Same Everywhere

Same Everywhere
After Langston Hughes’, “Letter from Spain.”

Gijon, Asturias, Spain
February, something 2017,
Near 80 years since beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

Dear Johnny,

I am your brother.
I reside in Spain. Still the same everywhere.

Franco is dead. I think you would have been pleased
By this news.

You are my ancestor. Not directly. I lift you up.

Republicans/Anarchists sadly no emblazoned
Glory hallelujahs nor banners flown in their favor,
U saw that as a result
U saw that crooked cross spun scoliosis fascists other party
U boat and jet propaganda bombast in blast blast
All over Europe and parts of our mother land. You knew. You knew
Holding that Moor already ¾ in grave.

I live in a different Spain now
The Moors aren’t being thrusted into the front line as shield for Francoites
Naw, still persecuted though
And do risk life and limb to enter into this new thing
So too others from the diaspora
Like this Senegalese brother who said,
“You must write your stories and tell the children they are beauty.” Deep. Moved.

I will tell you they are safe.
That they live with a dignity like the white man-I would like to say.
But you know, like I know, that would be coal in the mouth
And still from your Galaxy House
Among those fiery deities: Malcolm, King, Angelou, Parks, Ghandi, Baldwin, Hurston,
You still write to save, to educate
U know nothing new abides in this earth but
The Sun Commandment: that which lives, must die.

To scribe the World needs the scribe-who is it?
The pain staked youth, they are Beauty, can’t shake it, that message
Yet the spiritual take:
It was the journey he took to tell me that
Engaged in this author’s glory
He risked his life and limb to soak up Spain shore
I can’t shake it
To tell me to scribe to uplift the
Future it is young and must be born in compassion not in material
I can’t shake it

This country of which I knew you
Stayed, I am sure, loved for a moment
I will tell you
That the world too seems to fear and hold us in crushing hands,
Still, I will tell you they still don’t know themselves: the whites
They still appropriate and dispose of our bodies
Like we were lower trash, still
The only thing that’s changed
Social media, we got varied outlets now

Random:
The Fog is Gatsbian. This night, I am strolling along
The boardwalk lights undulating like snake hips on black Cantabrian sea,
That black sea fighting against shore, a tiding inn
Did u ever see Asturias, Gijón?
U’d love it.

My fav thing is to walk back home
Drunk on whiskey and beers
Along this misty boardwalk

Had a feeling, never go back (US).
I was in Cartagena (Spain) face toward the bowed part of back-head of mother Africa North
And thought freedom, in some ways I am. In other ways, there is an ingrained racism here I am trying to dislodge…it.

I am tired. I am.

Today, I explained to a Spanish ten year old
Why the N’word is putrid. Deadly. Horrid.
I have done this several times to whites here in Spain and
To whites from our home living in Spain. SMH (this means ‘shaking my head’). They still do not get it.

I am sorry to report this. I had wanted to report better news. I cannot say
This dispatch is a happy one. Recently, a known bigot was elected but
I guess you already have lived through the worst bigots in that white-crowned-
House built on black spinal cord and hip bone, sweat, shit, blood…
You already know!
These cycles are repetitive, sadly.
I am sorry to report no real advances have been made
Although we finally had a Brother in office
I think you would’ve been proud.
Johnny (Langston),
I love you.

You still radiate.

Amor,

Charlie

Thrive Debrief

Thrive
November 5th, 2016, Madrid, Spain

I was nervous as hell.me

Hell of nervous.

I remember when Sienna Brown (founder of Las Morenas De España) asked me to present at Thrive, we threw around a lot of different ideas on presentation material and subject. We’d been in conversation regarding masculinity. We met at Black Masculinity and artistic exploration. Honestly, I didn’t know which way to go with it. I did research. I’d never openly talked about a subject as vulnerable as this in public. So, I read. I wrote. I wrote a twenty-six page script in fact. There are rare moments you get in life where you have an audience and can vulnerably express who you are. I’ve been reflecting on the Thrive conference a lot. The life that I have led, the experiences I have accumulated, in many ways prepared me for Thrive; to thrive. I presented eight poems and prepared five questions (which I did not get to present, but will in this debrief). Accompanying my poems, were stories associated with each piece. These pieces all represented my experiences as a Black male, also being bi-racial as well as identifying the kinds of privileges I’ve had a being very light skin African-American. I used African-American and Black interchangeably here. Really, they are the same to me. I prefer to be called either.

