Nizzear's death has forced me to revisit a conversation I had with my oldest nephew back in 2008. While talking to him, I could have just reached through the phone and slapped him for squandering his innate drawing talent to chase the elusive rapper's lifestyle. To understand my frustration, I offer you a little about my nephew. By the time he was ten-years old, he was drawing freehand. While watching taped Dragon Ball Z cartoon shows, he would pause the video and draw the image on the screen. Once doing a visit home from college, I asked to have a picture he drew of Chuckie from the Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats. Before I accepted it, I made him sign his name at the bottom of the drawing. When I returned to school, I hung it up in my dorm room and later in the room of my first apartment. To this day, I still have his drawing. It's tucked safely in my keepsakes folder. After ending our conversation that night, I cried for the next forty-five minutes to an hour before writing the following in my journal.
18 February 2008, 8:21 p.m.
Why? What happened to our black males? What happened to their pride? Their awareness of being who they are? Why is it hard for us as a people to work together? Why is it that we do not recognize that we are our brother's keeper? (responsible for reaching back...pulling up...encouraging) Why do our young black males feel that it's okay & quite acceptable to play into the stereotype of the ignorant, thuggish, pant-sagging, dope-dealing, baby daddy black man? Why are these parents not pushing these kids? Why are we so happy being complacent? Parents, why do you allow your children to settle for much less than they are worth? Why? Why? Why? I will continue to push, motivate, empower, encourage, enrage, and teach them to fight back. NO SETTLING!!Still there was more to get out. There was more that I had to, no, NEEDED to say. The words flowed out shaping themselves into a poem.
Little boy, little boy
Are you okay?I hear your screamI hear your cryWhy do you bury it so?I hear your voice calling to meSo what are you going to do?Are you gonna mold yourself to media standards?Are you gonna bend to the ways of others?How about conforming to the next big fad?
Little boy, little boyWhat are you to do?Are you gonna dance to the beat of your own drum?Sway to the rhythm of your own song?Allowing your talent, your special gift to lead the way?Little boy, little boyYou are not so little anymoreA young man you have become
Young man, young manwhat do you know?Do you know who you are?Legacy, oh legacy, what will yours be?Young man, young manI still hear your silent cryFree it, free it, let it goThrow back your head releasing your fierce roarI am herenowhere have I goneDrawing out your gift is my aimPoint to yourself, lay a hand on your stomachand say, “Rise My Gift, RISE!”As your gift comes forth the stereotypes, negativity, insecurities, self-doubts, fears,low expectations, and confusion fall awayYoung man, young manwhich will you choose,a life of conformity or individuality?
As I transcribe these words from my journal to this post, I'm reminded of a scene from the movie Akeelah & the Bee, after Dr. Larabee is no longer coaching Akeelah for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Tanya, Akeelah's mother, says to a disappointed Akeelah, "You know Akeelah you ain't short on people who want to help you. I bet if you just look around, you got 50,000 coaches, starting with me." When our children look around, will they see 50,000 coaches or 50,000 unapproachable, too-busy-for-me adults?
Too many of our young black boys and men have lost their lives to death or the prison system due to criminal activity and/or foolish rivalries. There is a proverb of the African Bantu people that states, "The child in the mother's womb is the burden of one person, outside it belongs to everybody." You and I, are everybody. We are the community, the village. Our job is to love, nurture, support, awaken to work, and provoke positive action in our young.
Nizzear, though we mourn your passing, we rejoice in your transition. You are once again with our Divine Creator and now stand among the ancestors. Nizzear Rodriguez you will never be forgotten. Your death is not in vain for it shook up Carroll County and sparked life into a dormant community. Farewell my friend, I will always be your Ms. Stephina.
Akeelah and the Bee. Dir. Doug Atchison. Perf. Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, KeKe Palmer. Lionsgate 2929 Productions, 2006.