Thursday, July 2, 2015

The T.R.U.T.H. Project at Houston Pride Festival: A Merging of Communities, Art and Pride

June is the celebratory month for a plethora of celebrations. The most celebrated aside from Father`s Day is Pride for all things LGBTQ. I've been compelled over the course of my very Queer lifetime to wonder why `pride' for anything requires a grand scale celebration. So I begin my quest for answers with dictionary definitions of Pride...Webster provided several definitions of pride, but for the sake of this article I`ve chosen two in particular. The first defines pride as a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing,conduct, etc. When considering this meaning...I begin to think, `hells yes who wouldn't want to celebrate their own importance, dignity and merit especially with or without the opinions of others?` But then thought, well shouldn't pride, if it is in fact to be celebrated be done so with close friends and family? I still hadn't found the answer as to why should pride, specifically LGBTQ pride be celebrated city wide across the nation. Ohhh but an epiphany hit me upon reading this next definition of pride. Webster also defines pride asa becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem. Now Im getting somewhere. To celebrate the freedom to be yourself, amongst your peers and allies in love when surrounded by a world of hate, makes total sense to celebrate Pride OUTLOUD.

This past weekend, June 25-28, 2015, Houston, TX celebrated pride. This like any other year during the last weekend in June many of Houston`s LGBTQ community came together to celebrate pride. Though this year was monumental. Here's why! On June 26, 2015 the United States of America became the 23rd country to legalize same sex marriage. Now I can get on my soap box about the separation of church and state as well as the disdaining notion that choosing to marry who I love was once considered illegal and subjective to beliefs that aren't mine in this alleged land of the free, but this isn't the time. Now what was I saying...Oh...this date fell right in line with Pride Houston`s yearly celebration. As if that isn't reason enough to celebrate, Houston`s Pride celebration relocated after 33 years from the historic and known LGBTQ hub of Montrose to downtown Houston. This bold and expansive move brought out over 700,000 attendees for one great umbrella of causes: Pride. Here I describe my experience.

Now everyone knows that Houston can be unbearingly hot and not just in terms of its fine women and cajun-latin cuisines. I had made plans to only attend the festivities after the sun begin to set, until I was made aware that not only was Houston Pride occurring during a historical time all while T.R.U.T.H. Project, was a part of history while making history too. The T.R.U.T.H. (Telling Real Unapologetic Truths thru Healing) Project targets the GLBT community and Allies, focusing on creating self awareness and healing through the use of performance arts and social engagement. Addressing issues important to our community and society, this project highlights national and local artist creating original works presented to the community in an Out Of the Box healing experience. Healing through the ARTS...I have a great love for this organization as I have shared many truths on its platform. This time was no different. I came together with talented artists in a vast variety. The T.R.U.T.H. Project for the first time in history was a part of Houston Pride Celebration as it was one of the 200 plus exhibitors that attracted more than 75,000 people. That day was a good day.

Standing in Tranquility Park lined with tent-booths ranging from mental health information to wine samples, I couldnt help but feel a bit of Nostalgia.It reminded me of a hot summer day with your family enjoying each other, nature, and any other gloriousness the park background had to offer. In addition to that, I felt totally comfortable and at ease, like I belonged much like I did when Sweet Tooth Media sponsored and attended Eden`s San Francisco Pride. The grandfather of Prides across the nation shuts the entire city down. News coverage is extensive and pride is celebrated by many of its natives, visitors and transplants. Though Houston, didn't mimic this in its entirety, because I was there...as an active participant and artist for the T.R.U.T.H. Project, I felt right at home. The day was so full of energy and love. Yes, it was scorching hot, but the T.R.U.T.H. Project found its home on the Barefoot Wine Stage with plenty of seating and shade.  Shared with the likes of Big Freedia, the T.R.U.T.H. Project's artist brought an ascending healing energy with it. Spoken word artists such as Tiffany Wordmatician Scales, Jordan Sneed, James Just and MsNightLyfe gave voices to those without one, speaking life and sharing healing experience to every ear that heard. Vonetta of ABC BodyArt brought to life the Houston Pride`s HERO theme painting human bodies with armored paint. Damion and Nick afforded every eye that could see dance in its most purest and expressive form. Their performance attracted passer-bys with their high energy interaction with the audience. Concluding the T.R.U.T.H. Project's time for the evening included its founder, K. Dapree, thanking everyone, encouraging audience attendance, and inviting us all back to continue in the celebration of pride for Women of Color, the 2nd installment of the 3-part Black Lives Matter Series.

