Burning Down The House

“We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.

I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had …. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s 2020 and integration is a reality. Even though Black people are seeing the fruits of Dr. King’s dream, we are still experiencing the nightmare of oppression in America. Nearly thirty years ago, Rodney King became the first victim caught on tape in a case of police brutality, and Los Angeles and the country let their voices be heard at the absurdity of the trial and the system that allowed the four officers to walk away without lawful rebuke for their savagery.

Obviously, George Floyd’s televised lynching is a tipping point. We cannot have another outcome like the Rodney King trial. The whole world is watching. It’s rivals are calling the killing of George Floyd a symbol of America’s hypocrisy. The great defender of democracy and free speech uses military tactics against protesters marching against oppression against Black people. How dare America judge other countries about human rights atrocities?

People revel in the unifying language of the “I Have A Dream” speech, but who knew that even the great Reverend himself could see WTF was up with the mess Black people were about to get into, seeking equality in White American culture. Why do we have to seek equality? I thought that was a Constitutional given. The Black Lives Matter movement is asking this integrated society for the same things Dr. King and his followers asked their segregated society. What does that say about how far we’ve come and how far we have to go? It’s a deep seated anger that needs to be quelled. We’re tired of being afraid, waiting, not breathing…

How I Shot Tupac

 

April 11, 1992. I was a writer for a magazine called No Sellout: The Tip-Top-Hip-Hop-Raggamuffin-Black-Rock-Mag-Rag. It was the first time I used the Loupy D moniker in print. One day I was walking around Hollywood soliciting “donations” for the publications to make soem extra dollars. As I walked by the Pig and Whistle on Hollywoood Blvd. I look in, and there was Tupac sitting at the bar alone, drinking beer from a mug. I walked in and sat next him. “Check out this magazine ‘Pac. I got the cover story,” I bragged. He reached in his pocket and gave me a couple of dollars. We talked about one article on misogyny in hip hop adn agreed that the community had to come together to stop all the self hatred we were inflicting on one another in the music. After our chat, he invited me to come to the release party for his debut album 2Pacalypse Now. I told him that I was already on the guest list because of the magazine, so we peaced out and I went on my way.

I bought a disposable, black and white 35mm camera from the Thriftys on the corner of La Brea and Rodeo. Later that night I got to Glam Slam, Prince’s old club on Boylston Street downtown. I couldn’t wait to see this brotha perform. I loved the energy he put out on stage as a backup dancer for Digital Underground; the same with his performance in the video when he dropped the verse on Same Song. I knew that he was going to give it up that night for his debut release party. Surprisingly, there weren’t many people at the show: mostly industry execs and a few heads from the underground community.

In 1992, Tupac was another brotha in the game coming up and shining his light. Who knew what he would become in the span of his short career and beyond? For millions, he represented the reawakening of a black activist movement that took a nap during the narcissistic decades of the 70’s and 80’s. He, along with other rappers, writers and influencers of Generation X, was a beacon for a future that has not forgotten the original resolve of the hip hop spirit, which is each one teach one, earn our fair share, and share it with the culture.

You can buy merchandise featuring photos from the night by clicking here.

Still, life.

My writing habit has taken a backseat to my living habit. Three months ago I explained how I have to wait for inspiration. The fact is that I only have to wait for a time when there are no distractions. I have a friend who is going through the same struggles. With two young girls to raise on her own, her writing time has been choked off. Like me, she shares her real life adventures in pictures rather than words via Instagram.

Photography has always been my other love, even before writing came into the picture. Honestly, I should make Instagram my blog. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? If that’s the case, I have more than fulfilled my writing quota for the year, and here we are already in autumn.

Follow me on my Instagram account.

NatGeo’s The Race Issue

I came across this article as I was beginning my home workout regimen from my iPad. It was enough to prompt a much needed blog post.

There’s No Scientific Basis For Race-It’s A Made-Up Label

It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.

Around 2000, I did some independent research that led me down a linguistic rabbit hole. I was publishing a book based on the words peace, please and thank you. It was a children’s book, and the writer wanted to translate those words into every language in the world.

