the great divide: language and its power in identity & resistance

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Language is so powerful that it can form messages that completely affirm a people or utterly diminish, even erase, a people. Language can blur the lines of reality and present a reality all at once. Language is political power; it is agency. And as people of the African Diaspora, how we use, understand, respond to, and identify ourselves via language, is both part of our resistance and survival.

Many of the issues that plague – and ultimately divide – the human race are because of language. Language that acknowledges and determines existence; rations land and space; allocates wealth; controls resources; protects children; constructs gender; or liberates the oppressed. What holds it all together, or tears it all apart, are fragile words that speak to a larger language. And no matter the city-state or government, the language informs and reinforces the status quo that defies one thing: difference. There is an ever-present struggle to defend and define one’s difference. And why? Because for many, if on the “wrong” side of language, it is a matter of life and death.

In protecting one’s right to safely exist, it becomes paramount to not only control the language used to define your difference, but elevate it in a way that fully realizes and affirms you. A self that is fully aware and protective of all that it requires to live as safely and freely as possible. This is why at the core of resistance, any resistance, language must be understood from both sides: the oppressed and the oppressor(s). You must know what it means when certain rhetoric is being used. You must know how it is being used, considering every question imaginable, as to better define what it is that is being implicated. If not, you may find yourself in a blatant or understood hyphenated situation, where you are less of the whole. Not quite the one; but, not the other either.

The immediate function of the hyphen in grammar is to: create, combine, clarify, join, or separate. Similarly, with people, it purposes to do the same; sometimes literally and sometimes it is simply implied. In Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Toni Morrison offers that: “In this country, [. . .] American means White, and Africanist people struggle to make the term applicable to themselves with ethnicity and hyphen after hyphen after hyphen.” This very notion keeps one explaining their mere existence over and over again. What is supposed to clarify or give way to some sort of nuance, only creates more of a divisive and hostile dialogue. All with the idea of wholeness: honoring as many of a person’s parts as possible.

And while achieving wholeness in a place that diminishes  your region (America) when identifying, is seemingly impossible, it does not exempt us from how language is politicized. We do not have the luxury to simply not identify. The best hope is to reclaim how you are identified, because you will be labeled one way or the other. It is at every turn of our lives: introspectively, interpersonally, sexually, spiritually, socially, etc. This begs the question: why is language so important? Though people trivialize political correctness and are cynical about ever-changing terms, you will find that language, still, is at the core of such criticism. Here, it impacts and influences legislation that directly affects the lives of people who are simply trying to exist in a world where people launch attacks on them with only one weapon in sight: words.

To go a step further, I am willing to bet that we have all found ourselves saying or thinking, “Well, why is saying that problematic? People are so sensitive nowadays.” We are socialized that way. No matter how good we strive to be; it must be unlearned and constantly checked and checked twice more. Yes, people are sensitive. People are sensitive about safely existing. People are sensitive about their basic needs. People are sensitive about more than equality, but equity, which assures them fair access to living a life well beyond “just enough.” Just enough is not good enough, because it does not have the collective in mind; only a select, small few.

So, when we consider identity and resistance, the use of language must remain at the center. For language has been and will continue to be a resource and conduit to a more freer collective. And the language must be as nuanced as it is precise; as volatile as it is consistent; and as fundamental as it is auxiliary.

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who you were.

It’s often difficult to imagine that your parents had an entire life before starting a family of their own. And, honestly, we rarely ever find ourselves in a position where this would have to be considered. Life has an impersonal way of having us go from someone’s child to someone’s spouse to someone’s parent,

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My Mother (right) & her childhood BFF 

without considering the vignettes that lead into such roles. The former self is less magnified; however, it’s still there. Perhaps this explains those things about our parents we just don’t understand. We note them as qualities they have always had. We are not conditioned to see them beyond being parents. We are not conditioned to see them at all. We do not see their humanity. And maybe this impacts our relationship with them before we even begin to understand that (typically) our parents have at least 2+ decades of experience prior to becoming mothers and/or fathers. Experience that would both shape and limit what kind of parents they would be.

