“… more Guns than Roses;
foes is shakin in their boots.
Invisible bully like the Gouch.
Disappear, vamoose you’re wack to me.
Take them rhymes back to the factory…”
One of Hip-Hop’s greatest MC’s/Businessmen Makes New Moves
Now here’s something to rap about. Giving new meaning to the word hustle, Jay Z’s latest move may not break the Internet—like the announcement…
This book is a classic that I’ve known about for many years but am just getting around to reading. I’m glad I finally did. Ralph Ellison truly was a literary genius. So many metaphors that still ring true today (fortunately and unfortunately). In the search for identity and in striving for growth and progress, Black people in America have met conflict on every level of human existence. There is the inner turmoil of the individual to determine his or her path to living a good and productive life. There is the struggle of the neighborhood to determine the best way to project its identity and support life for its residents. Then there is the struggle of a people for the definition of who they should be; who they should become; and finally how they should get there.
Ellison artfully summarizes the modern reality of a people in the thoughts and daily experiences of a nameless young man who grapples with the state of his American existence as he strives for self-actualization.
I had the pleasure of reading the hard copy and consuming the audio version of “Invisible Man” narrated by Joe Morton. In a word, Morton’s performance is masterful. It is well worth the time.
I felt like this book was a creative vision into my own life. Though my own path has not been as wrought with that same outer conflict as that of Ellison’s invisible main character, I directly relate to his inner struggles for self identity. The challenges that a talented young man finds in defining his role within the Black community as he strives to improve himself in a society dominated by White people and their opinions (of the Black community) ring true.
As America is as racially polarized as its ever been in modern times, I believe books like this one can be a healing balm for the masses. It’s important that we move beyond the antiquated “color blind” approach to getting along. Color blindness implies that one only desires to see our similarities. That limits the potential of what we can be together as citizens and friends. We have to finally embrace the value of our differences as well as what we have in comon. In addition to seeing ourselves in the art we consume, we need to explore that which gives us real insight to the lives of people who are different from us. We need to actually know their struggles and acknowledge their contributions. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison is a great start.
If you know anything about the Atlanta music scene and you enjoy groovin-ass soul music, then you know DJ Kemit. He’s been a stalwart supplier of funky sounds for mix tapes and jammin parties since at least the 90’s. Here’s a mix he does for his monthly “Kickin please Dust” parties held at the Sound Table in Atlanta Happy Friday!
FULL DISCLOSURE… Andrea Lynn Samuels (Drea) is a friend of mine. We go back to freshman year at South Carolina State University and remain in touch. Drea is a warm and engaging soul who is immediately on your side; as long as what you are doing is good for people. So it was no surprise to me when I learned that she was writing a book of poetry whereby she would share what’s likely her most trying experience. What’s more is she’s contributing a portion of the proceeds to benefit cancer research. Again, no surprise to me.
On a personal note I can tell you that “Dear Life” came about much the same way that this blog has. It is a result of a “4.0 level” (meaning 40ish years old) individual finally pursuing and sharing a passion that was discovered fairly early in life; but for some reason was subordinate to other priorities… Until now. For that I am ecstatically happy for my friend.
That said, my friends know me to be honest in (and happy to give) my opinions. I am usually tactful in my approach, but no matter what, they know I make my true thoughts known. I don’t sugar coat things with my friends… So know that I am sincere when I say “Dear Life” is open, warm, poignant, and beautiful. Drea gives the reader a real window into her life. We get to peek into her experiences in love, life lessons, relationships with friends, relationships with family, self discovery, and observations of the wonders of God’s works. Drea’s poetic voice lends emotion to the most mundane observations. In ‘Welcome Home’ she observes an argument between strangers on 126th St during a visit to her native Harlem. It seems that loud words on a NY City street would be a pretty ordinary occurrence… but put her words to it and it becomes a bout with empathy for a complete stranger. ‘Reassured’, an ‘Evening Stroll’, and ‘Masterpiece’ relate the potency of love and deep infatuation. All at the same time Drea goes on to relate the profound admiration that a daughter has for a father who has shared with her the gift of his own creativity in ‘Riverside Drive’. This is just a taste. Trust me when I tell you that there is so much more.
