One of the most riveting and powerful components of the current protests in the murder of unarmed Black American men and women, are the stories being captured. They happen sporadically. They occur during some of the most spontaneous moments. Those periods when all people can do is speak the truth, and open to the vulnerabilities, at hand. When you have no other power, but your oratory. When you have no other power, but, your voice, you speak the truth!
Different generations of Black American men have been outside, participating in the protests. Anger, frustration, and uncertainties arise. Yet, what cannot be doubted is that a brotherhood within Black American communities is strengthening. From generation to generation, knowledge is being passed. Knowledge is cherished and made sacred when it is passed down through age. From the elders to the young. From middle-aged to the young. There is a re-harmony and re-link taking place among generations of Black American men, and boys, in Black America, within this particular time. On May 30, 2020, the world witnessed that culture, which has always existed in these peculiar communities.
“Ya’ll come up with a better way. Cause’ we ain’t doing it.”–Curtis M. Mayes, Jr.
The video, which as surfaced of three different ages of Black American men, in Charlotte, North Carolina (USA), who are vocalizing their fears and frustrations with the current status quo, was a teaching moment for all. “Come up with a better way.” One unknown protester is 46. Curtis M Hayes, Jr., an activist within the community, is 31. Then there is 16-year old Raymon Curry. He is 16. When Mr. Hayes, and the 46-year old gentlemen are looking at Raymon Curry, they are seeing younger versions of themselves. Furthermore, they are seeing the future. Future generations of Black American men, who may have to deal with the same tragedy of an unarmed Black American man, or woman, being murdered. “What you’ve got to do right now, at 16, is come up with a better way,” says Hayes to Curry. The passion in Curtis M. Hayes, Jr. is more than that of a mentor or fellow activist. On the contrary, he is speaking to Raymond Curry, as if he is his own son. What the world was observing on that day was a cultural, and his/herstorical trend of Black American people creating family, and seeing each other as family-even though they are not biologically related.
Speaking those words into Raymon Curry, it is as if he is breathing words and knowledge for Black American manhood into the future generations of our sons. It is mental wellness, at its best. For three Black American men to come and express their anger, loud, and unapologetic, is powerful. Vocalizing their humanity, and desires as men was proclaimed on that day. A passionate plead to the younger generation to utilizing one’s anger, as a powerful weapon for a more constructive and effective change. Pleading with the younger generation of Black American boys and men to find a better solution, than rioting and using their anger for destruction.
“What you’ve got to do right now at 16, is come up with a better way. Because how we doing it, it ain’t working. He angry at 46. I’m angry at 31. You angry at 16.” –Curtis M. Hayes, Jr.
The poetic texture in Mr. Hayes’ voice articulates a historical narrative of anger, and frustration, for centuries of Black American men, who challenged societal perceptions of their masculinity-reclaiming their manhood and stating “I am a man.” The centuries of pain and anguish in not having full control in the direction of one’s community and people-in not always being able to protect Black American people-was illuminated in this footage. Nevertheless, they (the future generations of Black American men, boys, girls, and women) must find a better way! Find a better way. Those words continue to ring and vibrate throughout the nation. As difficult as it may be, as ‘impossible” as it may seem, they must find a better way! Those very words serve as radiance of hope for those Black American children, especially boys, who needed to hear that. Those future boy children, who are pent up with so much rage, that their only mode of releasing that anger is through violence.
What Curtis M. Hayes, Jr. not only did was nourishing, but it brought healing to a lot of Black American boys and men, who needed to hear, something! Our sons, and younger generation, who did not know how to articulate their anger in a holistic way. They may have been stunted. Perhaps, its because their humanity has been stifled in such a way, that they are not used to conveying their feelings. In a terse amount of words, they have not been heard. What Curtis M. Hayes, Jr. and the other 46-year old gentleman did, was to make it alright, that they were heard. Showcasing that it is natural for them to openly express that frustration. Not solely because they were in the public eye, but also due to being in the presence of their brothers. Being in the presence of other Black American men, and actively engaging in honest and healthy discourse with each on how they feel. Connecting with each other and pulling each other close, in order to get them to feel that , at least, their fellow Brother, hears them. If no one else hears them, at least they do.
“I understand. I understand. I understand. Come here and talk to me. I understand.”-Curtis M. Hayes, Jr.
There is affirmation within this interaction. They were affirmation-brother-to-brother-that one’s anger and pain is acknowledged. In this powerful footage, Black American men are acknowledging each other. They are affirming each other in their pain. Articulating their humanity to each other, and it is one of the most holistic visuals, which has been seen in this modern-day era. In this footage, the world is observing something different. Tear and cries re-affirm the humanity of Black American men. Furthermore, they are using each other as a basis of support. You can not look at such footage, and not be amazed! It is miraculous! Furthermore, it highlights how Black American men are able to RETAIN calm, stability, and peace, within their communities.
As Curtis Hayes, Jr. and the other 46-year old (whose name is currently unknown) gather next to 16-year old Raymon Curry, you witness the magic taking place. Curry comes over, as he is brought by Hayes, and listen. He doesn’t say anything. He listens. The mind is open and wide, in order to receive that critical knowledge from older, Black American men. There is no resistance. There are no hostilities or tensions, in how he receives that information. He simply listens. Furthermore, he appreciates that support. His willingness to learn shows that he embraces that kind of love and wisdom from older men of his culture and community. It is a soothing moment for Curry. He noticed, and clearly recognized, those father figure images. It was evident he did not just come to protest. Curry was sent there to receive information. He came to acquire answers, and find direction, in the midst of rage. Coming to learn from those Black American men, who had gone before him. And, at the very end, he listened. Whatever anger he went with did not immediately go away. However, he was provided with tools of information, which were able to guide him in using his anger, in a way that is most powerful. Using his anger to constructive the realities for his people and community-Black America.
This historical and popular visual should take a significant place in these current times. It should be re-played over and over in Black American communities. It must be re-played for Black American boys, teenagers, and adolescents to witness. A legitimate rallying cry in how our future sons continue the baton pass of those previous generations. Carrying the baton, so that future generations afterwards, can finally come to a point, where they have crossed the finish line, as that race has finally been won. Many will not be around to see the building’s completion. Nevertheless, we can give them the bricks (and whatever materials necessary), so they can build upon the architectural landscaping, which has already been cemented.