I write to you from a place both far and near. I’ve watched you grow in the heartland while living in cities from coast to coast and contending with the great in-betweens of living here and there, while black, coming from where we are from. Despite my reticence, your beauty is a constant reminder of the importance of family, the endurance of hope and the necessity of the love-labor I profess and hope to accomplish throughout my lifetime. Home is dangerous place. Home is often where the hatred is. I trust that you have not learned this yet your mother and father, my siblings, know the price of such a blood-stained gift. We learned early on the practice of self-hate, gleaned from ill-informed lessons of survival, strength and fluidity. To be clear, we were never hated by anyone within our family: people lived and died for our chances to be. However, sometimes that “be” and that sacrifice had unintended consequences. You see, working backbreaking hours to care for a child, a grandchild, cousin or even your younger siblings has a cost. What one sees as love—say providing meals and stability—may be experienced as pain or even hate, if it is accompanied with a scowl and has insufficient energy or faculty to profess and articulate such loving kindness. Do not trouble your spirits if your mother or father fails to reflexively smile when they look upon your face. The struggle of being a working black mother or father forces one to ration what outward joy s/he has left. Survival jujitsu is an expensive practice that takes more than it gives. You see, your mother awakens in the morning to see that you have joy throughout the day. Your father’s heart smiles when hears your name, it reminds him that life has meaning, has power and that hope is not something stolen so easily. When they go into the world, before you, making room for you, their smiles and laughter are often stolen by people—and their toxic ways of living—that will never see you, or anyone else, as human. This psychosis is not your concern. You see, some folks consume blackness as elixir for the inadequacies and anxieties of their broken spirits. Your parents go forth and clear the way so that you might not have to encounter such parasitic peoples. You are loved, you are a source of joy, you are the hope of our family circle and none of us will have your soul disrupted by the ill and ill-intentioned. But you must’n blame my siblings, your parents, for they are engaged in a battle for your continued freedom, for your liberation. Where their lips do not part, or when their voices are raised, know that their spirit powers their body, daily, from the wells of their love and hopes for you.
You are young, but I want you to know this. Love is not simply about how much of your body you are willing, able or compelled to destroy or trade in for wealth accumulation in the name of stability. To be sure, these are hearty sacrifices. But love, love is much more expensive—though it may often include the example given above—it is a practice. Love is an investment un-reliant upon personal enrichment. It is not capitalistic. It is an investment in individual, mutual and interconnected humanity. It is the mutual, individual and co-investment in the lover and beloveds individual, collective and communal growth. This growth encompasses the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, economic and cosmic realms. It is a recognition of the interconnected nature of our humanity and the permission to simply be, you, always. It is a promise and commitment to free you from the costs of one’s insecurities and the societal and state-mandated consequences freedom. This is love. We all know this, yet, we are afraid to speak its name and midwife its existences, beloved. Because to speak of it, is a sore reminder of its absence and too often, to practice it, is to risk the pain of its revocation. Better then, some elders reckon, to leave love and good enough alone. Children born free cannot accept such folly, you cannot afford it. Learn love for yourself. Walk into love, read and share your truths as much as possible: then you will become familiar with yourself, comfortable with vulnerability and free to be who you are, wherever you are. Always, always, tell yourself the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. Despite its mosquito-like persona, the truth does nothing but heal and re-center our values, no matter how jarring its entry.
In your minds, perhaps even your hearts, I imagine that I remain a small part of your imagination: that uncle often spoken of but rarely seen, apart from a random, unannounced hours long visit from some foreign place you may have never heard of. You are right, I have long been worlds away, but my mind, heart and spirit have never left you. Please know that I’ve been with you from the moment your parents, my siblings, first opined about your possible existence. I was there, making way, calming nerves, sending love and hoping to be an uncle that was more useful than violent, more loving than mysterious and more consistent than domineering. I could not bear to be near you when my own illness—that of imputed anxieties, identities and problematic practices—were alive and highly contagious. I had to demonstrate to myself that I was indeed my self. This is no small feat and it is an ongoing process. I have had to—and continue to—learn things about myself that must be unlearned. Each day I realize that there some piece of me that remains circumcised, forged from my soul at the threshing floor of social cues, that has yet to be re-membered. To become whole again, to become free, requires and unbecoming of all the badges and incidences of the process of becoming black, of becoming gendered, of becoming classed, of becoming first in the line of inheritance of cisheteropatriarchy, sexism, misogyny, ableism, nativism, racial ideologies and capitalist orientations. I’m still learning how to love people, to love me and to be both queer and liminal. You see, I cannot fathom being a parasite that feeds on the humanity of others—in the production of the dehumanized—in order to feel secure and free myself. Race, gender, sexuality, class, sex, nationhood: none of these things are real. They are tacit, agreements meant to keep the American Daydream intact—while obscuring the reality, the lived effects of the American Nightmare—that we hew too, because it offers all of us something unique, distinct and perhaps some situational privilege in comparison to the next categorized body.
This is an excerpt from my book Godless Circumcisions: A Recollecting & Re-membering of Blackness, Queerness & Flows of Survivance, available on Amazon, Kindle and CreateSpace. Follow me on twitter and facebook for bookings, writings and a good laugh.