Saturday, July 16, 2016

Blackness Is A Poetry

Contrary to the current state of the nation and how it tries to tell our story—when "all lives" desperately try to smudge out our melanin like a bad eraser wasting space on a No. 2 pencil, but we go no where—I love my blackness more than anything.

I love the way we have the strength not only to pray, hard and unyielding, but to forgive even when it doesn't feel deserved. When it isn't deserved, point blank period.

I love how we sound when joined together in song, whether organized or by impulse, the natural harmonies that arise and the feelings that permeate from those choral moments onto any ears nearby.

I love how dramatic we are, how we tell stories and our eyes wrinkle and out brows furrow, and the way our hands move when retelling even the simplest of anecdotes. Bodies swaying with narration.

I love our sweetness, our sass, our sarcasm, our wit, our sharp tongues, our sympathy.

I love our skin and how it glistens and glows, not burns and reddens, in the sun. How tints and hues of the darker human spectrum vary slightly, but the sameness is the only color we see. The only one that matters.

I love how our laughs are big and deep, wide and loud, with all of our teeth on display. Diastemata abound, indicative of the wide range of experiences we've endured as a result of where we all come from. Where we were born, bred and multiplied fruitfully, seeds of deeply rooted culture sown and reaped on our own land. Where we were uprooted, relocated, then forced to adapt and thrive.

I love the way our hair, course, coiled or kinked and without effort stretches up to the heavens like the coveted crowns that they indeed are.

And painfully enough, I love my blackness more than white America will allow me to. More that what they feel is safe, permissible, able to control and monitor. Marveling from the outside, while elbowing and stealing to get inside. To dissect and understand something that is ours and ours alone. Itching to sip from our well to quench their thirst for culture, spice, flavor, resilience, Godliness, MAGIC, not caring how, when or if it is replenished. Itching to get a taste of the cane sugar that is blackness, pure and unrefined. A flavor not theirs to grasp.

My blackness is too sweet for you. Too diverse and complex for you. Too potent for you. My blackness, a priceless treasure bestowed upon me from my Father, is a beautiful sonnet not designed for skimming. Not to be read and digested unless you really get it. And trust me, if you're not in it, of it, chances are you'll never get it. Sorry, not sorry.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chance The Rapper Is In The Business Of Saving Souls

For those who are sad, Chance the Rapper's music is the antidote.

I did not watch the ESPYs last night with the rest of the world (namely with Black Twitter). On one part, I don't have cable because I'm cheap, so there's that. But really, instead I was busy being sad. Sulking over personal trivialities that feel like mountains underneath the magnifying glass that comes with living in the swallowing oasis that is New York City. I went to sleep moody and woke up with an annoyance that set it off again. But what I was sad about isn't as important as what pulled me out of it. 

My terrible digital-based-job-having-self habit is waking up, rolling out of bed and into the glow of my iPhone screen, scanning through both work and personal inboxes, texts and social feeds to see what I missed in those hours I was seeing black. As I scrolled past Carmelo Anthony and friends standing in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, Devon Still posing with his cancer-free daughter and new wife, and the Currys and Wilsons bonding over marital bliss, I landed on a link nestled on top of a picture of Chance the Rapper's signature "3" cap and a neatly fitting tux. "Chance The Rapper Honors Muhammad Ali with an Original Song." Instant click. I knew it was going to be something I needed.

My relationship with Chano's music as a healing mechanism stems back to Surf, the Social Experiment album starring Chance. Every time I'd hear "Sunday Candy"—which played in repetitions of at least three times—had struck me straight through the heart like an arrow and stayed with me afterwords. The churchiness of it, feeling like I was sitting in the same pew as the Bennetts on a Sunday morning, sandwiched between Chance and his late grandma, famous for her storied peppermints, fancy hats and cocoa butter kisses. The organs, pans, horns and voices of Jamila Woods and the choir ricocheting off each other, in a crescendo of celebration of family and the Lord, sweet as candy. It was ridiculous how much I played the damn thing to brighten my mood.

Then along came Coloring Book, the Acid Rap follow-up we all thirsted for. It took me a long time to finally hear the damn thing because I don't have Apple Music (remember: cheap), it hadn't hit Spotify (I have the free version, still cheap) and it wasn't available for purchase or download in the Apple Store like Surf was. But the internet has a way of coming through for the kid, and I found out he planted the tape on random download sites for us to find. Bless you, Chance, because the "Blessings" reprise at the end of the album was the answer to it all. Let me just say right now that the entire tape was a spiritual journey, but it came to a peak at the final "Blessings" (the first one is a sweet little ditty assisted by Jamila Woods again). The first time I played it, the tears snuck up and fell from from my eyes without warning. I simply could not stop. Are you ready for your blessing? Are you ready for your miracle? Chance, Ty Dolla Sign, Raury, Anderson .Paak, BJ the Chicago Kid, Nico and more were all asking me a question I couldn't answer beyond a blubbering "yes." 

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Short Story I Wish I'd Finished

Maybe one day I will...


I'm truly not a fan of nature. The last two weeks have confirmed this to me. The itch and sting of swelling bites and blisters on my skin have confirmed this to me. The crack of dawn chorus of distressed howler monkeys, plummeting coconuts on my thatched roof and the roar of jungle rain each and every morning have confirmed this. Yet here I am surrounded by trees on all sides in a bungalow without air conditioning and flimsy mosquito nets feeling my skin become oily with sweat and humidity, sticking to the pillows of this bed, and Ted isn't even here. He's the whole reason I flew down here to Puerto Viejo. "Sam, let's take a different kind of vacation, you and me. Less party, more peaceful." We don't need a trip, we need a counselor, I'd thought at the time, but instead I nodded wearily and headed back to the bedroom to await details on the trip he just KNEW I'd love, because there's no "no" for Ted. And of course, I hate it here.

We've been here for five days already, and Ted's been out on the town for four of them, filling his soon to be beer belly with fish tacos and cervesas at Salsa Brava. Coming back smelling like salty ocean and "outside." My nana used that term often for us when we were little and used to visit her in Kingston. Scrunching up her nose as we sat on her good sofa (you know, the plastic covered one). "Get off my couch smelling like outside!" she'd say. She would've hated Ted if she lived long enough to meet him. He carried that smell with him always. Sweat and stink of 85 degrees but not quite enough deodorant. When he hops in bed with me, I pretend to be asleep. He snuggles under the sheets —without showering, a habit I wish would die a slow and painful death—and kisses my nose sweetly as if he loves me. I hold my breath in increments for as long as I can, then once I hear his breath slow down, I flip over as if struck by a fit of jitters mid sleep, haphazardly as if experiencing a bad dream. And I exhale.