On Turning 30

Despite my efforts to the contrary, I’ve been thinking about death a lot. (Not the celebratory start you were looking for, huh.) Make no mistake, I am thankful to see these 30 years and a day. Very thankful– 2019 has been a great year career-wise, I’ve made monumental steps in strengthening relationships, and I am here. But my cousin is not, he was murdered in his own home. From my understanding, this was some haphazard robbery–the details are still foggy. Then, several days before my birthday, I find out my brother, my lil bruh, had cancer and even his hours were numbered. God answered my prayer and I was able to see him the day before he transitioned.

Passed.

Died.

That I’d have death on my mind makes sense now, huh?

Both of these passings were completely unexpected. But let’s be real, who truly expects death to come to the family reunion? Who actually expects death to sit at the bar with the crew? Death runs in a different crowd, at least, that’s how we live. And who can judge that? Who wants to always be aware of the possibility of death? Of loss? Of pain?

This year, death invited himself into my safe places. And quite frankly, not just this year. The last few years, funerals have gathered the living more than birthday celebrations and weddings. More than baby showers.

And here I am, 30 years old, and I can’t help but wonder why. Now this ain’t no survivors guilt, or maybe it is…nevertheless, why is my brother not letting me know what he’s doing for his 29th birthday? Why is my cousin not chilling at home and watching the game with his dad? How can they suddenly not be here, on this earth, where I am?

Every loss, every death, doesn’t hurt the same. And maybe that is a blessing. Just like being here to ponder about inevitable things like missing the deceased is indeed a blessing. Life is a blessing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel cheated. (The things we tell ourselves, right?)

In my 30 years, I have learned that plurality exists. That a man can be both grateful and unsettled. That a person can be at peace and in turmoil. That I can still laugh and smile and converse despite less than shiny thoughts. That I can live while fears of death kick back in the family room with my loved ones.

I would apologize for the solemn nature of this entry, especially due to the title, but it would be a dishonest apology. Why do we feel the compulsion to pretend like everything is alright? Why do we celebrate when we aren’t even quite sure how to grieve? So, I do apologize for the title, especially if this content put you in your feelings, as they say. I understand how it could be misleading, but I’m choosing not to change it. Sometimes we forget that a major part of living is feeling, and feeling honestly. We owe ourselves that.

#cancer, #grief, #life, #loss, #mourning

Rahk on the Jussie Smollet “Case”

As I wind down from a stressful yet productive week, I began typing the following Facebook status:

I know I am not the only one who is literally befuddled by this Smollet vs MAGA vs Chicago vs Smollet “case”. Like I truly cannot tell you how many times conversations about it result in “…WTF?!” On all sides! Whether I am talking to friends or coworkers or passersby, we just end up exasperated because we fight negativity and distrust every day. We fight the fear that someone will mean us, or someone we love, harm for one reason or another. We fight to support those experiencing hardship publically, even if it’s by sharing a Facebook post. We fight distrust and the very real possibility that there are those who not only conspire against us, but conspire to slay us (both literally and figuratively) for something as harmless as our skin color, or presumptions about our lifestyles because we choose freedom instead of bondage. We choose freedom instead of fear.

It is here that I paused and recognized that this would be the more appropriate medium to manage my anxiety. I will attempt to be as concise and clear as possible, but I make no guarantees. If you have been following the story, or just coasting on any social media platform, you will already know that Jussie Smollet’s 16 or so felony charges have been dropped. DROPPED. All of them. According to trusted news sources like CNN, Fox, and NBC, the “victim”-turned-“villain” and star of Fox’s Empire, Smollet, walked away by forfeiting a $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago and a couple days community service. Why? How? What happened to all the evidence that inspired the shift from investigating a hate crime to investigating the orchestrator of a staged hate crime all to allegedly (you guessed it) get more money.

