I told you I was writing a letter to the incomparable @theebillyporter.
I’m even doing it the same day I made the pronouncement.
I’m even doing it while listening to his rendition of I Am Changing. It, along with the live version of Why We Sing are in my Spotify ‘liked songs’ that I often keep on rotate while I work. These two amazing songs are between Eric B. & Rakim’s Don’t Sweat the Technique and Joe Jackson’s A Slow Song. Do with that what you will.
But I digress.
The point of this evening missive is to say thank you. I mentioned that I stayed up last night to finish my (pre-ordered and signed, thank you) copy of Unprotected.
C’mere — lemme tell you a secret:
I was mad to get to the end of the book, it was just that good. It spoke to me. I could hear Ms. Porter, reading it. I could see Ms. Porter, performing it, like those shows that used to come around with folks who were of a lighter hue, when they would sit in the middle of a big stage, reading from their texts and gesticulating along because they were feeling their own narrative.
But this is different. If the one who Brought All Of It as Pray Tell were to be on the stage, reading these words, it wouldn’t be put-on or play-performing. It would be the real thing. I can see it: singing, dancing, walking out the things shared. Whispers. Tears.
Did I say it was just that good to me?
It made me mad in a confirming way because I am at a point in my faith walk that I am looking more to Jesus, even though I am in a congregation. There are things said that are not God-honoring in many churches, let’s tell the truth and shame the devil as the old folks have always said.
Since I’m now one of the old folks — if I go to the right church and dress the right way, I am destined for the bench where all the ‘church mothers’ sit. I’m ready. Check me out.
God and I have an interesting relationship some would posit because I talk to Him like He is one of the homies. One of my homies. Those of you in that circle know how I get down. I (insert A Few Good Men Jack Nicholson impersonation here) handle the trooth! but with grace and skill of someone who can handle their words.
I talk to God, unnerstand? and it burns me up when the ‘church people’, the ‘brethren and sistren’ want to do the exact opposite of the words in the book they revere. The judgment behind the words, behind the eyes, behind the side-hugs. Ooh, don’t make me tell it!
I sat in our family room, reading Unprotected, and I was making all the noises. You know — the ‘hm!’, the ‘oh no they didn’t say that!’, the ‘oh no they didn’t do that!. I laughed. I grimaced.
And my heart hurt.
But through all that, I smiled because here is a brother who’s chocolate real-ness is on screen. People see him and they see me, my mom, my son, my uncles, the various neighbors in places that I’ve lived or wandered well (time for a shout out break: Heeeyyyy, Chester PA! Heyyyy, Jersey — New Brunswick, Cape May Court House, Carneys Point, Salem, Bridgeton, Vineland … I see y’all!).
I smiled because @theebillyporter did what many cannot, will not, which is call out the nonsense, hurt, harm, and danger we Christ-followers say we pray against.
The God-spirit in this man makes me wish I could sing (Don’t make me try. I can’t carry a small note in a big handbag but I give it my best. There are cats in heat with better harmonizing skills than me.). I imagine that, when I get to heaven and I’ve gotten my appointment for tea with Jesus (we are going to take our cuppa on a gondola and my Nana and favorite people and pets will be around, lounging on the banks of the beautiful river), I’ll get to ask him if what I suspect all along is true:
I suspect that we, the humans, are the best and worst sitcom Heaven watches. There’s only one channel and we all are it, 24/7, 365, all the way live darlin. I suspect Jesus will tell me that it is true and that while they all know many of us meant well, we got it so very wrong. That many of us caused so much harm.
And that’s why they have the teenie tiny huts, wayyyyy in the back of heaven and not the mansions up by the waterfront, like my Nana is chillin in (I know that woman is there — she spent her elderly years dealing with me, her only grandchild, Lord rest her infinitely weary soul! She was born in 1898 but got to see me, raise me practically. I learned a lot of my Christ-following from her). I bet her brother Emmett is there, too. Emmett died of AIDS in 1921 — and if you want to come at me like one of my undergraduate professors did, telling me AIDS didn’t exist back then, bring it and I’ll tell you like I told him: just because something doesn’t have a name doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
As mentioned in Unprotected, we have to be better because some of our elders just didn’t know better. We have to forgive. As a woman of her wise years, Nana described Emmett as ‘funny’; that was a term Black folks used back in the day for gay people. But my Nana loved her brother. My Bible-reading, James Cleveland and Mahalia Jackson album playin every Sunday after church, full on Baptist, Eastern Star member until death, Jesus believing Nana loved her some Emmett and would dare anyone to come at her about him.
That’s the way I serve God, love God, honor God. That’s what I saw result from the pain and anguish in Unprotected. Billy Porter writes that he had to find his faith path elsewhere, and that made me sad too, but I get it. I am the heathen heretic in my circles, known or unknown to many; I’ve been ‘outed’ as an unmarried woman who lives with her beloved and had to give a good ol’ country reading to those who wanted to talk about it and put the red F on me (you know, fornicator, because we don’t have papers and all that … another story for another time) to let them know that they didn’t know me or my story.
But Billy Porter told us all his story. Come at him if you want. He is ready.
And I am so glad.
Thank you @theebillyporter. When we meet in heaven, you best be ready to share some of those mean threads. Maybe if we meet before then, a sista can borrow a couple things. Let’s get a cup of tea and talk it over.
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