Welcome to September! August was
another active, interesting month. It also seemed to kind of last forever, but
maybe that was just me. Let’s jump into the goings on, shall we?
I’ve had some things going on with
my throat for a little over a week now, so I went to the doctor. Your Friendly
Neighborhood Christian has himself an abscess in there. Swallowing, breathing,
etc. has been a bit of a chore, but I’m making it.
Tomorrow night, I have the distinct
honor and privilege of performing at JJ’s Bohemia
with Ryan Oyer. Ryan is one of the most prolific artists I know, and we’ve been
friends for over five years now. He did the layout for my record, and I
produced a song on his debut album. I’m extremely happy to be sharing the stage
with him, and you should come out if you’re in or around Chattanooga.
The show is only $5, so if you like the tunes we kick out, you should have some
extra scratch to buy our merch… and help keep us off the streets!
On the 26th of this
month, I’ll be sharing the stage Minton Sparks. If you’re unfamiliar with her
or her works, she’s a Grammy-nominated artist who’s performed with several
highly-acclaimed acts. I’m really looking forward to that night. You should
come out to Charles & Myrtle’s and catch us. I guarantee satisfaction.
Lastly, I’ve got some BRAND NEW
MERCH coming! You’ll be able to buy new shirts AND hoodies from me soon.
They’re stylish, a little bit sexy, and have my personal stamp of approval as
well as my government name on them. They’ll be available for purchase on the 12th
of this month.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.
Be good, stay in touch, do good things, and I’ll post again in the near future.
So, I began this post last
week, but so much has happened (and continues to) that has given me a great
deal more to say. I’ve been following and posting on the ever-developing
situation in Ferguson for
over a week now. Each day, I witness and document what’s taking place for a
number of reasons. I know it’s clichéd, but I legitimately believe that
information is power. I also firmly believe that in America in
2014, a situation like this should not be happening, especially if we’re still
claiming to be The Land of the Free.
Period (for the record, I believe these kinds of abuses shouldn’t occur
anywhere). I think this is the first
time we’ve witnessed anything this intricate and volatile over the course of
the past thirty or more years, and I can elaborate why.
So many things have been
fascinating to witness over the course of the past week. The misinformation
provided by some members of the Associated Press, as well as the police, for
starters. Also, the restrictions placed on the basic rights of the residents of
journalists (Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery from The
Washington Post were arrested while in a McDonalds. Apparently, they were taken
in for not leaving soon enough… because they were told to do so by the police
without a reason being given.).
The core of the situation is
about Mike Brown’s death. It is at the heart of everything, and it’s important
to keep that fact in mind. However, the situation has also grown beyond that.
The chaos that has ensued, that, with each passing day, casts the local police
in a darker and darker light (and it would appear that they’ve been fine with
that for the most part, because there really hasn’t been much of an attempt to rectify
anything that’s transpired up to this point until the past few days). We’re
witnessing the trampling of rights, the detainment of Americans, etc. It is
both shocking and terrifying.
I also find it interesting how
some people have responded to the reports, videos, pictures, etc. that have
appeared. A girl on Twitter last week asked a question regarding rioting and
looting. I posted an account from Wesley Lowery that stated that there had, at
the time, only been ONE night of such activity. She responded by telling me to
“shut up” and asked if I was actually in Ferguson. We
went back and forth for a bit (she’s very anti-violence, but already made it up
in her mind that the protestors were the responsible, violent parties), and it
became apparent to me that she wasn’t interested in really finding out what was
happening. I gave her a number of credible sources to follow if she was so
inclined, but I knew that that wouldn’t be the case.
At the end of the conversation,
she asked me to shut up again and go away. Then, she reiterated the she was on
the side of Mike Brown, but was against violence, rioting, and looting. I’ve
seen several other correspondences shake out pretty much the same way. I think
it’s extremely jarring that people, also, are crafting their own narrative to
the events, where good, credible, boots on the ground reporting is taking place
and extremely easy to find. I’m not sure if it’s an issue of not believing
what’s transpiring (which I can understand. A great deal of this seems like
something out of a movie), or people just hearing bits and pieces and feeling
like they know it all, when we’re really just at the tip of this ordeal.
