In this update we get slightly political and very real. Then we lighten things up when I show you my body!
In this update we get slightly political and very real. Then we lighten things up when I show you my body!
Beginning the process of changing my gender marker on legal documents. The stories of the two times that my gender was questioned in public. And a message for you.
This memorial day I saw one of my dreams realized. This project was a vision two years ago. It was even a bit jarring to my nervous system to now be living with the 3D version of this piece. It was born from very intense frustration and some pure fucking rage but something knew we could turn it into love. The overtaking of ego by purest self produced an explosion in my mind, a vision brought me to my knees. A complete reorganization of my mind space happened, my values changed in what seems like an instant. Organizing with people to rant about our concerns did nothing to ease the personal suffering I experienced. Honestly this made me feel more frustrated because all of us together couldn’t change even one person’s oppression. I saw people who have the same things to lose alienate each other over ideological differences. I realized that I had moved into the spaces I had for lessons not longevity. My purpose is to enlighten through love and creativity. I now understand that freedom is an individual choice and so the project is fully understood.
Enough back story now to the art! The original vision revealed the television set exactly as it is with my body chained to it. I was in Boston common, having initially conceptualized a stationary piece. The TV set you see is a part of a performance during which I lug it around sometimes appearing pained and begging for freedom at others appearing mindless and drained but determined to move forward. My goal was to convey the idea of being weighted inhibited harmed and hurt by this apparatus but being willing to die carrying it because on some level I believe I need it. The box represents propaganda and conditioning on the most superficial level but also nationalism, racism, sexism religion and beauty, sexuality or gender standards. I was easily able to put myself back in the raw emotional space from which the project came, maybe helped by the physical pain and stifled blood circulation brought on by the chain. I had some extremely intense moments where I screamed in frustration cried and struggled with the box for my life.
Some offered me help and seemed genuinely concerned. A few immediately understood it as performance art. Some people took pictures and video, some asked questions and wanted to connect with what was happening. Some made jokes some looked away and few even thought I was involved in some horrible game or hazing ritual. I listened to conversations, to what people said to me and answered most of their questions while staying in the performance. From 2pm to 8pm I performed through the streets of down town Providence and Boston. I crossed Boston common, canvased downtown crossing, crossed the common again and visited Newbury St. The second crossing of the common was the true full circle moment. There where people everywhere. I came to a clearing and I saw the event from both past and present perspectives. I collapsed to the ground and the moment I saw so clearly 2 years ago came to pass. I sobbed and struggled to free myself. I screamed at the top of my lungs to release all the energy that had built the moment. I made contact with many people that day and what I will never forget is the looks in their eyes. I perceived deeply buried fear solidarity support and even relief, some expressing these outwardly as well. I expected more pushback than I experienced, finding the overwhelming reaction to be support. Funny thing, when it was time to execute I found myself needing no one’s support and receiving it from everywhere.
This is an act of love even though it was born from war. I do this because I love this planet and because I love humanity. Open minds and free expression are our salvation. I chose to memorialize those who have given there lives in the name of love by speaking truth. ♥♥♥
More alarming than N’s attempt to project the character that I am as something else was what I noticed in the police report. Again I cannot know what anyone was thinking but I will express my ideas as this is my forum to do so. When I read the police report I noticed that my ethnicity is listed as white. I cannot help but question whether this was done for statistical purposes. This is a great illustration of how little these dualistic labels of black and white mean. N tried to sensationalize the idea of blackness to imply certain criminality but with the flick of a pen my ethnicity was “white/non-hispanic”. Seriously makes one wonder what being black or white means. I have come to find it is a label applied by others that we accept because it makes things easier makes them run smoothly and lends to stereotyping in a snap. In most cases skin color is a factor but I have never met a black or white person only people who identify that way culturally and people who self identify at both ends come in all shades in reality.
I believe that when the police arrived and began to really analyze the situation they had walked into it was pretty clear that this wouldn’t go far. That the situation likely did not play out the way N said it had and that I was ready to and very capable of convincing a jury that her story was implausible. This would add to the number of “black” people arrested for what would turn out to be no reason that day week month or year. Who knows maybe a quota had been met or needed to be as I’m sure many know the police do work this way. This idea is inflamed in my mind by the awareness that state prosecutors do not like to look bad by pursuing charges that fail. The reality is these things are all tracked and data is compiled. I had a public defender as I was not in a position to hire council at the time and I was not going to burden my family financially for such a frivolous weak allegation. There was no proof to argue against and I knew this confidently but the thing is most don’t.
