Trigger Warnings: Black brutality to the body & mind, Unjust killings
lessons learned in a pew about kendrick
“Nazareth, I'm fucked up.”-Kendrick Lamar
And in a dining room full of brown folk, he said, “Black boys need to pull their pants up.” His, unfastened and unzipped freeing spilling his waist over the sides. He was fed and warm and this was just a conversation that he could leave.The truth is his statement weighs little on how uncomfortable the image made me. I’d seen what a conversation could do to someone’s living and what it meant when the subject of the room was not in the room. They were instead living the topic. This man would get up soon. Gather his children and wife, put on his coat, grab a plate for the road and head on home. This was just a conversation that he could play with and go on home when he grew tired of it. He could forget or remember, whichever made him more heroic, and attach philosophical theories surrounding the sociology of the black community. It felt like I was behind the cameras of National Geographic zooming in on a lion devouring game and being told to let the jungle takes its course. The everyday problems of the ghetto weren’t mentioned. Instead, the ghetto was the problem and we never interrupted. Everyone wanted to save the ghetto by leaving it. Then they’d complain about gentrification. The conversation flew all over the place and the people would go on home. No one really believed anything could be done. They held oppression in their shoulders as they wrapped themselves in their coats and hugged their loved ones. I can’t even imagine my disgust seeing this in a white home with a white man or a white woman. What pains me most is how long this conversation has traveled unscathed. The conversation about the black boys outside and what they needed to do to stay safe is a troubling one for me because I don’t blame those who wants to keep them safe. I don’t blame the one that ones to keep the freedom safe. I hear the worry in both of their voices and I’m moved because neither of them asked to have this conversation. This isn’t fun for anyone. The arguing follows claiming that this country doesn’t care how low his pants are they’ll kill him in any condition. This is battled with the sentiment of perhaps, Mike Brown would still be here if he didn’t scare them so much. Both are hoping to keep us alive safely in skin and freedom. But, I am worried by what a saved freedom looks like. What is the cost for living a saved life? In realizing the end goal of our desires, I celebrate that our destination has not changed. We still seek for life. We still want that for our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, skin and all wearing it. The condition of the black body is that it lives under so many scrutinies, they often make it difficult to convince us that we aren’t a stain that this country is trying to hide while keeping the elements that’ll suffice for decoration…and compensation. We are our best when we are entertainment. We are the most satisfying when we have lost our minds. We are loved when we lie about ourselves.
“Homie, you fucked up”- Kendrick Lamar
ain’t nothin’ new under the sun.
ain’t nothin’ new about it.
boiling all orange and bright
and touching everything that ain’t mine.
look at that shine.
falling out the sky.
ain’t nothin’ divine touchin the ghetto,
I’m not sure why I remember the night so well when we were driving back from New York to Philly after a poetry slam. Our energies bouncing lazily around the van full of easy laughing and talking, we didn’t see it coming. I’d been spending a great deal of the summer with these brown poets from Philadelphia. We were all young and still going through the trials and errors of realizing and embracing one’s own identity while learning to express it. This was one of the most intense summers of my life because I believe that they made me a better lover for someone. and that process is always difficult. This was the day that I learned the multiple dangers of being black the most. We were riding in the van, my coach and mentor in the front with about 8-10 of us in bundled in behind them. There wasn’t much said or given during the ride. There was nothing particularly special about it until someone announced that George Zimmerman was found innocent in the murder of the young black boy, Trayvon Martin. The announcement spoke for the rest of us. None of my teammates wanted to go home that night. I’m not sure which we fearedmore: our bodies or our minds. My coach went into his bedroom, closed the door and the hymns creeped from under. We’d already been writing a poem about Trayvon that we knew would move any room performed in. That night, we went on home and scratched that poem. I watched some ofus cry and others stare endlessly into the night realizing how true the stories of this country hating us were. We all knew. Everyone’s been told about the countless deaths of undeserving black folk without any consequence or ridicule. You could really kill us leaving our lives to weigh on the flimsy lie that we make them feel unsafe. Any movement that we made, aware or unaware, that placed fear inside a white person would be deemed understandable and this government would sympathize with these frightened black folk. They could relate to their fear. And they could kill us. And they could get away with it. Because they always have. It was so simple to see but so difficult to live with. I don’t remember crying that night, I cried many days after and before that night for my skin. But, I couldn’t find the tears for any of this. I couldn’t find the anger either. I remember the direct feeling of emptiness and tired. This drove a wedge in the love for my white friends who could roam freely and go home, forgiven and alive. I was angry for my mother, who had to worry. I was angry for my brothers. My beautiful brothers who I could not convince this country to love enough w Racism was simple. It was maximum hatred imposed on another group for minimum reason. It was the desire to kill what wasn’t understood and since black is rarely sought to be understood or loved in this country, we are abused. Verbally, physically and mentally. What is left of us is thrown in their prison, or buried in the grounds of their country. My thoughts were dark that night. Much like the skin they hated. I could understand why our parents preached the respectability politics. Their love was simple. They just wanted us to come on home, safely. My generation, our desire was very simple, also. I realized it so clearly. We just wanted to be alive, free and left alone.
