Seattle City Lights

I was more traumatized by my life in Seattle than I was from escaping civil war in Somalia as a toddler, with bullets flying overhead and people dying right next to me.

I remember making eye contact with my dad as he backed up a trailer truck that was being used to pile up the casualties of conflict and drive them off to be dumped in the mass graves. People were dying so fast that there wasn’t any time to dig individual graves, and there weren’t enough people left alive to do it.

Y’all really have no idea how terrible of a place Seattle is for me to feel this strongly about it, with the background that I have. Stay tf away. If you live there, get out while you still have a soul.

Black Liberation

Black Liberation

Picture this: A global black population that can all trace their ancestors back to one original continent, to one single ancestry, who are closer related to each other than they are to anyone else alive on this planet today. From the outside looking in, you might be so inclined as to think that the sense of brotherhood within this community was second to none.

Guess again, my melanated friend. An African black can’t empathize with the plight of a Caribbean black, just as a Brazilian black doesn’t feel one way or another about a European black.

Black people don’t see the universal interconnectedness of their unique struggles in a white dominated world. They can’t see this, even when it’s staring them directly in the eyes, because of the lasting effects of colonial conditioning. They don’t want to see it because they’re happy in their individual corners of the world, keeping their heads down and trying not to rock the boat.

They don’t understand that the white man who colonized their ancestral homeland is the same one who stole their long lost brothers and sisters in the dark of night, with nary an explanation nor a penny in compensation given in return.

They can’t imagine that the white-washed religion that they worship today was distorted from its origins and used primarily as a means to an end; that by stripping them of their culture and native belief systems, the colonizers were able to re-mold the psyches of the oppressed to view their captors in a favorable light.

Over the course of generations, the global black village was slowly subverted into elevating the image of the pale invaders to a God-like level. Little did they realize that, in doing so, blackness had no choice but to take a backseat to the overly fetishized white skin which now sat firmly in the driver’s seat.

This conditioning was vital to the establishment of an international racial hierarchy and the perpetual placement of melanin-deficient folks at the very top of that hierarchy. The concept of whiteness, as orchestrated by both colonizer and imperial regime alike, is what allowed a global minority to achieve and maintain dominance over the black and brown majority. This intentional division of black folks has always been a pivotal piece in the white supremacy master plan.

Slave masters often employed this psychological tactic by separating entire family groups of slaves and selling them off to different plantations. They knew that African cultures and religions were almost entirely based on communal practices. By separating closely knit family groups, slave masters broke the bonds that gave their slaves the willpower to fight against subjugation every step of the way instead of simply succumbing to the crushing weight of bondage.

Once you strip a person of everything they’ve ever known and loved, all that remains is a docile shell of their former self which can now be gently coerced into a life of slavery with little resistance. As the old adage goes, you must divide in order to conquer. A closed fist can do a lot more damage than an open palm; similarly, a divided peoples are much easier to rule over than an organized collective.

We were originally divided by white propaganda, but continue to remain divided because we choose to perpetuate those divisions amongst ourselves. All they did was plant the seeds of division in the soil of our conscience and we gladly provided (and continue to provide) enough water for an entire forest to blossom and bear fruit.

Colonialism never ended on the continent because it evolved into a much more insidious form, just as Western chattel slavery morphed into the prison industrial complex in the US today.

Whereas all that the colonizers needed to steal resources from the motherland in the past was a musket in one hand and a bible in the other, they now invade major African cities armed only with the pretense of humanitarian aid and a high interest loan agreement smuggled into the fine print.

Even though we are given the illusion of freedom in the diaspora today, our fate lies entirely in the hands of college educated white men who write laws designed to target our blackness, and high school educated white men who enforce those discriminatory laws with equal parts violence and impunity.

You often hear rappers waxing poetic about how, if they didn’t have rap, they would have ended up either dead or in jail. The sad reality is, chances are that they’ll still end up incarcerated or cut down in the street by a flurry of bullet-sized, melanin-seeking missiles regardless of their current occupation or socioeconomic status.