I found myself in this vein of thought after my father passed. I knew my father. I loved my father; but, I wondered if the man I knew and loved was really who I thought he was. After his death, for whatever reason, my mom started opening up to me more about their younger selves. Maybe the teacher appeared because I was showing that I was ready to be a student. Maybe she felt that would help me process my grief. Maybe it helped her process hers – grief she never admitted to having. Whatever the reason, her openness did two things for me: 1. helped me start my process of viewing my father as a whole human with past experiences and 2. Allowed me to trust my mother in a new way that is not solely based on what she does for me (as a mother).

Learning new things about my father’s younger self helped me to make sense of things I could never quite explain about myself. Something as simple as learning that he loved country music, or that he was always very quiet and kept to himself. Just knowing there are things I share with him keeps elements of him alive through me. However, not enough to diminish the many haunting questions I have had over the years pertaining to what kind of father he was. Tougher questions like that still lingered, even with all the positive things my mother was now disclosing after his death. What makes someone not be the best parent they can be? What makes them seem so distant? What was responsible for this distance – was it me?

Through more conversations with my mother, I learned that it was not me at all. A twenty year old questioned was answered after one story: my father’s father had died when he and his siblings were extremely young. It was believed that he was murdered by a white (racist) man via a hit and run. So, not only did he have to deal with the loss of his father, he now had to help his mother take care of his siblings in whatever way he could. Now, understand this story does not dismiss the times I have felt he failed as a father; however, it paints a clearer, more human picture of who my father was before he was my father. It helps to make sense of a man who inherited an extreme amount of grief and responsibility, at such a young age.

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My Father at my sister’s wedding 

For some, this level of responsibility makes you the ideal caretaker, indefinitely. For my father – at least from what I have reconciled – he would process his grief (and bitterness) in other ways. These ways were not always the best way to be while trying to be a father. But no one gets the luxury of going around with a “life hurt me” sign on their forehead. I had to wait over two decades for an answer to his often absence as a parent, to understand that maybe he had been depressed about his father’s murder since he was a child and turned to drugs as a way to cope. Whatever the answer was, having possibilities that did not include me being the problem helped to free me in ways unimaginable.

I could not get back the time lost, but I could forgive my father for impositions beyond his control. I could forgive myself for being so angry all these years. And, most importantly, I could start a new journey that takes into consideration that the people who gave me life had entire lives before I came along. Who they were matters, and is just as important to my self-discovery than anything I ever considered before. Therefore, I continue to journey!

 

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Easy Andouille Sausage & Shrimp Gumbo

By no means am I the type of person who eats their feelings when feeling sad or depressed; however, there are certain dishes I crave when I’m feeling homesick. Dishes that make me feel a sense of comfort and fulfillment. Being from the south, most of these dishes are staples or renditions of southern cuisine. I often modify the recipes in ways to fit my liking. One of the major perks of being an adult, and there are few perks to the trap that is adulthood.

So, with colder days here, I turn to many of my favorite comfort foods. One of my favorites is gumbo. “Top 5, Top 5, Top 5!” All gumbos are not created equal; know this. There are lots of restaurants that feature a gumbo option under soups on their menus, but they usually disappoint. The disappointment usually comes from a lack of meat; quality of the meat; and/or a less than stellar base (roux). If you know anyone from the Louisiana, Texas, or even South Carolina areas, then you know there are real life gumbo snobs out here. It’s that serious. But, also, know there are many ways to approach a gumbo according to what you like and still create a delicious meal.

Below, I share a fairly simple approach to making a gumbo that only includes andouille sausage and shrimp. You can easily sub the shrimp with chicken; add crab legs, crawfish, etc; or use a different sausage altogether. Also: this recipe doesn’t call for you to make your own stock, which can be a little more advanced & require more ingredients. Again, make this recipe fit your desires. Though, if nothing else, keep to the base; keep it sacred.

 Total Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Cook Time: 2 hours

INGREDIENTS:

Seasonings, etc.

