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Dear Black Boys & Black Men: my body, my questions...(pt 1)

Context: how we got here...

November is Men's Health Awareness month. I am no role model in terms of physical or mental fitness. Black Boys and Black Men, I stand five feet, ten inches, weighing in about 145 pounds on a good rainy day. In less than 35 years, this wiry body has seen much, felt much, hurt much, internalized much and healed some. In these past three decades, I have pondered and posed many questions that predate this current moment and this current body.

In no specific order, these are just black thoughts from one Black male educator on the (sense-)making, merits, (mis)management, and the miseducation of my Black body. These questions are meant for self-reflection and communal dialogue, not necessarily for critique or blame. And no, these questions are not meant to disregard, discredit, discount, or devalue the experiences of women and female-identified folks. If anything, such inquiry will invite conversation and compassion. I mean, it is never easy to talk privately or publicly about our bodies. I suggest you read these questions when alone, maybe in front of a mirror.

Note: the content here is raw, vulnerable, and honest. Reader's discretion advised.

The Beginning...

  1. How do we know our bodies are ours? And no one else's?

  2. Do our bodies belong to our mothers? our parents? Mother Nature? Father Time?

  3. How do we talk about our bodies, especially in loving ways?

  4. How do they talk about our bodies, especially in not so loving ways? in profitable ways?

  5. Where did we get our childhood and adult messages surrounding our bodies?

    1. Parents

    2. Peers

    3. Pastors

    4. Physicians

    5. Physical Education Teachers

    6. Pornography

    7. Politicians

    8. Pundits

    9. Posts on Social Media

    10. Playas and Pimps

    11. Pro Wrestlers (WWE)

  6. What did folks really mean when they said someone was a "little touched"?

The Contact...

  1. Did you play contact sports growing up?

  2. Who or what came into contact with your body?

  3. Did mommy kiss your "boo-boo" or did daddy tell you to get up and be tough?

  4. Was it really healing when I was told that I wasn't really hurt, especially after a fall?

  5. Does getting a whoopin' or a spanking count as a contact sport?

  6. When do fathers stop holding hands and starting hitting you to "toughen you up"?

  7. When do moms stop consoling us and start calling us out on being a "real man"?

The Shame...

  1. Why did our parents punish or shame us when we asked about our bodies, especially our private parts?

  2. Why did we grow up calling our private parts "dick," "cock," "pee pee," "pecker," "woody," "stiffy" ?

  3. When and how did certain body parts become a phallic symbol, a weapon (of mass destruction), a tool, a cope, an advantage?

  4. Are we not subject to "body-shaming"?

  5. Is it "body-shaming" if I am ashamed of this body--not for its biology but for its sociology and psychology?

  6. What do I do if I have a dislocated heart?

The Pleasure...

  1. What exactly is self-pleasure, especially in this Black body?

  2. Are we able and allowed to feel pleasure in this Black body?

  3. Why did they tell us that masturbation caused blindness?

  4. Beside moral education, is religion brought into our lives for sexual self-discipline or sexual social control?

  5. Do we engage in self-pleasure out of lust, boredom, addiction, self-medication, stress relief, self-learning, or escapism?

  6. Is "self-pleasure" found only in the physical?

The Punchline...

  1. Are we able and allowed to be "body-positive?"

  2. Do we even have the role models, the language, the desire, the safety, the care, and the company to be "body positive"?

  3. Did you laugh, smirk, or roll your eyes when you read the words "body positivity"? Why?

  4. If I am not constantly broadcasting my financial and or physical gains, am I a beta, a cuckold, a blue pill simp, a peacock, a dick, an asshole, a catch, a "real" man or just some YouTube content creator?

The History...

  1. What the hell is "sex positivity" when sex is racialized?

    1. Why did they used to mate slaves, rape slaves, mutilate their genitals, and put their bodies on display like objects, zoo animals, and art exhibits?

    2. Why and how do they still do it?

  2. How did our bodies become pre-judged, primed, provoked, perverted, pimped, purchased, persecuted, prosecuted, privileged, privatized, and publicized?

  3. Given the intergenerational pain and trauma, do our Black bodies even have the capacity to feel pleasure whether that be physical or spiritual?

  4. Who or what holds space for our bodies?

    1. Classrooms?

    2. Corners?

    3. Cells?

    4. Cemeteries?

    5. Counselors?

    6. Camera Phones?

    7. The Chat?

    8. Grandmothers?

The Control...

  1. Who is in control of my body?

    1. Is it my emotions? my mind? my libido?

  2. Who has access to and control of my body?

  3. Who can touch my body?

  4. Who do I trust with my body?

  5. Who actually makes contact with my body?

    1. my parents?

    2. the police?

    3. the government?

    4. the doctors?

    5. romantic partners?

    6. strangers?

  6. Who or what has rights to my body and my body of work, especially after I die?

The Complications...

  1. How can I be in touch with others if I’m out of touch with myself?

  2. Why are so many of us willing and or forced to hurt our bodies to the point of self and social destruction?

  3. How have prophylactics, pistols, pills, prisons, policies, and people promoted and or precluded meaningful contact with our bodies and between our bodies?

  4. Why does it feel like various individuals and institutions want and demand an open relationship with our bodies?

  5. When do I realize that the world does not revolve around my dick?

    1. especially when someone else profits off of it?

    2. especially when blown out of proportions?

    3. especially when others purposely plot and plan to put another one in the dirt?

  6. How exactly does one have "small" or "big dick" energy?

    1. If one has too much of either, then is he trapped between his legs in more ways than one?

The Call (The Clarity)...

  1. How can we listen to our bodies?

  2. How can we be taught to listen to our bodies, from our instincts to our intellect to our 3rd I?

  3. How can we even develop the space, the courage, and the bandwidth to listen to our bodies?

  4. How can we develop shared language and practices around our individual and collective understanding of "safety,""care," and "care-giving"?

  5. When and how can we affirm one another for taking care of our bodies?

The Dialogue...

Leave a comment about one question that resonated with you. What are your thoughts?

The Inspirations...

  • This piece has been inspired by ongoing conversation with friend and mentor, Ms. Clayborne, founder of the Kerengende Foundation--an organization that focuses on the safety and healing of girls and women who have experienced sexual trauma. Support here.

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Part Two Coming...Sections to Come...

  • The (Physical) Health

  • The Romance

  • The Exploitation (The Payoffs)

  • The Spirit (The Interiority)

  • The Future (The Kids)

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