A man. A plan. A canal. Panama.
One of the best parts about this whole blogging experience is the interactions it creates. You get to meet new people and exchange ideas with people you’ll likely never ever see in person. The hope is that you matter enough that when it’s all said and done people remember you, and the hope is that the memories aren’t negative.
Well, in similar fashion, one of my favorite parts of blogging is the feedback. And the criticism, and perhaps masochistically when people come at me sideways. I’m like a battle rapper in that regard. All beef is worthy of being taken on. So is all criticism if its sincere. And to be completely frank, all writers, artists, what have you need honest criticism and feedback in order to grow and mature as a craftsperson and as a human being. So when I received an email yesterday from Tina Watkins, letting me know that while she’s a longtime fan and reader of VSB, her readership has waned because most of our posts are ridiculous and that my post on the teacher breastfeeding in class and the comments that followed disturbed her. It was with that in mind that she felt compelled to pen “An Open Letter Encouraging Very Smart Brotha Writer Panama Jackson.”
Now, I’m not about to encourage everybody with a grievance to write open letters to VSB – heavens no – but if you do, and especially if you call me out specifically, know that I will respond. And I don’t mean that in an aggressive, antagonistic way, but in a “I respect you enough to hear you out and engage.”
So with that being said, Ms. Watkins brings up some interesting points and I’m going to discuss what I got out of her letter.
PS. Can we keep things civil around here today. I don’t want anybody reading her letter and disagreeing with any of it and taking aim at her. She’s a VSB contributor folks, let’s all play nice. It’s Friday.
What I got out of her letter was this: “with great power, comes great responsibility”. And when it comes to issues dealing with women, that taking some of the stances or presenting issues the “man” way that may or may not exhibit any real empathy or attempts to understand is not only counterproductive, but maybe even doing a disservice to the growth I purport to be seeking out. Oh, and I have a daughter now so I should think of how my daughter would be affected by the way I think, etc.
That’s what I took from her letter. And my guess is that’s something that’s been said to and about a vast number of people who venture here on the daily.
Quickly, much like I’m the kind of guy who always has nicknames, I must also be the kind of cat prone to receiving letters questioning if I was wasting my gifts. I can remember at least two other instances where I received either handwritten or typed letters indicating that the writer felt like I had all the fits in the world but were squandering them by not using them for greater change, etc. One even told me that I should be using my talents for God and and that I was using the vast talents I had for the devil’s work. That might have been the most backhanded compliment I ever received, by the way.
Moving on. I’ve always had a problem with the “with great power comes great responsibility” tagline when it comes to bloggers. Why? Glad you asked. See, while I understand it in theory, in practice it more or less implies that at some point, should you reach a point where you could be considered influential, you have to shift from what makes you happy to what does the most good. While that may sound selfish, the fact is, what usually brings people to you in the first place as a writer is your sincerity and honesty which is largely personal. And you’re ability to connect to people however it may be which is again, usually largely personal. Plus, we tend to pick and choose who we think should be responsible for social change. Diddy has way more influence than I’d ever have but there’s no movement to get him to change the world. And maybe that’s because he told people to vote. Me no know. Maybe it’s because nobody really respects his mind but his business acumen.
Me no know, but the point is if you gained power by being true to yourself, should you alter that version of yourself to hopefully “move” the most amount of people? I don’t know how I feel about that. Now that isn’t to say that you can’t or shouldn’t grow. In fact, if you’re not growing in this business then you’re not only going to lose your fans but you definitely are wasting time. However, how that growth materializes is a very personal thing.
I wrote that post two weeks ago about losing my edge because that’s how I feel. It was honest. But it wasn’t to change anybody’s life. It was because that’s what I felt like writing. That’s how Champ and I have treated VSB. Sure there are times when you feel an obligation to speak on something happening in the social consciousness. That’s part of the gig. People want and need to talk about certain things so you do that. And hell, since we’re a people too we also feel that need. But I know that very little of my writing has an agenda. Hell, that’s probably part of the popularity, there isn’t one…though we’ve been accused of being Kanye d*ckriders on more than one occasion. But largely, I don’t have an opinion on anything until I realize I have one. Which is why me writing about women’s issues would be largely disingenuous.
For the most part, my observations about womanhood are reserved to the differences between the sexes. Of course, on occasion I’ll weigh in on a topic that either matters to me because its been introduced into my world via my child or something. And it’s not because I’m afraid of those issues, its just that I’m not a woman. I don’t even realize half of those issues are issues. Does that make me oblivious…perhaps. I will say that there are some realizations that I’ve made though as of late about being a woman that I intend to broach here. But I also won’t feel guilty if I don’t, nor will I feel like I’m doing myself or our audience a disservice.
Also, I’m not even sure how Wednesday’s post could be considered incendiary. Sure, I focused on the breastfeeding and that was likely only a secondary issue but let’s be real, that’s what the majority of the discussion centered around. I’m not sure if I’m trending towards the mean there or if the mean is just mindless men who don’t realize that boobs are for feeding. Point is, while it’s a shame that we live in an oversexualized, yet taboo-centric nation when it comes to the female form, the fact is we do live there and boobs are boobs. Sure women don’t see the big deal, but that doesn’t make them not a big deal. It’s a larger problem…agreed…but I’m not sure that I feel any obligation to attempt to undo that pathology. Maybe that’s a problem. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know.
Perhaps this is all a copout because I have never had any designs on being an influencer or somebody who would change the world. For the most part I feel like my obligation is to my family and to ensuring that I don’t bring shame to them. Everything else is fair play. I’ve shifted some of my thinking towards creating a legacy that my daughter can be proud of. At this point, between everything I’ve written, all the music I’ve created, and all of the videos floating of me out there, I can make sure that my daughter never has to wonder who her father was should something happen to me. That is honestly one thing that does motivate me. The ability to stay alive through my words for her. While she may not like everything that she reads, she won’t ever think of her father in a negative fashion, I hope. Or at least not permanently.
But does creating a forum with a large following make one a de facto leader? Eh, I’m not sure. A facilitator maybe. But leader? Now, in life, I’d probably be considered a leader but that’s because I can only follow for so long, plus, I’m arrogant enough to think that in most forums I’m as good if not better than everybody else at what we’re doing. Let’s be real, I blog at a place called Very Smart Brothas…arrogance came with the price of admission. However, I don’t know that I ever wanted to use this forum to “effect change” so much as provide a place to think out loud. However, should I ever decide to take on an issue or attempt to change perceptions and bridge any gaps, I’d definitely feel comfortable enough to do it, but it would also be because at that time, it’s just what I felt in my soul.
Which brings us full circle. I get where Ms. Watkins is coming from, assuming I’m interpreting her letter properly, and she’s fair to make that critique and offer her encouragement. It’s all in play and all in bounds. I’ll even take it under advisement. But I also don’t know that I truly feel compelled to become an “issue” blogger just because I have the platform to do so. But who knows, maybe I’ll feel that way at some point. Perhaps a particular issue will compel me to dive headfirst into something and attempt to save some souls or something. Maybe not. But I get my any means on whenever there’s a drought…get your umbrellas out because that’s when I brainstorm.
So I guess we’ll see.
“Now before I finish, let me just say
I did not come here to show out, did not come here to impress you
Because to tell you the truth when I leave here I’m GONE!
And I don’t care WHAT you think about me – but just remember,
when it hits the fan brother, whether it’s next year, ten years,
twenty years from now, you’ll never be able to say
that these brothers lied to you JACK!”
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka HE WHO IS LONG WINDED aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3