Prideful Intersectionality is a more appropriate term for what I experienced that day. I saw and interacted with people that looked like me and those that didn't. We all gathered for the greater good of each other to celebrate our journey, our independence, our victory, our stride in freedom, our selves, our Pride. The T.R.U.T.H. Project`s participation, inclusion in Houston Pride Celebrations, was the ultimate merging of the arts and communities.

"Buzzworthy Cravings, Creatively Satisfied!"

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Houston Pride: A Brief Overview

This past week was one definitely for the books. As of June 26 the entire U.S. LGBT community can now be recognize as one, we are now able to get married. For those in Houston the ruling came right on time because the 36th annual Pride Houston celebration week had begun, which made this year's pride even more significant as well as over 700,000 attendees the largest amount for Houston Pride ever. I attended the annual festival and the parade which some of my close friends and acquaintances were featured including our own Ms Nightlyfe.

With the festival now moved to Downtown Houston many had doubts on things such as parking and space, but I believe there was a great amount of parking and actually more room versus the original location of Montrose which is commonly known as the LGBT community designated area. However I found it to be filled with entertainment form such stars as Estelle and Big Fredia as well as The T.R.U.T.H Project and many more.

There were so many resources available from everything from mental health awareness (interview coming soon) to legal rights for LGBT health vendors and everything in between. One of the vendors I had a pleasure of speking with is C. Patrick Mcllvain who is the founding member The Houston Walk (thehoustonwalk.org) which is holding its 5th annual 5k Walk For Mental Health Awareness Houston. This event isn't until October 10th so you still have plenty of time to sign up, form a team and gather donations for such a great cause because in Houston alone 15,000 people are treated each month from mental illness (www.mhmraharris.org). I also spoke with Chuck Smith from Equality Texas (equalitytexas.org) who help those within our community with matters such as ending discrimination in and out of the workplace, to help build stronger families, protecting youth and preventing violence. So overall it was a great experience and I have a few features or the entertainment as well as a brief interview. Enjoy and Happy Pride!!!

Peace and Blessings
Swagg P

thehoustonwalk.org or The Walk For Mental Health Awareness (FaceBook)

"Buzzworthy Cravings, Creatively Satisfied!"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Celebrating Pride Month: A Tribute To E Lynn Harris

So its June and guess what that means? IT'S PRIDE MONTH and although its so many 
permanent figures that have brought light..a positive light to our community 
that its so much to cover. So I have decided to highlight the one that means the 
most to me. His literary work not only has made The New York Times best sellers 
list 10 consecutive times, he also accomplish many first in his life. He was one 
of the first African-American students at Forest Heights Junior High and Hall 
High School in Little Rock which he was born and raised. He also became the 
first black male cheerleader as well as the first black yearbook editor while 
attending the University of Arkansas where later in his literary career he went 
back to teach African American Literature and Creative Writing. He had homes 
in Houston, Atlanta, and Fayetteville, ArkansasAfter graduation, he became a computer salesman with IBM, AT&T, and Hewlett-Packard for 13 years living in Dallas, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. Im speaking of the extraordinary E Lynn Harris. Born Everette Lynn Jeter in Flint Michigan he took on the last name Harris after his mother got married. At 3 his family moved to Little Rock Arkansas and at the age of 13 his mother left her husband after Harris endured years of abuse from him. Even through years of abuse and even a suicide attempt he then quit he job working for IBM to pursue his passion of writing. 

He ultimately published his own book Invisible Life and starting selling them out of his trunk. His genre of literature was of unprecedented nature because his books were based of the lives and down low (men who secretly sleep with other men but are typically married or dating a female). With it being such a taboo subject within the African American culture Harris basically "brought it out of the closet" so to speak. Although he focused on down low men surprisingly majority of his fans were woman, but as he stated in one of his last interviews he supported a lot of LBGT community events and a lot of his book signings were at Pride events around the U.S. Invisible Life and What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted were 2 of his most personal books Invisible Life focused on his struggle with his sexuality within his college and What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted was a memoir of his life from the beginning where he talks about the abuse he endured from his father as well as his attempt at suicide. Despite all his support there were an equal amount of dislike for the way Harris portrayed gay males and exposing those who were down low. It hurt him a lot which is why he was resistant on becoming a gay rights advocate. In a 2003 interview with the Detroit Press he explained "It's such a small part of who I am. It's what I do when I'm with my partner that puts this label on me. Most of my friends are straight. I tend to have a regular life, if you will." 

