In the latest of a series of gun related incidents, a man shot a reporter, photographer and witness, killing two of them before turning the gun on himself. I followed the story closely all day from my office as the tragic details emerged. But as the details came in, so did posts like these:

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That got responses like this

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People were outraged to see a debate about gun violence so close to the incident. And their rage is completely understandable.

I want you to imagine that you’re in middle school. The resident bully sets up an elaborate prank wherein you are drenched with spoiled milk in front of your crush.  In the moments following this series of events, people start yelling about how bad bullying is, what a waste of milk that was and how this is a sign of the broken American school system. Now I ask you, do you care more about those arguments or the fact that you’ve lost your crush forever?

Look at it from this angle as well. People in the cafeteria are emotional, screaming and yelling at each other. When they’re calmed down by the aide, their feelings of rage go away-along with the energy to protest. Even worse, maybe their opinions, as well formed as they are, are invalidated as emotional ramblings. Maybe if they had waited until they were outside of the cafeteria, more people wouldn’t be in danger of rotten milk-but we can’t know for sure. Unfortunately, we deal with much bigger things than that every day.
When people use tragedies to support their causes so close to a horrible event, it can ignite others to take a stand as well. And that is important. But even more important are the lives of those directly affected. The families of the shooting victims need support the day of, not through angry tweets and yelling, but  with kindness and dignity.

Give them time to grieve.

Yes, gun violence, race issues, mental health are all topics that need to be discussed. Let us do that-after the memorial service. Maybe you’ll argue that no one will care if we wait long after a specific incident.  If that’s true, then you must take it upon yourself to remind people when they begin to forget. That’s why there’s #blacklivesmatter, #itgetsbetter, #heforshe. Not just for one singular tragedy. But to to raise awareness. To show we are fighting a long battle that we won’t win right away. To remember.

But we can do that all very soon. Right now, send your love and good feelings to the families and everyone at #WDJB. Because right now isn’t about mental illness, racial issues or gun violence.

It’s about healing.

It’s about community.
It’s about grief.


Carson’s Answer About Race: Big Applause for a Small Answer


At the beginning, I was enjoying the circus that was the Republican debate last night. But as the jabs at Hillary and uncomfortable comments about women’s rights to their bodies mounted up, it became less funny by the minute. All of a sudden, a question about the #blacklivesmatter movement was asked and it got…one answer. Then straight to commercial. And that commercial? A Straight Outta Compton trailer. I thought that this was the most angry I’d get last night.

I was wrong.

Later on in the debate, Ben Carson was asked what he would do to help the racial divide in the country. (yes, they asked the black candidate about this issue, a whole other thing in itself). Ben’s answer specifically to what he would do was:
“The skin…The hair doesn’t make them who they are. And it’s time for us to move beyond that. Our strength comes from our unity. We are the United States of America, not the divided states. Those who want to destroy us are trying to divide us, and we shouldn’t let them do it.”

Now, on the surface this sounds like a well-constructed and great message. Carson points out that we should evaluate people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We can succeed if we unify ourselves and become one. And we shouldn’t let people divide us by racial lines. It all sounds nice, but as Jon Stewart said in his closing monologue (Daily show!), you’ve gotta pay attention to the bullshit.

The speech that Ben Carson gave not only avoided the question completely by being so hopelessly general, but is essentially a remix of the I Have A Dream speech. Carson wants us to look inside and overcome! This is a nice sentiment, but the fact is, we need a much more substantial answer than that. At least Scott Walker, when given less than a minute to answer the #blacklivesmatter question, mentioned specifically that police officers should be better trained for these crises. Ben Carson’s answer didn’t contain any concrete answers. This is not to take anything from Dr. King’s powerful and moving messages years ago. His words were exactly what we needed for the time, and King clearly backed that up with non-violent protests. Carson’s response are nothing more than words, air that is sure to dissapate if he ever achieved the high office.

It’s sad, because to some point, I agree with Carson. I want a nation where we look beyond skin, hair, gender, sexuality, ability and all other lines that divide us to unite us all. However, when Carson makes statements like, “I don’t talk about race because I’m a neurologist”, I lose all hope that he actually has a plan to get to the vision of that nation. I’m no stranger to politicians not living up to their promises. Every politician makes at least one promise they can’t keep. But when a black man does not have a solid answer for a problem in the black community that has become so prevalent in the last few years-I’m disappointed, to say the least.

The debate last night showed me a side of the political spectrum that I’m used to putting aside simply because I don’t like to listen. But last night showed me that I should start. Yes, it’s likely at this point that we’ll have a Democratic house in 2016. On paper, both parties still have a 50/50 shot at power. We can hope for Bernie Sanders and other independents, but history has shown that they are usually distractions for the main candidates. As both the Republicans and Democrats still have a strong chance for office, I can’t ignore the statements they made about race last night.

