On The Issue of Talent and Race

difference


Recently, I shared a news article that highlighted the posting oftwo of our newest appointed City Councilors. The pitch of the article was to suggest we are breaking barriers by electing our first person of color to a political seat in the city’s government.

Ironically and thankfully there was little push back to my share and far more support, though I do have to bring attention to the commentary that did evolve. In order to get there I have to tell a story.

When I was twelve my family traveled to the East Coast, where we stayed with my cousins. God love my cousins but I really didn’t know them and I certainly wasn’t aware of their cultural views. One night my cousin of same age and I took a walk about the corner store where we encountered some black kids hanging out, just being teenagers. I asked my cousin if he knew them and he said no and in doing so dropped the ‘n’ word, that being the first time I had heard it in direct context as it impacted my life. I felt immediately nervous and couldn’t get past it the remainder of the night. I clearly knew my cousin’s views as we returned from the store and I felt fear for the first time in my life.

The next day, our family toured Harlem. I turned to my mom in the back seat and said, as a naive 12 year old, ‘those were the kids I saw last night.’ She told me of course they could not have been, and I said to her, ‘yes, mom, the same black kids on the corner.’

My mother then turned to me and said, ‘Listen to me, you didn’t see those kids last night and you certainly didn’t see those ‘black kids’ on the corner, you saw kids last night, and they were different kids from a different neighborhood.’ The point she was making of course is that I saw kids, playing on the corner, just people, the significance of color in my mom’s mind and her lesson to me was that it didn’t hold any bearing. She was telling me they are human beings just like anyone else in our world.

So why do I struggle today with the reality that yes, the skill set they bring to their position ought to be precedent?

I raise this issue because when my mother told me that story, it was 1972 and we were in the midst of racial turmoil. The Civil Rights Act was meant to begin to create an alliance between people of all walks of life. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. did say, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” So yes I agree 100 %.

The issue I cannot agree with is that nearly 50 years later, we are still fighting to acknowledge that people need to be judged by the content of their character. It seems we still live in a society that will not allow that mindset to grow.

We must continue to grow. Congratulations to our two newest members of the City Council – May your contributions be filled with promise and fortune to continue to move this beautiful community in the right direction.

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I Remember John Lennon

Lennon

I’m listening to ‘Mind Games’ right now. I woke this morning imagining I would write about John Lennon, this being the 38th year since he was gunned down outside the Dakota in New York City. I’ve since visited the site many times over the years, and every time there is an ominous takeaway that speaks to the terror of that single night.

I look up at the building itself – the one with gargoyles streaming the rooftops, a structuredakota my mom always said was her favorite building in the city, and I look for the white shutters, the flats that represent Yoko’s property, and I think that very possibly she is in there right now. Hers is a private world, deservedly so given the circumstances.

Not minutes before I sat down to this idea, I received the above picture of John Lennon on my timeline from my dear friend John. The timing was important, because 38 years ago on this night, I walked into my job at the health care center where he and I worked, and he approached me as we were changing shifts and told me the news. See I didn’t hear it from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, or on any of the airwaves on my car radio. I was listening to a tape – it was probably a Lennon song.

I lived and breathed John Lennon as a young adult. I dressed like him, people told me I had his look, so I bought the glasses, grew out my hair, still have an old pair of aviator frames I’d like to repair some day in his honor of course. I truly believed I was going to meet him someday. I grew up with the Beatles and slowly my love for their music evolved into being completely taken by Lennon because of his lyrical prowess. He spoke to the world, he spoke to the family, he spoke to woman, he spoke to children, he spoke to me.

I think one of the things that fascinated me the most about Lennon at that time – I was 21 years old – was how he had turned his life around and was again producing music that was relevant to the society around him. This time it was about family. He had just produced Double Fantasy, and I sent it to my brother for Christmas, because all it spoke of was love and harmony, and that was something I thought everyone was in need of, badly. Three weeks later he was dead on the street, a statistic, a victim of a Saturday night special in the hands of a sick, psychotic, fan.

