James Baldwin often wrote pointed letters as essays. In The Fire Next Time, he writes such a letter to his namesake nephew. It is a letter to help him navigate race, the psychological effects of racism, and to give him an overriding ethic by which he might be saved from his own self loss caused by hating back.
In likewise fashion, this letter is to an imagined African American young man whose sexuality will cause him to be at risk of the same things but in response to his church’s response to the politics of sexualities as well as his own that he holds close who share the abundance of pigment with him.
I have started this letter several times to you in the hope of your existence. I call you Darius, the one who comes after me. I call you Darius because this means “one who maintains possessions well”. To you I entrust the all that I have for you to hold in a community that I can envision but which does not exist. It is a community that I give to you to name, to call into existence. To keep and hold the experiences of black men who love God who love men. It is a community I have longed for, one that my associations assume already exists.
I see you in the church pew amongst the sea of black, brown and beige bodies at the age of 6 or 7 dangling your feet to the sway of the music. I notice how your eyes linger on your blink as the singer holds a soaring note invoking the Spirit of God to come here now. How your head rolls to the right and your eyes slowly open, as if in a everlasting trance of a single moment, when the singer gasps for the breath to sing on. I see how you jump to your feet to clap a syncopated rhythm in response to the choir’s exuberant gospel refrain. And just last week I felt your heart yearn as your soul responded to the spiritual you are way too young to knowingly sing truthfully, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen.” And yet the furrow of your brow told me that you will know of what you sing.
As I see you, I see me. I want you to know that someone sees you. I don’t just see you sitting there, I see you in all your possibility. As you grow you will be tempted to believe that your possibilities are limited. In your blackness you will struggle with the sense that you are inferior, that something is wrong with you, that you are wrong to be who God has created you to be. When you feel that way and don’t know why, stop and take a look at the world. You will see that your grandfather’s mother and her ancestors before have wondered the same thing. They have wondered why this feeling of less than when that’s not what the soul feels. Know that it is not your blackness that offends but what your blackness represents. It represents resilience, ingenuity, beauty, honor and history at its best. But those things are also what pains those who would have you doubt yourself. For they resent your resilience, begrudge your ingenuity, defame your beauty, want to replace your brazen honor with shame and have tried to erase your history. But these things they will never have. These things they can never have. Through Middle Passage, through slavery, through midnight journeys north, through Jim Crow, through forest canopy lynchings, through fire hoses and dogs you still have those things we have always truly possessed that make us who we are and not who others would have us to be.
So hold onto those things, Darius for they are yours hold and to keep. But you must hold tight. For those around you would have these very things wrested from grasp. They too see you in the rapturous ecstasy of what it means to be loved by Christ alone. They too witness your reckless abandon in loving the one who loves you more than any other. They too know of the trouble you see and will begrudge you the journey you have yet to travel. For they will tell you that you must abandon the ways of your being if you want to associate with them. They will whisper in darkened corners as you grow, wonder and whisper why you bring no woman home to love for their approval. They will laud your singing and passion for the Lord, expecting you to serve at their whim while they accept you as sinner and guess at the sin in you they hate.
Whether you choose to stay or leave, neither revile nor revere them. Honor the love of the man you choose to hold. Honor the love that Christ has instilled in you to share as part of your gift. Do not revere those who would shame you by recreating their way of being in the world. Do not conform to what is their ideal; one man, one woman in service of procreation for the Lord. Do not revile them as you choose a different path, your path as dictated by the Spirit’s guidance in your life; love in honesty, love with open heart, love to find your help meet as God has always intend you to find.
Darius, you may wonder where does your blackness and your loving of same gender cross paths in this address to you? I tell you, do not allow the bigotry against your blackness from outside of your black family wrest away your possessions. Do not allow the love of God’s chosen for you to be wrested away by your black family and out yonder beyond them. Empathy may be the better part of valor. For with empathy you see the result of the hatred of your blackness relived in the hatred of your sexual being.
For in our blackness, we have learned to perpetrate on others the hatred of our oppressors. And this is an unintended allegiance to the powers that be will be inflicted on you unless…
Unless you find your power to witness to your possessions…Your possessions will have you witness to the struggles that have allowed you in your blackness to come this far…They will have you witness to all of your oppressors from the place, the mountaintop, from which Martin called for civil rights. They will have you witness to your own kind…those who love like you, who look like you, who live like you…They will have you witness of a forgiving love because you will be armed with the right way of loving past the hatred and into the love that will make this world as God intended.
Like me you have been outside and are looking for a place to be. For your sake I need to tell you these things and so I write you today. Malcolm X tells us, “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” Love who you have been created to be! Let this be the place from which you measure all else, Darius. Your self is the most prized possession. Not that you are to hold onto it as a dear possession to the exclusion of all else. You are to hold it, love it, protect it and listen to it. It will guide you through many turns on this journey. You are not alone. Build this community for me Darius. For I am jailed in the trappings of my own psyche and must continue to break free of the hatred from without that is blocking me from the love that is within. I give my hope to you.
The love of Christ and all that is holy is my prayer for you.
 A Declaration of Independence, Malcolm X, March 12, 1964. “Teaching American History.Org., http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1148 (accessed April 2, 2011)