Poet Jayy Dodd on Black Millennial Survival

Growing up ignorant of your own mortality is a product of white privilege.

As a child, I had a vivid imagination of my adolescent and adult life. I took this for granted until yesterday, when a question writer Jayy Dodd asked their Twitter followers crossed my timeline.

I was struck by the sheer volume of responses, the different rationales, the ease with which many were able to answer with a succinct “22,” “18,” “Seventh grade.”

The question has been inciting countless responses that, four days after tweeting the question, show no sign of slowing down.

Jayy was kind enough to join me for a phone conversation about what inspired the question, their reaction to the responses, and the further unanswered questions it begs.

Jayy wasn’t surprised that so many people answered 22, the age where college ends and “adulthood” starts because, as a child, Jayy personally didn’t have any vision for what adulthood was supposed to be or look like.

“I see so much Black Millennial art and content… we are working through some sadness. I didn’t assume I was alone, but I hadn’t seen the conversation the way I wanted to. I understood black children are killing themselves, and I understood how hard today is, but we’ve got to live through today’s hardness from somewhere. And if people our age and younger aren’t making it to this point, how can we be better? Not better as in self-righteous, but more sustainable, to live longer. And to pass on living longer.”

This inspired Jayy to reach out to their Twitter community:

“What made you think you weren’t going to make it? And I asked the follow up question, how are you here now?”

I suggested to Jayy that the reason it was easy for me to imagine myself as an adolescent and adult was that media provided me with endless examples to choose from. That misses the real problem by a mile.

“Why don’t black children imagine themselves alive? Black people aren’t surviving America. You’re faced with your death and your mortality very readily. I’m curious about why ways of survival aren’t being passed on.”

It’s not the first time Jayy’s work has forced me to do the uncomfortable, necessary work of confronting privilege. I first heard of Jayy when their essay “Why I’m Scared of White Women,” which should be required reading for white feminists, made its way to my Twitter timeline. At a time when we’re being inundated with pleas to listen to and understand people “who think differently from us,” (almost always a euphemism for rural, Republican whites) I recommend white people prioritize voices like Jayy’s over wealthy investors who work for comic book villains. 

We talked further about confronting the epidemic of suicide among black children and the media’s tendency to pit millennials and black Americans against each other, ignoring the experiences of Black Millennials altogether:

Many thanks to Jayy for their time and for inspiring and sustaining these conversations. You can pre-order Jayy’s book of poetry, Mannish Tongues, here. 

Photo by Bree Gant.

  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest