Tag Archives: Guest Post

Old School New Kid 4

“REFLECTIONS FROM A BROTHA OF A CERTAIN AGE”

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

     When I hear the word “Reflections,” the old school in me immediately thinks of the hit by Diana Ross and the Supremes in 1967. Of course, that was one of Motown’s go-to songs when your man has dumped you and you make a late-night visit to your kitchen, answering the call of a half-gallon or more of Ben & Jerry’s. This would be followed by another of those go-to songs like Brenda Holloway’s “Every Little Bit Hurts” and the Fifth Dimension’s “One Less Bell to Answer.” In today’s thoughts, however, reflections come from my latest visit to my alma mater as an alumnus of 45 years.

     The weekend in question was Pride weekend, which is held in May because the bulk of the LGBT community in this small town is made up of college students. A huge parade down the main street, rainbow flags all over campus and all over town, celebrations in the park and parties downtown. Such was a foreign concept to me during my freshman year as a college student in the fall of 1970. I was one of the very few openly gay Black students on campus, and the Stonewall riots had only occurred the previous year. Sure, there were other LGBT students there, but they weren’t out, and there was no “safe space” for us. The American Psychiatric Association didn’t remove homosexuality from their list of mental disorders until 1973.

     This go-around, I felt like visiting royalty. The LGBT students had lots of questions for me, and more when they realized I was an author. I represented their history, one that they wanted to know more about. For those who, like myself, stood at the intersection of Black and LGBT, I represented hope. Somewhere along the line, I became the role model I wished I had had at 18, and let me tell you, that experience is humbling.

     When I seek images of Black male couples online, I am reminded that our community is still youth-obsessed to a great degree. Sure, I looked great in my 20s, but I can’t look that way now and I refuse to step into the trap. Experience, character, and wisdom helped me step up my game when my looks started changing, plus the desire to keep learning. Every now and then I see such couples whose marriages have stood the test of time (like mine), something I feel younger brothas need to see.

     That, however, has to begin with us. There was a saying I read once—“the darker you are, the harder it is to come out.” Hopefully, that’s changed to some degree. I also remember losing count of the funerals I attended in the 1980s, at the height of AIDS paranoia; so many potential mentors struck down too soon. In 2019, I acknowledge those of later generations who are speaking up, speaking out, living their truth. This, as well as having a son of my own, inspired me to step up to the plate as an elder. Not everyone can do that; some may have been too wounded in one way or another. But for those who can, I give you your props. You never know when you may come across a young LGBT brotha who’s watching your life—it could make all the difference.

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     Being a brotha of a certain age, I have noticed that my conversations have changed. With my contemporaries, subjects of health, nutrition, retirement, and grandchildren are more common (no, I’m not a grandfather yet). Given the life expectancy of African-American men today, I am grateful for every day I am blessed with. I have left the corporate world behind; being my own boss as an independent author is, in a word, gratifying. My creativity has grown. I may have learned about them at a later age, but those LGBT trailblazers of color that paved the way for me hold a special place in my heart. And I can still bust a move when the old-school jams come on.

     Yes, I think of times gone by, like my do-wop childhood, my Motown teenage years, coming out in college, nights under a disco ball, travel to whatever hot spots were in vogue in various cities, life in corporate America, becoming a father and husband. When I’m writing love scenes in my M/M romance novels, I turn on Barry White (now you know he was the maestro). With all that, I am yet an ever-learning, ever-evolving, work in progress, which I give thanks for.

     In conclusion, since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I leave you with this poem. I wish you an excellent day and good success:

1969 teenager living the age of Aquarius hot fun in the summertime

Life impacted by Selma Memphis Huey Newton Viet Nam

Unaware of event halfway across the country altering my life’s course

The voice of Stonewall

© 2018 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.


W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.

 

Old School New Kid 3

You Never Know

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

“YOU NEVER KNOW”

“You never know what hand in life you’ll be dealt.” That is a motto of the Edwards family, in the next book of my series, ‘You Never Know: A Christopher Family Novel’. Yes, there were Black folks who came from old money—we simply didn’t hear of them because they didn’t get the bulk of the attention. In recognition of such families and bowing to my Midwestern roots, this novel takes place in Minneapolis. Like its predecessor, expect to find history, humor, romance and LGBT family members in prominence here. That being said, I would like to introduce Elijah Edwards, Sr., and the Edwards branch of the Christopher family in this prologue of “You Never Know:”

Prologue: August 1, 2007

     Elijah Edwards, Jr. headed for the office with a sense of satisfaction and excitement after having heard from his cousin, Vickie. One thing that was a given about working for Christopher Electronics; the company knew how to treat its employees as well as recognize them, guaranteeing happy workers and the best results. The testimonial for his father tomorrow was but one example. When Vickie’s father, Allan Beckley Christopher, opened the regional office for the company in Minneapolis in 1971, Elijah Edwards, Sr. was his first choice to manage it, and it continued to be one of the top revenue-producing offices. Dad had since moved on to a seat on the Board of Directors, but Allan never forgot how invaluable his skills and ethics had been back in those early days.

     Eli’s Lincoln Navigator SUV cruised smoothly along Golden Valley Road, a David Sanborn CD lifting his already positive mood. Having been a regional manager for the past ten years, he was grateful to Dad for grooming him so well to assume the position of regional vice president. It had not been an easy task to fill his shoes, given the fast pace of the Information Age and technology. However, the core values and work ethic Dad had instilled in him had encouraged him to stay on the cutting edge, as headquarters expected.

     Sandra had already finalized their travel plans for their trip to Lisbon next week. With the plans for Dad’s testimonial tomorrow that had been keeping him and his staff busy, his wife’s birthday gift to him of this extended holiday was a blessing, and he hoped the Portuguese he learned would hold him in good stead. His soon-to-be fifty-five years had shown up in his salt-and-pepper hair and the laugh lines on his face, the sun deepening his mocha complexion. He was happy to hear his daughter, Veronica, and her family had arrived from London for the festivities. She had been married for eleven years and now a mother to two children, but only in the past few years had he gotten accustomed to her being Lady Moriarty, Viscountess of Rothmere. He still saw her in his mind as the little girl who could get just as down and dirty in the mud and sand as her brothers and cousins. On the other hand, his Auntie Debbi relished every opportunity to tell any new person she met that she had a grandniece who was part of English nobility. She savored the gaping mouths of skeptics after she pulled out clippings from the London Times’ society pages to confirm she was telling the truth.

     The Minneapolis Convention Center had been more than happy to handle the accommodations for Dad’s dinner. It had been gratifying to know that so many of the family would be in attendance. All the Edwardses were preparing for the festivities, not to mention the steady arrivals of Allan’s extended family at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Limousines and personal vehicles had been coordinated by his staff for pickup and delivery, which were transporting his relatives from Chicago and employees from the main office in Evanston to various hotels downtown.

     Eli’s mouth broke into a knowing smile as he pictured his mother, Donna Gray Edwards, wielding her scepter of organization over the social activities during the past few days, with Aunt Xenobia and Auntie Debbi as her stalwart ladies of the court. She would have given Gen. Colin Powell a run for his money in military precision. Auntie Debbi loved this sort of thing as well. She plunged into it with the inquiring mind that wanted to know everything. He grimaced slightly as he pictured Aunt Xenobia’s part in the process. She would grumble, bitch, moan, whine and complain while she was getting things done. Though he felt guilty for thinking it, he sometimes wondered if Uncle Jeremiah’s death was his way of escaping her. Maybe that was why his cousin Douglass never married. Fortunately, Ma had a way of keeping Aunt Xenobia in line most of the time.

     Eli had to give Vickie her props, and not only because of the news she shared with him. When she went into the business with her father, Christopher Electronics was already a Fortune 500 company. Since Allan appointed her CEO, she had taken the company into the ranks of the Fortune 100 and kept it there. She had been profiled in all the major business magazines, interviewed by Oprah, and recognized by such publications as Essence, Ebony and Black Enterprise as one of the most powerful African-American businesswomen in the nation. At fifty-three, Victoria Christopher Mitchell was still so beautiful she had younger men falling all over themselves when she entered a room. However, she always made it clear by word and deed that the only man for her was her husband Travis, and Eli respected and admired their successful marriage and family.

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     As for her father Allan, he was already a legend in his own time, standing in the ranks with A.G. Gaston, Madame C.J. Walker, Henry Parks Jr. and John H. Johnson. His was a family success story that had inspired and helped so many people in his lifetime. Who knew that Allan Beckley Christopher, “Little Mr. Fixit,” who came from such humble beginnings in Kansas City, Missouri, would become one of only three African-American billionaires in this country?

     Eli turned onto Theodore Wirth Parkway, appreciating the scenic beauty of its trees and well-tended foliage, a pleasing alternative to the gridlocked freeways of rush hour. He had always loved the summer days when he took his family for Sunday drives around the city’s notable lake and parkway system. Darrell and Veronica looked forward to them when they were little; they always seemed to discover something new along the way. Nowadays Darrell was often busy with his family and his duties as an associate pastor, but not so busy that he didn’t take time out to touch base with his father and his grandparents.

     Even now, every once in a while Eli and his oldest son would take a drive just to “shoot the breeze,” occasionally accompanied by his youngest son Bradley. A recent college graduate, Bradley was enjoying the summer break before he started his position in the graphics department at Christopher Electronics, and Rico, his boyfriend, was a frequent guest at Sunday dinner.

     It didn’t seem so long ago when the men of the Edwards family had their first fishing trip up in northern Minnesota. As the family patriarch his grandfather, Melvin Edwards, was in charge, with Dad, Uncle Jeremiah and Auntie Debbi’s husband Uncle Woody as his assistants. Being allowed to accompany them for the weekend was exciting.

     Eli was nine at the time, and his brothers John and Mel, along with cousins Wayne and Kevin, had been included. His brother Julian and his cousin Douglass were too young to go, and Cousin Darius hadn’t even been born yet. His grandfather owned the cabin, but the family still considered it camping because they all brought sleeping bags along with their fishing gear.

     As difficult as it was to stay still, his vigilance paid off when he caught his first fish. Their most recent trip required three cabins to accommodate everyone, but the spirit of the weekend was, as always, infectious. The men returned loaded with fish and good cheer, and seeing Dad laughing and dispensing his words of wisdom always touched his heart.

     What a day it’s going to be, he thought as he turned off the CD player to catch the latest weather and traffic reports on the radio. Instead, he heard the following: “We interrupt our scheduled broadcast for a breaking news story. The Interstate 35W Bridge across the Mississippi River has collapsed…”

     Will a “gift” that Eli has help him or hurt him when he needs it most? Well, you’ll have to find out. In the meantime, here’s to your excellent day and good success.

© 2018 by W.D. Foster-Graham
All rights reserved.


W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.

 

JOSE ESPARZA

Soul Voyages

Our weakest moments in life often come when faced with adversity. The ability to cope with difficult situations can define who we are and how we go forward in life’s journey.”

     Jose Esparza, an emerging author full of promise, exemplifies—no actually, embodies—these instructive and inspiring words. And this heartfelt and captivating scribe has an engaging, scintillating—and rather impressive—debut with Voyages: Poetic Journeys.

     His brand new collection of poetry feels like a warm blanket wrapped all around you—though just warm enough and not too tightly–making you feel snug, safe, purposeful. And replete with hope.

     Voyages: Poetic Journeys takes you on a wondrous ride of revelation, insight, light, and adventures of the heart. Quite relatable and accessible, Voyages is a triumph for Mr. Esparza, who faces daily challenges of physical disability, and has had to work his way through the premature loss of a life partner.

     Voyages: Poetic Journeys is a must-read. This volume is poignant, sublime. And affecting.

Jose Esparza Book Cover

     Just recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Esparza. So, let’s delve right into his world.

     WYATT: Jose, congrats on your debut work!

     JOSE: Wyatt, thanks for introducing me to your WYATTEVANS.COM audience.

     WYATT: You’re very welcome! So, how have things been for you since the release of Voyages? Excitement? Surprises? And, what were the reactions/support from your fam and friends?

     JOSE: Well, it has been a wild ride of emotions. Actually, my good friend Drew Gray is responsible for challenging me to make this dream a reality. The support from friends and family has been amazing! My dad shared my book with the daughter of the lady who taught me how to write my first poem. And she loved it! I also shared my book with a few co-workers and they all were impressed.

     WYATT: As you know, a title can make or break a book. You’ve said that, and I quote, “The reason I chose Voyages as the title is because I wanted to take the reader on a voyage through the many emotions in my journey.” Now, that’s deep! Tell our readers more.

     JOSE: Ever since my early days as a poet, I have had a metaphorical roller coaster in my mind. I wanted the reader to feel the thrills and chills of each poem. I always try to leave the reader in a state of “What a rush!” Whenever a reader tells me the poem made them feel sad, happy, cry, etc., then I know I’ve constructed a fantastic ride of the mind.

     WYATT: Jose, I know that when I completed my debut work, the first installment of my Nothing Can Tear Us Apart series, I felt I’d achieved the most difficult—yet most rewarding–accomplishment to date. I’d created, nurtured, and given birth to the “baby” that I’d been carrying around inside me for quite some time! To this day, it’s still somewhat hard to fully explain. Did you have similar feelings?

     JOSE: Yes, my feelings are very similar. From a young age, I felt like eventually, I wanted my writing to be out in the world. It was a dream that was stifled by self doubt for a long time. When I finally hit the “publish my book” button on the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) my first thought was “Holy shit! Is this happening?”

     I still think the experience feels surreal. I sold twenty copies my first couple weeks and for me, it felt like a massive accomplishment. I didn’t have a major publisher behind me. No book signing tour in bookstores. Just social media. The fact I sold that many within a month made me swell with pride.

     WYATT: Now Jose, let’s travel back to your beginnings. I understand you’re a California native?

     JOSE: I was born and raised in Northern California, in Sonoma County. I lived everywhere there…ha ha! Not really, but it feels that way.

     I currently reside in Rohnert Park. Just as a point of reference: San Francisco is about 45 miles south of me. I grew up mostly in Cloverdale. I attended K-12 and graduated Cloverdale High School in 2000.

     WYATT: Tell me about your family. How many siblings? Are you the youngest?

     JOSE: I’m the baby. There are only two of us. My sister is actually six years and one day older. We are very close. She was actually the first person I came out to as gay in my family.

     WYATT: So Jose…what kind of kid were you? On the “straight and narrow?” Mischievous? Studious? Athletic? Nerdy?

     JOSE: I was always the “straight and narrow” kid at school. Growing up in a small town where everyone knows your business scared me. My uncle owned a video store in town and that was my small town claim to fame.

      I was also brought up in a very religious home. The expectation was to be as perfect as can be. That meant no cutting school, no premarital sex–you know, all the stuff good little Christian boys aren’t supposed to do. In fact, I hid my sexuality so well not even my closest girl friend knew I was gay.

     WYATT: Jose, I understand that you were born visually impaired.

     JOSE: I was born with a condition that in layman’s terms is water on the brain. As a result, my eyes did not develop correctly. I have 20/20 central vision with glasses in my left eye. I can see just a little out of my right eye.

     I use a blind cane which often makes people curious. I use it because I see right in front of me, but it’s like seeing out of a scope. I can’t see from either side. I also lack a level of depth perception.

     WYATT: How has the disability impacted your life?

     JOSE: This is always a hard question to answer because I was born this way. I wasn’t born sighted and then lost it. It has had its challenges for sure. There are things I will never get to experience: I can’t drive a car. I can’t scuba dive (too much pressure on the brain). Technically speaking, I can’t ride a bike. However, I have experienced riding an adult trike. That was fun until I crashed!

     Work has its challenges. I work in retail with clothes. Sometimes it’s a challenge getting sensors off certain dresses. I also have challenges with public transportation. I’ve learned to just (pardon the pun) roll with it.

     WYATT: How old were you when you first had that life-changing spark to become a writer? Was a certain situation or/and person responsible?

     JOSE: Well, to be honest, I never thought I would become the writer I am today. I had aspirations of ministry work; but at the time, I didn’t realize that I really didn’t want to pursue that profession. You see, I wanted to make my parents proud so I explored the possibility of being a pastor.

     I would say that spark you mentioned happened even before my first poem back in elementary school. I must have been about 13.

Precious

Precious moments are many

Often subtle with no warning

A newborn’s first cry

Like a melody on a mother’s ear

As the tree of life enriches our lives

The more precious each moment

Acquaintances come and go

Precious friends are like gems

Precious moments are many

Often subtle with tears of joy

A goal accomplished obstacle defeated

Like a baby’s first steps in life

A progression through time

Precious moments are many

Savor every one of them

As subtle as they may be

They are diamonds in the rough

©2019 Jose Esparza All Rights Reserved

     WYATT: You began by writing short stories in elementary school, correct? What was that like?

     JOSE: I absolutely loved it! It was in my special education class taught by one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Brennan. Once a month, he would put random pictures on a bulletin board. He would ask us to write a story about any picture we chose.

     He saw that spark you inquired about. He had another project just for me that he put aside. I can’t recall if it was a weekly thing or a couple times a week. I idolized Joe Montana as a kid. He would write little writing prompts “From Joe.” I loved this project, and every entry was like a little mini-story exercise.

     WYATT: In high school, you began writing poems in your sophomore year. Why the transition to poetry?

     JOSE: Believe me when I say it just happened. I had to transition from special-education to the regular English class. My teacher gave us an assignment: to write a poem about somebody we had respect for.

     I freaked out as I did not realize at the time that poems did not have to rhyme all the time. There was a lady from church who always offered to help me with homework. I took her up on this particular assignment.

     Little did I know she would unlock the box of poetry. I remember that she taught me poetry had to have two things: first, it needed to be from the heart. The second is cadence. If it lacked either of those two things, then it wasn’t a poem. After I realized how easy it was to write the poem, I explored my newfound form of words even more.

     WYATT: Intriguing! Jose, you’ve stated that your poems evolved over time into what you consider “multi-layered” poems. Do elaborate.

     JOSE: Wyatt, when I started writing poems, they were faith-based and there was no mistaking them as such. Over time, I learned to write poetry that was open for interpretation. Someone might take a poem and think it’s about one thing, then read deeper into it and see that it could also be about something else.

     WYATT: Now, if we may, I’d like to discuss your coming out process. When did you first determine you were gay?

     JOSE: I would say I knew I was gay at thirteen years old. I remember watching the fitness programs on ESPN before going to school. Instant attraction to the male physique. I didn’t understand it. I grew up being taught God made heterosexuals.

     It wasn’t until I was 27 that I came out, first to my sister…although, I think I really inadvertently came out to my brother-in-law at his bachelor party. I had been talking to a friend of his asking how I should approach my sister, and I suspect my brother-in-law caught wind of our conversation.

     Soon, I came out to my parents. It was hard! They did not handle the news well. Thankfully over time, they came around.

     WYATT: Let’s fast-forward to Voyages. Why a book of poetry?

     JOSE: Poetry is my passion! It’s my outlet of expression. Occasionally, I will write a short story as a means of personal therapy. However, I have yet to use it as a means of a work to publish. Perhaps I will soon!

     WYATT: Just how long had Voyages been gestating within you before you first put pen to paper?

     JOSE: Well, I guess you could say a lifetime! I’ve had a dream to publish something. I did dabble in songwriting. Unfortunately, that venture went nowhere. The collection of poems in Voyages goes back ten years.

     WYATT: What’s your creative process like?

     JOSE: My creative process is rather fluid. Maybe “random” is a better word. Rarely do I ponder an idea for a poem for more than a few minutes before I write. I look for inspiration through anything, from a song to an object. I have a poem (“Mermaid’s Pearl”) that was inspired by a necklace that was given to me.

     WYATT: You’ve said that Voyages “is a tribute to the legacy of persistence,” and that having disabilities taught you to never give up on what you want. Do some of the poems in Voyages reflect on that lesson? If so, how?

     JOSE: Yes. All of them do to certain degrees. My hope with this book is to encourage readers. Many poems are about obstacles one faces in life. My obstacles happen to be the loss of my life partner David and my disabilities. I wrote a poem (“Legends”) that speaks specifically to that. It was inspired by a man who was my physical education coach in collage. He always stressed the point that I am more than I give myself credit for. He always pushed me towards a new personal record.

Legends

When the nights are cold

Stories often are told

While Children hunger for adventure

Grownups long for inspiration

Legends are born through the darkness

They stand when it is easier to sit

Never settle for just the moon glow

Legends are ordinary with extraordinary will

They take the risk determined to win

The woman with no arm and a surf board

The man with no eyes but an arsenal of words

The man climbing out of addiction with purpose

The single parent striving to open doors of opportunity

The teacher that believes in incredible odds

These legendary hearts are heroes destined to inspire

©2019 Jose Esparza All Rights Reserved

     WYATT: You’ve also stated that other poems “reflect on overcoming the traumatic loss of (my) first love to heart disease. This collection was a labor of love he inspired.” Do expound.

     JOSE: Well, this is two-fold. David (his deceased partner) loved my poems. In fact, one evening he asked the question that I still think about. He asked me when I would write another poem.

     I was in a dry spell. I just shrugged my shoulder and said, “Whenever I get the inspiration.” His response was one of disappointment. I, unfortunately, was unable to write a poem before his passing. I decided this collection of work would be my love letter, if you will, to his memory.

     WYATT: How long were you with David, and how old were you when he passed?

     JOSE: David and I were together for fifteen short months, but it felt much longer. There was a significant age gap between us; however, it didn’t matter to us. We had a connection that made it work. I was 32 when he passed. He was three months shy of 60.

     WYATT: What do you most remember about him? What makes your heart and soul smile?

     JOSE: I remember his warm smile the most! David was my rock. Whenever I needed to talk or a shoulder to cry on, he was always there. He always did little things to remind me how much he loved me.

