Friday, December 29, 2006

The Myth of the Magical New Year's Eve

Mood Tunes: Can You Feel It by The Jacksons and Centipede by Rebbie Jackson(YouTube)

Most of us think New Year's Eve is supposed to be like this.

While, many of us end up doing this.

I think the Myth of the Magical New Year's Eve has been sold on us as greatly as the Myth of the Perfect Christmas Day. Marketing. Hopes. Reality.

For the past I don't know how many years, I've spent my NYE at overpriced party locations. Except last year, where I went to a great house party in the valley.

And, with all supposed magical nights, we go in with the Carrie Bradshaw Sex & The City fantasy in our heads... new scene, new man, new outlook on life. That somehow at midnight, there will be this glow around you, fireworks in the background, everything will be in slow motion, as you and the stranger across the room raise your champagne glasses and magic is born.

But at the end of the night, things are still the same.

Which is not to say the myth can't become reality. But... for the most part, life continues as it was before spending a couple hundred bucks on party tickets, clothes, and party accessories.

Funny. When I was a kid, I spend every... and I mean EVERY NYE in church with the family. That was before I discovered... what I thought I needed to discover in life. This NYE, one of my cousins who just finished theology school will do his first sermon. Wish I could have made it.

What am I doing NYE? I'll be in the air over somewhere in the western U.S. and will pretty much miss all the build up to NYE.

And you? Your NYE myths or stories to share?

If I don't post, or you don't read before then... Happy New Year! Be safe and have fun whatever you do!!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Michigan

Mood Tune: Let Me Touch You For A While by Alison Krauss (YouTube)

Oh Michigan. Oh Detroit. One of my friends once told me that every black person in the U.S. is just one or two degrees separated from Detroit... either living there, or having visited, or having a good friend or relatives there. How many degrees are you separated from Detroit?

It's the only place I know in the U.S. where newscasts are led by majority black teams -- both news anchors, weather, AND sports -- on most nights.

But if it wasn't for the Detroit area, the state seems like it would be one big Red State. They just passed an anti-affirmative action measure in the state -- as if 30 years of Civil Rights legislation can make up for 400 years of free labor and unfair and unearned advantages.

Also, it's weird to be in a place where there are so many cars I don't recognize. Living in L.A., I don't see Chevy's or Chrysler's on a regular basis. Yesterday's lead story in Detroit was a little angst-filled, as the reporter covered a simple meeting and talk between Toyota and Ford about a possible joint venture on hybrid technology. They take their cars serious here, and anything not perceived to be made in the U.S. is not seen very highly.

But despite all this, I love coming back to see my family. They think I'm kinda weird for leaving once I hit college age and never coming back. I love L.A. One day, maybe... Detroiters have a toughness and sense of pride about the area -- especially their high schools. I was part of the great Renaissance versus Cass Tech rivalry. And once a Detroiter, always a Detroiter. Go Phoenix!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Popcorn. James Brown. Dreamgirls. Gerald Ford.

I loved listening to my parents' James Brown records growing up. Quite a show man. Loved this one... Popcorn by James Brown. He will be missed.

Ate my fill of popcorn at the movies watching Dreamgirls. Loved it. Loved it. LOVED it. Of course, it was nice to hear/see bits of my hometown Detroit mentioned, though most of the film was made in L.A... my new hometown. Eddie Murphy's performance, as a pseudo James Brown kinda character was great.

Then, of course tonight's news that President Gerald Ford died. That's big news in Michigan, since he was a Michigan native son.

Having a good time in Detroit. Til next time...

Friday, December 22, 2006

More Books For The Collection

Heard a great radio interview the other day on Feminist Magazine featuring two authors and books that you might want to add to your collection... or consider gifting to someone.

Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America by Charisse Jones and Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden. Interview shed light on the multiple performances black women put on with the various areas of life.

Don't Play in the Sun by Marita Golden, which focuses on the skin color-ism issue within black history.

Anyhoo, back to your holiday break and last-minute shopping...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I know it's a bit old, but it's so darn cute...

