Every day I have more than enough of what I need to get through the day. I open my mind, body, and spirit to receive abundance in every area of my life. I repeat this silent prayer to myself over and over again while I walk from Seventh Avenue to Twelfth Avenue to attend an event at Pier 92. My brain is overloading on anxious thoughts about financial liabilities, weight, writers block, career, and the fact that I am now more afraid than ever to be a black woman in a city living alone. I pass by about a hundred NYPD officers, and wonder “is he one of the good ones? Is she?” I pass through a myriad of smells on the homage to what I only now realize is a trade show for menswear. There’s the intoxicating allure of Thai food, ramen, and cookies, which is drowned out by smells of poverty and the people who think they’re too good to pick up their dog’s shit. Isn’t that just like life though? One minute your mouth is watering for the good things in life, and the next you choke back vomit from the shitty parts.
I finally arrive at the Pier, and take the elevator up to the venue space. The room is full of up and coming designers with their minimalist chic designs, and clear acrylic chairs (that I want to steal and take home to my place). The sun drenched space is buzzing with influencers, buyers, and “cool kids” carrying Budweiser bottles, because this is a sponsored event, and basically my main reason for coming. It looks like Solange and Alexander Wang had lots of urban hipster babies, and they all met up to meet their long lost siblings. There are Doc Martens, Yeezy’s, Stan Smith’s, grey dyed hair, and bull nose rings as far as the eye can see. My plus one has yet to arrive, so I take a leisurely walk through the maze of clothes in search of the bar. I finally see an opening to the outside area, and peek my head out to find my way to the booze. “Bar? It’s this way,” says a black girl with long locks. “Oh was it that obvious?” I retort with a laugh and a thank you.
New York is notorious for old industrial sites that someone re-functions into a cool space for hosting random events. I pass by a huge, rusted, metal contraption that I’m sure once served an important purpose here, as I follow the sounds of Future mixed into a Rae Sremmurd track. My calves are burning from my morning run, and lugging laundry up four flights of stairs. There is a pleasant breeze coming off the water, and life feels kind of cool. I grab a beer, even though the last time I drank a regular Budweiser was in college, and it didn’t end well. I sit on a plush white couch adorned with Budweiser logo pillows decorated with the American flag, and text directions to my plus one. As I sit, and vibe to the music, I am filled with pride in my city. It makes me so proud that Atlanta artists and producers basically rule music right now, and then an unexpected rage creeps up inside of me. I look around at all of these non-black people dancing and laughing to our music, doing the dances they’ve seen young, black kids from Atlanta doing on Instagram, wearing and selling our style of clothing, and I feel overwhelmed with anger and jealousy. They get to put our culture on for novelty and profit, enjoying the fruits of what it means to be black to us, and I am angry at their unknown privilege. I wonder if they have any concern for what is happening to the people from which their style and dance originated. I feel angry that they get to turn a blind eye to it, and pretend it’s not their problem. They get to walk the streets without fear, and anxiety of what will happen to them if a rogue police officer plays judge and jury on the street. They get to look at the footage of those men and young boys slain by police officers, and not feel the pain and fear of knowing they could be next. Do they have to fear for their sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and friends the way we do? Did they spend a difficult week at work surrounded by people who don’t look like them, and have to put on a happy face over the sadness of the weaponizing and devaluing of their skin? They have the luxury of just living their lives without trying to figure out ways to protect themselves, and their children from the people who are supposed to protect them. I just sit there and wonder if they know, or if they care. Every stare feels like an insult. Every fake smile fuels the fire within, and all I can do is hold my invisible crown and think “you do not move me.” All the while I am thinking about all of these things, they continue to dance, and to laugh, and I wonder when we will ever be as free to be black as they are pretending to be black.