Before I Go Any Further. . .

Before I go any further, I want to say: I was not raped. And so we begin…

Clarence was about 6 years older than me. He was mature in areas I had yet to step a heel in and he was well versed in travel, music, arts – he was overall DOPE than a mug. I was not romantically interested or invested in Clarence. We didn’t talk all the time or see each other regularly because we lived in different cities but we had a drama-free friendship and I considered him to be a reliable source of general love. There were times I wondered how come we were so cool. I didn’t think that men were able to be ‘friends’ with me without plotting on how they could get me in the bed and although Clarence and I had been sexually active with each other, I didn’t FEEL like I was being used for my body and didn’t think anything was ill within our friendship.

When we were together we’d have the coolest conversations and sometimes we’d sit in silence with our laptops on and music playing. He’d be working on something for his job and I would be writing poetry, blogging or trolling the internet for something I should be doing. He was always a gentleman first: he held doors open, pulled chairs out, let me order first and gave out special compliments, AND he was a fan of my writings, which meant the world to me.

He made no secret of how much he enjoyed my poetry. He would send random texts telling me how phenomenal I was and how if anyone could be a successful, published writer, I could. I would keep these texts and read them in times of personal doubt. They pushed me sometimes. On days when nothing seemed to go right, I would scroll around my cell until I found those messages and use them to push myself back up and get my head back in the game. He spoke to me like I was the shit and he knew it and as if one day the world would know my name. I never doubted him because he had absolutely nothing to win from coloring my ego with foundation. We had already engaged in a friends-with-benefit- type of situationship so it wasn’t as if there would be sexual gain. Neither us were interested in trying to elevate into anything more serious or monogamous. Although I wasn’t sleeping with anyone else at the time, in hindsight I’m sure he was. How would I know? I never asked. Or cared? I convinced myself that this was enough for me and all I wanted. And truthfully speaking, it was. Pretty childish and dangerous but it would all come full circle.

One day I received a message from Clarence telling me that he would be in the city and wanted to know if I could pick him up from the airport. It had been some months since our last communication and even longer since we last slept together. I didn’t mind picking him up and hanging out with him for a bit but I had no desire to sleep with him. I had done some cleansing and growing so now the thought of sleeping with someone who I didn’t know WTF they were doing other times was scary, trifling and many steps behind where I currently was. I made up my mind that there would be no sexual chemistry popping between us and if I needed to say I was on my period in order to keep it from happening, then I would.

PROBLEM #1.

***If you ever are in a situation  where you have a thought similar to ‘even if I have to say I’m XYZ’ in order to prevent something from happening (in this case, Sex), then you need to refrain from that situation altogether. For the average man, NO and all of its spin-offs suffice as a means to stop pursuing sex. But for some, it’s not enough. For some, NO is often followed by persistence, dick-whining, let-me-justs-, and a cruise ship worth of other excuses they hope will get them to the goal. If this happens to you, do not be persuaded out of your first instinct. Whatever reason you didn’t want to have sexual intercourse from the get go is reason enough to last until YOU change your mind; not until your mind is changed FOR you.

I was headed to pick him up from the airport and I had given myself the pep talk of how to stay in control of the situation. I knew he would want to have sex with me because it had been awhile since we had seen each other but in that absence, I started to become more aligned with things that made sense vs things that didn’t. Who had he been having sex with? Was it protected? Was he in a relationship that I didn’t know about yet? Why would we have sex after having not seen each other in over a year and having no emotional ties that would prevent us from seeking others to cure our loin-longings? The more I thought, the more I became adamant that the most I could offer was somewhere to go and some laughter to accompany it. When he got in the car, he kissed me. I was actually taken aback. It was a passionate kiss that I didn’t recall us ever having before and as his face smashed into mine, I sensed that this was going to be a long night.

He came to the city for reasons that had nothing to do with me and I was essentially a pit stop along the way. I should have recognized this much earlier but it wasn’t until this day that things started to become crystal clear. We met because he was visiting, our circles connected and we hit it off. We exchanged information and spoke from time to time and before long, he was back in the city and we were hanging out at Scotty’s Brewhouse (local eatery). That’s how our friendship, for lack of better term, began. This time was no different….unless you count all these epiphanies I’d had in my growing season that year.

I continued to mentally run the gamut of excuses I could use to keep him from trying to have sex with me. My expectation was that he would let me know what he was on and I would tell him that I was not interested. Then the rebuttals would come through and I would spend the next (x) minutes fending them off. I had been there before with others. Men can be persistent when they want to have sex with you and if you are not adamant in all of your languages (voice, body, etc), then you will spend a bunch of unnecessary time trying to explain away your right to say no. There’s also the risk that you will end up saying yes when you still FEEL like NO.

Problem #2

This was not a two-sided ‘friendship.’ In true friendships, there are two sides with each having the ability to be both right and wrong. The tricks that make a friendship a ship and not a rowboat that could be overturned are compromise, understanding and knowing that the friendship involves more than you and your ego. In other words, when you ask your friend to do something and they don’t want to do it, you don’t try to MAKE them do it. You accept that they don’t want to do it and move on. Depending on what it is, maybe you try again some other time, but for that current moment of NO, you accept it and don’t interrogate them about the decision they made. The fact that I was already prepping for my no to be ignored speaks volumes on how well of friends we were.

It was poetry night in the city and after meeting back up, we went and hung out at the open mic. Once we left we went out to a small bar and had drinks and conversation that last until about 1:30 in the morning. Then it hit me…we never made it to the hotel so he could get a room. This was troublesome. He was going to need a place to sleep and at 1:30 AM would he be game for getting a hotel room or would he try to crash at my place?

This is where our friendship perks kick in right? It would be a waste of money to get a room unless he was staying for more than one night, which he wasn’t. So as we drove away from the bar he asked if it would be ok if he stayed at my house and I obliged.

I got this”, I thought to myself.

Being that it was late and we were both tired, I hoped that sleep would be more important than him  trying to have sex. Frankly, I hoped our friendship was more than sex even though it wasn’t until that day that I realized we had fooled around every time we hung out and me not wanting to might be a new twist that he wasn’t ready to shout along with. I still didn’t want a relationship with him or anything like that but I wanted to believe we were cool enough to enjoy each other’s company without sex being a necessity. This was the night I would find out. I showed him to the room and he got right in the bed and crashed. Due to my overactive mind, I was wide awake so I used the opportunity to take a shower for the next half hour or so. I hoped he would still be asleep and that I hadn’t made so much noise that it woke him up. I moved slowly and deliberate as I dried off, got my hair in formation, and got dressed for bed. I wore some night capri pants and a tshirt that came past my waist and fit loosely. My hair was tied up and I didn’t put on any perfume. When I opened the bathroom door, I heard him snoring and something inside of me relaxed. I slid into the bed with as little movement as possible and turned my back to him and got ready to drift off to sleep when –

-HE MOVED!

Just like that, he was wide awake!!! This man went from snoring so loud that you could probably hear him from the porch to being fully alert without pause. I was stunned but I had gone over the what-ifs in my head enough to know exactly how to respond to him and there was but one reason he had woken up. He rolled over to me, placing his body against mine, put his arm around me and began to feel for things that would awaken the rest of his slumber-ridden organs.

“I’m not in the mood.”

It was instant. It wasn’t even part of the mental script I had gone over all day. But it was honest and I was tired and not in the mood for the shenanigans. I’m not in the mood was the wordy equivalent to a NO. At least it was in my mind…

Now, before I go any further, I want to say I was not raped.

This is not a blog about me accusing this man, my former friend, of rape. This is me recounting a moment in my life from my perspective. And so…

His reply, as expected, was a total man-gasp.

“WHAT?!”, he said full of 2 in the morning shock.

