Sunlight Places

So many classic songs assure us that the Night Time is the right time!

Singers be purring about lights turned way down low.

Holding their breath celebrating Oh what a night.

Arriving at Union Station to heed the conductor’s call: all aboard the Night Train.

Always hoping to be inspired by Spirit in the Dark.

Pledging to make this a night to remember.

And I aint mad at how sultry the right night times have been in my life.

Yet, I’m still absorbing the shock of my visit to the Sunken Place. I’m meditating on the importance of Sunlight Places.

How can I find illumination there on my quest to be well through thick and thin?

Here comes the sun?

Welcome the sunshine in your eyes?

Pray to the Sun Goddess?

Shadows and definition. Bewilderment and balance. Light and dark.

Equinox is the word, concept, state of being that helps me dial into the frequency that provides the clarity and wholeness that I hope will define my future capacity to live with healthy fear of the dark and with the persistent hopefulness symbolized by the break of day.

Add Coltrane’s undulating Equinox to the mix and we can discern through one artist’s melodic gift from the All a humane throughline we can walk and find fulfilling in the midst of chaos.  

Innocence is no longer a topic between us. So I don’t seek faith in positive outcomes. It is an axiom that human beings will rip into each other’s well-being in search of power, justice, vengeance.

My meditation, my quest for healing individuality, accepts the diabolical consistency of drama and trauma, even suffering, without giving into a fatalistic wilting in the face of how we be tripping and how we have tripped across time and cultural space.

How to blend the marvelous of darkness with the marvelous anticipation of light on the horizon?

What inner capacities keeps an MF embracing life under the worst circumstances?

How do we sharpen our ears for the songs circling us, the lush, wordless songs that cut through what curses our lives and short circuits us — the bombs, the ugly silences, the cynicism?  

I’m closing this year embracing a personal and intimate covenant with Bobby McFerrin’s Circlesongs.

Welcoming their spiraling, expanding, humbling dynamics which quilt the ephemeral into the substantial.

No matter what time of night or day, day or night, I’m grateful for the music’s humane vocal labyrinth. I close my eyes, lose myself in sensation, fulfil myself in the midst of chaos. 

I know that the Life Time is the Right Time.

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “….  Fear and being scared are not synonymous. Fear is healthy. Being scared is not. Fear is hard-wired into human motivation for survival: it’s smart to fear a predator or predatory situation. Fear revs up my instincts to create a solution, create safety. Fires up my mind and unveils the options and associations and the combo of skills and improv right on time that resolve into actual solutions with mutual benefits and re-creations and wholeness. Being scared is taught into us through ritualized Do As I Say Do! Being scared substitutes and rewards outside sanction over the sustained, independent quest for power-on-power, eye-to-eye, harmony within interdependent strength.

But now I know that I can only claim true happiness, I can only find steady serenity on my pursuit of happiness, when I feel the exquisite sensuality, the inherent intimacy, of my unorchestrated inner briar patch of emotional power and potential and unique beauty that, frankly, has been, at worst, beaten out of us, and, at best, tainted as taboo for Black men.

In my youth, besides the example of Aunt Hallie and my other Powhatan teachers, I was struck by the EWF song, “All About Love,” which schooled me, charged me: “if there ain’t no beauty, you gotta make some beauty.” Decades later, I search for beauty within and without, and I call it out in myself and others, and I comfortably rep as a round-the-way Black man who sounds like he’s from Southeast D.C. and not from some generic, mystical place where he has to whisper like he’s asking for help in the library.  .…”

Clear Water

It would be metaphysically glib to say that surviving my health emergency has now inspired me to discern … why was I saved?

I am curious about the answer to that query.

But honestly, I’m dedicated to embracing something else: that I know nothing and that I have so much to learn. 

I want my awakening to make me a better Student, an inveterate Apprentice.

I want my awakening to make me into a fluid Presence, Clear Water.

I want my awakening to dare me to stay openminded, open to hope, and for my hope to rest on – and live in – lessons learned and earned.

I want my awakening to prepare me to write my own prescriptions, to keep my adventure going.

It’s sad – and sometimes overwhelming – looking at the depleted boy in the mirror. My weight has stabilized at about 150 pounds. But if I ever thought I had sex appeal!

I am left for now with the sensual sound of blood coursing within me and the persistence of my heartbeat.

