Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Personal Reflection - 2014

A year in personal review and reflection.

This year was not all that bad or at least that is what I perceive as I sit on the cusp of 2015 and all that I anticipate.  My 2014 was filled with lessons and quite a few joys as well as a surprise that I NEVER saw coming.  As I round out this year I am still pinching myself (figuratively speaking). 

One of the high points of 2014 was being voted in as Board Chair of Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus (CBGMC).  The mission of this “boots on the ground” organization is “To mobilize and empower Black gay men and their allies to prevent new HIV infections by addressing the well-being of Black men who have sex with men”.  Believe me this has been rewarding yet challenging because as some of you know I am in Finance and not Social Services.  Fortunately, I am blessed to have a dedicated and professional staff that deals with the day-to-day work of the Caucus as well as fellow Board members and supporters that are professionals in this field of work.   The Caucus does some amazing and life changing work within the community and I am blessed to be a part of it.  I am very humbled by this experience and the opportunity and still finding my way.   

My health has been very good this year and that is a true blessing for I have heard of friends of friends passing at relatively young ages.  These sad occasions give me pause to remind me just how darn blessed I am to have my health today.  

I was asked by someone I admired and on occasion call my “twin” to participate in something called digital storytelling (sponsored by CBGMC) along with 7 other guys.  Because the request came from him I did not hesitate to agree without really knowing what it entailed.  Well, digital storytelling is basically a short (3-4 minutes) personal story that is told in your voice that includes video and still shots to assist in telling the story visually.  This weekend project was intense and consisted of many man hours.  We all were given a topic/subject (how HIV/AIDS impacted our lives) and asked to write a short story.   I have always believed that within each of us we have a story to tell like none other.  So because I love writing I was all over this.  The stories shared between eight SGL (same gender loving) black men was profound.  In our community we tend not to talk about the personal and only share that surface stuff.   Therefore, to me this was groundbreaking.  There was some crying and beautiful touching moments as each story was shared.  

As the year progressed I continued on and before I knew it I was preparing for my future life and seriously considering leaving Chicago, my birthplace and a city I truly love.  I am a man of action so when God placed that in my spirit I moved forward with it.  This initial feeling took hold on the Fourth of July weekend and just four months and one week later I had purchased a second home in another city.  The home is simply gorgeous and I can’t wait to reside there full-time.  This process brought about some celebration and some disappointment.  However, I chose to focus on the celebration and those who chose to celebrate with me.  My family has ALWAYS been a huge supporter of my dreams.  You see that is what was instilled in us as children and I thank my father (Robert Wadley) for his firm discipline, guidance of love.   Little did I know but I had prepared myself financially to be able to do this without much concern (see I believe that was God working).   Here I am the owner of two homes at once…me that SGL boy that lived in the projects most of his childhood.  Truly I am living my father’s dream.  A man who struggled to ensure me and my four siblings had a better life than he did.   My sister said something that almost broke me down as we were talking about my purchase.  She said “Daddy would be so proud of you” and that touch my heart for my father has always been my hero.  I continue to look up to him and think how much strength it took for him to raise 5 children after our mother and the love of his life passed away at 29 years of age.   

I continue to enjoy travelling and seeing the world.  Most people know I love the sun, therefore, I went to Punta Cana, (Republic of Dominica) in November.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous…no colder than 87 degrees.  I had a nice relaxing time and I did get my tan on (smile).   Now it is time to contemplate where I will spend my 2016 vacation.
As I move into 2015 and leave 2014 behind I pray that it continues to be filled with celebration and education.  I don’t expect everything in my life to be golden, however, I will continue to smile inside and out.  I will walk into 2015 (God willing) with tip-toed anticipation.  He has guided me this far and when I listened I realized the blessing He had in store.   

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Big Mama!!!

This time of year is always very interesting to me.  I was asked a few days ago “How do I feel around Mother’s Day”?   My response to the question was “While I embrace and honor the day I do not really feel sad at all”.   The unfortunate thing is that my mother passed away before I got to know her.  I have no memories of her being in my life.  However, I know that she was with me for the first two years.   