1. Cajun seasoning (2 tbsp)
2. Salt and black pepper (to taste)
3. Worcestershire sauce (2 tsp)
4. Filé powder*  (1-2 tsp)
5. Flour (1/2 cup)
6. Peanut Oil (or any other vegetable oil) (1/2 cup)

Vegetables

1. One white/sweet onion, chopped
2. One green pepper, chopped
3. Three celery stalks, chopped (I omit this sometimes)
4. Four garlic cloves, minced
5. Three to five green onions, white + green parts, chopped

Protein

1. Eight to twelve ounces smoked Andouille sausage*, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2. Two pounds of shrimp, peeled + deveined (1- 1.5 lbs is plenty as well)
3. One quart chicken stock + one cup of water

*These items may be found at your local farmer’s market. However, I’ve discovered some good brands from grocery stores such as Publix as well. Aidells has a pretty good andouille sausage I like to use, and Zatarain’s makes a filé powder. The reason I use filé at all is because I forgo the okras (Yuck!), which many gumbos call for. The filé is used in its stead at the end to thicken the sauce.

METHOD:

The Roux:
Your first step is to make the roux (pronounced “roo”), which is the base for the gumbo. It is a mixture of white wheat flour and a cooking fat (oil or animal fat) that has been browned. Roux are used to thicken sauces, stews, and gravies.

In a deep, thick-bottomed pot, heat your oil on medium heat for about 2 minutes. I flash a little water to check to see if it’s hot enough. Then, using a whisker, whisk in the flour, lowering the heat to medium. Stir this mix constantly. Make sure you mix in all stray clumps of flour throughout the pot. It should look similar to this at first:

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As you continue stirring, you will notice the roux turn a peanut brown. To avoid burning, lower the heat to medium low.

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Continue this for about 25-30 minutes until the roux turns to the color of an older penny: a rich, dark brown. Then you are ready for the next step.

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Now mix in the three vegetables (often called “the holy trinity”), increasing the heat to medium high. Cook for five minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the Cajun seasoning.

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**In between adding the vegetables, heat the stock + water until it is steamy. You will use this later. Feel free to lower heat if it begins to bubble. It does not have to be steaming hot (works best), but it cannot be lower than room temperature, or the oils will congeal.

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After the vegetables have cooked for a while, slowly add the stock + water to the roux. Add the Worcestershire sauce and salt. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

The Gumbo:
After 30 minutes, add in andouille sausage and cook for 5 minutes (they are technically already done). Add the shrimp and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Once the shrimps are done cooking, turn off the heat. After a couple minutes, add 1 – 2 tsps of filé powder.

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Andouille & Shrimp Gumbo

 

Serve with white rice and/or southern style cornbread. However, this works as a stand alone dish as well. It’s sure to bring comfort and tons of flavor either way its served. Enjoy!

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end game

What’s next for me? 

Where’s life leading me? 

When will I ever experience more joy than depression, more peace than anxiety? 

 

These questions are in constant rotation in my mind; daily. And I don’t wonder these things because my life is so bad. I may have been away from blogging and officially writing anything for more than a year, but it’s not because things have been altogether unbearable. To utter any complaint would be ungrateful compared to the nightmares many awaken to every day. In fact, to suggest waking from sleep they’re lucky to get, for some, might bring them to tears. Basic needs are taken for granted by many of us every day. This, I have learned to keep in the forefront of my mind, even when questions like the above resonate.

I find myself in such a familiar strange place. I don’t know this place; but I know everything about this place. There’s something constantly leading me along an often ominous path. I’m moving; yes, but I am certain nothing good is ahead. But, also, I don’t believe in such a fate because something else within urges me to believe in an expected end of good things. I find myself living a constant juxtaposition. Moving; in what direction am I going, though?

And perhaps that’s the power that Life is trying so desperately to teach me to unlock: flexible, fluid, penetrable mobility. Perhaps this phenomenon is what leads us (back) into our highest states of self, our center. Is this what true presence and consciousness is? Could this unlock and reveal — dare I even propose — the God(s) within us, calling us to listen to self? Maybe there is more significance to the sensation of going in circles that’s less about repetition and failure. Maybe this cycle is our consciousness ever-expanding, doing so with fixtures of familiarity and comfort; however, picking up new intel with each cycle. img_0435

If so, I just might be able to reconcile where I am (with all my questions and all that I’m dealing with in my personal life) with what I’m experiencing, which then manifest in my mind, body, and spirit. Maybe the end game is simply to be realized, to become a whole, centered, perfect person. John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, offers that an individual’s personal identity is limited to her/his consciousness. And though Locke’s theory, especially as it pertains to memory, has been debated for centuries by his contemporaries and modern philosophers, his concept speaks to me in the very place I find myself today (Perry, 2008).

