Stop Watching

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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
Watch
Definition:
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
Transfixed
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
Easygoing
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.

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In Memory of Barbara

Today, I’d like you to remember one name: Barbara Marable.

barb

She was born in 1937. Growing up she loved sewing, dancing and soap operas. More than anything else, she always loved helping others through a kind word or home-cooked meal. In 2007, she started showing the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a form of dementia whose symptoms include loss of speech, loss of mobility and loss of memory. As the disease progresses, even the simplest tasks become impossible. Needless to say, it became harder and harder for Barbara to do all those things she loved. And after seven years, on January 10th, 2014, my grandmother passed away.

Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to affect 1 out of 85 people by the year 2057 and there currently is no cure. But hopefully we can change that.

I’ve started a  gofundmepage, whose link will be listed at the bottom. Every donation you make, will go to straight to alz.org, a non-profit company committed to Alzheimer’s research and prevention. And you won’t leave empty-handed. Barbara always believed that if you couldn’t do something extraordinary, than do ordinary things extraordinarily. So while I can barely sew a button and my dancing is pretty terrifying to watch, I can offer gifts of writing and acting to donors. Depending on the size of your donation, you may get a sonnet, one act play, full reenactment of your favorite movie scene or I may write and perform a play in your town. All the details are at the link at the bottom, so feel free to check it out.

I’ll keep the page open until the modest $37,000 goal is reached or until November, Alzheimer’s awareness month. If you can’t donate, that’s completely fine. But if you could, please pass this link along to friends, family, coworkers or that random facebook friend you don’t really know. Because awareness is just as important.

Whether you are a new or old reader for this blog, thanks for taking a couple of minutes to read this. And whether it be through a donation or through sharing this video, I am incredibly grateful for your actions today. This all started to honor the memory of the unforgettable Barbara. Here’s hoping that it ends with Alzheimer’s disease as nothing more than a bad memory.

If you would like to make a donation, you can go to http://www.gofundme.com/Andrew4BarbaraM.

Outstretched Hands for Ferguson

protests

The Ferguson protests are not about one person.

Michael Brown was a young man with a lot of promise. His death is tragic and my heart goes out to his affected family and friends. Michael was gone far too early.

But now with news flooding in every day about protests, arrests and even the arrival of national guard, is clear that the shooting on August 9th has transcended one person. Everything that you’ll see happening in Ferguson is not about Brown-

It’s about the next young black person.

This is far from an irrational worry. You don’t need to look far to see past evidence of incidents just like what happened in Ferguson. Trayvon Martin was two years ago, and the confusion and tragedy still ring fresh in our minds. And this is not to mention years and years of injustice suffered during and before last century’s civil rights movement. If you believe the adage that “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”, than America is doomed into a cycle where a large number of its citizens fear that they will not get the same justice as everyone else.

Let’s put this another way:

Imagine there was only one car dealership in America. Let’s call this dealership “USAOA”. You go to this dealership when you are young. The salesman promises you a great car. You will always be safe in this car. It will go just as far up the highway as anyone else’s. And most importantly, this car will be seen just as important and valued as anyone else’s. You buy the car.

As you grow up, you see incidents. They may happen right in front of you or to others you know. Other people’s cars are going faster. They are traveling further than yours is able to. And they seem to have special pathways open to them. You would complain, but there is a no return policy. The car you have is the one you keep for life.

Then one day, it is time to get a car for your own child. You go there knowing that you may not get a fair deal, but at least they’ll be safe. Then you hear that Sybrina’s Fulton’s child passed away in a car accident. The accident wasn’t caused by a faulty car part or a drunk driver. It just happened. At the end of the day, some justice was served-but not nearly enough to replace what was lost. You stand at the dealership, your child’s hand in yours. Sybrina’s case is not unique. In fact there are hundreds, thousands of examples of this same thing happening. If you buy that car, will your child be safe?

This is the question that many African-American men and women are forced to think about every time a news report like Ferguson gets out. And yes, anger is a part of it. It’s not hard to imagine why. But again, the bigger emotion here is fear. Fear that their child will be the next face plastered on boards as a reminder that sometimes in America, your life may depend on the color of your skin.

Of course, most people understand all of the above. And hell, anyone may have experienced this even if they aren’t black because of their sexual orientation, gender, weight, ethnicity, religion and many, many, many more invisible lines drawn in America’s sands. What some people don’t understand is why Ferguson is full of protesters, ready to fight if necessary to be heard. And that’s quite simple too.

The media won’t speak for them.

Oh yes, the media does often highlight African-Americans in a positive light. Seriously! We hear every development about Beyonce and Jay-Z’s relationship. We know right away what Will Smith’s next movie will be like. And even if you didn’t know anything about Lebron James, his move from one state to another dominated sports coverage for at least a week. These men and women have done great things that inspire and encourage us their community to shoot for their own dreams. But at the same time, these are rare cases, statistically at least. The media needs to highlight these people so that the 99 percent who never get that far in a system stacked against them think, “Maybe I can get there too.”

The above is by no means unique to the African-American community. Turn on the E channel for a minute. There’s now even a luxury channel devoted to rich people showing off their rich things. It’s insane! (Unless one of them has a batmobile. Then I’ll tune in). The media is fantastic at balancing tragedy with distraction. And sure, they’ll cover stories of social injustice like Occupy Wall Street or Casey Anthony or Ferguson…until the rage dies down. Until the outrage becomes another moment of quiet acceptance. A cautionary tale, but never a constant reality.

This is why the people in Ferguson are hefting up their arms in protest. They know they take the action to put their arms down, it may be mistaken as acceptance. An acceptance that this is the way that this country will operate, that this can happen again with the same result. This is something that the protestors will not accept.

No matter what race, religion, gender and many other types of identity that you have chosen to be, there is one universal truth here: You do not have to agree with the “raised arm protests” or the exact words that the protestors in Ferguson use. But please understand why this is so important. Why this story can’t be simply cycled out of public consciousness after the sentencing. Why this story is about race.

The Ferguson protests are not about one person.

The raised arms you see are people trying to shield their children from the next bullet.