Masculinity, Feelings, and a Vicious Cycle

My students are brilliant, energetic, creative, but victims of the same frame of thinking I was taught and I know how this story goes. I work a program with students grades 6th-8th. Every Wednesday we do Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), and my group is all boys of color. My task is to lead them in conversations and activities that address current events, personal issues, and collective growth. We start each session by going around the room and sharing how our day or week is going and what is on our minds. Recently while getting the room settled, I asked “Before we start the game, does anyone want to share how they are feeling?” Just about all of them yelled “No!” I asked them why they do not want to share how they feel and one of the students with agreement from the group said “No one cares how another man feels.” This shocked me a bit so I took a poll, “Who in this room cares about feelings?” No hands go up. From all over I hear multiple shouts of disdain with one student saying, “Caring for another man’s feelings is creepy.”

What are we doing to our boys? What are we teaching them? I cannot act too surprised by any of the comments because I received the same lessons. Which is, feelings are not for boys, and sharing feelings has the power to relegate a boy to creep. They say “Feelings are for girls” or “That’s gay,” and I do not know if I should introduce them to bell hooks or read them down (definitely both). Although we see this everyday, something in me still breaks when I see young boys posture themselves unbreakable when all they want is a hug. All they want is to cry and emote even if they do not realize or remember. We tell boys not to cry, not to get too close to another boy, which is to say, do not feel anything. Which is to say, be Black brute and calloused being.

One of my students goes to hug his friend before they leave school and his friend stops him and asks, “What are you doing.” The light breaks behind my students eyes and he daps him up. We have to stop teaching our boys that to feel means to be weak. To be vulnerable means to be less than. To be “feminine” means to be less than. We are raising “men” with lessons to NOT be, which makes them what, then? Lonely and a grown man that is bound to run with no way to explain the running. Let our boys be children so we can heal some of this generational unfeeling shit. So they can flourish and be honest. So they can live the full breadth that life has to offer and be able to say, I love you man. And be able to say, I live.

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The Liberal Politics That Keep Us Sawty as Fuck

The United State of America will have a new president in office tomorrow. We have all heard “he’s not my president”, “I am just waiting for 2020 when Michelle runs”, and “the only Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace” (y’all know). Cue the groans, the shoe throws, the Black twitter dragging, the march and rallying cry. All of these are completely understandable reactions to the inauguration of our latest bigot to our country’s highest office. However, until we get serious about burning shit down, we got to participate. Danez Smith, dope ass poet, says in an interview with Kaveh Akbar on DiveDapper “black people, and surely the people of any marginalized, systematically oppressed community, don’t have the privilege of being idle citizens.” This is not to say, we are all being “idle citizens,” but to warn us and gather us to be more focused moving forward. This new soon-to-be president gets the talking and each time it is some racist, sexist, queerantagonistic, ableist ultra-privileged bullshit. However, we need to be fighting for respect, policy changes, and self-love not for a country wide embrace of our cultures, bodies, voices, etc. It is in the search for this embrace that we get caught up in the stagnant fight.

If we want to be honest, Obama is great and all but we ain’t ask him to do shit (except be Black, he barely did that) and the situations for Black people in this country did not improve. It is in the want for everyone to yell ‘Black Lives Matter’ or to attend a PRIDE Fest that we end up always fighting for some kumbaya shit and being sawty as fuck. Maybe one day these will be realities, but they are not yet so what do we do? In August Wilson’s Fences the main character Troy gives his son this caveat “Don’t you try and go through life worrying about if somebody like you or not. You best be making sure they doing right by you.” And that is the part. Many of us have an initial reaction to disengage from the state when the state continues to be it’s fucked up self. My questions are what did we expect? How do we move then? What changes the next day, to one of a more prosperous living?

