2016 was like your cousin’s friend whom he brings to Thanksgiving dinner. You hug and welcome him into your home; then he turns the t.v. station from the football game, puts his feet on your new coffee table, eats all your food, clogs-up (and funks-up) the bathroom, fixes himself a huge to-go plate, gets drunk, curses out two family members so badly you’ve got to call the police, and then throws-up on your freshly steam-cleaned carpet on his way out the door in handcuffs.
Though the fool is gone, you are left sitting on your couch, staring at the mayhem, wondering WTF just happened. No doubt, 2016 was the year of WTF?!
Let’s first address the grim reaper that shimmied his ass throughout the year. It’s as if there was a shortage of talent in God’s choir so he commenced to doing some heavy recruiting: Vanity, Maurice White, Natalie Cole, Kasheef and Phife dog were all taken from us. And then, the ultimate – Prince! Prince? Honestly, I didn’t expect Prince to die — not this year — not EVER. I thought he’d be that guy that me and my girlfriends would be saying: “that guy has got to be 94 by now” and then we’d all start googling while sitting at an “all-day breakfast” diner after leaving one of his midnight shows. Death seemed weaker than his purple magic.
We also loss Muhammad Ali, Ron Glass, Gwen Ifill, Tommy Ford, Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem), and Ms. Cleo from the Psychic Friends Network (I refuse to make the obvious joke about that last one!). What are we to learn from these deaths? These deaths have reminded me of our humanity. Each of these people were stars, oftentimes appearing larger than life, performing in some way to make us better, happy or more informed. But at the core they were simply just like us: oftentimes in pain, going through struggles no one knew about, or just plain lonely (Prince died alone).
It’s a reminder to be kind; you are usually unaware of what others are going through (even when life looks grand for them on the outside). We are all simply folks trying to make it—oftentimes struggling. It’s an “us” thing. We could all be a bit kinder and more understanding to others.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.
More impactful this year than even the stars’ deaths were the deaths of innocent Black women and men at the hands of police officers: Alton Sterling, Gregory Gunn, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher and Sandra Bland represented the many more who were taken without due process, appropriate cause or any semblance of justice. The deaths speak to the underlying problem that a Black man equals danger in the eyes of many Americans. What must it do to a man to walk through life being viewed suspiciously and fearfully? How must it damage the soul each time a stranger grabs her purse, moves to the other side of the street, follows you in store, tells you that they aren’t hiring, demotes you, gives you a tougher punishment, refuses to pick you up for a ride, stops you for no reason, accuses you for no cause, or calls you out of your name – repeatedly, from the time you start school?
So, I have decided to consciously show love to our brothers — random, small acts of kindness to random brothers of all ages all the time. I don’t look; I smile. I don’t look away; I acknowledge. All brothers: from frisky elderly men with high-waisted belts to amped-up teens with saggy pants. They are my family and I believe they need to feel (really FEEL) love to heal the cracks (that they hide) in their souls.
We can’t talk about death without discussing the campaign and election of Donald Trump. Something died in America this year. Maybe it’s like Michelle Obama said, hope died. Or maybe it’s willful ignorance. Perhaps not just Black Americans, but most Americans, are awakened to the damaging power of fear (and its byproducts of racism, sexism, homophobia and religious and geographic xenophobia)? While denial is no longer an option; improvement is now possible. We couldn’t fix what wasn’t recognized or acknowledged.
There is an African Proverb that says, “Two men in a burning house must not stop to argue.” Trump poured gasoline on fear –fueling the inferno. I think the blessing in him becoming President is that we, Black people particularly, know we ain’t got time for fussin’. That bullshit about who is more Black or more Bougie based on skin color, hair texture or style, socio-income level or neighborhood will only get all of our asses burned directly or killed from smoke inhalation. We’ve got fires to fight. One team. One group. One people. One love.
2016 was that whack-ass stranger who tried to ruin the party; however we survived, we even enjoyed moments with him, but were thrilled to see his ass leave. There is a sense of relief coupled with a sense of purpose. We’ve got a mess to clean up; but we are wiser and determined not to let his visit ruin the entire celebration (time is a gift and a celebration). It’s on!
Onward and Upward in the New Year!