Give Em LaHelle

On this day in Black History, I’m honoring Patti LaHelle.

It’s impossible to talk about comedy without talking about black women. I’ll forgo waxing on the idea of the plight of the black woman and comedy sometimes coming from situations that aren’t funny at all and  and all that and just say black women are funny as shit. They have been from jump.

If you haven’t seen the masterpiece that is the Got 2B Real series, stop what you’re doing.

 

Comedy gold. The style. The wit. The reads. Patti LaHelle truly created something for the culture when she created Got 2B Real.

G2bR, also known as the Diva Variety Show, is a spoof of a reality show that features some of the most legendary names in pop, soul, and r&b of our time. Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce are some of the cast members featured on the show. The women are all invited to Patti LaBelle’s house for dinner and the personalities that find their way to the dinner table make for two seasons (and a short film!!!) of piping hot tea.

Together they deliver some the shadiest reads, quickest comebacks, and most potent quotables ever caught on tape.

The brain child of Patti LaHelle has been a mainstay in my life since I discovered it sophomore year of college. I consider Ms. LaHelle a visionary for what she created. Though her Got 2B Real journey is over (allegedly), Patti LaHelle has proven herself to be a force on the internet and a lot of folks, including myself, want to see her create even more content. The day is on its way, I’m sure of it.

This black woman is a comedic genius.

If ever there is a dull moment in your day, take a moment, pull out your phone, and watch a couple episodes. That always makes me feel better.

Thank you, Ms. LaHelle for your contribution to the culture.

 

 

 

 

A Late-Adopter’s Review of Luke Cage

I don’t know how I missed the Luke Cage wave in 2016 when it first premiered on Netflix but better late to the party than never. Let’s jump in.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The most compelling aspect of any Marvel story, for me, has always been the villain. Marvel has good heroes but he they have some damn good villains.

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MARIAH fucking STOKES: A different kind of crazy but oh, did I love every minute of it.

The whole Stokes family business seemed a dubious enterprise even when Cornell was running things. I went with it because there’s only a certain type of crazy – that both Cottonmouth and Mariah possess – that can make them believe the consequences of their outlandish behavior would not be ruin.

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From the moment that Luke Cage appeared on the scene, Cornell Stokes was sweating bullets. I suspected that Cornell wouldn’t make it through the first season but I didn’t think it would be at the hands of Mariah. The best thing about Cornell was his laugh. He had the cackle of a seasoned super villain. He fought valiantly until the end but Cottonmouth had it coming. Respect, though.

In the case of Willis Striker, revealed in season one to be Luke’s brother, it’s just a lot of misdirected anger. That whole beef could’ve been squashed with a conversation and a hug instead of a Rocky V-style street brawl.

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The Bushmaster a.k.a. John McIver makes an interesting villain for season two. He hails from Jamaica and has come to Harlem to reclaim his birthright – Harlem itself. It’s all over a foul deal between the McIvers and the Stokes that happened when little John was a pickney but he remembers well and spends all of season two trying to jog the Stokes’ memory.

But in the end, “(h)’im finally make it to the top of the mountain, but (h)’im cyan’t even enjoy da view.” He tried to gain the world and damn near lost his soul. I’d love to see Bushmaster return for a rematch in the next season. He was fun.

A word on the women: The women in this show are bad ass. Misty. Knight. Needs. Her. Own. Show. I want more bionic arm bar fights. That actress, Simone Missick, is easily one of the most dynamic in the cast, coming in second only to Alfre Woodard.

A lot of times in fiction, women function as the moral compass to the men in their lives and that’s definitely true with Luke Cage. With all these chipped shoulders and hurt feelings, this show and the men in it need the women characters to ground them in some kind of reality. Claire Temple and Misty Knight are dynamic elements of the show. They bring some much needed realness to what would otherwise be a Marvel-ous (pun intended) display of toxic masculinity and chest-beating.

I can suspend my disbelief just enough to tolerate the way that the second season ended. And that’s all I have to say about that.

