Afro Can

I.
We’ve been given fish for as long as we’ve been paid to work. They didn’t see a need to teach us anything because that would only give us strength, power, make us more desirable, and — God forbid — equal. The Top Guys have the audacious authority to tell us how we’re supposed to live. These were the men who beat us for learning to read, while their kids wondered why we were so incompetent. Their fathers gave us scraps of civility for generations, and the current Pillars of the State wonder how we became so dangerous, so troubled, and so very uncivil.

Maybe they don’t wonder at all. It’s probably just our nature, right? Complexion causes less morality and more stupid, right? Why is it that when the Top struggles, it becomes a nationwide state of emergency, a need for government-sanctioned stimulation and reparation, but when this has been reality for so many since the days of Lincoln, it’s dismissed as “just the way things are”? It seems we have to manufacture our own fishing rods, our own boots from the dirt and sweat and blood we’ve been drained of for centuries so that we have the necessary bootstraps to pull ourselves up with.

The Top Guys of today may be the worst, nay, the best version of themselves. Not only do they perpetuate the same phobias and systems created through the disdain of the mere thought that those who were once bought and sold might have the opportunity to compete, outperform, and earn more than their own sons; but they convince the majority — who knows no better — that the systems don’t really exist, and the phobias are genuine threats to their security.

We may never reach equality, or true justice, more importantly, but what our Fathers teach us is perseverance; insistent resistance; and a striving to be our very best so that we have the opportunity to fall into the category of “socially acceptable” to the sleeping majority.

The Top Guys do their damndest to keep the quintessential Black man controlled by sex and money with a little help from a lack of proper education and a surplus of drugs deemed illegal. If we don’t learn anything else, we learn “the game” and how to play it. Overall, we lack high school diplomas and GEDs, so street knowledge is seen as sufficient. Babies come naturally, but an honest job to match does not. With so much frustration, and so little release; so much pride, and so little to take pride in; so little money, and so little opportunity for more; the realities of violence and desperation are unsurprising.

So what can we decipher from this? A lack of decent education, plus drugs to use (because an escape from reality is better than perpetual Hell?) and drugs to sell (’cause a nigga gotta make this money, right?) equals another addition to the cemetery or the prison system. The typical Black household without the kinship or financial complement of a father figure creates a family generation without half of its building blocks. This generation of children is more prone to grow into adults that lack the knowledge and tactics their forefathers lived and lived for. This being the case in every corner of this country creates a lost generation across the board. And like every cycle of Top Guys know, it only takes the perpetuation of one popular opinion to crumble an entire class of people. Thus, the catchy mantra “Get Money, Fuck Bitches” has become a self-inflicted lifestyle choice, nay, the First Commandment for the Young Black Male.

The Brothers — those cut from the cloth of slaves who in some way or another learned to read, write, and wake — note the difference between what is right and what is entertainment. The Brothers look to speak life into our communities, our youth, our Mothers, our Sisters, and in turn, our future. They instinctively know that we’ll never gain true equality. The Top Guys have convinced the majority that how the world works now is perfectly fine. The naïve majority will choose not to wake from their pseudo-utopian dreams without intense pinches from their own familiar fingers.

As America’s Black population, we must grip tightly the crude bootstraps our Fathers have molded and uplift our own selves.

The acknowledgment of the majority is a positive, but not a necessity. We need The Brothers of today to challenge The Top Guys as they did so blatantly in the days of James Baldwin and Huey P. Newton. And not just square up with them politically and economically, but battle the ideologies, the propagated generalizations, the travesties we know as false justice and hidden prejudice.

The most notable change in this country between 1865 and today is the shift from physical slavery to a mental dominance. We work shitty jobs for shitty pay, or get incarcerated while private investors make tens of thousands per body per year, while whatever household or family we had deteriorates from the outside in, inching ever closer to another batch of us “dead or in jail”. And all the while, we live under the “land of opportunity” and “American Dream” fanfare that promises equal opportunity and freedom for all.

If we could inspire our youth to aspire for more than drugs, money, women, and material; if we could teach our own children and pay our teachers well enough to do so; if we could influence today’s world enough to start the beautiful cycles of self-love, community, and collective caring; if we could focus our energies more on making better, honest lives for our children; our Brothers and Sisters just might make their way toward the Top. If the mental slavery of America — in both the Black population and the majority — is our greatest obstacle, then we must redevelop and groom a new mentality.

II.
The current is up to Us.
what breaks boundaries is directly influenced by
the direction in which We think and act.

there is no glory gained
no game to be caught in
chasing those ships that have already sailed.

that foundation is already built
solid as the shackles We so effortlessly accept.

We must broaden Our bounding box
and acknowledge how naturally limitless We are.

if only We could persuade Our minds
to believe it, We could make it so.

III.
We are a rare breed
fighting not only to stay in existence
but to be the best that ever existed.

We are rare and We are potent
coveted and envied.

We are flow-ers.
Our blood pumps and
perpetuates the growing
Our ancestors lived and died for.

We are rising from
each and every corner of concrete
each puddle of mud
every chain We’ve been forced into.

We shall inherit the earth
Our tones reflect
and reclaim Our purpose
from gutters to gods.

We are rare
on the verge of extinction
and we are fighting for our existence.