That night in the mental health ward of the hospital I worked in all I did was watch the news. I can remember walking in the door of the hospital, I have dreams about it today, because the whole night was surreal. This man, who I idolized was suddenly gone, and all of his words were now left to memory. All we could do is replay his magic and imagine. My friend John, told me the news, gave me a hug, and walked out into the night, his shift over, and mine just beginning. No one could know the impact this night might and would have on so many lives in the years to come.

Today is significant to me I suppose because for the first time in a long while, I’m thinking about not only the circumstances around his death, but also what his loss has left us with for the last three decades. The simple fact is he was killed by a gunman who had no business carrying the weapon he had, especially not on the streets of Manhattan. johnposter1His whole purpose was to destroy the life of another human being, but not just anyone, only a person at the time who was passionately speaking of the concept of love.

There are people who will remind me of John Lennon’s abusive past – there is history, and it cannot be denied; however, I’m reminded of the concept of forgiveness, and again love. I look at the life of John Lennon, and I realize a person of his capacity was capable of recreating and mending his world, and not for just his own benefit, but more importantly for the benefit of those who endeared him, who believed his message was whole, and he was consumed with trying – attempting to right the wrongs he had created in his own personal life. He spoke to such are the dynamics of the human condition, and I listened with my heart and soul. Having lived a life of misgivings myself, I needed hope like anyone else.

I remember a couple of days went by and I hadn’t cried. Christmas was nearing now, and the holidays were upon us.happy xmas I remember being lost, still clinging on to something that no longer existed, wondering if it were possible that somehow all of this were really a dream. I suppose I felt the way young adults did who were my age when JFK died, or MLK Jr., Malcolm X, RFK – countless mentors in our lives who were cut down by assassins with no regard for human life beyond their own.

I was driving out of a Shop-Ko store in my hometown when ‘Happy Xmas’ came on the radio. My eyes began to water and I knew I wasn’t going to navigate onto the highway so I pulled my car over and I listened to the song and I cried. I remember I cried hard, because all of that emotion I had been holding onto in grief and confusion suddenly poured out of me. It was snowing out, and thankfully I wasn’t visible to anyone. I was just a car in the parking lot, but I stayed there for a long time. I remember at that point twisting the dial on the radio and it wasn’t difficult to find the song again and again all day, all afternoon, all evening … we were all simply lost.

So today, I’m listening to Happy Xmas again, having visited the Dakota in New York, having walked through Central Park and paused by Strawberry Fields, having continued to write with a passion that John Lennon taught me when I was a young and misguided youth willing to make many mistakes in the future that are now the baggage of my time. But there is a message I do forever hold dear to my heart and soul

“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love.” – John Lennon

I listen to his words, and I am grateful. I believe.

Happy Xmas everyone.

… and Love.


photography – various sources on the internet

Moving Toward Happiness

Moving Company

a review 


Recently walking past a housekeeper with my bags, we left our hotel on the 23rd floor of a room in Manhattan. I nodded good-bye and thank you, and she smiled for a moment but I wondered how long the grin remained the second we went around the corner. I didn’t stop to think about what goes through her mind on a daily basis as she cleans up after me and everyone else that nods to her along the way.

In The Moving Company’s current production of The 4 Seasons, at The Lab Theater, the lives of three human beings caught in the trappings of their own seeming mendacity of hope suggest an essential value we often like to avoid. Like the housekeeper we know exists, yet they are gone when we disappear in our own lives, the three characters in this fictional hotel experience life through the poignancy of summer, fall, winter, & spring, and inside each season, the human condition speaks to the turmoil we all experience no matter our level of responsibility or status in society.

These three clean up after us daily, they unplug our used toilets, gather our soiled linens, and bathe in our afterward when the season wanes and they are left alone with their own simple lives. Each character has a question and while driven by the music of Vivaldi, their actions speak to the pain that exists when hope is just out of reach, when the light disappears, when happiness cannot be attained within the mundane reality of trying to survive. There is a rhythm to their world, and the music allows us to imagine their truths are as complicated as anyone’s own. The everyman is brought to life.

