Michael Powell is a creative mind who thrives on looking outside the box. He has had the fortune of having his works published in art magazines, Huffington Post, and a host of other sites. His writing versatility makes him a skilled and capable wordsmith who enjoys being personable and raw in his pieces. To Michael, writing is a gift, one he takes every opportunity to use.
Juneteenth has come and gone, leaving behind a recently signed piece of legislation recognizing the almost two-hundred-year-old mark in American history as a federal holiday. This year has brought the change of National leadership and a wide-eyed approach to dealing with many of the more socially sensitive issues that have been a thorn in the side of the country for decades. We needed this change and needed to address these blemishes on our Nation’s history, but as many African Americans took the day of recognition as a chance to fire up the grill and hold a pre-July 4th sky show, some of us found ourselves suspicious of the intent behind this.
Just last year we saw the rise of police shootings and abuse call for radical changes to the system that is in place to protect and serve us all, and a demand for transparency in how those changes are made. Yet the chants of “Defund the police” have turned into silence. I am no champion of demolishing the police force anywhere, but I can recognize there needs to be greater accountability for how every State/ City is utilizing them. The signing in seems to come just when “Critical Race Theory” has turned into a fury debate for the informed and uninformed, further sparking the arguments of Black History is American History and how the day is nothing more than a pacifier to appease a baby prone to tantrums.
I am not a historian or a political scientist though my degree would say otherwise, so my opinion is as civilian and laymen as all others alike of the same lack of knowledge on the matter, but I feel a sense of ambivalence and yet feel like I should hold some regard for Juneteenth out of respect for all of my ancestors. They suffered at the ambitious hands of the colonists turned slave masters, turned murderers.
With that in mind comes the question of how do you celebrate the day that marks when your people became free while looking around and seeing that though not in chains publicly or picking cotton and no longer considered property, the country has not removed many of the systems and practices that were placed as a cap when liberation was a law for all, not just the North? It is hard to not see much of what we have achieved on the ladder of equality as simply pacifiers or patches to hide the ugly scars until a new one came to take our focus from it. The fact that 60 plus years after Martin Luther King jr. shared his dream for our still young nation, we are still trying to realize it; though it was a simple and humane concept, makes me believe that celebration is not for the Juneteenth’s that will come. Instead, we will find ourselves taking the day to learn more of ourselves, not just where we came from but the heights we have achieved as a people, and how we can move further beyond. Juneteenth is a chance to not settle for the pacifier but plan for more and build a community that will nourish that growth.
I write this still somewhat in a blurry smudge of days and nights of little rest. I am a newly blessed proud parent of two and my little ones are an excellent tag team. As my wife recovers from performing one of the most amazing tasks any human has ever done (that being giving birth), I am relegated to serving as the man of endless motion.
Anyone with a toddler understands the struggles of keeping up with these small but fast miniature people, all while trying to be sure that my wife is feeling relaxed, and our newborn is enjoying her first few weeks on planet earth. Just typing that was a lot so the actual deed itself is herculean at times.
Bringing a child into the world is a something that inspires awe and praise. It is such an incredible and unenviable act that to see it done firsthand humbles any idea of pain tolerance I believe I can endure. The duties of a father do not compare to those of a mother, but they are a very close 2nd for intensity; I know it is still ways off, just move with me here. With the knowledge of what is entailed in the father role, you would think that we received just a little more concern for our comfort during the hospital stays. Those moments we spend by the side of our partner are more than just physical or moral support, they are imperative to the whole recovery thereafter, especially when this new life is given to the mother for the first skin to skin contact. It may seem that I am just trying to embellish the role of the father/husband so to give more weight to my point but speak to any mother that has given birth with her partner present and then to any mother who hasn’t and the difference will be clear; in my unsubstantiated, male opinion.
I know this may seem petty and some of you reading will be in an uproar about it, possibly sending angry responses to the editor, but I stand by my words when I say fathers are not always looked after well in the care after the baby is born. I’m referring to the chairs we are forced to sleep in specifically. They aren’t recliners or very wide but are stiff and narrow, making any bodily adjustment a matter of finding what position hurts less.
