The very first man I’ve ever loved is a Black man.
I came into this world, blessed to experience Earth seeing with his eyes, speaking with his lips, walking with his feet, feeling with his hands, all the while growing in his chocolate skin. I didn’t just inherit his genes, I inherited his unconditional love and 31 years later, I still consider my father as thee example of how Black men love and breathe. His living legacy of righteousness and godliness is substantial enough to encompass the many faults, failures and brokenness from the Black men that came behind him; some of them untouched by real love, missing something as simple as a warm hug from their own fathers. My father’s legacy of love consumes the brokenness, plucks the shards left in my side, salves the wound and fertilizes it to grow trees of forgiveness, endurance and patience for my Black men, the courage to continue to love them just where they are, just as they are. I will never yield to hate or bitterness or allow it to rot my core; the core my daddy, my father cultivated. This outpour of love for you, my brotha, my friend, my love is the manifestation of love learned from the first man I ever loved. A cycle I intend not to break.
As I think back over my vapor of life, there are many testaments I have of Black men nurturing me. Some of them may seem like the simplest of things, acts women feel we are entitled to and are baseline chivalrous duties for men. I’m not saying I feel otherwise, but we live in a cold world where everyone expects to get what they feel like they deserve, everyone is expected to just do what we’re supposed to do and we’ve all heard the saying that there’s no medal for doing what you should do. I say, why the fuck not? Why can’t we praise ourselves, and for the focus of this piece, our black men not just when they excel our expectations, but when they get it right? Just like the mustard seed, some of the tiniest seeds yield strong, massive trees. So take this seed of gratefulness to my Black men and allow faith, strength, joy, acceptance, and purpose to grow like billowing mustard trees surrounding every Black community.
My brother Joe and I were pretty close growing up. We share the same father, so growing up for him was the prototype on how to make blended families work before the term “blended families” was a thing. Anyone who really knows my brother, knows he is so funny and goofy and has been since he was born 34 years ago. He always had the wildest stories, most of them made up, but to his little sister, whatever my brother said, I’d soak in and knew it had to be true.
We shared many childhood adventures together and he teased me constantly, but it didn’t matter. The teasing was interrupted continuously with gut splitting laughter that echoes in my soul even now as I write this. My brother knew all the cheat codes to Super Mario on Super Nintendo back in the 90s. I still have our childhood Super Nintendo in mint condition to this day. To me, my brother was the coolest. He’s always loved music, and he loved playing trombone and marching with Jim Hill High School. My big brotha played in the band and so did I. He dreamed of having a career in criminal justice and vowed to never smoke; my first major in college was Administration of Justice, later turned into Forensic Science. My very first Boosie Bad Azz mix CD that I listened to every morning on the back of the bus my junior and senior year in highschool on my portable CD player, belonged to my brother. For the seeds of loving big band sounds, deep laughter and instilled Boosie love, thank you blood brother.
I remember when I was a sophomore at USM. My very first apartment was at Boardwalk. When I first moved there, it was mostly vacant. I didn’t even have college student roommates until my 2nd year staying there. Anyways, I was single and every single woman knows that one of the woes of being single is on grocery day when you have to bring all those damn bags in by yourself. And for me at Boardwalk, that was my least favorite thing to do since I stayed on the 3rd floor. It had to be during the time of my tenure there when the college student population was on the rise because on this particular day when I pulled up in front my apartment on a hot summer day, there were two young men just chilling outside on the stairs at the apartment right next to mine. I got out of the car, smiled at them and did the black head nod. I clearly interrupted their conversation. They locked eyes with me and looked bashful, almost flushed, like I was their 10th grade school teacher and they had just been caught red-handed smoking weed in the parking lot.
I looked at them, they looked at me.
I looked at them, looked at my hands full of groceries, looked in my backseat and looked back at them. “So…ya’ll young, able-bodied Black men just gone watch me carry these groceries up these stairs by myself?” They almost tripped over each other’s feet and ran over to my car door. “No ma’am, we’re sorry, won’t happen again.” They helped me get all my groceries in and from that day on, when they saw me pull up with groceries, I didn’t even have to ask. They never asked for my number, never made a lewd comment and even though we were probably only a few years apart, their 19 years old to my 22 years old, they saw a queen and respected me as such. Wherever you are today young kings, for your seeds sown of respect and honor, thank you.
If my memory serves me correctly, it was a couple summers ago in 2018. I was living on the westside, in Catalina Apartments: a safe haven in the hood. I think I had just left my homegirl house who stayed on the southside and it was late, around 11p. I don’t remember the dates for certain, but the feelings of loneliness, uncertainty and stress from grad school are crystal clear. I know I was thinking heavy about my finances and the ever growing list of things I needed to get done. I remember thinking about my husband and hurting my own feelings imagining myself abandoned in a dark place, without the comforting thought of being able to call him or expect him to worry when I’m out late or when he misses a phone call or text from me. Basically, I was in my feelings and on the brink of tears when my radiator exploded.
