Category Archives: La Familia

Today’s Word is… FENCES

So after an eventful day that involved a flat tire, a dirty macking tow driver, a joyride with a Jamaican delivery driver, an Uber kidnapping attempt, a curve and a bottle of wine (my life is a Seinfeld episode)…I eventually saw Fences. I had heard such great reviews I broke my usual only go to the movie theatre for blockbusters rule and checked it out.  What really made me intrigued was I seen a clip going around of James Earl Jones and Denzel’s play performances in a who did it better, and while the question was dumb what scene itself spoke to me.  The son, Cory, asked his father “why don’t you like me?”  You would think at this point there would be a denial, an apology, and a hug while sitcom music played.  Instead, the father, Troy, responds with a passionate rant about providing, responsibility, respect and to answer his question liking his ass wasn’t part of the deal.  (Sidenote: watching the clips, Mufasa is taken dead seriously while Denzel’s damn near has a laugh track…wonder why that is).  But that scene right there, was my father. He provided, he disciplined, he handled business.  I turned out pretty dope so props to him.  I could call him today if I needed anything. Call him to talk just to chat, talk about the game, not necessarily.  It’s a reality we are both aware of, promise to work to be better at, over the years we’ve had more father/son outings but it always returns back to normal after a while. Now, I love my father, he loves me…but we aren’t friends. I struggle with that sometimes. 

In some regard I sound…ungrateful, I didn’t want for much, material wise.  Most of my friends don’t even know theirs.  And frankly, he’s the only parent I have left.  My sisters adore him, so my indifference goes off as smoothly as telling J Cole fans he’s been making the same album for 5 years. Even in Fences, Troy is a drunk and an adulterer and it’s easy to follow along as Cory becomes too through with him.  In my life, my father isn’t perfect but he took care of his children.  Now I’m  grown and I don’t necessarily need anything from him…so what do we do here?  Cory eventually found himself, as a grown man, defiant of his father; I guess I fear appearing the same.  I also feel like the buck should stop somewhere, that passing down generations of tough love and indifference can’t be healthy.  That maybe it gets better with time, my father and grandfather weren’t close, that went down to me and I guess it’s on me to end the cycle so to speak.

We aren’t our parents, working the same old job for 30 years to pay off our mortgage before we can retire in an empty nest.  Millennials wonder why not do something different? As society shifts views on masculinity, sexuality, mental health, the I’m the parent tough love,  do what I say because you’re in my house, try Jesus but you best not try me mentality…who knows if it’ll work on (whatever we gonna call these little niglets generation).   “I’m not one of ya lil friends” should be in the NMAAHC if it isn’t already.  I was raised with tough love, I got beatings, told to man up, lectured on respectability politics, had a list of chores every weekend and left home at 18. I’m certain this next generation will be raised different. Because society is different.  

At the end of Fences, Cory/Troy never mended (ba-dum-tss) their relationship and the moral of the story was, he wasn’t perfect but he was yours.  I feel like that’s where I’m at right now.  That I can chalk it up to it being a different era. Of course, we’re both still here so it’s not too late to change the dynamic, maybe I’ll ask him if he’s seen it. He’d probably be team Troy. Parents, man. 

-Stan-

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Today’s Word is… DAUGHTER

It was about a decade ago (shit, I’m old).  Me and my  boys, per usual were chilling in my room afterschool.  One of my boys was going through it with his girl, and it brought about a roundtable discussion on women.  I was always the old soul of the group, so I was giving what little game I thought I had back then. I’m spitting all the bars about what women think they want when the room grows quiet…my mother was standing in the doorway, just observing the lecture. We were all oblivious to how long she been there or what she had heard, so it’s just awkward glances around.  She comes in the room, kisses me to assassinate any thug I thought I possessed; takes one good look at all of our guilty faces and declares: “All of y’all are having daughters” and walked away. 
My boy Crawf would have his baby girl 6 years later, as did my man Falc.  My brother would have one as well, (my boy Smeg fucked up the whole narrative and had a son a few years ago, but black lives matter, facts don’t).  Then a few days ago I would see the ultrasound of a baby girl from another friend, proving that even from beyond the grave, my mother’s decree would ring true, all of us having daughters. 

