Friday, December 29, 2006

The Myth of the Magical New Year's Eve

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

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

While, many of us end up doing this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you? Your NYE myths or stories to share?

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Popcorn. James Brown. Dreamgirls. Gerald Ford.

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

More Books For The Collection

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2006

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

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

I Dream Of Eileen... Davidson.

OK. Weird. Holiday madness I guess.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Oh how could I forget this one.

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

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

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

Five stars up for Babel!

To Wynn In Vegas

Mood Tune: Rakata by Wisin y Yandel (YouTube)

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

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

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

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

What's on your holiday reading list???

Friday, December 15, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

So go enjoy your JTV... Jengo TV.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Resolution To Write.

Mood Tune: Illegal by Shakira (YouTube)

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

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

Writers groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Brothers and Sisters

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

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

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

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

Like We Never...

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

National Black Justice Coalition Turns Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBJC membership levels begins at $35.

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

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tomorrow They Will Kiss. Eduardo Santiago.

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

Tomorrow They Will Kiss.

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

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

Isn't that fun?

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

A very cool read.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

True Grits by Blaine Teamer. Author of Shady.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pride. Debra, Kamika, Deondray, Quincy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 02, 2006

College Scholarships

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go on with your young and gifted self!

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Cool To Get Tested

I wrote this entry last year for World AIDS Day.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Writing Residencies

Learned about this from Tayari Jones site.

The Gibraltar Point International Artist Residency Program. Picture it: a month in Toronto, with accommodations, studio space and meals, at no cost, where you can work on your project.

If you want to stay state side, and go West Coast, try the VONA Voices Summer Writing Workshops. This program, at University of San Francisco, is aimed at cultivating the artistic voices of people of color. I did this a few summers ago and LOVED it.

There's also Squaw Valley Community of Writers in the summer, near Lake Tahoe. I've heard great things from Ibarionex and Reyna.

OK. Kinda early to be thinking about summer residencies. But I know a lot of folks set their resolutions to write about this time... and committing to apply for a residency is one step to making that resolution a reality.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Making of Dr. Truelove

Haven't picked this one up yet, but the cover just drew me in.

The Making of Dr. Truelove, written by Derrick Barnes.

It's a young adult novel, featuring a black male high school student as the main protagonist and voice, who's a jazz and math expert by day, and a wannabe ladies' man by... whenever he can try and be one.

I've been into YA fiction lately-- Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon, Haters by Alisa Valdes, Gentle's Holler by Kerry Madden. And I've been hearing that it's THE hot market in fiction, especially YA fiction of color. But, of course, the hot markets shouldn't sway your writing. Write what you write best.

And the rest will follow.


(Photo by Ibarionex Perello)
One of the major feedback items my editor and agent give me when we're in the revising process is for me to give more backstory.

That is... show some of the past of particular character's actions that have made him/her react in the way they are today. Or expand and flesh out a character so that the current scene you're writing has some context. It can be done with a memory of a past conversation, showing a past event and how the event establishes a pattern of behavior, or taking time to show how a current event or setting came to be. In a way, it's almost like daytime drama, when the writers use flashbacks to show how or why characters are the way they are.

Backstory is important and an area I admit I struggle with in my writing. Growing up in a tv/MTV/microwave age, I tend to want things to happen quick. I want to get straight to the action. Readers, on the other hand, want to take time to understand the story and characters they're investing time to read.

Authors, too, have a backstory. Yesterday, I mentioned that Bebe Moore Campbell was one of the writers from the early 1990s class of black authors, who inspired me and made me believe I could one day write and have a novel published. And I thought it would be fitting to share a little of my backstory with you...

"I’ve always wanted to write novels. But I never felt like I had any role models to look toward who’d say, "Yes. You. Frederick Smith. Black kid. Detroit. You can write and publish a novel.

Yes, there were the proverbial and heavy role models such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin, all of whom were part of my high school English class repertoire. And as well liked, revered, and respected as these legends were for their writing style and subject matter, I always longed for something a little more accessible. Something that spoke to the experiences I saw among my peers and neighbors. Middle class. Post civil rights era. Smart. Not in trouble. With a little more access and privilege than the generation before us. The kind of black and brown folks the media didn’t/don’t often highlight on the six o’clock news..."

