Happy Martin Luther King Day

Image result for Martin luther kingIF IT WASN’T FOR HIS COMPASSION AND LOVE FOR PEACE, I think it’s fair to say that our society would have been less moral and spiritually sensitive than they were when he was still alive. If it wasn’t for his selflessness; his courage to tell us to look beyond our many indifferences, and, his fearlessness to do the right thing, the change that came in 2008 would probably never have happened. I am aware that it might be a stretch to assume the latter, but I ask; wouldn’t it be a stretch, in the other direction, to not assume so? When we look at the aspirations of Martin Luther King; moral integrity, justice, equality all across the board, and the belief that we should learn to “…accept finite disappointmnet, but never lose hope,” it would be hard to not think that our first black president, Barack Obama, did not benefit from, what I like to call, the trickle-down-homologies of Martin Luther King.

If it wasn’t for his commitments to equality, my family and many other families like mine, would probably not be living amongst white people right now. Although I am not romanticizing nor am I trying to glamorize proximity to white people as something akin to true progression, still, I think that Martin Luther King would agree that we have come a very long way. If it wasn’t for his resolve and staunch determinism for justice, the many times that I’ve spoken truth to power would have been null and void—or would have landed me in jail.

You know what, though, trying to imitate Martin Luther King by speaking truth to power actually did land me in jail. It wasn’t that long ago that I was arrested by two white police officers for simply riding my bicycle at night with no head lights. I was doing a midnight-bike-ride event with a bunch of my white friends, and the police did not harass us until I decided to leave the pack. When I refused to comply with their false arrest and atypical machoisms, they said they would arrest me and confiscate my bicycle. After going back and forth with them for a while, and with my white friends long gone, I finally agreed to their arrest. That night in that cold cell, with one itchy blanket and a brown-colored lightbulb that never went off, was one of the longest nights of my life. When I got out the following day, I felt humiliated, disrespected, and less of a man. I felt like my blackness was exposed only to be viciously trampled upon—and, I also felt like I could never be as equal as the two white men who arrested me that night. Looking back, I wonder; if my skin color had resembled the skin color of my friends that just got swallowed by the darkness of the night, and who were now safely pedaling home with half empty beer cans in the hands and contraband in their tight, jeans pockets, would all of that might have still happened to me?

What does it say about our society, long after Martin Luther King sacrificed himself for us, by preaching justice and encouraging the few of us that are dissatisfied with hate and intolerance, to speak truth to power—-but yet, when we do, we still get arrested for it? Perhaps I should rephrase; has change come, for those who need less of it, but for those like myself and for others who aren’t on top of the racial-foodchain? The emotional answer would be, yes! of course, it has! But, the intellectual response would not say, no nor would it say, yes, but would encourage us to not be satisfied with the battles against indifference that have been won so far—-especially when the war for absolute humility is still raging on.

Happy MLK Day

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” — MLK JR. —-

My Thoughts On Why We May Choose To Read

THIS MAY SOUND OBVIOUS TO MOST, but I am confident it is scantly felt on a visceral and sentimental level; i. e., we read because we want to expand our minds and move beyond the ignorances of everyday life. It is one thing for one to maintain a contention that he or she reads because they want to know more, but it is another for that same person to profess, quite accurately, that they’re reading to be less ignorant. The former is casual and similar to the every day roundabout pleasantries that we exchange with complete strangers, while the latter is more honest and worthy of nobility.

In addition to that, we may read because we want to protect ourselves from the embarrassments of making a statement like this; if you have money you can live anywhere you want, we are in a post-racial society, or, women are equal to men, why do they want more pay? Reading books, newspapers, online articles, or what have you, about the true state of affairs, enables you to transcend not only the ignorances in your own mind but, as well as, the follies harbored in the minds of your fellow countrymen.

Britsh novelist and screenwriter, Willaim Nicholson once wrote, “We read to know we’re not alone,” and I couldn’t agree more. Knowing there is a community of people that are reading with the same intellectual and emotional inclinations as you are—that is, to be less ignorant—-is a good thing. It relaxes the mind, stretches the spirit, and confirms the assumption, which was quite brilliantly exposed by William Nicholson, that your conquest is not a solo one. I mean, can you imagine if that wasn’t the case—-how scary and lonely it would feel to know that you were the one soul reading with the proclivity to de-sponge the ignorances of the populace? My word, that would be more than overwhelming—it would be a fucking nightmare!

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book,” wrote Jane Smiley. And how could you not? Books, with all their different shapes and sizes, arouse in me, and in people like Jane Smiley, all the sentimentalities we once thought were lost as a child—like, happiness, joy, and conquest. For those who may read for pleasure, to pass the time, to prevent boredom, or for the reasons of appearing more sophisticated than you really are, I do not wish to adjudicate on your rationalizations. However, my hope is that whatever you read, no matter how brief or pretentious that experience might have been, is that you still managed to walk away less ignorant and far more happier than you were before!

