Her entitlement is what disturbs me the most. She knew that she could have me. She didn’t need to hear any of the compliments that I gave her. She knew that I would spend money on her. She knew that I would continue to desire her well beyond the point where she stopped returning my calls.
I can’t find the words to tell her how insecure she is making me feel, and if I could find them I still would not tell her. I would rather let the cancer spread throughout my body than to allow the sun to touch my wound.
I found a lock of her hair on my navel when I was showering. My soul jerked back and forth between the euphoria of her bed and the depression that is her absence. It was less than 24 hours after seeing her and I knew that I would never see her again. I shuddered. My mind drifted. I was alone in my shower. Alone in my home. Alone in my yearning. I got it together.
I cleaned her off of my body. I texted another woman. I swiped right for about thirty minutes, and I almost went to the bar where all the pretty black girls who work in tech hang out before I realized I was lying to myself. I was hurting. I would be in pain for quite some time. I had to heal.
Her back faces me. Her afro leaps out in every direction like an uncontained blaze. And I am nothing but a moth drawn to my own destruction. Before I parish may I kiss your cheek my love? Can we do our dance? May I hold you? The answer is yes. I cherish this right now. For it won’t take me the rest of my youth to appreciate the magnitude of this blessing. Did you say your mother was from Georgia? Can I taste your peach? Can I lick your spine? Can I run my fingers through your hair from behind? No, well why not? You say that your father is a man of my hue maybe even a shade lighter. Your brother was your first friend and I remind you of him but I can’t run my fingers through your mane? Why am I not allowed to touch your crown yet you have given me your body from all angles? Your nipples point out like Hershey’s kisses but the room is not cold. The conflagration is beneath me. Your anxiety has burned away and I kiss thee.
I hold thee as if this were our bridal bed. I share with you precious quotes that my grandmother said unto me when I was a little boy. You kiss my neck softly and you crawl away beckoning me to follow. I catch up to you. I am she. She is me. She moans soft and sultry. I pull her hair. She becomes stiff. She crawls away but this time I never catch up. I apologize to her as she puts on her clothes. The fire has been contained but not before I perish. You are not a fetish to me. You are not exotic. You are the one that my grandmother wanted to meet before she passed away. You are the one I was raised to protect. You are the truth from whom I could never run. I can’t apologize for all of those boys but I can be your man.
My obsequiousness does not move you. The room is suddenly cold. Your eyes avert mine. I have violated you and for that I apologize. My punishment shall be to remain unseen by you forever. If this be my hell, then may the devil allow me to look straight into the fire every day and be reminded of your beautiful hair.
In a matter of hours Colin Kaepernick will have a football workout with several NFL team representatives on hand. They will be determining whether or not he will have the opportunity to play for one of their franchises. Some people are concerned because the workout is taking place on Saturday when most NFL teams are unavailable due to their respective games on Sunday. They wonder why it isn’t happening on a Tuesday which is the league protocol. Other people are praising Jay-Z. They state that his teaming up with Roger Goodell is the only reason Kaepernick is getting this opportunity. To be real, it all seems very disrespectful to the movement that Colin still desires to play in the league at all. Especially since he’s made enough money via his settlement and his deal with Nike to never have to work for the man again. Colin’s yearning to throw more touchdowns in front of tens of thousands of fans is obviously very essential to his being. The only question is why.
We must now revisit the childhood dream that so many little American boys have. 4thand Goal, 6 seconds on the clock, the ball is on your opponents fifteen-yard line. You take the snap. You look left. You look right. You see your favorite target. Touchdown. The crowd rushes the field. You have just led your home team to a Super Bowl victory. And now you’re going to Disneyland.
Colin almost achieved that dream in Super Bowl 47, but instead Kaepernick threw an interception to the Baltimore Ravens. Perhaps he wants that pass back. Perhaps he wants to play until he actually wins a Super Bowl title. This mode of thinking is extremely dangerous because it means that in order for Colin to achieve his dream he must be an employee of one of the many billion dollar companies that are a major reason why his people are suffering in the first place. The NFL has 32 teams. All of them are very profitable. All of them have a majority of black players and none of them have a black owner. At times we forget that the NFL is just as guilty as city planners, the prison guards’ association, the police, and the banks for keeping blacks in the ghetto. It’s the same exclusionary practices which keep all but one of the NFL owners white (Shahid Kahn of The Jacksonville Jaguars is Pakastani) that keep banks in the hood from lending money to African-Americans so that they can start a business. Therefore, it feels counterproductive for Colin to expose them as a racist good old boys’ network who colluded to keep him out of the league only to want to work for them once again. Thus, Colin has effectively allowed wealthy white men to have ownership of his dreams.
