Stand Firm…

It wasn’t until we walked up to the microphones at the karaoke joint, when we realized Thank You For Being A Friend (aka ‘The Golden Girls’ theme) was a full song.

We were set to sing the version we knew…  until we saw another part to the first verse. i am old enough to be aware of the song (as i was alive during the song’s initial release- 1978); having seen the credits of ‘The Golden Girls’ time and time again, i even knew Andrew Gold was credited to be the songwriter.  Still, i (and my friend, and many others around the world) had no idea this song we cherished for ourselves had a further set of lyrics, charting one’s sincerity and gratitude towards another person.  The lyrics are simple yet crucial at a time where popular songs center romantic love (or flat out lust) as a goal to attain.  The song, without describing the gender of said ‘friend’, potentially challenges the socially accepted notion that ‘men and women cannot be friends’.  While ideally, a friendship should develop before building on something romantic (as you need a foundation to stand on before you can build the rest of a structure); again, most popular songs about ‘love’ center only the romantic (or lustful) type.

So…  My friend and i sang away, immediately catching on to the structure of this rendition we had no familiarity with (outside of the abridged version), and cherished our moment.  i would also come to have laughs with friends about some of the gospel renditions i would send.

(On a side note:  ‘The Golden Girls’ historically was one of those shows which resonated with varied groups of people, but the prominent voices who vocalized their approval were older women (who are usually not represented in popular culture as having an independent voice) and the LGBTQ+ communities.  Many people also took note of the comic timing of the show, as well as the (at the time (and still in some cases)) controversial subject matter.  The sexual agency of older women, gay marriage and racism/prejudice were a few of many subjects explored on the show, and few shows to this day explore these subjects in a way which resonate.)

It has been in more recent times where i returned to the song.  A sisterfriend and i were discussing Andrew Gold’s original version the other day, and upon listening to it i began to cry.

And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it’s hard to hear
I will stand real close and say,
Thank you for being a friend 

Living amongst so much trauma, drama and depression as of late, it’s been even more isolating because for the most part i do not have my closest friends here with me. Though we talk on the phone amongst the geographical and time differences- and i am thankful this is able to happen… Not being able to give and receive hugs (and i love hugs!); not being able to laugh at or analyze/dissect bad movies late at night; not being able to have long conversations about political issues; to go roller skating and help each other get up when we fall, to have code words and sentences only we know, to sing songs with at the karaoke joint, to watch each other grow…  It gets a bit lonely, so i began to cry.


Increasingly, the concept of ‘friendship’ appears to be shifting.  Prior to social media you had the concept of the ‘pen pal’; Looking forward to receiving a letter in the mail was one of the highlights of the day.  Sometimes you would even go to visit each other.  The word ‘friend’ gets used lightly, or in a cavalier fashion in this day and age, particularly with the use of social media.  People are ‘friends’ based on a limited connection; however, with some exceptions people do not seem to build relationships with each other outside of that.  Popularity is judged based on how many ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ one has.  There are times when a person is introduced as a ‘friend’ in social circles, yet the person doing the introductions cannot remember the ‘friend’s’ name.

My ideas about friendship have always been based on the ‘classic’ definition:  someone you could confide in, someone you could be vulnerable to, someone who will hold you accountable without being judgmental…  When you are young you think you are going to have all of the same friends for the rest of your life.  When this doesn’t happen you may ask a lot of questions of yourself; and just as this happens you gain a new series of friends (with a couple left over from the last part of your journey).  The cycle continues, and the people you once shared a closeness to have encountered new parts of their own journeys.  We all grow older; some of them get married, become parents, begin careers, change interests…  There are times along this journey where you may feel alone.  Every single person you contact is unavailable.  Some of them stop speaking to you for unknown reasons.

Holding on to the more ‘classic’ definition of what a friend is can be incredibly frustrating.  While relationships like this can, and still do exist; i had to re-explore what this actually means, given my current set of experiences and circumstances.  Where i am, nothing is the same as it was…  At all.  The first time i experienced this feeling was when one of my best friends, Barry, left this earth on February 4, 2011.  He left this earth at the same age i will be this year.  He was my rock.  Our late-night conversations always grounded me.  He pushed me to be my best creative self.  He was loved by so many people in his respective communities.  He was a father, an artist, a multi-instrumentalist…  a friend.

