Under my hoodie lies the mind of a man that has absorbed knowledge and self-awareness like a sponge.
I have read and listened in school about who I am. I also learned about who my heroes are, and what my enemies look like. I learned that a man came to these shores and discovered this land, even though people were already here. I learned that I was to dismiss my common sense, and simply ignore that anomaly, and any like it. And so I listened to my elders, and learned something else entirely. I read on my own, and discovered that "truth" has more than one perspective. I discovered that no school can teach me who I am, but that I have to discover that for myself. I discovered that I am responsible for my own education; for feeding my own mind.
I carry that under my hoodie.
Under my hoodie beats the heart of a champion.
I am the product of a single-parent home in a depressed economic community. I've heard the naysayers as they glanced my way, shaking their heads and telling me I have no chance in this world. I listened as the Bursar at my University opened my files and told me about all the paperwork I was missing. When I responded that I had submitted the necessary papers, and wondered why she waited until the beginning of the Spring semester to call my attention to all of this, she shrugged her tired old shoulders and simply said: "That's y'all's problem. Y'all don't know how to take care of business." I remember sitting astounded as I wondered who "y'all" was. And then it dawned on me why she insisted I meet with her alone. And then I knew precisely who she meant.
And so, a Master's degree, Fulbright Scholarship, Army service, teaching and public school administrative career, Malik Shabazz Human Rights Institute Scholarship, non-profit Executive Directorship, talk show pilot, nationally syndicated talk show hosting gig, motivational speaking business and various other accomplishments later, I think of that old Bursar, and, with fist clenched firmly, pound the heart pumping proudly under my hoodie.
Under my hoodie are raised the eyes of a man that can see.
I see the little boy who stood in front of the mirror, towel draped about his neck, and who, to his horror, realized he looked nothing like Superman. I see the woman who doesn't look like me that clinches her purse to her side as she steps onto the elevator I've been riding. I see the ads in the magazines. I see the television commercials. But I don't see me. What I do see is the face of the security guard who follows me through the large department store with furrowed brow and right hand at the ready.
I see an America that doesn't see me.
I see an America that refuses to look under my hoodie.
What do you see?