And the shocking gratitude I feel waking up each morning and holding hands with the next day, now more than two months since my visit to the Sunken Place.

After my hospital stay, folks who visited me at the nursing facility held my hands and compassionately honored the difficulty I faced. They relentlessly reminded me to keep on with the Force don’t stop!


40 new years   schooled   scolded
by blues   love
faith of patient children
turned out between thighs & sunrise
catching me naked & unharmed
spoiled overnight
a mannish boy
risk plain on the face of a groaning man
fulfillment shimmers in droplets on my skin
evaporates before day’s revelation scalds me

my waking a sensation
answer prayers I never even heard spoke
echo hymns steep between pauses when black folk talk
my hair a prism
break my light into surprise & mystery
prove money cannot choose my mother & father
or pay rain maker to end drought
my eyes a mirror
break my sight into reflection & vision
elongate the peace of my easy acceptance

I still don’t know nothing
not one thing
nothing I do   nothing I wish
promise new year
nothing I say   nothing I trust
promise new breath

a mannish boy bows out to a grown man
grateful for
love   blues
patience for faithful children
rinse my mouth with nothing better
than wonder simmered for spring vintage
read my only instructions fineprinted on this hand written label

mark the calendar of the instant
study the bible in each touch 
spoil yourself in the scolding  
find yourself in the schooling

I want to stand in clear water, especially since I’ve moved to central Florida to take up residence with my son. Spring water as a symbolic and actual contrast with dialysis! I like that.

I want to make remittances to myself and to my actual life and to my upcoming Experience Experiments.

I wanna hold my hand!

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. Well, just who are the experts on the inner emotional labyrynth of Black men? Who’s able to spread on the table facts and figures, evidence and analysis, examples and anecdotes, songs and stories that say there is no room for an effective, national surge of common courtesy, mutual respect, healing laughter, intelligent challenge, intense listening, and downright kindness toward every Black man we come to meet? Who’s got the magic words, government study, foundation report, or bible printout that document some alternative formula we need to excite a man into reaching his potential? Who’s throwing out the first pitch on the seventh game which will determine Mr. October at the core of Black men?  Ba da ba ba ba babop!  Ba da ba babop!  Ba da  ba babow   Badeya! Badeya! Badeeya eeyaeeyaeeyaeeya! Ba da ba babow!  Make me sing that Earth, Wind & Fire song. I do hope y’all remember humming that sweet, wordless tune called “Beijo.” It was written by Milton Nascimento and it’s from “All ‘N All.” I know you know how EWF just get happy and start singing oooooohhhs and aaaaahhhs and eeeeeeyaaahhhs, just cause they feel like it, stretching syllables full of Black male exhilaration and zeal in songs full of bright horns, rhythmic stops and starts, and voices celebrating the fact of existence, voices celebrating the song just because … yeah, just because …. Ba da ba ba ba babop!  Ba da ba babop!  Ba da  ba babow   Badeya! Badeya! Badeeya eeyaeeyaeeyaeeya  Ba da ba babow! .…”


I’ve lived to write about my visit to the Sunken Place. And my awakening ….

Monday, July 31

That morning, I had such a taste for Oro Blanco grapefruit! I imagined grabbing 5 huge, sweet globes while strolling the Altadena Farmer’s Market. But the market wasn’t open. Next stop: Whole Foods, where I’d last bought a few.

That evening, I walked the produce aisle. No Oro Blanco grapefruit, but I bought two ruby red joints hoping to soothe my craving. I put them in the refrigerator and imagined a morning scented by citrus.

I woke up at 4 am. I could barely breathe. Beyond shortness of breath, it felt like I was drowning. This was day two of accelerating symptoms I’d been tracking on walks I took during my Nicholson Residency and then on a visit to my daughter’s home in Atlanta. I chalked up my exhaustion to the heat – the humidity of the ATL and then the dry summertime of SoCAL.

But in the quiet of the Altadena night, I couldn’t avoid the ominous echo – and rising panic – of my straining heartbeat.

I dialed 911, which dispatched a four-man team from the fire house a few blocks north of my crib. They quickly discerned I needed to be taken to the emergency room. Enroute, ironically, the more oxygen I was given the more claustrophobic I got. I heard myself moan. I fainted.

