Black men have been responsible for my first imprints of relationships to men, both positive and negative.
My Father – my Father was my LIGHT. He was my moon, and my sun, and my stars. My Daddy as the way, and the truth, and the light, and my Daddy beat me, and one time, almost killed me.
My Daddy beat me with a belt for willfully defying his commands as early as 3 years old. He beat me like a slave owner beats a slave. He beat me until I was back and blue and bloody.
When I, as a 3 year old, told him “NO” he beat me with a BELT or a “switch” (branch from a tree). My Daddy beat me like his Daddy beat him, like his Daddy beat him, like the plantation Master beat HIM and taught him how to TRY to beat the spirit out of another human being.
I LOVED my Daddy, and even at 3 years old, 10 years old, 13 years old (when he actually almost killed me), I KNEW, I knew that the beating wasn’t “personal”. I knew it had nothing to do with ME and everything to do with my Daddy and HIS pain. I knew he beat me from his pain and I forgave him, I forgive him for trying to cope with his pain by inflicting it upon me, because I knew in 1977, 1980, 1986 that my Daddy didn’t know how to transmute his own pain. He could only transfer it.
My Uncle – my Daddy’s Brother sexually molested me. He did it during clothing changes when I was a toddler. He did it to hurt my Daddy. He thought if he could spoil this one thing my Daddy loved beyond measure, ME, he could balance the scales and take back what had been withheld from him. My uncle suffered the crime of being Black in America. In and out of prison for petty drug crimes – a joint here, and bit of cocaine there, nothing egregious, nothing that a middle class White man (like my Husband) couldn’t weather with more than a reprimand. But he was a Black man in America so…..there is no Grace for such as these.
My Lovers – Fast forward to 16, my first, wholesome and joyful sexual experiences were with a Black man. I won’t say his name here. Last time we spoke (more than 20 years ago!) he was in prison, for a petty drug crime, like so many other Black men. ( I think he had a joint in his car when he was pulled over???). Yes, but, and, HE, he was the sunshine that nourished my sexual awakening. He was SAFE, he was FUN, he was, we were, the most wonderful JOY. We made love for hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and ahhhh… that was probably the most wonderful sexual experience of my life until my Husband. And… he left me for a white woman. She was my best friend in 12th grade. That’s how they met actually….
The last Black man I was with broke my heart for the last time. His name was Billy. Billy with the Blue eyes, and oh. He was SOOOOO PRETTY. He with his blue eyes and me with my green contacts, we were like Vanessa Williams and Jesse Williams if they were age appropriate. Billy was a player, and by that point, I had no resilience for “being played”. My last and final suicide attempt was inspired by Blue-Eyed-Billy who never called me back one night…
My Ally – Last one, circle back to 1982/83 – my parents are divorced, I’m living with my white mom in mostly white neighborhoods, actively digesting the information from my white friends, teachers, and peers, that “Black is BAD, lesser, undesirable, inferior, not quite HUMAN”, and me, being “half -Black”, well what does that mean about ME and my worth and value as a human? I have this STAIN of Blackness upon my soul (according to the white people around me)… how do I LIVE with this?
Enter into the story yet another Black man. Not one I had ever met before. Not family, not cousin, not anyone I knew, just arrived at the pool in our apartment complex one Summer. And one afternoon we saw each other, and he smiled, and ahhhh…. little 6 year old me felt the warmth and light of the sun again, because Black men feel like sunshine to me.
And so, I walked up to him and decided to “confess”. Confess that the kids at school told me I was inferior, and ugly, because I was half Black. And they told me I was an “Oreo” and HE told me, to tell THEM – “ Yes. I am an Oreo. I am sweet on the inside and tough on the outside, so don’t mess with me”. And I laughed with glee at the thought of this new possibility and I said, “But what do I do when they call me a Zebra?”
And he said” You tell them, ‘That’s right! I am wild and free and untamed! So watch out, or I will trample you beneath my feet!”, …. and I swooned.
He had my heart forever right there, that man, who gave me the way, and the truth, and the light to see my way through the abuse, and the violence, and the INHUMANITY I experienced as a little Bi-racial Black girl growing up in white America in 1984.
And so now, Black men, I request of you – KNOW the power that you wield for the Black women in your life. YOU are our first imprint of pain or joy. YOU have the potential to shape ALL of our future relationships with not just men, but the ENTIRE world.
YOU can build us up, or tear us down. Black men, you ARE the way and the truth and the light for your wife, your mother, your niece, your cousin, and your DAUGHTER. YOU are the first imprint of men your daughter will EVER know.
So please wield your power wisely my friends, for you quite literally shape the trajectory of the lives of the women around you. Because Black men, you are SUNSHINE EMBODIED.