Stop. Breath. Look At What You’re Doing.

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I hit my bunk around 5am after hours or writing, talking shit, laughing, and practicing my half Fort Myers, FL, half South London accent. Someone was snoring, and I left my good earphones between the couch cushions at my place 5,000 miles away, and the cheap ones I did bring weren’t good enough to block it out. I counted my breaths, whispered “inhale,” breath, “exhale,” and eventually my mind went elsewhere.

“This is amazing,” I thought. “Take this all in, and enjoy it.”

This is the living I wanted to do when I wasn’t living so much; when I was imagining what life would be like if I could catch up with friends on the other side of the world over plates of garlic baked white fish, plantains, black beans and sweet corn cakes. I move too fast sometimes and I don’t realize what I’m doing until I’ve done it. This bottom bunk is helping me.

In the film, An Affair to Remember, Terry McKay says “winter must be cold for those with no warm memories. We’ve already missed the spring.” I never want to be cold in the winter. I think about this while breathing deeply.

Raquel Tapia just asked, “how do you fund so many amazing trips?” I wanted to save this question for the book Grandville recommended I write, but I’ll go for a bit of it now. I buy one way tickets and figure everything out when I arrive. I believe wholeheartedly, and have yet to be proven wrong, that things work out when you step out there, and nothing awful will happen.

So yeah, I just show up.

“Look at what you’re doing, Darnell,” she said. And I started looking, and I seen it, and it was good, and it was fun, and it was beautiful, and I almost cried, but I got myself together and kept breathing.

Sunday I leave London on a one-way ticket to Marrakech, Morocco. To do what? I’ll figure it out when I get there. It just feels good to be here; in this place I dreamed about 20 years ago. On that bottom bunk listening to that snoring, knowing there will be stories to remember, stories to tell and share. Perhaps I’ll stay a few days, find a boat from Tangiers to Barcelona, or Monaco or something. Maybe I’ll yell “I’m the captain now, Irish!” from the piers. Who knows. Maybe I’ll live there, and write and produce my best works, and give my papers to an archive when I hit 75.

I’m grateful for the humility. The constant belief or thought that I’m not doing enough for the world, and for the people I know, like, love, and such. I’m truly working hard.

This week, my aim is to find a place somewhere in London that will be just mine. A patch of grass overlooking a body of water maybe, and I’ll breath and be thankful for it all.

Dear White People: My Review [Spoiler Alert]

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Justin Simien successfully translated Higher Learning into a language today’s black students on white campuses can understand, and he did so in a way that allowed me to walk out of the theater asking for no one’s head on a platter. Higher Learning is almost 20 years old, and I still feel the need to quarantine myself immediately after watching out of fear of having a rooftop cafeteria moment with everyone I feel is calling me the N-Word in their head. The students now are different and revolution is happening in a much different way, and Justin understands that.

To that I say, “way to freaking go, Justin Simien, and all involved.”

Because my mother’s favorite movie is Imitation of Life, I’ve known about the tragic mulatto for quote some time, but never have I seen one find peace before the end credits. Sure, in my head Peola Johnson went on to live her life as a black woman, in peace. But that only happened in my head. “I’m in the middle of something,” Sam told her mother on the phone. As a sometimes filmmaker, it was such an amazing moment. The elusive triple entendre Jay-Z spoke of. Here she was, in the middle of planning a protest, in the middle of a rock (Reggie) and a hard place (Gabe), and in the middle of figuring out exactly who Sam was.

Todd Tucker, Mona Scott-Young, Tyler Perry, and anyone who dares throw a D.A.R.E. tshirt on a functioning crackhead should grab tickets and see what we who are outside the frame are looking at. The loud yell that came from me during the Madea discussion and George asked, “Where’s she going this time? Dialysis?” was needed.

I would be shocked and disappointed if I someday find out Justin isn’t a fan of Nikki Giovanni. The love scene between Sam and Gabe has “Seduction” duct taped to it. It was perfect. Pure poetry.

Topher Osborn (Cinematographer), you are the man! Not once was I not in love with everything I was seeing. Be sure to share part of that compliment with Toye Adedipe (Costume Designer)

As a sometimes critic on culture and sometimes higher education guy, I was pleased to see real people on the screen. Unfortunately it’ll bypass the thoughts of so many people, but Simien touched on something I speak about often: black students who culturally identify as white due to their upbringing, environment, and now likes and dislikes and who’re associated with them.

Though I share almost identical experiences with Sam, including the screening of my film, The Field Nigger and the Buchenwald Jew, in Professor Dvir’s cinematography class at Howard University, while protesting on my undergraduate campus alone, and my constantly being in the middle of something, I didn’t feel much of a connection with her, and I’m not sure why. I still rooted for her in all that she did, but if she died, I wouldn’t have been sad. However, I’d show up at Colandrea’s funeral with the biggest wreath. For me, she was the most well-developed character, and her ending was perfect. To grow up feeling as though she didn’t belong due to rejection because she’s a middle class girl living in the hood (Obama Style in South Side Chicago), carry that to college, and finally see things differently and work toward reform, but to be rejected again. Life!

I wanted more for Reggie, also. Why was he so into Sam? Who is he without her? I also wanted Sam’s struggle to reach a decision between the rock and the hard place to be deeper, and maybe a little bloody. I needed more from her. I do understand though that time allotment doesn’t always let us develop characters the way we’d like.

I feel I could have lived without Lionel Higgins, though he was a good temporary distraction between the scenes I loved, but I do get the purpose of his character in the grand scheme.

GO CURLS (Ashley Blaine Featherson)! You were Awesome!

