I do not have a son, but I have a 15 year old brother, and I love him with the depth of the deepest trenches in the most vast seas. Before he was born, my cousin who is 5 years younger than me was where I poured all of my love and affection. I was his big cousin, protector and torturer but no one else better mess with him, because he was off limits. Teaching in NYC public schools gave me a first hand view of the trials, triumphs, challenges and stereotypes black boys face on daily basis from people who look like them and outsiders. Despite the pain, and the dangers that accompany being a black boy, there’s an undeniable glow, gift and a growing seed living inside of our black boys. There have been so many examples throughout history where we see black boys rising, thriving and making our hearts burst with pride. Loving a black boy is a constant feeling that’s maddening, agonizing, despair juxtaposed with awe, pride and amazement. Watching black boys succeed and shine through darkness makes my soul elated because far too many haven’t had the luxury.
We loved Nipsey Hussle. That’s evident by the outpouring of love since his passing last week. We loved him because he was wearing his royalty proudly despite any odds, and as he has boldly said, he is prolific. As a community, we love to see black boys grow into black men and leave an impact which can be seen decades later. It is clear that Nipsey’s legacy will thrive through multiple generations. He, as a black boy knew his worth, and he, like Tupac was a rose who grew from concrete. His struggles were equally as necessary as his mission to give back to his community. He knew boys like him typically have a short life expectancy and he wanted to give these boys who looked like him a chance to live their black boy joy. He knew that despite being a part of a gang, you could simultaneously have a gift for coding, biochemistry or the ability to write a symphony. He knew it was possible in others because he was keenly aware of the layers of skills and thoughts bourgeoning inside of his own spirit. He knew he was one of many multilayered, multifaceted, and prolific young men, and he wanted to make a pathway for those boys to step into their joy without needing to worry about being murdered in their own communities. He was committed to black boy joy.
Kevin, played by Alex Hibbert on the Chi brought tears to my eyes this week as he was sitting in the office of his therapist, basically saying he wasn’t sure if he would grow up. Living in Chicago’s Southside surely has its hazards, making it an uphill battle for survival. Despite that fact, our young boys do live, they do find activities to light their lives on fire, and they fight like hell to honor the fire inside of them. I know it’s easy to judge a young black man with tattoos, pants sagging, cussing, and who has probably committed crimes. I get how easy it is to judge our boys. However, everyone has a journey, and where they are presently doesn’t mean it has to be like that forever. When black boys believe the gifts they have inside can be honored, honed and cultivated, it is amazing what they could do. Lena Waithe captures the essence of black boy joy when she created the roles for Kevin, Pap, aand Jake. They are little boys in an environment that makes survival seem like a far fetched concept. Yet, they find themselves participating in the school play, finding creative ways to execute school projects all the while managing the physical, emotional and mental pressures of living in a war zone, but it’s a place they call home.
I wish we lived in a world where young black boys were seen as human beings we MUST protect at all costs. It’s shameful, and hurtful the way black boys are marginalized and labeled almost from birth as menaces to society before they can formulate their sentences correctly. Black boy joy makes the world a better place because when we have multiples roses growing from concrete, we will eventually have rose gardens where death and poverty previously prevailed. When we give black boys opportunities to flourish we create a pathway for the universe to benefit from their beauty. We who already love, raise and support black boys know what’s possible, but we want the whole world to see what we see. Perhaps if black boy joy was the association at the forefront of the minds of others instead of predatory, and criminal, our black boys could grow up to fulfill their wildest dreams. Perhaps if black boys saw the joy in the eyes of each other, they would be more inclined to love each other and lift each other up instead of extinguishing the light they all possess. Black boy joy is a gift to humanity and it’s a gift multiplies indefinitely for infinity.