At a recent gathering, I heard a man say the following: We are concerned with what type of world we are leaving our children; We should also ask what type of children are we leaving for the world.
As a practicing Buddhist for over ten years, my belief system is simple, effective and always provides me with opportunities to grow and evolve.
There are not many institutions that allow individuals to constantly strive to better themselves and as a result, the world.
Twice a day, I set aside time to face my shit.
Most religions and spiritual practices encourage a great deal of conformity and very little self reflection that can, if we allow it, lead to some serious transformation.
I know of no one outside of my practice who is committed to self transformation to the extent that we(practioners of my particular sect of buddhism)pride ourselves on being.
It has always struck me as odd when people say they have no spiritual practice and believe in nothing but themselves.
One of the greatest aspects of a spiritual practice is that it allows humans to be with other humans.
We learn and grow from human interaction particularly if what we are doing is focusing on personal transformation that engenders global transformation.
While openly admitting to having a spiritual practice is often frowned upon, it is imperative that they exist and people look at all the ways they practice spirituality without labeling it as such.
Anybody who fights for human rights, ending violence in all its forms and eliminating domination and unfair treatment of others and oppression is doing spiritual work and has a commitment to a spiritual practice.
bell hooks refers to those who do the work of ending domination as doing the work of love.
Men who want to transform themselves would be wise to heed these words.
As men, we must not be afraid to humble ourselves to the parts of ourselves that cry out and demand serious, real connection, change and uplift.
The most powerful men I have met have a spiritual core and devotion to spirituality that is awe inspiring.
We can let go of domination and "king of the hill" shenanigans that mask fears of the other and an unwillingness to be vulnerable.
With spirituality there is a wonder (a not knowing) that most men are uncomfortable with and yet this is what is needed if men wish to allow the best, most loving and thoughtful part of themselves to prosper.
Men have been taught that to wonder and not know is dumb, weak, unforgivable and can only lead to trouble for all involved.
When man can retire the cape, get off the white horse and admit: I don't know; the world and themselves can change and true transformation can occur.
We should allow ourselves permission to "not know", to dwell in the spiritual.
This must be allowed without interference, judgement or punishment.
We can not demand that men evolve when the essential component of spirituality is missing.
Men who care for children, support the elderly by driving them to agreed upon destinations and who listen to women and anyone who might know more about a subject than they do are practicing a sacred spirituality.
Invite the men in your life to a temple, a mosque, Sunday service.
Remember no revolution or inner transformation can survive without a devotion to the spirit.
When I pointed out this reality, some folks didn't agree and doubted that the core of any revolution and social change was based in a devotion to spirit.
Any time there is a break away from commonly held beliefs regardless of their effectiveness or sincerity, you are asking for and ushering in a revolution.
We are asking men to change and show us their best selves which is revolutionary and can only be carried out when radical spirituality is at the center.
Men are smart enough to figure this out and there should still exist space for us all to question, debate and sample all manner of spiritual commitment.
Maybe you were brought up in the Judeo Chrtistian construct( and if you were raised in America, you were) and have a difficult time breaking away from what is familiar and moving into and towards the unknown.
It is important that we open our hearts and minds to what other folks believe and the ways individuals structure their lives according to what they find important.
If any institution, no matter how well meaning, suggests that you be less human or give up big chunks of yourself under the auspice that you will win later, run.
Anything that demands more of our humanity and not less is what we should focus on.
Dear Mr.and Mrs. Brown,
Please forgive us for not standing up for your son.
Please forgive us for not adopting him early and often in ways that would have made his death preventable.
Forgive me for not understanding and refusing to believe that there are forces out there bent on destroying young, brilliant, beautiful black men.
As a grandfather to a pair of sweet young black boys, I am now aware of the possibility for violence that may be directed at them.
What are your suggestions that will allow for communal change and not exploit your child in the process?
It is time we collectively grieved with you and for him.
Use this time to care for yourselves and get clear about what it is you will demand from the citizens of your town and the police force.
Many people will fear your anger. Great, they should.
