Every Saturday (and some Sunday) mornings for about three years, I tuned into cable news television station MSNBC. It wasn’t to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Nope. It was to immerse myself in Nerdland. A weekend news magazine program more commonly known as the Melissa Harris-Perry Show (MHP Show).
The MHP Show was ground-breaking because its namesake is an accomplished, educated, jovial, and relatable black woman. Not only did Melissa break down the week’s headlines with diverse panels of academics and politicians, she geeked out over Beyoncé and turned up to Biggie.
Each weekend, I sat on the sofa with all of the excitement of a tweenager watching to waiting to find out if Kelly Kapowski takes Zack Morris or AC Slater to the homecoming dance. As I chomped on my cereal of choice, I nodded agreeably and foraged through Twitter to follow my favorites of the day’s guests.
Despite the show’s untimely end, I’ve remained a huge MHP fan. So certainly, you can understand my next level amount of excitement when I found out that the Queen of Nerdland herself would be making an appearance at AFROPUNK Atlanta 2017!
Once I discovered Dr. Harris-Perry would be in sharing my airspace, I became determined to meet the brilliant woman I so greatly admire.
The beginning of day two of the festival coincided with Atlanta’s Gay Pride parade, so traffic was thick. Staring out the window, I half-heartedly engaged with my Lyft driver. While she provided engaging conversation, I was distracted by the clock ticking toward, and eventually past, the noon hour. Once we arrived at the venue, I lept from the car, sped through security, and sprinted to the Gold Lounge where I was pleased to find that the Solution Sessions had only just begun and Melissa had yet to take the stage.
Once settled on the upcycled shipping pallets, I prepared myself to be inspired. And inspired I was. As activist after activist took the stage, my heart swelled with the longing to rejoin an environment of learning and progression. Strong black women like Michaela Angela Davis and Mary-Pat Hector took the stage to inspire their audience to take action in whatever way we could. I felt reaffirmed in my call to advocacy. I felt good.
Halfway through Sunday’s Solution Sessions, the main event arrived. Accompanied by her Nerdland colleague, Dorian Warren, Melissa Harris-Perry floated onto the stage. Okay, she walked. But she slayed the whole way there. Not only did she serve us total intelligent glam, she offered us an uncensored view into her true thoughts about the current state of the health, safety, and well-being of Black women in America.
During the debut of Dorian and Melissa’s new project, Freedom on Tap, they were joined on stage by Yvonne Orji of HBO’s Insecure. Though Melissa and Yvonne come from different backgrounds and do different work, I appreciated their ability to support one another’s standpoints and amplify each other’s voices.
Consent is sexy. Waiting is a form of consent. – Yvonne Orji
I also valued Dorian’s presence as a black man. Amid discussions very central to women, he never mansplained or claimed to understand. He supported the points of them women without patronizing. He serves as an example of the role men can play in protect and advancing women’s rights to access safe and affordable healthcare and earn a living without the threat of harassment or assault.
Once the discussion ended I cooly but quickly made my way to the stage where Melissa was graciously taking photos with eager fans. I chatted with others in line until it was finally my turn. I stepped up to the platform and grinned like a fool as this powerful and unstoppable educator and activist embraced me.
It was happening. I was finally meeting Melissa Harris-Perry.
We had a lovely discussion, albeit brief, as her husband waited anxiously to our left. I asked if I could give her my card and shared a bit of information about the work I do with The Black Expat. She gladly accepted and I exited stage left.
AFROPUNK Fest was a really wonderful experience. As a caregiver, it is rare that I have an opportunity to participate in these kinds of events. Thankfully, the AFROPUNK Army Earn a Ticket program made it possible.And while I missed out on the musical acts like Miguel, Solange, and Willow Smith (I heard her mom made an appearance!), I learned so much about myself and about my people.
And while I missed out on the musical acts like Miguel, Solange, and Willow Smith (I heard her mom made an appearance!), I learned so much about myself and about my people. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to attend again next year.