Your Negro Tour Guide: Gracias

Below, in her own words from a column originally published just before Thanksgiving in 2015, Kathy details all of the reasons why she is thankful. We hope that you find the passage just as captivating as we still do years later.

Nov 23, 2022 at 4:00 pm
click to enlarge Kathy Y. Wilson - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Kathy Y. Wilson

Editor's note: CityBeat is sad to report the passing of our former columnist, Kathy Y. Wilson.

Wilson created works that were frank, profane and hilarious. At CityBeat, she wrote the column "Your Negro Tour Guide," where she discussed issues of race, urban living, scandal, trends and humanity with her profound perspective and razor-sharp wit.
Wilson was also an educator, teaching journalism at the University of Cincinnati, and in 2014, she was the first writer-in-residence at the Cincinnati Public Library.

CityBeat's staff sends its condolences to all who loved Kathy. We loved Kathy. The world is less brighter without her in it.

Below, in her own words from a column originally published just before Thanksgiving in 2015, Kathy details all of the reasons why she is thankful. We hope that you find the passage just as captivating as we still do years later:

I am thankful for every night’s lying down and for every day’s rising, no matter how fitful, disruptive or interrupted the nocturne. And I am thankful for the literal light illuminating the screen of this soon-to-be 10-year-old laptop and the weekly ritualistic exploration of ideas happening in this space on this page.

I am awestruck that the exact same arrangement of letters on this static keyboard produce an array of lyrical truths and prose, and for this I am thankful. And also that all I have to work with every day are my heart, my intellect, my hands and my eyes, and they all work in concert as a gift sometimes beyond words. For the years of toil, sacrifice, self-doubt and commitment that pay off each time I am paid to think, teach and write, I say thank you.

I am thankful for my partner who sleeps and walks, eats, laughs, creates, prays and gives of herself beside me; who lets me lean on her physical person when my own is too weak and unstable, who gets me/receives me without judgment in all my moods, idiosyncrasies, gallows humor and self-pity and who stretches me to understand her secret languages. She has supported me, challenged me, taken up my shortfalls and she trusts me, and I am thankful. I am thankful she will cry when she reads this and for all the times I will make her cry in happiness and not sadness or embarrassment in our lives to come.

My family is not always whom I would have chosen; still, they pray for and with me, they show up, they sometimes dwarf me with the largeness of their identities and remind me, as Holly says, that “every family needs an anti-hero.” And they have let me be who I am even when I veer greatly from our clannish groupthink and despite any disappointments, grief or my own selfishness as a means of unabashed self-preservation, and I am thankful.

I am so thankful I do not live abroad and that my freedoms of all expression, of recreation, of worship and of casual fellowship are never threatened or marked by death, violence or terror.

I am thankful this city survived a riot and that we are constantly figuring ourselves out no matter how wrong-headed, dubious or egomaniacal our so-called leadership is.

I am thankful for heat whenever the weather turns cold; for hot water that always gets and stays hot; for a refrigerator intermittently filled with sustenance; for reliable transportation; for more clean clothes than I will ever cycle all the way through; for the embarrassing array of shoes — so many they line my kitchen cabinets.

I am thankful for the Midwest and for our perpetual underdog status, for our earnestness that gets misconstrued for hayseed stupidity, for our work ethic and for our monumental significance to national politics and for all of us who have stayed here to block the talent drain.

I am thankful I can recognize my own apathy when it rears its swollen head and that I can pick it out of a police lineup and finger it for the murderer of hope, will, energy, ideas and dreams that it is.

I am thankful for books and for writers, thankful that, even if I never buy another book for the duration of my living, my bookshelves still explode with the language, with the invented dreams of writers great and small and that no book is a signpost to the owner’s ego but a scripture to the reader’s healing.

I am thankful beyond measure for health insurance, for that portable little white card encoded with that secret data giving me a pass and an entree to benefits that heretofore separated me from the upper classes.

I am thankful for the good and bad news emanating from doctors’ offices.

I am thankful I lived during the tenure of a president whose statutes, leadership, decisions, battles and measures landed profoundly in my life and made it better. He is figuring out his own Negritude, and for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for the mistakes of my parents, for their humanity and imperfections and for the lessons their living taught me to emulate and the ones never to repeat and that they moved beyond their own parents and circumstances to raise me to challenge their authority, to be true to the girl they adored when they thought she was perfect and that they never turned away from me when I was certain they would.

I am thankful God took my mother from us when He did, forcing us all to stand on our own, to grieve and feel sadness and vacancies that defy language or logic and that her death taught me to lean not unto my own understanding. I am thankful everything she ever told me about myself in the world came true and that her truths were sometimes wholly indigestible but that they live within me still.

I am thankful that listening to Nina Simone always makes me cry and reminds me what too much feeling, talent and truth can do to a black woman in America. I am glad that when I hear “Love Me Or Leave Me” it reminds me I learned how to two-step watching my parents tear it up on those hardwood floors in Hamilton all those parties ago.

I am so thankful I have unapologetic peace in the waxing and waning estrangement with my father and that my forgiveness of his manhood is for my own good and has absolutely nothing to do with him and that I can hug his neck whenever I feel like it. I am thankful he taught me to reason, to think critically, to respect myself as a woman, to change a tire, to check the oil, to save my money, to work when I do not feel like it, to tackle math, to tell time, to build and fix things with my hands, to balance myself to ride a bike without falling or crying, to charm the unsuspecting and to love Country music — all of which he did as an older man when the basic principles of fathering should have been long in his rearview mirror.

I am thankful everyday I swivel from the bed and put the flat numbness of my two feet on the cold hardwood and amble off to the bathroom by my own will.

I am thankful for God’s grace and mercy in these and all things, even the things conspiring to destroy us but only making us more thankful.

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