By Kei Williams
This is going to be an unpopular opinion (but definitely not an alternative fact) – we don’t know a damn thing about love. Now, I know that’s a lot to take in and our defenses automatically rise up as we think about the many folks in our life who loves us, and that’s cool. I can tell you that my Grandmother is the embodiment of love for me, but I have witnessed as I’ve gotten older that even she does not receive love nearly as easily as she gives it away.
The trauma of Black folks is inherent. Scientists have shown that we carry generational trauma in our bodies and minds. Historically we have been dehumanized; we have been told we are incapable of “civilized” emotions and actions. While Europeans committed atrocities against African and Indigenous people for capitalist profit they also eradicated any opportunity for us to continue the practices that made us who we are.
They broke our families apart, broke our tongues down, and broke our belonging to self. Any chance these colonizers had to break us, they took it and resorted to murder to do so. Leaders who dared to love each other during the Civil Rights Movement were assassinated. Leaders who dared to encourage us to love ourselves during the Black Power Movement, were infiltrated, imprisoned, and killed.
Constantly, we have been stripped of any true knowledge and access of love.
On Black reality television series like Love & Hip Hop or Basketball Wives, almost every single woman is depicted as a bitter and thirsty ex-spouse. I won’t even touch on Tyler Perry and Steve Harvey’s addiction to cinematic portrayals of fuckboys. But these are things we must consider when there’s a national average of three TVs per household, and the average age for owning a smartphone is 10. It’s even more important when you measure the universality of visual media against the very unique history and struggle of Black people in this world. In the age of mass media, there’s still not much positive representation of Black love.
For us, hardship has always been a reality. We definitely do our best, and although we may fall short, we are getting better at it. For me, I’ve started turning the hard into healthy. In order for me to heal, I had to have really intense, devastating, and breaking ordeals happen to me.
And these experiences often came from folks who looked just like me.
Recently I’ve taken up meditation to combat all that I have been moving with and through. As a Black trans masculine-of-center (yet female-bodied) Caribbean-American, it’s too real to say that I’ve had my share of laughing at my social media feeds while at the same time being triggered.
But after spiraling to a low place, I finally called it quits. I divorced my relationship with trauma. I started my practice at home, with an app called Insight Timer a magical being with whom I share a moon tattoo told me about. The app gives me the freedom to commit on my terms. The app helped me learn how to survive.
Through my trauma, I forgot what love was. Trauma was throwing my world out of order. I was unaccountable and flakey, and I was viciously screwing myself over. The personal consequences were unavoidable and obvious. And finally the need to stop doing and start being clicked inside of me.
I began to meditate. The first three days were pure torture. I felt dumb as hell sitting in my living room, burning one dollar bodega-bought incense, listening to some soft spoken ambiguous woman’s voice come through my headphones. I’m sure my cats weren’t impressed either. But what started off as a twenty minute day chore, is now a two and a half-hour daily practice, among many others.
My breakthrough came when I centered myself with three presences: someone I loved, someone who loved me, and someone who is love. And on that day in Brooklyn, I felt myself coming back home. My three presences were centered in the past, present, and future. The consistent current was love.
On my right I envisioned a bundle of blankets, a newborn swaddled with a head of black hair. I lost my only same-parent brother when I was really young to tragedy. I assumed that must’ve been him sitting there and I welcomed him.
On my left sat this radiant force, warm and yellow and holding onto my hand.
And in front of me was my Pop. A man who wasn’t my biological father, but raised me all the same. He died around this time two years ago and in his obituary I was called his “special” child. Unconditional love and what it means to be love, lives through the kindred of this man.
It is at this point that I put my index fingers to my thumbs and captured this feeling; for this was what I was going to walk with each and every day for the rest of my life. It is through being in this present that is inherently given to me, however it manifests, that I am able to be Black and love.
Now, my practice has expanded outside of my apartment and my cats. In addition to new tattoos, I have new boundaries in my relationships and new expectations of myself. I am investing in friendships, some new but most I am just now witnessing. I am not afraid of my soft. I also have a newborn nephew.
There’s a reason why even in as large a space as the internet we can connect through hashtags and memes. Because we all carry with us the generational work of love. Work being laborious, full of responsibility and risks, and constant learning.
Being with myself, literally, worked for me. It awakened me to my greatest self. And when I feel myself forgetting, I close my eyes and pull in that love I’ve learned in practice simply by putting my index fingers to my thumbs.
We’ve been through a lot, and the struggle out here is too real. Yet, nothing compares to the magic of Black folks. So I refuse to let our trauma define us. Because at our best we, as a people, are love.
Kei Williams is a queer transmasculine identified community organizer with #BlackLivesMatter, NYC Chapter. Kei is currently the Community of Practice Project Coordinator with Movement Netlab, a practice-centered ‘think-make-and-do tank’. A self-taught visual artist & graphic designer, they assist small businesses and nonprofit organizations with communications, marketing, and social media. Kei centers their work on those most marginalized in society: transgender persons and those who suffer from mental illness.
Kei is passionate about film, travel, food, mellow-hop music, and their city – New York.