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Information about Greg "Ritallin" Frankson, spoken word artist, activist and social innovator

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Blog

44 Gratitudes #5 - Freedom to Hold and Express My Political Views

Greg Frankson

We live in a free country, and I have opinions that I feel strongly about - especially as a literary artist. In other places, poets are persecuted, abused and sometimes killed for what they say and do. In Canada, my words are protected by constitutional laws and my right to express them covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What a blessing, especially when others are dying to do it.

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I will post regarding each of my 44 Gratitudes once a week on Mondays. It’s important to give thanks, and to start your week off right! Please feel free to like, share and comment on the posts as they appear.

44 Gratitudes: #4 - Intellect and Education

Greg Frankson

Number four in my running series of 44 Gratitudes is my intellect and education. My mom stressed that I needed to nurture and develop my mind and insisted that attending postsecondary education was mandatory. Because of this directive, I earned two university degrees and, later, a post-graduate certificate in coaching for performance and mentorship.

However, there are many ways to gain an education and exercise one’s intellect. In today’s day and age, understanding and being aware while using the online resources at our disposal is a key indicator of how much success a person can expect to experience. Therefore, I’m posting an oldie but goodie from my personal collection of poems — a piece I used to perform more regularly than any other poem in my repertoire. Here it is (with a few small tweaks) for your enjoyment and edification:


Music Box

there are three types of people in the world today
those in the game, those who watch, and those oblivious to the play
which one are you? just wait a second, i want to get this on tape
my music box records the paradox of life’s true shape

back in the days when television was a novelty set
and radio was still the king and the best way for you to get
all of your news and information on the state of the world
we used imaginative methods – mental images swirled

but now today you pay for Google Play and then plug your ears
pump up the volume as the über-rich exploit your worst fears
and the cable news networks distort with overblown speakers
play foxy games while they maintain the left is making us weaker
posting photos in our magazines our young girls see
who starve themselves emaciated to be the best they can be
boys join the army and disarm their brains to aid Uncle Sam
a plan to cram you full of fear like when they toppled Saddam
to steal the black gold and grab hold of the sceptre of power
except the spectre devours – our perspective is soured
now we expect that these hours and days of self-aggrandizing praise
delays the onset of ways for us to fight our malaise 
we’re lazy intellectually and we’re ruled by the smug
so we deserve our automation – get that matrix re-plugged
now just make sure to get an online stream at premium fees
then binge watch over and over – the world is just as it seems

no, no, no … wait for it a second … 
and click the pause button … now think about this …

the reprehensible, invincible principled thinking now 
that they could pull the indefensible suppressing the crowd
and if you think that you can take it bring it up some decibels
repress for redress and think it’s justifiable
to see the mad maniacal inspired and defiant
keep your player on the pause and know now that you are compliant
aid and abet oppression of expression of depression
teaching me lessons from sessions of your evil indiscretions
and when i ask the questions you’re telling me straight
to just believe in what i’m hearing and accept without debate 

but i’m a media savvy intelligent writer of prose
and when i compose the strength of my script will decompose
the terrible hypocrisy smeared across the globe
pick up my chamois clean the house and use my lyrics to probe
the inner depths of meglo-media engaging in fraud
it plays loud and fast and popular so we will applaud
even though the music’s mass produced by boobs in the booth
it’s lip synched and synthesized, anaesthetizing the truth
fast forward through another day of watching the tube
frying your brains with radiation that machines will exude
our lives are like runaway trains – never stopping, out of control
gathering speed of their momentum, squealing wheels on a roll

think about the things i’m saying – what are the games that we play
is the world a game of risk or are we too board to say
the entertaining litany that assails us daily on the news
leaves us with westernized morality seriously disabused
of a desire to help our brothers and our sisters in need
now we must act to counteract with hastiness and due speed

so STOP! all of the craziness and madness of war
and STOP! our governments from acting just as before
mother nature’s under attack, we’re assaulting the creator
take up the media, it’s in your hands to press play on the player
YouTube, dvd’s, Blue Ray, vinyl and all
Vimeo and online streams – whichever way that you ball
step on the court and bring your music box and spread out the word
and see those players nod their heads from the message they heard
the tunes that we are pumping out are produced by demand
remand the vicious with the contraband, and fist up your hand
to smash the vessels that empower those who hold undue sway
over the people’s information that they seek every day
victory will go to those who make the second-last mistake
so play the music of love with volume so foundations will shake

there are three types of people in the world today
those in the game, those who watch, and those oblivious to the play
which one are you? just wait a second, i want to get this on tape
my music box rocks the orthodox to take a new shape. 

