SongAgain

SongAgain Peter J. Harris
SongAgain Peter J. Harris

I’m 12 and sitting on the sofa next to my brother Ron, who’s 19 and on the telephone. My second oldest brother is so suave that I cannot hear a word he’s saying. I’m so in awe that for years I’m imprinted by his secret agent temperament, taste and style. 

Today I’m thinking about how he demonstrated his love for favorite music, mostly Motown songs. Even now, me in my 60s, him in his 70s, we often swap links for those classics. If he loved a song, he’d play that joint over and over, a habit I picked up and continue, as my kids could tell you! 

My oldest brother Glenn, on the other hand, talked so much that he wound up retiring from a sportscasting career on TV and being inducted into the SILVER CIRCLE of The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which hands out EMMY Awards. 

And if Glenn loved a song, mostly Woodstock-flavored pop music, he was prone to coming home after 2am, entering the room we shared, and blasting one his favorites — say Buddy Miles’ LA Resurrection — on his small but powerful speakers. 

Pops rocked Mahalia Jackson to make it over a bender and Bobby Blue Bland when that Smirnoff had him tipsy but not tripping. 

Moms turned up the volume on Leontyne Price, when I naively thought opera mostly synched with my concept of the corniest whiteness.

Anna was in the Glee Club for a minute and wound up marrying the lead singer of DC’s own, AM:FM.

Carla was an early devotee of Prince, before I ever heard of him, and before I got turned out by how the song Purple Rain was so deftly used to climax the film of the same name.

And yall KNOW I once daydreamed that I was singing harmonies in the recording studio with Earth, Wind & Fire, when I couldn’t hold a note in a Tupperware container!

Music, eclectic music, ran deep in our family’s blood. 

Singing my song, in my own distinctive voice, is my governing artistic motif.

SongAgain … first whispered to me when I got a call from genius musician and cultural worker Ed Barguiarena, who commissioned me to write a poem as part of The Music Center of LA County‘s initiative For The Love of LA.

Now it’s the title of my fourth book of poetry

Truth be told, as much as I swoon to music, SongAgain might as well be a force that constantly hums around me — like a field of Love & Affection ….

As I cultivate the music of the rest of my life, I want SongAgain to be fragrance, code, criteria….

Criteria

“do the doables…” – Wangari Maathai, Kenyan ecologist, human rights advocate,
2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner

behavior craving

scrapple of recombination
to the e c h o of Big Bang
a good taste
e x p a n d i n g mouths of fellow citizens
for billions of years

subatomic hallelujah extrapolated from Aunt Anna’s merciless apple cobbler
dinner invitation contains countdown to rural Virginia queries
from master teacher prodding city-boy apprentice

whose eyes appraise mastery? bear invisible gift of correlating guidance
whose words harbor tenderness? blast along oscillating Ring Shout

do the doables say my border-melting tias
baby-sit the ephemeral know the truth of a tree
coax vision into a voice traffic in music feelings gave you back in the day
cornrow a kora’s poignancy into aurora of an evening horizon
disarm overseers denouncing our song as a crime
shoo shadows from the threshold of wisdom
play bid whist with the ghost of my mother
Hula-hoop across Golden Gate Bridge chant names of rivet slingers who fell into churning ocean during construction
tap meanings between facts to embroider our tools
guarantee just enough structure to shoulder human virtuosity

come on in less shock and way more awe
way more mending & coalescing into stark raving sane
hinged & swinging without squeak of military cadence
& self serving rationale of billionaire welfare queens
foisting profit into mythology
demanding allegiances from their victims, their targets, their juries

Home Training a la mode
IRS refunds big enough to re-pay my 84-year-old ex-babysitter
for anchoring my parents’ hard-working lives
interview Miss Joyce about reallocating the federal budget
her lullaby her ass whippings her common wisdom
her compassionate conservatism raw material for the sweetest topping
converting Guantanamo into a national park
where like @ Manzanar
exhibition placards run down genealogy
of the national beat-down & its ugly reverb
translated as needed to raise eyebrows & knit hands
the memory of done
a kiss whispering between generations