As my boy showed me the ultrasound and I gave my congratulations, he joked that hex is still on, I’m finna be next. Eh, we just elected a sexual offender as President I’ll see what 2021 hitting on.   The hex was a coincidence, if every dude running the streets was destined to have a girl, we’d be out of sons.  It did make me wonder, if I was really next up…what type of father would I be?  What could I teach my baby girl about this world that grows to be more dangerous for black people? For women?  

What example would I lead, as a man.  I think of my dad, and as great of a father he is, as we got older his faults as a husband elucidated.  I fear bringing a daughter in this world and not being in love with her mother, perhaps the biggest reason I don’t have children yet.  I would like to be married, I would hope that we serve as the example of what love is supposed to be.  I can’t be out here looking like Future.  I would hope when my own looks for an example of a good man she has to look no farther than me.  I would hope we would be the black love she sees, the first family will have come and gone, maybe Jay and Bey will still be going strong.  Probably not tho.

I would want her to understand her worth. (Can see still say, keep my baby off the pole or is that problematic now…keep my baby off Iyanla, I feel like that’s a safer one).  I would want my daughter to know she’s always in control (except under my roof n shit) to never alter her morals or expectations to appease others.   I would want her to know she is beautiful, she is gifted, she is loved.  Her daddy black as hell, her mama TBD, probably going to be black as hell (In case I meet a white woman let me say I’m sorry Margaret, Susan or Becky…I wrote this before we met), and so, my daughter TBD, black as hell.  I want her to know that her skin, her hair, her nose, her lips are beautiful.  And that she got her smarts from Dad. 

I would also want her to know to never follow anyone’s timeline but her own,  love herself and to love God, how change her own tire but don’t dare introduce me to a man who can’t, white feminism is a farce, and flats > drums. 

-Stan-

 

 

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Today’s Word is… BOSTON

 

This don’t really have shit to do with the post but I died.

It was about 10 years ago my father accepted a transfer and moved to Raleigh.  He says it’s the best things he’s ever done, I would argue that making me was, but you know, semantics.  Boston was always intended to be a pit stop for himself and his new bride.  He’s from Brooklyn, she from Indiana…the only connection to Boston was his mother and uncle and he went to high school here.  That pit stop turned into 5 more kids and 2 decades because that’s how life works.  My mother fell in love with the city, he simply adjusted. Being a black man raising a family of black kids in Boston in the 80s had to be troubling.  Fast forward to the 99 and the 2016, I’ve grown up love Boston as well, it’s all I’ve ever known.  I was in a bubble of sorts, it wasn’t until the internet that it set in how many people don’t bang with Boston like that.  It wasn’t until the move I realized my father didn’t even like it here.  Naiveté, I suppose.

I get annoyed with people who never been to Boston or live here on their own free will and complain.  Every time someone talks about the cold or “where the blacks tho” I want to throat chop them.  Put respeck on my city. Point  me to the black mecca where it’s always nice weather (shut up Atlanta y’all segregated).  Of course, Boston is far from perfect…but I mean neither is America, you just make it work.  I grew up around black people, went to school with black people, I work….well, never mind.

I was out with someone the other night, she’s still fairly new to the area and she casually mentioned she would move closer to home were she to have kids.  I had nothing.  Of course it was way way way too early to be having that conversation but it did cause me to stop and wonder, was Boston a dealbreaker?  Should it be?  (Especially after what happened with the last one).  Again, I felt struck with the same naiveté of assuming everyone who is here, wants to be here.  I couldn’t imagine going to grad school (.) located somewhere I have no intention of living, a pit stop can turn to life real quick, just ask my father.  Then again, if I was from like Florida or Jersey (yuck), I would probably need to get away for a few years.  She wasn’t as anti Boston was much as she was pro family, which is hard to argue against, it’s about 70% of the reason I’M here.  (I mean for the sake of arguing, technically we would both have jobs here, so why would I have to go start anew…but again, way way way too early).  It was the first time I had even considered it, if a fish falls in love with a bird, where would they live?

It’s something I hadn’t even had to consider before, most of the women I dated, even in college were born and raised here. When I did the distance thing, it was implied they would move here (big bank take little bank).  Maybe that was selfish of me to assume (yes, maybe) but I rather just chalk it up to just being something I hadn’t considered not that I never would.  So now, the million dollar question…is Boston a deabreaker?  If my dream job was in Los Angeles, I would be like…I mean I only see my family on holidays anyway.  Dream woman? *cue Jeopardy music* I’d like to say I would.  With qualifiers….major metropolitan cities, serious relationship, I need to make at least 25% more.  That’s fair.  But of course all of this goes out the window depending on the election in a few weeks…hi international readers.

