It’s Been a Long Time… I Shouldn’t Have Left You

Damn, it’s been almost five years since I’ve been on here. Since I last wrote anything. Let me clear one thing out the way, I ain’t dead. Recently I’ve been thinking about creating something that allows me to express myself, to say the things I want. Then it hit and I said to myself, “fool you already got a blog, dumbass”. I don’t know what it says about my psyche and self-image that I speak to myself in the third person and insult myself while doing it. Anyway, I logged in today and it took me straight to the dashboard that holds my metrics and I was amazed that everyday people are checking out this space. Some days 40 to 60 clicks and I haven’t been on here in almost five years… “Told your dumbass you had a blog”, I said to myself because I apparently have no respect for me.

It’s been a wild five years, let me catch you up. Last time I was here I was getting adjusted to life as a father, my son was just six-months-old. Honestly, outside of being a father, working and questioning the institution of marriage, I didn’t do much in 2012 and 2013. Just embraced being responsible for a life, feeding that life, keeping a roof over the head of that life, and raising a son too. The struggle of those two years was being a one income household. Living in Chicago on one salary, in a high rise apartment, in one of the ‘better’ neighborhoods in the city with a view of the lake costs money! And then… 2014.

  • My job downsized.
  • I was cut.
  • I cried.
  • I could only think of my son.

Being a parent makes you give extra consideration to everything you do in life. It makes you reconsider everything… so does losing your job. I felt as a professional I topped out. That was before getting cut. Professionally I was in this space where people with less experience than me, were making the same and in many cases more than what I was bringing home. I work in the nonprofit space and a salary that supports your life is hard to find, you truly work to change lives. Now I sit in a living room, with a 2-year-old son and a severance package. Getting ready to interview for a job with the same expectations and salary. Then my phone started to ring.

Before I was let go, I started an application to a graduate program at my alma mater. One day I got a call with a young lady asking me, “why haven’t you completed your application? We need your letters of support and the personal statement”. My reply was I didn’t want to take on any more student loans. The voice on the other end said “finish your application. We have money. I see your resume, you would be a great fit”.

I finished my application, started applying for jobs near the program, found a job and took the severance pay to fund our move to Indianapolis, Indiana. I had not received word of acceptance, just got up and left.

Started a job in a domestic violence shelter. I would catch the bus, leaving the car with my wife and son, I proceeded to fall into a regular fog similar to my previous days. Plus I was making $15,000 a year less in salary. I took a second job. That allowed me 15 to 30 minutes every day from the time I got off the bus home to see my son awake and get something to eat before I was off to job number 2.

One day on the bus, the phone again rings. “Robert, are you still interested in

Robert, are you still interested in joining our master’s program?

Yes.

Well, let me officially offer you a spot with our incoming class.

Next question was if I applied for financial aid, my response was no. I need the school to assist me. 24 hours later I was offered a fellowship, tuition included, health insurance and a stipend.

2015, remember I questioned the institution of marriage and I decided to file for divorce. Neither of us had anything resembling happiness and my health was suffering from the stress. My son could not see me this way. It was a difficult decision. It was the right decision. My son is sitting next to as I write this, the cool thing is he is writing too.

2016, Prince died. I cried like I just lost my job. Fa real. I’ll write something else to express how much I ADORE Prince (get it? Adore? Nevermind… dumbass! You this time, not me).

2016 also saw me receive my second degree from Indiana University. This time with an M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. I now work in education on a national level. Salary still sucks but better. My job is exactly what I dreamed of and I travel as I hoped for my next job. This isn’t bragging.

The last five years I realized what needed to change and changed it. Accepted hard work (did I say I was a full-time graduate student with a full-time job?), and dedicated myself to change. I dedicated myself to be better. I am better, not the best, better. I’m striving for perfection, I will never be perfect but I can work towards perfection. I have the education, I have the job, now I have to get the balance… so my blog is open, again.

I leave you with the artist I have attached to since Prince passed, I’ll write about him as well… soon. I’ll be funnier too.

