Thursday, December 30, 2010
Community…I love the way it rolls off the tongue, literally making a hug then a kiss in your mouth. Say it cah (opening arms) mu (closing) ni (retreat inside) tee (ending with a smile)
Community…the word conjures up warmth for me, a safe space, home.
Community is a necessary space. One which, in this society of rugged individualism, is often forgotten, denied, and even erased. The questions our grandmothers never had to ask, “Who are your people?” “Where are you from?” we never think to ask, assuming Google knows all. But Google won’t tell us that his people are fifth generation alcoholics…or that she is from a tribe of women, who have never known a healthy relationship with men. Barring a direct confession, these are truths learned from living, working, loving and playing in relation to others. And that is the definition of community.
I first learned of community spaces and the exchanges which take place in them from artists. They were musicians, producers, rappers who knew one another and one another’s work. They knew the history of the music they loved, other genre’s that borrowed and sampled the music, and could identify a production team by their sound signatures. They read about their favorite artists, voraciously devoured liner notes, and knew all of the hidden gems that were slept on by regular listeners. Finally, they always had time to teach, discuss and share what they loved. They invited me in.
This notion of community has taken flight in our day in its diet form, called “Networking” a cold, hard, metallic word, stemming from its digital, internet era roots.
Of course, this “community lite”, or networking lacks all of the features of regular community in that it requires no knowledge of history, no interconnectedness, or shared concern. It only requires a “legitimate” platform, and a tangible “good or service” that can be exchanged or provided.
But I’m old school…a first generation city dweller with roots deep in the Mississippi mud. I am not ashamed to say, that I need my community. I was raised, as an eldest child by my father, and respect that position, for me, a girl child; it means that I will eventually take on the role of Matriarch. I have been well trained in the art of leadership, and gained experience at an early age in community service. Perhaps this fuels my desire for and need to create community now, in all aspects of my life.
This need, coupled with desire, and the encouragement of my unspoken community has led me to create a community of writers. Writers of Color. Intelligent Writers. Writers who can thoughtfully and legitimately give voice to the experiences of other people of color. Men who can humanely write about women, and women who can lovingly write about men. People unafraid to tell our stories in the true myriad of ways in which they occur. After our first retreat, I have already discovered a group of women who are kindred spirits in the ways of writing. We want, desperately, to tell our stories. Often times in hopes of self discovery, identity and in search of clarity. We are happy to have one another.
As the Kwanzaa holiday ends and the New Year approaches, I urge each of you to seek out your community. Where do you belong? Somewhere, there are healthy, loving folks, just waiting for you to fulfill your role. They are waiting to fill you in on their history, and guide you to seek yours. They are offering more than just exchange, and need more than your “goods and services.” The friendships that are a part of the LoveJonesLifestyle grow beyond simple levels of acquaintanceship and “social networking” sites. Friendships turn to sisterhood and brotherhood which create family which solidifies community. What community will you seek out in the New Year? Do you need to create a community? If so, where? Why? What purpose will your service serve?
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Today’s good news celebrates the love of sisterhood, the magic of the internet and the operation of the Universe at its most divine heights.
About two years ago, while recovering from a very painful breakup and the subsequent end of a six year relationship, I embarked on a process of reinvention. The steps I followed, almost instinctively, mirror those of the 31 Day Restart
organized by Ms. Rosetta Thurmond of www.happyblackwoman.com
One of the most important steps I took was joining an on line community of women, known as the Black Mom’s Club founded by Sister LaShanda Henry. The women of BMC as we affectionately called our group consisted of women from various walks of life, a few men who supported us in our efforts, and lots and lots of love, advice, expertise and desire to connect.
That fateful decision made literally years ago, in the midst of a pieced together recovery process led not only to my first experiences at blogging, but to the knowledge that I was not alone, an entry into a healthy community of women who were willing to discuss difficult issues in parenting and relationships, and a treasure trove of resources related to education, health, wellness and support. There were hundreds of groups in the club, from moms of boys all the way to home schooling. We engaged in spirited and lively debates, shared resources about relocation, and supported many a single sister through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood.
Recently, I had the opportunity to bring an on line friendship into the real world, and was pleasantly surprised that instead of a casual acquaintance, I ended up meeting a woman with whom I shared so much in common that our meeting could not simply be attributed to mere coincidence, but to the divine orchestrations of the Universe itself.