Anybody who has ever created anything of value post brutalization was initially motivated by anger.
Understand its presence and power while allowing to create change.
Many folks will suggest you live in gratitude.
May I suggest you live in and for revolution.
May I suggest that you lead us all in a collective movement to understand and annihilate hatred, bigotry and mistreatment of all people.
You and your son are in my thoughts,
When I began doing stand up comedy in 1999, I aspired to be as brilliant as Richard Pryor.
Great comedy slams ideas together, questions the ridiculousness of humor behavior, stares at what terrifies and points out how truly stupid and amazing human beings can be.
Great artists force us to self reflect and offer us an opportunity to restructure our lives, seek amends for awful decisions and examine new solutions that require bravery and incredible vulnerability.
Blacks are being assaulted and murdered at an alarming rate.
We could use Mr. Pryor's insight and incredible storytelling abilities to illustrate what needs to be done and the type of courage that true change requires.
Years ago, I saw a bit he performed where he talked about rape in a comedic light before switching to its after affect (stealing another's humanity).
We are in need of someone with his stones and a commitment to pointing out that (the slaughter of black bodies) is beyond horrendous.
Where are all the black or white allies in the comedy field who could highlight this current tragic state?
We don't need more artists talking. We need more artists with something to say.
We need artists who are willing to piss people off immediately after making them laugh.
We need less gratitude and more revolution.
Mr. Pryor could discuss his drug use,fascination with death and his own destruction and make you think that anything was possible and our ability to share our humanity was our greatest strength.
I can picture Richard performing at a policemen's banquet before heading to the ghetto to perform the same set.
Wouldn't it be incredible to then bring the groups together for a yuck fest and then a heartfelt discussion about our assumptions, fascination with violence, fear, hatred and distrust of the "other"?
Richard I know you are watching these shenanigans and getting a whole lot of great material.
Do us all a favor and send us a proxy with your love for humanity and ability to tell the truth.
We have become too desensitized to the deaths of those in our community. Here is a list so that we never forget and continue to fight.
Timothy Stansbury Jr.
Steven Eugene Washington
Ronald Madison and James Brissette
Manuel Loggins Jr.
My mother used to manipulate and mock me with taps on the lips admonishing me that : I must learn to listen.
I always found this humiliating and could never quite put together why I should listen to anybody who was inconsistent with their information sharing or in some cases flat out lied and changed facts, stories at will.
Why listen if the story will get rewritten without my knowledge or consent and then shoved in my face later as fact.
One of the most disturbing and predictable ways fear infiltrates our beings is through sullied hearing.
Despite what most relationship and business gurus proclaim, most people don't listen for understanding which could build enormous empathy.
Most folks listen for lies, inconsistencies and any opportunity to poke holes in a persons' theories.
If I am planning a snappy retort or simply waiting for you to shut your pie hole so I can jump in with a solution, I am not really listening.
I'm in my head figuring out how to make you wrong and myself right.
It's odd that we listen whole heartedly and with much attention when we meet someone new.
Whether our interest is romantically based or platonic, the "new" demands and gets our attention.
Once routines take the place of genuine sharing and building, we often decide that true listening is no longer required.
We no longer listen to deepen or enrich our experience of one another.
To truly listen, we must accept the fact that a) I might be wrong about something, b) it's okay to be wrong, c) it might be scary and uncomfortable to not go into problem solving mode to ease our own discomfort, d) if the relationship is really important we must accept the aforementioned happening and show up to really listen anyway.
When we invite heart listening, it is a supremely unfamiliar and satisfying experience.
During the last decade, I have witnessed people carrying on at least two conversations at once and not really hearing either of them.
Many of my female colleagues and coworkers love to point out that men are not great at multitasking and that we don't listen.
Heart to heart listening involves giving the person your listening to undivided focus and attention.
I can always tell when I am fiercely engaged as a listener.
When whole heartedly engaged, I will be moved by something.
Something will be heard that will require me to change or alter my mood or thinking.
