It didn’t go TOTALLY as planned and I almost tapped out of it several different times. My motivation was my readers. I know you are out there, anticipating and waiting for what I voluntarily promised would be coming. Then I thought of the test this is. I signed myself up for a tough challenge that ‘sounded good’ when I said it, but as the process of execution began, it was much harder than I anticipated. I needed more time than I realized and I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I’m here!!! I did it ! I pulled it off. My laptop is no longer accepting a charge from my battery. I really don’t know if this will even get posted and am typing as fast as I can (roughly 90 wpm). Before I close this out, I want to thank everyone who has followed this journey or joined along the way. Please go back over the blog and check out all seven in this series. This was a lot of fun in many ways and brought forth new epiphanies as I wrote. For example, I didn’t realize how much Nicole Simpson’s death paralled black people’s experiences.
I think that blog left everyone speechless. I never said it would all be hearts and bubblegum !!! 😉
I am ending this series with a few digital dedications. The first is a video challenge issued by my dear sisterfriend Naz Khalid, who’s out in Vegas. The challenge was to show our brothers some love. I wish it had have trended. It didn’t but Salute to those who participated and those who could’t or forgot (there’s still time…every day.). It’s an old poem and I messed up on it but I decided to keep it as it was….I hope you enjoy. The next is a track on my Soundcloud page that I’ve shared on Facebook before. It’s called “Preaching to the Choir” and it’s a dedication to black men. Finally, I end with a poem I wrote a couple of years ago. I will let it speak for itself …
Plus, I’m trying to out type my computer shutting off for good. I’m not buying a new battery. * le sigh*
Thank you all again for reading and commenting and sharing. Please consider signing up at the top of the page. And please do return to the #LoudMovement here at theiisneversilent.com.
SHARE THESE BLOGS ! !! Get the conversations going. If you are an ally, please take the time to read all seven blogs. If you are a racist, please take the time to read all seven blogs. And if you are here, and have not read all seven blogs, please take the time to read ALL SEVEN BLOGS !
“Will You Bury Me”
…..and he dropped to his knees
Looked her square in the center of her pupils,
Held her hand with intensity
And spoke to her, words that sounded, delightfully foreign
Words she never expected to hear in her life,
Will you bury me???
Not letting go of his grip,
Wondering what he meant,
Wondering what the appropriate response was for all she could think was what does that even mean,
And he clenched tighter,
Specifically to her ring finger and along its outer rim, he slipped on a diamond he’d saved the rest of his heart to give to that one special woman and repeated his words,
Blow for blow, confidently, syllable for syllable and though they came out in slow motion, this time it was more clear and in case it still would not have been, he accompanied this proposal with an explanation,
Tighter, he gripped tighter to her hand,
Stood up and grabbed the other and spoke those same words again,
WILL YOU BURY ME
Will you live the rest of your life with me, holding me up when I need backbone, boning me when I need front plates, kissing me tenderly, but oh just the way I need it to be me to remind me that I am king of the night, day and all the shit in between,
But beautiful darling woman Ye wants to spend the rest of life with, I am a black man
And life with me could end at any moment,
A spontaneous occurrence that has too many mitigating factors that could end me suddenly
So I say to you will you bury me
Carry my seed,
Hold creation in your womb, all while knowing we could be becoming too attached to a potential lamb,
That we may have to bury early,
He might look just like me, it will be like burying me
He could be stalked,
I could be beaten by those who take an oath to serve and protect their midnight fantasies of justified killings, they could Martin me
And I don’t mean, “I’ma do me”,
I mean AMADOU….DIABLO
our child could be removed from the world
Torn from our arms by violent arms that bear the same color arms as us,
Will you bury me,
It may take me the rest of my youthfulness to come to terms with who I am,
Will you bury me and rise me anew, will you trust in me and allow me to trust in you,
Can we do something that sparks a lasting trend hotter than marriage, will you bury me,
Stay with me, grow not just old with me, lie in the folds of me when I become weak,
Will you allow me to see you at your peak and your fall, your makeup and none at all, but will you bury me because life with me might turn volatile to your heart,
Turning your eyeliner into footprints of tears,
Justice has hardly met black skin that it will act in defense of
Will you chance sleepness nights of dreaming of verdicts that will avenge my stolen deaeth,
I can still be tied to the backs of trucks,
I can still be beaten down in the streets, mad that my last name bears exactly what I am,
Killing the King in me until I am weak but i don’t go down easy, which might mean the end of me
In black widows hats
Front row of pews that cradle the last look,
It could you be you
It can be our child
Taken up front, in front of our eyes,
What if I break the promise to never wear a hoodie,
What if my ID looks like a oozi,
What if my fixed taillight gets knocked out, cause the 60s aren’t far enough removed to be the past,
Not when everyday reminds me that I am the on the ass end of the affirmative because of the color of my skin,
It can still get me killed
Whatever we create can be pulled from beneath us, if we threaten them, they may come home to roost us,
But are you game for that
Consciously willing to fight back with me, march alongside of me, be BLACK with me,
Chance life with me
With he who could be a news story hot topic,
A debated trial,
I could be put on trial for my own death, you ready for that
Will you bury me ?
Marrying me means to endure with me….
What it means, not to be with me,
But to be wife of black man
……and she attached herself to the cord of what would become their distant unknown future….
I know people doing a wide variety of different forms of community outreach with organizations as well as on their own accord. I know mentors and teachers, devout activists with their own Not-For-Profits and volunteers. Then there are those who march and protest when the time calls for it and who are active and influential in other areas in between. I also know people who are playing Pokemon. Folks who are on vacation, shopping at Wal-Mart, watching reality TV and folks who post a daily selfie.
ALL of us are hurting for the same reasons. It’s hard to be alive right now and not feel the mental anguish being black in america causes. Like I said, I know people who know people.
There are many forms of activism available at our fingertips. There is no reason that one person should feel like they cannot contribute something in this fight for what I have now dubbed “the right to be human in America.” For every person of color and our allies, there is a way to fight back against this racist and corrupted system. It is up to YOU as an individual to determine what is the best course of action YOU can take. What one person is doing doesn’t equate to what you need to be doing; some folks are better at other stuff. And that’s ok. Other folks are on break. And guess what: That’s fine too. Check out of this thing sometimes. Mental self-care is important and you can’t be of good assistance to anything if you haven’t assured your own well being.
Every time a black life is snuffed out, a march/protest/vigil is almost immediately put in place. Contrary to what some believe, this also happens when the murderer(s) are black, not just when a white person kills a black person. There just isn’t much attention going on in the hood in regards to those who fight the crime irresponsibly known as “black-on-black crime.” #ButIDigress
When people are killed, organizers get to work contacting speakers and performers who will help bring the message home that we will not stand for this treatment in a country we built and pay to be part of. A location, time and date are secured and invites create word of mouth which hopefully draws a heavy crowd in support of black lives. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Before anything else – before the bullhorns come out and the chants and the poetry and Precious Lord songs – the people are there to pay homage to a life gone too soon and there are times when very few show-up. Regardless, some folks are overwhelmed with sadness and sorrow and need to be in the presence of others who feel the same way. They need to walk alongside folks who also wonder what the answer is. They need to be among like-minds. We are starting to feel helpless and these marches reignite the diminishing fire in some of us. There are networking opportunities with a variety of allies. Although police are starting to treat #BLM protests like a terrorist threat (there is also a petition going around to have BLM classified as terrorist.), there is still strength in numbers. Protests and marches aren’t the ‘answer’ to fixing a system built on blood, but they do serve a purpose.
I know people who are playing Pokemon. I’m not one of them but I’ve seen the posts on Facebook. I still don’t quite get it but I think the allure of what it is, is actually drawing more people to the game. I’m personally not interested but I still know plenty of people who are playing it and race nor gender are factors.
But on social media, the trending topic is to take a hotep-status-piss on what other folks are doing. People are not distracted because they are playing Pokemon. They didn’t forget that Alton Sterling had to be buried and that Philando was getting buried the following day. They didn’t fall out of the fight or become useless good and wasted materials because they choose not to be in #BlackLivesMatter mode for 24 straight until change comes. If you are emotionally affected by what is happening to black people and if you are joined in on this fight for our lives, then disconnecting and going to a different headspace doesn’t automatically equal being distracted.
Also, who can tell anyone WHEN change is actually coming????
