Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I’ve been hesitant in writing about these two entwined experiences for fear I might not do them justice. I believe I am ready now:

When we were young we put our faith into super heroes. Carved chests, spandex, and capes littered our schoolyard daydreams. Perhaps, your hero was not only on the one-hour-a-day television set: He was most likely the small olive Jesus, in a blue robe, clasping his palms together in a frame on abuela’s dresser. Sometimes he was the gaze of Malcolm Little peering down at us from our father’s office wall. He might have been a she, dressed in an apron and smile, placing a balanced breakfast before you, prior to school.

My heroes spread far and wide like a wildfire. The first, crippled by Kryptonite and Ms. Lane, scooped me from my nightmares and taught me how to fly. The second, I found in a book scattered somewhere between Nikki Giovanni and Robert Frost. The Third, fourth, and fifth: Members of a since evaporated union, who spit stanzas over instrumentals and had the audacity to call it R&B. The sixth, spread her wings far enough to soar and never took off. The seventh, but not least nor last, was a glimpse of me between the compilation of a hip-hop genius and jack of all trades. I’ve had temporary heroes slip in between the cracks of my forever, but never anyone as significant as you.

You: Superman. Langston. City High. Lauryn. M.K. Asante.

I am ashamed to admit this, but I’d never been to the Schomberg. After doing a project in the third grade on Mr. Hughes and finding out his ashes were beneath the medallion of the center, I made a promise to make a trip there. I also stated that I would visit his D.C. home in Dupont Circle. These two places were my poetry mecca. At 23, I am astonished by the fact that I’ve been everywhere but the very place that was in my backyard. I had no idea of the impact that this overdue trip would have on me.

M.K. Asante was sent to speak to a group of youth at the center who’d just finished viewing his film “500 Years Later” and were about to delve into his book, “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop.” Seeing as this was one of his very few New York shows, my friend Blue and I took the opportunity to watch him speak alongside the kids. I made a mad dash through the tolls to make it on time. A brisk walk in the cold, a few texts, and a jump later; I was there. As I made my way to the auditorium, I took notice of the small marble streams underneath my feet. I was soon distracted by Maya Angelou’s manuscript collection on display, until something occurred to me. The blue streams under my feet were rivers. As in, The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes. My heart skipped a beat as I realized the memory of one of the men I am forever indebted to, for my inspiration, was steps away from me.

The tears came.

A partial reason of my nickname and the person I am, lay underneath my very feet. The person I’d most admired and adored stood in the very next room. I was overwhelmed. The rivers cascading through the artful compilation on the floor were no match for the mosaic of wetness that decorated my face. My mother, who I brought along, sat across the room letting me have my moment. When I walked over to her, she too had puddles within her eyes. Only she, bearer of an eccentric, could fathom the fire that burned within me.

We listened in on the presentation.
We made our way to the book signing table.
M.K. was all laugh and smiles. Beautiful Smile.
We glanced at letters that Malcolm wrote Maya.
We watched the kids play and hold revolution between their fingertips.
Said goodbye to Langston.
Told him I’d be back.
We waited for M.K. and had lunch with an author.
The Author.
Talked fiction, HBCU’s, French-African Cuisine.
All that good stuff.
Took Pictures.
The waitress asked for an autograph.
We said goodbyes.
In our language.

But I speak hero.

A dialect long forgotten. A mother tongue that gave birth to Wright’s (Write(r)s) black boys like M.K. and Langston. I conversed with history reincarnated or underrated future. Contemporary or fallen, heroes still exist. If you’re looking for carved linguistics, spandex hardcover, and words with capes, I’ve got you. If you’re looking for Christ and the Holy Ghost sifting through black font, I’ve got you. If you’re looking for Mr. Little, black frames and famous smirk, I’ve got you.

Here’s a book (hero). Place it between the palms of your hands and clasp it like prayer. It always answers back. Always.



T. ODIS said...

M.K. Asante is what happens when you pursue EVERY talent God has given you...I need more friends like him...and you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you did him justice. You did more than that, much more!