Monday, May 25, 2015

Shallow

I was asked to contribute to Write Club Atlanta's book capturing the best of the first four years of Write Club.  I was honored and said yes, though considering that I was undefeated they better have asked me!  Here's my contribution... exclusive for MoMolina...

Shallow
By Mike Molina

“When the meteor comes, I’ll be riding it like the mechanical bull in your heart.  When the big bang sang, I applauded it.  And I’ll be there when light goes dark.  You won’t outlast the roaches and I will smash the last one.  I built the pyramids and sunk Atlantis.  I hung the moon and flung the sun.  I am your god.  You created me to calibrate your insignificance.  I am Math.”

The square of the stage never seems so small as the moment you step off it to return to the crowd at a poetry slam.  The hot, lonely distance in being the center of attention is reduced to a dim simmer in those brief moments of descent.  The tangy pang of peach light, like a protracted camera flash, reappears to coat your shoes as you grope for space among the maze of feet leading back to your seat.  The bluff applause seems polite or trite or contrite enough to be a bluff. 
But during the break from the show, the truth will out.   Some poets robotically encourage each other as if the math of karma were the only language that really matter at a slam.  Some poets stay to themselves, reeking of infirm confidence or flush with fatigued competitiveness.  Others walk awkwardly through the crowd hungry for the feedback lost in slapped hands, wanting more than the quick fizz of feeling in the hot air popped between clapped hands, need more after they have slammed their words, like dominoes, for points.  They… we stumble the crowd mumbling sincere questions.   
“What did you think of the piece,” I asked, daring a sister poet to tell the truth, confident she would offer nothing but a dusting of praise, sprinkled like powdered sugar on my puffed up, hollow, beignet of an ego.
“It didn’t suck,” she said.
The words clicked around my head like the cowrie shells she had threaded through her carefully coiffed dreadlocks. 
“It didn’t suck.”
Well I guess that’s good news coming from a spoken-word poet with dreads raining cowrie shells, and big copper bangles imprinting themselves on her wrists and giant polished stone beads jiggling between her breasts.  Coming from one of the in-crowd of culture iconoclasts, draped in generic African patterns wrapped around her dark, authentic African skin which made her detailed white teeth all the more white as she sucked them together to say “suck” as in “it didn’t suck.” 
Coming from one of Atlanta’s jaggiest gatekeepers of Black cool, one of the bohemian bourgeoisie, I guess I should take it as a compliment.  But as a compliment, it echoed and curdled in the distance fog I quickly shushed around her like a burst of stage smoke.  I could hear her true thoughts as clear as the vodka I choked her words down with.
You light-skinned, green-eyed pretty boy… you been given your whole life and now you headlining?  You ain’t paid no dues.’  I can hear her shading me to sharpen the distance between us and I accept that.  We aren’t the same.
She needs her blacker than, downer than, realer than linear gradations.  She needs to shrink others’ pain so she can carry her own.  She needs her anger at a world that privileges my skin and my balls and peddles my degree as proof of an American dream she woke up from in a cold sweat long ago.  She needs to hate me and the cock I swung in on like I forgot how hard it is to see another poet shine.  She needs her opinion, lounging in her midnight fears, lazing in the hammock of her resignation, tied between trees of insecurities, rooted in the muck of her mire, stuck in the sands of her time, in the glass hours where she preserves her fermented torment for the cold nights when only hate will heat her heart. 
She needs all the courage she can muster even if it it’s only applied to dull the luster of my shine.  She needs this moment and so I let her have it.
“Thanks for your opinion.”  And I walked away without looking back to catch her reaction, though in my mind her forehead crinkled under the cold blowback.  I walked towards a nice white man whose eyes said speak with me. 
“Tight, tight,” he said sounding like the quick swinging hammers of a typewriter – “tight, tight.”  You white John Henry working your self to death to be cool.  You big bearded fool in a Paul Bunyon shirt who came to tell me two twin words about my work.  “Tight, tight.”
Tight?  Was it “tight” how I merged mythic and scientific imagery to create a voice of penultimate universality?  Tight?  Or was it “tight” how I rooted the existential meaning of the piece in the meter of the rhythm and rhyme, i.e. it ain’t about the chicken or the egg, it is about the math that added one to the other, it’s about that beat that beats the egg into life or food for life.  Tight?
Why did you feel like you had to slang your way through our difference like some boy in the hood from the burbs who loves Tupac and WuTang and knows what poontang and a badonkadonk are?  Did you feel the need to knead words into decade old baguettes of loafing, lazy, hip-hop cliché in order to communicate?    
That you talked to me was enough, bro.  That you spent time and shared energy with me was enough.  Then you ruined it by slinging slang at me like a not quite trained monkey in the cage that keeps you safe from white supremacy.  You want to be down, Mr. Charlie?  Then shake my hand and tell me what was “tight” about a fucking good poem that is layered and challenging and accessible and simple in the way symmetry is fucking simply beautiful.   Tight? 
Keep your cliché, I thought and walked away.
I thought my way back to my car before the second half of the slam, done with this distant cloud over the city that makes shaded dreams of its stars and blocks the light from its seedlings—the shallow sky they sell in the rectangles between the mirrored, high rise glass of condos.  The shallow words (It didn’t suck) they throw on the hot coals of potential to steam the envy off their soft skins.  The shallow water they wade in (tight, tight) so as not to lose their way in case they want to turn back to the big house.  The shallow end of the praise pool they divide in tenths and slam under the big tent of competition.  Keep your points, your opinions, your estimation of the worth and the value and quality of my work.  “It didn’t suck,” means nothing but that it didn’t suck donkey balls, which means it probably did suck like squirrel balls or something.  “Tight, tight,” means nothing at all.  
I talked to my windshield about Atlanta… and New Orleans and Oakland and New Haven and Brooklyn and all the places I haven’t found acknowledgement of the value of my work.  I freestyle laps about my dad’s lap and how I don’t remember how it felt to sit in his approval, and how I punished him at my graduation and how he died after I apologized, and how he must not have seen my potential to leave me to the hours I spent alone finding my way and how he must not have understood my talent since he didn’t invest in it and how he must not have believed in me since he didn’t take time to find out what I believed about myself.  That I wasn’t good enough to keep him home, that our family was not worth not giving up on…
And I find myself in the parking lot of a tavern balling out the pain in the marrow in the hollows of my bones.  The sickening drone of my snorting sniffles unravels the riddle of my rash reactions to these brief, passing interactions with strangers.  The shallow breath of anger reminds me.  I’m still mad at my daddy for not teaching me how to swim… for leaving me like this, like where I could drown in a few inches of water, in some random person’s wet breath, in the shallow water that might as well be the Aegean Sea in this odyssey of me. 

