I committed a millennial sin about a month ago and here is my confession. I went on a vacation to a tropical island and I didn’t bring my camera. Not only that, I left my phone in my room every single day. And finally, I went on this vacation alone. Not with my crew, not with my squad, not with my gang, not with my fraternity, not with my family, not with my brothers—just me. And I wandered, I had savory authentic dishes, I got scammed, I declined several propositions from prostitutes, I was myself mistaken for a prostitute and propositioned (That was interesting. Must have been my shorts), and I had conversations that made me question my stance on my country. All of these things made my soul expand yet I don’t have one picture to prove it so therefore it never happened.
I’m fine with it. That’s the portion of it that concerns me the most. I don’t care. I’m wondering what’s the purpose of confessing to a sin that I don’t feel sorry for committing. I guess this means I’m doomed to spend eternity in millennial hell. A place with no Wi-Fi where porn only comes in actual magazines and I have to listen to entire albums the whole way through and actually physically turn those albums over. If that be my fate then so be it. I’m beginning to guard my experiences more. I share them on social media less and less. I don’t even feel comfortable writing down which island I went to. I will say that it was one of the ones filled with black people. And they spoke a language other than English—except when they were talking to me. I will also say that I wouldn’t ever go back. It was an awesome experience but I felt an enormous stigma as a tourist. I wasn’t in an all-inclusive resort so I realized within hours of touching down that I was the economy. Everyone there depended on me to feed their families and I didn’t like it. I hated that the whole island is being raped by foreigners. There were billion dollar hotels and multimillion dollar carnival cruises that docked on the bay and none of these businesses were owned by any person from that country. All that they could do was work in the service of tourists or flee to a country like the one I was born in. I had come there for escape, for paradise, to have an experience akin to those I’ve seen on Instagram—I was a fool.
I took no pictures. I wished I could turn my critical thinking skills down enough to Turn Up the whole time I was down there but I couldn’t. I saw beautiful women and I will always remember them. I learned about the great prophets of that island and I won’t forget them. I felt the water of the ocean against my toes while the seaweed tickled my ankles. I embraced the fact that I was wrong about a lot of things after futilely fighting for their individual truths in conversations with islanders who knew better. I realized that I, even in my black skin, have privileges. I accepted that though I am the descendant of American slaves. Though one could argue that I am still in bondage—and often times I do—I am still an American. America is all that I know. Everything I have learned has been filtered by my government. Even the things that I believed to be radical I only was able to learn because my country allowed me to.
When I stepped onto that island I lived a different truth. A truth that couldn’t be captured in a photograph. It couldn’t be validated by X number of likes either. Therefore I didn’t partake in any of those practices that have set this era apart from all those preceding it. It was a sin that I committed intentionally and a sin that I will commit again.
She was very insecure but she ought not to have been. Her lips were as full as the moon. Her hair was deeply tangled yet beautiful, just like the history of humankind. At 22-years-old she was fine as hell. She knew she was fine. All the boys told her so but far too many times there was an asterisk. “You’re fine for a dark skin girl” they would say. She was pretty enough to be a stripper but not pretty enough to be a model. When she got all dressed up she was a bad bitch and not a gorgeous woman. No one saw the pain that was spreading behind her high cheek bones. No one was aware of the self-doubt that had burrowed its way into her body, they were too preoccupied with the way that she walked into a room and stood in the middle of that thang arms akimbo until she found her girls, or a seat, or the bar, or a place to dance. And while she waited she breathed in deeply as if she was inhaling the hatred of the women and the fantasies of the men—then she exhaled slowly, dramatically, seductively. She was the center of all dirty thoughts without ever trying to be. She was viewed as Hottentot Venus but she wanted to be The Birth of Venus. She wasn’t insecure about her culture, no not at all. She was just beginning to be consumed by all of the ways in which her complexion was permeating her dreams. Dreams that used to be sacred and unbound were now tainted by the perceptions of both strangers and loved ones.
