i always appreciate when anyone takes the time to highlight anything i do. thank you LOCALarts for featuring me, and thank you Eric Boyd for weeding through my ramblings and writing this really dope, succinct piece. you are the man. shout to Rodney and Julie for coming through and shooting me in my element. if you're in Pittsburgh, you can get the physical in most places. read it online here (pg30.
my next project, Ambition, features 13 students from the Watson Institute: Friendship Academy, expressing themselves through art in a show taking place at LOCAL 412 opening July 1st.
this show came about from randomly (is anything actually random?) meeting a teacher from the school and her telling me about her students. as she told me more about the school and the program, i started to get the sense that a lot of the students had been written off in life by others before enrolling into the Watson Institute, and being embraced by teachers that actually care and give them the support they need.
i feel sort of a responsibility to lend my resources to help the youth, especially those that aren’t always given the best opportunities. as a kid, i was probably one of the worst students ever, not in terms of behavior, just overall. i hated school and school hated me, i always felt like i was written off and given up on. i’ll never forget hearing things like “you won’t amount to anything”, “i hope you fail” etc. from teachers, who besides our parents, are supposed to be the people helping us win in life. it’s lame when teachers intentionally or as a result of losing their cool, try to crush students spirits, and suggest that any ambition on their part is a waste.
for some kids, it’s like they aren’t allowed to be ambitious. too often kids get their dreams shut down with what adults see as logic, but is usually, actually, them projecting their inadequacies onto the child. regardless of circumstance, behavior, or diagnosis, every child has the potential to be a success if they apply themselves and they’re nurtured by caring people.
i wanted to give these students an opportunity to shine, and the freedom to express themselves, which i think is paramount. although i am the curator of this exhibition in that i am organizing it, i’m not curating their art. there’s no good or bad, right or wrong; no ‘this doesn’t work, let’s leave it out’. this show is not about the art. sorry, art snobs. to me, art is not just something reserved for professionals to be appraised and judged (although there’s a place for that). i always thought that art was a vehicle for expression, and something for us to learn from, and gain a better understanding of each other.
as much as i want the world to understand these students, i’m more concerned with them understanding themselves. i want them to know that they can do anything, and that it’s okay to be ambitious.
with that said, it would mean a lot to all parties involved if y’all stopped by LOCAL 412, at 4901 Penn Avenue in Garfield during July’s Unblurred First Fridays. let them know that people care about what they do.
As a Pittsburgh Resident, I Couldn’t Care Less about the Stanley Cup
A sincere congrats to the city of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Penguins who just won their fourth Stanley Cup last night. I love the energy in this city when one of its three professional teams wins a big game. Everyone is so happy and friendly. There’s a lot of “woooh!”s and “go Pens!” or Steelers or Pirates, and a lot of hi-fiving between people who appear to be complete strangers. It’s the best. No city supports its sports like Pittsburgh. Well, except for Cleveland, who I’m pretty sure loves their sports team more than any other city in the world.
I’m not from Cleveland. I’m from Mansfield. Mansfield is a smaller city an hour south of Cleveland via I-71. But in Northeast Ohio, we all root for the Cleveland teams because those are the closest professional teams. Cleveland is the closest hub for anything major. When people say there’s nothing to do in Cleveland, I be thinking they buggin’ because there was so little going on where I lived, we went to Cleveland to have fun. Cleveland was where the action was, and still is. I love Cleveland. And Cleveland loves Cleveland like Kanye loves Kanye.
Pittsburgh rages for all things black and yellow, as they should. But is it really that hard to love your city’s pro sports when collectively, they’ve won four national championships in the last decade? Four! Everyone here 11 years old and up has been to at least four championship parades. And for the record, Pittsburgh professional teams have won 15 titles total, which is mind-blowing to this Ohio native. As much as I love Pittsburgh for embracing me, the Stanley Cup coming here means little to me because 1) y’all have seen this before, and 2) I have my own city’s pride to worry about. Stuff is crazy back home; it kills me that I’m not around.
Where I’m from, the pro teams haven’t won a championship in over 50 years. The Cleveland Cavaliers, my dear Cavs, have never won a championship. And we still love and support all the squads. Northeast Ohio’s love for its teams is unparalleled because we love teams that haven’t won in our lifetime. There’s no bandwagon here. Btw, I want to address something real quick… we grew up with Lebron, he’s Akron’s own, and I can’t speak for Cleveland folk, but in Mansfield and Akron, our loyalty is to him as much as it is any team, and we want to see him win wherever he’s at. We love it just to see one of us make it. Check yourself before you check us for rocking that Heat #6 two years ago.
