BOUGIE IN BOSTON: the night I “fan-slapped” Ta-Nehisi Coates in Cambridge

by Obehi Janice

BOUGIE IN BOSTON chronicles Obehi’s adventures being a bougie Black girl in Boston/Cambridge and all surrounding townships. Essentially, this Coolikan is really living up North, and you’ll see why.

Typical Cambridge evening. Went to Flour for a meeting. Posted some SPLENDOR cards on the bulletin board in the corner. Took a risk and gave a card to an affable couple. Looked to their left and asked the gentleman with caution: “What’s your name?”

[pause] “What’s your last name?”
[mouth agape] “Oh my God. You’re Ta-Nehisi Coates. You’re famous.”
“Stop looking at me like that.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Okay. Can I? I mean, I’m in this play. And I’m writing a play too! Ok.”
“I recognized you.”
“You did?”
“Yeah, by your glasses and your teeth.”
“My teeth?”
“Yeah. You live here?”
“I teach at MIT.”
“Like Junot.”
“Yeah, we’re in the same department.”
“Oh, cool.”
[he laughs]
“Ok. I’m going to leave now. But here’s why you should come see our play.”

I plugged SPLENDOR while clutching my helmet with a sweaty palm. I don’t think he’s been fan-slapped that heavy before, especially in Cambridge. But it was nice, talking to a writer who was trying to hide. A writer who months prior was talking about how he and every Black man COULDN’T hide. How Trayvon was evidence of that. And I just pulled him out of the crowd. I saw him. And we chatted.

Really trying to get better at not being so silly in front of timid writers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote this essential op-ed back in March titled “The Good, Racist People”. Recommended reading!


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