It’s very frustrating to know that with all of his social justice work and all of his support from the black community and progressives around the world, Colin Kaepernick may still be mentally enslaved. He still needs to be validated by a white organization in order to feel whole. It bothers me to see that this is what has become of knee that he took. And it frightens me to think that he may still be on his knees begging to work in the white man’s kingdom.
Social media has created the most savage society in the history of humankind. Imagine being capable of making someone disappear without killing them. We establish real relationships with people online only to strike them dead as soon as they say something disagreeable. We leave no blood, no murder weapon, and no body. We just unlike, unfriend, unfollow, and BLOCK people so that we never have to hear from them again. We could have several pages worth of beautiful dialogue with another person. There could be years worth of liked photos and uplifting comments that instantly disappear once the BLOCK button is pressed.
Consider the following scenario. One night you decide to follow a person who lives on the other side of the country because you think their comment in The Shade Room is hilarious and also because you think they are kind of cute. Then they follow you back. Now the two of you have a relationship. Via social media you were at this person’s trip to Las Vegas. You go to the company picnic with them four times a year. You feigned joy for them when they got engaged and you secretly celebrated when it was called off. You sent a DM reassuring them that “Everything is going to work out for you. I can feel it.” and that they were still the “hottest thing on the internet” followed by a fire emoji, kissy face, heart, heart, heart. You went to Jamaica with them. You were the only person in the chatroom when they went live on the beach at 2:00am. They waved to you. And I don’t mean they pressed the wave button on their phone, I mean they actually looked at you and waved. Once you planned to take a trip to their city but it fell through the last minute when your mother got sick. Twice they said they would visit you but they never followed through. It’s ok though because the mystery of everything keeps the relationship hot. You are a voyeur of sorts. You’re a guardian angel or maybe even a genie. You only exist to the person when they need you to exist but really you’re there all of the time, watching, smiling, and laughing. You are totally immersed in the story of their life. You want to play a bigger part but at the same time you are very good at your role. And then it all vanishes.
They stop viewing your stories. You posted three new pictures and they didn’t like any of them. It’s so unlike them. Then you DM them and it goes unseen for three days even though they continue to post stories regularly and you continue to see their comments in The Shade Room. What the hell is going on? What did you do? You wait about a week then you go to their page to send them a DM asking them are they ok. That’s when the screen reads that the page does not exist. You reason that they’re probably taking a break from social media. There’s no way that they would BLOCK you after you’ve consistently supported them for four years. Then you check their page from your back up IG account and it’s confirmed. They definitely BLOCKED you.
You want to pour back over your messages to see where you could have possibly gone wrong but you can’t. You no longer have access to any of the DMs that you share. They were destroyed in the conflagration of you being BLOCKED. The poems that you sent them when they asked if you’re a writer, the James Baldwin quotes you sent them to express how you felt about growing up the ghetto, the pictures of you at the club with your squad, the YouTube videos of the oldies battles that y’all used to have on Sunday nights—it’s all gone. And there is no way to hold the person accountable. To you they were an essential part of your life. To them you were disposable. Now you’re BLOCKED and distraught. You can’t figure out what you did wrong other than to care deeply for a person you’ve never actually seen.
Social Media has made millions of hearts obdurate. We have created a society in which individuals can’t see the humanity in the very people we engage with on a daily basis. We leave the most disrespectful comments for attention. We block people who have opinions other than ours. We go on rampages and unfollow people because we’re having a bad day. Social media has enabled us to call thousands of people whom we have never met our friends while simultaneously giving us the opportunity to erase all of those same so called friends. It’s a creation that eats away at the bond of kinship that is essential to any high functioning society. For every day that we spend believing that social media is a proper surrogate for real human interaction we BLOCK our own growth.
The humongous state of California can feel claustrophobic at times. As of late these times have been occurring much more frequently. A few weeks ago, I sought to leave. I felt like if I didn’t cross the state line then bad things would happen to me. I was imploding. There’s really no other way to put it. So, I headed east. And quite randomly or maybe one can say it was by god’s design, I wound up in Utah. As I traveled through the state I was shocked by all of the natural beauty. The red clay was very reminiscent of Arizona but it wasn’t as brightly colored. It was more subdued. The landscape on either side of the highway was so striking and the canyons were so picturesque that I found myself pulling over at every looking point. Each time I stepped out of the vehicle I further internalized the fact that I was a long way from Oakland, CA.
