Thursday, September 27, 2012

Everyday Heroes: M'Bwende Anderson and Carlos Blanco

Not only is it one of my supremely rare double blog days, but for the first time, I am giving my Everyday Hero recognition to two individuals: M'Bwende Anderson and Carlos Blanco.

From time to time, I recognize individuals that walk the walk and go way above and beyond in surprising and powerful ways. Both of these individuals, recently, as I have been working through some challenges have shown up to provide love, care, and support that was unlooked for, unasked for but so very much needed.

M'Bwende Anderson

To begin with, I have known M'Bwende Anderson for a very, very long time. I first met M'Bwende when I was a queer youth organizer in the late '90s. At the time, M'bwende was a staff member of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, which for roughly 15 years was the national voice for LGBTQ youth in Washington, DC. I loved M'Bwende from the gate. Their personality, charm, and caring spirit was evident in everything that they did. For the first year or so of our acquaintance, I only saw M'Bwende sporadically at Creating Change or at NYAC's Youth Summit, but then, for a brief time, I joined the board of NYAC as it was struggling to go through a process of confronting the structural racism that existed within the organization and the movement. It was a hard process made harder by an executive director that was truly struggling to confront his own white privilege in so many ways.

I didn't last very long on that board.

But over the years, M'Bwende and I have come into contact now and again, and though I don't know them deeply, there has always been a love there that I am so happy is reciprocated. I think that they are one of the most loving people that I have met. And this Summer I benefited from that love and support directly, and I know so many others that also have been lifted up by that fierce of whom is another love of mine, Jaime Grant, M'Bwende's partner. That coupling makes me moist now and again. But I digress.

Carlos Blanco

I met Carlos about a year and a half ago when I walked into the office of QEJ as a part time contractor. Carlos was this fierce ghettois Columbia student with a helluvalot of swagger and a heart as big as ummm his...ummm...feet. (His feet are huge).  From the gate, I recognized the power of this human being. He was gentle, fierce, sassy, committed, radical, and had a hunger to learn that I haven't seen in anyone for a very long time. He was ok with being wrong and because of it rarely found himself having to remove those size 14s from his mouth....while some of us (ahem me...) are constantly chewing on some size 11s.

If Carlos loves you, he lives that love. It is humbling. It is beautiful, and it is a way of being and living that belies his 22 odd years that he has been walking around this planet. Carlos is living proof that a mentor does not need to be someone that is older than you. A mentor is someone that has something that you want in your life and can show you, by living, how to acquire it. Carlos is one of those people in my life. And I am blessed that I get to watch and see just how fiercely he is going to change this world for the better.

Thank you to you both for all the love that you have given. I hope to repay it with abundance one day. You are my Everyday Heroes.

Moving Forward?

Yesterday, I resigned from QEJ. QEJ is a vital part of the queer movement, and I know that it will continue to do great work as it struggles through this particular moment. I believe that the leadership of the board is strong and holds a strong vision and is comprised of some truly amazing people. Much love and luck to you. The choice was best for me and for QEJ, and I am looking forward to figuring out the next steps in my life path including reconstituting my life to focus on maintaining a healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit and healthy heart.

After this Summer and all that it has conjured, good and ill, my coping mechanisms are frayed, and it is time to seriously refocus on what is really important and to put my feet to walking towards, and quickly, the things that will help me hold in place the lessons from the last few months while not allowing them to be greater or smaller than they need to be.

It's time to get off the roller coaster.

There are the personal issues that I need to address and keep under control. I won't rehash them all here, as I have done so in numerous blogs over the last several years.

But here are the broad outlines:

1) Recommit to doing something every day related to self-esteem, addiction, and other mental health factors that have a nasty way of finding new ways of popping up when you least want them.  Even if it is pulling a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Phoning a Friend.

2) Gym. Enough said.

3) Meditation. With ADHD, this is going to be a slow development.

4) My relationship. Nico is coming home in a couple of weeks, and a lot has happened since he left, on both of our sides, reconnecting will be important, and I am deeply looking forward to that. Two months is a hell of a damn long time to be away from your boyfriend. With time differences, two different schedules, life moments, developing world technology reliability, and no ability to interact besides sound and occasionally sight, and the distance starts to feel like it is across the galaxy instead of across an ocean.

5) Maintain physical health, particularly related to HIV medication and mental health medication. As this transition unfolds, it will be important to make sure that these things are not casualties of finances or lack of structure. Time to revisit the good folks at ADAP.