I replied again that I didn’t want to have sex, this time saying the actual word SEX so there was no room for misinterpretation. Then the rebuttals began. Honestly, I don’t remember what he said in those next five to ten minutes. There was some derivative of ‘let me help you get in the mood’ and maybe another sentence or two…I can’t remember what they were. What I do recall is how I slid inconspicuously into the bed with hopes of not waking him only for him to sniff out my pheromones in his dream. I was fully dressed from head to toe…more clothes than I ever wore to bed. I hate wearing pants to bed. I don’t like to lay in bed in with them on. I call them leg prisons. On this night, I was behind those prison bars with pride and confidence. I turned my back to him, folded my arms, bent and pressed my legs together and our exchange took place over my shoulder. Nothing about me, in my opinion then and now, spoke of a woman desiring sex or in a horny state of being. Then there’s always the fact that upon touching me I responded without hesitation that I wasn’t in the mood for this nonsense. Yet, this man who I had considered my friend proceeded to try to help get me out of the mood I was in and into the mood he wanted me be.

He rolled me over and acted like he didn’t notice my body’s resistance. Now as awake as a freshly delivered baby, he got in front of me, moved my legs from their tightly closed position to open and proceeded to ‘help me change my mind’. Yeah, I remember him saying that just before giving me some of the grossest cunnilingus I’ve ever received. It felt utterly disgusting. Still, I just laid there.

Now I know what you are thinking as you read this. Why didn’t I stop him? That’s where things get complicated and where we have to assess individuals as just that: individuals, and not replicas of ourselves. I would have never expected myself to just lay there and let someone have their way with me. I had already done that as a kid when I was molested. I had done it in my promiscuous years as a teenager because I was that after school special kid that thought it would make the boys like me. Most of the times I had sex, I didn’t want to; they did. I had been taught to kick boys in the private parts if they touch you but I quickly realized how unrealistic that was. If nothing else, how consequential it would be in the Butler-Tarkington area. I knew all about saying NO if that’s what I meant, but no one ever really sat me down and told me how to make that no stick. Maybe it’s because there shouldn’t be anything after the original NO. When a woman turns a man’s sexual advances down, it is SUPPOSED to end right there. It’s no is not supposed to be debatable. But too often, especially as teenagers, it is. It continues until the [young] man is absolutely sure that he has exhausted all of his possibilities of getting some. He will ask why not, he will say ‘come on now’, he will promise to be quick, promise it’s just the head, promise he won’t get you pregnant, promise to wear a condom or even worse, to pull it out on time…promise to make you cum, promise to be quiet, promise to make it good, promise it won’t hurt…..promise promise promise.

Folks don’t talk about or teach girls and reinforce to women (as necessary) that sometimes after you say no, you are met with persuasion. There is a way to handle it so that you are true to self and not catering to someone else. If a girl/woman doesn’t know how to stand firm on her CHOICE, she runs the risk of having that choice taken from her….or becoming a dick-pleaser. No one wants to be a dick-pleaser. What is it? It’s the woman who says yes when she really means and feels NO. A dick-pleaser is the one who gives in because giving up seems easier. Then it’s less stressful and there is no fight to put up, except the one in her mind. Until she learns how to stand on her true feelings, she will continue to be Little Miss D.P., which has its own set of consequences that range from being called names to not being considered datable.

I’ve lived this lesson when I was a teenager. A lesson that left me full of shame repeatedly. A shame that stuck with me long after my life had changed. Even today despite everything I’ve overcome and everything I’ve done, I still wonder if anyone knows see or smells my mistakes on me. I’ve wondered if it invalidates me. Yet I know that the only way my past can invalidate my present and future is if I don’t know how to use it appropriately (and in some cases not at all). Continuing to allow people to use me, hurt me or mistreat based on my past would be me invalidating myself. This blog is an example of using my past as a way to empower or at least shed light on a subject not spoken of very often. Even though I happen to know different folks who have experienced the same thing. I’ve attempted to share this many times over the years because I thought by doing so I would prevent this from happening to someone else. Each attempt was scraped because I was scared. Once I had the story up for weeks on my old blog. I made it private because I got nervous about what people would think of me. Just like rape victims fear the backlash and accusations that come along with reporting said crime, I feared reactions and people asking questions that I didn’t have answers to…I even feared looking like a victim. I wasn’t claiming that. I was a grown woman who let someone do things to me that I didn’t want to do. But I don’t know which one was worse.

Before I go any further, I just want to remind you, I was not raped.

I asked myself ‘why didn’t I do more to stop him?’.

Why didn’t I stop the man who wanted to have sex with me from trying to make me ‘want’ to have sex with him even after I told him no? Simply put: I don’t know how it happened, which goes back to having in-depth conversations about sex. Like I said before, this was not the first time something similar to this happened. This was just the first time it actually made psychological, conscious contact. This was the time it resonated within my womanly soul. I had been so hardcore in my stance all day only to have my response rejected as if I owed him my body and it immediately exhausted me. I proceeded to lay there, lifeless, with tears rolling down my cheeks, feeling ripped apart like jungle meat. I’m surprised my body wasn’t heaving although he probably would have mistaken it for an orgasm considering he was accessing the situation through semen-covered glasses. He gave me head until he felt like he had made me want him. It was for no other reason. He was asserting his power and I knew it the whole time. As much as I hated him for it, I hated ME.

  • Why didn’t I say no louder? Because he could hear me. The room was silent but for us. Why wasn’t my tone enough?
  • Why wasn’t I more assertive? Why wasn’t my NO assertive enough to be taken seriously?
  • Why did I get in the bed? It’s my damn bed!!!!
  • Why didn’t I jump up when he started to touch me? I don’t know.
  • Why didn’t I kick him out immediately? I should have.
  • Why did I let him come over? I thought we were friends.
  • Why did I pick him up? I shouldn’t have.
  • Why did I give him my phone number that day years ago?

By the time I finished internally interrogating myself he was on top of me and sex was being had with me. I was not having sex with him. I was somewhere else taking the ‘easy’ way out. The problem with not standing my ground was that my inadvertent condoning told him that not only was this behavior acceptable, but in the future with me or any other woman he deemed goofy enough to be in this position, this was the go-to move. Suddenly I didn’t feel so much like that woman he had spoken so highly of in the past.

It was like a dream. I wished I were drunk and then maybe I could justify how I gave up so easily. I was shitty at myself.  He put on a condom but my NO was the thing in need of the most protection. As he pumped and made himself feel good, I laid on my back, in the dark with my eyes open and began writing a poem in my head that started off as a simple thought:

‘I’m so damn tired of being men’s doormat”.

“Tired of letting them mop my back with muddy ass shoes…..

Exhausted”

…..the more he stroked, the more I cried in the dark while leaning on poetry as my savior. At one point, I thought maybe he was nearing the end.

“At least it would be quick.”

It wasn’t. In fact, he requested that I get on top.

Problem #3 –

After all of this, here we are at yet another potential StopThisTrain moment for me, but I didn’t stop it. I continued to let things happen to me that I didn’t want to happen…in my own home, by someone I thought was my friend.

But before I go any further, I want to point out again that I was not raped.

As I sat on top of him, I felt dead. This isn’t an over-exaggeration for the sake of this blog. I really felt dead. I felt nasty and like I had hit rock bottom in a life that had been sexually turbulent since I was young girl and now, I had hit a new threshold of self-disappointment and male-entitlement. I started mentally writing again.

“…I rode him like a thousand-year-old corpse/hips dripping with disgust into his palms”

And then, it was over. FINALLY, we had reached the point of his orgasm and my retreat back to my personal space on the left side of my mattress. I bought a new mattress not too long afterward. The next day was just a handful of hours away and I fell asleep so quick that the only thing I remember after getting off of him was his words to me:

“What is it you were saying again?”

He meant when I said I wasn’t interested in having sex. He thought he actually did something…something GOOD! LOL!

He thought he brought out the side of me that wanted to have sex. He thought he cunned me into submission. He thought that, that 20-minute trap-house session was something to be proud of….something that I enjoyed. I silently consented to sexual intercourse after verbally expressing my desire to not participate. He didn’t rape me. And I don’t consider him that. But for a long time after, I felt like I raped myself. His words were condescending and as insulting as his actions. I don’t remember what I said in retort.

I dropped him off the next day. He leaned in before getting out of the car and gave me the same type of kiss he gave me when he arrived. The kiss that spoke of something ‘different’ being in the air. There was definitely something different now. That kiss made me want to vomit in his throat. I cried when I drove away because of self-disappointment and the fact that I knew this friendship was over. We’d never be the friends that we never were and I mistook us for. We’d end right there and I thought I’d never tell him why or how much that hurt me.