Hey Ya! The Charlie Brown Christmas version. (YouTube)

I Dream Of Eileen... Davidson.

OK. Weird. Holiday madness I guess.

Why did I have the most vivid dream that I was interviewing actress Eileen Davidson for the SoapNet channel last night?

If you don't know her, it's probably because you're not a daytime drama watcher. She's Ashley Abbott on the Young and the Restless, who recently got released (fired, say her fans and fans of the show) from the role she's played off and on since 1982. Or if you watched Days, like my buddy Rashid Darden does, she played Kristen/Susan/Mary/Tommy/etc... during one of her hiatuses from Y&R.

Anyway, the dream was so real. I had her colleagues on leading a tribute. We talked about how angry we were over Eileen Davidsons' firing and the direction Y&R has been going in lately. It ain't cute... and it ain't the high quality, rich show it used to be. But I digress. We talked about her future. Which may take her back to Days.

Oh well. It was just a dream. She's not putting money in my pocket. And I'm sure she'll find a job soon if she wants one.

Diehard fans of Y&R want her back on Y&R where she belongs. But her role as Susan Banks, pictured here, was sure fun/ny and that would be a treat too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Oh how could I forget this one.

Babel. A total must-see film while you're on holiday break.

Didn't think I'd get into it at all... but sooooo glad I was persuaded to go. It's soooooo worthy of all the critical acclaim it's been getting... and such a rich and layered story.

And the acting... amazing. Now, if only they could produce more films like this for more actors of color... and there are quite a few in this film, by the way.

Five stars up for Babel!

To Wynn In Vegas

Mood Tune: Rakata by Wisin y Yandel (YouTube)

So, I did a very quick trip to Las Vegas... I actually did some work, writing, and stuff like that. Some buddies booked a room at the new Wynn Las Vegas and I decided to go along. Highly recommended for your next Vegas trip! Five Stars Up!

In between work and writing, I did some very Las Vegas things... drank a little, slotted around and did roulette a bit, ate like a vulture, and slept a lot.

Vegas gives you a lot of material... if you're a writer type. It's the only place where you can see how different the various regions of the United States are... all the Iowans, Nebraskans, Texans, mingled in with the L.A./California types and Vegas residents. Quite interesting and an amazing display of fashionista :-) And all the class dynamics... rich (or think they're rich) tourists and service workers. Interesting and condescending dynamics.

Anyway, back in L.A. for a few days before heading to Michigan for a week or so. Reading Eric Jerome Dickey's Chasing Destiny, which I bought this spring when it came out. Finally able to catch up. Then will catch up with E. Lynn Harris's I Say A Little Prayer... another one I got earlier this year and never had opportunity to read until now.

What's on your holiday reading list???

Friday, December 15, 2006

I Want My JTV... Jengo TV That Is.

Mood Tune: New Favorite by Alison Krauss (YouTube... if you've watched any kind of relationship slip away, you'll feel this song, but anyway...)

There's a new network, Jengo TV, that highlights authors, musicians, actors, models, and activists in, or friendly toward, the LGBT of color community.

I first heard about the network about a month ago from my writer friend Fiona Zedde. And two weeks ago we shot a couple interviews and a podcast for the network with Kamika Dunlap and Debra Wilson.

If you look around the site long enough, you'll hear an excerpt from my first novel, Down For Whatever. OK, here's the link. I know we're in the "give it to me quick and fast" age. :-)

Have a nice weekend. I think I'm heading to Vegas later this weekend... for research. Yeah, that's what it is. And then heading to Detroit shortly after that. I'll still be online.

So go enjoy your JTV... Jengo TV.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Resolution To Write.

Mood Tune: Illegal by Shakira (YouTube)

So, yesterday I was at a meeting where many people talked about resolutions. And I don't know if it's because I was in the room, that many of them talked about writing... finish the novel, keep a journal, submit a short story, etc...

And since I know a lot of you are writers with various goals, I thought I would share my take on something I found really important to my writing development.

