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Hymn to Him

By Kathy Y. Wilson · February 5th, 2003 · Your Negro Tour Guide

Heroes are at home. Randy is my aesthetic yardstick, my operative, deputized spy and intellectual paramour.

Peerless in his frustration, anger, rage and truth-telling with the chocolatey center, he's the O.G. Negro Tour Guide. Hear me?

Do you believe in magic? When we were kids I did, because he did.

I even climbed onto his bed in the stuffy rear bedroom on South Fourth Street. Reciting a spell from a Disney flick, Randy said we'd fly and I booked passage. Kenny, always skeptical, talked trash about the likelihood a bed with three kids attached would leave the floor. To this day I believe his skepticism kept us grounded.

Do you believe in Randy? As grown-ups I do, because sometimes he doesn't.

In the backyard of our pasts, I was sometimes the only audience member for the one-man puppet shows he staged. Gladine's best Elder-Beerman sheets billowed from clotheslines. And I'd see everything -- Randy changing puppets, jostling his arms and straining his throat to different voices faked to fool me/us.

He hated Gino, our German Shepherd who customarily broke his chain to follow Randy's marching feet and drum beats in Garfield Junior High's band.

In his down time, Randy came into his strangely beautiful self by rummaging clothes from family members. He'd rip, resew, alter and reattach until he had costumes that earned him askance glances, showers of "how could you," ridicule and lockerroom beat downs.

He roller-skated his demons down until sweat left. He danced solo/so low at teen parties in the Booker T.

Washington Community Center on Front Street. The Isleys, The Ohio Players, Aretha Franklin, Sly & the Family Stone and James Brown good-footed dark child anthems in the gym.

The basketball court doubled as a dance floor, and he'd never be invited to join black teen-aged reindeer games on that floor once the lights came up and people connected the moves to the man-child.

Much to Clarence's dismay and growing aloofness, Randy wore down Diana Ross and Judy Garland records back when album covers told stories. Later, he graduated Diva School to Patti, Chaka and Phyllis. And the Three Negress Graces soundtracked this black alien's future love paradise, which today remains unfulfilled.

Put all this in a blender and pour yourself a Randy Shake that tastes of the brilliant, bitter alienation of James Baldwin with a hint of Black Panther Pride.

What happened next makes and breaks black men. And Randy's been made.

Our citywide talks of anti-gay hate crimes, boycotts and ever-morphing definitions of black is/black ain't and "the black community" remind me that Randy went there and did that. He's still ostracized from the cliques of gay black men who fear and envy him. Aghast that he dare speak his mind, they clutch the pearls and recoil at his identity and how far it is from their own.

They appear equally frightened by his dissention and jealous of the artistic talents that sustain him despite their lack of support. He's bored and tickled by the minstrel showing of black talk radio, an arena he conquered and enlightened at its dawning.

He's too sexy for this city. Randy's physique is malleable, and its armor is a response to violence perpetrated against him during childhood and as an adult.

He's been bashed, banged and threatened. He is loathsome of gay black men who can't and won't keep pace, and he's wary of gay white men whose tastes run to black men.

Yeah, he's got issues. Many of which curl up in his own dichotomous lap.

His male-to-male relationships in our family ain't been no crystal stair. Kenny, 40, and Randy, 43, are just now doing a drive-by on brotherly love. They're learning to link arms.

There's silence between he and our father, Clarence.

Not to dismiss anyone else's culpability, but it's also because Randy is as complicated as he is sometimes absolute, layered as he is in his Randy-ness.

He's Randy-ful. He keeps his sights fixed on Randy, even as he moves his gaze from the rear view where he's just passed Randy. He's entering Randy, got his hand on his Randy.

I invoke this prayer for him. It centers on reconciliatory expansion.

His birthday isn't 'til July 31, so it's not a hokey black Hallmark. He may never be a daddy, so Father's Day is out.

All rise. It's time to sing his hymn. Turn to page Randy in your Randy Manual.

And it goes like this: A hero ain't nothin' but a sandwich, but a brother such as mine is a refrain whispered by God. Amen.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.


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