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“Love Is All Around”: A Request For My Mom

 

My bed time when was I was very young was 9 pm. I will always remember because of The “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Nickelodeon’s youth programming would end at 7:00 pm CST and start off with “The Partridge Family,” which I used to like to watch since I loved to sing. The next half hour would be filled with shows that would never click with me as a 6 to 8-year-old (and probably wouldn’t now either)—something terrible like “Mork and Mindy” or “Taxi.” At 8, “I Love Lucy” would light up the tv screen and my family would watch the show together, laughing at Lucy’s ridiculous antics and flabbergasted facial expressions. Then that 30-min block from 8:30 to 9:00 was when the race against the clock began. I had that much time to shower (or maybe it was still baths at that point), brush my teeth, and get into my pajamas so that I could engage in one of my favorite childhood activities—singing “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” theme song with my mom.

The song, entitled “Love is All Around” and written by Sonny Collins, changed over the years of the run of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Initially, during the first season, the lyrics of the song focused more on the idea of a fresh start. However, as I was experiencing the show as reruns almost 20 years after its first airing, I don’t remember these lyrics. What I do recall is the positive lyrics that ran with the opening sequence of the show for seasons 2-7. My mother and I would sing these lyrics—positive, loving, and affirming—to each other with gusto as we would dance around the living room.

What is crazy to me is that I haven’t seen, heard, or listened to “Love is All Around” or the opening sequence of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” in over 20 years. I haven’t even thought about this part of my bedtime ritual that I engaged in every night for years until I heard about the passing of Mary Tyler Moore today. And when I heard, my first thought was this song. I still remember ALL of the lyrics. Word for word.

I have never been all that deeply impacted by celebrity deaths. I don’t know the individuals personally so it is hard for me to get emotional about them. Of course, some had been more difficult than others; Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, for instance, have played huge roles in my life as a musician, so their deaths were definitely difficult for me. However, I had never cried after hearing about the death of a celebrity until today. I was sitting at work, on a call with a colleague, when I got the notification on my phone. I started to tell my colleague the story of my bedtime ritual and I couldn’t help but shed tears.

Looking back, I realize now that I wasn’t crying because of the loss of Mary Tyler Moore, who was truly a pioneer in her own right (shows like “Girls” and “Living Single” have her to thank for proving that an unmarried woman could carry high TV ratings). May she rest in peace. It was more the rush of emotion I felt thinking about my mom and this moment we shared together. It may sound silly and cliché, but I think the reason I ran to get ready for bed and the reason that I loved to sing that song so much with her was because I really and truly believed that SHE believed the words of the song about me. I know I believed them about her. Thank you, Sonny and Mary, for giving us a song to sing and an occasion to sing it that would bring us together night after night.

I feel so honored to have the opportunity to live again with both my parents and share time that I know not everyone gets. I have to admit that have always been a momma’s boy though. So mom, if we could sing this song together before I go to bed, I would really appreciate it. Sometimes I forget these words are true about a guy like me and I need you to remind me, just one more time. And I will do the same for you. Love you.

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it

Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don’t you take it?
You’re gonna make it after all
You’re gonna make it after all

“Love is All Around” by Sonny Collins

 

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Uncategorized

SOTW: Best Songs of 16F(all)

I joined Spotify this past fall and it has literally ruined my life. I have always been a serious iTunes curator and serious music downloader. At my best, I had about 60,000 songs and I was in the process of listening to and rating all of them. Of course, my external broke and I had to rebuild over the years, but I was dedicated. A year or so ago, a close friend of mine informed me how dumb I was being. “Spotify has pretttttty much anything you could need…why are you spending all your time downloading music?” One year (and one newly acquired job) later, I made the switch. I truly don’t know what I’ve been doing all this time. It’s like I was writing with mustard and someone FINALLY handed me a pencil. I say all of this because it is important background information for how this list came to be. Fall, as defined by my alma mater’s quarter system, runs from September to December. It was during that time that I first purchased and started regularly using Spotify. This post is not an ad for the platform, but I can’t advocate for it enough. The easy access to most music you can think of (and a ton that you would never) in addition to automatically curated playlists are both game changers. Through these curated lists, I was introduced to a lot of music that I would have never heard otherwise. Additionally, because of Spotify’s access to music, I was able to listen to a lot of artists whom I had heard of but had never pursued. Anyway, enough babble…