Anderson.Paak THE DREAMER

If I Was Dead…

 

Nobody would ever be hurt by me

I would never disappoint another person

Never would people have to question me or my motives

If I never had to take another breath of air

It would not matter if there was anyone to care

 

Nobody would hurt me, when I think they love me

I would never feel pain

Never have to wake up and pray for a better day than the last

If I never had another heart beat

It would not matter what people said about me

 

Nobody could tell my son something against me

I would never be more than a face in a picture to him

Never would I let him down by telling him no

If I never lived another day

Nobody could ever take my son away…

 

I Ain’t LL… So Call It A Comeback!

December 2008, Christmas Eve morning somewhere over Indiana I was done.  I was not feeling it and I was mad at myself.  So I quit.  The previous five days I had performed, every show was blah to me.  What made it worse was I was doing a week at the club I considered my “home” club.  Though I did not start there, when I moved there they were the first club to believe in me and push me to other clubs.  They believed in me and a week I was scheduled to perform for them, I was not giving them my all.  Again, I was done.

The most consistent dream of mine and the one that was within my grasp since the first time I snuck a listen of a Richard Pryor tape was to be a standup comic, as of December 2008 I was a comic and that was the only money I had coming in.  So my living was that of a standup comic, I had essentially reached my dream. I was not famous, had no credits, but I had enough work coming in to eat.  What was my problem?  I was faking it.  I was not talking about anything worth talking about; nothing was my voice except for the first 5 minutes I was on stage.  The only material I had that came directly from my life experiences were in the first 5 minutes and I killed the first 5 minutes EVERY NIGHT!  Any comic will tell you to get the crowd in the palm of your hands in the first few minutes makes everything else a breeze.

The rest of my stuff was funny, but not me, and it ate at me every night.  I had bits that kept the crowd with me, could give it to any heckler, and a closer that never failed.  Unfortunately, I was hoping for hecklers so I could shoot off the top of my head and improvise two minutes of jokes and insults so I could knock out a couple of jokes that ate at my soul to tell again.  There is great joy for a comic when you can riff and get a laugh, that’s when comedy becomes jazz, you are in the moment, and everything in the room becomes one.  Unfortunately for me, I was working clubs now where I was known and it was made clear to people, by others, when I was on stage it could turn into a very embarrassing situation for you and nobody wants to be in the middle of a situation.  So speaking when I had a mic in my hand, or yelling at me in the middle of  line, was only for those very secure with themselves and nobody is that secure outside of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Saturday night, I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the very funny and nice Dwight Slade to come downstairs so we could roll out to the club and knock out two more shows.  Dwight noticed I was not ‘here’ and instead of waving me over so we could leave, he sat down in the seat next to me and asked “you alright”?  I told him I was not feeling my act.  He assured me I was funny and I the crowds were getting me.  I told him “no, except for my opening bit… I don’t believe anything I am saying and it is killing me”.  Dwight said “you might wanna take a break… after this week of course”.

So flying to Chicago for the holidays, over Indianapolis looking at downtown (where I had performed many times, as much as any place in the country)… I quit.  For some reason I decided I was going to work with kids in Chicago and for the last 4 years, I have done just that.  I have worked in some of the worse schools this country has to offer.  I have sat across from kids that would not live to sit across from me again.  I have seen what rough is and changed a life or two in the process.  I have experienced more pain and frustration.  I have been treated as if I am a threat because of my intelligence and as a joke (ironically) because of perceived lack of it.  I have lost more people who I love, but gained people who will love me unconditionally.

What I missed from comedy was a life to talk about.  So like Richard Pryor, who once walked away from comedy to observe and write about a life he could relate to, I walked away to live.  I now have a life, I now have a voice.  My brain is giving me jokes again, not lines that are funny but jokes that are twisted and express my thought process.  My jokes now are not clever; I am too old to be clever.  If I was a 22-year-old kid, I would need to be clever because I would not have done a damn thing worth talking about.  I am a college graduate, with years of work experience, a family to take care of, who has lost more people along the way other than an Iraq War Veteran.  I really do not care about what people care about what I say and I do not care if it offends anyone.  I have the truth, in the reality of my life, to talk about and that is where a comic lives and breaths, in the truth.