After exhausting my 7-language dictionary, we turned to a nascent internet as an additional resource to our faithful trips to the local library. Our research uncovered a map that traced the roots of the first languages, and their transmission throughout the world, from the womb of Africa, to the vast stretches of the Pacific islands. Words have propagated and mutated, like a strand of DNA, adapting to and defining the environment in which they survive.

The article reminded me of that adventure. I learned that language is a tool that can be divisive and unifying, just as a concept like race. When you break words down to their roots, break down the strands and look at their genetics, you see they come from the same source. The same with people, and like DNA strands, each is a little tweaked here and there, but still coming from a common place, no matter how we choose to define ourselves.

New Look, New Book!!!

Just a quick update. A few changes are underway as you can tell from the housekeeping on the site, but it is a work in progress.

I am officially announcing the release of my first book “Rebelation: A Memoir with Photos” in March of 2018. It is a look at my life in back in 1992. Living in Los Angeles, it was my first year as a hip-hop journalist. It is a familiar tale about a young man coming of age, but in the unfamiliar context after the most violent civil disturbance in United States history. A series of events and alliances with people near and far help me forge a new perspective on life, black unity and personal responsibility. Now I’m ready to share my story with the world.

Come back soon and I’ll throw some pages up. In the meantime, I am just trying to figure out all the links and and click stats that are going to lead to this automatic money I’m gonna get once I figure out web commerce. Yippee ki-o!!!

Falling 

I feel bad for not posting more frequently, but as I stated in Relativity, real life takes up real time, so my blogging falls by the wayside. Notice I said blogging and not writing. I’ve been writing in my journal my butt off between kids and gigs. My poetry has hit some high notes as of late. It’s never enough:  thinking about a new paper to publish comparing contemporary rap to 15th century poetry, planning an art exhibition, figuring out the magic tricks of Lightroom, and finishing unfinished blog posts…

I guess I shouldn’t feel bad. I’m doing all this to make my stuff spectacular and moving. The journey is the hard work towards beautiful results. The living in the moment makes the journey interesting. Now that a new season is here, I’m taking a moment to celebrate the art of the blog and two years and twenty days of keeping one. Keep following. Happy autumnal equinox, my friends…

Relativity

For anyone who’s worked 16 straight days in a row, 12 to 19 hours each day, you know how I’m feeling right about now. I’d say the majority of you who can relate to this kind of fatigue works in either the film industry or nursing. I can relate to both. My mom was a nurse for 40 years before she retired. She became the first black head nurse at California Hospital downtown in 1965. I think she might have been the inspiration behind the 1968 television series Julia, because a lot of Hollywood producers, directors, writers and movie stars were frequently under her care. I can remember her leaving in the day and coming home at night. I never knew how hard she worked, but anyone who dedicates more than half a day to their profession has got to be someone special.

She earned a place in Los Angeles’s Civil Rights history, but there was no Urban Intellectuals headlining her breakthrough promotion, nor did a #blacknursesmatter cause draw attention to the lack of diversity of management in her field. There wasn’t even a mention in LA’s perennial black dispatch The Sentinel at the time, heralding her pioneering role. She just did her thing, and three years later, I was born in that same hospital. At the time, I was the only colored baby in the nursery. I know this because my grandpa told me when he came to see me he couldn’t miss me! (Cuba Gooding, Jr. was born on the same day in the same hospital, but I have a darker complexion) After that, Grandpa flew out to see us from New Orleans every Christmas. I’ve seen photographs of him holding me. I remember at six years old, smoking on one of his cigars when he wasn’t looking, and the intoxicating and nauseous aftermath. I remember his last visit in ’92, the year I flew out to visit him for a change. The following year, he passed away.

I didn’t have a blog then, to exorcise the demon of despair that possessed me. He taught me lot about life in the three months that I stayed with him in the Big Easy. He is the reason I decided to write a memoir, but he knew nothing about this digital world that would one day become the overlay of the analog one he mastered in his ninety years of living. Now I find myself so busy living life by his tenets and instruction, that I don’t really think about taking the time to write about it on social media as much as the next person. I should be writing everyday regardless (see Morning habits). I even installed a digital journal on my phone to record my private thoughts on the go… much easier than taking a backpack with me full of physical journals and books.

