Love and Happiness

Love and Happiness

 

That song was made popular by Al Green. In the first line he say’s, “Love will make you do right/ make you do wrong.” This post is about how we could all stand to share some love and happiness.

I really want to latch on to the thought of LOVE for this blog and I hope the conversation around it is shared and continues.

I have been very fortunate to be surrounded and dare I say overwhelmed with LOVE my entire life. By many accounts I am/was both of my grandmother’s favorite and if I was my sister was definitely the favorite for my grandpa.

That said the LOVE we received from our immediate family and extended family (blood and sometimes not) set the tone really early. Our family was fiercely protective of one another. If discipline was going to occur it started at home. Encouragement started at home and most importantly affirmation started at home.

I lost count on how many times I was told I was smart. I lost count on how many times I heard I Love You and to this day whether by voice or text I will have those 3 words shared with me from members of my family.

That love and affirmation has propelled me through life. It made my experiences, missteps and dare I say failures that much easier. I knew I would be OK, because of the Love I received at home.

I know how fortunate I truly am and recently on Easter I was stopped in my tracks. While putting together an umbrella for my grandma’s patio and barbecuing my grandmother, who knows I am gay said something that made me stop in my tracks.

I don’t even really know what we were discussing, but maybe something about music or dancing and she said she couldn’t wait to celebrate and dance at my wedding. WOW! I haven’t thought much about my wedding or how it’s going to happen since I am not in any sort of relationship! It just got me to thinking how fortunate I am to have a family who loves me through and through.

For some reason I was extremely nervous to share my sexuality with my family. For some reason I just knew they would disown me, maybe kick me out of the family and Lord knows what else.

Maybe it was the stories of many other LGBT people of color that I knew and read about. Maybe it was what I saw in movies and televisions shows. I just knew that it was supposed to be that way. After all any guy that I had dated had been disregarded or even told that his “lifestyle” would not fly with their respective family.

I figured certainly my path would one day align with theirs. It was hard for me to imagine not being able to come to family dinners, reunions or spend holidays and birthdays with my own blood. To not feel the hugs and kisses my parents showered me with. To not get one of the hugs I look forward to from my grandmother, my brother and sister. Nonetheless as I shared it with the immediate family (many were shocked at nearly 28) nothing changed. Their love didn’t change, their hugs didn’t change, the kisses, the birthday gifts and calls, NOTHING changed.

I think the stories I have heard over the years of the young men and women who have been all but homeless or barred from attending their family functions, essentially striping them of their family privileges scared me.

I have heard the stories of young men and women who hear nothing from their parents except when they receive a text, email, phone call or voicemail to quote convenient scripture about their love they share for the same gender. I can’t imagine never hearing I love you or not receiving some of those hugs and kisses. As strong as I am and as much of a man as I am, that means something to me, it is a powerful source of strength.

That is the reality for so many LGBT people of color. They can’t come home for holidays or even to say hello. They do not have someone to call to share the good news about the love of their life and most certainly they don’t have a shoulder to lean on if and when that Love is cut short or disappears.

It got me to thinking, what if my straight friends spouse was not acknowledged or allowed to visit? How would that make them feel? Could you imagine never being able to take family portraits, enjoying Easter, Birthday’s, Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza with the first Love you ever knew?

So many of us take for granted what family means and is. We take for granted how far we have come with the Love and support of family. No matter your religion, you are called to LOVE your family. Love them.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming walking into the world knowing you have so much support. I do not know how to handle some people who have been all, but abandoned. The world has made them hard and cold. I would imagine if more people embraced them with LOVE and kind words we might be a little better off.

So I encourage my friends who are straight to reach out to your family members who may be LGBT and let them know you LOVE them. Let them know that all you want for them is LOVE and Happiness. Maybe your view on their sexuality hasn’t changed, but the good thing is you don’t have to be involved in their sexuality. You just have to be involved with LOVING and supporting that family member.

Let’s spread the love and encourage one another. Life is hard enough just dealing with strangers, the people we work with and life’s random occurrences. Let’s share the load and spread a little LOVE and Happiness.

