In the Land of the Heartless, Black is Love

I got PTSD from America, but I was blessed enough to have a way out. Even if that way out was a war torn country that hadn’t seen peace in a quarter century, it was still a way out. I never forget the fact that so many of my black cousins, born and bred in that hellish place, don’t have such a luxury.

I’ll never stop being thankful to my black brethren who took me in from jump, especially when my own people saw me as too unorthodox to associate with. I’ll never stop fighting for the liberation of all black people, everywhere, but especially in places where they don’t have a way out. Black America, you helped shape me into the man I am today. Even when I was lost, I always had an anchor. An unspoken acceptance, a seat at the table regardless of how I expressed or repressed my blackness.

In coming to America, I adopted the black struggle as my own, because it became my reality. I don’t know what generational trauma feels like, but I know that trauma has more parallels than it does differences across cultural lines. I see myself as black, I saw my ethnicity stripped away from us as soon as we landed at JFK all those years after having escaped the very real trauma of a country scattered.

I saw myself staring at those 5 options whenever I helped my parents fill out a public housing application in elementary school: White/Caucasian, Hispanic/Non Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black/African American. In between asking my teachers at school what the hell a spouse was so I could finish these applications and get that section 8, I was asking myself if there was a difference between Black and African American.

Was there a difference between Somali and African? What did that make me, an African in America? What box did I check? And why did the white female teachers treat me differently then my African American counterparts? Was it merely smugness, that their ego was being stroked by my presence? That they felt responsible for saving my family from a sad, unfortunate fate in despicable, destitute Africa?

Was my very presence in their classrooms a physical assuaging of their white guilt? Why, then, did I feel guilty for this special treatment? Why did I shy away from their praise and try to keep my thoughts to myself, my mouth shut in the back of the classroom?

How did this help me grow a triple consciousness, trying to navigate through it all as a third culture kid? What does it all mean, how can I reconcile all of this shit within me?

Negative Creep

Unrelated but worth mentioning: I know it’s scary for a lot of us to try and live our lives unapologetically. I know that it keeps us awake at night, knowing that we’re living a lie. I know further still that to see someone like me forging their own path regardless of the repercussions or naysayers is a direct challenge to the fallacious life that you’ve constructed for yourself.

I know that it hurts to be reminded of your own inability to stand for what you believe in. I know that this causes you to lash out at people like me. I don’t take it personally, but sis, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with your unresolved issues. So don’t be surprised when I react irrationally to the first hint of your projections of that internal conflict onto me or my life.

I won’t give you play, and I’m more than willing to throw you away. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with protecting me. K?

Seattle City Lights

I was more traumatized by my life in Seattle than I was from escaping civil war in Somalia as a toddler, with bullets flying overhead and people dying right next to me.

I remember making eye contact with my dad as he backed up a trailer truck that was being used to pile up the casualties of conflict and drive them off to be dumped in the mass graves. People were dying so fast that there wasn’t any time to dig individual graves, and there weren’t enough people left alive to do it.

Y’all really have no idea how terrible of a place Seattle is for me to feel this strongly about it, with the background that I have. Stay tf away. If you live there, get out while you still have a soul.

2016 – The Year From Hell [Act 1]

2016 – The Year From Hell [Act 1]

There I was, in all my dark skinned glory, layed up in a twin sized hospital bed on the night of December 31st, 2015. I clutched my chest whenever I inhaled, the phantom pressure around my heart squeezing down on it with a vice grip. The nausea was unbearable, the cold sweats and the bouts of shivering rattled me to the core. I was blanket-less in a secure military hospital, mere walking distance from the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia.

The soldiers in charge mumbled something about security procedures as they took my phone, they took my rolex; I looked at the brother and said “damn, what’s next?” I phased in and out of sleep, being kept awake by the constant din of Ugandan soldier/nurses carrying on in swahili, along with the other patients in the emergency room making the sounds associated with battling for one’s very life.

As the clock ticked down to midnight, I awoke with a start as the soldiers decided to pop bottles and simultaneously erupt with greetings of a Happy New Year! My nigga, some of the people in this room could very well be taking their last breaths and y’all couldn’t be bothered to take all that shit outside? Unfuckinbelievable.

I did my best to get some sleep under these oppressive conditions, but try as I might, sleep remained as elusive as the promise of a clean bill of health. Just a few days earlier, I went to a Turkish EKG specialist to help me understand these chest pains, centered directly atop where my heart should have been. They had been getting progressively worse for almost two months at this point, so I was in real fear of some undiagnosed congenital heart condition.

This eerily skinny Turkish technician did little to dispel the fears running amok inside of me, because he decided to point his finger to a particular part of the printout, at which point my heart did several somersaults. This dude had the audacity to look me in the eye and tell me that “this anomaly by itself isn’t necessarily cause for concern, but when combined with your symptoms, it could be very serious.”

