When she punched me in the face, I felt as if all of the assumptions I made about the goodness in the world came crashing down. I’d preceded this reaction in one of the many subtle ways that boys do by making someone feel they were not beautiful in the way the world accepted her, but truly it was in the way God had created.
When a girl who lived down the street from me and bore the name of an African queen exploded, it happened like a very assault on the misguided assumptions of many a boy. My brothers and I walked to and from school down an alley that possessed many beautiful fruit trees that hung over fences full of lavish offerings that included oranges, pomegranates, kumquats and even peaches. It was a location of bliss that also provided fear of the houses we walked by where the music that blasted wasn’t gospel and people seemed to be a little more on edge and the kids who lived there cussed at school. I ironically I did as well but I would accept Jesus in my heart AGAIN the week following to make sure I was clean.
Each day Zenobia stepped into a world that told her because of her dark skin and African features and coarse hair beauty could not be described as her. It reminded me as I grew up that there seemed to always be someone who arrayed themselves above another. Even amongst the mostly brown and black children of Barfield Elementary in Pomona, California hierarchy by color happened that placed the darker skinned below everyone else. This vicious cycle of self hate began to eat us from the inside out. Some time around now I’d developed an extreme optimism I believe as a survival mechanism to blunt the sharp feelings of rejection that flooded my life. In the midst of encouragement the darkness of a world dominated by whiteness began to swirl around my psyche. Maybe it started when I began to visit white schools because i was a “gifted” student or when I was entered into oratorical contests with children from around the city. Either way the pain spilled from my lips in every direction and came to close to the pride of the queen Zenobia. As she threatened and promised I went through the day unafraid of what might come. As soon as we crossed the street from the school by way of the crossing guard. It was then she wound up a punched me with the hand that had many rings, maybe that was their purpose like a guard or shield against wrong assumptions. My life began to unfold in a different way after that time. Interestingly enough we became friends even after that incident and I’d grasped that it was the crush she had on me that made my spurning hurt all the more.
On the playground we would all compare lineages and celebrate the exotic strains we claimed existed. You see no one wanted to be “only” black even at that age we had been taught well by the world that black was not the thing to be. Even as I ascended through time and to Morehouse College, the disputes raged on and we wondered what was wrong after all. Who had it worse, black men or black women? A race to the bottom is what it worked out to be and I could see the same conversation being had years into the future in disbelief. Our parents did not always have the tools to instill the beauty of blackness in us. Public education and religion came straight from the package without much modification, as I got older I learned my best chances for unadulterated enrichment were to come at my own pace and resolve. Looking deeply into the proud history of black people upon this earth would make my heart swell with appreciation and responsibility to continue to carry the legacy of excellence. Realizing at the time my mind did stray into the wrong side of what beauty is. I am thankful that I had someone of such proud royal lineage to knock some sense back into my head. The long walk home in tears solidified the empathy I would need to have and the reconstruction of my heart would happen many times across the chapters of my life. The power and grace of black women have led the way into much revelation for me in this world. Even more than I could patiently observe. I know the responsibility to create cannot be fully realized until the turn of beauty becomes right side up. Unburdened by the euro centricism that demands centering like the former geocentric theory. One day we will yearn to learn as the Sun has chosen those who stand close to transform into Black Gold. As such becoming the repository for beauty and suffering unlike the weak eyed emerging from darkness could ever behold.