George Edward Walker, Jr.: My Grandfather’s Eulogy

The funniest thing happened yesterday when I read my granddad’s obituary in the Washington Post. Anytime, without fail, I mentioned Chinese food, he’d make the joke, “you better be careful when you order Chinese food that has meat in it.” And every time, I’d ask “why?” He’d reply, “I aint never seen a Chinese man in the obituary. What are they doing with the body?” Well yesterday, right next to George E. Walker, Jr. was James Tsung-Wu Han. So Joke’s on George E. Walker, Jr.

My grandfather was a storyteller. His stories are what drew us to him, made us laugh, brought back memories, filled in gaps, and kept so many alive. His stories are what kept generations going. It was because of these stories that I know at least half the people in attendance today probably still owes him money. He told me to tell you that you can give it to me.

I’ve learned in my own life that great lives happen to those who are able to tell the stories, and if that is true, George Walker lived a great life.

I was going to ask him why he wanted me to speak to you all about his life, because if we’re being honest, until a few months ago, I didn’t feel like I knew much about him. Growing up, he was this giant figure in my life who came with just a few dollars to give me because he was cheap and would let me sit in the room and listen to him entertain grown folks with the same 15 stories I’d have to determine were made up or not. Before I could ask him why he wanted me to speak, he said, “you know we’re the only ones in the family with some sense.” “Yeah, I know,” I told him.

There was this moment near the end when we just sat for hours and compared our stories of the world, how things were then and how they are now, and mid laugh he said in a surprising voice, “Damn boy, you’re just like me.” This was the moment we both realized someone made the mistake of creating another George Walker and laughed at the universe for messing up in such a major way.

Two things happened in this moment for me:

1. As funny as it sounds, it was the first time I realized that I’m actually going to die one day, and me watching my granddad take this journey was surreal, much like watching myself. He did all the things I think I’d do in the situation: eat all the foods I’ve loved in my life and even some I hated just to make sure I still hate them. And get on everyone’s nerves just so they’d have stories to tell when I was no longer around to do so.

2. I pieced together every story I’ve sat in on and every story he’s told me directly and every story I’ve heard from others and realized I knew my grandfather as well as I know myself.

He knew I was a storyteller, and perhaps he needed me to share things as only a storyteller could. It’s the story teller who tells you about the two lives you will live. The first is the life that comes with your birth. The second is the life that comes after you’ve stared death in the face the first time or when you’ve fallen madly in love. And now it’s the storyteller who will tell you that there are two deaths to be endured: the first is the one that can’t be avoided. It’s the one that brought us here. The other is the death that happens when there are no more stories to be told about us. I imagine we will never see a day when there are no more stories to be told about George E. Walker, Jr.

It’s the storyteller who validates a life, isn’t it? Someone has to tell it all. They will be the ones to determine if the story is worth telling. They will be the ones who will show up to your funeral and say just three words. When you’ve done good in the world, and when you’ve walked your own path and left it all on the field, and when all that good has been collected in memories, and all the warmth you’ve given off can still be felt, we will simply say, “he did it.” Or, when you didn’t live at all. And the story is not worth mentioning, in a low tone, it’s the storyteller who will say only, “thanks for coming” and guide you out.

He did it, didn’t he? He lived life. He suited up early and he fought in the streets, he made a million mistakes and eventually laughed through them all, he loved hard, and he stood tall like a tree. When it was time to go, he fought on and was no longer the tree, but a stump, showing us he gave it all he had. He did it. And it was proper. One of the last things he said to me was “You’re not supposed to see me like this.” But wasn’t I? Aren’t I the proof that he railed against his dying day? That he fought? And in the end, he’s proof, for me at least, that even superman dies.

Perhaps I’m here because it’s important that I tell you death only ends the life, not the memories, not the laughs or the smiles, and not the relationship. In the stories I tell me friends, he will still be my grandfather, just as he will be your husband, your father, your brother, your uncle. And when you tell these stories, you tell them with the same tone he used, laughing in the same places he would have laughed, and you tell them like you’re telling them to him.

“A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal.” – Big Fish

You become the story and you live forever. They talk about like about all the greats you’ve ever loved by all the people who have ever loved you, and in this, you live on.

When storytellers die, it’s almost like a good book has been banned or a library has been burned.

Our storyteller is gone and it feels like a library has burned to the ground. We must now stitch together the pages we find laying around and rebuild. You show up with 4 stories and I’ll show up with 3.

So today and until further notice, we must tell stories of George Edward Walker, Jr.

