workshops, and develops curriculum on family resiliency, relational health, masculinity, and fatherhood. When he's not working he's loving his family, eating good food, listening to Beyonce, maintaining his edges, and being mad that his spin class has all the wrong music. Nickolas judges you by how soft the cookies are in your banana pudding and your ability to clap on 2 and 4. You can find more of his work and/or musings at nickolasgaines.com

In short, he's a superhero.

We rapped about everything from the mental and emotional stress of multiple deployments on service members and MJB's questionable vocals to suicide prevention training and resources for service members returning home.

We also learned about what he sees and deals with on a daily basis in his work as a mental heath worker,  and discussed Nick's foodie experiences as one of four free Negroes in Salt Lake City, Utah (Spoiler alert: Blandtown, USA)

AND The Extraordinary Negroes is now available on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher. 

Listen, subscribe, and tell a friend or 50.

Check out episode 1: "Beyoncé is Bacon," featuring Panama Jackson and Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas.com.

Follow us on Twitter (@TheExtraNegroes), Instagram (@TheExtraordinaryNegroes), and Facebook (The Extraordinary Negroes).

You're so pretty.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

So, I was on NPR the other day.

Last week, I was a guest on NPR's "All Things Considered," hosted by Michel Martin, for the show's "Barbershop" segment on the benefits (and increasing commonality of) adults living at home with their parents. Also on the scene: medical blogger Jillian Knowles and NPR's Asma Khalid.

We also discussed two pieces I wrote on the topic. In the first, "I'm 29 Years Old And Just Moved Back Home With My Parents," written for Very Smart Brothas, I discussed what it was like to be settling into life with Mom and Dad again after I left Panama for mental health reasons. The second, "Mom's House or Flophouse: Where To Live After College," written for The Root, was about the highs and lows of taking your ass back home after graduation to get it together.

Spoiler alert: Moving home is not necessarily as traumatic as you'd think. Have a listen below:

The full transcript can be found here.

And check out my podcast with Jay Connor, The Extraordinary Negroes, on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher.

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

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new at VerySmartBrothas.com: "One Man's Quest To Find The Perfect Batch of Mac and Cheese In NYC"

(I first read this cautionary tale last week at Colored Boy and Friends: Mental Health Edition in New York City with the help of Bondfire Radio’s Tasty Keish.)


Alex is seated on a designer high stool from Tarjé at a marble counter in a tidy kitchen (with clean baseboards, thank you very much) that appears to also serve as a plantain warehouse. A mid-sized plate piled high with ravaged chicken bones rests at his right. At his left: collard green-scented candles and a flute of the finest red Kool-aid. Luxury, ho. Trillville’s “Some Cut” plays softly in the background.

I love food the way Donald Trump loves the applause his anus-mouthed ramblings elicit from his loyal, unmoisturized flock of Fuckboy Franks and Dumpsterheart Debbies. My devotion to food mirrors the potential Dickhead-In-Chief’s passion for masking his stage four melanin envy with his special brand of short-dicked xenophobia — the pestilent, rabid kind that convinces me that if reverse racism were real, more often than not, it should probably look and feel like a baseball bat to the motherfucking face because fair is fair.

My gluttonous reputation is internationally known, pleighboy. I get DMs with the raunchiest recipes instead of sexytime offerings. The people of Internetland tag me in food-related posts — “Alex, have you seen this nine-tier red velvet Oreo wedding cake/chicken castle/solid gold nacho situation?” or “This cheesecake eating contest/30-pound burger/chicken wing festival reminded me of you, Alex!” — day pon day via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text and carrier pigeon. So while I relish any opportunity for midday calorie-fueled wet dreams, I’m never not hungry or plotting my next meal(s). Y’all are such enablers.

Read the rest over at VerySmartBrothas.com.

Previous musings on food: "I Went To Memphis For A Screening of Underground and Here Is What I Ate," also via VerySmartBrothas

In the meantime, follow my Instgram account dedicated to my foodie exploits: Instagram.com/AlexGottaEat.

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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