A Follow-Up Email to My Family About The Cookout

By Michael Harriot

This is a follow-up to this email:

From: Me

To: Y’all

I want to thank everyone who helped make this weekend’s cookout at my house a resounding success. I know you’re getting tired of my emails, but y’all know I am a perfectionist so I wanted to send out a few individual thank-you’s as well as a few pointers on how we can make things better next year:

Uncle Junior: As always, everything off the grill was on point. I don’t know what you put in that sauce, but it was delicious. When you used to tell me that your secret ingredient was the blood of Jesus and the prayers of the ancestors, I didn’t believe you, but I think I tasted a little bit of Christ on the ribs yesterday. I do have a favor to ask, though:

Could you take it easy on people who want to peek inside the grill? I know you don’t want people “messing with your bobby-Q”  but I thought it was very inappropriate when you threatened to stab Reverend Jackson in the neck with a pair of greasy barbecue tongs for lifting the lid while the leg quarters were cooking. That is a man of God, Uncle Junior!

I’m not going to say anything about you slapping the shit out of our neighbor “messy” Vanessa with a spatula when she tried to add some Paprika to your barbecue sauce. That bitch deserved it.

You don’t mess with the sauce.

Larry: I know you are the family DJ, but I provided you with a list of the top 10 cookout songs of all time, and you only played 6 of them. Also, while I appreciate the electric slide and the Wobble, bruh, you can’t play “Bitches Ain’t Shit” at a family gathering. There were children here!

I did kinda laugh when you played “I Got Hoes In Different Area Codes” as Reverend Jackson walked in. They say he spends all the building fund money on condoms and strip clubs.

Tyrone: Cuzzo, first I want to apologize for Jeremy (…or Kumbuka X, or whatever he calls himself since he got out of prison). I know you love your girlfriend, and you shouldn’t have to put up with Jeremy’s Hotep nonsense, and referring to her in variations of the term “White Devil” all day. I warned him it was disrespectful when he said “Lady Lucifer, could you please pass the hot sauce?” but he wouldn’t stop. I thought it was uncalled for, even though you have to admit that when he called her “Sista Satan” I think I saw you chuckle a little bit.

What I wanted to talk to you about is informing her that even though we appreciate her spending the extra money on Pepsi, Sprite, and other name brand sodas, Black people actually prefer  the cheap stuff. We want NuGrape or a soda with no pretense. If you drink an orange soda, its can should just say “Orange.”

You’re not supposed to drink Coke Zero at a cookout.

That’s disrespectful to the ancestors.

Linda: The entire family would like you to know that we are so proud of you, but we got together last night and came up with a list of four requests for you:

  1. We know, you lost over 100 lbs in a year. We think it’s terrific, and I know you love me, but trust me Linda, I’m not going to die if I eat a hamburger. Leave me alone.
  2. I love that you are proud of your body now,  and you should show it off however you want. But Linda, no matter how hard you worked to get there—NO ONE is gonna call those things “battle scars.” They’re still stretch marks to the rest of us.
  3. We also know you’re a vegan. Many of us have heard the health benefits of veganism. What we didn’t know is–did the State legislature pass a law that all vegans must remind non-vegans about them being a vegan every 11 minutes?
  4. Although I want to reiterate that everyone in this family loves you, I want you to know one thing: If you ever call yourself bringing some vegan Macaroni and Cheese to this house, and sitting it next to Aunt Rosa’s real Macaroni and Cheese again, I’mma tell Uncle Junior to get his spatula.

Meosha: Thank you again for making the Kool Aid this year. It was delicious. I wanted to talk to you about something else though:

I heard you tell someone that your youngest eleven-year old daughter has had trouble in school, and you don’t know if she has a learning disability:

Trust me. I watched that little girl walk around playing all day. All she did was:

  • Gather every other girl at the cookout, and taught them the entire dance routine from “Formation.”
  • Beat every other kid at the cookout in Uno
  • Recite all the lyrics to Kendrick Lamar “Alright.”
  • win two games of dominos
  • show Aunt Rosa how to use her cell phone to measure the viscosity of her Macaroni and Cheese
  • Tell Linda, “If God didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of delicious meat.”

That girl doesn’t have a learning disability. She might be a goddamned genius.

Reverend Jackson: Even though you are not a blood relative, you are still like a part of this family, so I’d like to apologize for Uncle Junior and Larry’s action’s behavior at the cookout. I also think that–as a man of the cloth, you could carry yourself a little better. You were trying to holla at every woman at the cookout. You might think it’s funny, but when a preacher asks a girl if he can “lay hands on her” it actually sounds kinda creepy.

Also, I saw you in the cut with Mookie “smoking trees.” I have no problem with anyone imbibing in whatever vice they choose, but everyone could tell you were high.

It wasn’t when you ate 11 hot dogs in a row.
It wasn’t when you started begging Larry to play James Brown songs
But when Larry played “Back Dat Azz Up” and Michelle started dancing, you shouldn’t have “made it rain” when she “dropped it low.” I don’t judge, so it’s not that I don’t think a Reverend should be engaged in such activity. It’s just that–

It’s gonna take me forever to rake up all those tithes envelopes.

Lisa: After this probationary trial period, the executive board of the potato salad sanctioning committee has decided to approve your application as the family’s official maker of potato salad. We recognize that you have a raw, underdeveloped talent that can flourish with the help of the family’s input and advice.

You should know that–while you are good enough to make the cut, you still have room to grow. You make a good potato salad, but you have not crossed into the rarefied air of Aunt Jenny (may she rest in peace). She made “tae-tuh salad” It was so good you had to pronounce it differently. You can get there though, if you continue to develop your skills. Listen to feedback and implement some of it into your recipe. The key is knowing which pieces of advice to take.

Like “messy Vanessa.” I know she is gonna tell you need some paprika in your Potato salad, but don’t listen to her. She may even try to add it on all by herself. If she does…

Ask Uncle Junior where his spatula is.

Thank you everyone for coming.

I’ll see you all at Thanksgiving





About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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