Season 2 - Episode 6: Black Fathers Matter

I'm a dad. This comes first. In all things, my being a father is at the top. 

I'm raising a girl. I'm raising a girl of color. I'm raising a little multi-racial black girl. I'm a black father raising a black girl. Granted, I'm Jamaican and Puerto Rican, with an Indian (from India) great-grandmother, but despite all this, I'm still black. I wish I could explain how this is difficult on so many different levels that I've lost count. I'm trying to show and spread love in a society that has no love for either of us. 

Don't believe me, peep the links below:

The Erasure of Black Girl's Childhood 

The same information above, but with less jargonese. 

It's not all doom and gloom. I love being black and I love being a father. "Why can't you just be a father?" Because that is not the way the world works. Why does black pride scare so many people? Why do functioning black families scare so many, including other black folks. I reject the notion that the default stare of American blackness is deficit, or lack, or dysfunction. Not today, or any other day, Satan. 

Here is an example of the struggle.

Malcolm Gladwell's "Revisionist History" is my favorite podcast. This episode tells you all you need to know about how modern education is screwing black children. Listen to it here.

Season 2 - Episode 5: Poverty

Few things have impacted as much as poverty has. Homelessness, thievery, hits to my self-esteem--drive, ambition, work-ethic, all of these stem from poverty. 

So many (poor/formerly poor) people have an ugly relationship to and with money. Once you've been poor, that poverty consciousness is really hard to shake. I've linked to some useful information to help navigate this. 

This is the book where that Rha Goddess piece I quote lives. You can cop it here.

This is the book where that Rha Goddess piece I quote lives. You can cop it here.

Season 2 - Episode 4: A Bouncer's Life

I bounced for about fifteen years. I loved it. I'm a night owl by nature, so the hours were perfect. I also had a very unhealthy relationship with violence, so there's that, too.

It is a profession (yes, it is a profession) that demands a perfect blend of personality, intelligence, demeanor, physicality, and bullshitting--I am pretty well-versed in all these, so this work was like coming home. 

Eventually I had to quit. I started to feel like the old man in the club, despite working there, and it felt more like I was babysitting than working. I became a counselor to people dealing with wild emotional issues. Pretty obvious why and how I segued from this work into working with youth and families dealing with emotional and behavioral challenges. 

I work. I'm a hard worker. Very few people can outwork me. So, while I was bouncing, I had one or two other jobs. Not to mention I was in undergrad for a good portion of the time I was working clubs and parties. 

During my work I met some great people. Ex-military, off-duty cops, and very talented martial artists. One of the most locked-in people I met was Rudy Rogers. He has a video series for club security/doormen. I've put two clips below. If you are currently a bouncer, a nightclub owner, or thinking about getting into the profession you need to by all of Rudy's videos.

Stay safe. 

Season 2 - Episode 3: Happy Father's Day

You may or may not know that I used to be a columnist for www.ebony.com. The column was informally titled, Father/Hood and it health with the intersection of race and parenting. I wrote this piece for them several years ago. I'd forgotten that I wrote it.

I know so many new and soon-to-be fathers and I dedicate this piece, and today's podcast, to them. Seasoned fathers, this may serve as a reminder of what it was like when you first started on this journey:

For most of my life, I have kept to myself. While many of my friends and family would paint me as “popular” growing up, it was purely a defensive strategy. I grew up in a hard household, in a hard family, in an even harder community. Giving too much of yourself was like handing your enemies weapons to use against you. I worked to become popular so I could control the situation—any social situation—to make sure things went the way I wanted them to. Being the loudest, or the funniest, or the smartest person in a given room worked to deflect attention from me and put all of the focus on what I was saying or doing.

I almost lost my wife because the front I was putting up was so unquestionably artificial that my wife didn’t know the boundaries of the “public me” and the “intimate me.” Bless her for sticking it through and for giving me the space to leave behind my manufactured masculinity and sit (sometimes uncomfortably) in vulnerability. If my wife was, say, instrumental in bringing me up to at least a high school level of self-awareness and humility, our daughter ushered me through both undergrad and graduate school.

Aside from using popularity to insulate myself from others, I also used aloofness. I was so good at pretending to be so above it all, that all my friends came to me when they were struggling with that heart stuff. They figured (and I played the part) that I was so unaffected by anything that I’d be able to provide them with dispassionate, logical responses to all their questions.