“But if God got us…” -Kendrick Lamar
The first place I learned an unsaved blackness was in a sanctuary. It was the sweat forming on brows, the stopping of an invisible relentless devil and the hugs that filled thewalls. The music bouncing off of them was further testament to the permeating spirit of black soul that no longer cares what you say. The black church taught me how to be black without including direct teachings against the white man. What surprises me the most is how I can be written off as hating white folk because I love my black skin, loudly. I choose to challenge that assertion by remembering the church. Mothers would gather their children and husband in a pew and the music would send their worries searching for a new home as they praised and worshipped God in as replacement. We were black. We had our own music and our own dance to accompany it. No, we never really talked about white people and the oppressing society. We all knew it but we were unapologetically black and dancing anyhow. I found this same theme to reside in my family cookouts and parties. The place would be full of black folk, soul food, Luther Vandross, drinks and a laughter that just made sense. We didn’t all come there with an intention and purpose to fight back against oppression. We weren’t aligning our living to combat the suffocating systems in our schools and the neighborhoods we’d go home to. Yet, we were still dismantling a system that sought to diminish us. We were celebrating despite popular demand. We were black despite popular demand. My love for my skin has no relation with white oppression. It is not based off my disappointment of white America. I don’t care about them while loving myself or my people. I don’t do this for the attention or the aesthetic. The blessing of it all is that the black man’s expression of his purest joy and happiness collectively destructs a system that essentially seeks to devalue and erase him. The central theme of our mission is to acquire a carefree and unapologetic blackness in celebration of culture and skin for they are ours. They have never left. Despite personal beliefs, I find my blackness heavily in my childhood church because I learned to love my skin there, without the permission or taunting of whiteness. Invest in these spaces that are made without America’s provocative appeal to destruct and trigger our psyche and mental health for the attack is constant. The names are fresh, new and recurring. It can get tiring to live in this skin and I don’t blame those who simply want to safe in it. I respect and share the sentiment ofwanting to keep us in our skin even at the sacrifice of freedom. I, do also believe that desperation damages the minds of many. To value the body more than the soul isthe definition of ‘lynching’. I’m afraid our rhetoric is beginning to do that. While I don’t intend to be brutal or to offend, I have found that to live a survived life is to live an enslaved life. We are bombarded with constant reminders regarding problems of our skin and these triggers are often said with the expectation of us cleaning it up. It is not our jobs to teach this country how to not hate us any longer. I cannot see any more of my brothers walking around nearly as dead as those we’ve buried. I cannot appeal to the ideology of leaving ourselves behind for a tomorrow in a country that refuses to properly apologize.They are relentless about it, as well. I believe that we deserve our joy. I believe that we are owed our rights to live and be as black as possible without the mockery or exploitation of our culture. The true elite, the real Talented Tenth, the wealthy Black individual is not the one who sacrifices their identity, happiness, freedom or blackness for the approval or enslaved life of this country. Invest in your black art for it is the reflection of the community. Invest in the black writers for they tell the story. Invest in the black education for the nurture the next generation. The unwavering joy in this skin has to be the central goal of our living. This is the time more than any for the black community to celebrate themselves not only in the name of healing but in our names. Create black spaces that live outside the existence of an oppressive society but lives in the celebration of black. There is no room to apologize for being here. There are too many ways that we’ve done that. End the conversation and live a better one. Protect one another and yourself by creating a joy that is an activism despite the need for activism. Love your skin when you aren’t taunted to do so. There is no greater time to properly love theblack folk with a specific love. An intentional love. We deserve a brighter day. One that outshines that endless night. Free the skin and all that lives between it.
“We gon’ be alright.”-Kendrick Lamar