Word Ninja

People will read and hear what they want to. I have come to the conclusion that many people take the things that I do either too personally or too literal. In either case, that is fine. Last Year, I talked about the slow death of critical thought because I believe that people take everything at face value without thinking about anything deeper. Two Years ago, I wrote about how Everything is about Race and how there is this assumption that I point things out because I want to divide people.Why do these 2 things matter? Let me take you back about 20+ years.

I was walking with a friend of mine from school to the Bx 39 bus stop on White Plains Road in the Bronx. On the way there we were stopped but 4 guys who pretty much ignore me and focus on him. I had always been very good at being aware of my surroundings, but for some reason these particular guys came out of no where. He told me to run but I stood frozen in fear. They jumped him in front of me and amazingly, he took punches and never dropped. The entire incident was less than a minute and I believe they ran way after taking his Walkman (at least I think they did). I cant recall what happened after that but I do remember never being able to apologize enough for not helping or taking some of the beating.

This is something that I have often thought about. Would I let that happen again? How would I feel if I saw other people getting beat up. Fear has away of stopping you in your tracks (yet another topic I have written about). As I’ve gotten older and have come to discover myself through education and other life events, I have come to realize the type of person I am.

Hold that story in your mind and think about the majority of things I write on this blog. Most of which have chronicled my journey from a failed marriage to where I am right now. If you follow me on any of the Social Media outlets then you have a pretty good idea that I do have opinions about the world we live in. I do not consider them radical by any means. I feel that I generally have the same feelings as many people of color in this country when it comes to racism and oppression. I do not talk about how the “man” has me down. In fact, I talk about being able to succeed despite numerous issues that I have created for myself.

I do talk about race a lot. Ask any person of color how they think of themselves. The vast majority will say Black, Asian, Latino, etc. I am also guaranteeing that they are looking at the world and this country through the lens of their color/culture. Why wouldn’t we be? Racial incidences happen all the time but it becomes our fault for pointing it out. We are considered to be complainers when we point out that even though President Obama is getting slammed on the issues…we all know many people in the government and in this country cannot stand him because he is Black. Shit, people still wonder if he is even American! So when I say that everything has to do with race it is because it DOES.

This would also include Black people beating up on white people for no reason. See, the friend of mine that was walking with me was White and the kids who jumped him were Black. I’m not sure why they chose him over me and it could have very well been because he was a white boy. Does this make this correct, not at all. I have often criticized on THIS blog as well as other outlets how dumb Latinos and African Americans can be. We all have our issues because this country is not perfect despite what many people believe.

Which brings me to a video I posted about a show written by fellow SU alum Aaron Sorkin called The Newsroom (see video below). Jeff Daniels goes on this rant about how America is not the greatest country in the world and thus states specific reasons why. I agreed with this assessment because of all the issues that were stated about education, infant mortality rate, and incarceration. I have a right to my opinion, right? I mean, lets look at the Tea Party all the way on the right and how they say incredulous things all time but, they have a right to their opinion no matter how shitty it is.

But apparently, opinions are like assholes everyone has one and thus that old friend of mine insists that I am a bitter person that has been held down by the man. While I am not going to recount the argument that we had on my Facebook wall, I will pull out some things that have made me think about myself and what I do. I am not sure where some people think that my opinions on based on fiction or out of thin air when I read more than most people on my Facebook timeline. I will gladly post a bibliography of everything I have written to prove this. The notion that I speak about race too much is pure absurdity. White people generally do not talk about being white because they do not generally need to, unless they feel they are either being attacked or perhaps feel guilty because of their whiteness.

I love this country plain and simple. I am as American as my dad can raise me. I once had argument with my ex-wife because I would not let her raise a Puerto Rican flag on our lawn without an American Flag next to it. I understand that this friend of mine defended this country and I thank him for it…yet I wonder if he had to go through the racism my father did when he was in the Navy…oh that is right…everything is not about race. However, being called a coward because of something that happened 20 years is probably what hit me the hardest. Sure, I do not go to protests in Arizona or Florida. I have protested here in Syracuse in unison with my students…but I guess that doesn’t count. I guess the fact that I have given money to organizations who need it to fight policies does not count either.

I had to take a hard look at myself and see if I was this “coward.” No, I am not. Not mentally and not physically. Listing instances where I have jumped into situations that could have gotten me killed or seriously hurt is self absorbing because I have nothing to prove to anyone. I will however take one thing to heart and make it my own. I was called a word ninja. I have never heard of this and after talking to someone he came up with a definition. “He meant word-ninja to mean someone who hides in the shadows and fights only with words, I suspect. But I see it as a skilled wordsmith so smooth you can’t even see how he did it” (Thank you, Chris)

I am a Word Ninja.

Heavy D: He Had is own Thang

When I talk about my love for hip hop, I often say that the artist that really made me start buying albums was Rakim. The first CD that I ever bought with my own money was Redman’s debut. But, the first cassette that I every owned was Heavy D and the Boyz: Big Tyme. Sure, I rocked Big Daddy Kane with my cousin who bout 12 inch vinyl records. I would also listen to my brother tapes as well so I was always into hip hop, but Heavy D represented something to me.