Alas, it’s taken a few months, but I’m finding that my Circadian writing rhythm goes a little something like this:

  • Work
  • Kids
  • Sleep
  • Write

Where’s the fun, you ask? Trust me, it’s in every aspect of the above. I love being on a film crew, creating the next new thing; my sons are my joy and inspiration; what more can I say about the joy of sleep than what you don’t already know? And writing is my release and salvation, and that brings a sense of satisfaction and happiness and peace to my soul.

Between the phases of this cycle, I may make a jump onto the digital plane to see what everyone is up to, since we’re all connected on the Matrix. Facebook used to be my thing, but Instagram is now by far my social media app of choice. A picture really does say a thousand words, so why does it matter if I write a blog or not? Pictures can capture and express a moment, but writing captures and expresses a feeling. You can pick out the details in a picture, but words themselves are the details when you’re reading, the pixels in the paragraph. Words are a slowly developing Polaroid picture, compared to an instantly destructible Snapchat.

I have more ways and means to broadcast the events in my life than I can keep up with, a sharp contrast to what my mom and grandfather went through in their days. My mom told me that when she first heard a radio broadcast, she checked behind the massive floor model RCA for the people who were talking through the loudspeaker. As a Gen Xer, I crossed into a digital divide where the people behind a profile may not even really be people, yet I am bound, mind, body and soul, to the technology of the 21st century. I’ve formed for social media a love/hate relationship, much like the one I’ve formed with hip hop culture. It has its strengths, but going back to the old school basics just works better for me sometimes.

I wish I could share more. The digital me has been gone too long between posts I feel, and those who know me outside of this realm wish they could see more. It’s hard for the analog me, with all the new hobbies and adventures and life commitments drawing my attention, to give my online audience a sense of the satisfaction and elation I get from these experiences instantly, if not minutes after the fact.

I’m not one to give up and let the immediacy of social media deter me from mastering this realm, though. I’m just getting started. I’m reading all kinds of online writing books I found on Kindle. (Gotta love all the gratis libri in the Digital Age!) Last month I took a great online course called Cast Your Net: Web Presence and Social Media for Writers, taught by my good friend Brodie Hubbard. It helped me pay more attention to the presentation of my literary self to the online world. I want this blog to be a city within itself eventually, a place you can tour and visit and come away with some memories. I’m learning how to engage y’all and keep you coming back for more! I just wasn’t sure how to separate the personal from the professional, when my personal is such an integral part of my professional. It sounds to me like the life of a celebrity, but hey, when I was a kid, Flip Wilson had somewhat of an influence on my career choices.

Right now though, I’ll take the slow and easy road of observation and report what I see when that phase in my cycle comes around for its turn to play. I feel it’s my best work in the moment. Word by word, the pictures are developing, slowly, like a Polaroid.

YouTube Video courtesy of jayceemediaofficial

“Live for love.” – Prince

The South-East Bounce

OK… The deadline for the e-book has passed. I’ve only organized the first round of pictures and there a lot more. Cataloging has become the unforeseen monkey wrench in my show. I thought it would be easy, laying out provocactive pictures and justifying them along  with my peppered prose, but the more I looked at each picture, stories emerged that had eluded my original narrative, and took on lives of their own. If I put more time in earlier on pre-production like I do on my filmed narratives, it would have been done on time and hopefully with great fanfare. I’m still pressing forward, though. I’m going to see what kind of help I can get by reaching out to my community of fellow artists, writers and photographers.

