I struggle with adequacy.
Not in comparison to my contemporaries, or even in relation to modern giants in my varied fields of work. No, my battle with adequacy is against that most stout of adversaries- results.
Enter, Judas and the Black Messiah.
This deeply moving, incomparably potent, ineffably tragic story had me riveted from the opening news cloning to the rolling stats confirming the accuracy of what I’d just witnessed. As a Storyteller, I was pleased to find myself swiftly ushered past the packed aisles of fantastic acting, brisk and fearless writing, awe inducing directing, and compelling story, down to the front row of raw enjoyment.
There I was placed.
And there I was pulled apart.
What am I doing that’s worth even half of what Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party accomplished? What have I said, made, shouted, or stood for that has had even one millionth of the effect? If I died right now, right here in this moment, would my community even know? Would they speak of me? Or would I just be another dusty rose, forgotten before the petals even get the chance to blacken or thorny stems the opportunity to wilt towards the ground.
I know I’m not supposed to compare, but how can I not? I’m not comparing myself to the stories of Harriet Tubman, because that level of slavery is not current anymore. I feel connection to it, of course, but there is no resonance.
It’s still happening!
2020 was a terrible for many reasons, and yet it was great in many other regards. For once I had the chance to be a part of the movement; to be a part of change and hope and the loud chorus of irresistible Black voices roaring the chains loose off their own freedom since we got here. I got to join the legacy of my Great Grandfather and march, and protest, and even speak at a rally. My poetry was heard, and published in various places, to touch and empower other people.
I got to FEEL like I was doing something.
But that’s over now.
And I hate that I want a space to lash out.
I hate that my work does not feel as sufficient and credible as I intellectually know it to be.
Now the bad guys get to hide behind their veil of invisibility again. Republicans crawl back into their wretched hives of scum and villainy, thinly separated from their Democratic hive mates with blood splattered idealistic drywall. I don’t believe in cure alls, but damn if it doesn’t hurt all the same to know that the majority of people in government don’t care about me and that the majority of Americans support said government.
What can heroes do when the bad guys conceal themselves behind the law?
Audre Lorde elaborated marvelously upon how the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house- well if the American government and its two party system are the master’s tools… then what the hell are we doing?
What the hell am I doing?
I struggle with the feelings of inadequacy.
Enter, One Night in Miami
Enter, The Two Killings of Sam Cooke Enter
Who Killed Malcolm X
Enter, MLK, Ossie and Ruby, Medgar Evers, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, and the HUNDREDS of Black women erased from the narrative, who were just as active, loud, brilliant, cunning, and ready to shoot and fight as any man, if not more.
My frustrations virtually bring me to tears any time I’m not braced for it. I want to DO something. Something physical. Something memorable. Something meaningful. Perhaps I’m little more than deluded selfishness in Black face, because I also want to FEEL the meaningfulness itself. So many days and nights I spend “just” writing, or laying out a song, or reading, or researching, or arranging a story, or helping others with their stories and art… I feel disconnected. Like I’m not really in the fight. Like I’m a fraud. Like I’m just coasting upon waves transposing into foam, skinning the knees of my ambition against the rapidly appearing concrete beneath the fading inertia of real freedom fighters.
It is the quiet voice in the back of my mind which reminds me that my work is valuable. Is relevant. Is just as necessary as throwing my physical body against a barricade, going to prison, or getting accosted by police.
I am training the new generation how to think. How to feel. The relevance of art and activism. I teach 3 and 4 year olds naturalized antiracist behaviors, and how to approach the world wrenched free of the negatively biased lenses which they may be delivered to me with. I work with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, introducing them to writers and thinkers like Baldwin and Morrison, Bruce Lee and Audre Lorde. We discuss art and life and story and humanity, and the delicate threads of justice and righteousness nimbly sewn in between.
Justice is the alter ego of Love when Love itself is denied, and I use the universal language of story to teach about them both.
I also release my own work.
My stage presence.
This is important work. It’s all important work. It’s not just one thing or one person or one title or one role or one ideal. It’s all of it. From Angela Davis to Ibram Kendi, from Huey P. Newton to Kendrick Sampson, from Dorothy Dandridge to Patrice Cullors-Brignac, from Lorraine Hansberry to Stacy Abrams, from the Black Panther Party to Black Lives Matter- it’s all of it.
When I watch and read these accounts of Black people who made lasting and empowering change within the culture and the country… many of them at extremely young ages…
I can’t help but feel that I’m coming up short.
That I’ve not earned the right to be counted among them.
Honestly, some days- I don’t even feel like I deserve the right to be Black.
these are not truths I claim,
rather emotions I express,
hoping that one day,
I can be comfortable in darkness,
knowing the only way,
one can exist among the stars,
is by having been a star itself,
I am a revolutionary.