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… Saturated by the vitality of great singers, vibrating within as I sang along, my whole body humming like a magic wand, my aura flaring like an invisible tuning fork, I burned off the virus causing my influenza and mood indigo. Hallucination gave way to witness: I was too complex a brother, had always been too complex a number three son, too complex a middle child of two older brothers and two younger sisters, to settle for being a photocopy of my older brothers and my alcoholic father. Peabo and them brought me to the edge, took me to the bridge. Through their sound, I perceived ecstasy, joy, and renewal. I felt an R&B Radiance, a Sam & Dave Divinity, that inflamed and amazed me. I was coaxed back into life by a soundtrack of American Black male singers. I felt a stirring inside. My brothers were singing. I sang to myself, baby boy it’s time to own and cultivate your unique way of being a man. Change or die! The stakes were that high. I needed the men sounding me. Their music helped me change for the better. It began to soothe what ached within me.…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/

Safe Arms

“I am one man that do love his children” …. 

His voice rang across generations and blazed up from the page I was reading in Herbert G. Gutman’s bookThe Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1720-1925

Writing to his wife, who’d been sold from him before the Civil War, the unnamed brother asked: 

“Send me some of the children’s hair in a separate paper with their names on the paper …. You know how I am about my children. You know I am one man that do love my children ….”

I had already been thinking about being emotionally safe and literally safe in someone’s arms, because I was celebrating the 2022 Juneteenth publication of Safe Arms: 20 love and erotic poems (w/an Ooh Baby Baby moan), by FlowerSong Press of McAllen, Texas, with Spanish Translations and cover design by Chilean American Francisco Letelier

Juneteenth also brought the on-line premiere of my new video meditation on the safe arms of fatherhood, “Mandalas of My Life,” commissioned by Alicia Vogl Saenz, Manager of the LA County Museum of Art’s Family Programs Education & Public Programs.

Then on July 5 I crooned happy birthday to my way-grown daughter Adenike, who was laughing at my off-key mangling of the famous melody! 

Shoot, I even literally walked up on an excerpt of one of my poems about fatherhood that was painted on a utility box in Glendale, CA, at the corner of Wilson and Maryland Streets!

I was walking in rhythm, in the words of the Blackbyrds classic song ….

Such pulsating loveliness … was utterly shredded when I learned the sad news that my Second Son had died. Gregory Silver was the biological son of my second wife. We shared our lives during the 1980s into the early 90s. I’m proud that as a grown man Gregory introduced me as his Second Father. 

Though Greg and I weren’t in regular contact, we usually swapped messages on his birthday in February. Greg was a good man who spent many years taking care of his father Horace Silver as his dad’s health deteriorated. His mother informed me that Greg’s wishes were to be cremated and his ashes scattered in a small private ceremony. 

How to feel through this unwanted rite of passage? What is the protocol for calling Greg’s mother from whom I’ve been divorced for almost 30 years? How to even express my grief within the field of his mother’s profound mourning?  Why risk the profound discomfort of trying to help comfort Greg’s mother?  

She needed safe arms that I could no longer offer. I hungered for safe arms that she could no longer offer. 

Yet I made the call. She answered. For 10 minutes, we claimed eternity on behalf of a marvelous young man. Not family. Not together. But there … present … together.

Keep your eyes on life! 

It will teach you to hum the lullaby – soothingwordlessaffirming, even funky – that the baby in us need to hear …    

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…  Coda #2: February 2013. It’s 32 years after I moved cross country to live with him and his Moms. I notice the flashing light on my telephone. I’ve got a voicemail. I dial up the code and listen: I hear Greg’s familiar staccato. He’s laughing. Voice verging on falsetto. Good humor floods me. I’m smiling before I listen to the actual message. Parents of grown children live for these magical check-ins, these unexpected life lines, these reminders that our kids consider us eligible for an unscripted moment of their time. The message in full:

“Peter what’s happening man. It’s Greg. Just shouting you out. I bought the Essential Earth Wind & Fire. I had bought my father this BluRay of Earth Wind & Fire, which inspired me to buy their greatest hits…. And I was like, damn, I can’t listen to this music without thinking of you, every morning, playing that in the morning, on your way to work, or on my way to school. I was like, this is the Soundtrack of Our Lives! Had to shout you out, man! Hope all is well. I love you. I’ll talk to you soon. Take care.” Several times, I press 1 to replay the message. With each listen, the years melt away. I feel like the grown up I always wanted to be for him. The grown up he proudly calls his Second Father. I want y’all to clap your hands this evening .…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/

Hymn to the Mother

Point Reyes

You can’t applaud and take notes – Samuel F. Yette

Charles Lloyd’s Hymn to the Mother is go-to music, when I’m working diligently to maintain persistence and sanity, remain emotionally supple, and recalibrate from any drama in my life.

