The Complexities Of Being Young, Gifted And Black- By Jahi Mackey

If I am the next hashtag

Let the world know of my complexity

Let them know that no matter how hard

They try, they can’t make up their own

Narrative

I have no criminal history, I’m soft spoken

And if I were to be the next hashtag

It would be because my brain

Intimidated more than my body

Tell them that in third grade

I knew the names of all the countries in the world

And developed chronic low-self esteem

Thanks to colorism

In sixth grade

I carried a viola

At 5AM in the morning

To the bus stop

Because I wanted to play in the orchestra in my middle school

In ninth grade

My grandmother raced me from Mckinley High

To NOCCA for

Creative writing while I did

Geometry homework in the car

And in eleventh grade

I finished high school a year early

Having to teach myself both pre-calculus and Javascript

To graduate

Let them know that

I have a BA in International Studies at UNO

And a minor in French

I spent every Spring Break in New York

At the UN

And in order to avoid puzzled expressions

From my kinfolk

I simply told people I wanted to be a diplomat

Even though I had no idea what I wanted to do

And the ideas I had were too complicated

Let them know that

I started graduate school at 20 years old

And I am currently getting my Masters in

Intercultural Service Leadership and Management

At the School of International Training Graduate Institute

In Brattleboro, Vermont

But also

Let them know how painful it is

To have worked so hard

And sacrificed so much

Just for no one in this city to respect

What I have studied or the work that I have done

Simply because they don’t want to understand it

Let them know that I left home and returned

To feel more like a foreigner in my own city

Than anywhere else I have been

In the world

Let them know

That I am socially awkward

Which means that I have a very

Difficult time making friends

And I often times go through multiple drafts of a text message

Just to avoid saying the wrong thing

Most importantly

Let them I am no one’s white savior experiment

I need no one to tell my story or help me

Tell my story because

I can do it myself

Nor am I a conservative’s counter argument

To try and prove systematic racism does not exist

Because my life cannot be seen through simplistic eyes

And being Black meant being taught that the world is our oyster

And a battlefield

And if we wanted to avoid having our dreams deferred

We needed to express mail

Them before anyone could

Tell us otherwise

If I am the next hashtag

Tell my whole story

And not just the parts you think are convenient

Don’t let me end up like all the other

Black and brown men and women

Who had their lives erased

And their humanity stripped from them

Once they became a hashtag

Reduced to just a tragic encounter

In which their frustration and fear

Was fatal

All lives will matter when

Black lives matter and

We have the right to be

Human

Which means

Being complex

1,000 piece puzzles

That once assembled

May open your mind

And show you a new view

Until that day may come

Memorize my story

Do not wait until I am a victim of

State violence

Lifeless on the ground

Video footage across the internet

With no warning that what you may see

Could be offensive to children

To understand me

If I intimidate you

Revisit your shortcomings

If I amaze you

There are many who are more brilliant than I

But just know

That every day that a person of color

Exists in this world

We exist to survive

We get used to being misunderstood

Lost in translation

Only valued when we fit other people’s boxes

Hoping for the day

We will live to be

Appreciated and

Understood

_________________________________________________________________________________

Jahi Mackey is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He grew up in North Baton Rouge and graduated from McKinley Senior High School. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of New Orleans and is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Intercultural Service Leadership and Management at the School of International Training Graduate Institute, located in Vermont.

Jahi is currently the Program Director and founder of The 821 Project, an organization that promotes global citizenship in the south Louisiana community through social justice and intercultural education programming. He seeks to promote multiculturalism and expand community education on multicultural issues in his own community.