For the rest of my backstory, visit M.J. Rose's Backstory site, where you can read the backstories of many authors.

It's nice to see what, who, and how some of your favorite authors were inspired to enter the literary world.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bebe Moore Campbell.

Just read that bestselling author Bebe Moore Campbell has died. (NY Times article).

She wrote many novels that I've enjoyed, such as Brothers and Sisters, 72-Hour Hold, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, and others.

I got to meet Bebe Moore Campbell once, very briefly, during the West Hollywood Book Fair in Fall 2005. Very classy, intelligent, a great speaker, and someone I looked up to as a writer.

She's in that class of black writers from the early-to-mid 1990s, such as Terry McMillan, E. Lynn Harris, Eric Jerome Dickey, Connie Briscoe, who inspired and made me believe pursuing a literary career was possible.

Definitely made an impact.


OK. So we're having this problematic dialogue, it seems, around the country... about the use of the N-Word.

Problematic to me, because to me, no one should be using the N-Word period. White. Black. Latino. Asian. Kids with street cred. High-powered business people. Geeks. The elderly. Friends. Haters. The young. Enemies. Barbershop buddies. Whatever.

If people knew and really valued their history... it wouldn't even be a dialogue. Or a so-called "re-claiming" of the word. For what?

Anyways, been thinking about the whole resurgence of the dialogue since the Michael Richards N-Word outburst last week in L.A.

And there's some interesting online dialogue taking place at Keith Boykin's site on the incident and the use of the N-Word in the modern-day context. Jasmyne Cannick has a good column on the subject today.

This morning, read on Tayari Jones's site about the new article in latest Esquire Magazine, comparing "good" black people and "bad" black people... and the article actually uses the full N-Word in the headline. No astericks, abbreviations, nothing. You just have to read Tayari's site for more info.

Last year, Clay Cane's site did a great post on the use of the N-Word in today's context called, Embodying White Supremacy in Our Own Communities. Check out his analysis.

Earlier this year, we held a classroom discussion on the N-Word, and screened the recently-produced documentary, The N Word: Divided We Stand, as a catalyst for classroom discussion. The film carefully balances the dialogue and gives historical and modern context around the word's use. For many of my students, born in the mid-to-late 1980s, and with NO fleeting memories or understanding of life before civil rights legislation, that historical context was enough to make them question their use and acceptance of the word.
That's a start. Your thoughts?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Simplify Your Holidays

Mood Tune: Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt (YouTube)

There's a book I keep on my shelf that I always pull out to look at as we head into December: Simplify Your Christmas by Elaine St. James.

Lots of interesting ideas, including ways to cut back or substitute meaningful traditions for store-bought ones. The one suggestion I like is looking at our personal motives -- Why do we shop, instead of make? Do we give out of obligation or to hold on to someone? Do we do the trip back home just because we're supposed to, and not not because we want to? Do we let guilt drive our holidays?

It can be a fun and stressful time of year. My personal stressor -- dealing with the numerous holiday party invitations. I like being invited. I hate feeling like I have to choose... or having more than one party to attend in a night or weekend. My buddy Eric B. and I were talking about how already every weekend until New Year's is scheduled. Kinda crazy.

What are your holiday stressors? Or ways you've simplified?

And of course, this is taking the MAJOR assumption (that we tend to do in the U.S.) that everyone does celebrate something during the month of December.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Give and Gift Again

Some things are good the second time around... A movie, so that you can catch and recite your favorite lines. A former lover (if you're single), for old times sake... and just because. A second piece of chocolate... because it tastes good.

And at this time of year, a more serious topic of second time around.

To gift or re-gift?

I admit. I don't re-gift. However, I do supplement original gift packages with books I've read and received. And I always attach a note with the book, saying that I read it and thought the receiver would enjoy it. My library is huge and I want to spread the literary joy I've gotten. But I always give original gifts... or nothing at all until I have time to get an original gift.

But apparently, re-gifting is getting major press and buzz this year more than ever. Bad economy? Environmentalists and recyclers at work? Just plain frugality?

Check out these posts on re-gifting:, The Frugal Duchess, Dumb Little Man, and if you need some sound advice on keeping your finances in order, read the work of economist and scholar, Dr. Julianne Malveaux.