I’m Just Not Made For Relationships.

 

I’m just not made for relationships. I’m made for those undefined and strange things that happen when neither of us is paying attention. It’s what happens in those hours when we’re not worried about titles, only how many tacos we can stuff into our stomachs and who’s going to fall asleep first on the film we both chose, that make sense to me. I’m made for that strange thing we’re doing when everyone else is wondering why I’m in so many of your photos and what’s made me pick up the pen again.

I don’t know how to need. As a minimalist, I look at life’s needs a bit differently than most. Hence why I’m always broke, all my clothes fit into a small bag, and I’m always happy. As the descendent of folks who did most things on their own and allowed me to sit in the room while it all happened, I am well skilled in self-reliance. I will probably never need you. I will want you. It will always be my choice to be with you, and to me, that’s so much better. Don’t need me.

I will never chase after you. The soles on my shoes are almost completely worn, my knees are cracking, and my feet hurt sometimes because I walk too much. Relationships in the past have failed because I didn’t show up on the other side of the closed door, where they waited for me to stop them. Don’t tell me to leave when you mean “stay.” If I say leave, I mean leave. I only know how to get up when I’m done, but not before. I learned that at my best friend’s dinner table when I was 8. When you’re done, I expect you to get up as well. Don’t keep me company for the hell of it.

I’m a believer in opportunities, but not so sure “opportunities” is the word I want to use here. If you’re sitting in a coffee shop and a man enters and strikes up a random conversation about field mice and you laugh while the ice melts in your chai latte, and 45 minutes later you find yourself wondering if he’s your “person,” I will encourage you to find out. I will be hurt, but I will tell you to be sure. I have this foolish notion that we should always be sure we’re supposed to do this and with each other.

If you’re happier with titles, I will take a title. You can call me “boyfriend,” “lover,” or “him.” I can be him. I could also live out our relationship having never called you anything and having never been called something in return and I’d be just as happy. Any title you want, I will give you. It will mean more to you than it does to me, and that’s fine. We don’t belong to each other, we’re merely two people keeping each other company for a very long time.

I’m selfish and while I don’t require you to be, I will not allow you to make me feel bad about it. I will never sacrifice my inner freedoms for you and I won’t let you play a martyr. Whether I enter your space or you enter mine, you are here to share me with me, and I look forward to sharing all of you with you without compromise.  Humanly, naturally, we will evolve if we are meant to, but we can’t sit idle, waiting for that evolution.

I’ve been told it’s unrealistic to always want to feel springtime. I see couples eating dinner in public, each wishing they were alone or with whoever’s making them smile through the phone they can’t seem to ignore. It makes me think of the old women in dry marriages who make toasts at weddings, saying things like, “there will come a time when it’s not easy and may hate each other, but you will get through it together,” knowing it’s not always true. Some of them will grow in those dark places, but they will never bloom again. Undoubtedly, we will always grow, but I want to always bloom. I want us to always be new.

Relationships require realism and what I think is real seemed impossible to them. All of them.  I live in a world where I think we could be happy always and grow like Bloody Geraniums, with a little shade, very little water, and plenty of sunshine.

 

 

 

The Fraternity as Therapy

17457518_10100541843019875_1040004132940352411_nThe fraternity as a self-care tool

We showed up to one of the greatest weddings we’ll ever attend, celebrated our brother and new sister, and we laughed, telling stories and jokes, recalling each time in college and after when we all connected over foolishness, drinks, and women. We leaned hard on the Coat of Arms.

The wedding ended and my brothers and I spent all the following hours and days recharging, updating, and loving each other; the heaviest conversations over plates and glasses and on beaches and rooftops. It was therapy. It was brothers being brothers.

My Night @ The Oscars: 6 Things

  1. It was painful to sit in a room and watch a group of mostly creative people decide to hand an award to a slightly above mediocre artist who doubles in life as a molester over an amazing artist who’s entire career led him to the work he’s just shared with the world. Every role Denzel has ever played has led him, again, to Troy. Unfortunately, when Black people play Black people, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences don’t see it as a great feat or accomplishment. But when a white man plays himself (sans being a rapist), dynasties should be constructed?

 

  1. I’m big on meditation and being mindful. I sometimes YouTube Viola Davis’ speeches, close my eyes, and listen to her talk on loop. To listen to her live, to be within close proximity while she speaks life into the bodies of all who are listening is to be…blessed and highly favored and know that Black woman is God.

img_7461-1

  1. Tears rarely touch my face outside of a yawn or plucking a nose hair, but I know if Mahershala Ali spoke three seconds longer, I would have required tissue or my Hugo Boss tux sleeve. It was me watching a man who’s across his life path. It was me watching me. The last time I felt this feeling was in a California desert after an Ayahuasca ceremony.