We have to continue to mobilize spaces for self-care/self-education purposes, reading up on the policies that keep our situations dire, and working to move the power dynamics. We got to demand something.WE GOT TO DEFEND OURSELVES. Conservative politics we need to consider:

  • Buying guns
  • Segregation for self-preservation
  • Keeping our dollar within our communities

This man is going to be our president whether we want to acknowledge that are not. My charge is that we be ready. Not just be ready to march but to have our demands and spokespeople lined up because shit is about to hit. So we can keep singing and being sawty as fuck or continue to build up our political leverage and ensure these next four years are a living hell but not for us.

 

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TV is Making Our Kids Gay?

Bullshit, right? Who and where? Also, was it Netflix or actual television? Y’all need backstory, true. While at work we were discussing the shift in students’ “greater” curiosity about their sexual and gender identities. This conversation occurred because during a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) session, one of the students asked if we were going to be talking about gender identity. Once the students had gone home, my coworkers and I talked about how times have changed, and how do we have conversations about sexuality and gender in productive ways with students? The conversation took a turn when a gentleman, lingering around the room, thought that someone asked him his opinion. He said “The way I see it is, what you are born with is what you are period.” Then our talk turned into one of those if it wasn’t on TV so much then it wouldn’t be such a big thing convos.

Here’s the gag: Just like television can not turn a queer person, straight, or a trans/gender non-conforming person, cisgender, it cannot turn a straight or cisgender person, queer and/or trans. I have heard it all. It’s the subliminal messages, they throw it in our face and then we think it’s normal, blah blah blah. My question is, what TV shows are you watching? Please let me know, because whenever I turn on my television it is still hella white and hella cis-het. However, for arguments sake let’s say the television does turn people queer or trans. Wouldn’t the same be true the other way around? So that means all of these “straight” people are really just brain-washed from watching so much cisgender heterosexual television. So everyone is queer, I knew it!

But really, we have to think more critically. I love list so:

  1. I am not sure that young people are thinking about gender/sexuality more than we were, however, there is more space and more concerted efforts happening around these topics that are integral to puberty, development, and health so we must do better to ensure our children well lives. So talk about it, it’s just your body within a socio-political construct. Having a few conversations and posing questions to yourself about your sexuality or gender will not make the world fall out of orbit, no matter what god you pray to.
  2. When queer people talk about things related to queer people, listen. I know everyone has their theory or bible or grandmother with eternal knowledge, but I guarantee no one has thought about queer identity development more than queer people so open your ears and close your mouth.
  3. Gender and sexuality are closely-related but are two different things. Being a trans person does not make someone gay/lesbian/bi and being gay/lesbian/bi does not mean that person wants to realize or is even questioning their gender. However they might, if you’re confused refer to point # 2 or GOOGLE.
  4. If some person is able to look at the sky and call it “blue” and that’s all good then anyone is able to look at their body and name themselves whatever they want. If you’re not questioning the former than don’t question the latter. This is not a metaphor.

Believe what you want but respect is everything and knowledge is power. Also, if you happen to find out the brainwashing thing is true and you actually are some other alien in the universe of gender and sexuality then, welcome to the family. Peace and Love.

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FEATURE: My Failure Speaks by Marcus Donaldson

My failure speaks to me

My failure says it is not my undoing.

Says I’m allowed unsteady thoughts.

Directs me to speak only studied words.

 

My failure demands my patience.

Tells me I’ll bounce back, to be sure.

And I’ll fail again, to be sure.

My failure holds me accountable.

It asks me if I’m resting.

It asks me what I call resting.

My failure says to me:

Marcus,

When you’re offered relief, accept it

the first time.

When you’re offered relief, it won’t be

too late to accept it

the second time.

In winter, bare trees,

limbs outstretched exalt the sun.

They’ll produce fruit yet.

 

Marcus Donaldson is writer and strategist from Cincinnati, OH. He is a public relations student and staff writer for The Burr Magazine at Kent State University. As a budding professional communicator, Marcus hopes to be an advocate for social change by telling stories and changing attitudes.  Follow him on Twitter @thoughtMD.

