I love this blog. Sure, the WordPress theme and template are outdated and therefore, as a result, coding on this site is becoming an ever-increasing challenge. And being that I’m a novice coder, I also have yet to get the coding exactly right for the mobile version of theLeftAhead. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that bugs me. Nevertheless, I love this blog dearly. You might think I’m crazy because I have never made one dime for the work that I do here and there is very little traffic on this website. In other words, this blog isn’t monetized and with the exception of when I share newly-posted content on social media in a deliberate way to draw some eyeballs, pretty much nobody reads it. The only reason why you’re here reading this right now is because the title for this post is provocative and you caught wind of it on social. You are not here because you have theLeftAhead saved in your “favorites” so that you can check the site regularly for new content as part of your online literary diet. I know, lol, and no worries, it’s all good. I’ve grown to be okay with the fact that nobody regularly reads my blog and I care deeply for it even still. You see, my dream as a child was to be a writer (well, NBA basketball player too, but I’m 5’9” and slow so…yeah). With the help of my late best friend, Brian, I launched this blog in June of 2011. For nearly a decade now, theLeftAhead has been a place that is making my childhood dream of being a writer come true. That is why I care for this blog so deeply. It is a place for my art. It is a place for my dreams. It is a place for my spirit. For me, theLeftAhead is magic. Whether or not anyone else notices is immaterial. I believe that time is an illusion (or at least merely a construct of the human brain to compensate for its limitations in comprehending the true nature of the universe and existence) and therefore, here has been/is/will be a place to forever gain a glimpse into the core of who I am as a human and spiritual being. My soul is always here, one click away, for anyone who cares to look. A bit of housekeeping since I just turned 42 and I have yet to write a will. For Jenn or anyone else who might be in charge of decisions for my estate after I’m gone, it is my wish that theLeftAhead stay available online in perpetuity. I’m not really too concerned at this point with the details of how it’s maintained, just that the content is available online for anyone in the world who seeks to find it. Writing is my passion, the bastion that I last in.
I mentioned my postmortem wishes for this blog not to be morbid but because I have been figuratively working myself to death since March. When the pandemic hit and we were flung into a health and economic crisis overnight, whether due to the trauma of facing a new threat to my own mortality (generally, as we all have had to face) or minimization there of because I am not an essential worker forced to put myself at risk every day but rather a worker who has the privilege to do my job from home and therein has not had to personally suffer economically (I’m not entirely sure), I entered a manic space that has been driving an acute focus from within me to organize and fight back with everything that I’ve got. It is unrelenting and I haven’t been able to turn it off. It has come at great personal expense, I recognize this. I know Jenn, while having been amazingly understanding and supportive of my obsessive devotion to putting everything I have into organizing during this moment of crisis and opportunity, is weary and deserves to have a fully present husband again. She deserves this especially given that there’s mutual care needed for another reason that we are handling as well as we can, given the circumstances, but is still really hard. Jenn and I had had aggressive plans for trying to make a hard push to overcome infertility prior to the pandemic. Those plans were consequentially put on hold in March and yet our biological clock has continued to tick. I think part of my motivation for working like a maniac comes from empathizing with parents who are struggling to work full time while caring for and schooling their children during these unprecedented times and me trying to visualize what a challenge that must be. Since we don’t have to deal with those struggles ourselves, I think I’ve been motivated to try to do everything I can to help build a better world for everyone else’s kids and potentially the child(ren) we may have in the future naturally or through adoption. Nevertheless, I know there is underlying pain and sadness for both of us about the sudden change in our family planning due to the pandemic and working like a maniac to keep it in the background is not a healthy, longterm solution.
