As the co-director of a CUNY undergraduate program, I have been fortunate to meet some amazing young people, who teach and inspire me. I had a conversation with two of them, Kia and Steven along with my director Lauren (aka L-Boogie/Boogs). At one point, Steven confesses that he appreciates his conversations with Kia because it provokes thought, helps him to see another perspective and there is a mutual respect based on their experiential knowledge and everything that comes with it including the socio-emotional aspects. Steven gave Kia her flowers because their conversations helped him to be a better Steven.
Since meeting each other two years ago, they have had candid conversations across many subjects. I wasn’t there for many of them, but when I was around, it was like watching a tennis match with their back and forth. It wasn’t for “winning” however, it was for understanding and building community. Steven also confessed why he sometimes challenges what Kia says, not to be a jerk, but to make sure that the reasoning is solid. This is part of his survival mechanism—it’s not a resistance to her views. However, Kia is unwavering because she knows her shit. Yet, her cup is never full when it comes to learning new things.
After Kia accepted her flowers she stated she wasn’t aware of her impact on Steven and now she understands why the conversations panned out the way they did. Kia admitted that because of the way is sometimes perceived, she usually chooses to be silent. Up until then, Boogs and I were quiet, but I had to interrupt Kia. As brilliant as she is, Kia has her reservations for certain conversations because…colonialism. A lot of conversations haven’t gone over well because many weren’t ready and therefore deemed the way she was getting her point across as negative. The J. Cole and No Name exchange popped into my mind. Nah fam, we need to talk about this.
I referenced the shortcomings of what transpired between J.Cole and No Name. Cole wanted that real love, that dark-skin aunt Viv love, but when he got it…he couldn’t handle it. Apparently, there are no role modelz to help him understand that the canvas he painted of No Name was how he wanted her to be presented, but her “smile” was “crooked” for a reason. Moreover, it’s hard to love yourz when they need to be saved from the ideologies that they are using against their own. No Name addressed Cole in one minute and nine seconds in a track titled, “Song 33.” “[She], hot, dog, catch up to [her] ni–a—couldn’t resist.” (No really, I couldn’t resist. Lol.) Unfortunately, No Name later apologized, which weakened the need for the exchange of young Black America among the sexes. This was far from a distraction; this is part of a daily problem and if we are to move forward together, we need to have conversations about where we stand and how we feel.
Kia and Steven had the conversation Cole and No Name should have had. They exhibited a blueprint for dialogue that is imperative to progress such as actually listening to each other; having mutual respect and reserving judgment for things you are trying to understand. Also note, not all messages are received the same time that they are given. Sometimes it takes times. Sometimes it takes repetition. Sometimes it’s the messenger. (This is loaded and probably a factor as to why Cole felt a way. Would he feel the same if No Name was a guy?)
Nevertheless, Kia and Steven are leaders and like James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, their conversations provide “Revolutionary Hope.”