No damn body knows. When has this country ever love or truly respected black people? It’s always been like this, we are just fucking fed up with it now because it’s happening in our faces. This isn’t the resurfacing of an old practice; this is generations of racism being handed down from parents to children who turn into adults and get jobs as law officials, appoint themselves as watchers of the neighborhood and earn seats in Congress. I bet if I did the research, I could find at least one name for every year from 1930 (random year) until now of a black person killed without legit cause and without justice. Change is something we continue to seek but if we kept it 100 as we say, it’s something that many of us are starting to believe in as much as the Loch Ness Monster. With that said, why can’t a person (a human being) stop for second and reset their brain? Why can’t they tune out of looping videos and the racist online trolls and start watching Love & Hip Hop without being told they are an abomination of the black race? Why can’t I troll B.Scott’s site and see what all is going on in Hollywood to take my mind off of the reality we live in daily?
why can’t people march?
Why can’t they huddle up in front of the statehouse and scream and rally and cry together if that’s what they need right then or feel led to do? Do any of the keyboard pushers know what helplessness feels like? I’m sure you do because we are allbeing mentally fucked every single day. Justice misses the mark for us time and time again and here we are feeling like there is not enough we can do or say that will change things for all of us. We are explaining #BLM to people who are dead set on seeing it otherwise. And right now, we are all waiting on the next name to get dropped. It’s going to happen again. And with all the recent police killings (another one as of 7/20/16, Kansas City), I bet it’s already happened and just hasn’t made the popular report.
Sometimes this fight calls for you to download a goofy app and play it until your hands bleed. Or participate in organizing a march. Zoning out. Zoning in.
…..organizing what YOU think will work, on your own. Then we will all flock to your mission and help with it. Sticking together is about allowing folks the opportunity to be human – that same thing I said earlier is the fight black people are in (to be recognized as human). In our fight, we have to be careful not to alienate each other with accusations, finger pointing and all the shit that does nothing but create a bigger division. A public, bigger division.
There are 100s of ways to be an activist and if you don’t want to take on that title, there are still ways for you to be of assistance for the greater good of our race of people. Some are small baby steps and fashion statements. You can always do a personal financialboycott. You don’t have to march if you don’t want to but avoid down talking those who do. You may not want to boycott Wal-mart but take the time to find a way to be a valuable contribution to this nationwide cry for help. You don’t have to wait for someone else’s idea to be good in order to execute it. You don’t have to wait for someone to tell you to put your money in an XYZ black bank; just google and research your options and find what’s best for YOU.
There’s a statement in itself:
Research your options and find what’s best for you.
That’s what all of this is about at the end of the day. Finding what’s best for YOU as a way to help us as a community. If you are not good at being in the front speaking to the public, you shouldn’t be up there with the mic. Perhaps your best is marching and chanting. Maybe it’s organizing and planning. Maybe can use your connections and designs to make a statement. If you’re a performer, you can do or create a benefit show w/a true plan on who the money goes to and how to get it to them. The list is endless…..
I have fought the title of an activist for a long time because I feel it comes with so much responsibility and expectation that I don’t know that I always live up to. Beyond that, I just want to fight for what’s RIGHT. And that is still true, but I think that’s what makes me an activist. Yet and still, I am still in the process of finding where I belong in this fight.
I encourage all to do the same. You don’t have to do something because it’s what everyone is doing, but you do need to do something. That is if you believe that black lives matter. And when our ‘somethings’ are different, that doesn’t make either of us better than the other. It means we are working in our respective areas, doing what we do well and making a difference towards the better. That’s what matters. At the end of the day, we are all black-on-black crying together.
This may sound like a fluff blog to some. And who knows, maybe I live in the clouds. I know there are people who ain’t doing SHIT but sitting on their black asses. I don’t pretend they don’t exist, I just don’t put food on their plate. For what? There were plenty of people that did nothing in the sixties. There were plenty of slaves that were content and had made peace with living and dying as a slave. But the job still got done. The slaves still got free, the boycotts worked, as did the unity. A unified front doesn’t mean ALL; it means majority….well at least in my opinion.
I believe we need each other right now and we have too much to lose to …
…actually, make that we have lost too much already to alienate each other or spend time focusing on the folks that don’t want to be involved. Let them be. For those who are taking a break…let them take it. Let them check out. You can sit this one out loves. There are enough of us to keep the momentum going.
For those who are involved and those that want to be, I salute you. Your efforts and your dedication will never get the accolades deserved, but your time and your work will eventually snatch the edges off of the doors that have the audacity to still be closed.
“Did you have your earrings made or did you make them yourself? I just now noticed there was a guy on them!!!”
~Waitress, Cheesecake Factory
***Must be nice to be oblivious. O.o
The last time I was in Philadelphia was back in 2013 when one of my poetic comrades/brothers and I packed up and hit the highway for New York City. He was doing poetry there and I was tagging along so that I could peruse the city and spend unnecessary money. We stopped along the way in Philadelphia to spit at an open mic we were both invited to. While there I met some other dope poets, a few that I still have contact with today (Hey Kelli Kellz!!), and bought two pairs of earrings that I attempted to walk past but couldn’t resist the urge to own. The seller was set up in the first room before you got the poetry and I noticed her display as she was still putting it together when we first walked in. After she was finished setting up, I walked over and spent some time browsing before stumbling upon the ones I ultimately walked away with.
My eyes were stunned. I stared at them and held them in my hand, cradling them like mini-babies who dare to cry. They were distinctively different yet just alike in the worst way. I teared up as I walked away with them as my purchase. She gave me her card and the travesty of that is that I lost it. Actually, I probably still have it mixed up in the pile of random business cards I’ve collected over the last decade, but I wouldn’t know it was hers if I saw it. I also don’t remember her name and with all the memories I’ve collected and poems I’ve added to my brain since then, I can’t accurately remember what she looked like. But I still have the earrings. I will probably have these earrings for the rest of my life as I know it.
The earrings are pictures of Trayvon Martin.
On one pair the colors red and yellow contrast the melanin rich picture of a young Trayvon with folded arms. It looks like this was once a school picture-turned tragedy cover story photo. The earrings themselves are circular in shape and an exact replica of the People Magazine released April 9, 2012. To the side of his picture and covering his right shoulder were big yellow block letters that read:
An American Tragedy.
I remember seeing the magazine in stores but I don’t remember reading it and I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy it. People isn’t a magazine for people of color; it’s a gossip tabloid that comes out on a weekly basis. They add a little bit of Unsung Hero stories near the back to give it a well-rounded feel. Whatever. It’s a celebrity gossip magazine and I know this because you have to travel beyond private affairs, divorce settlements, child custody cases, and paparazzi pictures snapped without permission doing things like grocery shopping and opening car doors before you can get to anything regarding an unsung hero. So I dare not give my money to them for based on Trayvon Martin being the cover. It looked exploitative and I’m sure it was to some degree. Especially since they made sure to include GZ’s ‘side of the story.” #FOHThe second pair of earrings bear a picture of a Trayvon Martin in a hoodie. The picture surfaced shortly after his murder and while I’m unsure when and where it was taken, I do believe it was the picture that became the icon photo for Trayvon and the right to wear a hoodie. And be black. And human. And not in the projects. If a picture tells 1000 words then these earrings are novels. He looks young; there isn’t an ounce of facial hair on him.
I can be found wearing these most often.
I love both pairs but the ones with him in the hoodie are the most symbolic. It leaves no room for question as to who that is on my earrings. If you know the story you will probably recognize who it is. Usually, people do. Unless you are the white waitress at The Cheesecake Factory. His eyes are piercing and his expression is youthful. He looks like a kid that might have a sack of candy in his hoodie. Maybe even an Iced-T. But he doesn’t look like he deserves death.
I’m not one to exploit people’s death. It could almost be argued that I fear people thinking I would ever do such a thing. When I first started wearing these earrings after returning from the free-East Coast style to the conservative Midwestern flair, I worried that I looked like I was making a fashion statement of his death. There’s nothing fashionable about wearing Trayvon Martin earrings. But I am making a statement.
That statement became my peace of mind. I learned there was a form of power, activism, and rebellion in wearing them.
One of the definitions of Power is:
The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.
Synonyms include capability, effectiveness, influence, virtue and talent.
I am a walking billboard. We all are. We are all inadvertent models for the clothing we wear, our hairstylists and barbers, the manicurist and our doctors where applicable. Those of us who have branded themselves in some way know that we are our first and best asset. When I leave the house, even when I’m going to work, I can’t leave ‘Januarie York’ at home; that’s my brand and it goes where I go. With that said, there is absolute power and responsibility in being a walking billboard. This isn’t about my love of modeling and runway shows; being a billboard is about making a public statement that one can’t just drive past.
