This past November, a headline in The Advocate read ‘Is Kalen Allen the New Gay King of Media’?
It was a perfectly reasonable question to ask, considering his two-million-plus-and-growing social media following. He first became a sensation via his hilarious Kalen Reacts video series, while his OMKalen pop culture news series remains wildly popular; on top of that, he’s become a regularly scheduled sidekick to Ellen Degeneres on her eponymous television show. He’s still just 24-years-old.
He’s singularly and very naturally funny. But in such trying and divisive times as these, he can also be profoundly serious.
And so BlackBook asked him to pen an essay explicating how he views all that has been going on around us over the last month, and how we managed to get here.
We Are Our Own Hero
Have you ever thought about the fact that from the moment we, black people, come out of the womb the weight of the world is on our shoulders? We may not feel it at first, but that heaviness is there.
From the very beginning, there is already a set of rules, regulations, and restrictions that we must follow for the rest of our lives. We are robbed of innocence before we even learn to ride a bike. It is troubling and unfortunate that we are in a never-ending battle with our existence.
A few days ago, I was watching a video of a little black boy playing basketball in his front yard. He glanced over and saw a police car driving down his street, and he ran to hide in fear. I started to think about when I was a child, having that same feeling when I would see a police officer driving through my neighborhood. My struggle is this: police are supposed to protect and serve, yet we fear them. In a world where we are the enemy, who will protect us? Who will save us from ourselves?
Not only do we not have the same privileges as our fellow Americans, we do not have equal rights. The way that we have to constantly monitor how we move through this world is exhausting. We can’t even try to breathe without our existence being questioned. We are walking around holding our breath, and not even realizing it, as it has been something we were inherently taught since birth. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have realized that we have to be our own heroes. We are strong, resilient, and will continue to make a way, out of no way. It is a bittersweet concept to come to terms with, and I don’t appreciate that we have no other options. However, we are natural-born survivalists no matter how taxing the day to day has become.
Recently, I’ve grown tired of saving myself, and I believe a lot of us are in the same boat. This exhaustion has caused me to think a lot about vulnerability, letting my guard down, and being completely exposed, whether that is emotionally or physically. It is a luxury to be vulnerable, and I have never fully known what it seems like to experience that freedom. None of us have. We are told as black people that we have to endure the pain of hiding, being questioned, and staying on the defense. We must endure that pain. We have to be tenacious, and the moments where we tense up will pass. It is almost as if the pain is in our DNA, we come from a lineage of quiet suffering.
Incredibly, we as a people have endured so much and yet we continue to persevere. Even though our resilience can occasionally feel like an obligation or a burden, we have to remind ourselves that we are living proof that there is nothing we cannot overcome, or bear. We must practice self-care, self-love, and allow ourselves to step away and take a break. Our mental health must be at the forefront of our priorities, as we navigate the next chapter in all of our lives. Get a therapist, start a journal, meditate, do things that bring you joy, even in the smallest ways.
To be one’s hero comes with a lot of responsibility, and some days, you may choose not to save the world, and that is OK. I believe we will see a day where we won’t have to persuade people to see our worth in this world, and that we will have the luxury of living a life of unashamed vulnerability. Until then, wear your cape proudly.