Posted in Make Him a Balloon, Nonfiction

In Case of (Existential) Emergency.

When you were three months grown, an earthquake cracked an island into a thousand fissures and, in minutes, a 95% Black nation— the world’s first, oldest Black-led republic —toppled under iron and stone.

This is the kind of world you’re inheriting, composed of so much troubled water and sudden collapse.

I do not worry for you as much as I should. Just a few years ago, a hard rain fell and swept away one of our own country’s most dazzling Southern cities. Its people are still crawling up from the slime and marsh, still making themselves new again.

There will be days—like the day Haiti was half-swallowed into the Earth’s core, like when bodies floated through the ninth ward of New Orleans and it took three days for our government to send drinkable water—when life itself seems quite arbitrary, when you’ll disbelieve in the fairness I’ll teach you exists. You will, like all humanity,  have your long queue of queries, the most pressing of which won’t be answered while you live, at least not to your satisfaction. And the weight of all the things you cannot know will begin to stagger you.

There is plenty to fear, if I let you. But I won’t. You will be born Black and American; I cannot begin to describe how resilient this makes you. Your marrow might as well be admantium. Over time, you’ll half-believe you’re Wolverine.

Fret will be senseless. My name means resurrection; we will always be a family that regenerates itself. And this will not be the last time a great brown nation finds itself imperiled.

We will find our hope in history, in stories embellished by optimistic ancestors. Our courage will come from the rhythm of keeping record: look at what’s been done; look at what’s left to do. We will send slates to the children, parceled with ribbon, cashews, clementines. We will write to them of a future and tell them we’re sure it will surface, because it has emerged for others, because it has come here, to us.


slb is a writer and professor in Baltimore, MD.

4 thoughts on “In Case of (Existential) Emergency.

  1. It is amazing to me how you can take a disaster and describe it w/ such succinctness and beauty and never miss a beat.

    “You will be born Black and American; I cannot begin to describe how resilient this makes you. Your marrow might as well be admantium. Over time, you’ll half-believe you’re Wolverine”

    This event has moved a lot of people to tears, second-guessing of their existence and the world overall, but you have seemed to pick out the pieces, puzzle them together, and write it all out for advantageous reasons: a background of things past for your child to learn from, experience through word, and somehow still appreciate.

    1. thank you, tremaine. i always really appreciate your feedback (even though i don’t come back and comment on all of it like i should). it’s very encouraging.

      it’s weird having to think about how to explain the unexplainable to a child. but it seems an important thing to try to figure out. or else we’ll be raising a generation without the ability to be optimistic.

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