Monday, July 15, 2013

Day After the Verdict - For my young people

Day After the Verdict – For my young people.

I wrote a piece shortly after the story of Trayvon’s death broke.  Zimmerman was yet to be arrested.  Yesterday, we found out why.  I am a 45 year old black man and today I’m not sure what to tell you all – my several sons and daughters, about what to do with the world, about what to do with the lot the world has given you today.  It is brand new and it is not new, the ways in which we are renewed in our understanding; in the understanding they work hard to instill in us, that our bodies are still theirs to possess and dispose of as they see fit.

I have a 2 month old daughter.  She will begin saying words in less than a year.  She’ll start asking me the incessant ‘whys’ about a year after that.  My clock is running out.  I haven’t a clue what to tell her or how to justify to her that I think she can do anything she puts her mind to, or be anything she wants in America.  She will sometime soon be an 8 or 10 or 12 year old black girl who leaves the house on her own for the first time and finds out some frightening things about what it is to be in her skin on this planet.  But I do know this, I am lucky enough; blessed enough, to still be alive to wait for her when she comes back home, to be there to hold her when she gets home with the questions that I can’t answer, that maybe she will someday answer, that maybe you all will someday answer and so that’s the first answer. 

Your first act of defiance is this: Survive. 

If you’re alive tomorrow, you’re an asset, a threat.  Then survive the day after that.  Survive long enough to love and trust and cherish other black boys and other black girls and cherish and value your own bodies and theirs.  Begin by practicing the most radical self-love you can.  I suspect there is no other shield we have.  We have to practice magical realism on our bodies.  We have to anoint ourselves in the belief that we are magical and invincible and unkillable.  Each and every one of you has to realize that you are an instrument in the overall magic that will protect you and that energy is enacted every day when you do your own work towards survival, healing, love and struggle.

It will cost you rage, skin off your knuckles, bouts of chest heaving grief, panic, feelings of suicide but you can survive all these.  Survive and defy and love on the fifth day after today and the sixth one.  What I am asking you to do is no easy task.  I’m asking you to not give in to nihilism, to the feelings that it’s of no use.  This is what is wanted of you by those who would own you or see you disappear.  I’m asking you to figure out how to protect your own bodies while fiercely loving them and the bodies of your people around you.  You’re going to have to start that in some really awkward ways.  You’re going to have to start smiling at niggas on the train.  You’re going to have to start upnodding old men in the park.  You’re going to have to give poems and books and political ideas to young women in the street without saying anything to them.  You’re going to have to start today, to go out and make sure you make one other person of color feel his body, her body is respected protected and loved each day.  You’re going to have to arm yourselves with ideas and educations and make yourselves fiercer more complicated thinkers in order to have the conversations with your children that I don’t know how to have with mine today.

I was telling the young people here at a party earlier this year, when everyone was jumping and carrying on in a circle and they were like ‘look the old man got a lil sumpn!’ that I can do anything y’all do.  I can jump and dance and run fast and slapbox and all of that.  Problem is, at 45 I just can’t do nothing the next day.  This is where you all come in.  Today, is the next day my niggas.  Tomorrow is the next day.  Do not let them rob you of your will to live well.  Practice walking into the rooms they don’t mean for you to be in deliberately.  Practice belonging there.  Practice loving yourself in spaces you’ve thought weren’t yours.  Practice being heard.  Practice asking for the service you deserve in a manner that suggests respect and that you already know you will not be denied.  The Northside is yours.  The Art Institute is yours.  Millenium Park is yours.  Logan Square is yours.  Don’t fuck around and let my daughter believe that it isn’t hers 20 years from now.  Don’t fuck around and let your shorties believe it isn’t theirs 20 years from now.  Perhaps most importantly, don’t let George Zimmerman’s shorties believe that it isn’t our shorties’ joint 20 years from now.  We need to all be in those spaces, loving ourselves and respecting one another’s bodies in those spaces in such numbers and with such joy that the Zimmermans in our lives don’t know who to profile.  Paris is yours and Los Angeles is yours and Montreal is yours and Sanford, FL is yours and London and Trinidad and Miami and Cape Town and Skokie, IL.  You have the right to be in any of those places anytime you want.  Go there.  Be black there.  Be Latino there.  Be Arab there. Be a presence of dignity and love and power to be reckoned with.

In this space, at Young Chicago Authors, a room has been created both literal and figurative for young people to come when their bodies are at siege.  This is what this space represents.  This is what the Louder Than  Bomb Festival is for and it has grown from a festival of about 40 young people to a festival of about 3000 young people over the course of 13 years.  It is important that you know however, that YOU made the room.  YOU created the space; not the old people who ‘founded’ things.  We’re on the planet longer than you and that means we know how to write grants and do accounts receivables and what not.  It is your energy that drives this and has driven this space.  Show up here too loving your bodies and one another and learning how to survive and defy.  Let’s survive this long enough to know what to say. 

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email


Blogger SoulEmceeDetroit said...

I appreciate the honesty and power of the words you've shared with us here. I'm almost certain that I've seen you perform at the University of Michigan, with the same vigor and passion of this post.

I wrote a response after the verdict as well. If you're interested in reading it, let me know and I'll send it along.

Peace & infinite blessings.

9:00 PM  
Blogger nspired said...

The civil rights movement resulted in the passage of laws that granted equal rights under the law to everyone in the USA, especially those of African descent. Now, some 30-40 years later, equal rights are a reality about 85% of the time. Unfortunately, those rights sometimes mean little without Equal Social Acceptance. Recent insight into Paula Deane’s behavior, the Treyvon Martin verdict, treatment of our President and countless other incidents are bringing to light the need for a SOCIAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. Your words seem to echo that need and begin to provide a blueprint of sorts for an endeavor much trickier than a civil rights movement which targeted tangible institutions like the government. A social rights movement has as its target the personal and collective images of those who are not us. Images that have developed within us courtesy the media, personal fear, complacency, etc., etc., etc.

7:47 PM  

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