Parameters for this list:

  • I had to have first heard the song during the fall period (September to December) and/or given it an immense amount of play during the fall time frame from September through December.
  • Popular music (like stuff you would hear on the radio) works to the disadvantage of the song in getting on the top ten list. It’s much more interesting to hear about music that you wouldn’t regularly be exposed to. There are exceptions to this rule however if the song truly is a jam.
  • My list is biased to my preference in music. I honestly don’t have anything against any type of music (I’m not one of those “I like anything but country or metal” folks…but I don’t really listen to those genres as much; I would love suggestions, however).
  • I only included tracks that could be found on Spotify (sorry HAM4BEY…like…I literally just typed the words and had to put it on…I’m literally listening to it right now…so good) though I am providing Youtube links for those of you who have not converted.

And so, in no particular order:

All Caught Up (feat. Tinashe) – GTA

Youtube / Spotify

Despite not being in any particular order, if there was a number one, it would probably be this one. I played the hell out of it. I heard this song for the first time at a friend’s house when I was helping to cook and I literally had to stop doing what I was doing to listen. I was ALL about it immediately and I started playing this song incessantly. I love the harmonies at the chorus and the way that the synth pulls you through the beats. While I don’t really follow Tinashe, she’s made some banging R&B songs in the past (and the girl can DANCE). I wasn’t really familiar with GTA (besides the song “Intoxicated” with Martin Solveig, which is a jam) either. The group (which stands for “Good Times Ahead”) released their first album, a self-titled EP, this past year. I’m hoping for big things after how much joy this jam brought me. In one season, it became the most played song on my Spotify account this year.

Changing My Major – Emily Skeggs from “Fun Home,” the Broadway musical 

Youtube / Spotify 

I had the pleasure of seeing “Fun Home” in Chicago with a friend from college with whom I had only really been an acquaintance. We were moving towards being good friends after having hung out a few times and I honestly think that, though we never said it explicitly, seeing this show together actually got us there.  The show won the 2015 Tony award winner for Best Musical and it was totally deserved. Based on the award-winning graphic novel by Alison Bechdel (of the Bechdel test, an indicator of gender bias in film), the play tells the story of the author and her father. The narrative follows Alison through her childhood and years in college as she deals with her sexuality and eventually comes out. The play is narrated from Alison’s adulthood where she is wrestling with the death of her father and realizing that he himself was gay. I really can’t do the plot justice—you really should read the book. The play and the music however really bring to life the awkwardness of Alison’s personality, the pain and confusion around trying to understand her father, and the difficulty and joy of her own sexuality. Picture the scene: Alison sings this in her dorm room from and around her bed after waking up next to Joan, the object of her affection. This song personifies the joy, confusion, excitement, and fear that come along with a first sexual encounter when coming to terms with one’s sexuality in a world where being queer is still seen as aberrant (“Am I falling into nothingness or flying into something so sublime?”).  I know that I had never heard something so perfectly describe this moment and I don’t think my friend had either. When the song ended my friend and I both turned to each other and nodded in a sign of understanding. We were both there.  When Alison hits the note on “changing” at 2:58 and the song modulates, I get goosebumps and a tear comes to my eye literally every single time. Kudos to the performance, the lyricist, and the songwriter. So…all of that and it’s hilarious. This truly is a work of art. See the show if you can.

Girls @ (feat. Chance the Rapper) – Joey Purp

Youtube / Spotify

 

The beat of this song is, light, popping, and driving. Will definitely get you moving. It’s also important to note that there was so much love for Chance this year and it was all warranted. His verse on this track makes the song alone (I mean he goes through a whole conversation with a girl in 16 bars AND makes a rhyme with “Ta-Nehisi Coates”…C’MON).

