I love myself. I. Love. Myself. My black body is beautiful. Let me break that down for you.
My mom’s cocoa butter kisses taught me love (thanks, Chance).
My father’s focus on family kept me ten toes down and my eyes high to the sky. And when the world went crooked from crack-cocaine, my big brother kept my head on straight.In my chest lives the spirit of a cotton-picking grandmother who once put them Sunday pancakes in my belly.
However, can I truly say I made it out the belly of the beast when I am two Stanford degrees in and the only degrees some of my family members know are ... first-degree
criminal charges...second-degree drug possession....third-degree murder...no slaps on the wrists.
Nonetheless, I am somebody because of them.
And I know, I know what it feels like to be a nobody. Just another black kid, right? Hands behind my back. Knee on my neck. Hands trembling on the wheel when I stop for those flashing lights. My pupils perceive. My nostrils smell the gun smoke. Both the outcry and the silence sit between my ears, as I hear him, with his last cry call out for his mother.
Now, as a first-generation college grad turned teacher as well as a black man in America, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to our youth.I remember sitting in those uncomfortable desks as my black body was the most visible in the room, but just a footnote in the curriculum. I remember my classmates losing their minds when they found out that a black kid from the Southside of Dallas was at the head of the class, with offers from several Ivy League Schools.
I remember kicking it with my black and brown homies at lunch just to be kicked out of the lunchroom because our presence was deemed divisive by our deans. From the sight of things, it feels like people want to break us down. And sometimes, we have to break ourselves down. Other times, we have to take a break to be whole.
Now that I have your ears, eyes, hearts, and minds, let us give thanks. To the youth, not just in age but in spirit: Thank you for voting with your feet; let’s just continue to march toward values, not against vitriol.
Thank you for making your voices heard; just keep in mind, those same twitter fingers must be willing to reconcile, not cancel, our own human contradictions.Thank you for having the compassion to heal hearts and the curious minds to question the curriculum; let’s keep our ears open, as we continue to listen to the spirit.
Now, I am a school teacher and I refuse not to be seen again. I refuse to be invisible by institutions. I refuse to settle for a check over my children.
And after years of blue lights, I had to protect my vision. Our vision of “integration” “togetherness” “wholeness.”
In our gut, we understand that integration is not just tolerating others. In our gut, we understand that minority faces in majority spaces does not mean equity or inclusion. Simply incorporating a few tokens into a rigged game should not be the call of duty. Forget a reboot. You can’t simply just blow air up my...game cartridge and put me back in the system.
So I say to you all, I know my body. My body of work. Our bodies can work...hand-in-hand, not hand over fist; arm in arm, not bearing arms; eye to eye, not eye for eye.
And no, we will not stretch, we will not run, we simply will not compete in the “Oppression Olympics.” Rather, we will champion our brothers and sisters who want to collaborate, not compete...who use their voices to call in and call up people, not just call out...our brothers and sisters whom we will not only hold accountable but also hold in our arms.
Forget the label of “social justice warrior.” I’m a thinker not a fighter.
Forget “snowflake”. I don’t want to be covered in red or white.
And the media says this and that about “law enforcement” and “protesters,” and I just say, “Darius, take care of your body and take care of somebody.”
When my knees hit the floor, I am maybe at my highest. Or maybe when I am at my lowest, I am most willing to look up. Look up and see what I can be. What we can be.
I say again. I love myself. I love my body. Let’s make it our collective charism to serve with and for anybody and everybody. And nobody can tell us otherwise. And so, I leave you with one last question:
What will your body of work be?
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