Friday, January 28, 2005

Today is the first day of parade season for Mardi Gras 2005. It is also overcast and rainy. But I'm sure le bon temps will surely roulez...

On other fronts, I as you can see by the delay I continue to struggle with access to technology and editorial uncertainty. An essay I intended to post still seems entirely too personal, especially after I last wrote about MLK. I'm going to post the essay eventually but I need to ease into it. I'd certainly appreciate any input about where you'd like me to take things. Do you like esoteric musings on current goings-on or would you like me to rummage through my innermost thoughts? Or both? Or neither? Let me know.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to report that two of best friends have managed to have daughters exactly one year apart! What a coincidence! Well, maybe not so much. But I appreciate having one date to remember for birthdays. And I can shower them both with garnets! My own birthday has just past and a few friends' dates approach. Birthdays are a good time to reflect upon life and oneself. My life right now does not reflect my adolescent or early adult projections. I am, as I already remarked, back at home in a transitory professional phase with a great deal of uncertainty about where life will take me personally or professionally. Do I stay or go? I find myself asking that question a lot--literally and metaphorically. And I usually come up without an answer. At the same time, I am finally feeling comfortable in my own skin making it easier for me to re-examine a lot of issues I hadn't been able to address objectively before. I think my quarter-life crisis may have plateaued. Perhaps happiness is right around the corner.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Apparently these blogs don't write themselves. And if, in fact, I'm going to keep this up I need to develop a schedule of when I'll actually do this.

Right now, my entire 'schedule' is in flux. Between my side projects, my full time and all the stuff that comes up unannounced, I am not exactly optimizing my time.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Today is W's inauguration. Try as I might, I just can't muster up any strong feeling about it all. I find it mildly annoying that he continues to insist he has a mandate for leadership. But then that is set off by my amusement at the very same assertion. A fifty percent mandate? Come on.

I am interested in seeing what the Bush twins will be wearing to the Inaugural Ball this evening. But I am sure they won't be as tarted up as the entertainment shows have promised, so I am already trying to manage my expectations downward.

Congress bent over and confirmed Condi Rice for Secretary of State yesterday. So maybe I should call Colin Powell and invite him over to the house to watch the red carpet pre-show or whatever it is they do for these things. I'm sure he's already cleared out of his office and is padding around his basement in fuzzy slippers with a remote in one hand and his honey-do list in the other. Condi and Colin also generate cross-polarized responses from me. I'd be angry at Colin, but geez, the man has been handed his hat and surely has learned a lesson. And Condi, well, she'll get hers.

On a completely different tangent, Russell Simmons is being considered to succede Kweisi Mfume (!?!) at the NAACP. Now that is a thought provoker....

I'll be back with an esoteric essay soon...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Well, it wasn't my intended topic but it sure is an interesting one...The whole notion of co-opting a dead person to validate a contemporary issue, organization, or political platform...
Though Coretta Scott King had already 'lit a torch' in March 2004( ) and said her late husband Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been a proponent of gay and lesbian rights, just recently daughter Berniece King 'lit a torch' at the King Center to express her certainty that her father would have been against gay marriage as a violation of Christian principles.

I think it's a bit wacky for a group of black people to have a torch lighting ceremony 'against' anything. The whole image is too surreal for me. After decades of terrorism against African Americans (and other ethnic groups) literally by fire and rope, it is sickening that any group of African Americans would go out and light a flame against anyone. But it is certainly their right.
But while the fact that Berniece King called the man I know from history books "Daddy" might seem to give her a certain credibility, I'll have to side with Coretta on this one --especially since she called the man her husband and had an adult relationship with him. Berniece's hearfelt religious beliefs notwithstanding, it is difficult for me to reconcile the image she presents with the public intellectual that Martin Luther King, Jr. was. Her position causes me to question how familiar she is with her father's work and writings at all. Not because I disagree with her--though I do--but because even a passing familiarity with her father's political activities and writings would belie her position.

King positioned himself as a radical--though he was not always as much in his leadership, and I find it wholly incredible that he would take a political stand proscribing the rights of any social group notwithstanding his own religious beliefs. I have no idea whether homosexuality was problematic for King's Christianity, but given his own sexual shortcomings, I'd like to believe he'd be at least tolerant, if not forgiving of others. I don't mean that as an ad hominem attack, but as a relevant observation of aspects of King's character that might have influenced his opinions of other individuals' sexual preferences and the consequent political position he might have developed vis a vis those individuals' social rights.

I have no confidence that King would have taken a public stand for gay rights at all. Though Coretta Scott King suggests her late husband would have supported gays and lesbians, I'm not as sure he would have joined them publicly. Optimistically, one might hope he would have evolved, but King certainly did little publicly to prevent the ostracization of Bayard Rustin from the civil rights organizations and efforts he deserved credit. King's definition of what fell within the boundaries of the civil rights movement seemed to expand as his definition of what was of relevance to African Americans grew more nuanced and complex. That would seem to bolster Coretta Scott King's view as well, given that African Americans have diverse sexual orientations and religious beliefs in addition to their complexly shared ethnic identification. Berniece King and others depend on defining gay and black as mutually exclusive, but that formulation just does not compute.

Which brings me back to the underlying problem with all this torch-lighting. Besides being her father's daughter, Berniece King really has no more credibility or authority on Christian issues or African American social justice than her mother has on gay rights. At the end of day, the only reason either of these women have any platform is because of their relationships with Martin Luther King, Jr. Neither has led political organizations nor produced their own intellectual platforms. I observe that not to demean them personally. But the truth is these women are only as useful as their ability to invoke the image of Dr. King. For over a generation, pundits have fretted about the void of black leadership, even as they jockeyed for the very position. Apparently, since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. black folks have been adrift in the wilderness, leaderless and lost.

