I am the great-great-grandson of a slave. The blood of human chattel flows proudly through my veins.
I am black. Dark-skinned Chicago West Side-bred black. Black Pentecostal reared. Black consciousness seared deep into my soul.
My car is black. My motorcycle. My wife. My children. My mama. My grandmamma.
I dance black. Speak black. Think black. I give black. Buy black. I love black.
Mostly black are the schoolchildren I read to on Thursday mornings. Predominantly black was the West Side school where I learned to dream and discovered Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible
Man,” Dick Gregory’s “No More Lies” and Richard Wright’s “Black Boy.”
I am black — physically, culturally, socially. Black.
Truthfully, I have never had any delusions of grandeur, given my natural-born racial and socioeconomic circumstance. The son of a teenage mother, I am. My father abandoned my mother — his wife — deserted my sister and me by age 4, left us poor.
We lived in K-Town — west of Pulaski Road, the dividing line between rival black street gangs. Most of my teachers — K through 12 — black.
My principals — black. Mr. Stewart, my boyhood barber — black. The Watermelon Man. The Peanut Man. The mailman. Black. Black. And black.
I dream in black — and white. I write in black and white. I see the world in black and white and also shades of gray. The latter reflects my evolution in humanity, my discovery along life’s journey as a black man that all white people are not my enemy, and that all black people are not my friend.
I am not prone to defending my “blackness,” my cultural integrity, my commitment to being “down for the cause.” To invoking my black card.
Except, occasionally, some blacker-than-thou, critical Negroes arise with their “black-o-meter” to challenge the black authenticity of we who stand apart from their strategy or philosophy. So, rightly or wrongly, I now pause — to clarify, for the record, who I am, what I believe, and the reason why I write…
I write what I believe. What I feel. I write about black life — and death.
About faith and the black church. About fatherlessness, poverty and about the issues that consign many of my people to a bittersweet life on the other side of the tracks. I write unapologetically — about black love, black exploitation, black miseducation, black celebration.
I write, remembering the pain of my own poverty and paternal abandonment. I write, recalling seeing my mother with salty tears streaming down her face as she sat late night alone, staring out of our apartment window.
I write, remembering the gunshots and the blood I have witnessed. I write upon memories of agony in my hood over the frailty of life there and the premature death of friends. Upon recollections of the consumptive elements that lured so many to crack or liquor, which slowly siphoned their lifeblood and rendered them as living sarcophagi.
I write, remembering how I never saw so-called national leaders, politicians or any black savior coming to save us. I write, unbeholden to politician, preacher, editor, or any such thing.
I write, understanding that black folk are not a monolith. That we alone are our best hope. That there is no one strategy, no one idea, no single approach to healing us.
I write believing that even if I disagree with my brother I ought to be man enough to speak with him — man-to-man, brother-to-brother.
I write — over the last 30 years — guarding against ever losing sight of the forest for the trees, even resisting the urge to directly answer a fool in his folly. For our people perish.
It don’t get no blacker than that.