 

The Art of Looking Through People

Surely, people are not born wholly apathetic. Right? This wasn’t an issue back home – acting like people weren’t there in order to simply go about the day. I pass as many as ten homeless people a day, sometimes more. “Any change?” On a good day, yeah, but if I were to give every homeless person I saw a dollar, I’d be fucking homeless too. *kanye shrug*

So how does one protect themselves from bankruptcy? Apathy, it appears. No doubt, it breaks my heart a little every time I quickly divert my eyes from someone looking to collect some change. But I mean shit, I’m in no position to help.

Since I used to drive everywhere, I’m not used to people walking toward me. I’m not used to walking, period – unless it’s purely for exercise – but that’s neither here nor there. Generally when people walk toward me, I instinctively make eye contact but to do that here is to potentially invite unwanted attention to yourself. It’s best to look through people and not at them.

I went to NYC a couple weeks back to meet with a professor. As I’m trying to navigate Port Authority to get to my bus, I made the fatal error. I locked eyes with this big, black dude with locs and a beard. My mans was locked and loaded with the sales pitch. Evidently, he was an exotic dancer looking for clients. “For fifty bucks, I can dance for you and all ya friends.” I shit you not.

My naive ass stood there and listened too because I was told it was rude to walk away from someone when they’re talking. That rule doesn’t apply here.

I declined. I calmly said, “Sorry, I gotta pass, dude” and I turned to walk away. “I respect the hustle, though,” I said over my shoulder. That made him laugh and he said, “Iite, lil mamma, be easy.” It’s a funny story now but it could’ve been avoided.

But generally, people are nice in face to face interactions. Pleasant, even. That leads me to believe there’s a switch that people have developed and I need to do the same. Not wholly apathetic, just selective.

 

My Month of Waiting

June has been the month of waiting.

 

Already this summer, I’ve had to come to grips with a lot of things. I planned to have a job when I got to D.C. but evidently, god had other plans. This is the first summer I’ve been unemployed since I was like sixteen. I put back a little bit of money, but that’s quickly slipping through my fingers. But I took my lack of callbacks as a sign that perhaps my focus should not be in working but actually doing what I moved up here to do: write.

So it’s been a solid month now and I’m just moderately getting settled. I’m familiar with the area around me within a five mile radius. Not radius, it really goes in one direction to Columbia Heights. For the past week, I’ve been testing a new spot for writing.

I enjoy the ambient chatter of coffee shops. This one in Columbia Heights, called The Potter’s House, has been pretty great so far. I’ve had a  few kinks with the wifi, but the atmosphere is so dope. The walls are covered in shelves of books. The baristas play Solange over the speakers – regularly. And when I have enough change for some food, the prices aren’t too bad and the food is pretty good.

Sidebar: Y’know, in comparison to Uber, the Metro is about a $2-$3 difference. Significant when you have a budget, but since I have none and I’m not really in a hurry, I think I’m going to start walking more. Couldn’t hurt.

But with a month gone, there’s only a month left in the summer. As much as I’m getting settled into D.C., it’s coming time to gear up to get to NYC!!!

I’ve secured housing through the graduate program. Due to unforeseen events, I may have to finesse an early move-in but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. A lot of the time I’ve been spending in the coffee shops and libraries has been occupied trying to fine-tune writing samples and resumes, looking for ledes for writing opportunities, and trying to perfect my applications to two very promising opportunities in particular.

Really, once I make it to NYC, the ball will really get rolling. Orientation for grad school begins August 19th and I’m pretty excited. I’m focused. I’m determined. I’m ready.

I’m claiming pay off in July.

Storytime: Looking for a Hideout

I’ve been trying to find my hideout here in D.C. My spot where I can go and have wifi and food and not be bothered. By anyone. From what Reuben tells me, Petworth was a black neighborhood at one point, but the fingers of gentrification are quickly squeezing the life out of that reality. In fact, when I’m just out and about, I notice a handful of white people and their families walking through the neighborhood.

My first hideout prospect was Petworth Public Library. That’s right past tense – and I’ll tell you why.

Public spaces are a magnet for the most bizarre characters. So Thursday morning, I’m walking to the library. I was in a good mood. I’d already gone for my run earlier that morning. I was about to get some writing done.