In Ohio, there’s no “oh, you just like the Cavs/Browns/Indians because they won the chip”. It’s much harder to love teams who time and time again break your heart into a million pieces in the most humiliating way possible. I don’t need to get into it because The History is well documented. I just watched ESPN’s 30 for 30, Believeland, the other night and teared up at the end. Each year we lose, and each year it’s ‘next year’. We’re too loyal, and our faith is undying. We’ll never stop believing. We still believe even when we’re down 3–1 in the NBA Finals, and coming back to win would be the first time it’s ever happened in history.
Game 5 of the Finals is tonight, and the Cavs are up against a juggernaut that just went 73–9 in the regular season, breaking the record set by the greatest team in NBA history, Michael Jordan’s 95-96 Bulls. A Cavs win tonight won’t be easy but a Cavs win tonight means more to me than the Pens championship win last night. And the Cavs would still have two more games to win before (even the thought of it so crazy, I had to pause while typing) Cleveland gets its first ring in 50 years.
Once again we’re oh-so-close to victory, so close I can see it. It’s crazy how we could be so close so many times, and still come up short. All we want is a trophy and a parade, and to know that we can do it too. Because that feeling is something I desperately want to experience at least once in my lifetime, I will never hate on those who do get to experience it.
Party it up, Pittsburgh, and even though you’ve been through this championship thing a lot, don’t take it for granted. There are some of us who have no idea what it feels like to see our city win. On that note, Cleveland, don’t take your teams for granted, because the cities around y’all have nothing to call their own.
As invested as I am (which is not a lot compared to most), I don’t really care about sports that much. I know there’s more to life. As serious as all this is, it’s not that serious (but it is). Sports are a pastime. Sports also inspire, and unite people, whom if it weren’t for sports, may hate each other. Sports encourage and give confidence. Don’t underestimate how important it is for people who have nothing to see that the impossible can be done.
The Cavs winning their first ring in franchise history, in that kid from Akron’s second year back, after being down 3–1 to this Warriors team who beat us last year, is impossible only to people who believe in impossible. I don’t have the luxury of believing in impossible. Where we’re from, when you believe in impossible, you become a statistic. We know anything is possible because we’ve already beat the odds so many times. The Cavs winning just proves us right and lets more people know to hold on because their day is coming. If this year isn’t our year, then the next one will be. If the next one isn’t than the next one is. I believe in believing.
my favorite song. my favorite movie. my favorite musician. he changed the world. this moment changed my life. i'm thankful i was able to witness his magic. i can't even put into words how much he's impacted and influenced me, as well as my family, but i am grateful. thanks for everything, Prince. you are appreciated.
in 1996 i was a Kobe Bryant fan. Michael Jordan was everything in the 90s and he was my first favorite basketball player but Kobe was probably the first player whose journey i saw from the start. i witnessed him enter the NBA. i witnessed him become Mamba.
i saw him on Sister Sister. i saw him on Moesha.
he was a kid like me. he had 10 years on me so he was an older kid but he wasn't an adult. he was a kid. he was the same age as the Mansfield Sr. High varsity team i'd watch play at Pete Henry Gym. he was a kid. and he was playing in the same league as Mike the rest of the guys from Space Jam. that's insane. without knowing much about basketball at the time, i liked him on gp.
fast forward to 2003/2004
improved player + won rings + despicable case caught + snitched on Shaq + ran Shaq out + a high school phenom 40 minutes up the way from where i lived in Ohio is drafted to the home team and is crowned King James.
from that time to about last year, i didn't rock with Kobe at all. he was cold and i respected his game but i wasn't checking for him. then two things came out that forever changed how i viewed him: The Interview (with Ahmad Rashad) and the documentary MUSE (by Gotham Chopra). it wasn't until i saw these two works that i understood Kobe the player, and had more insight on Kobe the man. you should watch them both if you haven't.
both feature Bean telling his own story, addressing what made him him, what made the black mamba, his highs and his lows. i actually found myself relating to him. all i knew prior was the selfish bball sociopath with questionable character. i didn't know how he grew up an awkward outcast and how much isolation and not fitting in influenced his path. i can relate. even after making it and being on a team, he was still Mr. Solo Dolo. i can relate. i never knew how in his darkest times, he channeled his emotions to what he loved, using them as fuel. i can relate. he wanted to do things his way, regardless of what everyone around him was doing. i can relate. he's not concerned with hanging out and making friends. i feel him. a lot of the things that shaped him, shaped me in some ways. i'm not saying we're the same. we're not. not even a little bit. but because i now understand and relate to him, i'm able to learn from his greatness as well as his faults.
his words even helped get me through my first marathon, which i ran injured last year.