When I was a sophomore in High School I had very few friends. I felt like I was the smallest kid in all of Saint Raymond’s High School for Boys. I lived in Riverdale at the time because years earlier, my mother decided to move me to yet another section in the Bronx. I did not care for this place, I was in the whitest neighborhood I have every seen up to that point. The commute was something I had to get used to. I had to find my way from Castle Hill Ave all the way to Riverdale. This meant taking three buses.

I ended up making friends with kids from my school who lived in Washington Heights that took the exact route I did. Some were even seniors that I ended up hanging out with. But, despite this, I was relatively unhappy. I couldn’t speak to girls and I was just this short nerdy kid trying to find his way. Then one of my buddies asked me if I liked Heavy D. Of course I did, who wouldn’t like The Overweight Lover? So he gave me his cassette. Maybe he lent it to me and I just never gave it back…but I still have it.

I listened to Big Tyme everyday on my walkman. As I look back at it now, this was the first album that I listened to from start to finish. Not one bad song. He set the bar for me when it came to buying future albums. I remember how listening to this album got me through the days where school was hard in a time where my parents fought over me and their failing marriage. More importantly, I found it hard to fit in and I remember a particular line from his song “We Got Our Thang“: Don’t be down with everyone, let ’em all be down with you. This one line made me rethink many things in my life. I realized that I shouldnt have to fit in. I should just be me and let people deal with it.

Heavy D became a huge part of my High School life through this album. First, Big Tyme itself is a classic. Every track stands alone, but I absolutely love the song, “Somebody for Me“. This was another song that just spoke to me because he raps about how hard it was to find the one for him. It seemed to hold true to me for so many years. He was trying to find someone who loved him for who he is and I appreciated that. I remember some girl telling a friend of mine in high school that I would be cute if I had an earring and a mustache and got rid of the nerdy glasses. I was ready to get my ear pierced! But, my brother told me that I should not have to fix my appearance for anyone. A woman needs to like you for who you are now. It made me think of that song.

Let me not to forget that he indeed a pioneer of the industry. The collaboration on Somebody for Me was with Al B Sure and at the time Hip Hop/R&B songs were rare. When I was in college he has this song with called “Dem No Worry We” with Supercat that was crazy! Dancehall was just becoming a sensation when that came out and I am pretty sure he was the first or one of the first Hip Hop artist to be on a Dancehall track. He moved to television with appearances on Its A Different World. He maintained relevance within the industry by continuously dropping albums in the 90’s. However, I think because he was not the gangsta/pimp type, he was not getting the airplay or the credit he was due.

When I think about the tapes that I made in college to listen to, I think about all the people who I put along side him. Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest,  EPMD, Jungle Brothers, Big Daddy Kane, and that is just to name a few. Heavy D died way too young. We joke about when we are all old and they will have the legends of hip hop performances like you see in those old Motown shows..who would actually look good performing? Well, Heavy D would have. He would have rocked it with songs that are timeless. He was never negative. He never used the N-word. He was always about being positive to women and the community. We not only lost a music legend, we lost a humanitarian.

Born Writer?

I am a very emotional person. The very way that I write is based on that. In good spirits, or bad, my attitude and emotions seem to dictate what the subject is. I do sometimes wonder in which mood does my writing come out the best. One thing that I do know for sure is that the more emotions I feel, the easier I get in to that “zone”. Anyone who has been in that zone will know that words just pour out of you, sometimes at a very fast rate. There are times that I can type minutes at a time with out stopping.

I was going to write about something else today, but as I got into it I didn’t feel right. I knew there was something else trying to come out of me. So I saved that subject for later and is stuck on something that I have been thinking about. A few months ago I went rummaging through some stuff in the basement when I came across my old Mead Composition Notebook. This was my journal that I kept in high school. It was an assignment that I had throughout senior year English. I was completely stunned that I found this book. I briefly skimmed through it and just remember all the things that I wrote about. I left it down there to continue what I was doing.

Today I went down there to get my clothes from the dryer when I noticed it on the bin. I thought to myself, “you know, this was like my blog back in the day”. So, I decided to take it upstairs with me for a better look. The book itself is slightly bend from all the wear and tear. Inside is my woefully horrible handwriting. I am glad that I can understand it. Then I noticed something, that made me realize why I stopped writing in High School.

I went to St. Raymond’s High School for Boys, which is in the Bronx. Being a teenage boy in a school full of teenage boys is not an easy thing to deal with. Not when you are dealing with issues of self esteem or when your parents are getting a divorce. Some kids did not like me and I quite frankly did not like them. So, during one of the times that I was feuding with one of these boys, they decided to steal this very journal and insert gum into the pages. I am not even really sure if they read the thing or not, but seeing my journal destroyed left me very angry.

Since then it took me awhile to realize that writing is something that I love. I am assuming there was a subconscious reason why I kept this book because when I see it and read it, I realize that I was born to write. It is the one thing I can do that no one can take away. One of the reasons why I archived my blogs was because I need to keep a personal account of how I have grown in with my writings. This notebook takes me to the beginning.