As a pre-teen, I incessantly practiced baseball. Once, I was throwing a tennis ball against the wall of our brick apartment building in southeast D.C., then fielding the ball as it rebounded, ricocheted, and bounced back to me. From the kitchen window in our Apartment 304, my mother shouted a question down to me.
“Peter, what’s that piece of trash near you.”
Continuing my drill, I shouted back.
“I don’t know.”
“Pick it up.”
“Why I got to pick it up!? I didn’t throw it down there.”
Luckily Moms was three stories up. My question, in my neighborhood, was universally defined as back talking, no matter how accurate I was about the source of the potato chip bag. I had definitely entered ass-whipping territory. I was lucky I wasn’t within arm’s length.
At this point, I was smart enough to, uh, ‘respectfully’ stop playing catch.
Moms didn’t skip a beat. She shouted down at me in a tone of voice that might as well have been an ass whipping.
“You live here don’t you! Pick it up NOW and throw it into the garbage container in the parking lot.”
End of discussion. I picked up the bag and trudged to the garbage container!
My Moms always saw life through the lens of ethical living. You live here don’t you!
She was ever dedicated to imparting Home Training. Then make where you live as beautiful as you can!
She could envision what I’m now inspired to call the ‘Fifth Season!’
Fifth Season is a magnificent term created by the writer N.K. Jemison, in her book of the same name. Jemison defines a Fifth Season as “an extended winter … triggered by seismic activity or other large-scale environmental alteration.” Makes me think of what Gil Scott-Heron called ‘Winter in America’ in my youth – an extended season of being dangled between atrophied ‘unalienable’ rights and hungry bounty hunters.
With this blog, Wreaking Happiness, I’m claiming, forecasting, and working for a ‘Fifth Season’ of joy! Wreaking Happiness takes cajones during this era of Sir Trump d’void of Funk and the persistent violence that too often stalks brothers. No matter! You can’t stop a vision!
I’m pledging to document a large-scale alteration in my ecology through the curatorial senses of one joyful Black man.
No doubt, I’m down for a new season that still defines freedom as a refusal, a resistance, an alert engagement with what’s wrong in the world, but I’m also down for a Fifth Season that has me learning to tap my inner Briar Patch of unique emotional power and potential and hopefulness as resonant tools to help make beauty in the world.
Wreaking Happiness will feature musings, reporting, observations, and other ecstatic insights; interviews and Q&As; photos and videos. My goal is to build Wreaking Happiness into a cool oasis that provides an example of one dude’s shameless celebration of his life, and operates as a jazzy platform that explores life and history from a refreshing, life-affirming new angle that says enough havoc.
Cultivating such perspectives through the life of this Black American male from southeast D.C. takes cajones during this era of Sir Trump d’void of Funk and the persistent violence that too often stalks brothers. But as you can tell, I was primed for this mission by my mother, a foster child who married my Pops in her 20s. She remained my prime ethical teacher until she died at 57 in 1984.
Going forward, I promise to keep most Wreaking Happiness posts short and sweet. But in this launch post, let me riff a bit on the reverberations rippling out from the core ethical experience given me by my beloved mother.
A happy Black man? Oxymoron? Democratic slaveholder? President Trump?
En garde avant garde!
Holding on to hopefulness ain’t never been easy. Black folk have done it as geniously as any cultural group ever has. I ain’t easily envisioning or calling up a Fifth Season tracked by a joyful Black male. Not when every writer worth a MacArther Fellowship, National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, or a perch on the best seller lists, can swap competing, intersectional lists of boys and men, not to mention sistren, shot by cops and destroyed on urban crossroads.
Not to mention how that violence is used in the calculations of Sir D’void of Funk and his DOJ minions who ring the ‘black on black crime’ clarion call as a reason to power up the ‘war on crime,’ and the legal infrastructure of the FBI – can we say COINTELPRO boys and girls! – to fight nonexistent black terrorist organizations.
But with my mother’s voice ringing in my ears – You live here don’t you! – I’m called to participate kindly on the sidewalks of our lives; to delineate kindness; to publicly celebrate this humanity as a counter spell, an equal-and-opposite force, taking place in real time. And if white supremacy is an illness, a social illness, as I heard Dr. Frances Welsing call it in my youth, I cannot live my life in thrall or fear of an illness. I must, yes, resist this illness, but as an inoculation that protects me to live free, to live rich, to live interesting, to live in safety and service and exploration, wreaking happiness along my way, adding my voice to the soundtrack we all make at our best!
I’m consoled by a ferocious humanity at the crossroads of creation & death. I’m down when a righteous fist is needed. But it’s hard making beauty with clenched fingers. Pain is America’s fetish. Rage is America’s touchstone. Joy is America’s nonsequitur.
You live here don’t you!
Then make where you live as beautiful as you can!
En garde avant garde!
Onwards to the Fifth Season of Joy.
PS—Wreaking Happiness is launched in honor of my first child, born September 30, 1977. He gave birth to a life-long season of sacrifice, joy, pain, and instruction for me! I remain humbled by the miracle of our lives together.
BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right’ — “…we’ve struggled to be first among equals who protect and maintain an interior world of freedom and purity and spontaneity and silliness…. I understand and embrace the wonderful African American humanity with which we forged joy out of insanity. But it’s time to forge joy from joy, ignite happiness from happiness, to spiral inward to get to an indivisible irradiation, whose fragrance is exhaled as part of each breath we take. Want to be happy. Will be happy. Become onery about happiness. What happiness can I cultivate when I don’t have to look over my shoulder? What endorphins will I release – in my body and into the body politic – by singing of myself, singing to myself…being myself…again…? What ecstasy? For ourselves and for others we love…?”