What a biggity bitch, why would you even tell me that? People usually seek medical attention primarily for the peace of mind associated with knowing what affliction they’re suffering from, and how it can be treated. Now, all I could do was wonder what I did wrong in my life to warrant potential open heart surgery, and that’s how the guessing games began.

Here’s what you need to know about me: this highly imaginative mind that I was born with doesn’t know when to stop playing out scenarios in endless cycles. As soon as I develop a slight cough, it goes into overdrive mode by imagining every possible medical condition associated with my symptoms. If I get sick, my mind somehow turns the benign into a self-diagnosed death sentence. A routine infection is translated into early signs of diabetes, an unexplained recurring headache is seen as a possible indication of an oncoming brain aneurysm.

So at this point, I stopped paying attention to the word’s coming out of Slim Shady’s mouth. I was swiftly transported to an alternate dimension, a sort of sensory deprivation chamber that allowed my imagination to run as wild as a pack of untamed Mustangs in the American West.

What if the source of my heart pain is actually a clogged artery due to high cholesterol, because what healthy adult man in their late 20s thinks to get their cholesterol checked? Maybe all those years of rough living and endless nights that spilled over into the next day had finally caught up with me?

Perhaps all that medication, both self-prescribed and at the hands of so-called medical professionals, had finally taken its toll on me? Or could it be that the previous 6 months of working in a highly demanding job, under extremely stressful conditions, had aged me well beyond my years?

Could it be that going to sleep every night, not sure if you would wake up the next day because your house happened to be in the line of mortar fire intended for the foreign embassy down the street, was the reason for all my newfound gray hairs? Needless to say, a nigga was rattled, to borrow a colloquial saying from my west coast upbringing.

This was the start to my 2016, a hellish year that had no shortage of nightmare situations and near death experiences. I lived in Mogadishu for almost half of this last year, working as a logistician and learning to talk my way through military “checkpoints” that were really just money making schemes for underpaid soldiers. When you haven’t seen a salary in 6 months and you have kids to feed, you’re gonna hustle the hell out of everyone who comes past your checkpoint, especially if you know that they work for a well known company in the region.

I became so used to the sound of heavy gunfire (sometimes from anti-aircraft weapons) being exchanged in the distance that, when I moved to a much safer part of Somalia, I had a difficult time adjusting to the eery lack of violence.

I found that I couldn’t even walk down the street like a normal civilian any more, because I was constantly assessing every person in my immediate vicinity as a potential threat to my life. Living in such a stressful environment temporarily robbed me of my ability to relax, forced me to be on high alert internally while simultaneously depicting a cool facade externally.

In Mogadishu, you can’t show any sign of weakness or fear as you try to make a name for yourself in the working world. I was never trained as a soldier, and I’ve never picked up a gun in my life, but the nature of that city forces you to drastically alter your fundamental makeup as a human being just to survive.

Eventually, of course, I had to get the fuck up out of there for the sake of my sanity. My paranoia was at an all time high: I was convinced someone was poisoning my food because I kept having stomach viruses so often; I couldn’t even enjoy walks on the beach anymore without having a damn anxiety attack.

I wasn’t necessarily afraid of dying, mind you; it was more like I was suffering from the negative effects of constantly calling up and rescinding my fight or flight response. The human body was never meant to produce and flood itself with adrenaline hundreds of times a day, that’s just not tenable.

Despite everything that we convince ourselves of, we’re only human at the end of the day. This journey is entirely temporary in nature and our bodies are as fragile as a whisper in the wind. They have limits. 2016 was the year of pushing my body to it’s physical, emotional and psychological limits well beyond what I believed possible. I’m glad I survived it, although I can’t say the same for a lot of famous celebrities and musicians this year. That which doesn’t kill you, right?

 

Black Liberation

Black Liberation

Picture this: A global black population that can all trace their ancestors back to one original continent, to one single ancestry, who are closer related to each other than they are to anyone else alive on this planet today. From the outside looking in, you might be so inclined as to think that the sense of brotherhood within this community was second to none.

Guess again, my melanated friend. An African black can’t empathize with the plight of a Caribbean black, just as a Brazilian black doesn’t feel one way or another about a European black.

Black people don’t see the universal interconnectedness of their unique struggles in a white dominated world. They can’t see this, even when it’s staring them directly in the eyes, because of the lasting effects of colonial conditioning. They don’t want to see it because they’re happy in their individual corners of the world, keeping their heads down and trying not to rock the boat.

They don’t understand that the white man who colonized their ancestral homeland is the same one who stole their long lost brothers and sisters in the dark of night, with nary an explanation nor a penny in compensation given in return.