 

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4 Tips for Black Folks: If #AltonSterling & #PhilandoCastille has made you #Woke

We mourn perpetually, we grieve again, and this time the gunshots woke more of us up. Here we are once more, with videos plastered across the internet of Black people being shot down, a reminder of the progress our country has not made. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is re-upping and many of us are now paying attention. Often it takes time for people to see the value of a movement and be compelled to join the cause. For the Black people that are shaken, confused, scared and wanting to act but do not know what to do, this list is for you. Below you’ll find some suggestions and a toolkit to prepare for the days ahead. This is only the beginning.

  1. Self-Care. Black people are getting killed. Your sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, lovers, community partners, etc. are being murdered in senseless reality-tv showesque cellphone videos at the hands of people that are appointed/hired to protect the community they serve in. This is no small thing, so know that the emotions you feel are completely valid and if you want to stay in bed, hit a blunt, go dancing, be around family; whatever it is that you need to gather yourself in a safe way do that. Feel all of your feelings and process in the way which you need to because your grieving is about YOU and YOU only.
  2. Take a break from social media. It becomes toxic when the dosage isn’t managed, especially in moments like these when people are posting and sharing countless videos, stories, reflections about the murder of Black people and also exposing their country as leading-conspirators in the genocide of Black folks. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter are great resources for community-building in times like these but also can also be overwhelming and a relentless trauma trigger. Furthermore, I have noticed a feeling of complacency folks feel and express if they are not heavily engaged in #BlackLivesMatter on social media. Also even greater than that people feel like they have to prove they care by posting on social media platforms. Let me be clear, as a Black person your reaction to the historical and recent events going down is not something that anyone should be trying to dictate or comment on, however this is not an agreeance with complacency or complicit behaviors which leave our country unmoved but an affirmation of self-care and mental/emotional well-being.
  3. Educate yourself. Here are some works which you can access online just to give yourself some quick insight and a fundamental understanding:
  4. Attend a rally or informational. Not only are these imperative to community building but also offer you direct-action opportunities which bolster the cause. Rallys and protest are what ignite movements, they build awareness and set the stage for the work to come. Informationals can plug you into an organization that shares some of your viewpoints and even help you in broadening your viewpoints through further education. Many cities have a #BlackLivesMatter chapter or a multitude of other grassroots organizations that are organizing around the cause of Black liberation and Black well-being. This is when you can utilize social media to plug yourself in and get involved in a communal hands-on way.

Nevertheless, be safe out here and remember the most revolutionary thing you can do is love on yourself and other Black folks who share your identities and histories. This is no small task but a necessary one if we are going to change anything.

 

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Floating floating butterfly

He a song. 

His boxing all jazz, how he move like notes from a sax, crooning around the ring, his footsteps light like on the piano, always dancing to his own tune bop to the beat of his hands the rhythm of his body a sweet melody, against the ropes he a harpist strumming until his opponent tire and he again champion, you see his head dip, a scat, you see his punch, happening and happening more brutally sweet, he sing a song on a challengers chin, leave them falling to the ground, and he soaring a beautiful rift. 

His activism all hip-hop, thug life and boom bap, bring em out bring out bring em out its hard ta yell when the barrels in yo mouf, he talk about the government, a trap hymn, rant well before Sway didn’t have the answers, soapbox miracle, he Malcolm Martin a legendary cypher, spit a dope 16 about Vietcong and big powerful America, drop bars that sicken medicine injuring stones, Black and beautiful a chant a practice a life. His voice all soul, original, raining purple showering us all, bass guitar flashy lights roll bounce, funk, he say I’m the greatest and a spotlight appears the room becomes a 1950s club with flickering lights and he sings on, it’s not just his imagination running away but a declaration, a viewing of holiday. 