If you haven’t guessed, there isn’t one. I don’t know if this matters to anyone in the world of Maternity hospitals, but if I ever came across a post or article detailing the comfort a father enjoyed after the birth of their child, I’d be reveling in their joy.
BLACK ART & MoMA: REVIEW OF NEW EXHIBITION
The beginning of the year has seen the recognition of marginalized peoples and a call for the accountability of institutions that support or associate with those who have abused those marginalized. One institution that has seen its reputation tarnished is the Museum of Modern Art. Just like every business in the country, MoMA reopened its doors with hope of finding some life in this economically dead climate and was happy to see its patrons return to the galleries, but the recent publicity surrounding one of its board members jeopardizes that path to normalcy. The opening of their recent exhibition, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, aims to direct the eyes of the media and the public onto the displacement and neglected communities of African Americans while also flipping through the pages of history as a reminder of the systemic racism and discrimination that has been the trademark of American practices when dealing with the freed black post slavery.
The exhibition combines the commissioned art of several black modern artists and explores through imagination and creativity what worlds they envision and what comes with the black experience. This is a brilliant opportunity for MoMA to change the narrative that surrounds the institution as it relates to African Americans and others of color while providing a space for Black artists in a place that has been criticized for their lack of Black artist representation. The art world itself has been a quiet perpetrator of discrimination and racism, something that many are addressing.
The exhibition is full of sounds, colors, and many different perspectives that touch on the Black experience, but it still seems to be a flood of emotion and creativity with no cohesive message. As Black artists and creators, we are put into the unenviable position of needing to subdue our creative passion to be sure that we are expressing ourselves clearly. In other words, when commissioned or inspired to create such poignant pieces of art or writings that will be seen by the public, we do not have the luxury of allowing our art to be simply interpreted by the viewer because our message comes from ancestral depths of pain and injustice. To be chosen to speak on behalf of a people means our purpose and structure must be at the helm with our creativity awaiting its role. This exhibition oscillates between direction and over ambitious creation that leaves many outsiders of the experience unsure of what they are to understand or feel. The walls are covered in words, somewhat over explaining, and demanding the visitor read paragraphs to better understand the art which takes away from the flow of what you see.
This was an opportunity to reach a large audience that could move through the gallery collecting all the messages and feelings intended but the disjointed flow of the exhibition seems more like an acquiescence to troubling discoveries in the museums executive closet than a true attempt to promote an honest discussion on issues that continue to have an impact on African Americans.
Black History Month:
IN HONOR OF MICHAEL McTHUNE
It is Black History Month and the world, especially the United States, takes a moment every day of the month of February to recognize the impact African Americans have made throughout history. We hear of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and many other of the forbearers of the Civil Rights movement that paved the way for many of the freedom’s monitories share today. We even dig back into history before the 1950s, back to the beginning of our awakening and unwavering demand for equality, freedom, and to be placed within the same concept of respect as all humanity. Though there have been discussions that considering the history of the country and its relationship with African Americans, there should be more than a month of recognition and not just at the level of those mentioned in history books. I agree with this opinion, but recognize we are a long way from seeing that manifest. Instead, I am going to do my part and acknowledge this Black History Month in my own way by honoring someone I have the pleasure of mentoring for some years now.
Michael is not some history changing figure or a groundbreaking black man on the verge of shifting the very world as we know it, but he is someone even more important to the conversation of African American history and our present because he is a black man serving time in prison. On the immediate surface, this seems counterproductive to everything this month represents but in knowing Michael for these several years as a pen pal and mentor, I have watched this young man grow and exceed anything I could have hoped to be an influence in. Though he is just 27 and has served about 10 years of time now, he maintains a mind of positivity and determination, while always reflecting in contrition on what placed him behind bars. He does not hide from his mistake, but takes ownership and now sees this as a chance to be a beacon of light and admiration for other young men who find themselves in this situation. Since becoming his penpal, he has finished two books as part of a fictional series he is writing and is working on a memoir. Prison plays on the mind all while denying you access to those you love.
