Does anyone remember Victor Page?
Having grown up in Washington, D.C., Victor Page was poised to be the man. It was like he was born to be a basketball god. He was such a natural scorer in high school that coaches literally got together to protest his age. When it was announced that he was going to Georgetown, all of D.C. swelled up with pride. A hometown boy was staying home to play for a legendary coach in John Thompson.
And then, John Thompson got a phone call. A mom was concerned about her son. Her boy had been railroaded by racists in Virginia and she needed his help to try and get her son out of jail. If he did, she would send her boy to play for his school. Big John got on the phone with then governor Douglas Wilder and the boy was free.
The boy was Allen Iverson.
This is a story about Michael Harriot.
Since The Root began, I’ve always been here. For years, I was a ringer; a writer that they could call on from the sidelines when they wanted a controversial take on something and an unapologetic voice. I was young then and didn’t care about offending anyone. I didn’t understand the way that journalism worked and while that was both good and bad, I figured shooters shoot and having grown up part of my life in the streets—both literally and figuratively—that I was going to speak in my tongue.
In 2011, I became a full-time writer and very soon I wrote a piece that went viral. Ethan Couch, then a teen, had gotten drunk and killed four people while driving. His lawyer argued successfully that he suffered from “affluenza,” a mashup of “affluent” and “influenza.” Basically, Couch’s lawyer claimed that because the teen had grown up rich, he never had to face consequences. It worked. My then co-worker Karen Johnson immediately messaged me.
“Why is being too rich a defense, but being too poor is not? Not that anyone should base illegal behavior on economic status, but don’t people tend to find themselves engaging in illegal activity when there’s not enough money, food, shelter, etc. … not when there’s an abundance?”
We coined the term “negrobetes” and I wrote a piece about it.
America loved me.
I never had another story reach this magnitude.
And then The Root hired Michael Harriot. And I watched as damn near everything he wrote went platinum. I literally became the mad rapper—because working with Michael Harriot is like being a rapper on the same label as Kendrick Lamar. And here’s the funniest part: The Root kept hiring top-level talent. In my time here, I worked with some of the best Black writers and editors who have ever done it.
I would be an asshole if I didn’t take a second to mention both Genetta Adams and Monique Judge, who are the reason I’m not a bigger asshole than I already am. If I’m ever in a foxhole and I have to write my way out of it, there is only one person I want with me: Maiysha Kai. Seriously, no one is going to outwork her. If you hear that she is stuck in the woods with a bear, run and call 911 and get some help...for that bear.
Very Smart Brothas are on the Mt. Rushmore of Black journalism and I wouldn’t be where I am without their ingenuity and fearlessness to carve out a lane for the rest of us to follow. They are the people that Harriet Tubman would’ve saved.
There are people who you work with who become friends, and then there are those who become family. Yesha Callahan watched my son literally weeks after he was born so my wife and I could make a much-needed chicken run.
There are literally too many people to name, but I am grateful for all of you. I would be nothing without all of y’all. I’m not good at goodbyes but I will say that at one point Michael Harriot, being the kind soul that he is (seriously, fuck this guy) offered to edit my work and well, some of my best phrases are his.
I’m going to miss this place and these people. And the readers. The dear readers who went out of their way to call me on my shit, remind me of the things I missed and give me my roses while I was still here. Thank you all for everything.
Also, this was pointless because Michael Harriot already wrote a goodbye piece and it’s better than mine. You can read it here.