By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
I remember being very upset and scared, I screamed “where the fuck did you go bitch”.
Well, not exactly, but I thought that in my head.
“How could she leave me so easily after ten years. Just one day get up to never return.”
That’s what my 30-year-old self, thought about saying to my 20-year-old self, on my 30th birthday.
Sure, I knew this day was coming for a long time, but when it came it still sent me through a little midlife crisis.
Sure, I was only 30-years-old, most senior-citizens, living in a retirement home somewhere in Middle-America would of given their right arm and possibly also their left leg to change places with me. But I was not looking at the world through the eyes of a 70 0r 80-year-old person, on their deathbed, I was looking at life through the eyes of a man who thought he would have been at a more successful stage in his life than I was at the time.
When I was still an adolescent, 30-years-old, always seemed like the age when most people started to get married, have kids, buy a new family car, buy a home, maybe start a business or get a promotion at work and then prepare for the next two decades to take their kids to elementary school, then high school and then hopefully a university somewhere.
Not only had I not done any of the previously mentioned, but I was nowhere near accomplishing those goals. I still lived in my apartment in the Sunset district of San Francisco, which is owned by a slumlord, I had yet to start a business and most of the women I met were far from wife material. They were usually women I encountered working the door as a bouncer at various nightclubs in and around the Soma area of San Francisco, and they usually only talked to me because I was a bouncer and had some form of influence at the club, but I was not offended, I had my own reasons for talking to them, both on and off the job.
I soon would start to look at my co-workers differently. Mostly men, but sometimes women who had worked in the security and nightclub industries for decades. Some of these men and women were old enough to be my father or mother, or in some cases my grandfather or grandmother. After working with them for years, after the excitement of working at a nightclub, around beautiful women and good sounding music had faded, after escorting several aggressive and or touchy-feely guys off the dance floor and escorting countless hookers from the bar, after they attempt to solicit money for sex, from one of the many corporate bigwigs, out of town on a business trip, who was attempting to have a little fun behind his wife’s back.
I would wonder to myself, did they envision this life for themselves.
When I would ask them what did they see themselves doing in the next ten years, most of my elder bouncer buddies had no idea or said “probably still bouncing”, with a couple admitting to seeking work in law enforcement. Where I am sure their sometime over-aggressive and violent behavior would be rewarded with a high salary, with great benefits from one of the local police departments in the Bay Area.
On the other end of the spectrum, I knew other bouncers who had nothing planned for the future, except it would seem to work their 12 to 20 dollar an hour job, dealing with aggressive drunks, rude promoters and seemingly clueless and or careless club managers. With the hopes that no one, or specifically no new club owner would come in and take over the business and decide to hire lower priced security guards to deal with higher amounts of physical danger.
One of those men was my friend Stefan. One of my family members, who was smart enough to leave the club bouncing industry to join one of the high-salary paying police departments in the Bay Area, once told me: “Stefan has an almost genius I.Q. and believe it or not, he used to look like a supermodel”, he later said: “I don’t know what happened to him, he just lost it one day”.
When I first met Stefan he looked like an unwashed homeless man, that security would sometimes have to ask not to stand in front of the main entrance before the club doors open. Far gone were the supermodel looks and whatever he had of a near genius I.Q., he never showed any signs of it. Even though it was obvious he was far from an idiot.
Where I ate my stresses and depression away from the job and life in general, Stefan drank his away. After the nightclub hours ended, Stefan would stay after and drink with the bar staff. I would usually joke back-and-forth with him and other staff before I left to catch my bus home.
After several months had passed since I stopped working as security at the same club as Stefan, I read on a Facebook post, posted by several mutual friends and former co-workers that Stefan had died of alcohol poisoning. Apparently the giant 6ft 5in tall “big bear” of a man, who was more of a “Teddy bear” on the inside, than “grizzly bear”, had drank himself to death.
