KINGS BLEED TOO

Dad has been sober from drugs for 27 years of his life. His son is 30 years old. My Superhero. My King. My idol; been imperfect, been in pain. He's been dealing with issues of loneliness, abandonment, self-worth, depression, and identity. Dad went on to have 4 sons. All 4 of them different, like the 3 different Mothers who birthed them. One of them, like his Father is, like his Mother is, was always into something. He sang in the church choir. He played the lead role in all the school plays, and always stood out whenever he had a ball in his hands.

He always kept a journal, just like his Mother. He was always writing/expressing his voice thru scribbled words only he could read. These days he still writes, as does his Mother. 30 years of pain. 30 years of joy. 30 years of tears. This is his story so far. Kings Bleed Too. Welcome to his fears.

Black Man's Joy

Photo By: Neriah McBain

AS SHE RUBBED THE BACK OF MY SHOULDER AND CONGRATULATED ME, MY MIND WANDERED ELSEWHERE. A MODEST CROWD SHOWED UP ON THIS RAINY DAY IN TORONTO AND WATCHED ME FINISH MY FASTEST RACE TO DATE. LOVE ONES EMBRACING ME; A MEDAL BEING PLACED AROUND MY NECK. I SMILED. OUTWARDLY I REFLECTED HAPPINESS, BUT INSIDE I WAS MORE ALIGNED WITH PAIN. WHERE WAS MY JOY IN THIS MOMENT?  IT SURELY WASN'T WITH CONNECTED TO THIS PRIMITIVE SYMBOL OF PARTICIPATION AROUND MY NECK.

AS BLACK MEN HOW FREQUENTLY ARE WE ABLE TO CLAIM OUR JOY? HOW OFTEN CAN WE HAVE OUR MOMENT AND CELEBRATE WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF PAIN? WHY CAN'T WE SEEM TO CELEBRATE OUR WINS WITHOUT VIEWING THEM THRU THE LENS OF TRAUMA? WHAT HAPPENED TO NOTION OF EXPERIENCING HAPPINESS FOR THE SAKE OF HAPPINESS? BEAUTIFUL BLACK MAN, YES YOU CAN BE EXCITED, JOYOUS AND FILLED WITH POSITIVITY BECAUSE OF THE LIFE THAT YOU HAVE. YOU CAN BE HAPPY ABOUT IT BEING MONDAY BECAUSE IT'S MONDAY, AND NOT THINK ABOUT WHATEVER TOOK PLACE ON SUNDAY, OR WHAT MAY COME ON THURSDAY. YOUR JOY BELONGS TO YOU ALWAYS IN ALL WAYS.

THE JOY OF BLACK MEN IS OFTEN TIMES INFANTILIZED. BLACK MASCULINITY IS ONLY ASSOCIATED WITH STRENGTH. THE STRENGTH OF A BLACK MAN AND THE JOY DISPLAYED IN OUR SMILES ARE NEVER SEEN AS SYNONYMOUS AS IT PERTAINS TO THE BLACK MALE EXPERIENCE. JOY, BLACK BOY JOY, IS CELEBRATED WHEN YOU SEE IT FROM A CHILD. HASHTAGS LIKE #BLACKMENSMILING ARE TYPICALLY INTERTWINED WITH ELEMENTS OF CHILD LIKE BEHAVIOR. TYPICALLY THE JOY OF A CHILD IS CAREFREE AND SOCIALLY ACCEPTED. CHILDREN WAKE UP EARLY ON SUNDAY MORNINGS ECSTATIC ABOUT LIFE  JUST BECAUSE IT'S SUNDAY. HOW COME THAT PERCEIVED NOTION OF JOY AND HAPPINESS ISN'T CARRIED ON INTO OUR ADULTHOOD? AT WHAT POINT DID THAT STOP? AT WHAT POINT DID IT BECOME 'WEIRD" OR "RANDOM" TO BE AN ADULT AND ALSO BE GENUINELY EXCITED ABOUT LIFE BECAUSE THE SKY IS BLUE? AT WHAT POINT IS THE JOY OF A BLACK MAN TAKEN FROM US? HOW COME OUR JOY, OUR CELEBRATIONS CAN ONLY BE UNDERSTOOD AND CELEBRATED WHEN UNDERSTOOD THRU THE LENS OF OBSTACLES AND SETBACKS? WE SEE BLACK MEN BEING JOYFUL AND CELEBRATED AND CALL IT #BLACKBOYJOY BECAUSE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF BLACK JOY IS SOMETHING THAT CHILDREN CAN POSSESS. BUT IF YOU SAW A BLACK MAN SMILING, WHILE WALKING DOWN THE STREET SINGING STIR FRY BY MIGOS, YOU WOULD INITIALLY PAUSE AND CONCLUDE THAT HE WASN'T OKAY. OR THAT HE WAS BEHAVING LIKE A GROWN ASS KID. WHO SAID THAT A BLACK MAN'S JOY HAD TO END WHEN PUBERTY ELUDED US? WHY ARE WE OKAY WITH PEOPLE QUESTIONING OUR HAPPINESS? WHY IS OUR HAPPINESS SEEN AS ANYTHING OTHER THAN JUST THAT; HAPPINESS?