I saw how the fear that comes with legal trouble can make someone in my position into easy prey. The lawyer repeatedly offered me “deals” that would end the hassle and minimize the possible damage to my criminal record with the price being dollars and freedom. I made it clear that I was not interested in anything but being found not guilty or having it dismissed but still I was offered these “bargains” repeatedly. I was aware very early on that no one gave a shit whether I had done anything or not, once the hooks where in it was about profiting from my life. The public defender seemed completely impotent to do anything for me except give me advice which to be clear I greatly appreciated. I didn’t expect much anyway and very quickly began to see him simply as a middle man between me and a legal system that didn’t want to deal with me standing up for myself and making sense. It didn’t want me daring it to work the way it should and make N defend and prove her allegation. In the end she abandoned them after wasting time resources and man hours. She had manipulated the entire justice system into attacking me then left them with the burden of proof and nothing to show as such.
The cold hard reality is the public defender was not expected to defend me but facilitate a deal between me and the state of Massachusetts that would leave the system looking squeaky clean and unflawed. Knowing as well as I did that there was no case against me the “defender” was bringing me deals that required me admitting that there was sufficient evidence to convict me! Deals that would put me on probation and require me to attend anger management classes on my dime as if I needed lessons on managing rage. I do not imply that there is anything wrong with this when it is necessary but it wasn’t. If anything I needed lessons on managing my empathy, on keeping my distance from situations that don’t concern me personally. I was shown that the average citizen’s fear of the legal system is capitalized on regularly, I know because even I thought hard and wavered. The way things where presented to me I know many people such as those with prior records, with less faith in truth, those less articulate, those less educated and those who feel less acceptable to the gentry would have bit. I have no doubt now that this is done to people all the time. That there are many young people like me who have records now or are on probation or even in prison for things they did not do.
I share my story because it is important to me that this experience and the things I learned from it help others. With the recent wave of murderous violence perpetrated by police against civilians it is paramount that we value our own and each other’s lives. That we protect our safety and freedom by being smart calm and realistic when dealing with law enforcement and the justice system. The damage has been done you see because the system has succeeded in conditioning the average police officer to see themselves as separate from the rest of us as opposed to an extension. This is dangerous to melanated men but never be deluded for this is dangerous to all. It simply takes being labeled a criminal by the right entity for any life to become worthless in the eyes of law enforcement. They enforce mandates created by a government that could decide at any moment that any of our actions are against it’s laws. Actions like protest, being outside at certain times (e.g. Boston april 19 2013) or communally opting out (e.g. move 9). The US has the largest prison population on earth and this police force is one of the more militarized. Prisons are for profit and it’s populations produce much free labor. This is that new slavery and orange is indeed the new black. ♥♥♥
✩This is for my brother Kadeem. I do not pretend to know what role he played in his own incarceration only he knows surely what happened. We are all innocent and we are all guilty. He made youthful mistakes as we all do, raging against a society that labeled him delinquent from the beginning. Taken into the machine and away from our family with an unfinished education and the world at his fingertips. We eagerly await his return and I hope that no other family has to experience what we have.
I love you. I miss you.
I was taken to the porch and asked leading questions such as “did an argument just take place here?” I gave the most honest answers I could then I was asked to turn around to have handcuffs put on. I was completely placid, in a state of numb disbelief. When things start moving fast like this I get completely calm, If I have to ignore what is happening then so be it. In handcuffs I moved toward the door while asking about shoes for my bare feet and the older less spry and therefore most fearful of the officers put his mouth about 3 inches from mine and screamed and spit about how I am not supposed to move autonomously at this point. It was as if he had said nothing and I said nothing else until I asked what I was being arrested for. You see I have dealt with this kind of goading behavior from law enforcement officers before. Here you have a group of men who know nothing about me or N on arrival. Here I am a young black male, the “type” they have been conditioned to expect crime from accused of a crime. No one could see the education I had fought for or the career I was building for myself, the artistic visions taking form in my mind or the gentleness of my nature for the melanin in my skin. This fellow was sure I would have some sort of emotional response to him screaming in my face that would make the day more exciting and make him feel less useless in his aged state. The best thing to do in situations like this is remain silent, instigators cannot escalate situations with a silent adversary. An adversary being just what these people saw me as.
