How It Began
Randomly as I was leaving the gym this morning, I was thinking about an interview I’d done a few days ago. During the interview, I was commenting and remembering how I had purchased Too Short’s “Getting; It” and Nas’ “It Was Written” on the same day back in 1996. While Nas’ work has always been considered classic, not everyone shares my intrigue with Too Short music, but that’s neither here nor there. With that in mind, I thumbed through the iTunes Music search bar to find that Too Short album before leaving the gym’s parking lot. With much excitement, I found it and played the album before pulling out into minefields that would be reminiscent of real city streets if they had not been littered with life threatening sized potholes created by our lovely Michigan weather. Swerving and maneuvering around the craters I fell back into a trance as the tunes shouted from my headphones into my waiting ears. The very first track was the title track…Gettin’ It.
For The Record
Subconsciously, I started reciting the words. Although I hadn’t heard the song in years, it all came back to me like the mechanics of riding a bike. I’ve always heard that you never forget, even though these days, weight and age all but ban bikes from my existence. As I recited the words, it came to a part where he says, “I’m one in a million black men rising…” Immediately, I realized he was referring to the Million Man which had taken place almost a year prior to the release of this album. Quite obviously, my mind traveled back, not to the purchase of the album, but back to October 16th, 1995. The Million Man March was taking place in DC that Monday morning while we sat in class at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School. The same King High where we celebrated and shared high fives less than two weeks prior when OJ was declared innocent. In some perverse way, we thought we’d won something. Nevertheless, we celebrated then and less than two weeks later we would witness a powerful showing of unity and a call to action. However, as we sat in our 2nd hour Chemistry class, our teacher didn’t allow us to view any of the coverage on the dilapidated ancient picture box that was mounted into the wall above the corner of the chalk board.
The Science of America
Mr. Cuba, was an unassuming older white man. Unassuming, in the sense that it didn’t seem as though he took much time or consideration in his appearance and dressed so modestly that it left a feeling that he didn’t desire anyone to notice his presence. He was a brilliant instructor with a masterful manipulation of molecules, compounds, hydrogen bonds and things of that sort. All of this meant mostly nothing to me as I had to cheat my way to a passing grade. I’m guessing it’s okay to admit that now, since I have yet to use anything I learned, or faked like I learned, in the real world. My apparent inability to discern practical mathematical functions made me inept in the way of chemistry. If you’re reading this and wondering what my failure to figure out mathematical functions has to do with chemistry, then you may have found out just now that we both probably cheated our way through chemistry. Anyway, Mr. Cuba, not only didn’t allow us to watch the coverage of the Million Man March, but even went on to describe his inner-most feelings about Minister Farrakhan and how he despised him. He mentioned how his rhetoric was reverse racism and all but chastised him and his intentions amidst an entire room of black girls and boys. I flitted the tirade out of my head and chalked it up to a teacher not wanting us to watch TV in class. However, 22 years and a random playing of Too Short later, on the way home from the gym, I just realized something more.
As unassuming and brilliant as Mr. Cuba was, it dawned on me that America consists of many Mr. Cubas. Perhaps all are not as magnificent with the sciences, but many tread the same waters as him. Working class citizens who feel as though any act of black unity equates to a loss of power for the sustained white privilege that most try to ignore exists. Oddly enough, the same people who pretend that white privilege is a myth are the same ones who react as if this mythical unicorn is being threatened with extinction. Threatened with extinction because an often covertly oppressed community decides to stand together. This act of unity is taken as a threat and then stamped with titles like terrorist or “reverse racism” as Mr. Cuba not so elegantly spewed to the ears of 15 and 16-year-old black boys and girls that day. Riding through the potholes that jerked my truck and shook my body, the music was still playing, but I could no longer hear it. I could only hear the echoes of Mr. Cuba’s words and the echoes of the many Trump supporters who were adamant in Making America Great Again. I have no doubt in my mind that if Mr. Cuba is still alive, that he helped put 45 in office. It took me 22 years to realize the audacity of a teacher in the inner-city surrounded by impressionable black boys and girls who would dare be that perversely critical of an act of empowerment and unity that directly concerns the very children in that room. In the years since, I’ve come to realize this is the way of America and has been for many generations and sadly may continue for may generations to come. I may have not gotten it then, but thanks to Too Short….I’m finally “Gettin’ It.” Catch ya’ on the FLIPSIDE.