Where I am right now: a place where I relentlessly journey towards a more centered, happier, whole self. This is significant in considering Locke’s idea of personal identity because it informs me that in order to achieve centeredness, happiness, and wholeness, I must expand my consciousness. However, it’s also a place that often circles me back to cause me to pay more attention to things, lessons, and/or people I may have overlooked, undervalued, and/or misunderstood before. And if I get too distracted by the thought of having been “here” before, I lose sight of how the maze itself is actually designed for me to win, in order for me to attain oneness with my highest state of self. It’s working for my good! I just have to be present and aware.

So, maybe the end game is to escape, if you will, the actual game. To master yourself in a way your mind, body, and spirit align. All of these routes that makeup the maze are steady driving you to a deeper understanding of self, allowing you flexible mobility; access to who you are from different perspectives and access points. The end game is realizing the journey is custom made for you, and not just for you to play, but to win!

Let’s  continue to journey together.

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References

Locke, John. “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Perry, John. Personal Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. 33-52.

Perry, John. “Personal Identity, Memory, and the Problem of Circularity.” Perry, John. Personal Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. 136-155.

Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?

Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? To such extent you bleach, to get like the white man. Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind?  Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other? No… Before you come asking Mr. Muhammad does he teach hateyou should ask yourself who taught you to hate being what God made you.

We don’t steal, we don’t gamble, we don’t lie and we don’t cheat.
You can’t get into a whiskey bottle without getting past a government seal. You can’t buy a deck of cards without getting past a government seal. Here the white man makes the whiskey then puts you in jail for getting drunk. He sells you the cards and the dice and puts you in jail when he catches you using them.

The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black womanAnd as Muslims, the honorable Elijah Muhammed  teaches us to respect, our women, and to protect our women. And the only time a Muslim gets real violent, is when someone goes to molest his woman. We will kill you, for our women I’m making it plain yes, we will kill you for our women. We believe that if the white man, will do whatever is necessary, to see that his woman get respect and protection, then you and I will never be recognized as men. Until we stand up like men and pays the same penalty over the head of anyone, who puts his filthy hands out, to put it in a direction of our women.

Kunta County: An Original Short Story

The People Could Fly x Leo & Diane Dillon

“Ma’am, are you a donor? We can’t admit you if you are a not a registered donor or have a pending transaction.”

Kofa was annoyed by the sound of the nurse who was probing. She hated extensive questioning. She hated the frigid staleness of Kunta County Mental Hospital altogether. The truth was Kofa didn’t know if she was a donor or not. What was left to give? She had given everything of herself to the world. And this nurse, who did she think she was with her nose turned up?

She felt herself fading as the nurse again barked, “Mrs. San, if you’re not a donor, then we will have to have your written consent to arrange a transaction to do the procedure. We want to help you get to a better state.”

Kofa looked up to meet the nurse’s piercing eyes. She shifted her beautiful locs so that she had a better view of the nurse, and for a moment that seemed like hours, Kofa stared at the nurse. Finally, she managed to say, “It’s Miss, not Mrs. I had that taken from me too.” Her sedated body became one with the hospital bed. She never imagined that her sleepless nights would come to end with a trip to Kunta County. There was a part of Kofa that was grateful for the promised peace and rest. She had long needed to quiet her mind from the daily reminders of how hard life could be. Kunta County was the nation’s leading facility for reset and erasure procedures. Though skeptical, Kofa knew she was in good hands. And whenever she doubted that, still, she knew her options were limited.

 

“She was out before I could get her consent,” the nurse said as Dr. Kinte entered the hospital room.

Dr. Kinte had performed most of the procedures for the residents of Kunta County. It was a running joke among his colleagues that he could do the procedure in his sleep with total success. And while Dr. Kinte was thought to be a kind man, his sharp features balanced his kindness. There was always this sense of achievement he felt when he saw his patients around town, knowing he had played an intricate part in resetting their lives. His one desire in life was to have everyone lead respectful lives with which society would be comfortable. He often told his patients that the reset procedure was a gift from God for individuals who had somehow lost their way. Because of this, it was no secret that Dr. Kinte took pride in being a part of an elite group who had discovered how to eradicate mental illness. Kofa never liked him, but he was the best.

