Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gone Baby Gone!

         This morning I was in Walmart, doin’ my Daddy thing and I came across a woman with a T-shirt that read “I Support Breast Cancer.”  As a self-professed ‘word junkie,’ this T-shirt bothered me tremendously.  I immediately thought to myself – really?  “Do you support breast cancer?”  “Are you planning to vote for breast cancer in the next general election?”  “Are you anti breast?”  As many of my male friends who have engaged me in “locker room banter” will surely tell you, the latter question posed, probably bothered me more than anything else – because lord knows, I’m a breast man.  But that’s the subject of my letter to Playboy and not the current issue at hand.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but grammatically, shouldn't the statement be “I support the fight against breast cancer” or something similar.  Have I just become too nerdy in my old age to accept a simple T-shirt for the sentiment it intended to convey or has grammar like morals, privacy, decorum and justice for that matter, along with a bunch of other important things gone by the wayside in America?  The late Tip O’Neill, the last of the relevant Speakers of the US House of Representatives, once posited, “Whatever Happened to Shame in America?”  And I have often referred to this prophetic question when I think about the things that are happening around me in today’s world.
                Shame in America died a long time ago and I doubt very much that it will ever be re-born.  To clearly date myself and to further the notion that this blog entry may just be the ranting’s of an old man; I think shame officially died when a major television network decided that the Morton Downey, Jr. show was appropriate for broadcasting.  For those of you that don’t know, think of the Jerry Springer Show on steroids.  Naturally, the dominoes began to fall as they do and then came the aforementioned Springer, (fill in the rest), and then jump to Snooki, Honey Boo Boo, et al.  Along with Jazz and of course, Hip Hop, Television is probably the world’s most influential, uniquely American art form.  The term popular culture might as well be replaced by American culture and that is in large part due to the influence of TV throughout the years and what have we evolved this great medium to?  Flavor of Love and the other offerings by the geniuses at VH1, when I think about the kinds of things that I watched on TV growing up, I truly feel saddened for today’s generation.  Social commentary like Good Times, All in the Family and Mash or even the silly bubble gum offerings like Happy Days that always offered up some moralistic theme (I was such a Fonzie fan until he “Jumped the Shark” and became Henry Winkler), are now largely gone from TV.  And again, like the premium on grammar and shame, it’s doubtful that such shows will ever return.  In a world saturated with competing media all vying for our attention, TV like newspapers and other print media, is struggling to remain relevant and so in order to do so it will continue to produce shows that shock and tantalize rather than educate or advance morality. 

But that’s just how my brain works, a simple T-shirt can take me to places that no one would ever imagine that I’d ever get to.  This former latchkey kid is indebted to the programming of 80’s TV because it challenged me to think and helped to nurture the imaginative blogger that now sits in front of this keyboard.  When the fun was on channel 5 and that “Bill was sitting on Capitol Hill” you were at least getting more than just “Pulp.”  I could go on teasing your memories of TV and hopefully spark your own inspirations of days gone by and get you riled up about this and that and the other thing, but I know for many of you the question remains: where the hell is Hak’ going with this?  Well it’s simple really, to keep it in the TV theme I guess I’m having a “Network” moment, you know: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"  When you have a mind like mine and you are thinking about things that are gone in this country you inevitably arrive at the fact that 17 year old Trayvon Maritn and many other young black men like him are gone.  And more often than not their killers have gone free.  And so today, I resolve to not let anything that I deem important get a pass.  Not f#@&ed-up grammar, not shameful behavior, and certainly not injustice.  At the very least I will shout out the window a la Network, or get on this Blog and let somebody here my rant about it.  As folks gather in my former home, DC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I think it behooves all of us to rededicate ourselves to make sure that fewer things we value are lost in our lifetime.   