Hymn to the Mother, of course, evokes the voice of my own Moms! 

ALSO it’s a turn of phrase that has become a personal mantra.

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I hold hands with reverence.

I clarify what’s praiseworthy within myself. 

I clarify who has earned my praise.

I am renewed. I don’t have to explain. I just have to sing, hold my head up, hold my head to the sky. 

I have only to walk. I have only to show myself. I have only to be myself, again.

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I invoke creativity. I provoke myself to claim the artistic and administrative stamina required to, again, mount the powerful urge and urgency I feel when the ineffable beckons.

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I am a walking lightning rod for ideas and transformations on the sidewalks of our lives…. I make eye contact with babies on the street, haha, yes I do, and in crowds at festivals or on the metro, they smile at me and trust me and their gazes give me unblemished dap! 

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I know I can choose to generate a field of celebration around my everyday rock and roll.

am stingy with my applause, cautioned as I was by Mister Yette, the Howard professor who most imprinted me. He was teaching us that a reporter is not a cheerleader. [Dudley Randall said: ‘a poet is not a jukebox!’] 

Mister Yette taught us to put no one on a pedestal, to ask the toughest question, to follow the facts, to follow the money. He reminded us to seek cultural salience over the satisfaction of proximity to power or to the powerful.  

Mister Yette’s ethical counsel synced up with Moms’ ethical imprinting when I left her home in Southeast DC for Howard’s campus in Northwest DC! And years later, Lloyd’s Hymn to the Mother became a creative catalyst, a cosmic convergence, a sonic home for ecstatic insights. 

Listening to this music, I actually trance out! I get out my own way. 

become Moms’s home training. I become Mister Yette’s intellectual education. I become the artist and thinker and citizen I want to be at my best. I become the man who welcomes his wholeness, his unique instincts, his individuality. I become the man who is brave enough to offer his most distinctive takes on life and living.

Charles Lloyd’s Hymn to the Mother   concentration in psalm   calling through calling   invoking Her delicious reverence for life   illuminating Her persistence
revealing hope She wore on oval face of an abandoned child 
echoing Her passions to live beyond prescriptions of childhood diseases
shape-shifting Her contours beyond whims & codes on bureaucratic forms
shaping invisible numbers sprawled upon white cardboard    praising Her   harvesting Her   with musical brushstrokes that shepherd my return to a modest 2BR crib across the Anacostia River   an official orphan bookmarks another random chapter in the Sacred Book for Haunted Lovers   transcribes lessons from a January mother with the summer name 

an oracle named June 

taken way way way too soon

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… I am embracing, craving and exploring my complex humanity as an African American man. Critical celebration has guided me into nuanced self reflection and evolving curiosity about a simple, provocative question: What is a happy Black man? How does he navigate the labyrinth of life? How do I? I am a son, brother, father, grandfather. I am a lover, apprentice to wiser elders, straight man crafting brotherhood with my gay Homeboy. I am an orphan seeking affirmation after the deaths of my mother and father. I have confronted, survived, and transcended my youngest daughter’s rape by her Black step father. A happy Black man?  I am done with surviving. I’m done with Black History Month packaging, the symbolic roll call of the heroes and the readings of their pronouncements. I’ve been ordained by anonymous, daily, often agonizing work, in search of timeless health and lasting jubilee. The Black man of happiness has blossomed. I’m hungry for the change of ball bearings! I’m ready to pour the love packed in honey. I am .…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/

Bluesy Breezin & Frolicking… for Al Young 

Peter J. Harris, Al Young and Jack Foley

Aaaahhh listening to Al Young read Something About the Blues

Aaaahhh watching Black men accept the Frolicking Challenge!

Aaaahhh listening to Billy Preston frolic on the organ …. 

Aaaahhh lifting my voice to harmonize with EWF’s Brazilian Rhyme

So many reminders to stay plugged into the main line

To keep it acapella baby! 

To embrace what Al Young called the “lush urgency” in his poem “Clearing the Way for Ecstasy.”