At some point, I began writing the poem that I created during the action of the night before. I am not sure if it was right after we were done or when I woke up or when I got back home, but I will never forget those words rushing back to my head as if I had JayZ abilities. Word for word, this poem’s first stanza was created while I was being had. And it came out as one of the most honest, raw poems I had ever written. So much so that even after I performed it a few times, I shelved it because it scared me to think that people could know me in this way. I felt that when I performed that poem, I showed people this night. I showed them my embarrassment growing up. I showed them my foolery. My silence. My non-queen side. So I changed the pronouns at first and when that didn’t make me feel better, I quit performing it. Still, i titled it and then decided to name my entire spoken word album after it: La Douleur eXquise: the exquisite pain.

Over a year would pass before I would see him again and when I did, I had been drinking. We were at a bar and he offered to buy me a drink. I had considered not speaking to him but he walked over to me and the conversation began. I told him in a friendly but deadass serious tone what that night did to me and how it made me feel. Considering how cool we had once been, I thought even in this crowded room, we could have a real moment in our friendship. His response was that I was crazy. His words to me were, “You’re crazy.” He scoffed a bit before telling me how I was tripping and that if I didn’t want to, I could have said that. There was no tension. I smiled at that comment and left the remnants of our friendship right there in that shot glass of Vodka. The chance to stand for myself had past, but at least I made peace with it. The vow I made to myself because of that night has allowed me to elevate to a higher sense of self and truly recognize my worth in this world.

We have only seen each other twice since then. Both times were completely different than they had been in the past. There are no text messages pumping up my ego and I would never be alone with him again. We smile and speak in our rare passings. I’ve forgiven him and myself. I became celibate for some time after him and even though I thought I learned a lot about men from working at the club, he taught me even more.

I don’t want this blog to sound like I am accusing Clarence of raping me when there were many other things I could have done to stop it. My repetition of the fact that I was not raped is to show how close the parallels are. Is it worth it to even tread the line? Mentally, the after effects can be all too similar.

Moral of the story: There needs to be a conversation about standing your sexual grounds. Once the NO has been delivered, there must be a backup plan in order. There should be words that reflect that no. There should be actions that back up those words and no silence. If you do not want to have sex with someone, you don’t have to. BUT SILENCE IS NOT GOING TO MAKE THEM BELIEVE YOU. Some men think that the initial no is just foreplay. They believe she is just in need of a little help. If they give you head and wet you all up, you’ll crave the dick right? Some folks believe that. The head didn’t help me crave anything but my personal space back. But my silence told him nothing that my head was thinking. My reluctant submission did nothing to spare or share the tear streams. My vocal authority after the fact made me look irresponsible to my own needs. That night at my house, I put him first when I spent the whole day planning to put myself first. ***NOTE: You shouldn’t have to PLAN to put yourself first. It should be natural. Geez there were so many lessons learned. There were things I could have done and said that could have prevented it from happening. Hindsight provides a healthy list for me. But for the girls (and women) who are sexually active – this may sound like common sense and because it wasn’t for me, I know it won’t be for everybody –

YOUR NO IS SUFFICIENT FUNDS!!!

You don’t owe an explanation. You don’t have to spend a day plotting and coming up with lies and excuses for why you don’t want to have sex. But once you say no, act on it. Stay the course and wake up with your peace of mind. You don’t have to give in to shut him up or get it over with. You don’t have to drown in the tears of your own consent and disappointment. Allow your mind and your actions to be hand in hand and your flight to be glorious.

Before I end this blog, let me reiterate….I was not raped.

He had sex with me. I didn’t have it with him. I do not know what they call this. But I woke up feeling violated, mistreated and disrespected. I woke up feeling like I allowed myself to be taken advantage of sexually. I felt things rape victims feel.

May my unnamed experience be the sacrifial lamb to protect those whose eyes this blog reaches.

My apologies for such a lengthy blog. The details were too inclusive not to include. I end with a poem, written by me, for the Indianapolis Demarco Productions rendition of “For Colored Girls.”

A Non-Stranger with a Familiar Name.”

I believe that bruises/that are gifted by hands that once held the expectation of protection/hurt a little more than those that come from strangers./At least they never promised you with seranading eyes./Strangers never gave birth to levees, now broken, no longer holding back the water that falls from lips busted during violent thrusting in and out, this space..that once held fairytale like possibilities, now eclipsed into permanent midnight hour/Strangers don’t hold hand with honor, only to squander away it’s possibilities because the ego has it’s need to be fulfilled by fear/strangers don’t earn your confidence and boogie men don’t step out looking like boogie men in the light/It would have cut less into the heat of my life if the thief that stole my right to be woman were unknown to me like an unopened bill/Instead, he wore a sophisticated coat and an expensive smell/And a smile that I invited into the center of my comfort zone/An exquisite face and a familiar name/

A name I saved and called and contacted using MY voice/A name that leapt from my lips like unicorns, dashing through valleys of musical pearl roses/I sang his name in four part harmonies, I let him know me!/ Did he see inside of my head whispers and decide to punish me for daring to be Jezebel with the way I held his hand/It’s like my chromosome was his public enemy/He approached me seductively with no knives to my back and no guns to my side/This non-stranger with a familiar name bore arm fulls of my  trust and reassurance/And used it as duct tape across my lips./I blessed him with my time/Gifted him my benefit of the doubt/I gave him the right to see me dance with high twirls of lifted cheekbones smiling all up his beautiful/

Sacrificial dear diary entries falling in his lap/My gospel truth stolen/The youth taken from my step/My dreams now sloppy, sleeping with fingers on switchblade handles and gripping the panic button when I sleep/This is a nightmare on for colored girl sheets, devoured, manipulated and treated to slave regiman by a man who was an encouraged visitor-

-but not a proposed alien-like transiet who hopped out of the alley while I was carrying my groceries/He was his own intentional intruder/And the only mask he wore was the one that never showed across his face/His hands were not beastly/Eyes were not red/There were no horns coming out of his head/Only inner demons fighting away my power/ He wore a grey suit/And gave me flowers/And his coat when I got cold/And he walked me home in the rain.

He gave me reason to believe in a nonstranger,

with a familiar name.

~jY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“YES” …in a world that needs a couple of No’s.

“YES.”

The number it came from was 407-617-1657.

I wish I didn’t know this number. I wish it was blurred from the screen for privacy. But the privacy has already been invaded, lives have been turned upside down and there is no need to hide the number in the shadows because before long, it will be recycled back out into the world and a new cell owner will become the hello on the opposite end of its dialing.

But just this time last week and even still today, it belonged to Eddie Justice.

By now some of you will be familiar with that name as well as the heartbreak associated with it. Eddie Justice was texting his mother from the women’s bathroom in the Orlando nightclub, Pulse when a domestic terrorist full of hate and assault rifles walked in and continued a killing spree that started outside and ended with the shooter among the deceased.

“YES.”

It was his last text message to his mother who was texting back and forth with an understandably scared Eddie. I tried to put myself in that position; something that I hate that I do, but it’s the forensic side of me. I always reimagine for myself how things may have happened, and I absorb what I sense the victims fear may have been. I imagine all these people running into the bathroom for what they hope is safety, not knowing this would become their tomb. I bet at least one person held out hope that just like in the movies the bloodshed would be over before it reached where they were.  Then I think about Eddie, who in a panic thought of his mother and wanted to say I love you to her one more time. Some of his other texts included “mommy I love you” and “I’m gonna die.” It was 2:06 AM. Mina Justice began texting back, asking if Eddie was ok and what club he was at. Minutes would pass in between some of his responses. I think of his mom’s fear as she spoke with 911 and waited for his safe return. Finally, as the clock neared ten til three, she told him that the police were there and asked, “Is the man in the bathroom wit u?”

At 2:50 AM, Eddie sent a response: “Yes.”