"when the game itself is more significant than the injury, you don't feel the injury. the injury won't get in the way because it's not important to you"
i wish i would've saw him play in person. my partner and i actually got tickets to his final game in Cleveland but then i had lung surgery two days before it and had to watch from a hospital bed.
with today being the last game of his incredible 20 year career, i want to take the time to say that i appreciate all that he's given to the game and the example he set with his work ethic. his dedication, focus, and desire to win is only inspiring.
Kob' elevated his entire profession and became one of the greatest to ever do it, out of thousands before him (never mind the millions that failed to go pro). think about whatever it is you do and think about how crazy it is to be recognized by millions around the world as like the top 3 to ever do it in history. how can you not respect that?
toast to the Mamba.
it's 3am in the morning (no eminem) and i find myself idly looking at twitter because i can't sleep and i realized that i follow mad people that i know in real life that i don't interact with anymore. some for good reason and some because life just took us in different directions, which also may have been for good reason. that's what happens when you get older though, right? you lose touch, lose phone numbers, lose memories, and before you know it, you forget mugs exist. but because the internet (yes childish gambino) you're reminded from time to time, and you're still connected to these people. even if you never speak, you occasionally see what they're up to. maybe you like their pics or status updates, or wish them well in times of tragedy, or wish them a happy birthday, or get invites to their lame events. it's harder to detach yourself from things or people you should no longer be attached to.
well, not for me. the fact that i'm ghost was a sudden realization for me because i've been so focused on what's in front of me in real life and the people i see daily, i didn't see just how far removed i was from old circles. my life isn't perfect by any means but there's enough dope in it that i'm good with only paying attention to what i have and what/who is around me. i don't think about old relationships of any kind, ever. once it dies, it's dead. out of sight, out of mind, ya know. of course, there are exceptions. a couple real friends (yes kanye) that i've known for years that reside in different states that i may not speak to for months at a time, sometimes 12, but these are the people that won't hesitate to help when needed, and check on me when i'm in the hospital, and hit me up when i'm having my first child, and request my presence at their wedding, and travel from out of state to see my art exhibition. it's those people that i rock with, and neither time, nor distance, can kill our bond.
it's important to know who really rocks with you and who doesn't. when you know, you can better allocate your energy. not everyone deserves it. it's mad ok to move on from people and situations... idk why so many struggle with this. i always feel like if the situation was supposed to last, it would have.
thank God for real friends and fam.
my last exhibition, the other side of pop, just closed march 25th after being up since january 22nd. my biggest and longest running exhibition to date was also the one i learned the most from. that's all i can ever really ask for - the opportunity to learn. and i learned sooooo much from so many people, it's crazy. i'm super thankful for the lessons learned from the work, the mistakes, the artists, the organization, the visitors, the feedback, the many conversations... everything. it has all helped me to grow as a curator and even a person.
i'm excited because i get to apply everything i learned to my next projects.
so... on to the next.
thank you: tara, linshuttr, marqui, janis, devonne, mackenzie, ivan, justin, baron, jason, derek, cryssy, rexchouk, cey, sophia, molly, club bum, amani, hannibal, andre, matthew, erin, ben, jessiah, emmai, cat, arnold's tea, smi, laila, chancelor, kurt, shaunda, diana, joe, gerald, murray, nathan, jaysen, alison, janera, george, kst, awc staff, the cultural trust, and everyone who visited, shared and supported tosop.
nothing was the same.
this past saturday, myself, cey adams, and hannibal hopson did an artist talk for our exhibition, the other side of pop, at the august wilson center. it was my first time doing an artist talk or any kind of public speaking about my curatorial work, so i wasn't really sure what to expect.
we kicked the talk off with cey giving a brief synopsis of his history, then hannibal talking about his work, then me touching on the overall idea behind the exhibit, and opening it up to the audience for discussion.
all was good; everyone was engaged and seemed eager to talk about art and culture with us. then out of nowhere i'm blindsided like waldo geraldo faldo in the opening credits of family matters, with a comment about the exhibit's lack of a female voice. i mean... valid. but dang.
there's no excuse but the reason for this lack of perspective was because it wasn't on my mind, (or apparently any of the female artists involved) to depict pop culture from the viewpoint of a woman specifically. i didn't set out to show a man's perspective either. i looked for art that dealt with pop culture from an urban perspective. i came across what i came across and showed what i liked.
