Exhausted, hopeful and strong, I entered the locker room in my soaked sleeveless blue tank and navy shorts that were now sticky atop my black Lycra leggings. The laces of my blue and black Adidas were now dangling loose. Another successful workout.
The closer I got to my locker, the louder the beautiful noise got. The excited voices of 3 men who were still reeling from their basketball game overtook the air, transforming our fitness center into an NBA stadium. Turning the corner into the locker bay, I noticed one of the guys stuffing clothes into a gym bag while the other two stood waiting—the sweat still visible on their chocolate and brown-skinned brows. It was easy to imagine that in their day, they were probably high school state champions who played each game like college scouts were watching.
I secretly listened to their banter as I peeled off my sweaty workout gear and changed into my swim trunks. Silence soon replaced them as their conversation echoed into the hallway and my mind shifted toward wondering how many people would be in the swimming pool that day. Just as I grabbed my goggles out of my black zippered gym bag, one of the older gentlemen who was sitting on the bench dressing beside me spoke suddenly, almost as if he were alone inside his head, “Why do they get so excited and have to talk so loud?”
I turned around to see the pale man with his head turned downward slowly pulling his socks onto his feet.
“I don’t know but this place sure has changed over the years…we got all shades here now,” said a nearby man, who also appeared to be of similar age. He was standing with his back in front of an opened locker wearing a white towel around his waist, brushing his silver-blonde hair.
I closed and locked my locker, excused myself past both men, grabbed a towel from the stack on a nearby shelf and headed for the pool. The swim area wasn’t too crowded. Relieved, I spotted a row of empty deck chairs a few feet from the pool and I marked my spot by draping my towel over the back of one of the chairs. After adjusting my goggles over my eyes, I plunged myself into refreshing water.
I swim for fitness and my goals are measured by time spent moving against the water. On this particular day, however, I lost track of time as my mind searched for a way to answer the man who’d never hear my words.
Why do they—why do WE—get so excited and have to talk so loud?
If you had one breath, one remaining chance to communicate all that’s inside your soul, do you scream? Do you shout? Do you yell? Do you talk loud?
If your spirit gets broken over and over each day by the micro- and macroaggressions that exaggerate the American Dream of Scarcity, do you scream? Do you shout? Do you yell? Do you talk loud?
If speaking up for yourself or speaking the truth of your experiences means the possibilities of lost wages and missed opportunities, do you scream? Do you shout? Do you yell? Do you talk loud?
If each day could be your last day because your very existence threatens the status quo of White supremacy, do you scream? Do you shout? Do you yell? Do you talk loud?
Everyday we leave our homes conscious of the fact that we may or may not return home alive, so we take pleasure in things that bring us joy and make us feel alive.
Everyday some aspect of our personhood is up for sale and organizations bid on ways to control us like we are still slaves on the auction block, so we take pleasure in moments of glory.
Everyday our reactions are surveilled under a microscope of constant scrutiny, so we take pleasure in times not infiltrated by mainstream notions of righteousness.
Everyday we risk being labeled “bad” or dangerous simply because of the color of our skin, so we take pleasure in making beautiful noise—music, art, laughter, and love—that isn’t mired by the expectations of docility and submission.
Everyday we risk exposing our vulnerabilities in a society that constantly tells us we don’t get to be soft, so we take pleasure in getting lost in those moments where we get to just be real.
I don’t know how many laps I swam that day. What I do know is when we are loud doing anything we do—winning, playing, running, dancing, creating, loving, sweating, singing, laughing, and even swimming—we are loud because, in that moment, we are free.