     I remember one day I was not having a particularly good day. I was out running errands before going home. When I got home, he had a bath complete with aromatherapy and candles waiting for me! I remember him saying, “You’re home now. I want you to forget about all your worries and just relax. I made you a bath and after that, I DVR’d something I think you’re going to like.” I have so many memories like that to look back on.

     WYATT: Jose, most aspiring authors never get to the finish line. In your opinion, what are the three most crucial things necessary to get “ovah that hump,” and to ultimately be successful?

     JOSE:

  1. Believe in yourself.

  2. Keep moving forward.

  3. Believe in your writing.

     WYATT: Great stuff!

     JOSE: When I started Voyages, I had a lot of self-doubt I had to overcome. I always shared poems with friends and family but that felt like a safety net. In my mind, friends are supposed to say positive things about your work. Therefore, I felt vulnerable because now I would be sharing my work beyond that safety net. I had moments where I thought it was too intimidating. Too many things could go wrong. All the negative scenarios played in my head.

     Then, there came a point where I remembered something: Walt Disney never gave up on his dream to be an animator–and look at what happened! He became a household name in the entertainment industry.

     I had to be the believer of and in my own work. I had to believe my dream of being a published author was about to become a reality.

     WYATT: Do you see any unique challenges that confront LGBTQ authors of color—particularly those who are Latina/Latino?

     JOSE: Yes, for sure. The majority of the Latino community is Catholic. I myself was raised protestant. My parents were raised Catholic, so I have a vague understanding of the guilt associated with being gay and Catholic. I think times continue to change for the better since my parents grew up, but I still think society within the context of religion has a long way to go.

     WYATT: Any upcoming book readings, events?

     JOSE: None yet. I’m still working on setting a few things up. I’m hoping to do a couple readings here in Sonoma County soon.

     WYATT: Do you have a specific mantra/philosophy for not giving up and continuing to strive for excellence?

     JOSE: Indeed! Some time ago, I saw a motivational speaker who was in a wheel chair. He had no legs and one arm. He wore a ball cap that read HANDI. He said, “The only handicap we have is the one we put on ourselves.

     I will never forget how that changed my mindset! Prior to that revelation, I always felt sorry for myself. I saw myself as the disabled kid who couldn’t do much. Also, I’m a huge Disney fan. When I read up on the history of Walt Disney and his own challenges, it made me appreciate Disney even more.

     WYATT: What’s on tap for Mr. Jose Esparza for the remainder of 2019?

     JOSE: Well, I am currently in the beginning stages of writing my next book. A title and release date are yet to be determined. I’m hoping to have it out in time for Christmas.

     WYATT: Jose, thanks for taking the time to chat with WYATTEVANS.COM! You’re an inspiration to us all. And, much continuing success to you.

     JOSE: It was my pleasure, Wyatt! Thanks.


 You may contact Jose at Jesp81@icloud.com; Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=782318266;

On Twitter: @PoeticVoyages; Instagram: @PosticVoyages.

And, grab your copy of Voyages: Poetic Journeys at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1792168837/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_zdcJCb0JTK0XV_nodl

Old School New Kid 2

Self-Determination

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

     In my first column, this Old School New Kid mentioned the learning curve as an independent author. When it comes to writing, some see it as a hobby, others their passion, still others a business, and a very few regard it as all of the above. I am one of those few individuals, and I give thanks for this ongoing process.

     Back in the day, before I even considered having my work published, there was only one game in town, and it loomed large: traditional publishing. For those who choose that route, I wish you good success; over time I learned, as a Black gay author, that it simply wasn’t for me. These days, there are so many options for a writer/author to achieve publication, as well as readers who are waiting to read your stories.

     I’m my own boss, and I love it. I remember well the second principle of Kwanzaa, Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), and the call of my community to build our own businesses and support other minority-owned businesses in the fourth principle,Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). Of course, my writing also embraces the sixth principle, Kuumba (Creativity). I applaud such men as E. Lynn Harris, Essex Hemphill, Mike Warren, and Wyatt O’Brian Evans, who refused to sit around waiting for publishers to come around. They chose instead to build their own businesses and publish their own work, to their good success. Romance novelist Brenda Jackson, ignoring the naysayers in the publishing world who claimed there was no market for romance novels featuring Black couples, proved them wrong with the incredible response she received when she self-published her first nine novels.

     Granted, it’s work. It’s not for everyone. And it doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve learned the necessity of developing a marketing plan and stepping out there. I soon found that if my father could teach himself how to program a computer and implement that system in his place of work, I could learn new skills like creating my own website, designing my own covers, etc. I also am responsible for budgeting the costs of editing, advertising, publishing the hard copies, tracking royalties, etc., contrary to the naïve notions I had years ago of just putting my book out there and waiting for the sales to come in.

     RewardsCreative control. Shorter turnaround time to publish my books. Meeting and engaging with amazing authors, poets, and readers. The joy and freedom of writing the books I want to read. Learning and developing new skills, something it’s never too late to do. In the present day, there is no one-size-fits-all for authors. It’s about doing the research to determine what is a good fit for you, and above all, to never give up.        

The Book: Mark my words.

     One of the components of a marketing plan for today is (gasp!) social media presence. The old-school part of me moans, “How did we survive without it?” It has, however, yielded some unexpected benefits—a connection with a wonderful writer’s community, and a fun writing exercise called “Very Short Stories 365,” where one creates a story/poem within the confines of a tweet, using a daily prompt word. That being said, here are some of my very short stories, seasoned with my own brand of romance:

      Demetrius’ deep brown skin burned from a molten heart when he beheld Tevin by the pool. Tevin was the personification of the take-charge, take-no-prisoners, hyper-masculine brotha. Nothing prepared Demetrius for his dreams to manifest and his world to be rocked when Tevin kissed him softly and whispered unexpectedly, “Please take me.”

———- 

     There was no mistaking the set in Shauntik’s 9-year-old shoulders as we left the community center. When he made up his mind on something, he’d stick to it. With a conspiratorial glint, he told me, “Daddy, I’m going to find you a husband.”

———-         

     Jalen has the build of The Rock. He can twerk like Beyonce. Man, how he makes me laugh when he reads his critics. I was grinning, watching him strut onstage to receive his Ph.D. Of course, I already put a ring on it.

———- 

     I heard the Isley Brothers, and read on his face what he was telling me—he needed it again. My Kwasi, Fortune 500 CEO, took my hand, placed it on the phatness of his 3-piece, suit-clad backside. Yeah Kwasi, I’ll take you to the next phase.

———- 

     When the Motown revue came to town in the ‘60s its male vocalists sending screaming sistahs into orgasm with their voices

———- 

     Did anyone notice a brotha like me heart throbbing just as bad for those phyne men? Laron  deliberately did Something about him made me keep lovin’ him ever since 

———-

     I wish you an excellent day and good success!


     W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

  His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

     Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

     You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.

 

Latoya Hankins

Hot Tea and Ice 19

Lessons in Love and Loss

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins  

   

     Greetings, veteran Hot Tea and Ice Sippers–and those new to the blend of wisdom I offer!  It has been more than a minute since my words graced this space. A lot has happened to me: some good, some bad, and some I haven’t quite figured out—and how exactly to understand the lessons I learned.

     Two events I am still processing occurred within weeks of each other during the waning weeks of 2018. The first:  after more than ninety years on this Earth, my oldest great-aunt joined her ancestors.  Her departure three weeks before Christmas took place at home, surrounded by her family.

     The second was the loss of my dog, Neo. He had been part of my world for more than fifteen years, and as to be expected, our time together was destined to end sooner than later.  The week before Christmas, Neo “returned to the source,”  cradled in my arms.

LATOYA and NEO

     I have considered myself lucky that death’s visits to my world were somewhat spaced out;  however, as you can imagine, experiencing two losses so close together shook me.  

     I credit my partner for keeping me going. Without her compassion and providing a listening ear and loving heart, I doubt I would have fared as well during the holiday season.

     Now we are in a new year and time is marching on, which requires me to reconcile my feelings. The lessons I learned about myself is that as much as loss can rock the soul, the power of the love tied to it can knit what has been ripped asunder.Those of us dealing with losing someone or something precious in the preceding months must find our way forward. We need to find a way to let go of the pain and anguish holding us back from embracing what is waiting.

     My great-aunt was a woman of her times. She was a housewife who never worked outside her home and bore nine children. She earned a cosmetology degree but never used it beyond doing her children’s and her own hair.

     Yet, she was also an entrepreneur who sold Avon for more than thirty years. From her back porch, she also sold candy and icy treats known as “frozen cups.” My aunt was a long-standing church member who it seemed everyone knew–and she knew them. Her impact in my small coastal hometown was such that when her children threw her a ninetieth birthday party, the mayor presented her with a key to the city. There would never be another LI, as she was known to her family.

     Her life taught me the way you live your life is the currency people use when they pay tribute to you in death. She instilled in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren the following:  carve their niche in the world and to never forget the value and importance of valuing yourself.  She made of point of dressing up every day with full make-up and coordinating outfits because that what she enjoyed doing, and it made her feel special. While I mourn her not being here in the physical, I celebrate the lessons she left behind.

     Neo was my longest relationship and the only male I shared a home with beyond my family. He was there for my joys and sadness and offered me the non-judgmental love only a pet can provide in many cases. He was a faithful companion and TV western watching buddy to my mother. He provided her comfort, and for that I am grateful. He taught me the value of being there for others and acceptance without judgment.

     The fact my great-aunt and pet died so close to each other toward the end of last year isn’t lost on me. Too often we hold on to things, people, and situations because they provide us comfort and impart life lessons. We don’t sense the way they shape us for the better–until they are no longer there.

     The absence leaves us stunned and not sure how to move forward. We have to learn to look inwardly and pull forth those lessons to move forward. We honor the lessons of those who have departed from us by moving–and not dwelling–in the hurt that they are no longer here.

     Grief operates on its schedule, so give yourself permission to process it until it is appropriate to move on, and when it is time to open your hands and hearts to fully to grasp what waits.

     Until next time, “Adios, au revoir and I “holla!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C.  The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, latoyahankins.com ; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com;
Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins;
and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Old School New Kid

I’m an ‘Old School New Kid’–and I Own It.

 Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham

     Yes, that’s what my teenage Millennial son would call me in this age of social media, iPhones and Internet branding.  How did I, that 21-year-old version of myself, survive without the bells and whistles of 21st century technology?  But hey, I’m a Baby Boomer and I own it.

     I am always fascinated and intrigued when other authors share their stories; every path to becoming a novelist is different.  For me, it started early on, with countless trips to the library as soon as I could get a library card.  Vivid imagination spurred short stories about animals and their families, where I actually wrote a series of short stories about a family of mischievous seals (go figure).

     As an African American/Native American/LGBTQ man, those stories changed over the years, but my passion for writing didn’t.  How many people have written short stories based on dreams they had–better yet, remembered? I have. Still, life went lifing along, and in the timeless words of Gwen Guthrie, “Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent.”

     I am so grateful for that psych degree I received, for it was a major boost on my road to writing my first novel.  I made up psychological profiles of characters for fun, and a pastor friend of mine read them and said, “Why don’t you put them all together in a book?”  Seed planted!

     Now, the million-dollar question:  what to write about?  One never knows where inspiration comes from, and mine sprang from a need.  Being a man of color in the 1970s and 1980s, I was ever on the search for fiction novels featuring characters who looked like me and came up short.  I was dying to read novels of successful African American men as entrepreneurs in areas other than sports and entertainment.  I knew such men existed in real life, like John H. Johnson, A.G. Gaston, and H.G. Parks, Jr.  However, it wasn’t reflected in fiction.  And as for characters who were also LGBTQ.

The Book: Mark my words.

     Faced with the choice of complaining about this challenge or writing a novel on it myself, I did what my dad would do and chose the latter.  Thus, my concept for Mark My Words and the character of Allan Beckley Christopher.  Thanks, Dad, for being my No. 1 fan and my greatest critic.  Your stamp of approval on this character as representative of your generation meant everything to me.

     Trust and believe, Mark My Words was a novel 17 years in the making.  Between written pages, typewritten pages and what was then a state-of-the-art laptop (oh, those days of floppy disks), it was written in 5 years. The new challenge was the next umpteen years getting it published, and everything that goes with being a new author.  Fortunately, I was blessed with 1) the mantra “Never give up” and 2) a great support system.

     Today, this “old school new kid” has embraced a new learning curve in marketing and social media as a self-published author.  Believe in dreams and never give up.


     W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

  His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood.  He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

     Current works in development are a continuation of his Christopher Family Novel series: Never Give Up, a blend of historical novel/family saga /whodunit, and two M/M romance novels, The Right to Be and To Thine Own Self. 

     You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.comand on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1.  And, email W. D. at  wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 18

Loving U Is Beautiful

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins  

     Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I send you all springtime wishes of non-allergy inducing days and seasonably warm nights.  This is the time of the year we spring forward and make plans to shed our winter woes and embrace a new season of potential.

     One thing I encourage everyone to put away with the long-sleeves, coats, and gloves is doubting yourself and all that you have to offer to the world. Full disclosure:  if comparing your worth and achievements to others and finding yourself lacking were an Olympic sport, I would’ve helped the United States snatch more medals in South Korea!  Sometimes, I’m guilty of looking around and thinking harshly about what I haven’t done and why my to-do list is increasing with each passing year.

     Then I stop and realize: in so many ways, not appreciating the gifts I have and put into play is very disrespectful and counter-productive. I need to love myself–faults and all.

     We are all unique and extraordinary in our own way. To grow and thrive is to realize and walk with that knowledge! Celebrate yourself in ways that feel natural and authentic. Be your own cheerleader.

     When others second-guess your choices, it’s natural for some of us to automatically assume they are right. Many of us have people in our lives who can help us see blind spots, and that advice is often spot-on and needed. They can and should call us on our half-stepping and not living up to the potential that lives within us.

     Then, there are some in our lives who find great glee in knocking our proverbial hustles. They see how we do things and attempt to diminish our efforts to be our best selves.  

     And we let them.

     Some of us put aside the appreciation of our wonderful selves in order to appease others. We sacrifice our shine by shrinking into someone else’s shadow.

     Don’t.  Be brave enough to love yourself when others try to make you feel otherwise, and you know that you are on the right. If that means keeping a journal and writing down everything good you have accomplished and not dwelling on the negative, then go for it!  

     If finding that sweet spot of self-adoration requires reconfiguring your circle, give them the walking room they need to exit stage left.  And if it takes seeking the time of a trained professional to help guide your path to realizing how perfect, whole and complete you are, then take that step.

     In this new season, shake off the dust of doubt and move forward to loving the splendid being that occupies the place where you sit reading these encouraging words. When you love yourself and accept your shortcomings as well as successes, you will find a phenomenal new way of thinking.

     Admittedly, embracing loving your faults and all may not be as easy as just making that decision. Too many of us have been hard-wired to doubt ourselves.

     However, I know we all can be better at cherishing ourselves–which will help others to do the same. We all have something special going for us.

     Recently, we celebrated a holiday dedicated to love. So many of us focused on getting the right thing to show how much we value and appreciate others. I challenge us to celebrate every day by loving ourselves–and the highs, lows and  in-betweens.

     Until next time, “Adios, au revoir…and I holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C.  The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, latoyahankins.com ; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com;
Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins;
and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 17

Taking All the Time You Need

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins  

 

     Greetings Hot Tea and Ice Sippers, and Happy 2018!  Trusting the New Year has treated you well and the novelty of snow days hasn’t worn off.  It’s amazing how a weather occurrence that brought many of us so much joy when we attended elementary and middle school evokes so much misery now.

     One by-product of weather limiting our activities beyond our four walls is that we find ourselves having to slow down our pace. Since we are sometimes limited to only our driveways or walk-ways, we find ourselves unable to run around and do so much for other people. That’s actually a good thing, although it may not seem like that at the time.

     Too many of us feel so tied to a clock or a list of responsibilities that we must adhere to that we lose sight of the sheer pleasure of taking the time to just be. Depending on whether you are a fan of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” or Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar, sometimes you need to take a break and sit down.

     Recharging your batteries by being still or applying your energy to something that ignites you is priceless–and something we just don’t do often enough. It could be something as simple as being tranquil for five minutes when you are not on your phone, looking at a screen, or updating your social media profile. It also can be taking up a hobby or habit that is strictly for you.

     Take time to treat yourself with the time to do something that feeds you.  Taking time for myself is a New Year’s resolution that everyone should consider adding to their list. It doesn’t require a membership or expensive equipment.  Simply, it’s a matter of saying that taking care of yourself is important–and should be factored into one’s daily life.

     Now, for some full disclosure.  For so long, I was one of those people always on the go who didn’t take enough time for my needs.   Last year was filled with dancing to someone else’s melody, someone else’s tune.  I spent the first quarter of 2017 tending to my mother who was hospitalized most of March.  And, I was balancing the requirements of serving as a sorority graduate chapter president, working a full-time job and nurturing a relationship.

     The rest of the year was pretty much more of the same. When November arrived, I had burned through all my vacation and sick time and could count on one hand the time I spent away from work doing what feeds my soul.  Fortunately, December arrived, presenting the opportunity to take time for myself. 

      I dove into doing not much. I slept late, caught up on movies, and generally lolled around.  

     And it was wonderful! The freedom of it all helped me realize how important it is to take time for myself.

     Not everyone can take a month off the work grid. For some of us, it would be an hour when we send all calls to voicemail. It could be a day where you binge on your favorite foods in your favorite lounging clothes in your favorite chair.

     Maybe you can steal away, go outside, and enjoy some fresh air where the only chatter comes from the birds! The key is to find that place where you can take the time to take a break…and just be.

     Until next time, “Adios, au revoir…and I holler!” 


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C.  The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, latoyahankins.com ; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com;
Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins;
and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

NATHANIEL OCTAVIUS-NERDO

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 17

Are You Wearing a Mask?

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman  

       We ran down the dirt road to the little store to buy candy. It was me, my little brother and my cousin. My grandfather had given us each a dollar. He made us promise not to tell my grandmother because she would have said it would spoil our dinner. 

     We ran as fast as we could because we wanted to get back in time to see my grandfather feed the hogs & chickens and milk the cows. It’s one of those things that farmers did in South Carolina in the year 1967.

      At the age of seven, I got a kick out of spending the summer with my grandparents because growing up in New Jersey, we didn’t have hogs, pigs, and cows. So, this was a whole new world for me. My parents grew up here on the farm and wanted us to live our roots so to speak.

     We entered the store and searched the candy aisle trying to decide what to buy. Eventually, my brother bought a box of Cracker Jacks. My cousin brought Now or Laters. And I purchased a box of Good and Plenty. These were popular candies during that time. And we decided to share with each other.

     As we ran out of the store, I bumped into a man that was coming in.

     “Watch where you’re going ni**er,” the irate man yelled at me.

     I stood there frozen with fear as I stared at this white man looking down at me. Not just because of the way he said it but because of what he said. I have never experienced anyone calling me a nigger to my face.

     We ran back to the farm as fast as we could, and I told my grandfather what had happened. He was not surprised at all, as he explained the mentality of south people in the south. He explained that some people do not wear a mask to hide behind.

     That’s because, in New Jersey, the prejudice people would wear a mask to hide the fact that they were bigots. They would never show their true colors like this man did.

     And that incident reminded me of Halloween. When I was a kid, we looked forward to wearing a costume and a mask. It was our way of becoming someone else for the day. We would dress up as cowboys, Indians, ballerinas, and angels. We even dressed up as Batman and Superman fighting the bad guys. We lived in out fantasy world as kids and our reward was candy. Lots and lots of candy.

     And that’s all it was: costumes, masks, and candy.

     And as time went on, people became more tolerant and understanding of different races, cultures, etc. Slowly people starting mingling together. socializing, dating and even marrying each other. Racism was slowly kept behind closed doors. There was no need for masks.

     But now it’s the year 2017 and it appears that people are slowly taking off their masks. Racism is slowly becoming the norm. People are slowly showing their prejudice right out in the open.

     In Oklahoma, a white woman police officer shot an unarmed black man who had his hands above his head. She said she feared for her life which is why she killed him. She was found not guilty of murder. But some believed she is guilty of racism. She wasn’t wearing a mask as she shot that man.

     In St. Louis, a black police officer was killed when he ran out of his house to help a fellow white officer chase carjackers. That white officer was found not guilty due to friendly fire. The white officer was not wearing his mask to hide his racism.

     At the University of Maryland, a black man was accused of spraying swastikas on garbage cans. He thought he got away with it until the cops arrested him while he was not wearing his mask of hate.

     In D.C., nooses were found hanging at an elementary school, a college campus and at the African American Museum. Racist people wanted us to go back to the days of hanging blacks. They probably were not wearing their hoods when they did it.

     In Walmart, a white cashier would not touch any money received by any person of color. Instead, she would make the customer put the money on the counter and return any change the same way; being careful not to touch their skin. She was fired because she took off her mask of bigotry.

     And in Las Vegas, a white man booked a hotel room and shot numerous people thru the window. He didn’t care what color they were. When they finally caught him, he had killed himself and was not wearing his mask of hatred.

     And on the other side of the world, people are blowing themselves up as suicide bombers just to kill others who think differently from them.

     Every day, someone is taking off their mask and showing their true colors. The color of hatred. The color of bigotry. The color of down-right stupidity.

     Are we slowly going back in time?  Back to the days of slavery when it was obvious that white people hated black people? Like it was obvious that that white man hated me for being black. Or that some people hated Jews and burned them in human ovens. Or people hated the so-called red-skinned Indians who had different beliefs.

     Today people have forgotten to wear a mask to hide their bigotry. The racist people are slowly taking off their mask and showing how divided this world is.

     It is amazing how people judge each other just by the color of their skin, religious belief or something as simple as someone choosing not to stand for something they do not believe it such as the national anthem.