“#blacklives matter for less than two minutes of the debate. Let’s direct the question to the black candidate to put the pressure on him to deliver. Smile as he says nice words with no substance.

Now let’s make fun of Hillary Clinton again.” -Fox News.

What Do I say to my niece?


A Loss In Words

What do I say to my niece?
This endless violence won’t cease.
My only hope that it will decrease
Before I am deceased.
At night I’m supposed to sleep
But I can only weep
Over the lives that could not keep
The souls that death chose to reap
Do I tell her that this all about race
That the color of face
Determines her place
In society’s good grace.
No tv tells me that’s not true
This violence can happen to me or you
Yet the only deaths in my view
Leave a distinctly colored residue
I don’t want another excuse!
It’s past time to introduce
The definitive way to reduce
This pattern of abuse.
You want help? I’ll be the first to volunteer
Just don’t be insincere
Or even worse, disappear
From our quest due to fear.
It’s gonna take all of us to make this change
Though at first it may be strange
Great ideas we will exchange
Monumental plans we will arrange.
We will succeed because our goals are right
And it all won’t happen overnight
But you tend to have to fight
To remove a society’s blight.
Every night I dream of this peace
For the bloody news to cease
Giving me an increase
In good news for my niece.

You can’t sit with us! Thoughts on Rachel Dolezal


In order to talk about the Rachel Dolezal story, I’m going to put a few things aside right at the beginning. I’m not going to make this an article about being “transracial” (whatever that is) or make any comparisons to Caitlin Jenner’s situation. I’m just going to get to the bottom of why this is such a big issue in the first place. because, in reality, despite expert analysis and feedback, it’s all very simple.

Let’s pretend that you formed a group with friends at school. The group started because you have this similarity: you each have heterochromia in your eyes, meaning that none of you have the same eye color for both eyes. For example, Jill has a blue eye and brown eye, and your friend James Bond (the name is quite common) has a green eye and a hazel eye. Not everyone with heterochromia sits with your group at lunch every day, but a lot of them stick together. You like a lot of the same movies, a lot of the same artists and hang out in a lot of the similar place. One day, one member of your group, who we will call, “Rach” is eating her pudding when something flies out of her eye.


This entire time she was eating with your group and advocating for its awareness, she was lying-both her eyes are baby blue. They are quite nice eyes now that you see them…but that’s beyond the point. Rach has been lying to you for months. She pretended to be something she wasn’t. Now we wonder, what else was “Rach” lying about?

Trust is what this whole national issue is about. That’s what we should be upset about most in this story. So why do most arguments center around Rachel’s “pretending to be black”? It comes down to appropriation vs. assimilation.

When you arrive in a new environment, work environment, school environment, etc., you are likely to pick up certain work habits. For example, if everyone starts using the word “ZANTHEPE” to refer to an unruly customer, you’ll probably start saying it or at least start thinking about it. As time goes on, you may consciously pick up certain work habits while consciously rejecting all others. This is the process of assimilation into the new culture. You do it actively and passively so that you can survive and thrive in the company. By contrast, let’s say your roommate that works at Burger King starts using your work lingo and slang. One day, they come to the company Kwanzaa party and talk and act as if they worked there and had their experiences. This is seen as appropriation, because this person is pretending to be a part of the culture without having a direct connection.

This is an important distinction that is often missed. Any person of color in America that has been accused of “acting/talking white” knows this. Because they have chosen to take aspects of other cultures in the diverse American melting pot into themselves, they are seen as outsiders in their own respective cultures. Yes, there are some people who take it a bit too far but the large majority are just living the way they want to. There is nothing wrong for a person who does not identify as black to wait for the newest Kendrick Lamar mixtape to drop. In fact, they just have a great taste in music.

Crossing cultural lines and divides is a beautiful thing that we get to do in America. Unfortunately, that decision is not always supported by culture you were born into. That’s why some people are willing to go to extremes to avoid the transition. If you just take on the new culture wholesale by putting in those contacts or changing your skin color, you get to skip all those questioning looks from your culture that say, “Why are going over to that lunch table? You already have us.” It doesn’t make it right. You should be who you want to be despite judgments and criticism. But we all know that the world is not that kind and accepting…yet.

Rachel, you went about this the wrong way. Instead of embracing your identity and black culture simultaneously, you sacrificed one for the other. That lie you held for so long is going to take a while for us to get over. You’re not a bad person…we think. You did all of this because of your love of black culture…we think. You didn’t mean to make light of the culture by appropriating a false identity…we think.
You know…it’s hard to say.

We’ve never met you, Rachel.

