This month began with a simple enough premise… that history may well not be the same for all of us. You see history is quite often told by… he, and that means a whole lot of they (and a whole lot of shes) don’t really get represented when many of the hes look a whole lot like….. me.

What I know, and I’m learning that I don’t know a lot, is that if Their-story is ever to become His-story (and if His-story is ever to become Our-story), it’ll be the storytellers that will get us there.

They may not always be nice, because niceness is a convenience of the perpetually fortunate, but they sure as hell will be brave. We won’t always be ready for what they tell us, but then it’s presumptuous to assume their stories were meant to comfort us anyhow.

But they will be…. They will be. Times change and even (and especially?) the wise get pissed to learn that they’ve only ever heard part of the story. So bring on the storytellers. Dunk our heads in discomfort, so we may rise again into comprehension.

 

… When I was younger, I watched a lot of sports. I was crap at playing them, but man oh man I loved to watch. I read the box scores, I collected the baseball cards, and I watched a heap of ESPN.

Once a year, ESPN would crown one athlete as Next.

This designation, given to one who was destined to change the game, was always so interesting to discover, though there was fear in the change one knew this new messenger surely carried.

To play differently or lead an unexpected team to glory meant that something previously known was about to be thrown into question.

I’m so grateful that the world I now love is far more pen strokes than passes.

You see, in the world of storytelling, we have room for all kinds of additions. That does not mean that all new voices are welcome, for here too there is an order, and new ideas are terrifying to the many… no matter how wide eyed we fancy ourselves to be.

Still, these new voices are necessary, and we should (get the hell over ourselves and) be grateful for every moment we get in their propinquity.

And so, from the day when I started this Black History Month blog series, I knew how it would end. I wanted to provide my opinion on Next.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tariq Toure.

Tariq Toure is Baltimore’s laureate in waiting. He is feisty, daring and wields a pen that lives to dissect and fillet. He is merciless in his intolerance of intolerance and exudes integrity that will make it hard to even look him in the eye if ever our paths cross after I hit publish on this piece.

But none of that matters.

2016… Well, it sucked. It sucks to feel shocked and shock comes from the arrogance of having thought one knew.

The answers to so much of what confounds us – race, poverty, police brutality and intolerance… Well, they were there all along, if ever we would have logged onto Twitter and dared to look. That medium was where I knew Toure, until last summer when I purchased his book as a reaction to one police shooting too many.

I knew there was more that I was not seeing. I knew the places I had looked had no answers to what I longed to learn. One night I bought a book, and in that book I discovered fire. Fire leads to light. Light defeats the darkness…. though it reveals some ugliness we’d tried to hide as well.

 

Toure’s masterwork is a little book of magic called Black Seeds. It is raw, it is necessary, and be warned: it is a threat. For once you’ve read Tariq Toure, you forfeit your ability to say you had no idea. Love it or hate it, the world will open for you. His ink-filled scalpel will see to this whether you meant for it to happen or not.

The trade-off, for what may make you crawl before you fly, is that Toure’s prose is also some of the most beautiful wordplay Maryland has ever produced (and a guy named Fitzgerald lies buried about twenty minutes up the road from here). I don’t know if Toure can play, but damn it the guy can compose.

What Toure does is nothing short of giving voice to the unheard. (No I didn’t mean voiceless… African America has a multitude of voices, so many that it has taken institutionalized deafness to drown our their truth.)

Since 19 he has ‘professionally engaged in the development of at-risk African American males of all ages in Baltimore and Washington DC.’

Like many who give, I’d guess he sees his reward in the growth of others. Like many who write, I’d guess he probably tells stories because he must.

The inability to navigate the silence of my evolution

Proves I am farther from existing and nearer to ceasing

A lead lance weighs heavy on my palm

A weapon for a mere mercenary

Impossible to determine whether I wield it or it wields me

– Tariq Toure, Writers Block III

Whatever the dynamic, I’m grateful Toure puts truth to paper. I’m excited that he is Next. I’m blessed that Next is Now. I, and we, are all better for this fact.

 

Black Seeds: The Poetry and Reflections of Tariq Toure can be purchased here.

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