nineteen nonterrible things that happened in 2019

A whole bunch of newness over at

This year ain’t been no crystal stair. The Great War Against Spiritual Ashiness got pretty brutal, but unlike Sir Tippington Harris’ cavemanly Vagina Monologues entry into the Land of Things That Make At Least a Teaspoon of Damn Sense, we made it. Here are some nonterrible things that happened this year.

one. After a scary hospitalization this summer, my mom came home from the hospital and rehabilitation facility stronger than before and no doctors ceased to exist along the way. Hugs and rice for everyone.

via Alex Gotta Eat (Instagram)
twoI made a lot of mighty fantastic quiches this year. You should have been there. When I’m at home in 1998, Virginia, quichemaking and dishwashing are among my favorite activities. They bring me peace. Also on the list of favorite things to do there: 

-getting bourbon or orange chicken from China Max in Patrick Henry Mall,
-being quiet and writerly in Barnes and Noble,
-trying new recipes with Mom, and

three. That time I summoned all my plantain powers and started leading Mental Health First Aid trainings in Spanish. I’d been leading these trainings all over Nueva York, but when my homegirl Sue beeped me 911 inquiring about the quality of the Spanish to which I referred in that checkbox on that form and my interest in and availability for an upcoming clase de los Primeros Auxilios Para la Salud Mental, just days after I’d written in my journal that I needed to polish my rusty, unused Spanish, use it for more than ordering pastelitos, and get good at rapping about mental health and joy and suicide and telling my story in Spanish, I knowed that Saint Damita Jo was smiling pon me.

I suck much less now, 14 or 15 classes in, than I did in that humbling first two weeks.

four. I found a Black, gay therapist who saved my life. I had two Nice White Ladies before him who helped me get up out the mud, but it was extra good to have someone who could relate to and offer valuable insights on my journey as a chocolatey homothug working to love himself and allow himself to be loved. It also doesn’t hurt to have another inspiring image of a thriving Black gay elder spreading joy and promoting healing while allowing himself to be loved.

five. After tinkering with it for a whole-ass year, I collaborated with friend and digital wizard Sir Julian Long to launch my new personal site at to house all of my writing and work and dreams and such. I love it so much and hope to use it to find more collaborators in the Great War Against Spiritual Ashiness.

six. I collaborated with my therapist on a free peer support group situation for Black LGBTQ folks in New York City. When I first told him that I wanted to create a space where gay-ass chocolatey wonders in the Land of Cat-Rats and Ever-Increasing Fares for Aggressively Shitty Public Transit could convene to unhook their bras and lay their gay-ass burdens down; discuss self-care, joy, healing, love, work, and the battle against spiritual ashiness; and find resources and support, he thought it was a great idea.

He made me promise:
  • to not overthink it. In fact, he was like, “Alright, now. Don’t overthink it,” and
  • to make sure that whatever we created to help these folks, it had to help me, too.
shoutout to these folks for trusting me.
As such, my first step was to overthink the whole shit and twist myself into a knot because I couldn’t come up with a name or decide on the bestest way to promote it or get the nerve to ask for help providing refreshments and such. Working with the staff at Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), we brought some wonderful folks together and gave the kids a place to exhale, vibe over hoe shit, and share the highs and lows of life in the Age of Presidential Anusmouthed Swampdonkeys.

We’ll reconvene next year to vogue our woes away when GMAD transitions into their phat new space in Brooklyn. I hope to expand the support group, partner with local agencies for more resources, and provide more opportunities to choose joy together. ¡Shablam!

seven. I have seen the light. I borrowed a step from The Kitchenista’s legendary macaroni and cheese recipe and changed the game. In her version, Chef Angela Davis simmers her milk with onions and bay leaves for a spell before adding it into your roux situation. It adds a whole new dimension of flavor I didn’t know was reachable, like the infusion of magic between Janelle’s Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) and The ArchAndroid. Folks then suggested I take the simmering situation a step further and add in garlic, thyme, and whatever other goodness makes me feel like a natural woman.

Making a sausage/jalapeño/pepper jack cornbread moment this weekend, I simmered the milk as suggested and it made everything sexier. I understand why folks rave over her culinary wizardry.

eight. I wrote about my journey to becoming a legendary ricist and life as the grandson of the Janet Jackson of rice in my first piece for Food & Wine. I did eventually get my rice together and produce a series of respectable pots of rice that my mom would have been proud of and eaten with delight rather than from a sense of obligation to the International Grandmother Treaty of 1943, which prohibits the wasting of rice. By the grace of Saint Damita Jo, in 2020, my rice and peas will elevate beyond the humbling Good With Gravy But Not Good Enough for Grandma stage. I’ll master Grandma’s empanadas and arroz con pollo and take my rightful place on the Favorite Grandchild throne.

nine. I led Mental Health First Aid trainings for over 400 people and it helped me feel less terrible. Most were for a union of healthcare workers. Some were for teachers and school admin on staff development days as part of initiatives by the NYC Mayor’s Office and Thrive NYC wellness campaign. Others were for employees at Lenox Hill Hospital or Black queer folks at GMAD. About half were in English, half in Spanish. Most of the time, I had snacks. No matter how I feel about myself on any given day, I know that I am an engaging, thorough, considerate facilitator and that I work to make sure every participant I encounter feels valued, respected, considered, and seen. 

