Empathy is the answer for police shootings

blmpoliceGrowing up biracial, with a black father and a white mother, made me something of an outsider. I held allegiances to two groups, but never completely felt part of either one.

Racist comments from the Italian side of my family and slurs from my white peers at school were a constant reminder that I was different, inferior. I was too black. Insults from a couple of black family members – and one in particular – about the way I talked, the clothes I wore, the fact that when it came to black popular culture I always seemed to be a step behind, also let me know that I never quite fit in. I was too white.

While this kind of criticism wasn’t so great for my self-esteem, it taught me to see the same issue from multiple perspectives. When you grow up within two worlds at odds, you come to understand both viewpoints without necessarily agreeing with either one. Instead of choosing a side, you step back and see how destructive and pointless the fight is.

Watching the news unfold this past week has been heartbreaking. Last Thursday night I finally brought myself to watch the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being shot to death by police. Less than an hour later, scrolling through my Twitter timeline, I learned that police at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas had been shot, and as we now know, five in total were killed, even more wounded. Like many, I couldn’t sleep that night, seeing the way that hatred continues to hold this country in its grip.

Being a part of the black community, and now working for a website that tells the stories of men and women in uniform – including police officers – I’m once again connected to two groups seemingly at odds with each other. What I see in the wake of this tragedy is two sides shouting, but no one really listening…continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.

There are many ways to die

hallwayguyThere are many ways to die, and not all of them involve death.

You can die by degrees, by inches, by breaths. Every day, you can live a little less. You can stop expressing yourself. You can stop feeling things. You can stop caring. You can stop reaching out. You can stop responding when people reach out to you. Little by little, you can stop living your life. You may not stop existing in the physical sense, but you can stop existing in every other.

This is how you kill yourself without dying. You withdraw. You step back when you should step up. You play it safe when you should take a risk. You don’t try because you think you know the outcome, when the outcome is determined simply because you didn’t try. You stop being yourself. You suppress every urge inside of you until no more urges exist, at least none that you can make sense of.

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PTSD isn’t a symptom of weakness, it’s a sign of humanity

ptsdI don’t know if I have PTSD. I’ve never been formally diagnosed. But I’ve experienced some pretty traumatic events in my life. Most notably when my mother committed suicide nearly 6 years ago.

I could tell you about getting the initial call from my uncle and feeling like the words “your mother’s dead” had actual weight and physical form, how I pictured them as a brick wall I crashed into at full speed.

I could tell you about walking into her house in a ritzy gated community in South Carolina and seeing gift bags with “happy birthday” written on them sitting on the kitchen counter for me, my sister and my mother’s friends, my bag filled with a 3-page letter and instructions for all the things I would need to take care of in the wake of her death.

I could tell you about trying to process the waves of shock and grief while handling her financial and legal affairs—selling her house, selling her car, driving around South Carolina and Georgia trying to return jewelry and clothes she’d never worn, canceling credit cards and subscriptions to all her magazines and repeating the phrase “my mother has passed away” to customer service agents until it no longer had any meaning.

I could tell you about the resurgence I felt briefly after she died and the technical affairs of her death were taken care of, or the deep pit I fell into shortly thereafter when I isolated myself and stopped answering the phone, stopped answering texts, sat on the couch and hoped to disappear…continue reading at Uniform Stories.

Messy moments make a masterpiece

stevienicksI recently subscribed to the Tidal music service, which has given me access to virtually every song and album in existence.

Naturally, I started diving deep into Fleetwood Mac’s collection (if you don’t know about my obsession with the Mac, that’s for another column altogether) and found the “Rumours” super deluxe edition, which includes loads of demos, out-takes and rough cuts recorded during the making of the album.

I’ve listened to “Rumours” dozens of times, but I’ve never heard the early versions of songs that, in my mind, are the definition of pop/rock perfection, and getting a behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of those tracks from rough ideas to polished gems was illuminating to say the least. I couldn’t help but see a parallel between the process of recording music and the process of living life.

Very often when it comes to any type of achievement, we see the finished product, the best-selling album, the masterpiece. It’s rare to see the process it took to get there, the early sessions and experiments and songs that were scrapped and songs that became other songs and songs that sound nothing like how they started out.

We’re quick to celebrate success, and rightfully so, but we seldom recognize the value or necessity of the toil and struggle that led up to it…continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.

Review: There is simply no one like Beyonce

beyonceThere simply aren’t words to describe Beyonce’s show at a sold-out Gillette Stadium Friday night.

Riveting. Brilliant. Otherworldly. Magical. All come close, but none truly convey what it was like to witness the greatest performer of this generation at the height of her career command the stage for two hours.

