#MyBodyStory is a weekly series of reader submitted pieces about what it’s like to live in your body.
If you have a story to share, please email : [email protected]
Remember, every body has a story.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in #MyBodyStory articles are the writer’s own.
And now, without further ado,
Here is Emman’s story.
As a kid I remember everyday lying in my bed, daydreaming that I was an X-Men character with mutant abilities.
I legitimately believed that at some point my latent mutant powers would manifest themselves into something wonderful like teleportation or flight. This was the dream I constructed as my coping mechanism, to reconcile that I was born into this world very different than most.
I was born premature with a major birth defect, which resulted in the immediate amputation of my left arm in order for me to be able to live as “normal” a life as possible.
Or so my parents tell me…
And if this sounds like the beginning of a comic book hero origin story;
Maybe it is,
Maybe it isn’t.
Being born with one arm, you might think I immediately became an easy target of ridicule, disgust, and jokes. The truth is, as a child, those jokes were few and far between. At least the ones that were said. But most people don’t need words to say what they are feeling. They say it with their eyes.
I learned how to gauge a persons comfortability or uneasiness with me based on how they reacted upon seeing me for the first time. Suffice it to say I don’t need much to catch your attention if we meet in person.
It was probably around the 2nd or 3rd grade when I really started to understand things were gonna be very different for me in this world. My parents exacerbated this notion by deciding in the most amazing-and-incredibly-
The only problem was that back in the 90’s the only affordable prosthetic devices that were available came with a metallic-like claw at the end as a grabbing apparatus. The way it worked is that you made the claw move by breathing heavily, then via the elastic straps connected to your chest, the claw would open and close. Again I cannot stress how blessed by the universe I am and how it was out of immense love that my parents wanted to give me the ability to have the same access, control, and function that any “normal” kid had.
To take it to the next level for you, fast forward to middle school. It was around the 6th or 7th grade that my parents managed to somehow get me fast-tracked into testing an experimental upgraded version of the claw, and I was enrolled into a Special Robotics Prosthetics program in Detroit.
Have I convinced you that this is a comic book origin story yet? lol.
The main issue with these enhancements is that it was a win/lose trade off. On one hand, I had daily discomfort due to the heavy weight of the robotic device, as well as the overwhelming level of increased attention it brought me, and the shock it brought to people I encountered. On the other hand, it gave me an actual robotic arm that could kind of grab things.
But the honest truth is that it made me feel uncomfortable wearing it in every sense of the word. It didn’t really help me do much, other than visually replace my lost limb.
We are a visual society. We have all been programmed into accepting or rejecting people based on the visual cues that are baked into our subconscious via our dna, media, social biases, etc. During my maturation from a teen into a man, I struggled with a lot of body image issues tied to my “disability,” as well as my forever fluctuating weight issues.
Sidenote: Almost anyone you’ll ever meet with a “quote unquote disability,” hates that term.
“Disability” is the equivalent of “midget” “retarded” etc. Just blanket colloquialisms that reduce humans to monochromatic labels. We are all humans. Let us deal with one another as equals regardless of what physical or mental conditions we may have that are internally invisible or externally visible.
For the longest time the real struggle was finding clothes that I thought looked good on me that would “hide” or obscure my appearance. (Not that easy if you also consider that I haven’t worn anything below size XL or 38+ waist since high school.) But as long as I wore something popular like Polo, Fubu, or Phat Farm, I fit in. And I’ve always felt more comfortable wearing short sleeve shirts, straight no chaser. Unfortunately there’s also a lot of awesome long sleeve shirts out there. lol.
Enter Small Eyez…
Both my parents, my early incredible teachers, and Hip Hop music, saved my life. NO BS. In high school, around my Sophomore and Junior years, I entered an extremely depressive period where I was regularly contemplating dark options. You know of what I speak of…suicidal thoughts.
Why am I here if I am a mistake?
Am I a flaw or glitch in the Matrix?
I am a broken toy.
These are just a few of the things I’m willing to share that I pondered daily back then. Fortunately, I have always been a lover of music ever since buying my first hip hop album on cassette, Kriss Kross’s “Totally Krossed Out.”
But the true turning point came to me when Black Star, Common, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, J Dilla, and the whole Soulquarian Movement was in full swing.
It was the golden age of progressive “conscious” “underground” music.
The album titled “Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Blackstar,” and Common’s album “Like Water for Chocolate,” were the catalysts that helped ignite the dormant flame inside me by organically combining two things that moved my spirit the most.
Number One: The spirit of progressing the condition of black people in America, and throughout the world, by enhancing local and global communities.
And Number Two: Making jamming ass music!
My 2005 project when I got serious about my craft.
I love music of all kinds, but soul-filled and soulful music is my wheel house. The stuff that cuts you to the core. The stuff you feel deep down. That human stuff. It lives within us all. That radiant spark.
Small Eyez is the hero I didn’t know I had living within me.
I saved myself through finding myself.
I am here to add on and create things that will help progress my community and the world. By any means necessary. Being an artist and creative has endowed me with the “fuck it” superpower.
And as long as it makes me feels good and it represents who I am internally, then whatever I wear externally is only a shadow of the light that lives within me.
We are all indeed Ultra Light Beings. Shine On.
Hear Emman’s Music: www.SmallEyez.com
Follow Emman on Social Media: Instagram / Twitter
Black and white photo by Jarrett Heatherly