Happy Birthday, Prince (Even Though I Know You Did Not Celebrate Birthdays)

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Since April 21, 2016, I have been in a weird place. A sad place. A celebratory place. A place of remembrance. A place of discovery. I told myself (and my hubby) that after today, I will make an honest attempt to move on. Its hard feeling like you lost someone you knew so well, that you really didn’t know, and didn’t know you.

Prince Rogers Nelson would have turned 58 today. He was  is my favorite artist of all time. Please indulge me as I go off topic a little for today’s post as I give my tribute to him on the anniversary of his birth.

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You may remember last year on mother’s day, I went alone to a Prince concert.  Not only was that my way of escaping the infertile mother’s day blues, it was fulfilling a dream of mine since I was six years old: see Prince live in concert.

 I’m not a fan because I  thought he was sexy (though he has had his phases where, I can’t lie, he was lookin’ fine). I love Prince for his artistry and creativity. Even as a kid, I was just drawn to the music.  At six years old, I didn’t know what a “sex fiend was”, but I loved the way the music sounded and felt. When I was 9 or 10, I asked my Mom if I could go to see Prince in concert (it was 1988, Lovesexy tour). Of course the answer was “No”, but what 10 year old asks with all sincerity to go to a Prince concert? Me. When I decided I wanted to be a creative when I was around 13 or 14, I really started to appreciate him on another level. By high school I was fully immersed in all things Prince. Reading books, buying up CDs new and old, examining and dissecting lyrics. He made it OK to be different. When I was  a teenager, I was that kid that stepped juuuust outside the box. Enough to not be the same (because I never, even to this day want to be the same as everyone else),  but not enough that people thought I was strange. Just kinda weird. When I was in the 10th grade, I had this hat that was…different. I can’t explain it with words. But I loved it, and it was me. One day, a security guard at school said to me: “That is the ugliest cute hat I’ve ever seen.” It was the best compliment to me. It made me love the hat even more. That’s the confidence Prince gave me: I could wear ‘ugly-cute’ things with pride.  I mean, it takes a certain amount of confidence, and zero-f**k giving to be a grown man rocking 4 inch heels, wear eyeliner, and pants with you ass cheeks out. Prince made me OK with who I was.

Young Prince lookin good1 If I were 14 and not all of 1 or 2 when this poster was out...
Young Prince lookin’ good!
If I were 14 and not all of 1 or 2 when this poster was out…

Going through teenage angst, and the uncertainty of my 20s, and feeling like I didn’t quite fit in, even with friends all around, his music gave me a place to feel comfortable. When I  needed creative inspiration, he provided it. When I was in love, or when I was heartbroken, he had a song that somehow  expressed exactly what I felt in my soul. He was a friend I never met in person . An inspiration. He was everything I wanted to be as an artist.

He introduced me to new sounds of music. Because his music was everything from R&B, to Rock, I began to appreciate forms of music I might not have otherwise. He helped me expanded my mind and my world.

And, I can’t lie. I think I learned about kissing from Prince. When I saw Prince kiss Apollonia in Purple Rain, I just knew when I got older and got a boyfriend…that’s how it was gonna be. (well…..)

What was portrayed as arrogance and weirdness: not wanting to talk to people, being so tightly in control of his image, being a perfectionist: I understood. He was (I’m almost positive) an introvert. Introverts in general have little to no patience for small talk, or being “fake”, and keep their world small, keeping those they trust and like most close.

Prince through the years
Prince through the years

But of course, Prince was not perfect, and was, after all, human.  Prince comes with a story of loss that does relate to infertility. In 1996, he and his first wife Mayte Garcia lost their son to a rare genetic disorder just one week after birth. Mayte recently admitted to losing a second pregnancy to miscarriage not long after. The pain of those losses seems to  have taken a huge toll on their marriage. Its a reminder to us, that while we have a lot of emotions and feelings about not conceiving or losing a pregnancy, we’re not in it alone. Our partner also experiences disappointment, fear, loss, and heartbreak.

Prince was not afraid to speak his mind. About the record industry. About God. About Chemtrails. About Black Lives.

He gave anonymously to libraries, music programs, and schools. He quietly donated money to the family of Travon Martin. He stood up for Black empowerment.

He was a Philanthropist and humanitarian.

As much as I, and all of the Purple Army feel like we knew him, the truth is we didn’t know all of him. We knew the parts of him he allowed us to know. The recent medical examiner’s report released June 2, 2016 lists the cause of death as accidental. Cause: overdose of Fentanyl.

I struggle with this, as he was known to be a clean eater. A vegan. Not a drinker or smoker, or into drugs. But after years of doing splits, leaping off of speakers and pianos, and wearing four inch heels, I’m sure his body paid the price. Even after hip surgery, I’m sure some level of pain persisted. My understanding of chronic pain is not much, but I know that it can be debilitating.

