C. Thomas‘ story isn’t ordinary, it’s extraordinary. The 39-year-old Alexandria poet has seen his share of adversity, and writing has always made him feel better.
“African Americans are supposed to be this resilient people. We’re not supposed to bend when the wind blows, but that’s just not the case,” Thomas told ALXnow. “Yes, things happen, but we’re supposed to be reinforced steel, but even steel can be scratched.”
On Friday, Feb. 7, the award-winning poet will take the stage to host “His Story,” an all-African American male showcase sharing stories through poetry. The event will feature the work of 13 of Nazareth, Rodrick Minor, Khalil Houston and Micah Powell. It costs $10 per person to attend and will be held at 7 p.m. at the Athenaeum (201 Prince Street),
“My writing reflects my life,” Thomas said. “I tell people to this day that this is how I kill and bury everything that bothers me — in a poem. Black people have inherited generational trauma from slavery that has passed down through generations and white people have inherited generational guilt. We are viewed as monsters. Despite the color of my skin I can be someone who can help you, but because you have that one idea of me in mind, I can be treated worthlessly, like scum.”
Writing ended up saving Thomas’ life. When he was 13 years old, he’d resolved to kill himself and began writing a suicide note. That note ended up turning into his first poem, “To Whom It May Concern.”
“I was really going to kill myself, but as I started writing I started to feel better,” Thomas said. “I’m a double target because I’m a black man and I’m gay, but I do not regret anything that I’ve gone through. I used to, but don’t any more, because I wouldn’t be a poet.”
Thomas, who works in an Alexandria-based dental office by day, is the youngest of five children raised in a two bedroom house by his mother and grandfather in Clinton, Maryland. He faced the death of his mother, Margaret Thomas, when he was just 10 years old, and only met his father weeks before his passing seven years ago.
“You have to let the pressure off and I always felt better after writing,” Thomas said. “I’m hoping the showcase will open the minds of those who question a lot of things in the African American community. These writers understand the nitty gritty of what this show stands for.”
An original poem by Thomas is below, after the jump.
Afraid of the Dark
By C. Thomas
As a kid when I misbehaved, my mother told stories of
monsters who lived in the dark or under my bed to scare me.
She said sometimes, these mythical creatures crept out of the
closet to frighten children into good behavior. Scared to death,
the measures I took trying not to disturb the dark included: leaving
the lights on to ensure a good night’s sleep. My feet, tucked in securely,
my head buried under covers while in fetal position. I convinced following
these procedures prevented monsters from finding me.
But what if I told you I still believe in monsters?
The very thought of them makes me a coward, a wimp, a scared little
child who jumps at shadows or any bump in the night. I nearly soil my
pants when I feel someone walk up on me. I exercise my right to fear well.
And they like it.
Monsters in uniform preying on my panic induced adrenaline rush.
Creatures of the night dressed in blue ready to Miranda Rights my soul.
Looking at me with flashlights making me a suspect, hearing the feedback
from dispatch making me a match. Routine traffic stop or final destination?
I know this monster all too well!
“Hand me your license and registration.”
“Place your hands on the steering wheel!”
“Step slowly from out of your car!”
Hand on holster, drawn revolver. Being pulled over by the police is
a scary story told too often. They like to yell “BOO!” with their guns.
Mommy, I don’t want to go outside today! Hands over eyes trying
to make the monster go away! Officer, I promise I won’t misbehave!
I didn’t mean to drive while black today! I didn’t mean for my skin to be
the darkness that attracts you. Surely you wouldn’t be here if you saw the light.
If my skin was white. Still, my hands and feet are tucked into handcuffs
Creatures with tasers for tongues, stalking the streets. Their howling sounds
like, “Freeze, put your hands above your head!” In every encounter they let
me know they’re here to serve and protect white privilege.
A full moon tonight and Lycans like to travel in packs. They be Lycan
the way I resist arrest when lying face down on the ground. They be Lycan
the way I talk back when I say I can’t breathe. They be Lycan the extra beat
in my heart when I hear them growling, kicking and beating my Africa under
rainbows. They be Lycan when I’m not moving.
Dark meat–their easiest prey.
The police have been haunting my people for years. Turning Black Lives into
ghost stories to keep my people from misbehaving. They know their hate crimes
will be televised but labeled a closed case, for a police officer a conviction
is a fairy tale. A horror story with a litany of never-ending sequels. And I could
be the next case.
You’ve done it.
I’m prepared to fight!