This essay is not a celebration, nor is it an elegy
June 17, 2020 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I want my children—all of them—to thrive, to be fully alive. How do we measure what that means? What does it mean for our young people to be “black alive and looking back at you?” ... My sons love to dance. I have raised them to young adulthood. They are beautiful. They are funny. They are strong. They are fascinating. They are kind. They are joyful in friendship and community. They are righteous and smart in their politics. They are learning. They are loving. They are mighty and alive. Elizabeth Alexander on "The Trayvon Generation" for the New Yorker.

Alexander highlights three short films:

"Until the Quite Comes" by Flying Lotus, directed by Kahlil Joseph

"Never Catch Me" by Flying Lotus, featuring Kendrick Lamar, directed by Kahlil Joseph

"Alright" by Kendrick Lamar, directed by Colin Tilley.

"Black celebration is a village practice that has brought us together in protest and ecstasy around the globe and across time. Community is a mighty life force for self-care and survival. But it does not protect against murder. Dance itself will not free us. We continue to struggle against hatred and violence. I believe that this generation is more vulnerable, and more traumatized, than the last. I think of Frederick Douglass’s words upon hearing slaves singing their sorrow songs in the fields. He laid waste to the nascent myth of the happy darky: “Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy.” Our dancing is our pleasure but perhaps it is also our sorrow song.
posted by ChuraChura (5 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
This is a beautiful essay. I remember reading another remarkable piece of hers for the New Yorker about her husband Ficre Ghebreyesus who died unexpectedly and young. The way she wrote about her home in that older piece made it sound like such a refuge for her family, I remember thinking at the time how much I would love to have a home like that someday. The line in this new piece about that neighborhood describing her kids as potential thieves on bikes hit me even harder, that after all she and the boys had been through, they couldn’t even have that place for themselves.
posted by sallybrown at 1:37 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]

This was moving and powerful.

I remember reading another remarkable piece of hers for the New Yorker about her husband Ficre Ghebreyesus who died unexpectedly and young.

Thank you for making that connection. I remember that article but wouldn't have connected the two.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]

Beautiful article. Thanks for sharing and the post.
posted by shoesietart at 6:57 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]

I know too many white folks who just can't imagine that this is life as a Black mother. That young Black men are gorgeous, beautiful, joyful dancers ... not thugs, not dangerous, not monsters.

thanks so much for sharing this, and especially for the links to the films she discusses. I'd seen the Kendrick video for "Alright", but the others are new to me, and just as revelatory.

posted by allthinky at 7:16 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]

This is a remarkable essay in its clarity and emotion.

I've said it before on the blue- to be black in America is to be heartbroken.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by bluesky43 at 10:03 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]

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