Tapioca. Hobgoblin. Swoon.
I love those words. I’m not really a pudding guy and my grandmother’s ancestral spirit is not what I would call “mischievous.” More than a decade ago, my half-drunk homeboy dragged me to the parking lot of an after-work social to introduce me to a woman that made my heartbeat do a Clyde Stubblefield stutter-roll, but I kept my composure long enough to keep my knees from buckling. I just like the way those words make my brain feel all bouncy house-like when I read them; the way they flippity-flop off tongues. Someday, I will find a way to flourish a sentence with one of these expressions. I’m still looking. Or maybe I’ll find a way to squeeze in all three. That would be something, wouldn’t it?
No-score and five years ago, I was sitting in an Austin, Tex. restaurant when Danielle Belton called to ask me if I would like to become a full-time writer for a little website called The Root. More than two thousand articles later (it sounds like a lot, right?), my words have had an obvious impact on the cultural and political conversation in America. Back then, we had an old, white man as president and my first piece as a full-time staff writer–An Obituary for America–suggested we were entering the beginning of the end of the American empire. In my first month, I wrote about the whitewashing of Black history, a controversial Netflix show sparking a boycott, Kyrie Irving rejecting scientific fact and the phrase “woke.”
See how much we’ve changed?
Sarcasm aside, being a member of this team has been the most fulfilling experience of my professional life. The fact that I was able to tell our stories in the voice and the language we use to communicate with each other is more precious than anything I never dreamed of. No other place in America would pay a writer to travel across the country to cover Dr. Umar’s trial; The Root did that. We criticized him and we were the ones who verified his degrees. We uncovered an actual election conspiracy. We chronicled the most important court case since Brown v. Board of Education. We covered the Proud Boys four years before they entered the national conversation. We ranked the pieces of chicken. We had a beef with Tucker Carlson. We predicted violence and election challenges before the 2020 election. We made white people mad (a lot of white people). And we always clapped back.
More than anything, I am honored that so many of my people allowed me to tell their stories. The revolutionaries who changed the entire governance structure at Morehouse, the women fighting for justice in Kansas City, Kan. and the warriors fighting COVID in West Virginia are just a few of the people who trusted me enough to share a small part of their life with the world.
Perhaps the greatest thing I will take from The Root is the friendships and the education I received. I truly believe that Damon Young and Panama Jackson created something that inspired a generation of writers to speak in their authentic voices and I got to talk to them every day. I am not going to list all the names but I consider everyone at The Root to be a part of my extended family and my therapists (which means our arguments, discussions and inappropriate jokes are privileged communication). We’re all play-cousins now.
I’m not moving in a new direction, nor have I decided to spend more time with my family (I wouldn’t torture them like that). This is the longest I have ever stayed with one company and I have no idea what happens next. All I ever wanted to do is to tell our stories and, if I was lucky, piss off a few tapioca hobgoblins along the way. If someone would have told me that we’d have done all of this, I would have fainted, become enraptured with joy or maybe...
See? Sometimes, things just end.