Archives for posts with tag: blacklivesmatter

Arrested for Justice!

They explained what to do and what not to do. Everything seemed so “organized.” It all made sense. I thought I understood how it was supposed to go. But my heart still pounded and my throat had a lump. They warned us about prior convictions. My mind kept wondering if I had any convictions…or even had been arrested. I couldn’t remember whether or not I had. My deep-seated distrust in the criminal justice system as a black, gay, HIV-positive man was beginning to show. All the reassurances in the world could not soothe the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Prior to today my record was squeaky clean, besides the traffic tickets that keep being hailed as the example of “no big deal.” But reminded me of all the times I thought I might die from a traffic stop. And all the times I thought I might be criminalized because of my sexuality. And all the times my HIV status has been used to dehumanized my black body. Yet, I chose to be arrested.

I chose to be arrested alongside the Missouri state delegate. He is a white, straight, food service worker earning $9 per hour. He is forced to chose between child support payments and healthcare. Because 50% of his pay goes to child support. He is forced to live without healthcare. Our lives could not have been further apart, but we chose to be arrested together today.

It wasn’t that bad. We chanted. We sang. We were warned. We surrendered. What I had feared all my life and sworn to avoid, was not that bad. And maybe that’s the problem. Just maybe the fear of being arrested keeps us from doing the work of justice. Perhaps the system is set up to keep the people just complacent enough to do nothing.

As I sat there on the grassy Capital lawn, behind police tape and steel barricades with like-minded strangers for justice, I thought about those who have not organized, those who did not know what to do. As I looked down at my plastic handcuffs, relieved that they were not real, even though they were….it was difficult not to act out. The meekness of the police was provocative. Their soft spokenness, their generosity of spirit up juxtaposed to the violence of state sanctioned poverty made it difficult to comply. The violence suffered by the least of these, created a deep-seated rage, prompting me to cry out.

What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we – don’t – get – it?

Shut it down!

Are they? Are they? Are the allies of rabid racists “Fine People?” Yes, according to our Fine President. Those cheering alongside racists, fascists, neo-Nazi, white supremacists, white nationalists, and the KKK are “Fine People.”

When he first said this, I was quite surprised. How could he say such a thing. Right there in the hallowed lobby of Trump Tower, in front of those gold-plated elevators, steps away from Fifth Avenue? I was aghast. Surely the President of the United States of America did not equate racists with anti-racists, fascists with anti-fascists, KKK with anti-KKK.

But why on earth am I surprised? This man has said and done the worst things. Worst than any publicly praised political figure in my lifetime. “Grab em by the pussy.” “Mexican rapists.” “Little Marco.” “Crooked Hillary.” Ever since the day he descended the escalators of that same lobby, Mr. Trump has said the most appalling things. Things that many would never say. Things that we all think and may say in the most intimate of spaces. Such things that haven’t been said out loud beyond the go-go bar nor HBO in a generation. Things that would make Sarah Silverman blush, he has dared to utter into the living rooms of the ever faithful American religious right wing conservative, and beyond.

But perhaps that’s why I’m quite surprised. It’s quite surprising to see such sedition in plain sight, with my very own eyes…and hear them with my very own ears. I’ve heard of them through the lips of many others, as they lamented the water hoses, the police dogs, the lynch mobs, the death camps. For generations “Fine People” have been committing evil atrocities, prompting equally “Fine People” to rise up against them.

The “Fine People” of the North, came down to fight the “Fine People” of the South in order to put an end to slavery. The “Fine People” of the Allied armies, joined forces to defeat the “Fine People” of Italy, Germany, and Japan. The “Fine People” of the Civil Rights Movement led a non-violent movement against the “Fine People” of the Jim Crow South, many of whom held many a fine picnic just beneath the lynching tree. The “Fine People” of the United States of America invaded the “Fine People” of Vietnam, and the “Fine People” of Saddam’s Iraq, and the “Fine People” of Bin Laden’s Taliban who weaponized a plane full of “Fine People” bringing down two towers filled with “Fine People” on September 11th, 2001. All very “Fine People.”

Everyday I live and work and worship with “Fine People,” living “Fine Lives” longing to hear the words, “Everything is just fine.” “You are doing everything well and right. You are in no way and by no means implicated in anything that is evil or undesirable or inhumane. You are powerless to do anything beyond the many good things you are already doing. You are fine. Everything is just fine. Or is it?