Main Photo from Unsplash and taken by photographer Hisu Lee

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Man Of The Flies, Ottis Gibson

THE MAN OF THE FLIES, that’s what the newspapers and the snobbish kids called him, whenever they came to visit him in the basement of Sharon Art Studios, at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. Ottis Gibson; dark-skinned, large bug eyes, with tiny dreadlocks on top of his peanut-shaped head, and the man surrounded by a swarm of flies—so normal now, that he doesn’t even notice them, nor does he try to swat them away—always thought that those snobbish kids that would come and visit him were the nicest kids in the world. When they came around to visit, they would never shout nasty things at him the way the bad guys always did after he gave them a serious whooping, or toss him half-eaten bagels like the one restaurant owner on Larken street with the gigantic beard and hipster glasses, or, even spit on him when they felt like he was a total failure in life, the way his parents always did whenever he tries to visit them. No, these kids were nice to Ottis, and they never felt uncomfortable with his swarm of flies. Their names were Max Williams, Jowuan Johnson, and Yoshiko Lee. They were like his sidekicks. Not only were they nice to him when they stopped by to visit, but they also would update him on the latest shows, like “StangerThings,” and who were bullying them at school.

“Kody is a total prick. I wish someone would teach that kid a lesson already,” Max hinted at Ottis, the last time him and his friends came to visit. “Yeah, I agree, “Jowuan added,” someone should really knock that kids teeth in. Guys, you know I can’t hurt him, right? Ottis tried to interject, while Max and Jowuan just kept talking. “Kody and Taylor think that they are so cool and superior to everyone else. If I was their age I would kick their asses back to Jupiter,” Max said angrily with his fist in a ball. “Guys! are you guys not paying attention,” Yoshiko said, as she and Ottis looked at each other. “Ottis just said he can’t do anything about Kody and Taylor—why don’t you ask him why?” Max and Jowuan then stopped talking and stared at Ottis, who was sitting in a barber-like chair while his flying friends were controllably hovering by his left-hand side. “Why can’t you hurt Kody and Taylor?” Max and Jowuan asked at the same time. “Because…huh…they’re kids.”

———————————

The night was calm and colorful—but with hardly any wind at all, Ottis thought to himself, as he walked slowly through the city looking for bad guys to beat up. While he slowly and quietly walked through the city, his swarm of flies mimicked his shadow. Ottis, as he stealthily maneuvered through cramped alleys, busy streets, and then, abandoned and boarded up neighborhoods, always made sure to stick to the shadows so that no one could see him coming. There it was, Ottis murmured to himself as he arrived at some abandoned building with make-shift fences, guard dogs, and men with bullet proof vests and machine guns. The building that Ottis was now staring at was rumored to be the secret military facility that military generals were experimenting on little children—trying to inject them with serums that would turn them into powerful mutants. The name of the facility was called, Error-corp, and they owned many facilities around the city, where only scientists, personal aides of the military generals, and other highly-clarence’d individuals were allowed access to.

I better take out the dogs, first, Ottis said to himself, before putting on his headphones—to listen to the audio recordings of the “Big Bang Theory.” Just like he said, he took out the dogs by sending his flying friends to carry them away to some landfill—effectively giving them a long time to find their way back to the facility. But as he did that, one security guard spotted flying dogs taking off like birds with wings that he quickly rang the alarm. “Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert!” was the words that the building kept saying, as guards scrambled to guard the front entrance of the facility. Meanwhile, somewhere far down the facility, military generals were wrapping up their last exhibitions of mutant children who could breathe fire out of their mouths, climb up walls, shoot electricity out of their hands, and grow massive wings from the sides of their bodies. “Yes! we finally have something for our enemies!” the generals cheered, unaware of the ruckus above them.

“What the hell is that thing?” one of the guards laughed as Ottis effectively made his way through the front doors, and was now, standing in front of them. For a moment, and before Ottis and his swarm of flies kicked all of their asses back to Jupiter, the security guards seemed more concerned with Ottis’s flying buddies and casual attire; white converse, green tight jeans, and a plain black t-shirt with the words “San Fran” on the front of it, than their facility being broken into by a complete stranger. “Who does he think he is, Ant-Man, or something?” they mocked with huge belly laughs. “This ain’t no comic book story—like, the Justice League or the Avengers, buddy…..you better get the hell outta here before you get yourself hurt.” Ottis did not run like they suggested. Instead, he just stood there, glancing at his swarm of flies and then at the heavily armed security guards. “What is he gonna do,” one of them said as he slapped one of the guardsmen that looked just like him on the shoulder, “Throw one of those flies at us?! We’ll fucking take those things and stomp on them before wasting our bullets on them.”