Yall, I am just stumped. And frustrated. I’m confused. I’m angry. I’m not convinced that Smollet is, in fact, the victim of a hate crime. At the same time, due to the most recent outcome, I’m not convinced that he’s guilty of all 16 felony charges. And now, by some conspiratorial miracle, there will not be a trial. There is merely dismissal of the charges against Smollet. Then, perhaps because I am a Cancer, or maybe due to possessing a contemplative nature in general, tons of questions bounce around my skull such as:

  • But why would an innocent man (who is a known activist and community voice, who was assaulted by MAGA zealots, who was also accused of staging his own hate-inspired assault) accept so much unjust loss: a $10,000 loss, the loss of time, opportunities, credibility, TRUTH, etc.?
  • But why would the Chicago Police Department conspire against Jussie smollet?
  • But what about the two African brothers who said they were paid to assault Jussie and say those divisive statements?
  • But why would any of these people lie with so much at stake?
  • But where is this “Court of Opinion” located and how can I be a judge?
  • But when did I get so invested in this case and why am I so angry with Jussie?
  • Am I being judgmental despite my monumental efforts?
  • Who is the victim here? Is it Jussie? Is it Chicago? Is it Black and Gay America? Is it the present and future victims who will face skepticism when they come forth?

I could just go on and on and– you get the idea. Honestly, I’m almost certain I’d have to write a book to thoroughly articulate this swirling eddy of confusion and hope and frustration. Here, I end where I began: I know I cannot be the only one who is genuinely befuddled and utterly conflicted by this Smollet vs MAGA vs Chicago vs Smollet “case”!

Please forgive any typos. I do not have the energy to thoroughly proofread right now. I know, I know– no cookie for me. I don’t need that cookie tonight anyway (I ate too many yesterday, shhh!).

#grief, #jussie-smollet, #letter, #lgbtqa, #raw, #talking-to-myself

The Statement Jussie Smollet Did Not Make

Jussie:

I am here, asserting my innocence
The same way my attackers demonstrated that
my black gay life does not matter
That my black
And my gay
Should be washed away in a violent baptism

I am here, before you, my truth having been arrested
But I will not remain silent

For as I bled, as I became intimate
with the state of this union,
My name and my story
continued to be brutalized
on a cold night in Chicago

It is only by God that I am here
So I am here
Before your flashing lights
And heavy glares
Carrying the bloody brown stains
of my public dragging
The hooping and hollering of sirens
mocking my wounds, deeming them self-inflicted
as their ropes scarred my wrists

Because I am Black. Because I am unafraid to love.
Because I am not a nigger to be hung as the birds tweet
about my smell
Because I am not a faggot to be gagged and
consumed by your self-righteous fire

Because I am here
Standing before you
Twice a victim
Twice a survivor
And though it is my right,
I will not remain silent


-Rahk (on the Jussie Smollet disposition)

#jussie-smollet, #letter, #lgbtqa, #poem, #poetry, #raw

Talking to Myself (Brainstorming Part 1)

On the 40 minute drive to teach freshman and sophomore English, I see glimpses as I head down I-40: a darkened stage with subtle light, brown skin shrouded in various, yet harmonic, hues of blue. “In 5 miles, take Exit 206,” says Girl, my Google Maps App. (I know my way to work by now, so I just navigate for the real-time traffic updates and alternate routes.) The signal light sounds off its blinky clicks, and I see another glimpse: a gun on a nightstand, two Black men in a careful rage– then a snippet of a conversation. “Talk to me, it’s your silence that fathers this distance…” and then Girl chimes in, “In 0.9 miles, keep right to stay on Exit 206.” Before you know it, I’ve finished teaching all my classes and I’m back on the road for another 40 minutes.

I see glimpses, but it’s still unformed. “Water” has a lot to live up to. I’m hoping it will become a culmination of all the late nights and invested time. This “Water”, of which I receive fleeting glimpses, warms me like the grey-eyed grin of my grandfather. Specifically, the ‘just for me’ grin that greeted me whenever I returned home from college.

Because you spare a little time to visit whenever you can, gratitude warms me just like PaPa’s grin before Dementia dimmed it a bit. (He still reserved a smile just-for-me, even with the declining nature of the disease.) Nevertheless, thank you for reading any tiny droplet of “Rahk’s Water”. Together, we can turn these droplets into a bay. 💙

#brainstorming, #journal, #talking-to-myself, #water