“In the land of the free, where the blacks enslaved Three-fifths of a man I believe the phrase."- JAY-Z
I will be the first to admit that I avoid certain shows based on the subject alone. If the show is about police brutality, civil rights, and/or slavery- I typically avoid it at all cost. So when Underground came out, it was at the very bottom of my television to-do list. During the entire run of the series, I never got around to watching it. So, when the show got canceled, and there was an uproar on Twitter- I couldn't relate.
Then one random weekend in November, I found myself strolling through Hulu. To this day, I still don’t know what made me turn Underground on that night. Maybe it was a hungover from Lovecraft County. Or the nerd in me wanting to learn everything about Misha Green. But for whatever reason, that Friday, I turned it on. For the next two days, I was glued to my couch, unable to watch anything else. I was mesmerized, horrified, and inspired all in one. To understand the impact this show had on me, you would have to understand my attitude towards "history."
Growing up, my family was not the type of people who dwelled in the past. My family focused on surviving while I was dreaming and believing that "money grew on trees." Since a little girl, I always wanted more. But I would never consider myself "woke." In fact, I'm embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of black history. There were no books of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin laying around the house. No Black Panther Party principles on the walls. All of my history lessons took place in the Detroit Public School system every February. So you can already guess the extent of my exposure—little to none.
That was until the Fall of 2006 when I arrived on Hampton University campus. That is where I got to experience my first real black history class. Let me set the scene for you: There is no PowerPoint presentation, a single podium. No required books or pop quizzes. I can’t even remember if she passed out a syllabus. It was just a single black woman telling stories. I’m not sure if there was a method to her madness. But it seemed like every day, she came in with a story and a speech. Every time our class ate it up, sitting on the edge of our seats. Locked in her vocal trance. I was racist for almost two years after that class. Thank God for the election of President Obama.
Eventually, I stopped thinking about the things that were said in black history class. Shit, we had a BLACK PRESIDENT. But her one and only assignment always lingered in the back of my mind. For our final exam, we were to look at the websites and message board of White Supremacist's Group. Even in 2006, they were still going strong- organizing, plotting, and planning. Still, I didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of racism in this country. It wasn’t until Trevon Martin that I got the reminder of what it means to be black.
It’s kind of crazy thinking about it now. Back then, it was new. At least to me, my norm was not the constant assault, abuse, and downright violence on black bodies. Now there are so many names that I have lost count. You have to dodge videos of police brutality between selfies and tick-toc challenges. I can still hear Trevon’s screams for help even now. But back then, I was invested. I couldn’t concentrate at work because I was glued to the trail. I will never forget the gut punch that I felt when ole boy got off. Still, I thought that was a “Florida” problem. It took for the killing of Mike Brown for my bubble to pop.
I was out of town for work sitting in a hotel room after a long day. I don’t know if it was a breaking news alert or if I went out of my way to go find this - but I remember seeing the military tanks driving down the street, tear gas, and cops fighting with protestors. It was like the civil rights scenes in movies being reacted in modern times. But this time, it wasn't an act or film. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Before I knew it, I was on my knees on those plush floors crying. I couldn’t believe just like that we were transported back in time. What happened to the progress? What happened to change? What happened to “Yes we can”? Seeing that didn’t feel real or natural. But now, it's as though it's our norm. So I did what I do best- ignore, avoid and dismiss. Until I couldn’t anymore.
It feels like we are suffering because we dared to hope that American could be a better place. We are paying for those eight years of Obama with black and brown bodies. To add insult to injury, instead of creating another rallying cry of keeping the country together and progress moving forward. The Obama’s seemed to look down on us, wagging their fingers, criticizing the black community for its lack of knowledge of the voting cycles. The more that racism plague this country, the more that I find myself leaning on spirituality. The funny thing is, the closer I grew to God and Spirit- the more I wanted to learn about my roots.
It became a real yearning to not just understand myself but my people. I don’t know why but watching Underground allowed me to see just how the act of daring to be confident or wanting better could get you killed. Underground helped me see that my ancestors had to risk everything just to have autonym over their bodies. Nothing around them showed them that life could be different. Yet somehow, they believed. I can't imagine the amount of courage, strength, and faith that act of defiance must have taken. Yet I turn on the television today, and it feels as though their blood, sweat, and lives were all taken in vain.
While I do not have to work in the fields, stand on my feet or even go into the office now. The truth is, regardless of how it looks: I don’t own my time. I have to be present and accounted for at least eight hours a day, five days a week. While there is flexibility, my freedom is limited to weekends, holidays, and PTO's. America has gotten us to buy into this illusion that we are “free." Yet, we are a slave to everything: our lifestyles, social media, Salle Mae, and the American government. The chains have been replaced with invisible ropes of status, taxes, and student loans. In Underground, Noah said, "they have tricked us into thinking that freedom is a place, but it is a mind- state."
