48 years ago today, our shining black prince was taken from us.
He will always be royalty to me.
EVERY novelist…I mean, evvvvvery novelist does one of two things when writing their novels:
I am no exception. So let’s hop to it.
Tyler James Williams as Adrian. When I finished the first draft of Lazarus, Tyler was ten years old. When it was released, he was 13 and had the lead role in Everybody Hates Chris. I’ve selected Tyler because I’ve always imagined Adrian to be a slim, brown-skinned dude who was handsome, but not necessarily confident. Tyler has a lot of great, strong moments as an actor and I think he could pull off the nuances of Adrian’s character.
Honorable mention: Degrassi’s Jahmil French, who would also do very well as Peter, the Ace of the line.
The search for the perfect Nina is a lot harder. I like a lot of young, black actresses for this role, but one that comes to mind also comes from the Degrassi family:
Shanice Banton as Nina. The “Gal Friday” of the novel, Nina is sassy, sexy, and confident – the antithesis of the “awkward black girl” movement that seems to be afoot right now. Shanice Banton (with a kinky hairstyle for the role) would bring everything to Nina. If you haven’t caught her as the bitchy girl with a conscience on Degrassi, please do so! I’m looking forward to seeing a lot from her in the future.
How about Evan Ross as Savion? Granted, I am basing this casting decision purely on looks. If Evan can pull of “scruffy artist” then I think we might have a winner.
Royce White as Isaiah? I’m going to have to meditate on this one for a while, because not only should the “actor” look like how he’s described in the book, he’d also have to match Adrian Collins. I’m not sure Royce and Tyler would look right… but then again, it’s possible that Adrian and Isaiah don’t look right together, either.
Viola Davis as Mrs. Collins and *spoiler alert*
Kristoff St. John as Mr. Collins.
Now, one of the quirks about the novels is that Adrian is supposed to be the spitting image of Mr. Collins. I could get over that if Kristoff was the daddy for this movie/show. I could so get into this family dynamic: the cold, aloof, stern mother raising the college kid by herself while the relatively wealthy businessman pops in and out of Adrian’s life. I want the reader to feel for both parents in different ways and I think each actor could pull it off. You want to hate Mrs. Collins because she’s so emotionally distant from Adrian, but you love her because you see and feel her vulnerability and her anger. And Mr. Collins? I want an actor that can make you forget that he’s left his son for the past ten years. I want you to see what Mrs. Collins saw in him and why Adrian is able to ultimately forgive him. I’ve seen Kristoff handle some meaty material on The Young and The Restless, and I think he can pull all these elements together.
There are a ton of other, smaller roles in all three novels that I’d love to see properly cast, like Aubrey Graham as Mohammed. But those will be for another day. Hope you had fun fantasy casting with me!
One of the great joys of my life has been the pride I feel as an alumnus of Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington, DC. I am a legacy Colt – my mom graduated from Coolidge in 1967 and my uncle graduated in 1983. I graduated in 1997. If I ever have or adopt kids, of course I’d like for them to attend as well.
Coolidge means a lot to me. Certainly it’s not a consistent athletic powerhouse like other schools in DC have been known, nor is it a Banneker or School Without Walls, with their reputations for academic excellence.
It’s just a regular neighborhood high school in a quiet, northern section of DC that needed a school. It used to be all white, then it became mostly black, now it is a mix of African American, Latino, first generation African and Caribbean immigrants, and other growing populations.
We’ve never been perfect. But Coolidge has always been ours and we love it just the way it is. Our loyalty will e’er be strong.
I caught a cab today to run an errand before work. The driver was Muslim and African American. I had my earbuds in, so OBVIOUSLY I looked like I wanted to have a conversation about religion.
He asks me what I’m listening to, and I said “Dancing til Dawn” by Lenny Kravitz, off the “It’s Time for a Love Revolution” album.
Then he randomly asks me if I know what “la ilaha illa l-ah” means.
So I said “Excuse me?” And he repeats it. And I said, semi-playing dumb, “That’s the shahadah, right?” (The declaration of faith in Islam.)
(Note number one: Professor Maysam al-Faruqi didn’t teach no fools.)
He asks me what my faith is, and I said “I am a Quaker.” (I say it the same way I say “Georgetown” when I am asked where I went to school.)
He asks me what that means, and I said “It means for most Quakers that the Bible is not necessarily the infallible word of God and that the personal testimony and revelation is most important. Our services consist of sitting in silence for an hour.” I also explained that most Quakers are liberal-leaning and tend to be involved in causes of social justice and equality.