For we who wade in the puddles the past leaves, in the muddle of now, befuddled about how we came to be stuck in sinkholes on the road to Math knows where…  For me, the shallow water hovers, covers the deep.     

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Memorial Drive

When we arrived, what had been Elysian Fields, New Orleans became Memorial Drive, Atlanta.
Memorial Drive -- haunted by memorialized confederates, ghost soldiers on the trails of slaves railing against their captive plight into night.   Memorial Drive:  a dividing line in the “city too busy to hate,” a city that separates at fault lines that trace to quakes like the 1906 riot of race when Atlanta reverberated with postbellum rage and chose the birth of a nation in its postpartum fate.  
In the quiet since, a cold war is contained, insulated by economics.  Discrete deals between the city’s grey elite in backrooms where they trade neighborhoods for a tenth of influence, public schools for public faces in places of power, a black bourgeoisie bold between columns of white power structure… a privileged minority of the black majority precisely placed to placate the masses, to avoid another rupture.  
It is the south, gorgeous Atlanta, where a universe of trees burst with hidden streams that soothe heat like phoenix tears resurgent in the gleam of glass towers, magnificent as antlers on a buck, where hilly, radiant seasons bloom as flowers, and offer a rhythm that frees one from feeling stuck, that breeds in one a sense luck, where change is always around a bend in time, where struggle can turn to hustle and be the breath of a success that ends in rhyme. 
We were welcomed to Atlanta, the Elysian Fields of the South, an ornate gothic steeple teetering atop the Southern Dream.  Along Memorial Drive, on one side you can see a tide of wealth rise through the hip of Cabbagetown, up the funk of Little 5 to crest in the mansions of Inman Park and up, up into the mirrored glitter of Midtown skies.  
Along Memorial Drive, on the other side, it looks like Katrina hit Normandy, a barren beachhead littered like a little Vietnam with hollowed out, broken brick ranches, graffiti castles, and a haunted high rise that litters the sky.
When we New Orleans gypsy cousins flooded Atlanta in caravans, she extended a hand of Christian charity, and then clutched her purse.  It’s taken a decade to begin to understand Atlanta’s curse and why her lips are pursed, along Memorial Drive.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Dear Mindy Kaling's Brother - I.O.U. Confession #2