Another tired trick that myself and many educators use is the standard and always productive: tell me what I just said. Anybody can parrot back what they just heard and this is also a kinder, gentler version of not listening.
Be willing to be scared, wrong, judgmental or just plain stupid in an effort to do this listening thing differently.
You might pick up some new ways of thinking or gain a better, richer understanding of a person you've known for years.
Anybody I know who listens in an effort to deepen connection always fairs better than the one listening for the sole purpose of being right.
Being right is fun. Is it worth it ?
Being right means somebody has got to be wrong.
What's most important to you, being heard or being right at all costs ?
When I taught high school English classes, I reminded my students that while change is often challenging, it can and is incorporated on a daily basis.
To illustrate this point, I discussed life before the internet or call waiting and being able to see the person you are speaking with on a hand held device was considered Science Fiction.
As a country steeped in shame and disconnection, we are lonely and require constant interaction. It is this reality that drove us to create social media and then laws to govern its usage.
We changed our heart's desires and then the world around us changed.
It is time that we asked ourselves why sacrificing humans is an alright idea.
The desire to protect one segment of our community while destroying another must be questioned and eliminated.
Silence will not protect us either.
Many believe that if they remain silent that things will work themselves out.
Things never work themselves out.
A small group gets their hearts touched and then takes action.
In the words of Sir Richard Branson: they start before they feel ready.
Changing laws and restructuring legislation occurs after people demand it. People demand changed laws when their hearts have been moved.
How do we move another's heart ?
We challenge ourselves to understand our behavior and look at places(in our hearts) that make us cringe.
Do we view injustices and silently rejoice that it's "them and not us" ?
Do we hear of an arrest and say: he may not be guilty of what he was arrested for but I'm sure he's done something that he hasn't gotten caught for".
Once we are clear about our embarrassing racism, class issues and irrational fears, we can decide to speak up and out.
Rather than wait for a legal change that may or may not affect you, make the decision that all life is valid and precious and allowing its destruction is evil and cowardly.
Gather in homes and discuss the painful reality that none of us have done enough.
Take action outside the home by taking on projects (beautification of an abandoned lot, creation of a large community garden, adding a street light or stop sign at a dangerous corner).
Creating small and pivotal agreed upon goals makes the heart feel better and larger which leads to the belief that anything is possible.
Social movements don't work when people feel left out, forgotten about, let down or simply overlooked.
Many times movements like the civil rights one and others that immediately followed it, provided benefits for the group at large but left the individual distrustful and disappointed.
Leading a group of individuals interested in restructuring a social machine without eliminating its personnel (gatekeepers and those who have the most to gain by maintaining the status quo) is pointless.
To approach a group that has experienced a severe lack of governmental support (slavery ended in 1865 and it took another 100 years before we could vote)and has thrived despite systematic discrimination and oppression with the idea that approaching and challenging this same system to see the errors in its thinking and simply step aside is dumb and short sighted.
To gain the trust and respect of those you want to influence and ultimately lead, it is wise to start with the question : What's in it for them?
What type of change would benefit the most oppressed group?
What the media gives us is a group of whining individuals going on about "being safe" and the ever growing need for more prisons.
There is never an attempt to link their fear with a larger social movement which includes sharing of resources and a return to compassion that would allow for serious community transformation.
As a result of this lack of planning and interaction with a group that still experiences targeted racist attacks, our big movement will flop.
A better way to regroup and create a continued and ballsy, unrelenting attack is to align this dream with several others.
Why not also fight for healthcare that is not determined by marital status ?
Why not fight for school systems who base their curriculum on love and self esteem building as opposed to test scores ?
Why not demand that drug companies, mental health officials and sex workers create honest sex discussions whose purpose is HIV prevention?
Why not look at the number of runaways, foster kids and trans youth who are severely lacking in resources which lead to risky unprotected sex as their only means to self support.
Fighting for black male lives needn't be done in a vacuum, it should be included with all of the other issues facing our community.
Thirteen years ago, I received a phone call and saw an image that changed the way I saw my country.
Thirteen years ago, I was heading to my old job that was located five blocks away from the Twin Towers.