     Should we hate people because their skin is darker or lighter than our own? Should we hate because someone prays to Jesus instead of Allah?  Or should we hate because someone does not stand up for something that they do not believe in? Instead deciding to kneel.

     It’s time we think about what is really important in life–unity, understanding, and tolerance of others. The world is slowly taking off their mask and showing who they truly are. What they truly believe in. Is this a good thing?

     On the one hand, we will know exactly what people are standing up for. Therefore, we would know what to expect. But on the other hand, wearing a mask might be the best way to keep the peace in this world of hated, senseless killings and downright craziness. If everyone kept their mask on, maybe there would be more peace because everyone would be hiding.

     But now it’s about to be Halloween. Will everyone put on their mask and hide? On will it be a day when we take off the mask and show the world our real selves. Because what’s the point? It appears no one is dressing up anymore. The true man is slowly being revealed.

     What do you stand for? Are you wearing a mask? Or are you going to kneel down for something you don’t believe in? Or stand up and decry bigotry and hatred?


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 16

Appreciate, Don’t Hate

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins  

     Greetings Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I trust you are well.

     The temperatures are dropping, clothing is getting thicker, and we are getting into that holiday frame of mind. Even if you do not subscribe to a particular faith, the remainder of 2017 should offer you at least one day to spend time with loved ones, do some shopping–or smile at someone who has to work while you enjoy a day off.

     One major break in the monotony of daily life that approaches is the fourth Thursday of November. For one day, we are supposed to give thanks for all the good things we have in our lives. That is in between gorging on carbs, plotting a way to drop sums of money at retail stores, and watching television in between power naps.

     Thanksgiving means different things to different peoplehaving one day to be thankful is okay, but I would say expressing appreciation should be a year-round event.

     And what is the difference between being thankful and the appreciation of thankfulness?  Being thankful is the actual expression of gratitude, while the latter is the tendency to recognize the worth of someone or something.

     Sometimes, we are so caught up in the swirl of our affairs that we neglect to recognize those who avail themselves to make our paths clearer. We tend to see past people’s good deeds and do not let others know that we see their good works– and appreciate them for doing things they do not have to do.

     A popular train of thought that has chugged through many of our lives has been the adage “in life, no one owes you anything.”  Yet, so often, so many of us benefit from things we are given.  But unfortunately, we do not take time enough to show appreciation.

     I will be the first to admit that I do not often show my appreciation for those around me for making my life easier. For the most part, when I wake up in the morning, my partner sets the coffee maker for me so all I have to do is press “on,” and “voila!”  When I exit from the shower, my morning addiction greets me. Because of our differing work schedule, she arrives home before I do, and dinner often greets me when I get there. Those gestures make my day flow so much better; however, I on occasion neglect to let her know much it means to me that she does those things.

     While she never has to worry about the dishwasher being unloaded and clothes making it from the laundry basket to her closet, it still would be a nice gesture for me to recognize what she does to make my morning and evening better.

     Imagine how much better life could be if we simply let people know that we appreciate them for being kind and helpful. We teach children to say “thank you;” but how often do we incorporate that into our own grown-folk conversations?

     I refuse to accept that we cannot appreciate other people’s goodwill; or for that matter, we do not understand that when someone does something nice that they aren’t necessarily doing it for the applause– but because it is just the nice thing to do.  Sometimes, it’s the simple “I see what you are doing and I appreciate it” that makes such a difference.

     If you want to go full-out with floral arrangements, sweet treats, or power ballads to let people know you are appreciated, then that’s cool. However, sometimes the simplest gesture gets the message across just as well.

     All of us should be more proactive about letting people know we appreciate them in minor and major ways that fit the situation. It may be a simple wave of appreciation when the driver on the expressway lets you in his/her lane, or the smile and head nod when someone with a cart full of groceries lets you and your three items go ahead of them.  

     It could be as grand as a day when all your partner has to do is get up– because you have taken care of everything.  And, friends aren’t exempt from showing appreciation. Show that bestie who always “has your back” or a spare twenty dollars until payday.  In turn, you can appreciate the gesture by treating your bestie to lunch or cocktails.

      The simple act of appreciation doesn’t cost anything, but it can actually add value. Try it sometimes, and feel how good it makes you feel. True, it doesn’t compare to that slice of pie your aunt only makes this time of year; but it’s still a good thing, nevertheless.

     Until next time:  Adios, au revoir and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C.  The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, latoyahankins.com ; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com;
Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins;
and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

NATHANIEL OCTAVIUS-NERDO

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 16

Love Is Not Always Blind

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman  

       I stood at the door to the apartment, preparing myself for the mystery that was in store for me.  

     “Behind this door might be my perfect soulmate,” I thought.

     I checked my clothes, my breath, my hair—everything.  I had to make sure that I was totally “on point.”

     My hopes soaring, I got up the nerve to knock on the door. A voice told me to come in.  So, I opened the door and slowly walked into a dimly lit room. I hesitated just a bit to give my eyes tine to adjust to the darkness.

     As I got closer and closer, I noticed a man sitting on a chair in the middle of the room. I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized that the man was completely naked.

     “Norman, is that you?”

     “Yes. Are you Jimmy?”

     “Yes.”   I just stood there as he made small talk, recounting our previous conversations via phone and text messages.

     Suddenly, I heard some noise coming from another room!  Quickly, I stepped back because I assumed we were alone. And then in a blink of an eye, another person came into the room.

     Also naked! 

     Befuddled, perplexed–I took another step back.

     “Norman, meet Timmy,” Jimmy announced.

     Timmy was his twin brother!  It was then I realized why Jimmy always said something about “two tons of fun.”   Next, they informed me that they wanted to have a threesome.

     I didn’t know what to expect–but I was not expecting this!  Unfortunately for them, I couldn’t even handle one ton!  (LOL.)   I quickly declined, and left.

     Blind dates are a trip.

    As I walked to my car, I was wondering if this was the best way to find a man. I drove home disappointed yet again, and climbed into my lonely bed.

     As I lay there, I started thinking about my previous dates.  You see, this was another date that I had made on line through one of those dating apps. I don’t normally do the blind dating thing–but what’s a lonely man to do?

     And I was a lonely man.

     I had a regular routine of work, home, cooking dinner, watching TV and going to bed. And the next morning began the “rinse and repeat” cycle.  I’d been single since my divorce three years ago. I was used to it, though. 

     To an extent.

     But do you know the worst part?   It was at night, when I had to face the reality that no one was laying on the other side of my bed.   And only my six pillows against my back were helping me imagine that there was a man right next to me.  

     There was no warm body to cuddle up with, and to hug and hold during the night.  And sometimes, the pain of loneliness would be so bad that the tears would well up in my eyes.  I’d grab my pillows tight to try not to face the fact that I was scared of being lonely—and alone–forever.

     However, I discovered how to solve the problem to find that perfect soulmate. On the weekends, I would peruse the so-called “dating” sites for that temporary fix:  holding, cuddling and possibly having sex with someone–if even for a moment. 

     I was looking for someone to give me that temporary feeling of love.

    But at the same time, I’d hoped to meet the man of my dreams!   

     I remember Tracey, a guy I met on Adam4Adam, one of those dating apps.  I would say to myself, “There’s just got to be someone on this app who’s looking for more than just sex!”

     I’d been talking to Tracey for months, and the vibe between us was great! My only issue was that he was twenty years my junior. And you know those young guys have those famous lines: “I like older men” or, “I can’t relate to men my own age.”

     Eventually, I visited him at his home.  As we conversed and drank for a while, we developed an awesome connection–everything was going rather well!

      Until slowly, he revealed his true intentions. 

     He began asking about my income, house, car, etc. Suddenly, he seemed more interested in material things.  Bottom line:  he was looking for a sugar daddy!   

     I couldn’t afford to take care of me; so there was no way I could take care of him.  That “relationship” ended before it started.

     Next, there was James, the man that changed my name!  And it was not that he had a short memory span: he just decided to call me by different names.

     I met James on the Tango app.  I always thought it was to video chat between friends and family. Who knew you could also pick up men!

     Before meeting in person, James and I spoke for months.  We had so much in common that we spoke particularly every day for hours.  He had my heart. Or should I say that his voice had my heart.

     Finally, we decided to meet in person. I was so excited!  I knocked on his door, and this “phine,” sexy man greeted me.  As they say, “tall, dark and handsome.”

     I followed him to the living room, and that’s when it happened. He suddenly turned around, and before I knew it, he was kissing me–tongue and all!   He was doing such a good job that I just gave in and returned the favor. And I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly, my clothes fell off!  And there we were on the floor, exploring each other’s manly bodies–and in more ways than one.

     During that encounter is when he changed my name. It was not Norman anymore. It was Baby, Honey, Sweetie, etc.  And he added “love you” to that numerous times.  Either I was good at what I was doing, or he was crazy!  I would like to think I was good.  Come to find out, it was both.

     But after some time, I had too slowly disappear out of his life. He was moving to fast. He was calling me constantly, and actually started stalking me. I made the mistake early on in giving him my address. He popped up everywhere, and knew my every move. It got scary.

     So, tell me:  what does a lonely man do? Does he continue to search the internet for love and affection? Or does he just continue to live alone and lonely? There are so many lonely people in the world that I figured that sooner or later, I’d find him or he’d find me.

     So I continued my search.  And one night, I knocked on another door.

     It was opened by a very nice-looking man.  He was about 6′ 2″, 220 lbs. of muscle.  Brown skinned, he sported a mustache, beard and bald head.  

     And let’s not forget his beautiful smile!  He was my kind of man.  

     His name was Lenny.

     He led me into the living room that was dimly lit by a fire burning in the fireplace.

     I noticed a blanket and a picnic basket on the floor in front of the fireplace. Also, there was some wine and a platter which consisted of mixed strawberries, grapes and melon.  What a delightful surprise!

     Lenny and I stretched out on the blanket, eating and drinking particularly all night long, as songs filled the room. We talked, laughed and cuddled.

     The first kiss happened while we were listening to Teddy Pendergrass singing “When Somebody Loves You Back.”  It was then I was in heaven!  It was then that I knew I’d met my perfect stranger. This date made up for all the disastrous ones I’d gone on.

     After reflecting on all the blind dates I’d had, I would never have believed meeting him was possible!   But I had gone from loneliness to happiness. And Lenny was my happiness because this was the anniversary of our first date two years ago.

     But now, here’s the funny thing:  I didn’t meet Lenny via an app, or on line.  Actually, I met him in line–at a grocery store!  He just started talking to me.  And then he asked me out for a drink, right then and there.

     And now here we are.

     Now, I’m not discouraging people from doing the “blind on line dating thing” because I’ve met some very wonderful people in the process.  Just keep your options open, because your partner might be in the grocery store also.

     I’m simply saying that loneliness is hard at times. It’s probably the hardest thing to deal with in life. Because regardless of your circumstances, being lonely and alone make your situation seem ten times worst.   

     Your perfect stranger is out there somewhere, and you will find each other. Just be patient, and one day you’ll turn around and he/she will be right there.

      So you see, love is not always blind. You just have to open your eyes and keep the faith, and let your Lord fight your battle of loneliness.  You simply have to keep your mind and heart open. Trust and believe that your God has your back.

     As singer-songwriter and record producer Faith Evans says, “Keep the Faith.”


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 15

Roll With Being A Role Model!

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins  

     Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Trusting you are well and staying cool this summer. I’m currently giving thanks every day for air conditioning, cool beverages, and lightweight clothing.  Although I’m a Southerner by birth, this heat is something else!

     Despite the high temperatures, I spent this past Fourth of July outside surrounded by my extended family. I considered it a blessing to be in the company of five generations ranging from my great aunt–who recently celebrated her 93rd birthday–to my twin third-cousins from Virginia who was spending the summer with their grandmother.  I ate too much, sipped on something…and had a chance to bask in the stories of days gone by.

     One thing I realized between bites was that I have so many role models within my family. My great-uncle, who has spent over fifty years being the only black barber in Brunswick County, North Carolina, sat beside his nephew, a U.S. Army veteran, retired fire captain and the father of two exceptional daughters. Across from them sat my younger cousin who, in her forty plus years, has lived several lifetimes:  she’s been a college student and ferry boat worker, and currently earns her pay as a nuclear power plant worker. She’s a devoted wife, exceptional big sister–and knows how to stunt on a motorcycle like nobody’s business!

     Too often, we look to celebrities and big names to be role models. We sometimes forget just being the people we are–lovers, friends, and family members–we are setting examples for others to follow. Celebrate that by doing what you do and doing it well:  this inspires others to step their game up. Roll with being a role model.

     I would venture that if you sit down and really think about all that you have done in life, you’d realize that you have accomplished at least three things no one expected to do. Because of that, you have the potential to encourage someone to push him/herself to be better.

     Two of my biggest role models are young men who live vastly different lives in two different states, but they each inspire me to do better. Calvin was a high school football stand-out who had potential to make it big. Instead, he decided to be a family man who nurtures and shapes the lives of his daughter and sons.  His social media pages are filled with pictures of his children, his wife and his family.   

     Calvin is a devoted family man who works hard to provide when so many of his former teammates are living it up. Despite having a frame that made an opposing player drop the ball rather than be tackled during a high school game, he is so gentle and affectionate with his children that it leaves me in awe.

     Leslie spent the first thirteen years of his life as a young Black boy in a small coastal town where he was the only Black student in his pre-K program.  He  spent his early education years being one of a few–if not the only–student of color in his advanced classes. Now he’s a globe-trotting, MBA-having, Eagle-Scout who “handles his bizness” for a Fortune 100 company.  And, he still keeps me cracking up with well-timed texts and social media posts.

     And then there’s Laura. Of Caribbean heritage, her family immigrated to America from Canada when she was eight. She worked hard, and earned her Master’s in community agency counseling in two years in a hostile educational environment. Laura works with children with mental health issues, takes splendid care of her friends and pets–and is the only person I know for sure who has read everything I have written in the past four years.

     We are all somebody’s role models. Own it and hold your head high because your actions help prove to someone else that whatever you want is possible. No setback is permanent, and we should see obstacles as opportunities.

     Walk in the reality that you are someone’s role model…and stay cool.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!” 


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C.  The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, latoyahankins.com ; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com;
Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins;
and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

NATHANIEL OCTAVIUS-NERDO

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 15

“Four Simple Words of Comfort”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman 

     It was so dark in the room that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It was so dark that I could probably hear a pin drop; that’s if a pin did drop. I know that if I were a kid, I would probably be scared, calling for my mommy.

    But I wasn’t scared! I actually felt safe. I felt like nothing or no one could harm me. I felt like I could handle anything in life. But that wasn’t always the case.

      A friend of mine told me this one day while we were having lunch. I have known Kevin since our college days at Tuskegee University. After graduation, he went into the military and traveled all over the world until he settled down in North Carolina and became a stock broker. I went to New York and became an engineer. And, we’ve kept in touch over the years and became great friends.

     During the years, we talked several times a month; and due to our busy schedules, we’d see each other occasionally.  And from time to time, we’d get together for weekends–either in North Carolina or New York.

     But this particular weekend, we decided to meet half-way and spend the weekend in Washington, D.C. We both had never been there, and were excited to see Obama’s House: the White House.

     So, on this particular Friday afternoon, we met in the lobby of the same hotel we were booked in.  For almost two years, I hadn’t seen him face-to-face; therefore, I was understandably excited.

     I arrived at the lobby first, anticipating the arrival of my old friend. I stared at the elevator doors, waiting for them to open for what seemed like an eternity. As I waited, I was thinking about the first time I met HIM. He was dating my slut of a roommate who was cheating on him with every Tom, Dick–and sometimes John. I felt bad for Kevin, and befriended him once he found out the truth by catching my roommate in bed with another guy! That was so long ago, and there we were.

     When the elevator doors finally opened, I was surprised to see that my once broad-shouldered, 220 pounds, 6’2” friend was now practically a skeleton of a man!  Now, he was about a “buck fifty,” bald, very slim–and walked with a cane. I tried my best not to show the surprised and concerned expression on my face.  However, I’m sure he immediately noticed it.

     As we did our welcome embrace, I was afraid I was hugging him to hard. I thought I might break him because he seemed so fragile. We stood there for a while and did out usual laughing and joking. It was just like old times except for the fact that I could not help but have the thought in the back of my mind that something was terribly wrong with him.

     We decided to go to lunch before we began sightseeing.  After that, we had dinner before we did the D.C. nightlife, looking for men.

     At lunch, we did our usual catching up on each other’s lives. He told me about his job as a stock broker, which he truly relished.  He loved “playing with other people’s money,” as he put it.

     I told him about working on Park Avenue in New York.  He remembered that I’d always dreamed about working there. And I told him that I was single mainly because I worked a lot—which he also did.  But on this trip, we both decided to forget about work and do a lot of playing.

     After some chit-chat back and forth, and laughing about this and that, he got silent for a moment.  I just stared at him because it was obvious that he had something on his mind. 

     The silence was eventually broken when he said “Honey, I have to tell you something.” He was smiling as he stared at me for another brief moment.

     “Sure, what’s up?” I replied, a concerned tone enveloping my voice. As I listened with great interests, he told me his story.

     “Well,” he said,” one day out of the blue, I woke up with chest pains. I didn’t think much of it. I just thought it was something I ate the night before. The pain would come and go, and still I didn’t think that it was serious. And you know how most of us Black men are; we don’t want to go to the doctor. We are supposed to be big strong men that can handle anything. But of course, sometimes that’s not true. Women are the strong ones and I commend them for that.

     “Anyway” he continued, “after a few weeks I decided to go to the doctor. I finally made it after canceling several appointments, thinking and praying my pain would go away.

     “After many tests, I went back to the doctor for my results. That’s when he informed me that I had lung cancer and that it was serious.”

     Needless to say, Kevin’s revelation took me aback!  But not just because he divulged this like he was telling me some “everyday event in his life.”  It was because he told me this with such a positive attitude, confidence and smile on his face.   And, I was especially affected by him adding that even if the radiation and chemo didn’t work, he’d “one day pass away to heaven.”

     Kevin admitted that he hesitated to tell people–especially his closest friends–because they immediately treated him differently. Obviously, I was concerned and sad when I realized the seriousness of all that he said. After a few comforting words from me and some words of assurance from him, he was still smiling like he was on top of the world; while I, on the other hand, tried my best to smile.

     I asked him:   “How can you be so upbeat about this?” 

     He responded that from time to time, he’d let the world stand still and listened to God tell him the four little words of comfort. I was confused by what he meant.

      Until he explained it.     

     He said, “When I first received my diagnosis, I sat on my couch numb from shock! I sat there for what seemed like hours. It felt like time stood still as I sat there alone. And I felt like I didn’t have anyone in the world…and I was scared!  Scared of what the future may hold or should I say, ‘may not hold’.

     “Finally I went into my bedroom and drew all the curtains to make the room completely dark. Then I lay on my bed. It was so dark in the room that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It was so dark that I could probably hear a pin drop; that is, if a pin did drop. I know that if I were a kid, I’d probably be scared and calling for my mommy. I wanted to shut the world out for a while. To make it seem like the world stood still while I came to grips with the reality of my situation.

     “I laid there for what seemed like an eternity until suddenly I wasn’t scared anymore. I actually felt safe!  I felt like nothing or no one could harm me. I felt like I could handle anything in life.

     “That’s because suddenly, I swore I heard God whisper in my ear the four simple words of comfort.  He whispered, ‘Everything’s gonna be alright’.

And then the Bible verse of Philippians 4: 6-7 filled my mind. It basically reads, ‘I can do anything with God who strengthens me if I just have faith’.

     “After a while of thinking about those four simple words, I realized that it was true:  “Everything IS gonna be alright’!  I can handle this.

     “And from that moment on, I smiled and enjoyed life the best I could. I realized that some things in life are going to be a test of faith: a test to make us stronger in life’s ups, down, trials and tribulations.

     “I decided that I was going to be strong and think positive. That’s why every day, I wake up with a smile on my face and count my blessings. Even though sometimes the chemo or radiation is so bad that I can hardly move. And sometimes, I get real sick and can’t get out of bed for a while. But I know everything’s gonna be alright.

     “So eventually, I got up, opened the curtains and let the sun and the world back into my blessed life.

     “But of course, like anyone else, sometimes I get down and lonely. Sometimes I just want someone to hug me and whisper in my ear, ‘Everything’s gonna be alright’. 

     “Sometimes we go through stuff and don’t tell anyone. We keep it locked away because we don’t want to be a burden to anyone.

     “But sometimes, we just need for them to give us a hug and whisper in our ear.”

     At that moment I stood, pulling Kevin up with me. I then hugged my dear friend and whispered in his ear, “Everything’s gonna be alright.” 

     It was such an extraordinary moment!  As we both exhaled, it seemed as if his positive energy was transferred to me  It seemed like the precious feeling of God’s love flowed through our bodies as I suddenly felt like I, too, could handle anything.

     That was five years ago. And today, Kevin is doing well. And from time to time, we still meet and chase men.

     Thinking back to that day, I realize that a positive attitude does indeed make a difference.   That’s why I always try to have a smile on my face to share with the world. A smile to let people know that life is great; and hopefully, that positive attitude will make someone’s day.

    To all the people out there who are going through trials and tribulations in their lives, you are not alone. Your God is by your side. 

    And it’s those people that we should give such simple things as a hug and a whisper of those four simple words of comfort in their ear.

    So hug someone today and whisper, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 14

Parents Are People, Too!

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

     Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! I send a virtual shower of confetti and a round of kudos for the college graduates and their family members partaking of this month’s literary offering.  Regardless how long the journey took, you made it to the end and you should be celebrated.

