Tag Archives: manhood

Gremlins and molehills

My home is the stage, or so I thought. Nobody wants to hear me, besides, I’m not allowed to say what I think.

This was me, aged 21 after discovering that performance poetry was the one place where I couldn’t be shot down. The one place where I wasn’t being told that I wasn’t good enough. The one place I wasn’t compared to someone my family or peers knew. The only place where I could speak my mind and people had to listen.

The stage is my home, I don’t get nervous, I come alive when I’m centre stage. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Having written and rewritten my piece for Man Up, my confidence level was always around 8 – 10 on any given day in practice mode. I’ll be just fine for the shows, do what I gotta do.

Somehow the closer I got to the shows, an old gremlin spoke up and asked, “What if I mess up?” Fear of failure, fear of not meeting expectations, fear of letting others down had all shackled me for most of my years. Despite my confidence in my ability to deliver, it caused me to practice even harder right up to the last minutes before I was to step into the limelight.

Despite controlled recovery from a few stumbles, I beat myself up for the rest of the first show. I told myself it was awful, that my part was the weakest out of the solos. I told myself that the crowd didn’t want to hear me talk about race and masculinity, they came for the stories from people like them. They didn’t want someone to rhyme at them with all those hand motions. I told myself a lot of things. Somehow the rest of the cast didn’t see it like I did. They told me they saw me come alive, they heard my passion, they told me they had to remember to hold their applause.

I arrive at the mid-point of a series of performances, so far two nights, two sold-out shows. I was better this time, not perfect but better in the second show. Self-awareness can be destructive at times, yet with 3 shows to go, I realise the importance of embracing the bright. Take the microphone away from the gremlin and make your voice count in a good way.

I’ve got two shows in one evening before the final performance a day later. What matters most? The simple truth is my story is being heard in a way that only I can tell it. At some point I’ll tell it again without the production values, I might even give you the extended version. Simple truths about the best of what I’m doing matter more than amplifying minor faults. Knowing the mountains from molehills will take you far.

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Filed under Non Poetic Blogs

Old vs New Man

To some, the new man seems more feminine. They seem too sensitive, soft, more cushions and curtains tan grit and graft. They don’t know where man has gone. This new man isn’t real man. They don’t fit, they’re the ones fighting for acceptance. They find fewer outlets for their kind of guy.

Is this new man an evolution? Is it the standard for men to come? Or is it just a phase that will go full circle? How does sensitive man teach the toughness that manhood is known for?

I see this so-called new man as more of an expansion to the existing property rather than a standalone building. It is an exciting addition to the stoic menu of masculinity. Our base instincts to build, conquer, fix will always be there. It is simply that we have better ways to protect ourselves. Better ways to heal.

Protection from being honest and open. Protection by knowing what our fights really are. Allowing ourselves the chance to heal properly and become stronger for it.

It is also about better day-to-day maintenance of the man mentally and physically. We have access to greater resources than ever before. Can we trust ourselves to use them?

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Filed under Just Living, Non Poetic Blogs

Brothers in Season

If you listen to the movies, life happens when you don’t make plans. Materially successful people will sell you a book that tells you to make plans for your plans.

If I’d had my way I would have changed career and left this city long ago. It would all have been on my terms and conditions, there wouldn’t be any of this, beyond your control malarkey.

When the mist of Christmas cleared, I was thrust into a spiral that at times became a whirlwind of despair and frustration. There were days when I couldn’t face the mirror let alone the world, days where I didn’t want to hear my own thoughts or superficial well-wishing. Give me what I need or leave me alone was the sentiment. I believed I had to roll with the punches and keep the scars hidden. The blessing in the storm was that for my sanity, I wasn’t allowed to do that.

For me, the darkness that descended occupied 3 out 4 seasons this year. Despite the fears, the tears, the rants and the rejections I find myself grateful for the unexpected brotherhoods that have developed. Support networks of guys who somehow appeared when I’ve needed them to keep the light on for me.

I’m thankful for the school friend who introduced me to a global group of like-minded guys who were open about their struggles and gave each other support.

I’m thankful for the Man Up project which has given me a greater understanding of the journeys to and through masculinity. I’ve been able to drop a mask or two and find acceptance waiting for me. I have learned that masculinity cannot truly be taught from one-dimension.

I’m thankful for my brother CJ who has been the general on the ground who doesn’t use “how are you?” as a greeting.

By the end of August, I will have told my story to a few hundred strangers. At some point, I’ll have new colleagues to create new stories with. It may take time to recognise all the lessons that this season within seasons has taught me.

However, the one I resonate with the most is that life is a team effort. As we understand each other, we grow, we become ourselves, we fly higher and sew into new teams.

For this, I am thankful.

 

Photo credit: Rob Mcleod

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Man Up! How?

I’ve spent the weekend in the presence of up to 30 men. An environment where masculinity and mental health within men were explored with a view to an eventual performance. It gave scope for bonding, conversing, unlocking doors to experiences that have brought joy, pain and indifference. It allowed creatives to create and every voice to be heard.

At the end of the first day, my niggling thought was, can I separate masculinity from race? I ignored the thought because I didn’t have a place in this sphere.  At the end of the second day, it returned. The truth is I don’t know if I can make a definitive separation.

