OG Told Me: Essay About The Photo Essay.

One time, an OG Told Me: “We’re not getting older, we’re getting better.”

It made me think…

In life, there is beauty in growing old, why would I want to die young?

In America, why are we glorifying young death and degrading becoming an elder?

In Black America, If they don’t have fathers- where are they getting guidance about manhood from?

In manhood … WAIT … how did I get here?

… answer…

The 1st Entry: "My homework ate my dog."- Dick Gregory.
The 1st Entry: "My homework ate my dog."- Dick Gregory.

At 24, I find myself in this strange world called, “manhood”, you might have heard of it… but … not all of my homies made it, some of them never even heard of it.

So, once again I ask: How did I make it to manhood?

As a young man growing up in Oakland, Ca … I followed the OG’s. Religiously.

Their way of talking, thinking, breathing, and blinking… I studied that. Vigorously.

As an 80’s baby, growing up in urban America, surprisingly enough: I wasn’t the only one without a father. Eight of my friends were fatherless too. In turn, we came together as a brotherhood; a fraternal support group. This is sometimes called a gang, a posse, or a clique… na, we were just boys becoming men.

We would pick-up small insight into manhood ( i.e. ideas on approaching women, how to make money double, or even something as essential as: how to fight); we would bring that back to the boys and share the newly acquired knowledge.

From this, I quilted together my concept of manhood.

Through this photo essay, I wanted to recreate that quilt; and show the world my version going from boyhood to manhood.

I call it: OG Told Me.

The project takes the phenomenon that I’ve encountered throughout the process of growing up, and documents it- so now babies of the millennium can find concepts about manhood where they hang out: the internet.

Detroit bus driver Barry Ray told me a story about two gas station owners beefing over gas prices … until one owner killed the other. Over pennies.
Detroit bus driver Barry Ray told me a story about two gas station owners beefing over gas prices … until one owner killed the other. Over pennies.

A basic photo essay: head shots of elder Black men, with the addition of clever-wisdom laced quotes. This photo essay is not just documenting elders, no-it’s bridging the gap between generations. It’s giving young men an idea of what they might look like at a later date, and it’s … giving me insight to the problems that plague the black community.

Unexpectedly so.

I found a number of the issues that plague Black men in society through my OG told Me project:

– Lack of accountability.

– Communication issues.

– Self destruction.

– Hate.

– Total disregard for another man’s dream…

– Lack of critical thinking.

– Stubbornness.

– Idle time.

Through this same project, I also found some of the blessings that are found in Black men in society…

– Creativity.

– Wisdom.

– Eldership.

– Sincerity.

– Love.

– Deep beliefs.

– Kinship.

– A way of life that is unobserved by others- yet seen everyday: the invisible man.

-The natural occurrence of a rights of passage in the Black community.

“Ethiopian proverb: When spider webs unite- they can tie up a lion!” - Joe Brooks, VP Policy Link & An old Black man… Been there. Done that. What’s new?
“Ethiopian proverb: When spider webs unite- they can tie up a lion!” - Joe Brooks, VP Policy Link & An old Black man… Been there. Done that. What’s new?

The biggest conundrum I found myself facing during this year-long project: Finding the purpose of life…

All around the world people are living for two things: to get older and to get smarter.

This is survival. Basic survival.

However, where I grew up, people are living for two things: to get money and … to get money.

In result, our illusionary pursuit of money results not in getting older and getting smarter- no, it results in us dying young and dumb.

This is not survival. This is basic.

The aging process should be appreciated. It’s the beauty of life.

Raymond Bellinger, War vet from New Orleans who sits at the same bus stop all day. When asked about the greatest lessons ever learned, he recited the Lord’s Prayer. word for word.
Raymond Bellinger, War vet from New Orleans who sits at the same bus stop all day. When asked about the greatest lessons ever learned, he recited the Lord’s Prayer. word for word.

I haven’t made it all the way-I’m still growing, learning, aging- or as the OG told me, “getting better.”

And I’m enjoying every step of the way.

… And that is why I created this photo essay.

Now the question remains:

what exactly were those lessons that I was taught as I was growing from a boy to a man?

Book coming soon

Advertisements

Other Side of the Fence

All the cool stuff is on the other side of the fence. Always.

” What Happened To The Art”

“Mr. Let Art Live.”

” Musician Behind Bars.”

“Through the Gate, Over the Shoulder of the DJ, Alley-oop For 2.”

“Skater. Black Skater.”

“Safe at the Plate Statue.”

“Praising Statue”

‘Hot Wheels”

” Train wheels”

” Ole Skool Wheels.”

” We Ridin: I’m Pak”

” The Sunflower That Grew Behind the Fence.”

“A Flower on the Fence”

” Behind Fences: Evil Dwells”

“Behind Fences: Victory Dwells.”

Blog.