She thought of escaping quite often, but to where? She had heard her sorrors tell vacation stories in which natives of Germany, France, and Mexico adored dark skin women. These stories were entertaining but she didn’t want to be anyone’s primitive little fetish. She didn’t want to be chosen in an effort to challenge mommy and daddy’s expectations. She just wanted full credit for her radiance. She had a reoccurring dream of being the queen of the Dahomey Kingdom in the 18th Century. She was training to be a female warrior until the king of all of Dahomey took her to be his wife. And since it was her dream the king never took on another wife, and she only bore one child for him because she didn’t want to have too many stretch marks and it was very important that she hold on to the ability to keep her lady parts tight—and the king understood. The king spoiled her with gifts publicly and in private she was the one who made all of the important decisions. Also in the dream were all the people who had abused her in real life. Like Matthew who used to call her blacky in middle school. Taylor who laughed out loud when she decided to go natural in 10th grade and called her a fake ass Erykuh Badu. “Erykuh Ba-WHO?” he said with both arms in the air resembling a W in a questioning manner. Light skinned Monica who won homecoming queen over her was also there. And with a snap of a finger she had them all captured and sold into slavery, and she never felt bad about it until she woke up. The level of pettiness that she had descended into inside of her subconscious mind concerned her. Since marijuana upset her stomach she decided that she needed therapy. Preferably a dark-skinned black therapist that her sorrors recommended and one who was happily married to a black man. She would send a message of inquiry in the group chat immediately.
The more familiar a person is with the inner-workings of capitalism, the more a person is convinced that there is no way Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. Apparently, he was on suicide watch after he attempted to hang himself three weeks ago but was not being monitored at the time of his suicide earlier today. I refuse to believe that a man who allegedly provided sex with underage girls for the most powerful men in the world took his own life. Maybe we should use the term “assisted suicide.” Like maybe the word got to him that it would be in his best interest to kill himself and he was like “Yeah. You’re right. I’ll get on it right away.” Or maybe he was poisoned or maybe even shot four times in the chest. The point is that we will never know. No matter how comfortable you feel about the government report on the way in which Epstein died just know that the information that would have come out during his trial would have embarrassed the US government, several European governments, and probably Saudi Arabia’s as well. They had ample reason to kill him. But let’s just say that Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide as the media is reporting. What can we deduce from that? Is it fair to say that very wealthy white men don’t like to be placed in cages? Maybe they believe that jail is for the R. Kelly’s and Bill Cosby’s of the world. The Weinsteins, Catholic Priests, Ed Bucks and Epsteins are like “Oh hell no. Give me freedom! Give me bail! Or give me death!” But whatever, no matter how his life ended he’s dead. Let all of the princes, prime ministers, and presidents that were entertained by underage girls who were being trafficked by Mr. Epstein rejoice. And let the collective eye rolling of the masses who are once again being deprived of justice be slow, thorough, and accompanied by the loudest exhale possible.
It was her sentence structure that amazed me more than anything. Each sentence fit into the story so perfectly and each one seemed to have equal importance. She was so measured in her approach. She never caught the holy ghost, as writers tend to do, and carried on about a singular topic while neglecting others. Her passion was always evenly distributed throughout her work and she always used a high level of characterization with each character that she created.
As an artist, my literary heroes impress me in different ways based on their style. From Hurston and Dunbar I always appreciated their skill at writing black dialect. From Baldwin I marveled at his strength of translating the experience of African-Americans into beautiful but still very confrontational intellectualism. And from Toni Morrison I learned patience. From her I learned consistency. From Toni I learned the confidence to slow down and trust that your audience will slow down with you. I learned to believe in the fact that your readers actually want to believe in you as a storyteller. Toni Morrison made blackness the default in all of her books. She made white readers feel their otherness without even trying. She carried her blackness with such an awesome regality that it was infectious.
And I will miss her the same way that I miss my father, my friend Sean Scott, my friend Ronnie Kidd, and my grandmother. The same way I miss all of my ancestors who I have never met but I still ask them questions every day. I will cherish her words until the day that I die and I will continue to walk down the road that she cleared for black writers. I love you Toni. Rest in eternal peace.
If they knocked off Nipsey then they can knock off anyone. And I suppose that I always knew that but it’s very rare that I feel it as acutely as I do right now.
Today I grieve for Nipsey and I also grieve for Sean Scott my childhood friend who was murdered in 2005. Today is his birthday. He would have been 37 years old. I used to think that I would outgrow the anxiety associated with being a black man and fearing a violent death just about everyday of my life. I realize now that I’ve just learned to cope with it largely through neglect. What the murder of Nipsey Hussle is doing is making a lot of people, particularly black men, consider the event of their own tragic death and face the reality that no matter how brilliant, devoted, talented, loving, inspiring and righteous you may be there’s always a ni**a somewhere waiting to kill you.