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2005 and 2019. All rights reserved.

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44GratitudesGraphic.jpg

I will post regarding each of my 44 Gratitudes once a week on Mondays. It’s important to give thanks, and to start your week off right! Please feel free to like, share and comment on the posts as they appear.

44 Gratitudes: #3 - Wealth and Prosperity

Greg Frankson

The third of my gratitudes is for wealth and prosperity. Even when I've been at my lowest points in terms of income and financial solvency, I have still been richer than the vast majority of humans on Earth. We have to maintain our perspective, lest we become ungrateful and take our first-world status for granted.

This poem was written and then later updated, most recently in 2011, as a reminder to me that we have a responsibility to remain aware of our privilege at all times. Though we are all richer than most, within Canada we also suffer from income inequality, homelessness, exploitation and health insecurity. Most Canadians stand only a paycheque or two from homelessness themselves — the razor’s edge is sharp. This is a reflection that I believe still holds relevance today:

Musical Paradise

the white wand lightly taps the music stand
and a hush falls over the well-appointed crowd
murmurs melt to sated silence as the musicians brace
to feed them the richness of melodic sound 

singers smooth flowing robes and some adjust music sheets|
small movements, gentle throat clearing noises|
all eyes focus on the conductor of the performance
and then at the moment of truth, a unified inhalation ... 

i'm conducting thangs ... ohh ehhh owww ...

let’s think this through for a moment –
we wantonly waste energy and resources in fancy hotels
where towels are routinely washed after a single use
while those struggling on social assistance at $585 a month
in our largest city choose between housing and eating on a daily basis
Canada has the ninth-largest Gross Domestic Product in the world
but it is gross indeed to see the product of domestic housing policies
we have it all backwards – housing is a badge of citizenship
since much of our social safety net is predicated on street address
but we’ve failed to address the street so our social safety net
has someone to catch

oh, think twice, it's just another day for you and me in paradise ...

we can't weave that tangled web with strands of fantasy
life simply isn't that simple
when the ability to uplift through education is cancelled out
in favour of the “earning your keep” approach of working for benefits
who really benefits from that?
and if we force young people to live in spaces that stifle their creativity
their abilities and their very breathing so life becomes completely unbearable
how do we determine where the decision first caused an eruption
on the blemish-free face of our wealthy, compassionate society?
i don't want to be the bearer of negative tidings
but we have much more to do to eradicate the scourge of homelessness
and then we must add the dimension of mental health to the symphony
in order to hear the full complexity of the concerto as it plays 

i'm conducting thangs ... ohh ehhh owww ...

if all the world's a stage are the homeless the extras?
because in Hollywood even the extras get paid and fed for what they do
and if the extras in this film are being treated less than ordinary
is there little wonder when policy doesn't even begin to account for the state
of most of the minds inhabiting bodies living on the streets?
some people are running from supports to help deal
with the double negative of lack of housing and proper treatment
despite all the statistics on the issues
two negatives can never, ever be added together to make a positive
but it's clear that putting housing first instead of expecting miracles
to materialize that give the homeless instant keys to a new place
before they have full access to necessary services they require
has to be turned on its head, so housing comes first
and provides people in need with the solid foundation from which to soar 

have you seen her? tell me have you seen her? ...

housing should never be a precondition for treatment, but rather
a home must become the prerequisite to shift what we consider treatment
how we treat the homeless is the treatment we should be focused on
so they receive the medical and psychological treatment they require
and our systems of care treat them like full citizens of this country and
value their physical autonomy and safety equally so homes can be found for all
i'd like to treat our policymakers to a few hours with those who need fairer treatment
and i'd like to see us as a society treat housing as a fundamental right
because it's clear that living on the street with mental health concerns
has to be the furthest thing from a treat you can imagine
and i know from what i was taught as a child that it’s how we treat those
with the greatest need that determines the true strength of our compassion 

Mr. Wendal has tried to warn us about our ways
but we don't hear him talk
is it his fault when we've gone too far
and we got too far 'cause on him we walk ...
 

