Anyway, I think we must have been together for about a year when she got pregnant. It helps here to know a little bit about me. I came up in a time of chronic absentee fatherism. I also come from a family of seven, by four women and one father. As I say in my memoir, I've got brothers born to best friends, brothers born in the same year. Still, in my house, and in the minds of all my dad's children, fatherhood was a sainted calling. Particularly in my mind, it marked the barrier between boy and man. That isn't fair, but I'm only speaking to my state of mind. In the late '80s, the community was going to seed, and I think a lot of us felt like black men had abandoned their posts, had just threw up their hands and said "Fuck it. Crack. AIDS. Saturday Night Specials. Kids dying over Jordans. Whatever. We're out."
Again, that isn't fair--it's a statement about my own emotional
reality, not my intellectual one. This is how it felt, for me, coming
out of that era. I saw Kenyatta's pregnancy in the most romantic
possible light, the way people who are military legacies see war. Here
I was, a young man, and all my friends were getting high, chasing girls, and
getting drunk, but I could make my life about something. I could go out
there and turn a black child into a productive member of the community.
It was my time to go to war. I was out of my fucking mind, no doubt.
But damn, was I excited. Let us not get too angelic here. Me and Kenyatta
huddled over the course of a week about what to do. Samori was not
planned, and for whatever reason, I don't see any disgrace in that.
Anyway, in the end, we decided to go for ours.
As soon as we
started telling people, the first question we got was, "Are you getting
married?" Now, if you talk to Kenyatta, she has been a feminist since the day
she learned to read, and she never put much of a premium on marriage.
Still, up until then, neither of us were opposed to the idea. We just
didn't think we needed it. But the constant questioning put us in a
place where we were able to ask why. Why did people think we should get
married? What did that have to do with pregnancy? We both knew we were
committed to the life of the child. But we did we think about each
other? Truthfully, I don't think we thought much past the child. We'd
been friends for two years before we started dating. I knew Kenyatta
would be a great mother. I knew we wanted the same things for our
kid. What else was there?
Well, a lot, actually. The marriage convo brought out quite a bit. As
much as I can recall, there were basically three reasons for us to get
married. 1.) I might leave. Marriage would force me to do the right
thing. 2.) To declare our commitment to each other before a community
of people whom we loved. 3.) The business reasons--the legalities of
your estate and guardianship. I found--and still find--the first two reasons were utterly unconvincing. The third held some sway, but with the help of a lawyer we've managed to take care of that. The first turned marriage into a kind of insurance policy, and I just believed that if you felt you needed insurance for the person you were having kids by to stick out, you needed to reconsider the whole proposition. The commitment and community reason held some appeal. But I believed, and still believe, that long-term romantic partnerships are between the two people entering into it.