The gloves are off; I do not expect anything from a club, an agent, or a manager.  I want to get on stage and speak from my heart; I will be relentless and unapologetic.  You only get to come back once… So with that, like Jordan… appropriately, I’m BACK!  Back in the city I started in, Chicago… I am going to put the city on my back and take it with me wherever I go.  This time believing in every word I say and not protecting my pain or insecurities.  You’ll see me soon…

Suppression vs. Expansion (it’s not the economy it’s your voting rights… STUPID)

I have been silent for two months, because I needed to shut up and observe.  I needed to take as much information in as possible from as many sources as possible.  Politics does and has always fascinated me, so much so I changed my major from journalism to political science as a sophomore at Indiana University.  There is nothing comfortable about politics so there is nothing comfortable about political debate.  You do not have to run for office, have a primetime slot on FOX News or MSNBC, or have a blog to feel heat for your opinions, you just share them.

As much as race, gender, workers’ rights, health care, and a host of other social issues will decide the vote for people on November 6, 2012 nothing will decide who is elected to countless offices in this country more than voter suppression or expansion.  Simply put in this country, considering current social agendas, the more voters that show up the more likely it is liberals/progressives grab control.  The party most in touch with the concerns of the ‘common man’ tends to win if they can get more common people out to the polls.  This has been true since Reconstruction, when the Republican Party was considered to be a better representative of the concerns of those most in need of government support to find access to the American dream.  This did not guarantee that those elected would put into place the programs and services wanted by their constituents but it did mean a measure of safety from those seeking to move in a different direction.

PB+D>C

When considering what to expect this November nationally and locally remember that equation.  P is probability, B is benefit, D is civic duty, and C is time.  The battle of voter suppression vs. expansion is simply time, how much time it will take for an individual to not only vote but to register to vote.  The probability that a person’s vote will effect an election combined with their belief that the person they vote for will carry themselves in a way that will benefit them plus how committed an individual voter is not only to their voting rights, but their social and political beliefs, must outweigh the amount of time any individual voter is willing to give to register to vote and then vote… for them to vote.

Time, political strategists figured out a long time ago the longer it takes for someone to vote the more restrictive the process becomes and the less those that feel disenfranchised are likely to take the steps necessary to become registered voters.  Every voting act since the end of slavery was attacks on the time of those that can least afford to give time.  Jim Crow laws to prevent Blacks in the South were attacks on time.  To pay a poll tax would mean putting in countless of hours to earn the money needed to pay your tax and still provide for your family, literacy tests would require time to catch a person up to the educational level needed to answer the questions.  Yes both could be reached and some Blacks did work hard to meet both of those requirements but the sacrifice was time.

More recently some counties and states have moved to purge the voting rights of many.  Example being the States of Georgia and Michigan removing the rights of registered voters based on foreclosure lists and/or returned mail as proof an individual may not live in the county or state that registered.  Time again is the tool being used, if you are still a resident of that county and state you now have to take time to prove you live where you say you live.  When your residency is challenged it is challenged on every level; you must prove your citizenship, you must prove your identity, you must prove your residency, and you must prove you did not commit fraud.  If you no longer live in the county or state where you were born it can take up to 12 weeks in some cases to receive your birth certificate.  If you need identification you may need your birth certificate… you get the idea.  A lot of time, of course many will argue that the right to vote is worth your time and add-on to those arguments that many people who do not vote have plenty of FREE time.  No matter what your economic status, nobody has free time.

Ironically those that would seem to have the least amount of time are actually those that can make time to prove their right to vote or challenge any questions about their rights.  Those that do not feel the need for government ‘safe guards’ usually can take time off from work, paid time or just leave the office for however long it takes to get the necessary documentation required to register to vote.  Again, time is not free, when I need to take time off of work there are benefits in place for me to receive my pay for that time I am missing from work.  An hourly employee, someone making minimum wage, a single parent that needs to pick their kids up from school, may not have the time to prove that as an American citizen they have the right to vote.

