Living in a Different Way

A lot of black men die early. And many die from preventable diseases and the sticky consequences of them.

When I read of John Singleton’s death, this came back in an undeniable brightness. I grew up loving his work. I didn’t know how young he was until obituaries began.

Then, I visited the catalog in my mind. The men I’ve loved as an adult who have died, namely my father Mardell Culley and my then father-in-law John McKinney. There’s the list of men I’ve served as a leader, a list of those living who, like Singleton, struggle quietly.

Among the responses to Mr. Singleton’s death, researchers have turned again to the problem of black folk dying, particularly black men. Dr. Clyde Yancy, a cardiologist at NM whose work around social determinants of health I respect, grow from, and learn from is a consistent care provider around these issues.

Dr. Yancy says bluntly, “I want this message to be explicitly clear: Check your blood pressure. That’s a hard stop. That’s the takeaway; and especially if you’re an African American man, check it today.”

That is within reach. Drop-in clinics, CVS, Target, your doctor, your cousin’s doctor, your family friend who is a nurse, your ex’s distant friend from third grade. Check your blood pressure.

Speaking about the rates of disease in the black community and after stating the men he has lost, Dr. Yancy sums it up, “It’s just unacceptable. We can live life a different way.”

It’s true. We can. And we can struggle while making noise for the health of our beautiful selves and the health of those we love.

Read the full, brief piece here.

Before Class

As this semester comes to an end, I have decided to accept that I will never like it when people come to class having not read the readings for the class.

I don’t have to know what the professor thinks. I don’t have to know what my classmates think. I think it’s a waste of time.

I think it’s a misuse of the learning process. I think it shortens the possibilities for which I prepared when I read the book the first time and the second time.

In the words of my previous professor-turned-president of CTS, Dr. Stephen Ray, I think people should “read the damn book!”

Little Things

I remember a time when the first son cried when I left him.  He was really loud that one time when I dropped him with Auntie Maggie. Where was I going? It took forever to get there, listening to his cries in the car.

I thought those days were gone, especially since the second son was decidedly a mother’s son, if the first was a father’s son. Of course, both of them have gone back and forth about whose they are.

They are, in fact, their mother’s and their father’s. And this makes sense in the beautiful way big hearts with room to love deeply work. They work in ways beyond the mind, beyond explanation.

And hearing that my little one cries when I leave in the morning and hearing his voice on the phone when I’m minutes into my commute makes the entire day sound like a father’s joy.

Indie Arie sang, “it’s the little things.” And he hasn’t always cried. He won’t always cry. I hope I’ll always remember the few times he did.

When Someone Matters

One way to know that people matter to you is how long you keep them–in your head, in your heart, in your spirit–when they bother you, when they hurt you. It’s one thing to drop and run. It’s another thing to be tripped by the fact of their mattering.

If you drop and run too fast, who you thought mattered didn’t. If don’t quite cut and run, if you don’t bolt, and if you move slower out of connection, something else may be happening.

If your feet are clogged by the dry and wet grasses of disappointment, anguish, and sorrow, perhaps you were good at a little word called love.

If you think of your students long after the ringing bell; if you consider the comment made and how pained it made your listener; if you remember, hours later, that interaction and its biting chump into you, perhaps you have evidence that you have loved.

Perhaps what happened in those relationships actually matter. Maybe what you built, created, and cultivated made a difference. Grant it and grieve.