Erik Before Killmonger

I've been saying a lot of stuff on Facebook but I wanted to say something longer here. And no, this isn't really about my own life, before you wonder.

Spoilers aware, yo ho.

The thing about Erik Stevens is that, honestly, I think it shows how many black men are corroded by a lack of emotional support. 

Not everyone who suffers Erik's sort of tragedy goes on to devote their life to vengeance. Indeed, most people who lose parents in such a way are not out there becoming mercenaries and black ops soldiers.

Yet it's easy to draw a straight line from his pain, suffering and isolation to his barely contained rage.  Trauma always leaves victims in its wake. Cruelty and neglect always leave scars. Sometimes the scars can be healed, and sometimes they return to the surface when a person loses control. And then sometimes you're extremely controlled and organized, which I guess is how you become a supervillain.

There are oceans of black men who never receive the help they need to process and come to terms with their emotions. When you combine the toxic way men are socialized not to deal with (or really even have) emotions that aren't pride, lust and wrath - and then you add his clear natural abilities and decades of patience - you get a Killmonger. But even if you don't get a charismatic killer who is nonetheless worthy of empathy if not sympathy (and who is definitely wrong), you might just get what is in evidence every single day: unaddressed and unresolved black male trauma.

The movie also shows a man who is dealing with what might well be his first personal tragedy, the death of his own father. But, with the help of a massive support system and, well, the wealth of an entire nation, he might be okay. If you're Erik Stevens, however, when something life-shattering occurs, the next day, you just have to try to keep living. And for many, the only way to do that is to swallow what you feel, and hold it down until you can unleash it in one of the three acceptable male emotional outlets, unless someone can help you.

I don't write this personally at all, by the way, as I said above. Though I'm hardly a king, my life was much closer to T'Challa's than to Erik's. Plenty of loving, supportive relatives of all ages and genders. And if emotions can even sometimes be confusing and complex for me, I can't imagine what it's like to endure what someone like Erik did.

Look. It's a Marvel movie. And soon Thanos is going to be there and it's going to be stupid and whatever. But while Erik might have made the arguable point that, if there really was an African supercountry hiding from the world, it could have provided more help than it did, in reality, the help that was needed was for the little boy in Oakland.

Help the little boys and young men that you can. They aren't exactly likely to turn into supervillains if you don't, but a lot of them are probably suffering right now, even if they can't express it or even know that there's anything to express.



Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

For Granted

Runners are foolish, you know. 

This month has not been the first time I've been injured, and not even the first time I've stubbornly tried to power through an injury and made it worse.

And every time, when I start to become healthy again, I tell myself not to take the ability to train for granted, because it won't always be there.

And then, months pass in which I am healthy, and I do take it for granted.

My back is still very mildly sore and so I was about 10 seconds per mile slower than I usually am on this Thursday long-ish run. Still, this will be a 50 mile week without the aid of the ellptical or the bike, and by the time I come back from the trip next week, I should be ready to go with absolutely no restrictions.

But I need to remember this past month so that the next time I yank something or roll something I don't freak out and do something stupid.

Who am I kidding though? I will be stubborn next time, and I know it.


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

10 out of 50

I know enough about myself to know I won't really retire young. Even if I somehow hit the lottery (figuratively) and make enough money that I could, I get bored far too easily. I get bored if I'm on vacation for more than ten days. And when I get bored, I get anxious, and that's just a mess.

However, I don't really want to work until the very moment I keel over. That doesn't sound fun.

This is of course a privileged thing to say - to have this choice at all - but, oh well.

Fact is, I hope to stay healthy and mobile long enough to be spry into my early 70s. No matter what it is I'm doing - maybe it's still some version of classroom work, if classrooms still exist - I think I want to be able to say I had a 50 year career.

I've been thinking about this lately because my adult career started in February of 2008, when I got on a 1:30 am flight from JFK and flew across the Pacific Ocean to Incheon airport. I made the best of it, had my fair share of parties and long nights out, but I was scared and lonely most of the time I was over there. And although I stayed a second year, I knew I needed to come home to my city and work for and with the people who live here. I miss those Korean kids, though (well, they're adults now, as I can see on facebook).