He never sent another message. Mina’s next call would come hours later with confirmation that her son was listed among the dead. I imagine this young man, vibrant and full of life and love, out enjoying his night only to end up in the center of a scary movie that didn’t end with a director yelling CUT! I think of all these people trapped with a terrorist in a tiny club bathroom with two stalls. I wonder what the killer said although I have read that he was laughing and shooting over the top of the stalls. This was horrible, unfair, unjust and undeserving. My entire body shakes with uncontrollable internal thunder at the thought of the end of these people’s lives and the fright in their eyes when that door opened and their fate was sealed. Eddie Justice is only one story out of FIFTY. I chose to lead from his perspective because of his mother. We never want to watch people die, much less our children, but to watch from the screen of your phone and then have to wait to hear ANYTHING will live with Mina forever…and maybe me. It’s selfless to know you are in a situation that you might not make it out of and to think of telling your loved ones I love you one last time. But it’s also symbolic of the end. People usually don’t send those types of dreadful I love you’s unless all possibilities of survival have been all but exhausted. These mass tragedies are overwhelming and I tend to find myself once again smothered by the grief of people I’ve never met.

But this one is about more than just a senseless tragedy by a criminally insane, domestic, AMERICAN terrorist. This is also about the right to love. This country is full of bigots and hateful people with too many high horses and a radical level of audacity. Here in America, we try to shove what we don’t like in a box of Pandora while pretending to live perfect lives. We think we have the right to dictate who people can love. The more people depart from white picket fenced-ideologies, the more they become a target. Or a bill that needs to be introduced….we need protection from ‘them.’ The rebel becomes the enemy on these sour U.S. grounds. And 2AM text messages to parents that end with Yes, the shooter is in here with me is what we all wake-up.

“Yes.”

Yes,

I have been to the Ten. For those who don’t know, it used to be a local Gay bar in downtown Indy that was closed as they began to gentrify revitalize that area. I performed poetry there on several occasions with the most memorable being that time I spit my poem from all corners of the stage and received a hundred dollar bill as a tip. Yes. They would tip you at The Ten on open-stage night. So whether you were lip syncing a song or popping on a headstand you would probably have folks walking up to your set leaving dollars, fives and more. No one asked that you verify your sexuality as their equal before doing so. No one would pat you down to check for the right ‘tools’ to be in the ‘right’ places before you used the bathroom. As a matter a fact, contrary to what straight people tend to think, no one was even checking for me. There were no more stares in the gay club than there were at the regular ones. In my experiences of the nights that I attended, personal space was respected; something that doesn’t happen as much at the ‘straight’ clubs. The Ten was the only club I’ve ever been to where I could dance, as a woman, and not end up with a semi-hard penis pushing against me from out of nowhere. I could in Broadripple too because white boys weren’t checking for me and the neither were the black ones, but mixed bars are a whole different experience and that’s a different blog. I wasn’t at The Ten on a regular basis, but I’ve celebrated friends and family there and attended open stage quite a few times.

Yes,

I’ve partied with gay people in their clubs and dare I say I may have had a better, more personally FREE time with them than I did at Lotus. Or Suite 38. Or Cloud 9. Or the list goes on and on of heterosexual clubs where people can grab you, feel up, rummage and plumage through each other’s bodies, purses and personal space over drinks and lack of true consent. Yeah. I said that.

Oh, but wait –

-there’s more.

YES.

I’ve partied with gay people in their homes…and mine too. I’ve worked on projects with them. I’ve broken bread with them over dinner and drinks and I’ve attended weddings and celebrations of new marriages. I’ve hugged them and kissed their cheeks and considered them family. I’ve taken selfies with them and celebrated everything from birthdays to promotions and who they love never crossed my mind. The bottom fucking line is I don’t care who they are romantically attracted to so as long as that person doesn’t bring them harm and vice versa. It’s that simple. I don’t want to hit them over the head with a bible or judge them for not sinning or loving the way I do. And I’ve never wished death on them.

And I’ve never wished death on them.

**enters bombshell**

If you’ve followed this blog for some time or if you take a deeper scroll, you might find a blog entitled “I Kissed A Girl and I Spiked It.” It was about that time I got my first girlfriend and what I thought of it. What the blog doesn’t include is the information on the second girlfriend a few years after the first although it does say how the last time a woman crushed on me, I think I hurt her feelings. Due in part because I’m not gay. I’ve tried the things I’ve wanted to try from drugs to humans and I’ve made decisions based on the results. For some, there is a label attached to me (quite a few). But to me, I’ve lived. I was here. This is it. I’ve had to act out some of my life in order to learn WTF it even was and who I was in it.  

“Yes”.

I’ve had lesbian situations pop off in my life. And??????

WHY DOES ANYONE CARE?????!!!!!

This is about US. US as the United States. Us as a people, a culture, and a society. What is it about the way other folks sin that grants them the damn moral authority responsibilities and designator of who God loves? What makes them think that their particular way of sin is better than any other persons? What makes love sinful?

I am curious every time I see the holier-than-thou memes and religious based posts that look down on folks due to their life choices, what are the secrets behind their personal computer screens? What are they addicted to? What porn tags do they search for? How many times have they been drunk in the last year? The list can go on because everybody has something that, in the eye of God, is less than perfect. So call it a sin or not, but everyone has a closet full of bodies. Yet folks live in the comment sections spewing venom and covering it under the cloak of love & God as if there is nothing identifiable on them that God wouldn’t approve of. I find myself wondering what God is it that you all serve that allow you to outwardly HATE people because of their lifestyle choices? I don’t care if my friends are born gay or decided to be gay yesterday. I don’t care if they are in the closet or out. Be good to me and I’m gonna be good to you. Why is that such a hard concept to adapt?!!!!! What is wrong in this America when a tragedy such the Pulse Shooting can occur and folks start fighting to claim how ownership of the most mass murders? What in the entire whole hell is wrong with us? Where is the empathy? Where is the concern for your neighbor, the love for your equal U.S. citizens, what has numbed us down to not giving a damn about anyone anymore? This country is sickening. 50 people (also known as HUMANS) were gunned down because of their sexual orientation and the masses got on social media to say God let it happen because they were gay and sinful. Oh is that right???!!!

  • So that dick you was sucking in the back of the church parking lot don’t count as a sin? Ohok.
  • That affair you had while you were still legally married in the eyes of not just the law, but the same God you claim to uphold –  that don’t count either?  Not sinful enough for God to be bothered? Oh, your God is ONLY looking for gays and murderers? Gotcha.
  • You got Psalms 27 highlighted in your bible and you can say it by heart so you think you’re morally on higher grounds? Hmph.

Folks are so worried about where the LGBTQ community will spend their eternity that they ain’t even checking to make sure they got their own shit in order. There is dirt beneath your welcome mat and your walk-in closet is looking like a cemetery yet you want to blow the dust off Revelations in regards to gay people? Right now? Gotcha.

*excuse me while my side-eye vomits *

This God that folks are following that they claim is the reason they are allowed to toss hate (of any kind) back out into the universe is not the same God that I talk to and who blesses me. I know that when it comes to sins I don’t get to pick and choose which ones are the tolerable ones and which are the ones you get banished to hell for. And let me make this clear as well: I am not calling being gay a sin. You know why? Because it’s not my job. As I journey through my spiritual beliefs and walk, I have yet to make a connection on what I believe God feels in regards, but I KNOW (S)He doesn’t love the very people (S)He created any less. That’s a human thing to do. If you believe in such a powerful God, what makes you think (S)He needs you to do his/her job? MY God doesn’t need me to be the goat herder of other folks style of sin. (S)He doesn’t even need me to identify their transgressions. (S)He’d rather I focus on my shortcomings and iron those out. (S)He asked that I love my neighbors. That I love my people and love strangers too.  That I forgive who has hurt me and that I give my burdens to the alter. That is the God I’ve come to know. And hey, maybe this is the same God as yours and I just have not come that far up the spiritual ladder but I assure you I don’t intend to climb further if a relationship with God is going to cause me to publicly hurt, humiliate, abuse, kill, shame, disrespect or otherwise hate people. And that’s just how I feel. My God doesn’t want me strapping bombs to my body or shooting up venues on a murder rampage in His/Her honor just as much as (S)He doesn’t want me galloping in on my heaven-high thoroughbred with my fingers pointed to the peasants. You’ll catch that later perhaps.