Just as our bodies were only useful to white supremacy for the purposes of unpaid labor in the past, so, too are we equally as disposable when we fail to meet production quotas in the present. The price of our lives is still remarkably low, regardless of where we happen to live when that auction bell tolls and our name is called.

Despite the glaring similarities between black oppression in every corner of the world, we are still somehow unable to connect the dots. It’s as if a soft, milky haze is shrouding our ability to perceive that an injustice done to one of us is an injustice done to all of us. While we bicker over cultural appropriation taking place back and forth between the various iterations of blackness, white supremacy continues to indiscriminately plunder our lives and pillage our crops .

This system of racial checks and balances has, in effect, created a perpetual motion machine, wherein we provide all the energy needed to sustain our own subjugation by continuing to reap the seeds of division that were sowed by the first white hands that ever reached the untameable continent.

Until we realize that the reality of black struggle is a universal one, until we begin to organize and strategize means of self determination across self imposed and white dictated borders, we will never release ourselves from the yoke of global systematic oppression.

The Introverted Extroverted Empath

You may think that you have me pegged, my friend, but you don’t know the half.

I may seem outgoing, but only in limited instances, only on my terms and only when it suits me. I’m a recluse and a loner; a hermit crab that refuses to poke its head out from the safety of its foraged shell. Much like a hermit crab, I discard my shells after they’ve worn out their purpose.

After they’ve outlived their usefulness, I shed one exterior display of my internal clockworks for a brand new one. Like a brand new dance sweeping the internet streets, you never know where it’ll come from or how long it’ll stick around before fading into obscurity. You might never see that side of me again, no matter how long you stick around before you fade into obscurity.

My online personality is loud and bold, boisterous and uninhibited. There are no moments of self-consciousness displayed when you read my words, no glaring imperfections that can be used against me in a battle of the wits. If writing was battle rap, my bars would reign supreme over nearly everyone.

Whenever I write to get a point across, my words are measured and precise. My emotions are perfectly controlled for the purposes of effective communication. If you see me engaged in a heated debate with someone via textual correspondence, you’d probably think I was a self-infatuated egomaniac. That’s an easy mistake to make, if you conflate my unfiltered responses with who I am as a person.

You don’t see my personality, you see my unadulterated thoughts being communicated with machine-like precision.I write with conviction, because I write about the things that I care about. I write within my range of passions and rarely do I ever overextend myself.

When you see me extolling in vitriolic fashion in the comments section of an inflammatory Facebook post, you’d be hard pressed not to think of me as uncouth and ornery. You probably think I’m some sort of self-centered asshole who bullies his way through everyone in his path to get what he wants in life.

You probably wouldn’t picture me as a quiet person, a polite and reserved individual in most every situation. You wouldn’t think of me as someone who routinely lets opportunities slip through his fingers because someone else spoke up before he did.  Until, that is, we start discussing something I feel strongly about, in which case you couldn’t pay me to stop gesticulating like a madman.

When in the right setting, my passion far outweighs my reservations. The problem is, those settings so rarely involve interacting with new people, and so much of life revolves around that very same set of circumstances.

I don’t like new people, especially when I’m in close proximity to groups of them in unfamiliar settings for extended periods of time. Being forced to socialize with people I don’t know anything about, who put on airs and posture for each other’s approval, makes me feel lower than low. It’s all so facetious and there’s nothing I hate more in this world than a fake fuck.

I read people, absorb every detail about them. I see the lines that tie their actions to their statements, the contradictions and the fallacies therein. I observe their facial expressions and body gestures, I listen to the subtle changes in the pitch and tone of their voice. I see the redundant patterns of speech that they engage in as defense mechanisms to cope with uncomfortable feelings.

I can feel an authentic spirit on a visceral level, without being able to put that feeling into words, and am naturally drawn to them. I can smell a fake fuck from the opposite end of the Sahara desert, despite the innumerable sand storms and litters of pit viper carcasses strewn haphazardly between us. Truly, there’s nothing I hate in this world more than a fake fuck.