Because he’s never heard of such a thing, he then goes into how “corrupt” the world is today and everyone should have a religion which addresses the corruption.
Then he starts listing the corruptions. Apparently getting a tattoo is a corruption, and that’s when I mentally checked out of the conversation.
We were almost at our destination when he starts making the ultra-conservative, right-wing statements about how if you come out in favor of religion and morals in this country, you get attacked. Then he asked me if I had heard about the Chick-fil-A incidents….
At this point I was like JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL! All I wanted to do was run my errand and listen to my husband on my mp3 player.
All in all, I was pretty taken aback because I don’t know many Muslims who proselytize in the first place, and I felt it was discourteous to engage someone in a conversation about religion in a situation they couldn’t escape from, unless I bailed out of the cab while it was rolling down 16th street, even though that would have been pretty bad-ass.
I may not be a very good Quaker, but I do believe in the fundamental part of it that insists that personal revelation is most important. I sit. I listen to God. Sometimes he talks to me. Sometimes he doesn’t. It’s good enough for me.
I am grateful to the Civil War-era orphan Peter Darden, who married Julia Jordan and began the branch of my family tree which would give me my last name. I will probably never know the first four years of his life, who his parents are, or how he came to live in a poor house at such a young age. But I know that his resilience lives in me just as strong as his last name.
I am grateful to Southampton County, Virginia, and Northampton County, North Carolina, for being my families’ ancestral homes. I am grateful to Southampton County, VA, in particular for also being the home of Nat Turner and his slave rebellion. I am convinced that the spirit of this rebellion lives on in me; that the reason that I am never satisfied with the status quo and become incensed at injustice is because of the blood spilled in Southampton County.
I am grateful to my mother for wanting me in spite of being alone, for keeping me despite the stigma of single parenthood, for raising me to be who I am by any means necessary.
I am grateful to my grandparents on my mother’s side for being present in my life for as long as they lived (and still live).
I am grateful to the teachers of the District of Columbia Public Schools who believed in me and saw my talents at a young age. They are many in number, and thankfully the ones who disappointed me were few.
I am thankful for my brothers and sisters who proudly wear the Orange and Gray.
I am grateful to Georgetown for taking a chance on me. Georgetown changed my life forever. There’s no better way to put it.
I am grateful to the people who slowly and subtly introduced me to Alpha Phi Omega just by living it daily: Joe, Nathalie, Belen, and Liz. You didn’t know it then, but you paved the way for limitless leadership opportunities for me. When you “do” APO right, it builds a personal and professional foundation which is unparalleled.
Once upon a time, an 18 year old boy was about to begin college. He waited at the bus stop to take him to school. A purple Rolls Royce pulled up and some familiar and friendly faces offered to take him to fraternity row. The boy said sure. Along the way, the men in the Rolls told him stories of fraternity life and assured him that he’d make a fine fraternity member one day. The boy became excited at the prospect of joining the men. A mile from fraternity row, the men kicked the boy out of the car and tossed him his bag. “You go the rest of the way on your own,” they said. Discouraged, the boy walked up the road and found many houses to choose from. He ultimately chose the house with the black Bentley parked out front. He always kept the purple Rolls in his mind and wondered what his life would have been had he chosen that path. But he was grateful that the men – his friends and mentors- had allowed him to find his own way. Thank you, Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Chapter, Spring 96.
I will always be grateful to Ameriie for supporting my career before I had one.
There are people who I will never be able to say thank you to again, at least not in the flesh. But now that they belong to the universe again, I am sure that they know it. Thank you Jesse, Maya, Jimi, Jabriel, Tre’Nai, and so many more.
I am grateful, ever so grateful, to all of you who have supported my career as a novelist. This is hard work that is so infrequently rewarded; frustrating work that is still stigmatized if you are self-published. Even now I notice those friends in the writing world who interact with me less the more I grind and hustle BECAUSE I HAVE TO and nobody else will hustle for me. So to my readers, my fans, and my stans – I thank you and I have no doubt that this will all pay off some day.
I am grateful for Neil, my constant.
I am grateful for the faces in my life who provided the visual blueprint for Adrian Collins, Savion Cortez, Nina Bradley, and Isaiah Aiken. When I first wrote Lazarus, I knew who these faces were. By the time I finished Epiphany, they had their own wrinkles and scars and complexions – they are new people entirely. But I am still grateful to the blueprints.