Dear Mindy Kaling's Brother A.K.A. Jojo,

I don't blame you for using your childhood nickname Jojo.  Though you could have just spelled your name VeeJay and people would have assumed you were Black and your parents were named Veentrell and Jayqwando, right?  But then again, I guess Vijay is just so hard to say.  Almost as hard to say as Chokingonaham or Chachinglingheim or Chimichangaland or whatever your last name is.  And don't worry.  It's not racist of me to make fun of your name.  I'm just underscoring why your sister Mindy might have changed hers to the easier-for-non-Indian Americans to say, "Kaling."

Considering how hard it must be for a woman to crack TV being a woman and brown and thick (and very nicely so I might add... um, digression), adding to that a name that screams "I'm not from Boston (where the original tea partiers died for our sins)," well that would just spell career death.  So me making fun of your name is really just a harmless attempt to commiserate with how bad you Indians have it here in the (former) land of the braves.  Kind of like you commiserated with being Black when pulled over by cops for no reason and sexually assaulted by lusty, jungle fever-crazed White women while pretending to be Black.

And I don't blame you for pretending to be Black to get in to medical school.  I believe I may have inadvertently pretended to be non-white Hispanic to get into Yale Law School even though I'm like Black creole or something.  And when I got there and realized I was one of the three other light-skinned Black men in my class from New Orleans (out of the 7 total Black men in my class),  I immediately grew an afro and beard, and started wearing dashikis to clarify myself as a proud Black man.  (Okay I worn a dashiki like twice, but I did wear a Tupac shirt once a week, but again I digress).

And while several other Black men dropped out over a series of mental breakdowns tied to feeling inadequate despite being outstanding in every way, I graduated and immediately turned down any hope at a high-paid lawyer career by spending 15 years working in the non-profit sector as a way to earn the privilege I had been given.  This privilege was somewhat due to the guilty, good-hearted liberalism of Yale admissions and mostly due to the back-breaking effort and indestructible hope of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and former-slave ancestors from Louisiana, Haiti, and the Philippines.

And I didn't just say that to make you feel like shit for taking a potential opportunity at medical school away from a Black male student, then dropping out to write a book lambasting Black folks for taking advantage of anti-Indian discrimination.  I'm just saying that to say this.

I don't blame you for riding your sister's coattails.  We all stand on the shoulders of some giant.  My wife, a brilliant brown Indian woman from Kerala, got me through Yale Law School.  While she earned Honors in almost every one of her classes, I scratched and clawed to Ps.  But she didn't get me through by teaching me how to pull myself up by my bootstraps or teaching me the Queen's English.  Quite the contrary, she got me through by empathizing with my struggle through her own experience of discrimination growing up in Boston and attending Harvard, and by her own deep reflection on how to better America while studying African-American History and working with civil rights living legend Bob Moses in Mississippi after finishing Harvard early.

She got me through by offering an understanding ear when I lamented feeling inadequate.  She gave me an encouraging word when I questioned whether I belonged there.  She opened warm arms to cry into when my mother died at the start of my second year.

And I didn't say that to make you feel like shit for being an ignorant callous fool who has no clue of all the Black hopes, dreams, and bodies left by the wayside in the hundred years between slavery's "end" in 1865 and the civil rights movement (measured in inches) that produced the (endangered) Voting Rights Act of 1965.  I wrote that so you could know that I can't be racist against you because my best friend is Indian.

And I don't blame you for any of what you are up to now.  This is, after all, America, where you can "find a way to earn a healthy buck and still keep your attitude on self-destruct" (quoting MF Doom is a religion, but I again digress again, damnit.).  Sell out all you want, Coco (nut).

