I saw I am Not Your Negro. It was engrossing, educational and astonishingly satisfying. I want to see it again and again and again. I want to see with all my friends so we talk about it for hours on end.
The reason is simple. The movie rang true. Baldwin’s unvarnished truth that is rarely spoken about in the larger society. It’s a truth that children of color notice by the time they are in 3rd grade. It’s something that itches in the back of your little kid’s brain but you don’t have the language or the the ability to interpret it until you are much older.
I had this same satisfying reaction when I read Between the World and Me last year, and again when I recently read DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS. That bell ringing sound that pierces through the noise.
Reading these authors reminds me that I am wearing armor. The armor was built slowly out the necessity. The need to survive, for human connection and to see my way through. But it also numbs one to their own rage, sorrows and sense of possibility. It makes it difficult to see the magical being the universe created. It makes me weary that I have to carry it and still participate in the world. As I grow older, I am starting to understand why the adults from my childhood chose smaller lives.
However, watching I Am Not Your Negro reminded me that the armor is not my skin and not of my own creation. Reading Between the World and Me reminded me that I am not crazy or misreading a situation. The things I see and feel were not just in my head or me being sensitive. Reading DEAR IJEAWELE reminds me that I still have the power to change my present and re-imagine the future. That I am made to create and reshape the future not simply endure someone’s else version of reality. I reality that I must reject or I will slow disappear.