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Get Down: I may be a Nigger, but I’m Fucking Done Running

By Nicholas Brady

Grad school is a trip.

So when I first entered grad school and was assaulted every class by a particularly spiteful professor, I thought I understood it. Every class was another opportunity for this professor to get their little jab in. But when this happened, I found it to be both pretty amusing and not really that bad. I felt mostly ambivalence about it, and I shirked it off with a thought like “oh, so this is what this academy thing is all about.” And it made sense in that way. It made sense to view the classroom as warfare. So I armored up, learned to intervene and fuck shit up when I felt it was right to fuck shit up and otherwise not really give a fuck. It was pretty simple.

But in all of that, I think I missed the real violence of this space we call the academy and grad school specifically.

The violence of this hazing process is not only in the daily assaults on your being, the daily microaggressions telling you that you are not good enough, that you are nothing but a loudtalking (or loud-typing) nigger who needs to stop speaking so often. Nah, the real violence is actually in the quiet moves of shoving a ton of reading at you, to show you the vast amount of pages that have been written, and then ask you, with an encouraging, but sly grin: “so what do you have to add to this?”

They show you a vast mountain of texts, a list of things that is impossible for any person to read in their lifetime, and asks you to make a contribution. Find something that no one else has ever said and publish that as your contribution to humanity.

Prove yourself little nigger. Write something and maybe, just maybe, you’ll make a difference.

Like the famous dream sequence from Invisible Man, they keep giving you books in books in articles in bibliographies in even more books. But somewhere in the words, if you look in between the lines you find the same words that he found in the envelope within the envelope within the envelope:

“Keep this nigger running.”

And so I have kept running. You get tired, you get exhausted, but you keep running. Then you enter a race with some other niggers that have been running just like you, or longer than you, or shorter than you, and you think “oh shit, here it is, the real project.” But then somewhere the running and the exhaustion and the scorching heat and the sweat and cramping muscles and all this bullshit, you realize that there ain’t no comradery here. This is just tired, sweating, cramping niggers running, trying to get to the top of a mountain of books that they hate as much as I do.

So what do you do? If you stop, what do you do with these muscles that have grown strong in all the ways you despise, yet enjoy? What do you do with these legs that crave running, that love running, that like the connection with other niggers running, trying to reach the top of a mountain of books we all hate, yet enjoy, yet despise, but will never let go of?

“Keep this nigger running.”

Nobody ever had to tell me these words. Just like in the Invisible Man, it was buried deep within an envelope inside of another envelope inside of another envelope that envelopes my mind. Nobody ever had to tell me shit. This ain’t the confessions of a brainwashed person — if anything my brain is too dirty, in need of the water that drowned our ancestors, where their voices remain crashing against each other like waves against the shore.

“Keep this nigger running.”

Ain’t no running away, ain’t nowhere to hide — not for long anyway and if we are being truly honest, nowhere ever at all. So where am I running to? Who am I running from? Why the fuck do i continue to wake up every morning or stay up every night to run, in solitude, in solace, in silence?

It’s obvious to say fuck a settler, but what’s so bad with settling in or settling down? Or maybe better put, how about we get down? That type of incessant, never-ending motion that can be dancing in your seat at a bar or getting into the groove with a simple, but mean two-step or hit them with a little something something they never seen from Baltimore, but will be familiar because its felt in that low-down, down low area of thought that A Tribe Called Quest ingeniously called the low end theory. Get it in, get it on, in the cut. The groove. The mix. The break — where we break it down like that because we broke as fuck, but we willing to get down here ’cause them may be the breaks, nigga, but that don’t mean we broken. We broke, but not broken. We not broken because we here to break shit up. And that ain’t nothing simple, but it does mean something that can be broken down simple like that: I’m fucking done running.

Not sure they heard me, but I am 100 percent sure they will never hear me anyway. So I say it again like a refrain in a James Brown groove: I’m fucking done running. That ain’t to them and it ain’t even to myself, because we all know I can’t hear myself think in the loudness of this groove. So I just scream it out, say it loud, say it proud: I’m fucking done running. And you already know how I’m going to end this, because we heard it sampled in enough tracks, in enough mixes, in enough grooves and in the title of this fucking article. But this time this famous James Brown refrain ain’t simply repeated, for I’m screaming it for you and whispering it as a warning in the ear of any person brave enough to call me into order. Its a simple refrain, a simple call, a simple response, a simple demand, a simple way of living, a simple way of giving, a simple way of loving, a simple way of dying, a simple way to die, a simple way to think of death. And like the bassline forming Brown’s groove, this call is never-ending, always coming at you, coming from you, coming for you — so you know you better

Get Down

***

Nicholas Brady is an activist-scholar from Baltimore, Maryland. He is former debater and currently a head coach of the James Baldwin Debate Society, the only collegiate debate team housed in an African-American Studies department. He was also a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and currently a doctoral student at the University of California-Irvine Culture and Theory program. (check him out on tumblr or twitter @nubluz_nick)

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