Stop Watching


Over the past week, everyone’s given their opinion about Caitlin Jenner. I’ve heard every opinion under the sun, from informed to ignorant and everything in between. I’m willing to listen to any take on it, but there’s one viewpoint that kept coming up:

Why is this the top news story over everything else? The answer is simple. Keeping up with the Kardashians has an average of a million viewers at its height. A news outlet would miss a huge opportunity for ratings by not talking about Caitlin. Our news, movies and tv are all a product of what we watch and respond to. Even House of Cards exists from pulling together the most viewed shows on Netflix and putting them together. If you want to affect society, you have to be mindful of what you choose to watch.

Or better yet, take action.

Though a bit of a long intro, it all segues to an older poem of mine. Enjoy :).

The Watchman
To act as a spectator
Or to Look on…
5 days.
I am sitting at the bar
A boy with glasses
And no idea how to flirt
Enters with a calzone and a hope
To attract the skinny girl
Bobbing her head to the music.
It doesn’t work.
Laughter ensues from the bar
Like a chorus of hyenas
Drunk hyenas
Who just can’t stop laughing
4 days.
I’m in a subway train car
With no AC
On an 100 degree day
A man
Who has not bathed
Since Obama was elected
Walks through the tight space
Begging for change.
In this sauna of city slickers slipping silently through the subway
Every hand remains frozen
No change today.
3 days.
A stoop in Brooklyn
Where brown paint cracks
On all the steps
A middle aged Spanish woman
Grips my young self lightly
As a gang of middle school students
Literally tear
Through the streets.
Bashing cars
Like they were piñatas
And their grand prize
Was destruction.
It’ll be another half hour
Before we can even go to the corner store.
2 days.
Smoke billows
In the sky
A neverending stream.
On an old grey couch
Made for 3
A family of five sits
On the day’s events
Rolling on the screen
A constant stream of fear
And Uncertainty
It is 2001
And I don’t believe
There’s anything else
On TV today.
1 day.
We were raised
To Watch
Not to see
When all that is needed
Is a warm word
Or a gentle touch.
Made to stare
But to never move.
Built to look past
Not to look at what’s present.
This world rewards watching
With a smile
And a lighter load on your back.
For you it is a simple life
And free
As a breeze on a spring day.
But I want to become a hurricane
Blowing gusts of change
And bearing loads heavier
Then wind was made to carry.
Because if there are no hurricanes
Then the smoke means nothing
But pain
A little boy stays stuck
On his grandmother’s stoop
A homeless man
Perpetually walks into
An uncaring hell
A boy with glasses
Knows no love
But laughter
And a countdown
Never reaches 0 days
Because 5 days
Was already too late.
The day
I become the hurricane
Is coming
I will embrace the storm
Instead of watching it go by.

Quitting Your Adult Job


At the end of April, I left my old job to pursue a career in theater. Despite that being my driving factor, it was a lot less dramatic than you may think. (see what I did there? :D)

The fact of the matter is, I was fairly comfortable where I was. There was steady pay, room for advancement and the people I worked with were fantastic. Sure I worked long hours during certain times of the year, and there were a few angry phone calls from customers now and then, but nothing unbearable. And that got to me.

Not the phone calls. Once you get enough of those, they all turn into the adult voice from the old Peanuts cartoons. It was the comfort. I wasn’t really taking many risks in my old position. This was partly because of NY State mandates, but even in places where I could take chances, I…wasn’t. It became harder to believe that I was the same person who auditioned for Richard III in college with no “formal” acting experience. Or that I was the same person who staged a relatively new play with primarily feminist themes. Was I even the same person who dared to go out on Cinco De Mayo before starting on my final paper for COMP 200? (A great story for another time) It didn’t feel like it.

I’m not saying that you should leave a position solely because you’ve had to change something about yourself. Every job will expect you to give them your time at the minimum, and make you change some habits. For example, if you’re a teacher you can expect to put a few less pictures of your nights out on facebook. Most people have no problem making that adjustment. But if you feel like the world needs your Saturday night instagram, than you have to seriously consider if teaching is still for you. At the end of the day, you can have all the money and stability in the world. But if you feel like your passion, the very thing you were put on this earth to do is being put aside, then you may always feel like there is something missing in your 9 to 5.

One of my favorite quotes as of late has been from Howard Thurman. He wrote, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I urge anyone reading this to follow that advice…with some reservations.

If your job is the only thing that can keep you financially afloat, then make a long-term plan. First off, chart out steps for saving money for a period where you might not be making anything. If you’re going back to school, consider part-time or online options while still at your current position. This gets you one step closer to doing what you want to do without having a lot of worry about employment. Of course, you can always take the risky option and leave without any prep, but know that you will have to spend some time getting stable before you do what left to do.

Quitting your position can be about job stress, a bad work environment or a bigger check. But I think the best reason to leave is do what truly makes you come alive. It’s not true what they say, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. You’re going to have to work at least one day in your life doing something you don’t love.

The question is: what will you do next?