When I walk outside with these colorful and bold pictures of Trayvon Martin hanging from both sides of my face, I have turned myself into that exact billboard. You can’t look at me and NOT see them. These earrings stopped being about JUST Trayvon long ago. They have taken on the ghosts of all who have preceded him in the same unfashionable manner and when I wear them, I am extremely conscious that they are there. So are others. I’ve had people express their love for them and ask about where I bought them. My only regret is that I can’t point them in the direction of the lady in Philly who made them. White people aren’t heavy in comments, but they are in looks. I see them staring and I make sure they can see!!! I don’t know if these earrings make them uncomfortable or make them wonder. I hardly ever hear comments like the one from the waitress. Most people who actually speak of them know who they are looking at. But some people just don’t have to worry about this or concern themselves with it. So why would they know???
I feel like power with them. Like I am staking my claim on my spot in this world. You look at me with these earrings and you will think Black Lives Matter, whether you agree or not. Being in corporate is a challenge. Black people have to lose a piece of themselves and ‘become’ what corporate says is acceptable. Some of us have freedom at our jobs and I’m one of those people. I wear afros and afro earrings, high heels and bold lipsticks and when I feel like it, Trayvon Martin. Some would call this rebellious. I would have to agree. I do rebel. I reject what is ‘professional’ when there is nothing about my behavior or personality that can be altered with how I wear my hair. Or what I identify with.
These earrings are an act of rebellion. They are a rejection of death and the killing of unarmed black citizens (also known as human beings…for more on this concept, check this blog: http://theiisneversilent.com/2016/07/16/dear-nicole-a-perspective-on-guilt-black-lives/). These earrings stare harshly into your eyes and if they don’t pierce your heart and make you question everything about the judicial system, then there might be something less human in your soul.
I didn’t ask to be an activist or even mean to be. I just don’t want to be one of the ones sitting idle if there is something I can do. I will always do SOMETHING. Sometimes I’ll be marching and doing poems at protests. There will also be times when I sit on the sidelines. I might be engulfed in my phone or partying with my friends. Because I too need a mental break and to remember I still have reasons to smile. Other times, it will be other things. Like writing. Speaking. Engaging. Working. Wearing earrings.
Wearing my Trayvon Martin earrings.
Hoping not for white-guilt but that a conversation might be started. The kind of conversations that lead to leveling up and creating change. I want this ‘fashion statement’ to influence people to open their eyes to the reality of the situation. Even our children are dying without anyone being held accountable. Trayvon has been murdered in death at least once a year by GZ (I will not type his name). There have been auctions and paintings and articles and interviews. When I wear these earrings I demand that if you look at me, you see Trayvon Martin. And because they don’t just exist for him, I demand you see Sandra Bland. I demand you see us. I can list enough names to start a new blog post. I want you to see all of us when you see me, wearing these earrings.
He was looking for his car keys when my brother pointed to the ottoman and said “there.”
“No, those aren’t the right keys,” he replied.
“Nah said, my brother. “I meant the phone. Grab your phone!”
“Yes, grab your phone baby. ALWAYS take your phone!!!”, I reiterated in a calm but serious tone.
As they walked down the stairs, I heard them speak on how much they both hated the NEED to take their phones everywhere they go. They were going to the store and it was two blocks up the street. It should be ok for them to drive two blocks up the street without a cell phone but the truth is, for a black man in america, simply standing on a square of public concrete could get you killed. To be black is like being blood in an endless ocean and maybe there’s a shark in the water. . .
…so you must always carry your phone because never know when it will be the only eye witness.
On this night, I had gathered with some of my close friends as well as my partner in an effort to decompress our spirits from the Alton Sterling video and collectively generate enough love in the room to soothe all of our spirits, even if just for that moment. We talked and laughed and of course, the conversation made its way to the racial tension that was heating up and the video of Alton’s murder. Little did we know that the very next day we would once again be drained of the energy we assembled together. There were five of us; two women and three men and everyone in the room was in a committed relationship, married or otherwise. We are all good friends so the vulnerabilities were palpable.
Time and time again I have written about the plights of black women. I push for our respect and our right to be free-spirited, life-givers who are in control of our own minds and bodies. I speak often of our softer side and our empathetic nature. But on this night with my friends, I saw black men unlike I’ve ever seen them before and it put a spotlight on how quiet I’ve been in regards to the literary love I type up and share. Right in the comfort of my chill space, I saw three black men worn out and tired from the american race for personal freedom of black people. It’s a race you don’t sign up for; you are born into. You have the choice to not participate and actively fight alongside your brothers and sisters, but you won’t be excused from the results.
Men = strong unattainable beings that lack empathy.
That about sums up my formative years with men; I either struggled to find and maintain a personable connection (stepdad, brother) or they were absent (my father). But then there are men like my uncle, who I never questioned his love for me but I also saw how he emotionally abused my aunt and my grandfather who was proud to call me his granddaughter. But even he was shrouded in darkness and damaging secrets. It’s pretty predictable what this resulted in for my dating life so as you can see, I’ve not had many healthy examples of men. I’ve had some hits, lots of misses and a lifetime of questions. Becoming part of the arts community exposed me to me black men who don’t shy away from emotions and taught me that they are just as scared as women are sometimes. I’ve been able to see behind the mask and the hardened exterior. It’s something I’ve long needed to witness. After all, it is rather unhealthy to think that an entire gender lacks the ability to feel. Through poetry, I channeled feelings and emotions within myself that surprised me. I wrote about the plight of black men. I pushed them from behind using my stanza’s as hands and I gave them tight embraces by way of poetry. I loved them loudly on stages and spoke of them as Kings. I spoke to them like Kings.
“I need for you to stand for yourself Black Man…”
I tried to be their reminder.
“…for each one of you who have let go of the block and rock uniforms, time cards and minimum wages as compared to the streets/still you keep your feet planted in solid soil/often covering up your desire to relapse back to the hood in the same way aluminum foil shelters Sunday leftovers…/” ~For You I Write
I had to write for the health of black men as much as I wrote about everything else because what if there was a shark in the water, and my poetry was the only ship to safety. I tried to write them to safety….so to speak. Somewhere that stopped. There was a turning point where my writings became less inclusive of black men upliftment. The more I spoke to women, the less I spoke to (and for) men. And honestly, the more I got hurt, the less uplifting I felt like doing in the black man’s honor. It was not intentional shade or nothing; it’s just not where I was in my life or in my writings. Now I’m finding myself making a full circle evolution because as I listened to and watched these three men lay their hearts on my floor, it tapped into that part of me that used to write for them. I was reminded that black people are all blood in the water. Our melanin attracts the sharks and the sharks are armed with guns, tasers and cell phones that they use to make anonymous phone calls to 911 that result in our deaths. One phone call can lead to our death and the caller need not even stick around to watch. It’s usually more innocent black people witnessing (and recording) and getting psychologically damaged in the process. Can you imagine being the person who shot the video of Alton Sterling? Or Eric Garner? Mentally what happens to these people who just stepped out for a Sprite and some cigarettes and end up witnessing a homicide (aside from being harassed by police, locked up on trumped up charges and other bullshit to derail the case and the life of the witness)?
Sharks are swimming circles around us and we can’t act like we don’t know it anymore. Coming together isn’t an OPTION; it’s necessity. Humbling myself and quieting my arrogance so that I may speak to and for Black men with the same passion I use to speak about strippers being equals and women deserving respect is pertinent to my growth as much as it is to our growth as a people. Black women, children, teenagers, and men are all swimming in these treacherous oceans, but black men (boys) are especially singled out and targeted. They need to be loved on and lifted higher. They are in need of a network of people to push them to continue to fight and excel because this society is not going to do it. It is up to us to help strengthen each other. The inhumane treatment of black people is condoned and appreciated by a society that fears them yet wants so badly to BE them. They want that smooth chocolate skin, the confidence, the [alleged] big dick, the baritone voice, the cool factor …
Black men are hunted…and wanted. Who am I to excuse myself from writing to and for them, especially in such troublesome times?
Sitting there with my friends, I listened to my partner and two men I consider brothers speak their fears in the comfort of me and my sisterfriend (wife of one of my brothers). Black men are taught not to be frightened of anything. It is suggested that they don’t show too much sensitivity and where there is no father in the home, there is no man to be the demonstration of balancing testosterone and feelings. During slavery, when the men would get whippings, many of them took it on the chin, meaning they wouldn’t let the ‘master’ see the pain he was inflicted. For them to scream or cry out in agony meant it was so unbearable that it surpassed their ability to save face. Black men have been holding strong since. They are instructed not to express their emotions but no one tells them that they won’t feel, which is a good thing because they absolutely WILL feel all kinds of shit! You don’t get to tap out of how the reality of some situations makes you feel because you are a man. It doesn’t matter if it’s death of a loved one, stress from work or lack of work or trying to be the best provider possible for your children (which is another set of potential stressful FEELINGS), everybody gets a case of #TheFeels sometimes. Even black men. You can hold it in and pretend to be unbothered but deep down, when something upsets you, that disruption of peace has to be dealt with in some way: art, talking with friends and family, vacation, drugs, killing sprees –
-because what you feel doesn’t just disappear simply because you refuse to appropriately acknowledge it.
