And One – Basket or Foul

I once played basketball with skill, fearlessness and confidence. Stared down all comers. From my point guard position, while dribbling up court on offense, I shouted to teammates: basket or a foul!

Score or get fouled so we could get the ball right back to try and score again.

I smiled in emotional flashback when I walked into the empty gym at Loma Alta Park in Altadena. I picked up a ball resting against the bleachers and slow-dribbled over to the basket, where I read the sign, ‘No Hanging on the Rim.’

I wish! I could never even touch the rim — even when I played basketball with skill, fearlessness and improvisation.

But in the silence of that gym I shot a few mid-range jumpers. Practiced dribbling with my left hand. Flashed back to leading one marvelous 3-on-one fast break. Dribbling full-speed with my left, I went behind my back and in one fluid motion threw a perfect bounce pass with my right to my teammate running the lane. Two of the sweetest points off one of my sweetest passes! Oh but I LOVED to play the game!

My flashback was a 10-minute prayer.

Which brings me to 2021. No clichéd resolutions. Just standing with the present as my Homeboy.

I’m opting in to a renewed commitment that happiness, creativity, and imagination are indispensable tools of personal and social development.

I’m opting in to a renewed embrace of candor, integrity, and curiosity.

I’m opting in to a renewed search for pleasure, love, and companionship.

I’m opting in to a renewed dedication to play with skill, play with enthusiasm, play with stamina.

I’m opting in to honing my tools as a Change Artist.

Change Artist?

A human being in possession of distinctive resonance. Resolved to rigorous citizenship.  A Griot synched up with principles allowing for segue into conversations and collaborations with human beings of all kinds.

I ain’t being a man this year…. my chromosomes are unnecessary … my, like, you know, mumbling understood … everywhere cycles unfold smooth as shifting yoga postures*

As when I played ball with skill, fearlessness and full participation, drove to the hoop, got hacked, and scored anyway.

And one!

*10 Minute Prayer

uppity in God’s chest
a place where nobody stands in line for love
I can be on the fabulous end of a sister’s eloquence
reward is stamina to celebrate
& our choice of theme music
exhaled from guitars
cooking with friction of our flirtation

floating in God’s chest
a place solid as a 10-minute prayer
soothing as knowledge of water beneath land
calming me at the news my daughter enjoyed her first sex
our reward is stamina to celebrate
& our choice of daring
laughed from chants filling days & nights without suspicion
I ain’t being a man right now
an embryo in God’s chest
my chromosomes are unnecessary

in a place where I am not a prisoner
my son is my mother
my daughter is my father
each moment a universe
wisdom burns on candles of sound

ember in bassinette
invisible shrine for an urban pilgrim
my, like, you know, mumbling understood
cycles unfold smooth as shifting yoga postures

ember is stamina in my chest

a place where no child stands in line for love
& fabulous recipes of survival
are rewards at the receiving end of please   thank you   sho you right

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…  I’ve paid my dues. I’ve earned my expertise. I’ve found my stride. I have chosen to walk a quieter road, and speak with the confidence of a man whose arc does not include brushes with criminality, nor paralyzing self-doubt, but instead rests on a foundation that includes life-long parenting of successful adult children, educating hundreds of young people, from elementary school students to Ph.Ds., and distilling from personal and cultural challenges happiness that is a living echo of the African American tradition of grace under pressure. I have chosen to examine happiness from within African American culture, relying on expertise and wisdom earned from embracing the ebb and flow of living as an urban Black male unshielded by academics or scientists, Shamans or salesmen. I have chosen to cast my counter spell in a vital, personal voice of ecstatic insight that does not promise easy answers, formulas, prescriptions, lectures, pre-packaged advice, or promises whispered in the voice of a meditation teacher or a scolding librarian. Whatever my volume, you do not have to worry if you hear my voice coming up behind you. Turn around. Your joy is safe with me!  ….”

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