I’ve had the chance to dialogue
with a good number of people over the course of the past week, and it’s been
fascinating in a lot of ways. I went back and forth with a guy who said that
the residents had lost his sympathy because of looting, and that, while he
agrees that the police have acted in a heavy-handed fashion, he faulted the
citizens of Ferguson for
giving them reason to do so. I told him that I don’t think that the people
there are concerned with his, or necessarily, anyone else’s sympathy. They want
justice and answers, which, I believe, the vast majority of us would desire if
we were in a similar situation.Also, I
said that I didn’t feel that there’s ever good reason for those in authority to
act in a way that abuses the powers we, as a society, give them. Police
officers take an oath to serve and protect everyone regardless of creed, age,
Another person I talked with
stated that violence is never the answer.
I told him that it’s extremely elitist to have that perspective. It’s partially
due to violence that we’re all here in America. Wars
and battles have been fought for freedom, so saying that violence isn’t ever the
answer just seems like that isn’t taken into account. Plus, it’s easy to
dictate what should and shouldn’t happen in Ferguson (or
anywhere else for that matter) when you’re not dealing with what the people who
are there are experiencing. I can’t, as a Black man in Tennessee, tell
anyone in Gaza that
violence isn’t the answer, because I don’t encounter what the people there do
on a daily basis. Make sense? How entitled would I have to be to assign those
particular standards on the rest of the world, especially when my slab of it is
Switching gears, I feel like
this situation is showing us an honest glimpse of who we are as a country when
it comes of matters of race, place, justice, etc. If what I’ve witnessed with
people outside of the situation is any indication, a lot of us are miles apart
on how we view things. I won’t say all, but I feel like most of us carry a
certain degree of prejudice, from how some of us view hipsters to how others
clutch purses when people darker than them are around. I don’t think prejudice by
itself necessarily equates to anything extremely pronounced, but if those
prejudices are allowed to go unchecked, they have all the makings to turn into
something deep-seated with a broader reach. Over the past week, I’ve seen quite
an amazing display of prejudice, and it’s kind of astonishing to me to witness just
how open people are about expressing it. Granted, I think, in the long run,
it’s better because you know where some people stand, but it’s still personally
surprising how comfortable people are in their view of the world and the rest
of the people in it.
I don’t want to ramble on too
long, and I know that I’ll have more to say on the matter as things continue to
develop. However, my charge for you who are reading this is (if you’re so
inclined) to go back to August 9th, and truly follow what’s been
transpiring. Don’t just rely on one source, because the story is far too
layered for you to follow one outlet and think that you’re sufficiently
informed. Also, put yourself in the shoes of those who are there and seriously
question how you’d be responding. It could be an eye-opening exercise, because (in
my humble opinion, of course) what ties us together is more abundant than that
which stands between us.
Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to perform as a part of Christ Unity’s church service, and it was a really amazing experience. It was a first for me. Over the years, I’ve performed in and organized fundraisers and other activities for churches, but never before have I presented my own works as a part of an actual service.
Also, yesterday marked my first time attending a service in many moons. I don’t think I’ve been to one since 2009, actually.
God has appeared in my work in a number of interesting ways over the years. I’ve only come to realize that recently. It definitely gave me a nice range with which to work and choose from. I didn’t want to eat up too much time, so I decided on a mini-set of four poems that featured something from Between Beauty & Bedlam, a piece from my chapbook Ghosts & Echoes, and two pieces that aren’t on either project (Weight and Mama Said).
The response that I received was so warm and affirming. I was genuinely touched. I feel really honored to have had the opportunity to use my gift in that manner. Several people spoke to me afterwards to tell me how much they enjoyed my work, and that means the world to me. If you’ve known me for any significant amount of time or have even taken a gander of this blog, you know that my goal is to connect with whatever audience I’m in front of, and whenever I’m successful, I truly feel happy. I would love to perform for another service again sometime soon. I’m easy to get a hold of, so if you’re interested in bring me to your place of worship, let me know, and we can hammer out something.
Completely switching gears, I’ve been closely following the Mike Brown situation and everything that has transpired since. I’m always drawn to these stories, and for a number of reasons. I’m moved whenever young people are struck down, because they will never have the opportunity to develop their lives and strive to achieve their goals. They die with unfulfilled promise. Also, I was accused of trying to steal my own vehicle by a police officer when I was eighteen, and the night I graduated from college, an officer drew his gun on me in YborCity after claiming that I ran a stop sign. If things had gone slightly differently in either encounter, I could’ve easily been Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, JordanDavis, etc. and that is never lost on me.
