Slay the Beast: An Ode to 2020 

and what this year taught me .......

Has there ever been a year more worthy of sharpening the knives at midnight for sacrificing? 

Has there ever been a year before that you wanted to gut, rip wide open, and let its life blood spill out? I can say with utter confidence I have not lived through a more wicked period in human history than this year. That’s saying a lot. 

My time being incarcerated was easier than this year. Straight up. So, if you feel ragged and beat up, congratulations; you’ve been paying attention. 2020 was the most overt and blatant instance I have seen of the state using economic, psychological, political, and spiritual warfare on its people in my lifetime. 

You did not imagine that. That was real. That was the State actively trying to kill you to ensure its survival. 

Welcome to my world. 

So, instead of my usually lengthy essays about the condition of the world or the church, I am going to share with you a few lessons I learned in 2020 with little to no context. Take what you will.

  1. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Ever. Stop explaining liberation to people who don’t get it. At this point, if you don’t get why we say #blacklivesmatter or stand with the orphans on the border, you don’t need an education, you need an exorcism. Your white liberal friends will never understand why you will risk your career and life for the people; they are greedy and broken. They can’t imagine a world beyond white supremacy, capitalism, and growing up to be “thought leaders”. 

  2. Live into your truest self and prepare to lose everything in the process. This year has been a refiner’s fire. It has been the forge, the anvil, the spark, and the hammer my soul has been craving but has been too afraid to live into. It takes courage to be melted down to one’s essence, reshaped into a new tool or weapon for the divine, and then be beaten, heated up, cooled down, and go through it all again. To be sharpened to a fine hone and a sharp edge. This year has been that for me. In the absence of pretense and without so many of my so-called “friends”, I had so much stripped from me; beaten out of me with tear gas, betrayal, loss, grief, sorrow, love, rubber bullets, laughter, good character, my worst instincts, angel wings, change, alchemy, renewal, wicked leaders, and finally growth. 

  3. The Church is no longer God’s chosen vessel on Earth. I don’t know what this means, but I know the grief of seeing this almost killed me this year. 

  4. Theological discussion on anyone else's sexuality is an abomination, and I will no longer pretend any religious leader has authority in this area. This means you, ELCA. 

  5. Black people should turn to the African Diaspora for spirituality. The Church in America is too poisoned to be our sole sustenance in this land. Master wanted Christians. Master got Christians. But let’s not pretend we worship the same God. Their God murders little boys who have skittles and iced tea as a shield. Their God gives the breath of life and then doesn’t care if you cry out “I can’t breathe.”  It ain't the same God. I’m not pretending anymore. Neither should you. It can’t be Jesus. Just saying.

  6. The republic almost fell, and it still teeters on the edge of the abyss. With little to no real plan, a bumbling white supremacist and his band of merry thugs took everything that wasn’t nailed down. And you fell for it. 

  7. The “next guy” will be much worse: better dressed, a smooth talker, and much more organized. The wolves saw how close these folks got to having their white ethno-state fever dream. If you think that wasn’t noted by much more wicked people, then you are not paying attention. They won’t let you see it coming again. When you do see it coming, you won’t be able to stop it. They won’t fail next time. The smell of our blood is in the air, Beloved. 

  8. Bet on you. Every time. Bet on every crazy AF dream you have while the world burns. Be single-minded. Push through all the doubters. If someone doesn’t see the vision, don’t invest in the friendship; it no longer serves you. Release those folks peacefully from your life and just keep going. 

  9. After decades of this work, my PTSD will no longer allow me to march and be shot at by police.  And I feel like a failure. After marching all summer, then spending days in my closet or tub hiding, shaking, and crying, I can’t deny this fact. I will no longer be participating in DA’s or even marches for the foreseeable future. Trying to save my own life almost killed me this summer, and I don’t know what that means going forward, other than this sense that I have failed. I can’t explain the utter sense of powerlessness you feel as a Black man when white supremacy has literally beat the fight out of you. Or the horror when you realize none of your woke white friends have any idea what you are going through. 

  10. The whole world experienced a major spiritual shift that crashed on us like a wave. This whole year has just been us dealing with it. 

  11. When a Black man is finally broken by an institution, it will paint him as insane. 

  12. Love, liberation, and salvation find a way. Throughout this entire year, the cracks in the foundations of Babylon have been exposed. You can see its tower swaying in the wind, and in those cracks I see flowers growing. New life. New roots. I see the roots of freedom and liberty in this land. I see love, liberation, and salvation. I see you, Beloved, and everything you did this year, and I believe. I believe this Creator and this God we serve will find a way for us all. May we all listen in 2021. Amen.