I’m outgoing, but I’m not sociable. I’m the life of the party, if only you and I are in the room and the party is just for us. I don’t like crowds but I love disappearing into a sea of bodies, shrouded in anonymity. I initiate conversations at will and shut them down just as quickly. I am immediately repulsed by the slightest hint of inauthentic behavior.

When pressed to do traditionally social things like dance in public or make small talk with a table full of people I don’t know, I shut down like a turtle in distress. I retreat into my shell and become catatonic for all intents and purposes. My skin is crawling and my instincts are screaming at me to run, run far away. Escape these fake fucks at all costs.

I remove myself from the situation without a single word uttered or explanation offered. I get up from the table, I walk out of the room unceremoniously. I’ll often go so far as to leave the entire venue and never be seen by anyone at that table again. I could care less about societal norms when my well-being is on the line, my fake friend.

I don’t have time to avoid being seen as rude, because honestly, my state of mind is more important to me than the convoluted thoughts running through strangers’ heads. Reality is entirely perception based, and your perception of me has nothing to do with my reality.

That’s your bag of mixed nuts that you need to sort through, but you most likely won’t even choose to. I have enough neuroses and idiosyncrasies of my own to deal with, why would I add yours onto my already crowded plate?

Shit, I gotta eat… Yeah, even though I ate.

The Limelight is Never Sublime Light

The Limelight is Never Sublime Light

One of the main reasons why I prefer relative obscurity to notoriety is because the more you put your life out there, the more people either put you on a pedestal or make sweeping negative assumptions about you.

They simplify you, to put it simply. People are simplistic in nature, because people are lazy. Too lazy to think for themselves, let alone to actively analyze their own thought processes and separate original thoughts from lifelong societal conditioning.

Anyone who’s even remotely in the general public’s eye gets propped up and torn down in the same instance. They get showered with false adulation in one breath, only to be chewed up and spit out in the next.

Like some cheap gum that’s lost its flavor, you go from being palatable to becoming completely off-putting almost instantaneously.

You become a victim of mass consumption in an instant gratification culture instead of an individual, complex being. You cease to be an actual person and become an idea, a product; a conflation of multiple public personas that share superficial similarities.

People do this to more easily categorize you inside a filing drawer in their head, to right click and hit shift + delete when they’ve had their fill of you. This is necessary to keep the dream of living vicariously through others alive.

Others can be easily discarded because they were always ‘other’ and never ‘normal.’ Others are kept at a distance because normal people don’t pursue their dreams and live their truths unapologetically. At least, that’s what they’ve convinced themselves of, out of mere fear of failure and fear.

People are altogether too predictable, by and large. Then differences that we perceive as separating us are only gargantuan within the confines of our own egos. If you know yourself, truly and honestly know yourself, then you can put yourself in anyone else’s shoes.

If you’re too scared to sit by yourself in the campfires of your own soul, then you’ll never understand why anyone does anything. Know yourself to know your enemy, but know your enemy to know yourself. They are one and the same.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Pt. 2

Stranger in a Strange Land, Pt. 2

It’s high noon on a Sunday, my favorite day of the week. I’m standing in the kitchen with no shirt on, a bathing towel nonchalantly draped around my waist.

I’m staring at my reflection in the kitchen window as I guzzle a fiber supplement drink that I just mixed up. Water drips carelessly off my body and patters onto the linoleum floors; haphazard slippery slope ahead.

A shower cap is placed snugly atop my dome piece, allowing the leave in conditioner to do its job more effectively. I wait for my post-conditioning oils to heat up on the stove, a heady combination of Coconut/Jamaican Black Castor/Olive.

Madvillainy plays on loop in the background and I have the house to myself. I quietly ponder out loud if my life has always been this eccentric, this unorthodox. This eerily peaceful inside my once fragmented psyche; completely at ease with all my idiosyncrasies and insecurities.

What may seem like a plain bagel with no cream cheese type of scene to you is actually a small miracle to me. This moment in time is only a reality today through no shortage of heartbreak and suffering, despondency and disillusionment from my immediate past.