Come Down – Anderson .Paak

Youtube / Spotify

 

I had had many a friend tell me that I needed to check out Anderson .Paak (and no, I don’t know why he has that period there, but it’s right) and I’m sad I waited so long to do so. The man has an incredible life story to match his talent. He is up for a Grammy for Best New Artist for his album Malibu and it really is a shame that he is up against Chance, because against anyone else he should totally take home the honor. The drum beat in this song is everything and the lyrics are also super fun (“You drank up all my liquor. C’mon, what I’m supposed to do now? You talking all that shit? C’mon, you gonna have to back it up” #accurate). Just watch him perform at the BET awards where he PLAYS the drums. The dude has it all.

Foreplay – Jalen Santoy

Youtube / Spotify 

Concrete (feat. Pete Philly) – Melle Jutte

Youtube / Spotify

One of the many great features of Spotify is that it has these wonderful playlists where they curate music for you based on what you have been listening to and what is in your library already. Through these lists I have found a lot of great songs. These two top that list. “Foreplay” has been on repeat particularly at the end of the season. As you can tell, I am a sucker for horns…they make the rap so sexy. “Concrete” has such a hip spin on an electronic song. When that beat drops, so do my hips. Also, I just have to say, Melle Jutte is kinda handsome…

Inhale Exhale – NAO

Youtube / Spotify

This girl is fierce and this whole album is gold. It may be the only album I’ve listened to this season in which I can say I pretty much liked every song in some way. Her voice is so strange but sultry. Be sure to check her out. Nuff said.

Dang! (feat. Anderson .Paak) – Mac Miller

Youtube / Spotify

 

I will admit that I am a bit ashamed that a Mac Miller song made this list, but I found it by following Anderson .Paak. I love the groove that this song has. The horn hits are a great touch. And there is something about Miller’s inebriated-sounding rap cadence that I actually find kinda fun and attractive (despite him not being attractive at all).

Give Me Your Love (feat. John Newman and Nile Rodgers) – Sigala

Youtube / Spotify

 

I learned who Nile Rodgers was because of this song, which is a shame, because the guy has been in the game making and producing hits and playing with stars since the 70s starting with the popular group Chic (you know the song “Le Freak”; one of the best disco guitar licks ever). His repertoire includes performing with the likes of David Bowie, Madonna, Britney Spears, Disclosure, Christina Aguilera, Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, and Avicii, to name a few. He’ll be added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this coming year. Anyway, this song is an electric-disco funk masterpiece because of Rodgers. Always makes me get up and move my feet. The dancing in this video is also pretty boss.

Starving (feat. Zedd and Grey – Hailee Steinfeld)

Youtube / Spotify

 

So I know this song was popular and so I am breaking my rule, but I played the hell out of it this past fall. It should have been one of those pop hits that I hated, but I love it. Every time this song came on the radio a smile came to my face. Steinfeld’s voice is sweet and clear and Zedd’s production really helps to make the song super catchy. I also think the sentiment of the song makes it a super cute love song.

Runners Up:

Wild – Marian Hill

Satisfied (feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah) – Sia

The Greatest – Sia

You Know – Jerry Folk

The Battle of Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down) – Original Cast from “Hamilton the Musical”

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Uncategorized

When Love Doesn’t Trump Hate, What Do We Tell Our Children?

Confused.

Wondering how we got it all so wrong.

Missing Obama already. Thinking about how hard it is to sell hope. Grappling with what it feels like to be on the losing side for the first time.

Reminding myself that upswings in history are frequently followed by downswings. After Emancipation came Jim Crow.

Ready to listen to those who are hurt on both sides to try to find answers. Ready to learn from the silent majority. Curious as to what they need and think they need. Wanting to break down walls instead of building them up. Willing to tell my story in response.

Recognizing that I maybe I’m not ready. I need some time to be silent. To recover.

Worried about teachers and parents. Worried about children. What on earth do we tell them? Wondering how we dismantle the validation of bullying and bigotry that we have endured for the last 18 months.

Tired.

Exhausted.

Needing self-care. Wanting to sleep for a long time and then to wake up from this dream.

