Persistence in a Difficult Time

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.…”

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