Saturday, July 24, 2010

Free Your Mind

“… I might date another race or color,
It doesn’t mean I don’t like my strong black brothers”

- En Vogue (Free Your Mind: Funky Divas)

So during my last two semesters of school, I tried to stay focused on staying focused but as the weeks passed by, I became more restless and anxious. My world crumbled when The Voice and I parted ways and I found myself riding solo through the world.

(Cue Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”)

Now, I’m not the type of guy who likes being unattached so I channeled my breakup frustrations and angst into my studies and soon enough, I began considering something new. I soon discovered he was smart. He was talented. He had the same type of dry, sarcastic humor as me. He was attractive. He was sexy.

And he was white.

Yeah, in all my years of dating and failed relationships, I suddenly found myself checking out a white guy.

Now, let me straighten things out (no pun intended) before I continue: I am hardly a candidate for racism and bigotry. After all, I am African-American and SGL so I have absolutely no right to criticize another person for their religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Moreover, I’ve had friends from numerous backgrounds such that if they all gathered in one room, it’d look like a United Nations summit. Plus, it’s hard to be narrow-minded at UMass Boston considering the many students from all walks of life. I enjoy getting to know people from all cultures and backgrounds as it makes life interesting and fascinating.

Nevertheless, I felt some deep confliction then and even now, nearly a year since I admitted I was interested in this guy. However, I had never seriously considered dating a white guy before this “curiosity” began. My “black book” is filled with guys who are mostly from West Indian descent. And the few white guys I dated were flings at the most. Either they were too mature for me (I was exceptionally na├»ve when I first came out) or I wasn’t serious about them. Either way, it never lasted more than one or two dates. In a nutshell, I don’t have much experience seriously dating outside my race.

I’ve only had about four or five serious relationships, including my first girlfriend and I suppose it was easier to relate to each one because we shared the same racial experiences growing up. Everyone I dated had felt that sting of discrimination. We all knew what it was like to deal with “our people.” We all knew about the “black church” experience. We all heard the ghetto black rumors, knew the black handshakes and drilled every February on our black history. And we all went through the “please don’t let him be black” mantra when we saw a crime being reported on television. But how do you relate when your boyfriend doesn’t have a clue about any of these things?

While I’ve already established that I’m open to new encounters, I somehow have to reconcile with the “traitor to the race” mentality that’s been indoctrinated in our community since long before I was born. I have relatives on each end of the color spectrum but can’t help remembering those echoes of “oh they got them babies with the fine hair.” While most in the community have moved on from that mentality, there are many inside and out the black community that have not. And that’s not even touching upon the racism within the gay community.

Could I have dated too many black guys with issues that it’s turned me off? Does this make me self-hating? While my friends and family may be accepting, what types of ignorant things will we encounter in the real world aside from us being an SGL couple? These are just some of the thoughts swirling around in my head.

I suppose the first step will be to “adjust the vision of my future-self.” For example, when I acknowledged my sexual orientation, I was mostly devastated that my “future-self” would no longer have that all-American scenario: wife, kids, house with a picket fence. In time and as I began to really delve into the gay community, I realized that I just needed to shift that vision a little. The woman became a guy and the kids existed via adoption. Thus, that perfect African-American partner I visualized may become Asian, Latino or white. Or another ethnicity entirely.

Maybe I’m becoming more open-minded as I age. After all, I’m thinking about a long-term relationship and possibly a family the closer I get to 30 while the “me” from ten years ago was all about fun. Who knows where this is all coming from and how it will turn out.

In the end, the most important realization is that regardless of his skin color, I just want the love to be 100% real and honest.

And it doesn’t get any realer than that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reading Corner: Sweet Swagger

I know it’s been awhile since I posted a book review but I got caught up since A Private Affair and I’m now THREE books ahead. And each book has been juicier than the last so I’m going to try to go back to Sweet Swagger and give you my run down.

Sweet Swagger was the follow up novel to Mike Warren’s A Private Affair which introduced the reader to Sean Matthews and his wild lifestyle. In my last review, I stated that two elements set this novel apart from the riff-raff: setting and pacing. Well, you can throw that out of the window because this novel took the wildest and weirdest turn I’ve ever experienced in a book. While the military setting remained, it was placed on the back burner in place of more nightclub scenes and “home life".

Nevertheless, the pace remained consistent and I was swept up, anticipating each page like a huge spoonful of chocolate sundae!

At the conclusion of A Private Affair, we found Sean confessing his love before his friend Cameron who was at the altar about to marry *GASP* a woman. However, Sean's arrested on suspicion of murder before he can blink (Cameron too) and Sean finds himself in a race to discover the truth before it’s too late. As if that isn’t enough on his plate, his wife suddenly dies and he’s left a single dad with two small children. But oh no, Mike Warren doesn’t leave it at that – the cherry on top? Sean enters “complicated” relationship with men and women that ties back into the murder and delves into an underground world of sex, lust and power.

About two-thirds into the book, the novel took an unexpected turn regarding this underground lifestyle and while at times graphic and a bit disturbing, I enjoyed the diversion from the main plot. Initially, I thought it was a bit fantastical and whimsical (Sean should still be grieving) but after finishing the novel, it made me wonder what people are really hiding behind closed doors. In essence, your next door neighbors may not be the quiet, normal couple that one thinks.

I was disappointed with the development of some of the characters such as Cameron and Cat (she was introduced in the first book). While I hold no discrimination against effeminate men, I still find it difficult to believe that Cameron went from knock-down-drag-out-of-the-flaming-closet-queen to straight husband and father. Additionally, I was a little weirded out by the new characters Justin, Ty and Mike, mostly because the affairs with them moved quickly. And kudos to Warren for keeping the continuity flowing from the first novel (HINT: floors + paint).

