memoirs and personal essays

by Wesleyan University, instructor: Greg Pardlo

The sun seemed to pour out of the sky unimpeded by every building shorter than the august obelisk, The Washington Monument, to elope from the stars with the red and brown pigments in my skin. It was 1991 and it was my first year at Howard University. Naughty by Nature, X hats and tee shirts ribald in their explanation, “Its a black thing you wouldn’t understand” were de riguer on Georgia Ave. I didn’t want to attend an HBCU, I wanted to go to my first pick where I was accepted, NYU. Mom drove her caramel colored Astro Van from Stone Mountain of Georgia to Washington Square park running rough shod over my hopes to go to school in the Big Apple. All I left with after the acceptance interview was a tee shirt with the logo for NYU in Prince purple on its front. But on this day as I roamed agog within a manumitted haze that easily answered the question Nina Simone proposes in song about what feel like to really be free. In that moment it felt as though the double consciousness that had thrown me just enough off balance in life to trip but not fall dilated into a singularity. I was no longer trying to measure my insecurities or the propriety of my long brown body against what I think others are seeing. My voice was mine and it was black, My carriage was mine own gait and it was black too. There was no single arbiter of set standards that invariably were bequest of stereotype’s about blackness hot and locked in a monolithic identity. I had become black simply because gosh darn I was black, I had become part of the living waters that dispersed the diaspora coming ashore not enslaved by the eyes and the limits of other skin folk that ain’t kin folk but as something lyrical and free as a song of Solomon ” I am black but beautiful…” and gay. I was scripture and therefore infallibly black. I was something I had never been. I felt as though i shined differently in the sun. That part of my prism had been a dark crystal that had never broke and scattered light in different parts. And with this new exposure to radiated wind and sky I began to believe something teachers had never told me to believe in Stone Mountain of Georgia. The teaching of the Lost Cause as genuine history slipped its manacle grasp of off my possibility. I began to believe in myself and my ability. I took risk in writing and class choices. But things really became unrecognizable resonating with me anew in my Freshman English class. My classmates were cast from a Different World. The Dwayne Wayne character had lighter skin but the same glasses, dashiki and kufi. The Whitley Gilbert character wore the same Liz Claibourne quasi executive elitist pant and short suits to class but had dark almond has her skin tone, The professor was a shorter than I white man that had milk toned skin that seemed to be bedazzled with moles that looked like chocolate cookie crisp cereal. He seemed like an affected dandy. He had just returned from teaching from The Congo with his wife. I was teaching myself KiSwahili out of a smallish book that had somehow absconded from Founders Library burgling my person. He spoke Kiswahili so I spoke what I knew back to him and he seemed impressed. Along into the seasons he decided to keep me and Whitley Gilbert after class. I was not worried because I was shining. He sat us down and told us that we had complimentary writing skills and talents. I was creativity and she was form and structure. I have always loathed what I thought was enslavement of words to dominant western forms and rules for scribing. At that moment It was revealed to me that what I wanted to do and seemed to do since age 7 was what I was meant to do. Alice Lovelace encouraged me in an elementary school gifted writing class. But that lauding was eclipsed when she borrowed my Robots of Dawn by Asimov. She borrowed a book from a 6th grader, dropping it in the bath while reading and then audaciously brought it back just as pruned as the advancing wrinkles on her hands. To this day I cant believe she did that. And her face, form and gender were the same as my Mom so her encouragement was as inspiring as crackling cornbread with out crackling is crunchy. I had never been told explicitly by a teacher that looked like Dr.Schreck that there was something beautifully ungrammatical to my style. As days went by and my pretentiousness seemed to bloat like something a week old in death under the sun class crept upon me holding a short story, Sonny’s Blues by a revered ancestor, Mr.James Baldwin. It was but just for a moment that my blood tumbled in somersault reversing flow then jumping over my heart like the cow jumped over the moon to end in my head swirling and swoon. I looked hauntedly through the short story pages stealing subjects, noun, adjectives, verbs, articles and prepositions for the stringing of sentences as pearls at most possibly Panama City seashell chokers in its least. The joy of ignorance and hypothetical word buggery emboldened the reach of my interpretive grasp fjording me to comfort in the hard parochial school wooden chairs. And upon reflection of this inflection point in my personal narrative the history wrapped in the wood of the building in the air held behind the doors and I am sure present in the latent DNA floor to ceiling board under a roof that possibly prevented the seasons from greeting without invitation former students: Toni Morrison, Phylicia Rashad possibly Thurgood Marshall is a song where Rikki Lee Jones cautions like a halcyon claxon’ “You don’t know what you got till its gone”. I didn’t know that Dr.Screck didn’t have to affirm anything in me when I was a young callow mind because I was already there and a Bison no less and no more than the people that came before me that had launched from Howard into the firmament of celestial black being becoming starry inspirations and a promise that can be made possible again in me; achievement while hobbled from the start by the least meritorious thing about me my color of skin. The next day Dr.Schreck passed back the graded papers all for except mine. I wrote a paper in AP Social Studies in High School that Brenda Brewer, a racist in a Margaret Thatcherite wig, used to inculcate the class with The Lost Cause Narrative handily lynching my theory that the Civil War was not about state rights as Lerrone Bennett said in Before The Mayflower but was about enslaved human beings. At the front of the class a woman inn a turd brown dress with matching turd like helmet hard from White Rain Hair Sprayed coiffure rolled the words I wrote off of her tongue and into the trash along side my grade. But as Dr.Schreck read Brenda Brewers classroom terrorism had become awash in truth and my life mission: to write no matter what. I was impressed by my crafted 90 that I cobbled together from glimpses and intellect. I dropped out of Howard because my arrogance had found distasteful the thought of working through school with loans and the call of gay night life was a siren song to a pretty boy that just found out how freedom feels. And as I sat at home ponder and application to UGA on the floor at the foot of my mothers bed the phone jiggled like a shimming shaker. Mom got it before me, When summoned to answer the voice that encouraged me in DC had found me at home to tell me to continue to write. I remember that moment and get soppy eyed. I did continue to write. I thought cocaine had become the pulverized white muse feed my creativity. She was but he also was a rapacious creditor harvesting my soul with each choice I made that was aligned with a sniff. The chemical fetters make for harsher debtors. That Tempest has left me. Now I embark on my journey back.