Over a two hour coffee date, we discovered we not only attended the same school, but held the same major, and similar career plans. We had worked in the same field prior to completing our educations, and both appreciated the necessity for mentorship as a part of our relationships. We even delved a bit into our relationships with men, spirituality, and the need for sisterhood. The recognition of this need was a turning point in my view of my new acquaintance. For all of the negative publicity women receive (See the Crunk Feminist Collective’s take on RHOA and other Black Woman Drama here ) I was happy to meet someone who operated in the spirit of true friendship and sisterhood. It was truly pleasant to encounter someone who had a healthy view of herself, others and life in general.
In our pursuit of the LoveJonesLifestyle we often become consumed by the process of creation, our art, and “keeping our heads above water”. However, we know, without a doubt that community and often for women, sisterhood is the place that offers us the safety and strength to ply our wares in the marketplace. Our communities nurture us and encourage us to share our talent with the marketplace. Without those special sister to sister relationships, we are often left unanchored, lost and alone. How do you take time to create the community you want, need and that will ultimately allow you to flourish?
* photo courtesy of www.corbisimages.com
Saturday, December 18, 2010
I was saddened to learn that the Georgia Prisoners ended their peaceful strike against the living and working conditions they faced in the Georgia State Correctional system. I was also proud of the prisoners ability to peacefully strike, and then end the strike with the goal of working on their legal stance. However, the strike itself brought up important questions that the artists and writers in my community have been dealing with for several weeks now.
What does the artist owe, if anything to her community? Is she obliged to use her wider influence and voice as an artist to address the politics of her community? Is she obligated to produce work that portrays a specific message?
In a Cultural Anthropology class I taught this semester, I made it clear to my students that artists traditionally are not independent. The were supported by the community; their work reinforced by the concerns, beliefs and opinions of those supporting them, whether it be a formal patron relationship, or the public space call and response, or create and critique methods that exist in the traditional Black church or the market place in west Africa.
Therefore, by virtue of their craft, artists have consistently used their voice to articulate the concerns of their communities, to resist oppression when necessary, and to manifest their visions.
Academics are often a mixture of pure intellectuals, activists who educate, and practicing teacher/artists. Indeed we have seen some of the most important examples in the African American communities with intellectual activists transitioning into academia and maintaining a commitment to oppressed peoples. Both Angela Davis and Elaine Brown come to mind when we think of artists/activists becoming educators. Both have consistently expressed work that supports oppressed people while articulating their struggles to a larger population. Davis has graced us with well reasoned accounts of her position on the Prison Industrial Complex with her work Are Prisons Obsolete?
While Brown explained on Democracy Now, the significance of the strike, and the prisoners motives. As an activist, educator and mentor, she serves as an expert witness on the system in which so many in our community find themselves.
This tradition and relationship between the artist and activist has not escaped us here at Love Jones Lifestyle, and we were pleased to discover the tradition of political artistry alive and well. The Death Penalty Anthology is a project that seeks artistic expression regarding the death penalty. It is an excellent example of art in action, as its proceeds will support the Texas State chapter of Amnesty International, an organization known for the support of human rights globally, and specifically for the fight against the Death Penalty as a form of punishment.
As our world becomes increasingly complex, and artists will become more and more integral in expressing the turmoil, rapid change, political successes, and challenges of every day people. Do today's artist feel or reflect a responsibility towards their communities? Do they owe anything to the communities in which they practice art? Have you found a way to integrate your artistry and activism? We'd love for you to tell us how.
*photo courtesy of sptimes.com
Monday, December 13, 2010
"They say I'm crazy the way you got me open, baby!
They say I'm bugging the way I'm top sweating your loving.
They all sit and wonder why this feeling I cannot hide.
It ain't a question of pride.
IT'S LOVE." -- Jill Scott
So, in living this Love Jones Lifestyle, one has to be willing to accept the fact that love will remain elusive and in dire need of rumination at every given moment. Love is like a prism, it changes color depending on the amount of light that penetrates it. Each color has its own interpretations and causes a separate course of action for resolution of an issue. So, the more illuminated you are in your meditations, the easier it will be to untangle the complexities of love when they are presented. It's troubling when someone accepts a generic standard of love that does not bear fruit for their affair, simply because they did not take the time to soul search it for themselves.
That's why it's critically important to determine what love means to you; embrace it, demonstrate it, and send it out so that the angels can tend to it when you're too dazed to recall your constitution because you're busy with playing the role of the martyr or the fool. This is a tried method of ensuring your sanity throughout the experience of loving your Loved One. So, while you are doing everything you can do to keep the affair going, you won't have to worry about losing or undermining what you know.
I know about this first hand.