6) Last but so not least, visioning clearly the work that I want to be doing as my job and the work I want to be doing as a volunteer or engaged in another way. It's time to do good work AND have financial stability.  And centering my writing as core component of my daily work.

I am reaching out and asking folks for support in each of these areas. I want to make the best possible choices and that means tapping the brilliance (and straightforwardness) of my community.

There are no coincidences in life. None at all.

Monday, September 17, 2012

One Liner of the Week Award: Nicolas Gerard

Bloggers Note: First of all, I know that there is an accent above the "e" in Nico's name but damn if I can figure out how to make my keyboard in blogger do it.

So, my boyfriend sometimes comes across to others as very elegant and reserved. Anyone that knows him knows that while he is indeed elegant, the reserve is just the way he lures you into a sense of safety before he unleashes his matter of fact, understated, yet over the top sass on you.

Now and again, though, he says something so matter-of-fact yet so true that it is both hilarious and has the ability to snap me right out of whatever dramatic writer emotional feedback look in which I have found myself.

Today was a perfect example of that. I have been dealing with a complicated situation that resulted in a minor moment of frustration, rage, and anger at the process and lack of accountability of a number of folks involved, and I reached a breaking point.

Then Nico called.

His rational no-nonsense mind is sometimes at odds with how I construct my world and community. The fact of the matter is that I am not now nor ever be wiling to do the brutally cold thing that would be absolutely in my best interest if it would impact the best interest of someone that I care about. No one would blame me, but I would blame myself and while I can sure as heck walk away from YOUR voice, I can't escape one that is in my head (though sometimes the voices keep my company at night...they are so kind).

So as we talked today and I cried and yelled, Nico listened, offered advice, and then finally said,

"Listen, I know this isn't going to sound exactly right but I really think that old bat is bonkers. Repeat after me...the old bat is bonkers! THE OLD BAT IS BONKERS!" 

I laughed so hard that I had get up and go pee.

The old bat is bonkers indeed.

And that gals and gals with penises is the One Liner of the Week.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What A F!cking Summer...

As we approach the official final day of Summer and the weather is starting to cool towards Fall, and the days are getting to be shorter even as the temperatures dip into a range when I don't feel like I would like to strip off the top layer of my skin to try and get just a little cooler (and on the best of days I look like Miss Whitney Houston on a crack binge when it the Sun starts to grill us Earthlings...anything above 73 degrees, and my head breaks into a full on deluge, and don't let me get started on the subway funk oven from June-September....walking down into the L train on 14th and 1st is like taking a flying leap into the Bog of Eternal Stench).

This Summer has been a whirlwind of life experiences, some of which have been amazing, and some of which have been entirely new and difficult, and, I discovered, that the lie I tell myself of being strong enough to handle whatever comes my way is a tall tell that I won't be telling myself anymore. From now on that statement will read: When something new and difficult or old and no longer serves comes along, first I have to not pretend, especially with myself, that I have the capacity to deal with it on my own---in the end I am the only person that CAN deal with the things that impact my life--but it no longer serves to say that something is going to be just fine and dandy when everything inside of me is screaming/crying/cussing/raging whilst also, at the same time, throwing a giant pity party...all wrapped up in some messed up male socialization crossed with a Minnesota upbringing where saying I love you is reserved for special holidays, everyone is expected to perfect or at least pretend to be in public, and anything spicier than ketchup is a sin.

There are many situations in my life that I can and do handle extremely well, and because I have intensely been working on my shit related to living with HIV (lord knows I have a long way to go still), when my doctor recommended that I start taking meds, I knew that it wasn't going to be easy and that I would probably have to deal with some emotionally hard days, but I also thought gosh golly, I it's been ten years, it's just a single pill a day, and you are as healthy as a horse, YOU GOT THIS! What I got was a month of ferocious side effects, spontaneous emotional and alcohol fueled break downs at the most awkward and unexpected times (a shout out to Natasha Johnson for being with me on one of those occasions), and finally having to face the final reality of what it means for most people that live with HIV to actually live with it, but it took me that many weeks to come to the realization that I was, indeed, falling apart on the inside, drinking way too much, and doing just about anything to actually face on this new part of my reality. I am still dealing with it, and some days I deal much better than others, but all those feelings of shame, issues with self-worth, and self-esteem came roaring back so fiercely that it has taken me months to beat those bitches back down. They still jump up and snap now and again, but at least now I am able to beat them back down in a few days instead of three months.  And, by writing and sharing about my experience, I have had other folks starting their journey reach out and share with me a piece of their lives and their strength, Each one has been welcome and a reminder that no one walks any road completely alone.

