The Other DMX Lesson

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

Let me first extend my deepest sympathies to the family, friends, and fans of DMX (né Earl Simmons). Full disclosure: I am a Traditional Jazz, Bebop, CuBop, Afro-Latin Jazz, Tin Pan Alley, Soul/R&B, Johnny Mathis music fan. Aside from a couple of Rap tunes, I am not much of a Rap/Hip Hop fan. My former students keep me up-to-date on the genre. So, this blog is not going to be filled with memories about when I first heard this very talented man who died too soon. I do hope, however, that DMX’s passing does more than have us publicly bemoan the perils of substance abuse, but rather, we Black folks start thinking seriously about mental health. I have no way of knowing if DMX had any form of mental disease, but a lot of drug users do…

Way back in the day, a friend as close as a brother, had a pattern of woofing down about FOUR 16-ounce Schlitz Malt Liquor Beers, coupled with about a fifth of Vodka, in one sitting over a couple of hours. Yet, I never saw him drunk. He would sleep 8 hours, then get up fresh as a daisy and go to work the next day. This was his daily ritual. He never had a hangover, if you can believe that. I couldn’t understand how he did it. Later, he was diagnosed with “Mania,” often an early symptom of Bipolar Disorder. The excessive booze was his way of self-medicating, of literally slowing down his brain that was constantly racing on all cylinders. The excessive alcohol made it possible for him to function, even if it was an unhealthy way to get some relief.

Now, drug abuse can cause mania, but drug use can also be a response to the mania itself. When I learned that DMX—a long term, off-and-on-again substance abuser—had a massive heart attack that put him in a coma with little brain function, I wondered if the source of his inability to permanently kick his drug habit was rooted in an undiagnosed mental illness. I don’t know. We may never know, but it is certainly a possibility.

We, in the Black community, have a serious mental health crisis precisely because, en masse, we don’t take mental illness seriously enough. Mental illness is not prayed away; it has to be treated. We casually and often humorously say that people have “lost their minds,” but sometimes they have actually done just that—lost their minds. A failure to seek treatment or to encourage someone to seek treatment means the disease gets worse. Sometimes, as in the case with my old friend, using both legal and illegal substances are signs of a larger problem that, if identified, can be successfully treated.

As of this writing, it has not yet been confirmed whether DMX’s heart attack, subsequent coma and death were the results of an overdose on opioids or some other drug. Even though the majority of opioid addicts are white, we have too often dismissed opioid addiction as strictly a “white” phenomenon, forgetting that there were/are glaring racial disparities in opioid addiction diagnosis and in addiction treatment. We can’t even afford to recall, with nostalgia, those days back in the mid-20th century, when there were virtually no statistics on “Black Suicide” because back then, for the most part, Black folks rarely, if ever, committed suicide. That day is dead and gone too.

Today, the second leading cause of death for Black youngsters from the ages of 10 to 14 is suicide. Let me repeat that: Today, the second leading cause of death for Black youngsters from the ages of 10 to 14 is suicide. And now it is estimated that Black children are more likely to commit suicide than white kids. When you have time, just read the data: Addressing the Crisis of Black Youth Suicide.

No matter what mental or physical problems led to DMX’s erratic drug habits and premature death, it was fairly obvious that he was an immensely talented man. We will read one tribute after another in his honor. Inevitably, people will mention how he “battled his demons.” They will easily recall when they heard DMX say something profound, something that changed their lives. What too many of them will not say is when they noticed a change in his behavior or habits or health or moods, and then tried to do something about it. And that’s not just a problem, it’s a shame.

Let’s do something more palpable than wring our hands and hang our heads in prayer. Say something to friends and family members when you witness erratic behavior and/or substance abuse. Pay attention to your own mental and physical health. Pay attention to your children’s mental and physical health. Call a psychiatrist, a physician whenever you believe it necessary. Ignore people who tell you that you are over-reacting. Help stop the trend of us losing too many of our people much too soon. Àṣẹ.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

A Thought About Black Panther

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2018 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