From my medical file at Huntington Hospital:

“PERICARDIOCENTESIS (07/31/2023 10:17 AM PDT) Emergent pericardiocentesis performed by the subxiphoid approach with fluoro and ultrasound guidance. 650 mL of serous fluid was removed from the pericardial cavity. The pericardial drain was left in place. Once no drainage from the drain, will remove.”

Tuesday, August 1

Drifting on no memory. Stillness. Floating in breathlessness. Nothing. All Directions. No Directions. Sensationless.

From my medical file at Huntington Hospital:

[08/01/2023 7:21 AM PDT] EXAM DESCRIPTION: XRAY CHEST 1 VIEW FRONTAL PORTABLE; CLINICAL HISTORY: Intubated respiratory failure; FINDINGS AND IMPRESSION: Small-moderate-sized bilateral pleural effusions with underlying infiltrate/atelectasis. Difficult to compare with the prior examination given the different positioning. Heart and pulmonary vascularity within normal limits. Interval insertion of a right IJ catheter whose tip is in the mid SVC. No postprocedural pneumothorax. Stable endotracheal tube and nasogastric tube.”

Wednesday, August 2

“He’s waking up.”

After three days of silence, my awareness drifted toward her voice. I could neither see her nor discern where I was, but I felt a moment of wonder that I existed again. Almost instantaneously, wonder blurred into a strange paranoia that revealed itself as a lattice of wrought iron in front of my eyes. The air felt heavy. I felt lost. I felt trapped.

I don’t know how long I drifted in a hazy state – did I faint again that day, that hour? – before I recognized my daughter and my son, who had flown in from the east coast. They saw me sedated laying in the ICU. I held their hands. I cried myself into consciousness. And truly began two weeks of recuperation at Huntington Hospital.

For the next two weeks, I was immersed in the low-key cacophony of a hospital during the first long-term hospital stay of my life. Beeps and PA announcements. Visits from rotating crews of nurses at all hours of a day. Unscheduled exams by doctors updating me on lab reports, guiding me through speech therapy, struggling to explain why my kidneys failed. Weathering even that particular night when I tripped out completely and flung profanities at anybody who crossed my path, including my kids.

Grooved Pavement Ahead

3-day GoGo of passion  cell division  carnivale
implode into the tumbao of his ecstatic life

on day one
gleaming Black hands cupped sunrise
trembled through the parting hours
hovered   descended  drawn to combustion between man & woman
electrified by downstroke from all directions
gliding magic perfuming their look of love 
igniting their seamlessness
Black hands cupping lovers
feeding them gravity of dancers orbiting invisible meaning

on the second day
9 blindfolded Monarch butterflies
fluttered against midnight
wing-to-wing in a sliver of sight through closed eyes
dropped & draped the cooing between mother & father
enfolded by sleep stitched from the velvet of satisfaction
butterflies alighted lovers’ head-to-toe
wings droning with a choir’s amen to life
annealing from the forge of relentless recombination

three days in
a riot of becoming in the vows of loved ones
circles fused   hands raised  guarantees to humbly protect this stirring  
who will guide us through chaos & into Grooved Pavement Ahead

We give you permission   We show who you need to be   We your people

It’s too early to know if I can expect to write poems as a resuscitated man, if not a resurrected man.

Time will tell.

For now, the truest poetry, the poetry I’m most grateful for? 

It’s the care I received from the cohort of nurses from the ICU to my last room before discharge. They answered my questions, crushed medication into apple sauce when my throat was too weak from intubation to swallow large tablets, and they washed me from the ‘rooter to the tooter!’ Two night nurses, who happened to be brothers, even stayed calm during two nights when I was hallucinating about an explosion. All they did was go about their jobs as if they were front-line medics wearing halos!

The names of these great health care servants have faded, but I haven’t forgotten their personalized professionalism.  

Count me among the music makers who will forever sing their praises!  

