The Sealey Challenge: Can I Kick It?

Idris Goodwin's purple-hued CAN I KICK IT?, in front of a single yellow flower to the left & a wash of purple & gold to the right.
Can I Kick It?

Idris Goodwin covers vast swatches of territory in Can I Kick It?: he moves from Columbus and the transatlantic slave trade to cell phone videos of brutality, from Motown to The Wiz (in fact, that poem about The Wiz even gets in some mentions of Motown).

Columbus rears his head here, too, much as he did in Underworlds: he’s here, his violence running like blood down the centuries, his statues still an act of violence themselves. (This was, by the way, published in 2019.) In fact, Goodwin pulls straight from the headlines for some of his mentions of Columbus, linking him, as does Patrick Sylvain, to the long years of white supremacy and colonialist violence to come.

Throughout Can I Kick It?, Goodwin interrogates white supremacist violence against Black and brown bodies in the United States, from arbitrary police stops to life expectancy for Black men; from his own first name to “Ferris Buehller’s Black Friend” (on page 34) and the white hegemonic appropriate of Black culture. Can I Kick It? is an intensely political piece.

But Can I Kick It? is also a celebration. Who can possibly read about tamed-down rap blasting in your kid-transporting vehicle and not laugh? And who can read about those glorious three-pointers, and those perfect slam-dunks we all felt in our bones, and not want to rise up again to cheer for the old teams? It’s a radical defiance, as Goodwin dares to dream, for, he writes in “An Invitation from a Tribe Called Tomorrow to Those Broken by Today (2019 Remix),” there’s a word for all those tomorrows: “Our word for tomorrow is dream” (51).

Can I Kick It? is political interrogation and defiant joy, pulsing with its own rhythm, a defiant celebration made eternal through words and pages.

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