What’s fascinating about this particular situation though is the information that’s emerging. If you follow the stories that are coming out from the Associated Press, you’re getting a TREMENDOUSLY different count of what’s happened and continues to happen than if you were to follow Michael Skolnik or any of the reports from people who are currently there, living in the neighborhoods, attended the protest, etc. Talib Kweli once said that you can have your own set of opinions, but not your own facts, and whenever there are discrepancies in factual information, a number of red flags should pop up. Where is the consistency? Why is the information so scattered? What agendas are at play to make that happen?
The past few months have painted a really brutal picture of the police. While every officer is not violent or corrupt, situations like the one in California where the woman was punched repeatedly on the side of the road, or the killing of Eric Garner (and the arrests of the man who filmed the episode and his wife), etc. are extremely hard to take. These incidents are scary for many reasons, but, perhaps, most importantly, because the institution involved in all of these situations operates with a mission statement to serve and protect. Period. All people.When that doesn’t prove to be the case, I think it’s natural to feel very adrift and alone, and that in an instant, you could find yourself in a position where you could have to fight for your very life.
I don’t have any answers for this most recent story. My heart and prayers are with Mike, his family, his community, etc. If you’re remotely invested in what’s happening, I strongly encourage you to get on Twitter and follow people like Antonio French and Michael Skolnik, who have been reporting the wishes of Mike’s family and really been working to document what’s really taking place (with evidence).
That’s all I have right now, brothers & sisters. What are your thoughts? What are your hopes? Let me know.
What’s new and exciting? For the first time in two months (maybe more than that now, actually), I experienced a full week without being on a stage of some sort, and it felt kind of weird. I’ve been spoiled in being fortunate to be so active over the course of the past few months.
As things stand right now, I have bookings lined up through the end of September. Of course, I’m ALWAYS taking more. If you’d like to talk about working something out with yours truly, please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to performing, I can also facilitate workshops for a number of ages and demographics, so keep that in mind and feel free to share that info with anybody that might want to utilize my services.
Switching gears, here are some places where you can find me over the next month:
August 10th @11AM – ChristUnityChurch
September 26th @ Charles & Myrtle’s w/ Minton Sparks
Both of these performances will be in Chattanooga, which just so happens to be my neck of the woods. I’m really excited about both, too.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to perform with my old poetry group. It was a good reminder of what we’ve been through over the years, and it did kind of feel like a family gathering. I got hit on by an older woman, sold some merch, and rocked out on the stage.
I have some things in the works that I’m very excited about, but I can’t speak on them at the moment. Just know that cool things are taking shape, and, hopefully, in the very near future I’ll be able to talk about them at length. Fingers crossed, boys and girls.
In other news, I really feel like the past few months have served to be a huge affirmation, both creatively and personally. I challenged myself to step up more in a professional capacity and allow my gifts to carry me and, hopefully, show me what needs to happen next. It’s been an incredibly awing and pleasing experience, and it continues to be so. I’m ready to change my life and commit to being a full-time artist, and I’m hoping that some of what I’ve alluded to above (granted, in a very vague manner) will afford me the chance to make that dream come to fruition. We shall see. In the interim, I’m trying to remain patient, which is difficult. I feel like Al Pacino at the end of “The Devil’s Advocate” when he says, “I’m ready to work, Kevin!” I want to work! I want to be out there sweating in front of a crowd.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for you now. Stay in touch, be good, and check out my debut EP at the links below. You can also purchase it from hose links or from me directly. I know that a lo of people don’t spend any money on music these days, but my job from day one has been to leave the audience with something they could appreciate for years. I put everything I possibly could into bringing this record to fruition, and if you feel moved by the material enough to buy it, know that I genuinely appreciate it and that you are who I do these things for. That’s God’s honest straight from ours truly.
What’s new and exciting? Hopefully, lots (don’t hold out on me. You can actually tell me these things!). Quite a few things have been transpiring on my end, so without any further ado, let’s jump in!
I’ve been gigging steadily for about the past month, which I LOVE. I love being in front of an audience, and I realized while I was still recording my EP Between Beauty & Bedlam that a live setting really is how I’m going to be able to best promote the record. So, the goal has and continues to be to continue to make it happen as often as I can.
