If you seen it or heard it,
maybe probably I did it
Maybe or maybe not
I admit what I committed
Exhibit the truth because
I'm living proof why
I had no disguise, no verdicts, no alibis
— "No Alibi," The Roots
I have blown this, my final CityBeat deadline. It's Tuesday morning — now literally after noon — and I'm pounding this out, giving myself 30 minutes to get it done.
It's not that I don't care. It's that I don't care to take up a whole bunch of my or your time with the melodrama of over-explaining.
This is the last last-minute piece I'll write here, ending an 11-year DNA swap among me, you, the CityBeat staff, my boss and this city. This is goodbye.
Fired. Let go. "Your position is being eliminated." Semantics.
Truth is, my "position" cannot ever be eliminated because "my position" is beautiful me — it's where I stand on accountability, on the truth and on talking shit about it.
And I take that position wherever I go. Just like I've never rolled my identity into the floury tortilla shell of the work I do, I don't over-invest in the geography of where I do that work.
Ask CityBeat Editor, Co-Publisher and long-haul driver John Fox his side of our parting, and he might cast it as an overdue business decision. He might say something about not getting his money's worth, about roles and byline counts. That's a song I've heard editors before him sing and probably one I'll hear editors after him sing. It's a song written in the invisible ink of not knowing what to do with a writer after she's decided her own fate.
When I killed Your Negro Tour Guide in January 2005, Fox backed my decision. But he really didn't know what to do when his "star" shunned that sheen.
After you ask him, come check me. And I will tell you about 11 years of thinking hard, of mostly writing well, of making up words that made some of y'all mad and made some of y'all haters but that made many more of you proud and back-slapping passersby who said, "Hey! Aren't you...?"
Think about this: Because of some sentences I came up with in my bedroom over the years, we actually built an ad hoc community that doesn't resemble any single member of that community. I'd be lying if I said I didn't relish giving myself over to that community.
I owe you all a lifetime of dap for reading me, for getting mad at my blasts against white male privilege, for feeling me, for spitting my sentences back to me at the Laundromat or the Bro Kro, for offering to buy me drinks and for letting me inside your heads, if only for a few hundred or a few thousand words.
We'll never be ourselves again. Sadly for CityBeat, I do not owe the paper any more of myself. (Thank God for Jesus.)
I am tired and long ago said all I came to say. Don't be confused. That's what happens when writers write hella good for everyone but themselves: We say what publishers cannot and will not say themselves, which drives advertising, which makes money, which increases profiles. And my profile has definitely been raised by my work here.
The column morphed into a book. Before that I was tapped to write and read commentaries on National Public Radio because of the column, and from the two — the book and the radio — I've become a public speaker at colleges and universities, something a painfully shy black girl from Hamilton never imagined for herself. Now I stand with so much of my own work piled up I can't wait to dive into my own ideas.
And you will see them onstage. Now in workshops and appearing in selected festivals, Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths In Black & White is being adapted into a one-woman stage monologue.
You will hear them on the radio. Every Cincinnati broad daylight shooting and every classist and racist response turns over in my head as a three-minute NPR piece.
I'm also teaching at the University of Cincinnati, a sweet irony considering my three strikes in my three times at bat with college.
So while I've walked around these past few weeks saying "I'm unemployed," it was a wishful thought. Yet the realities of unemployment loom.
As I write this on the reverse side of an insurance folder, the agent who'll explain my choices for individual health coverage is running late and a call to the unemployment office to triple check my eligibility hangs on my to-do list.
My 30 minutes was up five minutes ago. In the words of the great American poet Kanye West: Y'all welcome. ©