The reckless keyboard ministers and background choirs are a dangerous cycle of messengers that help create a bridge for troubled waters to cross. If you think your hostile objections (in the name of the Lord) are not assisting in criminals feeling more confident to exercise their rage, you’re wrong. If God doesn’t lead you to offer comfort to those who are hurting and experiencing loss, then what are you serving for? If God needs you to point and call out those who are gay and serve them two line scriptures from Leviticus (did you read the whole thing or just the part that cosigns your argument), why aren’t YOU God? How come we not all praying to you??? People like that make me think their brain should be evaluated for holes and indentations. You know how they say not to trust the contents inside of a dented can???? Yeah.

This could be ANY OF US- any of our family or our friends, at any time. When we fight to keep people from being married because they are gay, when we fight to keep people out of the bathrooms because they are transgender (which if America could find a way to keep gay people out of the bathrooms altogether, it would) and when we condone why it’s ok to shoot up a room full of people because they are gay , then we are doing nothing but aiding these hateful vigilantes. THE DAMN KILLER WAS GAY!!!!!! Folks can toss Isis and his ‘connections’ to them around as much as they want, but this isn’t about Isis or Islam. This is about a deranged American man who was gay but lived his life in the complete opposite with a wife and child. This is a tormented murderer whose jealousy of the freedom of other gay people led to this horrendous act that also ended his life. Does it sound like I’m excusing him? I’m not. But the fact is this violence is a result of a culture we’ve created that says you can’t be gay and be respected. You know how folks get jumped and beat up because they are gay? Or killed because they are transgender? Yeah, that’s culture creating.

It’s killing our society, literally. Orlando needs blood donations. People were shot multiple times and are still in critical condition today but it’s illegal to give blood if you’ve had sex with a man in the last 12 months. It means your dirty little sinful secret is still detectable in your blood I guess. Idk. I’m not even up for researching some understanding of such a ban but people’s lives are at risk (from the shooting and people who are everyday hospital patients) while folks continue to look at bedroom activity to justify why it’s ok if they die due to blood loss. And I say bedroom activity because that’s what it all comes down to; we love the same sex all the time. We live with the same sex all the time. We drink from the same cups, we cook together, hang out together, go to bars and libraries, church and picnics. The hate for LGBTQ people is centered around bedroom activities despite how little that plays into their lives (about the same as an average heterosexual). Seeing two men kissing bothered the man who killed them according to his father. But was it that it ‘bothered’ and offended him (not that it matters at all) or was it bothering him because he wasn’t that free in his own walk? He was married to a woman. He couldn’t be just out in the park kissing…on a man….like he preferred according to his former classmate.

Then there are the folks don’t want to explain it to their kids and want them to grow up in an unrealistic fantasy world where every boy has a girl and every girl is a Stepford wife. Yeah ok, get your kid a plastic bubble and leave them in the crib indefinitely. Otherwise, there will always be something to explain and something to see. And I personally don’t feel like they should have to slip in a manhole or cower in a corner in order to be affectionate with each other. Even the bathroom debate is all about genitalia and sexual deviance as if the LGBTQ community is rampant with perverts and sexual predators. Meanwhile, a young white Ivy League convicted rapist does three months in protective custody so he isn’t scarred for life from his jail experience that he only had because he’s a convicted criminal and sexual threat to women. He is straight. His straight ass was raping a woman in an alley. He was caught in the act. His straight father called it 20 minutes of action. Another straight teenager raped his male, MENTALLY DISABLED teammate with a coat hanger if I’m not mistaken. He served no jail time and I suppose it’s because he’s not a threat? L O fucking L! He’s not a predator? He’s not someone that should be condemned? There is no hell waiting on his arrival? How do people pick and choose what outrages them and why is it the outrage all too often lands at the feet of the LGBTQ community?

Get the fuck outta here. Please.

Nothing about this recent act of hate or these dangerous arguments has anything to do with love. Or God.

I really try Hot Topic type of blogs. But I couldn’t get beyond this. I couldn’t refuse to express myself on the state of us as human beings and how we react to and treat each other before, during and after tragedies, and here’re a few reasons (not all) why:

  • that could have happened at The Ten.
  • if that happened at The Ten, I could have been a victim. Guilty by association.
  • my friends could have been one of the victims
  • If any of my gay/lesbian friends/family were there, I could be in mourning right now.
  • -I had a gay cousin. A gay cousin who stayed in the closet his whole life. He passed in his 40s due to complications with AIDS. I wondered more than a few times why we couldn’t be honest about him. Why he was an embarrassment where his love life was concerned? Why did we say he died from cancer when he died from AIDS? This legit confused me when I was an early teenager. What I heard vs what I read on his death certificate made no sense and no one talked about it. Why did we act like his roommate wasn’t his boyfriend?

David is one of my homeboys. I don’t see him often and we don’t talk every day, but I count it joy when we do. He cooked for me on my birthday one year and I have yet to forget that breakfast. He’s a beast in the kitchen. His personality is dope AF, he dresses his ass off and has a beautiful smile that hosts a nice set of extra white teeth. I call him my boyfriend even though we both know he could never be that. He’s gay. And I never found that as a reason to love him any less. Not respecting me, leaving me hanging or lying to/about me are reasons to not like him. Who he loves – I don’t care. Who he sleeps with? None of my business. Matter a fact, he used to show me his friends and in the same manner as I would with one of my girlfriends, we would talk about their cuteness. He’s light-hearted and we’re friendly. I love him. Imagine missing out on the love that is David because of who David loves? GTFOH. I swear I hate yaw sometimes (yaw – the muses of this blog).

 

YES, Jesus still loves me.

My homegirl Nitro is gay. We make inappropriate jokes and spar with each other all the time but it’s all love. We’ve both been there for each other during some of our darkest hours. When I was going through something, she had my back and when she needed me, I had hers. We know we can count on each other. When we both lost an extremely close friend, we helped get each other through it. Nothing about being there for each other or being good friend required a sexual consultation of who and what we love. We are friends…better yet, that’s my sister. #GodStillLovesMe

I could go on with this list with people like Brandon who champion hard for the youth in the community of all races but especially black ones. Is he gay? Yeah, so what? Do those kids see a gay man or a mentor when they talk to him? It’s him making posts randomly through the years remembering the lights of those who were victims of street violence. It’s him protesting alongside Black Lives Matter. It’s him making a difference, but I’m supposed to care about who he loves?!!!?!?! I know people who feel they were born gay and people who simply changed. I wonder why is it ok to change every way except who you love? When people decide they want to date the same sex after having been heterosexual, they are heavily judged and at times ostracized yet if they upgraded their lives in any other way, people would cheer them on. But I digress. I did my first professional nude photo shoot with a lesbian sisterfriend who I would easily hire for my wedding (if I were getting married). She made me feel comfortable and fabulous but I’m supposed to care about who she dates? Do you know how many heterosexual men would have photographed me nude and disrespected me during and afterward and probably tried to sleep with me because of my shoot?

She made me feel comfy & beautiful.
Owtspok3n Photography

I am in awe of drag queen shows and I met my first transgender when I was about 9 years old. Her name was Candy and she played cards with my grandmother and worked at 500 Liquor Store on 38th & Sherman Drive. No one talked about it but everyone knew. At least in my grandmother’s house, no one loved her less. My point of this list of friends and family is not some white-washed attempt at rewording the ‘some of my best friends are black’ cliche. I list these people by name and description because I am thinking of the reality of this sick world we occupy and how at any point the very people I hold dear to my heart could be a victim of a hate-filled murderous coward.

That could have been one of MY people’s “YES” traveling across cellular waves. That could be me dammit !!!! That could be US holed up in the bathroom texting YES to our loved ones for the final time. Some of these people were tortured. They sat in a bathroom stall, in fear, death, and confusion while the gunman was in there with them, shooting over the stall at random. Eddie Justice was one of those people.

I could be waking up to a series of panicked text messages with a YES serving as the answer to my question ‘is the shooter in there with you?

If we stop for a second sometimes to really put some reality in our lives instead of click-clacking on the Meme-Generator site and the comment sections of people’s hurt, we might actually come to the type of empathy that saves lives in the future. Or maybe I’m just being goofy with my hope.

But again, what if there wasn’t so much reinforced hate and anger and violence???

