My tears were for Black children. My tears were for Black mothers. My tears were for Black artists who are all these things and more. The lump in my throat had actually been building since the beginning of the month, when I saw Dancing While Black’s and then there was fire… Masculinities Re/Born. Since I watched four Black men conjure, circling and swirling their arms in the same pattern despite never seeing each other’s work before that shared evening. Since Anthony Rosado reminded me that our ancestors were not victims, that our very lives were proof of their resilience and then we all danced in celebration. Since I watched Yeman Brown’s sweat in flight as he embodied the two-ness, no, rather the multiple personalities of Black masculinity. As I watched movements I recognized from my brothers, uncles, cousins, and then shaking – the shaking of an anxiety I have only recently come to know.
In the time since that panel, I have been told that it is hard to see me as marginalized. That I am successful and sitting at the center. Yet as I sit at the center, I watch the margins remain invisible or simply pass through – the same way Charmaine’s intense emotion around the painful history of an elder critic passed through Siobhan as she went on to make her point about how this critic launched careers. Our pain often seems to be only a hiccup in their sentence. It is easy to see me at the center in my fancy African pants and tall shoes. It is not easy to see that I carry children lost, cousins jailed, hunger pains, blood stains, mama’s tears, baba’s fears, grandma’s dreams and so so so much death. It is not comfortable to see my history as you admire my success. But that seeing is actually exactly what I was talking about.
It does not take a side eye to see that the lens is distorted. I want you to see me the way I saw myself in the work of Marjani. I want you to see my ancestry like the brothas of Masculinities Re/Born showed. I want you to see the violence we carry that shakes us into anxiety. I want you to see the pain behind addiction that brings us liberating tears. We are trauma survivors and ancestral thrivers. We are pain carriers and glitter wearers. As folk watch this video again and again, this is what I want them to see. Because you cannot begin to understand my value when you only see one limb of my being.
And while there is so much work to be be done – perhaps we can start by simply question job what we see. Maybe it is better to look through a side eye after all.