Filmmaker - Musician - Photographer

The Black Birthday!

The Ledbetter Twins!  Me (left) and my brother John (right...duh)

The Ledbetter Twins!  Me (left) and my brother John (right...duh)

You hear things when you grow up Black in America.  You hear about how most of the people in American prisons are Black men.  You hear that about the social inequalities that you will have to endure as a Black man.  You hear about the opportunities that will probably not be offered to you because you’re a Black man.  You end up hearing a lot of people and the media talk to you about how fucked you are to be you.

I remember hearing a statistic when I was younger that some outrageous percent of Black men in America are likely to be dead or in prison by the time they are 28 years old.  As a child and then a teenager, I didn’t give it much thought, but something very profound happened to me when I entered my 20’s.  I started to see the statistic come to fruition around me.  Friends I had were getting arrested, dropping out of school, abusing/selling drugs, and in a couple of instances, dying.  New friends I that I made had just come out of prison, trying to keep their heads above water, or at the very least knew someone who had become part of this looming statistic.  Everyone was dealing with living in a world that seemed to have turned their backs on them.

For lack of a more effective phrase, it’s a complete mind fuck.  But, the greatest gift any of my elders have given me is clarity of how it really is for us out here.

Ever since I passed the age of 28 my birthdays have brought with them a very surreal feeling.  This is not a feeling of sadness or worry from getting old; it’s not a feeling of victory or triumph for meeting a milestone.  Honestly, I can’t describe it but if I were to try I would call it presence

Whenever my birthday comes up I just feel very present.  I’m here.  So many people told me that I wasn’t supposed to be here today, but here I am.  So many people who came from the same place that I come from aren’t here, so why me? 

I don’t know.  All I know is that today my twin brother and I turned 34 years old; 6 years after the age we were supposed to be dead or in jail according to every statistic and media poll hammered into our brains since we were little.

Take that, America.