21 // Black Future Month // Sunni Patterson, Realist Futurist

Posted on February 21, 2012

So, yeah. I took the weekend off. For lots of reasons. None of which I’m willing to share. I promise that I’ll build in those missed days in the coming week or so. If you’re a stickler for dates, come back and see what I slide in for the 17-20th. In the meanwhile. Black Future returns.

My favorite emcee is named Nikki. You know her? She rocks that blue hair sometimes, or the sandy-blonde joint? She got a couple well known bars about her ego? Sports the oversized jackets and skinny ties. Got a tat up her forearm. It says Thug Life.

Nikki Giovanni has long been my favorite master of ceremonies. For the time she did the impossible memorial at Virginia Tech, for her waxing on NASA’s space program, for her poem for Pac on the day he was killed — still the truest, most grounded writing since his passing, in my opinion. While the most easily digested of her poems make their way into BHM events and oratorical fests the world ’round, the least quoted opuses do the most visceral damage. She’s an undisputed, real life, speaker of real, writer of true. And she does it while effortlessly redefining what it means to be many of the things I am: poet, teacher, scholar, black, female identified, eulogist, thinker and talker-of-shit.

I think what scares many of us, and why Black History Month can become so didactic and repetitive, is that we fear legacies lost. In a gem like Nikki we also see a void that could be left in her absence. It changes our perspective on the living giants — often forcing them to occupy (regular old occupy) spaces not of their choosing — the Sanchezes, Giovannis and Davises of the world get requests to do their old poems, old poems, old speeches — and also are expected to behave in the ways they did in their 20s.

But Ms. Giovanni, despite all that, writes new poems for new occasions — grows comfortable in her aging, but not complacent or complicit.

And so, when I think about folks who might move in that same path, I can’t help but to think about (in my rarely humble opinion) the realest futurist in the game, Sunni Patterson. Damn. Sunni. What can I say about Sunni? She channels and performs like this:

No doubt, in 20 years, Sunni’ll be offered a distinguished professorship somewheres. She’ll likely forgo the arm patches, have a grand baby of some sort in tow, be effortlessly woman, and fiercely spirit. And still teaching me thangs, as I watch on the periphery. Or more likely, she’ll set her own course (pun intended), sidestep the limitations her adoring public will attempt to throw on her, and write the words we most need to hear.

Here’s to legacy, affirmation, change, and for the smartest women of us, picking up the mantle.


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