• FergusonAn Identity Politics Liberation Manifesto

What's the difference between a movement and a revolution? What is the role of class in conjunction with these experiences? In this essay I ask myself and the reader a series of questions about Ferguson's connection to feminism, homophobia, and classism. These portraits are painted from the front lines and may lack the politically correct overtones many academics are accustomed to. As the world changes, so does our collective perspective about mental health, poverty, and the need for all variations of human identity to be treated fairly. This analysis merges all of these worlds at once, while realizing the answers to these problems will be revealed through unconventional means. I've decided to present an analysis about the way we treat women as freedom fighters, while also understanding the vast nature of identity politics means our intersectionalities do not solely reside within gender and sexuality. We meet at the pockets of nuance in this article, while also interacting with the realities of lack of education, resources, and unity dominating these discussions within our communities. As a person who was nearly driven to the brink of suicide while enduring the unpacking of my own patriarchal vices, my research is the accumulation of personal experiences and stories.

I introduced myself to the national stages of the movement in August 2014 when the Ferguson police murdered Mike Brown Jr. in my hometown Saint Louis, Missouri. This is an open dialogue confessing many things I've never discussed before. A very deepened sense of depression has often remained present with me since shortly after the inception of this moment. I organize for Black liberation, I create art for art's sake, but I use this art to participate in what I believe is actually a cultural revolution. I spent most of last year wanting to hurt people. I had visions of taking someone's life and I felt these demons pulling my soul on the daily. I'd try to drown out the noise with heavy usage of marijuana and pointless escapades exploiting myself. I've dreamed of leaving Saint Louis behind just like Baldwin desired to leave Harlem.

Maybe I'm not ready to leave the country like Nina Simone. But I am ready to leave some of these treacherous incidents buried in the past. So I'm about to open up my pain during this essay. By the time this is published more Black people will be dead. Donald Trump will still be in the White House. Liberals will still overlook us as if they actually have the answers necessary to defeat this regime. A real revolution in America is certainly damn near impossible and highly improbable. I realize masculinity offers Black men a faux comfort zone. It does the same for women if they choose to reaffirm themselves with patriarchal beliefs.

Racism and Capitalism aren't our only problems, but they sound good when you bring them up. Homophobia is some wack shit, but niggas don't give a shit about it because they're comfortable. There's brothers that would try to kill me for even saying this. I don't fear no man because most Black men are fearful of things that they claim are weaker than them. The white man is supposed to be weaker than you but you're scared to shoot back. You wrongfully claim Black women and gay people are weaker than you but their voices [End Page 958] make you uncomfortable. I don't even like shaking hands with these types of pretentiously stupid negroes. You never killed nothing, you won't let nothing die and you sound like a fucking fool.

I want you to be uncomfortable as you read this. These words aren't supposed to soothe you and intellectualize this issue. This is a narrative of personal storytelling. How deep is Tef Poe willing to actually go? I want you to be offended if that's what you take from this. This entire moment has produced an energy that is too damn pretty for my tastes. Trump is the devil but the United States Government has always tried to genocide us. We continue to act like this isn't a fact, so now I survived my sickness I won't ease up. These dirty, despicable, low-down bastards tried to use my mind to kill me. They turned many of my own people against me and I allowed these things to change me. They took my soul and used it for a dish rag. They took my energy and wiped their ass with it. I responded to this by seeking to do damage to others. I wanted revenge and any type of vengeance I could get out of the scenario. I was wrong and it was destroying me. We went heads up with the empire and the shit almost broke me into pieces. I normally don't talk about myself so much but I'm boldly critiquing myself in this exhibit. I want y'all to see me for the no good bastardized individual which I'm capable of being. Let's remove the veil which requires Black male leaders with visible platforms to Dr. King themselves. Let's equalize the same exact bullshit that requires revolutionary rappers like myself to compare ourselves to Tupac. None of us are Malcolm X, so let's eliminate the bullshit and have an honest conversation about our own identities. Nobody really wants to die, so let's stop acting like we do.

Obama is the only American Black man alive immune to any claims of patriarchy. People may disagree with this, but the oval office is like the zenith of patriarchy in my mind. But Smoove Barry looks good and talks good and he's light skinned. Jay-Z would've been right behind him if Solange didn't give him the hands in the elevator. Some men have enough money and power to afford themselves diplomatic immunity from feminism. Others are just attractive enough on camera to skate by unscathed. My ambitions are to be a co-conspirator to radicalized voices. The action matters to me more than the voice though, because real killers don't speak much.

Black Feminists are the mob and they don't play no games. I fucks with the mob because I consider myself a rider. If you aren't uncomfortable yet, then don't worry—we shall go deeper into the abyss. So I expose myself through these political issues in hopes that the reader will realize not one of us is Jesus Christ. So everybody's shit stinks, this is the reality of the American regime's mentality. We all represent it in different forms even though we think [End Page 959] we don't. So today it is important to note a person willing to tell the truth about it is a rarity. In many spaces they don't exist, because we're all scared to be exposed. My music is the space where I normally do this but before I leave this planet I'm going to tell the entire story. So last year I knew my responsibilities in the Black movement were shifting. I learned that I had to separate myself from people that made it their career to quote Assata and Stokely while simultaneously not developing anything new. Black Liberation became a job for these people while it remained an unpleasant lifestyle for the have-nots. I gave everything I could muster myself to give to these bastards and it wasn't enough. My heart had a hole in it and I hated the movement and everything it represented. Technically this hatred has not been resolved and is very much alive inside me currently.

I didn't know how to dig deep and actually allow my soul to connect to my body. I was spiritually irresponsible, and I knew one day I would have to answer to myself. As I forced myself to grow, my own emotions rebuked me throughout the process. So these words are a gift to the revolutionaries of the future. I didn't want to kill myself because I didn't seek to give these crackers such glorious satisfaction. I felt ignored and hurt but didn't realize I was hurting myself by ignoring the necessity of my mental health. I wanted to murder something and watch the blood run dry from their lifeless carcass. My desire to hurt people wasn't racially motivated but racism did motivate my overall insanity. The lowest portions of myself had emerged and wanted to be fed. Unfortunately I've been here before as myself and many of my friends were no strangers to shoot-outs and homicides before Ferguson. I mastered the art of code-switching amongst my brethren. Clearly, I myself am no super thug, but I've experienced all walks of the Black American male experience, from being locked up for Metro-Link warrants to lecturing at Harvard with a bandana tied around my head. I am a balanced Black man and I'm proud of this because this balance has helped me grow.

