For all the ways I’m asked to be intelligent, I am truly a simple man. I fumble through the dark. Through the thought of a love without heartbreak. Why can’t— why won’t I accept an unbroken love, that simply dimmed instead of shattered?
For all my wits, it’ll be a dim light that does me in. A romantic til the end, no bull. Truly hopeless and noble, chasing loves; chasing shadows and flashes, like a lightning-bug. A rosy disposition, masked by a somber sheen, residue of a life. Flickering bright between breathes and heartbeats.
A jar less man holding light. Simply loving, for his own delight.
What is it about the dark Berryville so much for who we are? The unmasking that is inevitable once veiled in darkness is uncanny.
In all darkness we find so many truths we run from nipping at the back of her neck‘s; all our monsters lie out there in the darkness stalking us, subtly sharing breath with us.
Again what about the dark that unravels us so? Who taught you about shadows and darkness? Were you introduced when the night came was it that obvious did you first taste day before being consumed by night?
Please, open your mouth look deep, see the darkness in yourself. Is this the first time you’ve seen your own shadow from the inside, what did you believe happened to the dark when you rose during the day? Don’t you understand the dark, yes the dark has nested in you.
Night will always be with you. For how can we tell the story of us, how do I tell the story of me without the dark?
A Meditation on the Impact of Racial Isolation & Courageous Conversations Racism
Racism or more specifically crying racism has never serve me. Like many reading this I’ve always felt this child like fear of loneliness and isolation anytime I’ve imagined speaking out about what I’ve experienced or witnessed. I’ve also lived those petrifying outcomes each and every time I do speak. And yet I still do.
My work, my life has always been passion abundant. Fortunately for me, my passions prior to my traumas are still very real and lie somewhere, in my souls still waters. I know that as sands coalesce in the under-current to form peals, I too am afforded this a life that sifts through experience and forms new hopes.
My hopes for myself and my family have always hinged on a few precocious idioms I discovered in tandem with my blackness:
The varying returns of working far harder than those you serve,
how prayer is at time prescriptive,
and that pain is learning proactively what zero-tolerance means. I learned early on the value of taking the highroad, and found it useful at times.
In my own thrashing about in deeper waters, I discovered riding the waves was an essential skill, and no one alive can teach you how to move through the impact of racism on your psyche.
Crying racism never served me. To do so, to cry, to be a victim would be plead to the waves to stop crashing. The truth that gulping-out, “I can’t breathe.” in the face of a choppy ocean, too chaotic for the rhythms of a black boy’s joy, was instinctive and ignorant to the oceans brand of relief.
Yes—crying racism hasn’t alleviated my pained, but it begins a curing process. Where most of us are taught to look to the stars in the sky for inspiration, affirmation, and discovery I’ve known the greatest discovery to come from diving deeper into briny oceans of self-doubt and learned self-hate. In this diving, in the acknowledgement, I am not dissolved by the process, I am preserved.
Racism is formless and vast, yet meant to ingulf the body and possesses the senses. Thus in this curing process, in the diving we are simply meant to mitigate decay and preserve the soul as the body and mind stumble in suspended space. Disassociation, a sense of vertigo is not only common during moments of racial conflict, but a natural response to the immense pressure of existing while being tacitly disenfranchised. On lookers sense it too, how achievable it is do nothing and watch nature in itself. Yet the Voyeurist and the disassociated share a similar trait. By observing and choosing detachment they’ve convinced themselves they aren’t in the same ocean as those observed and anchored to the conflict.
As my peers are gunned down and I myself am either shamed, shackled, and locked down, I harden on the surface and remain soft hearted as that is my nature. As tides turn so does our collective perspective on who is worthy of dignity. The motioning forwards and backwards is fatiguing; like swimming against the surface current it makes no sense tagging racism’s beginnings and ends, for that effort is as foolish as measuring the beginning and end of the ocean itself. Instead I seek to dive deeper, I seek to endure, I seek to tell the story of my soul and live the gospel of my body before it parishes.
