After being in NY for 11 yrs, my move to the redwood forests of Northern California was an extreme switch. After NY, I couldn’t just go to an in-between suburban bardo. I turned in my Dockers and desk for MUCK boots, thirty chickens, two cows, six goats, a mini donkey and a gang of friends that also decided to get on natures ride. The woods of Northern California are magical. I want everyone to see what I have seen there. However, what I don’t see much are folks that look like me. So on this visit to the east coast I was determined to reconnect.
Immediately touching down in NY I see brilliant black folks living their lives. All types of folks. Not fitting a mold or construct of blackness. Nothing off limits like it was when I was growing up. As a kid there were things you “should” or “shouldn’t” do, or risk being called “Oreo” by your friends. That internal community pressure to conform. To not do “white boy” things. For me it was skateboarding and wearing Vans with skulls on them.
Feels like it’s a different time for all, and NYC breaks any notion of making a mold wide open. When I first moved to the city from NC, I recall seeing how the kids grew up so different. Surrounded by so many cultures. Being a proper member of their group seemed less important than just being who they were.
This is what the city feels like to me even as an adult. A place where you can really be who you are.
My next stop was south to Washington, DC. A visit to DC’s National Museum of African American History and Culture felt like a monument to our history of doing it all, and bringing a lot of joy and genius to everything we do. The museum took me on a journey back to time when the focus wasn’t race, but our resources. We knew our value and that was power. Then to a time that required our resourcefulness as our resources were stolen right down to our very bodies. But not our souls. Whether it’s creating a form of music that has taken over the world, painting, parkour, banking, or building out the meta-verse. We are there and bringing soul to it.
NYC and DC were great for reminding me of that part of me. That voice that says “Do you, Be You.” But that doesn’t have to be dependent on our geography or social network. We can just decide to do it. Wherever we are. And that might lead us to live in the woods, tend to a farm, be a monk, write a book, and anything you can imagine. The options are endless when the “shoulds” stop running our lives.