I was so good at occupying my funny, cool guy/sage on the mountaintop spaces that I was never aware enough to even realize just how damaged I was—and that a significant amount of that damage was self-inflicted. Our daughter was the mirror I needed to truly see myself and to see just how much of a sham my life was.

Before the baby was born, my wife and I were engaged in breakup talks (happened a few times after the baby was born, but those are stories best left for another time). I was ready to be single again, with the opportunity to not have to be emotionally vulnerable, to retreat to the comfort and utility of my disconnection. It was inviting.

But when we were told my wife was pregnant, something in me shifted… and it was painful. Me, the unloved son of two unlovable parents was going to be a dad. Me, the brotha who spent most waking moments protesting why he’d never want to father a child in this cold, cruel world—when in reality I didn’t think I was worthy enough to be a parent—was going to be someone’s daddy. Me, the guy who didn’t always keep his wife first in his mind and heart… How in the hell was I going to remotely be a good parent?

It was like getting punched in the face by pure truth.

From the moment she was born, I thought of myself differently. No longer could I hide in books, small talk, or being the life of the party. I had to be her book, her conversation partner. I had to be the life of her party. I had to help raise a person worthy of this life we’re all blessed to live. And for this to happen, I had to transform. I had to retool my (self) image to reflect the man I wanted to be.

Everything I did was aspirational. I treated my life like a garden. I pruned and weeded and tilled and added new soil, so that only healthy things would grow there. I started to formulate connections, expectations, and considerations that linked my fatherhood to my broader masculine identity. I forced myself to ask hard questions of myself: Why kind of man was I? What kind of man did I need to be for my daughter, my wife, and for the world we shared? I’m still asking and answering those questions.

My parenting is a parallel process with my self-development. Every lesson I learn from parenting, I immediately see how the area of growth and knowledge can be applied to my life outside of being a parent (and a husband). And by far the biggest lesson I’ve learned and have implemented on the daily is that the kinder, more trusting, and more vulnerable I am to and with myself, the better off everyone around me will be--especially my amazing baby girl. .

 

Season 2 - Episode 2: Indiana Jones and Painful Nostalgia

There is a truth that we all must acknowledge: The Indiana Jones films (and tv series) fall somewhere on the spectrum of 'racist as hell' and 'racially insensitive.' There is this phrase I hate, but I've found to be pretty much true: "All your faves are problematic." This hold especially true for things yo used to like in your childhood. A enormous position of he culture I consumed as a kid, I can barely stomach now, and will not be sharing with my kid. Indiana Jones is one of these things. Raiders of the Lost Ark, not only put me on my academic path, it activated my imagination for our world like nothing else did. Hell, like nothing has sense. But, where were the black people in that world? Where were the black people in Pulp?

This book has gone a little way to rectify the glaring omission. Cop it here. 

This book has gone a little way to rectify the glaring omission. Cop it here

Black folks are always shown in action roles., whether it be books, films, or television.. What about adventure? What about discovery? Where are the Black (non-bigoted, respectful of cultures and their artifacts) adventurers looking for hidden civilizations, or magical totems? 

If Indiana Jones were Black or any other POC, I wonder how much of an impact he would have had on me? A lot of complex feelings around this, which I talk about in the podcast. 

To give you a reference for my contentious reverie, read what I wrote about nostalgia for The Nerds of Color here.

 

      

 

 

Season 2 - Episode 1: De La Soul and Black Whimsy

New York Times

New York Times

It is almost impossible to state just what De La Soul meant (and means) to me. They simultaneously challenged me to own my difference and invited me to celebrate it. Granted, De La were part of the very divisive idea the "Golden Age" of hip-hop, but they were so far removed from any of their contemporaries--even from their Native Tongue bredren, The Jungle Brothers, who dropped Straight Out the Jungle the year before De La's debut, 3 Feet High and Rising

College radio--for a long time--was very important to and for hip-hop and co-signed De La in a way that gave De La the exposure they deserved, while also setting them against other hip-hop groups--almost like an antidote to this other publicly expressed Blackness. Too Short and Tone Loc dropped albums in January of that year: One hyper-misogynist and street, the other radio (read: accepted by white people) friendly. De La dropped on March 14th, 1989 and the hip-hop landscape was changed. If not for everyone, then, certainly for me.

