This week has been exhausting. Emotional highs and lows have depleted my energy that neither a tall can of Red Bull, or a dip in the river of Jordan can bring it back from. From a professional standpoint there has never been three better consecutive months strung together. I’ve been on tour across the country promoting positivity to high schools via Viacom’s Get Schooled program. I was the host of a show for BET Awards, interviewing some of my favorite people in entertainment, and was damn near front row for the greatest moments in BET Awards history (Thank you Beyonce, Kendrick, Jesse and Bilal)… I had my own stage and full production in the VIP section of the Super Dome in New Orleans for Essence Fest. I interviewed Maxwell in front of Al Sharpton. I could list more, but you get the point. Everything about my work life is amazing at the moment.
Sure there were some moments that annoyed me, like having to go toe to toe with Roland Martin because he was so fixated by my wearing of jeans and a hat that he couldn’t see the King that I am. I had to explain to this feather pocket square, Easter suit-wearing brother that clothes does not a man make. I choose to dress like the same black boys who get harassed and berated by policemen in hopes of changing the narrative that all young black men who dress “urban” are criminals and thugs. I want to look like them on any platform that I have because there aren’t many young, articulate black men WITH a platform to represent them. Brilliance has no uniform. Would he accuse Steve Jobs of being underdressed? I doubt it… Plus, Roland, feather pocket squares should have died in Eddie Murphy’s dream sequence of the Boom Boom Room in the movie LIFE.
Another moment of frustration came when Mr. Wendy Williams saw fit to disrespect the very institutions that have, for over a century, harvested some of the most brilliant minds that have ever walked the face of the Earth. HBCU’s are incubators for black excellence. Allowing students (not just black students, btw) the unique opportunity to feel, think, sound, act, walk, talk, dap, hug and most importantly LOVE black, without worrying about judgment or discipline from those not in the know of our culture. But when you build your career off of gossiping about people in your race with ACTUAL talent and brilliance, I can’t expect much out of you. Hopefully by now someone has made her aware of that whole “if you niggers learn to read, you’re dead” thing that took place for 300 years.
But those minor infractions couldn’t break my spirit. I mean, with all of the amazing things that have happened in the last 3 months, it’d take a lot more than two talking heads that I don’t hold in high regard to break my stride… Enter July 5th, 2016.
I left the state of Louisiana that same day arriving in DC. Whoever said Delta Airlines stood for Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive, was spot on. As I sat in my travel clothes waiting for my luggage to be delivered, I saw a tweet that said ‘police kill another black man’. If I really think about it in hindsight, I don’t believe I even batted an eye. I didn’t get mad. I had more of an exasperated reaction when I saw Kevin Durant went to the Warriors if I’m being completely honest. I’m desensitized. I’ve seen death happen in front of me in real life, and on video countless times. I’m unbothered by loss of life outside of my immediate circle. I fear this is common amongst my people, and thus why so many of our youth in the inner city don’t seem to mind putting their lives on the line or taking one. We were taught young that “shit happens” and “niggas get shot everyday, b.”
I clicked the link.
Alton Sterling had 5 kids. He had gold teeth. He sold CD’s. He carried a lil pea shooter. He smiled wide… I don’t KNOW Alton Sterling, but I know Alton Sterling. I lived in the south for 7 years, I know the CD man. I’ve talked him down on his prices. I’ve dapped him up. Shot the shit. If you’re selling CD’s in the south it means you have personality. You make people smile and laugh… The CD man is a part of every black community. He’s not a threat to kill you. But as Alton Sterling lay there fighting for an explanation on why he had been speared like some tackling dummy at the University of Alabama, I don’t think he realized that his attackers didn’t know him the same way the members of his ACTUAL community did.
Even with a gun to his chest, Alton was brazen that nothing fatal could possibly happen to HIM, not in HIS hood. And so he continued to struggle for the rightful freedom of his limbs, and an answer. It probably wasn’t until he heard “Gun! Gun!” that he realized he had made a mistake that would cost him his life.
See, when a cop screams “Gun!” it’s a war cry. A yell of justification for him firing his weapon into a human target. It never fails… And as Alton lay there, arm bending, twisting and stretching to the heaven’s in an attempt at either prolonging what was left of his quickly dissipating life, or asking for an answer from the Heaven’s on why this was happening to him, I can’t help but wonder what his last thoughts were. Did he think about his children? Did he have one of those “I knew I should’ve stayed home today” moments?
Anytime someone dies, I wonder those things. What their last thoughts were. When was the last time they made love? Went to the bathroom? Did they know that was going to be the last time? Is anything about that last day different than any other? Are there premonitions or signs?
So all day July 6th I thought about Alton. My eyes swelled again with tears at the site of his 14 year old son inconsolable at a press conference. The same press conference his mother stood strong at the helm of, conducting herself with the poise and sturdiness of a woman who had delivered that speech twenty times before. How could she be so poised?? Black Gold.
My day continued. I went to work at Verizon Center hosting the Wizards Summer Fest, sending their Summer League team off to Vegas. I didn’t forget about Alton, but I had work to do, so I figured I’d think about him more at a later time.
Work ended. I got back to my folks house and saw Dwyane Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls! What?! No way bro. I searched twitter looking for reactions, forgetting about Alton. Then I saw “Oh No, they killed another one in Minneapolis!”
I hung my head in disbelief. Certainly there was no way that two murders of men (by police) who look like me could have been captured on video within a 24 hour window… But there it was… Another soul leaving a black body before my eyes and directly in front of a small 4-year-old Goddess and her mother. Lord.
Phil Castille was a man. See, most people in my generation are too proud to do the work that Phil did. He served children. And while if he were alive you may have snickered at his essentially being a lunch man, Phil was the kind of man who proudly put on his hairnet and made sure to not just serve food, but to learn the names of all 500 students he served. He aspired to be the best in whatever HE was doing. Yea, Phil was a man of the highest quality that we don’t see too often anymore. A man who did what he had to do to feed himself and his family without worrying about what people on the ‘gram would say about how he earned his living.
I’m sure he had other ambitions and plans for his life, things he wanted to do. But in our journeys sometimes we have to humbly submit to the work in front of us, before we can fulfill the dreams that set our souls ablaze. Phil submitted to his work.
And so again I wept. I tweeted. I texted. I talked. I tried to understand why it was so difficult for the world, in which I’m raising a little black boy, to understand that the lives of black people is every bit as important as the lives of ANYONE who walks this Earth. We aren’t asking for asses to be kissed, we are simply asking for a little bit more outrage than what occurs when a gorilla or dog is killed. Because, you know, human lives should be pretty important to people.
I am exhausted.
And then, Dallas…
To be Continued