Identity

 

thesearchThe most painful part of being a Black American is the fact that our history stops at slavery. Many African-Americans know nothing beyond that their people were once slaves. We don’t know our African tribal languages or rituals. Our ancestors were so terrorized by slavery that survival was the only imperative. Documenting their past wasn’t high on the agenda of a black American slave. So the past went undocumented and soon unspoken of and then completely lost.
Because of this stoppage, this unknown component, it is so easy for us to develop low self-esteem. Jewish people can hold on to a time before and after Hitler. They have a lineage to reach back to and know that they functioned with pride prior to being dehumanized by the Nazi regime.
Black American’s have tried to reach over the sea to the African continent and use African traditions as a foundation for a declaration that even before slavery we proudly existed and thrived.
I am Black American female and my ancestors, no doubt, were taken from somewhere from the shores of the African Continent. Where, exactly? I have no idea.

Black in America

If you are born black, are you born troubled?

Perhaps no.

But the American Education System teaches otherwise. They teach us that we are remnants of slavery. They tell us that things are different now but somehow that isn’t enough. The bloody lines of a leather whip somehow appear on our brown backs. We can feel the burn and squeeze of a tight rope around our necks. We experience the anguish, the fear, and the knots in our stomachs. We see it in the glazed over eyes of the former oppressors descendants.Flying birds

This is now.

The blood of the forefathers still circulates today and we sense it. We sense it because our first grade teachers stood in front of the class and read gruesome tales of torture and mutilation. We looked around the class and realized that we are one of those people she is speaking of. Our skin matches the skin of that downtrodden person in ripped dirty clothes who is standing in front of a shack made of rotting wood and crooked nails. The white kid, sitting in the desk next to ours, looks over with recognition in their eyes. They know what we once were. The teacher has ensured that they’ve learned our history. The white kid turns away secure and relieved that they were born with the right color skin.
And so we are left to contend with what we have learned. We try to exercise those ghosts of our distant past. We try to shake off the feeling of feeling of degradation. We distract ourselves with music, art, money pursuits, and dance parties. And with each developmental stage, the malicious, nefarious, evil, and demonic past digs deeper in our ribs. During some years, we don’t consider it. It is buried inside. We carry on. “We keeps it moving”.

And then…

And then we’re reminded one day during black history month, or when the white woman in line clenches her purse as you stand behind her, or when a professor encourages a class, in which you sit in, to admire a political leader who clearly upheld slave laws, or when the media is obsessively, frantically, interrupting regular broadcasts talking of a blond haired, pale-skinned girl who disappeared two days ago, and we think, wow, I know a young black girl who disappeared years ago. Little things begin to remind you.

And then…

You start to wonder, again the way you did in first grade. Am I vital? Am I inferior? Does my skin really make me less than a person? Inheritance means something. When people are born into rich families they inherit something. Science has noted that addiction propensities may run in bloodlines. Does the propensity towards inferiority run in my bloodline? What am I?
Black Americans are disconnected from the African tribal order and we never really fit into the Euro-American mold. We are islands of people surrounded yet alone.

And then…

And then there is resiliency. We laugh. We cry. We have been attacked in our lineage but we are stronger now. Solid. Some of us are angry; with good reason. Do you know where that anger comes from? It’s that malicious, nefarious, evil, and demonic thing that offends us now. We see it and we hate it; because it first hated us.

SWB: shopping while black

Justice clothing store is apparently THE place where every eight to twelve year old must shop. My daughters bugged me for a month about this cool interesting store so I finally gave in and we visited this tween sparkled heaven.

 

Marketing executives did a superb job making all the products shiny in come hither gold and optimistic yellow.  Every tee shirt is a blindingly happy shade of neon green or smurf popping blue.  What the marketers hadn’t counted on was haughty racist counter staff who, with faux politeness, told me to step aside so she could help the woman behind me who looked more financially secure with her Burberry scarf, crisp brown trench coat and arms filled with long pants, shirts, a jacket, a bath robe, and so many other pieces that her credit card was either about to take a major hit, or she travels with a suitcase packed with cash; oh, and she was white.

woman_with_angel_wings_2_poster-r6b1146c80844489bb0fafdcc5b5138fa_wv3_8byvr_512

I am evil retail fairy. I keep social customs from advancing.

 

I only had three measly tiny toy thingies for my daughters, all braided and twisted and ethnic we stood in the line waiting for a little piece of glittery joy just like everyone else.

“This lane is closed and I think that woman was in front of you.”  Blondie said looking at me and my brood.

 

That’s when I turned to see Burberry lady who was miles away, her eyes glazed over with retail inebriation, arms overflowing with product yet she was hunched over looking at a key chain display not paying any attention to the line in which the sales woman insists that she is in.

“Okay?”  I said calmly as I watched the saleslady walk away pretending to tend to a stray dress someone left behind the counter, refusing to wait on me.

