Meditation: Where The Hood At?!?!

Why I feel most safe in “the hood”, and you could too!

Recently I had the pleasure of connecting with old friends from Georgetown. Admitting I’ve a hard time bonding with my classmates post graduation. I had a hard time truly bonding while I was there. A sentiment not unique to me, but easily unpacked, but that’s a different tale entirely. To be honest I feel as though those four years were in someways a hiatus from the cultural cleavages of our home soil, where people attempted saw success, lessons learned, and failure in bridging realities.

And in the case with these folks it was different. Yes, there were still differences in culture, community, and experience; at the same time we shared the collective reality of being black at Georgetown, which is a powerful through-lines in my life.

Yes I am part of a long legacy of Soul Hoyas, generations Black folks who have not only adopted the Jesuit ideal of curis personalis but we’re raised in the essence of “each one teach one”, “don’t get too comfy around white folks”, and “you always have a plate waiting for you at my house.”

How tethered we are to eachother.

That unique combination of idioms ideologies and ideas bridged the gap of five years, of scattered reconnections, and forlorn attempts at building a consistent postgrad collective identity. By no fault of our own, in fact by the fault of nature, we had moved forward. At the same time our bonds, more threads of tensile-strength spiderweb, were practically invisible, yet tangible and unbreakable. So when we gathered for tea in New York the resonance came naturally as we bounced from thread to thread and story to story, discovering sticking points that reminded us (me) of over kinship.

He spent the time discussing our present situation and future affirmations. Our collective repass, grieving our pre-pandemic lives was an appropriate passing of our time, which left my soul nourished. We were all here exchanging the bread of life, sipping tea, and breathing.

I was last to this party of 7, as such I was peppered with questions and seasoned with expressions of support and astonishment given my journey this past year. It became clear to me that my pandemic experience and the experiences of my community were on par with le struggle. And that my life now was worthy of a deeper dive during tea time. So I quietly stilled myself, having unlocked Pandora’s box.

Where do you live?

– the table

The question of where I live is one of my favorite universal reminders of how commonly we all think when we choose not to think. Regardless to color, creed, or cash account folks really can’t hide their artless shocked expressions when I say I live in Southeast, more specifically Anacostia DC.

Since moving here I’ve had to share that information with a few folks and I admit that I myself intentionally mask the full identity of my home, not for safety but out of learned shame. One of the few truly black neighborhoods in DC left Anacostia has a reputation, primarily due to white supremacy standards of normalcy and excellence, which leads others and myself from time to time to pause.

Frankly, I love Anacostia. I’ve loved Anacostia years before I even set foot on its soil, but I still carry this learned shame. But much like a boy, blood peeking from a crush during our discussion over tea, I spilled my heart out.

I grew up in the hood.

– Rob Jackson

I was born in Wilmington Delaware off of fourth Street where my great grandma lives today; owns her own home and has raised three generations—Sorry, four generations of brilliant and creative kin, myself included. The hood was the first place I learned how to play, learned how to cook, and how to pay attention to the world around me. My Delaware family is full of entrepreneurs, cooks, and black hippies who migrated from VA and created a community for me and those like me.

Truthfully I am privileged to have grown up on my block, there I grew fruits, picked berries and roses alike, embedded in stone only to wonder how they all grew so sweet and elegant despite man’s poorly manicured concrete and deficit inducing neglect. I also bled on these blocks and learned to appreciate that not all blood bleeders stays warm after a spill.

I grew up in many places, picked and replanted, often in the depths of places left behind by the artlessly uncurious.

Rob Jackson

Wilmington and Anacostia are familiar waters. A bull shark like me, able to thrive in briny climates, has found tranquilly here. As I told my friends then, “next to the black dentist with the Mercedes, is a dealer with the same Mercedes. Both paid for, I assume, and both deserving of life on this soil.”

Where is your hood?

My hood is where the people are. People committed to teaching one another. People committed to protecting one another. And people committed to providing for each other indiscriminately. I don’t believe that every neighborhood is for everyone, in fact most neighborhoods a cultivated from inside out not from outsider coming in.

My block.

Honestly Anacostia feels like one of the last nougats of chocolate city, a black banshee wailing in remembrance of a city long dead. Her second line consist of gogo, keening still between drum pattern at the loss of Marvin Gaye.