One of the most spectacular and unexpected events of this Summer happened on June 23rd when I showed up to eat cheesecake and celebrate the birthday of one Nico Le Chou along with his parents and our mutual friend JT.  I should have known that the night would be unexpected when upon meeting his mother and saying to her in French that I understand French and do not speak it well her response was, "It's because you are lazy, no?"

Now if I had been quicker on my feet that evening I would have said, "No, madame it's LACY not lazy." Instead, I shoved a piece of cheesecake in my mouth and thought of completely inappropriate Polish jokes in her direction.  After finishing the cheeesecake and my evil thoughts (and I have to admit that any maman that is that sassy upon meeting wins my instant lifetime devotion), I ranged out into the night with JT and Nico. My intention was only to go out for a drink or two and then head back home, but Nico and JT both used friend guilt to maximum effect,  and Nico got plenty of mileage out of the line: But it's my birthday! Well for anyone that is a Facebook friend, you know that night I gave Nico an innocent birthday kiss with lots of tongue and that turned out to be the beginning of something that has become something that I am willing to fight for tooth, nail, to hold on to....and anyone that gets in the way is going to make me take out my Vaseline and pass my hoops to one of my girls to hold while I prepare to put someone in the ground.

Nico is, very simply, a catalyst for my best self. When he is nearby, the gremlins that sometimes scream from inside my head or claw at my stomach, that read from a Satanic Gospel that was written for me based on lies this world told me when I was too young to not believe them and sometimes that I still hold on to even though I am no longer a child and the time for childish things has passed away, are quieted. They still speak, but when they do they no longer sound like the Metatron; they sound exactly like what they are: cold dead echoes of malevolent spirits most of which have haunted generations of my family because of race and poverty, abuse and struggle, colonization, capitalism, gender and sexual orientation--powerful spirits that are the source of the spiritual and often times mental and physical wounds that are manifested by the way this world treats those that are not the powerful of their generation.

These gremlins are the internal overseers that maintain the slavery that is at the core of how power and wealth are maintained and transferred from generation to generation. The enslaved can only be slaves if they agree to their bondage. Once, to enforce servitude, the enslaved needed the whip, the noose, and the burning cross, medical control over a woman's body, miscegenation laws and sodomy statutes enforced by daily violence in the lives of the controlled by those that felt entitled to own them. But the greatest triumph of slavery is that the external trappings of slavery are no longer necessary. We now are taught from the time we are born to enslave ourselves. We are taught that our lives and labor are not really our own despite what we believe, and so we know, without having to be taught by the daily presence of state sponsored fear and violence, to whom we owe our service, and for the 99% of us, even those that have inherited a history of struggle against slavery--whether it comes from a legacy of civil rights agitation or simply from having a single white mother that gave birth to mixed race children and without any language of justice but an understanding that she wanted more and better for her own children and  fought to give them the tools and opportunities with the scarce working poor resources she had to do so. My Mother did so and all the while, for most of my childhood and into my early teen years, still suffering physical violence from many of the men she had chosen to offer her servitude, and though she also passed on to my brother and I some of the wounds that were her legacy, for those wounds that she was conscious of as being passed down because her Mother was never given the opportunity to know better or make deeper cracks in the cycle, she was vehement in the battle she did against those things she never wanted her children to suffer only because she did so.

This Summer, as I began my HIV medicine and started my relationship with Nico, I came to a new appreciation and understanding of my Mom and a deeper gratefulness for the sacrifices she made out of instinct and a simple desire to lessen the suffering of her children in the ways that she knew that she could. I remember her telling me once upon a time that she would never be able to tell me how to survive being a black man in this world, but she could give me other strengths. The greatest gifts that she gave to me were that I never doubted that she loved me even when our lives were harshest in so many ways. And she truly believed that I could do absolutely anything that I wanted in this life--she believed it when I didn't because despite what my Mother said the rest of the world from TV to my fourth grade teacher told me otherwise...taught me that I would most likely be dead by 25 at the hands of another man of color or if I managed to graduate from high school and even more unlikely college, my opportunities were limited not by my desire and imagination but what the world and power would allow. And though I was blessed to have other folks in my world that also believed in what they saw in me, and held up a mirror to help me see past the shame, fear, anger, hurt, loneliness to catch a glimpse of a human being that was intelligent, caring, and worthy of being loved, it was and is my Mother that still, despite the HIV, despite the addiction issues, despite the poor choices that I have made in my life, has never once done anything but love me fiercely, shed some tears because of some of the roads that I have to walk, and keep on believing that I could break free of my chains---that I could find a way to freedom. Her sometimes quiet and most of the times loud and insistent assertion that I can do anything and am worthy of love has been reflected back to me by so many others as well that on most days, I actually believe it.