In the 2008 November election the states of Georgia and Ohio attacked time… specifically time.  Making registered voters wait between 2 to 10 hours to vote.  In Franklin County, Ohio the Attorney General had to order polls to stay open longer to allow voters that wanted to vote, the time and the opportunity to vote.  In the 2010 Maryland election for governor a campaign manager for Republican candidate Bob Ehrlich ordered calls to phone numbers of people considered to be most likely African-American, on Election Day.  Those calls were made to seem as if they were coming from Democratic Party officials’ informing them the election was an obvious land slide, nothing else to do but stay home and wait for the results, in other words “don’t waste your time voting”.  This campaign manager was convicted for his actions, but it was revealed that the chief strategy considered for this campaign was voter suppression.

These are games played by both parties; Democrats usually work by redistricting which is also done by Republicans.  Though I believe if you have earned the votes to make those moves, you can.  I may not like it or agree with it, but if it is in the rules than those challenging you will have to fight harder and do a better job of organizing to stop you.  Usually these fights are decided in the courts and if gerrymandering is discovered than those plans cannot move forward, that is what a ‘safe guard’ really is about.  Time, how much time do you have to make a statement.  How much time is worth for you to give to make sure your voice is heard?

PB+D is not always greater than C

Happy Black History Month!! Today We Salute… The Candy Lady

The Candy Lady, yes her. She put more smiles on the face of kids then Michael Jackson during a sleepover at Never Land Ranch. She handed out more candy than the creepy neighbor that owned the van with no windows in the back.

Starting off selling penny candy out of her garage, she eventually built her clientele up enough to purchase a glass case to place candy in making it easy for everyone to see what they wanted and making her garage look like a real store.  She also added a picture to hang behind the glass case of the Last Supper, featuring Jesus and Black Apostles… Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Marvin Gaye and other dead Black people with first names beginning with ‘M’.  As the years moved on The Candy Lady was able to purchase the little building at the end of the block opening a “Corner Store” or as we call it “da coh-na sto”.

Ah yes… the Candy Lady’s Corner Store, you never knew how long the chicken had been out but when you did not feel like going 24 blocks to make sure your chicken was fresh and USDA approved she was your girl. The bulk of her business became lottery tickets, loose cigarettes, 40 oz brews, and hot fries… Selling questionable meat just allowed her to be open all day but she still had all the candy you wanted and candy is dandy!

The Candy Lady’s next purchase was the Cadillac she always had her eye on and a bunch of fur coats.  It was good to see someone in your neighborhood doing so well, especially someone as sweet as the Candy Lady. The Candy Lady’s store closed when the DEA discovered she sold some different candy, guess that explains the Cadillac she was rolling ain’t that much damn money is Jolly Ranchers and Chico Stix.  Turns out after the government cut the Candy Lady’s Social Security check she decided to flip her $350 check into more by selling weed.  Having a candy store just allowed her to not look funny sitting in her garage all day as grown men walked up to her all day long while they shook hands twice, looked over their shoulders, and then they ran off.

The Candy Lady went from selling nickel and dime bags, along with candy chews and quarter juices, to moving real weight.  She stopped being a street hustla to supplying the entire east side of town and putting her grandsons to work by tracking down nigga’s that owed her money.  The feds found out the real reason why she bought that glass case with the candy in it was to hide the 15 kilos of uncut that she kept at all times and block people from seeing her youngest grandson kneeled down holding a semi-automatic assault rifle… for when you started trippin’.

Currently serving 40 years of federal time… which at 69 years of age is LIFE!  The DEA said the Candy Lady was responsible for moving over 600 kilo’s of cocaine every year for over 9 years, 8 million dollars in marijuana distribution annually, the deaths of at least 19 gang members, and over $500,000 in payments to dentists by Medicaid to fix cavities for the kids in that neighborhood.  Happy Black History Month to the Candy Lady or as you are known to the youngsters on the block you live today… “02-CI7-9304-DU44-5822”

Happy Black History Month!! Today We Salute… My Big Long Black Chocolate Stereotype

Most things that happen to Black people are based on fears about what people have heard about us.  We are violent, emotional, uneducated, to name a few.  Many are hurtful and have damaged us as a community; people in our community have been killed based on the fears developed from misconceptions.  We have been kept out of institutions of higher learning and locked out of neighborhoods because of misguided beliefs.