What’s most surprising about Trump’s charge that there were “Fine People” on both sides, is its brilliance. It’s brilliant because, as Americans, we all just wanna be “Fine People.” This has become the bar for all of western humanity. Mr. Trump himself was accused of having a family of “fine people” by the very opponent that he accused of paying off her husband’s rape victim. Many voted for President Trump, under the assumption that he was a “Fine Person” with “Fine Children.” In 2014, #BlackLivesMatter protested “fine white people” who deeply believe New York’s Finest are policing just fine, thank you very much, despite the unarmed death of the not-so-fine black body of Eric Gardner. Almost all of the policemen who committed these murders have been acquitted because they are “Fine Policemen” called to protect and serve “Fine White People.”

The problem with “Fine People” is that they are rarely fine, “bless they’re hearts.” “Fine People” are really restless, fearful people willing to do anything to reach the not-so-high bar of feeling just fine, thank you very much. “Fine People” are willing to forego just about anything to remain just fine. “Fine People” are only willing to tweet the bare minimum to insure that everything remains fine. “Fine People” are satisfied with waiting out the rage so that we can get on with the fine business of representative government. “Fine People” are only moved to action when the immediate luxuries of they’re “Fine Lives” are frightened and frustrated.

More than anything, “Fine people” want us all to believe that everything is fine so that those of who are far from fine, will do the least amount necessary to bring about any real  and lasting social change. For this reason, both the fascists and the Antifa were far from fine in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. One side was evil, the other courageous, each committed to fulfilling its respective agenda: one, the complete annihilation of non-white races…the other, the full equality and inclusion of all people…both by any means necessary.

For nearly two years I’ve been yelling, “OMG, I love Empire!” By “empire,” I didn’t necessarily mean the American empire, but the hit TV show, Empire. For months my televisional week revolved around Empire. I was obsessed with its characters. I was infatuated with Jamal. I was captivated by Cookie. I loved the terror exacted by Lucious the patriarch.  I loved the bougie hip hop #veryblack shade that was constantly being thrown as a #veryreal constant of the upward spiral of blackness in an empire defined by the demise of blackness. And because I love (big “e”) Empire, I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time.

The delay is due to my reluctance to critique the very things I love…and I do love the American empire (little “e”)  so very very much. Perhaps too much. So much so that I am guilty of hating the abuses of America more so because of how they besmirch the American ideal, and less so because of the abuses themselves.

But at the end of the day, America is an empire in the purest form. And anyone committed to justice for all has to question their love for the American empire. The great James Baldwin said it best when he said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”  

But the problem is, empires are generally not open to criticism. To call into question the assertions of empire is to question the very premise of imperialism itself. The problem with empire is that the promises and guarantees, therein, require the execution of grave injustices and brutal atrocities. To question such executions is to threaten the empire that I am devoted to loving. Jamal and Cookie and Lucious are but figurative commodities depicting the imperial realities for which I aspire. A reality in which blackness and queerness and power personified is privileged are centered in imperial conquest.

But then, I am reminded that empire is not defined by diversity but dominance. A dominance that if spoken against is in itself an unspeakable betrayal. To speak against empire and live in opposition to empire is existential treason of the highest order. For this reason loving empire is dangerous. Loving empire endangers the marginalizations that are created by empire. Blackness, queerness, and liberty and justice for ALL do not coexist in empire. Freedom of speech that is prophetic and subversive is a threat to empire. To truly love empire is to love oppression, to love stratified power, to love armies, and homogeneity, and hegemony. To love empire is to love all the things that sustain empire. To love empire is to love all the things that denounce who I am. Loving the American empire is juxtaposed to black selflove, queer selflove, and the sacrificial love of the other.

As such, I love America more than any other country in this world, but because it is an empire I must persist on an internal self-critique of my complicity to the evil that sustains its imperial allegiance.