To me he is the ultimate trendsetter, taking his life and being so transparent. How he kept writing a little bit of his truth in each book in spite of his  nay sayers and non supporters. He felt as if not only was he writing his story, but the stories of those who are in the exact situation. He wrote with no apologies. As of 5 days ago Harris would have been celebrating his 60th birthday, and July 23 will be 6 years since he has physically left this earth. However, there are an estimated 4 million copies of his book worldwide which has made him one of the nation's most popular writers. I end by leaving this clip of his respected friends and peers sharing their best and closet memories of the beloved E Lynn Harris
“Luck runs out but blessings never do!”

Peace and Blessings
Swagg P

"Buzzworthy Cravings, Creatively Satisfied!"

Will You Help Me Fail?

Hello, my name is Katrina. I am an aunt, a concerned citizen, and an active member of society and I'm here to ask, will you help me fail? Within recent months so many schools have been caught red handed in what can be called "cheating scandals" where they have either changed answers on test, or just entered in a passing grade for students for various reasons. My question is if school is the resource in which we use to prepare students for the future to go out an be productive members  of society by what you may see as help is ultimately hurt, here's why. The ultimate goal is to prepare them to be able to function and compete within today's society not only for themselves but for those who live around them. The basic expectation cannot be met if you as an educator are just giving them a pass because then you will cause opportunities to then pass them because of their lack of knowledge. Here are some facts

As of April of this year:

14% of adult in the US cant read past a basic level:
32,000,00 cant read at all 
24% are African American 
41% are Hispanics 

The expectation when leaving high school is that you should at least know how to read, yet these are our current percentages. So it more than just letting the student down and not fulfilling your obligations as an educator you are now letting society down as a whole sending yet another uneducated person out to experience life. Its like going to battle without protection you are then vunerable to then lead by the life that you know, decisions are influenced by your knowledge. You have taken the wrong side of the stand of doing all that you can do when you give out grades, knowing that the student does not understand completely of the lessons giving within school yet you pass them anyway is still considered harmful. not taking the consideration the oath taken that you should do no harm to anyone and its not just a teacher or doctor oath that is an oath society as a whole should and needs to take upon themselves. Because once we step outside those school doors we are all interconnected to one another which means not only have you failed the student, not only have you failed yourself as an educator but you have now failed society as a whole. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Wish

In honor of Father's Day I would like to start off by saying Happy Father's Day without you we would not be here...literary lol.  I love to see a male with just him and his child, especially little girls. The way they light up the utter pure ultimate blissful zone that he is in can not be put in to words. A daughter/father relationship is something so valuable because the father is the first love that she will ever have. That father sets the tone to young lady future including her mate. What that little girl saw when she was younger will set the example of how love is shown to her. Although not 100% proven to be true there are a large diverse group of women who will honestly say they married someone with the same qualities as their father. As a father to possibly offer one of many forms of how your daughter future is determined seems like a heavy load overwhelming to say the least, however those milestone moments such as first step, first day of school, first date, first award received those moments are what makes it all worthwhile in the end. The same happiness and joy you brought to her will be the same amount if not more that she will expect for the person she spends the rest of her life with. Unfortunately "24 million children live in biological father-absent homes -- in the United States alone." Here are some statistics:


So because I myself at 32 years of age now are really getting to the depth of my relationship with my father this is coming from a survivor yes survivor of the "Daddy Issues" saga that I let confuse me while making certain choices in life finally feel in a comfortable place with our current relationship. Would I love more time sure but just the elevation  of our communication is definitely better because he seems more accessible now, not so scary now versus when I was younger but more of a father than the big bad wolf (younger he was often called when I was in trouble my parents divorced when I was much younger). I enjoy our occasional lunches and pop ups because his job is literately 5 mins away from my home just to come spend his breaks with me. Its kinda like the saying "It aint perfect but its worth it" I truly get that now with me and my pops, it will never be perfect because no one is perfect, but its definitely a worthy experience. So I wrote a piece that I kind of view as an open letter feeling, and with that enjoy your Father's Day earthly and heavenly.

