Archive for Culture

The Ladies In My Life

Kass and I at a fundraiser to end childhood hunger. The ladies in my life keep me on my hustle.

The Ladies In My Life

February 15, 2013  |  Culture, Family  |  No Comments

If you let hip hop in the late 90s tell it, you weren’t much of a guy unless you had 4 gold chains, 8 cars and, like, 9,000 girlfriends. That was the tragedy of the 90s: genius minds that sometimes peddled such ridiculous and ill-informed notions of masculinity. Most of us could see through all that ridiculousness.

My amazing sister-in-law (who knows, like, everything) with Soleil.

My amazing sister-in-law (who knows, like, everything) with Soleil.

While there were a few knuckleheads who were out chasing the flavor-of-the week hottie, me and my crew were more than happy to chill out at the library with our ladies — Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, bell hooks and Angela Davis.

All through middle and high school, I was the hottest dude in the nonfiction section. I knew everybody’s phone dewey decimal number.

Then Love Jones came along and put bougie black nerds on the map. I no longer had exclusive rights to that steez. Brothers bought dictionaries and flooded the libraries. It seemed like all the ladies wanted a literary dude. My personal card catalog aisle became the pre-hookup spot for the emergently articulate dudes who became the first generation of slam poets. Slow talking guys who would burn Nag Champa and accent the last syllable of every word while pretending to be well-read replaced those of us who actually were.

It was a dark time in the empire…

My niece is the only person in the world who likes ALL my jokes.

My niece is the only person in the world who likes ALL my jokes. Her mama — my sister is the one person in the world who knows me best.

Eventually we took our nerd culture back, and as we grew we, as a cohort, began to shed some of our sideways views on masculinity and sexuality. I would like to think that we, as a society, are more inclusive, understanding, and loving than we were. Though I know that that’s a bit of a dream still, I know that I certainly am — in large part because I’ve got a family of strong women (and men) who are constantly challenging me to be the best that I can be.

I’m a real lucky cat, because I got to spend all day yesterday appreciating them. All the love in the world to my partner, Kass and our brilliant daughter, Soleil… My mama and my mom-in-law, and all my sisters. I’ve got a lot to love in this life, and I’m glad that it started with them. Peace.


The New Americans*


The New Americans*

February 10, 2013  |  Culture, Family, Teaching  |  7 Comments

“Don’t call it a comeback. We’ve been here for years…” — LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out

Before LL Cool J hosted mediocre Grammy award ceremonies. He was a bad man. That enduring sentiment on comebacks from his 1990 classic, Mama Said Knock You Out,  has haunted me these past few days.


Mainly because I’ve had so much to celebrate. My mother became a citizen of the United States the other day.

Her legal process has spanned two and a half decades. After what felt like a lifetime spent with lawyers, the moment she took her oath was powerfully emotional and ultimately cathartic.

Though our story is our own, it is far from unique. I have grown to know hundreds of immigrant families whose collective wishes for safety and freedom and opportunity fuel their desire to work and sacrifice and their bold audacity to dream in the face of an American reality that increasingly mirrors the same realities that we sought to leave abroad. When I think about the current discussion on immigration reform, my heart aches with the memory of years of INS worries, job worries, will-things-be-okay-for-my-parents worries. When I work across the classrooms of this great city. I see myself – and my worries – in the eyes of many of the students that I serve.

Each morning, my prayers are that my work somehow makes this American experience more beautiful and less stressful for them. This evening, I realize that those prayers are also for my mother… Most recently, they are for my own daughter.

My greatest professional learning has been that one cannot simply hope and pray. The progress that we hope to see requires a work ethic that we have yet to see. That is to say, if we want to reach unprecedented heights, we need an unprecedented hustle. I’m glad that my American mother taught me that lesson early. To quote the late great, Gil Scott-Heron, This ain’t no new thing.

I’ve been here for years. I’m thankful for the opportunity to hustle hard. I hope she’s proud.


Bring on the Snuggles, Go Knicks!

Soleil, sporting #12

Bring on the Snuggles, Go Knicks!

February 5, 2013  |  Culture, Family  |  No Comments


Cornelius and I didn’t get married for nothing-aside from the bountiful love we share with our little one and each other, we share a lot of love for a lot of things. Including, but not limited to Alice Walker prose, dystopian novels, bacon, cats, and New York City.  However, there is a small slice of life that we share that neither of us meddles in.  For example, Magic the Gathering.  Cornelius tried to envelope me in one time a few years ago at a gaming dive in Billyburg, and after an hour of him teaching me how to play, and after two hours of me telling him all those rules were wack, we decided that goblins and manna would be kept in his domain.  Furthermore: RHOA.  Nene Leakes may be one of the most entertaining women alive.  Kim Zolciak, although MIA this season, is so sassy! Cynthia: gorgeous, and is the baby mama to that guy that was on the Five Heartbeats! It’s all so disgustingly entertaining, I love it.  I tune in every Sunday night.  An unfortunate of my kicks with reality TV is that Cornelius, being from Atlanta, throws up a little bit every time he hears Bravo’s theme music.  Consequently, RHOA (along with the Kardashians) lies in my domain.

All in all, Cornelius is not a TV person.  And neither am I, really.  Most of TV is terrible, and only a few shows are bad enough to be disgustingly good..i.e. RHOA and the Kardashians.  However, I think we can all agree that sitting next to your loved one in the evening in front of the boob tube for 45 minutes or so is a lovely way to end the day.  Especially when the average day filled is filled with all sorts of cute kids who have pretty rough lives and all kinds of needs.

Enter, Basketball.  The only kind of reality TV that both of us can stomach. Three years ago, Cornelius got comped tickets to a Knicks game-approximately five rows from the court at the Garden.  The Garden worked some voodoo on us, and now we religiously follow the Knicks.  We are FANS.  We met Amar’e, I have a STAT poster hanging in my classroom, and the whole family has matching Knicks gear, onesies included.

The players are magical, and their back stories are totally endearing.  Steve Novak still lives in a regular ass house in Milwaukee.  Iman Shumpert has a flat top, two brothers, and a mixtape.  Melo used to live in the Red Hook houses, and Amar’e took his wife on a Cognac tour in France.  Tyson Chandler wears capris and holds art house photo exhibits.  Ah, they are all so cool!  Oh, yeah, and they play basketball pretty well too…

The best part about loving the Knicks is that they usually have three games a week, and all those games are televised. Hence, there is always something to snuggle up to on the couch in the evening.

Four years ago, if you asked me about the Knicks, I might have known something about Isaiah Thomas’s failed tenure as coach.  Now, I welcome their stories, both on and off the court, and look forward to celebrating their tenacity with Soleil.