You wonder why gay people have their own clubs? Because their lives could be in danger if they hung out in ours and the wrong person walked in. Because the more flamboyant they are, the less they are understood and the more of a target they become. You wonder why there is Pride all over the country? Because people still have the memory of Matthew Shephard and Brandon Teena engrained in their heads. These people lost their lives horrifically due to hate. Pride says we won’t bow down to fear! We won’t be stuffed in the closet we fought so hard to come out of! We won’t be scared and intimated and we will live and love, loud and proudly !!! We will have our sanctuaries and safe spaces and we will embody love inside of them! We will switch when we walk and kiss in public. We will have scenes on television that might make you uncomfortable but it’s not meant to be; it’s not an agenda. It’s called INCLUSION. Get used to it because it’s happening and has been happening. Ask Bayard Rustin about the importance of inclusion and what it’s like to be cast aside because of who you are. Do you even recognize that name at all? This is the world we live in and like it or not, some men love men and some women love women.

YES, love can be more than man and women. YES, children can be raised healthy and tolerant of the differences of others by same-sex couples. Yes, they can be professionals and artists. Yes, they can be teachers and musicians. They can release albums and chart tops. They can drive nice cars or ride the bus. They can hang out on Mass Ave OR Broadripple OR walk through Riverside Park. Yes, they can be poets. Yes, they can be in the choir. Yes, they can love God. YES, they can love the same damn sex!!!!!

Because guess what bible thumpers and high horse jockeys!?? Whatever you consider being someone else’s sin is no different in the eyes of the Lord as the sins YOU commit. And please, spare us all on the perfection of the stink in your shit.

IT STINKS TOO!! And God is NOT impressed by you.

GET OVER YOURSELVES. For the betterment of the country we reside in. You don’t have to agree, but we all have to hold ourselves accountable on how we are aiding the fires burning around us.

I am not allowing or accepting homophobia on my newsfeed in any social media capacity. One thing a tragedy is good for is bringing out is the assholes. Folks gather in droves to participate in a lifestyle lynching for the public. Comments and memes, gifts and still shots are all over Facebook full of gay slurs, personal prejudices, and single line bible scriptures that are either taken out of context or not followed up with, I don’t know, the rest of the scripture (the parts that might include the person posting)!! Meanwhile, some of the shot slingers are living the same life on the down low (which at times, has also been known to lead to homicide). I’m so over it. I don’t tolerate it in my life or my cyberspace.

Yes. I am januarie, and I stand with Orlando. And Pulse. And the ghosts of the Ten in Indy. And Talbott Street. I stand with my friends and my family. I stand with equality and the right to be a human being with free will and free choices. I stand with the right to love who you love. I stand with families of lost loved ones. I stand with the LGBTQ community and I know that in my standing, it is not about whether or not I agree, condone or even understand their lifestyle. It’s about loving people right where they are, exactly how they are and not using my personal preferences as a condition of my love. And truth is, LOVE is easy to understand. The human experience – not so much.

I hurt for the those who lost their lives in yet another senseless tragedy while the rest of America fights continues to fight over gun rights and so-called gay agendas. These people are lying cold in a morgue as I type. Their bodies that were only days ago moving in syncopation with the sounds of music are now stiffened on cold tables awaiting autopsies. You know the part where they cut into your chest, take out your organs, put them in sacks, put them back and sew up your chest cavity? And don’t forget the cutting across the forehead, peeling the skin backward and removing the brain for examination. Sounds brutal right?

That’s death.

That’s what happens to us when we leave the physical. Our bodies are mutilated for information and then lowered into the ground or burned into ash. Our voices go silent and our loved ones are stricken with overwhelming grief. We become memories and news stories; RIP pictures and Facebook posts. But they were once people. Humans with blood running thru pumping veins. Hearts that beat and loved. Lives that were lived and enjoyed. Humans.

Deserving. Capable. Of love.

and Respect.

and most of LIFE.

Let’s not wait until they are victims of the next crime to pray for people and love on people. 13339613_10206286239901322_3044796896210726691_nLove is an ACTION btw.

Mina Justice asked her son was the shooter (homicidal maniac) in the bathroom with them, and his last reply to her was “YES.” His last reply ever. 

Every time a person spews their hate and bigotry, every vote against LGBTQ rights (marriage, adoption, bathroom usage, etc), every act of vandalism and bullying is all an endorsement for the next person who will have to text YES as a final message to someone. It is a cosign to the carnage. It says YES to domestic terrorism. It says YES to ignoring that this was an act by an American citizen who, despite his Isis claims, still acted on his own free will and accord. It’s not the first time a US citizen has used an assault rifle to carry out a murder spree. It is not the first time the LBGTQ community has been targeted. And now even more Muslims will face the scorn of misinformed Americans who will temporarily stop bullying on the LBGTQ community (until this passes) and focus their attention on Islam harassment.

We all play a role in the makeup of our community and society. If a person didn’t think they could get away with it, they would be less likely to try it. Folks know they can shoot up schools and churches and most times, they’ve accepted their death before the act begins. This country was built on mass murder sprees and hatred and hostile takeovers of people and neighborhoods because of race, class and orientation…shit, this damn country was built on YES’s.

But I digress.

There is simply too much hate out here. Assault rifles are knowingly put into the wrong hands time and time again and no one is doing anything. We are just shy of a full-blown race war, half the country wants to pray for people they otherwise despise and the other half doesn’t believe in anything. Donald Trump is thanking his supporters for backing his radical Islam rhetoric instead of expressing sentiment and grief towards the families.  Just yesterday a fellow FB friend who I KNOW is not a terrorist was tormented while walking to her car and wearing a Hijab. You think that isn’t scary to people experiencing it? This shit maddening yo. I’m fearful for my people. I’m fearful for myself because I’m not going to love them less or hang around them less and if I so want, I will go to another gay bar…at my leisure. PLENTY of straight people do (men too….f.y.i.). Straight up.

YES has never sounded so unappetizing. Even ear piercing. Yes, this heinous shit could happen at home next time. Yes, that could be me next time, out dancing one minute and dead the next. Do we have or can’t we get control over our society?

Yes.

But not until we start saying no to the shit brewing in our own systems. It is the charcoal on the grill. Maybe I’m biased because you know, I had a girlfriend or two. But call it what you want.

If having a girlfriend has afforded me the opportunity to remain bigot free, hatred free and able to love people without deciding who they are based on who they love, then dammit, consider me whatever you call it.

At least I know how to follow the most basic and recurring commandment in the bible: love.

Yes.

~j

May you all rest peacefully & your families be comforted by the presence of a loving God. Or none at all.

Victims Remembered

Eddie Justice

 

 

 

 

Broken Jewels: Guest Blog by Tony Styxx

Alone in my room, I could hear the millions of questions my 6yr old daughter asks her grandmother… Some are of food but most are about a game show that has been modernized that her senior still enjoys the nostalgic moments from, answering as if she were a contestant.

Then the channel has a change and a news report speaks of a current movement not seen since a King had a jewel knocked loose from his crown or since a Queen was told to leave her throne. In the walls of my home my 6yr old daughter’s questioned echoed: “Grandma, what do black lives matter mean?”

And in that moment, I was a coward. How could I explain to her that as special as she thinks she is, it means nothing in the eyes of her oppressors???

…That her laugh is only accepted when it is at her expense and that if she is going to take a picture, make sure her ass is out and her head is cocked or they won’t see you. Be caked up in so much makeup you lose your childhood. Dress older than you are, shake your ass, fight your kin and maybe you will be lucky enough to hear them say your name with distaste for its pronunciation. I laid as if postmortem had me in its grasp as I tried to find the courage to tell her she can be whatever she chooses as long as it is socially accepted or can be spun into media gold and used as a conduit to spark taboo debates about her womanhood. [I wanted to say] that you will always be the blame for our heritage’s downfall and that you are fit for pleasure; not happiness. You are only as good as your degree and only as important as their needs.

How do I tell the one I hold the highest, that she is seen as the lowest no matter how tall her spirit may be? That no matter how good she is at behaving in our home and being obedient in school, one day her reward for this kind of integrity might be a beating with white pillows that resemble daddy’s hands. [And] that ebony men will hate you for not submitting to their lack of growth and that women of noir will spite you for being original as if they can’t do the same. That no matter how diplomatic you are, the rest of the world will call you a threat.

You are no equal here.

Her voice haunts my inner sanctum.

“What does black lives matter mean?”