While growing black boys are being taught to disregard their feelings, white boys can cry and throw temper tantrums all over the room and the white mother will ignore it and keep it moving. Black mothers halt that crying at the first tear. Many black fathers do as well. We teach young boys (and raise young men who turn into adults) that when you feel like crying, DON’T! When you feel angry, punch something if you need to but don’t whine, bitch, complain, cry, or ‘act like a little bitch;’ suck that shit up and be strong in the face!!! Who can blame them for the times they choose unhealthy coping mechanisms, and even when they go postal? What else can they do? Even when they come to us as their ‘missing rib’, we (women) demand that they be put together enough to help us deal with our own shit. We need them to be strong, emotionally present but not crybabies, patient, in control of self, mentally healthy, job, house, car, no more than X-Kids (or none), etc… But WHO is being THAT for them? Seriously, who has allowed them to be mentally OK? Who has suggested or given them a healthy outlet for their feelings so that they be whatever it is we as women need them to be for us? Unless they are artists with an actual outlet they’ve tapped into, they are often men with a world of exacerbated endurance inside of them.
The black man is a threat to this society and his murder is almost always justified unless it’s at the hands of another black man. When that’s the case, as long the murderer is caught, there is hardly a problem with gaining a conviction. If there is anything this system likes more than killing black men, it’s locking them up. When his death is at the hands of the police or even random, local white citizens, it seems the burden of proof rises and even clear, videotaped evidence isn’t enough to prove an unjustifiable homicide. The death of Alton Sterling was a death we’ve seen far too many times in the last three years alone. With technology continuing to advance and bring us mini-laptops to our fingertips and calling them phones, seeing death in progress is no longer something reserved for those working the crime scene. And black death is trending like tribal print shirts at the Black Expo. If people could wear the body of a dead black man, I have no doubts in my mind they would. They would hang his head above their cherry wood furniture and make a hat out of his locs, while using his skin to create a luxe-high-end leather for shoes and purses.
Oh, black man….you can’t be worn but you can be looped. We are bombarded with images of his death-in-progress that we can rewatch and YouTube as much as our hearts can stand. Major news stations and award-winning journalists use their platforms to showcase his dead body on covers of papers and tv screens while the weather data scrolls beneath his picture.
As I listened to my brothers and my guy talk, I noticed how the tears alternated from one set of eyes to the next. Some fell, others were stranded on the brinks of their eyes, almost as if afraid to drop. This time, it wasn’t the women who were emotional. It wasn’t about us. As much as it INCLUDES us, it wasn’t about us that night. Our men were scared. They were scared for their sons. Scared to say they were scared. They were scared as and for Black Men. As providers, husbands, sons, companions and fathers. They were scared….AS FUCK. Sure we’ve seen a story similar to Alton Brown’s many times before. It was a bit reminiscent of Eric Garner. But something about this one stung unlike anything else. Something about ALTON hit home with thousands of black men. We always say ‘it could be me/it could be us’, but Alton Sterling put that notion on blast. Watching his son break down in his grief at the press conference was another factor that took it over the edge for most folks. It was direct insight on what grieving children look like.
In the privacy of my house, my guy, and my fam spoke in freestyles and conversation about being blood in the ocean. We didn’t heavily discuss the video and Alton; instead, the conversation lingered on personal uneasiness. One of them shared a video of his son singing the words to Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon’ Be Alright.” The room quickly lit up at the young black child who even in his singing is still so oblivious to the destructive nature of this world. It was a piercing reminder of what we stand to lose. It gave the room light yet we all felt the sting of reality: we are blood in an ocean. And maybe there’s a shark in the water.
To be black is to be a threat. A problem. A beast. A monster.
As I stated in one of the other blogs in this series, we aren’t considered human. But the night of Alton Sterling’s death, I sat in my room with my circle, dubbed ‘the circle of light’, and on that day, there was no better place to be than within the presence of friends and God. We took shots to help with numbness. We laughed at silly jokes that went on for longer than they should have. We exhaled together for as long as we could.
But the men that night –
-they seemed out of place despite being in a home where they had always been welcomed. It wasn’t about being at my house; they are out of place in America. The hairs on their arms were sticking up and the red in their eyes painted an obvious story of brotherly grief and close possibilities. You are as close to being Alton Brown as you are black. None of them want to trade places with Alton. Or Philando, who we would all wake up to. They work with the youth, they cut grass, know how to cook and they are all raising sons. They love their women and are involved in the arts, the neighborhood, church and mentoring. All three of them exceed the ceiling white America has placed over their heads. Pillars in the community is an understatement to who they are. They are beautiful black men deserving of life, deserving of love and rightfully, respectfully HUMAN.
It stung me to see them in grief. The body language wasn’t its usually jovial openness despite us managing to have a great time fellowshipping amongst each other. But the low hanging eyes and the wear and tear on their heart was at high visibility. They were saddened for Alton and his family. They hurt for his sons. They feared for their wives.
They cried for themselves. And I hurt deep within for all of us; especially them. The boys who may have been raised to hold their emotions like secrets, who were now sitting with melancholy faces and a hand full of tested faith.
We can march and chant and protest and boycott all we want; none of it effects the racist who’s hand hold a gun pointed a black life that they don’t think matters. What we do when we fight back is to incite concern and change in society…as a whole unit.
But nothing can prevent an individual’s actions except that individual’s conscious. You’ll be hard pressed to find a conscious floating in the sea. So no matter where you go, even if it’s only a mile up the street and back, remember to always take your phone.
Because being black in America is like being blood in the ocean. . .
… you always have to watch your back, your sides, your front AND your people-
because maybe there’s a shark in the water.
…and that’s the scariest part of it all.
**NOTE: I would like to challenge us all, especially women, to be a source of Light and comfort for the black men in and around your lives. This is no way gives anyone the permission to mistreat you, mislead you or use you. But as much as we need them to be strong for us, we need to allow them to be vulnerable in front of us.
Not long ago, I watched the FX television miniseries,“The People v. O.J. Simpson”, and after the six-episode concluded, I had a clearer perspective on your and O.J. Simpson’s relationship that I didn’t have back in 1995 when I was sixteen years old. The series was well acted and although I recall most of the details, I wasn’t completely engulfed in the trial back then. I didn’t even really know who O.J. Simpson was. I just knew he was a football player who had been in Naked Gun or something, and I only knew about the acting because that’s how people kept trying to relate him to me. I knew what happened and I knew he seemed guilty. I also knew he was black and Rodney King was no stranger to me. And so 16-year-old Kendria Smith had her mind made up on what the outcome should be. I was in the school office at North Central that day.
Someone screamed in the hallway but didn’t sound hurt; it was a joy. Quickly the screams turned into outright cheers and people started running down the hallway. All the black students within earshot of the person who found out the verdict first were rejoicing. Someone came into the office and yelled out NOT GUILTY, and the office cheered. I didn’t…well, not OUTWARDLY. I cheered internally. It was the exact outcome I had hoped for, and it stings me to say this, but-
-I had no remorse for you at the time.
But hey, I was 16 if that soothes the bruise a bit.
The People vs. OJ show gave me a clearer view of the entire situation but if that wasn’t enough, a documentary followed (put on by a different station) that was just as captivating.
O.J.: Made in America was a five part documentary that included Simpson’s own voice, police tapes, private home videos and lots more information. Because it was a documentary, there were also interviews with people who were a part of the trial including Marsha Clark. The difference with this film was it explored and dissected race in America, particularly in LA at the time and related it all to Simpson, you and everything that transpired. It was pretty intense at times. Add to all of this I’m much older than sixteen now and more seasoned than I was then. I’ve been in an abusive relationship and if you’ve been around these blog parts long enough, you may know that I’ve almost died at the hands of a man I loved. I’ve had a gun pointed directly at me or more than one occasion. So as a survivor of domestic abuse, I see your relationship with OJ and your subsequent murder with an evolved way of thinking.
I’ve rambled long enough. I should say what I came to say.
We live in a fucked up society man.