There was a solid 5 year block of my life that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Think of it like walking in and out of hell on a daily basis, clocking in and out like a 9 to 5. Except this clock never got punched out, no matter how many times I tried to stamp my card.

I would walk a razor thin wire every night just to get to an open mic and spill my guts onstage, my mouth somehow unbloodied despite the countless razor blades held firmly under tongue.

The therapists that the state kept referring to my case were woefully under equipped to handle such a complex broken mind, such an emotionally conflicted heart. They couldn’t help me, they didn’t have the answers to piece me back together.

At a time when all my peers were pursuing degrees and accolades, I was sobbing uncontrollably with supplicated palms turned towards the heavens. I watched helplessly as I tried to prevent my soul from sifting between my fingers like sands in an hourglass. I was hunched over on bended knee, struggling to identify individual grains of Said through the tears obstructing my vision.

It was a path I was destined to walk in solitude, until I somehow brought it all together into a functioning adult male human Afro-immigrant-contradiction adaptation machine. I would wander endless hours in the Seattle rain, needing neither umbrella nor Northface jacket while I sought that which eluded me: a sense of self.

Acquaintances would constantly try to solve all my internal issues with the occasional clichéd non sequitur hurled my way: ’emotions are like waves; this too shall pass,’ or ‘no matter where you go, there you are.’ As if regurgitated words from an uninitiated mind would be the secret to my salvation. As if surrounding myself with people could make the jarring emptiness any more bearable. In time, the darkness roiling inside of me would become my closest ally, the loneliness becoming increasingly palatable.

A lot has happened between that point and where I now stand, but one thing is for certain: all that I had sought externally, I found within the depths of my own subconscious mind. After being humbled by such a solitary path for so many years, I’ve realized that all I ever really needed was God, Family and yours truly.

I’m at my best when left to my own devices now, when I have no outside influences or distractions. I crave solitude, I thrive in the solace of my own company. I embrace its suffocating hold over me like a soulmate would. I’m just as fine in a group setting, though I will always prefer complete silence to mindless blathering from multiple directions.

At the end of the day, this life is a 1.5 hour movie. You’re the main character and everyone else plays a supporting role. The script is yours to write as you live it, but keep in mind that not everyone wants to see you smiling on that red carpet at opening night.

Nobody owes you anything, so be appreciative when they offer you something. Be grateful for both the hardships and the blessings equally. Tell the people that matter to you how much you love them and never be afraid to ask for help or to be vulnerable.

Never be afraid to love yourself the way God intended. It might not seem possible today, but you never know what tomorrow has in store for you. I know I sure as hell didn’t.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Pt. 1

Stranger in a Strange Land, Pt. 1

It’s not easy being me. I think we can all relate to that sentiment, but some of us more so than others. It’s not easy acclimating to a foreign culture, forcing yourself to integrate into the confines of this newfound paradigm by shedding everything that you once held to be self-evident.

We all know that life itself is a journey, that we’re condemned to a continual fact-finding mission comprised of navigating our own psyches like the star ship Enterprise. What a lot of us take for granted, however, is the role that childhood stability plays in our self discovery processes.

Almost every conversation I have with a new acquaintance inevitably leads to their feeling unaccomplished for having a supposedly routine upbringing. They were born and raised in the same city that their parents were. They finished school there, got married there, and currently work in that same damn city.

They feel as if they’ve lost out on some mystical adventures, on tales of daring do and debauchery. They take that precious stability for granted, forgetting the old adage of the grass always being greener on the other side.

While they stare enviously at my tumultuous upbringing, I find myself doing the same for their run of the mill life story. I find myself wondering what it would have been like to live in one city for more than a full school year at a time, to have friends in my life today that I began bonding with in elementary school.

While they ask me what it was like fleeing the Somali civil war with my family at the tender age of 3, I ask them what it’s like having had one address for their entire adolescence.

People always ask me what it was like living in a refugee camp for 3 years, of having vividly violent memories that most action movies couldn’t replicate. They ask me what it was like the first time I stepped foot in an American classroom, aged 7, not speaking one lick of English.