As I thought about the question more the following days, I decided that I would ask my siblings who are older and all have memories of our mother the same question.    I am sure it must be more difficult for them in varying degrees.   Our mother was only twenty-nine years old when she passed away, leaving behind a husband and five children.  My siblings were 12, 10, 8 and 6 when our mother died after having surgery due to myasthenia gravis an autoimmune disease which was effecting her thyroid at the time.  This was in 1962 and the medical community was not as advanced in the knowledge of MG back then as they are now. 

While I have always felt, and still do so today, an emptiness due to not having my mother in my life I am not saddened by it.   My father, maternal grandmother (Big Mama), aunts and uncles did the best they knew how to by stepping in the gap that now existed in the lives of me and my siblings.  Everyone did the best they could for us.  My father’s sister (Muff) was cosmetologist and would do my sister’s hair.  No one and I mean NO ONE was allowed to do their hair.  If they did there was hell to pay.  Now my father passed away in 1996 (34 years after my mother) but he never remarried.   I am TRULY grateful for all the love that they showered on us (especially Big Mama).   When my mother – her daughter--passed away she quit her job to take care of me because I was not school age.  These were the days before pre-school.   All of my siblings were in school.  I lived with her from Sunday – Friday evening.  On Friday my dad would come to pick me up and off to McDonald’s we would go with my siblings.  It was a Friday ritual.  We all attended the same church (Truelight Baptist Church) so I got to be up under Big Mama during Sunday service.  There was nothing like the comfort of being with Big Mama.  My earliest memory is me laying my head on her lap in church as a child.  She was stern, wise and very loving.   As I think back to those days of living with her I remember her cooking.  Big Mama could THROW DOWN in kitchen.   I can remember falling in love with her greens and those potato rolls….LORD HAVE MERCY.  Oh and I can’t forget the pound cake!!!!  I am sure that is why I am so in love with soul food as an adult.

As me and my siblings got older we would go visit Big Mama a minimum of once a week. I remember us walking from our house to Big Mama’s.  Now it was not around the corner or down the street.  It was a bit of a hike but it was not a problem because the destination was worth it.  We knew that Big Mama would welcome us with open arms and fill our bellies.  There was no coming into her house without eating especially on Sunday.    When you walked in she would ask if you were hungry and it was disrespectful to turn down a meal.  She would get in that kitchen and whip something together in no time flat.  It seemed as if she would make those homemade rolls in the blink of an eye.  To this day I don’t know how she did it.   When my mom passed away Big Mama quit her job to take care of me.  From what I have been told is that Big Mama and my mom were very close.  She took my mom’s passing very hard.  
Growing up I felt so special for I was the only one of my siblings to get her attention five days a week (yes I was spoiled….very….but not rotten for Big Mama was not having that).   I don’t ever remember getting a "whooping"…not because she didn’t believe in it.  She would go to that closet and get that ironing cord and your butt would be sore for a week.   I loved Big Mama for she brought something to my life and my development as an adult that I know is special.   She was the best mother I could have had in the absence of my biological mom.

Monday, March 3, 2014

2014 Oscar Awards - More than 12 Years.....

Academy Awards 2014...wow.   The Academy Awards show was hosted last evening by Ellen Degeneres.   The Academy Awards were highly anticipated this year because there were some great movies that hit the big screen in 2013.  One of which was 12 Years a Slave.   The Academy Awards has been known to snub the great works by African Americans in the film industry both in front of and behind the camera.  This year Steve McQueen (Director), John Ridley (Screenwriter), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Actor-Lead Character) and Lupita Nyong’o (Actress-Supporting Role) were all nominated for their contribution to the film.  Also, 12 Years also received a Best Picture nomination. 

This is the first time in many years I have watched the entire Academy Awards telecast.  I must say that Ellen kept me entertained and was a great host but I was hoping that blacks were not left walking away without an Oscar.  However, this would not be the first time that great works by blacks were inexplicably looked over by the members of the Academy.  I had become completed jaded when it came to the recognition process as well as the receipt of the award.  However, the black human spirit is amazing.  Regardless of how many times we have been let down and in some cases beaten down we still have a sense of hope that this one time things are going to be different (fair).  Therefore, we sit in front of our televisions waiting for that moment when the envelope is cracked open and the presenter reads….And the Oscar goes to….gasp!!!!