While I understand the disbelief and the shear surrealism this event caused all Americans, I have trouble understanding a culture that fails to have the same depth of upset when it comes to our young black males.
We are in a similar situation (terrorism that may strike at any moment for any reason) when we look at the lives of Mike Brown, the residents of Ferguson and of course, Trayvon Martin.
Where is our shock and outrage in reference to these snuffed out lives?
It is always interesting to hear white friends and colleagues go on about not feeling safe (post 911).
I resist the urge to launch into a Richard Pryor rant about "now you know what it feels like being black in this country".
I have grown up knowing that I could be gunned down for any reason at any time.
Young black males have never been safe in this country. A black male who is brilliant, talented or gay is even more of a target.
What kind of world do we live in when we are only given the choice to mourn one sect of our population ?
Where are the telethons, star studded media events that say : This (murdering our young people) has to stop.
Where are the A-List celebrities offering large sums of money for legal fees, grief counseling and support of neighborhood watches ?
How many more have to be slaughtered before we take collective action and demand change ?
I mourned the senseless murders on 9/11.
I also mourned Trayvon, Mike Brown and Amadou Diallo.
Whether its film, television or any form of mass media we all get the same messages about men:Men are emotionally lacking and one dimensional.
This thinking prevents any one committed to male growth and love the opportunity to support or further develop healthy relationships with anyone of the male gender.
We have been conditioned to believe that if we assign a group of characteristics to one segment of our population and then punish them when they dare to change the game everyone will feel better. No one will suffer.
If you are a boy who does not fit into a neatly and constraining view of masculinity then what ?
I wrote about this topic years ago in a solo play.
Secret keeping is for boys who want manhood. Secrets are what many sons do…. So many sons are good sons. A good son does what he is told.
A good son gets married.
A good son spends holidays with his family.
A good son is violent. A good son likes to drink.
A good son watches sports.
A good son denies having problems
A good son doesn’t cry until he can’t speak.
A good son does not have addictions.
A good son is not in times square at three in the morning hoping for sex and a violent end to his misery.
A good son does not have sex with several men in one day.
A good son knows when to stop.
Now my version of a good son is my own
I will not lie.
I will not hide.
I will not suck it up.
I laugh uproariously.
I dance. All the time.
I am a good son. Some sons are hated not because of what they are but because of what they are not.
If you are a boy who protests the societal punishment for not holding up his end of the bargain what’s next ?
There really is no place in this society for men who resist patriarchy’s call.
There is no place where men’s vulnerability is expected or celebrated.
As a young boy and now fully grown male, I have often caused a stir when I’ve admitted I was unsure about a fact, popular opinion or widely held belief.
The real crime has been when expressing a divergent viewpoint and not immediately having something to fill that void.
Sitting in the place of confusion, doubt and struggle upsets anyone who derives their power from the compliance with society’s rules about men.
I have experienced many lovers and a few male friends who become visibly and audibly upset when I voice confusion or an oppositional view point and have nothing(to shove into the void that I have now created).
Once (after suggesting that my partner stop interacting with an ex and inviting this person into our home and life) I was told that what I felt was ridiculous and that I needed to provide examples of why this had been or would be a problem.
When I deigned to leave my hometown of Detroit to move to NYC and live out my dream of being a successful performance artist, I was grilled on how I would do this with my favorite phrase : What was my plan ?
When my answers didn’t suffice because not only did I not have a plan but nobody I’d known had purposely and unabashedly ever gone after a dream so powerfully, I was called a dreamer and told to wake up and get my head out of the clouds.
I was not holding up my end of and promise to be a man: I lacked answers and a concrete step by step plan that could be easily understood and explained.
Men in movies always have answers and a plan at the ready no matter who it affects or how. Men on television always have more wisdom than any one person can possibly obtain in several lifetimes.
It is time that we show men growing in knowledge and doing the slow, methodical work of becoming brilliant.
How about a group of scientists or social justice seekers who don't have all the answers and once they've admitted as much, move forward with a group plan gained by consensus.