Burberry lady had walked away.  She was perusing the display of flipflops on a far off wall.

I stood there lips pressed, conscience of what was happening but keeping my back stiff and reminding myself to breathe.  My daughters were with me and getting mad at sales people isn’t something I want to demonstrate.  There are far better, worthier skills young black girls need to learn and emulate.

I stood there composedly and talked to my daughters about the fuzzy patterned diary with a lock that they wanted.  Maybe we’d come back another time and get those.

Finally, an African American sales lady called to me from a far off counter.

“I can take you over here.”

I went and got checked out by the nice young black girl.  I looked over and miraculously the unpleasant counter lady’s line was back open.  A customer to her liking had wondered over.

Undercover situations like these happen daily.  It is important that we not give them merit by attending to them but sometimes stupidity seeps into your pores and activates an unforgivable venom that must be purged.

 

With that we move onto better things and pray for God to open the eyes of the ignorant.

 

 

soul soup: a poem

writing

When I am not writing
I am not thinking
Not breathing
Not pushing out
Invisibility
That thrives within
That corrodes my insides
That eats
away
At my lungs
My brain
My heart
When I am not writing
I am not me.

conjugal visits

Sometimes the writer in me pushes through exciting me with a rush of – what, euphoria? Intoxication?…I’m not sure but whatever the spirit, it fills me, moves me, tickles me with its tender fingers making me feel like I can somehow turn my passion for words into a product, a living thing that sustains me.writing450

Most wannabe authors dream of publication and I’m no different. But I’ve read enough to know that publishing is first and foremost a business and like all businesses, money is the main and ultimate goal. You must write what sells.

Whatever compels readers to swipe their cards or whip out their cash is what publishing houses want us to produce. Every how-to site and book advises authors to research prospective publishers and “see what they publish” and they advise us to see if we “fit” into the mission statement of the firm that has their books marketed to the people who they know will buy.random-penguin_2380018b

Look through all the conformist advice and see what you must be in order to traditionally publish: this is theme of the unpublished. Yet, when you really notice…when you “see” and comprehend that many of the greatest most moving books are the ones composed without conformist pressure to make money (or so I believe).

Perhaps I’m naïve, or maybe I’m just another bitter writer in a sea of writers pinning to “make it”. Either way, I’ve come to know that I don’t want to approach writing in the same manner I approach job hunting, because essentially that’s what publisher shopping is, when one researches the company and beefs up the resume to fill the need.top-publishers-2010-01-01-0012

I am good at formula following. I can cling to a template and plug in numbers. I can compose within established guidelines and pass an audit with ease. I can mirror a concept or tweak a rationale. I can spin a story and put out whatever is necessary; that’s what I do every day at work.

But for now, writing is an escape; a magical titillating conjugal visit done purely for the joy of it.

poem: a writer

 

Behind my motherly exterior, I am a writer.

Cafe

Somewhere in there

A writer

plunking away in a café

Describing the flow of the wind

The glow of a smile

The tingle of a touch

The frantic, manic

Screams of happy children

Charged with youth

Energy

Of calcium rich bones

And

Adrenaline filled veins

Somewhere in there

A writer

black despair

thesearch

the search

The black American has a lineage that was washed away in the ocean.  A history that died on boats and in fields, on plantations, and in streets that brought despair.

We work during our lives to move past this historical hiccup.  We are damaged and aimless but we sober up and began a path to living.  Except some of us get stuck in the despair and cannot live a life of brightness so we scrounge and dig deeper into the underbelly of true life.  Addictions, illicit sex, a cloud of smoke follows the downtrodden wherever they go.  Some of us are cool and we wrap our bravado up in weed papers not knowing all the while our blunt is laced with despair.

The astute writer, Bell Hooks says, “It has been easier for everyone to focus on issues of material survival and see material deprivation as the reason for our (black america’s) continued collective subordinated status then to place the issue of trauma and recovery on our agendas” (p. 28).

There is overwhelming despair, grief, and trauma that has been poorly addressed with equal opportunity laws and governmental initiatives.  You cannot heal a heart with a law.  We cannot soothe the broken souls of black America by providing welfare checks or open door employment.

Money and riches doesn’t make you forget, cash doesn’t heal and it will not fulfill your soul.  Billionaire blacks still have to live with the reality of black despair. 

We should all do our work to move towards healing from our ancestral past that severed us from our heritage and left us scraping for a good life in a foreign land that we’ve now made our own.  

its possible to be happy

its possible to be happy

It is not about victimhood.  We are not victims. We have proved this. 

We are smiling and dancing and working and laboring and decorating and writing and living our lives.  We are human beings that have a complex history and deserve real freedom, which is in the mind.

Our bodies are free; we must now go about freeing our minds.

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

hooks, bell, 1952-. (c2003.). Rock my soul : Black people and self-esteem. New York : Atria Books.