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”

Music, SOTW

The Rebirth of SOTW or The Reason Why I Sing


“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free…”

I have always been a singer and an avid music lover. My parents discovered that I could sing when around 5 years of age or so I would run around the house singing the high, belted notes from the late Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Ask me “If you could have any job without any worry of finances or obligations, what would it be?” Rockstar would be at the top of that list (or diversity consultant…tomato, tomato).  My passion for music has been with me since birth. My family said I came out singing (or was it talking). I come from a musical family. My extended family had a singing group down in Memphis, and the first time I heard them, I knew music was in my blood. My mother and father, though not performers themselves, are avid music lovers. Riding in the car as a kid, my sister and I were made to listen to jazz and Motown, despite our pleas to change the station to the pop music of the time. Our voices fell deaf on ears occupied by groovier sounds. I grew to love the music of my parents’ generation, and still see it as some of the best art that has ever been created (thanks, you two). I still remember the first time I heard Stevie Wonder, my music idol. It was so good and hip that I thought it was contemporary music. How wrong I was.

My musical experiences and skill were developed and honed in the Chicago Children’s Choir. The professional children’s choir afforded me the opportunity to travel the country, sing songs in over 30 languages, (including Elvish while being conducted by Howard Shore, no joke), tour around the world, and sing with musical greats. In fact, I am in this music video if you look closely at the end, though  I do not consider this artist to be “a great” by any means (that group of kids that sang at the beginning of President Obama’s farewell speech with Eddie Vedder?…that’s my crew too).


In college, my passion for music manifested myself in a number of ways. I sang in and arranged music for my acapella group, was in a super-group rock band called “Clusterfunk,” and acted in musical theater. One of my proudest musical accomplishments from college is one that I don’t talk about much, however. It was an email list that I used to send out music. The list, called Song Of The Week, or SOTW as I affectionately dubbed it, started sometime during the summer term of my sophomore year. It was a way for to share music recommendations with my friends who had informed me that I had “good taste” and were always asking me to send them songs. By the time I graduated, the list had grown to nearly 400 people (which was about 10% of the campus). Since graduating, I have gotten more requests that I would have imagined to restart this list (and shout out to those who still have songs with the SOTW label in their iTunes)…and so, this is the first post of what I hope will be a weekly contribution to the world of music. I plan on offering up music I like, commenting on music as art and the industry as a whole, promoting new and upcoming artists (send me your stuff please!), and also reviving the art of the appreciation of a damn good music video (which, when done well, I contend could give any short story a run for its money). This blog is called “Where the Boom Bands Play” for a reason—it’s not just about reveling in the joy of things I find interesting, it’s also about the music that’s playing as you revel…

I figured it only right to start this explanation of my love for music with “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” It’s a beautiful gospel hymn, and gospel was one of the first genres of music that I heard growing up. It’s a challenging song to sing—the intervals are not easy to hit (as Tanya Blount highlights at 0:47), and the song has to be sung well lest it sound like a mess.  And I love this version from Sister Act 2 featuring Lauryn Hill because…well…Sister Act 2 and Lauryn Hill (the whole song-as-duet, which is DEFINITELY worth your time, can be found here.)

Moreover, this song gives a simple and yet perfect reason why one sings—happiness and freedom. That’s something I can relate to. Civilla Martin, the writer of the song,  goes on to state that she knows that some higher power is watching over her, and that too explains why she sings. For me, music has always been the only proof I needed that there was something more powerful than the profane world around us. Something so wondrous, so moving, that has such an profound power to captivate the soul and bring people together has to come from someone, somewhere, or something that is divine. Notes are just our human way of trying to commune with the universal. Singing is the first thing I turn to when I am happy, when I am sad, and for all the feelings in between (stated perfectly in the song “So Well” by the band Dawes – “I am a lonely singer with a song for every feeling I cannot name”) . It is in music that I find definitions for the unexplainable. It is through music that we can communicate across any barrier and heal the world.