but i realized that it's this kind of oversight that made me, as a young black man, feel slighted in so many art exhibitions that claimed to represent society or millennials, but not guys like me that come from where i come from. that's the reason i did TOSOP. it's easy for those who are able to see themselves in the world to not be conscious of those who can't. i realize that you can't just expect those with voices to automatically understand the voiceless. you can't automatically expect them to understand your plight. everyone ain't that woke. you have to speak up and say something. i've been surrounded by women literally my entire life, i have a new daughter who has raised my awareness by a million, and i STILL did not consider the lack of female perspectives. well, there were female perspectives, just not works that spoke to being a woman.
i've actually been wanting to do a show about/for women for a while now but where i went wrong was thinking that i had to save that to be it's own separate thing, instead of just incorporating that consideration in everything i do. it's the difference between celebrating black history in one specific month vs celebrating it with all history, all the time, all year round.
i won't make the same mistake going forward. i love women too much. i love Neon too much. i hold women in such a high regard and appreciate them so much, i need to show it more. women endure a lot and we don't show our appreciation for all that they do, like we should. we don't uplift them like we should. even though i'm here for all women, it must be pointed out that black women especially, NEVER forget to make sure black men are represented. they fight and march for us and go harder for us than a lot of us deserve. that love has to be returned.
i can't speak for anyone else, and will never ask anything of anyone else, but i will do my part.
i also need to look out more for those with disabilities. did you see stevie wonder at the grammys calling for more accessibility!? shout out to the GOAT for telling us all that we've been slacking.
i need to do more. i will.
and if i slack, call me out on it.
two weeks ago i had a really bad cough, which lead to some really bad pains in my chest, which lead to a life threatening collapsed lung, which lead to 10 days in the hospital and surgery. the great news is that i'm fine... now.
i'm fuzzy on the details but i remember waking up one day with really sore ribs, writhing in pain on my bed. as crazy as it sounds in retrospect, i didn’t think much of it. just thought it was a freak thing that would soon go away. i was hoping it was just a stomach thing or something.
that night though, while out at an event, i had a really bad cough and nearly fell over. luckily i was able to brace and catch myself, discretely clutching my chest. if i wasn't in public, it probably would've been a wrap as i'm sure i would've just hit the ground. but who wants to be the guy that collapses in the middle of a party? not i. so i survived that instance and was able to make it home, where i decided i should just chill for the night and make a doctors appointment in the morning. i'd much rather a scheduled appointment than wait for hours in an emergency room. i don't like sitting around for that long, tbh. so i slept on it. i woke up and while i wasn't 100% i wasn't in that much pain. i convinced myself that it would go away with rest and that i had more time than i really did. i was supposed to make a doctors appointment that day... but i did not. and i have no real reason why. idk yo, i just don't like having to go to doctors offices and hospitals. this particular day was my day off, so i only had to chill in the crib with my family all day which was so pleasant, any pains paled in comparison.
the next day while at work, i could literally, barely speak without coughing a hundred times. it was awful, and obvious to everyone but myself that i needed to get help asap. i finally took my family's and co-worker's advice and by lunch time, i was out of the office and on my way to the emergency room.
turns out the emergency room wasn't as bad as i expected. i probably only had to wait about 10 minutes, which was the first of many good signs UPMC Mercy was going to take care of me. they called my name, took me into the room, asked what was wrong, i explained, they did an ultrasound, and informed me immediately that i had a collapsed lung.
word!? an actual collapsed lung... and not bronchitis or something? like there's something actually wrong with one of the most important organs in my body... not only is not working, but it's actually collapsed!? alright, i guess.
the medical term for a collapsed lung, at least what i had, is pneumothorax. pneumothorax happens when air gets outside the lung and fills the space between the chest and the lung, forcing the collapse. sometimes it's caused by gunshots or stabs or fights or car accidents or other heavy jolts to the system. in rare occurrences it's a result of an air blister on the lung breaking, sending the air outside the lung, where it's not supposed to be. in cases like mine, all it takes to break this air blister (or bleb) is a bit of forceful coughing, which is crazy because you can't really see it coming or prevent it.
shortly after i was diagnosed, the doctors put a tube in my chest to inflate and repair the lung, so that they could eventually operate on it. this tube would remain in chest for the next 10 days until i was finally discharged from the hospital. this tube hurt. a lot.
i never imagined when walking into that emergency room that i wouldn't see my home again for 10 days. i didn't bring an overnight bag or anything. i went in on a tuesday and once i heard i had to stay a few days, i figured i'd be out by saturday at the latest. but that was until i knew how bad the collapse was. apparently the collapse was pretty major, even for a collapse which is already bad enough. the collapse was so impactful, my lung had begun to push against my heart. i was told that if i would have tried to put off getting help for even a few more hours, i might not have made it.