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “….  But I have come to discern that this unbidden, flu-ridden, rite of passage was a genuine Round the Way Initiation. I had a 20-something revelation that I could face what scared me, what scarred me, what stymied me, but only if I invested in my own genius and established my own elemental endowment. I sensed I had discovered a sensual and regenerative operating system for the rest of my life, to deal with my drama, to activate my potential, to consolidate my triumphs. My insights have distilled over the years into my own mantras. Accountability is the midwife of credibility. Refuse the siren song of blame. Withstand the sting of conviction. Measure your own value and distinction. Recognize that creativity is my ally in the worst seasons. Apply creativity in the worst seasons. Start at the age epiphany strikes. Trust that familiar tools, currencies, and modes often come embedded (encoded?) with motivation, abundance, and exhilaration. Don’t let the snap, crackle, pop of new grooves throw you off beat. Communication is the currency of collaboration. Never be afraid to wear your Griot Clothes. Then repeat, peep game, adopt lessons, evaluate. Repeat, peep game, adopt lessons, evaluate. Repeat, peep game, adopt lessons, evaluate. Until, like compound interest on a spiritual exercise regimen, life affirming patterns can become lifetime practical habits .…”

Living Tribute

For a minute, it felt like a reality show called Physical Therapy with The Harris Siblings.  Big Brother Glenn was answering questions from his new Physical Therapist. I was listening to her intake interview with him, but I was distracted as Big Brother Ron quietly cracked jokes and Little Sister Anna talked waayyyy too loudly on the phone until I gently waved her quiet.

It would have been exasperating if we all weren’t so nervous and hopeful and if our family didn’t have the same ability to laugh and concentrate at the same time.

Over the next few weeks, we learned that the Physical Therapist was tough enough for Glenn and able to tap into his competitive temperament. As I attended several sessions, she had the former athlete and DC Hall of Fame broadcaster pushing past discomfort to increase his mobility. She had him walking across the room and climbing stairs. And practicing on his own during off days.

I was inspired by Big Brother Glenn – almost as much as I was worried about him before coming to DC for my April-June Nicholson Project residency, my reunion with the extended fam, and my reunion with Glenn after his most recent stroke.  

In 2005, Ron and a community committee produced a ‘Living Tribute’ to Glenn at the Blackburn Center at Howard University. Praise. Flowers. Roast. Affirmation. Electricity in the air as we uplifted a DC Native Son. I told Ron the Living Tribute was a model that should be used for other worthy recipients.

To date, Glenn is the first and only recipient of one of Ron’s Living Tributes, but I’ve kept alive in my spirit the notion that in our lives we must remain ready to ID folks deserving of their own Living Tributes. And we must organize and produce such Praise Events whatever their character or size while folks are still breathing and can savor their dap.

‘What the fuck Mo!’

The young brother yelled at the bus driver, who had accelerated so fast that I stumbled and almost fall.

‘Driving off so fast you almost had OG flying!’

I regained my balance and found a seat. I was touched that Homeboy had looked out for me in such a publicly profane way, setting the ethical framework for all to hear.

‘Yeah and I didn’t wear my wings!’ I said nervously.

Homeboy wasn’t having sentimentality. He just nodded at me and stepped down the aisle to his own seat. I didn’t look back at him when I disembarked at the Potomac Metro station.

Consider this shoutout a Living Tribute to my anonymous Southeast DC knight in shining armor!

I’m the guy who looks to the rainbow in my family. Who laughs. Gets serious. Actually wants to know the grown nieces and nephews and their children. Who can dive into deep waters of family history. Who can discuss what would ordinarily be taboos.

Like Al Jarreau, I convert emotions into music and know when to listen, when to critique a long-ago decision, even my own, in order to atone or sift lessons. Who can graciously be on the receiving end of my sister Anna’s stinging recollections of me wearing my various polyester ensembles during my adolescence. Who can lament with each of us as we tell sacred stories about Ma, who died in 1984 and is still the deepest crater in all our lives.

I walk the lines between brooding and meditation, between paralyzing sadness and liberating knowing that we were raised, I mean RAISED, by flawed but heroic parents who TRULY wanted us to do the right thing as Living Ambassadors to their best aspirations for us! Who wanted us to be Living Tributes to them and to each other, understanding that family is a lifelong set of shifting experiences and vows and opportunities to renew dedication to one another.  

Sit with our oldest brother in silence b/c he chooses not to speak b/c he doesn’t trust himself to speak clearly after strokes, b/c he unfairly compares himself to a 40-year Hall of Fame career of improvising Sports Talk.

Ride shotgun with Ron to his grandson’s graduation from middle school, enrolling in a congregation of DC residents of all cultural backgrounds but grounded by the magnificent Black families roaring their joy out to their loved ones throughout the ceremony, only to have the entire gogo end with the students marching out the auditorium to the timeless Frankie Beverly singing  We Are One!