There are hundreds of thousands of beautiful people with strong personalities that could light up the world if given the opportunity, but as much as we have them, we have evil spirited people; folks who only know hate and bigotry and create destruction in both their words and actions. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find the balance in it all but I have to believe it’s possible….right? Our country has spit on black people since they ripped my ancestors out of their sleep with knives and chains and stuffed their freedom on a big ass ship to bring them over to United States of Stolen Territory. Some were dumped in the ocean like discarded cattle carcasses during six-to-thirteen week voyage. They made them slaves to white laziness, raped them and killed them for fun. They pic-a-nigger’d my people and right now today, picnicking is something considered cool to do on a date. My people’s pain is our current vocabulary.
They stole from us, bombed us, wouldn’t let us be free even once we were. And more than any other havoc they could wreck on us, they killed us. Excuse me…”them”.
They killed them. Them = My people.
And time after time, they got away with it. They hunted us for sport, lynched us in front of public town halls and made sellable postcards out of it. White people wrote love notes and I miss you letters on the backs of our broken necks!! And there was no consequence – it was ALWAYS condoned. They even did interviews admitting to the gruesome ways of which they ended black lives. It should be noted the lynchings were hardly ever JUST the hanging of people. Often it involved beatings, getting shot or drowned or burned as well. Black death has always been inhumane. Fetuses have been cut from hanging black mother’s wombs to fall on the ground and be pierced with shotgun blasts.
It continued until it was illegal. But then their homes were stalked and set on fire. Their husbands were kidnapped and killed.
They were shot in their own driveways, in the back, by a scandalous coward.
Shot in the neck from across the street by a scandalous coward.
But as a race, my people have remained unbreakable. We have long been victims of a system that was not created to include us but that still prevails today. People in denial have spoken of how racism no longer exists or how these events are things so far in the past that no one should still be affected by them but I beg to differ. And I know you are wondering why I am saying all this to you, but I assure you it will all tie together in just a second. Racism is not something that halted in the 1960’s and only resurfaces when black people bring it up; racism never ended in the first place. Yes things have changed and many doors opened in the name of racial equality but our climate is just as dangerous and racially charged as it was in 1964. The only thing you need in order to keep racism alive is a family that is willing to pass down the tradition of hate to their offspring. My grandmother couldn’t vote. My mother was a kid when MLK was killed.
The year that O.J. Simpson went to trial (1995), the Rodney King verdict was still a fresh reminder for anyone who thought racism was a thing of the past that. No matter what you want to call it, this justice system doesn’t give a damn about black people and never has. Seeing the Rodney King tape all these years later still invokes the same gasp in my spirit. How a jury could acquit any of those officers can only be explained by saying #FuckBlackLives!
And now, twenty plus years later little has changed. Black men, women, and children are repeatedly being shot and killed by police and local citizens and their deaths are almost always justified in the eye of the law despite any video and/or witness accounts that tell a different story. The police shoot and kill us and put our children in harm’s way with no disciplinary action taken. The silent department oath must be shoot to kill all black people and children at will. Every argument used to against us has been proven to be useless in saving our lives. Respectability politics have yet to save our lives. I’m personally tired of marching and protesting and going to community meetings. None of what we say or do keeps us from being another hashtag or temporary trending story.
Throughout history, our families have been ripped apart and dismantled. Our heads of households stolen. Our men killed in cars and department stores. Our daughters can’t stand in alleys or sleep on couches and our sons can’t reach for their wallet, drive their car, sell cigarettes or CDs, steal from the bodega (like typical teenagers), they can’t play with toy guns, and they better not ask any questions.
It’s a sick cycle that we didn’t ask to be born into yet here we are. This has been the temperament of our country since before you or my arrival and I tell you, Nicole, it’s fucking exhausting.
I was inspired to write you a letter after I watched the final episode of the documentary series. As I said earlier, it was quite an intense watch. Not only did they heavily cover your relationship to OJ from start to end, but they also showed every graphic photo they had including pictures from the crime scene. I saw how he slashed your throat open and nearly decapitated you. I went to school for forensics with the hope that I would eventually work crime scenes and help solve cases. I can’t help but imagine the horror of the people who turned your defeated body over and found you nearly cut in half. It takes a lot of personal rage to run a knife across someone’s neck until its halfway cut off like that. They also showed Ron Goldman’s bloodied body, full of defense wounds and slumped over. There were photos from your collection that you took for evidence of beatings. They played some of your 911 calls and I could hear the terror in your voice when you spoke to the operators and told them he was gonna kill you. Then there was the cop interviewed that answered one of your calls for help who found you naked, hiding in the bushes outside the home you shared. What a terrible way to live.
It’s easy for people to sit back and wonder why you kept going back but I get it. We, victims of domestic abuse, tend to hope that the person we met and loved pre-violence will return to us, sans the monster. Most times, they promise us he will and we let our heart do the thinking for our brain. It takes a lot of willpower and courage to leave an abusive relationship for good and to start over, but after some time you managed to do it. You freed yourself from chains of needing to hide your face in public and call 911 but Nicole, were you still scared? Did you look over your shoulder at times? It was shown how OJ essentially stalked you and let you know he was watching by harassing you when you had company over. As you tried to rebuild your life and give your children a healthy childhood, I can’t help but think you had to still fear for yourself. That fateful day that your mother left her glasses at the restaurant that would lead Ron Goldman coming to your home, had you let your guard down? Were you feeling confident in yourself and your fresh start? Had O.J. given you a break in the crazy phone calls and relentless stalking?
What we know is you were brutally murdered by a savage with a vendetta against you and anyone within eyeshot of you. Your life was not taken by a serial killer or some crazed lunatic on a murderous rampage. It was very personal. It was one of the worst crime scenes I’ve ever seen and as someone with a semi-forensics background; I can honestly say I’ve seen my share of them via photos. Watching both the television series and then the documentary made me hurt for you in a way I didn’t when I was sixteen. It put a human to your face instead of a ‘white woman’, which is all I thought when I was a teenager. Now, all these years later, I relate to you as a woman. I hurt for the way your life was taken and the fear that probably touched your soul as it became harder to breathe. I know people who were shot and killed by the men they loved. I know what it’s like to lose someone to domestic violence, but it seems like the ones I know got off easily in comparison to you. You suffered, and I do believe that was the intent of your murderer. All the evidence pointed to OJ Simpson. Two different television shows with tons of reenactment and actual documents and videos, including home videos from when he first got back to his house after the trial was over, make it hard to see anyone else at the forefront of your murder.
I believe with all my heart that OJ Simpson is the person who stole your life. He played God in your marriage and again in your death. The OJ I learned of through these movies is not who I knew when I was cheering for him in high school. Remember, I didn’t know much about him as a persona. Today, I write this letter heavily saddened for you. My heart actually feels the same heaviness for you that I felt from April Willis, the last person I knew to lose her life to domestic violence. As a woman and a mother, you deserved your life. You deserved to still be here, to see your beautiful children grow up and to experience aging. There is no ‘reason’ you should be dead aside from loving the wrong man.
I 100% believe that O.J. Simpson plotted and planned to take your life and ultimately executed it with a perfect sloppiness. His hateful love for you controlled HIM so much that the adrenaline he felt from killing you wouldn’t allow him to even clean up after himself. It was so obvious and with the background of your relationship being taken into account, it was expected. Your sister expected it. But I think she thought you were free just like you did. I’m sorry that you died Nicole. I am sorry that you were not free.
I’m sorry that OJ’s selfish need to dictate your every move led to the ending of your life and I’m even sorrier for how it ended. No one should have to die like that. No one should be taken from this world while their kids are just feet away. You shouldn’t have had to look over your shoulder day in and out worrying about your safety. You weren’t allowed to just be; you had to live in fear. You didn’t get the opportunity to grow into all the potential that you had because your life was deemed unworthy of living. OJ declared himself judge, jury, and executioner of your story and he ended it at his choosing without so much as an apologetic gloss over his eyes. I think internally, he was happy. I think every day that he sat at the table during the trial he replayed what he did in his head confidently. He was proud of himself and the further the Dream Team got him from a guilty verdict, the more arrogant he was in his demeanor, confidence and proudness. And as a woman, as a survivor and even as a future stepmother, I hurt for the unceremonious way you were taken from this world.
I apologize for the violence and fear you experienced throughout your relationship with OJ Simpson that led to your ultimate death. I am sorry that your children were left motherless and then forced to live with the man that made them that way. I’m sorry OJ was abusive and crazy and that the demons (mental illness) he lived with in his head did not get the appropriate help that he needed. I’m sorry that we tell women to ‘get out’ of violent relationships but we abandon them after that. We judge them when they don’t leave, but we don’t take into account that leaving could still result in their murder. I’m sorry that as a country and a people, we have yet to figure out a true safe exit for women who are in fear of their lives. It’s common sense (IMO) that if a man is trying to kill you in the relationship, leaving won’t stop him either. Woman to woman, I’m sorry for a lot of things.