Worried about the Supreme Court.  Will women retain control of their bodies? Will I keep my right to marry? Wondering if the LGBTQ community—the most diverse coalition I know of on earth—will finally come together and recognize the plights of the communities that reside between the letters?

Wondering why rich, white men seem to always win?  Crying because I know the answer. I saw it unfold in numbers emblazoned in red on a map during the event that typifies our democracy.

59,578,825 votes…

Excited to dig into possibly the most difficult work of my life thus far. Marveling how the universe seems to unfold as it is supposed to. Realizing that it is quite possible that I was made to be a champion in this moment. Knowing that I need vision to lead. Trying to regain my sight while in darkness. Wondering if I need glasses.

Realizing that I am a minority within a minority within a “new” minority in this country. Wondering when I get to be in the center and not in the margins? Reminding myself that there is a unique view of the center and whole from the edges. Reminding myself to use that perspective. Revel in it.

Remembering that when I got spanked as a kid, it was because I needed to reframe my reality. I needed a jolt back into consciousness to see what was truly happening around me. I needed a push to change my direction.

Seeing this as a slap on the bottom for all those who believed that we were in a “post-racial world” and those who believed that America was finally in a better place because we were overtly talking about race (and admitting that I was one of those latter people).

Acknowledging that everyone’s wounds are felt as real, regardless of if we share in that pain or not. Despite all the advances we thought we made, if any of us look down we will see that all of our feet are still in the mire and muck. They always have been.

Reminding myself that racism and bigotry impact everyone. That we all have biases. That not everyone who voted for Trump did so because they overtly hate me or people like me. Reminding myself that it feels that way regardless. Trying to work through the pain.

Thinking that we all still have a tremendous amount of work to do. Hoping that those who have been in the work choose to not give up despite feeling this setback. Hoping those who have been in the middle, who weren’t sure if bigotry was a reality see that it truly is. It is a large part of who we are as a country. It always has been. It was written into our constitution.

Feeling sorry for not listening enough and sorry for not augmenting voices that need to be louder. Sorry for not teaching both sides how to articulate their woes in a way that is honest and concurrently gives respect and credence to divergent or opposite voices and opinions.

Recognizing that difference—an word that I use and talk about all the time—has become an abstraction. How do we make that which is abstract into that which is tangible? How do we turn the idea of difference into “This is someone whom I know and whom I care about”? Recognizing that so many of those people who are different from me are in middle-America. They are not my Facebook friends.

Knowing it will be hard for those who have been historically marginalized to listen to the plight of those who voted for  to “make America great again.” Wondering if it is fair that we who have been historically marginalized since the birth of this country will be asked to listen to an overwhelmingly white, straight, male majority articulate their pain. What is it that makes their lives so bad?

Wondering when privilege and marginalization became a zero sum game? Wondering how do we make it so that everyone wins? How do we change the rules? How change the game up entirely?

Wondering how can I immerse myself in my own communities and build them up? How do I leverage my privilege to help others?

Thinking about children, again. My students. My baby niece. What will I tell them?

I will tell them that they are valued despite anything that anyone says.

I will tell them that we will protect them, no matter what.

I will tell them to have hope despite their circumstances. It is their greatest weapon.

I will tell them that we must always move forward, never backward.

I will tell them that we can give voice to the voiceless and those who are frequently silenced if we make noise together.

I will tell them that we cannot shout. We must learn to harmonize polyphonically.

I will tell them that this is their America and they must always fight to keep it that way.

I will tell them that this is our America and we have to work together to keep it that way.

I will tell them that they must give themselves time to heal and reflect, that it is okay to cry.

I will tell them to be resilient and to endure.

I will tell them to mourn today and that the work begins tomorrow.

I will tell them that it is time for action.

I will tell them to engage. Take in everything. Remember this moment. Let it fuel them. Be ignited.

I will tell them that it is time for all of us to work to make America great for all for the first time.

I will tell them that love does always ultimately win.

I will tell them to love.

