Monday, August 25, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Mac

I know it's been a few weeks since he passed away, but before too much time went by, I wanted to pay tribute to Bernie Mac.

I usually don't pay too much attention to what's going on with celebrities (except Angelina and Brad--OK, I admitted it!). And when I hear news of a celebrity passing away, I may stop briefly to say "That's sad," but then I'll move on with my life. Only a few times can I say that I was affected by a celebrity's passing so much that I had to sort of mourn it: Tupac, John Kennedy, Jr., Gwendolyn Brooks, Princess Diana are a few who had touched me so much in my life that I had to take some time to get over their deaths. Now, I've been saddened by Bernie Mac's passing. Although I'm not a stand-up comedian and Bernie Mac was not a poet, Bernie Mac inspired me every time I stepped behind a mic. I don't know if I could have ever shared my poetry as a part of Yellow Rage if it hadn't been for Bernie Mac.

"I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" That's my mantra before every show--right about the time that I feel the anxiety and nervousness of getting up on stage--of anticipating hearing "Yellow Rage" being called to take the mic--I am meditating to Bernie Mac's voice: "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" until my voice takes over in my head. Then I can have that swagger--I can get on stage to do and say what I need to b/c it must be done. And if there are motherfuckers in the audience who don't get it--oh, well. "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!"

Every show--from the time before Yellow Rage to now--this is my mantra. Every time. When you see me pacing back stage seemingly going over lines or sitting in the shadows taking deep breaths, this is what I'm doing: "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" At the start of our set when you see us perform live, while Catzie is talking to the audience setting up for "Listen Asshole," you'll see me cracking my knuckles and stretching my arms; inside my head, I'm chanting, "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" When you watch the You Tube of our performance from Def Poetry, right before Mos Def called us to the stage, I had grabbed Catzie's arm back stage b/c I didn't know if I could go out there. And what I said to myself was, "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" And we did our thing.

I say those lines to myself b/c I learned something very important, very deep, from Bernie Mac about what it means to get on stage to share yourself with others. And what it was that I learned from Bernie Mac is this: the stage potentially is a place of liberation and in order to occupy that space, you yourself must be free once you enter it.

I remember several years ago, I read an article about Bernie Mac's work ethic in preparing for a show. It said that it took him at least a half-hour to get into character. And some people will interpret that as him moving from himself to someone he wasn't for the sake of entertainment. But I interpreted that as he had to free himself of all external constraints so that he could be truly free to be HIM on stage. All the social baggage that partially or completely hinders us from saying what we truly think and showing what we feel, all of that needs to be sloughed off--shed like dead skin weighing us down.

And that's what "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" means to me. It means that I need to be my most honest Self on stage, and the only way I'm going to be able to do that is if I don't care what people may think of me or how they're judging me or categorizing me. I can only be ME in my most raw form. And when I'm on stage, that's the closest most people will ever get to the real me, the inside me of what I think and feel. On stage is where I am truly free.

So thank you, Mr. Mac. If it hadn't been for you, I would never have found the freedom on stage in poetry to be me. I am forever grateful. Peace and Blessings always.