in an interview recently i heard janet jackson refer to missy elliott as ‘jack.’ she said it was because missy was a ‘jack of all trades.’ if you’re a jack (or jaquee), you know this is may be a blessing and perhaps a struggle. it might seem to be a fight for focus. but being able to do lots of things or having an interest in them, doesn’t mean you’re off track. it means you love a lot of things. not sure why, but it bothered me earlier this year when someone said “we’re looking for someone more nuanced.” synonyms to nuance are: delicate, suggestion, implication, subtlety. why did i let this bother me? i thought of missy in my reflection. the thing is, she questioned why janet called her jack but never denied who janet said she was.
most times people who are ‘jacks/jaquee’s’ are versatile. they’re flexible yet still authentic because curiosity fuels them. that’s part of their allure. they fit most places and are welcomed there. as i reflected on that moment of “we’re looking for…” it confirmed that i am many things. and pretty good at them. there’s some nuance about me but i’m not subtle nor hard to figure out. i’m authentic and quite direct. it was him who was a bit too focused; too linear. “i thought you’d say this…” was his reply to two of my answers. if you’re looking for a puppet, i ain’t him. i take direction well but trust also let’s people do things they’re way.
let people find what they’re looking for. i believe that man did. but what bothered me at first, reminded me of the blessing in “to thine own self be true.” growth teaches you to be more confident in who you are. we’re all arriving; allow it. i am.
i told an ex (and by an i mean thee) i wanted the first edition copy of toni morrison’s song of solomon. he got it – it’s the 17th reprint with first print cover. that may be how he got me. in it, morrison writes, “you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” fitting words for anything you want to flee from or grow toward. admittedly, i never finished the book. or any of the other morrison gifts to the world i own for that matter – a mercy, love, god help the child, paradise, the bluest eye (that i found on the ground walking a college campus months before i published my own book). i may never finish them. i’m not a lazy reader. what i craved most from mother morrison was her mind. i wanted inside that glorious place. (more…)
i’ve been sitting on this one for awhile now…and it’s been boiling. lying. is it something we acquire from others or just instinctively do? or are we afraid of the consequences of our or the truth? (more…)
every black person i know is talking about, feeling, processing and inspired to do something by watching ava duvernay’s when they see us on netflix. i wonder, how do we see ourselves and each other? (more…)
“do you think he’s scared of straight men,” my female friend asked. she was referring to our mutual black gay friend that was seated near her at an event. he’s handsome, professionally accomplished and has so many letters behind his name it looks like the entire alphabet. among black gay men, i’d say he’s well known. however, she noticed he engaged with the women and other gay men at their table, but not the straight men. “i don’t know if he is, but i do think some black gay men are,” i replied. (more…)
i have three nieces – ages 14, 8 and 3. i didn’t have them, but they’re mine. they’re yours. they are ours. somewhere along the way i think we relaxed on the ‘it takes a village‘ mentality. with all this r. kelly talk and the young black woman recently attacked at mcdonald’s, i wonder when we eased up on protecting black girls and have black men, too, stop caring as much about and for them?
i remember when my oldest niece was born. the excitement was heavy. i chose her first name. she was our family healer. my parents who hadn’t spoken in 10 years after ending their 29-year marriage were now in the same room…and talking. as she got older i bought her cute little dresses in every shade of pink. i got her a faux mink coat from target and wrote her a poem informing her of her royalty for her 2nd birthday. i adored everything about her and we all cared and treated her as the special gift she was then and still is. my 8-year-old niece and i have a special bond; we share the same birthday. she’s the most precocious, witty little girl i know. and her 3-year-old sister is direct and gritty. they’re my venus and serena. again, i didn’t have these girls, but they are mine. they’re yours. they’re ours. as a black man first and their uncle second, i’ll do anything to protect them – from harm, their own potential mistakes and especially anyone who dares to even think put their hands on them. i’ll also drive the 345 miles for a recital or an award and even to talk about those slipping grades.
my 14-year-old cousin gave me a unique privilege – she let me follow her on instagram! i felt cool. in with the happenings of today’s teens. then she posted something i knew was wrong. not just wrong for a 14-year-old, i felt it was just wrong. i told her mom then called her out in the comments. okay, so she blocked me but my message was heard – i’m watching you and more importantly, i have concern for an about you; even what you post on social media. can you imagine if instagram were around in the 90’s? the thought of an r.kelly sliding in your teenage daughter’s, your little cousin or her best friend’s dm’s both frightens me for them and my own actions toward him. sadly, i’m sure it’s happening at this very second.
but black girls need more than protection – they need love, support, ears that hear them, secure women to look up to and for all men to treat them like the queens we know they are. how can we show black girls we care? with my nieces, i:
establish trust. i listen, honestly share of my own childhood and adult journeys and extend a whole lot of grace. this helps keep deceit and secrets away. i want them to know disappointment is too big a burden as consequence for any size lie.
ask questions. they might think i’m oprah with the “how are you” (just saying “good” is unacceptable), “wyd”, “who is that” and “what did you learn today” but they understand my genuine interest in their lives.
let them know that i am part of their trusted community. and if i’m helping raise them, i will reprimand them when they’re wrong and praise them when they succeed. i was raised by a community and my rural, backwoods north carolina upbringing wouldn’t have it any other way. i think my brother and sister agree.
let them not only know, but feel that they are loved. and love is many things. it’s asking those questions, it’s listening to their heart break and brighten up and it’s as toni morrison asks, “when a kid walks in a room, your child or anybody else’s child, does your face light up?”
remind them of their worth and show them they are more precious than rubies.
we’re quick to questions others, but what are we asking ourselves? a few years ago, i answered one of my mom’s 7:30am calls (she’s since learned even 10am is a bit too early). i answered and in a husky, groggy voice fumbled with my words to her questions. she said “son, get your thoughts together.” i’m still gathering them. in this season of new things ahead, here’s what i’m asking myself… (more…)
it’s the most wonderful time of the year. some of us appear nicer, have hearts full of cheer and eager for new beginnings when that glittery ball drops. but think to the last time you gave something or fulfilled someone’s request and were shown appreciation. in that giving, how many times did you say “you’re welcome” when someone said “thank you?” to the receiver, those words can be an offering of (deeper) trust.
ever heard something so dope and impactful that you instantly got what it meant for you but the person ruined it with the explanation? yea, me too. at our family thanksgiving vacation, my cousin said to me, “you’re probably hard to date.” i knew exactly what she meant, didn’t inquire and she didn’t explain. there was no need to. i got it for me…or what i needed to hear for where i am with myself right now. (more…)