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who is hannibal tabu?

Who am I?

Mister Tabu? The Holla Back Kid? H-Teezy? The Zap Dad? The Operative? Bonzai, the skater kid in Anaheim? Hunter Gold, the military fanatic in Memphis? The Lord of the Storm from AICN? Teezy Grande? The Black Steve Austin (stone cold and bionic)? Brother F.0.R.C.E. from Project Blowed? TNT from Havenview Junior High?

The question of self-determination and identity is one I've spent a great deal of time grappling with, going through monikers like they were jackets, in fashion for only a season. In traditional societies, a man was identified by his lineage, his accomplishments, and his legacy. I try to share some of that sentiment. It's often easier to say what I'm not, but let's have a go at the affirmative.

Starting with the basics: I was born in Rockford, Illinois, at midnight on January 20th, 1973. That's actually a funny story: my mother's water broke on January 16th, and it seems I kept creeping in and out of the womb at an angle that made a Cesarian section impossible. Four days of labor. She's still not forgiven me for that.

I went to live with my great aunt and uncle, Mabel and Harold Grant, when I was about 3 (save a six month period a few years later) and stayed with them until their deaths (she dies in 1986, him in 1987). We lived in Memphis, Tennessee on Jeanne Drive, and I was a very bored but, looking back, very happy child because of the central gift they gave me: the idea that I could do literally anything I wanted to, if I was willing to work hard enough to get it.

Anyway, I'm 29 years old as of this writing, I'm 6'2" tall, weigh somewhere around 160 pounds, wear glasses, keep my hair shaved (go to the barber every Saturday) and sport a goatee most of the year, I have no interest in my fingernails and thus they are often quite long (by western male standards), I have no tattoos and few recognizable scars.

The name "Hannibal" is from the Khart Haddan (Cartaginian), meaning "Storm" or "Lightning." Khart Haddas/Carthage was a colony of Phoenicia, itself a colony of ancient Egypt. My namesake was, of course, one of the most brilliant military minds in history, and spent 18 years beating the hell out of the Roman Empire up and down what's now called Italy. Anyway, my last name, "Tabu" is a Kiswahili word meaning "difficulty," despite the fact that modern people more often use the connotation from the later-developed Tongan "tapu" or "tabu" meaning "forbidden." Sorry, digression, affirmative slant here.

I am the son of Charlene Williams and Curtis Paschal, two star-crossed lovers who should never, ever have been involved with each other. The product of their first coupling, late after one of his infamous parties, is me. They were really never "together," and I suspect never will be. He's been dodging the law, for a number of reasons, as long as I've been alive. Living under various aliases, changing identities and addresses, never having a fixed phone number -- it's kind of his thing, even decades later. Whadda ya gonna do?

Oh, she's living (as of this writing) in our ancestral homelands of Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my half-brother Chazz. More on him in a bit.

I'm the eldest brother to four people -- Tiffany Paschal (she's married, but I don't know the guy or her new name, they live in Virginia or something), Sharolyn Paschal (she ... should be in law school as of this writing, I believe), Laurinda Paschal and the aforementioned Chazz Cavanaugh. Listed in order of birth, FYI. Things weren't going so well with my mother, and things were going famously well with another local woman named (IIRC) Dottie, so my father conceived Tiffany four months after me. Poppa was a rolling stone, and what have you. Curtis stayed with Dottie and gave her two more daughters (the aforementioned Sharolyn and Laurinda), all of whom have a very low opinion of him. Growing up, they knew about me, but I didn't know about them -- I discovered Tiffany existed when I was maybe twenty, and the other two when I was twenty one. Toys bought for me at holidays ended up being split between sisters. We're not very close -- Tiffany, I think, never adjudsted well to being displaced as oldest, Laurinda developed a beef over some CDs missing from my apartment, and I suppose Sharolyn just can't be bothered -- but through it all I like each of them.

Chazz was born when I was seventeen. His father, David Cavanaugh, is the first husband to my mother. He's a salesman by trade and a junkie by fate. I pray bad things will continue to happen to him, but that's another story. On his way out of his relationship with my mother (the second time, not the last time), he gave her Chazz. She was 39, and she promised that if she "got caught" before she was 40, she'd have the baby. Way to sneak in under the radar. I thought it was a famously bad idea at the time, but came to adore the little hoodlum. He's saddled with some of the lackluster genes of his father's side, but he's a deceptively sweet kid who's hiding a great deal of intelligence behind a hulking presence. I always remember his age by subtracting 17 from mine.

Right, so that's the genetic stuff. More important to me is the family I've chosen -- to be honest, I have very little dealings with people I'm related to by blood, partially because I carry grudges and partially because I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee with little contact with or interest in any of them. When almost all of them ignored my wedding invitation, I pretty much cut off 98% of them.

I went through an Afrakan (spelling intentional, a story for another day) rites of passage program called the Brotherhood of African Men. The details of that life are quite inconsequential, but from that time I forged some of the deepest bonds I have ever known. My brothers from that time -- Inpu Ka Mut, Denzil Xavier, Shingirai Chanaiwa, Heru Khuti, some others -- are my family, their families are mine. I'm considerably closer to them than anyone I'm related to by blood, and baby, that's just the way it is. That's all I have to say about that.

I'm what's popularly considered an "angry Black man." I have some fairly extreme views about a wide variety of things, most of which I keep to myself more and more as time goes on. Ask me, and I'll tell you ... from a certain point of view. Currently, I'm of the opinion that carbon-based life was something of a bad idea, but my misanthropy goes from a kind of goofy mischievousness that's endearing and fun to be around to a vastly bleak and powerfully depressing loathing of the sexually transmitted disease called "life." Mostly I'm somewhere inbetween, and most people I do spend time with find me fairly okay. Most of the time. Right.

I'm a writer, at my core. I've written entertainment journalism (mostly for money, some of it for kicks) for more than a decade at this point for more publications than I can remember. Most of that is over in the writing archive. I'm working on fiction more than poetry now, those two axes being my creative centers these days. I am also a pretty good graphic designer and web producer, but that breed of person seems to be undervalued in my neck of the woods these days, so (in the words of Kamau Daaood), I do what I have to do with what I have to do it with.

I have been crafted into a better writer and artist at the World Stage Anansi Writers Workshop, as well as picking up professional chops during one brief Camalot period at the Los Angeles Sentinel. Under the watchful eyes of Marsha Mitchell Bray, the late Dennis Schatzman, James Bolden, Peter J. Harris, V. Kali, Kamau Daaood, Michael Datcher, Sequoia Mercier, Regina Jones and probably several more I don't remember as immediately, I have been forged into a keen and honest sword.

I am an avid science fiction and comic book fan. Lots of people tune out when I say that, but it's true. I have a house full of action figures and toys, many of which are things I owned as a child and foolishly let disappear. I've been trying (pretty halfheartedly, I'll admit) to find a way into professionally writing comics and entertainment fiction for about two years now.

Is that it? It's just good to not start a paragraph with "I" for a change. I suppose, like myself, this description of who I am is a work-in-progress. I'll let you know how it's going.

-- Hannibal Tabu
November 13, 2002

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