Living Tribute. Give it up now to our loved ones!

Muster all the family courage to wreak happiness, to excavate the memories that make us hold our heads to the sky.

Continue to make eye contact, to slow your roll if age has slowed one of us physically or mentally, listen to the same stories, the classic songs, and learn anew, learn to renew, get current as possible and bring all drama and trauma into the healing present and sing along with Frankie when he and Maze as they harmonize: I wanna thank you, uttering the heroic gratitude that helps us transform lingering pettiness then transcend it into actual LIVES, lives that can be, for sure, complex, funky, irritating, or downright exhausting, that make our guardians and ancestors proud!

Would you sing for me?

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “….  These are the kinds of memories that form the elemental layers of mythology. And frankly, the more I think about it, they are real insulation for my daily and symbolic life as a brother dedicated to living humanely. In a world where I can become the boogey man in a minute — fingered out the mouths of murderers from suburban Boston to rural South Carolina — elevating my personal memories into instructive mythology might just keep me sane or calm enough to speak the magic words of self preservation when I find myself in the center of a police flashlight, or dying while the opening credits roll, or even facing down another young brother whose brain is on cultural vapor lock. As I add layers to my mythology — improvising on the keys to better living, gleaning the secrets I’ve learned from the let’s get it on of my life — my confidence grows. I join with other men seeking to keep on keeping on. We swap our tales of families that coped, of love that lasted, of urban lives built on rural gumption, until a common body of insight simmers, ready for freddy with a language as natural as Smokey’s “Tracks of My Tears,” a wisdom as familiar as Richard Pryor’s Mudbone stories, and a mutual ownership as gracious as the standing dinner invitation of a favorite aunt and uncle.This is the mythology we save because of self-love. It ain’t no joke and, quiet as it’s kept, it ain’t no myth .…”


Often, spiraling signifies going down slow.

Singing my baby done gone at a microphone wobbling in the middle of quicksand!

All senses. All skin. Touch discerned only through pain receptors!

Spiraling until we become Blues Song Incarnate!

In the glow of sweeter wisdom, I want to embrace spiraling as a new kind of corkscrew.

Spiraling in all directions in search of richer sensations, in search of full-bodied opportunities.

Irradiating toward peak experiences that singe me with excitement. That leave me illuminated with insight. That move me from a state of grace into a state of ecstasy.

All senses. All skin. Touch discerned only through pleasure receptors.

Neuropathways that sizzle into being with a child’s brazen aha!

Intriguing angles swelling into view tinged with surprise and invitation.

In the glow of sweeter wisdom, I spiraled into my artist residency at the Nicholson Project from April 18th – June 26th, 2023, in Washington, D.C., my hometown. I embraced personal history in imaginative and intimate ways as I worked from the live/workspace on Nicholson Street, in hopes that my work would contribute to the project’s mission exploring “positive roles that art and design can play in strengthening the community” of Anacostia, where I grew up.

Southeast D.C. spirals through my cultural DNA. I was a toddler on Howard Road, an adolescent in Parklands. My parents bought their only house on 5th Street in Congress Heights. I graduated from Ballou. My first apartment was off Naylor Road. I danced at festivals in Anacostia Park. EU’s Sugar Bear was my classmate. Chuck Brown played my HS dances. When I visit fam, I take in the vista from the hill outside the Panorama Room. In my American Book Award collection, The Black Man of Happiness, I recall speaking at my father’s funeral: “I see the faces of people who know what it mean to say, ‘I’m from D.C. I’m from Southeast,’” — “dinner tables always big enough for the child of a neighbor who had to work late or who just didn’t have it all together.” My poem “Local Music” says: “thank god I grew up where bridges named after frederick douglass & duke ellington!” For my book SongAgain, MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes called me “one of our original gangsters for truth, love and poetry.” That imprinting came from my OG’s — “grown ass, working-class, men and women” — during my formative years in SE.

During my Nicholson Residency, I continued and deepened my reading on happiness including recent books, articles, and digital media on positive psychology; continued my search for LEGACY photos at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Moorland–Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, among other collections; refined drafts of essays/poetry for a book I’m writing on Black male tenderness called Baby Talk: Speak a Little Tenderness; formatted community engagement programs in which discussion/creative prompts are tied to “Mandalas of My Life,” my video commissioned by LA County Museum of Art exploring 44 years of devoted fatherhood; and conversated with my sister and two oldest brothers, including Glenn Harris, award-winning broadcaster and humanitarian whose long career in D.C. broadcasting landed him in the Washington, D.C. SPORTS HALL OF FAME, the SILVER CIRCLE of The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and the National Association of Black Journalist’s SAM LACY PIONEER AWARD.