 

 

 

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#communicationMatters

Something happened in the past 10 years. We’ve gone from long conversations on the phone at night, that turned into face to face interactions and taught us enough or scared us away to make educated decisions about relationships and friendships.  Now we are in a space where we have a society full of poor communicators.

With the evolution of social media a good number of us have logged on to a number of social media websites and logged off of phone and face to face interactions.

In fact I can count on one hand the friends I have who when they do call still leave a voice message. I love them by the way!

What I’ve realized in the flammable climate of group texts, emails, social media posts and short attention spans, is that miscommunication happens all too often.

You see what a phone conversation would turn into a joke or appropriately handle, the leeway of a text, social media posting or missed phone call now ignites a beef or miscommunication that shouldn’t even exist.

In fact by the time a phone call is made things have usually gone from bad to worse. Former friends and/ or lovers don’t and won’t speak to one another and those around seem to enjoy the beef and not encouraging a face to face conversation or phone resolution.

There is so much value in a phone conversation that allows someone to communicate a complete thought. Even trying to communicate a complete thought on Facebook, blogs and most certainly via text, Twitter and Instagram can leave a lot unsaid.

Pick up the phone today and reach out to someone who you feel you did not communicate appropriately with or that you find value in. Communicate via phone or face to face and share with them what you really meant and what they mean to you!

#communicationMatters

Did you know…

Leading up to yesterday’s election I knew that things would not be good for the HERO act. 

  (Image of commonly distributed marketing materials for anti-HERO promotion)

I was shocked that people of color Hispanic and or black did not know that it protected equality based on their race. Instead everyone I spoke to focused on an issue that wasn’t even an issue (at least according to the text in the actual act). 

What I saw was that good ole’ fashioned word of mouth and some pretty horrible television ads had produced one of life’s most dangerous feelings FEAR. The opponents of PROP 1 latched onto a fear that men dressed as women would use the ordinance to prey on kids. 

Every time I saw a person of color discussing it in person or via social media it was clear they hadn’t read the ordinance and believed the unsubstantiated and offensive hype.

I won’t say much other than in 2015 I thought we made more progress. It reminds me of opponents of equality scaring people away from the polls in the 60’s. Even more disturbing in Houston, on the day of the election, a donut chain opens (which happens to be one of my favorites) and there was a line for at least 12 hours before the opening and 12 hours after. Voter turnout was low. Of nearly 2.5 million registered voters only about 25% turned out. I’m sure the donut shop had well over 2,000 guests throughout the day. I saw people who live nor work no where near the location posting about “happening” to drive by.
I’m at a lost for words, but I know for sure that should this voter turnout and fear baited messaging be used again, the presidential election won’t be clean sweep for any politician no matter their affiliation. If we think so then we are surely in more trouble than we realize.

Huffington Post’s article details, cites and provides actual language, and provides a high level view of how cities much smaller in Houston were affected. 

  (CampaignForhouston.com web image)
I’m at a lost for words, but I know for sure that should this voter turnout and fear baited messaging be used again, the presidential election won’t be clean sweep for any politician no matter their affiliation. If we think so then we are surely in more trouble than we realize.

The anti-hero movement did a lot. If anything what it did is allow secretly and not so secretly LGBT individuals and families to latch on to what so many believe, that is that individuals in the LGBT community and perverts/pedophiles are one in the same. 
I’ll stop there, but there’s a definite distinction. We need to be honest, but open minded enough to have a conversation for understanding and not to simply speak. 
Read the Huffington Posts article which not only details and cites actual language, but provides a high level view of how cities much smaller in Houston were affected. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE HUFF POST ARTICLE