In starting this post by listing my music credentials, I do not mean to profess to be any kind of expert. While I do hope my experiences give me some kind of credibility, there are plenty of people out there who know WAY more about music from a theoretical standpoint. I only attest to having what I think to be a good ear and a wide range of exposure to different types of music through those aforementioned experiences (and a LITTLE knowledge of theory). I hope, as with everything, that my comments on music and the artists I lift up can incite dialogue. So please, push back, share your opinion, send me suggestions, follow me on Spotify at “theraynman,” and most importantly, dance when the spirt moves you.


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


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.



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.


If You Care About Your Mother, Your Ancestors, or People Like Me, Vote Hillary

Yesterday, an acquaintance of mine from college wrote an eloquent post on Facebook about why he was voting for Donald Trump. In it, he denounced the liberal left as “witch hunters” who used arguments from their moral high ground to demonize the right and their policies. Now, despite my objections to his political proclivities, I realized that he had somewhat of a point. Politicians must be more than just beliefs. They should also be logical and informed people who based their decisions on fact. All three of those elements—morals, logic, and facts—can change based on who is wielding the information and from what vantage point they are looking from, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is the combination of the three that yield a truly strong candidate.

On the eve of the 2016 Election Day, this acquaintance’s post has caused me to stop and think even more deeply about the choice we are being asked to make through voting tomorrow. To be honest, if elections were just a matter of logic and facts, I feel like the choice would be incredibly obvious. There may never have been a more experienced candidate to run for the office of President. And, despite what you may think of the quality of that experience, I would rather have someone who can make educated, experienced guesses and be wrong at the helm than someone with no experience whatsoever. But, in truth, this election is not about logic and facts. It never really has been. Because of his lack of experience, early on Trump changed the rhetoric in this election from one of logic and facts to one of morals and emotion. One article of many from early on the campaign trail explains basically how if you appeal to emotion, you don’t have to have logic on your side. And that is just what the Trump campaign, somewhat expertly, has done. So, with less than 24 hours to go until we as a nation cast our votes for the next President of the United States, I am going to do the same thing—appeal to emotion—and tell you what I believe in the hopes that you too will make the morally righteous choice tomorrow.

I want you to know that I believe in my mother, my grandmother, my sister. I know that I would not be the person I am today if it was not for them. They are some of the smartest, bravest, kindest, and hardest working people I have ever known. A lawyer and rare cancer survivor who says her greatest accomplishment is her children. A compassionate woman who never says no to helping others even at almost 80; she did not graduate college and yet helped start two grandchildren down the path to top 10 universities. A consultant-turned-librarian who knows more about anything than you probably do. For them to live in a country where they aren’t paid the same as men because of their sex is unimaginable. For them to live in a country where they do not get to decide what to do with their own bodies is abominable. For them to live in a country where someone who is in the running for the highest office of the land can speak about them as if they were objects is unacceptable. I also believe in my new baby niece. I hope that one day the boy or girl that falls in love with her treats her with the respect she fully deserves. I want my President to be a model of that respect. If you care about your mother, your grandmother, your sister, your niece, or any of the other women in your life, you must vote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I believe in my ancestors. I believe in my African ancestors, who were brought over here against their will and made to toil and work to literally build the foundations of our country. And I believe in their children and grandchildren, some of whom are my great-grandparents and grandparents—ones who endured segregation, lynching, burning crosses, and hate. They dared to live despite the concentrated efforts of others and in the midst of it all still managed to make the world a better place, creating innovating in field like science and music that revolutionized the world in ways that still have ripples today. It was their willingness to endure that allows me to be here and cast a vote tomorrow in the first place. And their story, though specialized, is not unique. The narratives of a people of color in this country are fraught with disenfranchisement and triumph in the face of unlikely odds. While they mostly helped themselves, they were were also spurred on by people who were willing to be allies and upstanders. They were helped by people who knew that our differences are what make us beautiful. They were helped by people that knew that our differences are not as great as those things that made us the same. If you believe in people of color, you must vote for Secretary Hillary Clinton.

