What’s your origin story? What key moment marked the beginning of your hero’s journey? When did you discover your powers? What will we, as Black boys and Black men, do with our respective gifts in this world, in this moment?
Leonardo from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Gohan from Dragonball Z. Wolverine from X-Men. These characters always captivated me. I have always imagined myself as this character with latent powers and this lingering curiosity to learn my path to unleashing my potential, my true power.
Pardon me, I’m a proud comic book nerd (or blerd), who used to watch admirably his older brother save up money and buy X-Men and Spawn comic books. In love with a good storyline and colorful characters, I love the idea of a multiverse. I sometimes wish I could enter alternate realities to see alternate versions of the world, with or without me.
I wonder what would have happened if I never had a father figure in my life. I wonder what would have happened if I stayed on that corner after the lights came on. I wonder what would have happened if I said “I do” to that woman. I do not question my current reality or live with any regrets; I am just curious—curious about life before, during, and after my time.
My imagination is unbridled when thinking about the idea of there being alternate versions of me and the world. I imagine one of my past selves to be some historian, griot, or record-keeper—someone who captured stories in spoken word or in writing. I imagine an alternate version of me as a NBA basketball player, guarding Allen Iverson, if only I hadn’t injured my knee. I bring up these specific examples because I have had dreams, not necessarily fantasies but these visions. And no, I am not talking That’s So Raven visions. More like, these dreams felt so realistic, so familiar as if I had actually lived out those experiences.
I also think about the different character arcs of my alternates. Was my hero origin story a result of tragedy? Do I embrace my dark side? Am I able to recognize myself with and without the mask? Do I stay true to my values? Or do I just blindly assimilate into White America and live long enough to see myself become the villain? What is my purpose? My legacy?
In this lifetime, I find myself asking these very questions and more. When I am in front of these white folks, am I just presenting, representin’, or wrestling with who I am? Am I "man enough" to take off the mask? Where is the line between appearance and authenticity? Between an act and actuality? Between entertainment and education? Between Black face and Black power?
In another timeline, I am the middle son who calls my mom every week, text my brothers daily with life updates, and makes frequent trips back home. In another timeline, I am the baby boy who never left Texas in the first place, who never saw his biological father high or in an orange jumpsuit, who bought a house, and who gave my mother 3 grand-babies before the age of 30. In another timeline, I am fatherless, lost, and knee-deep in the drug game.
I mean I do have the gift of gab, thus there is a version of me, suit and tie, running a Black-owned business as well as a version of me, red-eyed and power-hungry, lording over local low-level drug dealers. Funny how "serving" your community can come out of a sense of duty to your community or a sense of domination over your community. Just know, I hope to never revisit the Crack Era.
I guess the realities are endless, coinciding simultaneously. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, so I guess our energies get reshuffled, displaced, and repurposed. That said, I have to make this moment in time count. I have to be realistic while protecting my imagination, my natural curiosity, and my resolve to make or take my own path. I have to be accountable. I have to serve. I have to answer the call of duty. In doing so, I will unleash my latent power along the way; and only through a series of life challenges will I learn if I am worthy of that power. My grandmother (one of my heroes) used to tell me, “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
As of April 26, 2021, maybe this is the start of your origin story, when you find your power. Or maybe, this is another chapter in your character arc before or after your discovery. Although it maybe daunting or overwhelming, the idea of a multiverse invites us, Black boys and Black men, to engage in some deep introspection and some deep envisioning, to write our characters before others do, to own our stories, and to tell our stories.
Lastly, some of our favorite heroes, from our fathers to the Black Panthers, understood the importance of mentoring, family, and community; in other words, my story, your story, his story is a part of a larger anthology, a larger universe, a multiverse; I am here. He is here. We are here to learn your story, honor your story, and carry on the stories of our ancestors.
I ask again: What will you (me, we) do with our respective gifts in this world, in this moment?
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