my body is a receipt

“you picked the wrong time of year to perform. Did you forget my body is a receipt?”, I write as part of a caption for a picture on Instagram on June 22nd 2021

Photo Cred: Zebadiah Potler

“you picked the wrong time of year to perform. Did you forget my body is a receipt?”, I write as part of a caption for a picture on Instagram on June 22nd 2021. I @ an org in Madison I used to be affiliated with until last summer.
I @ them because there’s an active protest that started last summer wherein many past members of that org (BIPOC and white allies) revoked the org’s right to use our images in any way shape or form specifically because of the org’s treatment of Black people.
I @ them because last summer they wrongfully evicted me from their house on Langdon – (which I was staying in because I came back to the states from Germany because of the pandemic & I had nowhere else to go) and when I asked the leader why they were wrongfully evicting me in a county that had a hold on evictions because we’re in a f*cking pandemic, he looked me in the eyes and said, “because you’re staying in our housing and you’re speaking out against us.”

All I said was that they were institutionally racist.
I @ them because on Juneteenth 2021 they posted a performatively anti-racist Juneteenth square with a lil caption just as performative as those black squares last summer, as if their ig ain’t as white as it is because we are still actively protesting them.
I @ them because while they’re posting performative shit on Juneteenth 2021 I was performing shit I wrote on Juneteenth at the Juneteenth FC Madison game.

The poem reads,

a dear friend messaged me on Facebook
“i stand with you brother.”
black skeptic i am, i reply to her
“so you’re coming to the protest?”

my question: a test i knew the answer to.
“no.”
you stand with me in platitudes and know nothing of with-ness

you may be standing
but it certainly is not WITH me

and before you ask, yes, the poem is a real interaction I had with somebody that works within that org i @‘d in my caption on instagram on June 22nd 2021.

The caption sits under a photo of my freshly inked arm- a tattoo I got on June 8th 2020 of a poem (translated to english by Daniel Ladinsky) written by Hafiz
my then-all time favorite poem: The Sun Never Says

even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth

“you owe me”

look what happens with a love like that,
it lights the whole sky.

I got this poem tatted on me directly after leaving a meeting with the org I @‘d because I needed to remind myself to take the high road- even with racists. To not let myself be poisoned by the poisonous. Or caged by those who would imprison me like an animal in a zoo- calling me beautiful while simultaneously being the reason why I’m broken.
I say “broken” they say “tame” and that’s the difference between hearing it from the horse’s mouth and hearing it from their trainer’s.

Why Black pain so visible- so visceral- so very known of – and why white people still ain’t believe us enough to do anything about it?
I don’t want to be ‘appreciated’ if it’s prerequisite is me being palatable, tame, or safe. Those are just code words for “good nigger”.
And I been a “good nigger” too long.

Last summer I decided to try my hand at being the sun. why? because it lovingly sears and scalds and warms the earth and her waters- and you can not burn the sun.
Indeed- you can not burn the sun, but you can etch it’s ethos into your skin: an eternal receipt of the day your world changed.

A virtual roundtable wherein I was the featured guest
(+check out Raid.r podcast for an episode of “The Art Kid Speaks” ft. Me)

Madison | i am who You say i am

The Inner

The last month has been hectic. COVID. lead actor in a film. George Floyd. Protests. Wrote a poetry book. Self published my poetry book. Articles started to get written about my activism and my art.

One day I was out with a friend who happens to be a crew member of the film I’m in, and she introduced me to her friend by saying, “this is Matthew he just self published a poetry book and he’s the lead actor in the film I was telling you about.”

Alarms went off inside of me as if I was a bank that was being robbed. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I wasn’t okay with being introduced like that.
Why? Well, one reason is that I didn’t want people to look at me differently.

Recently, an article came out called, “5 emerging leaders in Madison” and I was 1 of the 5.
When I read that article I thought to myself, “wow, THAT guy sounds awesome.”
But…THAT guy didn’t feel like it was me. I said everything they said that I said, so how come I felt like an imposter? A fraud?
“I’m not THAT big of a deal”, I’d tell myself, “I’m not really an emerging leader.”

How come I not only don’t like when other people see me for who I am? But I also feed myself a narrative that breeds imposter syndrome? Can’t I accept my own success as valid, and real?
“You can’t be as bright as they say you are”, I tell myself. Even tho I know that since my youth I’ve rigorously pursued developing myself so that one day I could shine. This double consciousness- at once permissive and restrictive of my shine- wars within me.

Where I come from people aren’t encouraged to shine, it’s almost as if we believe there’s not enough sky for all of us to be stars. But, I want to be more than a star- I want to be a sun.
Why must we let fear rob us of our bravery?
Pillage us of the treasures inside- leaving most of us so barren we can’t even imagine thinking highly of ourselves?
Most people don’t have articles written about them saying that their “voice is one that everyone should be listening to.” and so, I, more than most people in my life am confronted with this reality of other’s estimation of me. And it seems to be quite lofty.
I know what they say, “don’t believe the hype.”
But, rejecting the truth about yourself isn’t humility. It’s insecurity.

In writing my book, You Can Not Burn The Sun, SHINE is something I wanted to encourage myself to do. The sun IS bright. It IS seen most days. In fact, without it, none of us would be alive.
I want to cultivate the kind of courage to allow myself to shine. To be able to say, and believe, “my contributions to this world are important.”

To that end, I’m learning to be like the sun. From now on, if people tell me I shine brightly, I’ll say, “i am who You say i am”
because who better to tell you of your brightness than one who is warmed by your light?

Photos