Since then my life has become a whirlwind of theatrics and shape-shifting energy. I started to ask myself deep, intricate questions about many different subjects. At the top of this list resided my very own identity and the possibility that it would land me in an early grave. My life was on the line every single day in Ferguson and even long afterwards. If I'm home in Saint Louis, even currently, that same danger is present. I didn't want to find myself in a compromised situation simply because I couldn't check my ego. I saw many brothers on the front line do things simply because they had a dick attached to their lower abdomen. This may sound a bit patronizing, but many people believed the uprising was a challenge issued against their manhood. While [End Page 960] a part of me honestly does identify with this, I believe it's deeper than what meets the eye.

Black men in my city have a yearning to fight back and the angst is often misguided. Our voices are continually reduced to inhumane actions as a means of possibly finding ourselves. In a world that reinforces brutality as the only sensible way to communicate with us, we find ourselves constantly getting fucked up by these vices. Like many other brothers in my shoes I just wanted to be free. I'm no exception to the way things typically have gone for many of us. But I did know I didn't want to give these white bastards the satisfaction they desired. This was also a time that required Black men to open up and listen in ways that were new to us. Many of us saw our own identities in Mike Brown but the reality is he's the only one that caught Darren Wilson's bullets with his flesh. The rest of us were in the process of seeking some form of martyrdom while hoping it would connect us to his energy. Real niggas don't die—they metamorph into something different and their energy changes the format in which it formerly existed. So many Black men have a death wish due to misconstrued concepts of masculinity. I didn't believe Ferguson had to be a death wish for myself and many of the brothers I met during the uprising. But night after night we had no real way to counterattack these sadistic beings without physically endangering ourselves. So unfortunately many of us fell victim to a false sense of heroism. Collectivity is hard to keep alive during times like this, but we did what we could. Our homes and our streets were occupied by what was essentially a military. We soon discovered the constitution was nothing more than a delicate piece of paper, and every day we tried to find new ways to use it to catch our ejaculation.

Despite their lack of coordination and lack of intellectualism the police were always ready for us. They often didn't even know how to use the militarized weapons they were aiming at us. In my mind they were just a bunch of dumbasses with guns and an eagerness to shoot them at Black bodies. Unfortunately it doesn't take a genius to load a gun and pull the trigger. So this energy started to take on a life of its own and through nights of uncertainty we felt harassed. I'm sure many of the brothers out there in the field also felt embarrassed. The women were, too, and maybe even more so than the men. But sometimes this situation became a testosterone-driven standoff for the moral high ground in our community. Brothers would say ancient shit like "Sisters we here to protect yall" and the sisters would boastfully reply "Nigga I don't need you to protect me!" This was not political theatre and I'd dare to even say there are generational differences being brewed on the daily. The women are strong and courageous because they had to be, and in this millennial generation none of us walked behind the next person. It was either stand [End Page 961] side by side or don't stand at all. The challenges of getting men that typically didn't understand the complexities of women within the freedom struggle to relinquish their egos was never ending. I could write this narrative and act as if I was healed of all forms of patriarchy that existed within myself. But sexism is some nasty shit. You think you've completely killed it off or eliminated its presence and it's still there. Most men are full of it and frankly don't give a damn about sexism. Even those of us that think we do—don't to a certain extent.

Other things have been prioritized in our lives and the deepness needed to understand a woman's body as its own independent free-willed vessel is often absent. So yeah, I can act like I'm different from the next, but I'm not. I've met women leaders in the movement who are also patriarchal by nature. But I don't know how to litigate this, from the asylum from which it's observed. Same women in the meetings preaching intersectionality leave these settings and tear down other women. These days it's almost like the more they preach about feminism, the more toxic their actual actions are in real life.

White women for the most part will still listen to a Black man before they listen to a Black woman. Straight gendered Black women are usually left alone to defend these white women. I don't even know where I myself fit into the rankings of this conversation. But these are my thoughts and for once we can be honest about it.

So yes, I could also write this essay and claim that I've never felt the weight of misogyny in my own life. The reality is that's some bullshit and we all know it. I'm a rap artist, but when I have children I'm going to tell my daughter to never date a rapper. Rappers are usually straight-up trash to women. Even the so-called "conscious" rappers—these are nerds that rap about political shit over boring ass beats usually. They might be slightly more politicized than the normal rap artist but the misogynoir is still there. They're just calling you a bitch over a jazzier beat, but it's virtually the same exact message with a different angle.

I'm a nerd with a small pinch of thug in him searching for a way to eradicate my sins. When most people speak of eradicating their sins it's only in the spiritual sense. But I mean it in the physical sense, because as far we know this is the only world that is tangible in this reality.

To me burning down a building in the midst of an uprising is an act of revolutionary courage. To society at large this might be considered an act of masculinity, predominantly executed by Black men with ski masks and bandanas covering their faces. Our fighting looked a bit different than you'd expect. These are people from the slums, admittedly, even though Ferguson wasn't really viewed as the hood until after the uprising. [End Page 962]

White men with guns flanked by small numbers of Black men, Black women, and white women with badges. They recruited some of the people we claimed were marginalized to fight for them. The police force's army wasn't just inclusive of white guys.

The white man had his army and we had ours, and even though it was a ragtag unit of single mothers, teenagers, gang bangers, college students, rappers, and ex-cons, we did what we could. It felt like the ghetto version of the colonial minutemen from the American Revolution. Only difference is many of us didn't feel like we were American, so the American occupying police forces were our enemy. Another difference is all of our soldiers weren't men and it's necessary to note that even some of the men weren't actually deserving of calling themselves men. Every day it was like we were packed into a can of sardines fighting for survival.

This drove some of us absolutely mad in the face of the militarized police. We had to prove to these honkies—we were men, and this means sporadically running towards tear gas canisters and rubber bullets made more sense than running away from them. Lame niggas criticized me for running and I did truthfully let it affect me a little.

Sometimes it was as if dying in action became more important than fighting. Maybe it was the fear of dying prematurely finding a way to strike a chord in my heart, but I knew this wasn't the way.

This is when I suddenly started to notice misconstrued definitions of masculinity mixed with a righteous dose of anger and revolutionary rhetoric could produce toxic results. Street guys I know that weren't involved in the movement used to say let the police do their job. This means we don't snitch on each other, it's not our job to solve crime.

