Do you know what it feels like to almost drown? I will never forget that feeling. I was 7 years old and I knew I couldn’t swim; Still, I just had to dangle my feet in the deep end of the pool. The neighborhood joker thought it would be fun to pull my foot and drag me into the water. As I clawed my way up, I screeched in fear and began to take in water between screams. I could. Not. To breathe. Just as I was sinking to the bottom of the pool, someone reached in and grabbed me. I remember lying on the side of the pool coughing and clearing the water from my lungs.
I will never forget that feeling. I feel it raise a black boy and I felt it as I watched “Black boys. ” There were moments when I could just put a hand on my chest to catch my breath and moments when I saw my beautiful black son and nephew in every young man on screen. I watched the movie and came with a deep healing, a deeper understanding and a deeper calling on what black boys need – someone who believes in them.
How does my presence offend you? These words stayed with me throughout the film, which tries to humanize our boys. While watching the movie, I had to think about how society tries to vilify our black boys by often painting them as monoliths. However, this film shows the many facets of our black men and boys as fathers, sons, cousins, friends, dreamers, lovers, poets, deep thinkers, productive, gifted, beautiful.
All I have to offer is my body. I remember being so proud of my nephew when he graduated from high school. In addition to being talented at football, he was also a gifted student. Knowing what he was going through – home single mom and the struggle – made his success all the more inspiring. I would show my students its highlights to encourage them to pursue their dreams.
Whenever my students said, “I want to play professionally (fill in the blank),” I always told them to choose a backup profession too. I shared this with my nephew too. Too often we teach our black boys that all they have to offer is their body. When they give their body to the world through exercise, they are less feared, more loved, and their body can be the ticket to acceptance, but they are so much More as the.
My nephew gave his body to the sport and went to college on a full academic scholarship, but one wrong move, a simple misjudgment about socializing with a gun landed him in jail at 19. This one mistake led to the loss of his scholarship, the loss of college education and the loss of social acceptance. He’s the one I thought of when I watched Black Boys, and I was wondering why black boys should never just be boys. Like my nephew, there are so many black guys out there who can’t do any errorwho cannot take advantage of society from the doubt – especially when faced with law enforcement.
George Floyd, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Reis, Tray from Martin, Jordan Baker, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, DeAndre Ballard, Elijah McClain, and Deon Kay are just a few of our black boys and men whose lives have been cut by law enforcement, but our black boys really are doomed from the start. Those who want to understand our boys – our men – have to look at “Black Boys” to understand the complexities of how people with so little get “so little” and no real chance to begin with.
“Black Boys” disrupts the one story narrative and allows us to strike a new path for our black boys. One where my nephew won’t be judged on a single incident, one where interacting with the police doesn’t result in death, one where our black boys are more likely to go to college than jail, and one where expertise overcomes athletic ability is valued. Sharif El-Mekki says in the film: “Love helps to heal trauma.” Let’s love our black boys, encourage our black boys, believe in our black boys, celebrate our black boys, appreciate our black boys – let’s see black boys and make a commitment to love the pain and pain away – and heal together!
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