Peace I’m gone!  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Truly Celebrating Haiti

Hi Friends - as many of you may know it's been my dream for a long time to do something to help my native home Haiti. I realize that only a few of you have made it to this blog over the years and I've been very, very lazy about posting, but to be fair, I don't post the average length blog. I normally hit you with a lengthy 'short story.' Oxymoron anyone? Anyway, my wife recently made my dream come true again; and she recently started a non-profit organization, dedicated to helping Haitian youth. My first contribution to the project is to give it the name formerly associated with this blog. Sélébré Ayiti. Again, even though there have only been a few of you visitors to this blog, I felt it was only appropriate that I post a formal explanation. Thank you for supporting this very therapeutic project, thanks for listening/reading. For those that care, this soapbox will remain very much active, but I've chosen a new name for it - I think you'll find it appropriate for the content. Lazy has not escaped my soul and so who knows when I will post again but I'm sure we'll be communicating anyway, even if thoughts don't make it to blog. FYI, my wife’s new passion/non-profit organization is obviously

Sélébré Ayiti

The mission statement is as follows:

Sélébré Ayiti is an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of Haitian youth in Haiti and throughout the Haitian Diaspora. We aim to do this by facilitating and promoting avenues for expression and success in: education, cultural arts, sports, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship. We believe that the best way to celebrate Haiti (Sélébré Ayiti), is by helping Haiti’s most precious national currency – it’s youth, achieve their fullest potential.

And the soon to be developed website can be found here:

Please stay tuned for great things to come!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Predicting the Weather

We’ve all done it; we’ve changed our plans for the day, our wardrobe, the car we drive and a host of other things because of meteorological predictions made on the local news only to be left angered by that choice because “the weatherman” was wrong! In 2004, the comedic genius Larry David created an episode of his show Curb Your Enthusiasm based on this very notion called “The Weatherman,” and if you’ve seen it you know two things: 1. Larry is a fool and 2. There is truly “truth in jest.” Meteorologists will tell you that they get a bad rap. The science is not an exact one, and that the weather can change at any time. Layman will say, and I count myself among them, weathermen are paid guessers, shysters in the vein of palm readers and the Miss Cleos of the world. They look up at the sky just like the rest of us, and see a dark cloud and say the “forecast calls for rain tonight; have your umbrellas ready.” The only difference is they get paid for it. And when you get paid for doing something, the observing public will require a certain level of accuracy in your performance. So again, when you say rain it better rain. And, if it doesn’t, well I better not find you on the golf course enjoying a sunny day by yourself because everyone else cancelled their tee time based on your prediction (those of you who saw the show know what I’m talking about).

In actuality, scientific attempts of predicting or even controlling weather date back many centuries. And while I haven’t actually researched this phenomenon, I know through popular culture that societies from the Ancient Egyptians to Native Americans have performed a “Rain Dance” in times of extreme drought to protect their harvest. The Romans performed sacrifices to the Gods to ask for rain, and other cultures in similar fashion have implored similar tactics. And although today’s meteorologists may disagree that their trade is descendant of the ancient rain dancer, these anecdotal instances reiterate that for a long time man has claimed the ability to predict the weather. The latest manifestation of man’s fascination with weather prediction is of course “Global Warming.” It is the doomsday prediction of those who believe that the excesses of man have caused the atmosphere around us to change, and if we don’t drastically change our behavior the planet as we know it will be destroyed. BTW, that’s not a quote from Wikipedia. That’s all Hakology – sounds good huh? Anyway, while I recycle more than the average person, I have my doubts about any movement that hails Al Gore as one of its most prominent spokespersons. I didn’t buy his “Manbearpig” theory and I’m not sold on this either. But all jokes aside, at the heart of the concept of Global Warming is the notion of inheritance. A quick Googling (if that’s a word) of the word inheritance will lead to the following definition or something similar: Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies. In other words, what we do now, future generations will pay for later. This too is not an unfamiliar concept. Often times when we think of this notion, we recall the tales of the absurdly rich leaving entire family fortunes to the family pet, or more recently, the battle that raged between Mr. Joseph Jackson and the caretakers of the Michael Jackson estate. Rarely do we think about weather patterns, melting polar ice, yada, yada, yada.

But like the marriage of peanut butter and chocolate -- make one of my daughter’s favorite treats -- in the uniquely American method of blending the seemingly absurd to create something, the idea of Global Warming is the marriage of the concepts of Inheritance & Meteorology. Slight side-note: I could have gone either way with this. I could have named this blog entry “Inheritance” but I thought “PREDICTING THE WEATHER” had a more ominous tone to it. Can’t you just hear James Earl Jones saying it in that “Luke I am your father” baritone voice with lighting flashing in the background as this airs on some Discovery Channel show?

