When barbequing while Black becomes a part of the Art of Living Black

by Paradise Free Jah Love Supreme

“Oakland barbecue stalwart Everett & Jones was flipping yard-long racks of ribs to give away,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle, when BBQ’n While Black packed the shore of Lake Merritt with Black folks reclaiming their lake and their city from the gentrifiers. Three weeks earlier, a woman dubbed “BBQ Becky” on social media had called the police on Black folks legally grilling there. “Instead of tearing up the city, we want to come together in love and unity. And party,” said one of the organizers.

Word has it that the first 20 enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, sometime during the month of August in 1619. Wow! That means next year, August 2019 will extend that legacy to exactly 400 years. Look out, Jamestown, here we come to commemorate, commiserate and consummate 400 years of MAAFA!

Below is an excerpt from my poem, “The Art of Living Black,” which summarizes those 400 years, opening with an addition of recent local occurrences and indignities that have become a part of the Black Experience – like rapper Kanye West saying slavery was our choice:

The art of living black is being gentrified from your community, then having those who gentrified you complain to the authorities about you playing your drums at the park or the Malonga Dance Center – and then being forced to dance in a studio with the windows closed to compensate – or making too much of a joyful noise during church. Or badgering and calling the police on you for barbequing at Lake Merritt, even though you tell the accuser you have lived in Oakland for 40 years and you are barbequing in a designated area where it is legal to do so!

This man wore BBQ Becky on his shirt in a meme with a twist. – Photo: Michael Short, SF Chronicle

Then having a whole community of folks respond a couple of days later by giving a Barbeque Electric Slide party in that same area. Hahaha! And posting hilarious memes all over the internet depicting this lady – who claimed harassment and cried crocodile tears when the police arrived – also calling the cops on Dr. King during his Eye Have a Dream Speech, on Black rap and movie celebrities, Kid and Play, for having a House Party, on Soul Train dancers, and on too many Black folks congregating at Wakanda, etc. etc. All of which gets the city of Oakland rave reviews nationally – “Oakland is smokin!” – by the hosts of The Real talk show.

The art of living Black is being stolen from your homeland, drowned in the Atlantic ocean 100 million times, dragged ashore, bound in chains, sick, super funky and diseased; whipped, hung from trees, castrated, emasculated, mutilated, assassinated, exterminated, investigated, infiltrated, incarcerated, emancipated in a hostile environment, inoculated with diseases for an experiment, miseducated, terminated, discombobulated, discriminated, denigrated, desecrated, underrated, tolerated, humiliated, violated, excruciated, separated, segregated, integrated, excommunicated, gentrified, disenfranchised, abandoned, betrayed, disowned.

Blackmailed, blackballed, blacklisted, outlawed, robbed of your property, land, language, heritage, royalties and family heirlooms. Framed, given a bad name. Put on welfare, taken off welfare, evicted, convicted, laid off and accused of being lazy by the country whose foundation you erected and by the foreigners and immigrants who benefit from your struggles, but refuse to acknowledge the sacrifices you’ve made. And yet you still have people, some of them standing on your own shoulders, talking about: “Just get over it! That was a long, long time ago! Just get over it!”

The art of living black is being badgered and having someone call the police on you for barbequing at Lake Merritt, even though you tell the accuser you have lived in Oakland for 40 years and you are barbequing in a designated area where it is legal to do so!

And yet you are here because, miraculously, you have been getting over it. But not only have you been getting over it, but like some real life galactic warriors and superheroes, you have survived and even thrived against the most horrific odds in the history of the world! And grown and prospered from those first 20 indentured servants, to 2 million enslaved North American Africans, to your presentday number of over 40 million freedom fighters!

And you must continue to do so – getting over it – one day at a time, by any means necessary, because Dr. King promised us, and I promise you, that we will make it to the Promised Land! And because that is the art of living … Black!

Paradise is president of the International Black Writers & Artists Local 5 in Oakland and was honored by the City of Oakland with “Paradise Day,” on Oct. 6, 2007. Find him on Facebook at Paradise Freejah Lovesupreme.