Obama is retiring. Having served faithfully as the first Black Commander-in-Chief, it’s time for him to vacate the White House. Just as the inauguration of 2009 allowed us to see what we had never seen before, the inauguration of 2017 will allow the same. For the first time in American history we will witness a Black president pass the torch to a white president. Who will it be? It’s the final weekend of the 2016 campaign and no one is certain. What we are certain of is that, once again, the results depend on the Black vote. So much is riding on whether or not Blacks will turn out to vote at 2008 levels. If Blacks do not turn out to vote for the First white Woman president in 2016 to the same extent that we turned out to vote for the First Black president in 2008, then there may not be a First white Woman president in 2017. Once again, the burden of the country falls on the back of the Black vote.

Ironically, Republicans have long realized how pivotal the Black vote is. Long before many Blacks knew and long before many liberal whites knew, the Republican party knew what was at stake with the Black vote. While Blacks were gleefully gloating over our First Black president, the Republican party was strategizing the demise of the Black vote. While Republicans were strategizing the demise of the Black vote, Black voices were being dismissed for screaming #BLACKLIVESMATTER. So with new legislation to suppress the Black vote and no new legislation to uplift the Black voice, the burden of the country falls on the backs of Black people. Whatsoever shall we do? While I am certainly WITH HER, I am a lil frustrated that the Black vote is being pressured at the last minute. Why should the voiceless poor in Black America lay aside the cares of our Black world to arrive at a poll that may not let us in. Why should the voiceless poor in Black America show up to cast a protest vote against Trump when #BLACKLIVESMATTER protesters go unheard. Suddenly, on the weekend finale of the 2016 campaign #BLACKVOTERSMATTER.

Ironically, it was not the Black vote that moved the Obamas into the White House. It was the white vote, particularly the young white vote that #FelttheBern hot enough to elect Obama. That 54% of young whites #FelttheBern for Obama and turned out to vote for the First Black president is more epic than the fact that 96% of Black voters turned out to vote for him. Those 54% of young whites who #FelttheBern may not turn out to vote for the First white Woman president, thus placing the burden of a Hillary victory on the Black vote. Yes, voiceless Blacks are under tremendous pressure to lay aside the cares of our Black world to arrive at a poll that historically suppresses the Black experience. So, while young whites who #FelttheBern exercise their right to stay home because they just don’t trust HER, Blacks will shuffle along to the polls to prevent a Trump presidency from illegitimizing the legacy of the First Black president…and prevent further damage to the Black experience in modern America.


Like really??? Who gives a damn? I could care less about what Trump and his deplorable minions believe about where Ann Dunham’s (aka…Obama’s mama) water broke. Yes, I meant to say “could.” I could care less…but I am choosing to care more because it matters. It matters whether or not we believe Barack Obama is American. It matters whether or not the first African-American president is American. It matters because if you question the legitimacy of the first black president, then you are ignorant of the implications of being black in America…and of being white in America. If you are ignorant of the implications of being black in America…and of being white in America, then you are ignorant about America. This rush to interrogate whitelessness is racism. This rush to distrust and challenge blackness and brownness is racism. Inciting a movement that undermines the citizenship of the first sitting black president is racist. It is the kind of racism that begins with needing to touch my black hair and ascends to needing to see the first black president’s birth certificate. It is the kind of racism that objects to #blacklivesmatter with #alllivesmatter. It is the kind of racism that is fearful of taco trucks on every corner, but ok with Starbucks on every corner. It is the same kind of racism that responds to blue on black crime (yes, I called it crime) with black on black crime. So yes, I give a damn, not about whether or not Obama came out of Ann in Hawaii. I give a damn about the notion that a deplorable demagog rose to power by inciting a racist critique of the first black president. I give a damn, that after 8 years he expected a naive recantation to silence the issue. I give a damn, because it reveals that such naïveté was only meant to incite racism rather than expose the impossible assumption that a white lady from Kansas delivered a black baby in Africa and smuggled him into America so that 50 years later he could surreptitiously become the first black president of the United States of America. That, my friends, is deplorable!