From the moment you opened your eyes and looked
It was then that my heart and soul got took 
From your first smile the first grip of your hand
It was right then I knew I had to become a better man
So I then put on my best dressed and went out into the world
Because it was then that I realized I have to go out and bring her back the world.
Not because someone made me and it was not done out of legal obligation 
It was because of my faith in God to know that he may have blessed me 
With a future lawyer CEO or the next superstar sensation

So while its just me and you alone, hopefully one of our million DDD's (Daddy Daughter Days) I want to let you know these things that I say are as good and a rare as written in ancient stone:

No one will love you more than your fathers (heavenly and earthly) but you should seek the one that tries to love you more and make them your husband.

He should tell you your beautiful and remind you of how much of a blessing you are to them as much as I do times 2

Teach you not to fully depend on anyone including myself because even I am only human depend only on your heavenly father and don't let anyone tell you otherwise not even me.

To always be the back up from the first fall while learning how to walk until the last tear you shed I will always be there to try my best to make it ok and wipe your tears through it all.

This is me starting from day 1
For the coming up and down of the same sun
I will not never stop striving to become the best father ever
Starting from today until my last day on earth is done.


"Buzzworthy Cravings, Creatively Satisfied!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

So Now What's Next: The Life Of A High School Grad

So as we all know there is a certain time of the year that both grandparents, parents, and most importantly students all wait on, yep GRADUATION. When a child graduates on to the milestone of their academic career it is celebrated for many different reasons. Some celebrate because it marks down the years before their child goes out to start a life of their own. Some celebrate to mark a new goal to strive for within a family who may not have had the opportunity to get this far in their education. Setting goals for the younger generation under them to show that it is possible not to be another statistic. It is a proud moment for all involved. I had the pleasure and the honor to recently attend my eldest nephew high school graduation. I had a moment to reflect back remembering when he first went to daycare and now he is here. Im proud to say that went above and beyond everyone's expectations even when some of his growing pains got in the way, he found redemption. So usually the next question for a high school grad is, what's next? Well here I have an exclusive interview with a recent grad name Nicholas Pickens. Nicholas is 18 with quite an expressive educational resume and  already a world traveler. I sat with him and decided to ask him the following:

Me: Hello Nicholas

Nicholas: Hi

Me: Well let's jump right into it because I know as a new grad you have a lot of big plans ahead so I wont hold you long.

Nicholas: Ok

Me: So you're a high school grad now...so what's next?

Nicholas: Next I plan on furthering my education beyond high school. I have been waiting on college for such a long time and now that it is here it almost doesn't feel real.

Me: So have you decided on a career path now?

Nicholas: I'm not sure exactly what I want to major in but Im sure it will be in the engineering field. I think I wanted to do that for the longest.

Me: Great field. What were some the challenges you faced in your 4 years? Educational and personal?

Nicholas: My biggest problem during my 4 years of high school was definitely trying to balance what I wanted to do versus the thing I needed to do. As far as personal, seeing my mother go through such a depression, I felt there was nothing I could do about it. The mistakes I made during that time didn't contribute any better. I wish that I can take it all back but life goes on.

Me: What are some of your greatest accomplishments?

Nicholas: I think the biggest accomplishment I've had so far was for sure the recent one and that is walking across the stage to receive my diploma. No one felt I was going to graduate even when I said I was. I've learned to turn the doubt people fed me into success and I can say it was the greatest feeling to prove others wrong.

Me: I think we have that honestly

Nicholas: For sure

Me: Who was the biggest help through out your 4 years?

Nicholas: I would have to say my family. When I needed something done there was no question asked. I'm forever in their debt.

Me: Awesome! Last question, So what advice would you give the freshman you?

Nicholas: Manage you time wisely. Even some adults cant do that but its also not impossible. Set goals for yourself. I once heard that if you want to succeed more than you want to breathe, then you will always be successful, and I will always stand strong by that.

Needless to say I'm impressed. So I end by saying talk to those grads about what's next, let them know that their success lies solely on them and for every adversity there is a chance for redemption. 

                                                           *Inserts Personal Thoughts Here*

I want him to know you just don't know much God answered my prayers, I remember when I was ill I prayed daily "Lord spare me to see him walk across the stage" and he did just that. Welcome to the big leagues I don't doubt one bit that God will bless you to be the great man your destined to be, your in my heart always and CONGRATS, MAMA WE MADE IT *little nanee/nephew humor) 

Peace and Blessing
Swagg P

"Buzzworthy Cravings, Creatively Satisfied!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Can I Live: The Judge and Jury of the LBGTQ

I start this blog entry as honest open and true as I can possibly be. This questions often comes up in the community but it just seems to simmer never really seems to heat up, with understandable reasons. I just want to know is there like a legal LBGTQ court system where if you go against the LBGTQ  constitution or the LBGTQ commandments your punishment will be death by shaming from you former peers? For example: You will no longer be able to attend another LBGTQ event without being talked about or inappropriate jokes about how you've changed over or questioning if your were even gay in the first place? You cant have any same sex friendship because then that an additional charge of trying to play both sides of the fence AUTOMATICALLY making you a target for passing diseases throughout the community and when those don't apply your either pregnant or dying from some sort of STD.  I thought about it and if there where any truth to having a LBGTQ set of commandments (just for length purposes)  it would probably be something like this.

