The day I got this gig, I’d been suicidal for three days.
My bipolar mind had convinced itself that this world could not be saved. I’d grown tired of staying alive because people didn’t want my literal dead body to be something else they had to process. I woke on the wrong side of the bed bitter and angry that I was still alive.
I was the type of suicidal that let me know if something didn’t change, I’d be dead in a few days.
and then I got a message.
Karen Hawkins, editor of this mag and black superwoman from my journalism past, sent me a message asking if I’d like to write a monthly column in honor of her brother, Aaron. his blog site Uppity-Negro was one of the first on the internet – one of the first African-American ones, too – and a favorite of mine back in college because of his wit and intelligence. reading him gave me the confidence to write biting columns without apology, as long as I knew they were full of facts. I was honored that she’d first thought of me to fill this space with anything I wanted (her last words, not mine).
I spent a few days cherry-picking back through Aaron’s old blogs and, biases aside, I’m quite convinced that he was a genius. incredibly smart, strong voice, politically current and encompassing on domestic and foreign issues, I mean dude was thorough. and he trolled problematic white commenters with a precision that would make Serena Williams jealous (if she ever felt the need to be jealous which is never because why?). Aaron was one of the first to do this work online, to stand up against dissenters and racists and devil’s advocates who’d rather see us dead than to dig for their humanity.
Aaron Hawkins committed suicide in 2004.
I think of him as one of the geniuses who deal with some type of mental illness – depression, anxiety, mania and bipolar disorder, the trashcan punch of them all. often times, we don’t hear about it until after they’re gone or fallen from grace. I remember reading “Huey: Spirit of the Panther” by David Hilliard, Huey Newton’s biography, and my stomach dropping out when I read of his bipolar diagnoses in later life. the same thing happened as I watched“What Happened, Miss Simone?,” a Netflix documentary about Nina Simone. and, in the fading doorway of my own mental struggle, the same thing happened when I read aboutMarShawn McCarrel II’s death on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse. I mourn him because I’ve been where he is and how hard it is to fight on all fronts.
I’m still here. I don’t know if these few inches of space has saved my life – it’s a little too early to tell. But I can say that I enjoy challenging the validity of the hierarchies which lie at the heart of our supposedly egalitarian society. I carry the possibility of Uppity Negritude within me.
I’m up for the task.
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