Several months later I was hit with another loss, when a mutual friend and former co-worker of Stefan and I, hung himself. This was far more surprising than Stefan, because my friend Jon always seemed very stable. He was handsome, he was working towards his Masters Degree at San Francisco State University and even had a girlfriend.
When I spoke with several of our mutual friends, I would discover that Jon had apparently killed himself after his girlfriend broke up with him for another guy and was heartless enough to bring the new boyfriend to the bar he worked at on multiple occasions. I would only assume to make him jealous. It would seem whatever little bit of stability many people, including myself believed he had in his life, she broke it when she broke his heart.
Over the next few years I would not only have my friends, but have friends and family members of friends commit suicide, not only that but my father, who was sick for a for a long time, would finally pass away.
One of the things I remember the most about my father’s last days was how he regretted the things he never did or tried to do, he seemed to regret that more than the things he tried and failed at. I guess the hypothesis he had about his life, he knew he would never be able to answer.
That was the final shot in the arm of motivation that I needed to decide to attempt to conquer the world I always dreamed about, since I was a kid, I wanted to be a best-selling author, make documentary films and start my own progressive news network.
The opinions of friends and classmates telling me “You can’t do that, you’re dreaming” or heartless teachers telling me “you will not be successful” or well-meaning teachers telling me “be realistic, go for a city job”.
Some of their opinions were well-meaning and they only wanted to protect me from failure and letdown that occurs way too often to kids from economically disenfranchised hoods like Detroit, with its failing education system, high crime-rate and poor economy. Still there were others who wanted to inflict the pain on me that they probably had inflicted on them at some point of their life, when in their minds, their high-flying dreams of success came crashing down in flames like the Hindenburg.
The last few years, but especially the last year after my father passed, I acknowledged that the fear of failing has kept me alive, but perversely had kept me from truly living.
After my father’s death and years after the deaths of several friends, I decided I was going to go for my dreams. Yes, I am afraid to fail, but I am more afraid of failing to try, which is the worst type of failure one can commit.
I have since published several of my own books, which I have published independently, I have started my own progressive news-blog and I have started to further my higher education. I have taken several film classes and I have started work on my own documentary. I have completed the International Business Accredited Certificate Program at City College of San Francisco (CCSF), I have finished the Creative Writing Certificate Program at CCSF this past semester and I have signed up for classes in the Web Application Certificate Programming and Business Marketing Associate Degree Program at CCSF.
My objective is to transfer to a four-year university, most likely San Francisco State University, where I will earn by B.S. in Business Marketing.
Far too long and far too often, I must sadly admit, I have thought more about my limitations than my abilities, I have wasted too much energy focusing on what I can’t do versus what I can do, which usually takes up about the same amount of energy if not more and is so much less satisfying and so much more depressing.
I have accepted that fact that I can’t correct the mistakes of my past or makeup for loss time. I can only learn from past experiences of myself and others who came before me. And go out to conquer my dreams, so that when I am on my deathbed I will know I gave it my all and lived my life to the fullest extent. Because I do not believe there is a sequel to this crazy thing we call life, so I must live this life to the best of my abilities and accomplish as many of dreams as possible, before they turn into nightmares on my deathbed, I have seen more times than I would like to admit, what the pain of living in regret can do to a person.
Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
POEM: A CONVERSATION WITH MY FATHER!
Today, I am going to share a poem I wrote and published about my late father, the poem is titled: “A conversation with my Father”.
“Kum Apem A. Apem Beba”
That is the exact Asante proverb, I said while speaking to my papa
translated from our Asante Twi, those words mean “Kill a thousand and a thousand more will come.”
Those are the exact words that our ancestors spoke when they went to war with the British Empire and won in 1823
So what that means to me is when I was a child and witnessed you get shot, while closing our family’s shop
That was in one of Detroit’s roughest spots
Yet you still went to work the next day
The only thing left for me to say, was that Asante warrior blood, is not just something that was passed down in our family DNA
But a code you actually live by day to day
As my father started to beam and smile at his proud son
I asked him to stay sitting with me, I will be finished in a little while
He said: o.k. Nana
Which is a word given to kings, Queens and Elders
But he calls me Nana, because I am named after my mama’s papa
I said “ you know what papa?”
