12:00 a.m. Nate’s basement, West Pullman, Chicago.
On New Year’s Day, it’s become a tradition to gather at Nate’s mother’s home on the city’s far South Side (also known as the Wild Hundreds). Nate’s basement is a Black Narnia full of Ebony Magazine encyclopedias, old school black art, and black folk.
There is love and kinship here. I’ve know most of these folks since high school. Most of us are alums of Young Chicago Authors—an organization that has been credited as an incubator of emerging Chicago literary, music and fine arts talent. We were the weird kids that woke up early on Saturdays to attend poetry class. Being weird has paid off.
The first thing I do after saying hello to Nate’s mother and sister is make a beeline for the mac & cheese. Ms. Harris has been posting photos of the food on tonight’s menu on the Facebook event page all week (she’s such a mom) and I’m pressed.
The night is a montage of card playing, house music, talking, laughing and lots of eating. This is the only place I want to be today and these are the only people I want to spend the beginning of the new year with.
I grab a sneak shot of Fatimah and Jamila and capture Jose and Nate’s glow post-Spades game win. This Black Joy needs to be documented.
Danez and I have a now two year tradition of taking a faux couple’s picture. This year we continued the tradition and stepped it up a notch.
1:02 a.m. Eve’s car, I-94
Eve is driving Phillip and I back to the West Side. We are talking about how full today has made us. It’s rare for people to have an entire squad to return to when home. We have something very special.
1:25 a.m. Humboldt Park, Chicago.
Phillip’s home has all of the same art as mine. There must be some rule that black families purchase at least one Annie Lee painting. The person we joke that could best conduct a study on the art buying choices of African-Americans is Eve, but she’s busy writing essays and being dope as hell in general.
2:00 a.m. Oak Park, Illinois
My grandmother is still up when I return home. She’s become a night owl in her old age. We watch the National Geographic together since that is her favorite channel.
7:27 a.m. Oak Park, Illinois
I crashed in my cousin’s room and now she’s back to claim it. I stumble, sleepy-eyed back to my room.
11:00 a.m. My room, Oak Park, Illinois
My grandmother shouts me out of bed. We are running errands today and I’ve already slept through the prime hours to beat the crowd.
2:25 p.m. My play aunt’s house, Oak Park, Illinois
Between bites of sweet potato pie, I ask my play aunt about my mother. I haven’t spoken to my mother in two years—or rather, she hasn’t spoken to me in two years. This isn’t exactly a secret but it isn’t well known either. We have the same illness—except I think I’m ill and my mother doesn’t. I grew up knowing what untreated bipolar disorder looked like, and I decided to get help for it. If the price I pay for sanity is my relationship with my mother then I’m okay with that—I guess.
5:30 My brain, Dreamland
I dozed off after eating the last of the Harold’s Chicken from yesterday. My dreams replays the events of last night. It’s Black Narnia all over again.
7:30 Oak Park, Illinois
On Tuesday, I was sitting in a Wicker Park dive bar with Jose and Adam talking about dystopia. I don’t feel the need to watch any of the latest dystopian films. Jose says that white folks constantly create dystopian art because they can ignore that we are currently living in dystopia. Black folk been living in a dystopian future.
I’ve been powering through Gilmore Girls. It’s the depression, really. I did this after Sandra Bland’s death, except it was A Different World that I lost myself in. When #WhatHappenedToSandraBland was trending on Twitter, I retreated from the world. It broke me. Sandra was a Chicago native, like me. She was the same age as my sister, Genesis. Like Genesis, she was a student affairs professional and on the hunt for a job. We could’ve easily been tweeting #WhatHappenedToGenesisWhite and that makes me sick to my stomach.
These two shows may seem entirely different on the surface but both of them perfected the art of completely engrossing the viewer into their respective universes. Right now, any universe is looking better than this one. There was no justice for Sandra or Tamir last week and it’s eating at me. It’s eating at a lot of us. Where do we go to be Black? I can’t even offer outer space as an alternative because I’m sure white supremacy will follow humans to Mars and beyond. I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of Black Joy in a time of Black Death. Even still, I make sure to use my turn signal now more than ever.
I’m catching up with Tara over FB chat. She tells me to write—just focus on the writing. She’s right. I pick up Phillip’s book, Thief in the Interior. The last thing I remember before bed is my grandmother peeling sweet potatoes in the kitchen.