Well, the truth is when I began to think about these things those were the kinds of images that came to mind. The gloomy dark skies that await my children in the future because I refuse to carry a grandma tote with me to the supermarket. What am I leaving behind? What will my children inherit? Do I use cloth diapers or disposable ones? Am I wrong for wanting the new Range Rover Sport (in Silver) or should I be riding a bike to work? And ultimately what can I do to ensure that the world I leave behind is a better place than when I first got here? The uncertainty that lies with these questions is enormous! And it is the enormity of the potential consequences that move grown men to buy a Toyota Prius when they actually wanted a Dodge Charger or something similar. But as I said before, humanity has been influenced by the weather since the beginning of time. And while it may seem like a new concept, the idea of “Global Warming-the blend of inheritance and weather” is the retelling of an old story that has taken many forms throughout history. One of the most popular among these stories is the biblical telling of “The Wrath of God”.

In the book of Genesis, Noah (the greatest weatherman of all time) is chosen by God as the one righteous man to deliver humanity’s weather report. But like the weathermen of today, Noah with his declarations of divine intervention, was doubted and ignored. So it doesn’t surprise me that the proponents of Global Warming are fighting an uphill battle because the belief that bad behavior yields bad weather has been ignored since Noah first preached it however many years ago. Even though the methods of connecting everyday behaviors to melting polar ice, rising shore lines and atmospheric change are more scientific, Global Warming is nothing more than “The Wrath of God” story being retold. And man has never truly believed it. Why? Because across the religious spectrum, people have a hard time believing that the divine power they pray to would punish innocent future generations for their current sins (the ideas that the sins of the father will eventually be paid for by the son). Once you resign to that fact then you have to concede that: Germany as a nation will have to pay for the sins of Adolf Hitler. Cambodia has something really bad coming for the atrocities committed by Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge and the Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1976 to 1979 (and for those unfamiliar: the murderer of over two million Cambodians during that three year span). And of course, the United States will have to atone for many, many things ranging from allowing Mariah Carey to make the movie “Glitter” to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the list goes on and on.

When you wear Haitian pride on your sleeve as I do, people will expect you to respond when significant events occur in Haiti. So, when the Earthquake hit on January 12, 2010, my phone didn’t stop ringing. My Facebook page was filled with new notifications, and friends reached out to show support in every way possible. And when I decided to go to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake to help with relief efforts and to take supplies to my family, again the response from friends, co-workers, complete strangers was overwhelming. I am extremely grateful for those blessings. And so naturally, when Pat Robertson gave his rendition of “the Wrath of God” story as it relates to the Haitian people and the effects of this tragic event, everyone wanted to know my thoughts on the matter. Well my thoughts are simply these: like the many shysters, charlatans and weathermen of the world, Mr. Robertson’s words are not to be trusted. Haitian people are a people of faith and resilience, and they have been that way for over 200 years. And, they will remain as such beyond this tragedy. Like the many terrorists of the world who use their religion to bring division and death among people of different faiths, Mr. Robertson simply operates from a lack of understanding of a group with a different expression of spirituality. The occurrences during the Voodou ceremony held at Bois Caiman during the Haitian revolution are just as exaggerated as that of the Roman sacrifices of old. And when taken in proper context, they reveal simply that when faced with impossible odds or in times of extreme hardship Haitian people will pray. They prayed before war and won their freedom, and they are praying now after the most destructive natural disaster to ever hit the nation. And if the world response is any indication of things to come, these prayers too will be answered. But Mr. Robertson, if in fact this earthquake is the result of a debt owed and your belief that the sins of the father must be paid by the son, then I imagine Haiti has paid its debt. But, I feel sorry for your children and the debt they will inherit from you. I will pray for them, and I will pray for you. And just in case, I will continue to recycle as well.

