“You gave your students and me more than the gifts of writing, revision, reading, and rereading. That’s what I want you to know as you close this book. You modeled a rugged love of Mississippi. You insisted our liberation has its bedrock in compassion, organization, imagination, and direct action. You proselytized home training. You demanded that we develop a radical moral imagination. I finally understand revision, rereading, compassion, home training, imagination, and a love of black children are the greatest gifts any American can share with any child in this nation. You taught us to give our lives and work to the liberation of black children in this country. I am working on that, and I finally understand there can be no liberation when our most intimate relationships are built on—and really inflected by—deception, abuse, misdirection, antiblackness, patriarchy, and bald-faced lies. Not teaching me this would have been the gravest kind of abuse.

I will offer you my heart. I will offer you my head. I will offer you my body, my imagination, and my memory. I will ask you to give us a chance at a more meaningful process of healing. If we fall, give us a chance to fall honestly, compassionately together. The nation as it is currently constituted has never dealt with a yesterday or tomorrow where we were radically honest, generous, and tender with each other.

It will, though. It will not be reformed. It will be bent, broken, undone, and rebuilt. The work of bending, breaking, and building the nation we deserve will not start or end with you or me; but that work will necessitate loving black family, however oddly shaped, however many queer, trans, cis, and gender-nonconforming mamas, daddies, aunties, comrades, nieces, nephews, granddaddies, and grandmamas—learning how to talk, listen, organize, imagine, strategize, and fight fight fight for and with black children.

There will always be scars on, and in, my body from where you harmed me. You will always have scars on, in, your body from where we harmed you. You and I have nothing and everything to be ashamed of, but I am no longer ashamed of this heavy black body you helped create. I know that our beautiful bruised black bodies are where we bend.”

Heavy, Kiese Laymon