Detached: Art Over B.S. 9-29-16

I remember the feeling. It was a little foreign to me, but it also seemed as though I was built for the mental and emotional storm that was approaching. My mother and I had been outside in the streets all day. I watched her drink, talk, socialize and pretty much not do anything substantial all day. It was fine by me. I was just happy to be with my mother. It had been just her and I for a long time. She was my best friend.  I was about 7 years old. My creative imagination allowed me to escape the alcoholics and dope fiends that filled my daily routine. Once the sun set and the street lights came on, we returned home. We lived with my great-grandmother. She was one of the major reasons I was not as distracted by my negative surroundings. She kept me focused and grounded. As we walked through the apartment door, which was railroad type, my mother noticed that my great grandmother was going through her incoming mail. Of course an argument ensued. The back and forth had me feeling nervous. I immediately felt compelled to side with my mother for reasons unknown at the time for a 7 year old. All I remember is a bunch of muffled yelling about nosiness , and drug use.  Come to think of it, my mother was actually a few months pregnant at the time. My great grandmother ushered me to the bathroom to wash, while she helped gather my mother’s belongings in order for her to leave the apartment. I cried, I screamed. I wanted to go with my mom. I was attached to my mom as any child would be. But at that moment, it all changed. I barely slept that night. The butterflies wouldn’t allow me to relax. I kept visualizing my mother walking out of the front door in a rage. She returned about a week later. My great grandmother had a heart of gold, and couldn’t just turn her back on my mom, sometimes to a fault. For the rest of my childhood, I experienced many moments of my mother being kicked out of the apartment, and stretches of time in drug rehab programs. I was forced to get used to being without her. I vividly remember telling myself “ You can’t keep crying when your mother leaves”. “ You just have to be strong, because if you don’t , you will be hurt every time she leaves.” Mymom was the closest person to me. I still loved her, but I had to protect myself from disappointment. I became DETACHED.

My expectations for others became low. It helped me become stronger as a man, and more self-sufficient, but it also contributed to me being able to distance myself from others without guilt. DETACHED.

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Weave n Gangs

 

Weave n Gangs

 

                Man, where do I start? I was inspired to write Weave ‘n’ Gangs by some very personal experiences of mine. First, I would like to say that, every black woman that wears a weave is not insecure. Some black women will wear their hair in various styles, including a natural fashion, depending on the situation. Next, every black man who is in a gang is not insecure either. I understand that in many areas of the country, young men are often born into gangs. I am from Jersey City, New Jersey. Growing up as a kid, the Bloods and Crips were gangs I only saw in west coast movies. The gangs in my neighborhood were usually based on where a person lived, or who he or she was related to. By the time I turned 16, I realized that the gang culture had spread rapidly on the East Coast. So, my perspective on gangs is strictly from the view of my neighborhood. It also hit very close to home when my younger brother decided to join the bloods. It hurt me because even though his father was absent, I always tried to speak life and positivity into him as a brother/guardian/ and mentor. “ You a blood, that just another sign of your weakness”, derives from my frustration of watching my little brother be sentenced to 5 years in prison after one of his “homies” snitched on him. Those lyrics were my truth and honesty. Many of our young men join gangs to compensate for absent male figures in the house hold. They just want a family. As, for the ladies, as a race and culture I can relate to the subconscious self hate. Sometimes we just don’t realize that we have been conditioned to think a certain way. I watch many black women that I know personally, with hair that is more beautiful than the weave that they wear, spend hundreds of dollars on Brazilian hair. Many women in our culture don’t even realize that they are trying to look European. They are putting so much emphasis on looking like real life Barbie dolls, that they ignore the natural beauty possessed by black women. ” When I was 8, I wanted to Al B. Sure cuz he was light skin with good hair”. Those lyrics are a testimony to my own self hate as a child. I wanted to have lighter skin because everything that was positive on television was of a lighter complexion. ( Batman, Superman etc) I can relate ladies. In a nutshell, I wanted to spark a conversation about our insecurities as a race and culture, that at the very least could spark a thought, that could lead to a change in at least one person. Thank You.

 

Also Check out- I used to wish I was white on Worldstar- Ibn Sharif Shakoor

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C.R.A.C.K. ( Crisis Remains and Cultures Killed)

C.R.A.C.K.
Crisis Remains And Cultures Killed

I don’t know much about the 1980’s besides the fact that I was born in 1986. My mother was 24 years old and my father was 27. My father was an inmate at Rahway State Prison and accidently dialed my mother’s home phone number. Either she was very bored that day, or just liked talking to inmates. That’s how they met, and the rest was history…….

My story is only one of many types of scenarios that led to dysfunctional families during the 80’s and 90’s. We all know how hard CRACK hit Urban America during the Ronald Reagan era. Just Say No right? I remember being on the porch of our apartment building, playing with salt & pepper packets imitating the drug dealers I saw on a daily basis, while O.P.P.( Naughty By Nature) blasted from a someone’s Sony radio. I didn’t know any better. As kids, many of us watched our mothers become addicted to both CRACK and Heroin. While our fathers went to prison for distributing the same drugs our mothers were addicted too. Our cities were packed with women who were willing to sell their children’s Sega Genesis for a hit. And packed with men who used prison as a revolving door, spending their CRACK profits on Jordan’s and leather 8 ball jackets. What happened to the kids of these parents who were caught in the “Crack Trap”? Most of us are now between the ages of 18 and 35, children of the CRACK era in Urban America. We loved are grandparents, aunts, and uncles for treating us like their own children. Our culture was tarnished because of so many insecurities created by unfortunate situations that were out of our control. We were embarrassed and insecure because of the whispers in the school cafeteria about the drug abuse of our mothers. We were embarrassed and insecure because of the conversations amongst teachers about the absence of our fathers. Instead of having a culture that we flourished in with creativity, intelligence, and strength, we became angry, embarrassed, and purely ignorant because of the lack of guidance. Many of us repeated the cycle of our parents. We might smoke marijuana but we are still children of the CRACK era. The effect of that time period still lingers, it shows in our classrooms and even in today’s music. Most of us ( Children of the Era) are now parents ourselves. We have the choice to either continue the cycle, or to make a conscience decision to redefine our culture. The crisis that CRACK created is an ongoing battle. Don’t think so? Go into any urban school, and speak to a 7th grader about their life and culture. They are still wearing the Jordan’s that our fathers sold CRACK to get. Crisis Remains and Cultures have been Killed.  

