February 2012

The History of Swagger

Black Cool, by Rebecca Walker, was a teaser-trailer to me of why education and sacred dialogue about topics concerning the evolution of African American people is invaluable. Each voice left me wanting to seek their work, the work of artists, authors, healers and educators I felt something deeply in common with. This collection of essays touched on topics such as bravado, defiance and healing that, at one time, have provoked distance in intimacy rather than bridged trust and tolerance. They were examined, confronted and left agape to be admired, mourned and sympathized with.

This easy read invokes memories of black values and the varying impressions collectively understood which influenced expression, fashion, education and self forgiveness over several decades. The power in this book is it’s authors have in common current interests in the development of the self AND the community as well as being active contributors to what is perpetuating positive social change by sharing their stories; this is a movement. Storytelling is my all time favorite way to destroy cliche’s that cripple the African American community. Dialogue about personal experiences, shared for the sake of the message, blow the whistle on urban myths that target style, choices and flavor of men, women and children in the midst of growth and claims our journey and history as our own. I hope for the continued honesty about people that have been an enemy to their own, this was refreshing and gave me a chance to just hear the story, be with the authors while relieving my own social angst about people over-protecting those who contribute to our destruction, no matter their creed or culture.

I like that Black Cool was not afraid of honoring ‘angry’, but it didn’t stop at Michaela Angela Davis’ ‘Resistance’ to meander and gloat that this style of truth-telling is a natural African American gift or claim it as the only way to share our voice or our hurts. This was just as much about learning as it was identifying finding the acceptance of natural gifts in the face of a judging and changing society each voice spoke of surviving, escaping or enjoying. Cool to me is intolerance to that which limits the resilience of the human spirit. What made me buy this book was seeing author Rebecca Walker live at the Schomburg theater in Harlem, speaking about what inspired Black Cool. With her buttery, cool, mamma-bear voice Walker shared her thoughts with a seeming understanding that there was no rush, no defiance, no separation between her and her eager audience of culture seekers and wisdom keepers. She operates from her true center and has a natural compassion, undefined by struggle but motivated by a sense of sharing and purpose. I bought this book because she was sweet and whole and I needed that.

I have always dreamed learning and education were sweet and intimate – done from a true sense of sharing, it sells itself and doesn’t need repackaging or forced over-focus on what increases school test scores. Now, I gloat, years after dry-heaving a flat, dusty, misinformed attempt at filling me with ‘American history’ THESE are the stories that will free our children and our children’s children, and stories like them. Without a need to over identify the name of everything or over-analyze pathology as an excuse to skip years of cruelty and injustice there will always be interest in our collective psychology, history – as we and the element of time write it, science and physics as it relates to the world around us, teaching, mentor-ship, loving, birthing, forgiving, cultural milestones, death, injustice and our relationship to hope, art and healing. Named or not, I will have to agree with Esther Armah, this type of understanding exposes us to a completely new chapter of whole, which, is the new cool.

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