I have found new bits of myself, found shards of authentic life, when I dive deep and trust my breath; I hook and bring to the surface joy-endured. Artifacts formed from the murky mix of salt, doubt and deceit. Polished and made whole from grace and patience, plucked from bottom with the intention of shining.
There are no roses in the ocean, no concrete to crack. Only shifting hopes lighting paths between dives. It’s never easy to tell the truth about racism. In fact many times I’ve chosen to drown in the past and remain silent for many reasons. Most of us sit by the shore and watch bodies tethered to the surface eventually falter in isolation, and never recover. All of us are artless in our fear of telling the truth, changing an outcome, or shifting our beliefs. It’s in our intention to live an authentic, self-loving life that we find our breath, and our voice. It’s in the way we listen that will ultimately change outcomes. And It is who we build communion with, those folks are the ones empowering us to unearth our righteous beliefs.
It is in those courageous conversations, that we still our ocean and see the gifts, touch stones glimmering all around us.
Mantra and Place I return to before diving in with courage:
Why I feel most safe in “the hood”, andyou 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.
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.
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.
I was summoned by their hum. Not by strangers, by familiar voices in crescendo.
Thick Summer heat, the mumbling of lawn machines, and cicadas in heat, a melody I admit to abandoning for a more sacred hymn.
They built an idol in sound. I felt wet for their bliss. Eyes prematurely soaked I dove in,
drifting for the most part. Time like most things, moved along and I found them, peaking. I caught their line, And tightened my ears around their syllable.
Softly saddled in myself, I grip their faint rhythms and angsty breathes.
Mornin rose, as did my spirits. Shorty rested in the silence, long and bound to a giggle. Decency found me warmly unbothered by insides jokes complete lost to me. The humor of it all escaped all but me, as breathe moved me to yearning for more of what got me hot.
Shorty rose, echoes of “real” flooded my walls, in tandem, we yearned, they cued and called out. Imagine me not lapping up every sound, the idea of me not gripping an earful, for now and later. Imagine me quenched by this fiction. Imagine I didn’t. Imagine as I did, hear their curves run into their hums.
I saw something I’ve never seen before. Something more rare than a four-leaf clover, a gaggle of midnight colored swans. No doubt skating through the present on their own wind rails, and still tethered vernal air patterns foreign a humming bird like me.
A black asterism.
Dancing during the day, spiraling towards one truth. We all walk the same air.
I’m happy to share a cool #mentalwellness story quick if you’re not busy. I have #PTSD from a #policebrutality in #arlington back in 2014. I suffer from some memory loss-more accurately I be (re)remembering things (images, locations, skills!).
Today I caught a breeze that reminds me of #ammanjordan🇯🇴 and my time studying Arabic.
Since my injury conjuring a sentence that wasn’t some dialect of English has left me with migraines and nausea. Not always intense but impactful.
I spent 4 years, 100s of hours, and many a full scalp to learn this language in hopes of sharing in community. Like most the things I don’t know I don’t know anymore it’s always a surprise the first time I’m found wanting.
Montreal in 2018 was when it first happened. Lunging for language, and whiffing. Trapped in a cab as the most illiterate. The carsickness lingered well into the day.
The irony Is lost on those who haven’t tried traversing شارع to شارع in silence in Jordan. I’ve silenced that part of me to avoid the insult and injury. A few canned lines from 101 are still drilled into my brain, but there’s been a gap, tutoring doesn’t mend trauma.
Back to the breeze right? Back to Amman where the sun could be forced to #socialdistance – for a price – tea, hookah. Where a breeze may be the nudge that turns a day into a time.
This breeze today nudged something in my brain and Reminded me of what I’ve always known. How do I decide what communities I belong to? What else have I always known⁉️
…how do we decide where we belong?
Just a little bit of basic writing but with no pain! Ok anyway i gotta run!