Smoke wafted across the stage, blasts of fire occasionally heated up the venue, fireworks exploded during show-closer “Halo,” a mostly female crowd shrieked with excitement and sang along to every word, and those lucky enough to be close to the stage cried when their Queen Bey touched them. And at some point it became clear that there’s simply no one on Beyonce’s level.

Maybe it was when the show began and felt more like the start of a sci-fi movie than a concert. A giant, rotating rectangular cube alternately glowed white and flashed images of Beyonce as the opening notes of “Formation” shook the venue. Bey emerged with a bevy of backup dancers behind her, dwarfed by the giant cube but still seeming larger-than life as her wide-brimmed black hat bobbed in time with the song’s elastic beat… continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.

It’s better to experience life than tweet about it

social mediaCall me old-fashioned, but I get annoyed when people stay glued to their phones at social events — taking selfies for Snapchat, posting status updates, recording video, documenting what they’re doing instead of actually doing it.

And I have to wonder what the point of it all is. To “connect” with people who aren’t there? To show off and show others what a great time everyone is supposedly having? What are we trying to prove?

At a family gathering a few years back, I was having an interesting conversation with a relative I hadn’t seen in months. Then someone interrupted us and asked us to pose for a picture (presumably so we could show everyone on Facebook how much fun we were having). At that moment I stopped having fun. I understand why people want to take pictures, and of course I do it too. But in so many cases, the proverbial interesting conversations get interrupted so we can put on a social media show…continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.

The Ghosts In Our Society

ghostsDuring my career as a journalist, I interviewed dozens of firefighters and cops.

I went to the scene of fires that were still burning and talked to deputy captains after the fires were extinguished. I wrote about fatal accidents. I got information and quotes for my stories. I always thought about the victims. Their stories haunted me, and it’s one of the reasons I had to distance myself from the profession.

But up until recently, I never thought about first responders and what they went through. I was trained to get the Who, What, Where, When and Why of an incident. I was trained to ask first responders what happened. I was not trained to ask them how they felt.

I saw them as professionals in a uniform, not people who had to go home at night and live with what they’d seen that day. In a sense, they were invisible to me, as they probably are to many others in society who only meet them on their worst day, if they meet them at all.

We see the uniform and the sirens, see the wrecks and the gutted homes, see the tragedy and danger, but not the people who rush toward it when we turn away.

Trauma is an inherent part of their job, but their trauma is largely invisible to us. They fight death and destruction, but what toll does the fight take on them? Most of us never know…continue reading at Uniform Stories.

Beyonce’s “Lemonade” is a testament to the power of vulnerability

lemonadeIt’s been a tough year for music fans. Not even halfway through 2016, we’ve lost legends including David Bowie, Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, Phife Dawg of the groundbreaking hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest and most recently, Prince, one of the most innovative, talented artists of our time.

A friend joked with me the other day that someone should check on Stevie Nicks – my favorite artist and borderline obsession – to make sure she’s OK. The eerie thing was I’d had that exact thought a couple of days before. It seems no one is safe in 2016.

And yet as these legendary artists pass, there are few left to fill the void. So much of today’s music sounds robotic, soulless, empty. Artists sound like clones of one another; albums are, more often than not, a few potential singles surrounded by filler. Music has been on a downward trend for some time, but the passing of so many icons only reminds us of the mediocrity that remains.

That’s why we should all be paying attention to Beyonce’s new visual album “Lemonade,” the 12-song foray into betrayal, forgiveness, hope and redemption. It’s the usually flawless Beyonce stripped of all masks, her flaws and weaknesses fully exposed…continue reading at The Sun Chronicle.

Surviving Valentine’s Day: Tips and tricks for the romantically-challenged

 Yes, assigning love a specific day is a bizarre and insidious corporate tactic, but realize that you can take The Man’s attempt to oppress you/force you to buy chocolate and use it to your advantage.

valentine's dayValentine’s Day. Some call it a holiday. Others call it a nightmare. it’s that time of year when we are technically required to show our love, or wallow in the fact that we’re unlovable losers. I’m generally not a fan of holidays, because I feel like they’re thinly-veiled reasons to spend money, not genuine celebrations of a legitimate event. Valentine’s Day is no different: Should there really be a day assigned to something as all-encompassing as love? I vote no.

On the other hand, I guess there’s nothing wrong with setting aside one day above all others to celebrate your significant other and let them know how much you care for them. So in the spirit of resigning yourself to something you can’t change, here’s a brief survival guide to getting through Valentine’s Day unscathed, whether you’re single or hitched:
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