As a black man it felt important for me to support other black men who just need someone who cares and a friendly hand to hold as they climb back into society and self-love. It has been an honor to be part of that while he in turn, through his focus, dedication, and genuine friendship, has become a true part of my life.
I recognize and honor him during this Black History Month because he reflects redemption and the axiom that you can do anything you set your mind to.
About the Black Liberation Flag: “The Black liberation colors represents the following: Red is for the innocent shedding of Afrikan blood, Black is for Afrikan people all over the world, and Green is for mother Afrika. The Black Liberation Flag was created by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey in 1920.”
OUT WITH THE OLD…
January 2021 Issue
Though there is a sense of relief that this year has finally passed, and we get to start off 2021 with a vaccine for the virus and a new President, many of us are walking into 2021 without our loved ones.
I did not have anything specific to talk about or any news on which to pontificate, but I did have a desire to spread a feeling of positivity and of hope, while offering up some words to create dreams.
The soon to be past President has done a great job of turning his four years in office into a downward spiral of fear, disappointment, division, and isolation. The pandemic was the icing on the cake as we were just starting to find some sense of balance and change; but we are still among the many pushing for that change.
Moving on from 2020 means leaving behind the craziness that it has been, but for many of us, it means leaving behind the last time we saw that person no longer here or going into a new year with less certainty and no clear path to stability.
It is in this small window of time, the little space between “out with the old and in with the new”, that we can start preparing our minds and spirits to walk into the New Year with the anticipation of great things coming our way. I know it sounds a bit naïve, as if I have lived in a beautiful rainbow while dancing with unicorns, but I assure you that starting with a change in your mind is the beginning of creating a demand to the universe for what you wish to come.
I cannot promise that our 2021 will be wonderful but the way you think of it and feel about it will be. So, I wish you a Happy New Year and nothing less than a spectacular 2021.
May you and all our readers joy and love be abundant for us all.
TO BE, OR NOT TO BE…
December 2020 Issue
I look into my son’s eyes with wonder and fear. We did not give birth to the antichrist or anything crazy, but I still have this lingering sense of dread that clings to me like a shadow on a sunny day. Among my peers and family, I am the late one to the party of fatherhood. Though I enjoy being the center of arrival anticipation, this is a party that I wish I had been better prepared for. Having a child was my superego’s chance to shove my ego’s face in the mirror and scream, “look at what you’ve become damnit!”
If my life played back as a movie, I would be disappointed at the money I spent on the ticket. It’s a harsh critique, but an honest one. I kind of got hung up on what I wasn’t doing and now find myself looking at my son wondering what kind of influence I will leave behind for him to admire and emulate-but that is where the trap is. The truth is I was thinking of how to now live my life in a way that would reflect what I hope for my son to become instead of living a way that reflects what I want for myself.
I’ve never been one to care about the world outside of my bubble but now it was almost obsessive. I would find myself scrolling through social media, living out a self-deprecating voyeuristic fantasy. I wanted their life. That’s when I had to snap out of this and hurl expletives at my superego in defiance.
The world has become obsessed with watching what the next person is doing instead of living and in doing so, many have become unfortunately comfortable in their unhappiness. Yet, that unhappiness is not truly theirs, but is placed there by societal standards of what you “should be.” My son, without saying a word, reminded me that the only way to feel proud of my life was to live my life and live it intentionally, with blinders on. We are made to believe that life is a race to the finish line of success with some grand trophy given to the most successful person upon their death, but that is not the case at all. We forget that life is a beautiful journey of self-discovery and we are joining each other for the ride. We don’t need to be anything more than who we are, everything else is icing on the cake.
Once we accept ourselves and live our lives with the gratitude and joy it deserves, we will begin to experience a new level of pride for ourselves.
You would think being alive if I have been, I would have already understood that, and maybe I did, but it took someone enjoying life for the first time to remind me of that.