We were at the beginning of what many would call the "crack era" and hope was being leeched from our communities. It was fast money, fast cars, and little to no concern for life. My brother in letters, Michael A Gonzales, wrote this and you should read it, if you want an intimate picture of what I'm describing here. 

What was missing, for me, was whimsy. This time in hip-hop (and Black and Latin culture) was analogous to the hyper-violent/anti-hero/nihilist stretch in comic books. DC Comics' Lobo character, a character who was meant to take the piss out of the whole violent anti-hero became one; Marvel's The Punisher and Wolverine, all of the first gen Image Comics stuff--absent of hope, just like a good portion of hip-hop music. 

This isn't to dis the hip-hop music of the time, because those stories were real, valid, and vital, although not very pleasant to some. De La Soul (as well as the other members of the loose confederation dubbed The Native Tongues by Kool DJ Red Alert) redefined Blackness, but more importantly to me, the redefined Black Cool. 

Cop it here

Cop it here

Back cool is damn near whatever you, as a Black individual, want it to be. Some folks are afrofuturists, some re/claim their ties to Africa, some adopt Caribbean vibes, and some, like De La Soul, were AfroRetroFutureWhimsical and it was just what I needed.

Here are a few more examples of the black whimsical impulse:

Episode 10 - I Don't Need Gold At The Woke Olympics

If this is your image, let me know so I can give proper credit.

If this is your image, let me know so I can give proper credit.

This episode marks the end of season one of the Uncle Shawn Podcast. It has been. wonderful experience, but season two is about to be wild.

I'm not an activist--despite my being called one so many occasions--but I am activated. There are things I vireo about that I become involved in, and there are things I'm sympathetic to, but won't go out of my way to become involved. I cannot be part of every major traumatic event. If I did, I'd be of no use to anyone. I don't want to be woke. I want to be alive, healthy, loved, and able to choose which battles I fight. I also want to choose to go and get a pizza, despite whatever protest is happening, without the revocation of my woke card. 

___ ___ ___

I mentioned a few people to read, here is a lit with links to the works that hit me the hardest:

bell hooks: Teaching to Transgress

Antonio Gramsci: The Antonio Gramsci Reader

Richard Dawkins: 

Deleuze and Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle

Gloria Azaldúa: Borderlands/La Frontera (Not mentioned, but you should read)

Episode 9 - That's Gay, Dude.

Not sure if he said this, but it is true.

Not sure if he said this, but it is true.

As progressive as I like to think I am, I have some vestigial homophobia that flares up from time to time. It isn't nearly as bad as it used to be, but it still happens and I'm disgusted by it. It doesn't make any kind of sense, but hate and mistrust are forms of currency that many of us trade in. 

It is such a long road to detox from homophobia. 

I will not link directly to the songs I've used in this podcast, but here is the list: 

Buju Banton: "Boom Bye Bye"

Chubb Rock: "Ya Bad Chubbs"

Brand Nubian: "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down"

Common: "Dooinit"

Jeru The Damaja: "Come Clean"

Dire Straits: "Money For Nothing"

Here is a good (basic) resource for addressing homophobia:

10 Easy Ways to Reduce Homophobia: A Guide for Straight People

Episode 8 - Welfare Willie, Free Lunch Freddie

My childhood poverty experience still affects and influences me. My poverty and my capacity for healthy emotions are inextricably linked in a way that I cannot possibly disaggregate, despite trying to do so for many years. Poverty is a specter that has always been a part of my life. I have no idea how to live otherwise.

Despite being a firm member of the rapidly declining middle class, my experiences with extreme poverty still influence my behavior. The thing is, my behavior shifts from one extreme to the other, more frequently than I would like. At a given moment, I will refuse to buy my daughter a Yakult drink because we have stuff to drink at home. An hour later, I just copped four pairs of sneakers for her. 

Make no mistake about it, poverty is trauma inducing. Here are a few tips and tricks I've learned to address my internal scarcity model and the insidious poverty consciousness:

- I save something every single day. I will transfer anything less than a dollar to my savings. If I have $12,987.92 in my checking account, that .92 is being shunted to my savings. It is a little, but the satisfaction I feel is monstrous. 