This first decade - and I'm not pretending my career is long - can be broken down into three parts, really. The Korea part, where I really could have just stayed without much effort, the volatile underemployed part when I first came back home and blamed myself daily for leaving an easier situation (and absolutely did not take care of myself), and then the last five years, when I got myself on a more stable track.

We shall see what happens with my application to school next month, and a lot of the next decade surely depends on how that goes. But although I'm hardly living the life of some of my college classmates - things I shouldn't think about, but you and I both know we do when we see people - I'm actually at a point where, if you had told me this when I got on that plane to Seoul, I would have actually been happily surprised, and that's something I'm fortunate to be able to say.

I think about that time a lot these days, especially as facebook reminds me of 2008. I really needed to leave to, cliche alert, find myself, but all I did in Korea was realize that my best self was to be found right here in NYC. I'm lucky I never put myself into credit card debt when I easily could have, and I'm glad I started taking care of my body at 25 instead of waking up and being an unhealthy 40 (and that, of course, I wasn't struck by an illness out of my control).

There's no guarantees here. The next ten years could always end in catastrophe. But I think, by 2028, the years I spent unable to keep my feet firmly on the ground in my mid-20s will have receded into the background. And hopefully I'll be able to say, to a family that has grown, that I'm still proud of all I've done, and all I will still have yet to do.


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Grammys and Color

So the Grammys are tomorrow. And for the first time in I don't know how long, the Album of the Year category has nary a white man. In fact, the only artist who isn't a person of color is Lorde. And it seems set up for Lorde to win and people to get upset, but of all artists, this isn't late-period Beck or Steely Dan: Lorde is really good. That said, she shouldn't win.

It's been a decade since an artist of color won AotY, and that was late-period Herbie Hancock. Hancock is a legend, too, but that's not exactly contemporary urban music. So what I'm going to do is go over the last 20 years, list the winner and the other nominees, and decide if a contemporary urban artist should have won, based entirely on my own opinion. I'm not getting into other albums released that year that should have been nominated because I don't have that much time.  The Grammys get one point for correctly choosing a contemporary urban artist, they lose one for choosing some out of touch album when a hip-hop/R+B etc album was nominated and better, and they stay neutral if one wasn't nominated and better.

1998 (the year listed is the year of the show, so it'll be 1998-2017:


Bob Dylan, Time out of Mind

Other nominees: 

The Day – Babyface

This Fire – Paula Cole

Flaming Pie – Paul McCartney

OK Computer – Radiohead

Verdict: uhhhhhh what were they nominating back then? I guess Radiohead should have won. So, no, no, that's a nope. Score: Zero.



Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill


Score: One point.



Santana - Supernatural


Millennium – Backstreet Boys

Fly – Dixie Chicks

When I Look in Your Eyes – Diana Krall

FanMail – TLC

Verdict: uhhhh. My god. Look, Satana tied Michael Jackson's single ceremony record with 8 wins that night, and sold like a jillion records. And that is hardly TLC at their best. So... yeah, no. Score: Still one point.

2001 (aka the year I started paying attention, oh boy):


Steely Dan - Two Against Nature


Midnite Vultures – Beck

The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem

Kid A – Radiohead

You're the One – Paul Simon

Verdict: You know what I'm going to say. Radiohead would have been fine, but no, the Marshall Mathers LP should have won. Come on now.

Score: Back to zero points.



Various Artists - O Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack


Acoustic Soul – India.Arie

Love and Theft – Bob Dylan

Stankonia – OutKast

All That You Can't Leave Behind – U2

Verdict: Oh man, this is the most Grammy thing ever. A random bluegrass soundtrack from a movie that was more than a year old. Either India.Arie (what happened to her?) or OutKast should have taken that, though OutKast got theirs later, so.

Score: -1.



Norah Jones - Come Away With Me


Home – Dixie Chicks

The Eminem Show – Eminem

Nellyville – Nelly

The Rising – Bruce Springsteen

Verdict: That Norah Jones thing didn't last very long, did it? She's actually an artist of color (her dad is south Asian music legend), but boy was that not contemporary music, and they love that. As for the choices? Nelly? ehhhhhhh 

If I'm being honest, this isn't really a bad choice. I'm being an Eminem stan, of course that's wrong. But I'll let them have this one. They'll lose more points later.

