I went on a date last night. I've never been the type to entertain the idea of seeing a scary movie in a movie theatre. Hearing ghosts and demons around me in surround sound is not something I am accustomed to. However, I put my big boy pants on and thought it might be fun. It was. The Conjuring 2. I'd be the first to tell you I'm a jumper. That moment when everything goes silent and you know that something is about to surprise you and pop off at any second, yeah, my hands are covering my eyes already. I'm peaking through my fingers because you not gon get me demon but also I'm not going to miss this movie that I paid fifteen dollars for. Can you believe that movies cost that much these days? Anyways, that's an entirely different story. Noticing the stress I'm going through, my date, like the sweetheart and the gentleman that he is so far, tells me I can hold his hand the whole time if I need to. I took him up on his offer. Suddenly I feel 18 again. I spent the majority of the movie cuddled up with him and covering myself with a sweater because I decided to wear one of my sleeveless numbers that day. They be making my arms look all strong and stuff. I digress again. As we scoped out the best possible seats upon entering the theatre I can't help but notice all the straight couples and older black women sitting with their friends that surrounded us. I find myself feeling the same feelings I felt when we went to IHOP the other day. The paranoid portion of myself is wondering if they knew. Can they tell that we are getting to know each other romantically? Is it safe to be myself, to smile, to flirt, to look at him the way I want to without someone saying something or provoking me to defend myself and step outside of my cool, calm and collected day to day demeanour? All kinds of stories are going through my head. I'm so ready to call out a bigot should they say something. But why do I care so much? Just have fun Shawn, I try to tell myself. Thoughts become things. I'm remembering all of my root chakra affirmations. I am safe, I am secure. No weapon formed against me shall prosper. All is well. All these thoughts and he still hasn't let my hand go. We enjoy the movie.
I woke up this morning to a text from my aunt whose more like an older sister to me. We grew up three years apart. Her text simply reads, "I was assaulted on my way home last night." Again all kinds of thoughts run through my head. Who? What? When? Where? WHY? I call and text but it's still too early. She's resting. When she finally does reach out to me she tells me a drunk black guy bumped into her in her Crown Heights neighborhood late last night and punched her in her face. This is after exclaiming that he isn't gay. Just like that. Another black man back into the system. This time definitely for a hate crime. My aunt is more gender non conforming in her appearance than I am. Her difference, her identity is more visible to the ignorant eye. She has always been more comfortable outwardly expressing the truth of who she is with style, individuality and grace. I believe that's difficult for some people to see. To be so free this way. She shouldn’t be so comfortable in her own skin. She did not deserve this. None of us do. And yet…
Just the other day I read an article about Deeniquia Dodds, a 22 year old Trans-gender woman who was shot and killed in D.C. A few nights ago I read about London Jermaine aka Michael Smith, 22 as well, who hung himself from a tree in Piedmont Park of Atlanta, Georgia only weeks after seeing a message from a sibling which reads, "God doesn't born gay people. You make yourself gay." All of this taking place at a time where we are literally able to see black people being killed on camera by the police. I remember why I have all the thoughts that I do. I remember why instead of just focusing on my date I also feel like a target. I’m black and I’m gay. My aunt tells me that an older West Indian man with locs sat and watched the whole thing. He just shook his head and came to no defence. No, “I got you sister” or “hey, are you okay?”. I remember why the silence of my heterosexual black brothers and sisters gives me chills when things like this take place. As much as I want to fight for you, as much as I want to represent possibility for all of us, as much as I want to be in the room to enact actual changes and policy that liberate us as a people and that give us back the power that is our birthright, when we are home and I am free will you just remind me how much you don't agree with who I am. You tell me that you love me in the same sentence but deep down I know I deserve more love than that. Will you punch me for my freedom to be myself if you get a few drinks in you? Will you watch me be harassed and shake your head too? Will you frown if we are genuinely having a great time and my date kisses me? How come when I see you I see myself. Why are you ashamed to see yourself in me?
We have work to do in our community. Some may be upset by this. Some may say that I'm speaking on or airing our dirty laundry. Well I am. The Black Lives Matter movement was founded by three black lesbian sisters. They have been at the forefront of forcing the world to engage in conversation about the injustices that happen to our people at the hands of law enforcement. They are literally fighting for us all to be free. My aunt tells me that the young man who punched her passed right by a white man before getting to her. Didn't say a thing. When will we stop taking our pain out on each other? When will we realize that we are actually in this fight together? Yes, we are all a human race but to me that is beside the point. How can black people liberate, protect and fight for other black people? Am I alone in thinking that we need to be a self-sufficient race? Looking out for each other the same way that everybody else does. My goal is the advancement of black people across the diaspora. It's not about white allies. It's about us feeling safe to be ourselves in this world and in our own communities. It is about us healing from the ills that have been historically and systematically set up in this country for us to hate ourselves and one other. I am not interested in a surface kumbaya. A world where we hold hands and say “we are one” but the laws only protect white people. With my blood now boiling I feel as though I need to hit up shawty and go on another date or something. I will love and uplift my people, fight for you no matter how covertly or overtly you may hate me. I wonder if they’ll talk about Deeniquia Dodds, or Michael Smith or about the safety of people like my aunt in church this Sunday. Something definitely has got to give.