MICHAEL POWELL

WRITER’S DIARY

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. 

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THE STIFF

June 2021

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.

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BLACK ART & MoMA: REVIEW OF NEW EXHIBITION

April 2021

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.

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Black History Month:

IN HONOR OF MICHAEL McTHUNE

February 2021

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 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.
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 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.

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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.

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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.

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HOW TO SAY GOODBYE

November 2020 Issue
I deleted several paragraphs and sentences to this piece feeling that none would do it justice. What I am writing about is something that shattered me in a way I could have never anticipated, but has also been a source of inspiration and strength. It is a struggle to find the right words to express what you feel when you reflect on the loss of a loved one, and for the most part we want to recognize it as a void left in our lives and an ever- present acknowledgement of how our lives have now shifted in a way that cannot be recalibrated.
Earlier this year before the Pandemic, my best friend died suddenly, leaving this world in a way that would break the heart of anyone. The how is not what this is about, nor is the why, it is the what happens next that is the focus of my piece today.
When he died, I was in shock for weeks since I had just hung out with him and had plans to see him again in the next week or so. I could not accept he had left us, even after his funeral. I found myself staying up until the witching hours listening to our favorite music and drinking our favorite libations. That is when I realized I was grieving in a destructive way. Not letting him go was doing more damage to me than giving honor to his memory.
I had to take a moment to release the part of him I was trying to keep here and begin moving into healing. Reflecting on my best friend, not just for our memories, but for the values and dreams he had, awakened in me a new way to honor him. It became more important to me to be sure I was living my life with parts of the love and dreams he had while pushing to be the best me I could be in this new role of father/husband.
We can get lost in sorrow so easily, especially during these times of isolation, separation, and overall stress. It is easier to lock your mind in a rehearsal of whatever moment of joy you shared with that lost loved one but it traps them in a loop of denial and doesn’t let you open up to all that made them so special to you. I found that once I allowed myself to feel happiness in his memory and be inspired by his character, it became less about what I lost and more about what I gained.
Find that joy and inspiration, find that connection with that loved one no longer here, and you will begin to see that void filled and their energy still very much a part of your world.

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BREAK A LEG

October 2020 Issue

In my earlier essays I have spoken about facing our flaws and admitting when we have fallen short of the potential our gifts have granted us. I have spoken about the fear of being unable to provide for my family, especially as a new father, but in this essay, I want to leave you with something simpler, yet just as meaningful.
With the unrest that has spread across the globe, one thing has been called back to our memory: time is short, and nothing is promised. When the curtain drops and the show is over, will you walk off the stage knowing you gave yourself to the performance of your lifetime?
This year has been an obstacle course of challenges, one that no one was prepared for. I don’t want to overly personalize this Writer’s Diary essay, but I am compelled to do so as I look back over my year knowing that someone out there reading this has experienced the same heartache, anxiety, and loss – emotions that can feel like milestones dangling from your neck.
During this live “life” show, we forget how often we overlook the experiences of others, in doing so we build a wall of separation and minimize the human experience. Sometimes we close ourselves off from everyone else and find that the only thing left is the thing we wanted to be free from; and so, we identify ourselves by that.
As Fall and Winter approach and the nights become longer and colder, we could very well see the resurgence of the virus that has crippled the world and brought some of the most vibrant cities to a dim lull, I am reminded that these times can be the dwelling place of our nemesis, depression. 2020 has been the perfect partner of one of the most debilitating mental and emotional conditions that effects more people than you think. Some are not even aware of the shadow that covers them and drains their smile. With so much happening around us, to us, and inside of us, we can forget to take the time to look in the mirror and really see ourselves. The sudden shutdown of the country and the isolation that followed dismantled our walls of security, but also provided us time to reconnect with the most important person in your life; you.
How many times have you said, “I love you” to yourself? This is not a rhetorical question, you should have an answer, but I am sure many of you do not — including me.

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PINK SLIP

September 2020 Issue

 I lied there, freshly awakened but still in the dream like world of quarantine. My son opened his eyes in the same state but far more enthusiastic for the remainder of the day that was ahead of us. I had already missed the virtual staff meeting by some hours so there was no hurry to gather myself and look less like a sweatpants and loose t-shirt kind of dad. I was trying to avoid facing the reality of the staff call. I heard of so many being sent home and then being told to find a new source of income as their place of employment counted its losses and cut them from payroll. Now I could be one of the many wondering what the rest of 2020 will look like with only a percentage of their paycheck.
A numb feeling came over me when I read the email that was a recap of that staff meeting. After this month, things would be re-evaluated and there would be furloughs or lay-offs to come. I felt a wave of dread come over me as I re-read the email to be sure I was not over-reacting or misunderstanding, but the words had not changed, they just became clearer. I have stood at this edge before, walked gingerly alongside it as I reached my new job, all while avoiding that fall into depression and destitution that can come from realizing how you poorly mis-managed your bi-weekly income. I looked at my toddler son and realized that what I feared so much about this situation was not the loss of the job but the loss of insurance. I felt terrified of losing the best healthcare options for my son who still needs vaccinations and checkups, how finding affordable healthcare takes ages on a phone call that is more like a game of hot potato; guess who is the big steaming hot starch ball?
I wanted to think that living in a country such as this we would have already found a way to make the issues of healthcare something no one should have to face but as I near the end of the month I possibly come closer to the chopping block and now must prepare myself for what could be a trying winter.
As we come closer to the election with dominant parties’ candidates already decided, it may be time to allow this pandemic to shift some of our values; recognizing that no matter what political party you stand with (or what societal view you have), we all get sick –  how much you make should not dictate what kind of care you receive.

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THE WANNABE

August  2020 Issue

The pandemic came like a cold splash of water in the face after partying all night. Nobody could have anticipated the debilitating vice grip it would have on the world and all the functions that kept society moving. We were not ready for the demand for change and what it meant to our own private lives. Businesses are now wondering if they need to have so many people on payroll and the employees are wondering if this job feeds their desire to feel purposeful in their existence. Relationships are being challenged, personal images have been shattered, and I have realized how I have procrastinated my way to the edge of obscurity and failure. Harsh but this stay at home edict has made me have to face the lazy and often negative version of myself more directly than just a simple nod of acknowledgement in the mornings before work.
I’m a writer, not by profession, but by one of the most fortunate means you could ask for, talent. I was always a writer, creating my first childhood stories as soon as I could spell. I captivated my readers, and once they got past the poor grammar and misspellings they fell in love with the stories. Now, as I have been kept at home for about 4 months, not working but still receiving my full check every week, I realize how much time I have wasted not moving in my creativity. Being a writer is not just about writing, it is a lifestyle, a way of thinking and being, something I think I have down for the most part, just not the part that matters the most, the actual writing. I find myself sitting to type up something with this fire of creative fervor that will burn for a couple of weeks before starting to die down and then completely extinguishing. I would love to say that life itself has robbed me of my opportunity, but that would be a lie. I often wrote for a purpose, for it to go somewhere, instead of writing to just write. I was abusing my gift and not appreciating it. You don’t use your legs only when you have somewhere to go, sometimes we just like to walk without direction. Writing, or any talent, deserves the same appreciation.
This time watching as humanity tries to rediscover itself and come to grips with its own reality, no matter how ugly, has demanded me to see these mistakes in my own life and now, hopefully, move in a better direction. I want to be more than a wannabe writer. I guess that starts with, well, writing.
What are your passions? What are your gifts? Are you feeding them? I will need to ask myself this regularly and hold myself accountable. In some way this pandemic has made us all accountable, just hope I stay dedicated to the process.
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