In the Palm of My Hand

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When I was young, growing up in the Catholic church,  we loved Palm Sunday.  We would sit in the church pews during the sermon and make crosses out of the palms. We would give them to older people who didn’t know how to make them. We would search the church floors for them after service.  We would sword fight with the longer ones. We would make trades with them. It was like getting a favor or a party bag at an event.

What I always personally liked was the symbolism it brought.  It was a physical reminder that Easter was coming.  Easter was always awesome for MANY reasons:
1. You get a brand new Easter dress.
2. The music in church is always good because EVERYONE comes to church on Easter, Christmas and Mother’s day.
3. There was usually an Easter Egg hunt for the church youth.
4. Theres a level of celebration that is insurmountable.  You’re happy because of new life. New beginnings. Spring.  Joy!

And of course you’re preparing yourself for the possibility of the return of the Savior. Now thats the part that kind of gets lost in all the fuss. 

Christian or not you have to admit that the story of Jesus is interesting and relevant.  Palm Sunday he had friends,  admirers, and I even dare to say he had fans. The people who lined up to watch him perform miracles were the same people lined up to see him tormented,  tortured and eventually killed. He was betrayed by the people he gave his life to protect.

Today started off rough. I woke up tired.
I had an appointment at the mechanic for 9am.  My car sounds like a spaceship right before liftoff and I need to remedy that before my annual inspection.  So being that I snoozed the alarm multiple times and defeated the purpose of setting it, I had to FLY!!!

I grabbed my kid, put her in some sweats, popped a bottle in her mouth, threw on my grey “day off sweats”, ate a granola bar and drove as fast as I could while on the mobile phone and cleaning the junk out my car as well. After I left the automobile I realized I needed a ride home. I’m usually a great planner but I wasn’t today. Im not a fan of buses and I had house slippers on and my hair was in a big poof. I looked absolutely nuts. While im walking towards the cab station,  a woman coming from a church service hands me a palm. I thanked her, handed it to my daughter and kept walking. Watching my 10 month old look at the palm and maneuver it in her small hands brought back memories and got me excited. 

We came home to clean the house, open the blinds, crack the windows, organize, read together,  eat,  sing, and just enjoy preparing for new life!

No matter what/who you believe in, hope is universal. Grab a little of it and stretch it out and add water and smear it all over your face!! Tie it around your waist and adorn yourself with it!! Throw it at people like a water balloon and watch it break through their despair and drip down their doubt!!

May you be blessed,  touched and transformed this Easter!  Orrrrrrrrr…you can Shutyamouthandcallmeugly

By:Shaun Nickens

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A Writer’s Plight

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I poured out my soul
I poured it into a wine glass but you wouldn’t hold the glass by its stem delicately
I poured it into a tumbler
But you left it there sitting on the table
I poured it into a martini glass but it just kept splashing out, you wouldn’t sip it slowly,  and you wouldn’t take in its vapors.
I poured out my soul
I poured it into a flute
But you kept bursting the bubbles in it
What once was sparkling,  you stripped

I poured out my soul
Like fresh blacktop concealing all your cracks
Filling all your holes
But you stepped in it, wrote your name in it, and then complained when the heat scalded your delicate flawless skin.

I poured out my soul
Like a child’s toys from a toy bin
So you would be amused, entertained, excited and in awe of my trinkets and my bells and my whistles
And you smiled for awhile
But then you looked back in the empty bin seeking more
I poured out my soul and you kicked it all over the floor

I poured out my fucking soul!!!!

And with tears in my eyes I questioned
What was wrong with it
Why it was unwanted like coal in a Christmas stocking
Why its so burdensome
Why its so heavy
Why its so colorful
Why its so invisible

When did it become so black?
Can I ever get it back?
How do you solidify fluidity? 

I poured out my soul
I closed my eyes
I stopped reflecting
I stopped thinking
I stopped rehashing
I stopped speaking
For a moment,  I even stopped breathing

I poured out my soul
Now what do you suppose we do with what’s left of it?

