Thursday, September 27, 2007

Looking at Locks and Links

I realized this past weekend that I have the privilege of a black perch – a position from which to see a range of black people. My wife and I went to a wedding this weekend in New York. The groom is an old and close friend of ours. He is an MIT grad and the wedding was populated with black MIT and Harvard alum. The migratory pattern of black birds like these are such that a host of us flew west to Stanford and Berkeley as well. So there we were, a slew of black people with the best education the country has to offer.

In this group of people there were no locks, it was a cuff-link crowd at a cuff-link venue in the Bowery in lower Manhattan. Many of the brothers were immaculately groomed with short professional afros or low cuts edged with laser precision. The women also brought out the sartorial big guns. A few even had on the same dress, which looked like one that Kimora Simmons might wear.

The conversation canvas of snippets yielded an interesting picture of this group. It consisted of Microsoft professionals, neurosurgeons, private equity big leaguers, corporate executives, high end management consultants and venture capitalists. The concern for the proverbial “community” was at the level of continents and regions. “We’re placing particular emphasis on investments in the Caribbean basin.” “We’re trying to strengthen capital markets in West Africa.” “We’re dealing with closing the epidemiological divide.”

When I paused to absorb the circumstance, it was fascinating. Here was a group of young black people impeccably educated whose influence is slowly gaining strength and sending long wave shocks out into the world. It is a group that is seldom talked about and certainly rarely seen together in the same place. It was amazing to see and even more humbling to be a part of.

Last year around the same time my wife and I went to another friend’s wedding in California. The difference in the venue reflected the difference in the people. It was held in the Berkeley Botanical Gardens at an outdoor alter in a Redwood grove. There, there were not only locks, but locks that were laced with cowry shells. There was a sister with a small tattoo of Che Guevara on her back. There were several people dressed in African clothing and several others who were grads of the Nation of Islam and alum of the Five Percenters.

The conversation canvas there presented a picture of street level activists for whom community meant the people that can be seen and touched whose lives are obviously connected to their own. There were teachers, Freedom School workers, youth program coordinators, social councilors, artists of all sorts and old sages from the Black Panther Party. “I’m trying to get some of these brothers to recognize the beauty in themselves.” “At the Freedom Schools, we try to teach these kids that our community is either going to flourish or perish, but whatever it does, it will do it as a community.”

At that wedding too, I had to pause and appreciate the significance and the beauty of the group of people. It is a group that is more visible than the cuff-links set, but its influence is quiet and steadily growing. It was also amazing to see and humbling to be a part of.

From locks to links, the parties at both of these weddings went well into the wee hours of the morning; they were dark, hot, full of reminiscing, full of love and most importantly full of hope.


1 comment:

tamara said...

greetings kamau,
while your depiction of our wedding as populated by afro-centric community activists was flattering, it is somewhat inaccurate. i am not sure if it was in effort to create a bold contrast to the cufflinks crew, but truth be told, there were more engineers and architects at our wedding than any group...with a faction of doctoral students running close behind them. artists and educators and regular 9-5 corporate america heads were also largely represented. i can think of 2 political activists that were there, yuri kochiyama and my cousin rema from london, a member the all african people's revolutionary party, but wil
and i still can't figure out who the alums from the nation of islam and panther party are that you are referring to, or the freedom school workers for that matter. who are they? i think out of about 100 people, maybe 4-5 people had locks and a married couple and a father and son wore african garb. a person's perception is his
reality, but your description left me confused because it didn't seem to reflect who was actually at our wedding. does this mean that our wedding was more socially conscious and had "street-level credibility"? what does it mean if a person sports locks anyways? in oakland these days, every young black male on the corner seems to have a headful of locks and a white tee on...i also wonder if you still had your long locks how would you have felt at the cuff links affair......