YOUNG BLACK ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE
As a child playing freeze tag beneath the burning hot Charleston, South Carolina sun, I ran my hardest to get to base so I would not have to be frozen. Base. A safe place for my team of musty renegade Black boys was so simple then. Now as a grown man my eyes continuously scan these surroundings for a safe base, somewhere for me to gather myself and catch my breath before running again. Running again. Running again. Running again.
Running to a place or running from a place until my legs are numb. From being gainfully employed to under employed, to PTA meetings, to outrunning my anxiety from witnessing police killings and beatings of Black men. Make no mistake about it, I am always running even when it appears that I am sitting still.
At one point in time, running was for a young boy’s activity to have fun, now as a grown man I run to save my life. I run to save the life of my loved ones. Unfortunately, our bases are few and far in between as grown Black Men. This is complicated. Our running is very complicated.
Life is challenging on so many levels and we all need someone who is willing to do more than what is comfortable. The truth of who we are shows up during the most uncomfortable times in this thing we call Black life. ‘Complicated’ is an understatement, and over my years of living, learning, loving and hurting as a Black Man in America my eyes have been trained to look for markers of safety.
These safety markers come in different shapes and sizes. At times they are not always what they present themselves to be. Sometimes what appears to be a place of safety is a beautifully disguised bear trap. As a Black man I have learned how to tell the difference between the two. This is life or death for me and those who look like me.
As I was thinking about framing this letter, I did not want it to be very long. Mainly I just wanted to focus on what I learned to be true about the women of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Of course, it is impossible to generalize these women because this is life…Black life. Things are complicated for all of us. Every one of these women are not the same, but there is something that connects all of them.
My first conscious interaction with a Delta was when I was in high school. I was in the eleventh grade and during that time I was struggling with being a Black boy coming of age in America.
Though I was talented, creative, and ‘smart’ that did not simplify my life at all. If anything, it made my life even more complicated. My father died when I was in the fifth grade, and now I was sorting through my life trying to fit balls of barbed wire into squares.
Long story short, I stayed in trouble. Trouble at school. Trouble at home. Trouble with the law. Trouble. My ‘talent and creativity' was indifferent to where I used them. Even as a young boy I did not think small, so if I was going to do something it would be at scale. I got to know Major Trouble on a very personal level, we were the best of friends during my high school years. That is when I think back to Ms. Clara Matthews, a retired educator who was my mom’s best friend. Ms. Clara was a stable part of my mom’s support system - as a widowed mother who was doing what she knew best to raise me.
Whenever we visited Ms. Clara’s home it always smelled like cinnamon potpourri, and her home had stuffed elephants and elephant figurines everywhere. She said she was a “Delta’s Delta,”and I did not know what she meant. My mother is HBCU educated (Alumni of Jackson State University), but she was not a Greek, so I did not know what made a Delta’s Delta. I just knew what I saw and felt from being around Ms. Clara, I felt good and safe.
Ms. Clara would speak to me in such a caring way about what I was putting my mother through, and she explained that I was here for a bigger purpose. Even when I stole my mom’s car while she was asleep and wrapped it around a tree after fleeing from the police, Ms. Clara was there with kind and loving words to a Black boy who was lost.
The next day after picking me up from the hospital with freshly bandaged scars across my face, I sat on the backseat of Ms. Clara’s car, sandwiched between a bunch of elephants. My mom was distressed in the passenger seat as Ms. Clara drove us home. Every few minutes I felt Ms. Clara’s eyes lock on me from the rearview mirror, with a look of compassion that made me feel guilty for hurting my mom. I also felt bad for putting Ms. Clara through my foolishness.
Ms. Clara loaned my mom her car for a few weeks until she got a replacement. She was such a meaningful, supportive and wonderful friend to my mom who was struggling with a son who was still running to find his safe base. I did some very bad things during those times and Ms. Clara always spoke life into me. She did not focus on my bad actions; she would always talk to me about who I could be when I got myself together.
It has been decades since Ms. Clara passed away. I still have the feeling of gratitude for having someone in my mom’s life who could be steady when she was struggling. Ms. Clara was comfortable with being uncomfortable for the sake of her friend.
That is who I know to be a Delta’s Delta, and I am thankful for learning this lesson early in life.