This was always on loop in my mind while in Ferguson because there was a pocket of dweebs that jumped off the porch for the first time during this ordeal. They all seemed to think getting arrested at the drop of a dime made them the next Huey P. or Dr. Angie Davis. In my mind they all looked like dumbasses who obviously had never dealt with the police before. These people will kill you and leave your brains rotting on the pavement inside the rusty corridors of a North County jail cell. I had no desire to play with these people, and I hoped they shared the same sentiment. Once again my street dudes always told me the number-one rule to any interaction with the police is let the police do their job. So this means if you want to arrest me you're going to have to actually catch me. I will be catching a resisting-arrest charge if you don't come correct. Do your job and I'll do mine.

I refused to give myself to law enforcement if I could avoid it because it made no sense to voluntarily give myself to the pigs. I later accumulated more [End Page 963] than my fair share of arrests, but the police had to work for each and every one of those. Going to jail doesn't validate anything more or less about one's position in the uprising. When it's all said and done arrests turn into legal cases you'll end up fighting alone. When the cameras are gone it's just you, your lawyers, and the judge.

Early on I wanted to make a distinction between myself and the toxic behaviors firmly associated with previous cisgendered male revolutionary voices. Why? I don't honestly know, I just knew this was a different type of moment, and I wanted to be open to the possibilities of doing things differently. Once again not really knowing what that means, but I wanted to be open to new things as they presented themselves. Some of this stuff I'd secretly call bullshit under my breath, but still in all I wanted to respect other people's positions. This entire drama started because the state didn't want to understand our collective positions. Duplicating this same behavior in the way we conducted ourselves with each other would further ostracize us from each other. We needed new levels of connectivity, in order to save us.

I use the term cisgendered in all honesty as a sign of respect and also as a nod towards owning my own privilege. But in all honesty no one has ever thoroughly explained to me what the term means nor where it originated. So sometimes I'm fearful of speaking on things I don't fully understand. I make an attempt to do it because we have to start somewhere, so here's the start. My homies would likely ask me what does that even mean? Then they'd ask why are you using terms you don't even understand? The next question would likely be what the hell happened to you Kuzz?

It was briefly explained to me in a meeting one day that I was considered a cisgendered male, so I ran with it because it sounded right. The women are almost always smarter than the men, and I hardly ever challenged anything they presented to me. It made sense, I had bigger fish to fry at that moment, so I accepted it as a sensible explanation. We don't talk like this in the streets, so I learned to code-switch in between coalitions, tables, and general conversations. Other brothers didn't do this or didn't want to do this.

There was a huge difference between the streets and the convening rooms. Both claiming to fight for the same things but existing in strongly different manners with very little room to connect them to each other. The word "intersectionality" became another one of those complicated words I previously had misused. I've heard it used in different conversations but it wasn't a word that was frequently used in my personal vocabulary. It made sense but its practical use in the physical sense on the front lines existed differently than it did in other spaces. Brothers freshly out of prison attending the M4BL convening in Cleveland had never been introduced to this type of [End Page 964] intersectionality. I felt as if the movement basically threw them away because educated Blacks don't always know what to do with uneducated Blacks. This is especially true if they've already made up their minds that certain types of people are born problematic.

I saw lesbian women I knew for years overlooked because they didn't fit the sensationalized agenda of the media, movement curators, and all else between. If these people couldn't use you for their agenda one way or another, then you were deemed trash. That's how the Black revolution treated Black people sometimes, and it was disgusting to witness, but it's actually happened. People don't want to tell the truth about it because of their relationships and personal connections to the various seats of power. We must often realize we've created the preliminary stages of a Black political cult. Just like the Zulu Nation, abuse is swept under the rug and ignored. Similar to the block, you're not allowed to speak out against the OGs if you don't have enough clout to address them. I'm talking about rapes, sexual misconduct, verbal abuse, physical abuse all swept under the rug daily in the Black movement. These sins are committed by both men and women. These are sins committed by cisgendered folks, masculine folks, feminine folks, as well as gay, lesbian, and transgendered folks. The myth that anyone in the movement is perfect is absolutely in need of being destroyed. I understand leadership differently than some people since I've found myself in certain leadership positions. This is not a leaderless movement, that's a lie. In fact I sympathize with movement leadership because you have to make decisions normal people aren't ready to make. Do I hate my best friend today because they're transphobic? Do I leave my children to be in these streets with the protesters? Do I cut this person short because my organization needs this funding more than they do?

So people we knew with the juice in the organizing world took a back seat to a bunch of Johnny-come-lately so-called Black radicals. These were people calling themselves organizers even though they never organized much of anything. None of us organized the Ferguson Uprising, because the response to Mike Brown's murder was God's work. We simply showed up to a fully equipped situation and got in formation. But corporate America needed to monetize this movement. They needed stars and celebrities to fit themselves into the narrative.

I saw women who were capable of professionally leading and orchestrating the shots overlooked because they were not a part of this new-found aesthetic. The same happened to men who were capable of leading as well, because it was easier to launch vague claims of sexism at male leadership if you disagreed with them. This doesn't mean most of these claims weren't valid, but [End Page 965] even Black Power doesn't concede to our own comrades' clutches very easily. So erasure became the order of the day, and it was foul to witness.

These were the men and women we all knew would do the work when the overnight celebrities of the movement lost their fifteen minutes of fame. Many of the Black women held the movement down before it became nationally recognized. The unsung heroes who have been working with problematic men long before Ferguson and didn't need a thirty-day crash course in Black radical feminism in order to stay the course and get the job done. All of us are problematic to some extent, but if you deem your politics to be the most important politics at the table, then you garner yourself the power to dismiss others. So that's essentially what started to happen, and no one really had the courage to speak about it. Myself included, and maybe this is partially because I was new to this understanding and wanted to be a decent ally. In fact I consider myself a co-conspirator of Black radical feminist traditions. The politics are important, but more importantly I want to be a good person. I didn't see a space in my life where adopting these beliefs and learning to reduce myself for the sake of Black women was a bad thing. If my ego couldn't be subdued, then naturally I'd reject this as many men do.

Overall this was a moment where some of these things didn't seem to always matter as much as certain people wanted them to. My friend Kristian Blackmon says it best: "some of y'all have a habit of worrying about the wrong things." But there were moments of pure resistance, and in the heat of these tribulations our differences culminated us into one hell of a fighting force. We didn't protest—we fought, and that's what differentiates Ferguson from every other place in this country. It didn't matter who you were and what you looked like—if you were on the front line you were expected to fight. So the way we talked to each other was different than the way my comrades in other environments communicated amongst themselves. Sisters could refer to brothers as "bitch-ass niggas" quite openly if they were showcasing behavior which indeed classified them as such. This was on the concrete where the usage of this term could save our lives in the right scenario.

