Grandmother Rose and the Little Button

The latest release from Collective Cry Productions.

Grandmother Rose and the Little Button traces the final day of a beloved member of a village who longs to leave a gift to those who have given her life meaning. Rose lost both her unborn child and her husband. Now, facing her own passage, finds the power through the loss to bring a blessing to all who are experiencing loss.

In this film debut from writer Brigitte Manekin, Producer and Director Paulo Gregory brings this timeless story to life. Actress, dancer and storyteller Maria Broom (The Wire, Clara’s Heart) offers a captivating vocal and dance-like performance that literally draws the viewer in to a world that feels more like an internal soul experience than crafted storytelling.

Extraordinary cinematography from veteran Dennis Boni and Ryan Romkema, combine seamlessly with a stunning musical score from Polish-born, Principal Cellist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Dariusz Skoraczewski, and South African collaborators, Gito Baloi, Dave Reynolds, Chris Tokalon, help this film transport the audience to a place of deep contemplation of arguably the most significant moment in each of our lives.

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One in a Million – An Historic Moment with a True Evolutionary

I remember Mid-October, 1995 I was attending an African Heritage Retreat in Baltimore. The experience was more deep, and more powerful than I can express in these words. It was facilitated by Rev. Alvin Toussaint Herring and Sister Joyce Shabazz. Countless tears spilled from the eyes of the over 100 attendees, cleansing clear the days preceding the culmination of one of the most powerful experiences of my life. At the close of the retreat on October 16, there was a healing circle in which the women of the retreat blessed the men and their boys, to head from Baltimore to Washington, DC to attend the Million Man March.

It was a glorious day – sky, cobalt blue – with a few billowing clouds. It was a perfect day.

We arrived at Baltimore Penn Station early. The station was filled, wall-to-wall, with Black Men, waiting for trains to head to DC to join the march. I was there with my boy Grayson, Alvin was there with his boys Brandon and Ryan, along with the other men and boys from the retreat.

We watched board, anxiously awaiting the trains. The station has incredibly high ceilings, with walls of marble and arching stain glass which amplified the murmurs of the hundreds, now growing, in the space. The air was filled with the scent of earthy oils and masculinity. Each line of the announcement board would count down the minutes until the train was due to arrive. Then, the word “Delayed” or “Canceled” would appear next to it. This went on for what seemed to be hours, until the frustration of the room became palpable. Alvin looked at me with a look I now recognize from our subsequent work together. He told the boys to wait with me, and made his way through the crowd.

Now, Alvin stands about 6’4. His ample head, made for football, sits assuredly atop a body that has no problem backing it up. In the middle of the waiting area of the station stood stern, wooden, 5′-high benches whose backs joined on opposing sides forming a pedestal. Alvin, with the grace of a Kenyan athlete, bounded to the seat, then to the top of the benches positioned in the middle of the great room. He appeared, standing like a gladiator above the crowd, noting but the glowing ambiance of the light-filled marble and glass around and above him, and a carpet of dark brown men below. A hush fell over the thick room – the kind of silence that declares the anticipation of a great orator. Alvin pounded his fist into his mitt of a hand, bellowing with confidence, “We Want Trains!… We Want Trains!…” His voice echoed through the cavernous space. I felt my hand pound my own fist as our words, and a synchronized, driving rhythm, progressively amplified by every man and boy in the place, until the walls shook from the intensity of 400 years of waiting for the this underground railroad to reach its destination. Within minutes that rolled sanctified like dreamtime, the announcement board started flipping hysterically. A trembling voice announced that a train would be arriving in minutes.