At this point, Ottis had just about had enough of those guys. How dare they compare him to the Ant-Man, Ottis thought to himself, Can Ant-Man do this?! And just like that, the ass whooping was one, Ottis had told his swarm of flies to attack—-and they, within seconds, took the guns from the guardsmen and unloaded every single bullet that was in the chamber onto their silly, laughing bodies. They screamed in grave pain, without the generals hearing them, and while the building kept saying, “Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert!”

———————————–

The flies surrounding Ottis were large and annoying. They tormented him relentlessly with their constant buzzing—so much so, that in order to hear himself think—and although this often blocked out important conversations with people and the sounds from his environment—Ottis had to start wearing headphones. On a typical day, they hovered, annoyed the hell out of him, ate all his food, and fought bad guys. Those days were manageable. But on most days—the ones he dreaded the most—they made crazy, passionate love. They would, while still in mid-air, construct themselves into shapes that resembled bedrooms for love-making, and sometimes, even find signs that read “Do not disturb” and have it dangle in the air, while they quickly reproduced themselves right in front of Ottis. It was a strange and, sometimes unmanageable, relationship that they had, but if you asked Ottis to give them up, he wouldn’t dare.

In the beginning phases, just before the accident, the flies weren’t a big deal, because there were only half a dozen of them. Ottis still tried to go to work and pretended like nothing ever happened. He would use a lot of bug spray and run really fast just before he got into work—which, actually proved to be pretty effective because a lot of the flies would be dead by the time he got there or, if not, they would be left behind just after he slammed the doors on their tiny little faces.

But, after a months or so, the flies increased astronomically from half a dozen to about a hundred and half dozen. And by that time, Ottis had given up pretending; he stopped going to work, paying his almost non-existent landlord, and sold his dog, Oscar. And because of this, and for a brief while, Ottis became homeless, dirty-looking, and smelly. The only upside to the sudden change to a rather average life was that Ottis never went hungry. When he hungered for food, and although they were often hard to catch, because of how fast they were moving, he would grab a handful of them and toss them in his mouth—the same way you would if they were popcorn.

Ottis came from a very loving, middle-class environment, where his parents did a fine job instilling great characteristics in him, like, honesty, integrity, moral responsibility, and turning the other cheek in high-risk and, potentially, life threating situations. After he obtained his psychology degree from Golden Gate Univesity, Ottis worked as a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library, which was approximately fourteen minutes away from Golden Gate Park; helping customers find books, restroom areas, and the cafeteria.

Without any pressure from his almost non-existent landlord, and without any disturbances from friends, because he did not have any—“Not enough time in the day,” he would say—he lived in a one-bedroom apartment with his dog, Oscar; a purebred Boston terrier. And aside from his hectic commutes to work and to the park, where he loved to have his lunch breaks, Ottis had himself the kind of peaceful and, not too terribly exciting life, that he always wanted. That was, of course, before he got his little fly friends.

The way that Ottis Gibson got his swarm of flies came about when he was driving from the library to Golden Gate Park to celebrate his usual, forty-five-minute, lunch breaks, when, unbeknownst to him, a handful of flies were tailgating his car. When he changed lanes, they would change lanes with him. When he stopped abruptly, they, too, would stop abruptly. And when he stopped at a red light, they would stop with him—waiting, calmly, like he did. Ottis and the flies were so in sync, that when he looked at his rearview mirrors at one point, he thought it was a little odd that less than a dozen or so flies were following him—when, of course, there were plenty of other motorists on the road to follow. But rather than pulling over to the side of the road to investigate their synergistic behaviors, he just kept driving.

These flies that were following Ottis were not your typical flies—mostly found around garbage and dead, decomposing things; they were modified, could understand the human language, immensely intelligent, strong, very cooperative, and if there were enough of them around, they could make any object or persons’ join them in flight. The flies were a part of an experiment that went terribly wrong for a young scientist that was trying to convince military generals with low brows, disfavoring stares, and strange obsessions for advanced insect technology; designed to crush enemies, penetrate high-security areas and also, even if it was just for fun or a clever way to pass the time, devour incompetent personal aides, that he could create a fleet of flying insects that could satisfy all their twisted, military desires.

The young scientist, after his disgraced and failed exhibition with the military generals—primarily, because his so-called advanced fleet of flying insects refused to fly, let alone, flap their wings together to at least convey to him that he would still have a shred of dignity just before one of the personal aides tossed him out of the compound, and quickly replaced him with a much younger, ambitious, and sleep-deprived scientist—-took his failed science experiment to the San Francisco Public Library, where Ottis Gibson was working at, and, was preparing to leave the building for his usual lunch breaks, to thump through science books to see where he went wrong. And as he hurried through the massive aisles of biology books with his failed science experiment in his backpack, he forgot that he did not zip his backpack all the way through, so, and unknownst to him, his failed science experiment became a successful science experiment—when they started flying out of his backpack, in one single-file.