So needless to say the first thing I noticed separating these two worlds first and foremost was the language we deemed acceptable in each space. In the streets straight Black men were led to believe we were the foot soldiers and also the priority of the burning house Black people are currently occupying. Brothers stuck in a stone-age way of thinking would say things like "We're here to protect the women," but then when the police stampede upon us and start grabbing folks the women were often the first to go to jail. One night I remember vividly yelling for the men to step the fuck up at the Ferguson Police Department. Plenty brothers actually did step up and hold it down. I [End Page 966] was proud of us that night because we pulled people back from the clutches of the police. I did my fair share of running, as did all of us, but I also fought for those who fought for me, and in most cases my women comrades were my only real ones in the field. That's not to dismiss the countless brothers who put their lives on the line in Ferguson. I stood with them, too, and I love them for that. A few of them are dead and in jail. I'll never see them again, so it's my hope that I can live to be an old man and maybe possibly share these stories. But if I don't, then I pray Black people in the future will read these words. Learn from our mistakes, find new ways to contribute to your happiness. If I bled for my people, I'm cool with that. If I cried and tormented myself for stolen Africans all over the world, then I can accept that. This controlled my life and I was serious about it, so I wanted to be the best person I could be for this moment. I didn't always make the right decisions. I didn't always use the correct words. But I did my best to keep myself honest and hopeful about the things we were doing. I'm baring my soul to you in this essay because if I don't I am fearful that no one else will.

People from the front lines don't write books and think pieces. So when it's wartime, whose journals are you reading? White people study George Washington because he was a philosophical military leader. He liberated this land from the clutches of British colonization. But he didn't liberate the original Indigenous occupants of this land, nor did he cut the shackles off the feet of the stolen Africans he forcefully claimed ownership over. They study their warlords while we force ours away from the table because their politics are jaded and not correct. While I agree with checking bullshit at the door and letting these negroes know they are wrong, I do not agree with throwing away the strategists who are bleeding for Black liberation. We all won't agree, and we all don't agree, and some people involved in the movement are people I hate with every fiber of my body.

But as a revolutionary I have an obligation to attack white supremacy at every corner of its threshold. I self-identify as a revolutionary despite some people's grievances with this because I define my damn self. I'm not waiting for a white man's history book to gift me this title. I'm not waiting for a bullet from one of my enemies to snuff my life and award me this title. I'm nobody's nigger, and I function like an escaped slave in a society that once had me in shackles. I function like a man who knows bondage and has experienced it thoroughly. I maneuver as if I could be enslaved within the blink of an eye. The depression I experienced after Ferguson tried its best to kill me, it really did a number on me. But the most important thing it did was emancipate me from the fucked-up thinking European patriarchy dropped in my lap at birth. Now I can stand and define my own beliefs for what they actually are, and I [End Page 967] don't have to accept any type of analysis I disagree with. I'm a Black man and I'm free to define myself and my intentions within this world as according to the principles which I value. This is not for me, and my life is no longer my life to live solely for myself.

If I have children, more men will be born with my blood and my heritage within them. My bloodline will not be one that does not have a track record for challenging these concepts of gender and sexuality. To my offspring I say be free to explore this world and find yourself. This shit was designed to destroy us, but people with your DNA inside them are natural-born resisters. I once thought we had to fight the world in order to get free. Then I discovered my greatest enemy was myself. I was born an opp to myself and Black women. So I hope and pray that this war with myself leads to the ultimate freedoms for you and your grandchildren. There were many individuals braver than me in Ferguson, I'm simply the one who is good with words, so I'm able to explain myself. Every village needs someone capable of explaining the story to the future.

So on the daily I do my best to talk about these things in a way that is not exploitative. It's my goal to grow increasingly more honest about our uprising as time allows me to. I don't want to be one of these brothers afraid to tell the truth. We carry a masculinity that is so toxic we can't even communicate with our souls. I am a young man and I do things that young men do. I inherited an old problem, but as a young man I opened my heart to fight it. It's illegal in the hearts and souls of most brothers for us to be this honest. There are very few Black men truly wanting to reveal their vulnerabilities to the core. The things we're willing to cry about when no one else is around weigh us down and defeat us. We want to connect with the Black woman, but she has work to do and it's our work to find a way to connect with her. She cannot slow down because this is bigger than us, and for once it must get done. Will they accept the fact that they want us to die? By "they," I mean the real enemy: the most powerful people on this planet have turned us into their slaves. They seek to kill us off with guns and diseases. Our sisters are sick and they keep pushing through the bullshit. My mother was only thirty-five years old when she experienced a heart attack. She is the strongest person I know. There is no one I can compare to her. She lived for her children and without her I wouldn't be here to even profess these things to you. I was molested as a child. The story is long and complicated, but for years I had no one to turn to. I didn't even realize what happened to me was wrong. The person told me it was natural and quite okay to expose myself to her. I was also sexually abused by men and this affected my psyche. Brothers that looked like me preyed on me in a way that made me feel weird about myself. I grew a wreck seriously [End Page 968] intense hatred for men in this world. So unknowingly I started to hate myself. My family was dirt poor and my mother did everything she could to hold us together. My sister was molested one night by a family member. I was a child and there was nothing I could do about it. For years the combination of all these experiences made me feel weak.

So I wanted revenge one way or another—I wanted to retaliate for these hate crimes against our flesh. Till this day I ask myself why is my father's blood cursed? Why did no one show up to help us fight? I didn't blame my mother, but I rejected her empathy and her care for me. I turned my heart off in places that affected the way I would grant access to the women I fell in love with. I'm blessed that my mother has never given up on me. Even when she had every right in the world to do so, she never gave up on her child. My biological father lost both of his parents as a child. He raised himself, my mother had just turned twenty-three when she had me. She was a baby herself having a baby—her first born. We struggled together, but she gave all of herself to the insurance of my survival.

My sister was born in the fall a year later and she did the same for her. She met a new man and he was brave enough to love her. Her husband raised me and my sister like we were his own. He was brave enough to love us all. They had two other children together and till this very day they are life partners. Despite the fact that my mother carried our family and worked her body to the ground when my father couldn't find employment, she is not bitter. Despite the fact that she had a stroke later in life at the age of forty-five, she is not bitter. She simply did what she had to do, and now I'm here capable of telling this story to you. My views about masculinity and what it means to get the job done come from her. She is the baddest person I know.