Over the past weekend, I've been reviewing the decrees of love that I have issued to the universe and replaying a conversation over and over again to check for inconsistencies. I understood what was said--but my mind and heart are not in agreement, thus, both are still deliberating. Because I base love on the Scriptural Chapter 13 (I Corinthians 13:4-8), I'm standing here hoping all things, and believing all things -- ensuring also not to seek my own. At best, this is my course of action and certainly a challenge for me. A woman of my caliber wants to have it my way and I have a strategy to accomplish just that. But no, patience has to have its perfect work -- and that's good and understandable, but what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Don't answer that. I got it. In a word, I live. I have more than enough to keep me fulfilled while I await love's jury to present more evidence that I'm either guilty of holding on too long or not guilty of wanting to move on. While I wait, I draw one step closer to clarity because love is still teaching me.
So, let me encourage those of you out there who are still bold and brave enough to love, spend more time understanding its inner workings for you and the sake of your Loved One. Decide how love should frame your life and pursue that goal. As you love and tend to your affairs (whether simple or complicated), tap your fortitude to confront those potential cracks in the defense of love and seal them with righteousness. Never forget this constant truth: love does not acknowledge cowardice so be willing to fight. Be sure to stand on its side because it will always wear the crown of Champion. Love never fails.
Before I wrap this up, let me also do some beckoning. As the vibrations of this song and its lyrics fill the air, I command the angels to carry them to the heart of my Loved One so he will understand that when love calls, he'd better answer....because love may not ever come again, at least, not from me. So, as love prepares the verdict, I stand ready to act.
Peace to the Righteous.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
There, I’ve said it.
Not to be arrogant, or egotistical, or even boasting.
Whenever I’ve wanted a boyfriend, I’ve had one. When ever I’ve been single, I’ve had, shall we say, options.
My problem, rather, has always been choosing the right man.
You see, I’m an intellectual at heart. I love art, music, and theatre. I’m a cultural strategist. I love history, politics, and international intrigue. I’m a Libra; I love beauty, nature and balance. I love passion. I live by passion, if it doesn’t give me absolute bliss, then to hell with it. This goes for food, people, places, jobs, and activities. However, due to very practical, down to earth, Southern, working class parents, I’m also very pragmatic. I want the basics, I want them to be decent, and I’ll fill in the blanks for the extras.
However, this is *not* the best way to operate when selecting a mate…hence the Kanye versus Barack conundrum in which I always find myself.
It goes like this, I’ll be single, doing my thing, concentrating on a particular goal, living my life, y’ know, being ME- Zenzile- a woman who can overcome life’s obstacles, and make a way for herself…and along comes Kanye. Kanye is an art/music/book/everything beautiful lover like myself. Kanye, in fact IS beautiful. Kanye is always charming, energetic, exciting, off on a new adventure and ready to take you with him. Kanye takes you new places, introduces you to new things, and seems too good to be true. This, of course, is because Kanye IS too good to be true. Kanye is Peter Pan. He is a child in a man’s body, with male privilege, and free reign to pretend he is an adult, until he doesn’t want to be. Kanye pouts when the real world rains on his adventure parade. Kanye may or may not want to do what you want to do on any given day. Kanye is NOT practical…
In the midst of feeling an inkling of something maybe being a little wrong with Kanye, Barack shows up. Barack is solid. He’s a gentleman; he’s smart, intelligent, but not brilliant, like Kanye. Barack is polite, thoughtful, and would never drag you running through the rain to a shack by a lake and call it an adventure, he’d call it an inconvenience, and you’d have to sit in the car quietly waiting until the rain stopped, making polite conversation.
Barack appreciates that you know about art, theater, and literature, in fact, he respects your intelligence, and never tries to compete with it, or you. Barack is practical, he is protective, he is proud of you, hell, he’s proud just to KNOW you.
And there you are, sitting there, the choice, ever so softly, landing in your lap…you know good and well, things with Kanye will end badly. He’s an overgrown child. He’ll try, he really will. Maybe even masquerade AS Barack, for a while. But he can’t hold back who he is, and soon, just like in the story, Pan must fly back to Neverland. If you try and hold him to you, beware, for then you’ll be introduced to a completely new side of him…left wishing you had indeed followed the REAL Mr. West’s advice to “Run away”.
Barack, however, is loyal. He listens, he watches you, and he knows exactly what you need, if only you’d allow him to share it with you. And one day, when you tire of chasing rainbows, you’ll allow him to share it too. You’ve seen glimpses of Barack’s kindness. He’s been there, painfully listening and watching when you inevitably have to pick up the pieces of your broken heart left by Kanye. He lets you fall asleep on his sofa after trying to distract you with pizza and movies, leaving his favorite sweatshirt tear-stained. He hates seeing you this way, but is smart, perceptive, and patient enough to know that no matter how badly he wants you, you’re not ready for him.