I knew that many people were going to be curious as to why I was chosen or why I was at Thrive giving a presentation on Black Masculinity. I think a lot about how Mat Johnson describes himself as looking like a “Lithuanian rugby player.” Mat Johnson is an African-American author, he too is bi-racial. This was a first for me. I have never accepted or stated out loud that I look “white.” In my mind, I look exactly what I am: mixed, Black and White. I see my father who is White and I see my mother who is Black. Culturally, I am Black. The way I navigate this world is Black, is a person of color (POC). Yet, I acknowledge the fact that I am very light, that I can and have passed for being white. It’s not something that I flaunt. I accept it. See, my family, my mother’s family, is Black and many of us are light skin African-Americans. I have ancestors that passed as well and needed to do so to provide for their family and it was usually the women that could pass. According to arcane hegemony in the United States, the male has always been the head of the home. This also stemmed from religious origin stories like Christianity or even western mythology. By this oppressive social stratum, most American’s are raised to believe, it seemed to be an impossibility for many Black men to thrive while not having the resources to provide for one’s family and to keep ones own sanity. This is how white hegemony continues to castrate Black men in the US post slavery. In addition, white hegemony teaches to separate man and woman into higher and lower castes. As Black men, we cannot forget get our sisters, Black women. I think Black masculinity is supporting Black women, for they are the pulse of our country and the movement as well as the most educated demographic in the US today. White hegemony was and has been used to separate us, Black men and women, even perpetuate the color line, intra-hate, between light and dark in the Black community.

In my poem, So this is Fine, I describe a conversation my mother and I had the last night of her vacation here in Spain. I made a poor comment about how basic the accommodations were in the hotel we were sleeping in for the night. It was a moment where the privilege that I’d had become accustomed to, provided by mother when we were children, and now the lifestyle I provide for myself, was checked. Chin checked. It was like one of those moments that causes you to take a step back, one where you examine who you are, swallowing pride, lending to the moment empathy, love, and education. After a long trip from Virginia, heading to Ohio, my grandfather needed to feed his family. He pulled over to a road side café and was promptly told to go around back and retrieve some sandwiches from the back door. It is a testament to his character at that moment when his human dignity was tested and trodden upon. This is a story I’ve heard several times but this time I really took it in. Many White people used different devices in those days to make Black people subordinate, minimal, unseen and unheard. They felt empowered because politicians and police officers turned a blind eye to the abuse or joined in. We are still here. The world has changed several times since then, yet the fashion in which our glorious country still values Black lives, not much has.

So, this is fine

A night in Virginia, 1960’s.

Those old dusty service roads in the south
Overhung willows/pebbles pinched under
Rubber tires sounded like pellet gun shots
I can see their headlights
Dust clouds combing over it and
The carry of the engine pushing through
Into a long night indignant

My uncle who made calls from his naval base
For road accommodations
A critters greeting in this families house
Exhausted my grandfather
Uncomfortable my grandma trapped on the edge of the bed

What those generous southern black folk gave
They left that welcome for the
Long haul back to Toledo, OH
On empty stomachs,
My grandfather’s pulverized human dignity
My mother’s childhood – black kids aren’t afforded
The luxury of oblivion or innocence
At that damned diner
Waitress be damned too/that dark row

We don’t serve niggas here.
Go ‘round back and order some sandwiches.

Sometimes I possess bad taste/made a poor comment
About the hotel we were in
Drawn & paused/tears red-ringed green eyes/mother told me this story

So, this is fine, honey. This is fine.

My audience was great. They were attentive and provided great feedback and asked great questions. A lady asked me to define my Black masculinity. My Black masculinity is the converse of what the media historically has painted Black men in movies or even in music videos. It isn’t found in hyper-masculinity. It isn’t found on a basketball court, on the street corner, not by the amount of women I’ve had sex with, no. I am emotional. I am sensitive. I am a artistic. My powers are found in courage, in my self-confidence, my spirituality, in my vulnerability. I can be protector while not being afraid to shed tears. I can be anything and do anything I want to without abiding by white hegemony. My masculinity can be fluid. I have had a therapist. It’s taboo that Black men go to a therapist for mental health. After my first few sessions, I was very hesitant in whom I told about my bouts with anxiety. Its good self-care to receive mental health services. This journey is stressful and being a POC in America we have become accustomed to dealing with stress. We know stress White people do not experience. In my poem, Sketch, I wanted to take some stereotypes of Black masculinity and create a more ideal world where my masculinity wasn’t judged or compromised by “white scope.” I posted this poem last week on my website, see the previous post.

Black masculinity is knowing that you are beauty. It’s been my mantra this year. As a man, I didn’t know that I could be beautiful or be called beautiful. That I could be included into images of beauty, my body not fetishized, not eroticized, not carved up and judged by me or anyone else or by our society. I started forming myself into a beautiful thing with realizations and a new consciousness. I am completing a collection of poetry and through the process of letting go. My poems describe experiences letting go of old behaviors and letting go of past relationships. Through this process of letting go, I’ve learned I am beauty. Over a two years span I’ve written these pieces.