-Stan-

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Today’s Word is… MUSIC

One thing bout music when it hits you feel no pain…

I can’t live without my radio…

It was some year in the 90s…i don’t remember I’m getting old. For Christmas that year I got a 2XL robot, a wisecracking quiz machine. I would play with it for hours until I pretty much mastered every question on every cassette tape. I got bored with it soon enough. I remember looking my brother’s New Edition tape and wondering if 2XL would play it. Eureka. I had my first boombox.  Prior I listened to what my mother listened to, which was the oldies The O’Jays, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson.  Now I had a radio, I can play the songs I wanna sing.  I had no tapes of my own except the Space Jam soundtrack and a some Mint Condition snippets I had got at a Celebrity basketball game one year. My father had a huge music collection but I was forbade from touching his things. Kids don’t listen. I thumbed through his cassettes and was drawn to an album with a cartoony cover, I put it in my 2XL. Meet “Snoop Doggy Dogg” or rather meet hip hop.

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Not for kids…..like at all.  Cartoons aint loyal.

So I traded “Science Adventures” for rap cassettes and became a hip hop head.  (Eventually my mother caught wind of this and smacked the black off me, I’ve been this shade ever since).  I still loved hip hop ever since, and now having it forbidden only made it worse. I was always the good child; now I finally had my act of rebellion. I fit in with my siblings, and so I thought. However, they don’t like rap, they listen to r&b mainly. I’m on the outside looking in again, so I start listening to what my sisters male/female groups. 702, Dru Hill, Brandy and Monica.  I liked R&B but I was still too young to really pick up what they was laying down.  Then there were my predominantly white friends at school, they listened to rock. Enter Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot.  I was also heavy into wrestling back then so that also got me really into rock.  I gravitated more toward the heavy metal and the classics more than the alternative. I wasn’t quite goth kid, but it was close.  I wanna say this phase went up until, maybe high school, sistas I was feeling, wasn’t here for the rock, they wanted hood…

So, welcome back hip hop.

For the years that followed it was all about rap, trap music, street music, whatever. 50 Cent, Uncle Murda. and underground mixtape artists told my story.  Then like most black teenagers there was the “I can rap” phase.   I don’t think I was that bad, relatives would differ when reminiscing. Haters.  This pretty much lasts up until I go off to college, and now I’m too rough around the edges it seems.  The girls appreciate a little hood, but in general its leave that hood mess in the hood, here’s about a good time.  Its all about party music, crunk and dancehall. I barely danced now I was in a circle who wanted to turn up 3-4 days a week.  I was a wallflower, but even then you wasn’t safe from someone rolling up and getting their wine on.  As I started to get more into the party scene, I had to learn on the fly about dancehall and soca which had to this point passed by all my Merican sensibilities.  I think I’m a decent dancer now…but 18? Yikes.  College and clubbing every weekend phases comes and goes and now, I’m an adult who is less inclined to fit in or adjust to people.  As I found myself too tough for R&B, too black for rock, too young for soul, too smart for rap, too uptight for reggae, I was musically lost.  What did I actually like?  Who was I?

I was diverse. I felt it all, all the time I kept feeling like I had to keep myself in a box when in reality, I was a sensitive, reckless, nerdy, emotional, ghetto kid. My music tastes didn’t define me it expressed me. Music is so expressive you’d be limiting yourself if you stuck to a genre. Over the years I added Neo soul, (some) country and jazz to the list because I can. (I will never ever ever ever add Techno/electronic dance music to that list, fuck all glow stick music, incessantly.) I always used music to connect whether it was with my family, friends, girlfriends, or environment.  So with each song comes memories of where I was in my life, my itunes a scrapbook of sorts.  My top 10 favorite songs are so different, some are near and dear to my heart because remind me of my mother, others bring back to a happier time, some just never get old.  They’re random because I am.  I love music despite my obvious lack of talent for it  because like writing it takes me out of reality for a bit, just me and the words, or chords, notes, whatever….you know all that fake deep shit like that.

-Stan-

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Today’s Word is… GROWN

Just thinking out loud…. Don’t mind me.

