A Tribute to my Kansas City; The Paris of,,, Paris ain’t got shit on us
With the exception of a couple of short stays in Florida and Chicago, I’ve been in Kansas City all my life. It has both tried and enriched my existence. I was bullied by people that looked like me. I was embraced by people that did not. I grew up having adventures like the Goonies. I loved growing up in my neighborhood. Yet, something about it didn’t feel quite right. I was adopted in very early childhood and had to grow up and figure out who I was in a world where I had no bloodline.
I didn’t realize until my thirties, that nine months out of the year, five days a week, eight hours a day, that I was predominantly among people that did not look like me. It wasn’t until I was in my neighborhood and in the summers that I was around people that did. My neighbor and childhood best friend and his brothers even treated my differently when their cousins came around. In the summers I swam competitive and worked as a lifeguard. I was a pool kid for most of my life. I was never fully accepted by my peers in those venues, nor in my neighborhood.
This city forged me. It took me from being a fourteen year old freshman in the band room at Schlagle High School, with a charismatic, beast of a black man, a band director, who yelled at everyone, to being the man that is writing this. The thing about him yelling at me, is that I liked it. I liked it because he didn’t treat me differently. He told my freshman class that we were going to do something that would make history and that we would do it before we graduated. I had no idea what a Jedi Mind Trick was at that point in time and as a found out twenty-five years later, neither did he. He was casting a vision, and I bought it. The legacy that he was a part of goes all the way back to a time when another local high was an all black institution of learning. Over the next 4 years he introduced me to a world and a culture that I did not know. Its one that I would grow to love with everything that I am. This was my first “Xavier School.”
Into adulthood I would grow to embrace then renounce religion, but that is another story. In my early twenties, my whole circle of influence would change because of this. I would eventually run into another beautiful culture within this city. I had already been a musician since age nine. There is a very deep connection between music and poetry. That musician birthed a poet and little did I know that there was an entire community of people here that were like me. There used to be a website that existed that was owned and operated by poets that are from this city. This website was a place, a universe where we met, grew, and bounced ideas off of each other. It was far beyond just poetry, ego and open mics. This was a community of learning. This community was made of up of some of the most charismatic, empathetic, deep, feeling, loving people that I’ve ever met. Magic happened on the pages of this website and at our events. That magic continues to this day. This community built friendships and legacies that still continue to this day and will continue. Many of us got to the national poetry scene. We became authors, activists, and volunteers. We became teachers, mothers, and fathers. Some of us even became what we never intended when this all began. Gods and Goddesses were forged. We did alchemy with words. We built universes in verse. We made and remade history. We fought battles. We became each other’s answer. We cast spells with language. We were Hogwarts before Harry Potter was a fad.
I have also had the privilege of enjoying a thirteen year career in the entertainment business. It was by way of doing security for live music venues. I have protected the biggest names, a dueling piano bar, all the way to the best jazz and blues club in the city. The privilege of getting to know and interact both personally and professionally with musicians, singers, and bar and security professionals has had a profound effect on my life. I have seen for over a decade now how music effects people. Its healing and binding qualities. Music is that God thing. There is nothing like it. Everything that I’ve experienced from an open mic stage, I also experienced night in and night out in music venues. Magic is the only way to explain it.
For the last five years now, I’ve had the privilege and honor of volunteering in the same high school music department and community that created me all those years ago. I’ve had some of my friend’s children as students. I’ve traveled the country with these young people. I’ve laughed and cried with them. I’ve seen them at their best and their worst. I’ve bit adults heads off over them. These young people have been my world. They gave me something to live for when I didn’t want to do exactly that. I’ve seen them grow and they made me grow. I’ve seen myself in them. I’ve seen every person that has helped create me, in them. Even they have had a hand in making me into who I am. They believed in me even when I wasn’t quite sure what I was teaching them. I cannot speak of them without also speaking of the group of volunteers that make this organization that it is. This group of adults are some of the most giving and loving people that I have met in my life. We devote our time and even our finances to these young people without question. We do it because we believe in the program and the man that created it. Words just cannot express what this group of people mean to me.
I’m about to leave Kansas City for Pennsylvania this week. I’ll be married for the first time next summer, to an absolutely amazing woman! I’m about to start a new life. Leading up to this week, there has been a very deep sense of melancholy within me about leaving this great city. Most of that has now subsided. It has been replaced with gratitude. I am so implicitly grateful to have come from this city and to know its cultures and subcultures the way that I do. This city has the best network of minds and souls that one could ever hope to come from. There is such a profound depth to the soul that is Kansas City. I know deep down, that had I not grown up here that I would in no way be who I am. And for the first time in my life I’m happy with that. Kansas City, you are my Morpheus, My One, my Hogwarts, my Xavier School, my Cloud Atlas, my Star Wars Universe, my Divergent. You are the city of the living and breathing metaphor. Everything that is this city has taught me to be me, to love me, to love being me, to love my community, to love people for who they are, to love diversity, to seek and love knowledge, to live and to love life. What we have among us are the things that the rest of the world should take a very hard look at. I’ve learned everything that I know being from here. I may not be a Royals fan. Hell, I’m not even a baseball fan. I am however, forever royal because of what is this city. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve you. Please don’t forget me. I will never forget you or what you’ve taught me! On to the next adventure.
til next time, you’re in my heart;