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Hip Hop Comes out… Sort of

#OutinHipHop

Last week VH1 and the Love and Hip Hop brand delivered a round table discussion that was actually positive. No fighting, cursing word wheeling, slander filled conversations, but civil dialogue. They brought people of color together for a civilized conversation about a social, religious and cultural topic, Homosexuality in the Hip Hop Culture.
The show was navigated by journalist and ABC anchor and television personality, T.J. Holmes.
Holmes navigated the broad topic and was accompanied by noted hip hop artist DMC and Big Freedia. Among the panelists included Ray J, Fizz, and Emil Wilbekin, Pastor Delman Coates, Buttahman, Clay Cane, Chuck Creekmur , and Michael Arceneaux.
The show began discussing Miles (a participant in the show Love and Hip Hop LA) coming out process, internal conflict he faced, as well as what reality he may face from a very religious black family and being a up and coming hip hop artist.
Miles discussed not wanting to be shunned and or disowned by his family and disregarded by his church. Admittedly I had not watched much of Love and Hip-Hop LA this season, but Mile’s story resonated with me. Over the past 9 years, I began to accept my sexuality (all be it in stages) I’ve encountered so many men who are held captive by the love they fear they will lose by being who they simply are. Their taste in clothes doesn’t change, their mannerisms won’t change, their respect for their family won’t change and their love of God or their spiritual being wouldn’t change. However their family and some friends would surely reject them for not having the same attraction.
The show was a dartboard of topics, but T.J. Holmes did a great job of navigating things and keeping the show moving. Of the topics on the show, one of the most heated exchanges took place around religion and hip-hop’s effect on participants and listeners of hip hop. The panel discussed religion and its role in keeping people closeted. The irony was that hip hop artists who degrade women, glorify a gluttonous lifestyle, and degrade their brother’s and sisters could then have a moral compass was the elephant in the room.
The topic was very interesting as you could see the stage of religious leaders was definitely split. As Pastor Delman Coates, eloquently explained Jesus himself never mentions anything about same sex love, marriage or interactions. He put into context the mentioning of homosexuality in the bible and explained the church should be welcoming same gender loving members without commenting on their respective private life.

This topic could have been an entire show by itself. Pastor Jamall Bryant on via Skype providing counseling and prayer for the afflicted gays while Pastor Delman Coates lauded the church to welcome everyone and to love the individuals regardless of sexuality. He touched on not nitpicking sins.

The show progressed so much and discussed stories and impacts of words like “faggot” or “fag” so much that several of the artists on stage stood up to announce they wouldn’t use it having witnessed the conversation of how those words effected so many.
Perhaps the most poignant moment aside from Pastor Delman Coates was the point Emil Wilbekin made. The former Vibe Magazine editor in chief, stated that straight men and hip hop in particular will wear clothes designed and styled by a gay man, but mock, disrespect, and ridicule a gay man. Again the irony in the conversation was abounding. A community that feels like “non-black” artists exploit hip hop, yet they will exploit the styles created by gay men.
I’ve often wondered how the individuals (rappers / hip-hop artists) who by in large don’t contribute positive images of young African-American youth in their artistry can then get so spiritual and religious to condemn someone else. Surely there are worse things than being gay, unless of course you’re black and then you could have sold drugs in your neighborhood that led to countless deaths, arrests, and subsequent spiraling activities that leave many African Americans stuck.
We have to begin to evaluate how we’ve defined a group of people who aren’t bad just based on their sexuality (LGBT Community). They aren’t demonic and they aren’t evil. We instead need to have a higher level of consciousness that makes us evaluate individuals based on their works and their words. I’ve seen more young men and women influenced by artistry that doesn’t represent reality and instead crafts an invisible cage around their mind. Let’s start to look past sexual preferences and start to just make good quality music. Something to make us feel good, make is move, and hopefully motivate us.
Check out the link below to #OutinHipHop

#OutinHipHop

Ringing of the Bell

Last night my Uncle Carnell lost his battle with cancer. About a year ago he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. 

Despite an ominous diagnosis he was optimistic. His first few treatments of radiation and chemo were extremely harsh. 

My mother being a resourceful and determined person she is found new doctors for my uncle. Thanks to her he was able to receive great care from the doctors from Methodist Hospital. 