They ask me what it was like to be called a nigger for the first time and not know what it meant. They ask me how I was able to retain my culture, my language, my heritage and my sanity despite being constantly uprooted like a common tumbleweed.

They ask me as if I actually survived those experiences, when in all actuality I came crashing to a screeching halt before I even got out of the starting blocks. I never quite know how to respond to these endlessly repetitive questions, so I usually don’t even bother.

How can one put into words a lifetime of  emotions and experiences so intricately intertwined that they may as well be viscera?

I’m not sure I can, but I’ll try to paint that picture for you as best as I can over the course of the next several weeks. Maybe you’ll get a little bit of insight into what makes me tick. Maybe you’ll learn to appreciate what you’ve been blessed with this entire time. Stay tuned, gang.

On Dreams & Their Inevitable Deferment

On Dreams & Their Inevitable Deferment

Martin Luther King, Jr. was not the only one who had a dream, though hWiTe liberals would tell you otherwise. We waste so much of our time opining endlessly about goals and aspirations that we wish to see realized in this series of revolutions around the sun that we call life. People sit on their apathetic asses at home, fantasizing about a childhood dream that they never pursued because society beat it out of them. The deferment of dreams is early onset like diabetes.

People have been conditioned to believe that dreams are never to leave the confines of the subconscious realm, in the deepest stages of REM sleep. They are endlessly admonished for daring to dream, for wishing to materialize their own reality breath by breath. Living from moment to moment is highly frowned upon in a modern capitalist society, for that would encourage independent thinking. That would foster revolutionary concepts such as the right to a fair wage and not purchasing more than you could consume.

That would slow down the means of production because too many people were refusing to be forced into a life that was never meant for them. The factory owner’s profits are almost entirely contingent upon the brow beaten working class remaining hopelessly resigned to a life of meaningless toil. So they, clever capitalists that they are, seize control of the means of production (your body) by investing in societal propaganda to keep you (meaning your conscious mind) plugged into the matrix. Slowly, as you relinquish more hope by the day, you find your dreams being permanently shelved, one at a time.

You run across Harlem Renaissance era poetry across your news feed, written by some queer black youth high off of reefer sticks in the back of a crowded jazz happening. Your eyes quickly scroll past these uncomfortable notions of dreams being deferred, about raisins in the sun and people on their deathbeds wondering why they never followed their hearts.

You see, the problem is, you think you have more time than you actually do. You are to blind to see the clock ticking ever closer to the witching hour, to see that you have an expiration date stamped across your forehead. This expiration date is written into the lines that form at the corners of your eyes when you smile, into the glazed over expression you get when people talk about how it easy it was to realize their dreams.

It’s a lot easier to walk down the the well beaten path to forge your own, primarily because you know exactly where it leads. There won’t be any surprises if you keep your head down and do what you’re told by the corporate overseers. The risk is minimal, for the outcome is nearly guaranteed. The only reward they promise you is the chance to remain housed and sheltered into old age, unless the stock markets do a sudden nosedive and rob you of your meager life savings.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to that bullshit. I never have, and I don’t see myself starting anytime soon. I may not have much, material wise, but that’s never been the metric of success that I use for my life. I believe in intangible wealth, in wealth of soul and spirit. I believe in pursuing knowledge relentlessly, in finding fulfillment within myself instead of outside sources.

I believe in the grand design, the higher scheme of things. I know how powerless we are in this life, regardless of whatever positions or titles we put next to our name. I realize that we are not our bodies, our place in this universe is more fleeting than the blink of an eye. Our existence is merely a wrinkle in time, not even a ripple in a pond.

Knowing this, how could I not dare to live my life like it’s golden? This is my one chance, and I won’t ever let your projections of insecurity push me off my chosen path. Just because you’re too petrified to forge your own path doesn’t mean that I have to be as well. The only thing to fear is God Himself, so why would I ever fear the possibility of failure? Why would you let your dreams fester and die? Why would you not get back in good standing with them, rehabilitate them? Just stop being a coward and get it how you live, my nigga.