His legacy all gospel, we were never ready for the miracle or the blessing, ultralight beaming forever on in glory glory, glorious man, sunshine and dance and hallelujah, praise to the warrior you be praise to your Black your beautiful your man praise to your compassion praise to how you teach love and continue to breathe praise the crown you made for yourself praise the crown you made for me praise you and all your music forever and always The Greatest song happening, and happening still

 

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A Learning: Grey space, intersection, survival pt. 1

Once, in a conversation (really an argument) my sister and I were going back and forth about things either being black or white. She was insistent in saying that the world can be either one way or the other. My sister does not stand alone in this thinking and/or thought but many, if not most, people do think this way. This is how many of us make sense of the world, and ourselves. More importantly, this is how many of us were taught to make sense of the world and ourselves. We label, categorize, create boxes. I understand the feeling of need for labels, categories, and boxes and that the aforementioned means of dichotomy in and of themselves are not negative. However, when paired with our white supremacist capitalist social ideologies, the label, category and box become mechanisms to demean and dehumanize. They can also stunt growth and prosperity. Hence, the call for learning and unlearning.

In a poem I wrote entitled Not quite privilege but a blessing there is a line which says “We split between two worlds. One with a purple sky and vibes, the other has grey suits and Ph.Ds, we stick up our middle fingers and do back flips on the balance beam.” There are those that believe a person can only be right or wrong, gay or straight, democrat or republican. The question I pose to those people is, what about us that exist in the grey? I want to broaden the poem’s scope by acknowledging, here, more than just those two worlds. The grey is living in multiple worlds. Worlds where any semblance of a binary is pushed back against and rendered not for us. Our location is this multi-layered dynamic kaleidoscope that acknowledges all the worlds that we exist in and all the worlds we hold in our bodies. The multiple femininities, masculinities, politics, religions, classes, etc. which we balance with grace and fortitude. Even now I am questioning my use of “grey” but we’re going to roll with it. In the above line from my poem I am acknowledging and combating two of the paths, as a college graduate and artist, that are presented to me. I find them both limiting. I am not interested in obtaining my Ph.D then entering a corporate or academic space which cannot handle, uplift, and celebrate the color that streams behind me. However, I also do not want a life that removes me from the table. So as much as I would love to create and dance with like-minded folks somewhere in a place, in which, we pray to ourselves at our own table, I know that this form of resistance is needed here for me and my people to break all these damn chains. Although, I see the grey space as inherent to our existence I also see it as a location of celebration, which is integral to our happiness, because we live in an international prison hell-bent on erasing us.

“What are they trying to erase?” you may ask. My reply, the intersection. Intersectionality is a critical theory that studies race, class, gender, sexual orientation, body size, etc. but does not separate them. Intersectionality is doing a back flip on the balance beam, is the academic term for grey space. In a world that wants you to be one thing at a time or wants you to pick a side, intersectionality says “No I am all of these things, all of the time.” For example, in the fights against racism and sexism Black women are often called to choose. They are told, that doing the work of freeing themselves as women counteracts the work Black people are doing to free themselves as a race. This attack undermines the stakes they have in both fights. Which also makes me question who are we working to get free, in our fight against racism? Nevertheless, that is intersectionality. That is grey space. The threat of it is really is just the effort that people have to put forth to acknowledge each person as a whole being and not just the parts which fit their needs, desires, and pre-conceived notions.

I think it is important to unlearn stringent binary ways of thinking because it makes us complicit, in a lot of ways, with white supremacist capitalist patriarchal heteronormative systems, which if you believe in that, fine, I guess, but the violence that comes with it needs to be addressed and stopped. And not just the physical violence but the emotional and psychological violences as well, which tell us that our bodies, ideas, and ways of living are less than. The professional violences which cast a glass ceiling above us.  All of this is to say, how do we have the purple sky and the Ph.D? I understand for freedom, liberation, equity we have to give things up but how do we do this work without it always being our lives and livelihoods? Is that possible? Is that a dream? In this series of essays I want to unearth that answer. So engage with me and let’s figure some shit out.

 

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