As I’m approaching the steps of the library, I noticed this man – couldn’t say definitively if he was homeless but it crossed my mind. But the whiff I got once I passed him told me my suspicions were correct.

I’m sitting, writing, minding my business and this nigga keeps switching chairs which he is completely within his right to do – but he would literally sit in a chair and push it across the floor just making all the noise. And he does this with every chair in the little sitting area where we are.

Dis a library right?

Fast forward a few hours and I hear arguing down the hall.

Dis a library right?

The arguing ceases. But I see my guy out the corner of my eye behind the book shelves. Wasn’t sure if he was the one in the altercation but that’s later confirmed.

Out of nowhere, my mans proceeds to hock a loogie and spits it right there on the floor.

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I decide to take my little situation to the basement floor. I’d never been down there before but madness was ensuing where I was and I just couldn’t. I didn’t stay down there long but when I walked back up the stairs, my guy was in handcuffs.

Moral of the story: ooooh chile, the ghetto prevailed that day at the Petworth library

Disclaimer: Now who is to say if this man was mentally ill or not. It’s very possible. But that really wasn’t the point of the story.

PRIDE 2018

This wasn’t my first Pride, but it was the first Pride that felt like celebration to me.

Mississippi’s first pride was in 2016 and I was there. As everyone was getting ready to begin the march, one of the coordinators came around to the floats and told us that it was rumors that there were hate groups conspiring to rain on our first Pride parade. It was only months earlier during a Take Down the Flag rally on campus that the damn KKK showed up – right there on Ole Miss’ campus. Plausible as those rumors were, hate decided to let us live that day and the first Pride in Mississippi went over without a hitch.

At that time, I was just starting to come out to other people. I’ve always been a low key type of bitch and that was like the first time I stepped out on those hoes. Small as it was, it was liberating.

Fast forward two years and I’ve graduated from Ole Miss. In transit to NYC for the fall, I opted to stay with best fran in D.C. to try to ease the transition of living in the city and my first weekend in town was Pride weekend. What a welcome this has been!

There have been rainbow flags up all week leading up to the festivities and THEY’RE STILL UP. People have them hanging in their yards and store fronts. The more I walk around, I see they aren’t just out for the occasion.

This was the first time I experienced Pride as a celebration. Not an exercise in tolerance.

I used to get home sick when I was younger and I would be away from home for more than a week. It was the only home I knew and the only safe haven I had… as long as I behaved within the parameters set for me.

Once I started growing up and said “Fuck that,” home started feeling less and less like home.

That’s really it. The South, as it is now, is only meant for the straight and the white. And I’ve been on a quest to find a sense of home ever since.

I think this past weekend was the closest I’ve come to achieving that feeling.

Happy Pride

Organic Mayo???

I’m getting suited to this city shit.

Right now I’m bunking two stops away from my nearest Trader Joe’s. Bodegas are less common here than they are in NYC but there are similar little markets in some neighborhoods that kind of serve the same function.

Prices high as a cat’s back.

I’ll stop off sometimes and get some Gatorade or some blunt wraps but that’s about it. Convenience does indeed cost.

When I think about D.C., one of the first figures that comes to mind is Benjamin Bannecker, the man – a black man – who designed the plan of the city. Off memory, it loosely correlates to an astrological constellation or formation of stars in the shape of a wagon wheel. Of course, the architecture of the roadways is easier to see if you look at a political map, but it’s even more evident when you’re actually driving around or riding in the back of your Uber. You can sort of see the “spoke” patterns in the roadways.

Pretty neat.

Before I moved, I had the intention of going vegan or at least trying to begin that journey. I still have that intention and I actually bought my first bag of non-dairy cheese from Trader Joe’s the other day.

Some words on Trader Joe’s:

Overall, the shit is cute. Unlike those little market/bodega things at the end of the block, Trader Joe’s prices were unexpectedly reasonable. Slightly higher than back home on some items, but that was to be expected. There’s a lot more choices for organic/vegan items, which I love. Tryna get on my health consciousness tip and also my body really seems to be rejecting dairy, red meats, and other processed items more and more with every passing day. So it’s either make  a change or suffer a chronic case of the bubble guts.

