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Kiese Laymon


I graduated college in 98. By 2001, I was an adjunct professor at Vassar. When I got that job, I brought my niggas with me. Brought my niggas to the campus to hoop. Brought my niggas to positions on faculty. When I was addicted to exercise, I brought my niggas jogging, brought my niggas to city leagues I played in, brought my niggas to veganism. When I thought I was healthy and fine, I tried to bring niggas into romantic relationships with me. When I was in the throes of gambling addiction, I brought my niggas to the casino for "free" concerts, "free" food, "free" liquor. When I published my first piece called HSKY, I brought my niggas to gawker. When I got my deal, I brought my niggas to my agent PJ and my editor, Kathy. When I got this job, I tried to bring my niggas to the most incredible MFA program in the country. Wherever I am next, good or evil, I will try to bring my niggas.

But.

I am old for a Black man, 45, and I'm just realizing that sometimes you shouldn't want to bring your niggas places you shouldn't be. And sometimes you bring folks cuz you scared to be in places you shouldn't be alone. It gets peculiarly terrifying when the place you shouldn't be alone is your own Black body. I ain't got no conclusion to this post, other than I should have learned 2 decades ago that all access ain't healthy access. This is really one of the hardest lessons to learn for Black lives shaped by precarity. Sometimes we should say no to spaces, places, people, things we rarely had access to. Sometimes when we're chosen, we should choose to walk away if our insides are in peril. When our insides are in peril, we are often most desperate to be chosen, and most desperate to choose a partner in suffering.

I want us to have the choice. I want us to have the courage. When I've had one, I often lacked the other. I want to be honest about this kind of failure because I've been wholly dishonest about mine until this year. I am sorry for encouraging folks who love me to enter spaces and relationships that were not at all safe. 

Sometimes I didn't know. 

Too often, I did. I am thankful for the times I've entered into unsafe spaces with folks who love me, and we've made those spaces safer for black folks coming after us. That just has not happen as much as I want to believe.

I hope we can get free and remain tender and committed to collective revision. I hope we survive this weekend and live live live unafraid to give and receive tender touch and radical love. I hope to get better at distinguishing healthy choice from decorated destruction. 

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