Writers groups.

For the past five years, I've been a member (on and off) of two writers groups in L.A. I've found the time spent with them to be very valuable. I always suggest to people who voice their interest in writing that they find a writers group in their area. For many reasons.

1. It forces you to write. One of my groups meets weekly. One, once a month. Each week we take turns feedbacking new pages, anywhere from 1 - 10 pages depending on the size of the group. When you know it's your turn to be feedbacked, you don't want to show up empty-handed. So you get your stuff together for your weekly/monthly meeting.

2. It teaches you the art of feedback and what works/doesn't. Aside from getting valuable feedback from group members, I've found that giving feedback helps me see what kinds of things I do and DON'T want to do in my writing. Weird to explain, but feedbacking others helps you look at your own writing more critically.

Now, what should you look for in a writers group?

1. An intimate size group. Both my groups are 6 and 8 people respectively. This makes the meetings comfortable, and gives everyone the opportunity to be feedbacked on a regular basis.

2. Similar work. If you're a poet, work with poets. If you're commercial fiction, work with commercial fiction writers. Not that diversity in styles and types doesn't work, but a commercial fiction writers may not appreciate the same themes/styles/nuances that a literary fiction writer may appreciate. That's all. Nothing against any types. And in both my cases, I'm not taking my own advice. I'm in mixed groups, but I always know when writer of style X gets to my work, they won't appreciate the same themes/styles/nuances I do.

3. Nice people. Nothing brings down a writers group more than a Negative Nancy or Petty Patrick. You want to be around writers who are there to HELP, not tear you down to lift themselves up. Not someone who nit-picks EVERYthing. But you also want to be open to all feedback. And you want people to learn and feel comfortable. Writing is sensitive and personal. There's just a way to give and receive feedback. How do you know if a writers group has nice people? Ask to sit in on a meeting. Watch how people give feedback. Observe who hogs the meetings with their agenda and story, while not giving equally to other members. Ask people what they think of the group dynamics.

4. Paid or Unpaid Group. One of my groups has dues. We use it for copies, refreshments, resource books for the collective. We are the weekly group. My other group is unpaid. We're monthly. There's commitment, but not the same as in a paid group. So think about it. My paid group is about $300 for 10 weeks per member, but that includes part of the fee for our facilitator, as well as the other things listed. The unpaid group... we took turns facilitating the meetings and leading the feedback on the turned in manuscripts for the week.

5. Facilitated Group. I think having a facilitator, whose job is to read and feedback manuscripts, and to lead meetings is important. This person shouldn't be a participant who submits manuscripts, but simply is the facilitator and lead feedbacker. My paid group has someone who hosts at her house weekly and gives us personal feedback in addition to the groups. She is an author, with an MFA, and who has published several books.

Oh, there are probably other things to look for in a writers group. I just can't think of them all now.

How to FIND a writers group? Call some English or Creative Writing teachers or professors in your local area. Talk to staff at your local bookstore or coffeeshop. Go on MySpace or Yahoo to look for groups in your area. Check out a cultural center in your neighborhood for advice. If you're in Washington D.C., here's a FREE writers workshop opportunity!
I wrote about Writing Groups here and Writing Resources here. Writing Resolutions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Brothers and Sisters

One of my favorite novels is Brothers and Sisters by Bebe Moore Campbell, which follows a myriad of characters -- black, white, upwardly mobile, and struggling -- after the Rodney King verdict and Los Angeles riots in the early 1990s.

The novel's characters, like the real life residents of the city, look at issues of race, class, and gender through many different lenses and realities. I read it when it first came out, and thought about it on Monday as one of my students asked for something to read while on semester break. I decided to introduce him to Bebe Moore Campbell's work.

In this NPR interview from 2002, the late author discusses the L.A. situation ten years after the uprising. And these additional NPR interviews give us more insight into her life and work.

Thank God we have interviews like this to keep our favorites with us forever.

Like We Never...

Mood Tune: Like We Never Loved At All by Faith Hill (YouTube)

About a year old, but this song still tugs at me.

