I was initially pretty nonchalant about this particular birthday. 23 isn’t one of the “big” years. I didn’t plan a big turn up. I planned to just hang out with my LS, do a shot at midnight, change my facebook profile picture to one of Jordan, the usual. Then the Zimmerman verdict came in around 10:30pm I think it was. Changed everything. How is it that 10 days prior we were supposed to celebrate independence day and freedom and equality and today the world learned that America does not value Black lives? That Oscar Grant was not an aberration? That Sean Bell was not an irregularity in an otherwise peaceful and just relationship between Blacks and the police department?
I’m an academic. It’s both my occupation and my hobby. I like reading, writing, and thinking. What I don’t like, is feeling that I’m preaching to a choir. I don’t like the idea that my work is pointless and that academia can exist without activism. I hate the implication that academia cannot even be a form of activism. But when this happened? I questioned that. I questioned my research. I questioned if there was a point in continuing my phd program. As Kanye once said, “Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe”. In other words, regardless of what initials I put in front or behind my name, on a dark street in the wrong neighborhood or in broad daylight in the right neighborhood, I’m always going to be Black first. Your credentials won’t save you as Dr. Henry Louis Gates can attest.
I now know that was a moment of weakness. A justifiable moment of weakness, but a moment nonetheless. Two people (probably unknowingly) turned me around. My friend Josh said that nobody is going to make him afraid to be alive. Then, Renee sent me a happy birthday text at midnight saying:
“I know this is an upsetting time right now but I want to wish you a happy birthday! Looking at the glass half full, you’ve had the opportunity to live this long and you have taken great advantage of every moment to make life worth living! I truly do look up to you as a friend, scholar, and so much more! I know people like you are going to change this world because you use this passion and drive that you have to not move 10 steps backward, but 20 steps forward. The fact that the world is not up to your level is a different problem. Despite the verdict of the trial, we can continue to find justice and fight for the right to live by simply living, and most importantly living with a purpose that affects good change. And you, Dr. Hux are living with a purpose that affects good change.”
Josh and Renee are right. I can’t help that I’m sincerely and extremely passionate about race. It’s a gift/curse situation. And naturally the juxtaposition of Trayvon’s loss of life being deemed lawful and my celebration of life was extremely jarring. I now realize it doesn’t have to be.
It would be another injustice to Trayvon, his family, and my people to cower. It’s a well known quote and almost a cliche but:
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I have much to celebrate. I get to celebrate 23 years of dopeness in the midst of my sorority’s centennial year and national convention. The relevance? Well, one of my favorite people in the world is Dr. Sadie T.M. Alexander. Do you know what Dr. Alexander was doing at 23? She got her PhD and was the first African-American woman to do such. She was also acting as the first National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. She also initiated the charter members of my infamous Iota Chapter. That’s a lot to be doing at 23. She clearly wasn’t letting herself shrink or play a small role in life. Neither will I, and neither should you.
I was frustrated last night and I’m frustrated today. I don’t have a plan yet. A real plan that will bring about change. Yes, we should mentor, we should tutor, we should be way more involved with the political machine. Today, we need to be great. We need to celebrate life. And we need to channel that passion and sanctity of life into political power. Every bit of change we’ve seen in America has been court mandated. Freeing of slaves. Basic human rights like voting and getting an education. All of it. That has to continue.
Happy Birthday to me. Let’s celebrate life.