Forward!

Well I’ve been in D.C. for a cute 48 hours now. First of all, D.C. is mad cute. I finally figured out what the hell a city block was – approximately an eighth of a mile. By that estimation, I’ve already walked a mile today. My legs bout to be right.

I’m starting to see that a lot of my anxieties are self imposed. The city isn’t as hard to navigate as I thought it’d be – shoutout to the internet. And the best part is that everyone else is looking down and starring at their phones as they move about too so it’s not totally obviously that I’m a bit out of my depth at the moment.

I’m currently on a Greyhound to NYC. I visited briefly last year for Afropunk but I was with Reuben and not by myself – which I am, this time. It’s a little intimidating. Not gone lie, I took not one, but two shits this morning before I left Reuben’s place. Just nerves. But once I got on the bus, I was fine.

Once you get off of Times Square and out into “the village” – Greenwich, that is – it’s actually quite nice. The energy when I stepped out of Port Authority was on 10. Typical. Two old black men were preparing to square up on the sidewalk as I’m trying to get in my uber and I just took a deep breath and thought, “This is my new home.”

So a bitch is lit for these new beginnings. I’ve got my housing figured out which I’m happy about. Housing is half the battle of moving to NYC and once that’s figured out, everything else pretty much sorts itself out… or so I hear.

Now, I’m back in D.C. and it’s Pride weekend here! I’ve never been to a real Pride, so that’ll be exciting. Nothing’s gone terribly wrong since I’ve been in the city so I’m taking that as a good omen.

 

Jitters and Cold Feet

So, we’re coming in hot on my flight out of Mississippi and boy, am I a wreck.

Not a wreck, as in tears and snot. I just have noticeably less composure than I normally do. I can feel the panic attack brewing. Every time I think about nailing down an apartment or braving those NYC streets or the subway, I have to physically step away from what I am doing and take some deep breaths.

I’ve been reading think pieces about how making yourself uncomfortable makes you better as a person and how the willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone is shaping you into a successful future leader, in an attempt to talk myself off the ledge every time my thoughts take me there. I had a conversation with a good friend from college (ha, I can say that now) and she helped put a positive bug in my ear and I was grateful for that.

I know I’m not alone in experience. Hell, its folks coming from all over the world to do the same thing I’m doing. But coming from such a small place, surrounded by mostly small minded people and having the audacity to say, “Fuck this! I want to do something else,” is extremely isolating. I can count on one hand how many people “get it” and are rooting for me and while I could be upset about that alone, that handful is all I need.

Everything considered, I know I’ll be alright.

Awkward Black Girl: The Gospel of Issa Rae

I want to say I discovered Issa Rae during my freshman year of college. 2015, two years after Awkward Black Girl and two years before the news that her new show, Insecure, hit the blogs. In that year and a half, I basically stalked Issa Rae’s career. I watched every press junket, internet blog interview, screening appearance, everything. I was high key obsessed. When I came across ABG, (on Tumblr – an era for another post) I thought the shit was fucking hilarious. I had, hands down, never seen anything so relatable.

I too was an awkward black girl.

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And I had never felt so understood. I was already in my feelings about what the plan was for after college. I was meeting a lot of new people and having the same cringy, awkward ass moments and it really gave me peace of mind to know I wasn’t the only bitch out here wondering what the hell was really going on.

So meantime, in between time, my bitch Issa was cookin. I had subscribed to her YouTube channel Issa Rae Presents – where she is still producing and releasing phenomenal content, btw – and I followed her on Instagram.

For a while there was chatter about something about a show called “I Hate L.A. Dudes” that was supposedly in the works. She mentioned it a couple times in some interview clips that I’d seen. A few months passed on that and crickets. I rewatched ABG.

Then she released her book, titled The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. I didn’t get around to reading it until a few months ago, actually.

As a broke ass junior in undergrad, I couldn’t afford any leisure reading.

But I read all the rave reviews it got and watched as many interviews from her book tour as I could. She did some public readings of excerpts from the books and even the stories she was telling about her own upbringing were so relatable to some of my own experiences growing up.

