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When they told you that you weren’t capable--that the span of your reach and the height of your leap would never extend beyond the 10 ft. rim of your high school gym; that your only place in this world is confined to the 5x5 confines of a space you call kitchen; when they promised the American Dream, but handed you a lucid nightmare instead --did they leave your senses senseless?
Did their words betray your psyche with Trojan horse complements when they said “You’re a natural born athlete,” or “at least you have a better shot of getting scholarships for college than I do, cuz..you know,” or “you’re like the whitest black person I know”..?
Did the vibrations of their words sound a lot like the hopelessness?
Like the first seconds of silence after the thunderous cracks of a gavel, deafening like the cracks of whips echoing through time, echoing through minds like the creaking cracks of stair boards worn from years of facilitating ascension…
Did their words sound like your grandmother’s pension: hollow? Or as full as the laughter in your elementary school classroom after you were called on to read?
Did it leave you with a sulfurous taste in your mouth -- bitter like the cold air that met your outstretched hand when you introduced yourself to new neighbors with broken English and a cheerful smile…?
Could you smell their ignorance? Was it putrid like burnt cork?
Or, did their verdict appear before you in the form of a report card littered with failing grades that seem to reflect your teachers’ efforts more than your own? Did it look like your home--broken but strong and standing, lonely yet overcrowded, crippled with cold air bearable only by the warmth of the hearts radiating there…
Could you read the doubt in their stares, like headlines on the evening news?
Like marquees of your family’s past, present, *ellipses*
Is the future is a foreign concept to you…?
When they said you weren't capable, did they look or sound a lot like me?
A foreign, yet familiar face championing the mantra that “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education,” ignorant of the fact that you might not even make it home safely from school today, let alone see that seemingly storybook “Someday” we at Teach For America call “One day” – A not promised tomorrow…
Is this an uncertainty you’re far too accustomed to?
Do the lives in your life seem to pass quicker than the second hand along its 360 degree pivot? Do you watch the seconds fade every.2nd. period.
When they said you weren’t capable,
Were their words accompanied by an awkward smile, or more of a Simon Cowell-framed scowl, with unassuming Abdul-like eyes and with shallow Jackson-like praise?
When they judged you, but failed to hand you your invitation Hollywood, to be an American, did your heart idle (idol) like frosted engines on late-autumn evenings, did you grow still in your place?
If you did.. the next time you look in the mirror, and look at your face, I want you to find traces of Malcolm -- that X-convict who always stood his ground, though never in the middle -- in your brow lines; see Martin’s vision in the Reflection Pool of your pupils; learn to smile in the face of adversity with all the poise/elegance of Billie Holiday, or Beyoncé.. Know who you hold potential to be. And that, to me, your face looks a lot like Marcus Garvey, like Ché Guevara, or Kanye, or JFK, or Frida Kahlo, like Cesar Chavez, like Susan B. Know that You are You, and like me, you hold potential to exceed their every expectation, Know that overachievement is not the same as overcompensation, Know that when you were told you weren’t capable it was by people who were not able… to be… So be Great. Because neither I, nor this World, can afford to fail you.