1. You shall only go to 1 club there are no other social spots put before your regular club
2. You shall not have on the same thing as someone else or a who wore it best contest will be started on Instagram where likes then counts as votes
3.You shall not talk bad about your home club when going elsewhere or you will no longer have access to the club.
4. Remember dedicate your entire weekend to the club
5. You shall obey your gay mother and father
6. You shall not murder the scene when you walk through it is displeasing to those who really put in effort for their look.
7. You shall not sleep with someone else mate UNLESS you don't like them for no reason or they have done you wrong, or a fellow gay family member wrong then its ok.
8. You shall not steal (drugs alcohol girl or boy friend or spotlight on the main stage)
9. You shall not be gay or lesbian over 5+ and the all of sudden hetero not even to have a kid.
10. You shall not lay eat or sleep in my house unless are doing absolutely nothing with your life

These are things that seem to be what we now consider acceptable and if your doing anything outside of this then it seems that either you "gay card" is snatched or points are deducted, but WHY THO. Last time I checked the world that we live in crucifies and tears us down enough so when did it make sense to do it within our own. Can someone tell me where and when the unity was lost? Why is it now a competition on who did it better? When did we stop catering to what the community wants for the sake of saying "I wore it better than you" "I threw the best party" "I have the better entourage". It kind of relates back to my former blog post (http://sweettoothmedia.blogspot.com/2015/04/have-you-been-kendrick-lamard-yet-blind.html) where we have our own race tearing each other down over their skin tone. Does anyone not recognize the ignorance? By all means I don't have the total solution...nope I don't, however I do want to be apart the solution in some shape form or fashion. I want to be apart of the community where I am not shamed because my make-up isn't MAC and my bag isn't Micheal Kors and my shoes aren't Jimmy Choo.

I want to be apart of the community where boundaries are respected within a relationship and where valid reasons for not liking a person is present. I want to be a part of a community that doesn't back down that doeskin hesitate to stand up and say something when one of our own is being degraded or abused and in some cases killed. That is willing to sign petitions and get laws changed to protect the T in LBGT and not re-post RIP. I want to be able to be comfortable in my own identity without being labeled (studs femmes trans drag) or put in a group because of what I prefer (rachet, hard workers, average, balling). Can we please PLEASE stop living our lives living outside of our means to be a replica of some Hollywood star without doing the work. Beyonce didn't just wake up like this her ass sung and competed in contest and formed a group  wrote her own songs SHE DID THE WORK. Oprah didn't just wake the hell up with her millions she started as an intern then she got a local show THEN moved her way to a national stage TO THEN have her own network (s/o to OWN Network hey Oprah girl). But it seems as within this community most live or try to live the life without doing the work. DO YOUR WORK start on the inside so then when those who lack growth come for you it no longer bothers you. I admit at one point in my life I was slightly caught up in the rapture of the lights and titles and the fake hugs and kisses just to try to get in my spot. But then I became ill, yep had a stroke. I wasn't supposed to make it for 8 months couldn't walk damaged kidneys and brain (God blessed me to not have major damage and I thank him daily for it) but then that's when my light was cut off and the show went on without me. That is when I realized that lime light that looks so nice and bright can be dimmed just like that. Now I'm at a point in my life where that need I felt to go out and mingle with those who said they love me has truly left and I now enjoy just living life and going to non LBGT events and concentrating on my growth because I choose to be known to the world and not just the "gay world". I want my mark left among millions of people gay straight black white young old, this is the goal I seek, and you know what, it much less stress. Because in society there isn't a label stuck to you when you are doing great things or making improvement all they know is your name and what you stand for and how much you made a change. I'm just waiting on the day where we can all put pride and problems aside and stand as one. Is that too much too ask? Let me know READ COMMENT LIKE AND SHARE!

Peace and Blessings
Swagg P
"Buzzworthy Cravings, Creatively Satisfied!"