Along with my marriage, this obsessive drive has also come at great personal expense to the work that I do here as a writer. From 2011 through 2019, I treated this passion project as a second part-time job. I have baked in regular blog series (with schedules and deadlines) like Black & Silver and Friends 20/20 to this website that I had maintained for years as a point of pride. I brought a discipline to these blog series that I would characterize as a similar discipline to going to the gym as an athlete. I used the fully self-imposed schedules and deadlines of these blog series as a way of getting my reps in for sharpening my abilities as a writer, to constantly be working to strengthen my pen and my voice. I’ve known since I was a little kid that I have natural ability as a writer but I’ve also known since my early twenties that in order to truly be good and dare I say great one day, I have to be willing to put in the work. I was getting my reps in and putting in the work for years and then it mostly just halted when the pandemic hit in March because, with all of the physical and economic suffering in our country associated with the pandemic, all that has seemed important to me since March is my work as an organizer. In essence, when the pandemic hit, I replaced writing as a second part-time job with more organizing as my second part-time job to being a full-time organizer.
Having said that, I will also say that I see creativity and art as powerful tools that organizers can wield to be effective in our craft so I haven’t stopped writing all together and I certainly haven’t stopped being an artist during this period. In fact, I’ve done some of my finest work as an artist while organizing obsessively for most of this year. For example, Jenn and I released Tourist, our first single as the band James on May Day. I’m extremely proud of this work as a piece of art and as a political statement. If you are open to giving it a listen now, I think you might also still find it topical and potentially even motivating six months to the day that we released it. Eerily, it has also proven to be prescient because of the horrific murder of George Floyd that occurred later in that same month. In the song, I predict that it is in the streets that we (in the movement) “will learn to fly until we take our ladders back.” Over the summer, we (as a movement) absolutely did learn to fly through peaceful protest in the streets and significantly shifted the narrative in our country around systemic racism and police brutality. As part of that struggle, I took part in my union’s 8 minute and 46 second work stoppage on June 11th which inspired another piece of art that I’m extremely proud to have created this year organically through my organizing, a poem titled, 526 Seconds. I was so shaken by my experience of withholding my labor for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of reflection, that I wrote the poem straight away and published it on theLeftAhead the very same day. The words poured out of me with such force and urgency that it fortified my resolve and sustained my energy to be in the streets for the rest of the summer. Please understand that for those of us in the movement, this was a gruelingly stressful summer. Not only were we protesting during a pandemic at risk to our health and the health of our loved ones but we were subjecting our bodies to a constant danger of our nonviolence being met with brutal force by the police as well as violence by right-wing extremist counter protesters. The stakes were already astronomically high with the health and economic crises but adding a new layer of pain and devastation to our nation’s racial justice crisis this summer and the associated physical risk for those of us who saw it as necessary to be in the streets protesting peacefully for black lives and a better future was exhausting. At least it was for me. I certainly could’ve used a break by the end of the summer.
Lo and behold, there was no break to be had as we rounded the corner after Labor Day right into election season and were forced to stare another crisis dead on: the threat of fascism in the United States of America. The weekend after Labor Day, in preparation for how I would conduct my election work, I embarked on an experiment completely out of my comfort zone. I decided to send private messages to some of my high school friends who I am connected to on Facebook and who I know to be supporters of Donald Trump based on their Facebook activity. All of these friends still live in Texas where I went to high school. Some of them are hunters, some of them are veterans, some of them are fiscal conservatives and some of them are conservative Christians but all of them I had known to be rational and decent human beings back when I knew them in real life. I approached each of them privately and individually with a simple premise. While Donald Trump may be the current standard-bearer for having your values and the issues you care about codified into law, you must be able to recognize that he is completely devoid of morality and is abusing the power of the presidency and eroding the moral fabric of our institutions and values for his own personal benefit. He does not believe in anything but feeding his own ego through power and wealth therefore he is a threat to democracy itself. For patriots who care about our constitution, our American values, and our children having a person of character to look up to in the highest office in the land, there is only one responsible choice available on the ballot and that is Joe Biden. Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice either but there is not any single issue of more importance than democracy itself so your relationship with who you support for president cannot be transactional if that transaction leads our country away from democracy and into fascism. While I was met with a range of responses from respectful disagreement to “fake news” defiance after initiating these conversations, I did not receive one single, solidarity response from a Trump-supporting high school friend in Texas who was open-minded to being persuaded by my argument to vote for Joe Biden. That weekend immediately following Labor Day, I learned something vitally important about this election. While the cult of Trumpism is extremely dangerous and will prove (regardless of the outcome of this election) to be a dark stain on our society when this chapter of our country’s history is written, it is impenetrable over the short-term as far as changing hearts in minds before November 3rd. I concluded then and there that the only way to defeat Donald Trump and the threat of fascism in the United State of America in this election cycle is to outwork the other side (including overcoming their voter suppression efforts) by motivating nonvoters, expanding the electorate, and to Get Out the Vote like democracy depends on it. Because it does. To that end, even though I was already exhausted at the end of the summer, I have poured everything that I have and then some into election work since my realization during the weekend after Labor Day. Every time I see someone posting something online that is afflicted with the disease of Trumpism, rather than argue with them (which is a pointless endeavor) I have channeled the anger and frustration of seeing people I care about who are swept up in this cult to the point that they are defending the indefensible into finding a voter who isn’t afflicted with the disease of Trumpism and driving that voter to the polls. Ultimately, Trumpism only afflicts roughly a third of our population. There are more of us than there are of them. Even though we know that they will cheat through voter suppression, we also know there are enough people in this country who still believe in democracy, decency, and American values that if we continue to pour everything we have into doing the work and sprinting to the finish line, we can persevere, overcome, and God willing, finally put an end to this nightmare once and for all. Presidents are indeed temporary, as the featured image for this piece suggests. Also, the author of this clever Election 2020 yard sign is damn right that Wu-Tang is forever. Nonetheless, I still fundamentally disagree with the yard sign’s premise being applicable to this election because fascists dictators and authoritarian leaders aren’t necessarily temporary. Donald Trump, our sitting President and the candidate on the ballot with authoritarian yearnings has not committed to a peaceful transition of power, has indicated that he believes he deserves a third term if given a second, and is already threatening to undermine our democracy’s ability to count every vote and protect the results. Michael Pence, our sitting Vice President is aiding and embedding this president’s anti-democratic and immoral behavior. In Election 2020, I’m working my ass off to get the Democratic Party ticket elected and theLeftAhead endorses Joe Biden for President and Kamala Harris for Vice President because Wu-Tang is Forever.
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I had the immense privilege to be in the crowd at the AC3 Festival in Atlanta, Georgia on October 7th, 2018 when Wu-Tang Clan performed Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in its entirety. Every living member of the Wu was there along with Old Dirty Bastard’s son, Young Dirty Bastard, who performed his father’s verses in his place and honor. (Evidence towards my belief that time is an illusion? The spirit of ODB was absolutely present in that time and place through his son’s tribute and artistry.) The show was miraculous and it will certainly live with me forever. I believe that Wu-Tang Clan is forever (specifically) and hip hop music (more generally) because the music was birthed from and breathes life into the movement for racial, social, and economic justice in the United State of America. There is a beautiful symbiotic relationship between hip hop music and the movement. Wu-Tang is forever and the movement to perfect the union in this country forges on forever. One inspires the other to inspire it back and so on and so forth we go until one day we will win. Not only do I believe that hip hop music has a symbiotic relationship with our movement, it is also my belief that music is a tool for dismantling racism. In exploration of that belief, I very recently embarked on another artistic endeavor that I am extremely proud has come to fruition as a result of my obsessive dedication to my organizing work this year. Last week, I released D7 Organizers for Black Lives: A Spotify Playlist. This work is the manifestation of an anti-racism music survey that I put together for the amazing team of organizers that I work with most directly. The playlist consists of songs of hope, comfort, understanding, joy, and determination and I believe that it is an unapologetically glorious demonstration of the inalienable truth that black lives matter. When there is an overt racist in the White House, I believe that election work to defeat said overt racist is anti-racism work and that is one of the fundamental reasons why I have been pouring everything that I have this fall into election work and Get Out the Vote activities. Nevertheless, while we are working like crazy to defeat this immediate, malicious threat to black and brown lives we must also not forget that we live in a society built on systems of systemic racism and those systems will still be in place even if we are victorious in Election 2020. Black lives matter as a part of and also independent of election season. It was extremely important to me that while I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into election work this fall that I not lose sight of also continuing to do anti-racism work that is independent of election work. For that reason, I’m really, really proud of what my brilliant colleagues and I were able to accomplish through this playlist and I’m excited to continue to pursue music and art education as anti-racism organizing work once this election has been resolved.