how crazy is it that i could be that close to death and not even know it? i wonder how many times that's happened. what i do know is that i'm extremely grateful that God looked out for me in spite of my stubbornness (stupidity). it's a big reminder that i should never take life for granted and that it's very possible for me to not have it. i'm not invincible. i will also never ever ever again put off going to a doctor or hospital when something feels that wrong. i'll definitely, probably over do it now and go every time i have even a hiccup.
this was my first time having to stay in the hospital overnight as a patient. i've actually never even been hurt before; no sprained ankles, broken fingers, torn muscles, no stitches, no nothing, so this was all super new to me.
i learned a lot and gained a lot of perspective from my time in the hospital. because i had a hospital roommate my entire 10 days there, i have a deeper understanding of what it means to be compassionate and empathetic to people's problems. each of my four roommates did things that under normal circumstances would drive me crazy but because i was in a hospital having just narrowly escaped death, i was honestly just appreciative of the fact that i was alive to hear what they were doing.
another thing is that any medicine or sickness-induced idiosyncrasy that may annoy me, may be necessary for their survival. i imagined that their loved ones would rather endure the loud snoring and bad smells than endure the loss of a father or uncle or brother. that thinking made it possible for me to be pretty much unfazed during my stay. this kind of thinking should definitely be applied to people in the streets.
we could all stand to be more understanding of what our fellow humans are going through. we can't always just look at how things affect us, especially if they actually don't (most of the time, they don't). there's usually a reason why the next person is doing this thing we say we can't stand. if we're able to put ourselves in their shoes or understand that it's bigger than us, perhaps we won't be so quick to judge or allow ourselves to be bothered.
one thing i like about hospitals (or at least UPMC Mercy) is the abundance of positive vibes. everyone is mad nice and sort of roots for you, wanting to see you do well. the nurses, the doctors, your roommates... there's a sense of "we're all in this together. good luck!" that everyone seems to automatically pick up on.
with me being there for 10 days, i felt like the OG of the floor. i seen patients come and go, and i got to be quite acquainted with the nursing staff, who were all awesome in case you were wondering. the doctor who performed the surgery is the man too. shout out out to Dr. Awais! and Celia and Brandi and Matthew and Cindy and Sheryl and Coleen and Tina and Megan and Yuva and Michael and Anthony and everyone else who helped. big big big thanks to all my family who visited (everyone who visited is family) - i appreciate you all so much. shout out to everyone who hit me up to check on me - that means a ton too. nothing is taken for granted.
i'm happy to finally be out of the hospital and back home. i'm anxious to start working again but per the doctor's orders, i must chill. and as much as i don't want to listen, i absolutely will. in a few weeks i'll be back on my feet and back out here but until then i'm taking it as physically easy as i can take it. surgery recovery is no joke, nahmean. "my body different, i'm breathin' different, you understand what i'm sayin'?"
2015 was the craziest twelve month span of my life, by far. a couple downs and a lot of high-ups have made the last year one for the books. i entered 2015 with friends at a NYE party, standing behind a bar as champagne popped and strangers on the other side danced the night away. i've never been one for the party life and i was only there because that was the move friends wanted to make but that's neither here nor there. i remember wondering what the upcoming year had in store and for all that i imagined, i never once thought that things would turn out the way they did. a lot of the year is a blur tbh, outside of a few highlights. usually when i experience something, i kind of just move on without dwelling. i don't like to hold on to things. so to look back at the events of this past year, i'm just like 'wow, that happened?' i like that i did a lot of things for the first time, and a lot of things for the last time.
i'm not going to go into detail about every event that took place last year because i'm more concerned with the future. but real quick, i: ran a marathon; spoke in front of hundreds of kids; helped open a restaurant; opened a gallery; had a radio show; curated a huge installation in an international airport; got to be a part of an epic public art project; moved into a new crib; moved in with my bestie; started a new position; met a bunch of dope people; ended a year long gallery exhibition drought; and had a bunch of crazy experiences that i can't even discuss #onhere.
but most important of all... my daughter Neon was born!
that's still the craziest thing ever to me. the kid has a kid. she looks just like me, too. i love her so much!
with Neon, i find myself simultaneously looking forward to her growth, but also really really really appreciating where she's at now. every single second with her and observing her is treasured, and i'm in no rush for her to grow up. but i also can't wait lol. having her has taught me to be way more appreciative of the moment. i don't know if it's because of that but lately i've been having a lot of beautiful, meaningful, crazy moments.
i'm all about the moments this year.
and family over everything.
i'm so grateful for everything that's happening and i'm super excited about everything that's coming up.
everything is bright.