Watching Underground made me want to be free. Truly free. I want my piece of the American Pie. Like Noah- like Harriet Tubman, there is something inside me that wants greater not just for myself but also for the world. There is something inside of me that tells me that this country's ways are unnatural, and it has to change. Call me crazy, but I feel like collectively, we have the power to make it happen. There is this scene in Underground Season Two, where Harriet is talking to Noah about faith and belief. He has finally made it to freedom. But he didn’t feel free, just pain and loss.
So he found himself talking to Harriet about her relationship with God, and that's when it hit me. We (as black people) are just like Noah. We want to believe in God and a higher power. But we, as black people in America, have seen too much shit happen. It didn’t and doesn’t make any sense. If God is real, why hasn't he answered any of our prayers or helped us? But the truth is, why haven't we answered him? The scene ended with Harriet telling Noah this: Nothing great ever happened based on fear or sense. You gotta be desperate and insane. You gotta believe. Watching Underground made me proud to be black.
We went from being treated as property to some of the most influential people in the world. We can find a way to turn dirt into gold. We are natural alchemists. We are the heartbeat and soul of this world. Yet, instead of pouring our time and energy into bettering ourselves and our communities- we have spent it begging for acceptance and complaining that people don’t see our worth. Instead of ignoring racists and bigots, we give them platforms by "hate" watching or ranting. If only we knew our own power. Sometimes I don’t know if we have the same courage, faith, and strength as our ancestors. We, black folks nowadays, like our change with convenience, and that scares the hell out of me. Yet, a small part of me still has hope.
I don’t believe the solution to Black People's problems is to form a single organization. We have tried that- each time those organization has been infiltrated and destroyed. Those types of organizations will always stick out like a sore thumb. No, the solution to racism and black people's problems will never come down to a single person, organization, or white people recognizing their privilege. The answer to our problems starts at home, in our body, and in our mind. It begins with us choosing better and vowing to become the best person that we can be. Just like our body parts, we have all been given a unique function and assignment by God. Our job is to play our role and do our part. This will not only help us individually but collectively. Think about it, how can the government stop every black person in America from rightfully and confidently taking their place in society?
While watching Underground, a seed was planted: Harriet's relationship with God is no different from the relationship he can have with you and me. The only difference between Harriet and us is that she believed. Amid everything telling her different. Facing death and being hunted like a dog, she believed. Over and over again. Yet we sit in our cozy bed and in our warm's houses, living in fear. Refusing to even try. We all feel this ache in our hearts that this can’t be life. Yet when we hear the whisper of God, we doubt. We question it and refuse to move out of fear. All of us are so desperate to fit in that we're turning into zombies and being picked off. This couldn’t possibly be what the ancestors wanted. But maybe I’m tripping, and this is the new American dream.
When Kamala and Biden got into office, I didn’t cry or jump for joy. Maybe it was the shit with the Obama’s or the overall state of the country- but I wasn’t impressed. It seemed like America has a history of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound: “We couldn’t possibly be a racist country with a darkie in office?” It’s bullshit. I’ll save my moments of celebration until it’s well-earned. I just wish we as a people would stop being so easily impressed and pacified. But then again, my beef isn't with America. It’s with you and me. I can’t help but think, what if Harriet never followed through? What if she didn’t trust God? The world would still be the same, and we would be in chains. Now it's our turn to step up. We no longer have the luxury to look away and keep allowing things to stay the same.
Thank God we don't have to sit at counters in diners. Or continue to march in the streets. No, we can start the revolution right from the comfort of our homes. All we have to do is try and believe. We can learn a lot from our ancestor’s passage. To get to freedom (a goal), it took careful planning, collaboration, faith, and patience. While also totally surrendering and trusting in a higher power. (Whether that was God or merely believing they should be free.) When I think about the fear I had to put myself there out there on social media, it’s laughable in the face of death, and all my ancestors had to go through.
In my “Teachings of Abraham Money and Law of Attraction” oracle deck, a card says The Law of Attractions Adds Power to Both Problems and Solutions. To summarize the card, it says, "the realization that something is not how you want is an important first step, but once you have identified that, turn your attention to something else. Because the solution is a different vibrational frequency from the problem.” This means to make a change in life (or the world), you have to stop focusing on the problem and work towards the solution.
We have to stop complaining, marching, and simply do something. A piece of the solution to black people's problems lies deep within each of us. Until everyday people, like you and me, stop looking for a savior we will forever be lost. Until we, as black people, take back our power, we will forever be powerless. Until we individually get to the place where we are desperate enough to have belief in a power greater than our own, this cycle of insanity will continue to live on.
So what will you do: Fight for something better? Or continue to live in fear? The choice is truly yours. Just know no matter what you choose, your answer will have a ripple effect throughout the years and for future generations to come
How is your relationship with God and belief?
What is your American Dream?