What DOES black lives matter mean?

It means to wear your hair with pride because your bravery should not pay the balance of their inferiority. It means to be as smart as you can and make them keep up. It means to continue dreaming in purple, walking as if rainbows fall at your feet, and keep laughing like the wind whispered a joke from God for only you to enjoy out loud. It means you have the right to be you, with no consequences.

Be thankful if you are slim and smile about your A’s, be it cups or plus. [Black Lives Matter means] a big brain beats a big behind any day. That your southern draw is an extension of your mother and you are the sweetest fruit of her roots. It means you too deserved to be loved by the world for who you are and where you come from; not as a cash cow where culture is the currency for other races who live in debt.

It means to be magic baby!!!

You carry the universe in your Afro puffs, all of Africa in your skin and generations of women weak or strong will watch you take your place in the world of struggle only to emerge a citizen of greatness.

But I speak none of this.

I only come from my door to be greeted by a chestnut grin standing less than 1000 lifetimes from God’s throne. And she says “hi daddy”!

And I cooked up the will to smile back.

I hugged my 6yr old daughter.

…Hoping that even though my words never made it to her ears, my intention made it to her heart.

12010615_10153020728635919_7395422352389503122_o

 

 

 

King.

Doves, Love & A Glove Made of Silver Sequins

Doves.

1983: It was the Motown 25th Anniversary special and Michael Jackson had set the world on fire with his moonwalk. It was the talk everywhere from television to radio to random conversations in households full of fans. His music had long been playing in the house I grew up in so he was no stranger to me. But at four years old, I wasn’t able to fully grasp the importance of music or Michael Jackson. Thriller was released the year prior and the yearly Halloween repeats of the movie-video was starting to make its way into my tangible memory file. It took a bit of time and conscious aging but before long, I was in love with and heavily crushing on Michael Jackson.

1985. Prince was coming to Market Square Arena, the same place that I would graduate at 12 years later. I was too young to attend a concert of any kind, much less a Prince concert, but I was just old enough to know that I would be missing out. Instead, I was taken to LS Ayres where my disappointment was covered with a pair of purple rain galoshes, a latex purple raincoat and a purple umbrella that I carried until it stopped protecting me from the rain, no matter the color. These items certainly didn’t take the place of me missing Prince, the cute guy with the weightless curls that I had my second major kiddie crush on, but they helped in some space-age like way to bring me closer to him.

That same year (and beyond), my best friend and I could be found in my bedroom in front of my silver boombox recording ourselves singing. We would sing at the top of our lungs with confidence and fearlessness of each other and anyone who may have been listening. Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All was our favorite song to play and record. If I recall right, we would alternate verses and it seemed like only one of us knew the second one verbatim. We’d come together for chorus, but it was that last set of 16s that Whitney belted over the music:

“…And if by chance that special place/That you’ve been dreaming of/Leads you to a lonely place/Find your strength in love.”

Man. If she was reading this blog right now, Shakira (friend) would probably start cracking up because she too can vividly recall us fighting our lungs to hold that last note, on key, in front of the silver boombox. Did we listen to ourselves when we were done? OF COURSE, WE DID!!!! We didn’t sound anything like Whitney, but we sang The Greatest Love of all at every opportunity we got. I wonder if my mom still has those tapes secretly stashed in a home edition of a time capsule. We were absolutely too young to fully grasp the thick molasses that poured slowly from those lyrics, but what a hell of a song for two young black girls to grow up singing!  

I’m not sure what age music made its way into my life. It was always playing as I can recall and if I were a singer, I would probably have one of those stories that goes something like, “well my mom used to play records all day….”  I’ve always had a strong affinity for the sounds that instruments make and the vocals that exist inside of the throats of people we turn into celebrities. Prince, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson all played vital roles in my love of music. They defined the 80s for me musically. They gave me the soundtracks that I wanted to sing along to, dance to, lip sync to or put on when I had no idea what I felt. I was 10 years old at the end of the 80s and by then, I had indulged in crushes on Michael Jackson (and considered the Billie Jean video one of my favorites because of the how the ground lit up when he walked), as well as Prince, who I couldn’t see anyone being more FIONE than.

His ruffled shirts, excessive love of purple and tiers of black curly hair aroused my youthful crushosity (crush + curiosity) and simply put, I adored him. Also, by 1989, I had come to love Whitney Houston with similar devotion. I’d sing ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ to myself as if I knew a thing about broken heart but over time, I would come to find that song as a legit question in my life. I had danced all over somebody and played in wigs with long, golden curly hair because of the I Wanna Dance With Somebody video. What can I say; I guess I just had a thing for Jheri curls or anything that looked like one!

This trio of black excellence, Prince, Whitney & Michael, were the Doves of entertainment. They flew in and gave us songs unlike anything we’d ever witnessed or heard before; they built an Era of Music that is still unprecedented. Each of them has been heavily sampled over the years and it doesn’t matter whether one is a rapper or a country singer – they created music that transcended race, gender, and genre. They were geniuses; three African American musical geniuses, each who chiseled their own unique lane to prevail in yet unafraid to coexist together. Whenever you saw them together it was like halos were hanging over their heads and glitter speckles christened the television. It made you joyful because you wanted to believe that these three incredible musicians might actually break bread together sometimes.

Or maybe that was just me.

Maybe they were just my doves. Three frequent flyers that soared above expectations, dreams and reality and as a result became the most entertaining, talented musicians on the face of the Earth. Yeah.I.Said.It. Adore was one of the first love songs that I fell in love with and MJ’s Bad album stayed in heavy rotation well into the 90s. Whitney had a voice that was unheard of. The notes she touched transitioned with ease and tranquility.

I put them over the Beatles and Elton John and Eric Clapton and Elvis Presley and whatever other white musical counterparts that were called into question as possibly being better artists than Prince, Whitney or Michael. The arguments are out there and there is always someone being touted as “the next Whitney/Prince/MJ” and I’m not here for them. As an unofficial trio, they each gave us something different: Prince was the composer of music, Michael Jackson could defy gravity with his dancing and Whitney was the voice of all voices. Separately, they were still Doves of feather, representing three different styles of black music (that transitioned into universal music of course but I’m black so I’m laying claim to them, their music and this blog. Blackity black black, if you don’t like it, leave because you’re too wack).

They had three different attitudes and styles yet collectively, they gave something everyone wanted: outstanding music. There is a silence over stereos now. Sure we can always replay and rewatch videos and interviews, but the eerie calm doesn’t change; they are gone forever and the silence of the future is arresting. We’d rather they be here NOT creating and touring rather than be physically gone for good. Maybe THIS is what it sounds like when Doves fly. And now that I think about it, it is. The last time I watched Doves fly was at a funeral and not a word was spoken or a song sang. It was part sadness, part awe.

Prince, Whitney & Michael left us in the same type of awe you have when watching the cage door open and out ascends the doves. We watch until we no longer see their flight. We trust that they are safe wherever they have flown and we hope that if by chance a feather falls, we are there to catch it and save it. ”

Love. 

As I type this blog, I realize that although I love Prince, Whitney and Michael with an intense music fueled passion, I am by far not their biggest fan. I know some huge fans of all three of these people and I do not quite qualify for that position. I know folks who have visited Paisley Park in the flesh and people who have rooms adorned with Michael Jackson memorabilia. There are fans of Whitney who would damn near fight you if you dared speaketh ill of the Queens and folks who can name every Prince album ever released along with the track-listing. And I’m not mad at them for it! But that’s certainly not me. I couldn’t even be found watching old videos of them after their passing for MONTHS. There are people who have seen every show, folks who have ticket stubs still and then there is me: you hardly ‘heard’ about my adoration of these individuals but mannnnn was it in full effect (and still is). My love for all three of these incredibly talented artists is weightless. It is bound to nothing human and it holds no limits. I didn’t love them in towels full of sweat thrown during live concerts or on the pages of the National Enquirer. My love didn’t take into account what their chart number was or how many singles were considered hits. I loved them with pride and ease. I would have likely cried without control had I met them in real life, but my love wasn’t contingent upon their knowledge of my existence. I loved them as if I knew they loved me. Like they were the muse of that old saying we’ve all heard a thousand times:

“IF you love something let it go. If it comes back to you, it was yours to keep, if not…”

Yeah man. I loved them freely. I stayed away from ‘fanning’ them and just appreciated and adored who they were from my viewpoint. I accepted what THEY (not to be confused with tabloids, ‘sources’, etc) gave me and I tried not to take more than their wishes. A robotically signed autograph handed to me in a crowd of faces would have never sufficed for me. It would have lessened the symbolic, subconscious relationship that I shared with them through their music.