I first read Al Young in 1976, when he wrote the liner notes for George Benson’s Breezin. I had no idea who he was. Who knew I’d stand with him in 2015, after I won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award? We stood with Jack Foley, Before Columbus Foundation board member, who commended my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right, for a 2015 American Book Award. In fact, Jack introduced me at the ABA ceremony at SFJazz.

We lost Al Young in 2021. I miss Al’s resonant, musical voice. Reading aloud his work, he embraced elemental simplicity, even though he was erudite, an intellectual of ideas, poetic forms and artistic/social movements. With Ishmael Reed, Al founded in 1972 the literary magazine Yardbird Reader, which morphed into national anthologies; they later published a mag called Quilt. They were OGs fighting for the broadest definitions of American literature. 

Celebrating Al’s mesmerizing voice syncs with my understanding that sound is my vibrating doorway into the All

In fact, when I feel the need to lift my spirits, I claim the Black male voice as my go-to healing technology. Brotherly intonation strikes my cosmic tuning fork! When I first saw that frolicking video, I full on melted when homeboy cracks: ‘you know who you frolicking with!?’ 

Immersed in the men sounding me, I feel my brain firing and I imagine projecting into night skies a blazing fMRI image of my brain on joy. I feel myself riding sound waves, undulating within slow light. 

As a cultural worker, I often imagine a darkened gallery, in which visitors stare up at a pulsating constellation of fMRI images of 100 Black men’s brains lit up on genuine praise generous encouragement, and their particular thoughts of happiness…. 

Of course, I know the human brain is the same across our species, so I’m definitely not slinging my version of the racist historical riffing of pseudo scientists positioning Europeans/whiteness at the human peak of some mythical Chain of Being.  

But in broader American culture, where walking zombies shoot up a prayer circle at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston or attack people standing in checkout lines at a Buffalo supermarket, it remains critical to creatively embrace the inalienable humanity of Black life as one of our tools to stay inspired to resist ongoing public space violence against Black men in America. 

Witnessing our humanity, praising our humanity, especially on the intimate sidewalks and in the reverent salons of our lives, extrapolates brain research findings that genuine praise contributes to a “process” or “growth” mindset that I assert can be adapted to help us become ‘brothers from other mothers,’ who help one another offer one another exhilarating respites from the reverberating, intersecting impacts of racism on earth, and share our motivating aural gifts to the universe. 

What about recording a global praise song as carrier wave to help us ‘see’ the majestic individuality of Black men and – paraphrasing another EWF classic – help us ‘write a (praise) song of love’ for the common good?

Wouldn’t the crisscrossing and surging voices marshaled and embossed become human heirlooms akin to sounds on the Golden Records onboard Voyager I & II spacecraft?

Wouldn’t one voice

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… What will I live for? Why do I trust Black men? Well, it’s simple. I’m confident in a lifetime of rich brotherhood, a lifetime witnessing men commit themselves to life and development. I’m flat dubious of our society’s tendency to favor us as one dimensional, easily packaged, drained of intensity, and happy go lucky rather than happy. Truth is, I’ve been fired in the kiln of exquisite friendships with men who came wounded but savvy out of tough neighborhoods and histories. Men who understand bitter times, family breakdowns, street-level violence, in-home dysfunction, but who nonetheless manufactured responsible lives dedicated to an overall sense of service and contribution. …My friendships with these men have been played out to music. Sometimes, it’s found on classic recordings. Always, it feels composed by reliably good men. When I hear their music, I walk the territory of some place sacred. I’m refreshed. I’m inspired. I honor the memories we’ve made. I pass them on..…”https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/

Residency on this Earth… 

Peter J Harris rocks

Photo by Fana Babadayo

How do I infuse happiness – wreak happiness? – into my community engagement work? How do I execute rigorous planning? When do I push? When do I let the music move me around?

“Guided by the question, What will I live for…?, and energized by the mantra, change for the better faster, I propose a framework of programs (workshops, community service, and internships) that will teach urban male youth (middle school to high school) to tap their creativity, imagination and inspiration as indispensable tools for constructive problem-solving, personal and social change.” 

That was how I started a proposal to seek support for Inspiration House, my platform for honing ‘tools for change artists.’ IHouse is also my conceptual prism for service to young folks and for my collaborations with other social justice creatives. 