I blame you for what happens from this point forward.  What will that be, Mindy Kaling's brother?  Will you stand in front of a bunch of Black leaders and apologize like the reckless frat boy you were?  Will you go on TV and blame Obama for dividing America after you killed some Black man's opportunity to attend St. Louis University Medical School and wrote a book to make money off of it?  Will you shave your head, pretend to be Black and get shot in the back or choked to death in cold blood by a cop or a vigilante?

I hope you do none of these things.  I hope you get your "Negro [sic]wake up call" sooner than later.  Then you can write a book about being a recovering douchebag.

So what will it be Mindy Kaling's brother?

Eagerly awaiting your response,


Dr. Anthony L. Molina Sr.'s son



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Killer Cop Might Walk and Here's Why - I.O.U. Confession #1

Cellphone video of a cop shooting a fleeing man in the back 8 times
is frozen in this image on Web media around the world.  Considering that North Charleston police officer Michael Slager is then recorded walking up and tossing a taser next to Walter Scott's dead body, it's not a stretch that the cop would be arrested and charged with first degree murder.  Slam dunk, finally a cop will pay for being a murderous bully.  But wait.  Who shot the video?  A young Black man?

My first thought:  "they" are gonna claim the witness, (obviously a nefarious special FX mastermind, a veritable young Black Spielberg who probably hates white people almost as much as Spike Lee hates white people) the young Black male witness doctored the cell phone footage, with the Instagram skills he learned making new crap look old and turning sunsets green, making "slap cam" vines and George Jefferson memes.......  Yeah, and that would be my stuff.  Even if some White folks don't trust Black folks as far as they can shoot them, why would I temper my own sense of righteous indignation by dwelling on what some White folks do and don't trust, will or won't think.  It's demoralizing and useless I.O.U. (Internalized Oppression Uncovered) that will have me angrily reacting in comment sections rather than thoughtfully responding in blog posts.  I'll leave it for the stink bugs to roll balls of that crap around.

My second thought, though:  the lawyer in me knows that first degree murder requires proof of premeditation.  Proof that Michael Slager pre-meditated, that he deliberated and thoughtfully considered murdering Walter Scott.  Slater might be a registered KKK member who considered the terrorist organization's successful track record of raising money for cops who kill Black people and intended to hit the GoFundMe lottery by killing an unarmed Black man.  How exactly is a prosecutor (presumably a District Attorney who has absolutely zero incentive to convict a cop with first degree murder unless he plans on running for office in majority minority (the ridiculousness of that phrase not-withstanding) North Charleston)... how is a prosecutor supposed to prove murder-cop Michael Slager woke up that morning and intended to shoot Walter Scott?  And why would a DA charge the cop with that specific crime, one which requires such a high burden of proof?  

Prepare yourself.  The cop may actually walk and that ain't I.O. crap.  That's oi crap.

There is a boiling point America.  Every cop or vigilante that walks for murdering a Black man is another cup of salt in the cauldron.

P.S.
Here is the news article that reported on the murder before the video came out.  It reports officer Michael Slager's lies word for word.  But Black on Black crime, though!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

One Man Show Trailer

Mass Transit Muse is a one man show written in rhymed blank verse a la meta-modern Shakespeare.  This is the opening verse of the performance that features spoken word poetry, dance, song, and dramatic interpretation against a back drop of digital video images of New Orleans, where the blues was born...

Mass Transit Muse to a Stage Near You!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Amel Larrieux dedicated to Jessy Molina

Until this woman gets her due the music industry ain't spit...

...from Bravebird and dedicated to the love of my life Jessy Molina.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hip Hop Overthrow

According to the great of agitators of aggregators Huffington Post...

Apparently USAID, United States Agency for International Development, enlisted Creative Associates International, a consulting firm, to invest American tax dollars in an "amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful" attempt to build a network of young people seeking "social change" in Cuba.  If they wanted to get young people to overthrow the Cuban government, Americans they could have just sent all the materialistic, nihilistic, me-me-me rappers of mainstream hip hop to co-opt the real Cuban hip-hop scene and flip it into public demand for whips, chains, and molls.   Well maybe that money is already spent paying those same mainstream rappers to keep young Americans out of the business of social change by promoting messages of tribal warfare (gang life), pleasure at all costs (sex and drug life) and money-by-any-means (especially those means that will promptly get you locked up and not voting).


