Yesterday was my birthday.
When I was coming of age in Washington, DC, South African Apartheid was in its waning years. The Wall was coming down. The conflict in the Middle East was ramping up. Rock and Roll and Hip Hop was still radical and raw. Prince was the man.
I became the black rock nerd as my dancing in the mosh pit and in the clubs synthesized with my marching and protesting in the streets against Apartheid and the Middle East Conflict. I began writing poetry to deal with my angst and disaffection, and pain from not feeling validated, against a society that tried at every turn to squash my newfound identity, including those closest to me.
The early 90’s brought the Golden Age of Hip Hop and the Seattle Explosion, and I relished both. I moved to Baltimore. I began doing performance art, spoken word and theater. I began creating my brand of radical political art. I traveled up and down the east coast performing and protesting. I did my first one man show, If the World Were Like Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids, which won a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award. I published three chapbooks in that decade.
In the first three years of the new millennium I crashed. I was emotionally and spiritually burnt out from so many toxic forces around me, both professionally and personally. I ceased my art and activism. I severed ties with almost everyone around me. I moved to another part of town. I took up courier jobs just to be away from people in closed spaces.I needed time to be alone and to heal.
Then George W. Bush launched his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. I thrust myself back into art and activism. I cultivated healthy relationships. I began writing again, and my voice was better and more poignant than ever. I published my fourth chapbook, did my second one man show, and recorded a spoken word CD all with the title, Aware and Outraged.
In this decade, I finished my bachelor’s and earned my masters. I published my first trade paperback, Black Freak Mosh Heaven. I began teaching college. I toured my third one man show, Dreadlocks, Rock 'n Roll & Human Rights, up and down the East Coast. Currently I’m working on my second trade paperback, How Many Orgasms Does It Take To Stop Dropping Bombs.
Through much trial and error, I learned throughout those years to use my art as my voice, to be authentic, to stand up for my principles, to be independent, and to live my truth.
It feels good where I am now. I feel like I’m evolving. In fact, there are times when I feel like I’m just getting started. I feel nimble, sharp, and most importantly, relevant. These past years have been practice for what I am doing now, and there is so much to do.
Also, I have come to a discovery that I am much more resilient than I thought, I am fine just the way I am, and that I am exactly where I need to be.
I am definitely living in interesting times. The world is going through rapid paced transitions, and we are experiencing tremendous transformations within our lives, with all the proverbial growing pains. The ongoing human conversation is itself experiencing so many twists and turns, and we are all trying to figure out how to navigate and manage it.
I embrace the turmoil that I see around me. As the old saying goes, a tree grows stronger in the wind than behind the barn. I go beyond the personalities of the day, and see what lies beneath; what is the undercurrent.
So it is my lesson, and my mission moving forward to remain fluid, keep abreast, be on the pulse, and be in touch.