(The couch is in the picture I just took with a random UMD student on it lol.)
In 2002, I was laying on a couch in the Student Union at the University of Maryland, College Park when security told me I had to get off the couch and leave the building. They thought I was homeless. I was dressed bummy, but that shouldn’t matter. I showed them my UMD ID and they still asked me to leave. I said no. A group of College Park’s finest police officers proceeded to show up and asked me to leave in a not so nice manner. I’m not going to lie. I flexed and I told them my dad worked in the World Bank and I knew lawyers and politicians and friends in high places but that didn’t matter. I was Black. I told them I was leaving and they may have won the battle but we were going to win the war. I was going to destroy racists like them.
That was a minor incident, the figurative straw that broke the camel’s back. Being Black in this country is quite an experience. I’m reminded of Coates’ book “Between the World and Me” whenever I try to narrate it. I’ve been insulted, handcuffed and detained for no reason other than being Black and those police officers’ own particular programming and self-hatred at the moment, countless times. Police are a major vehicle through which this racist process in America is exerted but they are only part of the problem. Racism in America truly is systematic. The weight of oppression is heavy. Sometimes the hatred is as present and as invisible as the air. Avoiding the pitfalls of the prison industrial complex is a daily activity for all of us African Americans, even those, like myself, living on the right side of the law because, unfortunately, it is possible for us Blacks to get locked up for virtually nothing where a white person would skate free.
Sometimes, it takes all the strength in me not to break down and collapse. I desperately want to be treated equally and see my people liberated from this matrix. But as father says, “Just focus on your goals. Thinking about it will only bring you down.” So, I focus. But, despite Pop’s own advice, I think he would be proud if I used some constructive energy to dismantle the system trying to hold me back. So, I soldier on. Besides, what if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Huey Newton, etc, decided to just not think about it. I don’t think I would even have the right to be typing on this MacBook.
I just passed by the couch where that incident happened for the first time in a long time. I can’t help but laugh to myself about all that’s transpired in my life since then. God is great. Life is good. But, it could better. And it’s my goal to make it so for all of us, in my own little ways. Like the song by Mos Def that just played on my MacBook a little while ago. “Umi said shine your light on the world.” That’s the song that’s been playing on repeat in my heart since my mom died in 2003. And, that’s what I most certainly plan to do.