This is not fantasy curriculum. In my early 20s, I personally experienced it, helped craft it, and serviced it as part of a cohort of dedicated teachers and counselors who worked at the Park Heights Street Academy in Baltimore. 

Our educational team worked in the spirit of something I read in poet Cecilia Woloch’s April Newsletter 2022“Now more than ever, we all need to do whatever we can do to resist every kind of tyranny, and to stay grounded in those practices that keep the light and the creative energy moving within us and between us –that seems to me also a kind of resistance.”

Darryl Kennon was one of those dedicated counselors, back in 1978-79. We were all idealists, but Darryl revved up his service beyond rigorous counseling. If a student was tripping or absent, Darryl not only picked up the phone, he also walked neighborhood sidewalks as part of a dynamic and sincere willingness to step beyond the classroom and into the community.

Darryl also wrote a school song – adapted from GOIN UP YONDER! – that had us lifting our voices and drinking the sweet Kool Ade of mutual affirmation and immersion into the lives of our smart students, who nonetheless stayed wary of even a whiff of the missionary. 

If anybody asks me / where I’m going / where I’m going … to school

I’m going to the Park Heights! I’m going to the Park Heights! 

I’m going to the Park Heights … Street Academy …

I still love singing that song! Brother Kennon died on January 25, 2009. I never met his mother, Hazel Rodriguez, nor his sister, Karen Clifford (Gregory), but I did attend his standing room only public Memorial Service in Baltimore with my brother from another mother Melvin E. Brown

So how exhilarating and surprising it was for me to receive a voicemail in 2020 from one of our former students that affirmed Darryl’s influence. Check out this edited transcript of Kevin G’s August 2020 voicemail: 

“Greetings Mr. Harris. …I was your student back in the late 70s…. You were a teacher at the Park Heights Street Academy. Darryl Kennon and yourself used to play me … and the rest of the youth in the neighborhood in basketball …! You taught us how write…. I got your number from brother Mark McDaniels. We spoke to each other at the Home Depot. I always want you to know that you was really good for morale. When you left, morale went down, but Darryl Kennon and rest of the crew was able to rekindle the motivation, the spirit, and we made it! I wanted to reach out to you sir and say thank you for your mentorship. Thank you for your contribution that you gave us at the Street Academy. God bless and all the best Mr. Harris. Peace.”

Ironically, I reconnected in 2014 with Brother Mark, who wrote a blurb for my book of happiness essays: “You helped to shape my life. Brothers like you give meaning to ‘Man up!’ Because of brothers like you, I can give back what a young brother from D.C. gave me: Inspiration!”

I share these humbling quotes as resonating affirmations, not to show off how cool Darryl and I used to be. To me, Mark and Kevin were sharing genuine praise songs that affirm humanity, common ground, and a pledge to pass it on – in an Each One, Teach One educational framework that positioned us all as virtuosos who each could teach one another. Yes, no question, Darryl and I had more academic expertise and life experience, but we saw Mark, Kevin, and our other students as younger colleagues; we didn’t position ourselves as unassailable masters and the students as blank apprentices with nothing to bring to the table.

I’ll end with this CODA, an echo from my days as Associate Dean of The Claremont Colleges’ Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA). 

Black History Month 2022 was uplifted by an unsolicited email from Dr. Thompkins, who graduated from Scripps College: 

Hello Peter, Hope this message finds you well! … You may not remember me, but I was a student at Scripps College in the late 1990s and early 2000s. You were one of the Deans of OBSA at the time. I used a motorized wheelchair for mobility. I have been looking for a way to contact you for a few years. I wanted to thank you for all of the time you spent teaching me how to write effectively and clearly. 

During my first few years at Scripps, you helped me edit my papers for school. You patiently and skillfully taught me the art and science of writing. Over time, I learned and internalized everything that you taught me and became a clear writer. 

Since graduating from Scripps, I’ve earned a Ph.D. in economics from MIT, worked for an international company where I published academic papers on a host of topics in economics, started a blog and currently write for various magazines and newspapers. At each stage in my life, whether submitting a chapter of my dissertation to my advisor for approval or posting a new entry on my blog, I have heard a common sentence: 

“Allison, you write so WELL!” 