For a D.C. Native Son born, bred and educated from public schools to Howard University, The Nicholson residency afforded consecrated time to continue my growth within the inspiring context of my old neighborhood. Though too much of African American history has focused rightfully, and righteously, on trauma and pain, I was reinvigorated by work embracing an almost paradoxical assertion by Sissela Bok in her book Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science (2011).” [Page 6]:

“The study of happiness never was a luxury to be postponed until more serene, peaceful times.… It is precisely in times of high danger and turmoil that concerns about happiness are voiced most strikingly and seen as most indispensable. From earliest times, views of human happiness have been set forth against the background of suffering, poverty, disease, and the inevitability of death. …” [Page 5]

But all deep thought aside, you know what was at the top of my official Residency to-do list?

Re-up for a library card from the D.C. Public Library’s Anacostia Branch on Good Hope Road, where as a child my mother actually took me for my first library card!

On day one, I borrowed books of poetry and nonfiction that reflected my eclectic spiraling, including the anthology Words of Protest, Words of Freedom:  Poetry of the American Civil Rights Movement and Era, edited by Jeffrey Lamar Coleman; The Mother of All Questions, by Rebecca Solnit; Dying of Whiteness, by Johnathan M. Metzl; The Invention of the White Race, by Theodore W. Allen; and The Firebrand and the First Lady: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice, by Patricia Bell-Scott.

And my second official duty?

Purchase my Metro SmarTrip card since I didn’t have a car during my residency.

While I struggled to figure out how to work the imposing fare machine, Brother Robert slid into my peripheral vision offering to help. I was wary and not really down for the interruption, but I flowed with him. After 5 unsuccessful tries to buy my card, I told brother I was going to ask the uniformed staff for help.

Brother Robert was indignant.

“You messing up my commitment!”

“Your commitment!?”

“To help people.”

“You did help me—or you tried to help me!”

“No I didn’t. You still aint got your card!”

I said no problem, Brother Robert. Take this two dollars and let the man in the kiosk earn his pay. The dude behind the kiosk explained the steps to me, which led to me buying my card.

When I went upstairs to catch the bus back to the Nicholson Project, I saw Brother Robert and explained the mistake we made. At first he was dismissive but then I said, ‘Naw, hold up now, let me break this down for you, so next time you can really help someone.’

He listened as I broke it down. He paused then broke out smiling.

“Awight awight I got it now! We just missed one step!”

We dapped and I got on the 32 bus, and rolled on back to the live/work space on Nicholson Street.

MASCON anyone!?
I read of that word in Stephen Henderson’s book Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech & Black Music As Poetic References.

“…Henderson too has that delightful critical propensity for creative definition,” wrote Barry Beckham in a book review in the April 1, 1973 issue of the NY Times. “He introduces the term “mascon” for the “massive concentration of black experiential energy”—meaning, if I read him correctly, linguistic and musical expressions carrying enormous emotional and psychological significance for blacks while defying understanding by outsiders…”  

Aint nothing more electrifying to me than genuine, intimate exchange of ‘mascon’ in real time. 

Thanks Brother Robert for spiraling with me!