Whereas some groups have to an extent, found a voice to articulate their struggles and versions of their humanity, I cannot say that my voice has the capacity to capture hearts in the same way. Some go as far as labelling other groups as “the new black” as they draw parallels with being a minority group, and discriminatory attitudes towards them. This is not to say that I am jealous of the shift towards social acceptance, or seek to dismiss their voices. Rather, being within earshot of this has been a trigger, a point of reference from which I begin another journey of understanding.

When I entered the room ahead of the session, I entered as a creative. I entered simply seeking inspiration and hoping that I might write something I could show off. That was the way I would get by.

My masculinity has been heavily influenced by cultural expectations, traditions and race-based perceptions. They have been compounded by faith based interpretations of manhood.  I don’t get to see myself as just a man. I am black man and whisper it….I’m a Christian. To the world around me, to the world inside of me.

I am not socially acceptable in my real form in as many spaces as others are afforded.

In seeking to stay on topic I kept my mention of race down to one conversation to provide context for my story. I didn’t want to as people say….play the race card. Was this men’s space a white space?

In the black community, we are pretty expressive, yet Mental Health is something we collectively seem to be quieter on. My mother was a mental health nurse so she was and still is aware of the signs when particularly I have encountered struggles with mine. In wanting the best, tough love was a method of dealing with it. Yet even in that I was never just a man. Always a black man.

“You are a black man…..you cannot afford to let yourself slip. You cannot afford to….”

I have always had to be aware of how I speak, how I act so that someone else feels better about themselves. At times it feels like as a black man, I don’t really get to have a safe space because I am going to be a threat to someone. I am going to be lumped with some part of society. I am part of something that will be invaded by well-meaning trend seekers who will sell a version of me back to me as though they were Christopher Columbus.

If I show I’m intelligent, I’m a threat so I’m getting passed on for promotions and meaningful career development activity.  If I wear certain clothes, I’m a threat. If I show that I’m angry I’m a threat. Then there’s the projections of promiscuity and prowess. I self-edit constantly to ensure that everyone feels comfortable.

Should I seek black spaces?

Again….do I get to have shared experiences? After all I am male, I was once a child that has become a man.

However, as a child in primary school, my white headmistress sent for me during lunch time. She told me that a black kid has to work 100 times harder than a white kid. I wasn’t given any reasons as to why she chose that moment to give me “the fact of life” that many black kids have drummed into them from birth. Yet, it eroded my self-confidence as a child.

Through the years, versions of this were re-iterated in order to keep me on the straight and narrow. I was even told that if I was a white guy, I’d be ten-a-penny. That I should be fortunate that black people are a minority, as it’s the only way I would stand out.

Shared experiences where being black doesn’t have a say in proceedings seem few and far between. Celebrity deaths get more reaction than folks arrested for waiting at Starbucks. Maybe that’s a different issue. Somehow, somewhere, between principles and expectations, nature and preference, I exist

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Filed under Just Living, Non Poetic Blogs

Home Is A Diving Board

diving board

Trapped between the sound of splashing and touching water

Wearing fanfares to allay fear

Fostering first finishes from ticks glimmering

They say…

Stand within ear shot of the gun to know your target

Is clapping the fruit of the harvest?

Drown, and become a compass from a floating carcass.

Another one who did the math only to make up the numbers

Saddled with sackcloth, shame and numbness

Straddling feint margins, seeking waves as markers.

Struggling to strum the melody of the barking.

Seeking to beat this with heartstrings.

A war-torn dome is only enlightened by stillness.

Choose your weapon before tumbleweed kills you.

Strike with every breath, release gold or reach home.

Time the trapeze, then reach and step.

Let your soul know this was a good body to rent.

 

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Down Day

Image result for feeling down

 

They say men are made from stuff women aren’t.

Stronger hands, harder hearts

You can take a beating and dare not flinch

The measure of man’s tiers found in grit not ink.

 

He’s made of wildest dreams and infinite schemes

A man is built to last.

He can plot a tree and chop down forests.

Just women’s ages he dare not ask.

 

A man should have money, a man should have style.

A man commands the stage.

Men have no fear, knows lust not love.

Being a MAN is all the rage.

 

So why do good ones fall and bad ones rise?

Is it safe to even ask?

Is it weak to cry, will he be despised?

Is it wise to be about that?

 

I’m drowning in supposed to be.

What I’m not has been my yoke.

If I’m a man or so I claim will my man card be revoked?

 

I guess I’ll hang from ropes you beat me with.

My failures and dented pride.

When love is lost we count the cost.

No hope and suicide.

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Filed under Just Living, Random Poetics

FROM

Image result for journey

Snap chat masking me

What is Masculinity?

His story is mine.

Wheels of the divine?

Magnolia tears screeching

Preaching can’t reach in

Chat rooms and emails

Soul ties and habits

Are they devils or detail?

Masculinity

On the ropes and off the rails

All is vanity

All I’ve got is me

Hands low chin tucked backing up.

Trying to give a

Swing for upper crust

Walk on to the uppercut

Dying to give a

Mourning a mauling

Stabbing at stepping forward

Falling without love.

Ballads and parables

Man of cool to manacles

Just a wailing wall

 

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