we don't worry on a daily basis about access to mental health services
and i know i can get a meal anytime and have the means to travel about easily
so to even speak credibly about homelessness i must first acknowledge my privilege
and know it’s possible i can lose it one day and be on the streets myself
for in my own life, only once, and only briefly, it did happen to me
so i ask all aspiring change agents out there
to consider what life would be like without your privilege
think about what it would be like to have your supports ripped rudely away
would you know what to do while in the depths of emotional torment
and could you keep your mind together long enough to figure it out? 

oh, think twice, it's just another day for you and me in paradise … 

the music comes to an end, the musicians lower their instruments
choir members complete the final note with mouths shaped in elegant O's
the crowd roars its approval as the rafters shake from applause
and the people on the stage break into huge, spontaneous grins of joy 

the tuxedos and ball gowns rise from their lushly upholstered seats
and stream towards the exits, their vehicles and their home addresses
they pass a woman at the entrance suffering in her mind and body
do they allow their hearts and spirits to pay her any heed? 

you can tell by the lines on her face
you can see that she's been there
probably been moved on from every place
'cause she didn't fit in there 

oh, think twice, it's just another day for you and me in paradise
oh, think, twice, it's just another day for you
you and me in paradise.


© A. Gregory Frankson, 2011. All rights reserved.

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44GratitudesGraphic.jpg

I will post regarding each of my 44 Gratitudes once a week on Mondays. It’s important to give thanks, and to start your week off right! Please feel free to like, share and comment on the posts as they appear.

44 Gratitudes: #2 - Good Health

Greg Frankson

The second of my gratitudes is for good health — the combination of good genes, the fortune of growing up in Canada, access to clean/nutritious food and water, a relatively peaceful geopolitical situation where I live and national universal health care.

One of the most important ways that has manifested in my life is in how I can receive treatment for mental health concerns. I’ve been a mental health advocate since 2007, yet I was unaware of my own major depressive disorder until I was diagnosed in 2011. Since then, I’ve had a lot of time to come to terms with my diagnosis and work my way through it. However, there is a long way still to go in the community to overcome stigma and to ensure mental health services are adequately funded.

The first time I truly spoke about my depression was in a poem I wrote for the Ontario Working Group for Early Psychosis Intervention (OWGPEI, now known as EPION - the Early Psychosis Intervention Ontario Network) in 2011. The poem was published in the anthology “That Not Forgotten” in 2012. I reproduce it here for you as a small sampling of gratitude, whose message also coincides with Black History Month.

The Voice Within by A. Gregory Frankson

i am Black
my stigma is in my skin
it's visible to everyone 
no matter how i look within
i live with it every day
and concealment is not a choice
i have available to help me
when i choose to raise my voice

Black is beautiful
that's how i feel about my skin
a beauty seen by everyone
no matter how i feel within
i think about it every day
and it appears i have no choice
but to have others react to it 
when with pride i raise my voice

Black is dangerous
that's how others feel about my skin
a menacing threat to everyone
because of my rage within
i fret about it every day
for it appears i have no choice 
but to generate a fear response
when i loudly raise my voice

i was born Black 
my identity in my skin
unchangeable to everyone
from without and from within
defines my treatment every day
and leaves me with no choice
except defend my rights with vigour
and that's why i raise my voice

i have depression
the stigma breaks my heart
invisible to all but me – 
the stress this truth imparts
i live with it every day
conceal this truth by choice
this poem the first i have confessed it
when i've chosen to raise my voice

i am beautiful
that's how i feel about my heart
even if it's not the first thing you see
when my inner anxieties start
i think about it every day
but only sometimes have a choice
of when or how my truth reveals itself
when i choose to raise my voice

the mentally ill are dangerous
so others say about mind and heart
a menacing threat to everyone
just wait for the rage to start
we fret about this every day
others believe there is no choice
but to focus on their own fear response
when i loudly raise my voice

we are born as we are
our identities in our hearts
unchangeable to everyone
the strength this truth imparts
defines my treatment every day
and leaves me little choice
except defend all rights with vigour
and that's why i raise my voice

both stigmas are real
in the skin, mind, soul and heart
we dispel dangerous assumptions
when understanding compassion starts
they live among us every day
i am one – so i have no choice
but to ask you to speak our truths out loud
with a single, deafening voice.

© A. Gregory Frankson, 2011. All rights reserved.

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44GratitudesGraphic.jpg

I will post regarding each of my 44 Gratitudes once a week on Mondays. It’s important to give thanks, and to start your week off right! Please feel free to like, share and comment on the posts as they appear.