Teaching the eight-hour Mental Health First Aid classes alone can wear on my back like Dolezalian delusions upon a Negroidian nerve, but even when I feel like a lowly baggy Magnum condom of a man, I feel alive and in my purpose when teaching. Hit my two-way pager if you want to make a class happen for your group, company, or school.

ten. I read gorgeous and inspiring books like Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir, Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage: A Novel, Bassey Ikpi’s I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays, Damon Young’s What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays, and Thick: and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom that made me want to be a better writer.

I’m moseying through The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk and that nosey white bastard has helped me articulate the mental, emotional, and physical impacts of the various traumas I’ve endured and give myself grace throughout this often harrowing healing process towards feeling like a whole, loveable human being who is safe, who feels safe in his body, who isn't hypervigilant, who is able to relax and breathe and unclench and experience joy. He’s also given me language to identify the shame and self-loathing I’ve felt around my experiences and cultivate some multifaceted strategies for overcoming them. It’s a heavy but useful read. The best advice I got before diving into the book was, “Take your time.”

I am taking all of the time.

And so, beloved, if you’re ready to bust those emotions open and have some potentially uncomfortable but necessary realizations and breakthroughs surrounding the things that have happened to your body and your spirit (or the bodies of those who love), I recommend this book. Five out of five pearl clutches, for sure.

eleven. Every day the sun shines in Janet Jackson’s America, the deli next to the apartment where I’m staying in el Bronx calls forth hungry souls by releasing pastelito-scented air into the world through an exhaust vent. I rarely resist the call. I don’t block blessings.

twelve. That time I realized I was more comfortable with sexual intimacy than I was with nonsexual intimacy and spent a while trying to fight back the hateful, dumpsterhearted demons of unloveableness and self-scorn as I worked to come to terms with what that means. And how that fear of intimacy shows up in my relationships and interactions and things I say to and about myself. And how to handle and work through that. Shoutout to therapy and journaling.

thirteen. I recreated Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding recipe and realized that nutbustingly delicious joy ain’t that hard to facilitate.

fourteenI was ashy in public fewer times than in 2018. Progress.

fifteenMy godsons gave me two more reasons to keep pushing and be and do better. My therapist told me to gather as many anchors to this world, reasons to live, as I can and two rowdy chocolatey wonders named Maxtin and Trelauni remind me every day to make time for joy. To remember that, sometimes, you just gotta lay that ass on the floor and stack some blocks, read some chewed-up books, and answer that singing phone when a toddler passes it to you. Kids are better than all of us, by the way.

sixteen. After a decade out beyond The Wall in the emotional wilderness, I told (and regularly tell) myself, “No matter how I feel about myself, I deserve love and joy.” Even on the ashy days. And so I signaled the guards to wheel back the guillotines, extinguish their flaming arrows, retire the guardlions, bridge the moats of self-loathing and opened up my heart to the possibility of considering an Emotional Tribunal to vote on a motion to vote for a motion to potentially let love and romantic reciprocation into the dancerie. For the first time in over a decade. It’s terrifying? I haven’t died or melted into a puddle of cheese grits and shame yet but it’s fascinating how not loving yourself can manifest itself in all kinds of treacherous ways, keeping joy beyond your grasp like Mister kept Nettie from Celie.

Unlearning self-sabotage and self-neglect is revelatory and horrifying but it’s reminding me that I’m worth the work.

seventeen. I shared my story via a talk (that I totally thought would be a panel situation, but was able to bust a 25-minute emotionally vulnerable freestyle for the people dem) at an intimate World Suicide Prevention Day event at Brooklyn Tea guessed it: Brooklyn. Every time I open up about the ugly shit, the shame fades and the darkness feels less scary. Coming out of my cave to talk to some friendly strangers in a tea palace about wanting to kill myself reminded me that everybody’s fighting some type of battle and that there are a fucktonne of tea varieties in this world.

eighteen. I voyaged to Minneapolisland to watch my oldest niece graduate from Carlton College and help her move out of her college dorm and into her first apartment. She experienced something called "-10 degrees" out yonder and I can't comprehend what that means.

nineteen. I survived. Shoutout to living.

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