I live in the Blackest part of Stone Mountain, Ga.—which is predominantly Black anyway, but here it’s two churches and two chicken spots every two-mile radius Black.
At 41, I feel I’m getting old. I know I’m getting old, actually, because the other day, one of the many curbside entrepreneurs of the Decatur area who sells weed, incense, cologne and bootleg DVDs spotted me walking to the store and offered me all of the above but also offered me some Viagra. I was so offended that I was distracted from my usual amazement at the fact that the bootleg DVD guy stays in business in the age of streaming services and communal passwords.
Anyway, getting old inspires me to stay in decent shape and I find that it’s both physically and mentally therapeutic to take a jog through a Black neighborhood.
It’s the constant expressions of affirmation for me.
When Black people in my neighborhood see anyone from our subdivision on a jog, they cheer them on like they’re Rocky Balboa running up the steps of that Philadelphia museum with “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background (or the Black equivalent, which is either “Return of the Mack” or “Knuck If You Buck”).
I can’t remember the last time I got even a mile into a run without an older Black man standing out in his front yard shouting—and I promise, it’s the exact same wording every single time— “Gettin’ it in, ain’t ya’?”
By mile two, at least a half dozen Black women have honked their horn and smiled at me while driving by; not because I’m out here giving off big Idris Elba in gym shorts energy (although, I’m not ruling that out), but because they just like seeing a Black man take care of his health.
Black people love seeing Black people take care of themselves.
One time I was jogging and an old 60-something Black man crept up behind me in his old 60-something Chevrolet. Suddenly he pulled up next to me, handed me a bottle of Aquafina, shouted “DRINK PLENTY OF WATER!” and pulled off before I could even shout back “’PRECIATE IT!” Later in the run he pulled back around and—I promise I’m not making this up—he shouted, “EXERCISE HELPS THE LIBIDO, TOO!” Then he laughed and sped off again. I was so afraid he was going to try to sell me Viagra.
Anyway, my favorite moment during a run happened at around mile three one afternoon when I came across a 5- or 6-year-old Black girl and her mom.
Black girl: “Momma, he’s running really fast!”
Mom: “ Yaaaaas, child, he IS running really fast. I see you, brotha!”
Me in reality: *Old man struggle-shuffling uphill while gasping for what could very well have been my very last breath*
But the affirmations hyped me up to finish that last mile.
I love my people.