Earlier this month, I had a chance to travel away from L.A. for a couple of weeks. The first stop was Todd Mission, TX, where the first Middlelands music festival went down. The venue was the Texas Renaissance Fairgrounds. I was told that at least 60,000 people attended this 3-day event that popped up in a dusty wood, an hour northwest of Houston. There were many people who attended on a day-to-day basis, but a great majority stayed on the campgrounds. Oh yes, there was camping, and with the camping came the night parties til the dawn and brilliant displays of light. Being Loupy D, I had the luxury of a golf cart and an all-access pass. All day I was getting hailed by partygoers who after partying til the breakadawn were making their way from the campgrounds to the stages. I had a couple of interesting offers in the later hours of the fest, but due to the nature of my duties, I had to give every sweet-faced girlie the go-by. Even if I’d listened to that devil in the white nightgown whispering in my left ear, the best accommodation I could offer was the RV space I shared with two roomies. Three funky fellas in a tight quarters over seven days is an acquired aroma, but when one of the ladies from our group poked her head in our space one day, her acquisition couldn’t quite handle our aroma.

Febreze handled it.

Next week, new stop. After a quick repack in L.A. (and a long shower), I boarded United Airlines for a nonstop flight to Washington, D.C. aka Chocolate City with an orange glaze on top… oh well. The occasion for the destination was not to hate, but to celebrate the bestowing of rights and privileges thereof decreed up on my niece… as a PhD recipient! Her dissertation is titled Concussions, The Emerging Public Health Crisis, and Why Media Advocacy Is Needed. Looks to me as like she’s taking up the mantle against the NFL, and anyone else who puts profits as a priority over health. From day one when she learned how to talk she hasn’t been quiet and, I don’t know a bigger sports fanatic than @ProfCDP. As a teenager, I saw her go head-to-head  at a cookout with a grown man over some college sports stats! Christian caught the journalism bug in the heart of my freelance writing days. She began writing articles for the sports section of her high school newspaper and was the sports editor in her senior year. She was accepted to Spelman College and breezed through in three years with a double major in English and Spanish. Without missing a beat, she tackled the cold of upstate New York to get her master’s degree from the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. I still see that tough, gangly 9-year old who I took hiking in Kenneth Hahn Park. The end of our hike was a short, steep incline. Poor Christian lost her footing and and took a frightful dive near the bottom. When I checked her out there was no blood, just a few scrapes. “See, if you can walk away from it then your okay,” I reassured her. By the time we made it back to my red Mazda B-2000 pickup, she was already asking, “can we come back tomorrow?” I feel so good that I kept telling her to put the books before the boys, too. It was the most solid piece of advice that I could have given her as a youngster. The reward for having that kind of patience and focus was getting engaged with her sweetheart of seven years, the day after defending her dissertation.There was a lot to celebrate that week!

You never know how the things you say to a person or the way you treat them, will influence them later on in life. I always tried to give my nieces and nephews aspects from my life that I wished I had more of: inspiration and motivation from an adult. A person who gives the go-ahead to try something new and not be afraid to fail is so hard to find in a competition-minded society. I gave them the freedom to be, and they were able to pick up on the pieces of wisdom and understanding I dropped on them at a young age. I had to wait to get it straight from my grandpa down in New Orleans as a wild youth in my 20s, while running with the hip hop crowd in the 90s. I remember always being told what to do, what not to do, what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I did my best to make other people happy, not knowing that I was the source of my own happiness. Like many misguided youth, I rebelled, made lots of mistakes and engaged in shenanigans that would have put me in the hospital, jail or in the ground. I’m here by the blessings from the good Lord above. I’m happy the ones coming up under me didn’t have to experience life the way I did. I’m not saying that life is hard, but it sure ain’t easy. I just had to change if I wanted to raise my own kids one day. Now I have two boys, and it’s the same with them, but different. Time will tell.

These two weeks of travel have sure put me in a reflective state. Life is short and precious and I enjoy the variety that it brings day to day. I’m getting used to the expereinces that will get me through the next phases of life. I don’t need a lot to be happy. I can be lonely in a crowd or at ease in my own company. There’s no use in remembering what I did for others when I’m going to forget it a year later. What you sow is what you reap, and I’m alright with what I’m seeing so far.