     Along with college graduations, May meant Mother’s Day. Based on the cascade of profile pictures which blanketed social media, a lot of you have pretty fly mothers who know how to accessorize and strut. I also realize that for every picture of Momma and Mini-Me, there are those whose posts about that second Sunday reflected mothers who didn’t have the time, inclination or ability to be there for their offspring. Many people are estranged from their mothers due to old hurts, and the fresh pain of rejection.

     For many of us, that distance is necessary for our mental–and sometimes physical–safety.  But for others, it’s because they are clinching too tightly to things that happened in childhood.

     For many years, I was in the latter category. But this spring day, my advice to you is that sometimes, we have to let some of that stuff go.  If possible, we need to see our parents as persons now that we are adults–and stop seeing them with the eyes of a child.

Parents

     This is not to diminish the hurt, or disregard the damage done. But in order to heal, we have to really see and then try to understand the choices our parents have made.    Being adults ourselves, you know that adults make mistakes all the time; and if possible, we need to extend understanding and grace to our parents so that we can move beyond the past. 

     When I was six months old, my mother and I parted ways.  She sent me to my grandmother and great-grandmother to be raised in my hometown while she worked and attended school in the District of Columbia.  My mom wasn’t there when I lost my first tooth–or second or third, for that matter. She didn’t teach me how to ride a bike.  Nor did she stand by my side when I got my first library card.

     She was there when I had major surgery when I was five–but only for a brief period before she headed back to D.C. We didn’t reconnect until I was eight.  That was when my grandmother died and she came back home to live with my great-grandmother and me.

     My mom and I didn’t live together on our own until I was eleven.  Unfortunately, her reaction to something that occurred just added to my feeling of disconnection from her.  It was an incident with a neighborhood boy who simply didn’t understand that “no meant no.”

     You see, I loved my mom; however, I just didn’t like her that much. After all, you really can’t like someone whom you don’t know.

     So many times, we have trouble understanding the motivation behind our parents’ actions because we can’t see them as people.  We give more credit to people who cross our paths than to the woman who gave us life. Depending on the circumstances, I would like to suggest they deserve better.

     Getting to know the woman she was before she became your mother sometimes helps clear up misunderstandings, and helps form a bridge that will allow you to move closer together.

     Because so much of my early years was not spent with my mother, I never fully appreciated her and the sacrifices she made until I was well into my adult years. My mother–like so many others–sacrificed her time, talent and treasures in order to make a better place in the world for herself and myself.

     So last year, we began talking about who she was before, during, and after I made my appearance into the world. We addressed misgivings and hurt feelings and began building a stronger relationship.

     It is not going to be an easy fix, but I feel it’s worth the effort to start understanding the woman that is my mother. I encourage others who are ready to entertain the thought to reach out.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Mark’s Surreality 3

The Things We Do,” Part One

 Guest Writer: Mark O. Estes 

     “I’m so drained, Evan,” Derrick mumbled to me through his meaty palms. “I’m so fucking drained with no semblance of an end in sight.”

     I sat across Derrick at a seemingly swanky restaurant (until they brought out the oxymoronic monstrosity of gummy, stale pasta) as he spilled his frustrations onto the table like a tall glass of the finest southern tea. His puppy dog expression, complete with a full luggage set under his eyes and the weariness of a two-term president, matched his woeful words perfectly. This pained me. I’m used to gazing hours on end into his brown eyes, and wishing like hell that I could stare into them on an ironclad intimate level. Preferably in one of our bedrooms.

     Instead, the person who sat across from me was a black void in human form. A man who has ran the marathon of life so roughly to only get towards the next level and have the finish line lunge out of his grasp. Again, I’m not used to this version of Derrick Kent. The Derrick Kent I know (of admittedly a short period of time) was more jovial, yet comically twisted, and all around inspiring. Exuberating a nice balance of sheer intelligence and criminally sexiness, Derrick was pretty much sex personified and left men and women weeping in his path, both sexes yearning for more of his intellectual prowess.

     “Man, what are you doing to combat your fatigue?” I asked, taking a sip of my rum and coke. “This is the worst time to let the doldrums of life interfere with your winning streak of achievements. I mean you killed it tonight during your acceptance speech. The crowd loved you. Will always love you, actually.”

     The crowd in question was the throngs of people who came to congratulate Derrick on being published by a major publishing house with a six-figure deal for his first novel through the company right out of the stables. The novel, “Timeless Paramour,” wasn’t Derrick’s first novel by far, but it was the one that managed to snatch the attention of a well-renowned editor and manager for Macmillan Books. His writing stood on the boundaries between classic thriller and modern satire, with a twinge of irony thrown in for good taste. His unique blend of those top genres garnered a lot of support over the years, even before I knew of his existence. His fan base continues to grow weekly, if not daily, and some of the people who were in the audience tonight had traveled as far as New York City, Florida, and even London to see Derrick in his moment before he became a national best selling author.

     Derrick shook his head wearily. “No, that’s not what I mean. There’s a lot on my mind and it’s sucking the life out of me. Plus, work isn’t exactly being a grand help either. I just need space and a break.”

     “But you have this promotional tour coming up…”

     “That could serve as the break that I need.”

     “A break from what? Derrick, you’re on top of the world now. There’s a six-figure writing contract for a book that’s going to eventually become and international bestseller and a movie within the next two years, you have a bulldog of a manager, a twenty-city tour across America to promote said book… Your future is bright, Dee, so… Excuse me for drawing blanks on why you are not doing the backhand bounce while drinking from a bottle of the finest champagne on the planet?”

     “It’s my job, man. It’s killing me. This tour will be heaven on a bus. No nagging ass calls about collections. No shity ass lunch breaks. No triple necked bosses monitoring what I’m doing and when I take a shit. For two whole months, it can just be me and my brain and a whole host of crazy mothafuckers waiting for their time to shine in the pages of my upcoming books.”

     I nod in agreement, despite not believing one word he was saying.

     “You don’t believe a word that I’m saying, do you?” Derrick always managed to read me like a skilled, literary professor.

     “No, I don’t,” I replied, not blinking an eye. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is some heavier mojo at work besides daily tiffs with the corporate establishment. But I’m not going to force whatever it is that’s ailing you until you give me the green light to do so. I’m sure this isn’t the night that you want to go into detail over something dark. In fact, it’s neither the night nor the time for any detractions from your happiness and the good luck bestowed upon you. So let’s just focus on the positives now. The dreg of “the work force” can be dealt with on another day. Preferably in a later novel, perhaps?”

     Derrick chuckled after my lame speech. He knew it came from the heart. I could tell. It was the first time he had smiled genuinely since we sat down to talk in the restaurant. Knowing that I had managed to conjure that heart-stopping smile, which only he could pull off with an up tuck at the corner of his lips, sent my soul on a satisfying victory lap throughout every inch of my body.

     “You’re so good to me,” Derrick said, his eyes piercing into mine. “Do you know I’ve always wanted to tell you that? You have the sheer knack for knowing how to talk a man off a proverbial ledge. So many nights I doubted myself in every avenue possible and you have always been there to slay the Procrastinator, the Doubter, and any other Writing Demons that prowl my mind. I truly appreciate you, Evan. And everything that you do.”

     On the surface I only blushed a little and smiled graciously in return. But on the inside… My mind had the biggest orgasm it had ever experienced since learning the existence of the excess check while in college. It took strong will power to not lean over the table; casually, but tenderly, grab Derrick’s face; and gently kiss those pink luscious lips of his. Instead, I silently cursed every force in nature keeping us from becoming one big happy gay existence. Or rather why he never saw me in the same light as I saw him…

     “Thanks, Derrick,” I managed to sputter out. “That means a lot. Really.”

     Derrick nodded. “And I want you to know that the green light is yours.”

     “The green light to do what?” asked a syrupy voice that sliced clean through my calm demeanor and sliver of happiness.

     Severing our connection to acknowledge the happy-go-lucky intruder into our conversation, Derrick smiled as a stacked female doused in white Chanel-everything (possibly panties as well) with long black hair teased to the salon gods stepped into our sights. “Hey, babe,” Derrick greeted, standing to kiss the woman lovingly. I nearly barfed all over the table.

     Meet Asia Wainright. AKA Derrick’s fiancée. AKA one of those forces I silently cursed only moments earlier.

     “I thought you were sleep,” Derrick cooed to Asia. “I didn’t want to wake you up, so I called up Evan and we decided to grab a bite to eat.”

     “I was asleep, but the guests in the room next to us decided to rehash an argument from ten years ago. I know the date because they continued to refer to it ad nauseam to the point that I woke up, tried to figure out what exactly what I was doing on May 23rd, 2005, and eventually gave up. I called your phone. Did you not get my messages?”

     Derrick patted his pants for his phone and pulled it out to check it. “Must have forgotten to take it off silence. Yep, I see two missed calls and one voicemail. I’m sorry, babe.” He kissed her again for emphasis on his regretful lapse of judgment on not checking his phone. I continue to sit and look like a doofus while playing with the rubbery pasta in front of me.

     “It’s fine, Derrick. I figured you were down here eating, anyway. If you weren’t, then I would have had an APB put out immediately. No officer in Memphis was going to rest tonight until you were safe in bed with me.” She paused and turned to me as like I was a bothersome afterthought. “Oh, hey, Evan.”

     “Hello,” I replied.

     “So, what was this green light you were talking about?” Asia asked Derrick. “Hopefully it’s green light to something special you’re cooking up for me…”

     Not missing a beat, Derrick took the chance and followed through with his prepared lie. “Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. You’ll just have to find out. In fact, I was actually just bouncing ideas off of Evan over some bad pasta and drinks.”

     “Oh, Derrick, you didn’t have to bother Evan for that,” she chuckled. “I’m sure he has something to do other than sit here and listen to you babble all night like a human springboard.”

     Um, wrong. I was enjoying myself quite immensely being Derrick’s “human springboard.”

     Hell, in fact, if I could I would morph into an actual cork board for Derrick to place his ideas on, because it would have been the only sort of way for his fingers to brush against my body. But I remained calm and collected as Asia continued to dismiss my existence and purr into Derrick’s ear like an alley cat in heat.

     “Well, he didn’t seem to mind. Did you, Evan?”

     I was about to concur when Asia pulled Derrick a bit closer to her, reached into his pocket and pulled out a few twenty-dollar bills and laid them on the table.

     “Well, whether if he didn’t mind or not, I’m releasing him to go live his life on this beautiful Friday night while it’s still young. Maybe you can snag you a boyfriend, Evan?” 

     “He already has one, Asia,” Derrick reminded her. “Remember you met him? His name is Juan?”

     Asia blinked before casually placing her hand on her forehead in a fake ass “Duh!” expression. “Right! I totally forgot about him since I never see him with you, Evan. Is he really busy or something?”

     Bitch.

     “Actually, he’s not into big crowds,” I stated as calmly as my reserve would let me. But even then my reserve was way past ‘empty.’ The gall of this bitch…

     Sensing the tension forming, Derrick pulled out another twenty-dollar bill and placed it on the table. “Well, I guess we could mosey on upstairs. I have to start work on the next chapter of Massive Heat anyway.”

     “Can’t wait to read it,” I chimed in, thankful for the interference.

     “Not before I finish the book in its entirety,” Asia interjected as she sauntered off, not even offering a half-assed wave.

     Derrick stood watching her for a moment before he broke his gaze long enough to look at me and say, “Sorry about that, Evan. The green light still stands. I’ll call you.”

     Then he stalked off to catch up with Asia.

     I continued to sit at the table and sip on my Long Island Iced Tea, replaying what just transpired over in my head a couple of times. It was apparent that Asia knew how I felt about Derrick. That was as abundantly crystal clear as the numerous work she’s had done to her face.

     She sniffed that fact out ages ago, like a true bitch guarding her territory would. That’s not what was playing through my head though. At least not the full culprit. I was pondering about Derrick’s gaze before he offered an apology for Asia’s behavior. He was pissed. And I don’t mean ‘pissed’ in an “I can’t believe you embarrassed me” pissed, but in a “Bitch, I can’t fucking stand you” pissed.

     Trouble in paradise? Possibly. Despite her confidence in putting together a fashionable outfit to go along with her sadistic (and unnecessary) penchant for reading people for filth, Asia seemed to also carry the characteristic of those people on Instagram who constantly post pics and quotes showcasing their sickeningly sweet love affair and reminding the unfortunate bystanders that they’re simply pressed to not have a “bae” in their lives. But in reality, those very people are fighting tooth and nail to retain said ‘blissful relationship,’ because it’s simply ‘pathetic’ in this day and age to not have someone cuffed to your side at all times.

     Although, I’m sure Asia could effortlessly pull someone else if she and Derrick were to take a one-way trip to Splitsville without blinking any of her carefully applied eyelashes.  I would also wager that her Venus flytrap type of personality has a reputation that transcends her sexual partners. Her caramel piece of ass may be considered the Louis Vuitton of Asses in the Mid-South, but the price to even sample her snatch had to be too rich for any sane man’s blood. Which brings me to the puzzling query of exactly what the hell did Derrick see in that woman? Class? Beauty? Great head? Whatever magic Asia possessed between her legs, it obviously wasn’t hitting enough home runs to clear the funk that was haunting Derrick as of late. So what gives?

     One thing was for certain: twice tonight I’d seen two new facets of Derrick Kent that I never knew existed, and they both intrigued me to no end. As if he wasn’t already intriguing enough…

     I had downed my last glass of Long Island Iced Tea (fourth in all) and was prepping my mind for the ride home when my cell phone began singing the chorus to Kid Cudi’s “Heart of a Lion” — Derrick’s assigned ring tone.

     “Hello?” I answered, wondering how he’d manage to wrestle Asia off his neck.

     “Hey, Evan. Are you still up for that green light?”

     Slowly, a goofy ass grin spread across my face…

     Of course I was.

To Be Continued….


Mark O. Estes is a writer, editor, columnist and librarian, who earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  Mr. Estes is a writer and editor for both The Big Boy Project and The Male Media Mind, dynamic and cutting edge infotainment sites that are specifically designed for larger men—and those who have an affinity for them.  Also, Mark is penning his debut novel.  You may reach Mark at buildingmysteries.wordpress.com; Twitter, @theanticritic; Instagram, markoestes.

Hot Tea and Ice 13

Spring Cleaning the Negativity Out of Your Life

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

     Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  We are now officially in the middle of spring; and depending on your faith, past the pastel parade that is Easter Sunday when it seems that everyone has to break out the suits in shades of sherbets.  For the most part, the weather is better and people are making plans to get together for weekend cookouts, family road trips, and just being out and about. Good things abound and while the living may not be totally easy, the only ice to be found is in glasses.

     Warmer temperatures tend to put people in a better frame of mind. It’s just something about the sun shining that seems to make things seem not so overwhelming.  However, even when it’s warm enough to break out the open toe shoes and short sleeves, some people seem fixated on holding onto people who and situations that have nothing good to offer.  The reasons for this are numerous.  They include, for example, that we’re comfortable, complacent or confused about something better being possible.  And unfortunately, the results are the same.

     Too many of us are tied to negative thinking, to the point that it clouds our vision to what good there is within and around us.  I’ve been guilty of being down hearted about things I couldn’t change, while totally ignoring the opportunity to celebrate the thing turning out right.

     Let this be the year when we leave negativity behind like those corduroy pants we bought that were too tight when we left the store. We just have to be prepared to do some spring cleaning and shake the dust off our feet, and “keep it moving” when it comes to negativity.

     Just as flowers are beginning to break through the dirt to emerge, we have to push through all the dirt that will hold us down and embrace the possibility of positive thinking.

     Now like all things worth doing, a spring cleaning of the negativity in your life will not be easy. Negative thinking is hard to break.  And sometimes, the most negative person in your life has been there the longest.

     The key is to step back and evaluate the matters at hand. Does focusing on what went wrong really solve the problem? Is it really worth spending time listening to your friend complaining?  You have to stop and realize that while negativity seems like a comfortable blanket that wraps around you so neatly and tightly, there’s no need for it when you can avail yourself of so much warmth outside.

     Challenge yourself to get rid of attitudes and people that no longer work. Put on mothballs that self-doubt and that one friend who never has anything good to say about anybody.

     Just as when we do spring cleaning, we start with one room at a time, ridding yourself of the negativity.  Start in one area of your life at a time.  Slowly cease  hanging out altogether with that person who seems to have a perpetual grey cloud hanging over his/her head, or who possesses a mouth that utters a complaint instead of a compliment.  Instead of doubting your ability, find something to do that brings you happiness.

     It will take time to change your social circle and your outlook, but it’s well worth the effort.  It will be like having clean windows: everything will be clearer, and you will be able to make better choices.  

     Hopefully, having a lighter outlook will attract more positive things into your life.   As well, that perspective should attract people to fill the space left vacant when you cut loose of those that weigh you down. 

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Hot Tea and Ice 12

Who Do You Think You Arr?

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

    Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for spring to officially arrive. I love the opportunity to bundle up with thick sweaters and strut my stuff in cute boots, but I’d much rather leave the house wearing a light jacket or long sleeves rather than worry about a bulky coat. But seasons come and seasons go. All we can do is carry on and look good in the process.

     For those who keep up with such things, March is recognized as Women’s History Month.  For 31 days, we aim to recognize those women who have made strides in so many different arenas, ranging from politics to business.  For example, you have Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress.     

     Then there’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education, who at the age of 17 became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.  Ms. Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against the suppression of children and young people, and her battle to help guarantee the right of education for all children.

     We honor Katherine Johnson, who helped send a man into space.  There’s Shonda Rhimes, who keeps us glued to our devices every Thursday. We celebrate our foremothers, our sister superstars and those who are up and coming. We pay tribute to those women who know who they are and what they are “working with”–and don’t shy away from letting others know who they are, what they have done, and can do.

     During Women’s History Month, we recognize those women who know the value of their achievements and didn’t shy away from being proud of their talents. As a woman who is not ashamed of admitting I Goggle myself to remind myself of all that I’ve achieved, I fully support being proud of the things that set you apart.

     As the saying goes, it’s not bragging if it’s true. If you have something to be proud of, celebrate it to the fullest!  Don’t hide your talent under a bush. Let your  little light shine.

    There’s no worth in doubting your value. Be vocal about all that makes you special and trumpet your talents. You are exceptional.   And while you may not have snatched up trophies on a national stage, you have conquered something.  Don’t  shy away from being proud of that achievement.

     My mother likes to tell the story of how she graduated top of her class in nursing school, but never really talked about it that much because she didn’t want to be seen as a show-off.  If I were able to work a full-time job, carry a full course load and still have time to catch Parliament Funkadelic shows whenever they came through D.C., I’d have no problem letting everyone know.

     If you don’t celebrate yourself, not one else will. Be proud and promote yourself.   I’m not endorsing purchasing a roadside billboard or a full page newspaper ad, but nothing is wrong with letting people know how and where your skill sets “soar.”

     If you know something about a topic, don’t be afraid to speak up and share your experience. Get involved in projects where your experience can be an asset. Trust that your achievements are worthy of being known, and that you’re the best person to make sure everyone knows how much of a superstar you are.

     For so long, the notion of being proud and sharing your achievements was looked down upon as being unseemly. Put But now more than ever, it’s important to let others know how you manage to excel because it serves as example that it can be done.   Put your pluses out there, and prove that success is possible.

     While March is Women’s History Month, seize the remaining days to celebrate and share your own points of pride. Who knows:  maybe your accomplishments will earn you a spot during an upcoming history month run-down!

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Mark’s Surreality 2

“The Greatest Love Affair of All”

 Guest Writer: Mark O. Estes     

       Picture, if you will, a young, Black man on a personal journey during the chaos known as New Orleans at Mardi Gras. He ends up in an establishment on Bourbon Street where the music is just as lively as the gyrating bodies keeping up with its heavy bass and melodic beats. In the middle of this vivacious crowd stands two older Black men, gay and deeply in love, dancing with each other passionately.

     The young Black man was mesmerized by this striking scene.  He realized that not only were these two lovers thoroughly enjoying themselves–apparently without a care in the world–but that also, the crowd around them seemed to feel the same way.

      There weren’t any stares of disgust. No forms of childish finger-pointing or giggling. Just harmonizing love.

      Peaceful, harmonizing love.

     And they did not care.  THEY did nocare

     This wrecking ball of a revelation crashed into something deeply personal for that young Black man.  That wrecking ball was always aimed at the fortress surrounding his mind and soul, but was never successful of breaking through—regardless of the person or literature delivering the message.

     “They” did not care.  Nobody cares, Mark.

      As the young Black man watched this beautiful Black couple enjoy their life– their unconditional love serving as a beacon of hope–one of the lovers spotted him, possibly feeling the young Black man’s intense gaze upon him and his mate. The older Black gentleman matched his younger counterpart’s gaze of interest and awe; but instead of annoyance, there was an instant connection between the two.

     Maybe it was the sense of wonder emanating from the young Black man who encouraged the older gentleman to hold his gaze with this arresting person. Or maybe it was the freshly purchased rainbow pride flag clutched proudly in the younger man’s hand, its bright and bold colors reflecting the revelatory awakening spirit generating their connection at that very moment. Whatever the case, that moment was purely magical on so many levels; tear-inducing, almost.

      The older gentleman, still dancing seductively with his lover, gradually made his way to the young Black man holding the rainbow pride flag; surprisingly, their gaze never faltered! As the couple made their way off the dance floor, the older gentleman walked towards the young Black man with whom he’d just shared a temporary connection.  Then, he pounded fists with his new comrade, a knowing smile enveloping his face.

     The mutual gesture might seem menial to most people; but at that very instant, that fist pound served as the final strike against the blockage within that young man’s mind. Life began to seep through the cracks of his steely resolve until it couldn’t withstand the restless pressure, finally giving in to the weight of a long-awaited breath that was impossible to hold any longer.

     The young Black man became fluid in his surroundings.  The fear that had haunted him for most of his 30 years of existence evaporated into the hazy smoke and sultry environment of that New Orleans club’s atmosphere.  