This weekend, I performed with Jim Pfitzer, Andrew Kelsay, and Fristl Butler at Charles and Myrtle’s. This has been a venue I’ve heard about for many years, but this was actually my first time stepping foot inside the place, let alone having the opportunity to perform. As soon as I walked in, I reazlied that pretty much everything I’ve heard about it was apt. It’s very cozy and intimate, and there is a certain energy that just kind of takes you upon entering.
The crowd that came was very responsive, and the bill was interesting because of the variety in styles. Jim’s a storyteller, Andrew and Fritsl played music, and I performed poems. We also performed in the round, which is rare for me, but it was really a lot of fun.
At the end of the night, I sold some merch and administered some hugs (if you’ve known me for any length of time or ever seen me live, you know that I pride myself on delivering quality hugs). A woman approached me and told me that she enjoyed my work, but felt that it was somewhat negative. I asked her what she meant, and she explained herself. She’d misinterpreted the second verse of my song Walk, which has happened a few times before. She thought that I was making a statement about racial superiority.
I told her that the second verse of the song is talking about how I, specifically in my teens, encountered a lot of interesting and complex perceptions and opinions on race. Black girls I used to be told that I acted white because I skateboarded, wore Chuck Taylors, played guitar, etc. That verse explains my frustration and confusion about those things, talks about how anyone, regardless of creed, color, etc. is capable of ignorance and holding you back, and how I ultimately decided to just be who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do. Too many have died without having that opportunity for me to feel limited by people who don’t have my best interest in mind and who only play minimal roles in my everyday life.
When I told her all of this, I could see her perception change. I also told her that even when I talk about ugly things (rape, racism, etc.) it’s never done in a negative way. I also thanked her for having the dialogue with me, because it afforded me the opportunity to provide clarity on the matter. I never want anyone to misinterpret something or feel a certain way and leave with a distorted perception of me or my work.
What she said stuck in my mind though. The next day, I was looking at Twitter, and I came across this video of Chance the Rapper. He’s talking about an encounter he had in Canada and how he came to truly understand the power that language has. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Switching gears, but staying with Charles and Myrtle’s, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be performing with Minton Sparks on September 26th. It’s an honor. One of my goals for the year has been to touch base with her in some capacity and talk shop, particularly since she’s based in Nashville and I’ve been there a great deal over the past seven months to perform. As fate would have it, that will be happening, Inshallah. Put it on your calendars and come check out a GREAT show. You won’t be disappointed.
Also, I’ll be performing THIS FRIDAY at Barking Legs Theater for Melinda Brown’s benefit. Here’s a little info on the event: Melinda Brown, entertainer, community activist, all around great person has broken her sacrum in an accident. She has been in a lot of pain and is having a hard time managing. She has not been able to work since April when the accident occurred and could use a little help from her friends. Join us please in an EXTRAVAGANZA to delight almost all of your senses on JULY 18th AT BARKING LEGS THEATER at 7:00PM.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope to see you fine folks soon! Don’t be strangers, don’t pass out in the heat, and I’ll be in touch before too long.
Greetings, boys and girls. Your Friendly Neighborhood Xtian reporting here. Hopefully, none of you who are reading this blew off any of your limbs over the weekend or managed to maim yourselves in any other way. If you did happen to severely injure yourself and you are perusing this blog, thank you for your diligence, and do better next 4th of July!
Last week was an absolutely rush. I ended up landing a last-minute gig at JJ’s Bohemia in Chattanooga, so there was A LOT of scrambling to lock everything down (filling out the bill, promoting to the best of my ability in under a week, etc.) Everything worked out though, which I was very happy about.
For some time now, I’ve wanted to find a DJ for my live line-up. While I enjoy being able to manipulate the sounds and everything myself, pulling double-duty takes me out of being present with the material to a certain degree. This show really motivated me to reach out to someone, and they actually said YES! Cole Sweeten aka Cutlass Cult agreed to kick things off and man the tables along with Zowie (my singer), Jessica (my viola player), and yours truly. I was really excited about seeing what he would bring to the fold and how it would gel with everything.
We linked up on Wednesday night to rehearse, and as soon as we got into the first song (which just so happened to be Walk off the EP), I knew he was the perfect fit. I was elated to say the least. We rocked out for a few hours, and I knew that the gig on Thursday was going to be big fun.
