I AM A BLACK MAN IN AMERICA by William Fredrick Cooper
(Author of ‘There’s Always a Reason’)
Sometimes I’m up, and then too again, I’m down
Sometimes, I’m almost, leveled to the ground,
Lord, I’m tired of being lied on, tired of being stripped and scorned,
How long, will it be?
Excerpt of ‘Tell Me How Long’
Stripping me of my origins, removing me from my warm climate and the harmony of ancestral bliss, you brought me here, against my wishes. Sometimes in my own vomit and feces but always, always in shackles and chains, many of my brothers never completed this cruel journey, for some were fed to sharks or impaled by long, rusty nails on a wooden bed I never asked to lay my head on.
But you never killed my soul, even when forced to live as a Black Man in America.
Working from dawn till dusk upon my arrival, all the while enduring inhumane, harsh realities, you tried to break me. Feeding my brain with illiteracy, incompetency, insecurity and inadequacy, even a glimpse of my inherited strength was cause for confinement in corn cribs and tool sheds, the branding of my skin, or my tongue being slit in two. Worse yet, the bloodied stripes of 39 lashes at a public flogging, to teach others who looked like me “a lesson.” Alternatively toiling in extreme heat and bone-freezing cold, in plantation fields for your prosperity or in your house serving your ego, you just loved being called “Massa.” My mouth said such, but my soul, still raging fire, screamed an unspoken truth.
You’ll never break my spirit, even as I try to survive as a Black Man in America.
Using me as a mule and a breeder, then separating me from my family, I watched in silent horror as you, your family members and owner friends raped the most treasured part of my existence, my queens. Imposing your racism and thrusting your hatred for me within her core with each stroke, my anger bordered on unspeakable fury as children looking like you were produced. Psychologically castrated, emasculated and humiliated, but never devastated, if I were caught trying to escape the insane asylum you called a normal life, you chopped a foot off. But in most cases I stayed and endured your darkness. My inner resolve saw progress if I survived and stories to share with other brothers in the lurch.
You threw me down, but a Black Man in America was not destroyed.
After slavery, any time I spoke of equal treatment, you threatened my life and those I loved, then said with a straight face that it was for my own protection. Foolishly, I sought your approval by heroically fighting in wars emanated by your dissension. Alas, even when representing your country, you were wedded to the notion that I was dishonest, cowardly and inferior. Yet you still needed my assistance for your cause. Loyal, even while segregated in battle, foreigners told me constantly, “this is not your war”, while slaughtering my body with bullets and bayonets. Returning home to your hypocrisy in democracy not as a conquering hero recognized for his bravery and valor, but to continued separatism and unwelcome pariah status, even in your uniforms, I was maimed and shot at by mobs and local authorities.
Winning Olympics medals for you to discourage Hitler, in your eyes I remained an animal when racing horses just to survive. Knocking out heavyweight hopes in boxing matches to disprove Aryan supremacy, the reward for my courage were mountainous tax debts; in spite my generous donations to your military might. Bravely, I spoke up for my family and community, and you burned my churches down. Nary a truth could be voiced against your madness, or the ultimate penalty was suffered. With glee coming from hooded eyes I never saw, I recognized the letters KKK as you fractured my skull, knocked my eyeballs out with sticks, chopped off digits from hands, pulled raw flesh from me, and then mercifully, burned me alive or strung me up on trees. A lynching was a relief to me, for I was going home to a God who stilled loved me.
You tortured and killed the body, but the soul and spirit of a Black Man in America always lives.
With a courage and resolve you still find implausible, indestructible and incomprehensible to this day, selflessly, I soldiered on. Innately knowing the risks for the progression, power and peace of millions to follow and fortified with faith, still I must endure. That was the reward, I told myself, even when hoses full blast from hating crows named Jim drenched my hope; vicious attacks from dogs ate away at my resolve; milk and paint tossed in my face stained my dreams for better days; and the assassinations of those who believed in change left me weary and wary. Sometimes the way was dark, and the load hard to bear, but I knew if I leaned on God and never let my faith waver, everything would be alright.
Even in the deepest valleys, A Black Man In America always sees the top of the mountain.
And today, a Black Man in America, in spite of all obstacles, and with the aid of a helpmate who understands that it’s not about competing against each other, but complementing one another while putting God first, will always reach the summit. Even if I endure racial slurs when crossing color lines and ‘Dear Nigger love letters’ when breaking home run records; even when dealing with brothers who aren’t completely down with the struggle; (You know them very well in past and present. Take a bow, Anti-Affirmative Action Activist masquerading as a Supreme Court Justice.
A round of applause for all infiltrators of the 1960’s revolutionary movement as per the directive of a cross-dressing racist. Or those in the 21st Century real time polluting our neighborhoods with guns and drugs.) even when saying “I’m sorry” and “I still love you, my queen” with humility to some our own women still angry at our imperfections and waiting to exhale in love; even as I struggle to bridge an emotional chasm built on waters of resentment by becoming a better father to my sons and daughters; even when breaking traditional stereotypes by putting my emotions on public display in an effort to show a beautiful masculine completeness never understood; and most importantly, with help from My heavenly father, a Black Man in America, will always stand tall.
And today, because of our patience, persistence and perseverance for the sake of change, God has given us a blessing. A Black Man in America, Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.
William Fredrick Cooper is a proud member of First Corinthian Baptism Church, in Harlem, New York. A secretary of Brother 2 Brother Symposium, Inc., a literary initiative that encourages black men to read fiction, Mr. Cooper is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Six Days In January as well as the African-American Literary Award-Nominated, Black Expressions Book Club and Essence Bestselling novel There’s Always A Reason.
Described by writing peers as a message-delivering, emotional masterpiece within the African-American Community, There’s Always A Reason was a Master’s List Finalist for a 2008 NAACP Image Award Nomination in the Outstanding Literary Work Fiction Category as well as the recipient of four Infini Literary Awards. Touching minds when giving thought-provoking radio interviews or when moderating or facilitating panel discussions throughout North America, he has contributed articles to national periodicals such as EBONY MAGAZINE and many bestselling anthologies.
William Fredrick Cooper
AWARD-WINNING, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR of THERE'S ALWAYS A REASON CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR of SIX DAYS IN JANUARY COMING IN 2010: LOVE IS ALL WE NEED
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