This bitch – I liked her. She got me.

I forget where she announced that she’d made secured the bag on Insecure with HBO, but I shrieked!

All this time, I had been rooting for her and now, it was go time.

And then the trailer came out fall semester, junior year. And bitch, I was too hype.

The show went on to break records and set precedents. Not even half way through season one, it came out that they had been renewed for a second season. And it was a phenomenal first season. Black Twitter immediately schism-ed into Team Issa or Team Lawrence and just like that, Issa had the game on lock.

Golden Globe noms, Covergirl, another season of Insecure

Above all, Issa was proof that if you just start with what you have simply on the faith that your shit is dope, the results can be monumental.

Her success inspired me more and more to leap out on faith in my own life (i.e. figuring out a way to bounce tf outta MS) off the strength that the things that I create are also dope.

Moral of the story: My sis is poppin’ right now and she really just wants niggas to eat with her. For me, the most enlightening thing she ever said was “Network around, not up.” Because that’s the squad that’s going to hold you down when you pop.

 

 

When I Think of Home

I’m going to grad school in NYC, we’ve talked about this.

Typical of a new college grad, people keep asking me what my plans are for the future. When I tell them grad school, they almost always ask, “Back up at Ole Miss?” If I say or The New School in Manhattan not too many people know what I’m talking about unless they’re in academia so I usually just respond, “No, New York.”

When I say New York, they’re eyes immediately widen and the first thing out their mouth is usually something like, “Oh, so far away!” or “Wow, isn’t it dangerous up there?” In my head, I’m like Well shit, no more dangerous than Jackson. That ain’t but an hour up the highway and they are literally killing the game in homicides right now so… your point? No, deadass, I’m pretty sure Jackson is ranked #1 for homicides in Mississippi – if not #1, somewhere close. 

People are afraid of things they don’t know – I get it but I feel like when I say New York people automatically think New Jack City or The Warriors. And gentrification is a motherfucker and it’s completely own issue that warrants its own seperate conversation but it is also to my benefit that I can pay rent (albeit astronomical) to live in certain areas and be guaranteed relative security. AGAIN, NOT SAYING THAT GENTRIFICATION IS A GOOD THING, but this is just basic sociology at play. But I digress…

Of course, everyone is happy that I appear to be doing something with my life but I still catch the shade veiled in feigned excitement and concern. Perhaps this is all in my head but… whatever, we here now.

So what do I hate so much? Why am I so antsy to leave?

See, it’s not just shade, it’s the principle, I suppose. I know it’s concern but it feels like negativity and I’m just not trying to entertain that.

Most obviously…

M I S S I S S I P P I

The cradle of the confederacy and conservative politics where I’ve personally had to deal with all the microaggressive, ignorant ass, bullshit preconceived notions people have about well… everything. The fundamentalism, the bigotry, the white supremacy, the heteroracistpatriarchy… I mean, that shit’s everywhere, true – but Mississippi just has its own special brand of this shit.

Of course home will always be home and it’s always going to have a special place in my heart and yada yada, but dis tew much. It’s simply too much.

I cannot. I’m tired.

I need some real hurdles to jump.

That feeling in your stomach when you’re riding a roller coaster up the track to a huge drop and you hear that ticking noise and you know with every tick you get closer to the drop and you’re trying to brace yourself and take deep breaths and shit but you’re lowkey freaking out. That’s a metaphor for my life rn.

If the nigga next to me is freaking out, THAT’S PROBABLY GOING TO MAKE ME FREAK THE FUCK OUT!

 

But whatever… Moral of the story is: “My life is like light up sneakers. Long as I keep walkin’ I know I’m gone shine…”

I am very aware of the history of Mississippi and the history of the South and the sacrifices and gains that were made as far as Civil Rights and I honor those who were active in that struggle. I’ve seen the work being done first hand to improve the sociopolitical atmosphere in the state and I’m proud to have witnessed and been apart of some of that but, compared to the rest of the world, shit is still moving at a snail’s pace. And the frustrating thing is that it really doesn’t have to but people are just too stubborn to change.

I really just need to bounce for my own peace of mind and that’s really it.