Nipsey Hussle was murdered yesterday in front of a clothing store that he owned. He was murdered at the age of 33, the same age that Jesus was when he was nailed to the cross. Police are now saying that he was murdered by someone that he knew and that it was over a personal dispute. Initially people on social media were saying that it was a government conspiracy due to his upcoming documentary on the life of Dr. Sebi, a controversial figure who claimed to have found the cure to AIDS and other STD’s. But now the energy has shifted back to us. Back to the ghetto, and back to the self-hatred that is so pervasive in the black body. This plague has consumed Nipsey, who was a manifestation of hope in a very confounding era in which the blind are somehow able to amass extremely large followings and those who sleep on the traditions of our ancestors loudly proclaim to be woke.
As I sit here writing, the waves of pain are crashing against my consciousness. Particularly as I write the word was in regards to Nipsey. For everything that he did was for the future of black people—future economic empowerment, future financial literacy, future black ownership of the hood—and now he will be forever relegated to the past. We will have to speak of him in the same cryptic “what if” language in which we speak of Tupac Shakur. Each time we see his profound intellect displayed during an interview, or hear him spitting rhymes over a gangsta beat, instead of bobbing our heads we will instinctively hold them—both hands pressed against our foreheads— and say “Damn.” A man so full of light who escaped a life sentence in the penitentiary, poverty, disease, ignorance and all the other symptoms of ghetto America should not have to spend the rest of eternity trapped in the past tense. There was so much more unifying that he could have done.
Nipsey, for those of you who may not know, was the solution. If one were to go to any barbershop in any hood in this country and pose the question “What needs to be done in order to turn this community around?” People will inevitably say young people need jobs, instead of liquor stores we need more black owned businesses, the young people need a leader that will inspire them. Nipsey provided all of these things. He carried the faith of downtrodden on his back just as gracefully as he dawned the words SLAUSON BOY in the form of a tattoo between his shoulder blades.
He was at once the descendant of American slaves on his mother’s side and of a son of the Abyssinian Empire on his father’s side. Nipsey was royalty. He was mixed with those that rose up from slavery and those who refused to be colonized. Indeed, the best blood of Africa coursed through his veins. Blood that was unfortunately spilled on the pavement in the rolling 60’s neighborhood that he loved so dearly. A community which he was committed to uplifting.
Nipsey is dead now. Having been murdered less than 48 hours ago. He leaves two children, one girlfriend, and a legacy of love and power. And though he left too soon, he left a blueprint on the possibility of collective empowerment for a group of people that have been systematic stripped of such a concept. He will be missed by many, especially this writer. Rest easy Nip. I will ride for you. I will write for you and I will hustle hard in your honor.
Let the sun shine down on the pavement. Let the rain wash away all of the blood. The gunpowder residue is still on my fingers. I’m not thinking about escaping charges, I’m only thinking about who will have the power to tell my story.
If they told you I was a depraved killer would you believe them, even though you have been knowing me since my childhood. When they whispered into your ear what they found out, would you question them or would you go along with the lie? Would you smile as they carried me off to prison in an effort to protect your social standing while shaking your head slowly and dramatically, uttering softly but loud enough for your colleagues to hear; “I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen to me.”
If you came to see me after the judgement came down and I spoke my truth, would it matter? Would you place my voice over that of the journalists, the prosecution, and the alleged victim? Would you give me your faith? Can you believe in something that you have not seen when everyone else tells you that it is a lie? Are there any limitations in your love for me? Is there anything that you would sacrifice me for?
Let me know the answer right now so, if need be, I can sever myself from the all of the memories that I have of me worshipping you. I hope that you will never be totally aware of all of the ways in which I used to lionize you when I was young man. I spent my whole childhood looking for you. I probably regarded you as some kind of prophet in my undeveloped mind, but to you I was just a follower. And now you can no longer prop yourself upon my bowed head. This boy has now grown high enough to look you in the eyes. I look into them and see no prophet, nor lion. I do not see a revolutionary nor do I see a rebel. I only see a man with a loud voice and a little heart. I do not know what will happen with you. I do know, however, that I will be serving my sentence alone. These are the terms that I must embrace.