To this day, i have difficulty listening to his voice, or even looking at him.  i have audio of us talking, and i cannot listen to it.  Despite posting the video above, i cannot look at him. i avoid thinking about him, because it still hurts.  While i acknowledge one’s physical transition to be another aspect of their journey; while i acknowledge that his relationship to me served a very specific purpose in my life (in a spiritual sense); while i have acknowledged his not physically being here, something still feels very out of place for me, and i have yet to figure out what this is.  i have had some people in my life whom i’ve been close to leave this earth, and he is the only person i have not been able to move past.  Something in my life feels unfinished with him.

Shortly before his transition i had been trying to contact him for some time, and i had not heard back from him.  He was one of the busiest people i knew, but it was strange to not get one of his late-night calls after i’d get out of my job.  When i heard of his transition (from a mutual friend at the time, on social media no less) i felt paralyzed.  i didn’t particularly feel a need to find out any of the details (even though i did find out).  i did briefly communicate with his daughters after the transition; there were also people he was close to who contacted me, letting me know he talked about me a lot.  i didn’t have an interest in searching for information about any viewings or homegoing ceremonies.  He was one of my best friends but i felt disconnected from it all.

Given that i’ve acknowledged his not physically being here, i don’t consider it to be a denial stage.  i still feel that paralyzing feeling when i think about him though.


Holding on to the ‘classic’ definition can be limiting, not only because it potentially holds on to this illusion of permanence; but the concept of ‘friendship’ also tends to shift in light of how ‘friends’ are viewed in other aspects of our lives.  Though my mother lives close to me (and as we’ve gotten older developed a friendship), our relationship is going to be different, based on the mother/daughter dynamic.  Many who believe in the existence of a higher power (or God) would consider a relationship with God to be a friendship, despite never having physically met, or even knowing what this one they consider a friend looks like. When cats and dogs (and other non-humans) are adopted, they are immediately considered by some to be friends or companions (or even babies), despite being a different species (and having different sets of communication tools) as a human.  The concept of ‘friendship’ makes sense when looking at God or a furry companion as a source of comfort.

In more recent times, how i identify ‘friendship’ has shifted.  Given that my closest friends are not physically here, this shift has become a necessity.  A few days ago i was riding my bicycle, and i saw a man taking pictures of the New Jersey skyline; his graying hair balding in the center of his scalp.  Never having met before, we exchanged hellos as we passed each other, and he said “It’s nice to see you,” with a stark familiarity. i do not know if he imagined that he knew me, or if he felt the same unknown familiarity.  Were we instant friends?  No.  Still, i am learning not to question such things.  It’s like when a baby smiles back at you, or begins to wave hello (or goodbye) 20 seconds after you did so. In these brief moments of unknown familiarity lies a sense of comfort, in a place where you experience trauma and isolation…  In a place where you feel like a stranger.  i really do think the universe sends us situations and random people to remind us of our humility.


i was in midtown Manhattan on my bicycle, at a stoplight.  Being in a state of limbo (a state i am still experiencing, honestly- financial, emotional and more), a beautiful Rasta or Roots woman walked towards my direction. We exchanged silent glances, as if to say ‘hello.’  She continued to walk, still looking at me, and the only words she said were “Stand firm.”  i nodded my head and placed my hands over my heart, indicating thanks.  i marveled at this comment.  Is this something she’s said to others?  What was her perception of me, for her to recognize where i was at?  The funny thing is, i had not even reached the most stressful part of this journey at that point, so it was clear her intuition was strong.

There have been so many ‘tiny’ experiences to receive joy from, and that moment was simply, one of many i placed in my back pocket of precious moments.  Soon enough, those two words would make more sense than any two words i’ve heard in a long time. This woman was a true friend.  She taught me a major lesson.

Stand Firm.

i am in the most challenging place in my life i’ve ever been (and i have been through many), and while it looks as if i will never see the end of these challenges, i know like anything else, these challenges will pass.  Do i wish i knew when it will all pass?  To be honest, of course!  Not knowing causes major anxiety.  Being in an emotional, spiritual, economic and political battle all at once is enough to place someone in a constant state of anxiety.

Stand firm.

Live clean, let your works be seen,
Stand firm, or go feed worm.

-Peter Tosh

In the end, your actions are going to convey your true character.  At the same time, the words you speak (or sometimes, the music you listen to or images you watch) are going to bring either life or death to a situation.  What you are willing to fight and advocate for is going to convey that life or that death.  Every day, so many of us are beaten down (spiritually, economically, politically), we end up battling each other, and not the very systems which beat us all down.  And there is that one person who, out of the blue, in that moment of desperation…  reminds us to stand firm.