It is all for you Danny chien…

Too goes the race…Ishtar

Two older black men one with multiple prison stints having drug and violent charges graduated from Columbia University in 2016 at 67. If I could have anything right now its a full ride at Columbia. I want that more than a free  eradication cure for HIV. Like I cried asking God to make me ready the recieve, appreciate and respect the blessing of a full capability to live in NYC and complete a degree in General Studies at Columbia. I really am so busy trying to find  … well you know…live my best low risk free duty fate for aspirations out of reach and yet in my destiny’s grasp if the striving ain’t done even when the feet of the rainbow gone with the evaporating dew that Dawn sprinkled to season her Morning.

Effff Uuuuuu

I don’t advocate the experssion as a wholely viable call to action for sustainable change to the racial inequities in the American judicial industrial complex and equitable treatment of the most marginalized and disproportionately punished.
This photo is just an excellent barometer for reading the climate of the carceral society where blackness is the necropolitical whipped to death boy. I have heard it opined that these systems:judicial, government, law enforcement are functioning perfectly as intended and as desired. That is terrifying. I wonder what diabolical feels like when on the seemingly winning end of a zero sum game = One side looses all things a body can make tangible; the other side gets a part of its soul frozen. Souless people fool others everyday into believing they have a soul. An enslaved body or a snared mind can’t fool nobody its free.



I just don’t know very much about where I am right now. I know I am inside my body. It just seems like as I climb the mountain that came to me that I can’t find any ease as I climb. Change is happening so rapidly. I have yet to make the summit that gets farther out of sight. I am either thrown by the mountain or peradventure I stumble over my own feet and fall down or up. Today however, the moutain fell upon me. I am motionless. And I think for the sake of love I will remain unmoved yet full of the motion in feeling.

F- – k what you think you know bout Uncle Tom

Fcuk what you think you know bout Uncle Tom

Just finished reading the opening paragraph to the memoir of Josiah Henson. It was written in Canada in 1849 when he was no longer enslaved.
The last sentence got me 45 hot. I was angry at Daniel Patrick Moynahan too. His liberal good intentions couldnt see beyond the real causality  behind his report. Whiteness can be just as blinding as blackness. Mr. Henson explains seeing his father as a 3 or 4 yr old whipped 100 times across his back and one of his ears sheared off close to the bone. He beat the overseer that beat his wife. The pyrrhic victory is still a victory nonetheless being contrary to the verdict of appearences. Now this system of terror and necropolitical agrarianism holds over 300,000 black people in its grasp. It activates as with the insidious ingression of internalizing racism and is the foundation on to which towers of toxic masculinity, gay-phobia and misogynoir are built in our minds; having a different effect on everyone with different degrees of presence, power and maladaptivity in/to the mind. The chattal slavery and its resulting pogroms and malevolent permutations drilled disunity in man tearing asunder man from wife and and emasculating  man into boy. That is exactly how impersonal objectivist kleptocratic agarianism(redundant. I know) prospers.  If progressive librals would stop trying to run from the imaginery target of blame you think the black monolith of humanity has aimed at you would see the implyed fundemantal attribution error. So what. I have internalized racism. If I can’t escape this system without psycho – sexual spiritual deformity then yall damn sure cant.

Where She Got The Lightening Skills Babeeee

I just got this one comic book and fake flipped through the simulated pages and saw Ms.Thing herself Diana Prince neè Princess Diana The Wonder Woman but sliding down a lightening bolt and coming into an action no less comic frame/cell.
And now that I know HypoLyta didn’t just mold her from clay and that her baby Daddy is old Greek God Soul Greece Brother No.1 Daddy Zeus who was famous for his deft handling to smote more than one enemy’s remains across rocks and sky with a big old lightening bolt. She is her fathers daughter after all. I bet we will see more lightening tricks down the way maybe some double dutch with her sister old tight curl wonder Nobia Wonder. This is the Black Queer Polymath Sartorialist mucken it up. All right true deceivers all nerds aint inclusive nerds. Becareful the world some people do not deserve some of us.

They’ll be ok even if they hurt

first word that you see is what you think you may need most.

After an emotionally bright happy display I still pump my brakes, reverse over the exuberients in my mind to challenge the propriety of my gleeful expression. I attempt to access my display by doing the impossible:  thinking I can inhabit the pov of those that gaze I derisively gaze upon myself with presumptions composing what I think is the gazers lense. That lense is actually the Critic’s dissonant ingression. It lives in the morrow of my bones. Self deprication is still self centeredness. I’ll be ok and so will my presumptions may they dwindle in ignominy.