 

Searching for Inspiration

I’m a longhand kind of writer. I love the feel of a pen in my hand, watching my thoughts manifest into ink as it sinks into the paper. The sound of the stroke of the ballpoint that swooshes, and leaves behind a trail words that sum up the feelings and observations of the moment thrills me.

Ever on the quest to digitize my analog life, I’m planning to publish my first e-book near the end of the month. It’s an essay with pictures, or a pictorial essay, if that’s a more marketable term, about my experience during the L.A. Riots, 25 years ago. The other day I was stressed out over formatting the photos, so I left the house with journal in hand and decided to go the beach.

I know that when I get inspired to go the beach, it’s a time for cleansing. Whenever a major change is coming along, I feel I have to count my blessings and clear my thoughts. I wanted to free my mind of the anxiety I was feeling from the pressures of perfection and just write something… anything. I found out that thoughts never come in any specific order unless you force them. They are as random as the waves hitting the shore, yet they do so with an expectant frequency. Here’s a random thought that hit the shores of my mind…

I’m at war with myself again. Trying to regain the sense of reality I sought in my youth. The ways of the world have had their way with me far too long. I felt alone in my quest before, but I’m more alone being a part of the crowd. It’s not easy journeying internally and finding the blocks that bar the way to true freedom, the freedom to live a life in love with myself. The freedom to be fearless in the face of adversity, to take the high road, takes more courage than lying to myself saying I just can’t take it anymore. I am stronger than the weakest perceptions I create, which tell me that this is as far as I’ll ever go. I’ve got to take chances. I’ve got to win this battle…

Someone recently told me that you have to fight for your right to write. I forced myself to come out here just to write this, even though I had no idea that this is what would come out of me. I always feel like these moments of reflection come too late to make any difference, but I’m grateful because it’s like taking a huge stretch before a workout. Here, in this moment, anything can happen, and if I write about it, it must be important, I think, because randomness can inevitably have meaning. Four more motorcycles just zoomed by.  A red Lamborghini. Another motorcycle, no two. A man holding a fake hand in one hand and a fat cigar in the other crosses the street. An airplane disappears into the clouds. What’s the meaning? It happened.

Now, I’m breathing easier.

IMG_0500-imp

Seasonal Shifting

I am back from the trenches. A lot of my personal woes have been too close to the heart to share with this crowd, or even Facebook for that matter. Work and parenting are certainly testing my limitations and motivations. I ask myself often, Why am I writing? Blogging ain’t paying the bills! I think about other work to make money to survive and buy stuff for the kids. Oh, the kids are getting bigger and need more stuff. I need to make more money!

I collaborate with a great group of people who are passionate about film and loyal friends as well. We continue to develop scripts and ideas that we hope will one day soon sell in the marketplace. The last five years we have all experienced the challenges of balancing parenthood, art and work. Since the hands on practice of filmmaking is on hold, we have all relapsed into our creative cocoons. They write screenplays while I focus on personal narratives, poetry, and developing a new old outlook on an old love: hip hop. The past few months I’ve had the opportunity to practice my photography skills with my DSLR instead of my phone camera.

The other day my sister comes over. She picks up a book I put together on Shutterfly, sitting on my coffee table. She can’t believe the beauty of the photo selection. “You took these?” “Yup.” “You’ve still got those pictures from the riots?” “Yeah.” I’ve been wanting to make a book from those photos for a long time. I admit that I have anxiety about starting projects that don’t require the hands on support of fellow visionaries. This is something that would carry my name on it. Sole credit. “What will it take to make the book?”

Dreams. promises. I try everything and I don’t give up. I write because I set things in motion from the words that stir from my fingertips. A person can think of what they want to do, but until those thoughts materialize as words and those words become actions, ideas will be the house of dreams and unkept promises.

Winter is coming quick. I set that as the deadline for a rewrite of my memoir. I’m going to smash a few pages out while I’m down from work these next few days. A friend sent me back notes on some poems I’m getting ready for publication. I want to work on those. Tomorrow isn’t promised. My buddy is going to show me how to shoot stars in the desert at the end of the month. It feels good to be back on this page.