“Royal Purple” by © Leslye Joy Allen

This is not a review of the film Black Panther.  This is a brief musing about what crossed my mind after I saw this film.  First, Black Panther is unapologetically “Black.” I use “Black” here to indicate that while the film is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, it also includes Africans of a variety of ethnicities, African Americans and a genuine nod to the entire African Diaspora most of whom are descendants of former slaves in the West.  I am a member of that African Diaspora. The film also gives a few cultural nods to the Ndebele, Yorùbá, Maasai, and Akan peoples on the African continent (thank you, actor-vocalist-friend Saycon Sengbloh for pointing this out first).  The film gets the multi-facted roles of African women so very right.  The film also has some serious messages unlike any messages you have ever heard in a Marvel Super Hero movie.  Don’t worry, if you have not seen it yet, I’m not going to ruin it for you.  All I can say is that it is an entertaining joy ride of a film that will make you think…really, really think.  With that said, here’s what I thought about immediately after I saw Black Panther.

Black Panther has stirred up a genuine sense of pride in Black Americans that we don’t get to feel with this much enthusiasm too often.  It has taken decades of hard work to undo some of the psychic and spiritual damage done to Africa’s descendants in the West who have endured brutal chattel slavery, Jim Crow, systematic racism and discrimination, police brutality, you-name-it.  It has taken decades of hard work and scholarship to undo some of the psychic and spiritual damage done to Africa’s descendants in the West who, for centuries, were told that Africa had no real history, no real contributions to civilization when all of what these descendants were told is/was/remains patently false.  However, it is dangerous to over-romanticize any history; to make any and every description of our African ancestors totally positive. Black Panther, in its own unique way through fiction, de-romanticizes history by showing us a multi-ethnic, multi-generational Wakanda with all the friction and righteous compromise and conflict such diversity can foster.  You leave the movie theater proud, but fully aware that Africans (and we African descendants) have tremendous gifts and flaws not because we are or ever have been inferior or superior, but rather because we are human.

I remember a lecture given by the late African scholar, Dr. Ali Mazrui back in 1996 where he stated that to deny Africans the ability to be wrong was also the same as denying them their humanity.  Dr. Mazrui was always controversial.  He said the only African-American activist that he had any real respect for was Randall Robinson, the founder of Trans-Africa. When asked why he only dug Robinson, Dr. Mazrui said, “Robinson not only raises his voice when Whites do something wrong to Africans, Robinson speaks out when Africans are doing something to wrong to other Africans.”  I’ve never forgotten that statement and what that statement truly means.

When you love your people, you praise them when they are right and you don’t make excuses for them when they are wrong.  You work to correct them.  You speak out against racism, colonialism, and the exploitation of your people no matter who the adversary is.  That lecture by Dr. Mazrui, and so many lectures given by visiting and former professors drove home that I could not afford to care as much about how Africans and African-descended peoples looked to the rest of the world more than I cared about how well or how poorly they/we all were doing.  If you love your people you don’t worry about what their image is and how it affects you as much as you worry about their well-being, period.  Black Panther shows just how difficult that can be, but it also shows that it can be gloriously done…

Now, if you don’t exactly understand this post, it is probably because you have not seen Black Panther yet.  It could also be because you know very little about the continent of Africa’s very complicated history.  However, my points will be clearer once you’ve opened a few books and taken the ride to Wakanda.  So, get to the movie theater.  You won’t be disappointed.  Wakanda Forever.

Copyright © 2018 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

Thorough Good Thurgood

by Leslye Joy Allen

Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate, Doctoral Student

Copyright © 2013 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

What could “Thoroughgood” ask for

when he did not dig his birth name?

I like “Thurgood, much better,” he said.

But what else do you do when your classmates at

Lincoln

Wrote stories and poetry as in Langston,

Sang and danced as in Cab,

Redeemed the Gold Coast into a new Ghana as in Kwame?

You did what all of us could do now, IF

We paid that much attention to each other.

We would do what you did:

You built on what you knew;

Rejoiced in what you knew;

and created a New World.

– Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2013

**The late U. S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 with the birth name “Thoroughgood” and he attended the HBCU Lincoln University with poet and writer Langston Hughes, entertainer and musician Cab Calloway and with the future President of the newly independent nation Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) named Kwame Nkrumah.  Marshall died January 24, 1993.

Copyright © 2013 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.

