14,195 Days of Being a Black Man…

Say It Loud
James Brown

Uh! Your bad self!
Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud
Say it louder! I’m black and I’m proud
Look a-here!

Some people say we got a lot of malice, some say it’s a lotta nerve
But I say we won’t quit movin’ until we get what we deserve
We’ve been buked and we’ve been scorned
We’ve been treated bad, talked about as sure as you’re born
But just as sure as it take two eyes to make a pair, huh!
Brother we can’t quit until we get our share

Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud
Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud
One more time, say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud, huh!

I’ve worked on jobs with my feet and my hands
But all the work I did was for the other man
And now we demands a chance to do things for ourselves
We tired of beatin’ our head against the wall
An’ workin’ for someone else

Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud
Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud
Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud
Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud, oh!

Ooh-wee, you’re killin’ me
Alright, uh, you’re out of sight!
Alright, so tough you’re tough enough!
Ooh-wee uh! you’re killin’ me! oow!

Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud
Say it louder! I’m black and I’m proud

Now we demand a chance to do things for ourselves
We tired of beatin’ our heads against the wall
And workin’ for someone else look a-here
There’s one thing more I got to say right here
Now, now we’re people, we’re like the birds and the bees
We rather die on our feet than keep livin’ on our knees

Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud huh!
Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud huh!
Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud Lord-a, Lord-a, Lord-a
Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud, ooh!

Uh! alright now, good God
You know we can do the boogaloo

14,195 days. This number represents my time spent on this earth as the son of Teresa Ferguson. This number of days represents the span of time that encapsulates my experiences from birth to adulthood. 14,195 days is the number of 24 hour periods that my body, mind, and soul have traversed attempting to be the best representative of what God intends. 38 years, 10 months, and 11 days.

Throughout this time, I have attempted to navigate multiple spaces. I am a husband, father, son, grandson, pastor, teacher, preacher, writer, and scholar. Those attributes are enhanced in a greater sense by one thing. I am a black man. I have been black for 14,195 days. Unless God calls me home after publishing this blog, I will remain black until the moment my eyes close.

Here is the issue. I live in a world that after 14,195 days does not welcome, love, or embrace fully the uniqueness and divinity of my blackness. I know some people will approach this writing, try to speak to me privately about how this is not true with them, and explain away many other issues around what I am talking about. Just listen to me for a moment.

Imagine for a moment that you are told all of your life that being a good person would grant you access to success and prosperity. While you attempt to do all that you can to do the right thing, you are constantly told to your face or through microaggressions that you are not good enough. You are told that what you feel is too emotional. You are doing enough don’t rock the boat. What do you do with that?

Welcome to the Good/Token Negro Indoctrination Program. As long as my introverted nature and low self-esteem kept suppressing my anger and angst about my circumstance, I would always keep silent. That mentality was the first part of my private school existence. Keep the rules. Don’t rock the boat. You will get through just fine.

One day, my anger and angst was met by an ally. I will never forget that I was in history class. We were reading content on famous black people. The issue was that the history book decided to paint Nelson Mandela in the light of being a rebel without a cause or clue. It was the moment that I realized that my village was right. Never let anyone tell your story.

I sat in the room with a look of disgust as we approached the material. Then a strange thing happened. My homeroom and history teach, Eric Buell, gave me a unique opportunity. Rather than continue with the given material, Mr. Buell looked at me and asked if there was anything else that I could contribute to the conversation. I stated everything that I knew at that time about apartheid and injustice happening in South Africa. After that moment, any time a figure was brought up with an incomplete or improper stating of his or her history, he called on me for more details.

Mr. Buell may not know this (unless he reads this article), but it was one of the first times that I was in an uncomfortable space and was pushed to be authentically myself. I was able to take pride in my blackness and be unapologetically black. It was also one of the few times that my blackness was honored and accepted.

So what does that memory from almost 25 years ago have to do with what is happening today?

I see so many people that are attempting to silence and dictate the appropriate way of express the Black experience. Some people think that they are being supportive by offering alternative methods to casting a message. People are attempting to find ways to dismantle and reshape the cries of the disenfranchised constantly. I need people to understand one major premise. You cannot speak to a life that you have not lived.

I have encountered many white people that have decided to find new ways to maintain the status quo while attempting to offer token gestures as a pitiful penance for 401 years of inequality and inequity. People continue to try and use semantics and justification for stating that Black Lives Matter is a three word phrase of hate speech. People clamor to hold fast to their monuments of defeat, systems of legal inequity, and profits from the suffering.

How can anyone begin to attempt to dictate to me how to be a black man in America? How can anyone begin to say to me what is the proper protocol for displaying my displeasure for the suffering of those who are descendants of those brought to the Americas in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade? How can you tell me that no money or compensation exists for reparations in this nation when billions have been given to others who have been treated inhumane ways?

I have 14,195 days of being Black. I can speak to my experience as a Black man. I don’t need anyone to establish the scope of my experience. I don’t need anyone that lacks the time or experience to speak on my behalf. What this season requires is that you silence your opinion and become informed about this experience.

You must acknowledge that you are not qualified to the varied challenges of Black culture. I want you to stop referencing people like Candice Owens who decides her side of outrage based on the dollars in her bank account. I need you to quit blaming the media (all forms and slants) for uncovering your bias, hypocrisy, and racism.

Just admit one of two realities.

  1. You don’t want your world to change. You want the utopia that allows you to remain ignorant to any other struggle. You desire to hold on the propaganda that believes in a meritocracy. You are willing to victim shame anyone mistreated. You wish to co-opt the message of Melaninated Jesus and repackage it with Empire packaging.
  2. You are tired of being blind to the circumstances. You will exercise your right to remain silent. You are prepared to learn about what you don’t understand. You are preparing to unlearn some indoctrination that has veiled your understanding of the Imago Dei that surrounds you. You are ready to embrace that Black is not a curse, but a blessing.

My pride in who I am maybe articulated best by James Brown. Yet, I submit to you that it has taken me a long time to arrive at the moment in time that I will no longer wait or long for the approval of anyone regarding who I am as a person, a believer, or as a Black man created in the image and likeness of God. My awareness and pride is not at the cost of making anyone feel small.

I have no desire to entertain the rise of supremacy. The truth is that I don’t need artificial means of importance to justify my existence. Supremacist ideology is about domination. It’s about perpetuating the idea that your existence of not important. It is about oppressing the powerful by feeding the idea of division that leads to powerlessness. The obstacles are not about my weakness. They are about the recognition of my strength and fear of equivalent retaliation.

However, I will make it known to my son, his generation, and generations to follow that engagement with this world will require an undeniable understanding of who you are. Nobody has the right to define you according to their comfort. Your responsibility is to hold people accountable for their lack of desire to know the truth and engage in the establishment of a reality that embraces the complete view of world that God intends. That hope can’t be fulfilled until we see the evidence of a fulfilled prayer. Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven… For that manifestation to happen, we can not allow the alteration of our message. Why? Our pride, self-respect, and experience is necessary to guide the world to Heavenly Fulfillment on this Terrestrial Ball.

Some people say we got a lot of malice, some say it’s a lotta nerve
But I say we won’t quit movin’ until we get what we deserve
We’ve been buked and we’ve been scorned
We’ve been treated bad, talked about as sure as you’re born
But just as sure as it take two eyes to make a pair, huh!
Brother we can’t quit until we get our share
!