“Ahh! Kofa San. It’s such a shame what happened to her husband. He showed so much promise, too. I really thought he’d come to his senses. At any rate, we won’t need Mrs. San’s consent. Get her admitted and have her taken to the third floor.” Dr. Kinte was clinical and cold in his response to the nurse, never looking up from his chart.

 

“What do you mean, Dr. Kinte? Her chip doesn’t indicate that she is either a donor or that she has transacted.”

“Without a husband, Mrs. Kofa is now under the state’s care. We know what’s best for her. We will prep her for the procedure tomorrow morning. The buyers will be here tomorrow afternoon, so there’s nothing left to discuss.” For the first time since he had entered the room, he looked up at the nurse. He was not acknowledging her presence, but reminding her of her place in his presence.

She nodded and softly replied, “Yes, of course, sir. She will be ready.”

Dr. Kinte could not see the tear that streamed down her face as his glare spoke the words his mouth had not. The nurse was embarrassed by her display of emotion. Such display of emotion was a weakness, a defect, as well. Before leaving Kofa’s hospital room, she got herself together and shook off the encounter. Tomorrow would be a long, draining day.

________

When Kofa finally came to, she found herself in a pool of sweat. Her heart was racing and her hands were trembling. She wondered where she was and how she had gotten there. Thoughts of her husband quickly answered her confusion.

“No! No! What have you done to him? What do you mean by this? No! Somebody please help us!” These were not the first or last of Kofa’s outbursts since she had been admitted to Kunta County. And because of that, she was now restrained to her hospital bed. The orderlies had told her it was for her own well-being, but she remembered seeing fear in their eyes that said otherwise.

“Kofa! Sshhh! You’ll wake the entire floor, chile.” A figure was moving close to Kofa from the shadows, but she couldn’t quite make out who was in the room with her. She felt a cool towel on her head and a tender, but rough hand caressed her face. Her visitor was definitely a woman. “Kofa, listen to me and listen to me carefully. You have to get yourself out of this place.”

Kofa struggled to make sense of it all. The voice sounded so familiar, but she still could not make out the image of the woman. She sat up in her bed and desperately grabbed the woman’s hand.

“I want to get better. I have to get better. Thirteen. That’s how many shots they fired. I felt them in my soul. Right in my front yard. They unloaded thirteen shots in him because he refused the procedure a month before. I have to get better. I can’t leave or I could be next. Can you imagine what they might do to a woman?“

The woman’s reply was quick. Kofa didn’t know if she had had time to process her words or not before she said, “You can’t look for wrong within just ‘cause someone on the outside said it’s there. What’s the reset gonna accomplish for you?”

“I want peace!” Kofa was angry now. “I want to live a quiet, respectable life. The reset will allow that. I’ll be healthy and whole. I’ll have a nice little home to call my own. Nobody will be able to take anything else away from me. I will be able to breathe.”

“And you think all of this just gon’ come without a price? How you think you gon’ pay for all of this? The erasure? The reset? When did you write a check, Kofa? Think about it all ‘cause it comes with a price.”

Kofa had not considered this before now, and she was livid that this woman was in her hospital room trying to argue a point that had escaped her. Two days before she was brought to Kunta County Mental Hospital, Kofa had witnessed her husband being gunned down in their front yard. He had rejected the procedure that all the other men on their block had received. Such a tiny procedure, Kofa thought. However, he thought it would be an inconvenience to permanently have his hands suspended in the air. It was for his protection, though. That was a fact everyone else seemed to embrace and know but Kofa’s husband.

That evening, Kofa tried to convince him to have the procedure one last time. And, yes, their voices may have been louder than normal. Her only concern was for her husband to get better and have the protection he deserved. Her neighbors didn’t understand this. They called The Blues due to the disturbance, and within five minutes, Kofa’s house was surrounded.

“They gonna sell you piece by piece, chile. Do you hear me? They gonna sell you to pay for this Canaan you got stuck up in your head.” The woman’s voice pierced Kofa’s soul. The hand no longer caressed her face, and when Kofa looked up again, the woman was gone.

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“Good Morning, Mrs. San. I hope you had a good night’s rest. We have a long day ahead of us. You will be better in no time!” That was the voice of the annoying nurse again. Kofa sat up in the bed, remembering last night. She wondered if she had imagined it all. If she had, she knew she must really be crazy.

