Mellons in Pittsbooger

Originally published on YELP on 25 May 2016:

A trip always starts the night before it starts.

Though you lie still/still lie in familiar sheets, your mind and heart have already flown into the pages of a blank clock, imaging and creating memories that will materialize, anticipating takeoff and sights beyond. Tomorrow we depart for Pittsburgh PA. Nona and Papa sent us on our way with a full belly, a few bills, a sack of oranges, and a wellspring of affection that only (grand)parents can supply. And now there is nothing to do but dream.. Soon we will be amidst them. 

Visiting Carnegie Mellon for Open Engagement 2015, I encountered a notable experience within the trajectory of, as its called, "interracial parenting." During Group Bio, a workshop by Lenka Clayton, a group of participants circled up to write a Group Bio: each sentence was to be equally true for each of the twenty-plus people in the room. Our Group Bio reads surprisingly seamlessly, yet moments of the process were anything but. 

Attempting to find commonality, we sat offering possible phrases. Midway through the workshop someone asserted: “We are all of European descent.” I stood up in an exaggerated yet unavoidable knee-jerk reaction. “That’s ridiculous!” I inarticulately blurted out before anyone else - including my socialized self - responded. The room went silent. Even I reeled in surprise at my body’s physical reaction to the statement, and remained surprised as the conversation unfolded. Apart from the inconsideration of Raymond (we had already decided to exclude my son - whose physical form evokes transglobal migration of our ancestors - on account of the age-limited life experience of someone under two), I was disgusted by the blunt, surface assumption only possible by a woman whose life is wrapped in her performance of Whiteness.

Later - while examining my emotional response to that moment - I discovered a notion of posterity that roots itself in those who come after rather than before. Given that I have reproduced myself as a body who is/will be read as a black/brown man, I now parent (and create) a black/brown future. Moreover, the people who carry on my lineage are members of the African diaspora - though one may not read this intricacy from my buttercream surface. Yet if mother is child then they are me and I am them so what am I, oh degenerating world of designation? By looking to the future we find a unity that the here-now requires and it is this inter-dimensionality that is thwarted by homogeneous groupthink. To the woman who assumed her ability to read performance of ancestry was complete, I wish to probe: who or what composes European descent, in the first place? And within the realization that what/who is/was "European" results from voluntary and forced transatlantic and trans-Saharan migration, may the antiquated notion of container-driven (social/physical) spaces unwind through our, my very own, bloodlines. 

Upon our return to Portland Nona asked, “Ray, how was Pittsburgh?” and, pointing to his nose, he revealed both a hidden word within the city’s name as well as toddler-era infatuation with nostrical byproducts. “Pittsbooger” he smiled.

Perhaps language is best kept in poetics.