If he did become dependent on painkillers to perform, it doesn’t change the way I feel. If anything, I have empathy. Both Prince and Michael Jackson were so in love with music and performing, and wanted perfection, that they pushed themselves to the extreme limits. Literally wearing themselves out.  Possibly not only numbing the physical pain, but emotional and spiritual pain from the past as well.

 

I fully expected Prince to be walking out on a stage with in full swagger and guitar strapped around him when he was 80 years old, still tearing it up. We just can’t believe he’s not here. I know I can’t

Picture credit: Billboard 2016
Notes, flowers, and more left at Paisley Park Picture credit:
Billboard 2016

Since April 21, the world has been mourning and celebrating: Dance parties, tribute bands, memorials, Facebook groups, Instagram pages, and movie marathons. People are fully taking advantage of the temporary leniency and distraction of his attorneys, posting concert footage, rare interviews and music on YouTube (They are back on it now, and videos are coming down with the quickness) Then of course, there was Madonna’s tribute…

 

It remains to be seen if BET will live up to their claims in the shadiest promo that’s ever been shown. (See what I did there Prince fans) Today they announced some of the artists scheduled to perform in the BET tribute.

We shall see….

 

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The point is, today, I want to say Happy Born Day Prince Rogers Nelson!

Artist. Humanitarian. Visionary.  Businessman. Teacher. Performer. Human. Friend. Alexander Nevermind. Jamie Starr. The Kid. Camille. “That skinny mothaf***a’ with the high voice”. Christopher Tracy. The Artist. Genius.

You’ve given us all so much. I know you are with God, and you will live forever through your music and philanthropy.

Peace and Be Wild.

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Writer’s Block: Blogger Kryptonite

Bloggers writiers block
I interrupt my on topic blog writing to announce an extreme case of writers block: Yup it’s that bad that I just want to write about the writer’s block that is preventing me from writing. (But if I can write this little vent session, do I really have writers block?)

I have been on vacation all week and have come up with at least three great blog post ideas. They are all in some state of “draft” and unpublished here on WordPress.

This is extremely frustrating and I’ll just chock it up to both work and wedding stress that I can’t finesse an idea or get the sentences just right to make a great (hell, I’ll settle for decent) blog entry.

 

Stay tuned! I don’t plan to be in the grips of this block for long…I hope

 

Coming out of the Closet: I’m a Beyonce Fan

Lets take a break form Infertility and Fibroids, and go Off Topic! A new category you will see more of, because sometimes, you just need to talk about other things.

 

Hi, my name is Jai, and I’m a Beyonce fan.  There. I said it for the whole interwebs to see!

 

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I got a new iPod for Christmas, a much needed upgrade, and I noticed as I upgraded iTunes (again) and re downloaded music, that I have a lot of Beyonce music. Like, a lot. More than I thought I did.  Now, I would never categorize myself as a Beyonce hater, because there are segments of  people who have an irrational hate of all things Beyonce (the polar opposite of the Beyhive: those that love everything Beyonce says, does, and thinks). I just never really would have categorized myself as a fan. I liked a few songs, but not a fan. I see myself as an artsy music girl. I love Erykah Badu, Mos Def (Yasin Bey), Janelle Monae, Santigold, Jay ElectronicaPrince! (who is my absolute favorite artist of all time) Surely, I don’t have room in my heart to be a fan of Beyonce’s. But, she did perform with Prince at Grammys in 2004, and he did say she was talented, and more knowledgeable about music than he thought……

(The low key shade though…)

Maybe I was still feeling some kinda way about the shade-tasic way the original Destiny’s Child broke up. I was a DC fan, but the day I turned on the original 106&Park in my college dorm and saw the Say My Name video with two new, random chicks, I was in shock. So much so that it was the topic of discussion in my crew for at least three days.

Maybe because I felt like I was too old to be a Bey fan. By that I mean that I’ve noticed that women who are really big fans of Beyonce are usually 30 and under.  They would have been tweens or little girls during the whole Destiny’s Child era.  They were a nice group of young ladies to look up to: stylish, talented, sassy but not raunchy. Those girls followed Beyonce’s evolution over time from a child and teens point of view. Adoring her every move. Women and girls 30 and under idolize her. They truly look up to her as a role model of success, style, and womanhood.

Plus, I always felt like she came across as a little vapid in interviews. But I see now that it was all an evil genius move. Well that, or her “people” never really wanted he to come off as having a mind of her own. Either way. Now, she seems more willing and comfortable speaking her mind and doing what ever the f she wants!

I have a friend, Shay, who went through this conversion a few years back. She and I were the last 2 standing in not being Beyonce fans in our circle. In fact, she referred to her as Beyowolf. Then, some time after the 4 album came out, Shay gave in, and joined the legion of Bey fans. It was just me, and I was refusing to go down.