They can’t imagine that the white-washed religion that they worship today was distorted from its origins and used primarily as a means to an end; that by stripping them of their culture and native belief systems, the colonizers were able to re-mold the psyches of the oppressed to view their captors in a favorable light.

Over the course of generations, the global black village was slowly subverted into elevating the image of the pale invaders to a God-like level. Little did they realize that, in doing so, blackness had no choice but to take a backseat to the overly fetishized white skin which now sat firmly in the driver’s seat.

This conditioning was vital to the establishment of an international racial hierarchy and the perpetual placement of melanin-deficient folks at the very top of that hierarchy. The concept of whiteness, as orchestrated by both colonizer and imperial regime alike, is what allowed a global minority to achieve and maintain dominance over the black and brown majority. This intentional division of black folks has always been a pivotal piece in the white supremacy master plan.

Slave masters often employed this psychological tactic by separating entire family groups of slaves and selling them off to different plantations. They knew that African cultures and religions were almost entirely based on communal practices. By separating closely knit family groups, slave masters broke the bonds that gave their slaves the willpower to fight against subjugation every step of the way instead of simply succumbing to the crushing weight of bondage.

Once you strip a person of everything they’ve ever known and loved, all that remains is a docile shell of their former self which can now be gently coerced into a life of slavery with little resistance. As the old adage goes, you must divide in order to conquer. A closed fist can do a lot more damage than an open palm; similarly, a divided peoples are much easier to rule over than an organized collective.

We were originally divided by white propaganda, but continue to remain divided because we choose to perpetuate those divisions amongst ourselves. All they did was plant the seeds of division in the soil of our conscience and we gladly provided (and continue to provide) enough water for an entire forest to blossom and bear fruit.

Colonialism never ended on the continent because it evolved into a much more insidious form, just as Western chattel slavery morphed into the prison industrial complex in the US today.

Whereas all that the colonizers needed to steal resources from the motherland in the past was a musket in one hand and a bible in the other, they now invade major African cities armed only with the pretense of humanitarian aid and a high interest loan agreement smuggled into the fine print.

Even though we are given the illusion of freedom in the diaspora today, our fate lies entirely in the hands of college educated white men who write laws designed to target our blackness, and high school educated white men who enforce those discriminatory laws with equal parts violence and impunity.

You often hear rappers waxing poetic about how, if they didn’t have rap, they would have ended up either dead or in jail. The sad reality is, chances are that they’ll still end up incarcerated or cut down in the street by a flurry of bullet-sized, melanin-seeking missiles regardless of their current occupation or socioeconomic status.

Just as our bodies were only useful to white supremacy for the purposes of unpaid labor in the past, so, too are we equally as disposable when we fail to meet production quotas in the present. The price of our lives is still remarkably low, regardless of where we happen to live when that auction bell tolls and our name is called.

Despite the glaring similarities between black oppression in every corner of the world, we are still somehow unable to connect the dots. It’s as if a soft, milky haze is shrouding our ability to perceive that an injustice done to one of us is an injustice done to all of us. While we bicker over cultural appropriation taking place back and forth between the various iterations of blackness, white supremacy continues to indiscriminately plunder our lives and pillage our crops .

This system of racial checks and balances has, in effect, created a perpetual motion machine, wherein we provide all the energy needed to sustain our own subjugation by continuing to reap the seeds of division that were sowed by the first white hands that ever reached the untameable continent.

Until we realize that the reality of black struggle is a universal one, until we begin to organize and strategize means of self determination across self imposed and white dictated borders, we will never release ourselves from the yoke of global systematic oppression.

The Introverted Extroverted Empath

The Introverted Extroverted Empath

You may think that you have me pegged, my friend, but you don’t know the half.

I may seem outgoing, but only in limited instances, only on my terms and only when it suits me. I’m a recluse and a loner; a hermit crab that refuses to poke its head out from the safety of its foraged shell. Much like a hermit crab, I discard my shells after they’ve worn out their purpose.

After they’ve outlived their usefulness, I shed one exterior display of my internal clockworks for a brand new one. Like a brand new dance sweeping the internet streets, you never know where it’ll come from or how long it’ll stick around before fading into obscurity. You might never see that side of me again, no matter how long you stick around before you fade into obscurity.

My online personality is loud and bold, boisterous and uninhibited. There are no moments of self-consciousness displayed when you read my words, no glaring imperfections that can be used against me in a battle of the wits. If writing was battle rap, my bars would reign supreme over nearly everyone.

Whenever I write to get a point across, my words are measured and precise. My emotions are perfectly controlled for the purposes of effective communication. If you see me engaged in a heated debate with someone via textual correspondence, you’d probably think I was a self-infatuated egomaniac. That’s an easy mistake to make, if you conflate my unfiltered responses with who I am as a person.