9+ Goals for Black Folks for the Next Four Years and Beyond

by Leslye Joy Allen

Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Doctoral Student

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

1.  Do not spend one dime at anything owned or managed by Donald Trump.  Trump is within his rights to dislike President Obama; he is within his rights to criticize President Obama’s policies.  He should not be allowed, however, to disrespect the office of the president simply because the person who occupies that office is a person of African descent.  He can call his behavior whatever he wants to call it, but if you are Black, you know exactly what Trump’s problem is.  Do not spend your money with him or with any person or organization that does business with him.  Here’s an extra history lesson on Donald Trump for you:  When Trump filed for bankruptcy over a decade ago because his casinos lost money, he tried to blame federal and state laws that have little control over Native American casinos.  Because Native American Nations are technically sovereign nations within the United States, states and the federal government have not exercised a high degree of regulation on these casinos when they are operated on lands owned by Native American Reservations.  Trump voiced opposition to some states and the federal government’s lack of interference and regulation of Native American casinos because he wanted to monopolize the casino industry.  What kind of a person would deny Native Americans—arguably the most oppressed group in the United States—a means of self-determination?

2.  Boycott Florida.  Keep your Black behinds off its beaches and out of its hotels.  Stay out of Disneyland.  Do not even buy Florida oranges and orange juice.  Here’s another history lesson: In 1990 White Cubans in Miami and other Florida cities designated South African leader Nelson Mandela persona non grata because he dared praise Fidel Castro for supporting him when Mandela was fighting against an apartheid system that demoralized and murdered hundreds of thousands of South African Blacks.  Do not misunderstand—White Cubans have the right to hate Fidel Castro.  He stripped many of them and their ancestors of their property in the early days of the Cuban Revolution.  Other individuals were imprisoned and brutalized.  To diminish or disregard Castro’s persecution of them is not fair.  However, many of these same White Cubans also persecuted and routinely discriminated against Black Cubans.   Moreover, when any group of people suffer persecution—particularly as long and as virulently as Black South Africans—you would think that Mandela, a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years, would receive some level of understanding and empathy from other persecuted individuals.  Mandela did not receive that kind of consideration in Florida.

Florida has also had a lot of trouble with voting procedures.  Remember the state  needed federal and Supreme Court intervention to settle the 2000 presidential election.  Florida is also the same state that spent much of 2012 trying to disenfranchise voters to the point where it angered so many voters that they came out in record numbers to vote in the presidential election.  That number included entire communities of Latinos, African Americans, Jews, women, and etcetera.  It also took the state three days to finish counting the votes.

This is also the state where in February 2012 Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black boy, was killed walking home from a store, unarmed.  We can grant George Zimmerman, his killer, the right to call the police and say that Martin looked suspicious.  Yet, until he actually saw Martin do something, Zimmerman should have stayed in his car as the 911 Operator told him to do.  Do you need me to keep going?  Do not give Florida your money; and demand this boycott of Florida from all Black organizations, performance artists, politicians, clergy, you name it.  We have earned the right to protect our interests.

3.  Keep your money in your pocket and in your bank account as much as possible.  Many of President Obama’s enemies think that WE Black folks only take handouts from the government rather than earning a combined $836 billion dollars a year working on a variety of jobs and in a variety of professions.  So many of the President’s enemies do not know or believe that WE Black folks place a minimum of over $500 billion dollars (or more) back into the United States economy every year.  Since so many folks assume WE contribute nothing, let us hold on to our money and spend it wisely and only with those businesses, corporations, and individuals that put something tangible back in our communities.  If you want to know where our money goes, visit: Target Market News and read the best consumer and spending reports on Black Americans on the web.

4.  Face the reality that we need to cut federal spending.  Some social programs need a serious overhaul or elimination.  For example, the Housing Voucher Program (formerly called “Section 8 housing”) demands that the people that qualify for such housing must have an income that is at least 50% less than the average income in the neighborhood where the house of their choice is located.  Rental rates are based on the average rental rates in the neighborhood where the houses are located.  Typically Housing voucher renters pay 30 per cent of that average rental rate, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) paying the remaining 70 percent to the owner of the property.  Occasionally renters’ portion of rents are raised should they begin to earn higher salaries.  However, there is no time limit on how long an individual can remain in this kind of housing.  There is no concrete incentive in this program for participants to seek higher-paying jobs and risk disqualification from participation in the program. Even worse, if property values suddenly go up in a neighborhood where some Housing Voucher renters live, these same renters have another risk: they might be priced out of the houses they currently rent and live in.  Why continue to rent to a Housing Voucher Renter if you can acquire another renter that can afford the higher rents without the assistance of HUD?  It is time to set some limits.

