Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

The Definition?

I am Panama Jackson.

I am many things to many people and I am nothing to a lot of people. To many of you I’m black letters on a white background, and to others I’m a confidante and party animal extraordinaire who brings the party when he shows up and takes it with him when he leaves.

I am a son and a father. I’m a boyfriend and a partner (no Siegfried). I cry in the dark and I put my hands where your eyes can see.

I am a Black man.

And yet sometimes I don’t even know what that means. I know what comes with being a man. I’ve been that all my life. And while I’ve been Black all my life it means different things in different places to different people. To some being a Black man means being a monster and a boogie man that will take your Girl Scout and her cookies and leaver her looking like a wilted dandelion. To others I’m an object of study, an odd fascination and curiosity upon which studies and fear campaigns have been built.

My goal is to be a positive light in a community where some of the worst get all the shine. As a Black man in today’s day and age I walk a fine line between street corner hustler and corporate boardroom participant and leader. I live amongst men with nothing and no reason to continue other than to spite death. But I work among men whose sole purpose in life is to grow powerful enough that only God could command more respect.

I am on the lookout because at work I am the same person I avoid in the streets.

I am fear and pain but I’m love and compassion. My community means the world to me even if at times it refers to me as an outsider using its resources for my own personal gain. Ironic considering that my own personal gain is esteem at the hands of another’s lack thereof.

I am a brother and a mentor. I am an uncle and nephew. I’m a role model and a cautionary tale. I’m somebody’s strength and an infrequent picture of weakness. I’m a southerner with northern tendencies, raised conservatively with liberal leanings, and a bringer of the ruckus while usually hoping the problem resolves itself.

I’m strong when necessary yet unappreciative of rodents in my space. I’m a dreamer and a realist. I struggle with raising a child in a world I want while praying for change in the world in which I reside. I’m afraid of the police but rebellious in the face of unregulated authority.

I am a Black man with insecurities but unafraid of life. I appreciate The Doors as much as I appreciate Jay-Z. Ahmad Jamal introduced me to the piano and Eazy-E introduced me to the keys. I’ve got soul and I’ve got rhythm. I dance when I hear music even if no music is playing.

I’m like Che Guevara with bling on, I’m complex. But I’m transparent.

I’m too sexxy for my shirt, so sexxy it hurts. And I’m shy.

I shine on stage while fading into the background.

I’m Timbalands in the summer time and Chuck Taylor’s in the winter. I’m Kenneth Cole and Banana Republic. I’m tall socks and dog tags.

I’m fashion and an oddball. I’m the coolest geek ever. I’m the coolest cat you’ve never met.

He is I, and I am him. Slim with the tilted brim.

I’m the star of the story.

I am a lot and nothing. I’m something and a nobody. I believe I can fly even though I’ve never left the ground.

I go up on the downstroke but I’m down by law.

I’m Panama Jackson and I’m a Black man.

We talked yesterday about what a grown a** Black man needs to succeed in life, but we never defined a Black man.

How do you define a Black man?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL, HE A 3

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

  • http://presidentialtelevisionandfilm.ning.com Monk

    Cool ass post, bruh.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Monk, thanks homey. i do what i can on some tuesdays.

      • Blaze

        @Panama Jackson,

        Nice piece bruh..I’m sure a lot of brothers could relate to this joint.

    • http://twitter.com/WuDaMan WuDaMan

      @Monk,

      Co mothuh! fuhckin! sign

  • http://www.theAudacityofHustle.com EbonyI

    Excellent, well thought out, complete post. Bravo!

    As a wife, daughter and mother of a son I think of Black men and their place in the world almost constantly. My Black man is loving though sometimes less than lovable. Unintentionally intimidating and consciously protective, of himself, and his family. Able to leap tall building, kill bugs and eat whatever is left but can become completely undone by a baby’s crying.

    I imagine it must be a challenge to be you… and rock Banana Republic, skater shoes & a wicked hat. But only yall can :) And I love you

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @EbonyI, the good thing is that despite its challenges, its great. we get to set trends and be the subject of a CNN special every 6 months.

    • Leila

      @EbonyI, “Excellent, well thought out, complete post. Bravo!”

      Co-sign! Really well done Panama.

  • legitimate_soul

    My partial definition of a black man is: the epitome of masculinity, my father, my brother, my protector, my partner, my love, a king, a counterpart, balance, simply and with complexity-Superman.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @legitimate_soul, I think Superman works quite nicely.

      Though I prefer Green Lantern myself.

      • legitimate_soul

        @Panama Jackson,

        Well, I didn’t want you to be susceptible to yellow :D

  • LuckyRed

    I lurk around verysmartbrothas.com all the time and never post but…

    Panama, I believe you have asked the most simple question that has been bound with fear and many black people or the world for that matter wants to know.

    This was definitely thought provoking and peaceful all at the same time! How do you define a black man? Not what makes him successful or what validates him. When a man of any race understand who they are and master that then therefore we can give a list of adjectives the man possess. We use society to categorize men and what they are supposed to be and never take time to understand who they are. You know I could go into a whole post about it but I will not.

    Define a black man or any man by what God says!
    Just a thought…

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @LuckyRed, You know I could go into a whole post about it but I will not.

      perhaps you should go on ahead and do it, pimpin.

      and welcome and thanks and all that good sh*t

      • LuckyRed

        @Panama Jackson, Well sir I shall do that! I will email it to you when it’s done. Oooh I’m excited lol!