In addition, Thrive, made me push the process to a deeper place. Sharing what I’ve learned about myself was scary but needed. In my poem Beauty, I am forgiving myself. I am shedding hereditary cycles and loving myself. I call myself beauty because I am a beautiful being, created by light, love, and I no longer want to slink in the shadow but live in my truths and a new revelation about myself.

Beauty

I am and I believe it now
I am beauty

That pulse into my darkness
Black leaves and lamp
That growth beneath
The freight of my travels as
Philly or New Castle
Beneath this train track heading to

The means of freedom
Out of blame
Out of hurt
Out of doubt
Out of cycle hereditary
Just that out

But I got out
Tree root below
May have even chewed on
Tooth chipped crevices
May have hid in the
Before
I may have crawled there

I like to walk at night
Because I know
I am the brightest light
On the block

When you are beauty
You can walk in the night
On old hound stone truths
Shaded or lit
And be radiant

Stroll

I formulated five questions with supplementary sub-questions in support or to give more meat to flesh out. These questions are for understanding. To create a dialogue that’s not existent and it’s evident because of the looping pathological fears harbored by the White community for people of color, continual suppression of women and blatant racism in country town. Since the beginning of his campaign, he bet on the fear, the darkness of this country, he won. We lost. As an aside: if the overwhelming majority wanted freedom from the establishment why elect the biggest bigot since the days of slavery of which created this establishment? Same ilk. Is this what America really wanted? For most of my life, I have constantly wondered or tried to understand why racism and fear keeps white and black communities separated. The silent white majority, white flight, gentrification, white this-white that, asking myself: “what keeps them from living in peace at night?” “Why do they hate so much?” “They formed America in their own vision/image, yet they are still unhappy (see greed)?” And this unhappiness oppresses us all. So that anyone who isn’t White, who moves up the social ladder, any one gets closer to this “high society” they’ve created, suddenly seek to destroy that person. Enter the next presidency. Nobody wins from this. White society isn’t exempt from the decaying world, climate change, earthquake, or hell fire. I guess collectively there’s no consciousness or self-love great enough to invoke empathy for America’s Indigenous, Black or Brown brothers and sisters in America. We share the same destiny, death, and elsewhere. I honor both my African-American and White roots. We got to make something work. Turmoil and upheaval already bites at our heals collectively. We need to talk more. We need to listen more. There were almost two hundred Black people killed by police in 2016 according to a Hughington Post article published this year. Call it what it is: mass execution, genocide even. I feel like “We” as a nation have not truly worked on repairing or improving relationships between communities of color and the white community. More people need to be educated and these feelings of fear and hate need to be confronted and questioned. We have to look at the top and how racism and fear is perpetuated not necessarily by community to community but by the powers that be, the politician and lobbyist, the city developer, etc.

a) Baldwin: “The price of liberation of the white people is the liberation of the Blacks-total liberation, in the cities, in the towns, before the law, and in the mind.” (The Fire Next Time, pg. 97) – What does this quote mean?
-What’s “the price of liberation”?
– Is our liberation, America, both Black and White, intertwined, dependent on each other? If so, how?

b) Why do White people fear Black people?
-What’s the history? Why is there a pathological fear harbored in the White community of the Black community? What or who perpetuates this fear?

c) What have western origin stories taught us about men and women
And gender roles?
-Think about religion(s), literature. Imperialistic and colonial history. Think about slavery and phrenology.

d) What’s your definition of Black Masculinity?
-What are some images you associate Black Masculinity with?
-What is hyper-masculinity and does it take form differently in the heterosexual and LGBTQ community? Is masculinity different in communities of color versus the white community? Similarities?

e) What’s White Masculinity and how is it compared to Black Masculinity?
-Think about hegemony in the US. What type of hegemony do we live under? How does it affect lives of POC? Gender roles? The LGBTQ community versus the heterosexual community?

After Thrive, a group of us who attended the conference went to Mitte Café for the networking after-party. The whole lower part of the café was ours. We danced, drank and ate well. It was the perfect ending to an already inspiring day. I miss being around Black people, my people. There’s not many Black people in Spain from home especially in these smaller regions and cities. I headed back to Asturias Sunday afternoon feeling energized and rejuvenated. Thanks to Danni and Sienna for making this happen. I am truly thankful.

