Poetry by Charles Joseph

Birthday Gifts 🎁


One of the things that I love the most about Kendrick Lamar is the vulnerability that he displays in his music. More specifically, I resonate with him a lot when he refers to certain personality features (that are commonly considered weak by society) that he possesses, or used to. I love it even more when he, then, turns around to demonstrate how these personality attributes are what makes him strong and successful.

In the song “Fear”, Kendrick spoke about fear—something that is very normal to the human existence. I love Kendrick’s vulnerability in exposing how fear has governed his entire upbringing because I also have a similar experience. A lot of men have similar experiences but due to toxic society norms, and how we were raised, we do our best to hide that normal aspect of existence. As I grow by healing my inner child, I am also noticing that fear is interwoven into every aspect of my being. My conscious choices are first filtered through a morality built upon fear, my subconscious is governed by fear, and my emotions all have a shadow of fear to them. Becoming aware of that is surprisingly the easy part. The hard part is admitting how much of your existence is governed by fear. It is so easy to ignore the uncomfortable truth. Where I grew up (similar to Kendrick), taking that stance means being called hurtful things like “pussy” or “lil bitch” by the people who I want to impress. If it is not these words then it is that look that people give you even when they’re actively trying to be accepting and supportive of you. Then there’s that pain you feel each time someone brings up your fear in order to be considerate towards you.

To continue on this topic of natural human “weakness” that we do not address enough in our daily lives, another song that takes my attention is “Count Me Out” from the album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. Before I go any further, I have to say that this album is DRIPPING with vulnerability in addressing what a modern day black-male goes through on a regular basis—and I AM HERE FOR IT BROTHERMAN KENDRICK! From Count Me Out to Auntie Diaries and N95, Kendrick addresses a lot of touchy subjects in the black AND male community that need to be talked about more. Count Me Out stands out to me due to these lines:

I care too much, wanna share too much

In my head too much, I shut down too

I ain’t there too much, I’m a complex soul

They layered me up, then broke me down

And moralities dust, I lack in trust (and I’m trippin’ and fallin’)

This time around, I trust myself

Please everybody else but myself

All else fails, I was myself

Out done fear, out done myself

I love the healing demonstrated in these lines. Kendrick lists a few qualities that are usually viewed as weaknesses (although they’re not) and then he turns around to demonstrate his acceptance of them; he accepts himself. If all else fails, he was himself.  The only reason why Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers has not surpass DAMN on my list yet is because I need a few more years to process it. You need as much time as it takes Kendrick to drop an album to internalize and process one of his albums. He is clever in that sense.

DAMN addresses many subjects that made me feel that much closer to the super star: drugs, racism, religion, family, black struggle with survival in their own community, media’s view and impact on black people, beauty standards, gang violence, the necessity of a gang in certain communities…I can go on until no end. There is so much in that album. It is no surprise that he received a Pulitzer Prize for it. Damn.

Listen to Fear via the link below:

Listen to Count Me Out via the link below:


I love Haitian music. I love the Haitian language. I love how things are expressed in Creole. When a body of art is made in Creole, that is what I consider to be Gold. My favorite genre of Haitian music is “Twoubadou”. To understand what makes a songtwoubadou, it is best to just listen to a few songs, and then read a little about the genre. Listening makes sense in a way that reading about it does not. Twoubadou would be the “country music” version of Haitian music. But, to put it in my own words, I’d say that twoubadou music feels like a few peyizan (farmer), after a long day of work, grab a few handmade instruments, sit together in a yard, make music while singing about their life in Haiti. The women and kids dance around the campfire. If I were to use a word to describe that genre of music, it would be: raw

Mizik Mizik (Music Music) is by far my favorite Haitian music group (sorry Carimi). Unfortunately, the lead singer of the group, Eric Charles, died in 2016 due to a stroke. Therefore, I don’t know if the group will be active anymore. Their music is incredible: catchy, lively, and purposeful. My favorite album by them is Blakawout, released in 2012. “Blakawout” is Haitian-Creole for “black out”; when electricity is cut in a certain neighborhood—a cultural part of any Haitian’s day-to-day life. The most popular song on that album is the Title-Track, Blakawout. As funny, clever, memorable, naughty, and convivial that song is, it only comes to second-best on my list.

My favorite song on the album is “Sa Pou Fè?”, which is also the first song on the album. “Sa Pou Fè?” is Haitian-Creole for “what can I do?” “What is there to do?” Sa Pou Fè? is a heart-wrenching song about poverty in Haiti. A lot of Haitian songs—at this point, I feel like it’s most Haitian songs—either mention poverty in Haiti or are about that reality for Haitians. But that song addresses something much deeper and serious than poverty in Haiti. Sa Pou Fè? addresses the lack of opportunities. It is one demon to be poor, but it is a far worse devil to have no other options BUT to be poor. What is there for you to do when the government is not organized or stable enough to allow you a path to some level of prosperity? What is there for you to do when you have extraordinary skills and work ethic but the institutions in where you live do not allow you to either utilize them or even discover them? What is there for you to do when the crops you’ve been growing and supporting your family with all get washed away by a flood? What is there for you to do when a high magnitude earthquake strikes and your house is destroyed? What is there for you to do when there is nothing to be done? Sa Pou Fè?

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day in which I told her that I hate poverty because I don’t like people having to suffer due to the lack of resources. She responded that she thinks the playing field is leveled-out, and that if someone remains poor that is because they refuse to do enough to get them out of poverty. Therefore, poverty is a choice. She carries a very common view towards poverty: poor people are lazy because if you put in the work then you will ALWAYS get the expected results; one plus one always equals two in life. I had so much to say in response to that, but I chose to let it go.

In the final verse of the song, Eric cries out to multiple Vodou deities begging them to help the people of Haiti. Afterwards, he asks God to step in to do something too. I owed it to my Haitian heritage to get that album. Eric was a very impactful artist. With his group and his collaborations with other key artists in the Haitian community, Eric has created pieces that will stand the test of time. Haiti has lost a legend with the passing of Eric Charles. I hope you rest in Honor and Power, Eric. 🇭🇹✨💕

Listen to Blakawout via the link below:

Listen to Sa Pou Fè via the link below:

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming:

When I was in High School, depression had a firm and deadly hold on me. I would at times spend hours crying, confused about why I was always so distraught. I had some suicidal attempts that, after surviving, I promised myself that I will never speak of as long as the sun continues to rise. No one knew. In the face of the public, I was lively. I was the source of joy for many people, too—their inspiration to live. Meanwhile, on the inside, I was being undone to the point where I just wanted to get it over with.

At that time, there were two things that I was sourcing my life from: Skateboarding and Music. When I combined the two—play some music in my headphones while I rolled down a hill on my skateboard—life was beautiful. I wanted this to continue. I wanted to live a little longer. One of the albums that I used to always listen to is Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83. That album was made specifically for people like me. The album spoke to me in a language that is unintelligible to the rest of the world because only the artists and those like me spoke it. When the first song in the album, “Intro”, plays, the tiny dark room that I am restrained inside of—in my head—brightens and gets a bit bigger. My restraints get looser. The world gets a bit bigger. I want to run in joy on every surface that the sun illuminates. I finished high school and grew out of my depression 8 years ago (yes, the two happened at the same time—it was just a coincidence haha—another story for another time!) but, nonetheless, whenever I hear the rising suspenseful tune of the track on Intro, I still freeze a little, a breath escapes, and goosebump rises on my skin. A desire to make more of life blooms in my spirit. I owed it to myself, my life, to own a copy of that album.

Listen to Intro via the link below:

Read more about me and birthdays here.

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