     And at that moment, the young Black man – excuse me, I – started to really LIVE!

     That fist pound was like an electrical charge, a skeleton key, an inheritance of sorts to a life worth living!  It released me.  It demanded me to live in the moment– and to live for myself. 

     Yes, that message was drilled into my head since before college, but it was always a mirage of sorts when it came time for me to put the sound advice into play.

     I never believed it.  Not until that night!  That’s when I really felt it. The brick to the face divulgence felt supernatural, as if that specific fixed moment in time was supposed to happen. As if that mesmerizing beautiful couple were Angels manifested to properly deliver the message that was constantly getting returned to Sender. My God!  I’d never felt so emotionally free before in my entire life–and actually believed it.

     It’s incredible how something so small and innocent can change someone’s life around in one given, random moment. I hope that I will do the same for someone else one day; but until then, I will continue loving me.  I will continue building me. I will continue being me.

    Falling in love with yourself is the greatest love affair of all.  Everything else just comes naturally afterwards.


Mark O. Estes is a writer, editor, columnist and librarian, who earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  Mr. Estes is a writer and editor for both The Big Boy Project and The Male Media Mind, dynamic and cutting edge infotainment sites that are specifically designed for larger men—and those who have an affinity for them.  Also, Mark is penning his debut novel.  You may reach Mark at buildingmysteries.wordpress.com; Twitter, @theanticritic; Instagram, markoestes.

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 14

“The Power of Prayer”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman  

  1. I pray that the doctors find out what illness my friend has, and cures him.
  2. I pray that my cousin graduates high school, continues on to college, and stops hanging with the wrong crowd–before he ends up in jail.
  3. I pray that my fifth novel, “Honey Hush, Don’t Ask and I Won’t Tell” (the next installment of my “Honey Let Me Tell You” book series), finally is released because it’s a year overdue.
  4. I pray that my most impoverished relative and friend both be bestowed with many blessings in 2016.

     You see, this list has been in a sealed envelope in my bible since January 1, 2016.

     So, on New Year’s Day 2017, I sat in a comfortable chair in my den. It’s that place in my home where I can relax and be at one with my thoughts. It’s  where I can think about the past, present and future. It’s that one area where I feel a sense of inner peace, and feel closer to God.

     It’s my inner sanctum.

     My understated, cozy den has a large shelf that spans the length of one wall, and is filled with all types of books–including my series of novels.       As the shadows from the fireplace illuminated the room and emanated a sense of calm, I reminisced about the past year.

     I thought about all the things that I had hoped to accomplish:  acquiring a new job and home, earning more money, writing another book–just so many things that I wanted to do.

     Every year we have hopes, dreams and goals for what we want to do in the coming year. We ponder those things that will make our lives better. Every year we make resolutions.

     And then at the end of the year, we sit around and think about what we have actually accomplished, and ruminated about the things we want to do in the next year. 

     We think about getting a new job.  Losing or gaining weight.  Changing our lifestyle, or entering into a relationship.

     We think about what we hope and wish for, and then we set out to accomplish those goals.

     But what do most of us end up doing? 

     For the first month or so, we do the best we can to meet our goals. We think about it, put our efforts into it–and strive to achieve it. We instill the thought of achievement in our minds and go for it.

     We try doing this practically every day until slowly but surely, the thrill is gone. The urge of achieving our goals eventually subsides. Then we forget about it until the next year, when the cycle of making and keeping New Year’s resolutions starts all over again.

     For example, a friend of mine wanted to get into a new relationship so he went on date after date after date. But that didn’t last long.  I suppose that he tired of the “calls answering for the booty.”

     Another friend wanted to lose weight, so every morning he went to the gym and worked out. That lasted for a little over a month. Then he went back to sitting in front of his TV. I guess he missed the feel of his butt print on his comfortable couch! (LOL.)

R.L. Norman     And then, there’s me. One of the things I wanted to do in the New Year was to try to eat right, and become a vegetarian.   But because I missed eating meat, that lasted about two days! (Hmmmmm…LOL!)

     But keep in mind that with all our efforts, if we don’t succeed in meeting our goals, we are not failures. Our intentions are good.

     And for a while, I was one of those people. But for the last several years, I’ve changed my ways.

     Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I make a prayer wish list to my God.

     I compose a list of ten things that I want to happen in the coming year. Five things are for me, and five are for family and friends. Then I seal the envelope, get on my knees and say a prayer to God for these blessings to come true. Then I put it in my bible and leave it there until the next New Year’s Day.

     And on that day, I sit in my comfortable chair, open that envelope, and read the list to see which wishes have been answered.

     Keep in mind that I don’t do this as a test of God’s ability to answer my prayers; instead, it’s an alternative to making resolutions.  Simply, it’s my special prayer list to my God. The power of prayer is wonderful because:

  1. The doctors did find out that my friend has curable cancer. His health is improving by leaps and bounds.   
  2. My cousin did graduate high school. Currently, he’s enrolled in Tuskegee University,with an internship job in electrical engineering.
  3. My fifth book was published, and is doing quite well in sales.
  4. And the biggest miracle was that a friend who’d lost pretty much everything:his money, job and possessions due to identity fraud, is now in a new home and a great job.

     You see, I approach the New Year with encouragement and faith in

myself, others–and especially God.   

     The lesson?  To live day-by-day doing the best we can to be the best we can be.

     And the power of prayer does work!  Prayer is a wonderful thing, but only if we have the faith to believe that we will achieve and succeed.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Hot Tea and Ice 11

Who Do You Think You Are?

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

     Greetings and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I send well wishes, and hope that 2017 has been filled with good things. We are not going to talk about what happened in D.C. on the third Friday of this month. It is enough to say we should not focus on being discouraged. Instead, we need to commit ourselves to being active, and refuse to let anyone ignore or minimize our value and contributions to this country.

     Within this climate of wanting to minimize the diversity that strengthens our community, I want to step forward and represent myself fully. I am a Black-Southern-Virgo-East Carolina University graduate-only child-pet owner-lesbian. That’s just for starters! With enough time I could list even more hyphenated identified groups of which I’m proud to belong.

     Depending on the setting, one hyphen might take center stage more than the others. For those who follow social media, J16 saw a lot of doves flying, and blue and white profiling in recognition of my sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., celebrating its ninety-seventh Founders’ Day. There wereabundances of graphics incorporating our national symbol–the white dove–soaring around.   

     If you read my books, you know I own being born and reared in the land of sweet tea and “Bless Her Hearts,” known as the South.  I’m proud of all the facets of my identity. While I may not celebrate them all the time, I have no problems claiming them.

     Our distinctive hyphens make us exceptional. We should never diminish our shine in order to make someone else feels comfortable. You should claim all your methods of belonging and identifying because it celebrates that you accept all that you are, and never just one thing. Those of us with hyphenated identities are mosaic masterpieces. The sum of the pieces makes a one-of-a-kind work of art.

     Far be it for me to make the process of walking boldly when others want you to fragment your identity seem easy, for it is not. For a lot of us, it’s easier to not claim our space as a woman, person of color, same-gender-loving individual, and immigrant in order to assimilate. However, when you remove a piece of your puzzle or try to rework your edges, it feels unnatural and ends up being unnecessary.

     Now more than ever, it is important that we wear our hyphens boldly. We cannot fade away or leave a piece of us behind on the nightstand or in the car when we venture into the world. Representing to the fullest is a mandate we need to follow through on every chance we get. Others are watching, and when they see us showing up in all our fullest, they have two choices. Get with the program and allow our brilliance to flourish, or get back.

     Maybe your hyphens are immigrant-Muslim-historically Black university graduate-single mother-Pisces or same-gender-loving-Trinidadian-bearded-Floridian-divorced-veteran. So many combinations contribute to the achievement that is us. We all have different hyphens; and depending on the situation, the order changes. The key is to never be ashamed of any of them.

     Claiming your hyphens and brightly beaming all the facets of your personality like a diamond are powerful. We need to claim that, and walk boldly and dare someone not to salute our greatness.

     So, as we move forward into a new year with new leadership (which may not be your choice), realize that within all parts of your identity is the tool to endure and inspire. Draw upon those hyphens, and force those who want to doubt your validity to see that you are too fabulous and fulfilled to be denied. While some may see hyphens as strikes, they instead can be seen as building blocks to help you soar and get over the hurdle.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Mark’s Surreality

“The Divine Power of Surreality”

 Guest Writer: Mark O. Estes

      Per Webster’s Dictionary, the word surreal means “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; unbelievable; fantastic.” The latest election; the virulent spread of false information in the form of memes, fake news sites, and sheer stupidity; and personal demons have all coalesced into a hazy blanket of what seems like a dream and an irrational reality.  My view of the world has changed, and I would be lying if I said it was for the better.

     But as I learned while I was in the early years of college (actually when I was a kid writing “The Goonies” fan fiction before it became a “thing” fifteen to twenty years later…), writing, for me, is therapeutic. It not only helps me make sense of the world, but it also helps me deal and live within it as well. And as I enter this next leg of my journey into uncharted, yet familiar territory with the “Orange Man” rising to power, my love of and sheer dependence on writing will be the  walking stick/guide through this surreal landscape known to me as my “surreality.”

     So what is “Mark’s Surreality?” This column will feature my journey through the surreal oddities, the trying tribulations, and the awarding triumphs of my life sprinkled with enough fiction to keep the reader guessing what’s real and what’s a simple, yet complex creation of my mind. I look at the set up as a casual view of the world through my eyes: noir tinted and constantly wondering whether I’m awake, “woke,” still dreaming, alive, or in a later stage of death. In other words, little to nothing will be as it seems here.

     Will I always be cryptic? Nope. Complex? I don’t know. Depends on my  mood–which tends to change with the tide. I’m spontaneous, and that keeps not only my audience on their toes, but me as well. One week I may hit you with a piece of biting commentary on the latest chapter of my or the world’s never ending saga, and the next week I may just simply give you some experimental fiction that may or may not be entrenched in some form of my reality.

     Just know it’s going to be some odd shit, regardless.

     Before we go there, some background information. I’m a thirty-three-year old Black gay male residing in a small country town who despises my being. I work as a librarian, am the middle child of my family, and strive to be a successful author. I am a proud graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; class of 2008. I do love to travel, and I am a contributor/editor with both The Big Boy Project and Male Media Mind.

     I’m not your “average” black gay male. Nor do I strive to be. My musical tastes are as eclectically loud as Joseph’s magic colored coats. My views, while not radical, are unorthodox in nature. I can view things from a bubble like most red-blooded humans; but sometimes bubbles must burst from time to time. I am a pop culture junky, but I love the complex literature of Bret Easton Ellis, Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, and more. I also have a love/hate relationship with people.

     I am a social butterfly loner. I value my darkness just as much as the lighter side of my being. I say all this to warn you of what’s to come. And I don’t mean the Orange Man’s upcoming reign of terror, because my surreality isn’t for the faint of heart, nor the impatient, or the close-minded.

     Before I go, I would like to thank Wyatt O’Brian Evans for this opportunity and platform. I pray I uphold his well-established brand to the best of my ability, while trying to build and secure my own voice and brand recognition.


Mark O. Estes is a writer, editor, columnist and librarian, who earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  Mr. Estes is a writer and editor for both The Big Boy Project and The Male Media Mind, dynamic and cutting edge infotainment sites that are specifically designed for larger men—and those who have an affinity for them.  Also, Mark is penning his debut novel.  You may reach Mark at buildingmysteries.wordpress.com; Twitter, @theanticritic; Instagram, markoestes.

Hot Tea and Ice 10

Looking Back to Move Forward

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

 

    Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Can you believe it has been an entire twelve months since we were introduced? My, doesn’t time fly! For those whose 2016 has been filled with all kinds of shiny and new things, I send thoughts of congratulations and celebrations.

    For others, this has been a year filled with losses and setbacks. For you, I offer a virtual hug and hope things are looking better and brighter.

    We only have to look at the in-memoriam ticker running on our TV news programs to realize that a lot of our great talents and loved ones shed this earthly coil and became the dearly departed.  Also, depending on how your voter’s registration card looked, the election results may not have been your preferred outcome.

    But in a few weeks, an electronic apple, peach, acorn, or whatever your municipalities use to mark the transition will drop, and 2016 will be in the record books–and a new year will be on deck.

    2017 is a blank slate right now. It awaits our actions to define how it will be remembered. Will this be the year our greatest hopes will be realized?  Or will this year be filled with disappointments so profound that it makes the heart heavy? Who knows?

    The new year is ripe with potential to inspire, impress, and improve our lives in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. But with all this looking forward, let’s not forget how we got here.

    There is a saying about what happens when you don’t remember past mistakes. It implies that forgetting incorrect actions results in those actions being repeated. No matter what happened during the past 365 days–be it good, bad, or indifferent–we should not let the lessons learned to stay in the past. We need to bring them forth, and be prepared to put them to good use.

    For me, 2016 provided so many opportunities! I began writing this column, reconnected with three friends through social media who saw me through the best and worst of times, and pursued an opportunity to enlarge my family unit.

    The year also resulted in me losing a member of my family who helped influence my view of what a true man should be–lover of family and friends, faithful to his church and community, and not afraid to get his hands dirty when the time called for it.  That family member was my great-uncle, who after serving in the Korean War, was both a gardener and garbage man.   

    I also bade a final farewell to one of the LGBTQ Pride organizers I had worked with for the past seven years. She was an inspiration and influence to so many dominant lesbian women in the Durham community.

    As well, she was someone I considered a friend. Her influence was so strong that my fiancee asked her thoughts about proposing to me—along with asking my mother for my hand in marriage.

    And through the evolution of two of the organizations I work with, I also came to realize that my leadership styles needed to be tweaked in order to be successful and faithful to the causes I supported.

    In short, 2016 gave me the opportunities to learn so many lessons. The challenge for me, for you, for us all is to take those lessons and move forward with them. Sometimes, unlike Lot’s wife, you have to look back to appreciate where you are going.

    We have to realize that while the erroneous steps we took in the past can’t be wiped out, we can still move forward in a better direction if we apply the lessons our mistakes provide us. 

    There is no shame in admitting that our actions weren’t always the best and that the outcomes weren’t always good. While dwelling in the past never saved anyone, seeing where you went wrong and avoiding doing the same thing again is a solution that doesn’t cost. Your experience is proof of bill paid.

    Time should allow us to see more clearly what went wrong, and that a new year is the opportunity to take that insight and move forward. Reflect on the situations, retain the lessons you learn–and realize you can move forward.

    Many of us begin the New Year with a list filled with things we are going to do differently. That’s great!  But accept that one of the best ways to be successful is to acknowledge the times you failed, so that you can take that knowledge to strengthen your resolve to get it right this time.

    I hope to learn from my past to let people know when I appreciate what and how they do things, instead of assuming they know how I feel. I also want to be more diligent about being open to other people’s ideas instead of operating in the following way:  that just because director/president goes behind my name, it  doesn’t mean I can’t be challenged and open to different methods of doing things. 

    My motto for 2017 is this:  as long as I can open my eyes on a new day, there is a chance to improve on my mistakes and avoid making new ones. Part of that plan is to think about what I have experienced so I can appreciate and handle what is coming for and to me.  I encourage us all to reflect and be open to using that knowledge to shape what lies ahead.

Until next time:  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 9

Family Matters:  Not the TV Show

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  The holiday time is upon us with all the trappings that come with it. Travels plans will be made. Diets will be broken. And of course, the holidays are also the time that the concept of how much family matters is held up as a standard.

     For many of us, family is a mother who complains either you put on too much weight, or it looks like you aren’t eating enough. It is that cousin who needs to borrow money and promises to pay you back when she gets her income tax check. Don’t forget about that one aunt who never misses a chance to ask when you are going to find a good woman and settle down, totally ignoring the fact that you have brought Darryl as your plus-one for ten years to every family gathering.

     The coming together of those who share your last name and some of your facial features takes place throughout the year–but really starts being a constant factor during the latter half of the year. We gather around Thanksgiving tables, Christmas trees, Kwanzaa mkekas, and plates of pork and greens to mark the New Year. The families we are born into share laughs about old memories, shed tears for those no longer with us, and swap differing viewpoints about issues.

     For every one of us who looks forward to spending time with our assigned families, there are those who shiver at the thoughts of spending one hour, minute, or second with our relatives. Those families shame, shun, and silence those who don’t meet their expectations.  As the saying goes, no one can hurt you more than your family.  And for so many, this is especially true during the holidays.

LaToya Hankins

     This year will mark the fourth holiday I will spend with my partner and my forty-fourth one with my mom. This year, however, will be my first one with a trio of young people I hope will become part of my larger family unit.

     My partner and I recently went through foster parent treatment, and are looking to open our hearts and homes to a set of extended relatives seeking a safe place to grow and thrive.  We are in the process of starting our own version of family.

     We all have created families that go beyond the ones we are born into. For some, family is the neighbor who looked out for your place when you traveled out of town; and in return, you blessed that neighbor with the outpouring of your kitchen. For others, it is your work buddy, her wife, their kids and the baby daddy who makes the bomb mac and cheese–so they let him come around during the holidays. Still, for some, it’s your “boys” who have been with you through one wife, two boyfriends, three jobs, and more nights spent at the club that either of you will ever want to admit.  However family shows up, the point is that it’s a family that we create.

     I encourage us all to be open to redefining our views of family, and challenge us to keep that definition fluid as life changes. Accept what life hands you, and shape it to ensure that you always have someone around you that supports and nurtures you.

     In creating a new family structure, embrace the fact that you don’t have to spend extraordinary amounts of time with folks who don’t love you for who you are at this stage in your life. There are too many ride-sharing programs and public transportation options to spend a minute more with someone who doesn’t celebrate you. Family obligations are burdens that sometime have to be carried, but guard your spirit as much as you can to avoid it breaking you.  While Uncle Skinny is going on about whatever his liquor is telling him to talk about, turn your mind toward the gathering you are going to have with the family that loves you.

     The key to the family is not if you all look alike or even think alike. The value of creating your own version of family is that you understand each other and want the best things possible. I challenge us to respect the family we have created, and flourish from the strength it gives to accept ourselves.

      So this year, when I grasp hands to say the traditional Thanksgiving recitations of things for which I am grateful, there will be three extra names and experiences I will list.  And, I will do this surrounded by someone who shares my last name, someone who shares my home, and someone who shares my hope for a future filled with great things.

Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 8

“Grown Folks’ Friendships”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Sending wishes, and hope fall is doing right by you. For many of us, it is time to move away from shorts and open-toe shoes to sweaters and sturdy footwear. Nights are getting longer, temperatures are dropping and before you know it, store aisles will be decorated for the winter holidays.

For those keeping score from my last column, I am now five years from fifty. My partner threw a phenomenal surprise birthday party for me. In attendance were co-workers, fellow writers, and folks I consider friends. Those in attendance have seen me through a few ups and downs. The get-together was a great experience not only because of the presents received, but also for the faces in the place.

Looking around at the diverse group that makes up my circle, I realized the power of grown folks’ friendships is often underrated. Many of us had ‘best friends’ when we were younger.  Mine were named Charlotte, Vicki, and Jodi. Those friends were the ones we swapped lunches with at schools, took turns spending time at each other’s homes, and got into trouble when we ”acted like we were grown.”

 For a lot of us, friendships formed through neighborhood or educational settings helped us pass a class, get that special someone’s phone number, or exposed us to worlds unlike our own. My friendships introduced me to different religions, family structures, and racial differences.

Friendships formed before the age of consent are fine. I celebrate those who have childhood friends they still hold dear. But I would venture, it is friendships formed once reaching adulthood that really help us become better people.

I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with the friendship of several people who helped me rise to a higher level of being an adult. Those friendships sparked me to start and end relationships by pointing out things I willfully ignored. My friends supported my visions when I was reluctant to stretch out. 

My adult friends are risk takers and empire builders. They have traveled the world, started empowerment projects for women from scratch, and refused to let their assigned gender keep them from expressing themselves as God intended.

We have taught each other so much by living our lives and allowing each other to be a part of the journey.

LaToya Hankins

Having the opportunity to see how other “grown folks” handle their business gives us the push to be on our game.  Adult friendships are the fuel that keeps the best of us moving forward. However, so many of us don’t take care with our adult friendships. We fail to realize once friendships are formed, they also need to be cultivated and nurtured in order to be successful.

We schedule dental appointments and get our hair/nails/feet done, but how often do we schedule time to support our friends?

Adult friendships allow us to not be “Daddy,” “Miss Hankins” or “Juror 91871.” We can be ourselves and share our ambitions and hurts in an environment that provides the support to get up when the world knocks you down.

Adult friends are invaluable resources, and you should ensure that they stay strong. I admit I have taken some of my adult friendships for granted. I didn’t take the time to make the calls just to check in or return that email in a timely fashion.  Friends I considered quite close soon faded away; and as they became “chance glimpses” on social media, I read the postings of their accomplishments.

In a life filled with little regret, my failure to maintain some of my adult friendships is one I carry.  I have a feeling I’m not the only one who shares that thought.

Unlike friendships when we were younger, adult friendship take work to maintain. People have schedules, family, and ten thousands things that need to be done. Still, the rewards are worth it.

The media is filled with portrayal of adult friendships. From The Best Man to Noah’s Arc toWaiting to Exhale. Challenge yourself to incorporate those portrayals into your own life.

My birthday wish for my readers is to reach out to those in your friendship circle to make sure that ties that bind stay strong. Make time to connect over coffee, cocktails, or whatever is legal in the state you reside in. No judgment: part of the fun of being an adult. My hope is that the payoff will be great, and it helps the rest of your adult life go a little bit better.