I find this very, very hard to believe. It can’t not be unintentional, right? What if it’s intentional? What if it’s not an accident? What if we are being strategically targeted? We very well could be? How can we not be? Every time it happens, I ask myself, “How does this keep happening?” Sanford. Ferguson. Staten Island. Brooklyn. Cleveland. Baton Rouge. Hempstead. Salt Lake City. Baltimore. Tulsa. Charlotte. These are just the few that I could remember without doing a proper Google search. In the Northeast. In the South. In the Midwest. All ages. Both sexes. Many classes. One race. BLACK. I find this very, very hard not to believe. It can’t not be unintentional, right? If Isis is strategic, and if the west and south sides of Chicago are premeditated, then these recurrent acts of implicit bias might just be explicit. Perhaps there is a premeditated plot, a concocted network of rogue officers who have orchestrated a system of organized violence against BLACK life. What if that is what it is? Really! I mean it. What if the trigger happy policeperson is really just the policeman predestined to exterminate a BLACK life on any given Sunday, just the policewoman preordained to pick off Wednesday’s child playing in the park. This very well could be? How can it not be? In Ferguson and Baltimore and the Jim Crow South, the Justice Department has exposed patterns of racial discrimination in police agencies. Yet still, my assumption is that it is systemic and unintentional, that the common ways and means and ends are all coincidental. Over and over and over and over again we see video evidence of unarmed BLACK men and BLACK women being assaulted and executed by reckless white police officers. Even as a BLACK man I find it very, very, very hard not to believe that the same senseless insanity committed over and over and over and over again is not just another accident. I find it very hard not to believe that it is a mishap, that it just might possibly be intentional. It can’t not be unintentional, right? What if it is? I find this very, very hard not to believe.

downloadAgain??? Yup! Again!!! On Saturday and again on Monday. On Saturday an Islamic man did it. On Tuesday a white policewoman did it. I live in New York…and I am a BLACK gay man. I depend on subways and sidewalks to get me where I need to go. As a New Yorker, my eyes and ears are alert to the sights and sounds of the next terror attack. As a gay man, I am casually vigilant of how the movements of my hips and the flips of my wrists put me in harms way. As a BLACK man, I keep my head straight, my voice low, and my actions steady as I pass the policewoman and the policeman who cruise my gentrified Harlem hood, as it is unclear as to who exactly they are protecting. As a BLACK gay New Yorker, I must confess I am more terrorized by police, than by Islam or homophobia. It feels as if I am more likely to be killed by a cop for being BLACK, than by radical American fundamentalism for being gay, or by radical Islamic fundamentalism for being American. I can walk straight to deter being gay bashed. I can practice vigilance to deter a violent act of Jihad, but what can I do to prevent state-sanctioned police brutality targeted toward my BLACK body. Being BLACK is a terror threat. While the government warns us about the dangers of traveling abroad as American, it fails to warn us about the dangers of traveling in America as BLACK. As the presidential nominees spew vile rhetoric against Islam and prepare a platform for fighting terror, I need a platform for being BLACK. What precautions must I take to prevent an attack against my BLACKness? What threat level color code alerts me of the dangers of being shot during a traffic stop? How high must my arms be raised? How low the color level of melanin in my BLACK skin? What must I do to escape the terror of being attacked by a cop for being BLACK?


black_whiteFor the past couple years I have become quite uncomfortable. It first came about in a white boyfriend’s living room. Then it began to happen in the halls of my liberal progressive seminary. And soon after, it was through the threads of my social media feeds. I felt it at work. Then alas, I felt it at church. Alongside the discomfort of questioning my right to be black and alive, I felt the discomfort of being black in the company of whites whom I thought loved me. I heard them say, “Michael, you know I love you, but…!” I love you, but? What does that mean? What does it mean to be loved, but? I would learn that to be loved, but…means that I am loved despite my black self-understanding. I am loved despite my black frame of reference. I am loved as long as I listen to what whites have to say about what it means to be black in America. I came to realize that my white loved ones love being listened to but are uncomfortable when forced to listen to the lived experiences of my black life. White love was more comfortable with telling me their perceptions of black life than listening to my reality of my black experience. As a result, I began following #BlackLivesMatter with #WhiteLoveListens. Just as #BlackLivesMatter struck a cord in soul, #WhiteLoveListens tugged on my heart strings. It was my sexy way of saying, “If you love me, hear me.” It is also me saying, “I love you, so I’m telling you.” For this fall, #WhiteLoveListens has become the tagline for a white-led conversation on race at my church, Judson Memorial Church…and I am very comfortable with that. In adopting my sexy tagline they are saying, “We love you, we hear you.”