In the absence of your closest friends, other friends exist in the briefest moments.  i am still learning not to question it.

Thank you for being a friend.

Image: Young Friends Looking Happy And Posing For Camera, Creative Commons

Let me introduce myself… i am a writer.

My mother read the first entry from this blog.  i went to visit her yesterday, and she mentioned to me that i should be a writer.

This means a lot to me, coming from my mother.  i honestly do not know what has held me back all of these years, because certainly i love to write.  it’s one of the things which calms me; and i am a much better communicator in this medium than i am verbally (though i also do video commentaries)…  It’s not even the work/job conflation that holds me back.  Then again, it is.

i still have difficulty seeing that something i love to do could be a ‘potential business opportunity.’  You see articles everywhere saying, ‘make money off your blog!’, or ‘increase your brand’…  While i would LOVE to not have to clock in at a job, i (once again) do not have an entrepreneurial spirit.  i still want to be free to be able to do work without meeting quick deadlines, or dealing with overhead.  Somehow, i cannot see past that part.

It’s only in the past few months where i began shifting the idea of myself as a writer.  Whenever people would ask if i were a writer, i’d tell them “i like to write.”  i was uncomfortable with the title of writer, just as i was uncomfortable with the title of artist, despite studying photography in college (a student of the great Roy DeCarava (RIP)- we would have several conversations about our love for jazz.  One thing he told me, i will never forget.  i asked him if a piece i was working on was any good.  He asked me if it was something i would hang on my own wall.  After i told him yes, he said, “then it is a good photo.”)

Despite the many years of painting i’ve done; despite all the collages, the picture books,  the fanzines (yes, i’ve done those too), the text for comics, the drawing for most of my tattoos, the public access television, the playing in bands, the songwriting, creation of music recordings…  i have had trouble with calling myself an artist, a musician or a writer.  Despite doing all of these things, i had difficulty with the concept of ownership of these things- linking it all to the concept of a brand.  The anticapitalist in me (since the age of 15) wanted to share my works with people, without thinking of…  overhead.  ‘Major’ projects i have done were used to donate money to different organizations.

One thing i’ve learned though, is that it is crucial to think dialectically, and not to speak lack or loss into the universe.  While a profit motive is not the main goal, simultaneously, to say “no, i am not an artist- i just make art” is minimizing my own power to reach people in the way i want to.  i have had several people in my life who encouraged me to not give up writing; but it was  Lorraine Hansberry who contributed to the altering of how i saw myself as a writer.

It wasn’t just her ability to convey narratives that reflected realities of many people of African descent; it was the ideological conversations she had with herself (and others) that were the impetus for said narratives.  She developed an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist analysis that fueled her work.

Of course, anyone doing this kind of work (of creating art, or even organizing around it) has mulled over the contradictions at some point.  That would be impossible NOT to do in a capitalist society.  One of the many things she asked in her journal writings was “Do I remain a revolutionary? Intellectually – without a doubt. But am I prepared to give my body to the struggle or even my comforts?… Comfort has come to be its own corruption.”  She also said of herself, if her health were to improve she looked at traveling to the South to organize amidst the turmoil, “to find out what kind of revolutionary I am.”

The great Nina Simone (who of course was inspired by Lorraine Hansberry, as Lorraine Hansberry was inspired by Langston Hughes) spoke of these same contradictions.  She once said, “We don’t know anything about ourselves.  We don’t even have the pride and the dignity of African people.  We can’t even talk about where we came from.  WE DON’T KNOW!”  In another interview she stated:  “My job is to somehow make (African people) curious enough… persuade them, by hook or crook, to get more aware of themselves and where they came from, and what they are into, and what is already there…  Just to bring it out.  This is what compels me to compel them.  And i will do it by whatever means necessary.”

She also says in the same interview that the work she does “completely takes all (her) energy, unfortunately”; however, because she recognizes the magnitude of this work by acknowledging the “kids who come backstage afterwards, who want to talk or who are moved…  Sometimes they are moved to tears…”  She took time out despite being tired, “perhaps to hear some of their grievances, or just to make them feel that they’re not alone.”  She adds, “The most important thing is, they are our future!  It’s an investment, as far as I’m concerned.  When I invest time in young people from colleges, I know that I’m gonna get that bread back.  You know, bread cast upon the water comes back.  Because when i see ’em doing their thing one day, and I’m too old to do anything but sit and look at them I’m gonna say, well, I was part of that.”  She saw it as her, and other artists’ “duty to reflect the times…  How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times?”