Or this one, about ten years old. The Fool by Lee Ann Womack.

We've all been there. Luckily, life moves on and we go on too. And there is light at the end of the tunnel. Always is.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

National Black Justice Coalition Turns Three

If you don't know about the work of the National Black Justice Coalition, now it's time to learn... and support. The organization celebrates three years of social justice and coalition building work. fs.

WASHINGTON, DC ­­– The nation's Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights group, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) will celebrate its third anniversary on December 8, 2006.

Originally formed to respond to a group of Black pastors who were attempting to drum up support in the Black community for a Federal Marriage Amendment to ban lesbians and gays from getting married, NBJC has now developed into the nation's leading authority on gay civil rights within the Black community.

Today, NBJC is a civil rights organization that is dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.

Since December 2003, NBJC has been instrumental is bringing visibility and a voice to a group of people who are often silenced and marginalized. From hosting the first Black church summit dedicated to discussing gays in the church featuring the Reverend Al Sharpton to organizing a summit of Black LGBT leaders to address critical issues, to working with Black elected officials; NBJC has broadened the discussion on gay civil rights in the African-American community.

NBJC also produces a quarterly magazine, Nyansapo, which features news, commentary and articles relevant to the Black same-gender loving community that is mailed to thousands of its constituents four times a year.

To date, NBJC is the first and only organization focusing on gay civil rights that is a member of the National Black Leadership Forum. In addition, NBJC enjoys a broad coalition of support including the NAACP, Urban League, Black AIDS Institute, and the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Started as an organization comprised of mostly working board members, NBJC is now headquartered in Washington D.C. with a full staff.

This year NBJC successfully launched its Political Action Fund. The Fund encourages voter support for initiatives and policies to establish racial justice and equality for LGBT Americans and to oppose anti-gay ballot initiatives. In addition, through the NBJC Political Action Fund, NBJC educates the public on African-American candidates at the state, local and federal levels seeking public office on their positions on LGBT issues.

NBJC founding president Keith Boykin is pleased that NBJC has blossomed into a staple civil rights organization.

"I had no idea three years ago that NBJC would grow into what it is now," he says. "NBJC was a voice that was needed in Black America and I am proud that we have accomplished so much in such a short time."

"Without NBJC, millions of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people would go without representation and that's not right." explained H. Alexander Robinson, NBJC Executive Director/CEO. "NBJC is just as significant to Black gays as the NAACP is to Blacks."

NBJC co-founder Jasmyne Cannick said, "While NBJC has accomplished a lot, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. Anti-gay legislation passed in seven of eight states in November and we're headed into a presidential election where Blacks will again be pitted against one another on the issue of marriage for gays. NBJC will be there and we will be speaking up and out on behalf of our constituents."

The board of NBJC includes members: Samiya Bashir of New York, Kylar Broadus of Missouri, Jasmyne Cannick* of California, Zandra Conway of Georgia, Maurice Franklin* of New York, Donna Payne* of Washington D.C., and board president Earl Plante of Washington D.C.

NBJC is located at 700 12th Street, N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20005. NBJC can be reached at (202) 349-3755,, or

NBJC membership levels begins at $35.

NBJC is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is able to do the work it does through the generous support of its members, donors, and corporate sponsors.

For a more information on NBJC and a complete list of accomplishments, please visit

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tomorrow They Will Kiss. Eduardo Santiago.

If you're in L.A. this weekend, you gotta check out my friend Eduardo Santiago at A Different Light Bookstore in West Hollywood, discussing his novel, on Sunday, December 10 at 6 pm.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss.

A fun, soap opera-ish/novela-ish novel of three Cuban women -- Graciela, Caridad, and Imperio -- making their way and lives in New Jersey. The women bond over their love of Spanish-language telenovelas, and their hopes that tomorrow they -- the hero and heroine of said telenovela -- will kiss.

From the cover. "Like her native Cuba, Graciela Altamira is beautiful, defiant, passionate, and constantly threatened with some kind of trouble."