As I recently went through my music library, I noticed not only did I own a lot of her music, I liked it. Like, those are my jamz! Doing choreography in my living room jamz. So, after I broke down and bought the Beyonce album on iTunes (yes, I got it a year later because I refused to be on the Beyonce bandwagon. That’s how serious I was about not being a fan), I had a long talk with myself and had to admit: I’m a fan. I respect her drive and push to make music and stay on top of the game, her ability to stay relevant, be a trend setter even.  Her style. Her stage show. As a former dancer, I LOVE the dancers she hires. And the choreography?!  The production. The costuming. Slaying! The fact that she manages to stay genuinely curvy and be in shape. I’m just here for all of it.

Now, I’m far from a Beyhive member, I won’t take it that far, but I am a fan. I just am.  And its OK. I can like Miles Davis, and Portishead, and The Foreign Exchange…..and Beyonce.

OK Bey. You win.    Bow down, bitches indeed.

UPDATE
Just as I started to settle in to Beyonce fandom, I may have to take it all back. Beyoncé is slated to sing Take my Hand, Precious Lord at the Grammys as a part of Common and John Legend ‘s performance if Glory from the movie Selma. The problem? Ledisi (Who is an awesome singer in her own right) sings this song (as Mahalia Jackson) in the movie. So why is Beyonce singing it, when Ledisi will be in attendance at the Grammys because she’s nominated for her own song? Good question. I can only guess there are politics involved. The better question is why did she except?
Major side eye, Bey.

A Pause for the Cause: Thoughts on Ferguson, MO and Michael Brown from a Future Mom

I am a very socially and politically aware person. However, I try to keep politics and social issues (not dealing with women’s health) out of this blog. Mainly because I want to keep this a neutral place, and for the most part, a light place. But there are always exceptions. The events of this past week is one of them. As a woman, a Black woman, and a daughter, niece, partner, and a potential mother of Black men, I could not let this moment go by without using my voice to say something.

Unless you live in the deep woods with no communication with the outside world, by now you know about the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer, and the subsequent anger and protest in the town of Ferguson, MO. Before I go any further, let me make these few points clear in an attempt to lessen any confusion or misinterpretation.

1) I understand that most law enforcement men and women do their jobs properly and risk their lives every day. To those men and women, I give my respect and support

2)  I am aware that there are some people in the midst of these protests that are agitating by looting, fighting and shooting. I do not condone violence, including looting of stores and riots.

 

With those points out of the way, lets get into it. Michael Brown was shot by a police officer. He did not have a weapon. Allegedly, Michael and a friend were walking in the street when an officer approached them in his vehicle and demanded that they move to the sidewalk. At this point, details and accounts vary, but some type of altercation/tussle happened with said police officer and Michael.  He ran, but stopped, putting up both hands in the universally recognized sign of surrender.  There are multiple eye witness to the shooting and its aftermath.  The Ferguson Police Department  left Michael’s body in the street, uncovered for 4-5 hours. When they did retrieve the body, there was no EMS or coroner van, just a police SUV.  In the following hours and days, the police department would not release any information on the incident. The citizens of this community, many witnessing the shooting and living under the tense relationship between them and the police, began to protest. Some people took that opportunity to loot and riot. As tensions mounted, the police donned full on riot gear and used teargas,flash bombs, and other heavy equipment in an attempt to control the situation. The protests continued. Anonymous gets involved.  Days passed with no word from the Governor, the Police Chief, or the President.  Several journalists and media outlets report harassment, threats, and an attempt to block them from covering the events. After all of this, the Governor of Missouri and The President speak out. After almost a week, the police release the name of the officer, Darren Wilson. They also release footage from a local corner store that allegedly shows Michael stealing cigars and arguing with a store clerk. The family is upset about this newest revelation and accuse the Ferguson PD of smearing Michael’s name. The police Chief releases another statement that the offending officer did not know Michael was a suspect when he approached Michael and his friend for jay walking. That night, some people loot and riot…again. A curfew is instated as of Saturday afternoon, August 16. The unrest continues….

 

In this case I see several issues:

1) Police Brutality

2) Racial Profiling and the default criminalization of Black males

3) The violation of the First Amendment by police in the attempt to prevent the people of Ferguson from protesting and attempting to restrict journalists from covering the situation.

4) The militarization of local police

 

I’ve already gone on long enough, so I’ll try to make my points brief. All of the above listed issues should disturb you as a human and as an American. If the fact that people’s rights are being violated does not bother you, no matter your political affiliation, religion, ethnicity/race, please make an appointment to have your humanity checked.