But I digress, I was writing about Nico. There is something about him and about how we are when we are together that calms my natural drama, pulls a Tangina on the internal poltergeists, and leaves me feeling held up in a way that is steadying, confident and calm. I am the raging storm in our relationship, the lightning and the random tornadoes and water spouts, when his exact and rational nature leads him to doubt himself or what he can achieve in a given situation, I am the creative force that cajoles and pushes him to step a bit into my rainbow world of so many more hues and shades than grey, black and white, and he is the one that when the storm threatens to break free and hurls me into its wildness and chaos is my standing stone. He is the first man that I have ever dated that shuts me down when I need to be shut down, lets me rage when it is best for me to rage, knows when I need his arms around me and knows when to let me walk away just a little bit to be me in the world.

Plus he is French, sexy, a gold metal Olympiad in the boudoir and well...he does arms reduction policy for the United Nations. Brilliant and saves the world from itself every day. Basically a walking aphrodisiac.  One day, when I write my tell all memoir, there will be at least one chapter in there about my French Diplomat when he sets the UN Declaration aside and takes off his suit and tie. Our children won't be allowed to read that chapter until they are in their late 40s. And the full color illustrations with bonus DVD will be missing from their copies.

And so I started dating this amazing human being and then a few weeks later, the Undersecretary General of the United Nations asked him to return to Togo, where he previously held a post for two years as Deputy Director of the Centre that is responsible for UN arms reduction work across the continent as the Interim Director of the Centre. When he called to tell me, I had just received my first hate mail in response to my writing, had just received some tough news at work, and was having some tough side effects from my meds. The news that he would be leaving three weeks from that day for two months in West Africa was exactly the last news that I wanted to hear. So, even though I wanted to kick and scream and throw a temper tantrum, and before the tears could escape my eyeballs, at which point if I try to talk I sound like a tranny Muppet on helium with a bad case of gonorrhea of the throat, I told him that it was out of the question for him not to take this opportunity and then I hung up the phone. As the day of his departure got closer, I began telling myself and him that it would be no problem, two months would be easy peasy, that I would miss him, but we would talk every day and thanks to Skype I would be able to see him and then he would be back home with me.

All that is great except for a few things: 1) Going from spending part of most of your days with the man you love and then have him leave and be absolutely unreachable for two months is not just tough it's locking a big girl that is trying desperately to lose weight in a room full of thin mints and putting them in a bullet proof glass box and making her stare at it while eating saltines. Every. Single. Day.  Now for those wild and crazy UN folks that are used to spending months on end away from their partners and spouses, they have the skill set and experience to handle the absence. I had Pinot Grigio. Tasty but it was the saltine to my thin mint. Unfortunately, the storm started raging and the gremlins showed up riding a cadre of Jabberwocky's, and it took me several weeks and some difficult moments to realize that Nico isn't my Dad, he is going to come back when he says he is going to come back, and that just because he isn't physically present he isn't absent. Can you say Daddy and Abandonment issues? (Did I mention I am starting therapy this week?).

2) It hasn't been easy peasy but I think it has been very good for us. I am now very clear about why I want to be with Nico and what value he adds to my life. It isn't a relationship of convenience or proximity (clearly not proximity), and it has demonstrated that we can get through hard moments together. Now most couples have a honeymoon period of six months before they really have to dig into the baggage...we had to start unpacking right after buying a lovely matching set of Samsonite. Didn't get to break it in even. And lemme tell you, if you can worth through some shit when you are 6,000 miles apart and can only interact through Skype, then that is something real.

3) Speaking of Skype....Togolese Internet fucking sucks. That's all I have to say about that.

