A Wu-Tang Kind of Love

I’m not a huge Wu-Tang fan; however, they represent the ideal relationship. What makes Wu-Tang special is that each member is spectacular on his own. It’s quite uncanny. They are really like Voltron, even when a piece is sorely missing. Wu-Tang is Wu-Tang, each member has a distinct voice and style, yet they are still one. No member is better nor more important than other. When they are not together, each member is free to record his own solo album. Sometimes, they team up with non-Wu-Tang members. It’s the ideal partnership.

Imagine a non-platonic relationship behaving like that. When all the persons in the relationship are together, each still carries his or her distinct individualism, but together – they act as one unit. Although they are together, each person, at one’s own choosing, can leave the group for solo projects (maybe make music with other artists), but always have a home with the group. It’s the Wu-Tang love.

Because I’m Male: Notes on Gender Roles and My Father

This post was going to be about something else, but the reason for writing it felt wrong. It felt wrong because it was reactionary, which is not wrong in itself, but I also had a difficult time trying to articulate my points without being too mean-spirited. One of the many lessons bell hooks has taught me was that simply stating truth is not enough; the truth must be stated with love. My first piece, while it was (hopefully) going to be stated with love, its root began elsewhere, not to say from hate, just elsewhere. Then I thought of my father.

I thought of my father because he loves me and my siblings. I know he does because not only does he state it, but the he’s cared and nurtured us for some thirty plus years. It continues to this day, and frankly I do not see it stopping. I am grateful for it. I am happy for it. The worst thing he has done over the last few years is force me and my grown-ass siblings to answer his semi-annual “was I good father” question. It’s a question my sister easily deflects because she was always his favorite, but a question I begrudgingly answer last Father’s Day – a week after he had asked…via an mp3 file. Maybe it wasn’t so difficult to answer, but I didn’t want to answer. I think the answer is evident, but I realize he’s generally concerned about his parenting; though I would/could never say this to his face, he was good father. A lot of fathers are good fathers. A lot are not. Mine was better than good, if solely because he never placed limits nor expectations on me as a male.

There is not one time in my youth, nor by adulthood that I can recall my father saying “be a man” or anything of that sort. In fact, I can recall him crying during a toast in my honor after I graduated from college. A great friend of my joked aloud “you’re about to cry Mr. Dowell” to which my father quipped “I’m man enough to cry.” This is my father. This is reason I am who I am. I recall him checking me as a kid when I questioned the athletic ability of women. He simply said “some of them are better than you.” He was and is right. This is the man who took me to USC Women basketball games to meet Cheryl Miller, who was then SC’s basketball coach, and Lisa Leslie. I still remember waiting after the game to get Ms. Leslie’s to sign the little whiteboard they had given out at the game. Later, with him, I saw Tina Thompson play. I learned about Title IV as a middle schooler, but more importantly the idea that gender, class, race, nor sexuality was an indicator of one’s worth or potential. Mind you, those of you who know me, know some of these lessons did not sink in until high school and other until college, but when they sank, they sank deep. They only sank deep because I was primed from an earlier by a father who understood the complexity and intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality, however, he may not have known this (though I think a man whose favorite writer is Octavia Butler does).

Because of him, I do not justify my actions by prefacing them because “I am a man”, “I am a woman”, “I am heterosexual” nor anything of that sort. The reason people who are similar by appearance or what have you tend to do the similar things is not inherent to that commonality. It is a product of socialization and culture. Culture is learned behavior. “Being a ______” is no reason for actions nor beliefs. It may have informed, but at the end of the day, it’s just a construct, and I am thankful that my great father planted that seed in my youth.

http://www.npr.org/2014/07/14/330183987/the-3-scariest-words-a-boy-can-hear

bound

i’m attempting not to be bound to
in a world that binds me to
i’m attempting not to be bound to
in a world that binds me to
i’m attempting not to be bound to
in a world that binds me to
i’m attempting not to be bound to
in a world that binds me to
i’m attempting not to be bound to
in a world that binds me to
i’m attempting.

Race Themed Life

I saw The Best Man Holiday over weekend. Then I read this piece by the great Wesley Morris and saw this by the always engaging Marc Lamont Hill; frankly, this is a conversation I’ve had foe several years, but this year I’ve been more vocal about it. Part of the reason for my hyper awareness stems from the fact that only two of my close non-Negro friends have seen Oversimplification of Her Beauty or Fruitvale Stationeven though I described them of two the best films I’ve seen all year. Why don’t they watch films with Negros? I wonder; actually, I don’t wonder. I know why. I know non-Negroes have an issue seeing themselves in the lives of Negroes, although I grew up wanting to be Egon and not Winston. It’s the same reason Woody Allen has never casts a Black lead for any of his films. It’s the same reason I was asked to present on the history of Black film while the other students were asked to present one film from one specific area. It’s why my students scoffed at the idea of Idris Elba over Ben Affleck for Batman or why Donald Glover has a stand up bit about his a Spider-man. It’s racism. Same is true for mostly female casts film, and gay casts films as well. I’m not calling anyone racist, sexist, nor homophobic, but most have yet to acknowledge how socialization on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation permeates our everyday actions, and rarely to our knowledge.

History Deters (We’re Not Right for Each Other)

Buying greeting cards from Walgreens, Vons, CVS,  or (you name it) is silly. Luckily for me, I figured this out over a year ago when I happened to visit the LA Central Library’s Bookstore and discovered all that greeting cards can be: cute, honest, and (most importantly) unique (to an extent). How many times have you been to a baby shower and some jackass has the same card as you? (Annoying. I know.) No more, I say. I only buy cards from museums and bougie libraries. Often, I must write my own greetings in said cards, which feels like a chore, but is always rewarding. I feel like I earned the greetees’ respect, because I know him/her well enough to have written what Hallmark always gets wrong or way too corny. Still, this freedom and creativity is not without its setbacks.

Saturday, in my procrastinators search for multiple Mother’s Day cards, I stumbled upon a few cute cards at the Getty. Now, the Getty was not was not my first choice. I had decided to attend an event at UCLA earlier, and by time I got to the Hammer (which has amazing cards), it was closed. While in en route to my next stop, and angered by the Hammers “early” closing time, I decide to stop the Getty to find cards. Who really wants to search for cards on Mother’s Day? Not this guy. (Even procrastinators have limits, though I am still curious to know what cards the Walt Disney Concert Hall has…) I stop by the Getty’s Museum Shop in search of the “perfect” card for a few of the mothers in my life, but I am quite underwhelmed. The Getty is no MoMA. Not only did it not have holiday specific cards, but my apartment is larger than its museum “shop”. Amongst their limited number of cards offered, were several that depicted an older Los Angeles – photos from the 50s of Wilshire and Santa Monica, and I thought it would be great for my grandmothers. They’re old. They should like old photos. (They’ve been in Los Angeles since ’46 and mid 60s, respectively) Very simple logic, right? However, I hesitated. As I stared at those seemingly innocuous images, I got this strange feeling that they may not be appropriate. I thought “where my grandparents ‘allowed’ to travel to Wilshire without fear of being harassed, let alone Santa Monica.” (Beach cities were notoriously racist.) I was not sure. Would these images recall events or a time they wish to leave in the past? What does it say that one of cards has a photo of three white women smiling in front of an iconic Los Angeles site? Could my grandmothers have been those women? I’m not sure. I just know they are not them, nor do those women look like them. I put the cards back, and chose others.

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On another note, I saw Iron Man 3 last night, and I could not help but wonder why that little white boy could not have been a little girl or colored kid. We like science. We are smart. This is 2013. Up did it four years ago.