How ingenious is that? this blog- is called “blog.” and not only that … but the first line of this blog- is about the title! go figure…

now that I’ve got that out of the way….

The motivation behind this train of thought: my new computer.

I’ve worked all Summer to get a machine that I could use to produce my blogs, my photos, my essays … photo-essays! my radio shows, my dreams, my videos,  my movies, my cartoons, my tweets, my facebook statuses, did I mention my dreams?

And now I finally got it!

Well, it’s not exactly the computer of my dreams- but it gets the job done.

Here’s a picture!

Wait, no! wrong one!

( I’m still figuring this fan-dangled-thingy-McBobby out.)

Here is my computer

time to get active.

Coming soon:

– More updated on “OG Told Me” ( photo essay) : http://ogtoldme.tumblr.com/

-More updates to “Penn’s Station podcast”: http://ogpenn.podomatic.com/

– Book coming early 2012.

– check the website: http://ogpenn.com/ 

and remember that Xanax is the coolest palindrome. ever.

Peace.

An Apple in Motion.

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction …

… unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”- Newton’s First Law of Motion.

 

So, this big ass apple was sitting around the house, and so was I… we both got on my bike and took a ride…

 

we rode all the way down to my meeting… apple still with me; proud of myself for not eating …

 

 

after the meeting, the apple and I wanted to enjoy the day… but our plans got delayed by a train…

 

 

…meeting out of the way! train out of the way! … finally enjoy’n a beautiful day on the Bay…

 

 

(shortly after this picture I consumed the apple).

 

The end.

Where to Eat? Where to Eat? … Dónde Comer?

 

On an unseasonably warm January day in East Oakland, my sister and I  chose the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland to play host to our impromptu scavenger hunt: we were hungry, and looking for a cheap meal.

The neighborhood is home to a number of new restaurants, small shops, and street side food vendors. The population is majority Hispanic; the Hispanic influence in the area shows not only through the people themselves,but also through the art ….

As my sister and I appreciated the aesthetic of the art, the foot mission was waring on our stomachs; in turn we began to investigate the food options in the area… that is: the food options that were within our budget…

We passed up the burrito truck with the steak and cheese fries, although an Oakland staple- the six-dollar meal was out of our price range.

We also passed this place on East 14th… something about the weaponry made me a little uncomfortable…

And then we saw the sign…

 

La Placita 3451 International Blvd Oakland, Ca just opened last week, and their dollar tacos are awesome…

After that meal, we needed a good desert to wash that down… options?

We passed it up to go to take the healthy route… we walked to the fruit stand….

…Of course the watermelon and pineapple was covered in salt, pepper, and lemon juice…. as my sister calls it: “the works!”

As we finished our mission, and fruit all at once, we noticed yet another mural….

MLK Way in Oakland on MLK Day.

MLK Way. MLK Day. Photo Essay in O.A.K

MLK mural. MLK Way and Grand Ave. Oakland, Ca

Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland, Ca can speak … it speaks in sign language.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s name adorns street signs all throughout this nation; it’s a common sight to see streets named after the honorable Dr. King run through the heart of a community known for violence and criminal activity. The city of Oakland’s MLK Way follows suite, however Oakland’s street named in the civil rights leader’s honor also speaks to the injustice in the community.

The first street sign baring Dr. King’s name within the city’s limits is located on the corner of 61st and MLK. I focused my camera in the midst of the mist and the low fog, I captured the image of the sign, and then I noticed something more on the light pole…

The gang injunction post introduced me to a neighborhood where I would find burned houses and memorials for homicide victims…

I was three blocks into Oakland, and the three sights that I had seen thus far caused me to wonder what lay ahead of me on this track. The silence of my placid wondering was shattered as a three car Bart train whistled past.

Senior Center

I noticed a senior center …I wonder how many of the occupants of the senior center remember Dr. King alive, marching, and speaking his word?

I continued my march down MLK Way…

I took note of the words posted on the street poles, every image tagged on private property, and every piece of art mounted on the earthquake retrofitted concrete pillars which hold the Bart tracks suspended above the traffic.

The remnants of fliers for rallies spoke loudly on the topic of the city’s issues with the local police force.

The path of artistically articulated words and antiquated advertisements lead me out of North Oakland and to the front door step of West Oakland’s Marcus Garvey Bookstore.

As I marched on through West Oakland’s Ghost town neighborhood, the California sun began to break through the Bay’s foggy skies, and Oakland’s true color began to show…

I marched into Jack London Square and took this picture of the fog, the shipping crane looming in the distance, and the last Martin Luther King Jr. Way sign in Oakland.