She is the hardest working person I know. She is the most dedicated person I know. She is the most loyal individual I know. I love her like I've never loved anyone else. I don't even know if I'm capable of loving a person the way I love her. For years this was a place of struggle in my life because I fled from her love. We were poor and I hated it. But now I understand what it means to be tough when you don't want to be. I know what it means to get up at six a.m. and work double shifts, triple shifts, whatever it takes. My biological father is a kind man, but at this stage in my life I don't share this type of love for him. He reminds me of myself in many ways, a broken man searching for redemption. But we don't know anything about each other. Thanks to my mother's husband I do come from a two-parent household. He was in my life since I was one year old, and even though my mother had two kids when she met him, she blessed the man immensely with her desire to win. I was angered by how hard she had to work, since he often was laid off. He didn't have [End Page 969] the education she had, so she made more money. When he couldn't find employment she donated her body to our family no differently than the men do in other families. She brought home the money and kept the lights on, put us through private school only for me to jerk off in class and receive poor grades. They told her I was most likely gifted but I didn't do the work.

I didn't realize how ungrateful I was for this woman's labor. My psychological issues affected me deeply, and I was lost as a child. So many other things were often on my mind and unfortunately I grew up fast. I had to because I was covertly being forced to be the other man of the house. I had adult responsibilities even as a child. This angered me because I knew I had issues and needed help. But there was no time for any of this because I had to be a man.

I didn't understand how pathetic it was of me to sit there in class and do nothing while she extended her physical health to us all. I once blamed the circumstances she raised us in for my condition, but now I understand I could've done more to show her the appreciation her labor deserved. She didn't know about the abuse I was suffering through. She grew frustrated and would beat me sometimes. She thought she could beat it out of me. I can only imagine how crushed and hurt she had to be on the inside knowing she was doing all that she could to maintain this situation. Anything she did was never enough, and now she lives in perpetual state of hoping she did her best to raise me. For all the bitch-ass niggas that judged me and my intentions during the height of the uprising, this is what I carried into Ferguson. You don't know my life and be blessed that you'll never know what it's like to carry these burdens. When the tanks are five minutes away from your mother's house. We grew up in this area but I left as soon as I could. I left North County when I was seventeen years old and never came back because of the mental abuse this environment served me.

The only redemption my relationship with my family ever will know is how I showed up in this moment. When your mother is once again worried sick because she doesn't understand why you're in these streets yelling at the police, maybe you'll understand. When your mother gets a three-a.m. phone call telling her you're dead, but you're actually alive and this is nothing more than a rumor, maybe you'll be able to feel me. When the two of you haven't had a serious conversation in years, and she suddenly sees you on the evening news, maybe you'll understand.

My parents live on the same street as Mathew Knowles, the mayor of Ferguson. They didn't always live there and moved there after the most explosive moments of the uprising. I admittedly thought this was a stupid decision. Prior to this they lived in Dellwood, which shares close borders with [End Page 970] Ferguson. They were one of the first Black families to move onto our block in North County during the late 1990s. This place is the origin of so much agony for me that it's often hard to revisit. Life wasn't easy for us because we lived outside of our means. The pigs were always harassing us and ready to kill us off. We were children, and these were our interactions with law enforcement. They hated us for being Black and treated us all the same. I couldn't return to North County until I basically had no other choice. The uprising represented the fact that I had no other choice, so I went back. My Mama was my example of how dedicated people are supposed to move. You suck it up when it hurts, and you don't let them see you cry. If you're emotional they'll take advantage of you, and people hurt the people closest to them the most. Nothing in life is perfect, but you try to find the sweet spot and push it open as far as you can. When I arrived in Ferguson during the first round of police attacks on Black people, this was no longer a drill. All of my survival instincts had to intuitively activate.

After a while I was unsure if I wanted to live but I was also unsure about dying. I saw people do things I wasn't brave enough to do, while people maybe saw me do things they'd say the same about. My life was never mine, and this time I could clearly see what portions of myself did and did not belong to me. This feeling wasn't unique—everyone out there most likely felt the same way. I learned from my mother that nothing can replace the damage the human body physically takes on in the name of serving others. She gave birth to four children, she worked for those children and her husband when he couldn't find a job. She dedicated her flesh to us and the preservation of our family values. She was willing to die for us, and I thank God it didn't come to that. But even still the fact remains she was willing to die for us. Her body was the receipt for our iniquities in this life, and she paid for it with a series of heart surgeries. So it is here through her example I learned nothing is more powerful than a debt that is paid for by the currency of human flesh. Nothing overwrites an individual putting their body on the line for other people's sake. She grew angry at a certain point in her life. She would cuss us out and throw things at me if I came to the house too late. She perceived me to be arrogant even if I wasn't. I disagreed with this, so I rejected anything useful coming from her. I didn't want the love because it would morph into hate in my mind. She was not the most politically correct person whatsoever. Maybe it was my fault, maybe it wasn't. Maybe I was responding to the pressure of our household in my own way. I'm older now, so I see things differently. Even though she was problematic in many ways, she was righteous. She was masculine and feminine in her approach. "Nigga I'll knock you out" or "Son I love you and I want you to be safe"—either way I knew what she meant. But due [End Page 971] to the fact that I didn't understand why she was often so aggressive with me, I started to turn off my ears and this ceased the embrace of her message. This for me is a metaphor about life within the movement. She felt as if she had the right to say and do as she wished in conjunction to our family because she gave us her body when no one else did.

Some of the most problematic people became some of the most useful, most arrested, and most dedicated to physically placing their bodies between the police and the people. The dichotomy of their leadership being respected in the face of danger yet shunned in other spaces caused them to feel used and neglected. I was constantly torn between both of these parties while the uprising was at its peak. This really does go deeper than I'm capable of expounding upon in this essay.

The constant weighing of these relationships and the woes they carried caused me to grow very reclusive and isolated. The murder rate in Saint Louis skyrocketed after the police apparently proved themselves incapable of solving homicides. People spend two summers fighting the police and they suddenly don't fear the law. There was no governance in the streets of Saint Louis. My barber Sol would say, "You can ride around this mofucka with a kilo of cocaine in your lap right now, the police too scared to pull anybody over." This means the gang wars came back and went through the roof. Body after body after body started to pop up. I put money down on more than a few funerals. People died who had nothing to do with the situation, retaliation murders remain unsolved, too. The streets know whose catching these bodies, but the white boys don't.

I believe this opens the door to the greater nature of the brutality we're actually facing during these times. Violence has become a method of governance for Black men and this is a derivative of patriarchy unleashed and unchecked in our culture today. The European white male is the definitive originator of this bullshit, but we have quickly become our own people's greatest purveyors of this disease. Patriarchy produces rape culture, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and every other attack against anything it perceives to be feminine or different. This disease leads stupid individuals to believe feminine energy—the same exact energy which brought them into this planet—is weak.