And for fun gift wrap and other things, check out Anne Taintor website. Carry on.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Dozen Roses

Mood Tune: A Dozen Roses by Monica (YouTube)

I'm really digging the new song by Monica, from her new CD The Makings of Me.

I swear I've repeated it like 872 times this weekend in my car and on my iTunes... in between hearing it on KJLH here in L.A.
Can't buy all of you roses, but can send you a dozen in cyber-world for all your support and for buying books.

Is it possible to overdose on a song like A Dozen Roses? Nah, I don't think so. But back to writing :-)

What It Feels Like For A Girl

Mood Tune: What It Feels Like For A Girl by Madonna (YouTube)

Still reading Haters by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez, and hope to be finished by the end of the weekend. Loving the novel... a fictional tale of super rich kids, set in a super diverse area of SoCali, and with all the super meanness that goes on between the haves and have-nots, the regular kids and the popular ones (in this book, the haters).

Had a good conversation with one of my former students who is now a high school teacher for L.A. Unified. She was telling me about all the hating that goes on toward young women who stand up for themselves and don't take stereotypical gender play in school.

She showed me a flier for a kid's birthday party that she confiscated. No rules for the boys to attend. But for the girls... no skirts below the knee, no "granny panties" (I've learned so that when popping to reggaeton and hip hop, the thongs are visible), and no "haters" (but misspelled with 2 T's, which means, young women who won't talk back or stand up for themselves when boys feel them up or objectify them.) They basically want video vixens in the flesh in their classrooms and at the high school birthday party. She planned to talk with the parents about the invitation.

Pretty interesting stuff these days in high school. Makes me glad I'm not a parent at this time, though I "surrogate" many at the university, and I have young girl cousins. Makes you really wonder about the state of how boys and girls in high school...


Friday, November 17, 2006

Money. Finances. Future.

Mood Tune: Paid in Full by Eric B and Rakim (YouTube)

I got inspired to write about this because of Den's blog entry, Financially Fit, and Dumb Little Man's blog entry on 15 Debt Secrets. And in a minute, I'm going to share how I lost $25,000+ recently.

So one thing I've been trying to be better at is the whole managing money thing. It wasn't exactly dinner table conversation when I was growing up, other than "go to school, get a degree, get a good job... with benefits."

I've managed to always have good jobs (with benefits) and have never been unemployed. Lately, I added novel writing to my jobs. I've always had a check coming in. However, I never really got schooled on a lot of money issues that go beyond getting the paycheck, such as: saving for an unemployment crisis, saving for retirement, managing credit, saving for a house, and the ever-popular handling credit cards.

I'm not a financial planner. But most work places have a financial planner assigned to the organization, who you can usually meet with for free. I did, a few years back, and got put on a plan that I hated at first... but now I'm happy I did.

Well, I'm not good at the unemployment crisis saving since I'm gambling I'll never be unemployed... or without a book contract. I do save for book-publicity expenses. I'm very good at the retirement saving, since I'm gambling that I won't have kids to take care of me. I've learned how to manage credit and cards, and learned how to delay gratification, and my credit score has risen dramatically from then to now. And this year, mostly due to something my father left me, I was able to acquire a couple rental properties in the midwest.

Now, I wish I'd learned and acted on these areas in my early or mid 20s. And so for all you blogger brothas and sistas out there who are in your early 20s, it might be a good idea to start setting some financial goals for yourself.

Actually, the wake up call for me was this: I loved, Loved, LOVED clubbing and going out in my 20s. I still do, but I look for freebies and guest lists and all-inclusive parties and open bars when possible, lol. But back to the 20s. I did a rough estimate that from age 21 to 26, I might have spent $100 at minimum (sometimes more) a weekend on clubbing (not including pre-dinners, movies, or going-out clothes), at roughly 50 weeks per year... That's $5,000 a year on nightlife (entries, valet, drinks) alone. Now multiply that by 5 years... I gave club owners at minimum $25,000 during those years in my early 20s. And when you factor in paying for other people, or holiday nights that cost more, or bartender tips. We're talking minimally, $25,000. That was my early 20s. Now I'm in my early 30s.

