Swag: An Ode to Black Men
That day was close to perfect. It began with a pot of Earl Grey tea, and lemon.
Throwing my voice through the wall, looking in the mirror, I watched my reflection adjust and tug at giant butterfly wings that I were trying to adhere to my shoulders. “What are you going as?” Stealth, he entered the threshold, his face straight; Zorro eye mask—black suit with matching black shirt, tie and shoes. His voice lowered to baritone black, “I am going as, as, the pause was a portal teeming with historical possibilities:
Hannibal Barca of Carthage, North Africa, born 247 B.C. greatest military strategist of all time, or Imhotep, architect who built the Step Pyramid and was humanities first surgeon, author, sage and Hippocrates mentor. Or, if ideas were trending toward 20th century genius, Dr. George Washington Carver, world famous agricultural scientist and inventor noted for over 1,000 discoveries with that very, important little peanut.
“I am going as, as, — The Black Man!” I sneezed a cloud of laughter, internally amused considering my quick mind trip down historical lane, a compilation of Black male greatness; I nodded in approval; he presented a strong statement. I told him he looked handsome; he did, but also adorable. How often does a 61 year old Black man get to play dress up, and go to a masquerade ball as a version of his truest self?
They call it swag now, in my day, we called it cool, that cool, that swag was made, manufactured over centuries of oppression, developed from the heat, the pressure of injustices that our men, Black MEN endure daily; it is a cultural survival response that only God, the Ancestors and the Universe could impart.
That cool, that swag has been appropriated, copied for mass production; it is worth billions, trillions for in it is the answer to the question: How can he, the Black Man be a SUPERMAN, a WAKANDA MAN when every fibrous tentacle of society is designed for his destruction? How does he continue to strive, rise and defy reality?
I look at my husband, James Brown, MD and say a quiet prayer of gratitude as he walks tall as a mountain, back unbent in defense of his manhood, our Love, our family and the humanity of his people, all people. I witness his encounters with brothers, the power of affirmation exchanged between them, in their knowing handshake. We used to call it giving dap, passing the strength to continue on— climb higher, become more enlightened despite the deadly darts of structural and institutional racism.
In those few seconds, of ritualistic embrace, there is a hushed humble acknowledgement, a prayer for those Black Men who could not, who fell to the death traps, and breath for those Black Men who stood sacrificing everything. It is All demonstrated in the transfer of energy: pull in, push out, grasp hands, thump back handshake micro ceremony which olds the power of Imhotep, one who comes in peace! These BROTHERS have always been Wakanda, like the Moors, super engineers, the developers who occupied Spain for 800 years, they build. I was just waiting for the movie, and for another cup of tea.
(Semaj Brown is the author of “Bleeding Fire! Tap the Eternal Spring of Regenerative Light.”)