Isn't that fun?

I've heard various stages of Eduardo's novel in progress. I've got to say he's one of the most amazing storytellers I've met. In person and in story. To get a taste of Eduardo's humor, read this story story about a young boy fascinated with his aunt's wigs: Tia Norma's Wig. I'm sure we can ALL identify.

A very cool read.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

True Grits by Blaine Teamer. Author of Shady.

We all could use a good pick me up, huh? A good laugh?

Well, hopefully you'll get one from this short film, True Grits, by Blaine Teamer. I watched it this morning on recommendation from my buddy D-Place. Watch it. You'll love it.

Just as much as you'll love Blaine Teamer's novel, Shady, which I wrote about previously (Brokeback/Shady and First).

Shady is the funniest, most laugh-out-loud novel I've read. Just loved it... and I'm sure you will too!

Anyway, hope you enjoy watching True Grits. It's about 5 minutes long.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pride. Debra, Kamika, Deondray, Quincy.

Mood Tune: A Deeper Love by Aretha Franklin (You Tube).

Pride doesn't have to just happen during your assigned month. It can happen all year round.

So let me just cut to the chase. I got to see a couple projects by people I know during the Fusion Film Fest this weekend.

Jumpin The Broom, a film about LGBT of color couples, who have made life-long commitments to each other through marriage. By Debra Wilson and supported by Kamika Dunlap. Check out their new venture, Jengo TV.

The DL Chronicles, episode Robert, a series about men in various stages of development in their LGBT identity. By Deondray Gossett and Quincy LeNear.

Both projects are excellent and done by good people. The pride comes from not just knowing I have similar life and background experiences as the makers of the projects, but also from seeing them have a dream and making it happen.

Check Debra, Kamika, Deondray, and Quincy out. Send them some love. And if you get a moment to support either project, try and do so.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

College Scholarships

Mood Tune: Young, Gifted and Black by Nina Simone (YouTube)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Call Me Mister scholarship opportunity, a South Carolina program seeking to increase the number of black male teachers in public schools.

Today, I got alerted to a great site, Planning and Preparing for College, which is a great clearinghouse of information related to the college, scholarship, and test preparation processes. Even financial aid tips... and my work with college students shows that it's finances, not academics, that causes many students to leave college.

By the way, there's nothing wrong with student loans... I encourage them, as long as you finish school and go to grad school right away, or get into a good entry-level career position where your salary will help you manage your loans. Student loans are a better financial investment than... let's say, credit cards with high interest rates, or buying a car where there's value lost right away, or working to pay one semester of school then quitting school to work again to pay for another semester, and so on for 80 semesters. Anyway... I digress.

If you have a young seeker of knowledge and truth in your life, you should alert them to the site. Or check it out yourself and help a young person this month.

December can be a very stressful month for high school seniors. Not only are they dealing with finals, but this is the month many college applications are due. They're big decisions and sometimes a supportive and knowledgeable moment from an adult is helpful.

Go on with your young and gifted self!

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Cool To Get Tested

I wrote this entry last year for World AIDS Day.

Here in Los Angeles, the Magic Johnson Foundation is doing a lot around HIV and AIDS to raise awareness and encourage testing. Especially among young black people, black church communities, and the community at large. There will be a number of rapid testing sites set up in parts of L.A. that are predominantly black this weekend. That's a good thing.

Still, I can imagine the fear of those going to get tested... and the stigma cast upon them by passersby. We still keep a number of issues smothered under a sheet of silence in our communities. Our communities also perpetuate myths and incorrect information, even when progressive thinking and correct information is available, which can contribute to people not getting tested or picking up their results.

I think this book, Not In My Family, edited by Gil L. Robertson, will contribute to opening up the dialogue. Check out the Not in My Family website.

It's cool to get tested. It's cool to know our health status. It's cool to talk about sex, drugs, self esteem, and the choices that can benefit our health and well being. And it's cool to challenge the silence and myths and incorrect information around HIV and AIDS.