When I heard of the death of X, I broke my social media hiatus to see how the news was effecting everyone. I have learned from Bill Cosby, Chris Brown and R Kelly that when bad things happen to notorious abusers, black folks still weep. X like Chris, Bill and Kelly represents our relationship with black men. And Xxxtentacion dying in a drive by in broad daylight is a reminder that no matter the wealth, fame, or clout one gets does not make anyone immune from gun violence that plagues our black community. His fans and family that survived him that are currently mourning his death, I am committed into feeling more deeply with them.
I want to be clear that I by no means condone the vicious violence of this young man or am I a X sympathizer.
Xxxtentacion expressed his emotions in his music that he was unable to do in a healthy way in his interactions in his personal life. His music was his safe place where his creation released his pain and traumatic experiences that he took pride in sharing so others would not feel alone. When I look at the lyrics of Xxxtentacion’s music I understand that it is relatable to folks, young boys especially – that battle through the same emotions of feeling sadness and anger without knowing how to sort through it in a healthy way. I look to these as reminders of how much farther we have yet to go. If its not our personal relationship with unprocessed pain and emotions, it is our proximity to folks in our lives that experience it.
`Xxxtentacion music was relatable to so many folks for its emotional content.’
I work with young black boys that have similar life experiences as Xxxtentacion – mothers that feel more like older sisters, fathers that are barely existent, and grandparents, family members or foster parents that have had to take of care taker roles. I see how they let their relationship with their parents and the community that is still active in their lives shapes them into the men they are growing into. I see how their sadness that they are not allowed to feel into leads to frustration of not exploring these feelings of rejected which in turn morphs into anger that cannot be tamed.
I’m more concerned about the impact of X’s life and the current wave of new rappers have on our youth that look up to them as leading role models of success. Black children seeing young black men that look like their older cousins and on their social media platforms portray lives that are similar to their current day to day lives with the illusion of more money inspire them to live their lives in the same manner.
As an adult I forget the impact that celebrities, musicians especially have on children. I grew up loving Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, and singers like that who inspired me to aim to define my own version of greatness.Today children look for the same.
It is our duty as adults to hold our youth’s idols accountable for their role they have on this new generation. Call them in more on their behaviors and call them out when their actions become problematic. X is dead, and all I have positively to say on his legacy creates a safe place for young male listeners to begin to explore their emotions. My hope is that we can let that door that has opened for boys to admit to feeling sadness and pain to us exploring more where this is coming from and introduce how to heal through their past traumas.
I am more focused on the future of our black community and how we are shaping the children that will become the leaders of that reality. I do not have the energy to imagine the possible future of Xxxtentacion living a reformed life as a healed person in our community, I rather accept and learn from his tragic reality : X let the trauma of his childhood shape him into an unapologetically violent person which lead to his early death. He was aware of his transgressions and knew that much of it came from his troubled past which was why he felt the need to focus on the youth.
“If worse thing comes to worst, and I f***ing die or some s*** and I’m not able to see out my dreams, I at least want to know that the kids perceived my message and were able to make something of themselves and able to take my message and use it and turn it into something positive and to at least have a good life.
“If I’m going to die or ever be a sacrifice, I want to make sure that my life made at least five million kids happy or they found some sort of answers or resolve in my life regardless of the negative around my name.” – Xxxtentacion, The Sun
Let us focus on raising our youth in healthy healing communities. Let’s focus on the women and femme survivors of the existing abusers in our own cities and communities- providing resources for access to safe havens, education on alternative interventions that do not require the police/law enforcement such as restorative justice and additional healing support. Let our black men work towards healing themselves and traumas while calling each other in when exhibiting toxic masculinity. This is the way we can at least begin to create our own sustainable community.