“How Black Superman Died”

Part 1 of The Mad Griot Trilogy

Da-da-da
DA!
DADA!

Faster than
the kid
next door!
More powerful
than an
unopened jar
of apple sauce!
Able to leap
the backyard
wall
in a single
bound!

IT’S SUPERMAN!

Yes, Superman!

We need
superheroes
in these hard times
when your carpet
becomes
molten lava
at any moment
and imaginary foes
strikes out at you
from all directions.

Gotta study
Gotta bone up
Gotta watch
tons of
Superman movies
Gotta read Superman
comic books
till they fall to pieces.
Got pretend
I AM
Superman
feel him in my body
feel him in my mind
so I can do it
the way
it’s meant
to be done.
And on Halloween Day
when everyone comes
to school
in costume
I’ll know what
I’m about
with my BLUE SUIT
and my RED CAPE
and my BIG RED “S” ON MY CHEST

I’m walking tall and proud
as 8-year old Superman
till some chile
some classmate
some emperor-has-no-clothes
kid
says
“You can’ t be Superman.
Superman is white.”
And

And

And I know this.

I know this.
but I wanted to forget
I wanted to forget
just for one day
so that I could be
Superman
But children
are like mirrors
and t
hey haven’t yet
mastered
the art of silence
or a soft landing
and got no problem
reminding me
that I
have stepped
into something
that is for
“whites only.”

What
I should have done
was gone
as a BLACK hero
Like a character
from Fat Albert.
Or Malcolm X
(that would have been
pretty fucking dope
actually
8-year-old Malcolm X?
Genius!)
Or maybe I should have gone as some
non-racial
anthropomorphized being
like a Transformer
or Voltron
or a duck
or something.

There were options.

But I wanted Superman
I wanted
bulletproof
flying
laser-eyed
brick-wall smashing
Lex-Luthor fighting
SUPERMAN!
I wanted to be
THE
Superhero of Superheroes
Not settle
for second fiddle
In my 8-year-old mind
stories with black people in them
are always stories about people
trying NOT to be second fiddle
trying not to be oppressed.
and it’s 1988
Not 1958
and I’m only 8
and they told me
in school
that Martin Luther King
put a stop to all this shit
already
So it’s really
not my fight.
Because I’m only 8.
And the hero’s journey
and the call to adventure
and acts of courage
are much easier to
perform
when you can perform them
vicariously
through heroes
who don’t
look like you.

They’re making
lots
of superhero movies
now.

One after another
these myths
these myths
these myths
that are less like mirrors
and more like reminders
of where I’m supposed to be
in the grand scheme
of things

The irony is
I think this is
how heroes and villains
are made.

Because a body needs a myth
A body needs a story that
it can move into
Embody
incarnate
It needs it.

And I will have it.

And if Superman won’t do
I’ll root
for Doomsday
I’ll see the Man of Steel
fall
broken and bruised
amidst laughter and scorn

So
to answer your question
That was how
Black Superman died
and The Mad Griot was born.

 

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