Today marks 9 months since my partner and Co-founder of JORE Consulting, Jomo D.M. Greenidge, transitioned to ancestor. For those of you who never had the opportunity to meet him – here’s one way we are remembering him.
Jomo poured himself out.
He gave. And gave until he could give no more.
The night after Jomo passed, Aunt Deborah had come to the house to see him. As she looked upon Jomo’s body she shared that the image in her mind all day since hearing he had passed was of him in her pool, putting our sons onto his shoulders, taking a deep breath, and walking into the deep end – his head under water. A few moments later, he would signal to the one on his shoulders by squeezing their hands three times and then burst from the surface of the water with all of his might – launching the child into the air. They laughed, flipped, and threw their bodies into different shapes before landing with a splash back into the pool. Jomo would wipe the water from his face, shake out his hair, and catch his breath. And in no time, another child would be upon his shoulders.
Aunt Deborah remarked that she wondered how many people Jomo had sacrificed himself for – going underwater in order to leverage all of his strength behind someone else’s launch.
Weeks later, Mr. David Walker, a long time friend, connected me with Mr. Jason Reeves, a brilliant artist whom Jomo loved and had commissioned work from before. Mr. Reeves and I had a beautiful discussion about Jomo, about time that runs out on health issues, and about what it would be like to preserve this metaphor.
Mr. Reeves has been such a light to me throughout this process. Envisioning Jomo in ways I could have only imagined. There are no words to adequately describe my gratitude and appreciation for his artistic brilliance.
When Mr. Reeves sent me the final piece, I wept. It captured Jomo. Who he was with me, our kids, and the legacy of his investment in all of the lives of those who knew him. He laughed with us, was proud of us, saw more in us than we saw in ourselves, envisioned our futures with us at our best, he loved us, he loved us, he loved us…and he launched us…
When I look at this image, I see all of that.
And – I see his truth.
I have lived intimately beside someone who paid an incredible cost to pry himself, his children, his family, and his community from the grips of the system of white dominance.
I had a first row view of unfathomable Black excellence.
And also a first row view of Black exhaustion.
Both have driven me toward my own change. We were honest in our marriage. One of the things we wrestled with was how our racial socialization impacted how we showed up for one another.
I don’t think either of us imagined that facing how race was showing up would require us to heal. To try to describe his healing would be inadequate and unjust. What I can say is that one aspect of our shared journey was learning that the willingness to face and heal from what the system of white dominance says about us is ultimately one of the most liberating, costly, and lasting expressions of our commitment to change.
As I look at this image today I am reminded to put everything I have behind the work to free people from oppression. I’m also faced with the reality that it will cost me to do so.
In memorializing someone, we tell of their greatness. Jomo was indeed great. And yet – knowing him as I do – he would ask “so what will you do with what you learned from me?” He was driven toward change. He made space to love and laugh – yet never allowed those to be an excuse for failure to act.
Today, I’m thinking of him. About what it means to preserve his legacy rather than put it to bed with a memorial. Black history is not just one month of the year but rather is living, brilliant excellence. It’s legacy and futuristic. It’s unapologetic and liberating. It is action.
Jomo always said “changed behavior is the only apology that matters.”
To my white community – let us not pacify these days ahead with words but let us honor Black brilliance – past and present and future, near and far – with our actions…
Let us spend our time identifying our social conditioning and committing to new ways of behaving…
Let us heal our broken humanity so we can recognize the full humanity of everyone else…
Let us give cash, time, and skill without transaction…
Let us move toward our brothers and sisters who stormed the capitol with the responsibility of knowing that their de-radicalization is on our shoulders…
Let the days ahead be ones that deepen our living, breathing, unwavering commitment to our own liberation, to communal liberation, to collective liberation, and generational liberation!
To memorialize Jomo isn’t enough. We must seek to preserve and carry forward the actions of Jomo and every other Black body who squared up to the system of white dominance and cried “Black is beautiful!”
Black brilliance deserves no less.