…but I’m not sorry he got off Not Guilty.
I would vote him not guilty today if I was on the jury. I’m not even sorry for feeling that way. I am sorry that we live in a society and a country where Black Lives don’t matter so much that we as a people could knowingly see this man killed you and still feel obliged to support him and champion for him to get off. I’m sorry that we live in a country where black lives have mattered so little that the entire black population of my high school flooded the hallways rife with happiness from the not guilty verdict. I am sorry that we all know we don’t matter here and that we must take our victories when they come, even at the expense of others.
I am sorry that we have been sacrificial lambs for this country since our bodies were being dumped in the ocean on the journey here. I am sorry for my ancestors who were chained together and lying on top of each other, covered in piss and feces, fear and pain. I am sorry for the whips that snatched the leftover scent of Africa from our skin that would never again heal right. I am sorry for the thousands of black women that gave birth to mixed race babies that were a product of rape. I’m sorry for the times our men couldn’t save and protect us and the times that we couldn’t do the same for them. I am sorry that Mike Brown was gunned down in the street like a wild animal and I am sorry that there needed to be instances such as marches on Washington, Voters Rights, sit-ins, protests, bus boycotts and white’s only fountains, restrooms and restaurants. I am sorry that black people have always been good enough to entertain, but never great enough to be human.
And for that, we cheered when OJ got off.
Our verdict-rejoicing inadvertently condoned your death and I am sorry that this is the type of country we occupy.
This letter might sound like an oxymoron but I believe that is the nature of where we live. Not enough people actively believe that black lives really matter. This country was built BY us but not FOR us or even with us in mind. We started as property and although we are not such anymore, we are treated with resentment because of it. We are given NIGGER status every time we step out of our houses and unable to return at night. Every time we are shot as we are in cars (Sam Dubose, Philando Castile, Deravis Rogers), and crowds (Rekia Boyd), and Walmarts (John Crawford) and parks (Tamir Rice), we are reminded that we that too many white people, we are still pic-a-niggers. I remember after O.J. got off for your murder, he was sued in civil court by both you and Ron’s families. The case was won on you all’s behalf and he was ordered to pay. According to the documentary, he would hide his incoming money so that it would not be reported and turned over to the families. His disrespect of you even in death was a direct parallel of the treatment black people get on a daily basis. I’m sorry that it was you chosen to be the lamb for us…but honestly, it was about time someone was.
I’m sorry that black families are broken and disrupted forever by untimely deaths and the only thing they offer us as a way of pacification is to give us a few million dollars that will be scaled down tremendously by taxes. O.J. Simpson was ordered to pay $25 Million dollars to your and Ron Goldman’s families for taking your lives. Our families (black families) are often awarded sums in the amounts of 2.5 million and sometimes four. **UPDATE: Sandra Bland: 1.9 Million settlement. Tamir Rice: 6 Million. Akai Gurley: 4.5 Million. Philip Coleman: 4.95 Million. That’s not even adding up to the 25 million Ms. Simpson and Mr. Goldman’s families received. ***UPDATE: Michael Brown’s (no officer indictment) family settled for 1.2 million. Philando Castille’s (officer found not guilty) mother just settled for 2 million. (updated 6.26.17)
Our lives are not valued here; not judicially or financially and I’m sorrier about that more than anything. I’m sorry we needed a win of some kind. But after Tulsa, OK and after the Philly bombings, and of course the lynchings, shootings, rapes, Emmitt Till and a list that continues literally through TODAY, we deserved and needed a win. We played nice for too long and waited for those in office to give a damn long enough to actually recognize there even is a problem, much less help us fix it. This was not something anyone would have wanted to happen, but since it did . . . the acquittal was merely an opportunity for us to stick the shoe on the other foot.
We needed O.J. to get off for murder. It’s sick. It’s sad. It’s unfortunate. It’s not something to be proud of. But as I look at the climate of this country over time and including the here and now, and as sorry as I am that your life was taken in the manner of which it was, I am still not sorry that OJ got off.
I am sorry that he disappointed us and wouldn’t go away. He was supposed to tuck his guilty ass in the corners of society and find silence and solitude in his victory. If this were a case on Law & Order, he would have been found guilty. All the evidence pointed at him from every single angle. He should NOT have gotten away with murder but the elements of a corrupted legal system, a police force wild with badge carrying racists and a community desperate for their own justice set him up to win. We convinced ourselves that he didn’t kill you. We ignored the taped phone calls and the pictures of your swollen and bruised face. We pretended that all the blood droppings that tested positive for you and Ron, found in his home and truck, were merely a coincidence. We as a people dismissed your death and in return, OJ was supposed to disappear. He instead remained the same arrogant asshole he had always been and it caught up to him.
Honestly, he let us down. He wrote that tacky, insensitive book and ran through the black community making a mockery of himself and us as he tried to refresh his fifteen minutes. We were the people who celebrated with him and were proud of the Dream Team. Everyone bought an ‘if it don’t fit, you must acquit’ t-shirt and wore Not Guilty hats in honor of a man who didn’t even identify with us prior to this. As sick as I know it sounds, we were subconsciously and quite temporarily happy. FINALLY, the white people would get a taste of what it’s like to bury a loved one and no one be held accountable despite the obvious guilt. They would learn what it’s like to have the system be a massive FAILURE for them. That feeling that we never get to rid ourselves of –
-the feeling that your life and your loved one’s lives don’t matter, had been reciprocated. Having all the signs point to one person and their unlawful transgressions and that person be able to smile and walk away free from the courtroom was an infliction that up until that trial, was most likely to affect the black community. FINALLY, we got a win on our side.
I’m sorry this is the country we live in.
I’m sorry this is the letter I’m writing to your memory. I don’t support abuse and I don’t condone muder. Your children are adults now and O.J. Simpson is in prison. He will get the CHANCE of parole next year, but it’s a safe bet that he won’t get it. OJ has been punished for the murders he committed by way of a different, lesser crime; he will likely do every hour of his sentence. The trial is 20 years old but I’m sure your family as well the Goldman’s still feels the weight of your absence and the hurt of the not guilty verdict.
I’m really sorry that you lost your life, Nicole.
You absolutely did NOT deserve to. You were a beautiful woman. I champion for women of all races – for our equality, our safety, and our respect. I would champion for you too. I have championed for you.
I wish you wouldn’t have answered the door that night. I wish your mom had have remembered her glasses. I wish your children still had their mother here. They should have grown up WITH you; not memories of you.
I’m sorry. I really am.
But I’m not sorry O.J. Simpson got away with murder.
It was a win for the black community. A disgusting, filthy, blood win. A win we would have preferred to not want so badly. But it was a mirror of the type of loss and subsequent failure of justice that we experience far too often. Just ask the mothers of Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. Remarley Graham. Freddie Grey. LaTasha Harlin. Akai Gurley. Trayvon. Tamir. Jordan. Michael. John. Keith. Bettie.Kevin.Leroy. James. Roy. Thomas Shipp. Miguel. Tiara. Sandra. Cornelius. Chandra. Jamar. Richard. Stephen. Michael Lee. Alonzo.
The list is literally endless. There are so many names of unarmed, unjustified deaths of black people that I just started using first names so I could write this overdue blog faster.
For that reason alone,
As sorry as I am that you lost your life, I’m not sorry that the white race spent a little time in our tap shoes. I’m not sorry that there was a sacrifice.
I’m not sorry that O.J. Simpson got away with murder.
Not when Alton Sterling just spent the night in the ground for the first time last night. And it won’t be much longer before someone else joins him –
-scratch that. Philando was the next day. When I started this letter, I intended it to speak on behalf of me and my people.
But now, I think I will let it just speak for me.
And I ain’t sorry.
*****9.28.16, 4:53PM – THERE HAVE BEEN AT LEAST 5 NEW NAMES ADDED SINCE i WROTE THIS. IT’S WAY MORE THAN FIVE; I’M JUST LYING TO MYSELF. POINT IS, THE LIST IS STILL GROWING….AND I’M STILL NOT SORRY. #nOTgUILTY
I don’t know what the woman’s name is although I’m sure it’s relatively easy to google it at this point and find out her entire life story. I instead chose to name her myself. I decided to call her PEARL.
A precious thing, the finest example of something.
