I know what you were thinking. You were thinking this post was going to be about life-after-death-spirits. Maybe it is in a way. But not in THAT way.
Last week, my post was about TEDx Hilliard. I didn’t talk about one of the speakers: Matthew Carter. I purposely left him off the list of 5 +1 Amazing Things I learned.
The tone of that blog post wasn’t right for how Matthew made me feel. You see, he was sort of a ghost to me before he took the stage.
Oh, I’ve never met him, but I saw him milling around the Bradley High School commons before the event began. We were all filling eco-unfriendly black plastic plates with diet-unfriendly appetizers! Delicious appetizers.
My eyes scanned him but my brain didn’t register him. He’s a normal-looking black guy. My eyes never stopped.
Now the woman standing beside him? She made my gaze falter. You know that women wear make-up, dress, and accessorize for other women, don’t you? This young black woman succeeded!
I didn’t put her with him until he took the stage and pointed her out. What? She’s with him?
So, see? He should have been the inspiration behind the main character in Jason Reynolds’ novel Ghost! And he was…is.
He introduces himself as a superhero. By this time it didn’t surprise me. Clark Kent was a normal looking guy; so was Batman until George Clooney stepped in as the lead; so was Iron Man, the Hulk, the Arrow…I don’t need to go on.
And then Matthew Carter began talking about the trauma that turned him into this superhero. I won’t share the details. I’ll just tell you that it was shocking and I don’t know why.
I know at this stage of my life that black people in this country have never had it easy. NEVER. And STILL.
I know that single mothers have never had it easy. NEVER. And STILL.
I thought it had changed. I was under a delusional illusion that we had overcome our puritanical, racist background, thrown our arms wide open, trashed the judgmental bullshit with our Marlboro’s and DDT. But, you see, that was never true. Just because I can eat in a restaurant now without swallowing second-hand smoke does not mean there aren’t a dozen smokers in the back parking lot filling their bodies with carcinogens.
But I naively thought it did.
Naive isn’t the right word…stupid…that’s the right word.
Matthew Carter introduced himself as a superhero and made me believe that his was going to be a light-hearted story of self-actualization. It was…and it wasn’t. He, somehow…miraculously can make you smile but his story brought me to tears. There were times I’m sure my heart stopped, then skipped, then raced.
There was trauma all right…and drama…and maybe some dharma too. I think he’d agree with that last…because I think he’s found his purpose visiting schools and students and teachers and starring on TEDx stages.
He made a few good points, but the ones that transformed me on August 9, 2019 are these:
- it’s important to share our discomfort with young people so that they understand it’s okay for them to share theirs with us.
- it’s important to be ostentatious listeners because when we aren’t, we silence somebody’s truth.
- it’s important to see the superhero in everyone, especially the person who hasn’t yet seen it in their own mirror.