By:Shaun Nickens

Breaking Through the Box {An Account From A Redefined Black Male}

When I was young, being pegged in any monolithic group would not only scare me but it would offend me. People would say, “What are you afraid of?” I remember being in a huddle and hearing answers like “spiders”, “fire”, or “drowning.” My answer was always, “I’m afraid of dying ordinary.” That’s changed over the years. I do seek some normalcy now but only in certain areas. I received an email recently. I immediately recognized the sender. Someone who once commented something like this: “I’ve seen your blog/website. I follow it and I think its fun and insightful. However, I do think it caters to women. I would love to maybe one day contribute from the perspective of a male.” The sender sent an attachment and its definitely worth a post/publish. How many of us have had our “Blackness” questioned by our, “own” people? In example, Cornel West (who taught at Princeton University and not an HBCU*) has many times questioned the “Blackness” of President Obama. Have we allowed stereotypes to define us or have we finally learned to break through the box? I’d like to introduce the following post from a new contributer to the Shutyamouthandcallmeugly family.

“Stereotypes of a Black Male Misunderstood”

When the words escape us sometimes music has a way of capturing almost any human emotion or thought. A personal favorite is Notorious B.I.G. He has said a lot of things that stimulated thoughts and different emotions out of me. One line that always resonated with me over the years is from his song “Juicy” from his 1994 critically acclaimed album Ready to Die, “Stereotypes of a black male misunderstood and it’s still all good.”

This line embodies my own personal story as a black man growing up in the 1990’s and becoming a man in the 2000’s. Everywhere you turn there are the stereotypes for what an urban born African American male is supposed to look, dress, act, and speak like. Either “you’re slingin crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot” another Biggie line from his song “Things Done Changed” also from the album Ready to Die. These two stereotypes have followed me and my fellow brothers around our entire lives. I never sold drugs and I had an average jump shot so I really didn’t fit that mold as Biggie eloquently stated. Still you were always placed in a box that society felt you belonged in. For a while, I confined myself in that box. I dressed the way the collective was dressing, spoke the way I was “supposed” to speak, and acted the way I was “supposed” to act. All the while inside of me I knew a lot of it wasn’t me. I was a product of the hip-hop generation and the music did speak to me but inside of I knew that there was more to me than rap music and baggy pants.

After a rough 4 years of high school it took going to college for me to become comfortable with breaking out of the mold that was created for me. I realized that the box society created wont carry me through life. As a man I had to create my own path and choose where I wanted to go. I began to explore many different new interests. I explored different foods. I became interested in politics and history. I discovered my individual voice. I learned that it was ok to have Nas and Nickleback in my iPod and tell my boys about it. I could tell you about World War II and then discuss the finer points on the way to properly wear your Timberland boots. Those 4 years changed my outlook on life and where I was and where I wanted to be. Despite my change in perspective, the society around me reared its ugly head and tried to enclose me within that box. Some of my black friend’s would ask me “Why do you act white?” and my non-black friends would tell me “You aren’t black. You don’t act like other black people.” For a while it would upset me but after a while I took it as a compliment. I am a black man but the common stereotype doesn’t define me. I define myself with my actions and words. I made sure to never let society dictate my existence.

I know my experience isn’t unique. Many young black men go through the same thing growing up in a society obsessed with classifying its population. For many young men the realization of self doesn’t come until later in life. The unfortunate reality is many young black men don’t understand the importance of self until they are alone in a dark jail cell. For those of us who have transcended and dare I say “found ourselves”, we must share our knowledge with the next generation. Certainly, we cannot change the circumstances of the group as a whole but we can use the philosophy of “Each one, Reach one, Teach one” and lift the man behind us. If we all do our part we will have no problem fulfilling the immortal lyrics of Biggie, “…Cause I went from negative to positive and it’s all… (It’s all good!)”

By:Christian Jocelyn
Edited By: Shaun Nickens