Lorraine Hansberry speaks of the same sentiments.  Amidst her illness, she stopped to visit a group of young people who won a national writing contest:  “I wanted to be able to come here and speak with you on this occasion; because you are young, gifted and Black.  In the year 1964, I for one can think of no more dynamic combination that a person might be.  Look at the work that awaits you; write if you will.  But write about the world as it is, and as you think it ought to be and must be.  Work hard at it.  Care about it.  Write about our people.  Tell their story.”

In terms of the contradictions, Nina Simone said: “if I had my way, I’d’ve been a killer.  I would’ve had guns, and i would’ve gone to the South and gave ’em violence for violence; shotgun for shotgun…  if I had my way.  But my husband told me I didn’t know anything about guns; he used to teach me.  And the only thing I had was music, so I obeyed him.  But if I had my way…  I wouldn’t be sitting here today.  I’d be probably dead (her emphasis) somewhere, because i would have used guns during those years.  I was never a nonviolent person.”  She would have discovered what kind of revolutionary she was, had her husband not discouraged her.  The contradictions (and evidences of misogyny) definitely lie there, in that such a strong-willed woman was coerced (or forced) by her husband to not fight for her people, or against injustice in the matter she wished to.

This was not unlike what happened with Lorraine Hansberry.  Her husband colluded with doctors and others, to not inform her of the magnitude of her diagnosis, exacerbating her inability to heal in ways she most likely could have, had she been informed.


To be able to fuel my art (whatever form i take on) as a means of reaching and inspiring people (as well as myself) is work; and i do not have to perceive it as a burden (or a job) to get a message out, based on whatever analysis i have about the society i live in.  If i am to truly stand on the shoulders of these two phenomenal women (who are also ancestors); if i am to continue the mission they sought out to do in terms of their creative journey, i have to alter how i look at what i do.

i am a writer.

a writer.  

An artist.

A human that has the capacity to receive love, and to love back.


(Image: Trounce- Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a reason for everything…

Some things don’t need explaining, but there is a reason.

This is the third (and a half) blog site i have decided to do.  The title of this blog (Overjobbed and Underworked) came out of a group of ideas i wanted to collaborate with folks on, podcast wise…  i still aim to develop a podcast out of this as blogging, wonderful as it is, still carries limited capabilities for expression.

In a conversation, when asked what we do, the question usually refers to occupation or vocation- what one does in order to pay bills/rent/mortgage.  In other words, “What do you do for a living?”  the fact that many of us are conditioned to associate being able to put money towards a roof over our heads as ‘living’ has always troubled me.  The fact that people look at working 50, 60 (or more) hours a week as a status symbol has always troubled me, particularly when evidence of the toll on one’s health and mental stability due to working that many hours is highly documented.  The fact that people around the world don’t have the means of basic quality of life- and you have to work massive amounts of hours just to attain that- has always troubled me.

Having a job where you are not paid your worth (and the people at the top make triple the amount you do), where you are not able to make collective decisions about your own position; when you are at the mercy of management or supervisors; where your contributions or ideas are not valued; and you do it all just to be so tired at the end of the job’s day, you don’t feel like doing anything but watching television…  This is not living.  Living is not a person who just gave birth having to return back to their job, not being able to spend time and bond with their baby; living is not giving all your hours to the job where you have no days off.  Living is not being in a space where you are not provided enough hours just so your place of employment can skip on providing insurance to employees…  A JOB IS NOT LIVING.  A job is a means to get the basic things you need, but it is not living.

Work and Job are two words that are deemed interchangeable in many cases.  We are, again, conditioned to look at a job or career as a goal to attain, as opposed to a tool or tactic.  Ever since i got my first ‘real’ job (as a mail room clerk and foot messenger at 16) i always looked at jobs as a way to experience life in various forms.  i have done everything from working on a farm, art modelling, door to door canvassing, bicycle deliveries, concessions clerk, yoga instructor, floral arranger, telemarketing, cutlery and energy salesperson, stacking boxes in a truck, packing bottles in a warehouse, doughnut maker and fryer, babysitter, produce/bulk stocker (and occasional buyer), grocery stocker, cashier, outreach coordination (and more)…  i have never desired to have a career in one thing my whole life.  The longest i have had a a job consistently was 10 years; and honestly i may have still been working there, had the experience (particularly towards the end) not been traumatic.  Obviously i realize (in the society i live in) having this number of jobs reduces many ‘serious’ prospects i have.  People have also marveled at the range of experience, and wondered why i never continued, for instance, being a yoga teacher.