I always joke about that time, $25,000 and no husband to show for it. Not that going out is all about meeting Mr. Right, but if that search for Mr. Right is keeping you in debt and away from owning property or having a decent retirement -- because let's face it, if you're LGBT more than likely you'll be taking care of yourself in your 60s and 70s-- is the fun worth the financial sacrifice?

Anyway, I'm no expert. Far from it. I still worry about coming up short each month like everyone else. And I'm not against clubs or going out either. We need our social outlets and a lot of our black-owned and black-run clubs are dependent on our patronage. It's about perspective. I know a lot of my brothas and sistas struggle with money, finances, fun, and the future. And I hope that we all start to take it a little bit more seriously... for our community's future and sake. Maybe 2007 will be the year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Husband's Girlfriend.

Mood Tune: Blow The Whistle by Too Short (YouTube).

Hmmmmm. Uh, I've met couples who have temporary and permanent "arrangements." Whole 'nother story and blog, huh?

My Husband's Girlfriend is the latest novel by Cydney Rax, former Detroiter (like me) and now Houstonian, who runs a very successful site on the latest and greatest books. Book Remarks.

It just released in November 2006, and is getting mentioned in the December 2006 Essence Magazine, so I imagine a lot of us will be reading this over the holidays.

The gist of My Husband's Girlfriend: a temporarily sexually mismatched couple -- he needs it, she's not feeling it at the moment. They make an arrangement. He can get it twice a month, blow the whistle style only, but he can't get emotionally attached or fall in like/love. From the book title, you can imagine he does.

I did read Cydney's first novel, My Daughter's Boyfriend, which came out a couple years back. Muy hot. Sometimes you can't help who you fall for... or can you?

Let the drama begin...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Call Me Mister. Scholarship Program.

Do you know any black males who are high school seniors who want to, or are willing to, go to college in South Carolina... for free?

There is a consortium of black colleges and non-black colleges in South Carolina looking for black male students aspiring to be teachers, and will send them to universities/college for 4 years.

Check out the information at Call Me Mister website. As I get more, I'll share with you.


Mood Tune: Supersonic by JJ Fad (YouTube)

Looking for something to nose around into? Well, if you're in L.A. the first weekend of December, you gotta check out the Fusion: LGBT People of Color Film Festival.

It'll feature some of the best and brightest shorts and feature films by and about people of color who happen to be part of the fam. Looking forward to quite a few of the films.

Anyways, off to a lovely day of meetings with committees and students and some phone calls to East Coast about book stuff.

But in my mind, I'll be dancing and humming along to Supersonic. I just hope them big everLASTING ears don't overhear me singing!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Anthropornography: The Sexual Politics of Meat

Mood Tune: Gitty Up by Salt-n-Pepa (YouTube)

How does a person become a piece of meat? Is meat consumption tied to physical and sexual violence in society?

Carol J. Adams answers these questions by finding hidden meanings in the culture around us. From advertisements to T-shirts, from billboards to menus, from matchbook covers to comics, images of women and animals are merged — with devastating consequences.

Thus, the term anthro-pornography, no dash.

Got an email about Carol J. Adams making an appearance in Los Angeles soon, discusssing her books, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory and The Pornography of Meat.

From what I see on her website... all the connections between meat consumption, feminist theory, pornography, and advertising make sense. Of course I have more investigating to do. And I also have to think more about how my meat-eating contributes to the conditions of the world.

But that's the cool thing about being at a college campus... you can investigate, satisfy curiosities, wonder about things no one else seems to care or think about... and you're a better person for just having your mind ponder the shades of gray.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Mood Tune: Pumps and a Bump by MC Hammer (YouTube). Don't ask.

Anyhoo, lazy loungy weekend after Friday's Brand New Heavies concert.
But today, after lunching in Pasadena, stopped by one of the chain bookstores to see what's new. As if I need another book to read. The to-read pile is dozens high already.

But good thing I browsed. Found a new one by a recent favorite.

A novel about a single mother in Arizona, who has a deadbeat ex-husband and a young daughter. Already read the first chapter, and in true Darnella Ford writing style, she keeps it heavy and humorous at the same time.

If you haven't heard of her, check out her website. And then also check out her previous books -- Rising and Crave. Crave, I read a couple years ago, and I loved it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Brand New Heavies Do L.A.