“Let me tell you the itinerary for today: we will start with the milk bath to get everything white and spotless for the transactions. Then, we will remove these.” The nurse motioned towards Kofa’s locs without even looking up from her list.

These. One of the things she prided herself on was her hair. Kofa remembered the evenings when her mother would wash and retwist her locs. Those were the happiest moments of her childhood. In those moments, Kofa had learned so much about where she had come from and who her mother was before she was a wife and mother. Those were moments that mattered a great deal to Kofa. However, in a few hours, her locs would go to the highest bidder whose daughter would happen to be a self-proclaimed hipster. These on Kofa, hipster on another. It was funny how it all worked.

“Then we will de-wing you before scaling down your breasts, buttocks, and hips. We will install a new chip with the standard langue, parole, and mannerisms. Your recovery will be long, but we will be there monitoring you every step of the way, Mrs. San. Any questions about your reset?”

Kofa was overwhelmed. Her lips were trembling and words were forming in her mind all at once, however, no sound escaped her lips. Before she could say anything, the nurse exclaimed, “Oh, dear! Your name! Have you chosen a name from the standard list?”

“A name? I like my name as it is. I just want to be healthy, not a completely different person.”

“But Mrs. San that is included in the reset. The reset promises new life altogether, and that includes renaming. You don’t want to be mistaken for. . .”

Kofa interrupted the nurse, “Mistaken for who? What I don’t want is to be called by any other name than the one given to me by my parents. That’s what I don’t want.”

“What about a nickname, Mrs. San? That would be acceptable as well. We just want your neighbor to feel comfortable, that’s all. You understand.” The nurse was unmoved by Kofa’s irritation. She had witnessed this kind of indignation before, and they had all been grateful for their new lives after the reset. Kofa, too, would see how the reset would prove to be the best thing to ever happen to her. She placed Kofa’s file on the nightstand beside her hospital bed to excuse herself while Kofa decided on a new identity from the list she had been given. On the front of the file it read, “San, Kofa.” A name Kofa would have to do away with forever.

 

“Get up from there. Pick yourself up, chile. These folks fixin’ to auction you off piece by piece, and you ‘bout to let them ‘cause you believe their lies. You make ‘tend like you care so much ‘bout a name, and you ain’t got the sense to say what it means to you. You can’t let folks heal you before you check in on yourself and see what’s the matter, girl. Never met a man who care ‘bout the next man more than he care ‘bout himself. Now, get up from there.” The woman was back like she had been there all along, but Kofa was sure she had not seen her since last night.

 

“Wait. How did you get here? Who are you?” Kofa was desperate to know.

“Circe, chile. Circe was my name when they had me all propped up like they got you now. I came in Kunta County just a kickin’ and screamin’. Oh, sho’, I ain’t have much, but I had my name. I knew that much. It was in the dead of summer and my window was open on account of the heat. Miserable summer, it was. I sat there hoping help would walk through them doors. And, you know what, it did. Only, it had come through ‘long with me. My help was trapped in me somewhere.”

Kofa was confused. “Trapped inside of you? What do you mean?”

“Buried so deep inside I could barely hear her tryna guide me. Didn’t know what it was. Ain’t have the slightest idea if I was sleep or woke, but the more I sought after the voice, the louder it was. What I thought was one voice was many voices. Clear as day, I heard The Voice say, ‘We are Legacy and we are many. Come with us, Circe.’ I thought ‘bout how minutes before I had up and decided to be called Mary, and when The Voice called my name like that I felt a peace, you see. I felt home. So, I followed that voice right out that window and we soared. Did we ever soar! You gotta listen, chile. You can’t just silence Legacy. Don’t let it go!”

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Thirty minutes later, the nurse came back in to check on Kofa to confirm her new name and to take her to the procedure room. The nurse gasped when she found the hospital bed empty. She gathered from the blood on the sheets Kofa had struggled to free her wrists from the restraints, but had somehow managed. There was no sign of Kofa anywhere in the room except her hospital gown and the list of names she had been given. She had drawn an “X” over the list of names with her blood and had written three words at the bottom of the paper: “Not For Sale.”