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Chicago, reflections, Uncategorized

Fatigue from Building Bridges between Segregated Spaces, or Why I am Not Rooting for the Chicago Cubs

Border crossing, as my grad school professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot calls it, is a part of all our lives in some way or another. We have all had to cross from spaces where one norm or belief that is held by the group or most salient is shocked and challenged through the process of transcending into another space. This could be moving from one neighborhood to another, changing jobs, visiting a new place or country, or even experiencing an activity in a different way. I have always taken pride in my ability to cross borders. W.E.B. Dubois calls it the “seeing through the veil.” Rudyard Kipling calls it “walking with kings and keeping the common touch.” And in truth, I believe that the ability to transcend borders and unite people is the noblest endeavor that we can embrace in the battle to build coalitions of diverse minds, attitudes, origins, demographics, and beliefs. I truly enjoy engaging in the fight to close the gaps. Through facilitating conversations about race at school, helping to design workshops around race for work, and planning events within the queer community in the hopes of bringing people of different backgrounds together, I see the work as challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding.

Except when it’s not. Because it frequently isn’t.

Despite the best efforts of many equity and equality warriors, spaces still remain distinct. Rivers remain un-forded. Due to forces greater than the sum of the efforts of those trying to build bridges, divisive systemic structures seem too deeply rooted to unearth. I don’t believe this to be a cause to give up or stop the work, but it can be incredibly frustrating and invalidating. Some scholars characterize the feeling of being exhausted from the plight of building bridges across difference as a sort of “fatigue” (I am most familiar with this term when it is referring to “racial fatigue”). I have seen some of the greatest equality warriors and racial advocates I have had the honor of knowing needing to sit down and back off from encounters due to their fatigue. In the past, it has always somewhat confused me. How can we aspire to make a difference by bridging difference if we find ourselves tired of having the conversations and doing the work? I liken it to teaching, which at many points felt like a fruitless, uphill battle. Regardless of your fatigue, you had to show up to work every day and give your all.

Recently, an article I read refocused my attention on an idea that I had forgotten while in the trenches of doing the work of bridging gaps. In the article, Marlon James writes about how problematic it is that when attempting to work across difference the rhetoric always turns to expecting or wanting the marginalized or out-group to do the work to meet the in-group halfway, when the burden of the work should really be on those in power. “If QPOCs are so concerned about why gay bars aren’t more diverse, then why don’t they come to the bars more often?” “All the black kids don’t have to sit at the same lunch table if they don’t want to; why don’t they come sit over here with us?” “It’s totally fine for gay people to come into this venue. I don’t get why they feel so uncomfortable.” “Yeah Chicago is segregated, but the Northside is just better. I don’t get why more people aren’t trying to move up here and leave the Southside.” All of these statements are ridiculous and insulting. They ignore and erase the perspectives of those marginalized and take no accountability for the systems that marginalize in the first place. In working to bridge gaps, we have to stop expecting one side to work harder and reach further. Moreover, it is way past time that we acknowledge that those marginalized are frequently asked to stretch to reach those in positions of privilege, and those who are in positions of privilege have not been reaching back.

Enter the Chicago Cubs and their fans.

Let me start this part of the conversation by making it clear that I reaaaaally don’t care about baseball at all. I think that it is the most boring major professional sport on earth. In fact, the shame that I have in America is less rooted in our foreign policy or our lack of never having had a female president (yet) and more rooted in the fact that baseball, of all sports, is our “national pastime” when there are so many other cool sports like football (soccer) or jai-alai. With that being said…

Chicago has always been said to be one of the most segregated cities in America. Chicago’s rank on most segregated lists varies depending on where you look and the methodology used, but it is always in the top 10 (Drumpf keeps stating that it is THE most segregated city, and the report that many currently turn to say that that is not true as of right now; however, the visual still tells a sad, sad story). The borders to be crossed in Chicago are blatantly and explicitly geographic. This is reflected in all types of demographics, but particularly in race and class. The Northside is predominantly white, upper-middle class, and white collar. The Southside being predominantly black and Latino, middle to lower class, and blue collar.