Here she stands as fearless as a Pearl sitting in an oyster shell, stoic in her demeanor with a relentless aura that pours from the realm of photography into reality. I can feel her presence through the photo as if I were the dress blowing in the air. I’ve blown this picture up until it was so pixelated that I had to guess at certain parts, just to see where she poses a threat. I’ve looked for reasoning for the body language of what looks like Special Forces Riot Officers but have yet to find it. They look hostile in their protective gear and shields, and she looks…courageous.
Her right arm is placed across her upper body while her left one is slightly extended as if offering a handshake. She probably wasn’t offering a handshake, but the ease exists nonetheless. She looks so relaxed that Heaven could probably feel her defiance to back down. It’s a beautiful pose in an ugly war for simple inclusion in the human category. Treat us humanely. Black Lives Matter. It’s not a fucking statement made up to alienate ourselves; WE WERE ALREADY ALIENATED!!! This is a collective group of people and allies that are simply asking not to be killed when they aren’t posing a threat. Alton Sterling and Philando Castille should NOT be dead and if you think so, something is mentally fucked up with you. I’m sorry for not sugar coating it but I just can’t even begin to see what Trayvon Martin did to deserve death. Or what why Rekia Boyd isn’t marching in a protest if she wants to. There are so many names that we forget some people and so many people that we can’t even all the names. Black death at the hands of police officers is an epidemic and someone has to fight back. People who don’t get it, don’t WANT to get it. And there stands Pearl in the center of it all without an ounce of trepidation to curb her enthusiasm. She will go to the brink of fire and get burned to prove that Black Lives Matter and in the name of justice. She represents no guts, no glory the ever-evolving story of the precious black woman’s game face in the midst of pain. And what a fine example she is… I wonder what happened in the second after this flash went off? I should Google it and find out, but part of me doesn’t want anymore. I don’t want to hear that she was jailed, ruff-housed and beaten and that now she will have a record simply for being a peaceful protesto-
-For simply being a BLACK peaceful protestor. After all, Black Lives Matter and all of its associates (race aside), are terrorist groups right? Therefore treat them as such. *Note: ISIS is a classified terrorist group just so we understand titles.
Rather than finding out the rest of this story, at least for now, I’ve chosen to try to convey in words what I feel when looking at *Pearl, and all the women just like her who, in the most solemn and wounded way, are inspiring and will inspire generations of black women to come.
Diamond – “The word diamond is derived from the Greek word “adamas” meaning “invincible..” (redcjewels.com)
She was crying when the cameras started to roll. As George Stephanopoulos welcomed her with a sympathetic tone, she wiped tears from her eyes. She was back. Holding it together on national television the same way she held it together in the video that was recorded only moments after she was released from custody. She held it together the same way she did when she Facebook Live recorded the man she loved being shot and killed before her and her young daughter’s eyes. She held it together as if nothing on Earth can break her. It’s no wonder the little girl had the know-how to say ‘Mommy I’m here’; look who she came from! Even in the face of a murdering police officer who was yelling and pointing a gun at her and her child, she remained calm. She spoke to the camera as if she was recounting a story over the phone with a friend and even spoke back to the officer with the same self-awareness. I saw her on The View, once again with a striking sense of poise although her eyes were red and glossy. By the end of the segment, she started to break down, but she caught herself even still. We aren’t allowed to be human. Not as black people. I’m willing to bet that although there are plenty of tears falling, she hasn’t really begun the grieving the process. She hasn’t had the opportunity. From the moment four bullets were pumped into her boyfriend’s body as she sat next to him in the car, she was forced to be invincible. In order to protect her four-year-old daughter, who was crouched in the back on the floor and in order to keep from getting shot her damn self, she had to be invincible. She had to tap into her name’s Greek roots and do several things:
-Get her daughter to safety
-Save both of their lives
-Record this video for evidence
I was instantly captured by her demeanor on the original video which I will not post. She represents a legion of black women that line these racially charged battlefields with nothing but their physical being and their truth. The police have lawyers and codes of honor that protect the ‘brothers’ and keep secrets buried in a cemetery of 911 bullets. They have shields and bulletproof vests, high-powered artillery and even bomb-detonating robots. They come to the field as this were Afghanistan when it’s a simple traffic stop on a local street or a peaceful protest through an otherwise volatile city. But black women come as we are. We stand our ground as unmovable objects just like Pearl. There are no bells and whistles unless you consider our cardboard statements and bullhorns weapons. Wait- this is america (I don’t capitalize america): those ARE weapons!!!
Black women become invincible on the battleground because if we are not, we could be killed without the chance to fight the good fight. We could be silenced without our voice getting its due opportunities to speak out against billy club bullies. It’s been this way since we were leading the pack out of slavery. Black women must take their platforms, no matter how unexpected, and use them. Speak out on them. Fight. We must fight back, even in the midst of.
Life is ten percent what happens, ninety percent how you respond.
We must remain calm in order to fight back.
Diamond has appeared on several news outlets, as did Jordan Davis’ mother and Eric Garner’s wife. The same with Sean Bell’s fiancé. We could go on forever with the name calling. Black women don’t want to be death-driven celebrities. “I can’t wait to get rich from the police killing my son…said no black mother ever”, was a status I posted barely a month ago. We don’t want millions of dollars in the bank and a new makeup team to beat our faces for the camera courtesy of the death of the ones we love. We don’t want our first trip to the U.N. to be because we have to fight for justice in america, a place that won’t even acknowledge the crisis we are in. Black women don’t want the media intrusion, the articles all over the net or to come to know all of these people under these type of circumstances. We’d rather be broke and stuck in the projects with our sons and boyfriends and husbands and fathers instead of standing tall with brave faces on national television while fighting tears.
Can you imagine what is really happening mentally? God bless Diamond. God bless all these black women.
Several times throughout this year alone, I keep seeing black men talk about how black women are not supportive and not there for them. Just last week I saw one ask “what have black women done besides jump on Facebook and share memes?”
I challenge those very men and anyone who thinks like them to change something about themselves. You can pick from your attitude, the way you act and think, how you talk to people, how you treat people, and/or who you hang around. Something must be wrong with YOU because there are PLENTY of black women out here leading the charge, not just in their homes and relationships as well as, as mothers and employees, artists and teachers (catches breath), but also in their community. So if you don’t know any or at least enough to keep from making an ignorant statement like that, then something about YOU is off and in need of change. #GetAGrip
Black women ARE magic!!! I don’t hesitate to shout that heavily used term and I wish I had invented it myself. My brother Tony Styxx once spoke and said, “Abracadabra means ‘I create what I speak.” Black women have been doing the abracadabra dance since we were making up songs to take everyone’s mind off of the heat of the sun during picking time. Despite the transgressions done to us (everything from sexual trauma to abandonment to physical abuse), we are still one in the crowd, often leading the frontline, in the name of justice of our people, our women and our MEN. Tell me that ain’t Magic!!!! We wave the magic wand that lives in our hearts and turn our emotions on mute until the business is finished being handled. That’s not always a good thing. We have to remember to turn the volume back up sometimes so we may regurgitate the emotions and be healthy enough to continue to fight.
We are bold martyrs for the cause. We are protectors of our children and the partners to our men.
We alternate from soldier to lieutenant depending on what the situation calls for. We are multi-tasking Queens that should be admired. We inspire others even when inside we are breaking into pieces. I hate it and love it at the same time.
Can we be broken? Well, I have yet to see it happen. Black women have been making lemonade out of onions and roots since slavery.
We are Pearls floating outside of the safety of oyster shells but our delicate shell doesn’t intimidate the pit bull inside us.
We are invincible Diamonds. We will face adversity with our eyes wide open and our discernment strong.
We are fearless.
Even when we are scared to death.
We suit up for the fight,
And we will never back down.
Whoopi Goldberg: “Is this, in the town that you live in; is this a surprise to you that something like this would happen?
Diamond: “It’s not even the town I live in, it’s the world I live in.”
