i'm not supposed to be here: the black man's reality?

 "I'm not supposed to be here"

I've been thinking about these words a lot lately. Recently, I've noticed this curious phrase (or something close to it) as it has been uttered by notable and extremely successful men. Three Black men, at the height of their careers: LeBron James, Jay-Z, and most recently Kevin Durant have all adopted this perspective. These men, who are essentially the best at what they do, have felt compelled to recognize the unique odds they've beaten en route to their achievements by saying, "I'm not supposed to be here". It's both rare and refreshing to hear successful people speak about themselves in the absence of entitlement.

But there's something else about this phrase; something I'm much less sure of. What else might this phrase say about those who speak it? Beyond appearing as a gracious and humble success stories, what does it say about a person who truly believes that their accomplishments were not supposed to happen? What does it mean to believe that one's endpoint is misaligned, and scaled upward, from their starting point? ...And what if they had Not been as successful? Would that have felt more normal to them?

After winning the first Primary in 2008 (the Iowa Caucus), I remember one of the first things senator Obama said was, "They said this day would never come". That opening sentiment caught so much of my attention, I barely remember anything else he said after that. It's a feeling I can relate to personally - to feel that one's lot in life is unplanned, unscripted, and unexpected by others. But it's also an uneasy and unpleasant feeling, when I hear it spoken by other Black men ... this idea that we shouldn't be wherever we are.

~ anthony burrow

a few weeks ago a college friend posted the words above on his Facebook page. it struck me pretty hard because i know many black men - those educated at universities and those who have their PhDs from the university of hard knocks - who believe the same. most black men believe they are privileged to make it to adulthood. you hear it in speeches like those references by dr. burrow and in urban music.

the notorious b.i.g. spoke about it on a regular basis and even predicted his death on his second and final studio album - life after death - which was released after his death.

r&b newcomer and new orleans native august alsina speaks very candidly about his fears of not living to see adulthood (and not caring); what changed his outlook on life; and how he hopes to inspire others to know they have a purpose and that they are supposed to be here.

listen to him speak about it during an intimate conversation with necole bitchie (explicit content).

check out the album (explicit content).

pay specific attention to:

mama | fml | don't forget about me | make it home

your charge

biggie and august are using music to tell their story. it is our job to listen and help to offer hope to black men. black men shouldn't believe they aren't supposed to be here. let's show them they are kings, destined by the Creator to lead and contribute. they have the power to create generational legacies. let's support it. it starts with just listening to their struggles and supporting their dreams.

act now