I don’t know why God gave me you Black boys.
For sure, I’d scare any Black boy to death.
Girl got into bed with a man & woke
up with newborn me. I’ve spent all this life
knowing the how without knowing the why.
My town was small, but I was not. I dreamed
of what I thought I deserved, what God said
I deserved. I have you Black boys, my Jim
Crow-ish South, Mama, Daddy & a book
of characters who leaped, overlapped &
made me who I am. What can I give you?
How can I teach you to be Black men when
I have had so many different kinds of
Black men in me? The Black man who wasn’t,
the Black man who wasn’t mine, the Black man
who was mine & never wanted to be,
the Black man who was mine because he did
what real men are supposed to do, the Black
man I imagined, the Black man I dreamed
about, wrote about, the Black man who moved
mountains & told me I could too, the Black
man I married, the Black man I love more
because he first loves me, even when I’m
busy being Black, thinking Black, seeing
Black, dreaming & redeeming Black.
I, like so many Black mothers, like so
many other mothers of Black boys, am
afraid, afraid for you to be you. I
am afraid for you to be Black in a
world that questions Blackness, a country that hates
Black men. We dress you up & they tear you
down. They string you up & we lower you
down, into the ground, in all your Blackness.
I know what White women of White children
don’t know, that my womb has died giving all
of me. They don’t know my Black history.
They don’t know my Black boys, that you, too, have
dreams, that you climb a mountain every day
just to dream them, that you are all the time
running in place in a world that keeps turning
around you, a world that keeps turning you
down, a world that keeps you encaged, outraged,
a world of systemic abuse center stage.
Life’s good when you dress Black, eat Black, study
Black & stay Black. Life’s good ‘til you question
who you are, who I am, where we came from
& where you belong. Life’s good ‘til you ask
questions, make educated guesses &
suggestions. While your pants don’t sag & your
hands don’t steal, you just might be some different
kind of nigger, some new breed of Negro,
some Barack Hussein Obama, some Black
boy uprooted from a virgin South where
Gabriel & Nat did not terrorize.
I don’t know why God gave me you, except
to raise you up, Black & confident, Black
& sure that Black is both beautiful &
powerful, that Black is more than what you
make it, that Black is not a curse; it’s more
than color. Black is not having been born,
burned, or even burdened. Black is not a
Black poem, a Black song, or a slave narrative
documenting hundreds of years. Black is
not a country that you have never seen.
Black is not a tribal marking, a tattoo,
a lyric in a Hip-Hop song, or a diamond
in your left & right earlobes. Black is not
a word the world has pronounced properly.
Black has been butchered, misinterpreted,
misunderstood, misquoted, misguided,
undocumented, excluded. Black is
not who you are, but who you are is Black.
You are the remnant, that left behind prophecy.
You are the unknown bloodline, the manhood
mixed up in this stolen den by some thieves.
So I tell you, You must be brave. You must be
strong. You must be Black. You must be you.