And they did. One after another, as if a floodgate had been opened.
We, 500 Black Men, flowed like a mighty river down the stairs onto the platform. boarded the train cars, with peace and confidence. The train pulled away from the station, and rocked us gently as city turned to suburb, then to rolling space. Alvin once again stood up towards the front of the car. Every seat was filled with men clad in African garb, gleaming sweats, military fatigues, all silently dreaming of what was to come – except one. To Alvin’s left sat a White man, in a business suit, clearly not expecting the commuter experience he was experiencing today, clutching his briefcase as if it would save him. Alvin turned to face the full car. “Brothers, we need to talk!”, he began. The man, grabbing at his briefcase, began to shake with a look of terror in his eyes – as if this was his last moment on earth. Alvin turned to the man who slowly pressed himself into the corner of the seat, wishing he could disappear. Al said. “I know what you must be thinking right now.” The white-knuckled man’s tremors now visible to the entire car. He continued, “But you don’t have anything to worry about. We mean you no harm. We bring nothing but peace.” His shoulders dropped limp like a kid’s at the end of his first terrifying midway ride, realizing he’s gonna make it out live. “My Brothers, we have this rare moment together. We also have a lot we need to say to each other that we have been holding in for a long time. What are we here to do today?” The question resounded like the voice calling for an answer that released the trains. The conversation that ensued still echoes in the chambers of my heart. All words of hope, and love that shattered even my own stereotypes of what we as Black men are capable of.

My son, squirming with delight and excitement, kept raising his little hand as he was instructed to do at school, not realizing the complex etiquette of grown brothers throwing down in conversation. Finally, one brother, Panther black military baret spun backwards on his head, spoke up to break the flow of the voices. “Let the little brother speak!” pointing to Gray. Alvin lifted him to his feet on the seat of the train so that he could be seen by all in the car.

His small voice confidently pushed out the words. “I think we need to make sure everyone has enough money.” The car erupted into sweet, affirming laughter, hoots, and Amens, as the conversation shifted to economic development in the community. I still feel the confidence of that moment in Grayson’s, now 24-year-old voice as he brings his powerful intelligence to any conversation.

The day was magnificent. One Million Brothers, standing in solidarity, to a vision we still dream of today. Sisters flanking us on the bordering streets – cheering us on as we moved aside to let each other pass. We helped the elders find a space they could be comfortable, we handed out water to each other, we put our hands on each other’s shoulders as if to remind ourselves that we were family. We were our best that day, as a foreshadowing of what are and what we can be. Due to the work of folk like Alvin, we inch closer to that vision with each breath.

I remember, as I stood near the front of the crowd by the steps of the capital with my son, then, a boy of 8 years old, perched on my shoulders. He looked out over the sea of men, sun gleaming off of our moist, dark skin, and said, “Poppy, it looks like a million stars.” He was right. We are stars, caked with the dust of years of oppression. But that day, thanks to Alvin, and Grayson, I saw a powerful vision of the future, with the velocity to propel us to manifest our true brilliance.

The time has come!

Letter to a New Year and a New Day

Many of us write those letters at the year’s end that tell our peeps the goings on of the last 365. I was never much of a letter writer. This year I have something to share. It’s a letter, not from me, but from one of the most inspiring individuals I have ever had the pleasure to share time with.

In his 1963 letter from a Birmingham Jail, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us to be “…cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states.” He continues, “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

We too can not sit idly by in Baltimore, or Washington, or San Francisco, or New York, or Little Rock, when innocent people carry the weight of our supposed freedom from the cells that shelter the shame of our privilege. It is with this claim of my own weight of responsibility that I bring you Marshall “Eddie” Conway’s plea for support and restitution. May this be the one that sets him free to live the remainder of his life in the community in which he belongs.

Via Dominique Stevenson 

December 28, 2011
From a Prison in Jessup Maryland

 

Revolutionary Greetings, to all my family, friends, and supporters. The last few months have been a very busy time for me. I am very happy to report that some progress has been made in several areas. The best news to date is the progress with my parole situation. Since my last update letter, my lawyer filed a request for a parole hearing for me. I had the hearing on November 30, 2011. I met with two commissioners and they decided to advance my case to the next level of the parole process for persons with life sentences. That level requires a psychological evaluation, which means that sometime in the near future I will be transferred to another institution for a three month evaluation. This whole process is called a Risk Assessment, and once this level is completed the case goes before the full body of the parole commission. There are ten commissioners and a majority vote is required before the case can be sent to the governor who has the final right to approve or deny.