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. I hugged my father for the first time as a political act. As a new father myself at 22, I struggled to find a setting for my temperament. To channel my fears that smart, successful parenting was beyond me. Just out of college, I also felt reined in, flamed out, domesticated, and unable to exercise all I’d learned from professors, students and Howard’s atmosphere of intellectual and social justice struggle against how American power had been used against Black folks. I was a newbie in Baltimore cultural and political circles. Nationalism and Pan Africanism and passion for political backtalk were demanding that I stand for big public ideas and positions. Every young poet wailed like Coltrane. Strung together syllables like Bird. I was changing diapers. Burping Ketema, trying to get him to stop crying (fighting urges to pop him upside his infant head) when his Moms went to exercise classes. I was washing dishes, washing clothes, trying to write, knowing, of course, that responsbile fatherhood was critical to ‘the struggle,’ but sensing I owed more, that more was demanded of me. I felt alone, isolated. The revolutionary missed his daddy. I got out the car in front of the family home on 5th Street. Daddy got up from his seat on the porch swing and eased down the few steps. We met on the concrete walkway that separated the small square of lawn and strip of rose bushes he tended. I hugged him like I usually did, but didn’t let go or just pound his back. I held on for way longer than he thought was proper out front of the house he and Moms had bought in 71 after years of apartment living. He didn’t try and unclench, but he stood there like rigor mortis had set in. Hugging Pops full out had come to me while I washed dishes one night. I was lip synching Lionel Richie on “This Is Your Life,” from The Commodores’ Caught in the Act LP. What’s the point of being publicly political, if your politics separated you from your blessings, the blessings that had kept you fed, clothed, safe, and motivated to go to college. Family, flawed and frustrating and human, was definitely a blessing. As was whatever music fed you! No doubt, growing up meant foraging and forging ideas different from those of your home/womb space. But accrue, boy, I thought, don’t disavow, like an Educated Fool! I’d heard that term from the elders in my extended family and they said it like there was nothing worse a person could ever be. I sure didn’t want to be no educated fool! I decided that hugging my father beyond protocol was the most powerful way to remind my Pops that we still shared the same last name and the easiest way to begin closing our own Inspiration Gap. From that first hug, until he died, every time we greeted each other I hugged him full out. Every time we departed, I hugged him full out. We went from that stiff first hug to damn near slow dragging as we learned how to commune through our embraces. I felt that anything I did in public would be hollow, if I didn’t consolidate all my skills as a virtuoso communicator (and middle child of two big brothers and two younger sisters), and use this gesture as a way to make new music with this man who’d never attended high school, who drank too much, who passed on his values through accrual, not disavowal.…”


History unfolds. Generations pass. The present infolds into evergreen ideologies draped in new vocabulary.

I’m thinking of our culture’s obsession with whiteness – what Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and Neely Fuller, Jr. dubbed white supremacy.

I’m observing one of its current ambassadors, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, on his quest for power. He’s brazenly determined to shut down, and shut out, the complexity of life and reduce it to one dimension. Treating, for example, pedagogy for children the same as university students.

DeSantis and his donors, legislative minions, bureaucratic bullies, and sidewalk zombies use Wokeness as a scary synonym for keeping Black folks and their cultural and political history in their place. Invisible. Isolated.

They want to keep us from sullying their malignantly, willfully, innocent place in which white men are Undiluted Heroes, are Untouched Genius in all things, are Brave Singular Genius in every human endeavor, are Source, are Touchstone, are Transcendence, are evidence of Divine Anointment who must, sigh, still carry the burden of conquering, training, deporting lesser people.

DeSantis wears his white wading boots as he cynically traffics the fantasy that only his ilk is chosen to create, ignore, and/or deform documented and living history. Armed with his ‘troubled’ Ivy League imprimatur, he’s selectively ahistorical and patently unbelievable, except to earthlings clinging to their fantasy that there exists some mystical state of being where all the greatness resides in bold white men who simply do what they have to do for god, country and white women.

When I see DeSantis’s pious grimace, when I hear his skin-deep intellectualism and pandering cliches, I trace his DNA in a simple way. I superimpose his face on the photos of white males partying at lynchings, spitting on a teenager walking into a public school, braying at nonviolent marchers, stabbing us with an American flag ….

What shortness of vision, what endorphin dump, could bolster a position that makes actual history scary and untenable for American students and American citizens?

I call it Whitelessness, which is not white supremacy, but the psychological state that allows folks to be activated – as if by a white supremacist spell – into being white over being American, or to define being American as (only) being white.

Whitelessness provides folks with the psychological confidence to ignore facts, to ignore causes of actual social arrangements started and sustained and manipulated by rich men.  

Whitelessness frees someone swooning to its allure to willingly and imaginatively create/target human and sociological scapegoats (immigrants, the Woke, self-hating whites, among them), while craving and accepting a social status based on random biology such as skin color.

Whitelessness is a geopolitical state of genuflecting asphyxiation.

In an essay I wrote to accompany my poem Whitelessness, which closes my new book SongAgain, I Xray my reaction to this artificial state of being, which nonetheless is, and has been, a clear and present danger to so many.