- Eating out is now for expediency or special occasions. My family and I used to eat out every single day. Not fancy, I'm talking taco trucks, etc. I also would eat lucky out everyday at work. But now we hit the Farmer's Market on Sunday, and buy groceries for the entire week. Including food for everyone's lunches. I did the math for three months and the amount of money we saved made me sad that we weren't doing this before.

- Paid off a credit card (yeah!!!) and now I use it only for my rotating monthly small bills: Netflix, Hulu, and my email service. The card is charged every month and I pay of the card every month. Wonderfully positive effect on my credit score. 

This site has been pretty invaluable. I'd suggest you read the book, then visit the site.

Episode 7 - Generation X Stand Up!

I am a proud member of Generation X, but who are we? We are the generation born right after the Baby Boomers, Oreo creme-fillinged between them and the Millennials. Pew Research Center gives the birth years of Gen X as: 1965-1980. Gallup: 1965-1978. MetLife and McCrindle Research Center: 1965-1976. 

We had less parental supervision (aka "Latchkey Kids"), we dealt with the shifting social norms of the post-Civil Rights, post-Vietnam, post-Disco, and post-Hippy era. We gave you grunge, indie films, hip-hop at its most refined--hell, Urban Outfitters sells our former culture to Millennials via toxic nostalgia. But we, as a people, are forgotten. 

My boy Ed calls us "the only generation no one really cares to market to." I'm not sure why. Not that this is the end all one all of existence, but damn. Many of us have advanced degrees, own our homes, have children (some college aged), and have sloughed off enough of our emotional and social baggage that we're pretty content with who we are. That's on an individual level. 

Who are we as a collective? As a generation? As with most things, whiteness becomes the default. But this is an interesting read. Here is something a bit more scholarly.

This is worth the perusal. Douglas Coupland popularized the term with this

There is very little scholarship on Generation X POC. Maybe that is my next project. Hmmmmm...

___ ___ ___

I want to thank Heidi J. Lawson, Max Nomad, and James Sarria for their contributions to this week's episode. 

Here is a link to Heidi's new film, "Hit-A-Lick." 

Here is a link to Max Nomad's book. Also, check this out.

Here is a link to James' GoFundMe campaign. My man is trying to be the best sustainability and social change agent he can be via his graduate work and his work with the UnSchool in Sn Francisco. If you can, throw a couple coins his way.

Episode 6 - #MasculinitySoFragileAndToxic

Am I alone in finding it funny that men routinely accuse women of being over emotional, yet, there is no group of people more prone to emotional overreaction than men? 

Granted, men have rarely (if ever) been given the space to recognize, identify, or feel their emotions without immediately jumping to solving what caused the emotions to happen. If you add race to this, it becomes even more troublesome. If you have a family tradition of a particular form of masculine expression, say, men need to make more money than their partners (I'm speaking from my heterosexual perspective) you're screwed. 

Peep this to get your laugh and cringe on. 

 

 

Episode 5 - Daddy's Report Card (and other topics)

On this episode me and my daughter talk about where I need to improve in my daddying, how the election of 45 affected her and her friends, and how I'm trying to parent her better than my parents parented me. 

She's a pretty shy kid, so for her to do this was a gigantic step. I'm so proud of her. 

This is the report card my daughter completed. 

This is the report card my daughter completed. 

Episode 4 - Suicide By Others

This episode was sparked by someone in a meeting. We were discussing how best we could help a person who had made several suicide attempts and regularly engages in self-harm, and this pillar of humanity said, "Yeah. They look like someone who would do that to themselves." Most folks brushed him off because of the combination of "charm", race, they way he dressed, and most definitely male privilege. I looked at him and asked, "Do I look like I would do this to myself?" He was deservedly shook and changed the subject. 

This will be the first time I've ever discussed how I self-harmed. It doesn't look the same for all people and to attribute the thoughts and behaviors to a particular type is as dangerous as it is damaging. 

When dealing with someone engaging in this behavior, please approach them with compassion and not your ideas of how you think they should be behaving. Thank you. 

Below are some resources that address self-harm and suicide:

Buy it here.

Buy it here.

Some alternatives written by a someone who has struggled. Get then here.

10 Ways People Self-Harm/Self-Injure

Episode 3 - Code

[Please forgive the audio quality and my mumble mouth. I didn't have my normal recording set-up, nor was I able to record in my regular spot...And I was trying not to wake the entire house.]