I am grateful to my mentor, Dennis Williams, who helped me transform my anger and resentment to an artist who I am certain copied my work, into the rebirth of my career as a whole. This is one time in my life where I truly believe the adage that the best revenge is living well. Dennis has been the closest thing to a father figure that I will ever know.
I am grateful to all of you who can read me. Those of you who know when I am “on” and when I am “off” and when I need propping and when I need prodding. I don’t know how to pick friends who are intuitive, but I am grateful for you.
I am grateful to the men who taught me how to kiss, how to hug, and how to make love. (There weren’t THAT many. I was a quick study.)
I am grateful to the women who respect my masculinity, who have never asked me to be the Will to their Grace, who have never asked who the man is in my relationships (we both are), who understand that they will never be my “fag hag,” who respect my space to be among men, regardless of their orientation, and who, without hesitation, knew I was going to the same heaven they’d be going to.
I am grateful to the men – the straight men – who treat me as their equal regardless of my sexual orientation, who expect (and demand) that I am exactly as I am in their presence; the men who are not uncomfortable by my stories or my jokes; the men who do not look away during Noah’s Arc or the DL Chronicles; and the men who read my novels and enjoy them exactly as they are.
I am grateful to the little brothers in the struggle, those who have come after me and are brave enough to disclose their orientation to me. I never know how much I can help them, but every time a young brother in the struggle discloses his orientation, I feel I have been given a sacred trust to protect, to shield, to guide through the rough times, and to prepare before it’s time to come out and be yourselves. I value that so much.
I am grateful to the people I never had to come out to. It’s quite meaningful to me that hundreds of Coolidge alumni or Tried Stone members can add me as a friend, see one of my statuses, and just roll with it. We’ve come so far.
I am grateful for Ciroc and Absolut. What?
I am grateful for Adobe Acrobat, InDesign, and PhotoShop.
I am grateful for a place to stay that has space for all my belongings and the means to pay for it.
I am grateful for Magianno’s and Diet Ginger Ale and Haribo Peace slices and red velvet anything.
I am grateful for pre-hoarding tendencies. If it’s not in your local library, ask me.
I am grateful for horror movies and Halloween pot lucks and True Blood.
I am grateful for my former students – I had no idea I would ever be a teacher of any kind and I’m glad to have had some small part in their education.
I am grateful to be a man. It is a blessing to recognize one’s own privilege in this world and I don’t take my manhood for granted. I may be a minority in other ways, but I recognize that my manhood gets me places that being a woman will not. I do not abuse this privilege, but I recognize it.
I am thankful for having recognized my calling as a novelist who also happens to be a nonprofit professional. Observe the order: it will never change.
I am grateful that I have the “eye” for photography. I will never be a great technical photographer, but I’m happy that I spent time learning how to compose a picture. Sometimes I forget it’s one of my talents because I don’t have the time to cultivate it like I should.
I am grateful for all of the friends who have been in my life for a reason; the friends in my life who have been there for a season; and the friends who will be there for a lifetime. We don’t always know the reason or how long the season, and we don’t know for how long the lifetime will last. But for all of you who I have considered a friend, I do love you, and chances are I’ve told you.
I am thankful, grateful, and humbled to have been given 33 years on this planet to do good things and to change the lives of others; to live every single moment to the fullest extent possible; to have loved with all of my heart and to have been loved; to be proud in exactly who I am, whether I knew who I was at that moment or not; to have been changed by the many people I have met; and to have written stories with resonance, that made others cry as I’ve cried writing them. I love who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. I am Rashid from Tuckerman Street, from 2nd Street, from 16th and Meridian, from Georgetown, from Riggs Park, from Brightwood Park. I take pictures. I write books. Yet, I wear jeans and t-shirts and would walk around barefoot if I could. I am the King of Dardenland who carries Hattori Hanzo steel. I am the heir of the legacy of Peter Darden. I am the father figure to some, the brother of many, the son of two, and the father of those yet to come.
But above all of those things, I am grateful to be here.
Last week, I discovered the existence of Y-Love, a newly out, gay and black and Jewish rapper.
At first I was like:
Then I saw that he was cute, and I was like:
THEN I read that he was looking for a husband, and I was like:
Then I followed him on twitter, and he followed me back!!!!! AND I WAS LIKE:
Y-Love. Holla at me.