Mama reminds me of the Asante Warrior Queen mother Yaa Asantewaa, who led the Asante Kingdom In a War Against British colonialism
I mean they both are strong beautiful queens who would go to war to protect their family
My father looked at me and smiled, giggled and kissed me on the cheek and said: Yes son I agree.
So why in the hell papa do you verbally demean and sometimes physically abuse mama, if she is supposed to be your queen?
My father knew there was nothing he could say to justify his sometimes explosive acts of violence
So, he said nothing and just looked at me very sad and silent!
As a kid like a lot of kids who grew up with an alpha-male and charismatic father in the house, I worshipped my father. To me he was a black Superman, an African Hercules, I seriously believed there was no one or nothing on earth he could not defeat if he had to.
I remember being next to him when he got shot in his head closing our family’s store in an extremely dangerous area of Detroit. A city he came to as an immigrant from Ghana, West Africa, to look for a better life for his family.
His idea of the American Dream was to open several liquor stores, all over Detroit and beyond, that we locally call “Party Stores”, that my father intended for my brother and I to inherit.
At one of those stores, I remember my mom walking in one day, it was after school, so my brother and I were in the store stocking shelves, when my mother walked in after her work, looking beat up and bruised like she just went 9 rounds with Mike Tyson.
She claimed she had gotten robbed, I believed her immediately, I had no reason not to.
At that time as an adolescent, I had seen another one of our family stores get burnt down to the ground, I had seen my father get shot and our family’s home get shot up after being mistaken for our drug dealing neighbor’s home. And at this time, Detroit was one of the most dangerous cities in America, if not the murder capital.
It would be years before I discovered my mother was not robbed and that she was beaten by my father after a hostile argument about his many affairs and financial issues. I would find out even though my father was far more verbally abusive than physically, there would be a few times in my teen years I would have to pull him off my mom. A few times I almost came to bloody blows with the man whose blood coursed through my veins; if it was not for my mother’s interventions, there is a good chance that one of us would of killed the other one.
I would go on to hate my father for years until I discovered that he was suffering for years with depression and suicidal thoughts, dementia and he was also dealing with various other mental health issues.
The hate I had for him would soon turn into a deep sadness and for the rest of his life, until his death last year we shared an improved relationship.
Fast forward two decades, I get a call from a “loved one”, late in the night. Despite the fact he works in law enforcement, he calls me for advice. He tells me his wife just snapped and battered him and their daughter.
I tell him to call the cops. Even though he knows he should, it takes me a while to convince him, he does not want to breakup his family and he does not want it to cost his wife her job.
Finally after his 5 year old daughter also tells him to please call the cops on his wife and her mom; who had this point had stormed out of the house, he eventually calls the cops.
After she finally was arrested a couple dayd, it would be discovered that she had stopped taking her anti-depressants medications, which made her go crazier than a cat on catnip.
Since them his wife has been taking better care of her mental health and they are now a relatively stable family.
You should learn that domestic violence is a lot more complicated than we’ve been led to believe.
Like the old saying goes: Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Yes, people who commit domestic violence must be punished, but within that punishment, they must also be given the proper psychological treatment.
Too much do we as a society look to label people for life as evil and bad, without looking to see what they are going through to make them act that way.
We have to keep in mind that hurt people hurt people.
SMALL PROTEST IN SAN FRANCISCO AFTER D.A. REFUSES TO CHARGE POLICE WHO KILLED A 21 YEAR OLD IMMIGRANT
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
A small protest on front of the Valencia street police station in the Mission District of San Francisco.
The people peaceful gathered to demand justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez, who was an 21 year-old immigrant from Guatemala.
