As usual, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion was dynamic. The scholarship presented by great friends and strangers alike sharpened existing thoughts and coupled with already-ingressed bursts of energy to create more. Seeing the family (you know who you are/are becoming) always sheds light in the dark places of my Afro flesh. It may be one of the only instances in which my exoskeleton craves to be bathed in brightness. Dope.
This time of the year is sweetbitter. The taste of the heights of academic genius permeates the tongue and is transported to the ecstatic vortex between self and other, not far from the realms of the stars I travel to as I write. But my very self is “othered” at AAR. It is good to to know that at least once a year I will see those who feel such “othering” in their flesh in these spaces measured by time (again, you know who you are). My peeps hear that I hide it under shadows of John Coltrane’s soft soul oozing through Oona Eisenstast’s Levinas text that José and I just swam thru briefly. The anxiety drowns me in waves that are as friendly as Hattie over Cuidad de Belice in 1961. I can’t take it and leave the reception like a phantom from an antiquated body at the expiration date. But all good. I tap on the next day with vigor, strolling through the exhibit hall experimenting with the security guards who allow lighter hues to pass the thresholds without seeing their badges but never fail to ask for mine. I keep it in my pocket, for it is not worthy to be hosted as a shamanic amulet swinging from my neck. Ghana, Benin, Choktaw, and Nigeria can’t be reduced to the institutions typed on the thin rectangular tree. The swag of faint pant sag stings the straight-laced sage like javelins that I’ll throw in the MC battle next week. Ancestors float over us with needles that sew our pasts to our futures. Their gifts to us are called “the present.” Our scholarship is a shrine erected to their pyramids.
The sun cuts through Chicago clouds that appeared in Denver and lured me into thinking an Afrofuture is promising. Let us push to wherever our paths take us, walking and knowing that we may never arrive. AAR is the site of dreams unfulfilled. But if one gear of the world story is reshifted to cause a slight chain reaction, obscurity is an ally and the fluid destination. Theory travels through the mind but can be harnessed to shape the world. When I see you next year, tell me how you’ve practiced instead of using your lips to place your creations in front of your face. I’d rather look at you.
Until next year…