Score: Still -1



OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below


Nope, they got it right. Good job. Though you and I both know they won because Andre 3000 likes to experiment, not because Big Boi is awesome too.

Score: Zero.



Ray Charles - Genius Loves Company


American Idiot – Green Day

The Diary of Alicia Keys – Alicia Keys

Confessions – Usher

The College Dropout – Kanye West

Verdict: Charles had died, and they had recorded "duets" with his voice. Of course the Grammys love that nonsense. They had so many choices here. Kanye was the best, as he will be again on this list.

Score: Back to -1.



U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb


The Emancipation of Mimi – Mariah Carey

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard – Paul McCartney

Love. Angel. Music. Baby. – Gwen Stefani

Late Registration – Kanye West

Verdict: Do the Grammys know they actually HAVE a lifetime achievement award? They don't have to give competitive awards as such. Here's Kanye again, and a legit very good Mariah album. There's a lot of hip hop on that Stefani album too. Bad, bad choice.

Score: -2



Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way


St. Elsewhere – Gnarls Barkley

Continuum – John Mayer

Stadium Arcadium – Red Hot Chili Peppers

FutureSex/LoveSounds – Justin Timberlake

Verdict: Oh man. I'm torn. Cee-Lo Green and JT are jerkholes, but those are great albums. On the other hand, the Dixie Chicks had their lives threatened and made a great album out of it. I can't fight with that.

Score: Still -2



Herbie Hancock - River: The Joni Letters


Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – Foo Fighters

These Days – Vince Gill

Graduation – Kanye West

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Verdict: It's Kanye again, for the third time. Sigh. Though knowing what we know now, Amy (whose music was def urban) should have won. Fail.

Score: -3.



Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand


Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends – Coldplay

Year of the Gentleman – Ne-Yo

In Rainbows – Radiohead

Tha Carter III – Lil Wayne

Verdict: What a barf of a nominee list. Frankly it should have been Radiohead. But their choice was SOOO out of touch that, yeah, even Ne-Yo was better.

Score: -4.



Taylor Swift - Fearless


I Am... Sasha Fierce – Beyoncé

The E.N.D. – The Black Eyed Peas

The Fame – Lady Gaga

Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King – Dave Matthews Band

Verdict: Here's this damn girl. Sigh. But Kanye was right (at a different awards show), Beyonce should have won. Because of course.

Score: -5.



Arcade Fire - The Suburbs


Recovery – Eminem

Need You Now – Lady Antebellum

The Fame Monster – Lady Gaga

Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

Verdict: Honestly, that Katy Perry album might be the best one. But I really like The Suburbs and Arcade Fire. I'm okay with this.

Score: Still -5.



Adele - 21


Wasting Light – Foo Fighters

Born This Way – Lady Gaga

Doo-Wops & Hooligans – Bruno Mars

Loud – Rihanna

Verdict: I didn't realize Lady Gaga had lost this three times, too. Uh, yeah, 21 is a really great album. It's way better than 25, which we'll get to.

Score: Still -5.



Mumford and Sons - Babel


El Camino – The Black Keys

Some Nights – fun.

Channel Orange – Frank Ocean

Blunderbuss – Jack White

Verdict: I don't like Frank Ocean's own music that much (and his performance was terrible), but everything is better than Mumford. So is fun.

Score: -6



Daft Punk - Random Access Memories


The Blessed Unrest – Sara Bareilles

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – Kendrick Lamar

The Heist – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Red – Taylor Swift

Verdict: Oh man. Oh man. Daft Punk is awesome. I'm sorry Kendrick. That album bumps too hard.

Score: Still -6.



Beck - Morning Phase


Beyoncé – Beyoncé

x – Ed Sheeran

Girl – Pharrell Williams

In the Lonely Hour – Sam Smith

Verdict: So grammy. SOOO grammy. Beyonce, of course.

Score: -7.



Taylor Swift - 1989


Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes

To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

Traveller – Chris Stapleton

Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weeknd

Verdict: This was the acceptance speech where Taylor ruined her image by lying because Kim K had those receipts. hahahaha. Anyway, yeah, nope, nope, nope.

Score: -8.



Adele - 25


Lemonade – Beyoncé

Purpose – Justin Bieber

Views – Drake

A Sailor's Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

Verdict: Even Adele thought Beyonce should have won.