Until next time:  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 7

“Age Is Just a Number”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

     Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers. I hope this month finds you all in good spirits–and staying cool. As for me, I’m coping with the heat by drinking plenty of cool beverages–some of them adult–and trying not to exert myself too much. I believe that a true lady shouldn’t appear slick from sweat by simply walking from her car to the door; but sometimes, temperatures in the upper 90’s cause strange things to happen!

     My body’s reaction to the heat is just one of the many ways I feel that my numerical age is starting to creep up on me. When I was younger growing up in my small North Carolina hometown, I could spend hours riding my bicycle or playing with my cousins without any regard to the summer heat blazing down. Now if I’m outside for any length of time, I feel “mugged” by the heat.  It seems that my tolerance has decreased for those bright sunny days.

     Still, I can’t use my advancing years as a crutch to shy away from being involved and active in life. I urge my readers sporting a few graying hairs to resist the urge to shirk opportunities to try new things. I’ve always felt that one shouldn’t be held back by the number of birthdays you’ve celebrated.You are never too old to reach out and grasp your heart’s desire and your mind’s potential.

     A little over a month from now–provided the creeks don’t rise–I’ll celebrate my forty-fifth year on God’s green footstool, or what we call Earth. A lot has transpired from the time I drew breath that early Saturday morning. I graduated from college, explored at least five different career paths, buried loved ones, found love, and accomplished at least three goals on my life’s To-Do List.

     Still, I don’t plan to rest on my laurels; I plan to continue to strive forward by embracing opportunities.  I realize that until I close my eyes for that last time, there is always more to do. I shouldn’t let the fact it may take me a little while longer to get back up when I “drop it like it’s hot,” to keep me from getting my groove on, to getting things done.

     We can’t let the fact that we’re getting older keep us from branching out and stretching toward our full potential. Our life’s experiences are the best tools to conquer the unknown. Every disappointment allows us to develop the sharper vision to see and achieve the goals we want to scratch off our To-Do List.

LaToya Hankins

     Those of us who have been there, done that, and have the scars or stories to prove it have the tools to conquer new adventures or create opportunities to stretch ourselves in different ways. Getting older is a blessing to those of us lucky enough to experience it–and should embrace it fully. Step out of your comfort zone and explore different horizons.

     The longer we live on this earth, the more we realize that it doesn’t hurt to try something different at least once. If we don’t like it, then we don’t have to do it again. If we do like it, then we have found something which brings even more joy to our lives.

     Since 2016 began, there has been so much sadness, and things no one ever expected we would live long enough to see. We have followed the hashtags, seen the social media posts, and participated in the town halls, marches, and vigils to know that so many of us will not be able to enjoy their next birthdays. We owe it to those snatched away by violent circumstances to challenge ourselves by dipping our proverbial toes in different ponds. 

     Just like many of us have moved away from having the birthday cake with the candles we feel pressure to blow out with one breath, we have to think about how we approach the process of getting older. We can no longer view it as an excuse for slowing down! This is when we need to rev up and move forward.

     Now, I’m not saying that you have to explore bungee jumping or running with the bulls, if extreme sports aren’t your thing. I’m suggesting that you be open to new things if they come your way, and not staying stuck in how things used to be.

     I have changed in so many wonderful ways, and I’m looking forward to changing so more. I wish the same for all those looking to add to their list of enriching encounters when they find themselves trying something they never expected.

     It could be walking into the role of activist, serving as a parental figure to a younger person in need, or simply switching that hairstyle you have worn since LL Cool J and Queen Latifah were known for simply being good rappers.

     So, I leave this birthday wish for you all:  Let this upcoming year be filled with great adventures and tremendous and unique experiences! As for me, I plan to enter this next stage of life with high hopes and big plans to challenge myself.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 6

“The Power Of Pride”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

     Greetings Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!   Hope you are staying cool in this summer heat. Although I consider myself a proud daughter of the South, even I sometimes find the rising temperature a little bit too much to take. Days of ninety plus weather leaves me praising the person who invented air conditioning—and mastering the art of sweet tea.

     For many in the LGBTQ community, June is the month we fly our Pride flag freely. We attend festivals where we eat, drink, dance, march, flirt, and triumph in the sheer bliss of being out and about.   But unfortunately, on June 12, forty-nine members of our community enjoying the freedom of being themselves were taken from this world by an atrocious act of a misguided and angry soul.

     That Sunday morning, hearing the news of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history rendered me speechless. My heart and mind battled to reconcile the reality of what had taken place in Orlando.  I joined the millions around the world wavering between anger and grief. Viewing pictures of vigils and hearing the voices of survivors, family, and friends almost made me exit social media. In order to guard my heart, I retreated from my ritual of listening to the news.

     But then, I remembered:  June is LGBTQ Pride month!  By definition, pride is “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.”

     For thirty days, the LGBTQ community celebrates the power we possess that allows us to thrive when others want to diminish us. That power comes from acknowledging and living authentically as the person you were meant to be–instead of what society expects. The Power of Pride empowers hundreds of men, women, and those who reject labels to walk in their truth–be it in sensible shoes or stilettos.

     While some point to the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969 as when the Pride movement started in full effect, the reality is that the Power of Pride has always existed. It is the force that allowed members of the community to rise above the rejection of family and friends. Pride is what kept us going and moving past tragedy.  

     Now, more than ever, we have to seize the Power of Pride in ourselves and those who have gone before us to shake the dust off our feet–and keep pushing forward.

     The LGBTQ community, and by extension anyone who has been discounted for being who they are, have endured far worse and risen. We have survived and thrived! No one is strong enough to snatch away the many victories we have worked so hard to achieve.

     The massacre in Orlando should encourage us to dig deep and harness the Power of Pride so that we can continue to hold our heads up, reach out to others to help strengthen them, and continue on the path of being the individuals we are meant to be.

     Claiming the power that lies within isn’t always easy. Sometimes barriers such as shame, sexism, racism, and just sheer lack of self-acceptance block our power from coming through at full force.  But know that we are powerful when we embody our Pride.

LaToya Hankins

     While June is LGBTQ Pride month, the achievements which earned us the right to hold our heads high are something we should celebrate year-round.

     Unfortunately though, being powerful in our Pride won’t prevent obstacles.  Dark forces gather when communities seen as powerless try to assert their natural power.  We saw it in Charleston, S. C. last year when a killer gunned down nine church members during a mid-week service. We saw it in Los Angeles during the riots of the 1980’s when decades of mistreatment boiled over in majority-minority communities. We saw it across the South in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement when men, women, and children were arrested and killed simply for exercising their rights.

     The powerful cannot back down. We have to harness our Pride to push back the forces that want to diminish our shine. We can’t concede and allow those misguided, ill-informed and just plain wrong individuals to define and defile us.

     It is good and necessary to grieve for those who have been snatched away by and through hate.  But we have to lift our heads and walk strong with our Power of Pride.

     So I know it may be difficult, but I encourage everyone to unleash their Power of Pride this summer. Don’t limit yourself to the calendar. Go beyond the thirty days and use the Power of Pride for good. If we all unleash our power, perhaps it will defeat or weaken those who seek to derail our accomplishments.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 5

“No Confetti Required”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Greetings and salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! Happy belated Mother’s Day and early Father’s Day to those who fall in those categories. Also, we observe a moment of silence and loads of respect for those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. We honor you all on Memorial Day.

      Along with honoring parents and veterans, this is also graduation season. This is the time of the year everyone pulls out their good suits and hats to see the next generation leave behind an academic institution, and become part of the real world. Be it high school, college, or for those special graduates leaving behind the wonders of kindergarten, everyone it seems dons solid-color polyester robes to line up and march in step. Some will sit under the spring sunshine listening to some celebrity try to inspire and impress. Others will be shoulder to shoulder with classmates in auditoriums or gyms.

      Regardless of the setting, the feeling of accomplishment is universal. It doesn’t matter if the graduate walks with honors or through the grace of Most High, graduations are good times. It brings together family members who otherwise wouldn’t speak to each other unless under court order, and usually ends with a meal where everyone laughs and loves.

     Yes, graduation ceremonies with the handing out of diplomas, requests to hold applause until the end of the ceremony, and cards with money inside are wonderful things. Graduations are formalized ways of celebrating the achievement of accomplishing a goal, which in some cases, may have taken four, fourteen or even forty years.

     However, even if you are the Class of 19- rather than 2016, you have something to celebrate during this graduation session as well. We may not wear mortar boards or have someone say our full name in front of strangers and classmates who never knew your middle name is MyCole, but we are graduates of the hardest school there ever existed–life.

      Some of us graduated when we decided to no longer define our worth through someone else’s lenses. We turned our tassels when we left behind situations that weren’t beneficial to us.

LaToya Hankins

     We may not have heard Pomp and Circumstance played when we walked into that job,  but we graduated. There was no need to put on a robe or walk across a stage to confirm we made it through whatever tried to keep us back. We have our confirmation when we look in the mirror and like the person looking back.

     Take time to celebrate your individual graduation situations. When we honor the journey, the destination becomes even more valuable.

     It is easy to get (Set) Adrift on Memory Bliss,” shouts out the musical group P.M. Dawn (for my ‘90’s ‘peoples’, Y’all), when we see the pictures on social media of friends, family, and friends of family. I admit, my mind went back to the summer of 1989 when I was a young woman getting that high school paper or that day in May when I officially left behind Emerald City (Greenville, N.C.) after four years to start my bachelorette with a bachelor’s life.

     Then I remembered I didn’t need Wake County Schools or the North Carolina Board of Governors to confirm my graduation from being a shy school girl to a self-assured woman. My graduation took place when I realized I had the power to create my own better life.

     We all have graduation stories we need to remember and draw upon when we face challenges. Just like when we walked into those classrooms those first day, nervous and unsure, only to emerge years later strutting and serving it up for those in the back rows.  You see, we graduated to something better. Celebrate your achievement and realize you don’t have to hold the applause until the end. Take pride in your triumph.

     So get loud and throw your hands, hats, and heels in the air because you have graduated to the next part in your life’s journey. Have a graduation dinner and invite all those family and friends who adore you and hopefully don’t think you are too big for a gift card—or card with cash inside.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 4

“It’s Not How You Got Them, It’s How You Keep Them”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins    

 

        Greetings and salutations, Hot Tea Sippers. Hopefully, temperatures are warming up in your neck of the woods, and you are getting ready for short sleeves, shorts, and sundresses. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s just something about shedding layers that leads people to consider adding a “plus one” to their lives. Perhaps it’s the increases in wedding invites, pop-up BBQs that lead to hook-ups, or you finally realizing that the cutie who has been sitting across from you on public transportation all winter long actually has a pretty smile–when it is not hidden by a wool scarf!

      And then there are those of us who have spent the past several seasons in relationships. We are usually the ones buying yet another present for friends who decided to jump the broom.  We are the perpetual hosts for the BBQs because we have the houses/condos/apartments. 

      The mystery of knowing what each other looks like with or without the scarves is long gone because we probably purchased the items–or “borrowed” yours. Spring time is indeed for lovers; but sometimes, long-term partners don’t feel the enthusiasm.

      It’s easy to take each other for granted when you see each other day in, day out.  I know. After three years, I have to admit my partner and I began acting more like simply friends than lovers.  We spent our nights doing the same old dinner in front of the television thing, rehashed the same conversations about work/family/friends, and went to bed at a “decent” hour where we fell fast asleep.

      Don’t get me wrong:  it is good to find a comfortable existence with the one who feeds your spirit. Relationships don’t have to be a go-go party every night to be authentic. Still, you have to challenge yourself with the thought:  if we didn’t do this when we dated, why are we doing it now? The two of you are the same people who talked long into the night about complex topics, traded favorite movie lines, and got down with the get-down every chance you got.

      Why is it too easy now to pass as few words as possible when you do pass each other, fuss back and forth about what to watch on TV, and can’t remember the last time you got “funkdafied?”

      Too often, we can find time for everyone else, but sometimes our partners find themselves slipping farther down on our priority list. So many of us have our days scheduled on our smart phones to the “Gawds,” but can’t find an extra moment for our special one. For those who have someone special, reflect back on when it was new and exciting. You didn’t get her or him by talking about what your irritating co-worker did to vex your spirit once again. So, why do you think that will keep him/her?

      Being in a relationship allows the best of you to come forward and connect with someone to make a fantastic whole.  It takes work to form a suitable and sustainable bond. Once the hard work is done, keep it going may seem to be a task– but it’s worth it.

LaToya Hankins

      When you reconnect with your significant other, you are also reconnecting with yourself.  That fun, engaging, enticing self whose milkshake or frozen yogurt brought the boy or girl to the yard is still there. Dig deep and unleash that person back into the world. In the process, you have the potential to stoke the relationship fire and get your own flame burning brighter.

      So, first things first:  use those time management skills you have mastered through juggling work, friends, and community involvements to schedule time for you and yours.  And no social media allowed!  Don’t worry, it will be there when you get back.

      Focus on something totally fun and freeing. No bills, no nagging, no picking the same fight you have had for the past season. It you need to switch up the scenery to get it going, go for it! The key is for the focus to be on each other.

      For me and my spouse, we decided to break out and get back to what brought us together.  We started telling each other fantastic stories about ostriches with gambling skills, fictionalized titles from memories, and how our hips were too dangerous to be insured. Those creative bursts helped bring us together and hopefully will keep us together. We instituted date night where we attempted to pick each other up using our best lines. Sometimes it worked, sometime it didn’t. But it was always fun!  

      We decided to treat each other to a week without cooking. When it’s my week, I cook for the house and when it’s hers, she cooks for me.  Nothing is better than coming home to a home-cooked meal or at least a meal ordered from home.

      So as spring causes all those singles around you to get sprung, I challenge all my paired people to focus on keeping love going and value the other person who shares your space. The payoff will be priceless. 

      Until next time,  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 3

“It’s All About March-amorphosis”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

    Greetings and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice sippers near and far!  I hope your spring sprung in the best way possible; and, if you plan to partake in Easter festivities, your basket will overflow with good things.

    This month marks a transition into a new season. Time to put away the coats and boots in order to embrace short sleeves, light fabrics and open-toe shoes (provided proper prior pedicure protocols have been followed).  It is also a perfect opportunity to metamorphose into a person prepared to embrace new opportunities, and rise to the challenge of being better versions of ourselves.

    Every day, we are presented with situations to expand our horizons; but too often, we don’t step forward and claim them. We get stuck in our ways and find comfort in the status quo.  

    Now, there is nothing wrong with sticking with the “tried and true.”  Finding something that works is wonderful, and I commend those who have found their lane and maximize its potential.

    But there is also something to be said for taking things to the next level and embracing the beauty of metamorphosis, or coming out and into your own.

    Stepping into your potential is a scary prospect. For a period of time, I was afraid of stepping out and changing how I did things. I was comfortable just going to work, coming home to my Gaston County (N.C.) apartment, and spending time with my fiancé. I was afraid to challenge myself to do something beyond what was expected of me–get a job, get engaged to my college boyfriend, and get ready to spend the rest of my life doing what was expected of so many southern African American women.

    Then I realized I couldn’t spend the rest of my life not stepping out of my comfort zone and allowing the true me to come out. I had to break out of the cocoon of conformity, and spread my wings to soar.

LaToya Hankins

    So, I placed an ad to have a one-night stand before I got married. Sure, there were other things I could have tried to expand my horizons. Truly, I didn’t expect a response to the ad. I just wanted to do something unexpected to break up the monotony of what my life had become.

    Spring with its longer days and warmer weather is the perfect time to become that person open to trying new things and discovering talents that lie dormant. Flowers shouldn’t be the only things that should bloom. March should be a time to metamorphose into a better version of the person who started the New Year.

    Metamorphosis could be something as simple as getting a haircut, being the person that speaks up at meetings with a suggestion that could make things better, or finally deciding to make that move to a better place. The key is to find that thing or things that allow you to flourish.

    To be sure, change is never easy. The first step toward metamorphosis is usually the hardest, and the one that is going to be the most uncomfortable. There is the uncertainty about whether or not you are making the right move, the unease of being outside your comfort zone, and the off-chance the time isn’t right.

     Then, there is the chance your challenging the status quo will leave some people hurt or left behind.  My choice resulted in a broken engagement, coming out as a lesbian, and some tense holiday dinners since it took my mom a few years to accept my sexuality.

    However, my decision also led me on the path toward co-founding a black Gay Pride organization, becoming a published author, and being comfortable in my own skin. By treating my worries about going into different directions like some many sweaters–things to be packed away–I metamorphosed into someone following a path I believe will take me to a much better place and state of mind.

    Just like pulling out last year’s spring tops only to find that they “shrunk” while they were packed away, metamorphosis is going to require getting rid of some things in order to make room for the new. The key is to be push through and move forward.

    How will you know how well your process is coming along?   That depends. The measure could be an increase in your paycheck, the number of hours you can sleep, or the number of times you smile during the day because you have metamorphosed into someone who is committed to being a better version of her or himself.

    Until next time, adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 2

“Missing The Ones That Didn’t Get Away” 

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Happy February!  It’s also known as the shortest month, with the most reasons to break your diet.  I hope your Mardi Gras was filled with “flava,” your Valentine’s Day was full of love, and you have recovered from Beyonce’s “Formation” domination of the world’s conversation. While this Carolina girl wasn’t happy about the outcome of the Super Bowl, I appreciate the effort both teams gave–and the spread my partner made for us to enjoy while we watched the game.

     For those who read my January introduction, you know that this year I am focused on the art and craft of being grateful. One of the things topping my list is the woman I call my “Canadian ChapStick.”   My sweetie took her first breath in a Canadian hospital, and moved to America when she was eight years old.

     We met during a Lesbian book club meeting held at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, and it was my beloved second occasion as the facilitator. Actually, she was the co-facilitator. I assumed the other woman leading the meeting was her partner.

     So when I asked where they were from, she quickly corrected me that she was from Delaware. She left the other person to fill in her own “blank.”  She was single, and I was in the midst of shucking off a bad relationship.

     The next occasion we crossed paths, we were both single ladies. That time it was during a Shades of Pride brunch.  Shades of Pride is the LGBT pride organization I co-founded in North Carolina’s Triangle area–and to which I still devote my talent, time and treasure to when I’m not “dazzling the world with my written words” and working for the State of North Carolina.  I was the hostess and she was a guest.

     The third time was the charm to convince us we were meant to be together. While I was in Charlotte and she was in Durham, we conversed via text messages during the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) basketball weekend. We had our first face-to-face date the first Monday in March, and the mythology of us began.

     With her, I think I have found my forever.  I know:  the whole thing is so sweet, you feel like you need to brush afterwards!  (Smile.) 

     One of the ways that I know she is the right one is because I have had my share of bad ones. I’m not talking about “it’s not you, it’s me” type of bad.  I’m talking, “Oh my Gosh, what was I thinking?”

     Stop me if some of these scenarios sound familiar: (1) the “cutie” that couldn’t keep a job–it was always “the man” trying to hold a “conscious” person down.  (By conscious, I mean they claim they’re all about being “positive” and  “righteous,” but knock anyone that doesn’t adhere to the same natural-fiber wearing, natural-hair-sporting, last-poet-quoting line they follow.)  (2) the “boo-thing” who felt the butterscotch candy between her thighs was too good to limit it to just one person; (3) the person who got jealous if someone had more than a five-minute conversation with you about something other than the weather. 

     Sometimes when my mind drifts back to those females (and males), one of the lines from my favorite songs comes to mind, “I wish you were the one who got away.(Hey—I, too, had a “straight” phase!)

     Then, I realize that if they were the ones who got away, I may not have fully gained the ability to appreciate the good person I have in my life right now. Going along with the theme of being grateful this year, I am grateful for bad relationships because they helped me appreciate the beauty of the good one I am currently experiencing.

     Bad relationships allow us to challenge our standards, prompt us to reevaluate our value, and rise to the occasion of seeking someone who deserves us—that is, if we are in the market to expand our horizons to include someone romantically. 

LaToya Hankins

     Don’t get me wrong:  many bad duets involve two people singing off-key In order to move forward, you have to challenge the part you played. But while you are doing that, embrace the memories of that special someone who always asked to let them “hold something until payday.”  If handled properly, it can create a path toward greater appreciation of that person who always has their own–and has something for you, too.

     Remember that ex you couldn’t bear to bring around your friends because someway, somehow, that person and one of your “friends” always ended up in a secluded corner–“just talking about you?”  Consider that when weighing the value of something so trustworthy even your 86-year-old grandmother would let them hold her purse while she went to the bathroom.  (Also–you may need to check your circle of friends.)

     Remember that insecure individual who had to have your attention placed only on them? That relationship can serve as the measuring stick to see how far you have come with that new person by your side.

     If you are single and looking, your exes can serve as an excellent checklist to assess if the effort to get to know someone is worth your time, talent, and treasures. The people we have dated are great tools to see how we have progressed in our appreciation for what truly is important in relationships.

     Don’t wallow in your bad relationship choices. Learn from them and move forward when considering dipping your toe and other body parts in the dating pool. Appreciate those who let you down, so that you can value the ones who lift you up. 

    Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


   LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice

“It’s About That G-Thang”

Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

Happy 2016!  I’m trusting all is well in your world.

Please allow me the opportunity to introduce “my selves” to you.  I may be an only child raised by an only child, but I feel I have a not-so secret identity I want to share with you.

By day, I am LaToya Hankins, a 44-year-old polite woman who works for the State of North Carolina. LaToya drives a compact car, has a dog named Neo, and shares her home and birthday with a “Canadian professional listener” (a mental health therapist), and two feline divas named Percy and Patches.      

However, once the sun sets, LaToya takes off her badge, “lets loose” her locs (dreadlocks) and becomes…Toya!  She’s the author of books, short stories and clever social media updates who creates worlds where LGBTQ persons of color who call the South their home thrive.  Toya loves potatoes, pasta, and the percolator (that popular 1980’s dance where you rapidly gyrate your legs in time with the music and “pop” your booty)–which she does furiously in her mind when she listens to the Pandora house music station.