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I don’t think I slept the day before I started college, maybe it was nerves, maybe it was excitement, probably was the partying I did all week to commemorate leaving.  What I do remember that it was morning, and it was time to go.  My father was busy, my mother didn’t drive so instead of the unofficial bring your parents to school day that usually is the first day of college, it was me and my luggage making the 3 hour greyhound from Boston to Amherst.  It was me and that same luggage years later, crashing at this place for a few days, a couple weeks, a summer, I was homeless.  I was never like on a park bench homeless but I wasn’t on any leases, wasn’t in anyone’s care, I just went one day to the next just trying to get on my feet and stay out the way.  I was grown, and was raised under no one was taking care of a grown ass man.  Tough love and whatnot.  I wouldn’t wish my late teens/early twenties on anyone, it wasn’t the most pleasant years, struggling to pay for school, organizing my crashes so I dont wear out my welcome one place or the next, some days just not eating (yet still too fat for the military…but that’s another story).  But don’t cry for me Argentina, yada yada yada I’m living better now Versace sweaters now (well not plural but still).

I been reflecting on my past lately, thinking about Mike Brown, Trayvon and some #familybusiness I won’t discuss, how I see boys and others see grown ass men.  Made me think of how I was viewed only a handful of years ago.  This tweener phase when one wants to be grown but really isn’t, and as evidenced personally most just aren’t about that life.  There’s the fork in the road of tough love vs flat out coddling.  We’ve all seen the cliche 30 something stay at home son who just plays video games and call in sports radio,  but then the alternative is a 18 year old boy cast out into the world because his mother is tired of talking to him.  There’s the parent who wants to be the best friend and hang with their adult child and then there’s well, my father who raised me and pretty much punched out of work.  Of course, I’m not a parent myself so I can only speak from a limited perspective but I guess I can just stop tip toeing around my question:

Why are we so quick to discard our young?

Again, I wasn’t kicked out, I chose to leave and circumstances beyond my control locked the door behind me.  However, plenty of my friends were.  The reasons, talking back, girls, running the streets stuff that isn’t exemplary but now they’re young, homeless, and making a wage they can’t live off of.  Then on the other end of the spectrum, I know people in their mid to late 20s who live at home, most of which never left.  However, even they have tales of threats, drama and resentment, not kicking out but its very apparent they are not wanted.  I can’t imagine that being any more pleasant.  We all see what the world is, and how it can chew one up and them out why are the first blows coming from the nest?

That’s not to say, shield them from it but I can’t say I’m in the camp of tossing them out into it either.  There has to be some middle ground between “my roof my rules” and your kid and their kid both calling you “Mom”.  What is “grown” now?  I can say I don’t think its 18, 19 or even 20 now.  I can only hope I keep my baby off the pole and my boy out of the national headlines for being executed without fault and then being told how he deserved to die because dark skin is “scary” out the basement. 

-Stan-

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Today’s Word is… NOSTALGIA

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So way back in the day, I was out with my mother I think we went grocery shopping and I wanted to get back home in time to watch Full House.  She assured me we would be back in time.  Of course when we got home, it was literally the end of the episode and it was the episode of DJ’s prom that closed with Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You”.  I was livid and because I was like 5 I cried about it until my mother played the song for me which had nothing to do with nothing but I appreciated the gesture instead of giving me something to cry for #NoPeterson. There was no on demand, no DVR I literally wouldn’t see that episode for like 2 years in syndication.  It wasn’t good. DJ was the worst character on the show.   But in the moment I felt like I just missed a television spectacle.  Thats pretty much how I view nostalgia now, people who just miss the idea of something but not really.  People my age are pretty much overwhelmed by nostalgia, so much to the point we use modern technology to complain about how “great” the 90s was (because apparently you ask anyone about 10 years ago they immediately think 1994).  Don’t get me wrong I loved the 90s, it was probably the blackest decade (we ever gonna get), from Michael Jordan ruling the world, Clinton on Arsenio, FOX on Thursday nights, your favorite black movie, your favorite black movie soundtrack, to hip hop’s peak.  However , I do think we get so glossy eyed over the past we forget that plenty was left to be desired.  Then there’s the people who have just pitched their tent in the 90s and refuse to come out.  The ultra, nostalgia folk. (they didn’t get this Frank Ocean reference because he wasn’t out in 1998)

The Nostalgiamaniacs are easy to spot, but do not engage unless you want to talk about how Aaliyah would be bigger than Beyonce if she was alive.  They watch the same 90 Martin episodes and are in denial that the show wasn’t good by season 3.  They spend all their time on Buzz feed and Tumblr taking quizzes about which Saved By The Bell character they are and reading the 25 lessons you got from Boy Meets World.  They loathe most new artists and are in complete denial that bad music existed before 1999.  Ayyyyy macarena. They have any least conceded that 90s fashion was abhorrent, which is prefaced by the fact that its being worn by hipsters and teenagers now. 