Thanks to all of you who wrote support letters or sent cards. One of the key reasons for moving my case forward was the enormous amount of community support reflected by those letters and cards. You all really helped, thank you once again. For those who did not know that this process was underway, it happened fast, but there is still time for you to write. The case will go before the full commission and the members will once again read the letters of support. So please continue to send letters requesting parole to:

Mr. David Bloomberg
6776 Reisterstown Rd.
Baltimore, MD. 21215

My lawyer, Phillip Dantes and his legal team has committed to filing my case in court by the end of this year 2011. As of this writing, that schedule is still being honored. We are looking forward to being in court sometime in 2012. Once we have a date, I will make you all aware via facebook and an update letter. We will be organizing a fundraiser in the spring to help with legal and court costs.

Since my last letter I have had the opportunity to speak at a number of events. I spoke with students and activist at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of California at Riverside, and Students Against Mass Incarceration at Howard University. I also spoke at several community events and book readings of Marshall Law The Life and Times of a Baltimore Panther: the Urban Network in Detroit, MI., Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., and readings in Chicago, Ill., and in Baltimore, MD. Some of these events also included large groups form Occupy Riverside, CA. and Occupy Chicago, plus students from University of North Carolina. In October I participated in a conference of community leaders and activists like Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle organized by Dylan Rodriguez with the American Studies Association; their annual meeting was held in Baltimore. I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with National Black United Front members who visited me and offered some encouragement for the survival of our community.

The work we are doing with the Friend of a Friend (FOF) mentoring organization is going very well. The organization has developed so many positive community leaders and mentors that I can no longer keep up with all the new people around the system and out in the community; that is a good thing and I am happy with both the group’s growth and direction. The (FOF) prison project is expanding into another prison- with one more wanting the program; it is currently in five Maryland prisons.

I will never be able to thank the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for taking on this task and helping us save hundreds of lives and put many positive activists back into the community. We are now organizing our families outside with the support of a local church, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and Pastor Heber Brown. Members of a Friend of a Friend are working with a local school to help provide guidance to youth; they are starting a Freedom School in 2012, and are also speaking at colleges in the region.

Our Neutral Grounds project has opened up a snack and beverage stand to demonstrate our concept of “Do for Self”. Since unemployment is highest among people of African descent and even higher among former prisoners we have to think of ways to employ ourselves, and create our own economic opportunity. My family is okay in general. However, I recently lost a brother-in-law; he was married to my sister for thirty-nine years. Many of the family are planning a large holiday dinner and I plan to call in to the gathering. I am still struggling with high blood pressure, but I am exercising and trying to eat right, but prison food only allows so much right eating.

One thing I wish I could do better is write everyone as soon as the mail comes in, it’s just not possible, but I greatly appreciate every letter – thank you all. I am looking forward to the coming year, and hope to see positive changes in the world. 2012 is an important year for our community and as the economic picture continues to change and capitalism collapses, food and basic needs will be in greater demand for the most vulnerable people in our communities. We need to learn and teach everyone how to grow our own food in local city gardens, and meet our needs collectively. Block by block – help rebuild the community- grew something to eat!

In Struggle,

Eddie Conway

Peace and Blessings to you this New Year, and let us all make this a new day for freedom across the globe, as we begin here at home.

Paulo

Foreseasonal Experiences

You know that crisp, cool day, just before the heat of summer yields its scorching temperatures, that seems to come out of nowhere to remind us that fall is around the corner. There is at least one of these “foreseasonal” days towards the end of each season. It’s like the universe’s way of giving us a heads up that something new is coming.