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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
If some were to mention “Divas Night Club” to the average San Francisco resident in the Tenderloin neighborhood, the word “Haven” would not probably be the last word to come to mind. Words like dangerous, scary, drugs, homeless, hookers, police, vice, squad, are words more commonly used to describe the poverty-stricken (but quickly being gentrified) area that surrounds San Francisco’s #1 transgender nightclub.
Dictionary.com defines “Haven” as: “any place of shelter and safety; refuge; a asylum.’’
And a place of shelter and relative safety is exactly Divas has been to San Francisco’s transgender community, the most vulnerable community, within the LGBTQ community. Even in one of the most gay-friendly cities in the entire world, the transgender population is still heavily discriminated against, so much so that many of them are today, being forced in the illegal sex industry, just to survive and afford their daily needs.
The National Center for Transgender equality, states: The National Discrimination Survey showed that: “26% of trans people lost a job due to bias, 50% were harassed on the job, 20% were evicted or denied housing, and 78% of trans students were harassed or assaulted. And the transphobia that drives the discrimination is exacerbated when the trans person is a person of color and also faces compounding racism. Trans people of color face higher rates of discrimination.”
Long before Lavarne Cox from “Orange is the New Black” and Caitlyn Jenner brought the transgender movement to mainstream America, Divas was at the forefront of the transgender movement.
Despite that fact, many transgender Bills are sweeping across red-state America, attempting to disenfranchise even more, an already marginalized people, like a controversial transgender Bill that was proposed last year by South Carolina Senator Lee Bright, that aimed to block transgender people from using the bathroom for the gender they identify with. But you will not find people crying about that here, in this four-story club, with three open to the public, which has always sought to empower trans-people, by giving them jobs as bartenders, cocktail waitresses, DJ’s, dancers, promoters, etc.
And though far from perfect; if you were to walk pass Divas on 1081 Post street, which is next to a SFPD firehouse and a weed shop, during the night hours you will soon notice many scantily clad transgender women walking up and down the street, people buying weed at the pot dispensary next door and some shady characters in this “Not so Tender”, Tenderloin neighborhood.
All that being said, Divas is still the number #1 hangout spot for pre-op trans-people, crossdressers, post-op trans-people, drag queens, gender benders, female impersonators, and non-binary gender people within the SF Bay Area. It is also a place where men questioning their sexuality, bi-sexual men, straight men, and men interested in trans-women and trans-women interested in men can explore their sexuality without the harsh judgement of bigots.
Dance shows happen on Wednesday and Thursday
On Friday Night, a couple of weeks ago, I walked into Divas and met a trans-women, who goes by the name Shelley Wilde, she was behind the bar, tending to patrons, she kind of looked like a 40ish version of Adele.
When asked has Divas in her opinion been good for the transgender community? Wilde said: “It can be very good if you allow it. It has been good for men, but unfortunately a lot of trans-women you see are in the sex industry’’.
When asked if she is originally from San Francisco? Wilde said: “No. I am originally from Texas, I moved to San Francisco 13 years ago.”
When asked how long has Divas existed? Wilde said: “for over 30 years, it was first called the Motherlode, it was at another location. It has been at this location for over 15 years.”
After Wilde returns from serving several thirsty patrons at her bar, which is starting to get busy this evening, she is asked if she believes Divas has been good for the transgender community? Wilde said: I would say yes. Most of us are so busy with our own lives, but when we’re here together, it’s a little community.”
As it got later in the night and various demographics of people continued to arrive, drink and party, Wilde was asked one last question. Would you say Divas is friendly to non-trans and LGBTQ people? Wilde said: “Yes. All people are welcome. Most of our patrons are straight men.”
A rainbow of humanity came together
On this damp and foggy day
With some chance of rain
To raise money to try to quell the children of Palestine mental pain
As a result of Israel’s bombs falling from the blue sky
Like droplets of rain
We’re running this one race
For one race
The human race!
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
This Saturday, on October 15, 2016, the third annual San Francisco Gaza 5K will take place.
