0118: Extra Ordinary

"Extra Ordinary," Karyn Dyer

Note: So instead of telling my complete story about how I came to understand my Black identity, I decided to share a poem that I wrote recently called "Extra Ordinary." With each stanza I hope to talk a bit more about what I mean and how it connects to my identity, my experiences, and some shared experiences. I also want to clarify that I will be primarily talking about being Black in America, as that is my primary lived experience. 

I’m real extra ordinary
I sit in my house and write poems I’m afraid to read aloud
I teach students how to be our future leaders
And I do my hair every Sunday so most likely what you are seeing on my head right now is what my hands could have come up with

Being Black is as simple as being human...sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I am a regular person in this society, this nation, this world. Sometimes being extra ordinary as a Black person means that I may be silenced or isolated. I have been in spaces where I have been the only Black person.

My self-awareness is heightened and that meant that I would have to challenge myself more to be comfortable with being myself. When I am in spaces with other Black people, it gives me more mental space to be myself and I don’t even have to think twice.

I’m real extraordinary
I pick up a pen and my notebook and write my truths and create pictures and tell stories
I’m an educator, one of the realest of our time
Helping our students learn about themselves, about this world, and what they can do to change this world
And my hair is full of coils and curls, it’s thick and coarse and lovely
And every Sunday I give it the love and needs and deserves

However most times, being Black is a statement, whether it be political, emotional, professional, cultural, or personal. Some of my actions are interpreted differently by others. As an educator, my racial identity is important, especially for those who like me, teach at predominantly white schools where people who look like me are still considered a “minority” (I don’t like to use this term, there’s nothing minor about me but I’ll recognize the context as it is necessary).

My hair is so complex in spaces. I am now at a point in my life which I do not care much about any negative perceptions that I may receive about my hair because I feel so comfortable with it, I feel comfortable knowing that I am in community with other Black people with curly, coily, and kinky hair, locs, braids, twists, and other styles associated with Black hair.

It’s all about perspective
All about new visions, inner reflections, outward appreciations
Finding joy in who you are and what you do
That’s what we do everyday

Magical beings we are
Sometimes we talk about ourselves as if we are mythical, mystical creatures
As if we come from the minds of those who couldn’t imagine greatness looking at their faces
We’re real extraordinary
We’re real extra ordinary

Black people are often ogled, objectified, and monitored from an uncomfortable standpoint considering that we are humans and not experiments, nor 3/5ths of a person as we used to be back when we were enslaved.

Jesse was right, we are magic
Jesse was right, we are real
And the thing about being magical and real is that sometimes real things happen to magicians
Sometimes we get robbed from our magic, sometimes our magic is taken from us
The way it was taken from Trayvon, taken from Korryn, taken from Michael, taken from Rekia, taken from Oscar, taken from Sandra
I wish our magic protected our bodies the same way it protected our spirits
Protected our souls
I wish our magic made us invulnerable the same way it makes us invincible

Black people, as a whole, we are awesome. We are creative, we are humorous, we are dope, we are beautiful, we are wise, we are inspiring, and we are resilient. Jesse Williams, actor and humanitarian, once said “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.” I understand this to mean that even with our collective personalities and spirits coming together to create impact and change, the reality is, we are still battle against the white supremacist society. Black people across all genders still suffer from acts of violence, police brutality, micro and macro aggressions.

Our experiences live on the spectrum of polarities
Tragedies to excellence!
We’re real extraordinary
When we inspire our peers
When we inspire the masses
When we support our own
When we create
When we rise
When we see each other rise to be seen and represent

In the face of adversity, I have seen and witnessed Black people demonstrate true integrity, strength, and pride, all in different ways.

We see women like Kerry, Viola, Issa, Taraji
Beyonce, Solange, Janelle, Aretha, Whitney, Nina
Kamala, Michelle, Shirley, Loretta, Venus, Serena
We lit, we betta

We see men like Denzel, Jesse, Michael B., Mahershala
John Legend, Kendrick, Biggie, Tupac, Chance, Donald
The only Donald that matters
Steph, Lebron, Odell, Dak, Colin, Cam

And they’re just the name you know
Not just in the name or the fame
We are great everyday

From the magical Black girls to the joyful Black Boys
We are great in every way
From our outer shades of brown to the inner golden shades of our souls
We’re real extraordinary

We’re real extra ordinary
From the creators to the educators to the managers to the students to the soul searchers
We make history, we change history

So when I have those days where I feel like I’m extra ordinary, I need to stop myself
Come back and remind myself who I am, where I belong
And I belong to the league of the extraordinary

I’m proud to be Black. My pride in my racial identity should not be interpreted as “my race is better than yours” but should be recognized in the context in which it exists. I identify with a racial identity and group of people who experienced racism and other forms of violence which has impacted our understanding and our appreciation of who we are, what we look like, and where we come from. So every Black History Month (everyday, really), I take pride in celebrating part of my identity, my people, our contributions to our community, and to society as a whole. We really are extraordinary.


About the art:

I went through a few ideas while coming up with the artwork for this poem. I absolutely loved every bit of Karyn's poem, and I didn't know which piece to take as inspiration, so I decided to go with the overarching theme of extraordinary.

When I think of extraordinary, I think of stars. I think of things beyond the reach of understanding of the general population. I kept thinking of Karyn preparing to do her hair on Sunday, and getting lost in the stars and space and magic of her hair. The magic that is beyond understanding of the general population.

I hope Karyn can keep this as a reminder of her own magic.

- Katy