Score: - 9.

So, in 20 years, the grammys have given the top award to a hip hop/r and b record twice. There were a few times when hip hop and r and b didn't deserve to win, and then 11 times they should have given it to them but didn't. That's not a good omen for tomorrow. Beyonce, Eminem, Kanye and Kendrick will be fine, they have like 20 grammys each (well, Kendrick will someday). But maybe tomorrow can buck their stupid trend.

And of course, if anyone, it'll be Jay-Z, who is now the U2 of rap (except his album was good).


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Middle Goals

If I'm going to get back to where I want to be as a runner, I need to hit my middle goals. That's the shorter races, distances 10k to half, where I run well and don't fade. 

Last year, I should have known the marathon would fail after all my build-up races didn't go well. Yes, it was hot and/or humid for those, but still, at my best, I'd've done much better.

And I should have known this was the case for all of last year, since I only rarely held a strong pace even in the shortest races.

This is not foolproof, as my precursor races for Boston 2016 went great and then... that happened. But I truly think that that was just not being mentally able to deal with having to run slower because of the weather. Won't happen again if I can make it back to Boston for 2020.

So, the 60 mile weeks and the quality workouts now are important. Every week has a few longer runs and bridges plus two examples of intervals (bridges were cut a bit short today as I was sore), so I expect the shorter races to go well enough to give me the push to the big ones in the fall.


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

No Countries Are Better Than Others

There aren't any bad ones, either. There are regimes, leadership, things with which most disagree. There are many, many countries in which conditions are unpleasant or worse.

But is a country simply its statistics and laws? Is a culture defined by what the rulers want to impose?

A country is its people, more than anything else. Every country has history, and every history is comprised of the acts of its people.

Every country has ugliness in its past - and present - and to be honest, there are certainly some to which I'd rather not move or travel at the moment. But one's own personal taste has nothing to do with the value of a group of citizens.

Aside from the outliers, every large group of people just wants health and safety for themselves and their loved ones. People often try to achieve this in destructive, damaging ways, of course. 

But the fact is, for everyone coming up with reasons why every country is actually "good," the people who would actually denigrate another entire country aren't about to listen to that.

Frankly, I wish our leaders (even the ones I like) would stop calling this the "greatest country on Earth." I know why they do it, it makes some simpletons happy. But there are no great countries, because that would necessitate the existence worse ones.

Wherever you are, your country is fine, like all the other ones.

Even if your leader isn't worth the air he breathes.


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Smart Kid

I was always a "smart" kid. I did well on markers of intellect, IQ tests and such. I was reading complex books at an early age. I was doing long division by kindergarten (not that I can actually do it now). I kept this fast pace up until I got challenged in middle school, and the rest of the story you know: I fell down a few times and got back up.

But yesterday's test really had nothing to do with how smart I was or wasn't. It's not a perfect test by any stretch, but what it was testing was whether or not I could put in the work to learn the contours of the exam. It was essentially a puzzle to put together. Memorization wouldn't have helped, and patterns were paramount.

In a way, I feel as though, aside from those with serious deficiencies etc, almost anyone, given the time and support, can figure out such things. I don't do well on such a test and think it makes me better; indeed I think it means everyone else can do just as well.

I think it's part of why I teach, to help other people reach where I feel that I have, to help them figure out the best way to achieve.

It took me longer than I expected to learn that the joy wasn't in knowing everything but in the process of figuring things out. Sometimes I think trivia, although it makes me feel good, is just ego-stroking since there's rarely anything to unlock (but it's still fun).

Still though. The joy is in the method. And I think anyone who sees that can travel extremely far.


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

GRE Thoughts, Finale

1. It went better than I thought. I started out fast, ran out of gas a bit, picked it back up at the end.

2. I wasn't too worried, but I hadn't sat for a long test in more than a decade so it really was an alien experience to some extent.

3. The security measures were insane. Talking about have to sign out each time you use the bathroom. Are people coming in with identical twins or proxies? That's so much work.

4. Frankly, maybe I'm lucky, but I do believe that most folks, barring certain disabilities etc, if given the time and the inclination, can improve at most basic skills. We all have the capacity for growth and should never let it flounder for too long.