To signup for the race or donate to help fight end PTSD, please use link below :
SIGNUP OR DONATE TO THE GAZA 5K
Proceeds from this 5k walk / run benefit the UNRWA’S Community Mental Health Program, for children in Palestine suffering from PTSD and other psychological trauma, due to the blockade and current conflict in the region.
The situation is so dire, the internationally-known scientist, historian, social critic and political activist, Noam Chomsky said the occupation in Palestine is worst than the Apartheid of the South African past.
Noam Chomsky on BDS and How the Israeli Occupation is “Much Worse Than Apartheid”
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Ella Josephine Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. She was raised with her parents Georgiana and Blake Baker. At the age of 7, her family moved to her grandmother’s hometown of Littleton, North Carolina, a Small rural town. There she would hear great historic tales of courageous slave revolts, including the story of her maternal grandmother, Josephine Elizabeth “Bet” Ross, who was whipped by her master for refusing to marry a man, her master had chosen for her.
Baker would attend Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she would graduate as class valedictorian in 1927, during her college days, she also built a reputation for standing up against school policies that she believed to be unjust. After college she moved to New York City.
In 1931, Baker would join the young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL) which was a group dedicated to black economic empowerment, she would soon raise to the rank of national director of the organization.
During the 1930’s Baker worked with the Worker’s Education Project of the Works Progress Administration , there taught classes in labor history, African history and consumer education. She would also immerse herself into the political atmosphere of the time, by protesting Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and supporting the campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants in Alabama, a group of black youths, she believed were falsely accused of raping two white women. At around this time, Baker began to advocate for nationwide, local activism as a means of achieving political change.
Baker believed grassroots activism did not need charismatic leaders with a messiah complex, instead she believed and taught that the struggle should be fought by we the people in the streets, on a grassroots level.
In late 1940, Baker began working for the National Association for the Advancement of colored people (NAACP), where she first worked as a secretary, then soon began recruiting new members locally, raising money and organizing local events. She rose fast in the organization, and in 1945 was named Director of Branches.
In 1946 Baker returned to New York, to take care of her niece, which forced her to leave her leadership role in the NAACP. She would still continue to volunteer for the organization on a local level. She would soon join the New York chapter of the NAACP, where she worked hard to end segregation in public schools and police brutality against black people. In 1952 she would become president of the New York chapter.
Baker would resign from the organization in 1953 to run for New York City, city council as a member of the Liberal Party, she was unsuccessful in her bid for city office.
In 1957 Baker traved to Atlanta, Georgia to take part in a conference that was supposed to build on the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in February of that same year, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed.
The organization’s aim was to unite black churches and their leaders, who fought against systematic white supremacy in the south, as they used nonviolent protests to fight against systematic white supremacy oppression. Baker was the organization’s first staff member, she soon began to organize voter registration, assist local activists with their local grievances, helping local civil rights activists in states like Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
In 1960, Baker insisted the SCLC invite southern student protestors, who were having desegregation
sit-ins to Shaw University, for a youth civil rights conference, to discuss their struggles and go over possible solutions with the young activsts in attendance. At this meeting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created. SNCC would become the most active civil rights organization in the Delta region of the United States. After the conference, Baker would resign from the SCLC and would become an advisor to the SNCC activsts.
In 1964 Baker would help organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party ( MFDP) which was to be an alternative to the racist and all-white Mississippi party.
From 1962-1967 Baker worked as staff for the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF) , which was an interracial organization, that fought for social justice issues, human rights and fought against segregation.
In 1972 Baker Traveled the nation to give her support in the “Free Angela” campaign, the objective was to get justice for civil rights activist Angela Davis, whose supporters believed was targeted unlawfully by law enforcement for her political and activism activities.
Towards the end of her life, she still continued to support many causes including the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, she supported many women’s groups and spoke out against the brutally racist South African apartheid regime.
In 1986, on her 83rd birthday she died.
Here our some of her most famous quotes:
Cornel West thoughts on the great civil rights activist Ella Baker.
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