Hey there. I know it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me here. Too long. My last post was in the summer of 2020. While COVID affected my life as it did many of you, there have been a number of important experiences that contributed to the absence of my voice on this platform. I’d like to share them with you.
Behind the Veil of Organized Labor
I was elected to a two-year term as co-chair the Goddard College Faculty Union, a bargaining unit of UAW Local 2322 at one of the plantations of my employment. Little did I know how much work would be involved as I navigated becoming a union leader during the unexpected emergence of a global pandemic that required social distancing and new sociocultural practices to protect health and safety at home, the workplace, and in cultural spaces. I also chaired our bargaining unit’s negotiating team charged with negotiating a new contract. Most times such a task is about refining and filling in gaps but due to the fact that the College’s accreditor put it on probation for not meeting the accreditor’s standards for financial resource management and organizational structures and management, the negotiations were especially difficult. Eventually, we did what we could to handle the contentious relationship and settled on a new collective bargaining agreement.
That would have been a lot to handle in the best of times and with the shared responsibilities of two co-chairs but the other co-chair position was largely vacant for all of my two-year term. Challenges within the UAW Local 2322 also led to me joining the executive board of the Local, first as interim Vice President, and then when the President stepped down before their term ended, as the first President of African descent of UAW Local 2322. It was an honor following in my parent’s footsteps as organized labor activists. Officially becoming the leader of an amalgamated local representing roughly 4,300 workers at 26 workplaces across Western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, I remembered going to union meetings my mother organized as a steward in her workplace for 1199.
Because of my commitment to dismantling the interlocking matrix of dominating systems I call settler-colonialism, imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, and cisheteropatriarchy, it was an enormous challenge to address the usual labor-management issues and dynamics while also effectively working to disrupt entrenched interests of people on both sides of those dynamics who are invested in maintaining the status quo. Now that my terms ended for both union leadership positions, I can get back to my work with the benefit of the learning and wisdom I gained. Stay tuned for when I tell the full version of what I learned behind the veil of (mis)organized labor.
Developing Artist, Artistic Development
I also had the blessed experience of participating in the Digital Evolution Artist Retention (DEAR) professional development and artist fellowship program at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in the summer of ’21. Along with two members from the Black bisexual+ artist collective I cofounded, No Homo | No Hetero (NH|NH), I attended program events, completed assignments, and built community with an intergenerational, multilingual cohort of artists of African ancestry from North America and the Caribbean. The experience was immensely nourishing on multiple experiences both to me, personally, and to NH|NH.
DEAR inspired me to publish a collection of my poetry and spoken word. Prior to the program, I didn’t believe my poems were worthy to form a collected work–even though I have had individual poems published since the early 2000s. Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t think I was worthy to have my poems collected and published. Not worthy as a poet. Not in the way so many people think about who a poet should be and what poetry can be. In DEAR, I confronted some internalized colonized thinking and chose liberation. That lead to the publication of Race. Resistance. Love. this past summer, which was #1 new release on Amazon for African American poetry its first week. We are selling the book on the site and you can find on our publications page. The amazing cover is the result of a collaboration with Carlo Diego. If you’ve seen any of my other books, you may have realized that it is important to me that book covers serve as artistic works in and of themselves.
The video below is of a virtual reading I did of Race. Resistance. Love. earlier this fall. Click the embedded link in the window to view the video on YouTube. It is age-restricted on YouTube due to the themes I engage and the language I use in the poetry. Yeah, there be cussin’ and talk about sex, sensuality and the Erotic in the work. With those beautiful lips on the cover, would you have thought otherwise?
I also celebrated my 50th by participating in an applied theatre project in Pittsfield, MA hosted by Barrington Stage Company. I directed a youth showcase with young Black creatives and devised an original performance piece, The Heart of a Black Man, with a talented group of Black boys and men from the community based upon their lives and experiences. It was a great way to celebrate the milestone and was my first time doing in-person theatre since the COVID shutdown.
If you didn’t get a chance to experience the virtual reading of my play My Brother’s a Keeper, you can do so by clicking the link below to watch it on YouTube.
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing more exciting news regarding an emerging collaborative effort to produce my next play during Black August 2023. Until then, enjoy the reading and get a copy of Race. Resistance. Love. for you and yours just in time for Kwanzaa. It’ll make a great gift of love and culture.
Peace Pleasure and Passion