Mood Tune: Never Stop by The Brand New Heavies (YouTube)

And I was there while The Brand New Heavies did their thing last night at The El Rey Theatre in the Wilshire District.

My new best friend Eric B., his significant friends I got to meet, and I did boys night out for the concert and it was a lot of fun.

Then at some point I glanced over like five people to my right, and was happily surprised to see my writer friend and inspiration, Tayari Jones, at the edge of the stage watching the show. We caught up, did some writer gossip, talked about our love of Brand New Heavies, and then took some photos. They're posted on her site and blog entry on BNH.

Great night... and a great way to end the week after my own personal busy-ness, and some highs, lows, and losses in the news.

I was able to dig out my Brand New Heavies CDs out storage. And now I'm channeling N'Dea... well not quite, but you get the picture. :-)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Mood Tune: The Boss by Diana Ross (YouTube)

While I'm on this hiatus between books -- it's done, just awaiting its turn to be published -- I've been keeping myself busy with a lot of fun projects.

I keep a day job where I get to shape young minds with my progressive agenda (muah hah hah, reds!), I facilitate fiction workshops or do talks or sit on panels when asked, and I judge pageants like I did a few weeks ago. And I write.

But nothing compares, or is as gratifying as the latest project that I've been working on.

I am a documentary producer.

Since this summer I've been researching a group of women -- black, Chicana, lesbian, academics -- who happen to be feminists, and who pushed for the founding of a Women's Resource Center in the East L.A./L.A. area in the early-to-mid 1970s. It's called "A Place of Our Own." It's 22 minutes long.

Tons of work... leafing through old OLD newspapers to find stories and sources, working on Google to see if they're still alive, interviewing people, editing, selecting music, financing, setting historical context, blah blah blah.

Anyway, I got to see a preview of the final cut yesterday and I was SO excited and kinda moved to tears... seeing a finished product come from something that was just an idea I had less than six months ago. It's slick, professional, and a moving and compelling story.

And while it may not make any film festivals or win any awards, I'm excited that the people in SoCali who get to see it when it debuts this week will see how they themselves can make their own history... or should I say HERstory.

Guess Who I Saw Today? Well, um, Last Night...

Mood Tune: Guess Who I Saw Today? by Nancy Wilson (YouTube)

I always liked that song by Nancy Wilson... it's a nice, classy, and clever way of letting him... or her... know that you know what they're doing behind your back.

But anyways, I skipped watching election coverage to go see author Clarence Nero (Three Sides to Every Story) speak at In the Meantime Mens Group in L.A.

Very good event and worthwhile. And so funny how I ended up there.

During the day, while browsing blogs in between meetings and events, I came across Clarence's name and book at least a half-dozen times. I was impressed with the list of literary endorsements he'd gotten for a debut novel, and I wondered how did he secure such a lineup. I figured I'd have to wait until next summer while doing my own book tour work to meet him and find out.

Well, Trent Jackson called me and asked if I was going to In The Meantime to see this new author. And then my new best friend Eric B. called me to ask the same thing. There was no question. I was going.

You can read all about the book on Clarence's website. It's getting good reviews and seems to be doing well in the market. And the sexy cover and urban marketing angle are enhanced by delving into issues of race, class, and gender. It's a keeper. I bought a copy. And I'll be reading it soon.

Anyway, I'm glad I missed election news (good news for the Dems... yay!) for a chance to see a fellow author and friends.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Yeah, we talk about bacon, boys, and books a lot on this blog.

But Tuesday, November 7, you have to go vote if you're eligible. Skip work, go in late, leave early, re-schedule your carpool, whatever.

Oh, and make sure you have your photo ID, comfortable shoes, and the voter guide sent to your house -- in case they try to pull a Florida or Ohio or Jim Crow on you.

A LOT is at stake, especially if we want to have an opportunity to challenge what's been happening the past six years.

And besides, Nancy Pelosi is from California, she's fierce, she's progressive, and it'll be great to create history by making her the first woman Speaker of the House.

OK. That's all. Back to whatever you were doing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Seduced by Bacon

Mood Tune: Gimme by Jill Scott (YouTube)

Geez, if it were only that easy.