On a serious note, I was recently reminded by a friend of Third Eye Movement, a Bay Area hip-hop activism movement.  Now what if the American government had invested in promoting "social change" in Americas hip hop movement?  If they find hip hop so powerful as to be key in ending a 60 year cold war, why can't they see the value of hip hop in uplifting communities suffering in the 60 years since Jim Crow?  To quote dough boy... "either they don't know, don't show, or don't care..." or maybe that money is already spent making sure Hip Hop promotes social apathy?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Stop Victimizing and Start Galvanizing

We activists and our cousin victimization addicts are complicit in creating the image of Black men as boogie men... so are we artists (and I'm being far too generous with Chief Keef et. al).  A Black man (or any woman or man) should certainly not become a murder victim for standing up to being disrespected by a punk with a gun like Darren Wilson or a pack of wild bullies led by the likes of Daniel Pantaleo.  Blaming the victim is the first step to rationalizing injustice away.  But how does believing we are victims help us fight?  And more importantly, how we do to prevent the next police murder?  Here are three ideas:

1.  Continue protesting, galvanizing ourselves and gaining allies by powerfully pointing out how the death of these Black men is injustice against all Americans, all people.  Police power being used to enforce submission of the people is dangerous enough.  Police power being used as an expression of fear against the citizens police are charged to protect is horrifying.  Continue to expose the essential contradiction:  people trained in combat, clothed in combat gear, armed with weapons of submission (tasers, clubs, and cuffs) and lethal force (guns), with a posse at their beacon call, a badge and shield, people paid to do the dangerous job of "protect and serve", those people using fear as a justification for killing an unarmed citizen is a complete perversion of the notion of society and civilization.  And Black people are yet again canaries in the coal mine.  Beware: The funny (and not at all) #Crimingwhilewhite will be a distant memory if white allies let this stand unchallenged.

2.  Challenge the other essential contradiction of a justice system that allows D.A.'s and prosecutors, trained to destroy reputations by any means, who work closely with police every day of their jobs, who depend on cops to do their jobs well, whose career advancement depends on a close relationship with cops... any justice system that allows these people to set foot near a grand jury charged with disciplining a cop is a complete and utter foolishness.  Prosecutors who lead the Grand Jury process should be pulled from a pool of defense attorneys, judges, and others completely uncolored by the thin blue line.  Here is a very clear demand with a potential victory that could have some impact on whether cops feel impunity with regard to killing people.  Don't take my word.  Listen to retired NYPD cop Noel Leader in this Essence article.

3.  Control what we can control, which is the narrative we tell ourselves about ourselves and thus generate for the general populace.  We can stop playing in to white supremacy with victimization narrative or rage without discipline, without organization.  We can support and nourish the newly politicized young people with some historical perspective on the current state of things.  Systems thinking folks...  First step?  Read this The Root article:  "More Black Men in Jail Than in College?  Why It's Not True."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#theantidote

If you read Wilson's testimony, he says Mike Brown looked like a "demon" (as opposed to maybe angry), that he "grunted" before "charging" him (as opposed to the sound one makes after being shot), that his eyes were "cold" when he looked at him. He basically described him as an animal and a monster. 






This is racism in it's purest form (and I use the word carefully). When you can't see a person's humanity because of their race. When the psychosis of racism makes you live out some horror movie where the forces of evil have a skin color... Add a gun and a badge and you get Darren Wilson.

And we are the antidote.  Our lives.  Our work.  Our art.  We have to keep our humanity and be ourselves beautifully.  Mourn the dead.  Call out wrong.  And live to create a new world!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Good news...


So I'm early these days working on a new novel, joining in with National Novel Writing Month thanks to a reminder by Myke Johns of WABE and Write Club, and I'm getting really frustrated with myself for using the passive voice.  Not for any particular reason other than the fact that I'm breaking the rule I was taught in elementary school "gifted" English.  I love you Mrs. Zimmerman, but I just got some good news... In this article, Mother Jones says that Science Says You Can Split Infinitives and Use the Passive Voice says Harvard psycholinguist Steve Pinker.  Yes they all say that.  I'm having fun breaking rules here and freeing up my free writing.  Thanks Mother, Science, Steve and even you Mrs. Zimmerman for giving me rules to use and to rebel against.  hee hee... Here's Steve Pinker on it all:



Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Keep faith in what you are up to
No matter what you're down to
#lastdollarlastchancelastbreath