I could be a Hotep or a Wakandan depending on the day. My name is Bro. Yao. The bro. stands for brother. Though I can't remember some past declaration to be a "brother" of any one, if someone asks why I call myself brother, I usually comment that I was trying to avoid the mystery and confusion of the Mr. It could be that I admired Brother Ah, the legendary D.C. musician so much that I copped the term from him.
Sometimes people speak my bro. as though it is a tongue twister-bro-with the long o. Sometimes they add a long pause after the phrase before they say Yao, which makes me feel different and unusual.
Now I am thinking about the terrific poet Marilyn Nelson's Magnificat, that has to be one of my favorite books. In it, she presents us with poems about Abba Jacob. Abba, like baba, stands for father. Abba Jacob is one of the Desert Fathers and early Christians who travels through life speaking in parables and transcending the mundane by delving into the mysteries of the simple. It's a mouthful, which is why I love the book, and its ability to travel through the everyday and find something other wordly.
Wakandans and Hoteps are like that. Saying things that seem imaginary, talking about chakras and ankhs, energies, reiki, yoga, essential oils, shea butter. They got aspiration and inspiration like the Desert Father's and early Christians in the outposts of the Roman Empire that makes for the rise of one of the world's greatest religions. In Rome, the early Christians were fanatics-let me say it again: what makes a Wakandan and Hotep so crazy is the blackness audacity along with the fanatical. Abba could just as well be brother. Within a monastic community priests could be called brothers and nuns sisters in addition to mother and father. The glue is the shared faith. The belief. The thing that builds empires physical and religious. The focus on the right things and the fading into the distance of the what does not matter; and the certainty that fills in the cracks.
There's something religious about Brother Yao, though it is attached to no religion. Brother Yao could be religious if you want and suggest some black religion that doesn't exist. Sorta like Wakanda and Hoteps, bigger than life but deep underground, a secret, a set of teachings. It could be all that or trivial as a comic book.
To speak of the Kingdom of God, revolution, or some dramatic apocalyptic change, from inside the world's greatest empire, is some crazy ass shit. To speak of mystical powers, holy scriptures, tabernacles, and physicality that will change the world-crazy ass shit. Or even prayer, the spoken word, capable of transforming the world-crazy ass shit. To speak of change, transformation-the audacity.
But like I said, I could be called a Wakandan or Hotep almost any day, if you don't know who I am. If you see me from the outside. If you overhear the conversation. Some of this is just things and names for stuff folks don't know. Somebody say Wakandan and smile or Hotep and frown, its all the same to me. Just distance and otherness.
To keep it real one must be backed by golden domes in old cities who have conquered the world with tens of millions of crosses and steeples rising towards the clouds in back of them to really be fanatical. For then the fanaticism is laced with power and the undeniable. That wafers and wine turn to flesh and blood is as true as the belief of the followers, and the more followers the greater the armies, and the greater the armies, the more fascinating the story, the narrative, and arc.
And that Hoteps and Wakandans are black makes things more obvious, more simple. For to be black or embrace black is undeniably fanatic. Who would want to be black? Blackness seems to be a helpless result of fanaticism, a trap of sorts, an impossible illusion based on the invention of race. We are black because someone called us that. To search for some higher meaning, some advantage, some spiritual arc that transforms us into greater human beings is foolish at best. The real fanatics must have power and surely the black does not have that. And that power is certainty. Even the profane does not wash the blood from the hands of those who do the deeds in the name of god. The black seems to be profane and trapped there by the cosmos. No way out. The black becomes the site of the ridiculous. In it we know and are certain of what is ludicrous and impossible.
And so we have Wakandans and Hoteps who we can believe know nothing of the significant. The Wakandans are fantasy and the Hoteps are so clearly not. The Wakandans are significant by stretching themselves towards the fantasy of what might be and seem hopeful, but their hope is trapped in the impossible. The Wakandans are created by a corporate infrastructure that makes blackness into skill in the service of industry. The right blackness crafted by experts on blackness who are sposed to be experts on something else besides blackness. The Hoteps have the hope of the ridiculous. the idea that knowledge, some new knowledge attached to their trauma will change the shape of their world and the world of others.
Trauma changes and transforms, but trauma is not knowledge unless it is collectivized as code within the society. Colonialism is collective trauma leveraged against the unknown. Meditation is required.
Binaries, us vs. them, and the categories of oppression. Maybe a Wakandan refines trauma into spectacle fantasy, while a Hotep seeks to reconcile it. I do not know the answer. I bleed and am flesh. My ideas seem bigger and better than my body. The world shifts and settles down, the seasons change. I am impossible dreaming of possibility.
Nobody wants to be a Wakandan or a Hotep for the same reasons no one would choose to be black. You are in heaven about to be sent down and everyone ask to be in the line where folks get something called white privilege. You do some research find out what it is. Why wouldn't you want that?
This code the scholars decode.
"Remember Christians: Negroes, black as Cain, may be refined and join the Angleic train." A Hotep is a black intellectual at one of the Obama Inaugural Balls who simply doesn't get the culture right. If you were the only one, you would be certain you could never be white or get the culture right, but certain black folks in the room, make it easier to know who didn't get it right.
(Many will imagine in the statement an aspiration towards the great. Disclaimer: read my credentials-I am neither fantastical enough to be a Wakandan or crazy enough to be a Hotep. Writing is hard and lends itself to the ego, but shit ain't really about me. Just trying to talk about phenomena.)
I changed my name as a young man. My kids got African names. If there is need to sport a Dashiki, I can do so at a moment's request. My daughter and many of the young people I know study African dancing and/or drumming. Many of my friends got African names too and have cultivated a respect and understanding of African American and African culture into their lives. Some have calloused hands from playing African drums everyday for hours and hours. Some have calloused feet from dancing day after day. Others homes are filled with books, masks, and arts that make the space in their homes seem other worldly.
We are a strange tribe. We Hoteps and Wakandans. (Yes, I have contradicted myself-keep up.) So strange that some of us publicly renounce our membership, while others hide that we ever were that. Some claim to have just passed through the strange lands as travelers. Others claim they know what a Wakandan and a Hotep is because they once hung with that crowd until they realized the confusion, the troubling truth about those revisionist cultures: the misogyny, the patriarchy, the homophobia, the ridiculous cult like features of an underground movement doused in trauma. Some say that the Hoteps/Wakandans are all that we say about white people in black skin, that they are ideologies and conviction, nothing more than confusion and hate. But the thing is, when folks need something that is recognizable and black, there is nothing better than a Hotep and a Wakandan. Ask Marvel. For nobody wants to be recognizably black-too risky a proposition; but those silly enough, stupid enough, traumatized enough, crazy enough might actually do that shit-for some time, for just a little, maybe forever. And a super smart successful black may not wanna be that, but will do that for you.