What about all of those lost pages? Those words that I’ve written on papers that have been ripped up. Those documents that were never saved. Those ideas that I had but never let them leave my brain. No one in history has ever doubted themselves more than I doubt me. No one else has ever been more afraid to claim greatness. Imagine living a life where you become content with the frustration of not achieving your goal. And you put all of your energy into recognizing all of the daily atrocities committed against your soul as opposed to fighting back.
My god. I see where I need to be but I feel like I can’t get there. I’ve been on the bank of the river and I’ve seen the water rushing by. I’ve set foot in the river and I’ve taken steps but I didn’t know. I just didn’t know if I could make it to where I wanted to be. I felt unsafe. I felt uncomfortable. I was able to decipher the voice of hate and hate told me to come on back to the dry land where you belong. Hate asked me who the hell I thought I was. Hate told me to be obedient and not to cause trouble. And I listened. I listened as if hate were the lord and I followed him.
I’ve allowed myself to be herded into normalcy knowing that I could never be normal. I have never known my place. I always ask questions. I can’t shut my brain down in order to make the system run more smoothly. That makes me a problem. But I’ve only ever wanted peace. So I distract myself with the pursuit of the beautiful. The women, the art, the islands, the rapture of running until I sweat gets me high. But I don’t want to be high anymore. I no longer want to feel as though I have to dim my light in order to make weak people feel strong. I am here on this earth in pursuit of peace. And I am quickly approaching the point where I would rather drown than allow hate to make me into a coward.
I was on my bed considering my journey, contemplating all of the things that had taken place in order for me to arrive in the space that I currently occupy. Then I heard a violent noise. The noise seemed to vibrate the windows and smash against my back door. Then I heard the sound again and it had a similar effect on the structure of the house, except this time it was a little bit louder. I gathered myself and rose slowly, contemplating whether or not to get a weapon before I walked in the living room area to see what was going on. I opted not to. I took silent ninja steps to the window and peered out of it to see that the cause of my consternation was the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the Jamaican shore which was just a few feet from the Montego Bay estate that I was staying in for the night.
I very rarely leave the United States. I almost never kick back and enjoy life, but last week I was on a solo trip to Jamaica when I saw those waves crashing against the beach and then rolling back into the sea. The rhythm began to saturate my soul. The consistency, the majesty, the power of it all—it got me. I stepped out on the balcony in astonishment. I submitted to the moment. I looked but did not move. I forgot that I was breathing. I appreciated the world and I told myself, I deserve this.
If you are anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area then you need to go to this event!
On Wednesday, October 18th at 6:30pm Mental Health in the Hood Presents “Keep Holding On: A Night of Suicide Awareness.” Please join us as we welcome internationally renowned keynote speaker Kevin “Grateful” Berthia. Grateful Berthia is a motivational speaker and mental health advocate.
On October 18th at 6:30pm in room D200 of Laney College he will tell the story of his darkest moment and what keeps him holding on. Laney College student Malaysi a Alcorn will also share her testimony.
This will be a powerful evening that you will not want to miss—trust me. Those who have been touched by suicide in any way are especially encouraged to attend. I hope to see you all there.
Jemele Hill must feel kind of like Korryn Gaines when she had the devil at her door demanding her submission in exchange for her life. But what is a life with no soul, what is a body with no heart, and how can one speak with no tongue?
They are afraid of a black woman with a rifle in her hand willing to kill to protect her son, to protect her freedom, to protect her dignity. And the police in Baltimore County Maryland felt like they needed all of that force to serve a warrant for a misdemeanor.
They are deathly afraid of a black woman that they can’t control. A sista that won’t be quiet. A sista that doesn’t want to twerk. A sista that doesn’t want to be their fantasy. A sista that knows that her place is at the top of the throne no matter what that throne is made of, like Queen Nzinga. A sista with opinions that she isn’t afraid to share. And ESPN scolded Jemele like a child, then suspended her for two weeks for telling the truth on two different occasions.
Well, if Ebonics be thy first language then let truth be thy second. My mother taught me how to stand in direct opposition to corruption. My mother showed me that the black woman is the embodiment of resilience. My mother showed me love. My mother taught me how to speak and my mother taught me how to listen. My mother spoke softly, my mother screamed loudly and sometimes my mother chose to be silent. No man could ever force her to be submissive, and no job ever succeeded in shutting her up—though many of them tried. So maybe she didn’t get that promotion and maybe they didn’t deem her to be a “team” player. Maybe she has had to suffer more and maybe she is paid less.
And one may ask why couldn’t my mother just be a good worker and go along with the company program? Why didn’t Jemele Hill just stop tweeting altogether? Why couldn’t Korryn Gaines just put her gun down and have a rational conversation with the police? Why didn’t Sandra Bland just put out her cigarette? Why couldn’t Miss Sofia just be a nanny for that white lady’s kids in The Color Purple? Why did she have to say hell no?