So I watched the murder rate in my city skyrocket. It's not safe at home, and I'm always losing someone. We lost friends and family members to an early grave because their masculinity did not provide a safe space for them. The laws of the streets say you must ride on a so called "pussy-ass nigga." I hate this term because there's nothing weak about a vagina. This also shows us the way we are disregarding the sanctity of a woman's body by referring to [End Page 972] our male enemies as "pussies." My niggas are lost and no one is going into the darkness to pull them into the light. Many of them don't want to be pulled into the light, so they choose to remain lost because it takes energy to change. Others are psychologically damaged and degrading mental health is embraced as normal.

Our mothers live in the same buildings as men freshly released from prison, institutionalized and deeply affected by the effects of emasculation.

Black women lose themselves and even their loved ones to the system, only to discover that there is an enemy amongst them. He will rape and devour your soul if you allow him, he will gun down your sons and abduct your daughters. He will use your daughters, then he will kill them. When I sold drugs I saw first-hand the nature of this type of mentality. I wasn't good at selling dope, so it was a short-lived career. If you're not tough enough to endure this type of treatment from your own brethren, then it is believed you deserve to die. Ferguson gave us all a reason to live, but it did not uproot the deeply connected caveats of oppression each of us face daily. My greatest fear is not being gunned down by a racist police officer, most people in the movement have actually never experienced predatory policing first-hand. I've seen it all from a first-person perspective, but I don't fear the police. I have a severe hatred and disdain for them as institution, but I do not fear them. I am most fearful of the men who rest amongst us as if they are wolves in sheep's clothing preying on our own community members.

I am the most cautious of Black men who refuse to understand male privilege in this society and our connections to our own people's oppression. But even more so I started to realize I am friends and comrades with some of these same men. They were my brothers, and as my understanding of my place in the Black movement expanded, so did my desire to be separated from many of these ways of thinking. So I found myself alone and dealing with this on a constant basis but nonetheless dealing with it alone. I soon became depressed for nearly two years and isolated from the rest of the world unless I was forced to make an appearance. I withdrew from the possibility of building a stabilized platform in the movement because I wasn't about to fight for space. So I allowed myself to fade to black. The intellectual war between the Hoteps, gangsters, Cis Women, Queers, and everything else in-between tore me between all of my so-called comrades. In the streets we were unified but online not so much. The drama became the new tabloids for people, and I really didn't seek any parts of it unless we were sincerely moving the needle. I made it my job to slow down and explain these things to the teenagers we encountered in the streets, but some of these discussions were even too new for me to present holistically. I knew no one else was doing this or even cared to do it, [End Page 973] but in order for these kids to understand what had happened to the moment that they actually created themselves this needed to be done.

Ferguson gave us an abnormal opportunity to talk to young boys about masculinity, patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, and homophobia in a way that would be both effective and comprehensive. The resources to carry on these discussions in a way that would transform our communities never trickled down as tensions between Ferguson community members and the Black Lives Matter network intensified. I always assumed these politics would be thoroughly introduced to the mass populace—but not so much. Meaning middle class Black folk ain't about to slow down from the glamour of this newfound entertainment industry known as "the movement" and educate poor people. The six letter words don't get translated and thoroughly presented to hood niggas with adequate nuance and debate.

For the most part we talk in circles to each other about the same shit over and over. The kids who can benefit from these conversations don't follow any of us on social media, and they don't attend activist conferences, so these talks are irrelevant.

I found myself once stuck in-between a battle of the wits—Ferguson vs BLM. There still hasn't really been any amends for this, and honestly there probably never will be as the network has now decided to basically approach Saint Louis from a hands-off position. I don't have any malice towards BLM—I'm just tasked with telling the truth from our community's perspective. The political ideology is one thing and the people are another.

I played the fence for a while because the sloppiness of these conversations reminded me of COINTELPRO. I just knew that this division was being sparked, led, and orchestrated by the FBI, CIA, and right wing extremists such as Breitbart.

I'm almost certain the classified files on the issue would reveal these factoids. I'll never know, but one day my offspring will and let this be an historical testimony stating that I was at least aware of this even though there was nothing I could do about it. I thought I personally was invincible from the trappings of government surveillance and grassroots filibusters. But I learned this thing flows so unpredictably that I've basically signed up for a fate that I can't foreshadow even if I wanted to. I'm not scared to go to jail—going to jail doesn't mean shit to me whatsoever. I laugh at the thought that going to jail is actually supposed to prevent me from doing anything. Now jail and prison are two different things: we typically come home from jail, yeah you can die in there but I'm not scared to die either. So these are the reasons I assumed I'll always come home from jail. Within that there's a blind privilege that Sandra Bland wasn't awarded and neither was Kim King. So nah, I ain't scared to go [End Page 974] to jail, but I also don't have to carry the concerns our women comrades lug with them once behind enemy lines. I'm not a trans woman either, so going to jail for me isn't the same as it is for them. What I am is honest, and this honesty is what at least made me somewhat of a leader even though I dread embracing such a title.

So to be honest the greater shift occurred for me in 2016 when my comrade Darren Seals was murdered mysteriously and left inside a burning car with a bullet in his head. We have no idea who murdered him, and every single day of my life this question bounces around in my head unanswered. As a leader and voice for Saint Louis, his death in part reflects one of my community's greatest failures. We didn't protect one of our own, and he was murdered. He put his body on the line and nothing can remove that contribution. Unlike many others I take personal responsibility for allowing the politics to separate us. We were still friends, but we didn't communicate nearly as much as we should've towards the end of his life. I've never written about this, and I've been hesitant to express my true emotions regarding this ordeal. We did not protect one of our own, and this is something we cannot live down despite the political rhetoric.

A man I stood with during the most revolutionary moment of this lifetime is now dead and gone. He did not have children and his legacy has been co-opted with a narrative I am sure his spirit would speak out against if it could. I am also sure if he was still alive we would clash in certain areas of our growth. When it comes to the topics of gender and sexuality we simply often did not agree with each other. But beneath it all, his angst was really aimed at the United States government and even Black Lives Matter as an organization. Every revolutionary movement has counter opinions. Some are politically correct and others aren't, but even still they coexist. I didn't respect the way the BLM network treated his murder, and I didn't respect the way several people within the city treated his death. I'm obligated to speak these things because his body was his final contribution to the struggle.

Our philosophies were different, but every night I saw this same individual put his body on the line in the name of defending our people. He worked tirelessly to take care of his mother and little brother, and I respected this. I would say the ability to do so defines masculinity for many Black men in this country. His partner was a beautiful Black woman who was abused by the movement after his death as allegations concerning his murder were carelessly tossed at her head with no regard for the fact that this woman had to bury her best friend.