I WONDER IF THE SWITCH TAKES PLACE BECAUSE OF THE INHERENT RESPONSIBILITIES THAT WE DEAL WITH AS ADULTS? CHILDREN TYPICALLY OPERATE IN SPACES WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY. BECAUSE OF THIS, ADULTS DON'T HAVE TIME TO CELEBRATE HOW BLUE THE SKY IS. STILL THE FACT REMAINS THAT IT IS PERFECTLY OKAY TO BE PRESENT IN YOUR JOY FOR THE SAKE OF JOY'S SAKE. BLACK MEN, YOU CAN CELEBRATE YOUR LIFE AND ALL OF ITS NUANCES WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF PAIN, TRAUMA OR ANYTHING NEGATIVE. YOUR JOY, BLACK MAN, IS FOR YOU. IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE SHARED BY YOUR PEERS. IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY YOUR FAMILY. YOU CAN AND SHOULD CELEBRATE JOY AT ALL TIMES BECAUSE IT IS, AFTER ALL, YOURS. PEOPLE OFTEN TIMES FALL INTO THIS LOGIC THAT JOY HAS TO BE SHARED. BUT THE VALIDITY OF YOUR HAPPINESS HAS NEVER NEEDED VALIDATION, KING. YOUR JOY CAN BE A COMMUNAL EXPERIENCE AT TIMES, BUT IT IS YOURS BEFORE IT IS ANYONE ELSE'S. IT IS PERFECTLY OKAY TO PERFORM ON THE STAGE OF LIFE AND SIMULTANEOUSLY BE JAY-Z AND MEMPHIS BLEEK.  YES, YOU CAN BE YOUR OWN DEWAYNE WADE AND LEBRON JAMES WHILE IN THE PURSUIT OF YOUR FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING YOUR OWN CHEERLEADER AND HYPEMAN IN LIFE.

BLACK MAN, YOU CAN EXIST IN A STATE OF JOY BECAUSE YOU CHOOSE TO. YOU CAN BE EXCITED ABOUT THE WATER BEING WET. YOUR JOY DOES NOT MAKE YOU A CHILD. YOUR SMILE DOES NOT MAKE YOU WEAK. YOUR JOY DOESN'T HAVE TO BE SHARED OR UNDERSTOOD TO BE YOUR REALITY, AND FOR THAT MATTER CELEBRATED. 

I REMEMBER HOPPING ON THE PLANE MAKING MY WAY BACK TO THE STATES. MIND FILLED WITH ALL THE THINGS I HAD TO DO ONCE I GOT BACK HOME. MY THEN GIRLFRIEND WAS EAGER TO TELL ME ABOUT MYSELF. MY MOTHER NEEDED HELP PAYING FOR HER KIDNEY MEDICATION, AND THE LAST TIME I SAW MY DAD HE HAD A BROWN CIGARETTE IN HIS HAND. I WASN'T PRESENT IN MY MOMENT. LIKE MOST BLACK MEN, I HAD OTHER ISSUES CONSUMING MY MIND AT THE TIME. THAT RACE WAS ALMOST 4 YEARS AGO. I CAN NEVER GET THAT DAY BACK. ON THAT DAY, IN THAT MOMENT, MY JOY WAS NOT MINE. IT BELONGED TO ME, BUT THE MINDFULNESS I DESIRED TO CELEBRATE MY MOMENT ELUDED ME.  IT'S A MOMENT THAT STILL HAUNTS ME UNTIL THIS DAY. I DIDN'T OWN MY JOY. MAKE SURE TO ALWAYS OWN YOURS, BLACK MAN.