I realized a couple decades ago that this gift of the universe is not exclusive to seasons. For every significant experience in my life, there have been similar moments of peering forward that let me know where I was headed. I remember riding up the elevator of The Baltimore Sun ~ I’m not sure if it was a particular smell, or the way the light was reflecting off of the stainless trim on the elevator door, but I do know that in that moment I heard an internal voice say, “I will be working here sometime soon.” Sure enough, within a few months I was. I am guessing that I am not the only one with these semi-psychic experiences. I am also assuming that this phenomenon is not reserved for individuals, but can be more generalized.

I was at the wedding of two community changers in Baltimore recently. I am only semi-sentimental. Well, that is a semi-lie. But I certainly don’t cry when there is nothing but the architecture of ceremony to evoke emotion. This was different. Really different. It was a perfect day. Billowing white clouds. The temperature was warm enough to hold you, with a breeze that kissed you cool just when you needed to feel it. The setting was an absurdly enchanting place ~ The Cloisters. It looked like a full scale gingerbread castle, with a glistening slab mica schist roof ~ impossibly heavy, and absolutely eatable. Flowers abounded, bursting out of the earth like I remember from my childhood visit to Hawaii. And the people were as radiant and multicolored as the flora. It was as if the gods said that it was ok for babylon to fall, just for this moment, to remind us of what we can be.

The children ran carefree, with flowing dresses and little suits, allowing all the adults to care for them as if they were their dearest aunts and uncles. As the African Drums announced the procession, time stopped to watch. The drummers were dark, beautiful and strong. A stilted glowing white bird emerged from the castle reaching six feet above the heads of the procession. Then came the fathers with their daughters perched upon their shoulders, both adorned with huge flowered robes that flowed to the ground. The girls distributed paper cranes, flower pedals, and rainbowed bubbles throughout the gathering. Feathered girls and tassle-capped boys followed ~ faces shining with the spectacle.

The procession opened. A sound emerged that pulled open my heart to its breaking point as it moved through my soul. Radant Sisters, adorned in Gomesi and other traditional garb, hands opened to the heavens, moved and sang in harmonic waves as though our lives depended upon their song. Everyone, to the smallest baby was as still as a tree.

When the song fell silent, Mark and Rebecca emerged, holding hands, joining their many worlds together. A Black, revolutionary healer, with a White, Jewish, creative, facing each other under a flowing chuppah held by witnesses honoring the four corners of the globe. They spoke intimate truth to each other and to us. They laughed and cried as we echoed the emotional honesty. In that foreseasonal moment, the world was in peace.

We all knew it ~
and the tears flowed free throughout the cloistered garden.

It does not matter that the summer’s heat has returned. Nor is it important that the divisions that set us apart in this post babylonian age, continue to tear at the fabric of humanity. I know, that this moment was a remembering forward, that we as humans will find a way to hear the song the Sisters sing again, and that we will learn their ways and weave the torn pieces of beautiful and tattered fabric together into a quilted tapestry that will cover, protect and adorn us all.

The Human Club Card

Weening myself from four wheels to two has been transformative in so many ways. But the most significant shifts were totally unexpected. When I got on my motorcycle I began to notice that the world treated me a bit differently. First, I noticed that just being on a bike entered you into the exclusive club of bikers. As a Black man, I grew up with warnings of danger regarding the marauding packs of leather- and denim-clad bike gangs, flying the colors of the Hells Angels and other endearing nomenclature, riding threateningly down Route 73 on which we lived. You can imagine my surprise as folk looking the same way began to extend a low, left-handed wave as we passed each other. Equally surprising were the cops. Having experienced my share of DWBs (driving while black), one resulting in being handcuffed for hours outside of Cleveland, surrounded by 6 squad cars, I had developed an enemy view of blue. Upon mounting the iron horse, traffic cops were stopping oncoming cars to assist me getting across intersections, they would gesture me to proceed ahead of them as we faced off at a light. They would walk up and start conversations, asking jokingly if they could take  my bike for a spin. These club card benefits were well more than I had bargained for.

