It is now white, very white. You can see the spots that are not as white but still very white. I am sure the landlord will only see the places that the orange, blue, red, green, purple and black refused to be hidden. Just like early in the twentieth century when American women refused to have their voices and votes hidden. Just like when the Voice of Nelson Mandela refused to be hidden or silenced by prison, hate or violence. When Brother Malcolm returned from his Pilgrimage in Mecca and refused to support division, and in fact promoted inclusion, and reformed open-heartedly a vision of what we need to do to be free. The Creative and Inspired Voice has a way of making itself known no matter how many coats of paint one tries to hide it with.
How can we accurately represent or portray six months of days and nights filled with love, tears, songs, laughter, dances, sharing, huge hugs and community after its visual evidence has been whitewashed away? Did we just commit treason of the highest order by submitting to the system constructed to whitewash creativity and uniqueness? But, who would be better assigned to such a task than the creators and lovers themselves? Is there anyone else qualified to dissolve James De La Vega’s chalk masterpieces on the sidewalks of Harlem than Mother Nature or De La Vega himself? No, I think not.
I am writing this knowing the answer but fighting hard to hold back the tears. Real hard. I am leaning against the cement base of the University of Virginia flagpole in front of the freshly painted columns of The Rotunda. It’s a gorgeous Sunday morning that includes tourists with cameras, and Christians in Khakis coming from Church strolling around campus. This is not where and when someone cries hysterically over participating in the process of de-expression. No, not here or now. Maybe I am not courageous enough to let myself breakdown and mourn over being one of the Brillo-scrubbers this morning. I am not strong enough to be that man. After centuries and millennium of witnessing de-expression, the wounds in my belly, heart, mind, ears and eyes are too deep, I am not man enough to embrace the kind of paint that deep.
But they are.
They, the ones who together produced the playlists on his MacBook that were the soundtrack of this loving family of a small, special group of humans. Young humans with friendship, trust, passion and wide open arms perfectly sculpted for hugs that make my knees weak by the sheer force of their love, compassion, hope and humility. They drew the purple sketches of the girl with the amazingly straight nose standing tall next to her soft, pillowy cheeks. They wrote The Welcome in all its bright undeniable colors that spoke the Universal language of Welcome to anyone fortunate enough to enter this Temple of love and community. They who as a group created their own Ten Commandments that lift and include us all, while simultaneously letting us know that we may not be there yet, but know where to go and why.
Purple and blue were the hardest to de-express. The vitality and boldness of these two pigments would make The Buddha, Jesus, Abraham, Kwan Yin and Mohammed proud parents of children like blue and purple. Just look at a sky or flower garden for proof of their force. The orange was easy to de-express, just like the bag of tangelos we inhaled to quench our thirsts on this hot day in late May two days removed from my birthday while scrubbing.
The handprints on the ceiling had pigments glorifying the colors of the rainbow and de-expressing them took our whole bodies to distinguish. We had to stretch and bend to make sure all evidence of this experience never happened, the lost Presidential election votes in Florida in 2000 were easier to hide than the tempura paint handprints holding and hugging all below them with love, warmth and forgiveness. These hands caressed and massaged the wounded hearts that Mother Culture beat and abused. The hands reached down to them providing safety and protection. A place where being you was what was expected of you. Not in spite of who you are, but because if who you are!
When I walked up the stairs to the living room this morning, the whiteness startled me. I have many friends of Color who experience being startled by whiteness every day of their lives, for me, this morning was too much. No, I am not man enough to face this pain.
How can I allow these tears trying to purify and cleanse my heart and Soul for this act of heresy? But I will de-express them too.
If I am experiencing this level of violation and stripping of their outward expression of their days and nights they shared meals, words, arms and dreams together; what about them? I am just a weary traveler grateful for a place to rest my head. This is their collective creation.
When will we choose expression over oppression?
Today, my vote in the primary of life is to express and create. No more de-expression, not one more day!