The problems I have with this image are myriad. First, even during his lifetime King hardly enjoyed a mandate of African American support. After his decisions to combat poverty and oppose the Vietnam War, King was not exactly embraced by his peers. Similar to the mythologizing of Malcolm X, who was even more of a fringe figure during his lifetime, contemporary images of King would lead one to believe he was like a rock star enjoying public approval and adoration wherever he went. In fact, King struggled to keep even the support of his own organization's constituency and many African Americans were indifferent to his efforts. Even King was not the leader we make him out to be.

Which leads to the second problem...why do black people need a leader at all? No disrepect to Coretta or Berniece, but I don't need either of them to represent my viewpoint. Part of the problem of charismatic leadership is that it seems to suggest that the constituency represented has neither the responsibility nor ability to speak for itself. Especially in the United States, the chagrin over the lack of African American leadership is consternation over the ability to control what the group thinks or will do politically. For the Democratic party, for example, if the African American vote cannot be delivered by a leader perhaps someone will actually have to do the work of creating a platform that is attractive to African Americans collectively. For the Republican party, if the leadership is not delivering the African American vote to the other party as a bloc, perhaps egregious moves like kicking off Reagan's first Presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi will have to be foregone for more subtle moves like having Bush ignore the NAACP and Congressional Black Caucus...But I digress. My point is that some are desperate to hold on to the model of charismatic black leadership, it is their cache. But Ella Baker warned as far back as the civil rights movement that such a strategy was inherently dangerous for African Americans and bound for failure.

My hope is that Berniece King will find better uses for her torch and Bible than condemning others, that image was as frightening in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as it was when the KKK invoked it. She can do much better. I also hope that she and other members of her family will stop speculating upon the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. He also deserves much better. He left a very articulate body of work and does not need them to interpret his legacy. What would be much more interesting is if they would create legacies of their own based on their own works and contributions. In the meantime, I will think and speak for myself and don't really need a leader, dead or alive, to vouch for me.

Edited on 1/20/05

Saturday, January 15, 2005

In September 2003, I moved back home. Literally. This was an unexpected turn and not at all desired at the time. But by now, I have come to terms with the situation and actually see it as a positive. Being back at home has allowed me to examine some of my decision-making processes, especially where my "career" is involved. It has also allowed me to address some very real material concerns. The issue of career had become convoluted with other concerns like self-definition and lifestyle.

I realized as far back as 1997 that the tail was wagging the dog. I was pursuing a career path merely because I had already embarked upon it; with little consideration to whether it was fulfilling or enjoyable to me. This went on until 2002 when I finally decided to jump out of the hamster wheel and see the whole, wide world. Since then there have been some bumps. I had a position at a non-profit that turned out to be a hellish experience. It lasted only a year, but ended badly. Having no previous experience with such, I had a lot of difficulty figuring out how to handle the situation. It took an objective observer to point out to me that the mess had been largely engineered by someone whom I trusted.

Well, that threw me into a different sort of tailspin. But it did catalyze me to consider that I was handling what I started calling my "quarter-life crisis," all wrong. Rather than finding career security and then being able to address my personal goals, I needed to honor myself first and let a career that complemented those values manifest itself. That may sound idealistic or completely flaky, depending on the day, but that's my plan and- as is my way- I'm sticking to it.

Being back at home has been a great help because it's encouraged me to distinguish between a job and a career. What one is willing to do for the sake of career, is not the same as what one is willing to do for a job. A career is a journey, a job is a financial arrangement. Since I am not concerned with where I will lay my head, I have looked at myself and work with a new perspective. That has been very enlightening for me.

Though I was under no dire pressure to do so, I took the first job that was offered to me when I got back home. I definitely need income, but I could have held out for a better position. I had time and latitude. That I did not was all wrapped up in how I see (saw) myself. Not just as an individual entity, but in relation to other people in my life, society, and so on. I could not bear the idea of not having an answer when people asked, as they will inevitably, what do you do? I could not bear the idea of taking up space and resources in my family home. I could not shake the fear that by not 'succeeding,' I had failed. I loathed myself for not 'knowing' what I wanted to do next; even though I realized that there was no way I could 'know' without exploration.

And the failure wasn't failure. I knew objectively that I was doing pretty well. It was the lack of control and ownership over my accomplishments, my choices, and myself that was bothering me so. In A Voice From the South, Anna Julia Cooper poses the question of human validity in her essay "What Are We Worth?" Mine was a crisis of self-worth. I could measure that worth externally--by how well my job was going-- or I could measure it internally--by how well my life was going. I had the opportunity to walk away from the external measure back in 1997, but I was not ready to face myself. It seemed easier to go with the superficial, to listen to what others had to say- and so I went for another six years. But I think I always knew that eventually I would have to reckon with myself.

I have had to systematically challenge every fear I have ever harbored to get to this point. My fears of betrayal, scarcity, and failure have all been manifested. My ambivalance about trusting others, my hesitance to hope...Some may call it a crisis of faith, but I see it now as an opportunity to re-learn something that as a child--when things were far more desperate-- I knew instinctively. That God would never bring me this far to leave me and that I am destined to see and do great things. I was a pretty cool kid, right? Yeah, I was. And I still am...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Back to expression...

After all this time, I want a place to articulate my ideas and perspectives. To say what heretofore was merely on my mind. Without limit, without convention...