The storyteller introduces his column on Black lives and self-care.
Every month growing up in the Bronx, my mother would go down the stairs and check the mailbox. Right next to the Fingerhut catalog she'd peruse through to find the latest furniture, blankets other knickknacks to fill our home with, the National Geographic magazine my father surprisingly subscribed me to because he thought it would help me enjoy science (it didn’t), and the Reader’s Digest I’d flip through whenever I finished playing with G.I. Joe’s or thumbing myself dry playing Nintendo, there would be an EBONY.
EBONY was Black, in golden hues and brightened highlights. It was charming, it was regal, but it was also home cooking; it was hearty, it was filling. I’d turn the pages and see stars and almost-on-their-way stars and look and read in awe and amazement. I’d see stories about athletes, astronauts and homemakers, businessmen and lawmakers. Outside of the Fox 5 primetime line-up in the 90’s, EBONY felt like the place to go to discover Blackness on our own terms.
I didn’t think I’d be a writer. I never considered myself to be a storyteller—I was just a chubby little dude who shopped in the husky section until high school, had a penchant for writing poems to lady crushes and could bust freestyle raps to any beatbox. Some 20 odd years, a TED Talk, a few underground Hip-Hop albums, a couple of daughters and a lot of editorial write-ups later, it seems that all I ever do is tell stories and tell them explicitly for Black people.
My love of Blackness, my attention to wellness of self, my trials and tribulations, all of that has led me here. Each and every Sunday, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned and what I’m learning through my open journey of self-care. I am not here to take up space as a cis hetero Black man, a man who is very much aware of his privilege. I am here to learn, and grow, and grow with y’all. Sunday Manifest is about us coming together and tapping into the higher energy in us all, regardless of who you are and what you look like. This work is for us, and every body: he, she, they, zey; man, woman, non-binary; queer, trans, bi. Whether you’re a hustler, a namaste-sayer, whether you call your god Oshun or Yemaya, Jesus or Mohammad, our collective healing is a priority. And our liberation will require all of us to do the work to heal from within. To heal our communities, we have to heal ourselves. And that healing cannot happen in a vacuum and does not need to happen alone.
So, ask questions. Start a dialogue. Share your thoughts, comments, suggestions. If there’s a topic you want me to cover, let me know. I don’t have all the answers (I barely got some of ‘em) but search and discovery are tools in to liberate ourselves from the white supremacist notion that it’s done by the bootstraps. Nah, it’s the village. Here we’ll talk about healing and the many ways we can find it within ourselves. We’ll cover a range of topics from love, to grief; to the Black voices you need to follow, the Black art you need to take part in, and everything else in between. Some of that will involve using my tweets and Instagram posts, some of that may come through music or Black products, some of it may come because you have a question about something that needs answering.
Regardless, this is what the space is for—a brave space for us all to get free. So, let’s all get free… together.
Joél Leon is a father, dreamer and storyteller. Follow him @joelleon.