So this is where I am. I’ve met Kanye and Barack at least three times in my life, but this time, this ONE time, I’m submitting to a higher power, I’m allowing myself to be guided by something more divine than my passion, more developed than my “taste,” bigger than seduction. I’m choosing Barack, and not because I’ve been burned by the Kanyes, I still love them, their sense of adventure, boyish good looks, talent, brilliance, and charm, but I’ve finally realized what I overlooked in my pursuit of passion. With Barack, I can be both grounded and lifted, I can be supported and offer support, I can build and be sheltered, I can plant, and grow. Barack will offer me the balance I so desperately need, allowing me to be a better ME.
With Barack, I no longer have to pursue passion vicariously. He provides the foundation that allows me to actually evolve and experience my own passionate self. He is gentle, quiet, and still enough to be a mirror, allowing me to finally see my own fire, my own value, my own shine. Once I finally decided to get out of my own way, and accept that there was something better, different, more powerful, exactly what I needed showed up.
This is a key part of living the LoveJonesLifestyle. We must learn to get out of the way of the blossoming of our talent, our goals, even our love…Have you ever gotten in the way of receiving your BEST?
Monday, December 6, 2010
but, like Darius and Nina, miles and miles apart, sometimes you have to settle for something, well, a bit tamer to put you to bed...so, as the aroma of cinnamon filled my bedroom, I thought I'd share a small offering of late night comfort...
Zenzile's LJL (nonalcoholic)Nightcap
heat 1/3 cup of hot water
scoop in 1 1/3 TBS of Cocoa Powder
scoop in 1 1/3 TBS of Sugar in the Raw
add 1/8 tsp of ground cinnamon
stir until thick
add 1 cup heated Lactose Free/Almond/Soy milk
stir until mixed well
drop in 1-2 drops of pure vanilla extract
add 1 stick of Cinnamon
...optional add a dash of cocoa chile powder to really heat things up...
pour into your favorite mug, then Download the rest of Raheem DeVaughn's new Mixtape, Jacking 4 Beats and enjoy!
Yeah, its not what you want, but it sure is beautiful music and a tasty treat, and if you're a true connoisseur of the LoveJonesLifestyle, then you know that that's not such a bad way to end the day. At least we'll send you off to sleep feeling warm and toasty on a cold winter's night.
Friday, December 3, 2010
It’s interesting. My friend, Zenzile, decided to start this blog as a way of giving people like us an opportunity to express ourselves freely. Honestly, it had to be a whim of hers in the midnight hour while she dreamed wide awake about the lives we are chasing. In a sense, she was straight jonesing then…..desiring a rich life full of music, art, literature, revolution…and oh yes, love. I agreed to contribute because my musings about this Love Jones Lifestyle could potentially help me push out my second stage play, Honey’s Kitchen. At the center of the story is the high-minded concepts of love and revolution in which one cannot exist without the other. Think about it.
Can’t have a revolution without love…..and love has always been revolutionary. The latter point is something that apparently many are forgetting as we continue our treks on this side of the world, hunting for love and all of its splendor. Essentially, revolution is about change…and nothing changes people more than love. Ok, follow me, over the weekend, a couple of my friends and I were enjoying our Saturday night so much that we didn’t want it to end right away – so we caught the 9:30pm showing of the animated feature, Mega Mind. Yes. I know. Here’s three educated, well-rounded men and women sitting in the theater enjoying a family flick in 3-D. So, you wanna make something of it? Hey, sometimes even the deepest of us don’t want to bask in profundity every single damn day.
Anyway, not to give away the story, but it hinged on how a person has the choice of being good or evil. The main character was the villain who eventually became the hero – and his choice to turn around came about as a result of love. Things change when love is present and whether embraced or denied, it always comes with good intentions. Never mind the bullshit we see in pop culture addled with all of its melodrama. Those iffy, illogical stories leave much to be desired as they are largely based on simplistic notions that even my six year old niece can analyze. In today’s dizzying times, the idea of love has become a passive uncreative parade of lustful thoughts twisted together with urban euphemisms (think: FWB – Friends With Benefits which has replaced the age-old label of ‘Lovers’) and anchored by wack ass lyrics served over looped tracks dubbed erroneously as ‘love songs’. Somewhere between Trey Songz and Jerry Springer, the concept of love is a mind numbing experience—robbed completely of its vitality and power.