“I am wearing my freshly-pressed Griot Clothes,” I write. “I am dedicated to inspirational individuality. I reflect my bent, my set-point, toward joyous, politically charged, uncensored self expression. I seek the worthiness to find change on the sidewalks of improvisation. I seek worthiness to heroically wield the Flashlight we have for generations kept charged to illuminate American B.S., hypocrisy, and violence.”

I also trace the DNA of our resistance to proponents of Whitelessness, including the scathing 1791 letter from Benjamin Banneker that calls out Thomas Jefferson’s double standard on the ‘state of slavery’ – soaring language for colonists revolting against England’s monarchy and medieval consolidation of wealth and power vs. self-serving accommodation justifying bondage of those who labored for Jefferson’s pursuit of happiness.

I even quote George Clinton’s Star Child, who signified succinctly:

‘Let me put on my sunglasses here, so I can see what I’m doing ….’

Since I coined Whitelessness, I’m compelled to hold it up to the light and distill additional definitions to capture the generational hold this malignant exceptionalism has on the American political class and its willing executioners, who are so afraid of e pluribus unum they’d rather ally with a powerful minority of divide-and-conquerors than forge and cultivate common ground with the majority. 

So, here’s the current glossary of my Wreaking Happiness Lexicon of Whitelessness:

tribal siren song … cult member’s mantra … malignant self regard …
conceptual atrophy … vigilante’s psychic bassinette …

violence crystallized … misplaced malice … curdled hypertension … unearned exceptionalism …
weaponized innocence … pawn’s lagniappe … poverty’s carpool pass … pimp & circumstances …

desperate camouflage … cosplay over leadership …
press gang’s wet dream … indentured servant PTSD … patty roller’s bedazzlement …

power’s coinage … ruling class IOU … withered currency …
OG AI … neuro apartheid … synaptic fibrosis … prelude to wreaking havoc …

unresolved apathy … empathetic decay … exhausted imagination … depleted resilience …  

I make no accommodation with Whitelessness, with this one-note trap sporting the contradictory, schizophrenic, trappings of scientific insight, the inevitability of evolution, and the certainty bestowed by true believers.

I make no accommodation with this power tool, with this tool of powerful interests collaged from generational governing myths.

I make no accommodations to this psychological camouflage for holding onto power, with this historical divisiveness premising itself as an antidote to divisiveness.

I make no accommodation with this congenital enemy of debate and discourse, which seeks to assign and calcify my place in the world, which seeks to establish an official hierarchy, govern by decree, hoard power, replace current and historical rigor with strategic and fanatical zealotry.

I make no accommodation with this imposition on my freedom, a natural state of being long before Jefferson’s resounding language in the US Declaration of Independence.

Count me among the music makers and ‘discontented inspirationalists’ in service of creating the society that integrates the truth, and nurtures citizens who can handle the truth …!  

I close today’s sermon with this question I asked to close out my poem:

where are the diaphanous motherfuckers
who bear oxygen into this genuflecting asphyxiation
who bear iridescent witness against this myopic Whitelessness

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. I’m thinking about the most profound pursuit of happiness, which makes me think of Thomas Jefferson, which makes me think back to August 19, 1791, the date of a letter Mr. Jefferson received from Benjamin Banneker, who “freely and cheerfully acknowledge[d], that I am of the African race, and in that color which is natural to them of the deepest dye.” I smile at just how free Mr. Banneker must have felt to write the dude who crafted the resonant lines that inspired a Euro-American revolution against the British. Mr. Jefferson was a bonafide OG in 1791! … So how bold was Mr. Banneker to speak up at all…, calling out Mr. Jefferson, OG to OG, in that 18th Century diction that still bumps across the centuries like Dr. Dre playing the soundtrack for Jesus in mid-Crunk:

Sir, suffer me to recal to your mind that time, in which the arms and tyranny of the British crown were exerted, with every powerful effort, in order to reduce you to a state of servitude: … This, Sir, was a time when you clearly saw into the injustice of a state of slavery, and in which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its condition…. but, Sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which he hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.”

That’s why I’m so deep off into this meditation on happiness. Speaking my mind is the prime proverb of happiness. Cannot bite my tongue, no matter who’s in the audience! No matter what the odds. Learning from my personal past, learning from the cultural past … Silence equals death, as the ACT UP folks said .…”