5. Last time I took a standarized test, I was far too young to have a cocktail afterwards. This is no longer true.

6. I still have to figure out the financial aspect of this possible degree. But that will come another day!


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

No More Can't

When I started writing about all this, I was straight up full of "can't." It just seemed ridiculous to imagine I could run a mile faster than 8 minutes. Or a marathon faster than 4 hours.

A few years have passed.

But in trying to reconfigure my mindset, I've realized I've come up with a new box of "can'ts" from which I need to extricate myself.

There are the straightforward ones, where I start racing, see myself miss a time goal in the first or second mile and tell myself I was foolish to think I could run at top speed. There are the big ones, the overarching mileage goals, or even the placement on the team in a given race.

But I want to talk about the little ones here.

When I started, in 2012, I was absolutely certain I couldn't run without very specific music of a certain length. And if I didn't have music, I'd give up. There was no point in running.

I resolved to change this, and I did.

It swung all the way to the other direction, though. Eventually, during my nearly-two-year streak, I only ran inside 5 or 6 times, despite two really difficult winters and several vacations (poor me!). I couldn't even think about running with music, and surely not on a treadmill.

I was that person who hated everything indoors, who was outside running on ice just to prove myself. But I've proven everything I need to prove. I don't have to be superman to be fast and strong.

Fact is, I can and will run however it makes sense for my body and my life on a given day. Do I have a shorter time period? Then I'll have to run faster or shorter. Do I have to run inside? Then I will. Do I have to listen to music to get through it? Then I will.

I stll don't race with music and I still tend to glare at cameras. But it's time I release myself from these smaller shackles, the way I dropped the original ones 6 years ago and pushed my speed up considerably. 

I always thought it was just getting new shoes that showed me I could be fast. But in truth, it was seeing that there was no reason to be held back. And this year, every goal and every mile, is about finding a way forward that doesn't hold me back.

Miles for the day: 9.05

Miles for the year: 27.5


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Running Maturity in 2018

When I started this running thing, I was fueling myself with fear and insecurity and all sorts of unhealthy things. I started, in earnest, six years ago, and back then I was determined to run 13 miles once a month, and I prepared for it by psyching myself up. I couldn't even walk afterwards, and legit planned to invite people over rather than going out for the night because of that. Times have changed.

But I think I got used to this idea of punishment being closer to godliness. I did, at the start, truly have to force myself to go run through the snow and the cold in the winter. I never cut a run short, never skipped a run, and it was a point of pride, even when I came home so cold that I couldn't even open the door to my building or bend my fingers for several minutes.

There is no reason for this, unless you truly to think that suffering is the only way to find success. And I associated my early struggles with the improvements that followed.

There's a level of pain you have to deal with in endurance sports, sure. You are going to want to give up before the race is over. But after six years of this now, there's no reason to spend the half-day after a marathon barely able to function, or to run races with the latent fear of this possible result.

Honestly, after Boston last year, I was determined to make that the only time I had to drag myself to the finish. I didn't want to go through that in NYC last fall and it's why I stopped right as I felt my body beginning to fall apart, a feeling distinct from fatigue that one can only really gain through experience.

I say all this to say that, though hardly so compared to people who have been out there for decades, I think I'm finally getting to where running should actually just be fun. 

That doesn't mean it's not hard - it's not fun for me if I don't push myself. But am I really going to be out there hurting myself when it's not mile twenty-plus of a race? No.

It's early yet, and maybe I'll change as the year rolls along. But I'm focused on a sustainable, enjoyable, productive year of running and racing, a year filled with joy instead of just fear and anxiety and then disappointment.

I won't detail every single mile I run here - I don't have time for that, and you don't want to read it - but when something major happens I'll write down the good things I'll hope to cherish.

It has taken me until just recently to realize that all of my initial running success was just a mix of talent and repetition - I have some skill that I discovered, and I kept putting the work in. But it was the work that made me faster, not the sadistic body-destroying feats I underwent when there wasn't much else in my life I looked forward to.

Of course, maybe I'll trip on the treadmill tomorrow and crack my face open, but the fact is, I see this as the best way forward, and one that can be adapted to any life circumstances.

Here's hoping.

Miles for the day: 9.4

Miles for the year: 9.4 (lol, the only time these two numbers will be the same)


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality