I see it … this is how I described it in the stage directions for my play The Black Man of Happiness:
…high ceilings open floor plan, gorgeous wood floors;
…huge video screens integrated into design are time-shifting portals;
…powerful abstract African American art on the walls;
…garden through large windows;
…dining room area contains a scrumptious buffet with drinks;
…piano sits in a corner, steel pan and guitar set up near piano;
…thumb piano sits on shelves;
…kora sits on floor;
…birimbau sits on stand.
I feel it … this is how I described in a poem called House:
welcome to my house built with talk
foundation squat on our grandparents’ chaingang demands
floors creak with closeted lovers’ North Star resolve
walls rooms doors roof align with my mother’s bedtime prayers
live a barefoot holiday with me
only celebration will measure time
each second an occasion to wilt he said/she said
with riveting telepathy of 2 humans face-to-face
gossiping with kiss from mouths
steady evolving beyond the need for speech
Thinking through my best memories of family gatherings over the years, AND meditating on the ugliest architecture of American history, it comes down to this for me:
Be happy your ownself, you know! Be the antidote to the historical poison of slavery (from self-hate and self-destruction to society’s willful dehumanization and disappearing of chosen scapegoats). Explore life and history from refreshing angles. Often, I choose to live through the lens of happiness of the men whose joy has never been a national priority. Choose your angle and contribute to the tipping point of a national conversation. Given our American journey, happy Black human beings, on their ‘pursuit of happiness,’ can be both last laugh of American history and a basic ingredient for enriching American society.
Thinking through my best moments of human cooperation over the years, AND meditating on the ugliest architecture of American history, a happy mindset is most opposed by a system of:
Following orders: groupthink enforced by government, religion or other constricting social structure infused with myth, buttressed by myths. Stratifying expertise only within a military configuration, top down, chain of command. Granting value to any soldier, any guard, any uniform…
What is leadership? What is power? When you wear a uniform, are your mirror neurons scorched by ideology, seasoning and training into atrophy? Those aren’t magic wands being pointed at unarmed men, women and children! What gives one accent power and consigns another to banishment? What’s in a last name? Peltier? Stone? Abu Jamal? Gallagher? Who defines the criminal? Is English a magic spell? Spanish a curse? They’re both imperial languages that rode in on the horses of cavalrymen! Following orders sanctified by royalty and money. Following odious orders sanctified by cosplaying priests waving their hands and sanctifying lines drawn on an insufficient map! What if you superimposed images from France, Germany, Poland over images of East LA, San Diego, Phoenix? ID Papers. Passes. Documents. Illegal. Aliens. Migration. Immigration. A species on foot. As cargo. As contraband. As ….
And who wants us to be unhappy? Who wants us sad? Who wants us scared? Who wants us doubting our worth? Questioning our righteousness as a member of society, as a member of the species?
Creativity is my indispensable energy. Imagination is my key catalyst. Inspiration keeps me supple. Rigor keeps my thinking from calcifying into one-note mindsets, attitudes, relationships, habits, and hierarchies. Hard work is foundation for keeping my eyes on the prize in the face of personal and social obstacles, mistakes, and setbacks. I consider myself the vital and visionary first-among-equals in any collaboration.
Grounded and rejuvenated, I am always stitching what’s awesome into the quilt of ‘practical’ approaches necessary to ensure healthy futures. My happiness rests on ethical self-expression, relentless search for the elemental, and making myself ecstatically available for new patterns.
Within the first minute of each new day, I pledge to grow and court improvisation. I love folk, but I embrace healthy solitude, pandemic or not. I’m down for silence (Moms would say, ‘If you can’t say something nice…!’), but I am absolutely down for going ‘on record’ with bracing candor.
With my mind on renewal, I’ll be cultivating and blending a no-nonsense, razor-sharp sense of humor, deep concentration, active listening skills, an adventurous mastery of old school (writing, each one-teach one techniques) with new school (hand-held digital devices and social media) — and straight courage to eternally call out BS.
enter my house made for talk
describe our place here-and-now
bury us in the moment of our witness
pin the corsage of my promises in your hair
curl inside motion with me & end your voyage
sift our fears until all we smell is ginger behind closed eyes
sink in the quicksand softening my palms
rise with skin radiant from the grit
lining our elation from nothing to everything
BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… But the sight of two skinny brothers, in spontaneous duet with one another, armed with friendship and genuine peace between them, makes us the perfect prism for this call for Black men to play their chord of joyfulness as an equal and opposite response and counter-spell to the American Blues Song about Black pain …. Happy Black men … swapping stories and making memories and resuscitating histories. I’m anticipating The Black Man of Happiness …. Refreshing folks who seek inspiration to maintain their own personal equilibrium. He will help oxygenate their collaborations with individuals and organizations seeking to stop violence between and among Black men, to heal from the reverberations of violence directed at them, and to defuse corrosive stressfulness in the lives of too many Black men …?” www.blackmanofhappiness.com/shop