or, We are still the ones we’ve been waiting for.
This has become our folklore.
Soft, curling words memorializing our mother’s gardens. Wistful brushes against kitchen tables where grandmothers, mothers and aunties sit, knead hard fingers against water, flour, yeast that they will speak over to make dough–their coughing laughter and hoarse whispers hot enough to make bread rise. Walks through small towns we’ve never seen with our own eyes but experienced through the tart reach of longing: “Mami, remember? Remember when…” enough to send two generations of women into a wonderland of once & then punctuated by sighs, admonishments and warnings.
This is our legacy. This we give our whole heart to. But this is not us.
Los afrodescendientes–somos de la tierra. We are a rural people. Our worldview is steeped in the dirt that we were taken to and dirt that was taken from us; dirt we were forced to mine for sugar, tabac, cotton and rice and dirt that we claimed for ourselves to grow collards, beets, tomatoes, beans and corn. Dirt that received our blood, our birthing fluids, our shit and our tears; and dirt that we never received because emancipation did not end our alienation within our societies.
But many of us can only pretend that we know those forested valleys, dusty towns or quiet nights. Somewhere between Reconstruction and the Great Society, Exodus and the Beloved Community, yellow fever and HIV/AIDS–we were born. By 1968, the U.S. black pop officially stopped being rural and became urban. Hopeful and hoping mothers baptized us in warm cement, glass and steel. Concrete jungles sprouted from our hair. We walked in lands better evoked by Delaney than by DuBois. We spoke tongues better conceived by Hurston than by Morrison. We set FIRE!! to Harlem. Then we set fire to Harlem. We breathed in smoke but exhaled rhymes and left them strewn for our little brothers and sisters to find, pick up, take a hit. We fought, fucked and fell from grace; were lifted up, saved and did it again. We ran. We’re always running. We were men and–finally–we were women. And then we slipped genders like snake skin and vibrated between and defied both. We were young. We traversed worlds, space pod people–confused, distant, anxious spores floating apart in summers “down South” but we came back. And sometimes with a deeper, wider sigh of relief than we wanted to admit.
There is no post-racial America. But there may be a post-South black America that we need to pay very close attention to.
There is a post-segregation America. And a drug war/prison industrial complex caste society replaced it.
We are an immigrant people. Forced migration, untold geographies, and diasporic African proclivities run in our blood.
Our history is rich and dense. We hold it close and continue to move forward, waging war. But we demand you respect the present. Respect those cyborg black kids who grew up surrounded by cityscapes and rage, rage, rage against everything they’ve been told they should be able to do but cannot. Who are still trapped in the throes of a history not of their making and suffer while we argue over kibbles and bits. Who speak in explosions and gun blasts, who scream on stages and in theaters, who bend, wind, stretch, swing, sweat, spinning to get out, to give way, to give voice to the sprites in their heads, whistling siren songs, to say–
We are here.