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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Watch and Learn!

You can tell a lot about how a person responds to failure or stumbles of others.

Do they rejoice? Are they excited? Do they perk up? Are they sad? Are they inclined to reach out help?

All of these questions matter and they should matter to you. Do you really want to be around someone who has a feeling of joy when someone else isn’t successful? Can you trust these people?

Watch and Learn!

#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

#BeTheHistory

#Beyourhistory

 

As a person of color I realize the impact of my actions and the opportunity that my contributions and potential contributions can have. Honoring the history that has afforded many of us the privilege to exist the way we do is immeasurable.

I grew up appreciating and loving Black History Month as a child. Despite the negative images of public schools in the south I had a tremendous experience. My peers and I would dive deep into the rich history of African American people. From attending Emerson Elementary to Paul Revere Middle School a 1-year stint at Lee High School to attending Westside High School, the schools I attended always participated in the celebration Black History Month. From the programs to the lessons we were taught I benefited from the knowledge imparted.

Those experiences were key to ensuring that I could contribute to society at large in some way. Many of us were taught about the great inventions of Lloyd P. Ray, inventor of the dustpan. We benefit from Thomas W. Stewart, inventor of the mop, and from John Standard, the inventor of the refrigerator. Who didn’t have a super soaker as kid? Who did not want one? It blew my mind to know Lonnie G. Johnson invented arguably one of the most popular toys of my child hood. For those of us who can’t drive a stick, we can thank Richard Spikes for solving that issue, he created the automatic gearshift.

You see the inventions above were just a few of the additions to the world that black people created. So the question that I ask to the black people who are reading this is, “What will you contribute?” An even better question is, “When will you contribute?” We have so many contributions to make to society. Though the media and movies won’t depict it. We can contribute outside of pop culture, sports and entertainment. There is nothing wrong with contributions in those areas, but know you can contribute more.

Maybe you will not invent anything, but rather inspire a generation of innovators. Could your insight and talents be used to be mentor or to teach? After all the inventors listed above had some sort of teaching or education. So I encourage every one of us to tap into our calling. We are more than stereotypes, entertainment and more than our skin color. So I encourage you to be better than you have been in the past. Walk into the greatness you are a part of.

#BeMoreThan

#Beyourhistory

Leftovers 

The last year for me has left me conflicted when it comes to dating or in my case attempting to date. As I started thinking back on my experiences and then sharing experiences with friends I found commonalities.

We encounter so many individuals who simply have given their best to less than deserving people prior to us. That said many of us fail to take accountability for giving to people we know we aren’t compatible with. Many of us hope to influence or away someone into changing THEIR behavior.

My natural disposition is one of optimism. I am optimistic that life, love, professions and family can all be healthy and thriving.

Unfortunately what I tend to attract are extremely broken individuals. Individuals void of purpose, passion and dare I say promise. Now the individuals whom I encounter aren’t naturally broken, but as a result of their previous encounters.

My role in my relationships and interactions that have failed is clear. I myself brought broken pieces. I never really pieced myself back together, because I was seen as strong or put together my partners never thought to help me while I was busy trying to help them.

It seems so many of us can easily tell you we got back up after a fall, but the truth is many of us are really still battered and bruised from that fall. We are still aching mentally, emotionally and some of us even financially as a result of our choice to deal with broken individuals.

Let’s be clear those broken individuals are not bad or evil, they just don’t want to acknowledge they are still broken and they do not want to acknowledge they are still hurting.

So instead of giving us a fresh plate of them, of their love and of their effort they provide us leftovers. Leftover effort, leftover empathy, leftover intimacy and leftover love.

It’s so important that many of us take time to really heal. Carrying over life’s burdens from one situation not only continually damages you, but it can damage your future potential unions. Now you find that someone who is barely holding on has attached to someone seemingly strong and fruitful draining then of the energy they never really had.

They do not fill their partners up instead they keep requiring their partner pour more and more out of their cup. The domino effect of this is massive. The leftovers you provide your loved ones impact their work life, their spiritual life, their family relationships and their friendships.

Take the time to heal. Make sure you are serving people a fresh plate of you. One that is transparent yet working through your issues. Serve them the best you possible. Push through the pain, but still acknowledge it so that you can work together to fix it. Acknowledge the good that they offer and acknowledge your faults that you naturally have.

Quit serving your leftovers to everyone. The truth is nobody wants to take in something that everyone else has prepared.

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

What are you not saying?

Yesterday I was talking to a friend in a relationship. My friend said he was struggling with his current relationship. Nothing was wrong per say, but he was encountering a lot of extra from people he had previous relations and relationships with.

Let me stop here this post or blog is not to glorify or to absolve people who cheat physically and or emotionally. It is just to say THERE IS very real reason.