At the time my Uncle was receiving treatment I was able to take him to and from treatment. We were able to bond like we hadn’t before and I’m extremely fortunate for that. I also was able to see what determination looked like. Whether it was raining or cold my uncle got up and went to treatment. When he didn’t feel so good and maybe he felt a little down he got up and he went to treatment. As a result, my uncle responded to the treatment a lot better.

I learned something so valuable about support systems during his first round of treatment. Our family took turns taking him to treatment. We visited with him. The kind staff at Methodist were supportive and very Friday therapy dogs came to visit. We were also able to fellowship with the therapy dogs care takers and they prayed for my uncle. 

Sadly the cancer spread and the treatment coupled with the cancer overtook him.

As I write this I can’t say that I’m not sad, because I don’t think I’ve stopped crying since I started writing this entry. The tears aren’t all of sadness, but tears of good memories. I remember growing up and even as an adult my uncle was never afraid to tel me he loved me or that he was proud of me. However I hope he heard my words that I was proud of him and that I loved him for sticking with his treatment. For continuing to be a brother to my mother despite his struggle. For continuing to be a uncle to my sister and for always honoring my grandmother, his actual step mother, as his mother.

I wrote about flowers before this, but I reiterate to anyone able to or who took the time to read this, give the ones you love their flowers while they are still here.

I acknowledge that cancer may have won the physical battle, but it never won the spiritual battle with my uncle. My lasting memory won’t be of a hospital bed he lay in, but of him ringing the bell when he finished his first round of treatments. 

RIP to my Uncle Carnell

  

Flowers

Earlier this year my brother and I lost our father.  It was one of those experiences in life where it happened all of a sudden.

I had gone out of town for a cabin trip for a good friends birthday. While driving I received a call about 9:30pm that night. I missed the original call and received the voicemail left. It was the Harris County Coroners office.

I was confused as to why I would be receiving the call from the Harris County Coroners office. So I returned the call. The news didn’t really resonate in that moment. I learned a while back how to keep it moving. I’ve perfected a poker face, it started when I was attending college and my mother had two strokes. I was worried about her health, her recovery, and I was nervous I would have to drop out to help take care of things and then my sister was diagnosed with kidney disease. There hasn’t been much that could rattle me since.

I received the news, but thankfully I was heading to a place with very little signal and I probably needed that. Before arriving to the cabin, I sent a text to my mom to share the news and asked her to reach out to my uncle and brother. I remained on that trip for the weekend despite the internal conflict. This is poignant, because I was not forced to stay, but I did not want to ruin the trip for my friend and the other attendees.

What would transpire over the next few weeks and months changed me for the better. It hit me when I spoke at my dad’s
Memorial service. I had never told him thank you for being a role model in regards to his work ethic. I had never given him his flowers while he was here.

Talk about jarring! That realization literally almost made me choke. I’m far from perfect, but I pride myself on being fair. I wasn’t fair to him. The toughest thing is realizing I wouldn’t get a second chance to say thank you.

Over the next few months I felt abandoned by a few of the individuals I had grown close to, people who were like brothers. I hadn’t heard much from them since my dads death. I’m not sure what I expected. I know it wasn’t money, I knew it wasn’t much though. Maybe a call or a text. After speaking to a long time friend, Tiffany, a cancer survivor, I decided to refocus my energy on those who had stepped up and some who never stepped back.

I made a decision to start giving those people around me who prayed for me, called to check on me, offered to have lunch or dinner, their flowers.

I’ve made it a mission and a purpose to give those who set good examples, are selfless, and those who I know I can rely on their flowers.

Losing my father was tough, because I always figured I would have more time to keep shaping our bond and keep growing. I realized death is surely something we all will encounter and that once God calls an angel home each time we have to make a decision. Do we stay resentful of their loss or do we share the flowers we are left carrying that we never shared before.

As a result for me I hope that I’ve been a better grandson, son, brother, and friend to those around me. Don’t hold on to those flowers! Someone could use them!

*This blog isn’t one meant to target any of the friends or former friends who didn’t have the capacity to be there or chose not to be there, it’s simply a piece of the story that brings it home.*