As the days leading up to me returning to education pass way too quickly I find myself filled with consternation. I have been on hiatus for over a year now. I have traveled. I have created. I have sheltered in place. I have started my brand. I have made money independently. I have crafted every day of my life to be exactly what I want it to be. My time has been mine for the first time ever in my adult life. And now I have to prepare myself to surrender it to the institution once again.
I feed off of energy during my lectures. I look into the eyes of my students. I read the room. I put people on the spot who look at me quizzically by asking them to throw their questions out on the floor. I bless those who sneeze. I engage those who appear to be sleepy. I raise the energy level in the room to the highest possible level. Now I wonder how might this skillset that took me decades to master be inhibited by Zoom.
I have never taught an online class. The idea of lecturing to a computer screen has never been appealing to me, but here we are in the Fall of 2020. I fear that Conference Zoom is not a proper conduit for my soul. I am afraid of the disconnect that has been brought to education thanks to COVID 19. I am not sure how I will face it. I am not sure that I have the patience to return to form.
Before Kadjha Bonet told me to remember the rain I almost forget why I was hurting the way I am. I’ve spent by entire adult life one ugly cry away from being labeled insane. It was the guitar that brought me back. Her voice sounds like the ceiling in the Louvre, her face reminiscent of Habesha royalty. I don’t be dancing right…but I danced with her though. In my mind it was like an early 90s slow grind but much more respectful. Imagine if the movie LaLa land was filmed in Richmond, CA—yeah something like that. Except in the end I get the girl. We get evicted from our studio apartment in Emeryville but we still have each other though. Every now and then she turns one of my poems into a song. She gets gigs on the weekends. I wait tables during the week. I would never miss one of her shows. I love to watch the people’s faces get all euphoric when she plays “remember the rain.” It reminds me that she’s mine as long as I don’t do too much, and I’m ok with that.
A few months ago I sat down with the great brotha Keenan Norris to express my deep appreciation for the poetry of the late Etheridge Knight. What came of our conversation was one of the most amazing audio recordings that I have ever been a part of. Please listen for yourself here:
I saw a 27-year-old iconic black woman named Megan thee Stallion hobble backwards in the middle of the street at the behest of the Los Angeles Police Department. Her wounded foot leaving a trail of blood on the concrete as she continued to walk backwards with her hands up. Recording artist Tory Lanez laid face down on the opposite side of the vehicle. Initially it was reported that the car was pulled over because an occupant was shooting in the air and that glass from the window cut Meghan’s foot. Then that narrative was replaced with a more disturbing one. Apparently Tory Lanez shot Meghan twice in the foot in a domestic dispute as she tried to leave the SUV. The police then pulled them over a short while later. Tory was charged with weapon possession and quickly bonded out. Meghan has yet to tell the police that Tory is the culprit, but she has made a few social media posts which seem to not only point the finger at Tory but at black men in general.
“Black women are so unprotected & we hold so many things in to protect the feelings of others w/o considering our own,” she tweeted. “It might be funny to y’all on the internet and just another messy topic for you to talk about but this is my real life and I’m real life hurt and traumatized.”
I feel like a failure. 482.4k people to date liked this post. I would assume a disproportionate amount of them are black women who agree with her sentiments. Many of whom were probably retraumatized by watching a performer like Meghan who is normally so full of confidence and one who possesses an unabashed ownership of her sexuality wounded and bleeding by the hands of a black man. I hate that this feeling of being unprotected is so pervasive amongst black women. I hate the truth of it. I hate that when a black woman sees a group of black men that she does not know then she is much more likely to feel extreme anxiety than comfort. I love black women and it bothers me that in these moments of high-profile domestic abuse, my love can be overruled by the actions of a coward. I wish that I could heal Meg. I wish that I could restore the dignity of black men in the eyes of all black women who have been abused, but I cannot. All I can do is hate what I see, log off of social media, and try to come up with a real-life plan to bring some understanding to our fractured relationships.
Yeah. I see your concerns. I would say that the most effective thing that Marcellus Wiley did was read from the actual Black Lives Matter mission statement. In my critical thinking class I teach the concept of the Lens which basically means that our personal experiences along with race, class, gender, etc. shape how we view the world. With that being said BLM is created through the lens of three queer black women. So to me it isn’t at all shocking that the movement that they have constructed doesn’t necessarily resonate with a masculine rapper and an equally masculine football player who are from the hood. This is to be expected. I think the biggest problem is that BLM seems to be “the only show in town” if you will, when it is clear that they are not for everyone. And they clearly don’t represent the attitude and mindset of working-class black people.
Regarding Lord Jamar’s emphasis on the founders being lesbians, personally I think that’s important to note. They shouldn’t be shunned or dismissed because of their gender or sexual orientation but we must acknowledge that those things will impact how they view progress. If neither of them will ever start a family with a man then I think it’s easier for them to look at the traditional nuclear family structure as something that should be dismantled. Marcellus Wiley on the other hand feels the exact opposite. He thinks having both a man and a woman in the family is crucial for the success of a child.