I also want to be clear that I believe in my ancestors who came here willingly. My great-grandmother came across the Atlantic from Norway as a graduation present and so fell in love with America that she decided to not go back home. If our boarders were closed, people like her who were seeking a better life on our shores would not have been able to find it. As a country built on immigrants, willing and unwilling, we all would not be here if it weren’t for them. It is her and people like her who help to make our country a mélange of cultures and ideas, which is the backbone of the American soul. If you believe in the journey your bloodline has made to get you here today, you must vote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I believe in Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, CeCe McDonald, and so many others who have fought and/or died in the struggle so that someone like me can walk down the street holding the hand of someone I love and not be persecuted for it. Marriage equality is certainly not the apex of the Queer Rights Movement; it is only a simple beginning and a victory for few. But to take steps back would be unethical and unfair. It would say to me that this country believes that the way that I was made to love is wrong. If you believe that love is love is love, you must vote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,

I say to that acquaintance from college that you are right. That we have to make politics about more than just morality. We have to give fair examinations to positions and legislation from all sides of the fence. But when a candidate for the highest office in this land claims that he will make America great again by undermining and invalidating my humanity, I cannot help but to cry foul, and cry foul loudly. When a candidate wants to build walls and divide over bringing us together, I have to say that he is objectively wrong. If you want to claim that those who oppose Trump are on a “witch hunt” against him and his supporters, then call me Puritanical. I am only treating this as a battle versus good and evil because that is what it is. When you have children who are afraid to learn in school because of the rhetoric of a presidential candidate, the debate has to be a moral one over all else.When you have someone who is planning on taking away liberties that ensure the pursuit of happiness for some American citizens for the sake of others, the conversation has to be one about morality. When you have a candidate who is advocating for war crimes, the conversation has to be one about what is right and wrong.

So I ask and plead of you, if you care for the women in your life, your ancestors, people of color, the LGBTQ community, any and all those who have been disenfranchised, you must vote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

If you care for all that is good and right in this world, you must vote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

If you care at all about me and my humanity, you must vote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


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…

Where the Boom Bands Play or Re-envisioning 28

Years ago, when I was a young burgeoning ingénue, I always said that 28 was my dream age. Definitely a strange choice, I know. It’s not a milestone like 16, 18, or 21, where you can drive, get recruited, or legally drink. It’s not  even 30, 35, or 40, which some might choose because of the idea that you’re a “real adult” at those ages. No, I always thought to myself, “Twenty-eight is gonna be the best year of my life.” I believed this for three reasons. I thought by the time I was 28, I would (1) be living in the city of my dreams where I would want to be settled for the rest of my life, (2) I would be with a significant other with whom I would want to spend the rest of me life, (3) and I would have a master’s degree from Harvard University. With today being my 28th birthday, I can say with confidence that I have accomplished one of my three goals (the third, for those keeping track). While I have no strong grievances with Chicago, I have just moved back here after being gone for 10 years, so I am still trying to get used to and understand the city again. It’s too fresh of a move to say I want to stay forever. And, as far as having a significant other is concerned, I still have never been in a serious, long-term relationship. Neither of these two things are bad and I certainly don’t think I have failed my young self by not reaching all three of these goals. However, waking up this morning, and even lingering in the back of my mind last night, I couldn’t help but to think “I can’t believe I’m this old” and “I should have accomplished more.”

Look, I know I have accomplished a tremendous amount in my life thus far, but that still doesn’t help the fact that I thought things—even little things—would be different when I got to this age. It is always so funny to me how we constantly have visions for our lives and those visions frequently do not come to fruition in the way we thought they would. Despite the fact that this inconsistency seems to be one of the only constants in life, we still dream, and we still get disappointed when what we saw in our mind’s eye isn’t what manifests itself in reality. I am a huge dreamer and romantic, and so I think these inconsistencies hit me harder than others sometimes. I think the first manifestation of this that really sticks out in my mind is a few years ago when I went to the wedding of a close family friend a few months after coming out to my parents. I always imagined myself marrying this girl—our parents even joked about it constantly throughout our childhood—and as my family got ready to get into the car to go to her wedding, I couldn’t help but stare at myself in the mirror of the bathroom and cry. I was extremely happy and proud to be out. I was very happy for her. I didn’t have any sort of romantic feelings for her (in fact, she had become more of a sister to me). But, it was the first time I really felt like the life I had envisioned for myself was not coming to pass, and that was a hard truth to face.

