As if my mothers did not already give you a talking to that you’ll never forget back then when it happened, I thought you should know: You lost. You lost when you thought public schools would always value your job; you lost when you spat in the face of the funding that paid for the instrument you took away from my hands; you lost when you told a black girl what she couldn’t do and thought it would stick.
I’m sure you figured you taught me a lesson: Not to be too passionate, too ambitious, to do what I’m told within the parameters Im given. Maybe you thought you were teaching me time management when I sat in class with no instrument, while the other students prepared for the concert I wouldn’t participate in. You helped everyone tune their instruments but left mine in the closet and didn’t allow me to get it. I bet you thought you were teaching me about commitment... you didn’t.
What you taught me was that art always wins, despite the systems it’s forced to operate in. I got my own my viola today. Took over 10 years but my 25 year old hands still know her, like old friends separated but determined to meet again... like you were determined to underestimate me. Again, let me reiterate: you lost.
A lot happened during Black Hixtory Month 2019… I almost feel like I needed this month to process everything. As I reflect on Black hixtory as it was written, told, and as it continues to redefine itself, I am met with a tension that I hold since college. It’s a dissonance that I have not been able to articulate until finding the language in graduate school and yet, I have not settled on a solution in my spirit to this day.
I am disillusioned with the way mainstream Black leadership is presented and promoted.
When I say mainstream Black leadership I am referring to the Black voices that get the most attention when speaking on Black issues. These are the voices that become reputable sources for important updates when a crisis to the Black community occurs, no questions asked. These are the voices that are invited on CNN and to press conferences to speak, debate, or be provoked on topics of Black life and justice. These are the voices that are quoted constantly as the solution or the right framework for seeking justice without question. And ironically, their words are very marketable soundbites.
These voices tend to come from the same type of bodies/identities.
My world as a Black woman in this country includes many diverse bodies and I feel ready to complicate the conversation of Black justice and liberation. There was a time when I was not ready; when I was too traumatized to even questions these “leaders”. I am ready now to be uncomfortable, not validated by sensationalism, capitalism, and distractions. I feel called to seek out voices that I have yet to hear. These are voices that aren’t given the mic, which is intentional. These highly visible leaders are also intentionally placed and their placement feeds their personal desires and they start to sound like everyone else. James Baldwin said it best in his essay, The Harlem Ghetto:
"...The Negro leaders have been created by the American scene, which works against them at every point… and the best they can hope for is ultimately work themselves out of their jobs… On the other hand, one cannot help observing that some Negro leaders and politicians are far more concerned with their careers…”
So where does that leave us? How can we escape the “American scene” and seek inspiration that does not stubbornly sit in the past, but rather seeks past, present, and a future imagination? This is my self-reflection, as well a question to YOU. I am seeking inspiration and collaboration outside of the context of how America presents and manipulates leadership on Black bodies. I am no longer interested in solutions. Yes, that means I am not holding my breath for reparations. I want/need something different.
Tayllor Johnson currently resides in New York City where she has begun her journey into Poet. Passion. Period. In between those learning moments, she sometimes has just enough time to jot a few lines...