It’s because i have trouble equating work and job in the same sentence.  Is that silly?  To some people, i’m sure it is.  Why would i want to depend on getting a paycheck from someone else when i could be making money on my own terms?  Where is my entrepreneurial spirit?  Frankly, i don’t have it.  i don’t want to deal with a lot of overhead, lawyers, licenses, etc.  i want to be able to do what i love without it eventually turning into a job.  In terms of the yoga instruction (which i did for four years), i had a spiritual dilemma- it did not sit right with me that i was getting paid for something that is centuries old, and you can do for free.

And herein lies the work- work is something we do in our lives every day towards being a better, more compassionate person.  ideally, we do not ‘clock out’ like a job when this work happens.  But this is what happened to me.  Despite having conversations toward creating Overjobbed and Underworked and looking forward to its creation, i sat on it, in the midst of the months of massive amounts of trauma and toxicity following me wherever i went.  i entered a period of increasing depression, and creatively froze….

…And here we are.  This blog you are reading right now came out of an extremely low period in my life.  Not only was i isolated from people i loved (and in many cases organized with), but i also had my wallet taken, leaving me with no access to money or identification. The wallet being stolen in and of itself is not my biggest worry, honestly; Being stuck…  Not being able to move on anything (where a lot of these things like identification are valued in the times we currently live in) is frustrating. Not being able to get money to eat or buy basic supplies is even more frustrating.  i have been at this place many times in life before, where my faith was tested tremendously, and i thought more and more about not physically being here (i have written about these things before, in my Michael Jackson blog, The One Woman Apollo.  Experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts is a very serious thing, so if possible PLEASE get some help, or speak to a loved one.  You are NOT alone).  Over the years (and during this ‘wallet’ situation) i have had some wonderful people in my life (strangers, acquaintances and friends) to guide me through these rough trials.  Also, being a spiritual person i understand that there is something bigger than myself.

i still don’t have the wallet (or any of its contents), but i knew i had to reevaluate my life.  Being back on the East Coast (after almost 20 years of being on the West Coast) has put a shock to my system.  Being (again) isolated, being told you need to make 40% of an income of whatever rent you are paying; people and buildings being unrecognizable….  The vibrancy and sense of community i grew up around is gone, and it’s leaving people to be more and more reactionary.  The newer residents isolate themselves, and call the police on cultural staples (ice cream trucks or drumming in the park).

i had to reevaluate my life.  i returned in order to help my mother, but ended up needing help myself.

i started taking mental notes of the smaller things i found beautiful or significant, to make sense of all this trauma around me.  i intended to write all of these things down in my other blog (Things I’ve been Knowing, which needs to seriously be updated), but i creatively froze.  Coordinating my mother getting into a new house.  Waving hello at babies and seeing them smile.  Having five squirrels all get on their back legs to say ‘hello’ in the middle of winter.  Comforting a woman whose brother died after an O.D.  Seeing Pharoah Sanders, front row center.  Meeting a woman whose car had pictures of cats all over it.  Getting caught in a rainstorm on a hot, muggy day.

Things that may not have significance to others, but amidst chaos, they make things brighter.

This is the work.  i may not have the ‘career’ i actually want right now- and i may not even get there in this life; if i do, that is wonderful, and i will take it for what it is- another aspect of my journey.  What i do know is that i want to live a life where there is value in what i do, as opposed to me simply being a means to someone else’s profit margin.  i want to be valued not by what kind of job i have, but what work i do.


There’s a reason for everything…  i once again got to this low point to find the beauty in these smaller things.  Did i always acknowledge the beauty in small things?  Of course!  When you are in the midst of the storm though (especially in the belly of the beast), it’s very difficult to get closer to it all.  There’s much i have to be thankful for, and as words on a paper or screen have their limitations, adding a visual is one of the best ways i could express my feelings about these ‘smaller things’.

Thank you ‘smaller things’.  And thank you for reading this blog.