But seriously, it's Sunday morning. I'm ready for breakfast/brunch before doing my work. And getting me in the mood... for food, is this new book.
Seduced by Bacon: America's Favorite Indulgence.

I'm such a foodwhore, that on days when I say I'm doing only turkey sausage or turkey bacon, when I see/smell that hot sizzling pork bacon on someone else's plate, I give up the pretense of being a healthy eater... and find myself seduced by bacon.

When I was a kid, my dad used to wake/make us get up at 6:30 in the morning before school for a full breakfast that he made -- eggs, grits, orange juice... and bacon. The smell of frying bacon in the house always was an incentive for me to forego a few extra minutes of sleep.

Weird... how the smell of bacon brings back memories... of childhood, summer camp, that "morning after," or of there being nothing else in the house that's cheap or quick to make.

I guess we're all seduced by bacon at some point or another in our lives.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Betty Going Bold?

Mood TV: Golden Girls Rose Nyland tells "Great Herring War Story" and "Sonia Klinginghoffer Story" (YouTube)

Most of us loved her as the clueless Rose Nyland on Golden Girls.

Before that, some loved her as the devious Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Now, some of my fellow soapwatchers are sharing that Betty White may be joining the cast of The Bold and The Beautiful as the mother of Stephanie Forrester, the Queen B of the show. And apparently, Betty White's character, will be even MORE of a Queen B than Stephanie. I love it... the war of the Queen B's.

Rumor or fact? I can't prove. But whether it's true or not, just the idea of Betty White joining one of my favorite daytime dramas is enough to make my Friday.


One of my favorite filmmakers is Spain's Pedro Almodovar, who is bringing another wonderful project to the big screen. It opens today.


Film synopsis: Three generations of women survive the east wind, fire, insanity, superstition and even death by means of goodness, lies and boundless vitality.

It stars Penelope Cruz, Lola Duenas, Carmen Maura, and Blanca Portillo. And there's already Academy Awards buzz about the film and performances.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ready. Set. Write.

It's that time of year again.

National Novel Writing Month, where those who dare try to finish writing a 50,000 word novel in a month... the month of November.

If you dare, that's about 6 pages a day of writing this month to reach the goal of NaNoWriMo.

To help, Dumb Little Man provides 50 Tools That Can Increase Your Writing Skills.

Good luck.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Do We Need Another Wave?

Mood Tune: I'm Every Woman by Chaka Khan (YouTube)

Have the SUV, soccer practice, working a 50+ week at home or in an office, and a Costco Card become the American Dream that has replaced our desire for true gender equality in the U.S.?

Considering that we haven't had a woman president in the U.S., women's rights to choose are still pretty much goverened by men, LGBT hate crimes are on the rise in big cities, women are still the majority of rape victims and survivors, and women earn less than men for the same work... do we need another wave of feminism?

Such ideas are pondered in the new anthology, We Don't Need Another Wave: Dispatches From the Next Generation of Feminists, edited by Melody Berger, and featuring contributions from Jessica Hoffmann, Stephanie Abraham, Dean Spade, and Alix Olson among others. It's published on Seal Press.

And next week in Los Angeles, Melody and several contributors to the anthology, will be pondering the questions, "Why aren't more women, LGBT folk, and people in general feminists today?" during a panel on the future of the feminist movement in L.A. and beyond on November 9 at Cal State L.A.

What do you think? Do we need another wave?

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Hunt for Food & Booze & Men

Mood Tune: This Time I Know It's For Real by Donna Summer (YouTube)

Three of my favorite things... food, booze, Donna Summer, errr, um men. DS is a fave though.

And this weekend I feasted on two of the three -- with two birthday parties and a baby shower. Uh, no booze at the latter. But afterwards... another party. Why am I reverting to my favorite college drink -- midori sour with a splash of vodka? Soooo 19-year-old sophomore.

Anyhoo, the holiday shopping season is upon us. And this little doozie, Food & Booze, edited by Michelle Wildgen and published by Tin House, would be a nice treat under your/my tree. It's an ode to, you guessed it, food and booze.

Two quick little quotes from essays in Food & Booze: Elissa Schappell quotes Dorothy Parker in "Ode to a Martini" -- "I like to have a martini/Two at the very most --/After three in under the table/After four I'm under the host." Or this one from Chris Offut's essay, "There are two kinds of writers, you will hear people say, the ones who drink and ones who quit."