My mother is an ever-flowing font of wisdom and can always make me feel better with a witty adage or straight-talk. As I shuffled my feet into my parents’ room this morning to give my mom a hug and thank her for bringing me into this world, in her all-knowing magical mom way, she asked me if something was the matter. When I told her about my concerns about wishing I had done more with my life now that I’m 28, she looked at me as though I was crazy. “What is wrong with you? You’ve done so much! You just got a master’s degree and you have an amazing job that was exactly what you wanted. You’re also not even that old…what on earth did you expect from yourself?” I saved myself from regaling her with the woes of my love life or how I felt somewhat lame for living at home even though it has been shown to be a very common move for millennials after finishing grad school. She went on to say,  “let go of what was, accept what is, and look expectantly towards the future…and remember that its all about the attitude you chose to carry with you. Choose to be happy and have a good day.”

These are all pieces of advice that my mother has given me before, but on this day of the start of my 28th year of life, they have particular resonance. Again, it is curious  to me how we expect to have life happen to us instead of realizing that we happen to it as well. I find myself getting frustrated all the time at things that haven’t come to pass—I haven’t gone on a trip here, I haven’t made music in a while, I haven’t found a boyfriend, I haven’t yadda-yadda—when really, these are all things within my circle of control and I need to ask myself what am I actually doing to make these things come to light? Am I saving money (no…well, now that I am living at home, yes)? Am I taking time to record songs on the weekends (no…but I did last week and it was awesome)? Are you putting yourself in places where you can find the people that you want to be around (kinda…though it’s probably not bars and clubs)? I need to remember that I have the power and ability to make my dreams actualize. It sounds so silly to say since it is a piece of advice we hear over and over again from a young age. But sometimes the most seemingly trite expressions are overused because they are, in fact, very true. I think my mom’s advice about attitude is the most important part for me today. It is incredibly easy to beat yourself up, to not see the forest for the trees that you plant all the time every day, to be too hard on yourself. This is something I know I am guilty of all of the time. I’ve got to remember that the attitude you bring to any situation, be it good or bad, can color the entire experience. It is so much less productive to have a self-defeatist attitude about what my life isn’t instead of being excited about what my life is and can be.

So, I say all of this to say that I am making a new promise to myself on this first day of my 28th year of life. I’m making this promise to that younger version of myself whose head was in the clouds and thought he knew what life would look like when really he had no clue at all (except for the Harvard thing…you killed that one, bro). I promise to reengage in those things that make me happy, to put effort towards the things that I dream of, and carry a positive and productive attitude to the things that I want that may or may not be actualized just yet. I made a new friend during my last year in Boston who had such an air of peace and confidence about him that I grew to truly respect and admire. Once on an afternoon we were hanging out, this friend told me that one day he decided to stop saying “ I wish I had” or “ I should have done” and just started doing things. That’s what I want to do with my 28th year of life. This blog is the start. In truth, I went to school to be a writer and it never really came to be. I have always been disappointed with that. Not any more. My hope is that this can be a space where I can share my dreams, interests, and passions for my own sake and hopefully can empower others to do the same as well.

The name of the blog, “Where the Boom Bands Play,” comes from one of my favorite books, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. It’s a book that I return to frequently during transitions in my life and it seems incredibly important to reflect on that book today (if you haven’t read it, go get it right now). In the book, Dr. Seuss starts by congratulating you, the reader, by saying, “Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” The doctor reminds you that, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” He describes how wonderful where you are going will be; he describes how successful you will be. However, the doctor also warns that slumps, bang-ups, and hang-ups will happen to you, as they do to everyone. When they do, the doctor states that people frequently find themselves in what he calls “The Waiting Place,” where people are waiting for anything and everything. I like to think that the good ol’ doctor was talking about those of us—myself included—who sit around waiting for life to happen instead of making it happen themselves. Luckily, in a glorious page turn, the doctor proclaims that “The Waiting Place” is not for you. He writes that you’ll escape The Waiting Place and “You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.”

I found it. It’s right here, right now. Twenty-eight is going to be the best year yet.