The Moving Company speaks to the reality of a generalized world, while exposing our current political turmoil and the hypocrisy of the haves when measured against the have nots. The judicial system is brought into question, while the seeming confusion of how leadership is chosen by ignorance is explored in the eyes of three normal lives.

We walk past the housekeeper every day, and the spirit of always seeking the beautiful despite the disdainful existence of their lives is played out on stage with a quiet humor. The talents of Heidi Bakke, Joy Dolo, and Steven Epp  play out the illusion we choose or do not choose to maintain when carving out our own lives. The balance of live theatre under the direction of Dominique Serrand once again compels and demands an audience to think, rather than simply walk past the reality of our own existence. In a world where hope is easily forgotten, is it still attainable? Will we remember two or three hundred years from today about the purpose of our lives?

The Moving Company raises the question with a blend of delightful humor spread thin by the painful struggle within the human condition. We are left entertained yet in a constant with silent wonder.



 

‘The 4 Seasons’ performed by The Moving Company

The Lab Theater – November 1 – December 2, 2018.

A Reminder

Over ten years ago, I dropped my son and daughter off to school, in tears, as I was saying good bye for a month of treatment. It was probably the hardest day of my life. My son was twelve, my daughter almost 16, and I was nearly 50 years old, and wondering if in that moment was I the child or were my teenagers? The phenomena of addiction is something that a person cannot predict when in the throes of its powerful grip. What can  be predicted though is the outcome if the right choices are made.

I was triggered tonight watching a cop show where a father was taken away while his eight year old cried in confusion, not understanding what was happening. It made me think of my son, and the quivering he had one morning in family group when he admitted his fear of his dad not coming home. That was one of the first moments I realized the brevity of my actions. The second was celebrating my daughter’s 16th birthday in a sterile guest room of the treatment center.

There are two directions I might go to help define the impact my actions had on that fateful day. My arrogance might have driven me away from my children, but I realized how important they were to me. I realized their unconditional love, teenagers having no idea what was happening with their father but still loving him, and wanting him in their lives meant the world to me, and yet, I still didn’t get it.

I went through weeks of intensive therapy to understand just why it was that addiction had taken over my life. I recognized the people closest to me were the ones I was pushing away. I understood eventually there was nothing more I wanted in my life than a second chance with my kids. I realized addiction had consumed me.

Not everyone gets the same opportunity to right their lives. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I do understand the difference between good and bad choices. I made some bad choices and fortunately found the resources to find a way toward recovery. It is not easy, but seeing a crying child tonight helped to again see how lucky I am, and how important it is for all of us to understand the critical scope of addiction and our need to say strong while making good choices.

Just some thoughts watching television create yet another example of the power that illusion has upon the fragile nature of our reality.

A Terrible Week

I found myself crying a lot this week. I don’t mind a good cry, it can be rather cleansing. However, this emotion I experienced had layers. It had begun early in the weekend, the truth of a sudden turn in my life had reckoned itself to such a degree I felt for the first time I was unable to turn back. I realized pain, and sought some way to reduce the impact of my fears. But I couldn’t, the foundation had been laid down, and I was now faced with never being given another chance to redeem myself. I think the most difficult aspect of that reality was that I was confused with what was real and what now is illusion in my life.

Never is illusion an easy outlet to define. The term suggest we are ill in our own state of mind, to such a degree, we are compelled to create something out of nothing. In doing so, I remained stuck in my own quandary over how I lost someone I really loved. Everything in my life became one-sided, and I had no recourse. I was no longer connected to the security of our passage of time, and I was forced to imagine life without her.

And then it happened. Something bigger than any of us could ever predict. I lost two people in my community that recognized a certain culture buried in backlash and discrimination. Two people died under unusual circumstances. I watched someone I was very close to unravel, and it was difficult to experience. At the same time, I kept wanting some explanation in another part of my life that leaves me today, extremely alone.

I didn’t find relief, and tonight as I write these passage, there is still no peace.

Two Lives – A Cultural Divide

Dedicated to the short lives of Bushra Abdi, 19, and Zeynab (Hapsa) Abdalla 19


girls


 

There are already open wounds

two young women lost their lives

their final moments

in a panic with 911.