While thanking the person for the compliment, I always think of you and send you a mental message of gratitude. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your willingness to help me become a wonderful writer! I so appreciate all of the time and energy you poured into me! 

…Have a wonderful day!”

 Oh yes, I will continue wreaking happiness – for the rest of my residency on Earth! 

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… From now on, I’m making happiness the key enzyme, the untapped catalyst, the missing ingredient, to all of my individual, organizational and community social justice work targeted at (choose one): THE BLACK MAN, MEN AND BOYS OF COLOR, AT-RISK YOUTH. With all due respect to religion, to the greatness of the STRUGGLE, with much respect to valuable social service of every kind, getting beyond our pursuit of happiness to actually claiming happiness is thenecessary 21st Century mission to refuel ourselves, to tap the cultural creativity bequeathed to us by the African American Odyssey, and to tap our own unique personal endowments. Then we can work this wave of digital media, evolving family configurations, and demographic shifts. We can multi-task to get past survival into thriving. We can bundle effective strategies into a supple suite of approaches to living that gets into our emotional crevices and sweeps away the residue of the gross oppression that once served to fire our notions of resistance and mutual salvation .…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/

Persistence in a Difficult Time

I'd Rather be here now

Smile but be serious is how Herschell Happiness put it during one of Graham Central Station’s classic intro jams!

Working on my whisper is how I remind myself to avoid the temptation to be glib when buffeted by complex and complicated forces.

I do seek the proverbial — the concise, compressed, and concentrated — to undergird my persistence in a difficult time.

The turn of phrase infused with a culture’s deepest deliberations, elegantly representing a collective gravitas and common sense.

See the Sermon blossomed in my mind while listening to a mentor school me.

Every moment is the Beginning of the Perfect struck me recently upon waking to beautifully insistent birdsong.

Vernon and them blasted their whistles as they cycled through streets of DC, wearing their colorful bandanas. It was probably only about 10-20 brothers riding at a time, but in my fevered adolescent mind their bicycles filled every lane of every street on their mobile parade. They rode without worries about being pulled over, with no worries about being shot down. They were just exuberant teenagers, claiming their city, traversing their Chocolate City.

Riding, for sure, from one public basketball court to another to run run run all day! Between games, we slurped from the public water fountains. Sweating and swearing. Driving and dishing. Shouting ‘I got ball,’ while backpedaling on D to try and stop a swarming 3-on-1 fast break!

My sister Anna once sent me a photo of me sitting on my bike out front of Ballou Senior High School. I was the senior class president, and it was my album cover photo for sure: flyaway fro, aviator shades, backpack, captured within my suave, most subtle, 18-year-old cool.

That September I’d enroll at Howard. That summer Pops would get me a job working on the truck he drove for Potomac Electric Power Company, where we cut grass at power substations, cleaned up the trash, and swept floors as part of PEPCO’s maintenance crews.

I’d get to hang out with my father and his main co-worker Mr. Dick, aka Richard Wilson. Mr. Dick taught me how to rock a lawn mower, regardless of terrain, swapped profanity with Pops as they traversed DC and Maryland, and he religiously read the Washington Post cover-to-cover, especially during Nixon’s downfall.

My quest for happiness is not to avoid ugliness, or recurrent cycles of interpersonal or political struggles, though I’m exhausted and deflated for sure by the persistence of madmen and their violent psych games and warmongering.

My quest is the prism, the mission, through which to keep my head to the sky through the storms.

My quest is …

Doorway into sustaining memories of Joy
Reboot tool
Recoding of my inner happy black app
Reminder of my vernacular genius
Reminder to tell my story walking
Doorway into personal eloquence
My my my in the experience of Happiness
Yes yes yes in the experience of Joyful Insistence
Say what when my Joy is challenged
I wish a Maryland Farmer would lie on my Joy

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…  By respecting the difficulty I’ve faced reaching my own manhood, and owning how lonely it can get on this journey, I feel empowered to offer a loving challenge to Black men: Stride beyond behaviors forged during adolescence. Awake from any form of arrested development. Peep and avoid the pitfalls of peer-pressured choices. Refuse self-pity, even in the wake of fatherlessness and other profound loss. Prioritize a deep personal vision and motivation. Speak on your own experiences as experts who are relentlessly, incrementally, living distinctive lives of positive power.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.…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/