Prince let me love music. He gave me a distinct voice with a steadily driven falsetto along with an undefeated array of lyrical content. He showed me a man and a lover. A husband and father. A socially aware seeker of justice. A composer. He taught me how to appreciate length in a great song. How not to cut something off that you know is good because that’s what anyone else would do. He went against the status quo and won. And I loved him the way he allowed me to. Whitney gave me a persona. A ‘what I’m supposed to be’ first meeting but I came to know that she longed for personal space. She left notes that were unparalleled to my ears. Songs that could never be remade (although they will and have been). She represented herself well, even when others thought she didn’t. She showed me that sometimes, you smile when everything is breaking. I loved her. The real her and the faux one. These sentences are fragmented, as was our love. It took a while to get to know her, but who she was, was still stunning to me. And MJ. He gave the art of performance. Michael broke the internet before it was a thing. He broke into our televisions at 8pm, on specific channels and interrupted programming with video movies before they were a thing. He represented invention. Fearlessness. And pain behind the mask. He made me dance and try my failure at moonwalking. That’s all he wanted me to have and I never needed more from him. I’ve seen none of these greats in concert and interestingly enough, never really wanted to although I really wish I had have gone and seen Prince the last time he came. I didn’t have posters on the wall and StanFan books full of facts about their life. I didn’t need to know who they were dating, where they were seen grocery shopping or what type of clothes they wore to rehearsal. I loved them through the speakers on the radio and TV. There is not a single year of my life that has gone by that did not include listening to and often times dancing to their songs. Let’s think on that for a second. I’m in my higher 30s. (lol) I don’t know what age I started making memorable memories, but we can start from 1985. I was six years old and I still remember shopping for those galoshes, raincoat, and umbrella. So from at least 1985 (and possibly longer by proxy), an entire year has not gone by that did not include me listening to Prince, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. There have been years that I didn’t hear a single song by Brandy. The same can be said with Maxwell, Outkast, and Kings of Leon, all people I love listening to. But I grew up listening to them; I didn’t grow up ON them. Prince, Whitney, and Michael were all getting mad rotation in the house before I was born. They are icons, not just in music history, but in my life. They were iconic representations of my people and through their music I was able to hear them cry and laugh, scream and chant and for those reasons, I began to fall in love.

I became vulnerable for them. I christened them immortal beings although no one is. I set it in my mind that they would always be here to make me love them in the physical. Never a day came when I thought my love would take on the daunting task of mourning of three people whom I never met. This is a hard blog to write. There is much to say and much that goes without saying. This love that I possess that even still today is just as rich in its river flow and thick in its African roots deserves to be verbalized. Not just for myself but for Curt, who was one of the biggest Prince fans I’ve ever met along with Rhonda. This is for Felicia who never let go of her MJ crush and Damon who is one of the few people I know that owns Whitney’s Welcome Home Heroes concert DVD. This is for Lianne La Havas, LIV Warfield who were brought to us by the likes of Prince. This is for the Ushers & Chris Browns, who will never share the stage with these icons again. This is for Bobbie Kristina (RIP) and the person who discovered each one of these mortal beings in their final rest. And for the locals all over the country who seek Hollywood fame and fortune. This blog is for Love. And for the loss of our greats, and the silence of a musical era.

This is for Prince Rogers Nelson. Whitney Elizabeth Houston. And Michael Joseph Jackson.

“Everybody’s searching for a hero

People need someone to look up to

I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs

 

A lonely place to be

And so I learned to depend on me”

 

 

~WH, The Greatest Love of All

A Glove Made of Silver Sequins:

It was finally released that our beloved Prince died as a result of an opiate overdose. The collection of broken hearts around the world that had waited on these results with stalled breath can be heard crashing like kitchen dishes hitting the floor in unison. Mine was included. We had high hopes although the truth is we probably knew the answer more than we had hoped a different outcome. We’ve been told this story before. We’ve watched it play out over the news stations with hundreds of other famous entertainers, but the fact that a ‘drug overdose’ has now swallowed Prince, after swallowing both Whitney and Michael, is just as disturbing as the results. It’s a tiring scenario that won’t end with our precious trio, but most definitely put the nail in the coffin of an illustrious generation of music.

Do we work them too hard? Ask too much of them? Once they artists have made their way into our hearts and lives, do we put too much expectation of them to deliver us solid performances, albums, and singles, as well as dish the latest details of their personal lives to us so that we may know them better? Is that fair? I’m not asking for Prince. He found his way into turning it all off. He forced it upon his fans. He made you love him from afar and only gave what he wanted to. I respected him greatly for that and have never understood how being an entertainer somehow means you right to privacy. I’m not asking for Michael or for Whitney. They both struggled with the limelight and we all knew it. We saw it! If we ever had doubts that their fame was at times too intrusive and too untrustworthy, all one needs to do is Google a picture of MJ and his kids, covered head to toe like gypsies. Or pull up a YouTube clip of Whitney on Being Bobby Brown. They voluntarily give us what we need in the form of music and in turn, too often, we take from them until there is nothing left but a casket and a memorial clip during the Grammys.

The silver glove eventually came off. Michael stopped wearing it. The gimmick of it had died down to HIM. He’d survived his father, being in a group-turned-solo, a fire, allegations abundant, tabloid harrassment, relationship speculations, sexuality questions….the list goes on. When he passed, he was about to embark on this comeback This Is It tour. Whitney turned away from the microphone and stopped performing and when she returned, her voice was a bit different; perhaps from years of drug use. She was met with harsh criticism because the Whitney folks remembered was different. No one sought to help but everyone had an opinion on what and why. She had just sung with Kelly Price two days before her demise. Prince was also on tour.

Drugs. Some prescription, some street, some prescription but not prescribed; each one took something from us that we’ll never get back. They plucked our doves right out of the nest and sent them away. In his 50s, Prince danced and hopped around stages like it was 1985 and we were still debating on what the 99’ party would actually look like. I can’t begin to imagine the pain OR the push to deliver excellence. Whitney had to know her voice had changed…she knew what the cause was. But her passion was never dead. And her last note was a song to her Savior. We all know her happiness was waning. Michael looked frail and sick. His body looked tired, but much like Prince, he was a stickler for perfection and had a devastatinglyDOPE tour planned show-wise. Were they searching for a hero by way of entertaining? Had they experienced the greatest love of all in their time as Earthlings? 

Goodness…..were they lonely?????

And then there was silence.

When I found out that Prince passed, I was standing at a food truck waiting on my food. I had tears in my eyes as I grabbed my food and when I made it back to my truck, I broke down crying like never before. I cried all the way back to work. I cried in the parking lot of my job so hard that one the employees walked over to my truck to see if I was ok. I waved him off and wondered how he wasn’t ravaged with grief like me. I grieved Prince, the immortal as I put him. I grieved the 80s. The music, the party songs and dance tracks and the love ballads and social justice grooves. Honestly, as crazy as it may sound, a part of me died too. Music and I have a long history of having each other’s back. When Prince died, I felt like music left me hanging. Oddly enough, a part of me feels free. I’ll never receive the news that the iconic three that ushered me through the 80s and the rest of my life have passed away. That ship has sailed. It will never be a shock again. Of course, more celebrities that I like will move on up yonder’, but they won’t be Prince, Whitney or Michael.

They won’t give us 20-minute music that we will still want more of and they won’t question the sound of the dove’s cry. 

They won’t promise to always love us and they won’t tell us to shut up when necessary. 

They won’t ever question the Man in the Mirror like Michael and they won’t don a single glove made of silver sequins.

It’s done and over with. The 80s. This particular cycle of song and dance. The discovery and the funerals; the toxicology reports, and faux-fan sadness.

But I wonder….will it ever be believable?

An era of music has gone silent. The doves have been seen flying.

Turn your radios up.