mensah demary’s previous Liner Notes columns for The Butter can be found here.
General feelings of uplift, of the future light beamed and burned against the cold historic slabs. Hands clasped together in Emoji prayers. Play Kendrick’s “Alright.” It is a reminder, like the thunderbolt, that change comes swiftly, but only after the painstaking patience of people peering over the precipice.
Hard times like God
Bad trips like: “God!”
Nazareth, I’m fucked up
Homie you fucked up
But if God got us we then gon’ be alright
It is an affirmation against the maelstrom; it is a call to endure. There are online arguments and debates and comments, and then there is justice piloted by grace. You see it coming, on the back of the starling, with a rainbow jet stream visible to everyone — even citizens living on the wrong side of history.
Love conquers all? Who can say, except the children who yet know no better. But love is our wormhole to salvation, and the more people who can access it, the richer our humanity becomes. The spoils of freedom await, or its illusion, or no — not magic — but its shadow, suggesting that freedom lives, should we elect to pursue it.
Afterlife is artifice, the life we’ve come to know and love and loathe projected like a film reel against the cold space. Afterlife is a coping mechanism. Afterlife is a lucky charm, a talisman for superstition. Absent evidence of a round two, what we do in the here and now is all we have, making murder all the more egregious.
Grace is the word, uttered from the pulpit as a body prepares for burial. Nine lives swiped by a terrorist for all this grace, and I’m left to think of D’Angelo’s “The Charade.”
All we wanted was a chance to talk
Stead we’ve only got outlined in chalk
Feet have bled a million miles we’ve walked
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade.
Grace, the favor of God, as manifested through the salvation of sinners — such as murderers ignited by hate — and the bestowal of blessings to believers, is a holy substance. And I embrace my human form, and Grace, like the afterlife, positions action as a movement toward reward deferred.
But justice awaits, and nine lives are gone, so I write because that’s all I know how to do. I’ll write justice into existence, goddamnit. I lack Grace, but my heart beats all the same in this cold space. Black lives matter here, now, in this life, with or without God and Grace.
There is much to misunderstand if myopia is your malady. What do you see? Viral images come with viral interpretations, but it is simple when one looks at the entire picture.
Do you see a superhero or a solider? Or neither? Some artists’ renditions of Bree Newsome are even beginning to add angel wings to her back. People take hyperbole to next levels when excited by the times.
Black men take to Twitter to say she’s the only woman on a pole they respect. A black woman’s self-worth is flensed from history once again.
Yet, let us turn to Nina Simone—
Baby you understand me now
If sometimes you see that I’m mad
Doncha know no one alive can always be an angel?
When everything goes wrong, you see some bad
But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.
Let us turn to Nina Simone—
“…I’m the kind of colored girl who looks like everything white people despise or have been taught to despise,” Simone once wrote in a note to herself, which appeared in an essay in The New Yorker. “If I were a boy, it wouldn’t matter so much, but I’m a girl and in front of the public all the time wide open for them to jeer and approve of or disapprove of.”
Let us turn to Nina Simone—
mensah demary is editor in chief of Specter Magazine and a columnist for Fourculture Magazine. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Metazen, Little Fiction, PANK, Thought Catalog, and elsewhere. Originally from New Jersey, he currently lives and writes in Brooklyn. Find him on Twitter @mensah4000.