A few days ago, my friend told me he got an email from our mutual friend. Hes been abroad for some years, wandering around in some ancient land. I asked how he was doing and the reply was that he was fine. My friend said “That brotha is real special.” I agreed, “Yes he is.” This is not the only time I heard this. Several people have made the same remark upon meeting him. I remember my bosss first impression, when she said that he looked at you in the eyes and you could feel his warmth. And his mind operated on this unique level, he didnt try to conform to how society defined the way black men should act or think. Hed say things like, “Asalaam alaikum dude” in a cool Cali skater boy accent. When we were young, he wanted to be a park ranger. I always thought that was cool. And this brother was really beautiful inside and out. I think a lot of people were really caught up in his physical beauty, as opposed to truly appreciating his unique soul. No, this society doesnt offer a space for some special people. It displaces them, decenters them, makes unreasonable demands upon them, and marginalizes them.
Three years ago I began looking for my boy, I had heard he still lived in Oakland. I just wanted to know if he was doing okay and learn more about what he had experienced in the past ten years since we talked at length. I found out this past December that he was abroad again. I had only seen him once in that decade, after both our lives had changed so much.
It was awkward asking around for him because in my circles it wasn’t really proper. I remember asking a sister and she was like, “Why are you trying to get with him?” I answered “No, I just want to know how he’s doing and to tell him he’s been in my thoughts and prayers.” I also wanted to tell him about my trip to the Tafilelt in Morocco. The Tafilelt is in southern Morocco and was the ancient trading outpost between the ancient kingdom of Ghana and North Africa. You can see a thousand years of blending between North Africans and sub-Saharan Africa in the faces of the people that lived there. They often considered people from other regions of Morocco as foreigners. To me, this region of Morocco was the most beautiful and heart breaking. When we first arrived to one of the towns, I couldnt hold it in and I said “Look at all the brown people, they are beautiful!” Sheepishly, I realized that I was in a van full of white women and I said, Awesome!! (Later on, I got some heat for saying that. Why people had a problem? They could kiss my bootey cause they always commented on their white-ness)
The first night we arrived the girls and I headed to the market. I was absolutely shocked because I saw a spitting image of my long lost friend. I knew he travelled but what was the liklihood? But something in the young man’s stare told me that it wasn’t my friend. That warmth was missing.
On the second night in the Tafilelt, I was really sick had to be rushed off to the pharmacy/doctor to get medicine for my fever. I experienced so much frustration and isolation there. My heart ached as I saw the crippling poverty of this once prosperous region. All these brown children, so beautiful, would follow us with bright eyes and smiles. The women constantly begged us for money. We saw the beginning of the locust swarms devastate these poor date farms. The young men tried desperately to chase the locusts out of the trees by burning acrid smoke. Those locusts swarms started there and would later sweep across Africa causing the 04-05 famine.
When I got back from Morocco, I began asking different people if they had seen him or heard from him. On day online I ran into one of his friends. I tried to reach out and sent a message. I briefly told my Morocco story and wrote, “Send the brotha my salaams.”
I have always wanted to talk to people who, like me, had gone some place in search of knowledge and understanding. I remember jealously watching the brothas go away years ago in search of sacred knowledge. And I felt constrained. But after returning from Morocco, I wanted to reach out to that group. Maybe they could build with me and help me get my bearings.
This brings me back to my friend. We became friends when we were children on the cusp of adulthood when we were close. There was a tight little group of Muslim converts in the South Bay and we existed in this interconnected but dispersed network. Some of us knew each other from DeAnza, or as friends two well known brothers. When I was young, I had a lot of male friends. I think I spent an equal time building with my male friends as I did my female friends. A lot of my more conservative friends would admonish me for mixing with men and having too many male friends. Sometimes the intentions were clear and my relationships remained platonic. Other times it was fraught with tension. But all in all, I miss those largely innocent times. Im glad to hear that the brotha is doing alright. I asked my friend to send him my salaams. I am sure it will get to him this time.