 

  1. I remember playing cards with my Grandma Irene Elizabeth Jones, listening to her tell her friends about how I was going to be a film director one day. It wasn’t something she quite understood, but she was happy about it anyway. I remember asking my high school theater teacher if I could use the theater at lunch to do table reads and rehearsals for a film I wanted to make. I never made that film, but I dreamed big. I remember all the couches I’ve slept on and the people who owned and currently own them. I remember who fed me and who loved me and who fought hard for me in my absence. This night was the night all Black folks in attendance nodded at each other, knowing what we had to do to get into the building, knowing we belong there.

 

  1. I had an epiphany. No one did it alone. I need a team of amazing dreamers, wishers, hopers, and magic bean buyers.

 

  1. MOONLIGHT.

Excusing Violence Against Women With “She was a hooker”

“From how she was dressed, I think she may have been a hooker or something,” he said, brushing it off in a very familiar way, his voice doing that thing men’s voices do when justifying violence against women. I asked if he’d seen what happened to the woman around the corner, her brown body spread out on the once-brown bricks now besmirched with her blood. For nine seconds I thought she was dead, then her hand moved, then her feet, then she moaned a few words in Zulu, but not loud enough to be heard by those I assume could have translated for me.

It was mid afternoon. She’d been stabbed, and the river of blood leading to the ocean she was creating was half a kilometer long with some parts chunky, and some parts already fading, having been stepped on by those who didn’t want to get too involved, but took photos anyway. I walked along side that river, and looked at the faces of the men, some tribesmen, who stood idly by their cars, listening to music, watching a body of water form.

“Probably some man who didn’t want to pay her, or some pissed off lover,” he said, my face asking for the reason it was me who had to notify the cops and not him, who apparently saw her while she was still stumbling, holding the hole in her chest, probably knowing it was more important to hold that one than the one on in her abdomen. “Did she fall someplace,” he asked. Why didn’t he know she fell someplace just around the corner, just across from the mango and banana man who never stopped selling his goods to call anyone. “Did she fall someplace,” he asked with a look on his face that suggested he was asking for a piece of gum; casual.

“She fell just around the corner. Just across from the mango and banana man you frequent. Next to that abandoned and neglected building. She was there abandoned and neglected,” I told him. I thought she was dead until her hand moved. Suddenly I was at 357 Rose Avenue in Daytona Beach, Florida, and I was 20 years old and I was watching my neighbor get kicked down the stairs by a boyfriend who seemed to love her more when her dark skin was made red, and her fingers were in splints. I helped her once, but she came back, so I never helped her again, and I think I carry that guilt with me now, so I help now.

There was one woman there with me, hovering over the slow-moving and bloody body of the woman on the red bricks. She’d come, probably, from someplace fun, someplace laughing, someplace where even though drinks were cheap, she only had two. I could see the remnants of joy on my curve of her lips, hidden deeply behind the panic over the woman that could have been her. She and I stood there, wondering why there were no police there yet if the station was just around the corner. Why had the two men, whose face I didn’t see, stood there seemingly long before she and I and didn’t call the police. We called the police, we called the ambulance, and she called the two men “assholes” for doing nothing but staring.

“I hope she’s okay,” he said, probably genuinely. But what if she’d died on those bricks beside that building after that stumbling half a kilometer walk she did while being neglected by those who found her movements as entertaining as the music to which she moved? “Honestly, I don’t know,” I said, my voice doing that thing guilt-trippers and manipulators’ voices do when trying to point out foolishness, ignorance, rape culture, asinine culturally-justified violence against women, Casey Affleck, Nate Parker, and all other bullshit.

image1-6

Black Folks & Mental Illness: A Film.

A Documentary by Darnell Lamont Walker about Black Folks & Mental Illness. Why are we not sharing our stories, our pain, our struggles, and our methods of survival? This film exists to show those quietly suffering that they are not alone.

I’ve had friends who’ve committed suicide in dark and lonely places. I regret not seeing the signs, not being there, not calling them, and maybe not loving on them enough.

Being “resilient” and “strong” is killing us. Holding in our frustrations and sadness is killing us. Our children are jumping from bridges and opening their veins quietly. Transparency is needed.

It’s time we talk!

Watch The Full Film: Click Here