Keep on Token
Akeem “Olaj” Martin and Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa
Students! Have you ever been mistaken for a janitor even though you were wearing a 3-piece suit? Ever been asked to serve someone in the dining hall because you happened to be in the same color as the servers who all happened to be Black? Do you often find yourself surrounded by drunk white kids who assure you that it's OK for them to use the word ‘nigger’ because…their other Black friend gave them permission?
Then you might be a token!
YES A TOKEN!
The one dark face strategically placed so that things appear diverse! And while we may call you ‘Token’, don’t let that shiny nickname fool you! It’s because we only let a pocketful of pennies into this sand-dollar school. After all…can’t have too many of you Negroes out here getting college degrees, who else we gonna hire to mow the quad once all these Black people leave?
Now smile for the camera!
Thanks Token! Just needed some extra melanin for this admissions brochure…you remember? The one we showed you with black folks smiling that convinced you to come?
Now that’s you!
Anyhow, now that we have you here, get used to being called on whenever we need your people at community events…never mind you’re not actually from the local community (because we don’t let any of them on campus)
…and aren’t all Black people related somehow?
Oh, come on, that was just a joke! And besides, tokens don’t get angry, they get results! So stay resilient! Even when everyone assumes you’re that Black friend, you know, “the New Negro”. The one who must not be down for their people because they’re at a white school, so it must be O.K. to touch their hair, poison them with venomous speech, project a Paula Deen like fantasy on their existence then turn and say,
“I’m not racist, * gasp *
I don’t see color, * gasp *
Besides, we’re just trying to have fun”
And that’s when you’ll realized that the privileged don’t have to call you a nigga to make you feel like one! To make you feel like a copper skinned coin being played in this diversity pinball machine, excuse us as we tilt the machine in our favor but give you all the penalties! Leave you with lifelong debt and a few guarantees…
By the time you leave, you’ll understand why we call it a ‘massas’ degree. Because you're just a commodity whose hopes and dreams are lynched on any of the various oak trees on campus as soon as the opportunity is presented…and the opportunity is always be presented!
Whenever you look back on your college experience, you won’t be able to forget that you were pimped for plaques. That your name is linked a place that broke your kneecaps just to see if you could still stand, then asked you to explain your crooked walk.
You’ll survive the jokes made about you being here because of affirmative action, the classmates calling you ‘nigger’ to your face, the professors who could’ve sworn you plagiarized that essay, the classes you were asked to speak for ALL Black people (and even the ones you were expected to be a Black hole of silence in a galaxy of white noise)…eventually, you’ll marvel at how you didn’t choke on the atmosphere inhaling their ignorance, but we were never worried you’d leave with out this degree Token, because we won’t hire you without one!
So come on down!
Claim this limited time offer (while we’re still letting you negroes learn how to read!). Just step on up Token and always remember
Akeem “Olaj” Martin is a Poet, Actor, Playwright, Architect, Martial Artist and Activist born, raised, and based in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a 3 time National Poetry Slam champion and a 3 time New Orleans Grand Slam Champion. In 2015 He was featured in Russell Simmons presents All Def Poetry, was part of the first poetry act to feautre on the main stage at Essence Festival and is a founder and current Member of the Slam New Orleans Poetry Slam Team (Team SNO).
Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa is a 25-year-old Black, Kenyan, Immigrant, Queer, Womyn poet in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ranked 3rd and 8th at the 2015 & 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam, FreeQuency is an Anti-Racist and Reproductive Justice organizer who has spent most of her life living and writing at the intersection of arts, education and activism. In New Orleans, she organizes & advocates with BYP100-NOLA and Women With A Vision, does youth work & poetry with the New Orleans Youth Open Mic and Team Slam New Orleans (Team SNO) and is an African Culture/Fashion Blogger with Noirlinians. View her work at www.FreeQuencySpeaks.com & www.Noirlinians.com.