I asked why I was being arrested for the second time when I was in the backseat because the first person I asked apparently didn’t even know. This time I got a much better explanation. This is when I was informed of what she had accused me of. I asked more questions that led the police officer to explain to me that because I and N lived together the incident was a “domestic” one. This meant that according to the law in our area someone had to be removed when the police arrived. I was informed that had I accused N of brandishing a weapon or physically assaulting me we would have both been arrested. I had been arrested for an event that did not happen because I lived with someone I hardly knew and they had made an accusation. This was horrifying to me! Deep down I knew that I would be vindicated because said accusation would have to be proved but in the following days I kept thinking about how many people in the city where in an Identical situation to mine. Boston has the second or third highest cost of living in the country and many colleges in and around. Everyone I know lives with roommates and a quick look around will prove this is how most are surviving and getting through their education without family. Luckily I had cultivated a friendly relationship with my ex but someone else who’s family springs from SC would have sat in jail for who knows how long.
Around the middle of the year long fiasco I obtained all documents related to the case. I read the wording and it was clear that N is a much more sinister character than I ever imagined. You see N was well aware of the credibility her european features and home ownership bought her. The description of me was quite strange. The person she described was 6’2″ or 6’3″ and “black black black” this is quoted from the 911 call transcript in which N used the word black regarding my appearance 8 times. She was asked for my description once. This was a perceptual distinction she wanted to make crystal clear before the police even arrived for the most obvious reason. I am of african decent but just about 5’11” weighing in at around 140 lbs. My willowy build and androgynous looks and voice don’t typically inspire fear, reading the transcript it is obvious that N agreed. It seems she felt projecting me as the big black bogey man archetype would bolster the believability of her tale. Along with implying heavy drug use and details about my sexuality, even dragging a friend she met once into the fantasy by name.
During the conversation in the car on the way to the county lockup I noticed a change. As I began to speak for myself and become a real person instead of a projected image the relations shifted. At the house when I was being as quiet as I knew was necessary I was shuffled around and looked at like something without a brain. When we were in the more intimate setting of a sedan I was asking relevant lucid questions, ones that suggested I knew at least the basics about my rights and probably that I was pretty well educated. This was these people’s first opportunity to get a read on my character my temperament and it did not add up. By the time we made it to the station I was being referred to as Mr. Ocean and sir, I was being respected and treated gently. I remember having my handcuffs adjusted and my comfort being a concern. I cannot know what anyone was thinking but I sensed what seemed like sympathy in the officer who was there from beginning to cell. A look in his eyes and behavior that seemed to give away his instinct that this was not right. The police are you me our neighbors and family members only guided by entrained blind allegiance to law. The problem being that the legal system is flawed tainted by racism classism and financial motivations. I had forced him to see me as an individual human not a black criminal. Never forget your humanity and no one else save sociopaths will be able to ignore it.
Know your rights and never be afraid to ask questions or remain silent as you see fit. Remember that when police arrive on the scene there job is to find reason to arrest you, calmly cooperate but do not help them. You have the right to protect yourself from legal trouble. It is scary being arrested but right now you are innocent until proven guilty. Make people who accuse you of shit prove it without your help. Under stress innocent people can say very damaging things to our own interests without realizing it. ♥
On September 6, 2013 I was arrested by the Boston police department for assault by means of intimidation. The allegation was that I had intimidated someone with a large kitchen knife. On October 21, 2014 the charges where dropped because I like the rest of us have the right to a speedy trial. The original complainant never showed up to court for the 5 or so court dates we were given in the year between the two dates.
I was fresh from what I will always remember like a divorce. I found a room in Mission hill and moved in to what I felt would be a good place to start fresh. My goal was to stabilize and get my shit together to blast into the next phase of my life. A phase I filled with my own home, freedom, travel and passion. The woman who rented the space will be referred to as N. N was a short plump woman with a warm endearing smile who’s child like eyes sparkled from her aged face when she was intrigued. She had a thick spanish accent of the singey italian inspired sort that added a little humor to everything she said. Something the I learned new appreciation for in the aftermath. We became friendly quickly, sometimes she would ask me to accompany her on the porch where she liked to sit in the evenings and we would chat about everything and nothing. As the days wore on I saw flashes of emotional instability in N’s behavior and speech pattern but I felt it harmless, nothing more than a bit quirky.
Thirty days after I moved in N disappeared for about a week and returned with the news that she had cancer. She said that she had been given a grave prognosis based on the type and it’s stage of development. The sparkle had gone from her eyes. This effected me deeply because I know how preventable cancer is and I cared for her. It hurt personally to watch as the words of a trained prescription writer drove her further and further into despair. I stayed close to N and offered assistance in any way possible including complementary bodywork and playing driver for appointments. During one early trip to the hospital I made the mistake of being 15 minutes late to retrieve N, at this moment everything changed. Things deteriorated so quickly that it is hard to explain without it seeming as if this happened over a longer time. Within a week the living situation felt almost unbearable, antagonistic comments were made at every meeting. By two weeks out I had the police called on me the first time of two and I wasn’t even there. This made it very clear my presence was not wanted so I turned my efforts toward seeking other quarters.