Then there is that one ain’t one brotha complaining about, talk about how we all have rhythm and we show you our cousin that couldn’t keep the beat if you put a gun to his momma’s head and said you would blow it off if he pulled a Johnny Gill and clapped a half a second before or after everyone else.  Tell us we all are good at basketball and we will introduce you to our brother that gets picked after the Asian kid for a pick-up game (that’s how Jeremy Lin got so good).  Tell us we all like chicken and we show you our vegetarian cousin with the dread locks that eats organic foods and is skeptical about even eating tofu as a source of protein.  Tell us we all have big …. And we smile and say ‘well… heh… heh… heh’ (That’s me laughing).

So today on this day in Black History Month we thank you for the stereotype we ain’t marched against.  We hold on to this stereotype and thank you for sharing with everyone.  It helps that the only one’s of ours you have ever seen was the 6’7” basketball player your school recruited that walked around the locker room with his towel over his shoulder after he got out the shower.  If you have seen a little one on a brotha, what are you going to say?  You will sound like you spend your time at your gym hanging out by the lockers… looking to see if the myth of the Black man is true.  Freakin’ perv!

I don’t know if curiosity really killed the cat, but it did get it laid.  When a brotha gets to college he can smell the fascination from across the cafeteria.  You hinted at it so much, that Becky the Farm Girl, that has only seen Black people on television before getting to the University of We Here Too, wonders about it for months maybe even a couple of years that by the time her junior year rolls around she has the numbers for every football player that wears his hair in dreds or braids in her iPhone.  Then before you know it, you have a young lady that is going way too far out of her way to disappoint her daddy, heh… heh… heh…

Call us every ignorant thing you can come up with, every name you dream of, you put a stereotype on us that by the time it comes to prove if we measure up to it… who cares if we don’t we’re both here now and the lights are off.  Talk about us not having the tools, you then have to get into a conversation of why you were with us to begin with.  There is an entire division in the porn industry dedicated to the myth of the Black man. I can hear frat boys looking at those sites screaming “COME ON!!! THEY ALL CAN’T BE THAT BIG!” heh… heh… heh…

Black men could scream about a lot of things, we could scream every moment of our waking life.  No role models, poor prospects for a job, limited opportunities, if it wasn’t this big cock you say we have we really would be pissed.  Ever wonder why a trust fund kid says something to a brotha and the brotha doesn’t pop him upside his head?  Outside of police coming faster than a 22-year-old virgin, we generally appreciate this one stereotype.  The next time that brotha sees the guy, that he should have crushed, he almost feels obligated to thank him.  All the stereotypes he hurled about Black guys made his girlfriend slip the brotha her number with a message beneath it “I just wanna know if it’s true”.

Happy Black History Month to the stereotype we like!  It is nice to walk around with a mythical being tucked away beneath your saggin’ jeans.  I hate to cut this short, not something us Black guys usually do.  Let me hurry up and get out of here…  About to head over to a Black History Month celebration in honor of the movie Mandingo on campus, I need to shower, throw on some clothes, and toss my dick over my shoulder before I head out.  Heh… heh… heh…

Happy Black History Month!! In Memorium

As we approach the end of Black History Month we need to take time to pay tribute to and take a moment of silence for those no longer around.

Philadelphia soul man the late great Harold Melvin

West Coast Hip Hop pioneer DJ Yella

All time great football player Terrell Owens

Former Republican candidate for President of the United States Herman Cain

Herman Cain’s hoes

Tiger Woods inside a winner’s circle

The careers of actors after starring in Tyler Perry movies

Mya… after she turned 30

Big Tigger, A.J and Free

The NBA Slam Dunk competition

Jesse Jackson’s integrity

Self respect and Pride

Leroy from “The Last Dragon”

Black on Black love

Job opportunities for people with names ending in –niqua

Positive role models

Your pops!

Pelle Pelle gear

Juan Williams at Republican debates

The Old Spice guy

Money that is suppose to go to your church building fund

African American families on major network television

Steve Harvey’s hair, wigs, and hats

Accepting collect calls from nigga’s in the joint

Writing letter’s to nigga’s locked up in the joint

The careers of everyone in Destiny’s Child not named Beyonce

We take a moment of silence for all of you… MOMENT OVER!