A movement supposedly founded and sustained by Black women did not rush to her aid. She dealt with this alone, and it almost completely destroyed [End Page 975] her. This actually sends chills throughout my body when I think about it: she is a Black woman and she ate this alone. The way sexism works she had become the target of many people's aggressions and suspicions concerning his death. This was some of the most fucked shit I've ever witnessed. Several people were falsely indicated in his murder as an attempt for weak niggas with no heart to gain popularity. The movement became a pissing contest for individuals whose penises probably aren't even big enough for them to not wet their own testicles.

We shared many of the same enemies, even though we often did not share the same opinion regarding many of the most heated issues of Black politics today. We still had offline conversations with each other, and if I needed him I'm sure he'd be there in a heartbeat. This is where we did not find ourselves indulging in a space of separation from the true spirit of Ferguson. In fact one night we fought alongside each other at the police station after an irate protester hawked saliva in the face of a Black woman protesting on the now legendary Andy Wurm parking lot. One of our women comrades placed a phone call and said she had been assaulted by a group of men protesting in Ferguson that night. I was fresh off stage at a Mike Brown Memorial concert. We left the rap concert in haste, and when we arrived to the police station a scuffle broke out between our party and theirs. We beat the breaks off those boys that night and laughed about it later. The sisters knew what time it was with us when it came down to their bodies being physically harmed by the same Black men they swore to protect and love. There was no grey area for us in this matter—and never has been.

In the wake of this saga I understand that these politics cannot get my brothers' bodies out of the casket. I also understand the deep-seated physical harm male patriarchy has caused the Black woman. It empowers men to act like maniacs, and then it kills us. There is no victory in patriarchy for the Black woman.

I understand that I will never be able to adequately relate to this pain and no one is free until the Black woman has actually discovered freedom. We will not be free until the Black woman is free to appropriately define her own destiny in this universe. The Black woman never been free, and anyone that would dare suggest anything any differently is a liar. Every individual in this society has experienced more freedom than her, yet she carries the burdens of our society in each and every footstep of her life. I saw this exemplified time and time again over the course of the last two-three years. Every time one of my homeboys is buried, their woman has to remain behind and pick up the pieces. Unfortunately for both Black and white men, killing a Black man is often perceived as a confirmation of one's masculinity. Brothers are perceived [End Page 976] to be soft by their killers once they are murdered, and their bodies become the trophies of another man's masculinity. Only the strong survive and only the hardest niggas alive get what they want out of life. I think about Seals often because he didn't deserve to die like this. His death is still unsolved, and his partner Naomi deserves closure. The way the toxicity of masculinity works, any one of us could be next, and this isn't something that solely affects the men. All of us now have targets on our backs as the Black man has reduced himself in many regards to serving his own demise.

I find myself with very few straight male comrades in the Black movement. They are either dead or in jail, or they have beliefs that are completely toxic to the preservation of the Black woman. The ones who are around aren't built like the guys I stood with on the line. They aren't soldiers, they wouldn't bust a grape in fruit fight, but they'll break down any liberal philosophy your heart desires. When I'm home in Saint Louis I have to carry a gun for protection, not just from the police but for any potential threat. I realize many of my own brothers would kill me in a heartbeat if given the opportunity, because for some fool out there somewhere this is a sign of strength. My reputation is big enough to his street jacket.

I pray for the women in our organization on a constant basis because they are the first prey of these attacks. The calls for unity which originated on the streets of West Florissant were soon abruptly brought to a halt. Capitalism is always the order of the day, and this produces violence in the Black community daily. The same people screaming "I'm black and proud" have to feed their children, and now they can't get jobs because they're known protesters. This created a parasite-like mentality amongst many of the brothers I'd previously take a rubber bullet for. The city became a death pool of destructive foul energy shortly after the uprising. Every man that spent a little bit of time in the field wanted to be the one with the answers. When they weren't embraced they spiraled out of control and subscribed to doing stupid shit for the attention they believed they deserved. The city itself had turned into nothing more than a murder-happy, high-crime-wave hellhole. Several Black women were murdered at point blank range, children were killed by stray bullets, and mayhem became the order of the day.

The city was already volatile and not necessarily the easiest place to live, but things went completely down the drain in the ghetto. Nearly every male I stood with was purged from me—even the young teenagers many newspapers heralded as heroes are now in jail serving sentences. Excuse my French, but it ain't enough Harry Belafontes in the world to save these niggas. My dogs are royally fucked, and none of these negroes from television can weather these storms. The world kept spinning, but the problems we faced at home in the [End Page 977] wake of the riots still existed. Soldiers I believed in are now full-fledged heroin addicts and living on the streets. The scenario makes me feel like we were all members of the twelve disciples. The state killed Jesus and the disciples went into exile. Some survived the purge and others became relics of a moment that is long forgotten.

The Black woman has been experiencing this trend for quite some time. We're all isolated from each other and we're all trying to figure it out. We can blame it on mass incarceration alongside with capitalism and a fucked-up analysis of our true strength. So now we have an onslaught of savagery on hands. People devalue anything they don't understand with blatant claims that they deserve to die.

This breaks down into the way we view the bodies of transgender individuals and all different forms of Black women in our society. We have been taught through the European lens of masculinity that the ability to dominate anyone we wish defines strength. We also been taught that all masculine identifying individuals must consider themselves male.

I was raised by Black women, and I'm not allowed to outwardly showcase the strength gifted to me by these women. If I were to say to you I don't identify as a man, this was be jaw-dropping, to say the least, for certain people. In my mind I am simply to be defined as whatever God has made me. The fluidity of the identity moves and shape shifts with my worldview.

I have no desire to perpetuate the classic identity of the Black man in conjunction with functioning solely as a masculine person in this society. I bleed and I cry and I do not believe these traits are defined by gender. I have finally started to feel after three years of intense personal investment into the movement, we must attack certain vices concerning Black masculinity head first.