References:
Craven, Julia. 2016. Haughting Post. Hears How Many Black People Have Been Killed this Year By Police [Updated]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-people-killed-by-police-america_us_577da633e4b0c590f7e7fb17

Orelus, Pierre W. “Chapter 2: Black Masculinity under White Supremacy: Exploring the Intersection between Black Masculinity, Slavery, Racism, Heterosexism, and Social Class.” Counterpoints 351 (2010): 63-111. Web.

Baldwin, J. (1993) The Fire Next Time.
New York, NY: Vintage Books

Thank you for reading.

Love,

Charlie

A Sketch

Hey, beautiful people! Sending you love and good vibes. I know we are living in some hectic times. I feel your pain and anger. I am right there with you. You, me, we have a right to our anger and anxiety about the future. Craft, write, produce art that tells our story in this era. We need you, the artist, for hope, understanding, consciousness, love, fight, and for life. Keep crafting! Here’s a new piece I shared at Thrive. I will be posting a recap of my experience soon and other poems. Love you all.

A Sketch

I beat phrenology
& got a master’s degree

They always thought I’d be lazy/shiftless
Again
Kneel
Never
I will not just die,
Wick never snuffed out
Everlasting flame

They always thought I’d be game

Men
Known as
Power
Gender or hue
There will be no dissecting

They always thought me as killer Of my own people

The light to be
All the light we hadn’t
We can now see &
The blood, kept in
The flesh, bone tied
The nerve, pulsating

They always thought I’d be menace, strung out, drunk on the l-i-q corner

Joyous with ocean salt, spuming mouth
Pupils
Sapphiring my brown
On the shore chanting
Names of footsteps
Singing those
Now dreams
My swollen face
In by and by negro spiritual
I’m studded with tears

They always thought I was supposed to be sexual god & womanizer

Dear,
Daughter
I am tulip
And sequoia
You will know protection
You will know beauty
Your black roots &
The earth of this new place
Will honor us
The gods we always
Knew we were
& this new place
Where my mother’s children
Weren’t mistaken as her clients

They always thought I’d amount to nothing

We won’t call this place America
No more
Redrawn liberation, now her name is
Rose
Black man/Black woman
Walk down the street,
Petals rose

Thrive Conference

Something really cool just happened! I will be a speaker at The Thrive conference hosted by Los Morenas de España  Saturday, November 5th, in Madrid, Spain! Yes! I am looking forward to this opportunity and so happy to be apart of the expat community of artists and forward thinkers here in Spain! If you click on ‘Thrive’ above you’ll be transported to the Thrive page where you can purchase tickets and more information about the actual event! Hope to see some of you there!

Charles — THRIVE

Quartered.

Quartered.
For T.

Like my Grandpa used to say:
I’m still vertical.

We nearly drowned in our
Tears that one Murciano night
But like good little
American men
Like brothas we brimmed
And sucked it in
Laughed it away.

I hate it when people ask me

And then tell me what I’m not/Am.
Yes, Blacks and Whites, equally.

You quarter/Me half
And mostly no one knows,
I know that feeling brother.

at them
Out of them, bite them and thrash
like I could literally slap the shit
Indulging

the fantastic
This whole poem
And I’ve judged myself

dividends/blood and tears/ literally
cried/bullied/paid my black dues/
All I wanted was acceptance

You’re story is kinda irrelevant, sorry
Can’t you see me?

Fresh like the smell of almond blossoms
Some more ripe than others
Of scars,
Did I ever show you my collection?

Not to enter into Black heaven –
You ain’t even heavy enough
How much does your blackness weigh?/How heavy?
Put him on a triple beam
A different kind of segregation

Examined and diced up/I don’t know if I see it
Petri dish, not yet, not yet
Told you can’t come out of.

My gold black soul has been
Tagged inequities grind house
Quartering Mechanism
Inside a room

A different kind of Black experience
Mind fuck/To choose/
Hard already/then to add/Being mixed/that psychological
Black Being in America/is
For the slaughter

A kind of prison
It feels like quartering,
I know,

Just spirits
No elbow drops,
The tight-rope
Tag teaming the light-one off
a death dance party
heart that scrutiny
Like bludgeon
Stating I’m black sometimes feels

Not that Black/Who’s Black?/If you’re Black, I’m Black too.

/The world sees our stench

Never be ashamed.

Hit me up,

we haven’t rapped

in a while.

Black Cicada

Welcome!

Charlie is currently working on a book, called “Black Cicada.” Some of the theme’s he’s exploring are race, family, growing up in the SF Bay Area, his time spent in LA and Delaware and more recently his stay in Murica, Spain. Stay tuned for updates regarding the book, featured poems, publications, etc. Thanks for dropping by. You can also find him on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/SnyderActorWriter/?ref=settings