Last night was filled with much anticipation and hope.  As I sat at my computer on Facebook conversing with other friends commenting about the overall awards it became a very fun evening.  Then the presenter for Best Supporting Actress read off all the nominees and then Lupita Nyong’o’s name was called.  I was overjoyed for her performance as Patsy in 12 Years was riveting.  I shouted with joy.  However, as the night went on Chiwetel did not win for Best Actor but I knew it was a very close race.  Matthew Mcconaughey deserved to win for his performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club for it was one to beat.  Later that evening John Ridley won an Oscar which was great he is only the second black person to win for Best Adapted Screenplay.  Then at long last at the end of the awards the nominations for Best Film were being read by Will Smith.  I just knew it would be Gravity, however, to my wonderful surprise it was 12 Years a Slave.  That was icing on the cake. 

This film told the true story of a free black man that was captured in the north and sold into slavery in the south where he spent 12 years of his life.  The scenes were riveting, well-acted and well directed by all involved.  It is amazing to me that so many blacks have not taken the time to see the film.  Most people will tell you that they do not want to see the cruelty that leaps off the screen.  However, in not supporting this film it does a disservice to our ancestors and ourselves.  This is our history and yes it is painful but if you do not watch it and learn from it you will remain lost and misunderstood.   Our ancestors endured some horrific things as they struggled to live daily under the tyranny of slavery.  However, many made it and that is why we are here today and we MUST celebrate that.  But we can’t brush aside those difficult parts of our heritage and expect to be rewarded moving forward.  We get upset when the “white man” tells our story but yet we don’t want to embrace it, learn it and tell it to our children.  If we let someone else tell our story they have the ability to give it whatever ending or slant they desire.  Choosing to opt out and not learn, we walk away believing that those false stories are in fact true.  

It is my hope that with all the coveted recognition this movie has garnered that we as a race will embrace it fully and teach each other as well as our children, nephews and nieces that they have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their slave ancestors.  We are from some amazing and strong group of people for not everyone could have survived all that was endured.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Iconic Burden

Every parent desires nothing but the best for their child.  I am sure it is universal that parents raise their children with the goal of each child growing into loving, productive, self-sufficient members of society.   After reading the news recently I believe we, especially us in the African-American community, are thinking where what the hell is going on with the children of Martin and Coretta.   The fact that Martin III, Dexter and Bernice are possibly going back to court to begin yet another battle is disheartening. 

I can’t image what it would be like to grow up as the child of iconic parents.  I am sure that this could not be easy living your life in a fishbowl where the entire world is looking to see if you are going to be like your parents or slip up by making a public mistake and receiving immediate judgment passed upon you and your character for that one incident.    To be born to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King must have had it shares of blessings and curses.  Martin and Coretta while they were very human they were also much respected not only in this country but the world.  Now that they are both deceased we the public expect their children to live respectable lives and to some degree continue to carry the torch of justice and activism.   I have begun to ask myself is that a valid and justified request and burden to lay at the feet of the King children. 

Over the past several years we have heard some rather disturbing stories about the battles that the siblings have been having in regard to the legacy of their father.   They have been taking each other to court over intellectual property (name, image, recorded voice and memorabilia) and now they are back in the news.  Only this time it is being reported that the brothers want to sell their father’s Nobel Peace Prize as well as his bible.   Why aren’t these items on loan to the Smithsonian?  What is it that is really at the root of all this contention between the siblings?    It would be so rewarding to see Martin, Dexter and Bernice united to fight to keep guard over the legacy of their parents instead they are fighting each other in the public arena like they are toddlers.   I personally can’t get past the idea that what I would consider a priceless item they APPEAR to not value what they possess. 

We will never know the true underline issues that seem to continue to bubble over between the King children.  Actually I don’t want to know, I just want the court battles to stop and for them to see the non-monetary value of the MLK items they own.