Dedicated to my Son Noah Shakir Halisi; I will work hard to leave you no debts when I’m gone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Rendez-Vous in Brooklyn

“Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul….” be it by physical or spiritual travel I journey to Brooklyn. And while the memories of her are both bitter and sweet, I find that this journey like no other can rekindle the flames of happiness in my heart. I believe it was the great philosopher, Snoop Doggy Dog, who said “Yes he is I and I am him” – a Brooklyn expatriate, the person who stood next to you at a party, be it in Siberia or Washington, DC, who went crazy the minute the DJ asked: “Is Brooklyn in the House?” And so, on this most dreary of December days I find myself on spiritual travel yet again, thinking of P.S. 139 and 152 (Public School for the non-Brooklyn natives among you), Junior’s cheesecake, taking the E train to the World Trade Center, Saturday afternoons watching Kung Fu movies on Channel 5 and of course the summers I spent as a waiter/busboy/everything else, at my mother’s restaurant on Flatbush. And although I paused at that E train memory to realize that the NYC Transit map that hung on the wall in my college dorm room will never be the same again because of the evil that men do…. As we Brooklynites say, I kept it movin’. Movin’ to a better place in my mind; a place that helped to shape the proud Haitian that pontificates on this proud Haitian Blog, whenever he can overcome the laziness that has prevented him from doing so many other things (Have I mentioned that I’m Haitian and proud of it already? Well, I guess it’s clear now). Flatbush Avenue between Glenwood and Farragut the most (insert lie about how hardcore this place was, as I’m sure everyone from BK would say about their block). And although I had moved to Elmont, Long Island a long time ago and no longer lived in Brooklyn, I claimed this piece of “the Bush” as my own because most of my summer days would be spent there working at my mother’s Haitian (there’s that word again) nightclub and restaurant - Le Rendez-Vous.

Besides the fact that it gave me a chance to be in Brooklyn once again on a regular basis, Le Rendez-Vous was a special place. More special than I knew at the time. Like many of its sort, found in the Little Italy and Chinatown sections of cities around the country, it was a capsule of culture for all that entered its doors. A place with a French name; that gave the most discerning light skin “Haitian Bourgeois” a sense of ease to enter, while at the same time serving the most delicious “peasantry” pork dish - “Griot” which would naturally entice the proletariat. It was there that my mom, a proletariat success story, only answered to the name “Madan Prosper,” which literally translates to Mrs. Prosper. Contrary to the norm, Prosper is her husband’s first name, and sans the indictments of sexism by some of you, it is a moniker that most Haitian women wear like a badge of honor. As in many other cultures, a person’s name is very important in Haitian culture. Children, regardless of whether they possess the same first name as their parent, are often referred to as “Ti” along with their parent’s name; “Ti” in Créole translates into “little,” hence forever linking that child to their parent (i.e. Ti Prosper even if his son’s name is John). And similarly, a name like Mrs. Prosper links a wife to her husband (again don’t blame me for the sexist undertones, I know they exist). It’s a status symbol for all to hear; Prosper, who also ran the establishment with my mother, was in her life and by all accounts they had “made good.” These two poor immigrants had come together to achieve their “American Dream.” And everyone knew it, when they said Mrs. Prosper and she would answer, be it from two feet of distance or from across the room.

Many people often ask me why I changed my name. And after close to 20 years of being Haki Halisi, I’ve developed a standard answer which generally includes: Reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, arriving at Howard University at a time when it was popular to wear African beads, listen to Public Enemy and X-Clan, and be a Black Nationalist, all coupled with the fact that I too was referred to as “Ti.” Ti Fritz to be exact, and what made matters worse was that I was an actual junior. I had my father’s first name, but not his last name! And without getting into much of the details of how my father, who is much older than my mother, got her pregnant while they were dating and neglected to mention the fact that he was already married….. I’ll just say that my former name was a source of cultural conflict in my life. Regardless, at Le Rendez-Vous, the place in Brooklyn, with the French name, I was “Ti Fritz” because that’s how culture works. I was “Ti Fritz” or Fritz for 18 years. Fritz the Haitian kid in 1980’s Brooklyn when even some Haitians didn’t think it was cool to be Haitian. I like to call them the Pre-Fugees (Wyclef) years. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the jokes about how “HBO was short for Haitian Body Odor” or that the cause of AIDS was from the 4Hs “Haitians, Homosexuals, Hemophiliacs, and Hos.” It was tough having a name like Fritz then because proud or not you wore a Haitian stamp on your forehead. And with that came jokes, fights, and girls dissin’ you no matter how cute your aunts and your cousins thought you were. I was nice with my hands so my fight record was pretty good but that “sticks and stones will break my bones…” thing is bullshit! I never cried over any fights but…. (Hey just in case I ever get challenged for my man card let’s just leave it at I never cried over any fights)! Don’t want anything in writing – you understand.

And so, at Le Rendez-Vous, this meeting place for Haitians in Brooklyn, I would come to know myself and others by our cultural names. I would come to know that given a microphone and an audience, most Haitian men reveled at the chance to give a “diskou” the Créole word for speech. I would later repeat the words of the Haitian ambassador who gave one such “diskou” at the nightclub during a wedding reception, many times over; “Kreyon Bon Dieu Pas Gin Gomme” he said. Which means “God’s Pencil Has No Eraser.” And to a word junkie like me it was profound, not simply because it spoke to man’s divine destiny, that everything happens for a reason and yadda yadda yadda…but also because he said it in Créole-a language that grew out of the mixture of French (the language of our former colonizer) and the African languages of the slaves that would eventually create the first independent Black nation in the western hemisphere (you knew I’d get around to that eventually). I had never known that Créole could be beautiful. Because of the scars of oppression, most Haitians are taught that Créole is a vulgar language and people with class speak French (but that’s another blog all its own). But here at this place, in full view of society, giving a traditional “diskou” saying these words for all to hear was a man like me and the aforementioned stamp on my forehead became my badge of honor. And were I Upton Sinclair, I would attempt to describe the cultural “usual suspects” found at a wedding reception in Brooklyn, in a place like Le Rendez-Vous and you would see and feel what I felt, but my words are too few and my pen (actually my keyboard) is not that skilled-yet. I will simply say that there were many other names like mine and the stories that came with them all celebrated a culture that few people in Brooklyn could fully appreciate or understand at the time.
But as I said before, my Brooklyn memories are both bitter and sweet and like a green “Now and Later” candy that you know will stick to your teeth and annoy the hell out of you, some things always keep you coming back to them. And while my personal name history will probably always metaphorically stick to my teeth, the name that upsets me the most in my collage of Brooklyn memories is “Met” or “Met la.” It’s for all intentions a nickname, used as a distinction for an educated person. It literally translates to “owner” and I assume the rationale is that a particular person is the owner of his trade. I can only guess what one such “Met” who frequented Le Rendez-Vous was like, because although I was there for many occasions and I came to know many faces and names that helped to shape my perspective, I never got a chance to meet him. Regardless, though I can say with some amount of certainty, that people would have referred to him as “Met” because as I said before that’s how culture works. In Haiti, he had been trained as an electrical-engineer, hence my certainty that he was branded a “Met,” but like so many other professionally trained people who immigrate to the United States he did not work in his profession. In Brooklyn, USA, he was a Security Guard but inside the walls of Le Rendez-Vous he would still be an “Owner” of a profession, a man who commanded respect and could get things done – a “Met.” I even try to speculate his state of mind on that August night and I like to think that he was having a good time. After all, this place was like a piece of his homeland transplanted to Flatbush Ave, in Brooklyn. Why wouldn’t he be having a good time? And all the joys that I had found in this special “meeting place” for Haitians, and all the culture that I had experienced and that I cherish even today, I project to him in that moment in time – on August 9th 1997. And I imagine that when he heard a commotion outside the club he must have said to himself “I better check to see what’s going on before they mess up the party,” after all he’s considered a “Met” and at the time he was a Security Guard so certain things one presumes are instincts to such a man. But that’s where I like to stop thinking about him, and that night at Le Rendez-Vous in Brooklyn; because he would eventually become known to the rest of the world as Abner Louima.

I was at the nightclub on many other occasions before and after that incident and the faces and the names like mine taught me many things, things that contributed to my name change in 1990, things about cultural pride and all kinds of other positive yadda yadda yadda. But shortly after the Louima incident Le Rendez-Vous would close down and become just another spec in the long history of Brooklyn Bodegas, Nightclubs and Restaurants. And while it remains in my memories as a significant cultural landmark of the Haitian community in Brooklyn, I imagine that mine is a minority perspective. But, “whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul….”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vote Just So You Can Say You Did!