If you’re curious how I’ve been able to keep going at this pace since March, I’m not entirely sure other than I know I have a constant, burning, urgent desire to want to transform this country so that all people, particularly the generations coming behind me have a healthy planet and sustainable environment, access to healthcare as a human right, fair wages and working conditions, and an equal opportunity to succeed in the United States regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion (including a lack there of). Particularly regarding the issue of climate justice and more recently with the global pandemic that has killed 231,000 Americans to date and thrown millions into economic crisis, I feel the urgent URGENT need to move rapidly towards putting people first and doing what’s necessary based on what the science tells us to end the pandemic and address the rapid advancement of climate change. I know that these things can only be achieved by breaking the corporate stranglehold on our government and reversing the massive acceleration of wealth and income inequality. I’m proud to have devoted much of my organizing work during this pandemic towards taking on corporate power directly. I’m well aware that electing Joe Biden in and of itself will not meet the urgency of the moment but it is also true that we cannot afford to waste four more years or frankly, even two more months of watching Donald J. Trump put his own personal interests ahead of the interests of the American people. Where we are at as a country in this moment where a born rich conman who lacks morality, empathy and decency is still in the running for a second term despite his abysmal record over the past four years (particularly in regards to his inability to deliver anything but more suffering to working families) as well as his trampling on our Constitution, his racism, and his bullying of people who disagree with him is absolute insanity. The playlist and music (generally) have been a sanctuary of sorts to help me keep my personal sanity as I’ve thrown everything that I have into doing my part in trying to defeat Donald Trump in Election 2020. Tomorrow, I will do another phone bank to Get Out the Vote for Joe Biden. Then I will do everything else I can to sprint to the finish line on Tuesday until the last polls are closed. When those polls finally do close on Tuesday evening, I will be able to rest briefly in the comfort that I personally gave every thing I could toward winning this election. Of course, stories like this one never seem to end. Even though I’m twice as exhausted now (with election season finally drawing to a close) as I was at the end of the summer of protest, once again I’m preparing for Tuesday not to be the final chapter of this marathon. If Donald Trump and the Republicans try to undermine the results of the 2020 election, I’m preparing to find the energy to do everything I can to help protect the results and ensure that every vote is counted. If Donald Trump is illegitimately claiming victory on Tuesday, I’ll see you in the streets on Wednesday.
Please don’t worry if you know me personally. I’m exhausted but I feel good physically, all in all. I’m planning to take some extended time off and rest after the election is resolved. I’m also planning to go to my doctor to get a physical because I’m in my forties now and I recognize I’ve been subjecting myself to a worrisome amount of stress these past eight months. My mental health is frayed but fine…nothing that a week with an empty calendar and a good book can’t fix. The most noticeable longterm effect of this period in my life is that there is a little bit more gray in my pandemic hair and a lot more gray in my GOTV beard. I don’t really mind the gray in my hair and beard, I just can’t stand it in our criminal justice system. Anyway, I say all of this to emphasize that you need not worry, I’m planning on being around for a long, long time and I’ll get around to writing a will eventually. Much like Wu-Tang, I want to make sure that the work of theLeftAhead is forever. And, hey, guess what? In case you haven’t noticed it yet, the fact that this election post is going up tonight means I’m writing on the blog again! It feels really good to be getting in some reps and I’m looking forward to getting in more when that time off finally arrives and then bringing back regular reps once I get back to a healthier work/life balance. Lastly, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post and you haven’t voted yet in Election 2020. Please, please, please make a plan and…
Vote, write now.
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