The end of the line made for an anticlimactic ending, but the lack of climax was the calm before the sign of all signs…

I was running late for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day screening of the documentary, “Strange Fruit” put on by Oakland’s African-American library. Upon arrival I noticed a sign on a bus bench that made my entire trip come full circle;  it spoke to the state of Oakland, it spoke about Martin Luther King Jr, it spoke about the manifestation of “Strange Fruit” in our modern world … most importantly: the sign spoke…

"Police are modern slave catchers"

“Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is
determined by service. – Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo Essay: A Walk Down MLK Ave. in South East D.C. on MLK Day 2010

He fought for Love. He fought for peace. He fought to uplifting Christ. And he fought to take down racism… But in the end Dr. King knew it was all about the allotment of resources in America.

His famous, “I Have a Dream” Speech, could have easily went down in history as the “Bounced Check ” speech. He spoke of America’s failure to include African-American’s into the greater society post-slavery. He acknowledged African-American’s role in the disenfranchisement, as many passively accepted what was given.

And now, 42 years after Dr. King’s assassination we have been given a National holiday in celebration of his birthday, and a Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in every major US city.

Every Martin Luther King Jr. Ave I have ever been fortunate enough to bare witness to runs through the most economically downtrodden part of the city.

I decided to take a walk down Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in the Nation’s Capitol, and this is what I saw…

Dr. King's Ave. in South East Washington DC

Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in South East Washington D.C. is a main artery through a predominantly African-American community. The area is in the transitional phase; the dilapidated structures of yesteryear still loom as a reminder of the 1968 riots after King’s death, the influence of crack cocaine in the 1980’s, and the economic turmoil that has plagued many Black communities since their creation- and through the current recession America is facing.

vacant housebuilding frame.Historically Black Community: For Sale

And like Every Black community in America, there were check cashing stores, liquor stores, heaps of trash in the street and graffiti on the walls

check cashing storeLiquor store. Good Hope.trash heapStanton Crew

But right next to the graffiti was something that started to open my eyes to the depth of the spirit present in the Anacostia community….

Islam on the riseSheik

Islam was far from the only religion present, in fact the number of Baptist churches was comparable to the amount of corner stores…Baptist church signUnion Temple

Fittingly enough, while attempting to take a shot of the church, another dominant force in the community conveniently intervened in my photo…

Cops and God.

But the governing bodies are also taking initiatives to aid the community…

A Government Savior?the plan...

dept. of Housing.

I don’t doubt the necessity for government aid in the Black community, but nothing trumps knowledge of self and knowledge of the land in which you reside. And in the community of South East Washington, D.C. there are numerous reminders of how fertile those grounds are, and how deep Black roots run through here said grounds.

Malcolm X centerFrederick Douglass' houseClara Muhammad schoolThurgood MarshallBlack owned Fish spotPeaceBlack familyBig Chair

And most of all… the words and image of Dr. King himself

MLK mural

On January 15th 2010 Dr. King would have been 81 years of age. To his memory, I give my respect.

Tenn Stack’s keeps it 100 for his Birthday Party.

 

Hackensack, New Jersey representative and Howard University student, Tenn Stack’s celebrated his birthday January 16th, 2010 in true player fashion. 
He rented out a posh French Bistro, managed to avoid “the politics” of the situation, and proceeded to have one of the most “wavy” parties he and his Swagg House Comrades have ever thrown.
For those unfamiliar with Tenn Stacks and the Swagg House (SWAGG= Survival with All God’s Grace) movement, here is is his first single “My Life at Howard”
A French Bistro played host to Swagg House event for the ages…and man, I don’t think the owners knew what they were in for…
The owner's of this posh French Bistro had no idea what they were in for...
the location

Upon arrival…. I bumped into these scholarly goons….  

Chase B Brandon D Chubb E Swagg J from LA

 But they were just as confused as i was….

This is where the “Swagg House” Party was supposed to be???

The Bistro before the party...
And then things slowly started clearing out…. But not before two bus loads of Howard Students arrived. As the impatient intoxicated students waited in the cold…. I figured, what the hell: make the most of it!
“girl, its a photo shoot”- Gucci Mayne 
But of course…people can only be pacified by photos for so long and as the line grew… peoples temper grew too….
And then…. out of no where the man of the hour showed up!

Tenn Stacks shows up.
And  fittingly enough, the party was titled “Red Light District”…and all hell broke loose.

After a while… the glow sticks arrived…and the night got live…
but, when they made the move to let the glow sticks rain on the folks downstairs….some asshole photographer decided to leave his dead batteries in the pile… I know someone got hit with a double A battery last night….
Nonetheless, when they did make it rain…it was a light show….
And when the red lights came out…. the temperature rose!!!! It was so hot, my camera lens fogged up!
so, I decided to write a special shout out to my bruh Tenn Stacks on the front door….and then I got the hell of out the sweat box before I passed out!
And in the end…. Swagg House got it in. I wish best of Luck to Tenn and the Swagg House conglomerate…look for them to be making moves in the new year,including the upcoming re-shoot of “My Life at Howard”…. oh, and as for Tenn Himself…. this is photographic evidence that the young man enjoyed himself….