I recently became a part of the Facebook nation and to my surprise I'm enjoying it very much. It started as a work thing, trying to connect with alumni for the sake of blah blah blah, but then I found myself connected to my High School friends and well the rest as they say is ADDICTION! Unlike nicotine or dime bags however, I've found that FB (see I already know the lingo) has been really good for my lungs! Reminiscing about those four touchdowns in a single game-Oh wait that was Al Bundy's story not mine. But you get the picture, HS friends and stories are THE BEST--but, of course, you will eventually get asked the hardest question ever posed to man. What have you been up to since HS? And for most of us, its really hard to summarize the last 18 years of life into that little square that FB gives you to (Wall-to-Wall) write on. So it becomes the Highlights: family first and all the beautiful pics of your kids, the post HS years mainly College, millitary, etc. and then you have to dig deep to really come up with what you've been up to. And for someone like me, the purpetual underachiever, the one who's report card comments always said something like "he could do so much better if he applied himself," the only other highlight for me in the past few years has been my writing. I actually applied myself to it and Ripley (i.e. believe it or not) I was able to achieve a modicum of success by doing so. I like to think that Ms. Cristodero would be proud.

Anyway, in digging through the files and trying to find examples of this writing that Ms. "C." would be proud of I found something that I wrote back in College for the Perspectives section of the student newspaper, and I wanted to it share with my HS people because......well because they know why. But luckily, it occured to me that this article is still a very timely statement for the experiences that we are all sharing now with the current election. It also occured to me however, that reprinting this piece would be much easier than writing and researching something totally new just so I could tell folks that they should vote-something which I'm thinking the current economic crisis has already motivated most people to realize! And ultimately, my most profound motivation was that.....wait for it....I shared this Blog with my friends on FB and I told Pragya and all my other friends that read it "I would add something to it soon." Deep huh??

Well, noble patriotic motivations aside:

“Do you remember the 21st night of September? Love was changing the minds of pretenders, while chasing the clouds away.” Many people may not have an appreciation for the group Earth, Wind and Fire such that they can recognize the previous passage. However, no matter what generation of music they claim, many a music lover will admit that at times they have no clue as to what a great song is talking about.

Personally, I had no idea who Maurice White was questioning in the classic song “September.” However, I knew that it had an easy chorus, a cool beat and probably referred to some romantic notion of love that he felt was worth singing about. I never really gave the song that much thought, but I’ve always liked it.

Recently, though, I’ve found myself examining the importance of the month of September. While not having the prestigious honor of “February” (Black History Month) or the economic influence of “December” (Christmas shopping season), September may well be worth singing about. To public school children, or more importantly, their parents, September signifies the end of summer vacation. To West Indians in New York, the Labor Day Parade on Eastern Parkway is the highlight of the month, at Howard University, one may find themselves trying out for the Homecoming Fashion Show, or reaching the mountaintop; i.e. getting validated (officially paid and enrolled), as important September events.

Surely, I could continue to list a lot more that can be considered important events— all occurring in September. I am also sure that some may disagree entirely about the significance that I have given the month and the examples that I have shared. However, I believe that importance and significance are contextual. We all make our own realities and we all assign our own personal value to things.

The ‘80s brought us the Yuppie generation and a greed-based values system. The ‘90s seem to have brought about Generation X and the “I don’t care” ideal. Therefore, it is not surprising that one may not care much about September, and thus, this article. I never cared much about the month of September until 1993.

On September 1, 1993, my friend Gail Bailey died. She was on her way back to Howard University when she was in a fatal car accident. My life changed dramatically that September; although the hurt that I felt was unlike any I had ever experienced, I can now appreciate the knowledge that I gained. In the emotional rollercoaster that I experienced following Gail’s death, I realized the dangers of simply not caring.

I knew how much I loved Gail, and yet in the eight years that I had known her, I could count on one hand the amount of times that I told her how I felt. I learned that the times that I had spent baby-sitting her child were a blessing and not worth the grief that I had put her through at the time before I actually agreed to help her. I played many experiences over in my mind and had concluded that their value was overshadowed by the fact that I simply took them for granted.

Yet through it all, the most shocking of all realizations was that no matter how hard or long you cry; you just can’t go back in time to change things. At that time I understood why I belonged in a peer group labeled Generation “X”— X being the symbol for the unknown, marked a generation that just doesn’t know. I didn’t know the importance of a friend like Gail.