The beauty of the state was amplified even further when I got to Bryce Canyon National Park. As I admired the shapes of the rocks in the canyon from the top of a trail something told me to look up into the sky and when I did I was forever changed. The perfectly formed clouds stood still and they accentuated the endless blue surrounding them. I’m from the west coast so I’m used to looking out at the Pacific Ocean and feeling like a speck of dirt amongst its vastness. I have never, until that moment, looked toward the sky in the middle of the day and felt the same way. There was so much sky. It was unpolluted. It was clear. It was humbling as well as comforting. I trusted the sky. I felt protected by it. I was enamored with its unwavering presence. I thought of my father and my grandparents. My friends and all of my ancestors and it brought contentment. I knew that their souls were there and I knew that mine would be there one day as well, and I was ok with that. I was at peace with where I was and where I would ultimately end up.
I took a picture which is my attempt to capture something that could never be captured. The peace that I gained in that moment has been a lasting one. I never thought that Utah would be the place that I would go to heal but that’s how it played out. And now whenever I feel downtrodden I stop and look up before I continue my life.
Are we in the pursuit of money or are we in the pursuit of justice? That is the question that is currently dividing Team Kaepernick and Team Jay-Z as we move forward into another NFL season. After Jay-Z forged a partnership with Roger Goodell and the NFL on August 14th many people viewed it as a betrayal of his former protégé Colin Kaepernick—I am one of those people.
To be clear, I am not Team Kaepernick. Meaning I do not follow Kap blindly. I am critical of his desire to reenter the NFL. I am critical of him starting a movement that seems to have no real goals. As a matter of fact, he seemed to disappear shortly after his kneeling gained serious traction amongst both liberals and people in the center of the political spectrum that appreciated Colin exposing the myriad hypocrisies that are embedded in the fabric of this nation. One thing I would never call into question is that Colin took a knee by himself. He had no support when he did it. He lost millions of dollars in salary and endorsements for doing it (though he made a portion of it back through his deal with Nike and his settlement against the NFL). And he was ultimately banned from football because of it. That is admirable. Any time a man puts a cause over making money in a system that routinely places capital over human life then they are special. That makes Colin immortal and it says that the cause itself transcends any amount of money. This is why I was aghast when I found out that Jay Z made a deal to provide entertainment for halftime at NFL games this season and maybe be part owner of a team. Most of the details are still not public but what we do know is that there is some form of a social justice component. Money will be raised to give to nonprofits and educate people about racial profiling and police brutality. Some very prominent members of the black community including popular DJ Charlemagne the God have rallied in support of Jay-Z suggesting that he is trying to help black people and that he is taking the campaign to the next level. But Jay Z never sought Colin’s approval. How can one befriend a social gadfly like Colin Kaepernick, wear his jersey on Saturday Night live, tell other up and coming artists not to perform at the Super Bowl and then monetize a movement for your own personal gain when it was never about money?
One can’t put a dollar amount on consciousness. One can’t throw money at a centuries old problem like racism and expect it to go away, however, it is a good business practice used to manipulate the public into believing that you actually care. Jay-Z not only knows this, he’s complicit in it. People will say that this deal will generate jobs and thus it will create opportunities for the disenfranchised. To that I would ask black people, Would you rather have a job or a revolution? Why can’t we create our own league and hire who we want? We have enough billionaires to do it. Why do we, as black people, want to actively participate in a system that was designed to keep the vast majority of us at the bottom? We are so brainwashed that I am convinced that a good deal of us would be willing to bring slavery back as long as 15% of the plantations were owned by African-Americans. But not Colin. Colin wouldn’t sell his soul for a check. Jay-Z did. And that’s the difference. I don’t rock with Roc Nation. Neither am I on the Kaepernick bandwagon. I rock with the truth. To paraphrase what the comedian Monique said earlier this year, I place my integrity over the bag. I place my morals over money and I celebrate moments in history when others do the same. Let the movement continue. Let the kneeling continue and may every billionaire owner of an NFL team be made to feel uncomfortable every time the national anthem is performed.
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.