Fredrick Douglass in the Balcony section, humming, “what’s goin on?”, in disbelief and awe.


My Racial Autobiography

This is a racial literacy project. This is a project I put together simulating the ways in which my racial identity has changed over time, emphasizing the impact of my environment. Each speaker is representing me at different ages.

This text story is one example of how I try to build technology and digital mediums in to my educational work.

This exercise is great for building racial literacy and understanding across cultural and socio-economic lines. If you’re interested in replicating my work please reach out!

Meditation 8.29.21 – Good Boy/ Good Taste

Grandma says to this day, “you’re such a good boy,” and I’m inclined to believe her. In fact, it’s been an existential imperative that I explicitly hear these words and see myself. 
So much of my past used to taste freshly cooked in my mind; more of a gumbo than any fine dining, my memories used to be reminiscent of comfort food, palatable and familiar. On first approach each moment felt bold and potent, and bright. And much like my relationship to gumbo itself, I used to adore my memories of me and feel safe and satisfied when I was able to meditate on who I’ve been, a “good boy”. 

Unfortunately after a rotating set of painful experience my memories and more specifically my mind have rarely served up anything appetizing or ready devouring. For nearly a decade now I’ve been cooking past ideas of myself on a warped surface, often leading me to formulate mental moments flooded with flavors of guilt and regret, and hints of self hate that color just about every emotion I feel about myself.

In the last year or so I’ve felt the process of healing, and I can see that those “flavors” of me weren’t part of my original recipe. After all, grandma said I was a good boy, and as far as I’m concerned the memories of a good boy shouldn’t carry this aroma, shouldn’t taste so harsh; memories shouldn’t sour this way when you’ve done nothin wrong.

The truth of it all is I am good. From birth I’ve been good. But the pain and trauma I’ve been seasoned and marinated in has left me marbleized and crisped, offering something a bit unsavory and overtly undesirable to myself. I’ve hated myself, my stench and my texture for years. While at the same time I’ve consumed these memories, choked them down, often chasing them with whiskey or rum to cut the pain.

If I am a product of my environment, then what does that mean for my environment? If I’m the fruit of mountain soil, Atlantic sand and hot concrete then which of these foundations can be the source of my sour notes? If I am a good boy, then why do I feel the world has severing and pillaging the best parts of me. Why do my memories and mind remind me of scrapple and gizzards; why do I only savor my own life, why is the meat that beats in my chest feel like an acquired taste to so many I wish to actually share it with?

Did the cop not kill me and devour my heart because I am a “good boy” or was he satisfied with reaping of my leg meat? Did I live because of what grandma said or am I still being fattened in the shadows for a supper of greater suffering? Most cooks say shock and fear ruins meat, well does it do to the flesh, heart and soul of boy turned man in muck?

I know I’m more than a piece of meat, and still I fail to affirm the whole of my essence, often leaving so much of me on the chopping block; I can tell you more about the menu of me that I don’t desire than I can order up and savor my signature self.

A good friend recent told me I have life in me. She ain’t grandma, but damn it all of her words didn’t bring me to tears, and soften my boyish spirit.

Lately it’s been the salt of my tears that brines my flesh, and the slow roasting of the sun that has simmered my soul, freeing the aromas of my joy. Later, when I rise it’s to a la carte version of the life I desire. I pair it with the parts of me that I’ve developed a taste for; and fortunately, my palette has been expanded beyond my pains, trauma, and childhood knowings.

I’ve found a real power in being the cook, meal, and tongue of judgment. My mind and memories are now the product of the environment I choose. I know now my pain, much like the marrow of my bones is rich, and my suffering similar to the shells of shrimp, makes an excellent base for a pungent stock; a broth to be paired with the rue of my soul. Flavors that shine and burst with delight.

I see now the “good boy” memories and now I desire more, I want the whole damn Buffett! I am a glutton, and yet I crave more than comfort food; more than a flight of comfortable memories. I pour in liberally the spices I used to neglect (remorse, rage, shame, fear). And I waft and don’t rush my gifts, trusting they’ll rise to the top.   

Poem 8.28.21 – The Willing

My great untrainable will. 
I fear your intent.
You flow like a river on high
without sign of relent.

