My Life Is Black History

Joseph - burbank, California
Entered on January 28, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, legacy, race
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My life is black history. The very fact that I exist. My mama’s son. Third of five. Didn’t know my father. Wanting to be a father. Wanting to be a man, wanting to be a writer—wanting to be James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, the entire Harlem Renaissance wrapped up in one. Standing on the shoulders of those who came before, who kicked down the door, so that I could strut right through, doing the funky chicken and the jitterbug, to Duke’s “A Train”, and Miles’ “Kind of Blue.”

My life is black history. Growing up in high-rise projects. Fat kid with four eyes and crooked teeth. The brain, the professor, they called me. And sometimes it’s hard to hold your nappy head up, sometimes it’s hard to press on, wondering what it means to overcome, just trying to stay in school and keep mama from “whuppin’ your behind.” Playing in rundown yards and broken down cars, dreaming you were someone else, like the Batman, sometimes dreaming you lived somewhere else, anywhere but where you lived.

My life is black history, but the kind that is still ongoing, that still lives and moves and has its being. The kind that says I can, as one man, make a difference, again, like those who came before, especially the ones who aren’t in the history books.

You can’t tell me my history — the reason we aren’t in the history books is because it would take more books than we know what to do with to tell our story — his story, her story, my story. My life is a song of my people, black people, black and beautiful, black and proud. It is a love poem, to my mama, about my mama, in celebration of my mama — of all mamas. It’s also a love poem to my brothers and my sisters, and to my “bruthas” and “sistahs.” It’s a thank you for wiping my nose and kicking my ass, for giving me wisdom and helping me grow, for showing me God and how to dance with the devil. For the blues and funk. For poetry and the telling of our stories. For teaching me to appreciate myself without having to look down on others, regardless of race, color, or creed.

My life is black history, in all its glorious splendor. The man that I am and still want to be; the lover of my woman that I still aspire to be; the poet and writer, the preacher and the teacher, instilled in me, still yearning to display himself for the world, “for him who has ears to hear.” I share with you my life, my history, but you must accept it on its own terms and not what you wish to make it, for it will not be denied, like the shining of the sun or the brightness of the moon.

My life is history in the making. My life is black history.