Poetry

Practice (An Auto Ethnographical Exercise)

TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of sexual assault and r*pe

Some content was supposed to be up already, but I made a mistake and the article basically did not save properly. As I write that article again, I thought I would post some past writings that I have done. One of my assignments in my last semester of undergrad consisted of writing an auto ethnography. An auto ethnography is a research method where they utilize personal experiences to describe and interpret cultural texts, feelings, emotions, practices, beliefs, and so on. Since this class was a theatre class, our task was to write a two page interaction with someone that we knew whether it was personally or not. One person chose AOC, another chose Cleopatra, and another chose an old friend that she hadn’t talked to in a while. A majority of the class picked people that they admired; people who inspired them to pursue the career that they are studying currently and people who encourage them to go follow their dreams, goals, and ambitions. I chose Eldridge Cleaver. I despise Eldridge Cleaver with a deep passion; with a fire that would make Hell bow down in submission. With little knowledge, this man might be seen as a progressive leader of the Black Panther Party, but in all honesty, he was a vile, acrimonious sociopath who resorted to unspeakable tactics in the name of equality. In his 1968 book, Soul On Ice, he details one of his strategies on how to fight against racism, white supremacy, and oppression. I was able to read a snippet of his book, and the utter disgust that overcame by body is one that I can’t quite find the words to describe yet. This man…if you want to call him that, was an avid rapist. He viewed rape as a pivotal tool when getting back at the white man and those who were victims under their power. In his book, he is quoted saying, “rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women.” He first started with black women, why? Because he said they were practice. Practice…like studying for a midterm exam. Practice…like perfecting your jump shot. Practice…these women were nothing to him. He was finally arrested for assault in 1958. During this time is when he started following Malcolm X. In his book, he calls himself a rapist. “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’m a Negro, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a Higher Uneducation.” (Cleaver) The amount of women that he attacked is unknown at this time, and probably will never be revealed. I cry for those women, as I know so many women who have been hurt in this way…I am one of those women myself. The fact that this man was a mouthpiece for the Black Panther Party is appalling. This repulsed me immensely, but I couldn’t help but think about his victims, especially those that share the same race as me. You see this monster years later fighting for justice, but he did that horrible thing to you? That’s where I got the inspiration to write my scene with him as the target. I wrote as if I was one of his victims, seeing him for the first time since my attack and since he started preaching the teachings of Malcolm X. I’ve learned so many things about our past black activists, abolitionists, and leaders…maybe that will be a post for another time? Without further ado, this is my auto ethnography title Practice.

PS…forgive me if the historical accuracy is skewed. Also, I want to state that I am not making light of the cruel and brutal acts that Eldridge Cleaver enacted. Thank you.

Practice

No…that isn’t who I think it is. He found me…how? Is he even looking for me? Get yourself together girl, he doesn’t care about you that much…he probably doesn’t remember your name. What would he want with me…again? You’re going to spend your whole life on the run buddy…not just from the pigs, but from your sanity; the so-called Messiah that lets us live another day. Lord knows you can never repent enough for what you’ve done, so don’t start now. As many times as I’ve cried and begged the God I prayed to in my youth; in Sunday’s best and pearl white doll socks, he ignores my pain…he won’t show any mercy to you..sick son of a ..no, stop it. In a way, I feel bad for you; I know…I know what it feels like to be on the run…but how can you run from yourself? That is him…oh my God…

*tears begin to well up in my eyes and my hands close into fists. I’m frozen as if the soles of my feet have cemented into the pavement* 

This man has had power over you for years, do you even know who you are anymore? You used to be Dara McGee, and now all you’re considered is one of his victims…is that who you want to be remembered as? IS THAT YOUR IDENTITY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? Confront him, now. Do it…do it for you. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t care; your words may not shift anything in that cold and desolate mind of his, but you need to be free. Free yourself…this is not the way to live your life. 

*I’m hesitant, but my body relaxes, the same way it did when I realized that I couldn’t stop him from what he did to me. The cement around my feet are no more as my tip toes toward him become steps, and then my steps become strolls, and then my strolls become strides. I’m done.* 

Some book you wrote, huh Eldridge? You call yourself an author now? 