The other shift was from just plain folk whom I didn’t know, seeing me carrying my helmet, would start a conversation about riding. Most of these people didn’t even ride. And as the conversation would come to an end, they would inevitably say, “Be safe out there”, with the sweetness of a family member. Who knew? Somehow, being close to death called folks to be kind ~ even if the danger was chosen.

Saturday, my bike broke down on the side of the highway. I was sitting there for hours waiting for a tow truck. While I was on the phone, an off-duty cop pulled over and got out of his truck and asked me if there was anything he could do to help. He followed his offer with “I’m a rider.” Shortly after that, a wiry white dude, totally covered in fading skull, snake, and pin-up girl tattoos got out of his 4-by and said he would go back home and get his pick-up and take me home.  He followed his kindness with, “I’m a rider.” It is amazing to me that it is this easy to create a bridge between cultures that have been assigned diametric opposition in our social construct.

It is all about employing a very thin point of association. What if, instead of two wheels serving as the catalyst, we simply use being human as the connecting point that we all share. What if we all gave that nod of acknowledgement every time we passed a human. What if we, seeing a human on the side of the road, automatically stopped to offer our help, just cause they belonged to the human club. What if we told everyone we met to “be safe out there” as we acknowledged just how close to death and vulnerable we all are. Let’s just create a Human Club Card, give it to everyone, and act like we care ~ just for the hell of it. And when the recipient of our kindness gives that quizzical look of disbelief, we simply say, “I’m a human.”

Disturbing The Peace

I have kids ~ I also love kids, they remind me to be hopeful. It also pains me to no end that the world we are giving to the next generations is operating in support of so few, and ecologically deteriorating at a rate that makes me worry about my own elderlife, no less the future for those to come.

There is a better way. But we have to build an imagination that shifts the direction of this hopeless trajectory we are on. We must collectively visualize and believe that things can change ~ we must see that change in order for it to manifest. Let us call this future PEACE. Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” This is the formula for the shift.

It is really that simple.

I was sitting with Susan Hailman, the person whom I hold up as the example of integrity when ever the opportunity presents itself ~ which is quite often. We were discussing the absence of limits of greed that is the hallmark of this time in which we live. It is embarrassing to be a human. Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu, also had another answer over 2600 years ago. Lao-Tzu offered, “He who knows he has enough is rich.” Susan said, we need to introduce the understanding of ENOUGH! She’s right. I am sure you will hear more from her on this, so definitely stay tuned.

As an idealist, I have come to believe that change, even massive change, at the level of what we speak here, is possible. I also believe, as is evident from the title of this blog, that each of us holds the power to move the entire planet. We rarely exercise this power, so things move in the direction of the prevailing trajectory ~ social and environmental decay. It is time to trouble these troubled waters. So what can we do to shift this reality? We need to make the change ourselves ~ with every ounce of integrity we have. The change is mostly within our imaginations. As the prophetesses En Vogue once said, “Free your mind and the rest will follow!” Here are the three ingredients to beginning this work.

First we must create in our imaginations a compelling vision of peace. To me, peace is the state of actualizing our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone is OK. As I was writing this, I observed a Black woman in the coffee shop who was struggling to attempt to carry two large drinks from the counter to her table while trying to juggle her clutch purse at the same time. She had to leave one of the drinks. Without a word, a Asian sister who clearly didn’t know the woman, picked up the other cup and followed her to the table, delivered the left item, then simply walked away. That is my vision of peace. Yeah, that was just a coffee cup. But the message behind the act is the transformative genius. “I will be your hands.” The fact that these two individuals were demographically different drives home the point that race and other forms of perceived difference is simply a myth that masks the truth that we belong to eachother. Imagine if this way of being spread across the planet with the same compelling power as capitalism.

The two other ideas that need to be engaged are those spoken by Jimi and Lao-Tzu. We must raise our level of loving above our need to fill the emptiness we feel. What I mean by love is our knowledge that we are not individual beings, but cells comprising the same organism ~ earth. Would a body try to accumulate all of the blood for only its head? We must also learn to operate in a state of enough. Enough is about balance. It means we can actualize our potential ~ both as individuals, and collectively. Over-consumption is a sign of insecurity. What are the “minimum specs” we need to reach our potential? What would it take to be willing to trim down to that scale and release the power of enough to engage our true wealth. How do we use the residual resources to “lend our hands” to others to ensure their ability to reach their potential? This is how we create peace through our lives.

