Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know . -Maya Angelou, Alone
Life in 2020 is a constant cycle of trauma if you are Black in America. Black men face the constant pressure of being walking targets of brutality and fraudulent representations of waywardness. Black women treated as the weakest link when we literally anchor the totem in our dust. The last nine months have ushered in a physical and spiritual pandemic that has America in a chokehold and is both exhausting and overdue for Black folks. Protests, the exposure of racism and racists practices, and the real conversations on white privilege, supremacy, and responsibility are a true comeuppance. Yet simultaneously the constant broadcast of injustice, dead Black bodies, and loss of innocence are heartbreaking. My son’s drivers training class is having a discussion on “driving while Black”… a conversation whose necessity is obvious and life saving but also the face of racism and it’s affect on the Black cultural reality. The coming undone plays musically like the Janet Jackson sample…
Black reality in this current space is like…
Pac and Janet.
Innocence and Pain.
Life and Death.
Trauma and Healing.
Cause and Effect.
Get your umbrella.
Read slow, and you’ll find gold mines in these lines. -Kendrick Lamar, Poetic Justice
Racism has always existed in the US, it is literally built upon it like bricks. It is the blood and bones of African slaves buried beneath Washington’s monuments. Yet 2020 has been a modern day Middle Passage, but cars instead of boats and prisons and cemeteries instead of plantations. State and government sanctioned murder and oppression of Black people, broadcast in living color. It reads like payback for our ascent that has challenged White men of what they thought was their birthright. A leader who with coded language and lies encourages the bad behavior of supremacy. Police officers who otherwise might have thought twice about shooting a Black man, woman, or child knows luck is on their side and justice will likely be suppressed. It seems, today is a good day when somebody got killed, instead of loved, in South Central LA.
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan. –Maya Angelou, Alone
Blackness is a state of being and a state of mind. In America, our story is one of infinitesimal degrees of separation both physically and spiritually. Out of about 400,000 slaves shipped to North America through the slave trade, we now number over 42 million. We are connected very intimately to one another genetically. Brothers and sisters literally. Since our feet stepped on American soil we have lived with external oppression that has tricked some of us into internal betrayal, by breaking those bonds between us through separation, familial destruction, and mental torture.
There is, in every hood a series of dichotomous experiences. Pleasure and pain: we exude style, confidence, and creativity that is often forced to live in the shadows of violence and generational curses. A Pac and Janet, hood boy and good girl, love story set against a backdrop of hopeless and violence. The boys and girls in the hood suffer the trauma of racism and cultural confusion that affects both how we love and what we hate.
The reality of most urban communities is that Black and brown people have been pushed into these pockets by poverty, racist housing policies, and a lack of opportunity. But as communal people we make a family out of these circumstances the best we can. Play cousins; Aunties giving you dollars for As; your cousin braiding your hair in the porch steps; getting Grandma a new church crown; and doing the hustles at the family BBQ. Simultaneously battling internal struggles about who we are and our worth that have been handled down the emotional family tree like kinky hair and curves are handed down genetically. Black on Black crime is a fallacy; we are able and intelligent despite biased test scores; we are worthy despite the ruin we often live in and around m; and we are powerful despite the lack of our faces in public spaces. It’s not nature, but external cultural oppression that breeds internal cultural betrayal.
What we have in common is pain. -Kendrick
South Central, LA gang stories make sense, but love stories? Despite lives of hardship in a hard place, the characters played by Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson were soft reminders of the beauty to be had by healing their deep pain and generational toxicity. Grief, death, fear, misogyny, distrust, selfishness colored their experiences, yet they were both representative of the very real innocence of love and connection. Violence and aggression are stories of necessity, like hip hop, they tell our story. Softness and love are our truth, like R&B, they make babies and families and communities. Lucky had a softness only hardened by reality, like Pillsbury and Doughboy were hardened by heat…choppas or circumstances. Be sure that hard shell you develop is only protective of your softness, and not preventing your brothers and sisters from reaching it.
As we protest that longstanding oppression ALONG with our own traumatic responses to watching our brothers and sisters killed in today’s streets, we find ourselves exhausted and in need of a reprieve. Karma will be our savior. Poetic Justice. The Buddhist theory of samsara teaches that after death, our spirits return to either the good realm or bad realm depending upon our actions during life. That realm is where we’ll exist until another death. Rebirth. As we heal and pay homage to our communal history and our generational truth, we are being reborn free. The oppressive shackles of racism only have wrists and ankles to bind that are afraid to break. Healing breaks you so you emerge whole. Trust, this entire year is one big therapy session. We gon be alright!
If I told you that a flower bloom in a dark room, would you trust it? -Kendrick
Ever wonder why we got all this rhythm? How we turn our blues into funk? Why we sing and cook and dance with soul… collard greens in our feet, baked mac and cheese bubbling over, and the sweet honey colored juice of yams coating our vocal chords so we can sing high line Minnie and deep like Mahalia. Why our hair winds, twists, turns up to the Heavens? Why we are painted in color? We are the sons and daughters of soul. The very place where love lives. The softest place on Earth.
And this is our exhausting reality. In one moment we mourn Breonna and the next celebrate Kamala. We are here to teach everyone else how to emerge from the ashes, whatever burned them. Only healed hearts can have that experience. You get Justice, if you are Lucky; if the stars align; if the color of your shirt is blue; or if you have dirt under your fingernails. But that doesn’t mean you ever stop fighting for her if you don’t get lucky. Despite what you’ve been told and no matter how many of your teeth they try to pull to force feed you racism, know that in reality they only want to slur your speech. We must speak, write, tweet, telegram, and Pony Express our experience, and let our collective, communal, and familial words holler out for justice and freedom, come hail, snow, sleet, or…
…there’s blood in my pen. –Kendrick Lamar