LaToya Hankins

Over the next few months, I hope to share more about LaToya and Toya with you, and I hope to learn more about you as well. However, with this being a New Year, let us start with what probably passed through most of our lips on January 1st (besides collards and black eyed peas): New Year’s resolutions.

Like many of you, I resolve to lose weight, cut back on my television watching and save money. All of which is cute.  But what I really want to work on is being more grateful for what I have, in order to allow more great things to come into my life.

Many of us know the power of gratitude, but we have been reluctant to claim it as part of our lives.  Maybe we don’t know how to start, what we should be grateful for, or how to show it.

There is no wrong way to be grateful and it’s quite easy to do once you put your mind to it. The first step is to be grateful for simply being you. Many people didn’t make it to 2016, so celebrate the simple fact that you are still among the number. 

Next, take a look in the mirror. When looking at yourself, be grateful for the achievements which followed you across the threshold of the New Year.  Last year, many of us gave ourselves peace of mind by shedding failed relationships. Others gave ourselves the power to believe in our own abilities by starting new businesses, going back to school, or accepting the fact that we are better than our circumstances. We have to be grateful for the opportunities provided and created by us to step outside the lines to be better people in 2016.

Along with being grateful for the achievements we have manifested, we need to be grateful for those who have been in our corner celebrating and commiserating with us. It could be your mother, your best friend, your beloved, or that neighbor you have had a crush on forever. We all have someone in our lives whose laughter chase away the storm clouds, knows just the right time to call to shake us out of our foul mood, or comes through with a home-cooked meal (depending on the situation) to feed our souls and stomach. Be grateful for the simple treasures of that person who has your back, stands in front of you to shield you from trouble, and stands in the gap for you when you can’t stand alone. 

     Many of us have memorized “The Color Purple,” but one of the lines that stands out for me is the notion that walking by the color purple in a field pissed God off. In this New Year, we have to be grateful for the simple acts of beauty and kindness we see all around us. Express gratitude by taking the time to listen to raindrops hitting the windows when you are inside with no particular place to go, and then acknowledging that perfect symphony of sound.  Show gratitude by standing still and finding calmness in the sight of twilight when the sun exits the celestial stage, allowing the chorus of stars to be showcased. Display gratitude for the touch of a loved one by expressing thanks through your words and deeds for their contributions to your life.

     Showing gratitude allows us to feel better and opens us up to receiving more good things. Happiness attracts happiness.  And no matter what resolutions we set forth, the main objective is to be happy. Gratitude doesn’t require gym fees, special fees, or new clothes. It’s free and feels good. So indulge!

This is my first column, and I am grateful that you have read it. I hope it sparks you to think about what you have to be grateful for so far in 2016, and I hope it inspires you to add to the lists of gratitudes with each passing day. 

Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”    


   LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 6

“WHAT DO THE LONELY DO AT CHRISTMAS?”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman 

  It was so silent that we could hear every sound or movement in the house.

     We sat there as still and as quietly as we could, even though we were half asleep. We had waited until we thought our parents were asleep before we went on our undercover mission. 

     It was about 2 a.m., and I and my two brothers, ages eight and four, snuck out of bed and took our places half-way down the steps–waiting.  Being the oldest at 10, I led my brothers on our “grand” adventure. It was just supposed to be me and my middle brother; however, my little brother woke up while we were trying to leave the room, so we had to take him along.

     From our vantage point, we had a good view of the fireplace, which by this time the fire had gone out. The only illumination in the room were the flashing Christmas tree lights. And so far, the only gifts under the tree were the gifts that we had brought for each other!  I remember I’d bought a glove and scarf set for my mother, and a bottle of Brut and Soap-On-a-Rope for my father.  Feeling quite proud, I couldn’t wait for them to open them!

    And there we sat… waiting and waiting and waiting. It was Christmas Eve and we were waiting for Santa Claus.

     It was 1965, and we were determined to see Santa come down the chimney! My youngest brother even had my mother leave “The Big Guy in Red” milk and cookies. We had decided—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that we’d catch him that year.

     The next morning, we woke up back in out beds when our parents came into the room to tell us that Santa had come and gone. We didn’t remember going back to bed, but we didn’t care!  Practically tripping over each other, we ran down the stairs to get to the Christmas tree that now had what seemed like a zillion gifts.

 

     Fast forward to Christmas Day 2015.  My daydreaming has ended.  As I’m watching the kids open their gifts, I sit here thinking that at this moment, I am not lonely.

     Earlier this morning, I was in my living room looking at my Christmas tree that didn’t have a lot of gifts under it like when I was a kid. It only had one.

     The special gift I’d bought for myself.

     I purchased it because I’m single, and don’t have a significant other to exchange presents with.

     That’s one of the pitfalls of being lonely and alone.

     There are many of us around the world that belong to that “Club of Loneliness.”  And unfortunately—and sadly—Christmas can be one of the days to be extra lonely. 

     You see, there are 12 days of Christmas.  Additionally, there are Six Days of Loneliness throughout the year. Six days each and every year that the Angel of Darkness comes knocking harder at our hearts and souls.

     Six days that we lonely people feel the most alone–while others celebrate.

     Six days that the emptiness in our hearts gets heavier.

     Six days when we sit at home and the echoes of silence are so loud, that it rings in our ears—and can almost be deafening. 

     So, just what are those days?  They are New Year’s Eve, when couples celebrate together to ring in the New Year with that first kiss. New Year’s Day, when couples go to brunch/dinner to celebrate.Valentine’s Day, when lovers come closer together to profess their love. Thanksgiving Day, when couples meet and greet each other’s families.  Your birthday, your extra special time when friends and family just don’t seem to be enough to guarantee your happiness.  And of course, Christmas Day.

     It’s on these days that the fact that we are single weighs heavier on our minds–and in our hearts. These are the times when we wish we had a partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, and lover–or at least someone to dream about.

     It’s on these days that life seems that more empty when we wake up with our back towards the empty space in our beds, and we feel that empty space in our hearts. The days when we want to sit in a lonely, bedimmed room, with the curtains drawn, dwelling on the darkness of our world–instead of the brightness of life.  

     Some of us think that we have to be in a relationship to “not be lonely.” But that’s not the case. Loneliness is a state of mind.  It’s all about realizing that you are blessed and that God is good. Whether you celebrate the day with friends and family or with strangers.

     But it’s those lonely days when we should realize that we are not really lonely. We should not forget that we are all loved by someone.  And we should also remember that God loves us.

     And on this Christmas day, I’m smiling as I watch the children having a good ole time opening their presents at the homeless shelter.  Each year, I visit a different shelter, in large part to let the little ones know they are not alone.  And as I observe them, I reminisce about my past Christmases, which were filled with life and love.

    I realized that the joy of life and love filled the emptiness in my heart so much that it was overflowing!  This enables me to ignore the fact that I was supposed to be lonely.

     Not being in a relationship is not the end of the world!  You shouldn’t need a man/woman to be happy. Happiness is what you make it. As well, the level of loneliness is what you make it.

     So on those six days of loneliness, what do we do–particularly on Christmas?   

     The Number One thing is to try not to think about it. Make it through the day the best you can. Always put one foot in front of the other and keep going.   

     We have to think about our lives and what it means to us.   We must realize that we can make a difference.

     As we put a smile on someone’s face, we can put a smile in our hearts. Celebrate FRIENDSHIP… Celebrate FAMILY …Celebrate LIFE…Celebrate LOVE!

     The bottom line:  the moment we encourage ourselves to celebrate life, the loneliness will disappear.  And believe me, that moment can feel like a lifetime.

     Encourage yourself…..   


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 5

“Do You Know Your A, B and Cs?”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman 

     On a sunny day in June, I was among what seemed to be hundreds of guests at this outdoor wedding.  It took place in the backyard of a mansion in Bowie, Maryland.  Rumor had it that a Washington Redskins football player owned it.  But who knows if that were true.

    When I arrived, a valet parked my car and a well-dressed usher led me to the backyard, which was decorated in purple and white lilacs. There was a large pool, with smaller pools here and there. That, along with several gazebos all around the yard, were quite impressive.

     As I made my way through the crowd meeting and greeting, I was thinking how I never thought I would see the day when one of my good friends, Percy, would be getting married.

     I have known Percy since our college days at Tuskegee University in  Alabama. Back in the day, we used to be very popular on campus. And once we pledged to a fraternity, our popularity increased–especially among the male student population.

    Oh yes, those were the days!  We were invited to all the underground gay parties. You see, in those days back in the early 1980’s, to be gay was basically an “undercover” thing.  This was especially true on college campuses, where you had to be a part of the “in-crowd” to know where the parties were.  So, it was a privilege to be on the so called “C” List.

    And that was one thing I didn’t understand about Percy and this wedding. You see, Percy also was on the “C” List. But he was marrying someone on the “A” List!   

     What do these Lists mean?  Well, I’ll get to that shortly.

     As the announcement was made that the wedding was about to commence, everyone took their seats around the designated areas in the yard.

     The wedding parties came in and took their places in front of the makeshift altar.  Percy looked wonderful in his black-tailored tuxedo and  purple vest.  And, there was a purple flower in the lapel. Actually, everyone looked great.

     As the wedding song began to play, we all stood up and turned toward the mansion doors. We waited with anticipation for the appearance of Percy’s future mate.  And as those doors opened into the backyard, you could hear a pin drop.

     And suddenly, she appeared!  Yes, I said “she.” A woman.  A panty wearer.  A makeup wearer. A high-heel wearer. A dress wearer.

     Even though these days, that could also describe a man; but this was a real woman!  My good friend, with whom I use to go “man-hunting,” was marrying a real woman.  And, someone on the “A” List. 

     Now, this is the appropriate time to explain the Lists to you–or should I say, your A, B, and Cs.

     You see, when you print the letters A, B and C, they have different meanings.  For example, to print the letter “A”, you use all straight lines. To print the letter “B”, you use a line and curves.  And the letter “C” is just a curve.

     Therefore, let’s interpret: A = straight people, B = bisexual people and    C = Gay peoplethe A, B and C Lists.  And basically, everyone belongs to one of the three.

     And this woman was “strictly di**ly”–just like Percy!  She wanted d**k all the way; just like Percy.

      She wanted to be with a man.

     Just like Percy.

     She belonged on the “A” List while Percy belonged on the “C” List. That is why we could not understand why she wanted Percy.

     Or for that matter, why Percy wanted her.

     As she made her way toward the altar, I was remembering the bachelor party the night before.  It was held at this fancy ballroom in downtown D.C.

    At the door, we were given Mardi Gras-type masks that all the guests were wearing.  The object was that you wouldn’t really be able to see anyone’s face.

     Once inside the hall, we were greeted by waiters offering champagne and hors d’oeuvres.  All of them shirtless, they wore purple bow ties—and were poured into little tight black shorts.  It was hard to look at anyone except these “phyne” waiters–who were everywhere! 

     As I filtered through the crowd, meeting and greeting the men at the party, it was obvious from several conversations that there were A, B and C List people there.  So, I guess no one was bothered by the fact that the entertainment included half-naked men and women dancing, singing and flirting with the crowd.

    And Percy was in his glory!  He had men all over him and he was loving it.  It reminded me of our college days–when we both had men all over us.   

     During the night, I had a chance to speak to Percy about his impending nuptials. I asked him why he was getting married.   His response really surprised me. 

     He said, “I’m lonely.”  

     I was confused for a moment–until he “broke it down” for me.  Percy explained that through the years, he dated many men but could never find that one true love.  He was tired of just settling for different men so that he would have someone to wake up to in the morning, and someone to fill that temporary void in his heart.

     The bottom line:  he didn’t want to grow old alone!  So he decided to settle for a woman.

     I thought about this as I stood at the wedding, daydreaming about our conversation. I was thinking about the fact that I, myself, get lonely sometimes; however, I would never settle for just anyone in order to have companionship. That would not be fair to me, or to the other person.  I would rather wake up each morning with my six pillows in my lonely bed, instead of with someone to whom I was not attracted. 

    Percy’s problem was that he was not honest with himself.  

  And definitely not with her!

    In life, we should try our best to be who we truly are–regardless of what society dictates. You cannot just put your name on the “A” List if you truly do not belong there.  I, myself, belong on the“C” List and am happy with that.  I would not try to be on another list because that would make me unhappy and dishonest.

    Jumping over to the “A” List and not being straight not only affects you, but the person you date or are married to. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule; but that all depends on the honesty, openness and communication of the individuals involved in the relationship.

    Suddenly, I was roused from my daydream when I heard the preacher say, “If anyone objects to this marriage, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

    Everyone got so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. But I was thinking that most people there knew that Percy very much wanted to object.

    After the passing of a few moments of silence, some people coughed and cleared their throats. Those few minutes felt like a lifetime.

    And then, it happened.  Someone said, “I OBJECT.”

    The crowd rumbled a little as everyone tried to figure out the identity of the brave soul who would perhaps save Percy and his bride from a potential life of heartaches and pain when the truth came out about who was on what List. 

     I was relieved–as I am sure most people were–when Percy made that statement. Yes, Percy did the right thing and objected.

     By stopping his own wedding, he was honest with himself and the bride about which List he was on. Of course not everyone was happy about this—particularly the bride.

    And as it turned out, she did not have a clue that Percy was gay.  While he secretly lusted after men, Percy used the excuse of “waiting until marriage to have sex.”

     But today, years later, they are both married to different people. The bride actually married the owner of the mansion, a football player.

     And Percy?  In the wake of the legalization of gay marriage, he married a wonderful man. They have even adopted two children.

     Therefore, in life, if you “keep it real and stay in your lane,” happiness will follow.   Don’t try to be someone you are not: it makes life that much more difficult and it hurts other people. 

     So here’s the question:  “Do you know your A, B and Cs? Or, just what List do you belong to?” 

     Express yourself and be yourself!  It will make you and the world a happier place. 


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rl.norman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Bits Of BS

BitsofBS 2

HIV Taboo BS

Guest Writer: Bobby Smith 

Are our actions saying only the lives of celebs like #MagicJohnson or #CharlieSheen matter after a HIV-positive diagnosis?

     I “went straight” after the maternal matriarch of my family–my great grandmother–passed on to a higher plane.  You see, I broke up with the high school crush I had connected with six years after graduating. Then, I entered into a heterosexual marriage–in concession to the perception that the only source of purely unconditional love had left me all alone.

    Shortly after exchanging vows, I moved my family to Atlanta, “JOJA” (Say it out loud if you don’t get it!) where events unfolded that “straightened me back out” – leaving me with no other option but to face and accept the sexual orientation that had been evident in my life since early childhood. One of my first orders of business was to reconnect with my ex and apologize for a breakup to which he had no culpability.

     Unfortunately, I was unable to locate him.  I later discovered, however, that he had moved back in with his mother; at which point, suddenly, all former social contacts had been severed. 

     As a result, no one in our social circles knew he had passed until well after his interment.  In the late ‘80s, when someone who was gay, under thirty years of age, earning an income well above minimum wage in a high-demand vocation moves back to the family home, odds were heavily in favor of  correctly deducing that some health crisis was instrumental in that situation.  I thought about the loneliness and alienation my beautiful ex must have experienced in his final days. 

     That prompted me to begin volunteering in the HIV arena.

    As a HIV-negative person, I had little to offer besides companionship.  I wasn’t afraid to touch someone who was positive, or drink and eat what was offered to me in the homes of people who were treated as lepers.  My “meager” offerings were treasures to people who had become accustomed to the paucity of handshakes and hugs, to people whose relatives forced them to eat off paper plates and sit on plastic placed on furniture in their own childhood homes, to people who settled for avoiding the public by remaining inside their homes – waiting to die, and then also having to endure the emotional torment of trying to cope with the mistreatment of others, which was due to rampant fear bred by the culture of ignorance that existed back then.

     Nowadays, I cringe when I see comments in reaction to posts by men such as Kyle Goffney, who show themselves as making informed decisions, armed with knowledge of PREP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV-negative individuals from becoming infected)–and the true risk associated with “undetectables.” Several oppose promoting PREP because they strongly believe that our entire LGBTQ community will succumb to barbaric wantonness without the discipline of HIV taboo (stigma).

     Others preserve HIV taboo (stigma) by denouncing the studies proving the low transmission rates by those who maintain an undetectable status because the transmission rates are not zero, while simultaneously passing out condoms at events and socials.  NEWSFLASH!  Condoms carry close to the same risk as unprotected sex with an undetectable. Combine using a condom with someone who is undetectable, and the risk approaches that of abstinence (100%).

     Instead of preserving the draconian fears that birthed HIV criminalization laws, our community needs to change its attitude that an undetectable status is as deadly as an untreated, undiagnosed HIV+ status.  Get tested!  If your result is positive, then adopt and follow a treatment plan you can stick with so that you can obtain an undetectable viral load.

     And if your result is negative, update your information by reading the current facts available athttp://j.mp/namaidsmap_factsheet or http://j.mp/PARTNER_studyQA  Don’t miss your opportunity to possibly meet “Mr. Right” because you’re “Mr. Wrong Information.”

 

Scorn

BitsofBS Pt 2 Nov REVISED Poem Image


Bobby Smith advocates unapologetically, incorporating LGBTQ orientation into one’s total identity (as opposed to the other way around). He lives in Atlanta with his husband. “Mr. BS” has been a social activist/writer in the HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ rights arenas for over twenty five years. Catch more glimpses of his focus of thought by liking the Know No Oppressive Thinking Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/1.KNOT and by reading some of his prose at https://wordsfromtheb.wordpress.com/And, you mail email Bobby at:  bitsofbs@outlook.com

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 4

LaToya Hankins:  Madame Triple Threat

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman

     LaToya Hankins is an author, poet and an activist. Upon graduating from East Carolina University, she earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Journalism and a minor in Political Science.  Currently, she is the president of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority graduate chapter in Raleigh, North Carolina (N.C.) As co-founder of the Shades of Pride organization, she helps create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of N.C.’s LGBTQ communities.

     Her two books, “SBF Seeking…” and “Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood, focus on the lesbian experience–not just through the eyes of the main character, but also on how North Carolinians react to that main character’s lifestyle. Ms. Hankins’ entire body of work demonstrates that she is an inspiration to us all.

LaToya Hankins

     Just recently, Nathaniel Octavius Nerdo (my alter ego) sat down with the charismatic, enterprising and multi-faceted Ms. Hankins for one absorbing and enlightening experience.

     Nathaniel:  LaToya, welcome to WYATTEVANS.COM!  Thanks for granting me this interview.

     LaToya:  You’re welcome!  It is my pleasure and I am excited to talk to you.

     Nathaniel:  Well, before I inquire about the “LaToya’s World” in North Carolina, I first have to ask you to tell me the story of what happened to you when you were five years old. I found it amazing, creative and inspirational.

     LaToya:  Oh, yes. When I was five years old, I had open heart surgery. And since I was in a small town in North Carolina, everyone knew; especially since I was not in school for a while. And kids, by themselves are curious.

    So I figured: why not capitalize on their curiosity and make me some money for ice cream and candy? So I was charging, I think, a dime to see my scar!  Kids would follow me to the bathroom, and I would pull up my shirt and show them my scar.

     And my teachers got wind of it because every time I went to the bathroom, four or five kids would follow me.  And one day, one of the teachers came in and I said, “Where’s your dime?”  (LaToya and I both chuckled.)

     Nathaniel:  So you just pulled up your shirt?

     LaToya:  Oh, yes… The scar goes from the middle of my chest to my back, so I would just pull up my shirt. The kids got their money’s worth, and I got ice cream and candy.  But it didn’t last that long.

     (We laughed again.) 

     Nathaniel:  Well, thank God you made it through!  You are such an example. And secondly, I think that was a very entrepreneurial idea to have at such a young age.

     LaToya:  Thank you so much!

     Nathaniel:  So what about junior high and high school?  Did you do other imaginative, innovative things?

     LaToya:  I didn’t do too much exciting stuff in junior high school. I basically kept to myself. But in high school is when I started questioning my sexuality, although I didn’t act on it. I started wondering and noticing some things. And I was feeling some kind of way but I never spoke about it.

     However, I did the typical thing:  I had a boyfriend in high school, and we were close. We were friends before we became boyfriend and girlfriend.  And, I had another friend in high school that said there were some things that I said or did then that they would start questioning and wondering about. But they would put their thoughts about me to the side because I was from the era that “nice girls don’t do that; especially nice black girls.”

     Nathaniel:  So in high school you didn’t know or do anything with women?

     LaToya:  Well, no. I am a procrastinator by nature and I just didn’t take the time to do anything about it. I focused more on my school work. I really focused on just being involved with school projects.

     Nathaniel:  So in college is when you came out?

     LaToya:  Well, no. I didn’t come out until I was 25 years old. In college, I didn’t focus on my sexuality. I focused on school work and my career. I had a good friend who was a guy and we did everything together. And he knew his sexuality; that he was gay. But we never discussed it, We were like each other’s cover because everyone thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

    But years later, I realized that all the signs were there for something to happen in college with women.  I just never acted on it.

     Nathaniel:  So, was your sexuality an issue when you pledged the sorority?  Did anybody know?

     LaToya:  Well I did an intake into the sorority. So I didn’t actually do the college pledge thing. And at the time, most people didn’t know and it was not an issue. But today, with Facebook and whatnot, I am sure my sorority sisters know.

     Nathaniel:  Did you start writing in college?

     LaToya:  I did!  But I worked for a newspaper and a minority magazine. So it was more featured topics, or should I say, “assigned topics.”  I wrote some poetry and short stories. I did not do fiction writing. I did an internship with a local newspaper, so it was all non-friction writing.

