“one thing I don’t need
is any more apologies
i got sorry greetin me at my front door
you can keep yrs
i don’t know what to do wit em
they don’t open doors
or bring the sun back
they don’t make me happy
or get a mornin paper
didn’t nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars
cuz a sorry.”
― Ntozake Shange, For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Dear 2020 Black Graduates,
I wanted to write you all a love letter. I wanted to write something to help ease the pain, especially for my mentee Anteresa Dickson, but I honestly struggle to find anything to say that can. I did find these remarks to bare witness to your struggles. This letter was inspired by a moment with Anteresa who sent me a Facebook message that simply read, “I was supposed to graduate today. Today, is my graduation coach.” I could feel her heart breaking. For four years, I kept refocusing her and pushing her for this moment. It was a tangible goal to keep her focus. A heavy weight is given in the black community to prom and graduation because we are often the carriers of hope for so many that came before us. I wish that it wasn’t there are so many more life goals to achieve but for a lot of us, graduation may be the highest achievement and their last chance to be glorified.
I sat at my computer desk for some time just staring at the screen. I didn’t have any words of comfort. The ironic thing about “sorry” or an apology is that they both really aren’t useful when action can’t be placed behind them. Covid-19 has robbed moments senior cut day, Senior Prom, and Graduation. The latter being the one that will linger for the longest. In the Black community, Graduation is a moment of pure unbridled joy. It is a stamp of approval that you have made it. You endured the doubts, the work, and personal quest to achieve. For many it is the culmination of a lifetime of work that started before they were even born. Unbelievably many of us are still becoming the first to graduate high school.
Some have had friends gunned down and killed before they could walk across stages. Bullets have become diplomas. Grief has been exchanged for standing ovations. Anteresa endured all of those things. She sacrificed while losing friends year after year too early to the streets around her. She overcame poverty, schools closing, tough breaks, crime, all the doubts and naysayers. She rose to the rank of #3 in her class. A girl that I literally had to run, fuss, and chase figured out that for as sweet of a jump shot that her brain as a young woman was equally as outstanding and worthy.
This day was supposed to be her “Last Dance”. This was her Jordan moment to hold the trophy of a diploma high up in the air and scream to the top of her lungs. This was her moment to be recognized in front of thousands as a champion. It is here in the disconnect that many don’t understand the full sorrow of a black community that due to Covid-19 (Corona virus) that we are withheld from being able to bare witness as a collective body of blackness at the rise of the next generation.
It is an incredible moment where the village gathers and sees them. No, truly, we gather to see them! Graduation for many may be the first and some maybe the last time that they are truly seen as nothing but positive energy. That unimaginable depression is the cloud of loss that is presented to the Class of 2020’s black youth. Keep in mind that this is the generation that lost Trayvon Martin and was forced to become aware too early of the inequalities of race relations in the United States of America because of the direct correlation to their own youthful images of headphones, hoodies, tea, and skittles.This 2020 class grew up viewing bodies outlined in chalk while being told over and over again that they would not make it. Yet, they did! They made it and they did it gloriously may I add. Anteresa Dickson will continue her education at The Mississippi Delta Community College, where she plans to major in Special Education.
The words finally came, Anteresa (T.T. as I call her or Slim), “I know. I was looking forward to it too- then I thought wait T.T.! Today is still a blessing. You did something no one can take away from you. You got your head on straight and did the work. There are so many people that did not graduate. They died before their senior year. They flunked out or gave up. You beat the odds. Now you get to go to college, you get to dream even more. You get to grow even more and play ball. Nobody nor Covid-19 can take that away. I am hella proud of you. Get your head up. Post some pics and brag a little. You did it! I am proud of you and I love you kid.”
There was no apology. There is no apology that is worth a mama’s tears, papa’s pride, teacher’s handshake or village’s embrace to tell them: we see you. We see you class of 2020 and you are beautiful. Within this moment you have the ability to realize that life is incredibly fragile and not fair; however, you continue to be courageous and tell your narrative of triumph. You did not allow the work to go unseen and we thank-you. You made it and nothing can ever take that away from you. You are powerful beyond measure. Class of 2020 we love you and we see you. Now go be great in whatever challenge you will conquer next. We, the village, are watching.
Creative Writing Teacher
Restorative Justice Coordinator
& Poet: Urban Thoughts