Publication date: May 2017
The neighbourhood is that most mythical of places, said to be all that is or nothing at all. In my Black Neighborhood, Chicago, it’s nothing but fear. I know that’s not the place for someone like me: someone who loves to dance. I know it’s not for my mother, who’s terrified. I know it’s not for my grandmother, who can’t seem to get beyond my little brother’s fall because of fear. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t want to let her see. But my mother is finding out, and my grandmother is calling from Virginia. All three of us are moving to Tennessee. I’m so scared of losing her and my grandmother, but when she calls, it’s good to be scared.
I love the feeling of living in a Black neighbourhood. And I can’t love my mother and grandmother without love for my community, but I am the one who is tired of feeling scared. I’m tired of telling stories when it seems I should just share the trauma. What makes it worse is that I know my grandmother. Every Black child knows her. So it makes me feel sad, and worse, it makes me feel more guilty because I know how much I want to hold my grandmother, but I can’t. In some ways, I’m losing my grandmother when I move, but in another way, I’m losing my mother when I move. I know how I always feel: alone, hurt and scared. And I know that’s normal, that’s life.
As a result, I lost everything to a house fire. Once home, again, I’ve lost my rhythm and identity and my ability to tell the truth. I’ve lost the ability to explore my space or my world or my perspective. When you don’t know what you’re asking about, the answers are false. I have no energy to talk or write. I’m afraid.
Even when I stop to tell myself I’m being hopeless, I’m still in denial. I tell myself there’s nothing I can do, that my family won’t leave the same way they came. Black isn’t in the same place because of violence and hate; it’s in the same place because Black people created that place.
I want to speak up, but the silence makes me sad. I’m in a lonely place. When I look at the future, I can feel nothing but grief and hopelessness for my community. But I know that there is a reason there are no trees. My Black Neighborhood is not a lost place. It has roots, and not just in beauty and history and historical tragedies, but in these virtues. And more than those virtues, Black people have cultivated in Black neighborhoods a resistance against the things that divide us.
It’s in this memory that I remember my uncles: they say the hate can’t take our history, can’t tear apart our tradition. It can’t take our way of life or a sense of belonging. It can’t take away the strength to stand up for what’s right. It can’t take away the justice and love in the Black community, even when it seems that day.
I always say that when we take care of Black Neighborhoods, we take care of our Black family. Black Neighborhoods are our roots, our best hope for future strength. I have two uncles, the good ones, who don’t get violence in their heads, and I don’t want this to happen to them. There are so many people like them, and I can’t let them go.
For me, if you are Black, and Black, you don’t understand what it’s like to be a Black man in our nation. I understand it all too well because I am Black. I can say that we are one community, even though many people do not realise it. Every community in the world must unite to defeat the forces of hate. Some may try to divide us. Some hate our women and our youth. But I know our people and I am sure we will rise up again to show the world who we really are.
By Danny Glover