Looking back its clear that every move I made toward emotional detachment only escalated things. I had gone about it all wrong. I had been cold and aloof in response to her displays of emotion which were cries for caring. They were vitriolic and caustic on the surface but tender and longing deep down. Hindsight has a way of clearing all the cloudiness and I see the facts now. I was playing the role I was because I was there because I was available and cared. It seems natural to attack those closest to us. Although in my mind I was just a roommate with a distain for the medical establishment and talent for empathy I was a brave youthful pillar for her. She asked me because she felt close to me and needed some help. She had family close but I was there. I had been a warm soul to rest on when things were really going to shit, yet in her mind I had let her down. From her point of view now that she had shown her teeth I had no care for her in her state of poor health. I was a deserter like the boyfriend of 11 years who had been dishonest over and over then disappeared when she shared the diagnosis. I had no tools for dealing with such an emotionally intense situation so I completely shut down. I was still reeling from a personal emotionally intense situation, I wasn’t able to deal with another.
By September 5, two months after I moved in I had been looking for a new place to live for a few weeks. I had been staying away as much as possible hiking in the city and its parks when I wasn’t working. I arrived back at the residence around 5:00 to have dinner. I was making soup with white beans and I was chopping kale when N approached me from behind. The vitriol this time covered several subjects including me cooking too much. I very calmly and cooly informed N that I was done responding to her goading behavior and continued what I was doing. This only stoked her into an explosion of attacks to my character. It got more and more vicious but because one who has known another only two months hasn’t much material it also became ridiculous and improvisational. I laughed hard, I shook, shed tears and ached with humor. My brain was tickled by the absurdity of everything and I exploded jollily. I called my mom to both break me away from the situation and share it. N disappeared upstairs and the next significant even was the police walking in the door.
Her story was that I had come at her with the knife I was chopping kale with when the police walked in. The tale changed often, sometimes I lunged with the knife sometimes I swung it sometimes I pointed it but the basic allegation was clear. We were separated and asked some questions then I was arrested. I sat in jail for about 5 hours and when I got out I was not allowed to return to the residence. I slept on a friend’s floor, I was angry I was hurt I got burned out I freaked out I moved home and moved back in a span of 8 months. N never showed up for a single court date and It all got dropped after over a year of being given new dates. Oh but the things I saw the things learned in such a short space are integral to my survival, you may find them the same. Stay tuned. ♥
I was just thinking about a conversation I had with a friend about a week ago. He said people are like cats in the way that we relate to each other. It was very funny in the moment but he was making a keen observation. Cats are capable of ambivalent feeling and it can be very pronounced in their behavior. I love the company of cats and typically they love mine but I have always sensed that they think about eating me. If house cats could magically be big like there wild relatives I believe they would have to decide everyday whether or not to eat those they live with and for some it would be a struggle. Not unlike humans at all. We are moderating impulses based on many emotions/thoughts happening simultaneously at all times. The point he was making was people are capable of anything, any evil and any good regardless of their relation to each other. I have noticed that it seems as though everything in nature has the impulse to prey on the weaker, the smaller. As cruel as this sounds I believe this may be a part of the collective survival instinct, clipping away the weak to conserve resources for the more likely to succeed biologically. Another great illustration of this is gardening, we prune away the dying and weak parts of plants so that the energy is diverted to grow the strong. Don’t get me wrong, this feels harsh and bitter to me as well but my capacity for ambivalent thought also allows me to see the necessity in it. The thing is nature is ambivalent it is neutral and the progression of all things is based on survival not good or evil, sweet or bitter. The beauty of sentient beings is our capacity for love. This is the component that prompts us to moderate our impulses and we are varied in our capacity for love. Just as it is necessary to prune plants so they grow strong and beautiful. Its is necessary to have harsh experiences through interaction to strengthen our identity, our bodies so we are strong and beautiful. The energy is neutral all encompassing and we are like crystals in the sense that we split the spectrum. We can focus on some waves and release the others in a rainbow of color if thats what your into. We are only victims when we think of ourselves that way. The next time someone attacks your character respond with strength and pride and see that is what they are really looking for. Watch how the evil is deflated and the respect is inflated. ♥