W a k e Up

Who has the time to stop and wipe Black tears because of students feeling alienated and mistreated on primarily White college campuses? Honestly, what else is to be expected considering this country still promotes and funds race hierarchies to include the University System. Of course, I mean that in a rhetorical way; however, there seems to be an earnest expectation of predominantly White institutions (PWIs) as it relates to the racial climate on campuses such as Oklahoma University and Washington State University. Recently, representatives from both universities have organized two movements, Unheard and WakeUpWSU, “to fulfill the acknowledgement of issues and adversities that underrepresented students face on their respective campuses each day,” according to Unheard’s Director of Public Relations, Kumba Sicarr. In an open letter, Sicarr goes on to say that she hopes “to have these issues recognized and influence a nationwide open dialogue.”

Now, please understand I am not anti-protest of any sort. People–more specifically Americans–have the right to protest injustices of any sort. However, I do believe Sicarr and the other executive committee members are decades, even a century, too late for this open dialogue they speak of. This is a dynamic conversation that is going on every day in the lives of Blacks across this country. Freedom goes beyond unfair bondage and fatal servitude. Freedom allows a person to identify and thrive in a way that is socially responsible and beneficial to the collective. Though in short, what I have attempted to allude to are principals unique to Afro-centric world views. The collective is an important aspect here, and it is not inseparable of how we educate ourselves. It is one major reason I find movements like Unheard and WakeUpWSU counterproductive as it relates to the collective. Why waste energy and years fighting an injustice you refuse to name? Who was it who first said to “call a spade a spade?” Ah, well, I am not sure either. I am, however, sure that as  a virtual campaign to #WakeUpandHearMe has taken off, this spade, White Supremacy, never slumbers or sleeps.

I am also reminded of the words of Toni Morrison when she said:

You don’t waste your energy fighting the fever; you must only fight the disease. And the disease is not racism. It is greed and the struggle for power.

No one hashtag campaign can annihilate the pestilence that is racism in this country or anywhere in the world. Nothing can uproot its purpose to usurp and marginalize any group that threatens its power structures.  For there will always be something else to privilege over another. So, then, we must only fight the disease. And in scenarios like this, unfortunately, the only cancer that wages war is the need to fight in a space that was never designed for Blacks or any minorities. Modern entrance does not trump historical intent. As a matter of fact, to use sensational examples to assign reason to why your ancestors died is anything but historical. What you will know: They didn’t fight and die for you to beg  to be in spaces where you feel alienated most of the time. Furthermore, they also didn’t fight and die for you to become anyone other than who you (naturally) are just to avoid feeling that alienation.

Rest assured that my purpose is not to somehow post this as a form of advocacy for HBCUs. That topic has been beaten like a dead horse. Also, it is not my purpose in life to promote any institution other than the institution of self. My purpose is to prompt someone, anyone, to see value in who they are as an individual identifying as Black. That, above all else, is of grave importance. You are more than a hashtag. You are more than dangling from White Supremacy’s string. You are powerful when you are secure. You are powerful when you are resilient. You are powerful when you are united! And this unity does not have to come about when the comforts of erasure via White Supremacy slithers close to you and strikes. What did you expect? A snake is a snake is a snake!

The only change that needs to occur is for Blacks across this country to, yes, WAKE UP! Wake up to the reality that you can’t hashtag your way into respectability. The life you live must be purposeful and meaningful. Do not be so distracted by racism’s games. No one in their right mind believes racism’s long promoted epithets and stereotypes are true for an entire group of people. They only want you to believe so AND act accordingly. Culturally performative behavior is best silenced when you choose not to perform at all. Leave them there. Leave them right there with their willful ignorance. You have work to do! Get back to work. That’s why you enrolled in college, any college. If your heart’s desire is/was to attend a PWI, then, by all means, ATTEND. Attend fearlessly and unapologetically Black. And if you ever hear two words like, “nigger bitch,” just know they are just two words. Match those two words with two of your own. Starter pack? Match them with: “FUCK YOU” as you make your way to class or wherever your purpose requires you to be at that moment.

However, if you find yourself distracted by this likely behavior in an environment where you are the minority, then you need to find a space where you are not distracted from doing your work. College should not be one big protest after the other. Scholars protest with their intelligence and the work they subsequently produce. When that protest is distracted, no matter how organized your movement is, you have wasted both your time and money. Don’t take on an issue that has already been bought for you by your ancestors. You have been bought with a price that has secured a space for you, within you. Wake up and never forget that!