Police brutality and harassment over petty offenses like jay walking have been going on in Black neighborhoods for years.  Is it poor police training? Is it “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” policing policies? Is it over zealousness? Prejudice? Probably a mix of any of those elements at any given time or situation.  I can expand that point  to say its been going on in poor neighborhoods for years. Because of the years of tension and mistrust, the relationships between minority and poor neighborhoods and the police is fragile at best. This strained relationship leads to everyone, cops and citizens, being on edge all the time. Point number 2 means one thing:  Black men are criminals. Period. No amount of money, education, success, or clothing options can change that in some people’s eyes. And some of those people happen to be police officers. That leads to profiling, and sometimes worse. It happened to Henry Louis Gates Jr, a Harvard professor, it happened to Tyler Perry, and it can happen to any Black Man or boy. When was the last time a WASP man was stopped for simply walking in his neighborhood and asked for his ID? I’ll wait. When was the last time it happened to a Black or Brown man? Probably 5 minutes ago in any given town or city.

The issue is that if it doesn’t affect you, you have no idea. Many people across America can’t understand what’s happening in Ferguson because they have never lived under those conditions. They don’t understand the anger. To them, the unrest just looks like chaos and disorder, but these are the actions of the unheard.

Dave Chappelle explained the relationship between Black people and the police (and White people’s reactions)  the way only he can in his 2001 stand up routine “Killing them Softly”: (We need a little levity right now) The clip is kind of long (7 minutes), but in order to get the full idea you have to watch it all.

 

 

What he said was 100% truth.

What about the blatant disregard for the First Amendment?

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The actions of the Ferguson Police Department definitely trampled on two of the three rights of the people in Ferguson. The people are angry and frustrated. They want answers. They want justice. They have the right to assemble and protest. Even with social media,  live Tweets, and cell phone video, we still need stories covered from a journalistic point of view. Of course Ferguson police  didn’t want the world to see what they were doing…look at what they were doing. The fact that two journalists were pushed and punched, detained with no cause given, then released, without an apology or explanation is frightening. “Where they do that at?!”  Apparently, in Ferguson, MO. This sounds like a story from Iraq or Russia. Not the United States, but it was.

This all makes me think about my journey into motherhood. When you face difficulties getting pregnant, you often stop and ask yourself  ‘Is this really what I (we) want to do?’ You think about the money, the meds, the heightened risk of complications during pregnancy, along with the questions any woman considering motherhood would ask herself: Am I ready? Do we have enough money? Am I going to be a good parent? As a Black woman, I also  have to also think about bringing a Black male into this world. The thought that no matter how well I raise my son, no matter where we live, he could still be a target is sad and disheartening. He doesn’t have to be a gang member, or a drug dealer, or a bank robber. His skin tone would be enough to label him dangerous and suspicious. How would I deal with that? I don’t want to add the “how to deal with cops as a young Black man” speech with the standard teenage speeches parents give about sex, texting while driving, drugs and all the rest. How do I explain to my future son why we even have to have this talk? How do I explain that some people just can’t get past stereotypes and unfounded fears? That they’re too close minded to learn and see who he really is?  I hope that by the time any child I would have is old enough, this will be a thing of the past.  I’m sure Michael Brown’s mother had the same thought 18 years ago.

 

One of my favorite book series and movie franchise is The Hunger Games. The people revolted and they were forever punished by an oppressive government and a yearly sacrifice of children for entertainment (and as a form of repression and control). When it becomes too much, the people organize and…(I won’t tell it all because I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the trilogy). When I read these futuristic novels or watch those types of movies, where the government is extremely repressive and brutal, I think there is a small shred of plausibility in this, but it  is mostly a work of fiction. Until I see it happen. Until I see police throw tear gas and flash bombs at people who are (mostly) peacefully expressing their frustrations and the need for answers and transparency. When journalists are harassed, roughed up, and arrested without cause.  Most importantly, these citizens have a right to do these things under the First Amendment of our Constitution. It makes me again wonder: what kind of world will I bring my future son or daughter into? Will they be allowed to express themselves freely? To speak out against injustice without fear?

Panems "Peacekeepers" but how much peace are they keeping?
Panems “Peacekeepers” but how much peace are they keeping? Is this where we are headed?

I wonder if I want to bring a child into a world like what I’ve seen over the past week. A world I know exists, but  try to rise above or have hope that it will some day be a thing of the past. Instead, it seems as that not only is it not going anywhere, its getting worse. Going backwards. And it makes me sad for our country, but it also makes me angry. I am in no way naive or unaware of what happens in the world. I feel that I can’t afford to be. As they say: “I stay woke”, but  I generally just choose to be hopeful. There is good in the world, and being aware and hopeful for me is the best way to go about things.

 

If I am so blessed to bring life into this world, I will do my best to teach tolerance, love, compassion,  self awareness, to speak up against injustice, and possibly the dos and don’ts of being stopped by police as a Black man.

Lets hope I can leave that last one off.

 

Justice and Answers for Michael Brown and his family.

Peace and Healing for the Ferguson and St. Louis, MO community.