There are consistent and constant efforts to distinguish the Northside and the Southside of Chicago from both parties. I, myself, am a Southsider (though, I must be honest and say that I grew up in a neighborhood that was predominantly white and upper-middle class, making it an exception to the rule on the Southside). Going to school up North, I was constantly plagued by the fact that my Northside friends never wanted to come down to the Southside. “There is nothing to do there” or “It’s really dangerous” they would say. That there is nothing to do is not entirely true, but one can look at distinctions between the violence and existence of gangs in the neighborhoods, the availability of restaurants and other amenities, or even attractions that exist in the city to see that there is a clear bias in resources in Chicago towards the Northside (even this Chicago-as-Game-of-Thrones article completely ignores the existence of the Southside ). In media, the Southside of Chicago also has a terrible reputation. Chicago rappers like Kanye and Chance the Rapper talk about the plights of life on the streets. The nickname “Chi-raq” has become popular in recent years and was cemented by the Spike Lee film of the same name. Add that to things such as food deserts, Southside school closures of recent, and housing discrimination of yesteryear; it’s clear to see why the Southside of Chicago is known worldwide as some kind of destitute, barren, violent wasteland. As a result, the rivalry between Northsiders and Southsiders is a real and tangible thing. Anecdotally, I’ve experienced that Northsiders disassociate themselves with the Southside almost as if it was a different city. Growing up, my Southside friends had no interest even in interacting with Northsiders and vice versa. Even now, as an adult, most people from one part of the city stay in that part of the city and rarely travel to the other.

The cusp around which I have seen the Chicago rivalry rear its head most vitrulently has always been baseball (since no one wants to explicitly talk about race or class, smh). Each side has its own team, and each side claims that’s that team as the end-all-be-all. The Cubs are the Northside team. Their stadium, Wrigley Field, is nestled in a neighborhood known as Wrigleyville. The White Sox are the Southside team. Their stadium, U.S. Cellular Field (name soon to be changed to something unspeakable) is located in Bridgeport. Sources contend that for the most part the teams’ fans follow the same demographic breakdown as their geographic affiliations. As a result, this rivalry, which actually spans over a century, has become more than league competition. Woe be unto you if you walk into Sox country wearing Cubs gear and vice-verse. Fights literally break out over this

So, it is strange to me that fans are now calling for the city to come together and support the Cubs as they enter the World Series for the first time in 71 years seeking a trophy they have not had since 1908. This fight, to me, is an example of so much more than just sports (and sorry to suck the joy out of something that is supposed to technically be fun). The Cubs abysmal track record for winning this coveted award is a common butt of jokes in comedy and now that the team is closer than they have ever been in my (or many other’s) lifetime, Southsiders are asked to band together with the North. We are being called to come together as a city and “Fly the W.” Again, I am not a baseball fan at all, but I was in high school when the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. I remember the vitriol from Northsiders. I don’t remember any camaraderie at all. I do remember walking outside that night on October 26th when the White Sox swept the series. I remember hearing the shouts and the clanging of pots and pans. I remember kids and adults alike running around the streets of Beverly celebrating because the Southside, the little guy, the side without, finally won. We had something (else) that the North didn’t.

So, despite being someone who believes in building bridges, and despite being someone who tries not to let “fatigue” get to me, I am going to go on record to say that I am, in this purported instance of bridge-building, tired. I am taking an ideological stance. I, as a Southsider, will not reach a little bit further to bridge gaps with the North simply because we are being asked to do so. I think the burden is on them. Again, the little guy, the marginalized Southsiders are being asked to work a little bit harder to bring our city together and I don’t think that is fair. After  years of degradation and even recent erasure (ESPN literally failed to note the White Sox had won the World Series in 2005), I will not be supporting the Cubs*. I will cherish in my Southside roots. On this, the day of the 11 year anniversary of our World Series victory, I will relish what we have and they don’t. Here’s to hoping that a loss will finally force the North to value the other side of their city a little bit more.

*Let me also be clear that I wouldn’t be able to support the Cubs even if I didn’t care about the North/South rivalry because their owner donated $1 million dollars to the Trump campaign; I also wouldn’t support the Cleveland Indians because of their racist mascot. There are really no winners here…
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