This is a selfish post — just for me. You’re not going to see any Russell Jenkins pictures or funny stuff about Chicago TextileWorks projects, or any of my random “Theatre” vignettes. I just need to get this out, so close the window now, or read on at your own risk. It’s up to you.
This week, for my paid work, I got to meet an exceptional group of men. (I know, right? But, it’s not what you’re thinking, dirty monkeys. Get your minds out of the gutter.) Two of them were D.J.s in Chicago, and I’m just going to write about the two of them now, but more on the others later. (And, by others, I’m not kidding about the powerhouses in our midst yesterday. For real.)
Anyway, one thing that’s interesting to me is the way in which my culture (<–not even sure that’s the right word) is transcendent (<–also not sure that’s the right word). What do I mean? Well, I’m not sure exactly how to say it, but I’m of an age and a mindset that hasn’t seen my special brand of super-attractive-in-its-own-way-but-you-have-to-experience-it-because-you-won’t-see-it-on-the-surface, non-mini-skirt-wearing-and-don’t-get-me-started-on-shoes-that-hurt-my-feet-plus-12-dollars-for-a-drink-is-too-much churlishness in a club in YEARS. And, even then, they weren’t really clubs, more like big rooms where people would go to get drunk with fake IDs made by a shady guy named Eli in his dorm room at U of C. (Poets Bar in Chicago? Thank you for making my 19 year old drinking dreams come true. Also, wrong, wrong, wrong.)
Okay, well … okay. So, I guess what surprised me and is making me think is this: the notion that you don’t have to be in or of a scene to be connected to it in some way. I’m connected to these men, their/our lives, and their/our experiences by virtue of my race, gender, place, and my deep love for all of those things, (I mean, when I say I have love for all those things, I MEAN DEEP LOVE) which is powerful and, I guess, transcendent. And, if I’m honest, my internet addiction doesn’t hurt as a means of keeping me connected. (#blacktwitter, friends. That’s what’s up.)
Even though I spend most evenings sitting on the couch, staring at Russell Jenkins, willing him into becoming a monkey (so he could use the toilet instead of me having to walk his chunky squirrel-chasing ass at all hours), listening to podcasts of This American Life or Radio Q, I still somehow know and am interested in who leads my tribe, because the leaders always find a way to find me. I’d never want to be divorced from the connection. My soul is grateful for the connection… but, how does it happen? It’s somehow in the air I breathe, the water I drink; I find it tucked up next to me in my bed as I ready myself for sleep, it’s in my heart and my daily life without me having invited it, but there, nonetheless just hanging around, biding its time, until something happens that reminds me it’s there: “Oh, yeah, by-the-way-friend, your bad we haven’t talked in a while. We need to do some work right about now.”
When these men came through to the research set up, I felt a little thing as they took their seats. I don’t know what words would work to explain what that little thing was. I know I was nervous, thinking my tribe affiliation was unclear, feeling like “the other” But as they seated themselves and took the stage we set up for them, nervousness got a beat down from love. I’m a firm believer that you can love right now, in an instant, with a gesture, and you don’t need a lot of backstory. When I looked at the group assembled, that’s what happened to me, love. Seriously, love. And I don’t mean love like, take your pants off papa and show me what you got — again, you people who are still reading need to get your minds out of the gutter! — I mean the kind of love that happens when you see someone who’s like you, someone whose hand you want to take and hold while you talk to them, someone who you want to just be with for a while with your hand on their arm, someone who you want to enlist in your mission, or have them enlist you in theirs.
Do you know what that’s like? If not, I hope you do get to know that at some point in your life, because it will change everything. When you didn’t expect that feeling to happen, imagine what it does to your heart when it happens 6-fold. I mean, I’d expected we’d be in some way connected because I knew of/about a lot of these men and because we have a shared experience, some of which is hard, which makes the connection that much stronger. But, I didn’t expect what actually happened in the moment we were together, though. I mean, honestly, at the beginning, my number one thought was, “Oh, I hope I don’t screw this shizz up, because our discussion guide is kind of loose!” We all just thought they’d share some info about urban nightlife, which is their milieu, talk about the target we’re trying to reach and have a nice day.
BUT THEY SCHOOLED THE ROOM HARD, with insights about a culture (MINE) that’s rife with disappointment, passion, fierceness, and with hope about what could be for a group of folks that deserve — or, are entitled to– if not a better shake, at least a fair one.
So, my head was in one place, but my heart was like, “Do you hear this, fool? What are you going to do?” It was hard to be up there writing notes on their commentary when I was a part of the “urban culture” story they told. They broke it down with nothing but the truth. (I’m not going to start in on what “urban” means either.) I have done research and group moderation or facilitation before, lots of times, actually, but yesterday got at me right down where, as I always say, the spirit meets the bone. They did that. I am, with my heart and soul, thankful.
And so, while it’s outside of my work remit, it’s going to be hard for me not to reach out to men like DJ Timbuck2k, and DJ Broadway Streets and Dave Jeff and Gerron and Don and Ahmad (more on those three later!) because they pretty much laid down the gauntlet in a mere 2 hours. Basically they said, “Friend, this is what it is, this is how it’s bad, and this is why.” So, regardless of our research agenda, then, what are we going to do to make THIS better?
I am motivated this day — after a night spent in a world that’s not usually mine, but that also is mine all the time in some way, and that didn’t end until this morning — to make it my mission to unleash the deep insights they shared for change-making and better-having in the communities that hold my heart. I hope I don’t get fired. But, just in case, I collected all those business cards, baby, because I may be a lot of things, but stupid ain’t one. Sunday is looming. Get after it, friends.