Back to the conversation while speaking to him I realized that I had done many of the same things in my previous relationships. I had entertained and engaged people who filled me up where I did not get filled up in my relationships. 

I asked him a simple question, “What is the thing he wishes he could change about his relationship or what is it that bothers him about the interaction he currently had with his partner?” He responded, “I have little quirks like the feeling of being talked down too or like I’m a child. But I get over that. ”

As we chatted I realized he was engaging with and being pursued by individuals who saw that he needed something and they were happy stepping in to provide it, regardless of his relationship status. 

The challenge for him, myself and so many others is to communicate with our partners what we need and don’t need, in more effective ways. When your partner says or behaves in a way that emasculates us as men or women if you are treated less than a woman we have to address it. We have to talk about it and teach people who we want to be treated. 

If you don’t address it those little things become bigger things that become the scape goats and doors we use to disrespect our relationships. 

As a partner who may have made your partner feel less than understand that you aren’t absolved from guilt. You may not do the same thing as your partner does when you’re made to feel bad, but your role in a relationship is to communicate in a way that your partner receives your message and is not slapped with it. 

My friend may have had an issue with the way he was spoken to, but in my past relationships I’ve felt like I’ve carried the emotional and financial weight. Which caused the universe to provide every candidate who wanted to carry that emotional and financial weight. What I should have done is communicate what I needed and what I wanted from my partner to provide them the opportunity to improve or to rebut. 

The point is simple communicate and when you are communicated with listen to fix the issue not to be right or wrong. Right never saved a relationship and wrong never ended it, but it sure did add a few more road blocks to a happy path. 

Think about that today as you go through your interactions with friends, family, and your significant others.

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.*

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Imagine!

Imagine if we lived in a society that saw relationships as freedom and not restrictions. We would probably have more individuals working on themselves and developing ourselves as much as we try to develop our partners and potential partners into what we think we want.

Imagine understanding and knowing that the right person with the right kind of love could free you and open your mind rather than restrict you and deter you. We might have more power couples that encourage growth rather than trying to keep our partners stagnant and compliant.

Imagine if we understood that financial freedom requires a little restriction to provide a lot of opportunity. We might have a few more business owners. We might have a few more people who are fully insured (life, health/dental, and home/vehicle) and not just people looking good. 

Imagine if we saw marriages as long term investments instead of special events. Weddings wouldn’t be the expensive to do’s with no longevity in sight.

Imagine if we understood that despite how good of a person you are you would not please everyone! We would focus on doing what is right and not expecting everyone to do as we would do. 
 Imagine if…

Domino! 

Last weekend I stopped by my grandma’s house and it was an eye opener. I always love seeing my grandmother. She has an infectious energy. She always greets you with a smile, a hug, and a kiss. It’s in the way she has and continues to live her life and the way she carries herself.

I’ve never seen her intimidated by or shaken by another woman. Her quiet confidence and welcoming spirit always inspires me to treat other men and women in the same vicinity as a brother/ sister and not a competitor.
Last night I observed something that really just stopped me in my tracks. I was sitting there talking to her and her partner.

My grandmother and her partner, we will call him “Mr. J” (the thought of me posting her business on the Internet, would start World War 3 with her lol), were playing their usual game of dominoes on a Sunday evening.

If you’re familiar with dominoes you know you get points by calling out what you have as you lay down your domino. My grandma called out points that didn’t add up. Mr. J confidently and with sarcasm asked her what she was counting. She had miscounted. If you know my grandmother she’s rarely wrong (insert sarcasm) and she debated him for about 30 seconds before she decided he was right. They laughed and kept playing. It wasn’t the literal action or activity but the Symbolism that made me perk up and take notice. They have a friendship and a bond I admire.

 
Though he may not agree with her on everything and vice versa they challenge each other respectfully. They aren’t afraid to tell the truth or to tell the other one you’re wrong. They don’t do it to be vindictive, to prove a point, or to be malicious. It’s simple they do it because it’s right. If there is a better option or a better way of doing it they just speak up.
As of late I felt the need for genuine companionship. Not another sexual conquest, not a crush, but someone to eat dinner with, have meaningful conversation with, to talk about music, to talk about life, to play dominos (YES DOMINOS).

 
It made me hopeful that one day I’ll find that individual who won’t be afraid to challenge me. Someone who won’t be intimidated by me, but will support me for my own good as I plan to do for them. As we challenge each other our egos will not be so large that we can’t laugh when we see the error of our ways.

 
The hope is that anyone reading this seeking or currently in a relationship will find love that challenges them, keeps them smiling, isn’t intimidated by them, and ultimately allows them to just be friends when it comes down to it!