‘Darnell’ and "Black Bodies Beauty"

"Black Body in Flight" provided by Nathan Stanton

Nathan Stanton has spent the last 10 years as a pastor, church planter and artist on the West, South and Northsides of Chicago, and is an Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellow 

The following short story and poem are a part of a series of vignettes from Stanton that we will be publishing each month and are connected to a larger narrative called Master Peace. The narrative is about characters seeking personal solace in a time of unrest. 

Darnell 

The warm crimson liquid dripped down in pools collecting on her blouse. The color that stops the world because of its sharp juxtaposition to everything else around it. Like the color often attributed to Jesus, the reddest kind. Blood yes and more specifically that of his sister. She had found the wrong end of another boyfriends fist that mimicked the same impatience of many past and to come. Darnell’s surprise was none but fabricated as I feigned shock over a situation he had witnessed frequently for at least a decade with the whole of four years between their ages. Charline kept the world afloat with her buoyancy and optimism but with their father leaving or being left early, they’d found soon enough that brother and sister would have to fend for themselves. He knew he was not fit to serve as a father figure but he tried as the occasional provider and even moonlighted as a protector. No shield could be erected high enough to protect her from the toxic mates that traversed the barren terrain and dotted the landscape. Like predators, they stalked her future as if serving as a stand-in for poverty’s resolve.  This town was a place that offered the most desolate picture of the future. When one graduated high school it was well known that leaving was the only choice available for those with any ambition. Otherwise teenage pregnancy, adolescent imprisonment, and general dissatisfaction would be the result. But very few would make it out. Daniel had the disappointment of being offered a basketball scholarship to an obscure university in the central part of the state. Even after cheating on his standardized tests, he could not qualify for admission. The dark cloud that followed him wherever he went was akin to the darkness that shrouded the brilliance of many in the black community. The race riots of decades pasted haunted the ambitions and crippled the resolve of many with the determination to shine outside of the rusty confines of this cursed enclave. 

Darnell was one of two children born to his mother first abandoned by her husband and then disabled by the obesity and diabetes that followed. Depression had taken a hold of her and hadn’t let go years before he could remember the “good” days. Now she only sat in the darkened room of their government-subsidized townhome. Barking barely intelligible orders to Darnell and his older sister who had inherited his mother’s likeness and penchant for hardly being seen outside of their home. By all standards of European beauty and Darnell’s friend's opinions his mother could possibly be the ugliest woman on the planet and maybe a crown her daughter was set to take after her demise. They had never been taught the beauty of the natural world cannot be matched by that inside of us. The dingy walls colored with the muck that comes from cigarette smoke had served as torturous protection from the prying eyes of judgment the world reserved for her inevitable visits to the store to open funds from a food stamp card that carried a shame all of its own. Many of Darnell’s friends could relate to some aspects of his existence but it was also as if he had won the lottery of misery in miserly revelry. 

On a journey to buy his mother’s foul brand of cancer sticks, he witnessed his sister returning from the latest attempt to brand beauty on her skin by way of destruction. What her once romantic suitors turned abusers did not realize is this nation has tried to beat a new beauty into us for quite some time, but yet finds the resilience, nay the nature of the black body's existence still persists. She held her head down in shame and barely stopped in stride to greet her sibling. Why would anyone treat him any more than invisible? For his own beauty had been forfeited long ago given to any vice that presented itself. He paused nearly shoulder to shoulder with Charline to hear a low rumble in the distance accompanied by shaking under his feet. She continued past and he ran the rest of the way to the corner store. Through the menacing stares of faces, he once went to school with as they blocked the entrance to the dilapidated building. Slung haphazardly amidst the well-worn businesses crowding the gum stained sidewalks. They stood ready to serve their community with the same disenfranchisement they’d learned from centuries of neglect. All to procure what he knew would eventually kill his mother. “But maybe she was better off dead”, he thought with a particular flourish that brought him peace. 

 

Black Bodies Beauty  

Honor the black body we must

from ancient trafficking to

fast lynching and state violence

to the slow disintegration in prisons

the environment has poisoned the land

long before a child enters in

 

God we trust has seen the lust

for destruction never satisfied but let the

love of Heaven’s divine deliver Us

America minus the willpower

to involve decency when capital hearts have

collected rust in the place of affluency

 

Black bodies beauty

Black bodies beauty

Black bodies beauty

Black bodies beautiful

 

Whether basking in the sun like black gold

Or languishing in the confines of forced

containment age old

The jump of the soul when the smile or ire

of an eye has been drawn in like Art

excited then inspired upon a whim

impart

 

Black bodies beauty

through this torrential trial of existence

approving the love upon humanity remaining

misspent.

Yet in its regal obstruction of privilege and revolutionary

garden remains like the

obstinate obsidian that will never harden.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.
Chaplain Fuller’s leadership and guidance has left a lasting, rippling effect on and off campus which will guide communities and individuals into multifaith work and engagement long after her tenure at Elon.
In the grip of a deadly second wave of COVID-19, religious charities and faith-based organizations are among the many civil society groups that have stepped up to mobilize relief efforts.
Una nueva encuesta conducida por el Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) e Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) encontró que los enfoques basados en la fe pueden mover a más comunidades indecisas sobre la vacuna hacia la aceptación.
Highlighting the role of faith and community in providing relief to communities during the pandemic, the project documents how diverse religious communities in the Charlotte area are responding to the pandemic.
Rabbi Sandra Lawson offers religious literacy education in this piece focused on Lag BaOmer, the day of celebration during the otherwise solemn period of the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot.
While vaccination rates and warmer weather are currently lending us ample opportunity for optimism and joy, we are not nearly out of the woods regarding the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s mental health.
Cargle is not alone in her spiritual discovery. Generation Z has been the driving force behind the renewed popularity and mainstreaming of the age-old esoteric system.
Clergy from 20 New York congregations, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, met as the Interfaith Security Council held its first meeting to talk about how to share expertise and improve relations with law enforcement.
The past four years have devastated communities across the United States with issues including police violence, climate change and environmental degradation, racism, anti-Semitism  anti-Muslim bigotry, and political upheaval.
"No matter the memory, the ability to grow older and look back on life is a privilege. And it’s heartbreaking and disturbing that as a nation we’ve witnessed so many children robbed of that privilege because they were killed by the state."
Musa explores and analyzes data related to the growing irreligiosity and declining religious affiliation in America.
The report, co-sponsored by IFYC and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), revealed higher rates of vaccin hesitancy among certain religious groups, including Hispanic Protestants, white evangelicals, and Black Protestants.
I noticed this year the Christian holiday Easter or Resurrection Sunday fell on the same day Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th. What people outside of the black community don’t realize is when an innocent life is lost it connects us...
Collaboration between religious officials and health care professionals — from both nonprofit and for-profit companies — has aided efforts to increase access to vaccinations.
As various communities consider the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and navigate the physiological and psychological toll of the virus, town halls can be a space wherein community members can be presented with resources and accurate information.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.