My great unbending will.
I fatigue as your vessel.
You take, and scantly rent.
Damn you, in body and mind we wrestle.

My great inextinguishable will.
I see your flame and ask,
take me with you into the heat,
singe my chains and burn my mask.

I fear you less than
I need this addition.
I fear you less than
my fiendish need for acceptance.
I fear you,
but I despise the user
I’ve become.

Will, let me be your iron-blood container. So you’re heat may rise and know a weirder of equal metal.

Will, I am the wick and the lantern,
You be thy oil and flame, light path less traveled and let us wonder.

Poem 8.28.21 – Feral Heart

Alone,lying next to you. 
Do you remember
when my heart lied for you?

Alone, lying next to you.
Do you remember
when my heart begged you?

Alone, lying next to you.
Do you remember
when my heart cried for you?

Alone, lying next to you.
Do you remember
when my heart beat flurried and died?

Alone, lying, lied to, all cried out;
a feral heart,
a wounded
living scar, and
the only thing that won’t forget you.

Poem 8.28.21 – unbothered.

Much like lightning my spirit’slight streams across ours eyes brightest in the dark of night. 

The thunder of my voice crashes through your ears, in spite of your wishes for silence and still.

Pride, mean more to me than your prowess, your lazy critique of the supernatural.
For my excellence is akin to a second line, on Sunday, it hits, every time.

So I ask, Why should I crack and crease the melanin mask guarding my ivory wall of joy, for you?

I’ve never been a sucker or saint, so kind works and offering keep my heart idol. Gesture you know as familial are read simply as your transactional nature dressed in a unfit form.

I leave you wanting? For me that is how I am still whole.

Poem 8.22.21 – Webless Creatures

We aren’t time tethered creatures 
I’m convinced our nature
is better bound to the frame
of a spider webless
in the wind.

Spinning and manifesting, unbothered
with fact, math, and reality.
We spin our web of desires
sewing anchors, gripping space;
the creases where hollow fictions
are merged into more!

A sporadic spinster
forming tendrils
rapidly growing
stronger than a whole team,
our grip both binds us
to the air and betrays us
over time, faltering,
fiendishly in search of more!

Timeless beast, unbothered.
Knowing the right time to move
is unpredictable.

So spin,
so build, and
sew your own start.

In the making there’s an unwinding more.
Deeply anchored things leave scars,
while unanchored thoughts are undone
and recasted, spun from a soul untethered to what others consider dear.

Poem 8.22.21 – Caught Lookin

I’m yo hoe, not yo ni&&a
I know my place, so go figure
That the only dream
I’m wit, got you wet wit no rigor!

I got love,
I ain’t bitta’
I keep my heart,
I need no sitter.

What I need?
Well if I plead,
let me read
my short-list,
call it greed!

I love loose lips
and thick hips.

I love me some sturdy thighs,
just complement it wit piercing eyes.
I’m really attracted to grins,
and vibes ignite adrenaline.

my blood rushin
I failed to stop
and ask you what got you

I told you about me
it flowed, like inhale.
Now go on bout you
I want you to exhale.

Poem 8.21.21 : A Cloud’s Nature

Take off into
a forest of no trees,
as it bends billows and curves
across my window.

As we rise,
sugar and salt foliage
sit still in the wind
bleaching the sky in white and gray.

As we rise,
the embers tease of heat,
distant and fading;
delightful lights
painting the silver forest
a cold dark garnet.

As we rise,
burnt are the salt water tips;
streaks of orange, ruby and gold
defy the orderly spectrum of light.

As we rise,
And without a flicker, they fade west.
Leaving silhouettes,
wildernesses without roots,
without, without form,
Only grey stained branches and fluff.

Ambivalent treetops graze the edge of the moons night, a rapidity approaching promise.

The covenant between the moon,
and sky forest,
the marriage of sugar, salt,
and the sun rays,
was never written but is rehearsed, daily.

I am so lucky to witness
A forest, treeless and
A fire, heatless.

I am so lucky to play witness
to the nature of clouds,
to be consumed by a wilderness
in the stars.

I am after all a tethered beast,
only imitating an angel,
gliding on open winds,
peering through a looking glass.