I think part of it comes from us wanting to feel like what we experienced was unparalleled.  We balk at the notion that any player could be in Jordan’s league, won’t admit that slow 90s R&B wasn’t as great, or that Tupac was overrated a lot of 90s sitcoms did not age well (I’m looking at you Urkel).  We don’t miss these things as much as we think we do we miss where we were when they happened.  Again, I do miss the era of positive black faces being mainstream without having to say hey look I’m black and positive and I may or may not have considered bringing back the old school answering machine message (because I mean if you leave me a voicemail in 2014 you ought to be trolled).  I loved Nickelodeon when I was a kid, I’m in my 20s now, I’m not watching Rugrats.  Full House? Maybe.

-Stan-

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Today’s Word is… HARASSMENT

“Will you marry me?”

She giggles, actually it was more of a cackle like I wasn’t right there.  She smiles, I stare in her inviting brown eyes, it was only a few seconds but it felt as though time stopped….

“No”

Well, now that’s awkward.

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“Why not”

Well for starters, she didn’t know me.  Like, at all.  This was my formal introduction, a spontaneous proposal.  She was more charmed than turned off, and after a brief chat we exchanged numbers and I happily walked back over to my friends I just hit a buzzer beater.   It was almost like a sport for us, the hunt.  My old house was across the street from a park as well as equidistant to two subway stations so on a good day there was always new girls to approach.   I’d like to think I never harassed anyone, if for no other reason my sisters walked those same streets.  I remember when my mother got my oldest sister mace to carry around or how my other would walk around with a powered off CD player just so she could appear busy. My little sister well, she had me. 

I remember having to answer the phone so some dude would stop calling, listening to stories about a creep attempting to follow my sister home.  Then I’d go outside and be the dude offering to walk with some girl.  A double standard? Probably.  So one day I was escorting proposal girl home and she spoke about how she hated walking around my neighborhood because of the dudes hooting and hollering.  It was like Bruce Wayne hearing a Batman story….oh.   She talked about how she took alternate routes, kept in headphones, just avoided walking altogether.  In essence, she sounded like my sister.  I asked so what separates me from the pack. 

“You just make me feel comfortable”

(cue ringing bell and confetti falling). I get it.  I was 15.

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A decade later, “street harassment” has since became a mainstream topic causing a divide between feminists and well, nurt higgas.  Arguments from each side have gone to extremes from women starting a hashtag just because a guy looked at her to men sounding like damn near neanderthals with their entitlements.  The middle are trapped between whats actually harassment and whats an approach.  Men point out how attractive men get passes, women point out how men will take an accept compliment and take a mile.  Basically, we’re all talking in circles to the point plenty men don’t know what street harassment is or whats their responsibility to fight it.  Myself, well, I’m just going to stick with the lesson I learned growing up. 

Make her feel comfortable. 

Whether that’s not being too forward, respecting her space, approaching in a way that won’t get me on XoJane somewhere. As for what can a man do to help curb street harassment…well again, I consult teenage me

After my epiphany of sorts, I was even more mindful of how I and my boys were perceived.  But when you’re 16, ain’t nobody trying to hear you preach.  Hell, I can’t even comment or tweet now without being called a panderer. I mean, I can shut them down if it was my sisters but for a random girl, now I’m Captain Save Em.  It didn’t take much to change things, whether it was me just telling my boy to actually go and talk to her or doing so myself and them subtly deciding to work smarter not harder.  I didn’t need to be a hero, but if ya mans ya mans you can tell him chill and that be that. Fast forward to now, I’m probably not walking up going #youoksis ready to fight a group of dudes like Spider-Man, but sometimes all it takes is just smiling at her as she rolls her eyes at those doing it wrong, not affiliating yourself with those said people, and just treating any woman with respect.  At least that’s what I think, but this is the internet so I’m probably still not doing enough. 

Sidenote: Me and proposal girl never worked out.  She wouldn’t even become my first real girlfriend.  I wonder what she’s up to now.  I’d look her up but I can’t remember her last name. I’m getting old.

-Stan-

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