Like most of the experiences from my childhood, I don’t remember where I was when I heard the song or the name of the song, but I know the lyrics and why they stuck with me:
I see you dreamin’
Your dreams gonna save us all.
Tasha’s song is an ode to black girls, lamenting all they do for their communities at such young ages, how they already deserve rest, how even their dreams are revolutionary.
I’ll be 20 years old in October. I’ve spent all of my 19 years so far on my first book, Graphite, an ode to my childhood in all her daytime pretty: sleeping through my mama’s college courses, my grandfather’s old Chevy conversion van, blasting Motown through the city, a jukebox of black history. Like most emerging artists, I wanted my first book of poems to celebrate my origins, and I know my childhood story deserved a world of beauty.
But some poems just can’t be romantic: the one about that park across the street where my memory is punctured by a bullet. Some poems are cloaked in mystery because the stories are too dangerous to tell. For black people who are products of public housing projects, I had to tell the story honest. I did it for black youth who are constituents of neighborhoods tarnished by Chicago media and ashamed of where they are from, because shame is the first part of forgetting.
Let’s talk about those lines in Tasha’s song: How a dream could save a whole people—young people, incubators of creativity, but who, in under-resourced communities, are rarely given the playing field to create.
What to do with our blocks is still being discussed by people who get paid to talk from the comfort of other neighborhoods. We know what’s missing; we are just waiting for someone to listen to us. All our history comes from outdated texts and news reports, so in turn, we are forced to reimagine where inspiration can come from.
I wanted this essay to be an excuse for me to reimagine what childhood was like for the project black girl.
What happens when there are few to no movies about black kids coming of age without also being about black pain and trauma? Where is our Grease? Sandy called Sandra with her waist-length box braids swinging between the white wires while her crew sings middle-school mantras. Danny called Daniel shooting dice in the hallway and everyone collects their coin and there is no shootout after.