You see, love and revolution inspires action. It ain’t no way in hell one can be loved seriously and somehow is unable to come into another awareness; thus moving differently. Revolution will not allow anyone to sit still, or else, it’s counterrevolutionary. If there is not an urgency for change through the undergirding of love, then it is not love nor is it revolutionary. At the same time, if revolution is not motivated by love, then it is an attempt at tyranny.
What is the point? Simple. If you’re gonna do some jonesing, then do so under the right premise. Jonesing is nothing more than a synonym for lusting. We’ve all been taught that lust is a bad thing, however, anything with the improper motive can be deemed detrimental. If lust clouds our moral judgment, then Houston we have a problem. But, there is such a thing as having a healthy lust. We can have a lust for life – now what’s so bad about that? So, come on everyone, let’s jones unashamedly for love and revolution so we can make this world a better place.
I’ll stop here for the sake of pondering more, but I will indeed revisit this concept. It just may take another course when I pick it up again. Until then, continue to enjoy the Love Jones Lifestyle.
P.S. Here’s the mood music for my abstract ramblings on this post.
Love Jones Lifestyle is all about artistry....so imagine our shock when emcee/performance artist Nicki Minaj appeared on the Regis and Kelly show and was transformed from artist into modern day Hottentot Venus.
While everyone else is focused on what is being called "Bootygate" due to Regis' tapping of Nicki's ass, We were more concerned with the comprehensive objectification of Nicki...Both Regis AND Kelly participate in transforming Nicki into a modern day Sara "Saartjie" Baartman aka the Hottentot Venus. While Regis examines the construction of Nicki's dress, a veiled lead into his groping/slapping/grasping of her posterior, Kelly asks what happens, then leads into a discussion of Nicki's waist measurements. In its entirety, Nicki becomes a museum like display of physical wonder. She is no longer an artist, emcee, singer or performer, but a body.
Regis and Kelly's reaction serves to perpetuate an assault on Black Women's bodies. To see this objectification from both male and female genders of the White race shows that there has been little progress in terms of white males outlooks on Black women's bodies, and also white women.
As opposed to taking a genuine interest in Minaj's art, the bulk of the attention of the interview is focused upon her physical attributes. Even the established artist and business man Lil' Wayne is given short shrift when Regis refers to him as Nicki's "friend"...Wayne is Nicki's boss, he is her CEO, he has groomed her and allowed for her entrance into the industry from the "underground"...but he is still referred to, in a disrespectful, nearly inconsequential way by Regis.
Overall, the power of a national forum, granted by their show allows these two personalities to enact dominant white racialized fantasy by neither acknowledging Minaj's talent nor Wayne's business saavy. Both despite their success, professionalism and talent are reduced to mere slivers of themselves...
In this case we clearly see the devaluation of the Black Artist. In this climate...where the artist is not seen as a serious entity...how do you produce? How do artists maintain their respect as artists when they are still seen as a spectacle?
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Why, what is the GROWN UP SEX TALK you ask? It's exactly what it states. It's the process by which grown ups...yes you.. sit down with a potential new partner, and discuss your collective sexual history (have you been abused/assaulted?, other partners at the moment, sexual orientation), STI/HIV status, sexual preferences, what to do in case of an "accident," and forms of protection that you use or plan to use. This talk happens LONG before actual sex takes place, and in a neutral, emotionally secure space. When we first put together the G.U.S.T., team member Bobby Earl, and I left the list of questions as they appear. However, I'd like to add, that the end of the GROWN UP SEX TALK should include setting a joint appointment for testing.
HERE Get more information on World AIDS Day and educate yourself on the facts.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Yes, we promote a lifestyle, but, really what we promote is much deeper than that. I am a Libra on the Zodiac, and one of the Libra qualities is that one's love of beauty and nature would can cause one to be seen as superficial. I don't want this blog space to be taken as such. Indeed the Love Jones Lifestyle is about beauty, love, art, creativity, politics and community. All of these require intense commitment, focus, understanding, maturity and a critical mind/eye. Therefore, do not mistake the lifestyle for one in which "reality" is forsaken. No...it is a communal space, just like the friends at the table, calling forth truth. It is a space of creation, like the jazz lounge. It is a space where we think, speak, and do.
We urge one another forth in seeking solutions to our community's problems...we push one another into fulfilling our dreams...we define success on our own terms...we believe that healthy spaces between black families, friends, and lovers do exist, and we revel in those spaces. Love Jones, the film simply provides a template for one slice of life...Enjoy the gifts.
*shout out to the folks at bamalovesoul.com and HEXSAGON