Tonight’s Presentation

medicine for the wounded predator (essay)

Imagine that: get your head together or die. Just like that. I chose to live, and it demanded very painful confrontations with everyone in my life having an impact on my emotional health, good or bad–and everything in between. I had to clear my desk and go up to the attic to pull out those old records still playing just to smash them into pieces. I had to make phone calls and type out texts that six months ago would have been sitting in my brain rotting and leaking.
One year ago,, no one would have expected me to dare to leave such a harsh digital trail. One year ago, I was still willing to take yet another face-slap or microaggression and swallow it like fresh sperm. In some ways, I was the slave or the unpaid servant, emotionally, but I was in the ultimate position of the slave in that I was unaware of my state of being. I was being drained by a shaman in a cave in a parallel universe while in an ecstatic trance.
In both universes, I had two grand mal seizures that forced me into full consciousness and memory of the far past. All of this feels familiar as if this has already happened as if I am writing in a time-warped teachable moment.
Seems like so many Black folk in power in DC can’t embrace the idea that Black women do matter, that we are not mules to be driven to dust, that we are women, that we are human, that we do matter–and these days I’m not sure what’s more shocking: seeing my sisters or so-called sisters jump on the hate train when it comes to Black women, or seeing my brothers (including my own blood brother—another story in that phrase) jump on the hate train or even worse, watch us Black women being torn asunder by white supremacists while remaining silent and indifferent.

I see those kinds of Black folk at my institution running it into the ground while whining about the ever-shrinking numbers of enrolled students at an HBCU that has yet to deal with its own classism, racism, sexism, colorism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia.

We do matter.

Regardless of your status or perceived status, if you are a Black woman, man, person, or child, you will be faced with systemic racism at some point in your lifetime—and at times frequently for no reason other than being there doing your job, sleeping, working, playing, sitting still, walking, breathing.
That’s not including the work-related discrimination, microaggressions, getting healthcare while Black, driving while Black, education-related discrimination, and other biases lodged against you if you are a woman/girl, LGBTQIA+, disabled, international, etc. Yes, systemic racism does negatively impact mental and physical health for African Americans, and we now live in an age where significant scientific, medical, sociological, and psychological research confirms that claim. However, that begins another conversation on other related issues like high BP, diabetes, depression, and PTSD.
Or think of it this way—I did not fall unconscious on the floor of a classroom during a faculty meeting last fall due to me being diabetic because I am not close to becoming diabetic or pre-diabetic (and diabetes as a result of persistent stress/anxiety and poor diet is rampant for Black folk).
Instead, my stress and anxiety levels have been extreme enough for me to be at high risk for a stroke and heart-attack to occur at the same time, actually—and one of my uncles died from that happening at 45.

Instead, I had a grand mal seizure at 53. In other words, my body went into restart mode. It wasn’t my first seizure, but I did not realize what it was until my Mom told me over the phone while talking to her on the way to the hospital in an ambulance).
Why did I have a seizure?
Because after almost 30 years of academia (grad school 10 years and 17 years from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor), the climate on my campus had become so consistently negative and toxic with almost no indication of improvement that my brain and body shut down and restarted. Ever have your computer do that–shut down and restart in the middle of a project you hoped you saved before it shut down? That’s what God did to help me reboot and heal, and luckily, I only ended up losing some short-term memory.
Chronic or sudden illness is what systemic racism does to your body and mind—and if one is wounded enough, your spirit also suffers, eventually. I am a feeling being, and I do find myself wondering how is it that to be considered even minimally acceptable in my chosen field, I had to sacrifice part of my humanity to successfully work in such a toxic environment for low pay and constant disrespect and belittlement.
Now, to be honest, that joy and passion and connection was missing before COVID-19, but the extended quarantine sharpened what was a multi-year experience of social isolation while attempting to surmount the almost impossible obstacles in front of me that kept me from advancing my career in academia as a professor. This is not a shocking story–many Black women in academia overwork ourselves “just to get half,” as we hear so often now in pop culture, only we who are not famous enough or vicious enough to move up the ladder to become part of the machine are often not seen or heard even as we produce work that others who are more privileged and higher up the hierarchy steal or take to use for their own professional advancement and glory.

Honesty. Openness. Consent. Pride. That’s what’s missing in your approach to me, Mr. Predator, and it probably didn’t help that I was slowly descending from a mountain of pain–unaddressed PTSD that emerged in a series of illnesses that put my very life at risk.

How can you say you are just trying to a human when you don’t allow me to be human as well? When positive in your eyes means my pain and my voice is not for human ears, least of all yours? That may not be your intent, but that’s how you come across with that Black Respectability bullshit that I refuse to absorb.
I reject the entirety of the Cult of True Womanhood, Cult of Southern Womanhood, Cult of Domesticity, and the Cult of Mary, which pretty much means I don’t allow men or women to put me in a box where I smile and endure like some evangelical wife who tries not to bring attention to the fact that her husband treats her like a rock to drag around. Why are you stuck in the 19th century when it comes to Black women?
Why are you stuck in the 19th century when it comes to your presence on this planet as a Black man?
Why do you behave as if we are still on a plantation in 2020–almost 2021?

To be a touchstone (whisper to a predator on full-blue moon Samhain 2020)

So much I have learned about myself

about people and patience

about self-esteem and courage

about human weakness
(what is a touchstone?)

and empathy for the wounded

I stand on my principles

regardless of the consequences

presented to me because

that is the woman

my mother and my father raised

My seizures are God’s reminder to

make my voice heard and

be the person I am who I NAME

You just happened to meet me

as I was emerging from a long journey

through anxiety while claiming

full humanity and watching you watch me

You, being free of

subservience and self-demeaning

came partially to you but

you don’t understand it from a

Black woman’s perspective.

You see it but you are not

empathetic to it

Do you remember how

You were talking about how

your father

neglected you emotionally,

made you feel inadequate

how much of that you inherited

how you carried something in you

escaping release and expression

life is not a singularity of edge

you asked for this

so be a grownup and

respond like a grownup

you are not a fucking robot and

social justice work is hard on my brain

especially when some folk

sometimes including you

mansplain or red-bone-splain

themselves while using their/your privileges to

complete agendas at the expense of

the routinely ignored and oppressed

though you don’t see it that way or

you may not intend it that way as

you fulfill your own needs and as

you avoid conflict because

you are wounded and

you are feeding on others to heal

me most of all, the one who still loves you

the one telling you need help and prayer.