5.  For that percentage of Black Americans who have problems with Latinos and other immigrants, remember that a considerable number of Latinos and other immigrants are also people with African ancestry (whether they admit it or not).  While I have certainly met many folks who would rather die than highlight or admit any African ancestry, I have also met many more who freely acknowledge and embrace their Africanity!  Many of them have lived here in this country for a long time and many others who are recent arrivals are here to stay, so you would do well to build or continue building coalitions with them and find ways to work together.

6.  Do not put up with racism, but do not hyperventilate about it either.  Some White folks are not going to change.  Stop wasting your time, efforts and energy trying to change them.  And those White folks that you know that are always so nice to you, but who always try to look the other way when you or someone else brings up a racist incident; and when they can no longer ignore what happened they try to act like that kind of incident is so unusual—Be courteous to them, but keep them at arms length.  No matter how seemingly innocuous and/or well-meaning and/or kind and/or generous they may be, any person or group of people that attempts to deny the obvious are part of the problem.  It is not your job to teach them or fix them.  No one can fix anything if one refuses to look at it for what it is.

7.  Invest in Africa!  Hell, the Chinese are already heavily invested and building in several developing African countries.  You might as well join the effort.

8.  Global Warming is not a joke; and we as a people contribute as much or more to the problem as anyone.  Read everything you can from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)  (I have been a member for 15 years).  Study the reports on the household and cosmetic products you use at Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Make sure you read their report Pollution in Minority Newborns,” if you want to know how serious this is.  Check out my old blog “Mercy, Mercy Me: Black, Clean and Green!” plugging a younger and progressive Black man who runs a business that offers products that help clean up the environment and save you money in the process.

9.  Talk to people and listen to people who do some kind of work or express ideas that are different from the work you do and from the ideas you express and believe in.  This is how new ideas are born and it is also the best way to find out what is truly going on with people you may someday have to rely on.  I recently met a group of young academics that only socialized with each other.  These same academics also wrote some of the most useless scholarly work I have ever read.  I also have met many younger performance artists (35 and under) who do the same thing—they only interact with one another and still cannot figure out why no one comes to see the show!  If you do not communicate with folks outside your profession and inadvertently imply that those other folks’ contributions are not as important as your own contributions, then you cannot expect them to follow you or support you.  The current Republican Party and Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign provides a good lesson—They lost the election for a variety of reasons.  Yet, they truly lost the bid for the presidency because they only talked to each other and they believed that their opinions were the only ones that mattered; everybody else had to have been wrong.  Do not stay in the same kind of cocoon, that is unless you want to resemble the current Republican Party.

10. This line is for you to add your own personal goal.  You know what you want to do.  You know what you are capable of doing.  Do it!

Peace.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.

No Pedestals

by Leslye Joy Allen

If you love someone

the worst place for them

is a pedestal, which

was built to hold

statues, figurines, bric-a-brac,

and yet, it cannot hold anyone you love

or expect to love,

as these objects of your affection, always and

too often, fall from these podiums and break bones and smash

images, sturdy and fragile, that never

could withstand that inevitable tumble to earth where you knew

they would eventually land,

that is, if

you ever really expected to embrace them and immerse yourself in

the fullness and richness and contradictions of

their humanity, rather than in that narrow space of where you assumed

them near perfect, a space

that you could never even occupy yourself

nor in the cement plaster idolatry of

the legend you

imposed on them.

Please, no pedestals.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

(I have been blessed with wonderful teachers who have insisted that my being a historian had nothing to do with my ability to write something other than history.  Much love & respect to my two favorite Partners-in-crime: Poet-Professors Dr. Waqas Ahmad Khwaja & Dr. Steven Guthrie of Agnes Scott College.)

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.