To this I would say no one should have to sacrifice their humanity to make you feel comfortable. No one should have to give up their rights to make you feel safe. No one should have to give up their voice in order for you to feel complacent. And at times it seems as though the black woman gave birth to a world that has been trying to destroy her ever since. Jemele Hill has been suspended as if she were in grammar school and Korryn Gaines was murdered in her apartment in front of her 5-year-old son by the police. And all because instead of looking down at their feet they chose to look power directly in the eyes. They both spoke truth to a culture built upon lies, and they spoke this truth with the devil at their door.
“they threw me a charge too late, got my “Big Girl” September of last year. Legit w/papers. Thought i was gon have to take out a nigga nd realized i had a bigger problem. Fuck it Let’s dance, i got some rhythm”
When the lights are all out you feel it more. When your eyes are closed you see it better. While in the moment of sin I prayed that it would never stop. I thanked god that it was real, and I lost myself. Restraint—as necessary as it is at times—can be so overrated. I wanted more so she gave me more. And just like the seasons tell the farmer when it is time to plant and when it is time to harvest, her body spoke to me in the language of the sun. It spoke to me in the language of the fertile soil down in the delta and I responded with primitive lust. She dripped, she poured, she rained, we left a collection of fluids on a silky crimson sheet. And we felt no shame.
I was approaching Baltimore Harbor when I heard the same syncopated rhythm that I heard intermittently on my one hour journey from Washington, D.C. Except this time it was live! It was right before my eyes so I could see the masterpiece as it was being created with two drumsticks, three buckets, a trash can, and a basket from a grocery store. What the man was creating was a sound called GO-GO. It made me want to dance, pray to my ancestors, and take the finest sista I saw back to my dingy little room at the Motel 6. It made me feel at once liberated and a slave to all my passions. It reminded me that I was an African, but also that I was very far from home.
They don’t play GO-GO music at all in the San Francisco Bay Area. I mean like never. I only know what it is because several years ago I asked a friend of mine that had gone to Howard what it was like to party in D.C. and he told me “The girls out there really like GO-GO.” I looked at him quizzically thinking that he was saying that they were strippers. I kept thinking GO-GO dancers and for some reason I conjured up Demi Moore’s dance routine in the movie “Striptease.” Thankfully he began to explain it to me. “It’s like that Amerie song. That’s kind of like GO-GO…ok ok you remember that song ‘Doing the butt’? Now that song is definitely GO-GO” It was only then that I understood. But that song was from the “School Daze” soundtrack. I think I was in the 2nd grade when that came out and after they stopped playing it on the radio I never heard anything else like it. But that was obviously because I had never been to Baltimore or the DMV.
So “Doing the Butt” isn’t just a song but rather it’s part of a movement that has been going strong for several decades. Like stepping in Chicago and Going Dumb in the Bay, GO-GO is a D.C. thing. And as I listened to it I felt very deprived. Why hadn’t I known about this? Why hadn’t this sound made its way to the bay like Trap Music, House Music, or Dance Hall? I was so enamored with how the continent of Africa had touched the region where I was vacationing. The sound I was hearing was so ill, it was so lit, it was so pure. I was feeling it. I put a little money down in front of the musician and left on my way to get crab cakes which were better than the ones they sell in the Bay Area but definitely didn’t live up to the hype as far as all of the fantastic things that I had heard about them, but there were no expectations for my experience with GO-GO. GO-GO somehow remains D.C.’s secret. GO-GO is an uncorrupted manifestation of ancient African musical expertise. I had to travel across the country to hear this sound and the journey was worth it.
But what about the redwoods, and the black women, and the future? What about cool days when fog protects you from the sun and you know that god has your back. What about all of your trophies in the living room and the recognition plaques on the walls? What about all of the people that appreciate what you do? Some of them tell you and some of them don’t but they all need you to be here.
Sometimes I wish that I didn’t bruise so easily but I do. Sometimes I bruise when I’m touched and the pain lasts for years. Sometimes even words leave permanent marks on my flesh. Sometimes cruel text messages do as well. Sometimes when people act like they don’t need me, I believe them.
But what about views of the Pacific Ocean from the Berkeley Hills? What about Lake Merritt on Sunday afternoons? What about fresh doughnuts from King Pins? What about your purpose? What about the fight and he struggle? What about taking a nap in the parking lot when the day is hot and being woken up by the beads of sweat gathering on your cheek only to roll down your window at the exact time a breeze is passing through, and all at once you are revitalized.
You deserve awesome things. You were born deserving them and before you perish you will get them and so much more. Be patient and be persistent. I love you. I will continue to love you. I believe in you. I trust you. I got you. We will do this.