I was crossing 80, where 18 becomes Robinson Road, so I coasted over to the Exxon, right across from Suit City. Black women know that we have to be very careful of which gas station we pull over to, but at this point, I didn’t have a choice. I sent a text to the man I was in love with at the time because he’s resourceful and thought he may know someone close by that could help out. It was after 11p, so no one he knew was available. Me to myself, “I’m not about to call my daddy at this hour. He stays way across town and it’s not that type of emergency.” I had to gather my ass up, and tell myself, “Azia, you’ve gotten yourself out of stickier situations. Fuck these emotions, fuck a savior, all you gotta do is keep your car cool enough to get home.”
So I popped the hood and confirmed that my radiator did burst. I got the empty coolant jugs out of the trunk, (experience with buckets, had me prepared) and headed inside the store. I remember being irritated AF because the restroom sink wasn’t accommodating to the size of my jugs and it was hard getting them full of water so when I came back out, maybe the frustration on my face is what compelled them to help. “You ok, ma’am?” I remember two Black men, one seemed to be older, maybe late 30’s early 40s, and a young man, who looked about 19 years old. They hurried over to my car and actually listened to me. I told them my radiator burst, and that I didn’t have anyone to come look at it right now, so I planned to fill my coolant reservoir up and just drive straight home, slowly. He looked under the hood, didn’t try to mansplain shit, shook his head yes approving of my plan and made sure the young man filled the empty coolant reservoir up with water for me. He asked me how far was home, I told him less than 10 minutes away. “You want me to follow you home? I promise I won’t pull in or nothing. I’ll trail behind you and once you turn off, I’ll just keep going. I just want you to get home safe.” I felt safe.
He did just that. We made it to my apartment in under 10 minutes and after seeing his smile and hand wave after I parked my car, I never saw him again.
The next morning, I was focused on getting a new radiator, but Yeshua knew I didn’t have the money.
I called my dependable mechanic, told him the situation, and he told me to get a new radiator wholesale and that he’ll try to put it in that same day if he could make it to Jackson.
I called a friend that moonlighted as a mechanic and asked him if he knew where I could get a radiator for a decent price. Not only did he tell me, he called it in, found me a radiator for $75, paid for it, picked me up and took me to get the part. Now, I had talked to my mechanic earlier, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to come to Jackson to fix it, but told me he would try. Soon after I pulled up at my apartment with the new radiator, my mechanic pulled up. These Black men worked together, replaced my radiator, right in front of my apartment within 15 minutes and only charged me $40. For your seeds of provision, protection and resourcefulness, Kings I thank you.
I really could go on and on about the countless times God showed up and showed out in my life through the deity of Black men. Truth is, I’ve been swagger jacking black men since conception. Every book you read and put down, I pick up. I linger in the memories left behind in the lasting fumes of your scent. Your sweatshirts, hoodies, sweatpants and slides will always fit better and be more comfortable to relax in. My playlists beget your varying perspectives and tastes. Even when I prepare a hot meal for you, for some reason your food tastes better.
To all of my Black men that have loved me and respected me, even when they didn’t understand me, thank you. To the Black men that weren’t afraid to explore my mind and body and took time to truly savor me in the moment, thank you. To the Black men that believed and still believe in me, walked through foreign doors that now allow me to see the world through your eyes and experiences, thank you. To the Black men that have already found their Black queens and love on them without shame, wholeheartedly, building them up with sweet love and tenderness, protection and Godly leadership, thank you. To my Black uncles and cousins that continue to grow and lead by example, living legends, I’m watching and learning and I thank you. To the young, Black kings fighting for their lives amid this sick, twisted, systematically oppressive construct built to break your spirit and will, and yet that fire continues to burn in your eyes, thank you.
To me, you’re all fathers. Fathers of the seeds you’ve planted in love, life, passion, hope, aspiration, philosophy, music, politics, science and art; seeds you’ve planted by acts of valor, determination, protection and integrity. Like I said before, even the insidious seeds of brokenness, miscommunication, abuse, disrespect, and systemic self hatred perpetuated in your relationships with Black women…It is up to me, to us, the Earths, to take those same seeds, nourish them with water and light so that we can harvest bounties of power to burn out the stain of misogyny and mend this festering, generational wound of heartbreak and distrust between Black men and Black women. No matter what it takes, no matter the time I have to sacrifice building and growing without you or the many tears shed simply because I miss you…Know that I love you, I love you, I love you.
In the words of Nina Simone: