Boom Boxes in the Sky: Summer Memory

I grew up in the top-floor apartment in a building off Myrtle Avenue. I can tell you I only appreciated this location exactly once a year: July Fourth, when I had front row seats to Macy’s fireworks display. Otherwise I didn’t think about it. I didn’t have any of the adult heaviness I now carry in my shoulders and lower back, the kind that a pleasant view helps alleviate. When I was 12 and out of school, I wanted to be down below in the courtyard, with the kids from my block.

Summertime unfortunately didn’t much ease my grandma’s strict rules. If she didn’t personally know your family you were probably just another fast ass girl or drug dealer; she was an all or nothing kind of woman, and that extended to the types of friends I was allowed to make. If I wasn’t at day camp or if sleep away camp wasn’t in that year’s budget, I found myself alone at home, creating my own worlds from books, journals, comics, and model plastic.

I was getting curious about (real) music around this time, seventh or eighth grade, and I owed much of that of my cousin Tate, five years my senior. Just as troubled kids were sent down south for the summer, the reverse was also common, and his mom had booted him from Newport News directly after school let out that year. He was everything I wasn’t: good-looking, charming, popular. (Perhaps too popular, as I later learned he was sent north to “save him” from a baby he’d fathered at age 15.) He arrived on our doorstep to spend a week with his paternal grandmother, all lanky and southern twang. He never left.

Continue reading “Boom Boxes in the Sky: Summer Memory”

Feeling Pushed

Saddened by news of another suicide, this time of Titi Branch. I remember venturing to Miss Jessie’s when it was Curve, taking a cab into Bed-Stuy to their brownstone salon back when Do or Die was still a foreign & slightly intimidating place to enter. It wasn’t a cheap visit, but it was a unique one; so unlike the many wash & sets in the hood, the vibe was chill. They asked if I wanted tea. Nothing was rushed. I was treasured as a client. I watched the sisters’ empire grow with respect, awe and enthusiasm, even while whispers of oversaturation and negative curly talk swirled in the air. I couldn’t afford their services often; I last visited their SoHo location years ago for a twist-out (that lasted three weeks!) and although the digs were jazzier and shinier, the service was the same. Did I want some fresh fruit? Was it OK if I took a minute to stretch the tight muscles in my lower back? I was given those beloved samples on my way out, and made a promise to try to return when the sisters were there, to remind them of my first try at Curly Pudding, to let them know how many folks waited for their annual BOGO to stock up on those yummy, creamy products. My soul is heavy today, for the family, for their customers, for myself. Why are we losing ourselves? The struggle is so real. I wish I had answers. For now, only prayers for some mild balm for a tragic loss.

If you are at risk to hurt yourself or anyone else, I implore you to seek out help. Anyone supportive will work. Don’t overthink it, just make the call, or write the email, or send the text. Be specific. “I don’t feel safe” is a good phrase, if you don’t want to blurt out what you’re really thinking: “I want to end it,” “I’m done and I have a plan,” “I’m calling to say goodbye.” Let someone know you need help. Hospitals are bound to assist you if you present yourself and say you feel you’re a danger to yourself. There’s also lifenet and lots of places to call, where empathetic strangers will talk you through what may just be a rough moment you don’t want a disapproving or non-understanding spouse or friend to know about. What’s key is that you don’t keep this to yourself. The mask is easy to wear, and can fool many: Your face may be on billboards, you may bring thousands to see you in concert, or you may just have a 9 to 5 that you never call out sick on. Please educate yourselves, know the signs of sadness crossing over into something darker, know that there IS another option.

I’m posting this on the fly; forgive me for typos. I’m sad for Ms. Branch’s family, for Karyn Washington’s family, for all the families and friends, those left behind with their questions, their love and their grief. Times are turbulent, and I simply wish us all peace.

The summer of my discontent…

If cops are so worried about safety & privacy in having their names revealed to the public, perhaps they should stop killing the unarmed?* The victims’ names and reputations are immediately dragged though the mud on news channels everywhere, even if the info is unsubstantiated and simply backs up a cop’s version of events. (Statistically speaking, it’s impossible for all this violence to be justified & responsive.) If you’re man enough to shoot down a teen, sir, why not be man enough to claim it? Step forward, you four officers stopped by EMT workers from beating a person to death. You’re called New York’s finest for a reason, no? Let’s see your faces and know your names! #Illwaitrighthere

blue line


*I am nearly speechless with anger & grief over escalating cop vs. person of color violence taking place within the last two months. Someone must be held accountable, and that person is not the young, dead and unarmed, his name slandered, her past sifted through for all hints of impropriety. In what other community is a person given paid leave after murdering another human being? I’m over the excuses, the illegal chokeholds, the unbelievable insensitivity given to recent deaths. I’m over the thin blue line.