You don’t see my personality, you see my unadulterated thoughts being communicated with machine-like precision.I write with conviction, because I write about the things that I care about. I write within my range of passions and rarely do I ever overextend myself.

When you see me extolling in vitriolic fashion in the comments section of an inflammatory Facebook post, you’d be hard pressed not to think of me as uncouth and ornery. You probably think I’m some sort of self-centered asshole who bullies his way through everyone in his path to get what he wants in life.

You probably wouldn’t picture me as a quiet person, a polite and reserved individual in most every situation. You wouldn’t think of me as someone who routinely lets opportunities slip through his fingers because someone else spoke up before he did.  Until, that is, we start discussing something I feel strongly about, in which case you couldn’t pay me to stop gesticulating like a madman.

When in the right setting, my passion far outweighs my reservations. The problem is, those settings so rarely involve interacting with new people, and so much of life revolves around that very same set of circumstances.

I don’t like new people, especially when I’m in close proximity to groups of them in unfamiliar settings for extended periods of time. Being forced to socialize with people I don’t know anything about, who put on airs and posture for each other’s approval, makes me feel lower than low. It’s all so facetious and there’s nothing I hate more in this world than a fake fuck.

I read people, absorb every detail about them. I see the lines that tie their actions to their statements, the contradictions and the fallacies therein. I observe their facial expressions and body gestures, I listen to the subtle changes in the pitch and tone of their voice. I see the redundant patterns of speech that they engage in as defense mechanisms to cope with uncomfortable feelings.

I can feel an authentic spirit on a visceral level, without being able to put that feeling into words, and am naturally drawn to them. I can smell a fake fuck from the opposite end of the Sahara desert, despite the innumerable sand storms and litters of pit viper carcasses strewn haphazardly between us. Truly, there’s nothing I hate in this world more than a fake fuck.

I’m outgoing, but I’m not sociable. I’m the life of the party, if only you and I are in the room and the party is just for us. I don’t like crowds but I love disappearing into a sea of bodies, shrouded in anonymity. I initiate conversations at will and shut them down just as quickly. I am immediately repulsed by the slightest hint of inauthentic behavior.

When pressed to do traditionally social things like dance in public or make small talk with a table full of people I don’t know, I shut down like a turtle in distress. I retreat into my shell and become catatonic for all intents and purposes. My skin is crawling and my instincts are screaming at me to run, run far away. Escape these fake fucks at all costs.

I remove myself from the situation without a single word uttered or explanation offered. I get up from the table, I walk out of the room unceremoniously. I’ll often go so far as to leave the entire venue and never be seen by anyone at that table again. I could care less about societal norms when my well-being is on the line, my fake friend.

I don’t have time to avoid being seen as rude, because honestly, my state of mind is more important to me than the convoluted thoughts running through strangers’ heads. Reality is entirely perception based, and your perception of me has nothing to do with my reality.

That’s your bag of mixed nuts that you need to sort through, but you most likely won’t even choose to. I have enough neuroses and idiosyncrasies of my own to deal with, why would I add yours onto my already crowded plate?

Shit, I gotta eat… Yeah, even though I ate.

The Limelight is Never Sublime Light

The Limelight is Never Sublime Light

One of the main reasons why I prefer relative obscurity to notoriety is because the more you put your life out there, the more people either put you on a pedestal or make sweeping negative assumptions about you.

They simplify you, to put it simply. People are simplistic in nature, because people are lazy. Too lazy to think for themselves, let alone to actively analyze their own thought processes and separate original thoughts from lifelong societal conditioning.

Anyone who’s even remotely in the general public’s eye gets propped up and torn down in the same instance. They get showered with false adulation in one breath, only to be chewed up and spit out in the next.

Like some cheap gum that’s lost its flavor, you go from being palatable to becoming completely off-putting almost instantaneously.

You become a victim of mass consumption in an instant gratification culture instead of an individual, complex being. You cease to be an actual person and become an idea, a product; a conflation of multiple public personas that share superficial similarities.

People do this to more easily categorize you inside a filing drawer in their head, to right click and hit shift + delete when they’ve had their fill of you. This is necessary to keep the dream of living vicariously through others alive.

Others can be easily discarded because they were always ‘other’ and never ‘normal.’ Others are kept at a distance because normal people don’t pursue their dreams and live their truths unapologetically. At least, that’s what they’ve convinced themselves of, out of mere fear of failure and fear.

People are altogether too predictable, by and large. Then differences that we perceive as separating us are only gargantuan within the confines of our own egos. If you know yourself, truly and honestly know yourself, then you can put yourself in anyone else’s shoes.

If you’re too scared to sit by yourself in the campfires of your own soul, then you’ll never understand why anyone does anything. Know yourself to know your enemy, but know your enemy to know yourself. They are one and the same.