When Ottis finally arrived at the Golden Gate Park—-unzipping his blue lunch box while pulling out his thin, gray laptop that had the image of Sheldon Cooper from the “Big Bang Theory” on the top of it—-one of the flies from before approach him. Ottis paid no attention to the one fly because he thought that that single fly was like any other fly at the park. But, and as he unwrapped his home-made baloney sandwich, the one single fly invited more of its friends—now, less than twelve dozen or so flies were hovering around Ottis. With a confused look on his face and after slowly removing the headphones from his ears, which were intended to be used for watching the “Big Bang Theory,” Ottis tried to shoo-away the flies—with no avail.

He kept at this for a while—meanwhile many people passing by worried about him physically and mentally, and even wondered, although they were too lazy to actually go through with it, if they should contact law enforcement—until he just gave up fighting with the flies. The flies just kept taking his food, lifting his gray laptop into the air, and blindfolding his eyes so he couldn’t see them devouring his baloney sandwich, strawberry yogurt, and two red apples. They were just too clever for Ottis. And it did not take long for Ottis to realize that. And from that day on, they decided, without Ottis having much of a say in their decision, that no one else but Ottis would be their leader.

——————————-

Back at the facility—where all the guardsmen were now crushed and lying disfiguredly in their own blood—-Ottis was making his way downstairs, into the secret bunker of the military generals. And he had no problem gaining access to rooms that were highly-clarence’d because he had managed to snag the IDs of the guardsmen—or, if they did not work, which was the case for some of the rooms, he had his flying buddies to help him out. As Ottis kept gaining access to lower and more classified rooms, the sound of the alarm going off above him were so faint that he wasn’t concerned with the generals being able to hear him coming.

When Ottis finally reached the last floor, one of the mutants was waiting for him. This mutant was white, lanky, with abnormally large ears for hearing things as far as ten miles away. Buddy, I don’t wish to hurt y— Ottis was about to finish saying when all the sudden the mutant was now standing in front of him. Whoah! how did you do that? Ottis and his swarm of flies freaked. “Buddy,” the mutant responded with a smirk on his face and while pointing at his abnormally large ears, “I can hear what you’re gonna say before you finish saying it.” Then, and just like that, they started to fight. Ottis threw a punch and then the mutant threw a punch, too. At one point, Ottis managed to duck one of his punches and then kneed him in the ribs—to which, the mutant briefly fell to the ground on one knee before picking himself back up again to strike at Ottis. Kerpow! Glok! Thwack! and Whump! were the punching sounds that echoed throughout the last level of the facility, as Ottis and the mutant fought their asses off. Aside from the abnormally large ears, the mutant fighting Ottis wasn’t that strong to take Ottis—plus, he hardly got Ottis with good shots because, ninety percent of the time, Ottis’s flying friends would step in front and take the blows for him.

At this point, blood was now visible on the face of the mutant and, also, on Ottis’s fists. But Ottis, thanks to his swarm of flies, had no scratches nor bruises on his person. Meanwhile, the mutant was huffing and puffing and could barely stand up straight. Guy, I would just fall down if I were you, Ottis said, because the ass whooping will only get worse and more painful from this point out. The mutant, after a few bitter and frustrating stares, finally agreed with Ottis and was about to take off running when his other mutant friends showed up. Holy shit, Ottis said aloud, there is so many of them….I don’t know if we can take them all. But luckily, Ottis did not have to—-the mutants were under strict orders to get the military generals out of there and into safety, alive! So, as some of them were rushing the generals out of there, one of them, the one with the large wings protruding from the sides of his body, grabbed their bruised and bloodied friend and flew themselves out of the facility.

————————————-

The prodigious city of San Francisco and its law enforcements, newspapers, and law abiding citizens did not need a superhero—especially one with a swarm of flies, who had yet to discover the flying capabilities of his flying friends, but Ottis, for some strange reason, felt like they did. This was his life; strolling around the city looking for bad guys and low-lifes to beat up and making sure to stay out of the spotlight. He did not like beating up bad guys too much, nor did the bad guys that received his beatings, but he felt like it was necessary for the time being—because doing it kept the city of San Fran safe, and gave him a sense of freedom and purpose.

Although he wasn’t aware of it, and quite frankly, could care less if he found out, but Ottis managed to build quite a name for himself; newspapers wanted to interview him, the police chief desired to rip his head off because his vigilantism was keeping his guys out of work, the military generals from before wondered if he was working with their enemies, and the young scientist who created this entire mess for him wanted to find and study him. But nobody, except for his three little sidekicks, and as long as he keeps fighting crime in the dark, would ever get close enough to know who Ottis Gibson really was.

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