I am a militant falsetto, onna move to sow sacred ground, my voice subtle as background radiation, indivisible as dark matter, whispering so gentle a Christian aunt swoons. An American man, I genuflect to the reverb of Curtis Mayfield’s mantras in 3-minute anthems.
I am a militant falsetto, converting agony of foremothers and forefathers chained within clauses of declarations, flinging alchemy and medicine from within the tectonics vexing barometers of who can I be, who our country’s history says I can be. If I more than nudge my volume past protocol, suddenly I become a Black man who frightens the uninitiated.
When I first saw the cactus in bloom, some 15 years ago, I was hiking the hills of Mount Washington in LA with Olga, friend and educator, fierce poet and cultural worker. A blossoming cactus! Turned me out, DC boy that I am. Honestly, I wasn’t all into the beauty of cactus. Olga broke down how her kin made meals from certain cactus. Olga refocused my sight. Reminded me to see all at once the thorns and the blossoms, the militance and the falsetto.
Recently, Instagram’s algorithm nudged me with an old photo I’d posted of a blossoming cactus. I promptly shared the image with Olga, who I’d last seen in her own IG posts walking the picket line with striking LAUSD teachers. Olga’s response turned me out.
“Nature saves. And nourishes. Every single day. The world is mad, Mr. Peter …. On some days the world terrifies me …. The ugliness makes me ill. In the soul. But there is the other side where the good & love resides. Hope you’re well. And finding joy despite it all – I know you are. Un abrazo.”
I wrote her back: “I feel you. Big SOCIAL ugliness. INTIMATE ugliness. Backwashing between and among us all. Honestly, I’ve been working diligently to concentrate on how I am behaving in my daily anonymous flow. Remembering to be polite whether I’m on the bus or in the liquor store buying a lottery ticket. Listening for my mother’s voice. My mother used to INSIST on courtesy. You’ve got me thinking about how to become, like, a master at wading through it all with a mind to NEVER be a conduit for the bullshit, to break circuit on the bullshit. Protecting myself by connecting with nature, like you said. Imagining something richer….Hugs back at you too!”
A compassionate exchange in an era where empathy is chum for sharks in business suits and MAGA hats, in the U.S. and abroad. Children are required to face judges on their own. ICE SWAT teams are sicced on workers. Border ‘security’ tear-gases desperate asylum seekers. A queer politician resigns from the Brazilian legislature in fear of his life. Men and women, already demonized, are forced to harvest produce beneath boiling clouds darkening skies from fires. Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever is rebranded in rhetoric that appeals to some mythical magical state of Whitelessness.
‘The world is mad, Mr. Peter ….’
I am a militant falsetto for integrity. I discern my masculine independence dousing for a jubilant individuality. I dedicate myself to nurturing humane collaborations for democratic outcomes. I listen for the sound and message of my blossoming song.
BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right’ —
“…In his essay, “Love and the Enemy,” from his book, Flyboy in the Buttermilk, Greg Tate inspires me, and reminds us all, that “any liberation or empowerment strategy that doesn’t grow out of love, in its most constructive, critical, and compassionate senses, is useless.” Tate then throws it down: “The warriors we need to step forward now aren’t the confrontational kind, but healers…. if we don’t exercise our capacity to love and heal each other by digging deep into our mutual woundedness, then what we’re struggling for is merely the end of white supremacy — and not the salvaging of its victims….” Here I go, trying to say something with legacies at stake. I don’t want another Black boy or man to capitulate to inner demons. I don’t want another Black man demonized and destroyed by society’s various methods of profiling. I don’t want another brother to dismiss happiness, because ours has never been a national priority. I don’t want another dude to dismiss happiness as corny and unmanly and irrelevant to being real, because happiness has been designated and assigned and claimed as the exclusive domain of history’s philosophers, parchment, and patriarchs. We deserve happiness…. Let’s become ‘dap’ for one another: gentle fist bumps of encouragement and mutual acceptance of a national consciousness of community…. [the] resonant sphere of my militant falsetto. Only my falsetto can contain the vulnerability I need for these holiest of testimonies, the hopes drawn from my most sacred struggles. Only my falsetto feeds the fire of VoiceMusic that I pray will move you….” www.blackmanofhappiness.com/shop