 

We have these preliminary assumptions

the dead can no longer speak

a certain beauty will now forever

encompass the memory of their lives.

 

What happens in the middle of the morning

to find the soul and heart

crying for safety, lost in a certain mire

unable to see, perhaps without ability.

 

Now we have to listen

we have to hope in the midst of tragedy

no foul play, only the reality

of two lives ending in such a tragic way.

 

They perished in a city

in a hot bed of controversy

the marginalization of a society

lived and breathed until this day.

 

We will wonder the bystander

if there are questions to remain

perhaps two children in the throes

of living each day like their last.

 

They will be, were, are always loved

ours is not a place to judge

only find the peace of finding Grace

finding paths for their soul to rise.

I Looked Into the Eyes of a Dying Woman

cancer-sucks-pictures

The other day, I traveled across a state to say good-bye to a friend. I did it because I wanted her to realize just how worth it she is. I did it for the love I have for her and her children. I did it because I cared. But the trip wasn’t meant to be about me, it was a gesture of kindness for a person who now is faced with readying herself for the next chapter in her life – that out of body journey that we are left curious about yet, hold onto a faith of purpose in the next life.

Whenever I lose someone I am close to it gives me pause, as it naturally should. I am the guy that constantly walks around complaining about a life without everything I want, an unhappiness sometimes that if I am not careful can be revealed to those I am close to in life. To sit and witness a person who is losing their struggle in life and still smile and offer happiness to those loved ones around her is certainly a humbling experience.

I’m glad I made the drive. The day was beautiful, the moment saying good-bye was special. Seeing the love in the room was quite exceptional, a lot of tears, moments of reservation turned to immediate release, and then two children doting on their dying mother with every resource their body and mind would allow. I said to them at one point, you are both such gracious people filled with love and humility. I said, you had a great mentor and they both glanced at mom and weeped for a second. Smiles and hugs around realizing the day was nearer than anyone would like it to be.

I said my good-bye and hit the road for the drive back, the whole time processing what I had just done and why. I had no ulterior motive to see a young woman die before her time. I wanted to say good-bye and see the peace in her eyes. I wanted to know that death is a planned event no matter the impulsivity. We will all wonder why she had to be taken so soon, while others struggle on for years, or overcome the disease that threatens a life.

On the drive back, I cried, I cried hard. It felt refreshing, cleansing I suppose. It felt like I was allowing my feelings to come to the surface rather than suppressing them. I believe in that moment of weeping, I understood love in all of its abundance.

But the story doesn’t end there. Halfway into the drive I heard about the death of Senator John McCain. I certainly did not know him personally, did not ever meet him, but like everyone else, or the majority in our country, I do recognize him as a national hero. I witness the strength of character in his work ethic right up to the day of his departure. I read about his victories, sufferings and accomplishments, and suddenly I am aware of how his life was sacrificed for the better good. Much like my friend, in the end, his entire focus was helping people find their own peace with that goal in mind.

So that night, a Saturday night, I went through a lot of soul-searching. I recognized my own purpose and how these were moments of clarity that give me the strength to go on. Remember we always think about the resilience to go on when we lose someone we care or have compassion for. Much like John McCain, and my friend, life is precious, and we realize it in the worst of times.

And then it happened. The next day, we lost another kind soul. The superintendent of our school district died the day before we walked into our classrooms. Across the district there was  a numbness felt for a man that brought positivity in a time when that was the only way to heal many painful aspects of our district’s history. His tenure with us was brief, but in that time he brought real and genuine happiness into the lives of the people he touched. And his spirit did and will continue to touch many.

So, this weekend I was surrounded by cancer. I suppose it was a necessary passage of showing all of us that our lives are worth every  minute we have and to never take our time for granted. I look around the room and realize there are people that do not have the capacity to recognize the connection between life and death. For me, on this rather remarkable weekend of finding peace in the curiosity of the human condition, I am hoping I will find an eventual peace. I go forward hoping to resonate with the legacy of people brought down before their time, yet people that instilled love and purpose into my own life and the lives of all of those around us.

Godspeed our fragile humanity.