Full circle moments
Jan 12, 2023
I can't be the only one who's experienced this.
Every time my mom is on the phone with a family member or friend, she passes the phone in excitement for me to say hello. It doesn't matter if I'm in a bad mood, preoccupied w/ another task, or say no 1,000 times.
I must answer the phone.
And boy, does it drive my anxiety up the roof. Especially as an introvert.
The first time I remember her passing the phone to me was when I was a boy, no older than 4-5 years old then. I was speaking to a man on the phone who had a thick New York accent, a soul full of gold, and a way with words. His name was Arthur N. Sixty - the first person who told me I could do anything I put my mind to.
These words at first glance are self-explanatory. Just like poetry though, they have a way of hitting when you least expect them to.
Uncle Sixty, as my mom instructed me to call him, was a longtime family friend of ours. Before I was born he rented a room from my grandfather's brownstone in Bushwick right in Brooklyn, NY. During that time my mom, aunts and uncles all became acquainted with his presence. He was an incredible poet from New Orleans that commanded respect with the way he spoke. He even took a picture with then-president Richard Nixon, rubbing shoulders together and the whole 9. Uncle Sixty was like the relative that called up every, I mean every single holiday. The man didn't skip a beat, and on top of that would send my sister and I fresh outfits to wear for special occasions like Easter Sunday, our first day of school while in elementary, and even send over the highly sought after Natures Blessing that my mom swears by.
To this day it's a staple in her house lol (thanks mom for sending the pic so they know it's real!).
Uncle Sixty was also an author of a book titled Black Poetic History. It's a book full of poetry - not the one full of rhyming, dreaminess and flowery words, but words that evoke hope, concern, and acknowledgement for African Americans and Black people. He wrote about Marcus Garvey's leadership to Frederick Douglass's struggle and progress. He rapped about each of Kwanzaa's seven days to Nat Turners slave rebellion on the plantation. He sung of Haiti's liberation (My mom's side is Haitian, most likely why everyone loved him so much lol) and of the inventiveness behind Black Enghlish, way before it was labeled by scholars as AAVE or Ebonics.
All of this came from a Black man who sought the truth, completed his education after the 5th grade, and taught himself how to read and write while seeking for a higher understanding of life outside of institutionalized systems. Uncle Sixty did not come to play around at all.
One day, while reading a card written for me, I questioned his handwriting. It was slanted, fuzzy, and looked like some kind of shorthand calligraphy. My mom told me he suffered from a stroke leaving parts of his body paralyzed, so his writing had a way of stuttering on paper.
Yet that didn't stop him.
My mom told me of papers and notes he used to have all around his room, and when I got older, this time to bring the book to class for show and tell, she told me she wrote the manuscript for him by transcribing all of his notes. All on an old fashioned typewriter all the way back in 1997 - a whole year before I was born. How dope is that!
Uncle Sixty passed away when I was in middle school, a year after my maternal grandfather passed away, and my mom arranged his funeral service by herself. She brought together Sixty's remaining family members and friends to give him a proper send off. In his book, Uncle Sixty commends my mother for her patience and hard work to get the book published. He even states that it could not have been done without her. Gon' head mom! 💪🏾.
At times I can't help but I feel like I've inherited a piece of his spirit. Uncle Sixty had a goal to enlighten others about the other half of American History which was African American History, the latter not being taught in schools, not being as widely available before the advent and popularity of Google, and not being credited enough as Black labor built America's early infrastructure for nearly 250 years without pay. There's more to go, but alas I'd hate to spoil the messages inside his magnum opus.
I too love writing poetry, love writing as a tool for self-expression, and have a deep desire to help others explore the other half of the world existing on the opposite side of our comfort zone.
Uncle Sixty's book reminds me of Naruto Uzumaki reading The Tale of the Gutsy Ninja that his master Jiraiya wrote. Jiraiya met Naruto while he was in his mother's womb, and helped fuel his nindo, or way of life, by personally training the young ninja and leading by example. The parallel continues as even the book have the same tan-ish color, with adjectives describing the authors as Jiraiya, the Gallant and The Ghetto Writer, Arthur N. Sixty.
Same here, Naruto.
To Naruto, Jiraiya's first book is not only a memento, it's a reminder to never give up. Naruto used it, along with the words within to change the world.
To me, Sixty's first book serves as a reminder that I can do whatever I put my mind to. This past year, I left my safe and secure job behind to go and see what I was made out of.
It's been a journey of learning how to believe in myself. Writing Inventus is the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm on the seventh version for the storyline for Christ's sake and have pushed back the completion date several times. Not meeting my own deadlines suck big time, plus it did a number on my self-esteem. But it would be the biggest slap in Sixty's face for me to not believe in myself at this point - especially after having received those words to continue on by a man who taught himself how to read, write, and write again while paralyzed. For that reason I won't succumb to something as laughably real and trivial like analysis paralysis.
I'll continue to remind myself that if he could do what he put his mind to, so can I.
And that means you can too.
- Emanuel Perez
artifact #3: you've