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.