In the end, Nico's pragmatism and my optimism seem to have formed an unholy union that, against the odds, is beautiful. I would not have chosen to start out our relationship with an immediate two month absence, but the Universe has a nasty habit of not going along with my plans.

I have not by any means dealt with these hard moments well at all times. There have been times when I let the gremlins run the show. There have been times when I should have realized that putting on a Sambo face and doing the shuck and jive only to lose it much more spectacularly later is counterproductive. This Summer has taught me that you can still be strong AND let folks know that you are going to need to lean on them and that if you pretend that all is well that they have full permission to respond with "Girl, please."

Caveat to that statement: There are times that folks have offered me fierce support that I needed whether I really wanted it or not at the moment, and I have appreciated that.There has been more than one loved one in my life come to me and call bullshit and have done so in a way that was both direct but also about growth and building.  Having said that, I have also had folks that don't know me but think that they do try to come at me and do it like they are Jesus himself. You come at me like you are Jesus, and there is a crucifixion on the horizon. I am all about accountability, though the Lord knows that its never fun when it comes around, but also if you aren't living my life but you think you can sit in judgment of it, and you haven't done the work to speak to me, then you need to take a look at some things about yourself. As someone wise told me once upon a time, ifin' you have a problem with me, you bring it to me with respect, if you don't, then it's not really my problem. I don't throw stones because I know my house is made out of glass. I built that mother and I have the nicks and cuts to prove it. You can keep your shaming, I have quite enough of my own. But if you show up with love and respect, then you will have my full attention. In this world, one of the ways folks love to exorcise and offload their own hurt is to focus on someone elses, I know, I've done it. But I have also survived it and I won't tolerate it from anyone ever again.

There have been some really amazing moments this Summer: Fire Island Black Out with my girls, time with Nico, invitations to speak at several universities this Fall, my work being turned into parts of two plays, one in West Virginia that premiers on World AIDS Day and another by a storyteller from the Midlands in Great Britain.  There have been some really tough moments that still need some resolution

The summer is not over and there is plenty of more work to do. I am grateful for all that has taken place. This Summer has been about learning to hurt without taking on the mantle of victim, to fight as a warrior and not a soldier, to cry without thinking you are weak, to fuck up and take it for what it is and not validation of gremlinspeak, to appreciate the truly tremendous community that I have, and to know that despite what I've inherited, despite what I had no choice but to suffer and accept as a child, that I am not a child any longer, the people and things and situations that hurt me then do not have the same power over me now unless I let them. Then I couldn't choose. I can choose now. I am choosing. I am 35, and it's time to continue growing up--and accepting the love that I also deserve and sharing it back out.

Thank God we never stop growing up.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The 2012 Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry

The 2012 Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry

Dear Friends:

I am happy to announce the call for submissions for the third year of the Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry.

The Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry will be awarded to a poet that demonstrates the power of spoken word to address issues of class, sexuality and race in a way that transcends rhetoric and creates movement.

The winner will receive $150, and the winning poem will be published at My Feet Only Walk Forward ( Two honorable mentions will also be named.

The winner of the 2010 Carey Prize was Saymoukda Vongsay and the winner of the 2011 Carey Prize was Roberto Santiago. Both Roberto and Mouks have agreed to serve as additional judges for this year's prize.

I welcome other donations in support of the prize. If donations come in that exceed the prize total, I will increase the prize amount. There are very very very few prizes that support the work of spoken word artists, and I hope you will consider making a contribution. Donations can be made at the address provided below. Please make checks payable to David Berube (this is so that ya'll don't think I am trying to keep the moola for myself!).

About the Prize:

Alfred C. Carey was a hard working man from Northern Minnesota. He worked in construction, specifically roofing, while raising a family of 8, including three children not biologically his own. He represented a series of beautiful and sometimes hard contradictions in race, class, and history. He also, without a vocabulary around race and sexuality, accepted all of his children and grandchildren for who they were without judgment. This award is named in the honor of my grandfather who died in 1997.


You may submit up to three poems no longer than a combined total of six pages double spaced.

You may also submit audio recordings in CD format. The recordings should not exceed 9 minutes in length.

Along with your submission please include a cover page that states your: Name, Address, Telephone Number, Email Address, Website Address, and a brief biography of no more than 6 sentences.


Please send THREE copies of each entry.

Authors retain all copyright to their works, and if you would like samples returned, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Make submissions to:

Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry
c/o Brandon Lacy Campos
462 W. 52nd Street #3N
New York, NY 10019