  • http://lizburr.com Liz

    Look at you edifying the Black man. Hahaha.

    <3 you p!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Liz, i gots to edify. if i don’t…who will? Plies?

      • http://www.sistersoundoff.blogspot.com Cheekie

        @Panama Jackson,

        Please, God, no. Not Plies!

  • Beremore

    I have been reading VSB since the summer and have been dying of laughter daily at the thought provoking and in depth discussions. I LOVE this place :)

    P you’re waaay more than a 3 writing like that brotha! Great post!

    As a sister to two amazing black men… I have found that black men are a ‘complicated melody’… and I love yall for it

    • http://lizburr.com Liz

      @Beremore, aww thanks for de-lurking and for your kind words (on behalf of P) :)

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Beremore, P you’re waaay more than a 3 writing like that brotha! Great post!

      that works wonders for my self-esteem. i been trying to get at least 4-status for a while now.

      welcome.

    • Sula

      @Beremore,

      I have found that black men are a ‘complicated melody’

      That is beautiful.

      • An Island

        @Sula

        Yeah, I’ve officially stolen that and put it in my “first date” tool kit.

        • Sula

          @An Island,

          I am dead at “first date” tool kit.

          At least, now, if a VSS encounters a VSB who describes himself as a “complicated melody”, 47% chances are he is up on his verysmartbrothas.com lexicon… It’s already a good look. :)

      • keisha brown

        @Sula,

        LOVES it!!!! :D

    • LuckyRed

      @Beremore, hmmm a “complicated melody”. I love my black men sooo much!

  • http://moreandagain.wordpress.com MoreAndAgain

    Wow!

    I don’t think it’s my place to define what is a Black man, being a Black woman. But, I will say there is nothing more attractive than seeing a Black man who is secure in himself as a Black man.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @MoreAndAgain, maybe not define…but whats your perception of a Black man? i probably should have worded it that way. perhaps it would have been a less daunting task.

  • Tenchi

    I can only offer examples:

    1. My dad and his best friend James…
    They played tea party with me when both were between jobs, took me on my first date and set the bar for EVERY man I’ve laid eyes on since.

    2. My big brother…
    As the prototypical “scary child”…I was prone to nightmares. Every shadow was a monster and every random shape was “almost the death of me”. My big brother slept in my doorway EVERY time I had a nightmare…from birth til I turned 17 and he left home. Protection.

    3. My granpa…
    As a baby, I couldn’t digest milk in ANY form. I lost a tremendous amount of weight for a new born baby til my granpa told my mom and dad, “Leave me dat baby” and proceeded to feed me eggs (at 6 weeks old) through a straw. Sustenance and longevity.

    4. My ex~husband…
    *A hush falls over the crowd*
    Yeah, my exhusband is the hardest working man I know for our Suns. Despite a PRONOUNCED fear of heights, he took a job where his sole function was, you guessed it, scaling telephone poles hanging by a rusty belt…so that our Suns will want for nothing…Fallible yet steadfast.

    5. My best friend/SO…
    He’s the most annoying, slave driving, hard of hearing being on earth…especially when I’m not living up to my full potential…Inspirational.

    Black Men…I wouldn’t (want to) be a Black Woman without them…

    • http://moreandagain.wordpress.com MoreAndAgain

      @Tenchi,

      I’m officially jealous. =/

      Oh well. *Oldest-child-as-sarogate-mom-in-a-matriarchal-family shrug*

    • Lil’T

      @Tenchi,

      Girl, you was a hard baby to have, lol! I love men who take care of things and make a way.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Tenchi, 4. My ex~husband…
      *A hush falls over the crowd*
      Yeah, my exhusband is the hardest working man I know for our Suns. Despite a PRONOUNCED fear of heights, he took a job where his sole function was, you guessed it, scaling telephone poles hanging by a rusty belt…so that our Suns will want for nothing…Fallible yet steadfast.

      takes a strong woman to talk highly of an ex-husband.

      • Sula

        @Panama Jackson,

        I concur!

        Kudos.

    • http://TheSunk.com The Hallway/TheSunk

      @Tenchi,

      Sounds like a shortfilm to me. If not it should be.

  • http://shesoflyy.blogspot.com Muze

    beautiful beautiful post.

    “I believe I can fly even though I’ve never left the ground.”

    ^^love.it.

    i think the Black Man is a complex conglomerate of beautiful contradictions, as you’ve stated so eloquently. undefinable and omnipotent, yet sometimes stuffed and confined to a box so small there is no room for growth. even by each other sometimes.

    i simply view them as Kings of the Earth. actually wrote an ode to the Black Man a while ago. :-)

    hope all is well.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Muze, undefinable and omnipotent, yet sometimes stuffed and confined to a box so small there is no room for growth. even by each other sometimes.

      thats a pretty good way to look at us. good damn job. you succintly said what i wrote with almost 600 words. (if not more than that…i stopped counting at 1)

      • http://www.shesoflyy.blogspot.com Muze

        @Panama Jackson,

        and i do thank thee.

  • http://sojournersverdad.com SoJoVerdad

    PANAMA! The most muh-fuggin’!!!

    Out of all the years you’ve been writing, you have truly outdone yourself with this one. I see you, Adamsville! *hugs*

    PS I’m gonna use this post w/ some of my male students.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @SoJoVerdad, please do use it with your students.

      Out of all the years you’ve been writing, you have truly outdone yourself with this one. I see you, Adamsville! *hugs*

      and thanks.

      Adamsvillain. Checking in.