Lastly, the subplot mystery turned out to be a disappointment (very rushed scene) but equally surprising (my detective skills need some tuning). Additionally, Warren utilized the same technique from his first book to end the novel: the cliffhanger. I’ve nothing against this however, it’s very frustrating and disappointing and hope he’s planning a third novel.

Overall, this was a very strong counterpart to his debut book. The pacing, storyline and characters were just as salacious and sensational. Mike Warren has proven himself a true master of storytelling.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Miguel f. J. Cole - All I Want Is You

I happened to be channel surfing the other day and came across Centric's Soul Sessions and saw this new artist, Miguel, doing his thing. Not only is he good looking but I like his sound, kind of a "forlorn" or longing vibe. The lyrics had me thinking about a certain somebody. Ironically, in a YouTube interview (click here), Miguel mentions that he's not so much "concerned with how the music sounds but how it feels" ... I guess he did his job because I was definitely feeling it.

Hope Miguel sticks around and doesn't just become a one-hit wonder. Oh yeah, I like the style of the video too (just my inner cinematographer!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

... And A New Chapter Begins

I DID IT!!!!!!

Some video footage of me singing with the University of Massachusetts Boston Chamber Singers at Friday's Commencement Ceremony. The video is courtesy of my mom (who was cheering me on while simultaneously cussing out the people walking in front of the camera) and edited by me. So much to talk about, so little time (family is here from out of town) but once this weekend passes, I'll be sure to put up some more material this week! Stay blessed ...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jazz Time (Part 1)

Hey everyone,

I've got a few clips from our spring end-of-the-semester jazz concert! I'm on piano (my back is to the camera) and while the quality isn't that great, it gives you an idea of what we do ...

The first clip features excerpts from Unit Seven (Wes Montgomery) and the second clip is Phase Dance (Pat Metheny). I've some more clips on the way but ediiting takes a while, especially with commencement coming up so I'll post as soon as I can! Enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The End Is Near ...

Hi everyone,

Just letting you know that I'm not going to update until commencement passes so I hope to be back sometime in mid-June (or earlier) if my schedule permits!

On a quick side note, my jazz band is having a concert this week as well as our chorus so I hope to get some video footage up.

In the meantime, family from out of town, dinner receptions, house-cleaning, final exams, concerts, jury preparation and other stuff has me pretty tied down. Nevertheless, I want to share this major experience with you, so just hang in there and I'll post something soon enough!

Peace & Blessings

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reading Corner: A Private Affair

As a fairly consistent reader (I’m hardly without a book), however, I am a bit picky when it comes to fictional novels. I tend to judge a book by it’s cover length so right away I was apprehensive but the cover illustration looked hot so I took a gamble!

And surprisingly, it paid off…

The author, Mike Warren, introduces the reader to A Private Affair, a world filled with lies, secrets, lust and just about all other manner of freaky erotic lifestyle that usually pepper a “typical urban novel.” However, two things immediately helped set it apart from the riff-raff: setting and pacing.

The plot is about a young Army private, Sean Matthews, who begins to explore his sexuality and gradually delves deeper and deeper into a world he is unfamiliar with. Chance encounter at nightclubs, undercover military sex, down-low lust and even some forbidden Lord-have-mercy religious rendezvous keep Sean’s world upside-down and turned out. But along this wild journey, he begins to discover himself and has to make some extremely important decisions. As the author states, will he get the best of both worlds or simply turned out?

Now before I zero in on my complaints (and those who read my past reviews know I will!), I must compliment this fresh author on his intrepid novel. There aren’t many novels in the African-American SGL genre that feature the military as a backdrop, especially considering how homophobic both communities can be at times. Knowing some family as well as a few friends in the military, I have never been interested in anything remotely army-related so bravo for capturing my interest.

Nevertheless, this novel suffers from the same affliction that many up-and-coming SGL novels do: TERRIBLE EDITING! There is nothing worse than reading a novel (I’ve read quite a few) and keeping the Rosetta Stone tablet nearby to decipher what in the world he or she is attempting to convey! While I don’t want to criticize this author, I believe all these authors should take more pride in their work and keep on their publisher/editor’s.

Lastly, my other issue with this novel was the overall structure (pacing, continuity, loose ends). The last two chapters raced by at break-neck speed leaving a massive cliffhanger (to be resolved in his next novel Sweet Swagger). Another example is Sean’s friend we are introduced to from the beginning and seems to simply disappear as well as the characterization of his roommate, Cameron, which I find hard to believe someone this effeminate actually made it through boot-camp.

Yet on a positive note I found many aspects of the story endearing and relevant. While I can’t relate physically to the super muscular, hyper-masculine personality of Sean, I easily connected with his struggles as he “came out.” His constant denials, his disconnect with his wife, the encounters were all expertly detailed and slowly drawn out through the course of the book. Additionally, many of the events toward the end of the novel really moved things along and begged for resolution (“who don it?” “could it be..?” “oh no he didn’t!”) and I’ve already got Sweet Swagger on order.

I recommend this as a great summer-style read. The “intimate” scenes are very hot and steamy with just enough raw detail to excite without drowning it in “poetry-esque” prose or making it crude and classless. While the scene changes really take the reader for a ride, don’t expect the novel of the century. Simply put, if you take A Private Affair at face value, you’ll be begging for more too!

Look for my review of Mike Warren’s follow-up novel Sweet Swagger by early summer.