But yeah perspective is important. I definitely disagreed with Wiley when he seemingly used the example of multiple black people hosting the same sports show as evidence of there being no such thing as white supremacy in 2020 WTF! Overall though I think it’s extremely necessary for us as citizens of this world to determine our own truths so that we don’t end up being the tools of demagogues. In addition to that we should stop looking at the world like a comic book: Good vs. Evil, Left vs. Right, BLM vs. White supremacy etc. because, as you and I know, the world is much more nuanced. In these times of extreme ideological bullying I really appreciate people who aren’t afraid to be gadflies. I look at both Lord Jamar and Marcellus Wiley as very welcome disrupters of contemporary woke programing. I salute them for trying to make the world think, and I salute BLM for giving them something to disagree with so passionately.
Thanks for the discourse brotha.
I defied the national punishment today and walked to the post office. On the way back I saw an Oakland that was black enough to make one believe that gentrification was just a rumor. There were black people on the sidewalk with chairs. Black people pulling up to their homes from working “essential” jobs. Black teenagers milling about. Black people appreciating the Spring and dreading not being able to get fly and go to the club, or a house party, or to the movies. It felt very nostalgic but very present day. A few people had masks on but most of us didn’t. It was almost as if I was walking home from grade school in 1992 except for the fact that there’s a big empty lot where the housing projects used to be and there’s a bike lane on either side of the street so people can’t rev up their engines and race at the light. Other than that I swear I was in a chocolate city today with no hint of Vanilla in sight. It was an awesome rejuvenating walk. I took my time.
The temerity of allergy season to try to steal Covid’s moment is astounding. As a black person I try to look as healthy as possible during this crisis yet people still leave the aisle when I walk through the grocery store. Then I sneeze and people are horrified. It’s only after many microseconds have elapsed that they realize sneezing isn’t a symptom of Corona virus, however, the CDC says that it can be spread through saliva. They walk briskly away from me praying that I have not infected them and I can’t help but to feel sorry for those poor racial profilers. And no, contrary to recent national media coverage leading Americans to believe that every black person is a walking respiratory disease, I don’t have Covid 19 but I do have seasonal allergies—BADLY. I sneeze. I snot. I sniffle. I get pink eye. It’s very unsexy but not at all deadly.
I’ve had allergies since I was about 9-years-old and it isn’t going away but—GOD DAMN! I really wish it would disappear this Spring. I have a global pandemic to try to steer clear of. I can’t be cough sneezing while another jogger is passing me in the opposite direction on a trail. One moment the man is enjoying his essential daily workout as ordained by Governor Gavin Newsome, and the next moment he thinks that I may inadvertently give him an airborne virus so he runs off the trail so far into the brush that he almost hits a tree. And it’s so rife with irony that as children growing up in the south, my parents had to get off of the sidewalk and walk down the middle of the road when a white pedestrian approached them and now the whites do the exact same thing for us. I suppose one could call that progress—well if it is then I don’t want it. Having hay fever is hard enough but to give white folks another reason to be afraid of me is just too much. I don’t know if this is truly a result of “The Rona” or if this is how they always felt but now they are somehow justified. Or perhaps maybe racism is the pandemic beneath the pandemic. No amount of hand sanitizer or surgical mask could ever prevent the spread of racism. They would never shut the country down to deal with it either. Even though it’s killed more Americans than Corona ever will and continues to destroy our potential at an alarming rate.
In these times of bullying and government induced hysteria I want people to know that it’s still ok to ask questions. If something doesn’t make sense to you then god wants you to express it no matter what the consequences shall be. On this holy day in which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ let me remind my brethren that it is our duty to follow god and not to blindly follow man, for he is fallible and corruptible. To all Americans of African descent it’s ok to question how a virus began in China, ravaged Italy and other parts of Europe and now is specifically targeting you when it isn’t even targeting your brothers in the Caribbean or Africa.
It’s ok to be inclined not to trust a government that has injected you with disease before, that has drugged you multiple times, that has herded you into prisons around the country in order to provide jobs for the real citizens of this nation, and one that leaves you to languish in ghettos until you die. If it seems very odd to you then that’s alright. You are not by yourself.
It’s ok to not be ok with martial law. If you go outside of your house then that does not mean you want your grandmother to die or anyone else’s for that matter. For all the people that have perished due to the Corona virus none of them died by your hands or your breath. But for those who are responsible for this savagery the lord will deal with them in due time. Until then do not allow your psyche to be ruled by fear and hysteria.
On this Easter of 2020 I pray that the highly essential skill of critical thinking will rise from the dead just like Jesus. For this is the only thing that will liberate the masses from bondage and guide us to the promised land. I pray that people will begin to seek their own truth as opposed to waiting for the government to tell them what to think and when to be afraid. In Jesus name I pray. Amen