We're living in a world where being intentional seems to have taken a backseat to being defensive. So many of us have been forced into almost exclusively reactive positions. One way I've been able to crawl out of my reaction only state is by developing a personal code. Like always, I'm sharing my experience only. I'm not trying to establish my experience as some kind of objective truth. I used to be an inveterate liar. It was so much easier to create a false reality than to live in one where I felt ill-suited for. But when I started to explore my fear, hurt, and anger, the world opened up in all new ways. I don't think that is accurate. I opened up in all new ways to the word. I became more intentional with what I wanted, who I wanted to be with, and what I wanted to get and give. I developed a code. 

Folks always think I'm being corny when I talk about developing a code. They claim that it is archaic, patriarchal, or "too white." I guess the idea of codes, virtue, and valor are almost always publicly connected to ideas of medieval knights. Granted, some of this is embedded in the idea of a code. But ideas/beliefs are meant to mature. Some of the things that have helped me to mature to the point that I was able to develop a code are listed here:

What-is-Chaos-Magic.jpg

When I felt let down and failed by traditional religious belief systems, Chaos Magick has been an enormous help. Yes, it is steeped in European tradition, but it is designed for any and everyone to use. One of the most valuable things I was able to discover was the use of the following formula to approach the world: Will x Intent + Imagination = Result. Here is is a wonderful introduction by the writer Grant Morrison

Another thing that has helped me navigate this world, to see it as mythic, grander than it is, is this book. I read it once a year. I cannot even describe to you how this book changed me. Most definitely a foundation stone of my best life. 

But what the hell is a code? It is a set of beliefs you live by. They guide your actions and interaction. You've heard them called by many different names: a code of ethics, values, knightly virtues. How do you develop a code? Find out what you value and operationalize it. Here are a few of mine:

- Generosity: If I can help, I will.

- Embracing joy: I'm a pessimist. I need to do this or I will spiral into a deep depression. This is the most aspirational of my values. 

- Integrity: If you tell me something in confidence, no one will ever know, I am a vault. 

- Reliability: You can rely on me. If you need me, I'm there. No matter where "there" is.

- Boosting: If I believe in you, you can be sure that I will do everything in my power to make sure you're seen/heard/experienced in the way you want 

- Fatherhood first: Unless I really need some time away or something is a very pressing concern, my kid comes first. No matter what. 

- Being cordial: I say 'hello' to everyone. Don't care about your race, gender, sexuality, class/status; if our eyes meet, I'm smiling and saying hello. If you're right behind me, I'm holding the door open for you, If you acknowledge me at a corner, I'll let you turn first. My life has changed because someone took time out of their day to smile at me. I may one day talk about this experience. 

This is my way, not the way. I hope this helps.

Here is the link to that New York Times (online edition) piece I mentioned. I did not title it. 

Episode 2 - Birthday

We clown. That's what we do.

We clown. That's what we do.

Welcome to the second episode of the Uncle Shawn podcast. Today is my daughter's 9th birthday. So many people are celebrating her, and she deserves it. But hell...she's such a good person because my wife and I raised her to be. Shouldn't we be celebrated for surviving and thriving through 9 years of parenting? In this episode I talk about the birthing process, the first fart, the emotions (mainly fear) around fatherhood, and how parenting is either in alignment or in opposition to the way you were parenting. I also shout out one of my new favorite films--I've embedded the trailer below.

Train to Busan Trailer 1 (2016) Yoo Gong Korean Zombie Movie HD [Official Trailer] - Not your regular  everyday zombie flick.

If you're in the Bay Area of California and you're looking for Doula or Midwifery services, you can start here  and here

 

Mi Familia

Mi Familia

Baby's first fart.

Baby's first fart.

Here is a pretty decent graphic of the whole 'Internal Working Model' thing. 

Here is a pretty decent graphic of the whole 'Internal Working Model' thing. 

Episode 1 - The Morning Ouch

Welcome to the first episode of the Uncle Shawn podcast. In this episode I talk about the pain of getting older, hair loss, and why I call my stomach 'Fat Narnia.' I talk about two fitness systems that are currently saving my life: Animal Flow:

 

and GMB:

I also touch on my experience with depression, but I will be be diving deep in that on later episodes. 

 I hope you enjoy the first episode of Uncle Shawn.