Earlier this week, I scrolled past a Facebook post that caught my like. It said something to the degree of ‘dear black people, don’t give your white friends ‘’black cards.” When I saw it, I think I clicked LOVE. I knew from my own personal experiences of having white friends and the jokes we’ve made that there is such a thing as a ‘black card.’ It’s not something people discuss out in public or talk about outside of the friendship. This is usually a private joke…a joke that extends between that black person to the white person that says “you’re so cool, you might as well be black because how else could our love have crossed that illustrious boundary of race unless you have an inner black person??” No one actually says that; that’s just the notion that comes along with the joke that happens when black people get cooler than expected with white folks. I know this because I did this for years with a white friend. The joke was so real that there was talk of actually creating a ‘black card’ for her to have. Not to show other people, but just to kick the ‘joke’ up a notch. This was nothing initiated from her; my other black friends and I thought this was ok. We laughed and told more jokes and talked about her ‘black side’ all the time with no issues. It made sense to us and to her. She was and still is a GREAT person. She has a heart that really doesn’t see color but unfortunately, it exists in a world that does. She’s one of those people that if she can help you in any way, she will. If you’re down, she’s down. Our different identities didn’t prevent us from bonding . Race isn’t an issue if you know how to love people, but the problem is too damn many people don’t know how to love without conditions. They can’t help it; they were raised that way. And now, those of us who do know how to love and respect other folks no matter what our differences are, have to share this world and especially this country with a bunch of ignorant, racist, bigoted, trifling with the brain, messy with the mind, and sloppy with the mouth ass people. But I digress.
This black card thing was real. We legit thought it was acceptable and ok to parade our race through our friendship like it’s something that can be affixed to a breakable piece of plastic that fits in lost wallets. When I say ‘we’, I mean me and the other black people that played this game with her. She wasn’t to blame. She didn’t request a black card nor did she suggest that now that she had X-amount of black friends, she should be inducted into the Hall of Blackness. I didn’t meet her and think about how much I wish she were black, as I’m sure she didn’t meet me thinking I would be the HNIC of the black card task force. We teach our friends of other races and ethnicities how to interact us (black people). We control the reigns on when a joke has gone too far and what are acceptable jokes. We draw the boundary lines when it comes to race (for those wondering this is because we are the ones so easily affected by race). So of course when we started the black card joke, she laughed and played along with us. Why wouldn’t she speak freely about her black card? Or wait for its arrival? I actually googled it to see if it was a novelty gift that could be ordered. Shame on me. But not her; she was just trying to fit into the friendship and be loved for who she was. This ongoing joke wasn’t offensive to her (or me at the time), and she didn’t see anything wrong with playing along. Looking back and even typing this and remembering, I am sickened at my own passion for this joke. If you think about the word NIGGA….there are interracial friendships where they call each other that, but I guarantee you that white person didn’t start off that friendship talking about ‘what’s up my nigga??” Naw.
At some point, the black person lets it be known that said word was ok to use. So when you roll up on a car of white and black boys listening to hip hop and calling each other ‘My Nigga’, know that at some point, it was expressed to be an acceptable form of communication and that acceptance originated from the African American angle of the friendship. If the white person said it without prior consent it would be a different story. Make sense? That’s the same way the black card works.
Those of us who participated in this private display of Tom Foolery gave the ok that our white friend could cross boundaries and be black when she wanted. She could ‘talk black’ and make the same off-color jokes that we make. It was the equivalent of saying she can say the word NIGGA in the sense that we gave her unnecessary authority and permissions. Saying she had a black card invoked this subconscious idea that she was somehow ….black. And depending on how deep you want to travel with it, it also suggests that she NEEDS to be black in order for us to be friends. She needs to tap into her ‘inner black woman’ (that doesn’t and cannot exist) in order for our friendship to be legit and none of this was true. She didn’t need to be anything more than exactly who she was.
But let’s go even deeper. Let’s say I gave her the black card. Now, what?
Does she go out the next day and get pulled over for driving while black or will she get followed at King’s Beauty because, despite catering to her needs, they think she’s in there to steal what she wants?
Will she experience racism at work (or at all) or will she suddenly understand what it’s like to be the only minority in a company of more than fifty people?
Will her black card spread her hips, season her food or change her vernacular?
Will she develop a fear of having black children in this racist society or will she worry about the ones she already has when they are gone? What does a black card actually DO?
I have more questions:
Will it make her ancestors slaves?
Will she fear being pulled over no matter how legit she is?
Will she be tasked with being a representation of her entire race for people with limited experience? Will she need to get her hair done more often? Or buy Brazilian Yaki hair? Will her hips and nose spread?
Will she go natural?
Will she search for black movies on Amazon Prime only to notice that ALL of the good ones require she pays for them or will she observe how small the African American section is at bookstores despite there being thousands of black published authors? Will she pay more attention to “the first black (insert whatever)” and feel a mix of feelings from joy to wondering why just now?
When we give out these black cards and black passes, what does it actually do besides make a mockery of our race as if we are something that can be captured in a deck of playing cards and dealt at the nearest blackjack table? Will it make them call and check on us randomly to see how we are coping with the climate of our country?
I kick myself for ever using that in a sentence and ever suggesting that my friend wasn’t good enough because she wasn’t black and that being black was something that was as tradable as baseball cards. This was long before Rachel Dolezal kicked the lid off how there are white women secretly living AS black women (for reasons I have yet to understand). One of the arguments in the status I saw was from a white person who said: “we don’t want black cards.” #PointMissed. It’s not about what white people want. No one says, “here’s the black card you ordered.” It comes up not by request but by the evolution of relating. Again, as I stated earlier in the blog, it comes from developing an unexpected connection in an otherwise unlikely place. But let’s also consider this:
Black people spend their lives conforming to this society. Many of us rebel as much as we can, as often as possible but far too often, many black people are living lightweight black lives. We go to work and become less of ourselves in order to stay (or become) employed for forty hours a week. Some of us talk, dress and act completely different in predominantly white settings than we do in our everyday life. It’s the ‘professional’way.
“White = Professional in America.
So to be black means you have to tone it, dial it and scale it back in an effort to survive in corporate. My brother Theon Lee recently said in conversation that black people are considered everything…except humans.
“[paraphrasing]We are called kings, queens, niggas, thots, thugs, gang bangers, spirits, beings, energies….but we never get to be human.”
~Theon Lee Jones
I can’t help but agree. We live in a society that doesn’t view us as human, such so that when our lives are unceremoniously taken (and even captured on film), we are still treated, even in our death, as if we are mad dogs that were need of putting down, which corroborates Theon’s theory.
How does this relate to the black card? Because when we ISSUE out a black card, we are not the ones conforming; we are being conformed to. We are seeing someone else become a different version of them. When we tell our cool ass white homegirl from the Chi that she has a black card we are subconsciously elated at the idea that it is the white girl doing the crossing over, even if she’s not. I could be wrong. I could be thinking way too hard as I’m an Aquarius only child stuck in a right handed world.
So yeah, it’s not about a white person WANTING a black card as much as it about the black person being able to still be black, wholly and completely and it being someone else on the outside looking in. And if you think about it, that’s pretty self-serving. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but it is selfish in a sense. In that selfishness, the view is from the ego’s windows and not the actual eyes. The ego won’t show how tacky it is to divvy out black cards in the first place. Egos won’t permit you to hear how ridiculous it sounds. Black is something to be proud of. To be awed at. But it requires humility as well. This black experience is more than relatable vernacular and similar tastes in movies. When it is African American blood flowing through your body you have a different feeling and experience in life that cannot be duplicated if you are a white person no matter how many daps you give and cookouts you attend. It’s cute but NAH. NAW. And also #PhuckThat.
With all due respect to my friend, who I don’t think reads this blog, this is not an attack on HER. She’s done nothing wrong and there’s nothing wrong with her being a white woman. Her heart and her empathy let me know where she stands so there is no question on the validity of FRIENDSHIP. But this is me checking myself for the times I didn’t see anything wrong with conversation-pimping my blackness out like a novelty item from Spencers. This is also me explaining one of the many possible reasons that black people give the alleged black card to their white friends. Finally, this is me denouncing that shit.
It’s impossible to recreate this black experience and with the climate we’re in, it can be harmful. Folks already think we are a joke. To be black is a beautiful experience full of tragedy and love, disarray and harmony. It’s rough but it’s worth it. I’m proud to be black but more than that, I am honored to be black. The white friends I have are beautiful people. I do not fuck with white people that I don’t think would fight this fight with me and my people. To love me is to love my people because they are who I love. To befriend me means that black lives matter and it will never be all until all INCLUDES black. My white friends are OUR allies…or they are NOT my friends. They send messages and ask how are we holding up. They are in the fight, actively and publicly. They will check you, rough you up if necessary and they range everywhere from behind the computer screens to in the office. Ok, just kidding. I don’t have any friends in office YET! But I do have a network of incredible people who are all in this fight just as much and as passionately as I am. And none of them need black cards. They don’t need to be told they are black white folks. They need to just be white folks that are fucking awesome humans.
Or just humans. Many card-carrying white folks are speaking loud in their silence and low key hurting the feelings of their black friends right now. Which is, even more, reason that-
– the next time you think about giving out a black card –
Just don’t even.
…or if you’re white, the next time someone offers you one, how about you open dialogue about how you don’t want one?