One of our favorite re-occurring guest-writers, Denny Upkins, is back with this amusing and empowering tale to remind everyone fighting the impacts of marginalization to share and celebrate our wins.
CN: general discussion of dynamics between police and black and LGBT civilians; general discussion of racism; account of police questioning (no violence).
A bard by the name of Alan Moore once stated magic is art, and that art, be it music, sculpture or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images to achieve changes in consciousness… After all, to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why Moore believed that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.
This is especially true when it comes to stories. Stories can entertain, empower and enlighten. Depending on a different perspective or a reimagining of a popular narrative, the morals of a morality tale can change completely and expose privilege and systemic oppression. Reexamination of the Medusa myth teaches women how to turn patriarchy into stone. A closer critique of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer reveals that the popular Christmas Carol contains problematic depictions of the minority metaphor.
“Deviation from the norm will be punished unless it is exploitable.”
But that’s the beauty of art. It’s the ultimate paradox. It’s a lie that reveals the deepest of truths. I can tell you from firsthand experience that truth is often stranger than fiction. In fact, they can often be one in the same. A few years back I found myself inside of a very popular fable.
Most of you know the story of The Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. You may think you know, but you have no idea. What if I told you that the three pigs weren’t just pigs but vile villainous monsters? What if I told you that the Big Bad Wolf, or Bad Wolf rather, was in fact the hero? What if Bad Wolf’s only crime was defending his terrain from the ravenous invading warthogs. For these pigs were the worst kind of swine, bigots with badges. Because while there are valiant women and men who protect and serve the public with honor, unfortunately, there are countless others in law enforcement whose agenda is far more demonic. Too often we forget that in addition to Blacks, other people of color, homeless vets, LGBTQs are frequent targets of police brutality and judicial corruption, more so if you are a Black LGBTQ. After all, the Stonewall Riots were the result of the police catching a fade from Black and Brown LGBTQs who were sick and tired of being sick and tired. As a result, they huffed and puffed a righteous fury of an F5 tornado. Let us never forget this revolution was led by a Black trans heroine by the name of Marsha P. Johnson.
For those who don’t learn from the past (be it fairy tales or Civil Rights), they’re often fated to reenact them by the universe. For those who do know their history, they understand that the past is prologue and often hindsight and foresight are both 2020.
Not sure where I’m going with this? You’ll soon understand.
It’ll be clearer with this iteration of the Three Pigs and Bad Wolf which transpired a few years back. While this is a true story, the names and some minor details have been altered to protect the innocent and even the guilty.
Like many stories worth sharing, it all began with a hot date on a Friday night.
[Scene: My date Wes and I were watching a movie in his bedroom when there was a knock on the door and Wes’s roommate Jamie rushed in.]
Jamie: I’m sorry to interrupt you guys.
Wes: What’s wrong?
Jamie: Police are at the front door downstairs.
Wes: For what?
Denny: It’s almost midnight.
Jamie: Guess who they want?
Wes: You gotta be kidding me.
Denny: You talking about the ex-roommate from hell?
Denny: Didn’t you guys kick him out a few months ago?
Wes: We did.
Jamie: I told them he doesn’t live here anymore. We don’t know where he is. They’re not taking no for an answer.
Wes: I’m sorry Denny. Let me go handle this. Damn you, Michael. God, I do not want to deal with them.
Denny: Then don’t.
Denny: Both of you stay here. I got this.
Denny: [Watches as the two white roommates exchange shocked stares regarding the Black guest volunteering to confront the police.] Like Jamie said, they aren’t taking no for an answer and they’re showing up here around midnight. They’re clearly on one. I’ll handle them.
Wes: Denny what are you going to do? Denny? Denny?
Denny: [Grabs iPhone and iPad and zips up hoodie] Don’t worry. This isn’t going to take too long.
[Moments later, downstairs: Denny sets up iPad to record on the edge of the stairs. Sets iPhone to record and places in hoodie pocket.]
Denny: [To the audience] Always have contingency plans for contingency plans. Now then, time to drag two pigs by the hairs on their chinny chin chins.
[Turns corner and approaches the doorway where two white-uniformed cops stand smugly on the patio.]
Denny: May I help you?
Male Officer: We’re looking for Michael Kirkman.
Denny: He’s not here. He was kicked out months ago.
Male Officer: We have this address listed as his residence.
Female Officer: Do you know where we can find him?
Denny: I do not.