     But I always wanted to be a writer.  I am a big reader, so I appreciated works of fiction.  However, I always thought I was the one to read the books—not actually the one writing the books.  

     Nathaniel:  Do you prefer writing short stories, or writing books?

     LaToya:  Well, I prefer short stories because I like it when you have a definitive beginning, middle and ending. And writing books, you may think you are at the end; however, something comes up and then it becomes another chapter or two.  It’s hard to write a lot of words and make it make sense and interesting.  It takes, craft, dedication and commitment. You have to actually sit still and write, and edit and re-write.

     Nathaniel:  I assume that your books do not mainly focus on the “gay thing,” so to speak.

     LaToya:  They have gay characters.  And one thing I realize is that as gay, lesbian, transgender and people of color, we don’t exist in a vacuum. We have friends, family members and work experiences with people who are not gay. I wanted to make sure that when I write my books, I incorporate gay and straight characters.  I wanted to show that gay people can exist with their family members and friends who are not gay, and that everyone can respect each other. 

     Nathaniel:  Now with your first book, “SBF Seeking…”  You did accomplish that with the coming out scene. I loved the way you wrote that. 

LaToya Hankins

     LaToya:  Yes.  The main character came out to her straight friends and family, and they all had different reactions. And in my second book, “Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood,” one of the line sisters comes out, and it tells how she deals with the rejection from her sorority sisters.

    Therefore, I wanted to make sure that if you read my books and you are not lesbian, you can still find yourself in the pages. You can find a character that you can identify with.

     Yes, you may want to identify with the main character who is a lesbian.  But also, you may be a divorced women with two kids, or a women on her second marriage or somebody’s mama. There is a character for you to relate to.

     Nathaniel:  Now you have two books.  Do you plan on writing another?

     LaToya:  Actually, I am in the process of writing my third book which is initially called “Waterworks Whispering.” I plan on releasing it in January 2016.

     Nathaniel:  Why should people read your books?

     LaToya:  Great question!  Because they are interesting and relevant.  It is easy to find yourself in one of the characters, and they give you food for thought.  I think my books make you see things in your own light and in the light of others. And it gives you a chance to visit North Carolina through my eyes because that is what I write about and where I reside at and from.    

     Nathaniel:  How is food an inspiration when you write books?

     LaToya:  Food is the great “smoother over” for negative emotions.  Because you can’t be mad with anyone with your mouth full of food!  You can’t be mad if your mouth is full of ham and beans.  (She’s smiling.)  You have to swallow your anger.  Also, I think most life decisions are made over a plate of food.  I wanted to incorporate that in my books because everything goes better with food.  If you share a meal, you can break down barriers. And in my books, I mention actual restaurants in the Raleigh area that are black-owned that gay people go to all the time.

     Nathaniel:  Now you are not just the president of the largest graduate chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority in North Carolina, but also the co-founder of the Shades of Pride organization. What’s the organization all about?

     LaToya:  The Shades of Pride organization brings people together to share life’s experiences with being gay. We are an active supporter of LGBTQ issues and address health disparities that affect our community, especially our young people who are coming out younger and younger each day. We need to educate them so that they feel good about themselves and their lifestyle, so that they accept themselves–as well as others accepting them.

     Nathaniel:  What is your message to the LGBTQ community in the South?

     LaToya:  I want to represent the South in a positive manner because we are doing great things in the LGBTQ community here.  We have an “out” lesbian on the city council.  And she is sitting on that council with an “out” black gay man. We have had an “out” black gay senator. We have a lot of out gay black people doing many great things in North Carolina. When you think of the South and gay events, it is not just Atlanta. 

     So my message is “Don’t sleep on the LGBTQ community in the South.”  We are doing a lot of positive things in North Carolina. And I am here to represent, and support and spread the word that we are here and you will hear more and more great things going on down here.

     I try to capture the essence of the African-American Southern experience, and live by the motto, “I don’t weep at the world; I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

     Nathaniel:  How can people reach out to you?

     LaToya:  At www.Latoya Hankins.com.  On Facebook, LaToya Hankins; on Twitter, Hankins Latoya; on Instagram, Toya Hankins.  My email is Latoya.Hankins@yahoo.com.

     Nathaniel:  LaToya, it certainly has been a pleasure talking to you!  You are in inspiration to the South and the LBGTQ community as a whole.  And, we will continue to look for the inspired, extraordinary writings and works that you do that support our people and the community.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.

Bits Of BS

BitsofBS

Closeted Pride BS

Guest Writer: Bobby Smith 

     Gays, Lesbians, Transgenders, Queers, Genderfluids, Bisexuals, Pansexuals, and Same Gender Loving people are no longer just the whispers coyly cultivated on lips shielded by mischievous hands. Freedom to Marry, an American coalition committed to winning and keeping the freedom to marry for same-gender couples, reports that 20 nations have approved the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

     American media has realized what was once considered only taboo is now the bankrolls of success. When I look out across the world, I see a community that has earned its Pride. However, when I look through the other end of the telescope, it appears that Pride sometimes is less evident or non-existent.

     Free Dictionary.com defines Pride as “a sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect.” In spite of the strides our community has made to garner more respect from the masses, behaviors are prevalent that show we may be missing the mark in nurturing the same expansion of respect to the home grounds within our LBGTQ community.

     Internalized homophobia is still evident in how many are still closeted, under the guise of “professionalism” or “privacy.” Coming out doesn’t (always) mean donning a rainbow wig and running with a flaming torch through the streets. Coming out is simply refusing to sidestep any part of yourself just because it differs from someone else’s norm. You may not consider yourself to be closeted.  Yet, you never sit on the same side of a booth with your significant other; you use clinical gender-camouflaging terms including “spouse” during general conversation; your place of worship sends two newsletters to an address–although the tithes for both members come from the same account; you only interact with those who are “obviously” gay or transgender in safe zones, such as affirming churches or HIV charity rallies.

     Our community is a reflection of ourselves. There is, at least, a little bit of lesbian, a little bit of flaming queen, a little bit of Black SGL activist, a little bit of gender nonconformist in all of us. Many in the heterosexual communities have come to realize this in becoming allies. Why do we, ourselves, miss this message in keeping lines drawn between lesbians and gays, between tops and bottoms, between “passables” and “non-passables,” between gender-conforming and gender-liberated, and even between races or social classes? The fight to become accepted in the world’s community as a whole seems ironic when members of the marginalized preserve margins by maneuvering through social networks exclusive of some of their own.

     By failing to learn and know history specific to our culture, many of us fall short in exercising Pride. Knowing every Bette Davis movie, the plot of every Golden Girls episode, or the winners of every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race may be impressive, but lacks connection to the rich history that belongs to us.  Pride insists that we acquaint ourselves with the achievements of our LGBTQ community, and celebrating the accomplishments of lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, genderqueers and gays equally.

     Our sisters and brothers have made many noteworthy contributions to society in areas beyond Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) activism.   Development of your “bragging rights” is as easy as using an internet search engine, taking LGBTQ studies courses at a local university, or visiting the LGBT Institute at The Center for Civil and Human Rights, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

     Take these “Bits of BS (Bobby Smith) to heart over the next month, and make me prouder than I already am of my LGBTQ community. Feel free to email me  any topics you’d like for me to highlight.  Or, leave a comment regarding how your pride is flourishing!

Reprimand


Bobby Smith advocates unapologetically, incorporating LGBTQ orientation into one’s total identity (as opposed to the other way around). He lives in Atlanta with his husband. “Mr. BS” has been a social activist/writer in the HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ rights arenas for over twenty five years. Catch more glimpses of his focus of thought by liking the Know No Oppressive Thinking Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/1.KNOT and by reading some of his prose at https://wordsfromtheb.wordpress.com/And, you mail email Bobby at:  bitsofbs@outlook.com

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 3

“Stop, in the Name of Love…”

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman

 

     “STOP!!!” I screamed. “PLEASE STOP.”

     As I struggled to get loose but couldn’t move, tears began forming in my eyes. The weight on top of me was way too heavy.

     As I struggled more and more, the grip around my body got tighter and tighter. His arms were wrapped around me, and the bulk of his weight was practically crushing me.

     “Don’t scream, you will wake up the neighbors,” his low, threatening voice whispered into my ear.

     At that point–out of fright–I remained motionless, as his body grinded into me.  I was hoping that my cries and prayers would be answered, that someone heard my scream–because for a few moments, he didn’t move.

     But I was mistaken.

     Suddenly, he thrust his big, hard manhood deeper into my ass. The pain was so bad that I couldn’t help but scream out again!  I was so loud that I was again hoping that the neighbors would have heard me. 

     And before I knew it, he suddenly started fucking my virgin ass hard, fast and rough. Again I tried to yell out “STOP” but the pain was so excruciating at this point I could hardly get my own voice pass my lips.

     Then suddenly, I had an out of body experience as he raped me.

     My mind went back to the beginning, and how I happened to be on this blind date in the first place.

     You see, during my sophomore year in college at Tuskegee University in Alabama, I was spending the summer in Dallas, Texas. I was with a group of other students trying to get some hands-on sales experience by selling bibles and medical dictionaries door-to- door.

     Yes, you read it correctly!  Bibles and medical dictionaries, of all things.  

I had attended a seminar at school, where this company was recruiting college students for what they called “easy money.” You know that term means a lot to financially struggling college students. We were hooked! The things we do to make money in college (SMH—Shaking My Head).

     About 50 of us drove cross-country, and we didn’t know anyone in Dallas. So, we had to basically find our own way and survive. Upon our arrival, we found out that it was not easy money or an easy life.  From the very beginning, it was a struggle to survive. 

     I did meet several people during my days there and one in particular: Clifford.  He came to be my ally, my friend.

     When I knocked on his door, he answered in a flamboyant and grand way. Immediately, I was surprised, shocked and intrigued.

     He was about fifty years old and a real “queen,” as they say. He didn’t buy a bible or medical dictionary. Instead he tried to buy me. I turned down his numerous overtures eventually he became my gay mother away from home, so to speak. He introduced me to the gay scene in Dallas, and numerous people along the way.

    But during that time that summer, I became very lonely and homesick. Being a door-to-door salesman was a very emotional and mentally-challenging job. The rejections were becoming too much to handle.

    So, to help me out, Clifford suggested that I go on a blind date with a friend of his. I agreed because the gay bar scene was not for me. All I did was stand against the wall, feeling depressed.  And I am sure that is why no one ever approached me.

     The night of my blind date, Clifford’s friend Randy picked me up from Clifford’s house at 8 p.m. sharp. When Randy walked into the room, I was pleasantly surprised and excited!  He was “phine:” about thirty-years-old, pure dark-skinned, 6′ 2″, about 230 pounds of muscle, goatee and fade haircut. My 5’11, slim 155-pound frame looked like a little boy standing next to this real man.

     Instantly, Randy “swept me off my feet.”  He took me to a nice restaurant for dinner, then to a jazz bar to listen to music and talk some more. He was so endearing that I felt like a school girl on a first date.

     When we left the bar, he suggested we go back to his place to watch TV. I readily agreed because I was having the best time ever since I arrived in Dallas.

     Randy’s apartment was very neat and well-kept. He had very expensive taste. There was what appeared to be very pricey artwork and statues all around. And the focal point was that the apartment overlooked the skyline of Dallas from the 44th floor. 

    But I should have known something was wrong when he said the TV in his living room was broken, so we had to go into the bedroom. I could not imagine a man like this with a place like this having a broken TV!  But I agreed.

    We sat on his bed where he kissed me for the first time. Eventually, the TV was watching us as we kissed, cuddled and hugged.  It was all good until his hands got very invading.

     Randy was trying to take off my clothes, even as I kept pushing his hands away and resisting his advances. I repeatedly told him “No;” but at one point, he forcibly unfastened my pants, pulling them down as he had me pinned down on the bed.

     Before I knew what was happening, he’d undid his pants, pulled them down and thrust his dick in my ass!  And, as he was penetrating and pounding into me, I’m thinking, “This is not happening.”  But after a while, I was in so much shock that I no longer felt  the pain.

     After what seemed like hours, Randy panted heavily in my ear, shot his seed inside of me and collapsed on top of me.  Then, after a few moments, he rolled over. I just lay still and didn’t move.  

     Actually, I couldn’t move.  I was numb and in shock.

     After I got my senses together, I asked him to take me home.  He declined.  So, I slowly got dressed and proceeded to walk out of his house.  I tried to figure out how to get back to Clifford’s house.

     I walked aimlessly down the street until eventually, Randy showed up.  As he took me back to Clifford’s, I did not say a single word. Even after we arrived back at Clifford’s house, I couldn’t speak. I just nodded my head at Clifford with a quick fake smile, and went to his guest room.

     For several weeks, I continued to be paralyzed and utterly dazed about my body being violated. I hardly spoke or went outside because I felt…. I don’t know how I felt. I was just in limbo.

     I was experiencing so many emotions that included guilt, shame, fear, denial, anger and sadness.  I was so confused!  I was on an emotional roller coaster.  

     But I knew one thing; I didn’t want anyone to find out.

     And, the following thoughts plagued me:  Did I tease him? Did I lead him on? Did I let him go too far that he couldn’t turn back?  Was it my fault? 

     Or is he just a rapist?

     I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell somebody? How does it look for a man reporting rape by another man?  But I wish I had told somebody.  I wish I had him prosecuted. I wish he would rot in jail. I am sure he did it to someone else because I let him get away with it. And that is my fault because I didn’t tell.

     Well, now I am telling and it feels good.

    Many people believe that sexual assault is only committed by men against women. The majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men; however, the fact of the matter is that 1 out of every 10 men is sexually assaulted.  And most of those go unreported.

     Rape is Rape.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. And if you feel that you have been raped, TELL SOMEBODY…ANYBODY …..PLEASE.

     Rape is not Sex.  Rape is not Love.  Rape is Rape.  So stop it–in the name of Love. 

    If this has happened to you, make sure that you tell someone because you don’t want to walk a mile in my shoes. They are not comfortable.  

     For assistance, you can contact the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.  Counselors are available to help you 24/7.


L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.” The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs “Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

NATHANIEL OCTAVIUS-NERDO

HONEY, LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ! 2

The Ball is in Your Court

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman

 

   Not too long ago, I was reminiscing about this guy I dated years ago.  It was a cool night in November: the breeze was rather inviting, and it wasn’t too cold or too hot.

     Actually, it was just right as we sat at our dinner table on the restaurant’s rooftop overlooking the skyline of Baltimore. The restaurant was named the Circle because the roof slowly revolves so that you get a panoramic view of the entire skyline of Baltimore. 

     It was our first date, and I was having such a splendid time that my mind and heart were slowly being drawn to him!  Our conversation flowed with ease.  My “first date jitters” slowly disappeared.

     You see, I didn’t meet him on line or even through a friend.  I met him in Home Depot, of all places.  (The best place to meet men, ‘cause all the manly men go to Home Depot!  LOL.)  I was there looking for some supplies to erect my fish tank, which actually looks like an oversized picture that hangs on the wall.  Until this day, people still don’t believe it actually contains real fish! (Smile).

     As I was trying to find the best supplies to purchase, I spied a tall, brown-skinned, bald-headed man at the other end of the aisle!  His tight-fitting jeans covered his round, plump ass.  

     As well, those jeans gave the distinct impression that his manhood was a very nice size—very nice, indeed!   And, his muscle shirt exposed his manly arms and hairy chest.  And as a bonus, his Timberland boots completed his construction worker outfit.

      As he moved in closer to me, I suddenly turned into a “dumb blond” and said, “Excuse me, Sir.  Uhhhm, can you help me? I don’t know which screws I should get, or hammer to use to hang something on my wall.”

     At first, confusion filled his face!  But then, he started grinning.

     I assumed he was trying to decide if I were for real.

     He finally responded, “Let me help you,” and proceeded to show me different types of screws.  Then, he asked me several burning questions–one of which was my phone number! 

    And by telling me his name, he answered one of those burning questions.  His name was Baldwin!  What a rich, manly-sounding name, which complimented his deep, masculine voice—not to mention his plump, kissable lips that uttered that very name. 

     After a few phone conversations, he did the first of two things that was very surprising to me!  Something that rarely happens these days.

     During one of our late night calls, Baldwin said, “I’d like to ask you out to dinner and a museum.”

    And before I could answer, he inserted, “And this is NOT a booty call!  Sex is easy.  Friendship and love are what’s are hard to find!  (Pause.)  Are you up for the challenge to get to know me as I get to know you?”

     For a moment, I was taken aback!  Baldwin was actually asking me out on a date–and not for sex.  He made that perfectly clear, even though my clothes would simply fall off if he were to ask me to go to bed with him! 

    And that got me to thinking:

     Whatever happened to the days when we would actually ask someone for a date face-to-face; or a least on the telephone? Whatever happened to the days when if someone asked you out, your first thought was NOT sex–but actually getting to know that person?  And, whatever happened to the days before the computer and cell phone when our voice was our main form of communication?  

     These days, too many people don’t know how to communicate without the computer or cell phone!  There are a lot of lonely people in the world because they hide behind their computer screens or use text messages to communicate.  And to temporarily fill that empty void in their lives and hearts, they perceive sex as the basis of a “relationship.”

     I, like everyone else, don’t like rejection.  And of course, by hiding behind a computer screen, it’s easier to take rejection. But maybe we all should try to come “out of the closet” at least once.  So, step away from that computer screen or text message, and directly communicate–just like Baldwin did.  

     Instead, let people see the real you.

     The second surprising thing that Baldwin did was to pose a question after we’d left the piano bar that first night after dinner. Along with other patrons, we’d just finished singing songs…

     Suddenly, he stopped dead in his tracks, in the middle of the sidewalk. 

     Then, he turned towards me.

     Next, his firm, warm hands grasped mine.  As Baldwin gazed deeply and almost lovingly in my eyes, he inquired, “May I court you?”

     Now, for those of you who don’t know what courting is, allow me to clue you in.  It means dating/focusing on just one person.  You can date lots of folk, but you can only court one special person—the one you really want to get to know.

     Obviously, the ball was in my court!  Patiently, Baldwin waited for my answer.

     So, without saying a word, I leaned over and kissed him…passionately!  As you can tell, my answer definitely was NOT a “No!”  LOL.   

     And trust me, our first date–and the dates thereafter–were very special because he courted me with words and actions. 

     Not words on a screen. 

     So, come out from behind that computer screen and show your true colors!  You may find that those colors are a welcoming sight.  And, you might also discover that your time of loneliness will slowly melt away. That’s if you communicate with words and deeds. So call someone up or ask that person for that  face-to-face date.

     The ball is in your court!    

     Now, will you hit it back?


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  Currently, R. L. is finishing the sequel.  As well, he performs “Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series.  R. L. also iswriting a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming. You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.

NATHANIEL OCTAVIUS-NERDO

HONEY, LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING!

“What Did You Just Call Me?”

Guest Writer: R. L. NORMAN

      A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening, I was with a couple of good friends on the subway train, on route to Dupont Circle here in D.C. Even though it was a chilly night in June, we decided to hang out at a neighborhood bar, the Fireplace. It’s the place we go to drink, meet and greet men.

      As we exited the train, I accidentally bumped into this guy as he was trying to get on. I turned and apologized, even though I thought no one was at fault, considering both the train and platform were crowded.

     “I’m sorry.” I said. “Excuse me.”

     The man looked dead at me. After hesitating, he said, “Hmmm, Faggot.”

      Honey, I was about to take off my earrings and beat that ass! However, my friends held me back. Then I looked down at my outfit of tight blue jeans and a sweat shirt that read “Sleeps Well With Others. “ You see, I figured he should have called me a whore before he called me a faggot! Go figure.

      As we left the metro and walked down P Street, one of my friends pointed to a guy walking across the street.

      Sarcastically, he said, “Look at that faggot.”

      As I looked at the guy, I will admit he was a little flamboyant and dressed in wild colors. And, he was switching like a woman as he proudly walked down the street with the air of confidence that some of us lack– but wish we had.

      He was a real man in his own right.  And that got me to thinking.

      Faggot, sissy, queen, butch queen, lipstick queen, bull dagger are some of the names we call each other within the gay community. These are the names that we call people who are different from us. These are the derogatory names that we call our fellow gay brothers and sisters. The same names that we would get upset over if a straight person called us that.

      Yes, let a so-called “non-gay” person call us one of those names–such as that guy calling me a faggot–and we’re ready to fight!   But then, we turn around and hurl those same so-called slurs toward our fellow brothers and sisters.

      But if you think about it, that’s just like the word “nigger.”  We can call each other that and think nothing of it. We say it to each other as a term of endearment to an extent. But let a non-black person say that and we are ready to fight.

      There are a lot of people who think that we shouldn’t call each other nigger because of the origin of the word. As we all know, that word goes back to the days of slavery. But here we are today, using it as a positive word. Honey, go figure.

      But why do we NOT use the words faggot or queen as a positive? Why do we feel the need to down our own gay brothers or sisters?  Why do we call each other those names and think it’s okay? Why do we judge each other? Aren’t we being judged enough by the so-called straight community?

      We in the gay community have enough problems to deal with without putting each other down.

     So, I think people should not judge someone for being more womanly or manly than ourselves. We should always accept our gay brothers and sisters for who they are; a strong confident man or woman. Not a faggot, sissy, queen, butch queen, lipstick queen, or bull dagger. If we use the word “nigger” as a term of endearment, we should do the exact same with the aforementioned words. Most of those people you are calling those names have more self-confidence in themselves than most of us have. They are just being themselves just like you are.

     Actually, you should be careful. First of all, someone may be calling you the same name that you just called someone for being gay and different. And secondly, the person that you called a name may be more of a man than you ever were–and more man than you’ll ever be.

     He might even make you assume the position. Face down, ass up.

     Honey, think about it.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.” Currently, R. L. is finishing the sequel. As well, he performs “Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.” All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.