My closeness to my brothers has shredded itself as my opinions regarding feminism and the liberation of trans Black people have grown more public. I've always had a feminist center with my beliefs. The best women I've dated have been Black feminists, so I was schooled in these values before the cameras arrived in Ferguson. These are not issues I have started to care about in the name of vanity but more so as a necessity of strategy and actual righteousness. For me I have removed the politics from these areas of my life as I have increased the humanity at this hour. So in my own life the Black woman and also our trans comrades have been humanized enough for me to understand that they have the right to observe and uphold their own politics. It is by virtue of their natural existence that these politics shall and must prevail. But the duality of my personality also wrestles with the fact that I am partially her enemy in this liberation moment. Typically this isn't something I'd concern myself with, as I believe more men need to be reduced in moments such as [End Page 978] these. Even in my personal relationships with women of color I have fought to reduce myself as I relinquish any false assumption of ownership over her body and mind. I also realize I have a past life that is rooted in the culture of the streets. When my plane lands in Saint Louis after coming home from Harvard University I am nothing more than another nigger that made a bad name for himself with local law enforcement. If I'm being honest, this does not make me feel brave, bodacious, and manly. These people have killed my friends and locked me up countless times. They will kill me if they ever get the chance to. I carry a pistol with me in Saint Louis almost everywhere I go, and this includes places such as the grocery store, gas station, restaurants, and even the shopping mall. I look at my gun often and question my very own masculinity because I was taught to believe strength is masculine. My pistol is a black glock nine, one is always loaded in the chambers. I never undress the head for fear that when it's time to use it I won't be ready. This does not make feel strong but weak and even trapped underneath my own burdens. I live in a world where I wish to forfeit my thinking pertaining to this form of masculinity, but I am fearful that this will also kill me. It's either the police or my own brothers who seek to do harm in my community.

My modest attempts to diversify my political beliefs cannot save me at these moments. I struggle with the fact that when I am home there is almost nowhere I am capable of going without access to my firearm. In the state of Missouri I am one of the individuals the police would love to eliminate eventually. I feel as if every day of my life I am living on borrowed time, and I cannot assure myself I will live to see another five years with this type of pressure lingering over me. I am not special in these regards because several Black men and women suffer from the same fate. A trans Black woman cannot assure herself that tomorrow is promised. When Seals died a part of myself also died: the part of me that gave a damn about the things no one else gives a damn about perished. I want all Black people to be free, but I realize more so than ever it starts with re-envisioning what healthy applications of masculinity may possibly look like. If brothers can genuinely love each other, can we love everyone else as well? We are influenced to make distinctions about our manhood according to sizes of dicks, how many women we've fucked, and how much money we've made. I've been attacked by Black men, molested and left for dead as a child. I've had to attack Black men seeking to harm me, and I've shed tears knowing that lives were taken behind these actions. I've felt remorse most of my life for actions that were rooted in self-defense and self-preservation, all because another man felt I was masculine enough to defend myself. [End Page 979]

To be clear, most of the key Ferguson front liners are currently in jail or dead. I'm talking about humans that have placed their lives in-between pregnant mothers and rubber bullets during the scalding hot summer. A lot of these people were brothers from the community that did not share an analysis of this time that was inclusive of gender, sexuality, and identity in a manner that was digestible for the movement. In fact some of their language and general opinions regarding topics of feminism and homosexuality was and is downright harmful. Whether I've utilized it properly or not I've always had a streak of feminism inside me. As I grew in this spirit I was driven to acknowledge the need for radical Black feminist leadership at the forefront of the movement. I've also grown to understand we have to save our own.

On the soil in the most heated moments of conflict between the police and the people we were unified. These are moments in which we all defended each other and put our bodies in jail cells and police caravans as one unit. We were an army standing together to liberate Ferguson and seek justice for Mike Brown Jr. The unity was immensely rare, but it felt good, even though I acknowledge there was not a sophisticated means of addressing our differences in those days. Under the oath of blackness our differences were meshed together to become one voice. As this process intensified so did the erasure of several individuals from the front lines. The peace in the streets through the gang truce which was established in the name of fighting the police was fragile. Our political unity surrounding these incidents also equally shared the same sense of fragility. For the first time in history Crips, Bloods, GDs, Vice Lords, Queer Black feminists, and all forms of alternative Black identities were unanimously forced to fight together in order to ensure the de-escalation of a militarized police force which was occupying and terrorizing our predominantly black neighborhood. We still couldn't put our differences to the side and make sense of the moment.

In the meetings and online many of us were separated or isolated from one another. As a Black man who was raised by women my demeanor holds many so called feminine traits. I am technically a cisgendered heterosexual male but I must be honest. I do not embrace the typical ideologies of what it means to define myself, as in most cases I have personally chosen to reduce this aspect of who I am. In other words, all the bullshit dick swinging doesn't mean much to me—I'm here for freedom.

Seals taught me how to love my brothers and firmly disagree with them at the same time. An immense sense of survivor's guilt tried to accumulate inside me after he passed. But then I realized it was my mission to continue the mission and also learn from the mistakes we made in the past. We stood together and put our physical bodies on the line to protect the soil we come from. He [End Page 980] was a controversial figure, but nonetheless when my city needed a warrior to lead the charge he was there in the flesh for the most dangerous moments of the Ferguson Uprising.

We stood together in the face of burning buildings, tear-gas canisters, riot cops, and we slept inside jail cells together. The jails in Saint Louis are different than jails in other cities. They're designed to break your soul no differently than a minimum-security prison. My soul had in fact been broken and needed to be pieced back together. We slept in those jails alone and often had no clue when we would get out. For us getting arrested in Saint Louis City by the city pigs was always tough on us physically and mentally.

But if it wasn't for the women challenging my thinking I'd remain stale. We all became one force with a trillion different beliefs. So if we were in there together and a fight broke out we'd hold each other down. Whoever killed him wanted to emasculate his legacy, the most Saint Louis nigga I knew is dead now. Many of us felt like if this could happen, anything was possible.

I have no resolve for these issues aside from the fact that I know our understanding of masculinity and brotherhood must dramatically shift. We can't fix American racism until we alter Black people's perceptions of all Black bodies. I don't have the answers but I was asked to write this essay due to my experiences and first-hand encounters with the beast. I no longer wish for this to dictate the way I love and approach Black women.

Most importantly, I seek to diminish whatever doses of fear the Black women in my own life feel by interacting with me. I am completely comfortable with being reduced as long as my humanity and the ability to adequately love other Black humans is uplifted and thoroughly reinforced as a means of liberation. I still believe a radical sense of love and the application of this love even through difficult moments is the answer. [End Page 981]

Tef Poe

Tef Poe is a rapper, musician, and activist from St. Louis, Missouri. He is a cofounder of Hands Up United in nearby Ferguson. In his art and activism, he insists on the value of local people taking charge of conversations about their communities rather than relying on national organizations. He has consistently advocated for grassroots movements in racial justice inside and outside the United States. Poe was a fellow at Harvard University via the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and he was the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at Harvard University's W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute.

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