Male Officer: Do you mind if we come in and have a look around?
Denny: Do you have a search warrant?
Female Officer: We have an arrest warrant!
Denny: And arrest warrants are nice. But I’m going to need a search warrant to allow you to enter.
Male Officer: One of the neighbors said they spotted Michael here earlier. Why would they tell us this?
Denny: I have no idea. I’m not a bald man in a wheelchair. I can’t read minds.
[Female officer attempts to pull back the screen door until the screen door is yanked out of her hands. She receives a wry grin from yours truly for her efforts.]
Male Officer: You seem to be upset for some reason. Is there a reason for the attitude?
Denny: Oh there’s no attitude at all. It’s just that I’m Catholic, I was in the middle of Midnight Mass and a hunky silver fox was in the middle of taking me to church before we were rudely interrupted.
Male Officer: We’re not concerned about what you guys are doing. It’s okay with us. If you’re partying or getting high or whatever. We’re not here for you guys. Just Kirkman.
Denny: That’s good to know. Even though nothing illegal is transpiring here and Kirkman is not here so………..
Female Officer: It’s important that we find him. If you know where he is or if you’re hiding him you could be arrested also for obstruction of—
Denny: [Yawns excessively] Sorry about that. So anyway as I’ve already explained, he’s not here. He no longer resides here and we don’t know where he is or how to reach him. As documented by those bodycams you’re both wearing. In the very unlikely event we hear from him, we will relay the message. At this point, that’s all that can be done.
Female Officer: And may we have your name?
Denny: Luke, Luke Trent. Goodnight officers.
Male Officer: Have a good evening.
Denny: Be safe out there. Oh and remember, Black Lives Matter!
[Slams the door on the cops, bolts the door and shuts off the porch light on them. Returns upstairs to Wes’s room.]
Denny: [To the audience] There was no part of that I did not enjoy.
Jamie: What happened?
Denny: Came, saw, kicked Caesar’s ass.
Denny: They’re gone. It’s handled.
Jamie: Thanks, Denny. I owe you big time. I’ll leave you guys in peace. Have a good night.
Wes: I can’t believe you just did that.
Denny: It’s what I do.
Wes: Thank you.
Denny: [Locks door and turns off lights] Now where were we?
[Epilogue: A few weeks later….]
Wes: So……author, artist, and activist huh?
Wes: Why didn’t you tell me about all of this?
Denny: ……Um, real Gs move in silence.
Wes: I read some of the posts you sent me. Wow. Activism, what is that life like?
Denny: You know, I’ve been a hardcore fanboy of all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer since the film was released. It wasn’t until just this moment when you asked me that question that it finally clicked and I understood the angst and the burden of what it’s like to be the Slayer. It’s learning who the real monsters are and that those monsters are very real and are far more evil than any vampire. It’s being drafted into a war you never asked for but also being a target for being blessed with Brown skin. It’s being forged into a weapon to combat the very evil that created you. You don’t have the option to walk away from this war because you can’t walk away from others in need. While you would give anything to live a normal and peaceful life, you’ve been blessed (and/or cursed) with the strength, wisdom, and skill set to combat white nationalists, homophobes, predators, and other forces of evil. That’s activism for me. It’s being the Slayer. Or in my case, a herald.”
Stories have true power. Be it a history textbook, a Jay-Z track, or a graphic novel, they can entertain, enlighten, and empower. Even this account was shared with the intent to equip those in the unfortunate event they find themselves unjustly targeted by corrupt law enforcement. This account may also be a coded message from a Bad Wolf to a certain Captain and Doktah. 😉
Stories can inspire the marginalized and the unlikely to do the impossible. When one is fueled by the narratives of Stonewall, Malcolm X, Matt Murdock, Bruce Lee, Nina Simone, Marie Laveau, Ororo Munroe, Midnighter, and Alan Turing, they have no qualms about standing up for themselves and others. They can fight the law and make the law take an L.
Not The End…
About the guest blogger: Dennis R. Upkins is a speculative fiction author, a journalist, and an equal rights activist. His first two young adult novels, Hollowstone and West of Sunset, were released through Parker Publishing. Both Upkins and his previous work have been featured in Harvard Political Law, Bitch Media, MTV News, Mental Health Matters, The Nerds of Color, Black Girl Nerds, Geeks OUT, Black Power: The Superhero Anthology, Sniplits, The Connect Magazine, and 30Up. You can learn more about him at his website dennisupkins.wordpress.com.