Dear young man mean mugging me as protective gesture of your turf. As I passed you talked about being a real n*gg* and keeping it real.
1. There is no real. Just approximations of it. Good luck with that.
2. This turf you fight over, that produces this defensive glare I thought twice to challenge with an abrupt “boo” or sly smile, isn’t yours. You may fight or kill another brother over it, but neither of you own it. This will hit you crudely should your blood or one of your N*gg*s color the walk inside a chalk outline. The city will clean it: police, detectives. It’ll disappear with the every-other trash lined adjacent to memorial flowers, should anyone care enough to buy them.
3. Tough is not being afraid. You are not tough. Tough is taking the road less traveled and not cowering to demands to be “real” when you have no idea of its destination. Real has become journey to uncertain oblivion: a day to day litany of moments sandwiched between chasing next blunts or tail. Escapisms never fill you, just make you feel felt.
Dear young man. I somehow see the corny, square work I do each day as preventing fewer of you. You should smile. You probably have a nice one.
Tim’m T. West is an educator, author, poet, and Hip-Hop artist who works nationally to address the social justice intersections of educational equity and LGBTQ advocacy.