Some dear friends (The Scarlet Love Conspiracy) rounded out the bill with us, and I’ve not really had the chance to spend any significant time with them in ages. A number of people who have never seen the live band came as well, so I was really pleased to be able to hang out in good company, and introduce them to what’s been brewing in support of my record since November.
Cole jumped things off in style. He kicked out jam after jam, and I thoroughly enjoyed observing him and dancing in my chair. If you’re in or around Chattanooga and haven’t seen him do his thing, DEFINITELY make it a point to do so. You can thank me later.
We took the stage as a band around , and from the first word out of my mouth, it was on. We put on a sweaty, energy-filled set, and I think it was a good showing. What I enjoy doing live, particularly with the band, is taking the audience on a bit of a journey. We have things that’ll make you move, and things that’ll, hopefully, move you. I feel very fortunate that on several occasions now, I’ve been able to look out into the crowd and see people crying or just fully immersed in the material we’re presenting. It’s both humbling and affirming, and is kind of a reward for pushing through and making this little record called Between Beauty & Bedlam.
After we jumped off the stage, The Scarlet Love Conspiracy took the stage, and it was great to watch them. I love seeing them because they are SO in love (literally. They’re married), and it’s incredibly evident. I think it definitely informs the music they make together, too.
On Friday night, I had the opportunity to perform at Barking Legs for Wide Open Floor, which I do maybe two or three times a year. I’d blown out my voice at JJ’s the night before, so all I had was a low range, which I like to call my sexy 1970’s radio DJ voice. Watch out, ladies!
There was a lot of poetry throughout the course of the night. It’s always interesting for me to see new poets and take in their work.
When I stepped to the microphone, I performed Night Watch first. It was interesting because it was the first time I’ve ever done it without music. I didn’t rehearse the piece much beforehand, so I had to adapt to the text right there on the stage. I think it went well.
I also performed Acceptance and my new poem for my mother. The latter feels like the gift that keeps giving. I think after every performance of it, someone comes up to me and tells me how much they enjoy and connect to it, which is beautiful.
This weekend, I had to chance to meet new people, introduce them to both myself and my work, and I LOVE that. I sold some merch, which is always a great thing, but (and I’ve said it time and time again on here) having the opportunity to TRULY connect with people is the bigger reward.
So, with all that said, I’ll be performing next at Charles & Myrtle’s THIS FRIDAY. The show starts at 8. I’ll be sharing the bill with storyteller Jim Pfitzer and singer-songwriter. Andrew Kelsay. It’s going to be a good time. This, I guarantee! If you’re making your weekend plans now, feel free to make it an option. I, for one, would love to see you!
Alright, dear brothers and sisters. That’s all I’ve got. Be good, swim a little bit, and I’ll be in touch before too long.
I know I’ve been absent from these parts for a while, but I’ve been working a good bit. The day only has so many hours, and the body only possesses so much energy, right? Let’s jump in and I’ll tell you what’s been brewing on my end of the equation.
I just got back from performing in Nashville. I’ve been there a good bit this year, and each time I have the opportunity to rock out, it’s big fun. I leave feeling happy and that this is genuinely what I’m meant to be doing.
I had a moment last night where I realized just how beautiful this year has been personally and professionally. I feel that I’ve stepped into my own in a new way in both my personal and artistic life (as if there’s really a difference), and it feels amazing. I have a number of exciting opportunities and potential opportunities in the fire right now, and I sincerely feel that I’m close to something… good. lol. I know that sounds vague, and it is for the time being. Hopefully, before long I’ll have something more concrete to take you through. Fingers crossed, brothers and sisters.
I’ve been on a good stretch of performances, and I have some others coming up. I’ll be at the following spots over the next month and more:
Wide Open Floor at Barking Legs Theater – July 4th
Charles and Myrtle’s Coffee Shop – July 11th
The Chattanooga Billiards Club’s Tropicana Room – August 1st
I look forward to adding onto these dates, so if you’re interested in booking me and having me rock out for you and yours, reach out to me and we can put something together. Plus, I pride myself on being a sociable guy.
Well, that’s all from me for right now. I’ll be in touch before too long. In the meantime, be good, and feel free to check out my record and other biz at the links below. Ciao.