I'm always looking for interesting ways to talk about the many things that cross my mind about politics, economics, race, and class. So, I thought I would try my hand at using storytelling rather than a straight essay to share my thoughts. This is the first of many to come featuring Lenny, the Professor and their friends.
Lenny walked into my office and immediately extended his fist to give me some dap.
Pretending he was looking around for a camera, he said, “You need to be careful professor. You know fist bumps got Michele and Barack in trouble. I know you have tenure, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t make a move against your black butt."
“The fists bump,” I said, “is the universal black man greeting. You know if I did not give you any dap, you would spread rumors all over the Northend of Hartford that the Professor had sold out.”
“Professor, I wouldn’t do you like that. I love you like a brother from another mother.”
Lenny stepped back and looked around my office at the books on the shelves. “Damn, you got a lot of books. You got books stacked on top of books on your shelves. Hell, you got books stacked on top of books on the floor. You read all those books, or are they for show” he asked?
“What, a black man cannot read,” I replied?
“Answer the question, Professor. Are they for show, or did you actually read all of them?”
“I read a lot of them. Well, I read most of them. Okay, I have not read all of them.”
“So, you’re faking it," he interrupted?
I leaned forward in my chair. “Why you trying to give me a hard time?”
Lenny smiled at me. “Professor, don’t get defensive, I’m just kidding. I know you read all the time. If I had this many books, I’d probably never come out of the house and spend most of my time with my nose in a book like you.
“So, after insulting me, now you are trying to placate me?”
“Dictionary alert,” he quickly responded. “Come on Professor. Stop trying to throw those big words around. I’m a struggling black man in America with a very simple vocabulary.”
We both laughed out loud.
“Do not try that struggling black man stuff with me. I know you.”
Lenny took a seat. He continued to look around the room at my books. I knew he was not finished messing with me. Lenny is an autodidact. Unlike me with my Ph.D from The Ohio State University, he is largely self-taught and one of the smartest people I know. If he wanted a Ph.D., he could easily earn one. He said that he spent a couple of years in college before dropping out. Lenny said he left school because he was tired of arguing with his professors and had grown increasingly disgusted with a curriculum that was, in his opinion, simply training people to be consumers, supporters of the status quo, and future worker drones in service of capitalism. Until we met 5 years ago, he probably never would have set foot on a college campus again. I have to admit, there are times after he has left my office that I feel like I am a student and he is the professor.
“So Professor, you reading anything that will help you save the word?”
“You know Lenny that I don’t believe in trying to save the world. That is a doomed project.”
“Well Professor, I hope that you are at least trying to change the world. Remember, what Karl Marx said: The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”
“Lenny, you know I try to do my part.”
“Yes you do Professor. But, we need more of you (clears throat) ‘edumacated’ brothers and sisters to step up to the plate.”
Lenny stood up and leaned toward me and said, “I gotta go. Gimmie some dap.”
I stood up and gave him a hug.
“Have a good day, Professor,” he said, and started to walk toward the door.
“Although you gave me a hard time, it was good to see you Lenny,” I replied.
Lenny looked over his shoulder just as he grabbed the door knob. “Professor, we gotta keep you brothers and sisters in the academy honest. I apologize if I stressed you out. You want me to get you some weed? It’s some good stuff” he said, with a grin on his face.
“Nope, I’m good. You know my motto: just say no to drugs.”
“Professor, you don’t look like Nancy Reagan. Besides, you need to take that message to the white folks in the suburbs and rural America and leave us weed smokers in the hood alone. Okay, but let me know if you need something to help relieve some of that stress you’re feeling up here in the Ivory Tower. Remember, your boy got you covered. You always got the weed hook up.” Lenny laughed out loud as he closed the door behind him.
I sat back in my chair and laughed out loud too.