Better film (and definitely better Black film) is being created and produced and Justin Simien and his amazing creative team are taking off! This won’t be the last we hear from him, I’m sure. We’re ready!

Evolution Had To Happen, Didn’t It?

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We were just kids, weren’t we? It’s easy to admit now that we’re back in this place where we became men and women. Where we discovered who we were away from those who made every attempt at telling us who we were. Kids who made millions of mistakes but only learned hundreds of lessons. Just kids.

Now we’re adults with kids who come back and laugh and pray our kids won’t do half the things we did, but secretly wishing they’ll try. We all experimented. We rolled joints in ZigZags at the park and played Blueprint. We crushed on the pretty girls and hit up the ugly girls on Myspace because we were sure they’d come over and get naked. We occupied stoops and watched a half-decent kid get murdered in the street. We come back to remember these things.

She’s married now, and her kids are adorable, and though you’ll never cross the line, you tiptoe very close to the edge because she’s still as gorgeous as she was when she was single in a band uniform with no makeup, and her hair pulled back.

Just kids who paid no attention to evolution because the future wasn’t really coming toward us, and we weren’t moving toward it. All that existed were those moments, counting stars, watching the clouds, and eating wings with friends we thought we’d always remember. How quickly we forgot when they didn’t return the next semester.

It’s not until we look at the pictures we snapped and developed at Kmart that we realize we’re old now. We hate the way those future-less children dress and we hate the music they listen to. They’re smoking weed in the park, on the same bench, and we wonder what their dreams are. Biggie was dead before they were born, and their decision to attend an HBCU had nothing to do with Whitley and Dwayne’s wedding, or Kappa Lambda Nu.

The kids we were hate the adults many of us have become, but this is the weekend to try to reconcile those relationships. To show those kids we can still get down. We can still grab a girl’s arm at the party like the boys in Miami do, and she’ll still smile with a mouth full of jewels if we’re lucky.

Evolution had to happen, didn’t it?

I’d Rather Not Die Now

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I’d rather not die now. Not this Autumn. It would inconvenience me greatly. There are so many other things I want to do. I have yet to stand at the helm of my destiny. I want to hitchhike from Paris to Monaco and stop along the way to eat a late dinner on a farm with happy lovers and fresh milk. I want to feel the thunder rising from the ground as 12 bulls scuttle by in Pamplona.

I want to taste foods from Michelin-starred restaurants I can’t afford: Restaurant Le Meurice the next time I’m in Paris; Masa the next time I’ve in New York with those friends who are never too busy. I want to know chefs by their first names, and make cakes with laughing old women who never wrote down recipes. I want a loaf of good bread from a Spanish bakery to dip in oils from an Italian oil maker, and I want a bottle of good wine that isn’t for dessert. Then I want four more. I want Vodka with no chaser from a woman named Natasha, and Tequila with two worms; one for me and one for my drinking buddy.

I want summer’s night and the coolness of a distressed hardwood floor on my toes, thighs, belly and cheek. I want deep south winters and the warmth of a lover pressed to me.

More Nina Simone covers by jazz bands on a stage in Montreal. I want to stand at the pinnacle and look over the edge and laugh as loud as I can for as long as I can at absolutely nothing. Stand ankle deep in the Pacific with the sunshine slowly slumping into my beard, then my collarbone, then my bellybutton. Drift a canal. Stand in The Door of No Return in the House of Slaves. Run the wall. Climb the mountain. Find the bones of century old lovers.

I want to sit on a train with my son and teach him the importance of writing letters. Most of all, I want to play with reckless abandon. Play like I played with my cousins when I was a boy. Barefoot at sunset, chasing lightning bugs through fences we were small enough to squeeze through, with my grandmother looking on, and me staring back believing everyone in this moment will never grow old or die.

That’s why I won’t die this Autumn. Some Autumn, I know, just not this one.

There’s No Applause For This: Ferguson

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I woke up to a black face on white racism. Is “White racism” redundant? In the last two days I’ve talked too much about the military training offered to police officers via Call of Duty video games and higher ups who want them to see people of color as targets, not humans.

We conversed about the last time a white man didn’t use his gun as the first reaction, and I stood in front of a liquor store last night and listened as a protestor dismissed a man who called her actions “heroic.” She said “Be gone with that shit, man. We’re not here to be heroic, and your words aren’t necessary. We’re here because we need to be. We don’t seek these fancy titles you’re coming over here to offer us. Want to do something, go tell the media to cover this conversation instead of those looters.” He walked off, and stepped back into his whiteness.

She said it for me, I think. We didn’t come to be heroic. That never came up. We came to see and share the truth. You don’t get applause for doing the things you’re supposed to do.

One & A Possible : Not For Spades But For Ferguson

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I’m always up late, but I’m rarely up late and angry. An American city under fire, and I can’t help but think there’s a part of the story left out. How is this happening?

Police opened fire on the crowd of folks who look like me. A woman voiced her opinion but afraid to show her face for fear of losing her job, and images of another black kid laying dead in the street flashed across the screen. It’s been so many, whose child is this, Lesley or Sybrina’s? And my fingers not moving fast enough, protesting on twitter and facebook until I pass out. I stand with internet protesters. I stan for them. I’m often one of them when I can’t make it to these places I feel could use my voice, and brain, and fingers, and images.

But this time I can go, and I’m going. Two riders, and room for one more. They need us. These are people who realized that silence has been doing nothing but making the police force stronger. I want to scream with them.

We pull of out DC at 8:30am Friday 15th. There’s room for one more in the car. Maybe two.