Such a dynamic voice given to the extraordinary, the mundane, the pleasures and the vicissitudes of life comes, in this case, from a writer who has come to know triumph; despite profound loss and the struggles of her loved ones. In “Dear Life” Drea is real; and open; and honest about it all. It’s inspiring. Drea has taken personal tragedy and made it a bridge to personal power. Oh… and she manages to help others out along the way.
After reading “Dear Life, Here I Am.”, I feel that I’ve gotten to know my friend and fellow Bulldog a site better and I’m better for it. I suggest you get to know her too.
You can get the book here.
Man… when I say Pharrell Williams gets it, I mean he’s a living example of LifeStyle 4.0! It seems to have come natural for him even in the earlier years of his career. He always seemed comfortable distancing himself from the heard. He was different right out of gate, tagging himself “Skateboard P” and singing hooks as a Hip-Hop producer and rapper. There was no skateboarding in Hip-Hop! Even I was one of those people who tried to put him in that box back in the day when he sang hooks for those Jay-Z and Mystical songs. I was like “the song is hot but, Buddy needs to stick to producing”. Well, good thing he didn’t listen to folks like me! Instead, Pharrell chose to live outside the box and be himself no matter what; and it’s working for him.
In a talk with Scott Verner of OTHERtone Broadcasting and ASAP Rocky, Pharrell discusses the dangers of living inside the “box” or the “perceived shell” that people try to assign you to. In this discussion he confirms ASAP’s tendency to step out of that “shell.” Skateboard P says, “when you step out like that and you don’t shiver and you don’t scare and you embrace this new position then you’re good for life. When you’re stuck in that box you will always answer to the perimeter. You will always answer to the walls. You will always answer to the floors and those are the people who are trapped.”
And the younger ASAP, acknowledges that Pharrell being himself inspired him to live outside of the box and only be who he is when he says, “there would be no cats like myself if it wasn’t for fellas like you… (and) Kanye West, being daring.”
The lesson here is that we owe it to ourselves and to people who look up to us to be our best selves… Live our best lives. You never know who’s watching. I heard a preacher say that ‘even though you might not know them, somebody is languishing in their life right now needing for you to be the best of who you are. Waiting to be inspired by you!’ Let’s get to it!
“The real purpose of art is not to make saleable pictures. It is to save yourself.” Sherwood Anderson.
Author, Sherwood Anderson wrote this in a letter to his son who was 18 years old at the time. (You can read more of the letter and Anderson at BrainPickings.org ) In our case, Art is whatever your Gift is. The most crucial part of living LifeStyIe 4.0 is embracing your gift. It is who you are and stepping into it is the path to becoming your best self. It is your source of passion. Embracing it can improve everything else in your life. If you have denied spending time developing your gift and sharing it with others you are bound to a prison of self-denial. It is time to “save yourself”.
When I first started writing for fun, I wrote poetry. I began to share it in the various little spots in Charlotte, NC including Mynxx and the Moon Room (around 1998). I found myself holding back work that I didn’t like and I had considered destroying it. Upon hearing, this my good friend Xavier Zsarmani (Zake) told me, “never destroy your work. It is part of you and you never know what it may mean to someone else. Be who you are and share all of it. Don’t rob us of who you are.” He made me see that words that don’t necessarily resonate with me may be a blessing to someone else. The next time I went out to read, I read one of the poems Zake saved from the trash can. After the set a young lady approached me to say how deeply moved she was by the poem. This lesson has stayed with me all these years. Now I want to share it with you. You never know what your gift may mean to someone. Do not rob us of the gift of YOU any longer. This #MakeItHappenMonday begin to spend more time with your gift. Become the best of who you are.
Happy Make it Happen Monday! Have a great week!