Was

was

I think about her more now that she’s dead than I did when she was alive. I think about the disoriented look on her son’s face as he walked in and out of her funeral service. I think about how goofy she was a teenager. How annoying her laugh was, how pretty her face was…I think about the word was. How hurtful the past tense is when referring to young people that you love.

 

I did not think about her when she was alive. I had not seen her in at least 15 years. In fact even when we attended Junior High School together we were never super close but I never thought that death would reach her before her 35th year. I never thought that I would have to use the word was when referring to her. And now I kind of want to see her. I want to tell her not to trip, that things will be ok, that she is loved. And then I’m torn because I feel really fake. If she were alive and I happened to see her I would never think to share anything beyond the exchange of basic pleasantries. I probably would have no idea that she was contemplating suicide but then again, I would never ask.

It’s shameful what death reduces us to. It’s shameful how a person has to die in order to be heard sometimes. Often times when a young man is murdered and waiting to be pronounced dead his cell phone is jumping. Everyone is calling, texting, and sending dozens of messages that all seem to say, “are you ok?” But he isn’t ok. He will never be ok again. Then they DM him and send him friend requests and favorite his tweets and finally they make a memorial on a street corner and everyone has a party in his memory—but he is dead. I could never understand why we disregard the living only to celebrate the dead. Yet here I am. Mourning the tragic death of a woman who I wasn’t even close enough to know was suffering.

I am somewhat obsessed with her now that she will be forever in the past tense.

 

I find myself becoming less approachable, less tolerable of other people. The memories that I have of her are ever present and I can’t stop thinking about what her future may have been. I post about her. I cherish memories of her that I didn’t even know I had when she was alive. Like that time in the 8th grade when she was my girlfriend for two days and we broke up because I had hard rumors about her “going with” another boy (which were later revealed to be untrue). Little silly things come into my head that make me acknowledge once again to myself that she is dead. Her body has been reunited with the earth. And then I slowly attempt to rise out of bed, though I never seem to get enough sleep.

 

-YB

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What if Tupac was a father?

“June one-six seven-one, the day/ mama pushed me out her womb and told me ‘nigga get paid.’”

Sometimes I wonder what kind of father would Tupac be if he were alive today. If he were still on this Earth then Father’s Day 2013 would have marked his 42nd birthday. It’s difficult to conceive because he was so youthful when he passed away. He was rambunctious, vilified, and enlightened but seemingly lost. He often times performed shirtless and indulged heavily in drug use. Yet he is also America’s last ghetto hero.

No black man since Tupac Shakur has been completely comfortable both in the hood and on Hollywood movie sets. No artist since Pac has made outrageous behavior seem so relatable. Everyone has an opinion about Tupac because everyone feels like they knew him.  One either worshipped his words or was repulsed by them—with Pac there really was no in between. However the fact that we often times fail to internalize is that when Tupac was assassinated that night in Las Vegas he was only 25 years old, rich, ridiculously famous, and without any children.

In Essence he only had to look out for himself. Imagine though, if he would have had a son. Would he be all right with teaching his growing boy how to live a thug lifestyle? Would he have smoked so much? Would he have been as abrasive? Imagine if Tupac would have had a daughter. Would he have ever made another record like “All about you?”  Would he refuse to ever say the word bitch on a track like Jay-Z did once Blue Ivy was born? How would having a child impact his black male psychosis and the many references to suicide that he made on his albums?

“I smoke a blunt to take the pain out and if I wasn’t high I’d probably try to blow my brains out.”

Tupac definitely would have had one more fear of death in addition to being reincarnated and that would be the thought of missing his children grow up. One can assume that this responsibility would have caused such a compassionate young man like him to slow his life down considerably. Perhaps his fatherhood would have ultimately caused him to return to the activist roots instilled in him by his mother Afeni Shakur. Maybe he would have begun to transition his burgeoning thug nation into a political party designed to destroy the depressing inner-city circumstances that he bemoaned in his music. He may have even started to slowly abandon the ghetto mentality that he so often celebrated. Can you imagine how impactful it would have been to see Tupac posing for pictures on the cover of magazines with his beautiful black family as opposed to merely showing off his tattoos and jewelry?

The tragedy is that we will never have an answer to any of these questions because he was taken away from us so soon. We never got a chance to see him settle into himself. We never got to see him mature and we never got to see him as a loving father. We can, however, safely say that if he put as much energy into fatherhood as he did into his music then being a good daddy would have been the most powerful trend of all the trends that Tupac started. As is, all we can do is mourn the man whose music continues to influence the world on a daily basis 17 years after his unfortunate demise.

RIP Tupac Shakur

1971-1996

-YB

Grappling with the Suicide of Don Cornelius

February 2, 12

Believe it or not I try really hard not to judge people. I realize that judging another human being can be a sign of both condescension and insecurity on the part of the man who is judging. I do try to show empathy and understanding to my brethren who have gone astray and most of the time I am successful, however, when a situation like the suicide of Don Cornelius comes about it becomes very difficult for me to keep my opinions bottled up.

 

Suicide really bothers me. I am aware of mental illness as I have been affected by it on more than one occasion in my life. I know about the daily struggles to survive as well; I just have a hard time respecting a person who takes his own life. I can’t imagine what it’s like to a 75-year-old man living every day in isolation, pain, and anguish but I also can’t imagine quitting—for I am a fighter and fighting is all I know.

 

Don Cornelius did extraordinary things for black-culture and he should be applauded for that. He represents part of my childhood as he does for millions of other people around the country, which makes it seem even more pathetic to me that he would end his life in this way. Suicide has always struck me as a very selfish act. I’m sorry but that’s how I feel.

 

In the end only the judgment of god will matter. The opinion of Youngen Black probably won’t even leave The Ghettosun. I hope that Mr. Cornelius has found peace and I hope that he will be forgiven.  I just don’t get suicide, I never have.

-YB