Brandon Greene shares a poem dedicated to his son about growing up as a black man in America.
It’s been a while since I wrote — something that I had been missing as I transitioned into my new roles as a working father and husband.
In the pieces I wrote leading up to the birth of my son, I was almost laser focused on figuring out a way to cope with what it would be like to be the father of a son of color. How would I provide my son with a life and environment that was enriching to him in a world, country, state, county, city, town, neighborhood, and/or street that may find him immediately threatening — dangerous until proven docile — lewd until proven wholesome – inept until proven capable. How could I possibly protect him — as I knew that his life depended not on me being a good parent but on me being a flawless one — one misstep, miscalculation, or failure to give proper directives on how to react to every possible life situation could result in his untimely death at the hands of those sworn to protect him or a neighbor whose self preservation instinct kicks in when he sees my boy who was my baby, walking his dog who was our puppy, up our dark street one winter evening. Our new “safe” neighborhood has very few streetlights, so every time I go running at night, I count my blessings I have made it back home without a law enforcement encounter.
Prior to his birth I worried about the damage I would possibly do to his self image by moving to an enclave lacking in diversity but bustling with quality schools.
In the months leading up to his birth, with the ink of stories of murdered black men almost raining from the media, I struggled to understand my own place in this world and why I and so many of my friends dedicated our time to advocating personally and professionally for the advancement of, but primarily for the humanity of, people of color.
Now my son is three months old and I have finally found time to write again, not just articles, but music, poetry, and fiction — a much needed creative outlet as I learn how to navigate the legal world as a young attorney of color.
Unfortunately, my angst as a father of a son of color has only increased. As such, my creative outlets are dominated by themes of the life lessons I must design for him to ensure, to whatever extent I can, that he makes it out of teens, twenties, and beyond without being a victim of violence or harassment.
It is all consuming.
So while I hoped to not have to sit down and write another piece about the nightmares that haunt the parent of a young male of color, that is my reality, and thus I present you with two stanzas of a song I recently wrote for my boy, titled “Young, Black, and Powerful.”
This is the song I sing my son to sleep
Before the world convinces him that he’s just one of the sheep
Prone for the slaughter
Fit for a cell
With a IQ barely tipping the scale
It’s his fault if he living hell
Or that he’s destined to fail
Not destined to do
Only destined to serve
Not destined to rule
Complexity is not a thing
For a complexion like you
Dream small is my suggestion for you
That profession you’re into
Please reconsider that
Get some hoop dreams
Over there where the ni–az at
Want to be a astronaut?
How the hell you figure that?
Outer space? You ain’t ever been out the state
To which you, my son, replies
And still I rise
I was raised by parents who taught me those are lies
Stay 10 toes down
Young, black, and powerful is my battle cry
The cops will kill us
The block will kill us
No grocery stores
How we eat and shop will kill us
Got a son, a God son, and a niece in my village
Gotta give them tips for surviving the pillage
Yall won’t murder mine (minds)
Young, black, and powerful etched on the wall
So they know how to answer when called
When the world gives Don Lemons
Be the sun in the shade
Activists aren’t born, they’re made
How can we reform the rage
Every time we adorn the front page
It’s from bullets that sprayed
All the elders yelling pray
But we’ve prayed enough
Disenchanted, we been prey enough
Hunted but hundreds
Sober or blunted
Respectable or despicable
Our lives are stunted
Oftentimes by the government
We paid the tax
There’s no innocence when the face is black
There is no doubt that black lives matter to the parents of black children. Our fear is rooted not in our ability to love and provide for them, but rather the realization that comes with daily reminders around us that their lives matter only to us.
And that realization is paralyzing.
I was an artist and activist before I was a lawyer.
Now I have to be all three.
It’s all hands on deck.
Originally published at HuffPost.
Photo credit: Blue Skyz Studios/flickr
Also by Brandon Greene:
House Hunting as a Person of Color with a Child on the Way
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