20 Feb 1920 / New York City part 2

There he was, talking to a busboy in the back room of the bar, the man who collected nicknames like he did white wives.

Around here he goes by, “The Face-Puncher of African Descent,” “The Happy Dancing Jab Artist,” “The Singing Destroyer,” to name a few. Unfortunately, he may be better known in some circles by the name Jack London coined for him: The Black Asshole.

But I know him by yet another nickname: My Mother’s Emergency OBGYN. Jack Johnson.

I took a seat at the end of the bar and ordered a Tom Collins, a drink that agrees with my youthful tongue. I got the drink and as I swirled the sweet drink around my mouth, I thought about my birth, which I will briefly recount here, as told to me by my mother.

It was The Fight of the Century. July 4, 1910. Reno Nevada. My dear sweet mother was accompanying Quincy [Bent's father -ed.] to watch Jack Johnson fight James Jeffries, who was billed as “The Great White Hope.” At this point, Dad was trying to find his footing as a radical psychiatrist. He had a theory that white racist's heads would literally explode if Johnson won the fight. He had to be there to collect data.

Mother was nine months pregnant with me but insisted she travel with Quincy so she could assist him. By rail they traveled cross-country for the big day.

Everyone knows what happened next. Johnson pummeled Jeffries’ face for 15 rounds until Jeffries called it quits, reportedly saying, “If only my face were as strong as my racism.” Jeffries was swiftly swept away by a team of white stallions, back to his racist lair and Johnson, declared the winner, retaining his world championship belt and codpiece, retreated to his corner for his traditional post-match tea.

Of course, all hell broke loose in the stands. Just as my father predicted, white folk’s heads were exploding all over the place. And Quincy, ever the radical scientist, ran around the crowd with a scooper and a bucket.

It was then, in all the excitement, when my mother chose to birth me. She was instinctively drawn to the mat, as it was stained with blood and sweat and urine and therefore resembled a typical birthing chamber. In the mayhem, she climbed up and assumed the mother lotus. Jack Johnson saw her and rushed to her aid after finishing his tea.

In no time flat, he had me birthed and swaddled and in my mother’s arms. Then out of habit he asked my white mother to marry him. She declined, but I always thought of this legendary man as a sort of step-dad. And now I was about to meet him.