*he whirls around so gracefully, almost like a ballerina. He doesn’t remember who I am. How many of us were there?* 

You don’t remember me, do you? I was one of your firsts. I was your so-called revolution…some poor black girl living on the other side of the tracks. I was nothing to you, but you lived there too…what does that say about you? We are the same flowers growing from the same flower pot, and you plucked my petals and cut my stem. I may not be a man, but I understand your pain…I bear the same flesh as you. When white people look at me, they cross the street in my path, they spit at me, they deem me as an abomination…I feel that pain too. I stood in solidarity with you…all my brethren, and to have one of my own do something like that to me…why aren’t you saying anything? Do you not feel bad about your actions? Insurrectionary act…kiss my ass. That was diabolical, sociopathic, psychopathic…crazy, just crazy. I read the book Eldridge, and you referred to me…my sisters…we were targets…no, what did you say in your book? Practice. Practice for the main target. Look here, those girls did not deserve what they got; as much as they probably hated us already, they did not deserve to be taken advantage of. No matter who you are; what walk of life you’ve trekked and where you call home, you do not deserve what happened to me; I wouldn’t wish it on the lowest, vilest creature alive. Hmm, so I guess that means I wouldn’t wish it on you I suppose. They think you are so brilliant Eldridge; they drank your words like gin….they are intoxicated. You really are a natural orator, I’ll give you that. I can see why the black community idolizes you, especially wayward, Fatherless black young men…how I fear for the young girls they’ll try to pursue. The way you see the world is frightening, but alas, we live in a frightening reality. You are right…no don’t walk away from me! You’re going to stand here and remember because I can never forget; you are going to listen. You are right about the world being unfair to our people, but why did you have to go along and be unfair with it? It’s already hard enough being a black woman. We are the Black Panther Party; we are the backbone of this organization; some of y’all just pick up the bullhorn when need be. How can you disrespect those who understand your plight the most? How can you see me as disposable? We gave birth to you; spent nine months growing you inside our womb, altering our bodies to make sure you make it here alright…some of us risking our lives. I’m afraid to ever share my body with another; giving life and creating it. Why? Just why!? You ruined my life, and the saddest thing is…you don’t care. Somehow, in that convoluted brain of yours, you think these actions were some radical protest…IS THIS WHAT YOU ARE TEACHING!? Are you proud of this? *laughs uncomfortably* This is your legacy now. Black Panther Party leader, visionary, radicalist…r–ist. I wish I could see you as all those great things others see you as, but I can’t, and you’ve ruined it for me and one day everybody else will see. I stand before my brothers in awe of the stories they bestow, only to think, have they done what Eldridge has done? You felt resentment over how white men used black women, huh? And you did the very same thing that they did to us, now tell me, how does that make sense? Do you want to dismantle racism and white supremacy? Do you really?  Do you want to be free from the white man? Or do you want to be just like him? What revenge did you need to get on me? What have I ever done to you? If that was my lot in life; a pin cushion for the black revolution, the Lord didn’t need to give that burden to me. Imagine how it feels to know that no one, not even the black man himself, loves us black women? NO ONE! I am hollow inside; my heart, my mind…what good is it to use now!?  Answer me that, Eldrige, what good is it? Nothing? The one thing I do have left is my voice, and you can’t match it? Answer me!…you are a coward, you know that!?  I don’t care what you’re doing for the betterment of black folk…YOU.ARE.A.COWARD! I pray people see you for who you are and everyone loses all the respect they ever had for you. You have to be one sick twisted mother f–ker if you think brutalizing me and other black women…women in general, is the best way of attaining revenge. There is nothing deeper to it; no symbolism, no bigger picture…you are deranged. Whether you have changed from your ways or not, that will always be embedded in your psyche. It kills me inside to know that I can’t do anything but cry; scream…pray that the Lord will end my suffering and lift the weights that crush my shoulders every single f–king day. I was just prey to you…and over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion why I was your target. It wasn’t the mid thigh length dress, or the way my hair was pulled back, showing off my cheekbone I inherited from my Mother’s side. It wasn’t any of that..mmm mmm. I know why you chose me…because you knew if you were going to r–e me…you’d get away with it. I can see that I have done nothing for you; this was probably a waste of your time, so I’ll go. Goodbye Mr. Cleaver…may God have mercy on your soul, well, if there still is one somewhere in there.

Sources:

Cleaver, Eldridge. 1968. Soul on Ice. Print 1999.

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