Similarly, my generation doesn’t know the importance of September or any month for that matter. Generation X does not know and does not care about anything. We sing songs never paying close attention to the meaning of the lyrics. We function at the university level as insignificant party animals, information regurgitates, and the ever popular potential young executive. Thus we are leaving a minority of student leaders with the responsibilities of being the true “talented tenth,”

Though it may sound like a cliché, if you don’t stop and smell the roses, you may never realize that life has the potential to be much sweeter. Although you may not find many songs expressing love for a platonic friend, or love for a university or one’s people, I submit that their can be meaning and significance in many things if they are appreciated. It is not enough to care about oneself or one’s immediate inner sphere. Venture out and be significant at all levels of life. Don’t just choose not to care at all or not care enough. Make a difference in life.

The power to define themselves escaped many previous generations. Apathy is always forgotten and easily labeled. Our generation has the power to define itself simply by participating in the events of our time. It is often said that “you never miss your water until your well runs dry.”

Be a significant part of all the Septembers of life, for you will certainly regret them if you allow them to pass you by.

By Haki Halisi

Was Originally Published in THE HILLTOP “The Student Newspaper of Howard University” September 16, 1994.

Monday, July 21, 2008


In a previous life or back in undergrad at Howard U. I was a poet! I wielded my pen like a DJ wields a pair of Technics 1700s at a party at the Latin Quarter or maybe Quigleys (for my DC folks). I could take a topic like “Sand” and transform it into a soliloquy about beauty, time and the essence of man, all for the ultimate purpose of every male college poet of the time – sex with the best lookin’ chick in the audience! I along with all the other Africa-Bead wearing Revolutionaries of the time could make “Sand” into the ultimate metaphor for the Black Man’s experience in America, in colloquial terms of course, all while stealing from a soap opera and passing it off as mine. Say it with me now kids “Like Sand Through the Hourglass So Are the Days of Our Lives.” The point is, I could do some shit with words and make them sound good.

But today’s topic is not that kind of sand and its not headed in that direction (i.e. the aforementioned sex with the best lookin’ etc.). It’s not vast like the beaches of Haiti or as complex as the soap opera lives of college undergrads trying to make sense of the daily contradictions that make up this thing called life. It’s just plain old sand, the kind you could probably get at Home Depot if you had a project that demanded its presence. It’s everyday sand if you will? Unlike, beach sand or poetic hourglass sand, “everyday sand” is a part of everyday life and it rarely gets noticed until it gets noticed.

Now mind you, if you haven’t had the occasion to meet me and see the figurative tattoo on my forehead that says I’m of Haitian descent or if you happened to have skipped over all the other things on this Blog page that scream: “Haitian, Haiti, Ayiti, Sak Passé” etc. well I’m from Haiti. And like most every other Caribbean person I know, I take pride in saying “we have the most beautiful beaches in the world.” As a child most of my days were spent building sand castles and eating conch fish on the beach with my grandparents. So I have a long familiarity with sand. I’m not an expert, but given this “Internet Soapbox” I feel pretty confident that I can discuss sand with some measure of authority. And although I could give many more childhood sandcastle references, or even talk about a certain free timeshare trip to Virginia Beach with an ex-girlfriend that resulted in pictures not meant for the internet or for your wife to find in the back of the closet tucked in an old soccer cleat inside a strategically placed box of old school books…. Sorry, the vigor which wives employ while “cleaning” the back of their husbands closets is a subject for another day.

So anyway, all I’m saying is I’ve had a lot of fun at the beach in my lifetime and I’m very familiar with sand. Or so I thought. The fact is we all have the ability to romanticize anything, whether you’re a former college poet or not, generally when it starts with “looking back” or some version thereof most stories of days gone by tend to look at any topic with a rose colored pair of Gazelle’s or Oakley’s for the younger generation (Gazelles are glasses if you still don’t get it, but most likely you do because if you didn’t you stopped reading a long time ago). But the fact is in all those moments I never truly fully grasped what sand was, or at least realized that there was another kind of sand -“everyday sand.” The kind of sand that you discover in your speech delayed autistic child’s shoe - after you had sternly chastised her for taking off those shoes several times in the car when you were running errands and you had to keep putting them back on. The kind of sand that caused the tears that replaced the words “daddy there’s something in my shoe” that most other five year olds would have easily been able to communicate. The sand that makes you realize that your daughter has never told you she loves you or even she hates you in one of those I don’t want to go to bed moments. EVERYDAY SAND! I HATE SAND! SAND IS THE WORST THING ON GODS GREEN EARTH!


It ain't no more to it."

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An average husband & father trying to make sense of all the contradictions in this thing called....