This was partly because I was raised by single mother, so my uncles, afraid I might turn out to be a ‘momma’s boy,’ drilled into me their understanding of the emotional life of a Black man. That is, I was to be quiet, strong and angry about the inequality of Black life. This anger, however, could be channeled constructively with sports or drowned with alcohol, but it was to be never, ever be expressed with tears.
Therefore, for the first 25 years of my life, I seldom cried. When I graduated from undergrad and grad school, I barely smiled. When Bambi’s mom caught an L, I didn’t feel a thing. I even made through Will asking uncle Phil, “How come he don't want me” without feeling much.
I was, for all intents and purposes, the opposite of a sensitive thug—then something strange happened. On April 17, 2008, my son was born…and the floodgates opened. Now, I rarely get through a day without something messing with my allergies.
To wit, these are the last 10 times I cried in the past month.
1. When Mufasa holds up Simba at the beginning of the Lion King.
In fact, now any time I hear the some “Circle of Life” I have to hold back tears.
2. The moment I discovered that Moonlight won the award for Best Picture…
…and now, having seen the film, anything that reminds me of Moonlight — including the moon — makes me cry.
3. Hearing the song “City of Lights” from La La Land.
I know, I know. The movie is very, very white, but that score goes hard in the paint and, for some reason, makes any room I’m in very dusty.
4. Watching a Viagra commercial
I legit shed tears over a commercial about a blue pill. These seasoned Black folks looked so in love.
5. Learning that a black person lived to be 93.
When I hear of black folks who lived to see their 90s, I reflect upon the unmitigated levels of racism they must have endured. I am awed and humbled by their sacrifice. When I hear of a white person who lived that long, I automatically assume they are racist until they prove otherwise. So no tears.
6. Listening to “Lately” by Jodeci.
I have no idea why, but that song wrecked me, and I lost it when K-Ci (the ultimate nonsinging, singing-ass nigga of all time) starts to yell.
7. Watching the Unsung Episode about Montell Jordan
…and learning that he no longer owns the rights to the song “The Is How We Do It.” Prince was right when he said: “If you don't own your masters, your masters own you.”
8. Listening Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”
She was amazing in that song. Damn I miss her.
9. Witnessing Black Excellence
I cried when one of my dearest friends (and frat brother) Elon Dancy became a full professor at the University of Oklahoma. I cried again when he was named Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Academic Inclusion. Also, when my other friend and frat brother, Eric Gill, finished his D.Min at Virginia Union University, I got mad misty eyed.
I’ve learned the importance of celebrating black brilliance. We are taught in this white supremacist world to be jealous of one another’s successes—that there are only so many crumbs that fall from the tables of whiteness and we must, therefore, fight over each one. I reject that notion. If we don’t celebrate us, then no one else will.
10. Experiencing Injustice
When I saw the video of Terrence Crutcher being killed I cried. It happened again when Betty Shelby was found not guilty. Both were tears of anger. Not because I was surprised, but because I had allowed myself to feel hope that justice would be done. I should have known better.