 

Anxiety Depression

Anxiety/Depression

Something bad is going to happen to me! I can feel it. Up to that point, I didn’t realize how much of my character and spirit had been tarnished by the anticipation of disappointment. I became used to suppressing my feelings, thinking that I was STRONG! It was only a defense mechanism used to as a survival tactic to get through a rough childhood. But at this point and time, I was 27 years old with 3 children of my own. This was a different type of pressure. There was much more at stake. These feelings of apprehension were the beginning of the most difficult battle that I would ever face in my life up to that point .Yet it was also the greatest lesson through adversity that would allow me to do some serious self evaluating and soul searching, in order to get a taste of contentment and happiness. The battle was Anxiety/Depression. At the time I simply thought I was going crazy. There are always going to be stressors in life that we are going to face, such as relationships, work, or finances .I was usually able to say a prayer, think positive and keep pushing. But this time something was different. I just couldn't shake this dark feeling. Everything negative was magnified times ten. My blood pressure started to become slightly higher than usual. My heart would race for no apparent reason. My muscles would jump and become tight. I felt scared and nervous for no reason at all. I couldn’t sleep. Even my acid reflux started to appear as If it could be some sort of life threatening disease. I was concerned about my GERD symptoms being a result of something more serious. Then, one trip to the E.R changed  my life. The doctor checked me, and assured me that everything was fine .Then, he looked me in my dilated pupils, and said " I think you should seek counseling for anxiety and depression "and provided me with some phone numbers. This was foreign to me. No one had ever put my name in the same sentence as those two words. I was Mr. Strong . The young man who survived being a child of the crack epidemic . The kid who graduated college even though his circumstances would suggest he just be a petty criminal or drug dealer . Incarcerated father, drug addicted mother, all of these things meant nothing now. I needed help. My mind and body were so out of synch that I did not even realize that I was no longer myself . I had started to confuse the feelings of panic and anxiety with an actual physical illness. I didn’t know that long periods of extreme unhappiness or stress could result in the physical symptoms of anxiety. I spent my whole life trying to dig myself out of a hole. A hole that I perceived to be real, that was created by my dysfunctional upbringing. I lived in so much fear of failure and disappointment that I ignored my gifts, passions, and the simple things that brought me joy. I climbed up mountains to graduate from college, chasing a sense of security and stability. All while ignoring the fact that adversity was something that I became extremely fearful of. I was a prisoner of my own mind. Then came the knockout punch. It was my first year as a fulltime teacher. I was excited about working in my hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. My 7th grade students were tough but I knew I could help bring some change to them .After about one month on the job, I started to realize that not everyone was as motivated, or even cared as much as myself . I found myself feeling alone , overworked , and being more of a correctional officer than a teacher . My creative gifts were not being manifested through teaching. The bureaucracy outweighed the positive impact. I would literally come to work every day and have to fight with students to try and get them to learn. The amount of paperwork that was related to tracking data left little to no time to worry about anything other than the job. When was I suppose to teach? I guess after I ignored my 3 children at home and used that time to sit at a laptop for 4 hours. But hey, who said teaching would be easy ? This is what I wanted, right? I started to realize that for my situation and personal goals in life, teaching was not the career for me. This went on for three months straight every day. I was very stressed about the fact that I know longer had control of my life. The teaching profession owned my personal life. I couldn't help my own kids with homework. I was always angry. I would catch myself telling my son and daughters to raise their hand at home before speaking. I didn't like who I was becoming.Teaching was not the sole cause of my problem, but the final straw to a situation that was bound to happen. It was so ironic. The moment that I thought I reached a professional peak in life, my mental health started to spiral downwards. I started some therapy sessions in order to get a better understanding of my condition. I read books and did an abundance of research. I was offered medication ( Zoloft) but decided not to take it. I started to look at the underlying causes of my unhappiness. It made no sense to fight these physical symptoms because the more a person fights a panic attack, the more it sticks around. Though the anxiety put me through hell, it also taught me so much. I realized that in life you have to live in the moment. Let things go. Choose your battles wisely. I was able to reassert myself in regards to my artistic expression as a writer and musician. As time went on the symptoms started to fade slightly. There were more good days than bad days. I focused on centering my mind and being productive as opposed to submerging into my condition. Ignore the negative thoughts and tingly annoyances that plagued my body. I made the very difficult decision to resign from my full time teaching position. It was the beginning of a fresh start. It took me 28 years but I finally figured this thing called life out. Be free! Use your God given gifts to create the life that you envisioned for yourself. Do not do anything that will make you unhappy to the point of being miserable. For some, life is about prestige and money. For me it’s about serving my purpose and living an anti- anxiety life through love, laughter, and creativity. Though my Anxiety/Depression is not completely gone, I am leading a much happier and healthier life due to understanding my condition, and not letting it control me. I hope and pray that someone can read this and be inspired. Mental Health is important! God Bless.