What do you do for work?
It took me a little while, but now I just say I create. I’m a creator.
Who were some of your icons growing up?
Sidney Poitier. Humphrey Bogart. The Hughley Brothers. The thing they had in common was that they could fit into the mainstream, but they were unique individuals. They became icons without becoming inaccessible, and yet they still maintained this individual closeness to their own identity.
Do you think you fit in?
Absolutely not. I make it easy for it to appear that way, but I don’t fit in, because I don’t think anyone fits in. You find a place, or you find a niche. You do it and that’s part of the puzzle of life—you have to find where your piece fits. But that doesn’t mean you fit in. You’re just completing that space for that time.
What are you attracted to in a person?
I’m attracted to the people who just can’t help but to be themselves, even if it’s painfully arduous to the people around them. Even when they’re trying to look normal it’s so obvious, because who they are is so thick on top of what they’re trying to do to accommodate. I look normal but I don’t behave according to the standard code of behavior in many ways. It’s not that I’m rebelling against it. I just didn’t know it even existed until much later in life.
If you had to leave the country, where would you go?
I’d probably go to Greece for no other reason than I think the people are beautiful.
Any particular part of greece?
Anywhere where there’s beautiful, sexy, naked people.
Did you grow up around other black people?
Yes. I grew up in the Virgin Islands, but when you say ‘black’ I have no idea what that means. It’s a mindset thing. We were from the Carribean so we were ‘black’, but what else would we be?
Do you say black or African-American?
I don’t lead with ‘I am black’, but here in the US when people talk to me and they say “I’m black,” I say, “I am too!” I use whatever other people identify with, because I recognize that they need that. We have these invisible walls that we sometimes use to protect us, and sometimes use to keep us away from ourselves. What I understand is sometimes we think we’re protecting other people, but really we don’t want to hear it ourselves. So we have a mechanism to turn it off—that way we only see our reflection. Or we turn it on so that we know not to get close to it.
What separates yourself from most men your age?
I chuckle because I’ve been trying to include myself more and more with other men. I don’t find ‘guy’ jokes really funny—male bonding stuff like punching each other in the nuts. I’m not a good ‘guy’ guy. I just don’t get it. You’re going to punch me in the nuts and then tell me you love me, but if we get too intimate you’re going to tell me there’s something wrong? I’m not afraid to be totally uncomfortable when I’m uncomfortable. I know how that feelings serves me. I’m not afraid to be curious about things that men are told not to be curious about. But I think that’s what separates me from most people in general, not just men.
Did you ever want to be white gowing up?
No, never. I dreamt of having what white folks had, because it seemed it came easier to them. But I never wanted to be white. I just wanted the equality to do the same things that white people were allowed to do. White was never right. It was about the person.
What was the most important thing your parents taught you?
That’s easy. From my mother—she’d say, “You’ll figure it out.” No matter how frustrated I’d get, she’d just say that, and I’d be like, “What does that mean!?!?” But I always did figure it out.
How would you describe your world view in three words or less?
Optimistic. Pessimistic. Choice.
Favorite historical or fictional character?
Huck Finn. His attitude was, “I’m gonna do what the fuck I want. I’m gonna go down the river, come up the river.” He was always curious. I just love that character. The stories were really great. It took you out of being black or white, even though it took place during a really racist time.
Is America the greatest country on earth?
America is like a brand new business suit with dirty underwear. We just know how to cover that shit up, no pun intended.
What do you try to do everyday to keep yourself sane?
Before I get up, I say, “Thank you for waking me up, God.” I just get that feeling of, “Wow! I’m here again! Are you kidding me?!” It’s how I respond to my day. A friend of mine described it so well when he said, “I realized I’m not the character in the cartoon. I’m the writer and artist drawing the cartoon. So, at any point I can change his point of view and the world will respond.” I also practice dying. Not by pushing myself to fear, but I practice giving up. I am not Lonnie, the actor, the writer. I just lay there and deliberately give up everything. Whatever you think you are, that doesn’t exist. It’s like cleaning house in an emotional way.
How would you describe your spiritual orientation?
I’m a believer. I am what I see, and what I see is that we are one.
Would you have ever described yourself as angry?
Yes. Oh indeed, yes! But before I was angry, there was pain. I didn’t know how to release the pain, so I became frustrated. And then I became angry. It all stemmed from not receiving love from where I wanted it and how I thought I should be receiving it. That made me angry. It all happened so fast that I thought that anger was all there was, when it wasn’t. I’ve been angry many times, at family members, and mostly at myself. I didn’t know how to switch the script on that cartoon character that I was living. I was being overwhelmed by this anger and the thought of giving that up made it feel as if I were losing. And I didn’t want to lose, because my point of view was so important to me. Sometimes you’re committed to this point of view that doesn’t even matter. Having said that, anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can create diamonds. And it’s fuel for what you’ll be driving next. It’s just scary to stand in the absence, in the nothing.