One last little thought. Imagine if the worst crime committed was disturbing the peace ~ being out of balance with the flow of resources to create peace. What would the world look like? How much the richer we would all be. Maybe that insatiable hunger for more, and the accompanying feeling emptiness inside, would disappear.

Eddie

Eddie is amongst the most beautiful and powerful beings I have ever had the blessing to meet. He is brilliant beyond measure. He is clear as a bell. He is a teacher, a visionary, and a master strategists on the level of vibe that I experience Nelson Mandella. And his laughter makes you feel home ~ maybe for the first time in your life. Eddie is the epitome of what African Elder means to me. Eddie is the best of what certainly Man has to offer.

Eddie’s mom died last week. She will be laid to rest today. Eddie is not allowed to see her. Yeah, I said “not allowed”, Eddie has spent the last 40 years behind bars. Incomprehensible, right? Gets worse. Eddie didn’t do the crime.

People who don’t understand life on the inside always say. “Of Course! There is no such thing as a guilty prisoner.” I’ve heard it a hundred times when I talk about Eddie. That’s TV. Truth is, I have known a lot of people behind the walls. This is simply my experience. The folk I have known are the most truthful folk I know. There is something about living in an 8×8 box for 40 years, or even 40 months, that makes anything but truth seem really like bullshit, unless bullshit is all you know. Folk inside ~ especially the lifers ~ like Eddie, can smell it from miles away. When you get down to the bones of it through poverty or through pain, truth is one of the only things that feels real, so the smart ones work the magic of giving meaning to what is intended to take it away, through the most powerful tool on the planet. What I call “THE ROCK” ~ TRUTH.

I can smell it too. I have been blessed to only be within the walls by choice. But I was also blessed to have experienced enough pain that I can feel it. Not with the near the degree of clarity as Mr. Conway, but enough to see the crystal clarity with which Eddie does everything. He simply did not do it. I would stake my life on it.

So we, All of US, have allowed this innocent and amazing man, to sit in a cell for 2/3rds of his life, because we aren’t him. That’s the truth ~ down to the bones.

What cuts deepest into my soul, is that Eddie, after enduring this, has to say goodbye to his mother, who is finally free of the pain a mother who knows her child was consciously, blatantly and wrongfully put behind bars, from the one place on the planet that was overwhelmingly the source of her daily pain.

This is insanity.

So even if you don’t believe that he isn’t innocent ~ for what ever reason. He has been doing nothing but overwhelming good every day of his sentence. How have we faired in the good-for-the-planet department for the last 2/3rds of our lives? I know I have some catching up to do ~ a lot. What kind of society will not lift up an example of, at the worst, incredible transformation, at the best ~ saintliness beyond measure. What motivation does that offer to our young people who are struggling to decide whether to take the impossibly rough road out of poverty, or the easy one. Where does being a Saint get you?

Its time for Justice!

Google Marshall Eddie Conway and see what feels real, or at least just, to your soul.
Send a Letter, Make a call! Thoughts and Prayers are good too.

President Barack Obama

Governor Martin O’Malley

Gary D. Maynard, Chair
Secretary, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions
6852 4th St, Sykesville, MD 21784-7433

Telephone: 410-875-3400, Fax: 410-875-3582

And for those of us who can stand in witness to represent Eddie, you are invited to attend the funeral. The family has arranged for the services to take place Thursday June 17th at 1:30 pm at March Funeral home.

The address is:

March’s Funeral Home
4300 Wabash Ave
Baltimore, MD 21215

Lets keep calling until Eddie is Free!

Blackbird

I walked into the restaurant and over to the bar and greeted the bartender. My eye was caught by a slightly familiar, partially balding man who seemed to recognize me. The memory slowly returned as I moved to the corner of the bar where he was purched. We had talked about the music the last time we met. I had played a few songs. He smelled our era through the lyrics and chord choices. He said he was about to go to some music festival, a throwback to the post Woodstock days when 3-day festivals filled with unshowered hippies abounded. They have apparently returned, only now the young tiedyed dervishes were munching on ecstasy, not mushrooms and acid as was the trend in our day some 35 years ago. He loved the music, he said, “And besides that,” he smiled, “I still love the young girls.” His words hung silently in the air between us.

Tears pushed out of my throat and down my cheeks as I reached the first-third mark of the 90 minute soul masterpiece, Blackbird, at the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore just days before. I am not really a theater aficionado, though I have taken in enough professional and amateur performances to judge what moves my soul. I finally began to understand the deep and painful mystery that had illuded comprehension these 35 years of emerging manhood. It is the deepest reason that I haven’t been able to trace the source of so many women’s rage. It has been violently suppressed ~ to protect men from taking responsibility for our acts, and to provide cover for our ability to continue to perpetrate sexual violence against girls and women.

Blackbird takes on this reality in an unbridled form, laying bare a brutally honest view of the complexity of this all-to-pervasive reality for women. The brilliant writing peels back each emotional layer, exposing a story that gradually coils the stomach as it weaves the context of this hidden, ugly truth. Blackbird leaves no room for the simple duality of understanding we men long for in stories that have a villain and damsel in distress. It forces our face into the mirror of our own complicity, revealing the collusion we have with the continuation of this unbearable, silent pain that has been carried by our daughters, our girlfriends, our wives, our mothers, since the beginning of time.

I left feeling embarrassed, that as a “conscious” man, how unconscious I have been for so long about this reality, and how ever subtly, I have ~ and virtually every man I know has ~ helped to build this invisible prison in which girls are forced to live. There is no passageway out of this sentence. If you tell the truth, you are pulled into the light of ignominy. If you remain silent, you remain in a purgatory of perpetually reliving the violence in the isolation of suppressed or conscious memory. Even if they have never been touched inappropriately, we see the eyes of men of all ages lingering too long in the calculation of their thoughts that form the cave of isolation in which these acts are conceived and committed, and are silenced by the shame and fear that keeps them locked within our sisters, to carry alone in their souls for a lifetime.

It is without question that I recommend that each and every man see this play, and in particular, this performance if possible. Megan Anderson and David Parkes offer a window into the silent scream of integrating the incomprehensible that, if you are courageous enough to face, will leave you changed ~ hopefully.

As a young woman stood waiting in the line to be seated at the restaurant, the dark, drooping stare of this all-too-typical man hung locked below her head, scanning up and down her exposed legs and sundress. I felt the sick feeling well across my soul as the silent, “harmless” violation took place right in front of me. Thankful now, to have some medicine to offer in response to the illness I witnessed. As he was leaving the restaurant I called him back for a moment, “Hey man, have you seen Blackbird at the Everyman Theatre?” “Its the most powerful 90 minutes I have experienced in, maybe, ever. Take some of your boys and definitely check it out.”

“Oh, no, I definitely will, thanks man!” Thank you Everyman, for the courage to stage this amazing work. And thank you Megan Anderson, for the courage and power to bring this truth into the light!

Epilogue: The Cell Revisited

Overkill

For those that didn’t read the last post entitled The Cell, my phone got jacked a couple weeks ago. I didn’t rush out to replace it. It was a bit of a test, and a bit of a strategy. Thus far I have gone two weeks without my iPhone. I learned at least three things:

  • How much I depend upon my phone for a false sense of companionship or distraction. I want it to be neither, seconds are too precious. Definitely shifted that relationship.
  • I depend upon my phone to stay in touch with critical people in my life ~ both for my soul and my work. This is what I want it to do. As Jackie Boone suggests, it is a life-saver for this, as well as a fabulous tool. But so is a jack hammer, and I don’t use that to brush my teeth.
  • Finally, I use it to keep my many pieces in order, and as a tool to store “little ideas”… Given the challenges of my style, this has been a critical asset for the time I have owned it, one week after it’s release.

Sweetly, old friend and creative partner, Dennis Boni, hearing that I lost the phone, blessed me with his first-generation iPhone (prophetically, the one pictured in the previous post) that he wasn’t using following his upgrade to the 3GS. This is plenty for me to do what needs to be done. Thanks Den! The rest I will do with my peeps rather than my phone!

Sankofa Bird ~ Symbolizing Looking Backward to Move Foward

This time and space without this tool has provided me with a welcome upgrade to my operating system and the invaluable lesson, sometimes we need to downgrade to upgrade.

The Cell: Are They Really Our Friends

It was churchtime Sunday morning. I religiously pulled out my aging Power Book at the Starbucks after puring my brown libation into the receptacle beneath the carved silver goddess of the sea, stirring in just enough cream to take the edge off. There were a few couples, and a handful of solo fellow worshipers. Each of them actively accompanied by their electronic companions ~ looking longingly at them, stroking them gently, like lovers.

My iPhone got jacked out of my car last week. Mistakenly left her alone for one night in my complex’s garage and the evildoers abducted her. They broke the big, expensive window. Is there no honor amongst thieves these days? Called AT&T. No upgrade til June. So I am using this lame flip with a keypad the size of my left thumb. I had to grow nails to be able to push the buttons. All day, I’m missing my friend…

Wow ~ do I really feel like I lost a friend? Answer — Yes. It is crazy.

My daughter, 13, just walked in to meet me. In typical teen style she plops down across from me, without saying hello, pulls out her laptop. 2 minutes later she is leaning her head over our touching laptop screens demanding, at the far boarder of frustration, “I NEED INTERNET”, cause she can’t get her newly purchased Starbucks card to give up the web. Its a beautiful day, and here we sit ~ tethered to these machines.

How did these machines push their way past human relationship for the number one seat?

Michael invited me down to a latin jazz performance the other night. He was with a couple friends ~ grown-ups. Mid conversation, one was texting incessantly under the table like a schoolgirl in her desk as if we couldn’t see, saying, “this is rude, isn’t it?” She didn’t stop.

I heard Larry King once describe the hardest part of quitting his addiction to smoking was that it felt like loosing his best friend. He said butts are right there keeping you company when you want to be alone, they act like your wingman, keeping you feelin’ “Kool” when you are in public, and are the perfect partner for a drink or a cup of coffee. As smoking has been banished from our living and working spaces, our portable d-vices have become the new cigarettes ~ and it seems we are all having click-fits.

I am struggling not to replace my iPhone. Not even because there is a new one coming out in a minute. I don’t like the hold it has on me. I haven’t had a drag in a decade for the same reason. Still love em both.

At the same latin jazz show, the sister with the phone said that she was a “military intelligence” pro, soon to be working in “Northern Virginia”. I asked what she will be doing hoping this would be my first encounter with a real spy ~ at least that I know of. Turns out she will be amongst those to decide which countries get the new 83 Million dollar stealth jet that can take of and land anywhere like a helo.

Wow ~ what goes into a decision like that?

Her proud response ~ “Five years of training.” Comforting. I told her I was glad that a woman was making that decision, particularly one with a 1-year-old child. I asked her to include him, and every other child on the planet, as she parses the equation.

Daniel J Gerstle, founder of Helo Magazine, informed me that helo is what they call choppers in the world of relief work. Not sure if it’s pronounced “hell-o” or “heal-o”. Guess that depends on which application we are referring to. Won’t it be lovely when healing is the only application of our most elegant and efficient technologies.

At what point do machines deserve to be treated as our friends?

My emerging answer: When they give life rather than taking from it. I’m out of this cell ~ going to hang with my beautiful daughter on this lovely day. Leaving you with some peaceful green from the Helo crew…