I received a call from my brother this evening. He started by telling me something funny then said he was angry. He explained this situation he’s been having at work – feels like they’re pushing him out. Big corporation got no respect or regard for the little guy. My brother is vocal. He will voice complaints without yelling or cursing or flailing his arm or threatening violence but I’ve seen my brother angry. I let him vent then gave my big sister advice while we cut the tension with jokes. He did mention that he remembered I told him that last time he had an issue at work not to carry on like the “Angry Black Man” – he’s likely to intimidate everyone and surely not get his point across or better working conditions or work relationships. I tried to reinforce that today and told him he needs an outlet for his anger. He said worked out. While we spoke on the phone he was on his inversion machine because his back had tightened up. He used to write tons of screenplays. That’s an idea we tossed around. I told him when he visits NY again I’d take him to one of the poetry events I frequent. “There’s tons of angry black men there. Write something so you could read, or just come and listen, get that sense of camaraderie. You may even find solutions in the words.”
A few hours later I was at Bowery Poetry Club witnessing creative genius or genius creatives. Taalam Acey (Mr. Manual Gesticulation that spits a mile a minute. I swear I can actually see the words waft out his mouth), Kasim Allah (whom I like to refer to as “King” accompanied with a curtsy every now and then in honor of his greatness), Ainsley Burrows (Jamaican Brethren who can prepare you for the verbal SATs just by listening to his poems) and Lamar Anthony Hill and Faraji Salim – two poets I just had the honor of being blessed by. The poems were sermons. There was one poem that made my eyes sting. Lamar Anthony Hill recited one about growing up without his father and finally forgiving him. At one point in the poem he said a woman cannot raise a boy into a man. I’ve been well aware of that fact and I’ve heard other poets say it before, but it just struck me tonight. What can a Big Sister do?
Now that my little brother is a man and out in the world there’s stuff I can’t protect him from. I approach situations differently than he would. Estrogen softens my blow at times. I am capable of “doing what I gotta do” to protect family and friends. I don’t want to tell my brother to roll over and play dead so I encourage him to speak up but watch how he does it. Yeah, we’re both Black, but there are things as a Black Man that he will face that I never will. I won’t be able to completely understand or help. He kept using the words “angry” and “frustrated”. I can’t imagine living like that – like having your hands tied. Constantly swimming to the surface trying to tread water only to be pulled back down. I think that’s why the poets not only write the words they do but deliver them with passion I feel in my own chest. When you’re constantly seeing the world for what it truly is, yet the world doesn’t see you, it’s a constant battle to be seen or to augment the world’s view of you. I refuse to let my brother become a statistic. I’ve always found Black men to be very metaphorical. They have that ability for spoken word artistry. Even though he’s a man, I’m still watching my little brother grow up. I’ve noticed that the way he sees the world and his place in it has changed. The way he articulates that to me has changed as well. So for now we both make light that’s he’s an angry black man. All I can do is be Big Sister.