“Fierce People”

When asked about how she talks to her sons, navigates with them, on topics such as being black in the violent world, Poet Elizabeth Alexander said this:

That the life force we have as a culture that has survived against all odds is extraordinary and beautiful. That is why I teach African-American studies. And my babies—two tall young men, walking around in these tall bodies, made vulnerable by their skin color, that is a parent’s nightmare. You teach children to be safe and smart in the street. But you need to teach them to stand up straight in themselves in their gorgeous, mighty culture. That they are fierce people from fierce people. The worst damage racism can do to our children is to raise them up to be fearful.

There’s much to learn in these words.

Read her full interview in “On the Healing Power of Words” on the Root here.

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Stay Warm

It is bitter in our city today. Cold comes up from the sidewalks, slaps our faces at building edges, and grabs us by the jaws when we turn corners. We’re bundled up, going mostly from the car to the door, to some door. We are warmer than most people in the bitter cold world. At least as warm as possible.

I heard something that I want to plug on the blog as a reminder to myself, as a reminder to you, son. I was at my desk at the hospital and I overheard part of a colleague’s phone conversation. He was ending a message he was leaving. He said something like, “Okay, stay warm.”

His words stuck with me. I took a deep breath, held the tender love in his voice, and relished it. It was intimate, soft, and interesting, especially given the person I was listening to. He isn’t the warmest man upon first impression. And I immediately wanted to pass on his words and the emotion underneath them.

You haven’t been the most wonderful son these weeks. In fact, you’ve been exploding with more tantrums in three weeks than has possessed you in three years. You’ve been out of character. And yet, I’ve been reminding myself that “This is my son, too.” I’ve been saying to myself and to others that “The boy does this too. This is him.”

I would love for you to be that other kid. The kid I know and not the one you keep presenting to your mother and to the public when I’m not around. I’m turning over the matter in my head, grabbing at the minds of friends for their thoughts about matters. I’m thinking things through in terms of emotional process, differentiation, family dynamics, and mostly because I’m reading Generation to Generation which makes me think longer and wider about individual problems.

And then comes those words, that greeting, that wish. Stay warm. In some ways, it’s a reminder to me because it captures a version of the Christian life. At the end of the hour, at the close of the day, I want to be the man, the father, the husband, who stayed warm. The environment is frigid, numbingly cold, sharp and painful even. But I want to stay warm.

And in some ways it is my only wish for you. So this is what I want. I want you to stay warm. Have your tantrums but be warm about it. Have your space to fully feel but stay warm about it. Don’t hurt your mother because you can have a whole existence that is fully Bryce but that doesn’t impose upon her. Don’t hurt your friends because their young enough to leave your nutty beautiful self and you’ll wake me up one day and try to borrow some of mine and, of course, I will tell you to go somewhere and talk as you do about how long it took me to cherish those friends I fully intend to keep and not share.

In short, the world is cold and your feelings may be sharp and windy and may causes internal scratches. But get inside some place and cultivate a warmth that keeps your interiority ablaze. You have what you need to be fully present to the pain of life and the source of life. You can be warm.

You can stay warm.