There's another kind of holiday shopping going on too. Shopping for men. And my friend Clay Cane has followed up one of my faves by him, Halloween and the Hunt, with another Clay classic, The Hunt: Part Deux. Good stuff on black gay relationships that everyone can relate to.

Clay's writing is phenomenal and his upcoming novel, Ball-Shaped World, is going to be a hit.

Anyhoo, hope your hunt for food, booze, and men is a success. This time I know it's for real.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Oh Well. Clik. The Core.

Mood Tube: The Winner Takes It All by ABBA (YouTube link)

Oh well. Tigers lost. I was kinda looking forward to a Detroit comeback... seems like that's the eternal theme of Detroiters.


Went to two great parties yesterday. I thought I'd only make one because both were on opposite sides of Los Angeles -- one in Pasadena, one in Long Beach. Made both and both were fun. Happy Birthday Joe (Pasadena) and Sabrina (Long Beach).

OK. Something else. I got an email that I made the short-list for Clik Magazine's Elite 25 (who have contributed to black LGBT life in the U.S.) Talk about a nice surprise! Now, that short-list of 75+ nominees will soon be narrowed to 25. It's an honor to make the short-list... and it's nice to see the other men and women on the list-- congrats! Many are friends of mine. Makes you realize that a lot of people are making a difference... and that's always a good thing.

I've been a little skimpy on the workouts lately. Maybe averaging 3 sessions a week. Maybe if I had a core trainer like Oprah's Core Coach, I'd force myself to work out a little bit more. What an incentive!

Oh well. Off to the office. A baby shower. And whatever the weekend brings.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Macho Paradox

Heard about this book. Think it's a good one to add to your collection.

The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz.

It looks at why some men hurt women and how all men can help. Heard a great interview with the author early this morning.

There is a printable list on the website featuring 10 Things Men Can Do To Prevent Gender Violence. Print it out and post it in your workspace. Give one to your boss.

While women face the brunt of violence and bias in our male-dominated world, including the LGBT community, men can play a large role in challenging and ending the practices that subordinate women.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tracy Chapman Kinda Day

Mood Tune: Baby Can I Hold You by Tracy Chapman (YouTube link)

This is one of my favorites by Tracy Chapman... but if you're really looking for a beautiful BEAUTIFUL love song, you gotta hear her song "The Promise" on the New Beginning CD.

Feeling in a Tracy Chapman kinda mood today.

Monday, October 23, 2006

If Beale Street Could Talk

A literary classic that I'll be picking up very soon.

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin.

A few millions more might be picking it up too, as Essence Magazine has selected the book as its latest Book Club pick.

At the heart is a love story between Tish and Fonny, a young couple in NYC -- Harlem to be exact. But issues of police intimidation, pregnancy, separation, racism, and many other social issues come between their love and relationship.

More review on ChickenBones Journal by Robert Detweiler or 1974 New York Times Review by Joyce Carol Oates. (Reader discretion of reviews always advised, as there may be some details revealed you may not want to know right away.)

I've read a few novels by James Baldwin, but not Beale Street. Totally looking forward to it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Go Tigers!

Mood Tune: Jump by Aretha Franklin (YouTube link)

Go Detroit Tigers... The Big D loves a good time... and when you win, the whole city (my hometown) is gone jump! :-)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

On Blast

Mood TV: Dominique Meets Alexis on Dynasty (YouTube link)...

(Thanks to my boy, Eric B., a fellow Dynasty-lover who I flake on sometimes... you deserve to put ME on blast... still love ya!)

Ugly Betty has become the must-see LGBT TV this season, especially with scenes such as the one pictured left, when Wilhemina (Vanessa Williams) oh-so-subtly read Betty (America Ferrera) last week during a staff meeting.

Well, it wasn't that subtle. It actually was kinda sad. I've been on the not-cool end of things before... and survived. Still, it doesn't feel nice.

Anyway, you can always catch up with Ugly Betty during your "lunch breaks" at your desk. ABC airs the full episodes online after they've been broadcast on TV. Hopefully your boss won't put you on blast.

And if s/he does, you can pull a Dominique or Alexis... and try to get the last word in.